IT | Security

Medical Students Leak Patient Information on the Internet

By: Absolute Team | 9/30/2009

There are many types of information that people don’t want to share with the world but someone’s personal medical history is probably at the top of that list.  The reasons we visit the doctor’s office can vary from mundane to downright embarrassing (or even scary), so it’s no surprise that many patients really depend on the rules surrounding confidentiality to protect this very private information.

Unfortunately, medical students may not realize the importance of patient privacy, which is evidenced by the fact that we’ve started seeing disclosures more and more through the use of social networking tools and modern technology.  For example, one surgeon found the fact that his patient had the words “hot rod” tattooed on his genitals so funny that he took a picture and shared it with his colleagues.

As CNN reports, 60% of medical schools “have had students post inappropriate or unprofessional information on the Web.”  While most of this information pertained to their own behavior, 13% of them shared content that violated patient privacy.  Incredibly, there were even instances when some students were so descriptive that their patients were identifiable.

Incredibly, only 38% of the affected schools had policies in effect to deal with inappropriate sharing on the internet but, at least, 11% of the remaining schools were working on creating guidelines.

This illustrates the fact that many professions have not had to deal with internet security issues on this level but, while some are trying to actively address the issues, the public is at risk in the meantime.