Social Media and Healthcare: Why Discretion Matters

As the use of social media grows more widespread, it becomes more critical than ever to examine where the patient protections guaranteed by HIPAA in 1996 applies. Many healthcare employers block the usage of social media during working hours because of the loss of productivity, but even off-hours, parameters should be set on what is and is not appropriate.

Social media can be used in both well-intended and malicious ways. Whether it’s a healthcare provider commenting on a patient’s demeanor or posting a picture of a celebrity client, job-related social sharing can get health care professionals fired and leave employers open to sanctions or lawsuits.

To avoid liability – and keep your job, it’s critical that employers have a social media policy and for healthcare professionals to adhere to it.

The policy should include:

  • Definition of included social media
  • Who is subject to the policy
  • What constitutes social sharing
  • What protected or proprietary information is included
  • Disciplinary action that will be applied

Patients have a right to expect privacy while undergoing medical treatment. Individuals have become accustomed to freely sharing information in their private lives, making it necessary to remind employees that sharing on the job may not be appropriate.

What Benefits Does Social Media Offer to Healthcare?

Social media has also brought benefits to the personal and professional lives of many individuals. Are there ways in which healthcare professionals can safely use social media to their benefit?

Job Search. Find healthcare career opportunities through Linked In or industry sites. Sharing your experience or participate in conversations or question and answer sessions in groups.

Networking and Sharing. Industry-specific sites such as Doximity.com have sprung up – a site where physicians can collaborate or learn in a secure environment.

Patient Education. Healthcare providers can offer information about preventative care or specific conditions or illnesses, allowing patients to make educated medical decisions about their health.

Unexpected Benefits. Social media excels at spreading information quickly at a grassroots level. One recent example is the bombing of the Boston Marathon. Twitter and Facebook messages from the site allowed area hospitals.

Need to learn more about educating your staff on social media or looking for qualified nurses or allied health professionals? MedPro Staffing can help. We provide nurses, therapists and health professionals for facilities throughout the country. If you are looking for a travel healthcare opportunity, contact MedPro Healthcare Staffing today.

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