Unscrewing Medicine with Healthcare Social Media

The curious case of patient’s (or parts of them) photos on social media

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Years ago I amputated the right leg of my first ever explosives maimed patient. In my angst of the cruelty this man has suffered, I posted a photo of that amputated leg on social media.  I was careful not to put any identifying marks on the photo. I cannot even identify what extremity it was in that photo. I asked permission from the patient too although I doubt it if the person knew what social media is at that time. I was hoping that the brutality of the image would rally people against this type of cruelty. Desperate me maybe, but good intentions nonetheless.

In less than 24 hours, I had more cursing people (at the cruelty) than I expected. I also got more than two inquiries asking who’s leg(?) it was in the photo. Great! I got the desired rallying effect I wanted.  And more. The inquiries made me pull out the photo less than 24 hours after posting.

In today’s contracting, interconnected space, it is very difficult to hide an identity on the net.  It is even more difficult on social media. Posting photos on social media and hoping no one would identify it next to impossible Someone will eventually find out the identity of the picture, patient or whatever you posted on the net. Even corpses get identified.  From the story above, I realized its such a folly  to hide behind consents, disclaimers , non-identifying smokescreens and post on social media to further an agenda, no matter how good or noble you think it is.

This story comes to mind again after seeing not a few unmarked, non identifiable, patient (or patient parts) on my social media feed. I am sad, well squirmish actually . But I’m not here to proselytize. I’m just saying that as a medical professional in areas where identities of your patient could spell out death to other people (sometimes yours), would you still post those pictures on social media? In an ever evolving interconnected and permanent internet, will consent and disclaimers  give us freedom to post pictures of patients on social media, no matter how unidentifiable that image is?

Join us this Saturday January 17, 2015 9PM as we tackle yet, again patient confidentiality and privacy on social media.

  • T1.  Under what circumstances would you consider posting a photo of a patient on a social media acceptable? Explain.
  • T2. Under what circumstances would you allow a healthcare professional to post a picture of you on social media acceptable? Explain.
  • T3. How can we  hold healthcare professionals accountable for posting patient photos on social media?
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Dr. Remo-tito Aguilar co-founded #HealthXPh. A board certified orthopedic surgeon, he is previously Chief of Clinics at St. Louis Hospital in Tacurong City and a consultant in Orthopedics at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City. Dr. Aguilar is a healthcare social media evangelist and writes his medical musings at The Cast & Curious (www.remomd.com).

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