Although HIPAA was originally created before the launch of most major social media platforms, that doesn’t mean that social media isn’t an important consideration for healthcare organizations. HIPAA standards and laws apply to the use of social media just as much as they would to other communication platforms.
HIPAA has received over 200,000 complaints since 2003, so it’s crucial to take privacy seriously. After all, hiring a personal injury lawyer is a lengthy, exhaustive process. It’s better to just reduce the number of complaints in general rather than dispute them. This article will cover everything healthcare organizations should know about the application of HIPAA to social media platforms.
The Benefits of Social Media
The average person spends over two hours on various social media websites and apps every day, making it the perfect platform to market any product or service. It also offers helpful tools for healthcare organizations including the ability to quickly and conveniently interact with all patients.
No matter how you’re using social media in your organization, you need to understand how to avoid violating the privacy of your patients as described by HIPAA. That said, it’s usually easy to effectively leverage social media without compromising safety or risking any violations.
The Dos and Don’ts of Using Social Media
Social media is a valuable tool that provides healthcare organizations with the perfect platform to reach out to existing and potential customers. Some usual functions of healthcare social media accounts include:
- Marketing and outreach
- Information about medical research and events
- General personal health tips
On the other hand, posting any information about specific patients is strictly prohibited by the HIPAA Privacy Rule. Any videos, images, or text that either identifies a patient or could lead to a patient being identified may result in a violation. The only exceptions are situations in which the patient has given written consent for the use of their personal health information.
Even if you feel confident in your knowledge of the HIPAA regulations, any untrained employees at your company could be a liability and present unnecessary risks. It’s important to train new employees either before their first day or as soon as possible once they have started. Don’t give anyone who isn’t trained the ability to post on social media, and provide a refresher course at least every year.
HIPAA violations can lead to a range of significant consequences for both the individual responsible and their organization. Even a single incident can cause a major problem, so it’s much better to take preventive measures than to respond after something happens.
Your organization should have policies that clarify exactly how social media platforms should be used. Many businesses consult with their compliance departments when opening new social media accounts, or even before each post.
Social media is the perfect way to connect with your patients and customers, but it needs to be used carefully and thoughtfully in order to avoid a HIPAA violation. Check out the HIPAA compliance checklist for more information about how to social media in a legal and ethical way.