4 Reasons You’re Still Blocking Social Media and Why You Should Reconsider

Social Media in Healthcare Series, Part 1 of 4: (Read Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.)

By now, we can all agree that we should be using social media as part of our overall business strategy in health care. There’s no question about that.

Your organization is probably somewhere along the spectrum of “doing Facebook” and starting your own patient-centered social networking platform. But no matter where you fall on this spectrum or how many resources you’ve dedicated to your social media strategy, one thing continues to be debated—employee access to social media in the workplace.

I recently conducted a survey of health care organizations to find out who is blocked and who isn’t (I’m still compiling data by the way, so please participate if you can!).

While this survey is not scientific, so far, it seems 45% percent of health care organizations don’t allow access to social media (Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) in the workplace. In fact, hospital systems with some of the most robust social media programs still don’t allow their employees access (from work-issued equipment, that is).

Why is this? That’s what we’re going to explore in this blog series. I’ll identify what I think are the top reasons for blocking social media in health care, but more importantly, I’ll give you some reasons to maybe reconsider that strategy.

Let’s examine reason number one…

Social media poses a risk to patient privacy. In the world of health care, HIPAA is top of mind, all the time. But if you’re already doing a good job of educating your employees about compliance policies, they should know their boundaries.

The truth is an employee can just as easily breach patient privacy in the hospital cafeteria, from their smart phone or their home computer. Blocking Facebook at work won’t necessarily prevent that. However, education might.

This brings us to social media policies (this will be a theme throughout the series). Do you have one for your organization? Whether you decide to unblock or not, you need it.

Even though you already have the necessary policies in place to prevent breaches of patient privacy, a social media policy will clearly define how they apply to online communications. Or, you could just update your existing policies.

By specifically addressing social media, you can help eliminate the “gray area.” Your employees likely have lots of questions about how social media affects their jobs. By not addressing it, you may leave them to determine things on their own, which we can all agree is risky and actually, is a disservice to your employees.

So how does your organization currently address social media and patient privacy? Do you have a social media policy? If so, feel free to share your tips or questions.

Ashley Howland is the social media manager for Baylor Health Care System, a network of 300 health care access points including acute care hospitals, surgery centers and clinics in Dallas, TX. She has been a member of the Marketing/Public Relations department for seven years with a strong background in media relations. In 2009, she built a robust social media program from the ground up and now oversees the strategy and content for Baylor’s primary social media networks. Additionally, she serves as the organization’s online spokesperson and as the editor of Baylor’s “Sammons Says” blog covering cancer prevention, treatment and research. This year, she helped lead an internal cross-departmental effort to unblock access to social media websites within her organization.

Part 1. Social media poses a risk to patient privacy

Part 2. Social media will impact employee productivity.

Part 3. Social media isn’t going away.

Part 4. Social media is too risky and will result in a lawsuit.



The following two tabs change content below.
Chad Johnson is managing editor of HL7Standards.com and senior marketing manager at Corepoint Health. He has worked in healthcare-related fields for more than 15 years, including working directly with physicians, nurses, radiologic technologists and health IT professionals.