The use of social media and content marketing has exploded in all industries across the U.S. But healthcare has been very cautious in adopting, largely because of unique risks that they face in the area of online communication.
Some of the risks include:
- possible violation of patient privacy
- possible violations of (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) HIPAA
- State laws and other legal pitfalls
To address these risks and offer tangible solutions, AMA [the American Medical Association] published a policy on physicians’ use of social media in 2010. This policy is equally appropriate for hospitals and other healthcare organizations as well. AMA’s general recommendation is to ‘tread with caution‘.
AMA’s six social media policy suggestions
- Physicians should be extremely sensitive to patient privacy and not post any information online that could identify a patient.
- Understand that once information is made available on the Internet it is there permanently. Physicians should monitor their own personal and professional information and ensure that it is accurate and professional. E.g. use privacy settings where applicable but remember that they are not fool proof.
- Physicians who choose to interact with patients online should maintain appropriate boundaries consistent with professional ethical guidelines.
- To help keep those boundaries in the patient/doctor relationship AMA suggests that physicians separate their personal and professional online content.
- Physicians who observe inappropriate or unprofessional content posted by a colleague should bring it to the attention of that colleague. If the content is serious enough to significantly violate professional norms then the observing physician should take the matter to relevant authorities.
- Be cautious on the Internet. Content posted online could negatively affect your reputation which in turn could have an impact on your medical career, and undermine the public trust in the medical profession.
Social Media benefits outweigh risks for healthcare
AMA provided these guidelines because they understand that the benefits accompanying these risks are tremendous. More patients are flocking the Internet for information regarding every area of their lives, including health advice.
Benefits of social media for healthcare could outweigh risks
Physicians and healthcare organizations can take advantage of new media (social media, content marketing, and digital content) to reach consumers who they might not otherwise be able to communicate with.
It is possible to minimize the common risks that physicians and healthcare organizations face in online communication. Every physician or organiziation CAN benefit from the use of social media by applying these guidelines and ensuring that they use smart content in their websites and profiles.
Over to you: What did I miss? Do you have other suggestions to minimize the risk that physicians face with social media?