Think Before You Share

The healthcare landscape looks drastically different than it did even ten years ago. The economic crisis of ‘08 played a big hand in the changes we see today, from mergers and acquisitions to reorganizing hospitals and finding creative ways to cut costs. There was also a tiny piece of legislation passed, which you may have heard about.

All that aside, I also believe the boom of social media has made a significant impact in the evolving healthcare landscape.

Social media has shifted how we communicate with people across the board. Physicians, patients and families now have the ability to reach out and engage with hospitals like never before. They can post shining reviews on their Facebook or a scathing complaint on their Twitter. Pictures of the hospital or the patient can be uploaded in the blink of an eye to Instagram. With social media has come a layer of accountability hospitals and doctors have not experienced in years past.

Ragan’s Health Care Communications News ran an article this week titled “Are health care and social media a bad combination?” It focused on a story about a New York nurse who posted a picture of a messy trauma room after a patient had been treated. The nurse was fired for violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

In years past, HIPAA simply meant not sharing a patient’s information or any part of their medical records without their consent. In 2014, camera phones and social media has blurred the line of privacy. Posting anything of or about patients can lead to a terrible public relations nightmare – or even worse a serious lawsuit.

This article lays out some good, common sense tips to avoid situations like what happened in New York:

  1. Don’t engage in unauthorized photo sharing on social media.
  2. Always keep HIPAA in mind.
  3. Enforce a written policy for social media including an action plan if someone violates the policy.
  4. Hold classes to teach employees about acceptable social media behaviors.

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