Staying HIPAA Compliant with Social Media

by / Thursday, 20 November 2014 / Published in Digital Marketing Blog, Social Media Marketing, Uncategorized

The opportunities social media presents a healthcare marketing strategy are numerous and are the result of the changing nature of the patient journey. More and more patients are now turning to social media and search engines as they search

healthcare marketing hipaa

courtesy of Purple Slog

for reviews of providers and services, information on symptoms, and peer to peer discussions regarding health issues.

As a healthcare professional, your goal is to be a part of this journey from the very beginning. An optimized website and proactive social media presence will attract new patients and assist in online discovery. Interactions on social media will increase patient engagement and support, improve customer service, foster patient loyalty, and build brand awareness through the production and distribution of authoritative content.

HIPAA and Social Healthcare Marketing

Social media is undeniably a valuable tool in the healthcare industry, but where do HIPAA compliance regulations fit in? This is a major concern for health care providers and practitioners. The following headlines are indicative of the punitive nature of the repercussions of HIPAA violations:

• “Punitive Damages OK for Unintentional Data Breaches, N.Y. Appeals Court Says”
• “Denver Hospital Ordered to Pay $1.2 Million in Privacy Invasion Case”
• “Staff Nurse Faces Jail Time for HIPAA Violations”

Social media presents new challenges for an industry bound by strict privacy laws. Social media is fast-paced, informal, and a part of many people’s daily lives. While inappropriately distributing a physical document or an email may seem like an obvious HIPAA violation, healthcare professionals may not consider social media in the same regard.

Any act of sharing a patient’s Protected Health Information without the patient’s permission—whether in the form of a Facebook post, tweet or YouTube video—is considered a violation of HIPAA regulations. Both individuals and facilities may be prosecuted for HIPAA violations.

Create a Social Media Policy

The best way to ensure that your social media presence works for you and not against you is to educate your staff on the correct use of social media both at work and at home. This can be done by creating a clear and specific social media policy. Here are some things to consider when creating a policy:

• Banning all social media is not realistic; it’s everywhere and it’s here to stay.
• Your policy needs to account for an employee’s home life—it is just as possible for a worker to violate HIPAA at home as at work
• Social media is ever-changing—is your policy? Revisit your policy every 6 months to account for new technologies and developments that can affect your compliance.
• The more specific you are regarding what an employee can’t share, the less room there is for uncertainty.
• Make sure your patients are aware of your social media policy and how you will interact with them online.

For more information regarding social media and HIPAA, visit http://www.hhs.gov/web/socialmedia/index.html.

Creating a social media policy that protects you from HIPAA violations should be a priority for any healthcare marketing strategy. Call Chatter Buzz Media today for a free digital healthcare marketing consultation session.

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Dhugal Gardner
Dhugal Gardner is a Content Marketer at Chatter Buzz Media. Dhugal graduated from The Florida State University with degrees in Literature and Spanish. To connect with Dhugal, visit his Google page or LinkedIn page.

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