Email and Twitter Follow Up With Patients

Tonight I happened to eavesdrop (the beauty of Twitter) on a Twitter conversation between Bobby Ghaheri, MD (@DrGhaheri) and Chad Peterson (@hosewater2). Dr. Ghaheri is an ENT/Facial Plastic Surgeon and Dr. Peterson is a hockey loving urologist. I loved their twitter exchange about email and Twitter follow up with patients, so I’m posting it here for others to comment on.

UPDATE: Since there’s a problem with pulling in the tweets automatically from Twitter, here’s what was said:
DrGhaheri Bobby Ghaheri, MD
I use email and Twitter to follow-up on my patients. #hcsm

hosewater2 Chad Peterson
@DrGhaheri I don’t use email or twitter with patients. Just encourages unnecessary undocumented interactions. Is twitter HIPaa certified?

DrGhaheri Bobby Ghaheri, MD
@hosewater2 I document the conversation in EMR.

@hosewater2 Chad Peterson
@DrGhaheri wow, so double the time investment then. Interesting

DrGhaheri Bobby Ghaheri, MD
@hosewater2 yup. But not having to answer a phone note saves on the back and forth, which is what I’d prefer

[blackbirdpie url=”!/DrGhaheri/status/90239677403103232″]
[blackbirdpie url=”!/hosewater2/status/90265063193194496″]
[blackbirdpie url=”!/DrGhaheri/status/90269478524428288″]
[blackbirdpie url=”!/hosewater2/status/90270265879171072″]
[blackbirdpie url=”!/DrGhaheri/status/90271423402221568″]

About the author

John Lynn

John Lynn

John Lynn is the Founder of the, a network of leading Healthcare IT resources. The flagship blog, Healthcare IT Today, contains over 13,000 articles with over half of the articles written by John. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 20 million times.

John manages Healthcare IT Central, the leading career Health IT job board. He also organizes the first of its kind conference and community focused on healthcare marketing, Healthcare and IT Marketing Conference, and a healthcare IT conference,, focused on practical healthcare IT innovation. John is an advisor to multiple healthcare IT companies. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can be found on Twitter: @techguy.


  • WOW! It is obvious PHI’s definition is vague and a signed “HIPAA Privacy Authorization Form” healthcare’s most important document even before a patient walks in the door.

  • I didn’t read any of the Twitter posts by those mentioned above.

    But first: @packets – PHI definition vague? Maybe it is like porn: you’ll know it when you see it?

    De-identification is extremely important and the CMS states 18 items that must be removed from PHI to de-identify it. Every medical staff member should be familiar with all 18.

    I always recommend to a medical office to ban all access to social media. The typical next question is, “including the doc?” YES!

    90%+ of the offices I talk with tell me the Doc is the biggest HIPAA problem.

    Additionally, I clarify clarify clarify that email is not secure for PHI.

    Yes, if you have a “patient portal” that is different.

  • I find this twitter conversation to be an interesting one. From different blogs and other information, I have found that it is better for medical professionals to stray away from using social media sites to communicate with their patients. I believe that social media will be a great communication tool for healthcare professionals- but for now, social media seems to compromise patients’ privacy. I would love to read more about this! Thanks for sharing the conversation!

  • “De-identification is extremely important and the CMS states 18 items that must be removed from PHI to de-identify it. Every medical staff member should be familiar with all 18.”
    Your statement is exactly where the problem and confusion comes from and many believe PHI is just those 18 outdated items, but the law also states:
    “individually identifiable health information”
    “created or received by a health care provider, health plan, public health authority, employer, life insurer, school or university, or health care clearinghouse”
    Covered entities create or receive other individually identifiable information such as account names (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, My Space, etc.), online voice ID’s such as Skype, Google Talk, and Instant Messenger which are all individual identifiers. If they’re not on the list of 18 its okay to use? Your seeing where that’s headed…

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