Social media can be a fantastic tool for growing and marketing your practice, keeping the community informed about your clinic, and more.
It does carry some inherent risks, though, so you will need to be careful when you use social media as part of your practice. You want to be sure you do not violate any laws, such as HIPAA, or accidentally violate someone’s privacy. Many uses of social media seem innocent at first but may create problems for your clinic later on, so you should be sure to protect yourself and your patients.
Keep reading for information about protecting your practice and your patients.
Posting information that reveals patient identity, makes someone’s private medical information public, or puts a patient at risk can land your practice in hot water. So, too, can communicating with patients via social media in some cases. You will need to have a plan for protecting your practice from accidental or purposeful breaches on social media, in any case.
Even if you leave a patient’s name out of your post, writing online on social media about people you serve at your clinic can inadvertently reveal their identities to others. For example, a post about someone who came in that week with a certain age, illness and appearance could easily be enough to reveal an individual’s identity.
Knowing where your clinic is located, it may be easy enough for someone who knows that person to figure out who you are referring to with just a few tidbits of personal information about your patient.
Basically, if you would never say something in a public place, do not say it on social media. Even private messages can be forwarded, too, and are not necessarily security-protected at the same standards as HIPAA requires for private health data. It is not worth the risk, even if you believe your post or message is private. Your best bet is probably to avoid talking about your patients on social media, period.
Here are ways you can help protect your practice:
- Set a policy. Have a social media policy in place at your organization so your coworkers, employees and others know what is and is not allowed online and on social media pages.
- Sharing a funny work photo? Think twice about it and make sure nothing in the photo is a compliance violation. If, for instance, there is a paper file hiding in the background, social media users may be able to read a name or scan it for personal information.
- If you are not sure if your post could be a HIPAA violation, show it to a colleague and get their opinion. They might protect you from a terrible and costly mistake!
- Get patients’ written permission before sharing their photos on social media. The same goes for patient testimonials and stories.
- Provide employee trainings regularly on HIPAA and make sure they are aware of your social media policies.
- Consider restricting social media use. Unless social media use is necessary for a staff member’s job, it should probably be banned during work hours.
- If you must post about your patients, keep these posts as generic as possible (i.e., “I love my patients! They make me smile.” “I went to chiropractic school to help others, and I get to help people every day.” “I am seeing a lot of flu cases lately. Stay healthy!”)
- When in doubt, remember that social media is public. Treat all social media as public places worthy of great care.
In time, if you can consistently use social media well, then you may reduce the risks of breaching a patient’s private medical information. Social media is still a great tool, so do not be afraid to use it.
Social media pages are a great place to highlight your clinic instead of drawing attention to the patients that go there. Remember, people want to learn about their health and find out more about the services you offer–provide them with that information, and your patients and social media followers will appreciate you even more.
- com. “Posting with Caution: The Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media and HIPAA Compliance.” Healthcare Compliance Pros. http://www.healthcarecompliancepros.com/blog/posting-with-caution-the-dos-and-donts-of-social-media-and-hipaa-compliance-2/. Published: April 2015. Accessed: December 2017.