Is Healthcare Ready to Overcome the Challenge of Social Media?
Managing change has never been more difficult for all phases of healthcare than it is right now. Social media, whether Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or any other platform is representative of the challenge. As an overcoming adversity speaker for the healthcare industry, I know that social media and patient care can be either a supportive partnership or a treacherous interaction. It will take great determination for administrators to stand up to the unforeseen changes in managing social media priorities.
The vision to manage change
In February 2017, Mobihealth News ran an article entitled: “How social media can impact healthcare in the right – and wrong – ways.”
The article pointed out that social media is here to stay especially in regard to disseminating information, sharing research, patient experience and patient recruitment for clinical trials. However, healthcare is unlike any other industry. There are numerous compliance issues, especially around the FDA and HIPAA. The article states that navigating the doctor-patient relationship can be tricky:
“You can engage directly via social media with your patients about care, but don’t engage in a doctor-patient relationship.” It is a subtle but important difference. A physician can talk about a new treatment, where patients can read about the treatment, even where it’s offered, but there are risks in going deeper. The article continues:
“Healthcare is the most regulated (of industries) and will continue to be so, and with the complexity of health laws and patient privacy, data protection will remain in the spotlight. So, as we look at these new opportunities, we need to also be thinking about active management of the new data. We have to build out the IT and compliance to evaluate the new risks of tools.”
As long as the healthcare industry keeps the conversation to IT, data protection and patient privacy, many of us might think of social media concerns as the limited domain of the computer geeks. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Professional and personal
In Health eCareers (March 2019), included an article entitled: “The Danger of Social Media for Healthcare Professionals.” It focused in the “people factor,” not IT departments or data storage.
The same HIPAA violations we talked about in general terms have gotten healthcare professionals into deep trouble. Such violations recently included a nurse who got fired for taking a selfie with a patient (at the request of the patient!), an ER physician who took a picture of a drunk patient, ER staffers fired for offering Facebook condolences to the family of a slain police officer.
In this time of rapid social media change, the majority of healthcare professionals are even confused about what constitutes their First Amendment rights. In a survey asking if being terminated over a social media post is an infringement of their First Amendment rights, 41 percent said “Yes,” and another 30 percent said “Not Sure.” Unfortunately, in a healthcare setting, any one of those 71 percent could be terminated for confusing their First Amendment rights with HIPAA privacy laws.
Incidentally, healthcare professionals are routinely being watched for social media posts. Social media monitoring takes place more than 55 percent of the time for those who are employed as well as those seeking employment.
The changes that social media has brought to healthcare are part of a much bigger picture of the challenge that technology presents to every healthcare setting. The changes that are coming are stressful and confusing. Is your healthcare organization ready to rise above the challenge and overcome adversity, or will you become a victim to it?