Social Media and Medical Practices

Social media has become both a binding and a dividing force in our society. Platforms for communicating every action and desire have multiplied, evolved, and created new niches for discrete audiences. Many medical practices across the country utilize Facebook pages or Twitter feeds to communicate news, health tips, and helpful information to patients and potential patients.

Whether your practice sponsors a social media stream or not, practice managers need to set social media policies and guidelines for staff and clinicians. Employees who encounter an annoying patient or one with an unusual condition may be temped to post a comment about the interaction on their personal social media feeds. If written with enough detail (and it doesn’t take much) for someone to identify that patient, the posting could be declared a PHI (patient health information) disclosure. Even a seemingly harmless photo posting of a patient and a clinician could be deemed suspect if found on the clinician’s page.

Here’s something else to consider. Today’s employees often post details of their daily lives to sites such as Facebook and Instagram several times a day. If the photo of their new watch or engagement ring happens to show a patient chart or test results in the background, the posting could be a violation. HIPAA and Meaningful Use require practices to have an updated analysis of security risks. When creating yours, don’t forget to include guidelines for use of social media.

IHI appreciates the positive impact electronic communications can have on healthcare and on communicating with patients. Savvy physicians know what they have always known: tools may change, but the healing relationship endures. IHI is in the business of helping practices meet the future. How can we help your practice thrive? Call: 503-341-0593.

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