Social Media and Healthcare Don't Mix
10- Nov2016
Posted By: Tony Fischer

Healthcare And Social Media Don’t Mix

Social media has changed the way people relate to each other and communicate.  Some friends and family communicate almost exclusively through apps like facebook, twitter and Instagram putting every aspect of their lives on the internet.  People even post from their jobs sharing everything from accomplishments to stories about annoying customers.

Sharing on information on the internet about yourself is a form of free speech and reasonable people can disagree with what type of information is appropriate to share.  At the end of the day it is the sharer that assumes the risk when sensitive content is shared.

But what happens when the person sharing the information doesn’t have permission to share information about someone else.

What if that person is an elder and the sharer is a healthcare worker responsible for patient confidentiality?

As a healthcare worker does sharing simple picture or information about your job count as a HIPAA Violation? has a great article “Guidelines for Using Electronic and Social Media” outlining specific scenarios in which well-meaning nurses posted on social media regarding their jobs with disastrous consequences.  These nurses had no ill intent but never-the-less violated the patient’s confidentiality.

The author Nancy Spector, PhD, RN sums it up best when she writes, “While social media can be extremely valuable to nurses and other health care providers, inappropriate use of these tools can be devastating to a nurse’s career..”

Here are a few things healthcare workers should consider before putting a post about work on their social media accounts.

Pictures Can Be Telling

Healthcare organizations often have patients sign a photo release on admission to the facility but those releases limit use of pictures to internal charts and documentation.  Those releases don’t cover pictures taken privately by staff.

Even if you have permission from the patient to post the picture it is still likely a violation of the healthcare facilities HIPAA policy. Before posting that picture consider what your employer might do if they found the picture online. It is worth getting sanctioned by your employer or worse a licensing board?

Put Yourself in the Families Shoes

Every patient has a family that comes with their own dynamics.  Even a family that seems to be getting along might have conflict brewing that is unknown to the caregiver.  Posting a picture of a patient on social media could plunge you into a conflict between family members.  Furthermore, a picture or video may be viewed by the family of another patient you are caring for.

The point is you never know who is looking at the content you place on the internet and there is no way you can control their reaction and perception of that content.

Once It Is On the Internet Anyone Can Find It

You may be the diligent at adjusting your social media account setting but even so if you post pictures on social media most anyone moderately skilled at finding information can access them. In fact there are videos on You Tube dedicated to the topic. They show how to view blocked pictures by downloading a simple app on Google Chrome. If you have picture that you don’t want certain people to see, your best bet is not to post it.

The 24-Hour Rule

Healthcare is a job filled with emotions. Everyday healthcare workers deal with feelings of sadness, joy, fear and guilt expressed by patients and their families.  Because they are compassionate, quite often the healthcare provider goes on the emotional ride with that patient.

Decisions made out of pure emotion usually end badly.  This is especially true when using social media.  A post in support of a patient or an angry rant about an employer can get out of hand quickly.

Healthcare workers are passionate and caring people but it is important to consider your emotions before posting to social media.  If passions are running high wait for 24-hours before putting that emotional post on facebook. After a day if it still seems like a good idea then go ahead. Chances are you will change your mind while considering the consequences.

Tony Fischer

As an advocate for elders and their families, Tony has experience in the entire healthcare continuum. He has worked in hospitals, nursing homes, home care, hospice, and non-profits.

His vast and unique experience led him to become a consultant that helps clients navigate the senior healthcare system. Tony also works hand and hand with healthcare providers to improve and streamline customer service.