HIPAA Tip: Think Before You Post in Social Media

Posted by Digital Manager on Wed, Jul 02, 2014 @ 03:32 PM

Innapropriate social media conduct can lead to tomorrow’s headlines.

Two nurses take photos of x-rays of a patient who was admitted to the emergency room with an object lodged in his body. At least one nurse posts and discusses it on her Facebook page.  

A medic posts a photo and other personal health information via social media, disclosing a celebrity’s treatment details.

An employee of a gynecologist vents her frustrations on her online blog, ridiculing the patients giving birth. Although the employee did not use patient names or any other identifying information in her post, two of the patients recognized themselves in the blog due to the detailed nature of the post and filed HIPAA complaints against the doctor and the practice.1HIPAA_Social

While social media can benefit health care in a variety of ways, it poses new dilemmas and liability concerns for health care professionals and institutions alike.

Information sharing or a breach of confidentiality that violates the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) can result in damaged reputations, hefty fines, civil liability to patients, job loss, disciplinary action by state licensing boards, and even criminal investigations and sanctions.2    

To focus on what can be done to prevent privacy breaches through Facebook, Twitter and other popular social platforms, Stericycle recently called on Dr. Nancy Spector, Director of Regulatory Innovations at the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), to discuss Social Media Conduct in Health Care.

During this complimentary webinar, Dr. Spector shares:

  • The benefits and real-world consequences that come with social media usage in health care
  • NCSBN research on social media-based complaints
  • Common myths that may contribute to medical professionals inadvertently violating patient  privacy and confidentiality while using social media
  • 11 guidelines for avoiding problems and minimizing the risks of using social media  

VIEW free HIPAA Webinar

Patients have a right to expect that their personal medical information is kept private. Too often, health care professionals unintentionally violate patient privacy when discussing their day or an unusual healthcare case they witnessed. Time and again, such missteps can be attributed to a lack of training.

Every workforce member is required to have a working knowledge of the foundational privacy and security regulations issued under HIPAA. And they must be continually reminded of organizational policies, expected standards of conduct and their own ethical and legal obligation to maintain patient privacy and confidentiality at all times.

Ongoing Training + Effective Policies and Guidance  =  Employee Awareness and Caution 

This simple equation can help you avoid issues and maintain HIPAA compliance. Improving your organizational policies and employee education doesn’t have to be the daunting task it might appear to be. With outside help from Stericycle, you can overcome this challenge. Stericycle’s popular educational webinars and its Steri•SafeSM HIPAA training provide employees with a knowledge of the risks associated with social media use, and in everyday interactions with patients.        

Contact us today to learn about solutions that can help you create effective policies, teach and reinforce the right behaviors to protect your brand and safeguard protected health information.

HELP me with HIPAA

Watch the Social Media Conduct Webinar right now.  

1. Online comments lead to privacy complaint: http://www.phiprivacy.net/?p=806
2. Patient Privacy and Social Media. AANA Journal. August 2010: Volume 78, No. 4.


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Topics: hipaa risk assessment

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