Sharing more than they intended — future doctors on Facebook

The Facebook/MySpace generation is now graduating from medical school, and their
profiles along with much embarrassing personal information has been indexed in cyberworld for many to see.

The Associated Press wrote an interesting story about how researchers from the University of Florida combed through the social web sites and found embarrassing pictures of future doctors “grabbing their breasts and crotches or posing with a dead animal. They also found many photos of students drinking heavily.”

About half of the medical students they looked at had Facebook pages but only 37 percent of those limited viewership.

Clearly, the take-home message is to refrain from putting things you wouldn’t want your mother to see on your profile and to restrict who can see your profile.

Still, the info is out there. Perhaps, doctor rating sites could incorporate this readily accessible information onto their physician profiles. That would be scary.

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7 replies »

  1. As a consultant providing HIPAA compliance services to healthcare, issues regarding the safeguarding Protected Health Information continues to grow. Over time, many observers believe that HIPAA privacy and security compliance will more closely resemble the enforcement reputation of OSHA if it is to be effective. Only then will we see a reduction in patient records “snooping”, lost patient data and responsible social networking posts.
    In fact, there is a new HIPAA enforcement bill introduced in July, 2007 by Sen. Edward Kennedy and Sen. Patrick Leahy, called the Health Information Privacy and Security Act of 2007 (HIPSA) that apparently would not replace HIPAA but require the Department of Health and Human Services to revise HIPAA to be consistent with HIPSA.
    HIPSA requires the establishment of an Office of Health Information Privacy at DHHS and gives it enforcement powers to impose criminal and civil penalties for unauthorized disclosure of patient information. In addition, HIPSA would permit individuals to sue for compensatory damages and receive punitive damages in cases of unauthorized disclosure. Moreover, HIPSA would authorize state attorney generals to sue on behalf of state residents and permit whistle blowers who report violations to be protected from retaliation.
    More on HIPAA compliance at: http://grantpeterson.matrixblogsuite.com/index.aspx

  2. Reputation management is a key aspect of todays day in age with the information so accessible by a wide variety of the population.

  3. Anyone who uses the internet will understand that this stuff is meaningless with regard to any real implications for quality of care etc. The only people who care about this are not internet users and the only way they know about it is because of stupid articles like this one.

  4. Doctors are people too…. they even make poor decisions in youth and have them documented on facebook!! (sarcasm alert).
    The point is I’m tired of the opinion that doctors (and future doctors) are some other breed of human- inherently better than everyone else. There’s an entire generation making fools of themselves on facebook… I just don’t see what the big deal is that med students happen to be included in that.
    Of course you could call me jaded… but consider this experience in high school that perhaps could account for my hostility here: I was working a minimum wage job at a coffee drive thru place, where we weren’t allowed to take bills over $20. This guy pulls up with a hundred dollar bill. I explained the policy. He replied, “Get me your manager. I’m a doctor. I don’t carry less than $100 bills.”

  5. “Clearly, the take-home message is to refrain from putting things you wouldn’t want your mother to see on your profile and to restrict who can see your profile.”
    I’d like to see the study that correlates drinking and crotch grabs with quality of care provided (and perhaps bedside manner and attrition due to burn-out). I
    That being said, Sarah, I just friended you on facebook. I hope you’ll accept!

  6. Right or wrong, those in medicine hold themselves to a higher professional standard than people in other industries. Too much sharing is a problem that obviously can affect anyone. But as a millennial myself, I just don’t think I will ever care about pictures of someone’s 22nd birthday celebration that has gone awry. In the end, I don’t think companies should care either. Concerns like this are a construct of individuals who probably have limtited internet identities. We’ve all probably done something embarassing at some point in our lives—the difference is now we have a mechanism to share it with the world. I think my generation will be understanding of that.

  7. JAMA recently published an article about how doctors should be aware of what patients can discover about them online. I can see why the authors want to raise the alarm: the Pew Internet Project’s study, Digital Footprints, found that most people do not limit the amount of information found about them online and few closely monitor their digital identities. And yet it’s a pretty common practice to search for someone else’s name online — including people you plan to hire.

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