Court rules hospital not responsible for employee's Facebook patient privacy violations

A judge has ruled a hospital is not liable for an employee's Facebook post containing a screenshot of a patient's medical record that revealed she had a sexually-transmitted infection, setting a potential precedent for emerging issues of social media and patient privacy, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

In 2013, an employee at University of Cincinnati Medical Center [UCMC] posted an image of the pregnant woman's medical records, which revealed she had maternal syphilis, prompting the patient to sue the hospital and the employee, who was fired after making the post.

In her ruling this week, Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Jody Luebbers ruled the hospital was not liable for the privacy violation because the employee, who worked in the hospital's financial services department, went outside the scope of her employment in accessing the information, and that the hospital should be dropped from the suit. Katherine Klaeren, one of the hospital's attorneys, argued that case law dictates employers aren't accountable for anything employees do outside the scope of their job duties.

"[UCMC] had a policy. It was violated," Luebbers said. "It's tragic … but that's just how I see it."

Mike Allen, the woman's lawyer, called the removal order a legal technicality and said he expects his client to appeal, according to the article.

Numerous cases have spurred a debate over social media, patient privacy and how to reconcile the two. Last July, a New York emergency room nurse was fired for posting a photo of an empty trauma room that had recently been used to treat a man hit by a subway train, FierceHealthcare previously reported. Hospitals seeking to balance a high social media profile and patients' privacy should use their discretion, deciding on a case-by-case basis whether individual posts threaten privacy.

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