I'm a gay man in my late 20's who works for a national pharmacy chain. At my old store, there were three cute guys who were semi-regular patients; they don't know each other, and I knew each one by name. I was transferred to another location, and yet, even now, I find myself occasionally "Facebook-stalking" them. I have never sent any of them a message; I just admire from afar, so to say. I think they're all adorable, but I would only bet that one of them is actually gay (I saw him go into a bar just after I got out of that same bar). What is protocol here? Do I wait until I quit the company altogether to send a friend request? Could I get in trouble for HIPAA violations? What should I do?
Prowling Internet, Lusting Lovers
I'm not a healthcare professional, PILL, nor am a federal bureaucrat charged with enforcing patient confidentiality rules. But I gotta say... if this piece of shit can get away with this and that piece of shit can get away with that, I don't see why a gray-area Facebook friend request should derail a pharmacist's career.
But it could, PILL.
Even it couldn't or didn't, the ethics of your lurking/stalking are murky. HIPAA was created to protect the privacy of a patient's personal and health information, and a patient's name, PILL, is a part of that protected information. You had access, in your professional capacity, to private info about these men—their names. Looking a person up on Facebook doesn't on its face appear to be a violation of HIPAA (my layperson's quick/slapdash reading), mostly because you're not making anyone's information publicly available. Adding or contacting them on Facebook, however, could make your ex-patients uncomfortable and land you in trouble with your employer. You don't know these guys and you don't know how they'll react to hearing from you. Maybe one of these dudes is a raging homophobe and your friend request will drive them into a straight panic, causing them to call your pharmacy and complain that the creepy pharmacist added them on Facebook. Perhaps the gay one/ones may not want to be Facebook friends with the person who used to handle their PREP prescriptions and complain, and get your ass in trouble.
But if you're deadset on meeting these guys, PILL, and since you're already stalking them... you could engineer a "chance meeting" in public/IRL and strike up a conversation. You already know the name of least one bar frequented by the one dude you know to be gay. Strike up a conversation with him the next to you run into him. By accident. In that bar.
That being said, PILL, do you have any mutual friends in common with these guys? (Facebook tells you that, right?) If you've got a couple mutual friends, maybe reach out to these friends to have them introduce you. But if these guys are total strangers, PILL, don't send them a friend request. Because other gay dudes are easy to find and jobs are hard to find. Find other cute guys to obsess over that you didn't meet while filling their prescriptions.
Listen to my podcast, the Savage Lovecast, at www.savagelovecast.com.
Impeach the motherfucker already! Get your ITMFA buttons, t-shirts, hats and—soon—lapel pins and coffee mugs at www.ITMFA.org!