One of the most regulated industries as it relates to privacy is healthcare. However our society is going
through a stage where the distance between public and private information is narrowing, specifically with
social media. In fact, many feel healthcare is one of the most impacted by social media.
As a result, many healthcare professionals are asking themselves some critical questions about social
media. What is social media? How should facilities manage social media? Is social media needed?
Healthcare agencies may not want to admit or believe it but most, if not all, of their employees are likely
using social media. Should the facility not use social media, they could be losing out on a great
communication and marketing outlet.
While benefits exist with this platform, keep in mind that social media does have tremendous impact.
One of the areas it affects are employee rights and relations, including privacy via the Health Insurance
Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), free speech, and issues related to the National Labor
Relations Board (NLRB). Similar to the impact on people, social media also affects a facility’s reputation
In order to assist healthcare facilities with social media, let’s answer some key questions:
What is Social Media?
The easiest way to describe social media is like a bulletin board where people post notes about their life.
The main difference is that this information is now online. This is not through just one website or online
location. There are multiple platforms that work in a variety of ways to communicate a person or
business’s life or information sharing. The most common companies include but are not limited to
Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat. Each appeals to a different
age bracket and interest segment. Facilities should work with their marketing department or firm to
identify the ones that best relate to their strengths.
How should Facilities Manage Social Media?
Each facility should be cognizant of the pluses and minuses to social media by creating a social media
policy. This would outline what is permitted and prohibited to be posted by employees to social media.
For instance, posting an image of a patient in bed would violate that patient’s privacy. However, putting a
generic image showing that the residents have a bingo game that day would be appropriate if no patients
are shown. Healthcare providers are under stricter privacy guidelines from Federal and State laws so a
social media policy is the foundation for managing social media postings.
Is Social Media Necessary?
While we’ve touched on the impact of social media, it’s important to recognize that the benefits are
substantial. Social media has been shown to elevate website visits, improve branding, and be an
effective form of marketing. For example, a facility could post about the general care and benefits they
provide so prospective families would see that positives within the agency. In addition, potential new
employees may view a company’s social media posts to see if they would be a good fit. Many younger
people use social media as a screening mechanism. On top of all this, social media generally has
nominal costs, if any as it only requires the time of individuals to post.
Saying the above, take the time to develop strong social media policies and an effective marketing
strategy within these guidelines.