6 Criteria to Cover in a Healthcare Social Media Policy

Concerns continue over social media and healthcare. Stories go viral about employees at healthcare facilities abusing patients. As a result, facilities ban the use of social media for their employees. Banning social media use in healthcare facilities does not fix the problem; it only creates more problems.

The healthcare industry faces many challenges with social media. It is our duty to protect the people we serve. HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) makes the reality of social media much more difficult for healthcare businesses. A social media policy empowers your employees and keeps the company brand safe.  

Do not try to stop staff from using social media, instead put the best policies in place and educate them.

It does not matter if your facility has a social media account, employees, family members, and residents will include your company in their posts. Having a presence on a social media site is worth it just to have some influence over the brand and reputation of your company. Employees have accounts and (unfortunately, but realistically) some are not afraid to post pictures, videos or outwardly commiserate causing you more harm than the employee.

To protect your patients, your employees and your facility have a social media policy. In the policy acknowledge these 6 criteria.

Policy Statement

This section is an overview of the policy. State your company’s need for a social media policy. Inform individuals that it is not only the facility you are protecting but also the patients and the employees.  

Employees have a right to use social media, but if they wish to continue to work at your company they must abide by these guidelines. Let them know there will be consequences for not following this policy

Policy Scope

In addition to the employees who work for the facility, there are also individuals directly affiliated, pharmacies, contractors, and even volunteers.

The policy needs to cover all people affiliated with the company.

Objectives

Outline the reasons for the social media policy. Why is it important that the company has a policy and what do you hope to gain from it?

Reasons to consider include the responsibilities and hazards of posting on social media, defining clear guidelines on how to conduct oneself, and the protection of legal threats should they arise from using social media.   

Personal Social Media Guidelines

Since most employees will have their own social media accounts, they must know the boundaries between personal and professional use. Whether an employee advertises on their social media account or not that they work for your company they need to abide by certain guidelines as described by you.

Encourage employees to disclose the nature of their affiliation with your company. Portray clear disclaimers that any form of personal views that you express online are of your own accord, and do not represent the views of the company. You may have seen Twitter accounts that say something like “Opinions are my own.”

Employees must act professionally when on social media and let them know they must comply with confidentiality policies. This last point is where most people get in trouble. They post pictures or tell inappropriate stories about patients and violate the patient’s right to privacy.  

Acceptable Company Social Media Usage

Social Media is a great way to promote your business and your employees are your biggest advocates. If they enjoy working and love their patients then they will gladly help spread your positive message.

Using social media, then educate and encourage your staff to like, comment or share posts. If you allow tagging, consider letting employees tag friends or family. Tagging is controversial because while tagging friends and family is good, tagging patients are not.

Unacceptable Company Social Media Usage

In this section go into detail concerning what employees may not do on social media as an affiliate of the company.

Staff, volunteers, contractors, etc. should never take pictures of patients or family members. It does not matter if their intention is to post it on social media or for personal use. They do not know if that patient has given written permission to have their picture taken and verbal permission is not enough.

An aside, designate only one or two staff members to take pictures and post. They need to know which patients have given written permission for pictures.

If someone takes a picture of a patient it is the employee’s responsibility to have that person delete the picture. Report the incident to a supervisor.

On posts, never mention a patient by name. Employees should not post conversations they have with patients on their own social media accounts. They should not post pictures of themselves taking part in illegal or harmful activities. You may also wish to consider having staff refrain from using profanity on any company account.

Follow all copyright rules. Do not post other people’s pictures, music or words without giving them proper credit. If a company or individual fails to do this they are subject to copyright infringement and subject to fines and a possible prison sentence. If unsure, either give credit or don’t post.

Conclusion

Decide the repercussions if someone does not the policy, a written warning, suspension, or termination of employment.

A violation in HIPPA compliance can also result in a fine for the individual- $1000 to $50,000 and a possible prison sentence from 1 to 10 years. In addition, the company also may receive a fine for the employee’s violation.  

Before having employees sign off that they understand and agree to the social media policy have a lawyer review it. They are more knowledgeable concerning state and federal laws.

Social Media is a great way to connect with friends and co-workers. It is a great way to promote your business and build a good reputation. The rights of the patients always take precedent.

Think before posting.   

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John

John, a Digital Marketing Manager, has a passion for Inbound Marketing, educating others, and telling great stories. Just ask about the time he had to break out of a hotel. As a hobby, he enjoys writing about fatherhood and spending time building Legos and hosting tea parties.