To Report or Not to Report a Picture on Facebook

I was very surprised to see that the cover photo on my Flipboard Facebook page this morning was that of someone’s patient at the Emergency Room. When I saw the picture, I did shoot off a quick comment, “A gentle reminder, posting a patient’s picture without his consent is unethical.” Thankfully, the person messaged me in a few minutes and took down the picture.

I’d rather not describe the photo or why it was posted. That is not the topic for discussion. What I’d like to talk about is what happens when you report an offensive photo on Facebook. I’d contemplated doing that this morning! When you click on “Report this photo,” a pop-up window appears and it asks

  1. Yes, this photo is about me or a friend
  • I don’t like this photo of me
  • It’s harassing me
  • It’s harassing a friend.

2. No, this photo is about something else

  • Spam or scam
  • Nudity or pornography
  • Graphic violence
  • Hate speech or symbol
  • Illegal drug use
  • My friend’s account might be compromised or hacked

3. Is this your intellectual property?

Not one seemed to fit what I needed to say, that the picture violated patient confidentiality. I decided to just comment directly. I did not know what would happen  when a picture is reported and I was afraid it might take too long. Thank goodness, the picture was taken down soon after and I didn’t have to report it!

So what happens when you report a photo? This is what it says in the Facebook FAQ:

We will make every effort to review your report as quickly as we can. So long as everything appears to be in order, we will promptly remove or disable access to the content. We will also notify the user and, if requested, provide your report to the user. We will terminate repeat infringers when appropriate.

Hmm, I wonder how long that will take?

The Facebook Help Center FAQ further says

Reporting a profile (timeline), group, page, or any other content doesn’t guarantee that they or it will be removed. The Facebook community is extremely diverse. It’s possible that something could be disagreeable or disturbing to you without meeting the criteria for removal. That’s why we offer personal controls, such as the ability to quietly cut ties with or hide people, pages, and applications that offend you. Content that does violate the Facebook Terms may be removed from Facebook and (in some cases) subject to legal or other action. The person reported is not notified of the identity of the person who made the report.

I had also messaged a friend about this disturbing picture and opined that the posting of the picture pointed to a lack of sensitivity, a certain degree of callousness.  To which my friend had replied that this was not necessarily true. It is just that people have become so used to Facebook! Apparently, some people (okay, okay, the younger generation … I’m getting old 🙂 ) find it as easy as breathing to post minutiae about their lives. So the picture was just that – a documentation of an event in someone’s life. Maybe, maybe not!


Social Media Policy for Healthcare Institutions

I had a great opportunity to share the stage last week with Dr. Leonard Achan Jr. at a conference in the Philippine General Hospital. In my last post, I talked about the great opportunity to harness social media in healthcare. Now let me share what I learned about social media policy from Dr. Achan, the Vice President of Digital & Social Media and Executive Services at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

  1. The hospital (or the medical school) must create a Center for Digital and Social Media who will enforce a social media policy.
  2. The social media policy will be two-prong: internal policy for hospital employees/faculty/trainees and external policy for patients.  A social media policy is necessary to help avoid risky behavior. Dr. Achan says that unless the institution embraces social media and puts a policy in place, the employees/faculty/trainees will use it outside the institution and beyond the reach of authority where it can get out of hand. He believes that a social media policy will reap the 99% benefit and manage the 1% risk.
  3. With an internal social media policy, it becomes possible for hospital personnel who maintain blogs/fanpages to have these reviewed by the Center for Digital & Social Media. As a matter of policy, these blogs/fanpages will have standard disclaimer & disclosure statements and will be required to link back to the main hospital website.
  4. The external social media policy for patients is to inform them about the rules of engagement – what constitutes proper behavior and what can they expect from the interaction.

These things in particular, struck me about Dr. Achan’s talk. First, because in the hospital we have no social media policy in place and second, because he recommends crafting a social media policy rather than outlawing social media when problems arise – a knee jerk reaction by administration. The last item about defining the rules of engagement with patients is sorely needed, especially since of late, I’ve been receiving more friend requests from patients or relatives of patients (which I decline :().

I took a look at the Mount Sinai Medical Center Social Media guideline which cites ten best practices:

Take responsibility and use good judgment.

Think before you post.

Protect patient privacy.

Protect your own privacy.

Respect work commitments.

Identify yourself.

Use a disclaimer.

Respect copyright and fair use laws.

Protect proprietary information.

Seek expert guidance.


Think before you post! That for me is the most valuable advice. Much of the risky behavior I have seen on Facebook has been related to venting anger or frustration within the workplace. That is why I agree completely with Ang Tod who shared this picture on Facebook.

If you have a problem, face it. Don’t facebook it!

Facebook problem





A social media policy need not be complicated. It can really be that simple! 🙂