NUS probing tweets with confidential patient info

The National University of Singapore's (NUS) Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine said that it is investigating tweets containing confidential patient information which caused an uproar after a screenshot was posted online on Friday.

The two tweets, posted on April 7 from a final-year medical student's Twitter account, had information about a patient's pregnancy and abortion history, including a line "Don't even wna look at this patient".

A screenshot of the posts appeared on citizen journalism website Stomp yesterday. The contact given by the Stomper was a group e-mail address for the school's current final-year medical students.

These students at the medical school are currently doing their electives, where they are attached to hospitals to shadow senior doctors and may come into contact with patients.

"If the student who allegedly tweeted about patient information is indeed from the NUS Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, he/ she will be counselled and will also be subject to disciplinary proceedings," the school said in a statement.

The Straits Times understands that the school is investigating other possibilities, such as whether the Twitter account had been hacked. A check found the account has been deleted.

The school said the importance of safeguarding patient confidentiality is constantly emphasised throughout clinical training. Students have to sign confidentiality agreements before embarking on clinical training in the hospitals. It added: "Students at the NUS medical school have always been taught to safeguard their patient's records and confidences. They have been taught that confidentiality is central to the trust patients place with them and it is an important ethical and legal principle."

The post on Stomp attracted over 6,800 views with some commentators questioning the student's professionalism while others excused it, saying the patient was not named in the tweets.

A student at the medical school, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was shocked by the tweets.

"Right from the start, the school stressed the importance of patient confidentiality," he said.

"In Year 1, there's a module called Health Ethics, Law and Professionalism where we were regularly reminded that we cannot talk about the patient's condition at all, even if we don't mention a name or age."

mellinjm@sph.com.sg

Register here to get free digital access to The Straits Times until Aug 9, 2015.
Comments