Users posting under a practice’s official social media account have to follow several privacy precautions, and medical professionals have to be especially careful of what they share on social media.
For physicians, maneuvering the social media waters can be tricky. To help clarify what can — and cannot — be shared online, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) has been amended to include guidelines for protecting patients’ information on social media sites.
To help further explain HIPAA compliance, merchant data security firm SecurityMetrics has created a series of short videos called HIPAA Snippets. The videos, which are each about a minute long, explain HIPAA’s conditions in clear, easy to understand terms. Video topics range from correctly destroying protected health information (PHI) to using compliant passwords.
One video, which you can check out here, highlights the importance of staying in accordance with HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules when posting on social media. It mentions several examples of medical staff who posted sensitive information because they didn’t follow HIPAA guidelines.
Instances of not staying in accordance with HIPAA security regulations:
- An emergency room employee took a “selfie” at her workstation, in front of her computer. A patient’s information had been up on her monitor at the time and was clearly viewable in the background of her photo. She then shared the photo on her social media accounts, which subsequently led to that patient becoming the victim of identity theft.
- A nurse used her social media to complain about a “cop killer” being treated at her hospital. This compromised the patient’s privacy and security, since it was easy for other social media users to figure out who the nurse was referring to.
How to stay within HIPAA compliance on social media:
SecurityMetrics recommends that physicians and medical staff follow the below steps.
- Never post patient data
- Create a social media policy
- Regularly train employees on policy
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