Checklist Assesses Hospital Social Media Policies

Dom Nicastro, April 28, 2011

The latest social media gaffe by the healthcare industry comes from Rhode Island, where a physician was fined $500 this month for posting online, information about her experiences at work. The 48-year-old emergency department physician also had her privileges terminated at Westerly Hospital, after the board determined that she had "used her Facebook account inappropriately to communicate a few of her clinical experiences at the hospital's emergency department."

So, control the urge to post any information on Facebook, Twitter or any other social media sites that could indirectly identify your patients. Or, just never post anything about your hospital duties at all in any public venue.

Easier said than done, right? Of course.

The Rhode Island incident reminds healthcare leaders that organizations must have a social media policy in place, and that management must make it transparent.

Here is a quick checklist of questions to ask regarding a social media policy at your hospital. It is provided by Phyllis Patrick, MBA, FACHE, CHC, and business partner Angel Hoffman, RN, MSN, cofounders of the AP Health Care Compliance Group:

  • Does your organization already have a policy addressing social media?
  • Does the policy reflect the viewpoints and needs of various stakeholders (e.g., patient care, research, education)?
  • How does the policy support the mission, vision, and values of your organization?
  • Is your primary interest restricting or enabling the use of social media?
  • Does your organization view social media as a highly effective information gateway?
  • Have you asked your workforce how the organization can take advantage of the benefits of social media and avoid the pitfalls
Dom Nicastro Dom Nicastro is a contributing writer. He edits the Medical Records Briefings newsletter and manages the HIPAA Update Blog.
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