In the August 2014 edition of Healthcare Business Monthly, there is an article that addresses social media and physician practices. The article starts out by saying, “Social media can be an exciting and valuable tool when used wisely; however, it can also put a practice at risk. If you haven’t done so already, create a social media policy for your practice, and seek to understand how employees and providers are using social media, both during and outside of work hours.”
The article provides 5 tips to protect privacy when using social media and social networking websites.
1. Patient privacy and confidentiality must be protected at all times.
2. Have patients authorize the use of their personal information online.
3. Train providers to apply the same ethical and professional conduct online as they use in their daily actions offline.
4. Social media can enter into what HIPAA regulates as marketing to patients.
5. Ensure that vendors who assist you in social media activities sign a business associate agreement.
The article also addresses specific things a physician practice should never do when using social media. In the article it says, “Never defend the practice or respond to a patient’s negative comments online . . . Never post photos of patients—or any part of patients, no matter how unidentifiable they seem—online. . . . Never text patient information without ensuring a secure (i.e., encrypted) method for doing so.”
It is extremely important to protect patient information. This is the main reason why the HIPAA law was implemented. There are penalties for not complying with this law. The article summarizes these as “Disciplinary actions range from a letter of reprimand to revocation of a provider’s license to practice medicine.”
Each of us in the health information industry needs to take the appropriate measures to ensure we are using social media appropriately in the workplace.