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Can posting about your patients on social media be illegal?

On Behalf of | Apr 1, 2020 | Firm News

As a medical professional, privacy is a high priority for both you and your patients. However, you may get into legal trouble if you discuss a patient’s issues online, even in a casual manner. 

Learning about how HIPAA, known as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, works can help you avoid losing your license over disputes about posting. 

Right to privacy 

As more medical personnel regularly use social media, those in charge are crafting new guidelines to help protect people seeking private health guidance. One important guideline is regarding protected health information, or PHI. Whenever a professional shares personal information, text, photos, or videos of a patient online to the public, they are violating this privacy rule. If the patient gives his or her permission to do so, then it can be legal. 

Common issues 

However, most cases do involve information shared without full knowledge of the patient. Issues such as personal photographs of patients asleep or pictures of people who have otherwise not consented to a photo, gossip about the personal lives of patients, and text or videos of patients shared within private circles of friends are all violations of HIPAA. 

This also includes posts from inside a professional building that show personal information about a patient in the photo, even if unintentionally. You should not post any piece of information that identifies someone online, no matter how small. 

Different options 

Although you cannot post personal stories about individuals you see in your practice, it is still possible to discuss medical topics online. You are legally allowed to post tips about health, interesting research or journals, and upcoming events that people could attend to learn new information.