As part of a highly regulated industry, many healthcare organizations have been hesitant to adopt social media. But social media is a powerful and authentic communication tool with a unique role to play in health – it helps providers communicate with patients and other physicians, as well as elevates their practices’ public profiles.
How is Social Media Used in Healthcare?
Did you know that 41 percent of people said social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital or medical facility? Consumers across age groups are increasingly using social media to inform their own healthcare decisions. From selecting a provider to determining courses of treatment, savvy internet users are leveraging social networks to learn more about their health treatment options.
Patients are also using social media to connect with one another, as well as share their experiences and health tips. Physicians are joining social networks to disseminate medical knowledge and network with other practitioners. Providers are also turning to social media to authentically connect with a wider community and elevate their practices’ brands. And readers are responding positively to this trend – 60 percent of social media users will trust doctors’ social media posts and activities over any other group.
Tips for Healthcare Providers Using Social Media
Healthcare providers are especially vulnerable to lawsuits and should consider legal issues like patient privacy, litigation and physician licensing before using social media. When launching your social media presence, here are tips to ensure that you’re complying with HIPAA regulations:
- Establish separate accounts for communicating with friends/family and your professional network, like patients and other providers. Use different passwords to differentiate the accounts.
- Understand how and why people use specific social platforms, as well as how they store personal information online.
- Understand the platform you’re using and how it works.
- Check the social network’s privacy settings once every week, since they change frequently.
- Never refer to a patient by name on social media and do not describe specific demographics or populations that could be identified.
- When referencing specific cases, be as generic as possible and do not describe demographics or populations that may be identified by third parties.
- Never “friend” patients on Facebook, as this could be classified as a HIPAA violation. Federal and state privacy laws limit providers’ unfettered ability to interact with patients through social media.
- Never post anything that you wouldn’t want reprinted in the newspaper.
- Reflect on a tweet or other digital communication before sending it, as words can be easily misconstrued.
- Be careful about providing medical advice to patients using social media. For example, if a patient receiving advice from a doctor is located in a state where the provider is not licensed, the doctor may risk liability.
31 percent of healthcare organizations have specific social media guidelines in place. If your practice is part of a larger system, check to see if there’s a rulebook you can adopt to support your own social media strategy. Professional networking among physicians, providing transparency and authenticity to patients and elevating your practice’s own brand are great reasons to get started on social media. With these HIPAA guidelines, you’re on your way to building an impactful and compliant online presence.
Are you a healthcare provider who uses social media? If so, share your tips below.