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March 26, 2016

Student Shadowing in the Medical Office Going Extinct

Image courtesy of imagerymajestic
at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Back when I was a high school and college student, shadowing a doctor in the medical office was common and fairly easy to accomplish. Make a few phone calls and set a few days and than you just showed up to get a glimpse into the world of medicine.

Fast forward to the present...

Over the years as a practicing doctor, I routinely get student requests to shadow me in my practice, though such requests mainly come by email rather than phone calls as I did it back in the day. Unfortunately, I have recently come to now refuse student shadowing and not for the reasons most lay public may suspect:

• Student shadowing takes up time... true, but not the main reason
• Student shadowing interferes with office workflow... true, but not the main reason
• Student shadowing results in medical mistakes... nope

The main reason student shadowing is so rare now is because of medico-legal liability stemming from HIPAA. And it's not just me... many physician practices have closed their doors to student shadowing due to HIPAA concerns as well.

HIPAA in a nutshell is a federal law passed in 1996 that prohibits doctors from sharing any private health information with anybody else without explicit permission from the patient. HIPAA penalties are based on the level of negligence and can range from $100 to $50,000 per violation (or per record), with a maximum penalty of $1.5 million per year.


In other words, if a student shadowing a doctor shares information seen in a doctor's office with peers, friends, family or worst case scenario, publicly on social media, the doctor and his office can suffer huge financial penalties, even if the shared information was not done with mischief in mind.

Which is really a shame... but most doctors including myself are not willing to put our careers/jobs in jeopardy for a student who we may not even know in the era of social media and sexting scandals.

When students are found in a medical office or hospital, it is done with legal protections in place, typically granted by the students' school so that any misdeeds committed by the student is borne by the student and the school and not the doctor or medical organization.


Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids. Google+ Christopher Chang, MD Bio

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