by Julia Vann
Imagine something really funny, or interesting, or incredible happening at work one day. Right off the bat, you just want to tell everyone you know about it. It’s such a good story, and you know your friends would just love to hear about it. So, you post about it on your social media accounts. Of course you don’t mention any names, but it doesn’t matter. Your friends know where you work and through details mentioned in your posts, they’re able to find out exactly which person you’re talking about.
It’s a situation that could happen to anyone. When something interesting happens, it’s in human nature to want to talk about it. The issue is mixing your work and private lives together.
A Texas hospital fired a nurse for this very thing.
“After a young boy with measles came in, the anti-vaxxer nurse posted all over her social media about the horror she’d seen. She mentioned about how though her stance on vaccinations had not changed, she could understand parents vaccinating out of fear after what she’d just seen.Due to a high rate of vaccination (94.5%) in Houston, a measles case is very rare. Over the past ten years there have fewer than 10 confirmed cases in the city. While the nurse did not post the child’s name on Facebook, her job was listed on her profile, along with the hospital where she worked, and information about the boy and his condition. Due to the information contained in the posts and the rarity of the disease, it is possible that the child could have been identified” (HIPAA Journal).
The nurse never posted the child’s name, but it didn’t matter. She had the name of her hospital linked to her social media. Not only that, but due to the rarity of measles in that area, it wouldn’t be difficult to figure out who the child was with a little bit of digging.
The nurse, while not intentionally, had committed a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) violation.
As soon as Texas Children’s Hospital found out about her posts, the nurse was immediately suspended. Although the nurse did try to delete her posts after realizing she might’ve spoken too much, it was too late.
Through her actions, the nurse could’ve compromised the children’s healthcare information. Since she did not receive patient consent to discuss these things beforehand, it counted as a HIPAA violation. As a result of all this, the hospital fired the nurse in question.
The nurse clearly meant no harm by her actions, but she clearly didn’t consider the feelings of the child or his family while making those posts.
It seems as though making a violation like this wouldn’t be too challenging. It would be easy to forget and just make a thoughtless post. Going into the future, it’s just important to keep in mind that work and private lives should be kept separate. No matter how interesting a story is, your job and the privacy of others is always more important.
To learn more about HIPAA compliance, visit the American Medical Compliance website today.