Social Media and Health Care

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The advent of social media has created new ways for people to connect with one another, institutions, and healthcare professionals. Even though the social media revolution has brought about many benefits to individuals and businesses, it’s also rife with the potential for abuse, misuse, and privacy concerns. Take a look at how social media is impacting healthcare in the United States.

An Impact on Privacy

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Administrators, doctors, and other healthcare professionals must abide by strict federal laws that guard patients’ privacy by limiting how, when, and where hospitals share patient information. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has strict provisions that dictate boundaries for protecting a patient’s personal information. As a result, healthcare professionals need to be very careful about posting anything on any social media platform related to their patients, whether directly or indirectly.

Several organizations for healthcare professionals offer advice and guidelines for their members on how to use social media. At their core are recommendations for guarding the privacy of patients.

A Need for Guidance

In addition to professional groups offering advice on social media usage, hospitals and other healthcare businesses need to have their own social media policies. Set out specific rules to ensure the ethical use of social media by your employees and contractors. The guidelines need to establish clear lines for protecting the privacy and security of patients. It’s a good idea to offer training sessions so everyone understands the rules.

Some healthcare staff may want to interact with patients using social media to provide them with encouragement or friendly reminders. By setting up rules, healthcare administrators show their employees how to interact with their patients without creating privacy problems or other concerns.

An Opportunity for Patients to Praise Your Work

Social media in healthcare isn’t just about the risks. It also offers potential rewards. Some patients who have positive experiences will share their stories using social media platforms. Doing so builds trust in your brand, a goal for every brand manager. Trust is especially important in healthcare where the hospital’s technology, staff, and infrastructure can mean the difference between life and death.

A Way to Recruit

Recruiting high-caliber employees is an important priority for every healthcare institution. Having quality staff translates to positive patient experiences and better outcomes for those who are sick and injured. Savvy hospital administrators know they can use social media to attract applicants. LinkedIn allows you to target messages to people with specific job titles. Consider setting up a specific Twitter handle just for sharing information about job openings at your facilities. Facebook is also a useful tool for alerting people to staff vacancies.

A Plan to Handle Responsibilities

Healthcare administrators need to cultivate internal social media managers. These staff people already understand how your organization works, and with proper training, can handle writing and making posts. This helps ensure an active presence on social media rather than having an account that sits dormant.

While there are potential pitfalls for healthcare organizations using social media, this technology also offers immense opportunities for enhanced communication with the public, patients, staff, stakeholders, and job seekers.

Sources:
http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2014/06/05/health-care-harnesses-social-media
http://network.socialmedia.mayoclinic.org/social-media-residency/