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Social Media Medical Compliance Tips

Physicians and practitioners understand communication is the key in maintaining a good relationship with their patients. Honest, sincere, dialogue has always been a precursor to successful management of health. Recent studies show that when a patient opens up and talks to their doctor, they have a better perception about themselves and the issues they may be facing. The question remains, how can we open different channels of communication and still be compliant with HIPAA laws?

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.

Social Engagement for the Medical Industry

In this ever changing landscape of social media, the medical world is seeing the benefits of using social media as a marketing tool. Many physician groups are using Facebook, Twitter, and blogs to grow their practice and earn patient referrals. From the small country doctor, to large hospital groups, the use of social media is becoming a powerful way to engage patients.

So what is social media and how can it help my practice? Social Media is, in its purest form, interaction among people and is used to share opinions, ideas, hopes, dreams, and fears. It is an open door into their lives inasmuch as they allow it, creating a unique opportunity for a medical provider to be able to engage their patients. Engaged patients are more likely to follow the advice of their medical professional, keep appointments, seek out new information on their health, and therefore, have better medical outcomes. Using social media allows your practice to be active in the care of your patients outside of the typical visit.

Through the use of Twitter, Facebook, and the multitude of physician rating sites you can provide valuable information directly to a multitude of people without being intrusive. Examples could be as simple as a tweet reminding your followers to use sunscreen on a holiday weekend, or placing a post about a new medication or treatment on your Facebook site. You could write a blog on some of the cutting edge treatments available for your specialty or can be as simple as wishing your patients a happy birthday. Subliminally your patients will then have you top of mind and will most likely have a higher degree of regard for you. As a medical provider you have a front row seat into some of the most personal aspects of your patients’ lives and is a vehicle for you to be on the forefront with them and no longer out of sight or out of mind.

While it was slow to adopt, the healthcare industry is quickly moving towards social media as an avenue to not only market, but to have a meaningful impact on the lives of their number one asset- their patients.

Social media is most likely already a part of your patients’ lives. While they are “Tweeting” and “Liking”, you have an awesome opportunity to engage and empower them to become involved in their health. The returns for both you and your patients are immeasurable. Here at IMAGINE, we are committed to helping you navigate this ever changing world of social engagement. Feel free to contact me directly for more information on how IMAGINE can develop a strategy for you to become a more social part of your patients’ lives.


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