Everybody’s got a smartphone nowadays. While this is no big deal at home, it has the potential to create problems at work – especially in a health care setting, where confidential information is prevalent and data breaches are an ongoing problem. In order to reduce the likelihood of personal information falling into the wrong hands, your practice should establish a social media policy if it does not already have one in place.
Advantages of a Social Media Policy
Social media is widespread throughout society, and – like it or not – a part of our everyday lives. If you think it’s a flash in the pan trend that will run its course, guess again: while the platforms may come and go (MySpace, anyone?), social media itself is here to stay. Whether you are a fan of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram or avoid them like the plague, there are some real benefits to social media. It can serve as a great marketing tool for your practice, allowing you to share important information with your followers and post work-related photos that help to show off your company culture. At the same time, it’s forcing employers to regulate staff communication in a way that wasn’t necessary before.
Rather than resist its presence, you might as well embrace it smartly by establishing a social media policy. In doing so, you’ll be providing employees with clear guidelines on what is and is not acceptable during work hours, while taking steps to ensure information is kept confidential and personal data remains private. Nobody wants to run afoul of HIPAA regulations!
Social Media Policy Components
Some health care practices ban smartphone use during all working hours, while others allow their staff leeway during breaks. The rules you decide to implement are purely up to you. One caveat worth enforcing: if you do allow employees access to social media during the workday, it should be strictly limited to personal accounts and in no way concern office, practice, or health plan information. It goes without saying that protected patient data and any other proprietary or sensitive office information is strictly off limits.
A gray area arises when it comes to social media relationships between staff and patients, especially when employees refer friends or family members to the practice. Obviously, you aren’t going to tell your staff not to fraternize with people they’re related to, but you should stress the importance of not divulging medical advice, test results, or any other information over social media. Limit practice-related communication to normal internal channels such as secure patient portals.
Controlling personal social media accounts outside of the workplace is more difficult, and most employees resent this type of policing. This doesn’t mean you can’t establish a few ground rules in the interest of maintaining privacy and confidentiality. It’s reasonable to prohibit the posting of photos of your office, staff, and patients, for instance.