A key issue when communicating with and about patients is you can’t share any information that could compromise their privacy or your integrity. Problems with privacy violations under HIPAA can quickly arise with the use of online technology, such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and blogs.
Practitioners are tarnishing their reputations and damaging the perceptions of their colleagues, inadvertently, through seemingly personal postings, and accidentally sharing a patient's health care data, or offending their patients’. The issue is becoming so problematic, leading medical societies including the Federation of State Medical Boards and the American Academy of Family Physicians have now created policies regarding physicians' using social media.
After complying with best practices, careful use, and adhering to policies, physicians are now able to use social media in educating their patients. Steps should be taken to bring these technologies under control while taking advantage of the benefits of providing patients with valuable information to make healthy decisions.
Patients have become empowered.
Patients are not just reaching out to their doctor when they have an issue or ailment; many are turning to Google and WebMD to research common symptoms, physician ratings, medications, and healthcare organizations. Despite if the information is appropriate or valid; patients are determining their next steps through this information. Although it seems unfathomable to a doctor, their patients are trying to diagnose their symptoms online.
The good news is that if social media is used correctly, it can help position you as an influencer. Health care brands, physicians, and staff members can use resources available to them to educate current and future patients. Social media is literally revolutionizing the healthcare industry through new and improved uses as it continues to grow and evolve. Innovative collaborations are redefining doctor-patient relations, and the potential benefits are remarkable.
4 Tips to Use Social Media in the Medical Industry & Stay Compliant
1.) Common sense is the key. When it comes to social media is not always what you post as much as it is, how you post it. You must always consider how your message will be received, and never do so in a way that could create embarrassment or damage your reputation, perhaps permanently!
2.) Post information that is timely and relevant. Be sure to post things that are top of mind to your patients. If it is a bad flu year, as an example, post information about safeguards, treatment options, medication. Even an infographic on hand washing technique would be appropriate. You could also tweet about your hours of operation.
3.) Engage your client. By providing timely information you create an atmosphere that invites clients to dialogue with you about what is concerning to them. Be sure to understand your target audience in these situations. For example, if your patient demographics are highly concentrated with families, posting information at the beginning of the school year about the dangers of playground equipment might be a good topic.
4.) Avoid oversharing. As the famous motto states, “less is more.” This is true in the social world, and even more so for the medical industry with HIPAA guidelines. You never want to put yourself in a position where security could be compromised. As an example, do not let your patients engage you with specific medical questions. In this case a phone call with an invitation for an appointment would be most appropriate. Patients can and will say whatever they want about their medical issues. You, however, cannot. HIPAA guidelines prohibit this.
Through these common sense best practices you will find a very powerful patient engagement tool at your fingertips, however, you must be sure that you are constantly compliant. Through proper use, and management of your social media activities you will be able to engage your patients, provide them vital information, create a better public image, and impact their lives.
Rob Gomes is a 20 year veteran of the Internet Marketing Industry. Serving as the SEO Manager at Imagine, Rob is constantly studying and putting into place key strategies to assist in the marketing efforts of all the TPI online initiatives.