With the generalization of social network use by health care workers, we observe the emergence of breaches in medical confidentiality. Our objective was to determine, among anesthesiology and intensive care health care workers, the rate of medical confidentiality breaches among professional tweets.
We performed a retrospective analysis of public Twitter data available through the official Twitter application program interface. The profiles of anesthesiology and intensive care professionals were identified thanks to keywords in their biography. All the tweets with a photograph and all the text-only tweets containing at least one specific keyword related to anesthesiology or intensive care were extracted. We selected only the tweets with a health care–related character. Then, we analyzed 10% of the tweets with a photograph and 10% of the text-only tweets extracted and noted those presenting a breach of medical confidentiality.
After a first screening of 12,705 accounts, we manually analyzed 431 tweets with photograph(s) and 9000 text-only tweets from 1831 accounts. We found 44 (10.2%) breaches of medical confidentiality among the photographs and 76 (0.8%) among text-only tweets. These 120 problematic tweets came from 96 profiles (96/1831; 5.2%); 3.7% of North American profiles breached medical confidentiality versus 6.3% of profiles from other areas; P = .03. When comparing the distribution of the number of followers and tweets, accounts with breach of medical confidentiality tweets had more tweets and followers than profiles without (both P < .0001).
We found a significant proportion of tweets with breach of medical confidentiality among anesthesiology and intensive care professionals accounts.