You obviously want to leverage social media networks like Facebook and Twitter to work for your practice and help you grow your patient base, right? Of course you do. But, it’s imperative to balance the benefits and risks of social media to ensure proper HIPAA compliance.
Some of the main benefits of social media for your practice include the ability to provide customers with information quickly (for free) while engaging them in real time and measuring results quantifiably. However, because of the HIPAA Security Rule requiring all individually identifiable health information that an organization creates, receives, maintains or transmits in electronic form to be protected, you must be cognizant of what you’re putting on your social networks and what your audience is giving back to you.
HIPAA regulators have also begun to conduct random audits and that means your office must be ready to produce the necessary documentation (just in case).
Quick Tips to Stay HIPAA Compliant
When ineffectively managed, social media risks can harm patient privacy, lead to legal sanctions, and perhaps most importantly, cause irreversible reputational damage for you and your practice.
Luckily there are a few easy things you can do to help make sure your practice remains HIPAA compliant on the social media network(s) of your choice:
Actively Inform and Manage Privacy Concerns. When it comes to health information, privacy is of key concern. That said, you must act in accordance with the preference of your patients. In other words, you can only communicate directly with patients regarding their health information over social media channels if you’ve received their express permission and your office has informed them of the risks associated with such communication.
Keep Your Networks Secure. Make sure to work closely with your IT department or partner to establish strict security, access and information sharing pathways.
Ask Before Posting Anything. You must consider individual patient confidentiality before using their likeness in any way. You cannot share private details of past cases (such as patient testimonials) without prior written consent from the patient.
Establish Roles in the Office. It’s important that everyone in your organization knows his or her role when it comes to your social media presence. This will help ensure compliance and save you a headache or two. When you first begin your efforts, decide which staff members will be able to coordinate, monitor, post and respond to social media messages to help the effort flow smoothly. Establishing a chain of command will also help you quickly respond to issues should they arise down the road. Decide who will post photos, status updates, etc. and who will be their backup. Then choose if those same individuals will also respond to patient inquiries and health information requests.
Social media provides healthcare practices a marketing tool to connect with patients like never before. With proper management and organization your office too can have a strong social media presence while remaining HIPAA compliant.
Social Media Policies for Your Office
Define a clear message outlining how you will manage your online presence.
Keep a brief handbook of policies, tactics and management tools.
Cover all social networks and content management systems in your handbook and initial training sessions.
Establish responsibilities for office representatives.
Provide examples of what social media managers should and should not do.