Medical Blogging ~ Hungry Hungry HIPAA

27 05 2009

DB’s Medical Rants has a post about blogging in medicine and its possible legal pitfalls with respect to patient confidentiality.  I suppose it seems obvious that you should not relay identifying information in the elevator, let alone the internet, but the point is an important one.  This is particulary true in a day and age where once something is published online, it is almost assuradly stored online in perpetuity.  Common sense aside, I think there may be an additional dimension to talking about patients on the internet.  In the elevator or the cafeteria there really is a limited audience, whereas a public blog is accessable to the world in an instant.  Now, I am not trying to down-play the importance of protecting private information, but I am trying to point out that blogging should be even more sensitive than personal conversation.

For example, awhile back I posted online about an intersting autopsy I had recently done.  The next day I received an e-mail from a nurse I did not know about how that was rude and a violation of patient rights.  When I created the post, I was sure to leave all identifying information (save for the final diagnosis) out of the post, however, since I was talking about a rare entity, I could see how the diagnosis itself could be personally identifying.  I eventually apologized and removed the post, but it raises quite a pertinent point: your sensitivity should be scaled proportionately to the prospective audience.

Just something to consider the next time you fire up your blogging engine…




2 responses

30 05 2009
Ole Eichhorn

A nit, HIPAA is spelled with one P and two As, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. When you read the name, you realize this law was made with an entirely different intent than the one which it is now used to further; neither privacy nor authorization were primary goals.

Title I of the Act, which implements the original intent, protects health insurance coverage for employees when they lose their jobs.

Title II of the Act, the so called Administrative Simplifications (!), is usually interpreted to enforce privacy and authorization.

One of the things that makes compliance with HIPAA difficult is that over the years the interpretation of HIPAA has broadened it far beyond the actual language in the law and the intent of the lawmakers who enacted it.

1 06 2009

Omg, oops! Thanks! What a silly mistake!

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