Doctor Breached HIPAA Privacy Rule Through Social Media Retaliation

An employee at the Dr. O Medical and Wellness Center in San Antonio, Texas as been sanctioned by the Texas Medical Board after allegedly retaliating against a patient by posting a video on Facebook and YouTube of them wearing only underwear. The doctor’s actions appear to be a clear violation of the HIPAA Privacy Rule.

The patient in question, Clara Aragon-Delk, underwent a number of cosmetic surgery procedures beginning in 2015. Non-invasive laser treatments were carried out by Dr. Tinuade Olusegun-Gbadehan, and while consent was given by the patient to have photographs and videos recorded, permission was only given for ‘anonymous use for the purposes of medical audit, education, and promotion.’

The images and video showed full face shots of the patient. Rather than securing the patient’s privacy by pixelating the patient’s face, a video was published to Olusegun-Gbadehan’s Facebook page without any attempt to protect the patient’s privacy.

From viewing the video, it seems that the patient was happy with the treatment, although around a month later the patient had changed her mind about this. The patient replied to the Facebook post with the comment “OK, I’ll make my Comment! Beware! Send me a personal message, and I’ll share my experience with this crap!”

There was a subsequent transfer of emails between the Dr. Olusegun-Gbadehan and the patient in which Aragon-Delk claims Dr. Olusegun-Gbadehan behvaed in an abusive and threatening manner.

Aragon-Delk claims Dr. Olusegun-Gbadehan threatened in one email, “I will damage your professional and you will be humiliated!” Olusegun-Gbadehan also commented that, others “will see your glowing testimonial and your body, enjoy your Hi-Def video. Enjoy as others will do the same.”

In the complaint made to the Texas Medical Board, the patient stated she suffered burns during the first procedure. She also claimed that she had been overbilled. The patient contacted a merchant processing company called Stripe in relation to the disputed charges.

Two weeks ago, the Texas Medical Board found that Dr. Olusegun-Gbadehan had violated the patient’s privacy and behaved in an unprofessional manner.

The Texas Medical Board said the publishing of the video was a HIPAA breach and was unprofessional. The Board also ruled that an email including the link to a posting of the video that was sent to the patient in an unsecured format was also a confidentiality breach and was unprofessional. Dr. Olusegun-Gbadehan also sent the video to the merchant processing company as a reaction to the billing dispute as proof that the patient initially appeared to be happy with the treatment, but this too was a violation of the patient’s privacy.

Dr. Olusegun-Gbadehan neither admits or denies the claims made, but the Texas Medical Board’s order was agreed to by Dr. Olusegun-Gbadehan to avoid a contested hearing, as reported in the San Antonio Express News.

The order states that Dr. Olusegun-Gbadehan must retake the Texas Medical Jurisprudence Examination within the next year.

While the matter would seems to have been settled, the patient has now begun a legal action against Dr. Olusegun-Gbadehan for mental anguish, physical pain, and suffering experiened. Patients are not allowed to sue physicians for HIPAA breaches as there is no private cause of action. Due to this, a health care liability claim has been submitted under state law, claiming the publishing of the video and subsequent correspondence via email were aimed at damaging the patient’s personal and professional reputation.

Author: Maria Perez