By Tosca Bridges Taylor, BSRT(R)(CT)(QM)
Remember the “good ole’ days” of radiology when everything was analog? When it took 90 seconds to process an image? Recall how you waited patiently with a cup of coffee in hand for the finished product to drop out of the processor and then physically walked the film, along with the 15 pound film jacket, into the reading room and hung it for the radiologist to read. After the report was finalized, it was either mailed or faxed to the patient’s primary care physician. Or better yet, you’d have to courier the films by hand from one destination to the next. The entire process could take hours, days, or even weeks. Wow, things sure have changed!
Digital imaging, the electronic medical record, and social media have streamlined the processes we use to execute radiographic images. Social media has become an avenue for healthcare professionals and patients to communicate with each other on various platforms. It is also a resource for physicians to discuss patient diagnoses by posting images of cases that need a second opinion on radiology approved websites. The advent of the digital world has made it quicker and easier to transmit information. But on the flip side, social media mixed with digital imaging has also made it easier to divulge confidential patient information, ruin your reputation as a licensed professional, and even worse, lose your job and license.
In the 21st century, radiographic images are like internal “selfies.” With one click of the mouse you can send images not only to the PACS, but also to a handheld device where images can be effortlessly uploaded to social media platforms. Posting on social media has become a way of life. We post everything about our daily lives, including pictures of our vacations, families, and pets. But there is a fine line between posting these types of images and radiographic images. It is very easy to violate HIPAA mandates, most of the time without even realizing that we’ve done so.
We must remain diligent in our quest to give great patient care and protect the patient’s privacy. In today’s healthcare environment it is imperative to have a social media policy in place in every facility. Proper protocols must be implemented to safeguard against a breach in patient privacy and to protect the healthcare organization’s reputation. It is important to emphasize to your staff the magnitude of keeping patient information and identities safe and secured.
This topic will be covered in greater depth on Friday, March 10 from 4:30-5:30 PM at my AHRA Spring Conference session, “Digital Imaging & Social Media “What Happens in the Hospital Doesn’t Always Stay in the Hospital.” I will be discussing the do’s and don’ts of posting online. We will also talk about some of the biggest HIPAA violations in recent history, and we will examine the consequences and fines applied to individuals and organizations for not complying with privacy laws. There will be a history lesson on how the radiology profession evolved into such a powerful online presence. Come find out how one radiologist lost his bid for political office because of his Facebook postings, and much more. I look forward to seeing you there.
Tosca Bridges Taylor, BSRT(R)(CT)(QM) is the education coordinator for medical imaging at John Muir Medical Center in Walnut Creek, CA. She also works as a radiology instructor at Kaiser Permanente School of Allied Health Sciences in Richmond, CA. She can be reached at email@example.com.