S is for Social Media

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Benefits of Social Media

Social media offers many benefits for health care organizations because it allows interaction with patients and others, offering education, and services.  It is an essential communication and marketing tool and part of strategic marketing plans.  In their role as employer, organizations turn to social media to communicate with their employees.

Authorization to use PHI

However, it is possible to violate HIPAA Rules and patient privacy while using social media if not managed correctly.  It is important for health care organizations to disclose protected health information or PHI only with patient authorization for interviews, photographs and marketing communications.

The Risk of Social Media

For employees posts of PHI will violate the HIPAA Rules and result in a reportable breach of PHI. Social media posts aren’t a permissible use or disclosure of PHI.   The ability to post simultaneously in several platforms increases the risk for an organization. Remember in order to de-identify PHI all 18 identifiers must be removed and there must be low risk it could be used to identify the patient. This includes removal of facial images, and other identifiers such as tattoos.

Preventing Risk

To prevent risk Employees should be trained on the dangers of using social media inappropriately from the very onset of their employment.  Many organizations deal with the issue through development of a social media use policy and monitoring of social media activity.