Plastic Surgeon is Sued for Misuse of Patient Photos

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A recent scandal involving before-and-after breast augmentation photos on a plastic surgeon’s website has stirred a very relevant debate involving medical confidentiality and web marketing practices.

A plastic surgeon had received permission from certain patients to publish photos of their naked breasts both pre and post augmentation for the surgeon’s online portfolio. Their names, however, were not to be not posted or associated with the photos in any way. These patients were later shocked when Google searches for their names turned up the naked photos. They are now suing the plastic surgeon for negligence, but is it doctor’s fault?

In this case, the surgeon provided the pictures to her SEO company to be included on her practice’s website displaying examples of her work. She had saved the original files under the patients’ names, such as “JaneDoe.jpg”. The SEO company did not alter these file names before posting the pictures online, thus leaving a trail invisible to end users, yet searchable.

When a medical practice outsources its web marketing to an SEO company, it provides the general content it wishes to be displayed (doctor biographies, accreditations, photos, etc.), and it is up to the SEO company to optimize for it. Part of this includes establishing keywords, optimizing for them and tracking the results. Experts in search engine optimization know that you can optimize an image file by including relevant, descriptive words in the file name.

When Google search engine spiders crawl a website they look at the site completely different than the human eye. The search engine spiders, GoogleBot, see html code and all that is contained in the code, including file names and other things the end user doesn’t see.

The patients’ photos showed up in search queries because their names were contained in the image files. The filename is a strong indicator of relevancy, thusly Google associated these photos with the patients even though their names were no where in the website’s body content.

Now that brings us back to the original question: whose fault is this? Unfortunately, there is no answer as of yet, and this situation can be at least partially blamed on both parties; however, the whole thing could have been avoided with proper SEO techniques.

Because confidentiality is of the utmost importance in a medical practice, it is necessary to have SEO performed by an expert who understands the industry as well as the ins and outs of search engine technology. Not only will this be of benefit when optimizing for keywords, but it will prevent mishaps such as this.

It is crucial when hiring an SEO company that those involved are as up-to-date as possible with the current trends in web visibility and understand completely Google’s best practices. AdviceMedia specializes in web strategy and SEO specifically for medical practices. We have been working with medical clients since 1998.

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