Healthcare and Social Media: Are You Risking Confidentiality?

Years ago, the concept of a doctor or any medical professional using social media in a professional capacity would have been outlandish and unthinkable.  However, as time progresses, patients are demanding different avenues of contact between themselves and their physicians.  Some private practices have opted to incorporate email into their daily routine for communication with patients, whereas others have shunned technology entirely in terms of patient interaction.

Some hospitals have advised physicians to avoid social media to prevent confidentiality issues and protect doctors from inappropriate communication and potential lawsuits.

Social Media Strategies for Tech Savy Practice Managers:

In a recent story written by Ellen Messmer, a Stanford University grad who recently accepted a position at Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, says the hospital asked him in a letter to refrain from accepting patient “friend” requests on Facebook. They also suggested he review photos posted online.

Some medical professionals are choosing to use specific Internet-based physician/patient portals that are designed to facilitate communication between doctors and their patients.

Others are becoming familiar with social media and other types of online communication, and applying their common sense to govern what they do and don’t do online.

Why Keep Social Media in Your Practice?

Physicians and staff in private practice have less restrictions when it comes to using social media. They find that using certain aspects of social media can benefit private practice as long as it's used appropriately and within reason.  And many patients are beginning to expect it. Now more than ever, patients look to the Internet for information about their doctors, or potential doctors, and having an online presence with just a practice website might not be enough anymore.  Doctors can maintain communication and share healthy advice and tips by creating and actively posting information on websites and social media networks.

When physicians engage in online and social media sites, they benefit from improved doctor-patient relationships, share their knowledge and expertise, build their personal brand, and learn from a broad community. It’s a particularly good way to establish a new medical practice.

Social media must be used with caution, but if you and your staff can follow guidelines to ensure patient integrity and confidentiality, and utilize social media as a source of communication and education, the benefits to your medical practice are immense.

For more advice and support for your medical practice, contact our Clinic Service team

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