Social Media Policy
In light of the risks associated with social media, it is important for practices to establish a social media policy that must be abided by the practice’s physicians and staff members. Your policy should outline what constitutes acceptable use (if any) of personal social media during office hours.
Explore this issue:May 2011
For social media use on behalf of the practice, it is imperative that the following three W’s be outlined in the social media policy:
- Who is permitted to post or tweet material on the social media websites? Is there a person designated as the practice’s poster or tweeter?
- What material can and should be posted by the party or parties authorized to do so? For example, the policy must identify how the practice will respond to a medical question posted on its Facebook page. From a liability perspective, I do not recommend providing medical advice via social media outlets.
- Where will the practice be posting? The policy should explicitly state which social media avenues the practice can use and maintain. For example, if the practice decides to maintain a Facebook page but not a MySpace presence, the policy must say so.
Additionally, the policy should inform employees of the risks associated with disclosing patient and other practice-related information like office gossip or reimbursement issues on social media networks, whether the sites are being used personally or on behalf of the practice, and should delineate ways to avoid unlawful disclosures. One way to do so is to require that all material posted on behalf of the practice be approved by a committee rather than a single person. This will help avoid HIPAA violations and inappropriate disclosures. Further, the policy should explain the consequences of noncompliance by employees and emphasize personal responsibility and good judgment.
Now is the time to review your practice’s existing policies and documents. A social media policy can be incorporated into your existing employee handbook, or you may elect to have a freestanding policy.