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September 24, 2012

X-rays Gone Wild! At Least, for Some

We’re getting very used to sharing our photos, our weekends, even as one friend does, our meals, on social media. But what if the X-ray of your rhinoplasty, er, nose job before the job – and your name, age, maybe even your social security number – were also posted?

It’s happening. 

Social photo-sharing is already a part of radiology, according to David Bern, CEO of Bern Medical, a data specialist company.

Instagram, a mobile photo-sharing app, allows users to take pictures on their smartphones and post to the entire world, as David Fuhrman reported in a story at Diagnostic Imaging.

This image-sharing, just like the photos of your baby’s first tooth, may not be what you want future bosses, spouses or strangers to see.

As Fuhrman noted, a quick search on Instagram revealed an X-ray of a woman’s elbow, with her patient ID, name, date of birth and date of service for all the world to see – all 411 followers and 22 “likes.” She even tagged the image #xray, so that other Instagram users could search and discover her picture.

Image via Shutterstock

So what? Very few people know this woman, but now, even well-known people are doing it. A DJ who broke his foot near the end of a tour took a picture in a physician’s office of the X-ray and posted it online, according to Fuhrman. “More than 98,000 people follow the DJ’s images, 4,019 people ‘liked’ the image, and 284 people commented on the image,” Fuhrman revealed.

But what about posting a picture of your mammogram?  Or having an employee at the clinic do it, along with your name and other identifying information? It’s been known to happen.

So how do you protect yourself in this day of everyone sharing just about everything? Of course, the first step is not to share any information you would be embarrassed to see in the wrong hands. 

Posted X-rays can also harm providers. A recent story about dental X-rays leading to mouth cancer, including X-rays of a cancerous lip, recently appeared online to the distress of dentists who fight patients all the time about dental X-rays, crucial for appropriate treatment.

So even though I kind of laugh at my friend who displays her clams casino and cannolis and balsamic-brushed salmon every night on Facebook, she’s much better off than anyone who puts up their rectal exam for the entire world to see.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2012, taking place Oct. 2-5, in Austin, TX.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO. Follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Allison Boccamazzo
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