Hospital Social Media Policy: Why your hospital needs one

Back to Blog Posted on October 21, 2011 by sarahbethcorrigan

by Sarah Beth Cowherd, RN, BSN

Let’s face it. Your employees are on Facebook.

As a hospital system, you may have blocked access to certain social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. But did you block access on their mobile device?

Don’t get scared. Social Media policies made in fear are less than effective. They tend to be exclusive: Telling the clinicians and employees what they CAN’T do, rather than what they CAN do.

80% of internet users look for health information online (according to Pew Research Center). That may seem like a simple statistic, but the implications are monumental.

Why would you create a policy that prevented your providers from meeting patients (and future patients, for that matter) where they are?

I know what you are thinking:

What about HIPAA? Privacy concerns are valid, but they are manageable. Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, known online as @SeattleMamaDoc, recently (and brilliantly) said, “We [providers] are way worse on the elevator than we are online.” Online, we have to be thoughtful about what we say. We have to think twice about it because we are typing it. In the elevator, privacy violations occur because flippant conversations and gossip can thrive. Also, it is important to remember that a patient may post their own medical information online. That is not a HIPAA violation.

As a hospital or hospital system, you have the obligation to provide an inclusive policy for your employees regarding social media. Let them know what they can do. Empower them to safely and effectively meet patients online where there are. For after all, it is all about the patients.

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