Using social or professional networking websites can breach confidentiality
The concept of public places has expanded in recent years to include not only physical spaces but also virtual ones. While physicians are aware that disclosing patient information in public spaces such as hallways and elevators may breach their duty to protect patient confidentiality and privacy, they may not realize similar discussions on social networking or professional websites can also constitute a breach. Facebook® , Twitter®, teaching sites run by medical schools (e.g., study groups), and professional sites run by associations and societies are public spaces. Password protected sites may give users a false sense of security that they’re in an exclusive environment.
Hospitals and other medical facilities increasingly recognize the risks posed by social media and prohibit access to social networking sites using the organization’s computers. This, of course, does not prevent people from accessing those sites using private computers.
Another factor to consider is the content of any information you share. Because clinical challenges may be related to an unusual medical condition or the social circumstances of the patient, mentioning the condition or other details may inadvertently identify the patient, even if his or her name is not stated. If you are posting information on a social networking website, avoid including any information that could identify a patient.
Social media also includes blogs and wikis, which are increasingly used in medical education, either formally as part of the curriculum or informally as the online equivalent of a study group. As with social networking websites, teachers and students should be aware of the importance of maintaining patient confidentiality in blogs and wikis, as well as the policies governing their use.