In season 7, episode 13 of Grey’s Anatomy, a resident named Miranda Bailey starts live- tweeting her surgeries. She gets the patient’s permission to do so and then has an intern send out tweets right from the operating table. She says this is an excellent way to connect with other hospitals and teach residents around the globe. The only problem? She didn’t clear this by the chief of surgery, Chief Webber.
While Dr. Bailey sees the positive side of social media and medicine, Chief Webber has a more practical approach (and maybe more common sense). He doesn’t approve. He sees this as a lawsuit waiting to happen, because he knows you can’t just go blabbing PHI.
Although it made for a funny episode, in real life, this situation shouldn’t and wouldn’t have happened because there are laws in place that protect PHI (aka. No live-tweeting operations allowed). Unfortunately, PHI is a slippery slope which means decisions about what to say and what not to say are often left up to someone’s common sense. And we all know sometimes even the smartest people can be the dumbest.
So, all you healthcare professionals, here are some quick tips on how to keep your PHI safe and not turn your hospital into a Grey’s Anatomy zoo:
1. Keep PHI in a secure place
2. Follow company policy when disposing of PHI
3. Don’t ask patients to give out PHI on communual sign-in sheets
4. Don’t discuss patients in public spaces
5. Report any PHI breaches
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