Social media has made a huge impact on the way the medical community communicates with the outside world, but the usage of social media within a healthcare context does pose certain risks to the physicians and practices.
Legal Risks in Social Media
- HIPAA Contravention – Physicians need to remain HIPAA compliant when using social media. Special care must be taken to protect their patients’ identity and health information. It is also illegal to post Protected Health Information of patients on social media sites where it is visible to others without their consent. Inappropriate posting violates the HIPAA Privacy Rule, Security Rule and Breach Notification Rule. Information on patients’ medical conditions, treatments, and payment are all protected via the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and covered entities must be cautious when handling such data. It is important to note that physicians who run their own practices can be sued if their employees misbehave and inappropriately handle sensitive patient information.
- Online Physician Reviews – Online consumer reviews continue to expand and now a growing number of websites enable patients to publicly rate their physicians. Physicians may have to deal with negative reviews from their patients, but must be very careful when responding. The temptation to set things right by giving a clearer account of the medical encounter may be there, but it is essential not to specifically address negative patient reviews. Physicians should take these reviews positively to improve patient experience and satisfaction. Encouraging satisfied patient reviews can diffuse negative comments to a greater extent.
- Image Infringement – Do not violate copyrighted or trademarked materials. When posting photos, videos and images on your website, physicians must make sure that they are their own or they have the right to use the image. Using an image without permission makes the website owner an infringer and is considered as stealing according to the law, i.e. posting someone else’s photo on a social media wall and using any third-party content without permission can result in both criminal and civil liability.
- Do Not Depend on Social Media to Search for Employees’ Profiles – Practices should be very careful when using social media to search for details regarding prospective and current employees. Physicians must not search for their employees or candidates’ profiles on social media as the information may be inaccurate or it may be information that can be used against them at a later stage.
Social media engagement makes it easier for patients and physicians to connect outside the exam room. However, managing a social profile can prove tedious for busy practitioners. A medical SEO company can provide excellent support in this regard with up-to-date, relevant content and social media updates. Their professional SEO service providers use social networks, forums, blogs and viral videos to enhance practitioners’ online visibility and help them engage more patients. Reliable SEO companies offer dedicated medical SEO services that are compliant with HIPAA regulations.