Haley is a CNA who works in the radiology department of Gray Integrated Health System. A well-known basketball star comes to the department for x-rays after falling on the basketball court in the Final Four of March Madness. Fortunately, the star did not suffer a fracture of his leg as originally thought. He can return to the court.
Haley decides to let all of his fans know that the star is not seriously injured. While off duty and at home, she posts a note on her Facebook page with his picture, letting everyone know that the star will be returning to the basketball court in time for the final games.
Did Haley do anything wrong? If so, what are some of the consequences of her actions?
Haley has broken several HIPAA rules. If Haley did not treat the athlete, then Haley violated the PTO guidelines, which limit the access of PHI to payments, treatment, or health care operations. Additionally, Haley has exposed PHI on social media. Haley may be subject to financial and legal penalties, in addition to the termination. Steep fines and jail time could await Haley for posting about a patient on Facebook.
Imagine a similar scenario where Haley posted on Facebook that she worked with a famous actor in her ward today. She says that her patient will make a full recovery and is careful not to mention her patient's name or any of the movies he has starred in. Can Haley get in trouble for her post?
Unfortunately for Haley, disclosing the location of treatment and that a big-name celebrity was treated there, exposes PHI. The actor's name does not have to be disclosed for Haley to get into trouble. Social Media violations are serious matters that can lead to close monitoring, termination, or penalties. CNAs who care for celebrities should not tell anyone, and if someone asks CNAs if they know that a big-name person is in their facility, they should respond by saying: I cannot answer your questions. Federal laws do not permit me to answer you.