Doctor Sued for Posting Pictures of Drunk Model on Facebook

A Chicago physician is being sued by former Northwestern University student and freelance model Elena Chernyakova after the physician allegedly posted pictures of her drunk on Instagram and Facebook. Ms. Chernyakova has filed suit for invasion of privacy and infliction of emotional distress, seeking compensation over $1.5 million, and claims her career has been damaged.

The physician, Dr. Vinaya Puppala, allegedly knew Ms. Chernyakova through a mutual friend and took pictures of her "while she was on the hospital bed, crying and attached to an IV" in the emergency department at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, according to the complaint as reported by ABC News. He reportedly refused to take the pictures down when requested to by hospital security. 

Despite being effective for over a decade, it is amazing how many health care professionals still seem not to "get" HIPAA and patient privacy, or how many do, and just don't care. Hospitals are increasingly implementing zero tolerance policies for nurses, physicians, students and employees who fail to follow hospital policy and act in utter disregard for patient privacy.  Many have strict policies in place governing use of social media while on the hospital premises and explicitly prohibit the posting of any patient information, even descriptions of patient encounters which would seem to be de-identified, on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms. 

Does your organization have social media policies in place? Do your employees and other health care professionals understand the problems social media creates for patient privacy?  Is it clearly communicated that posting impermissible pictures or information about patients on social media will result in disciplinary action? And finally, is your organization consistent in enforcing its social media policies?