RI Doctor Fired For Posting About Patient On Facebook

The Rhode Island Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline has disciplined a physician for posting patient information on Facebook.

Posting patient data to her personal profile on Facebook has cost a physician her job, and even her reputation.

Although the actual patient’s name had never been mentioned, the information posted was revelatory enough to disclose his identity, the board ruled.

Westerly Hospital in Rhode Island fired Dr. Alexandra Thran last year, but she was reprimanded by the hospital’s board last week after being found “guilty of unprofessional conduct.”

Just like many other professionals with stressful jobs, Dr. Thran had decided to vent on her personal profile after a long day at work. The problem is, of course, that in the health industry patient privacy is of paramount importance.

Although the board admitted that Thran hadn’t revealed the patient’s name, it considered that she had provided enough details of the patient’s injuries to allow others to guess who it was. Thran reportedly deleted her Facebook account as soon as the controversy began, but it was too late. She was fired from her job. According to the Boston Globe, the board has also issued her a reprimand and a fine of $500 in administrative fees.

As we have learned from other fields, people are still learning how to navigate the tell-all social media culture while respecting the privacy boundaries their professions requires. According to the Globe, however, this is the first Facebook case involving a physician in Rhode Island.

Strict social media policies surrounding the doctor-patient relationship aren’t common or well defined yet. Just a few months ago, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) warned doctors to be very careful about their Facebook usage, and according to a study, most doctors instinctively deny friend requests from patients in an effort to save themselves from trouble.

Do you think health care providers should have firm social media policies in place, and if so, what would those be?