I recently wrote a post about how patient privacy can be threatened in blogs written by doctors. Now a new case illustrates another way that healthcare professionals can violate patient privacy online.
Yesterday the Associated Press reported that two hospital workers in New Mexico had been fired for taking pictures with their mobile phone cameras of patients being treated. Even worse, these pictures – “mainly close-ups of injuries being treated in the Albuquerque hospital’s emergency room over the past few months” – were posted online on MySpace. This all happened despite the fact that hospital employees were banned from taking mobile phones int patient areas.
Unbelievably, this incident doesn’t represent the first time this sort of thing has happened. In May last year the Tri-City Hospital in San Diego confirmed that medical workers in the hospital had been taking photos of patients with their mobile phones, and the Associated Press reports that there have also been similar violations in Arizona and South Dakota. Also, UCLA banned mobile phones and laptops earlier this year after a patient posted group photos of other patients on a social networking website, although I feel this instance is a slightly different issue.
This issue was picked up in the blogosphere (WSJ Health Blog, Kevin, M.D. and Scalpel or Sword to name a few) as bloggers were horrified that hospital employees could do something so stupid. Posting photos of patients online, particularly patients in an emergency room who are may well be unconscious and totally unaware that they are being photographed, is an unbelievable violation of patient privacy. Let’s hope this is the last time this sort of thing happens.