We live in a time where social media is a part of our daily lives. The saying “you live in a fishbowl” has never been more accurate than it is today. At any moment, a neighbor, bystander, client or patient could take out a smartphone and begin live streaming or recording our actions.
This recently happened to a critical care specialist when a patient chose to record his physician’s interactions during an emergency room visit.
Emergency medical technicians rushed the patient to the hospital after he collapsed following basketball practice. The young man has a history of suffering from anxiety and panic attacks. The patient states that the physician entered the room and “didn’t even say hello” but “just came in with guns blazing.” The patient also states that the doctor stated she was sorry, but that he was “the least sick of all the people who [were at the hospital] who are dying.”
The evidence provided thus far appears to support that the physician was facing a tough balance. As noted above, this particular patient was suffering from a panic or anxiety attack. Although a serious matter, the physician was attempting to balance the care needed for this patient with others who also needed her attention and were suffering from more severe, life-threatening ailments.
These are the professional balances physicians must make on a daily basis, particularly within the emergency department. Siphoning through the patients that enter the department to determine which are in grave condition needing immediate attention and who would be better served with a follow-up appointment with a cardiologist, psychologist or other specialized physician is a daily battle. A failure to handle the battle wisely can result in a serious loss, as is the case with this physician.
The physician is now under investigation. Her medical license is at risk.
The case provides a valuable lesson to medical professionals throughout the country: you live in a fishbowl. A patient can record an interaction at any moment and use the recording to support allegations of wrongdoing. Act wisely. If a patient makes accusations, build a defense.