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Social media tips for health care professionals

Social media is an easy way to connect with friends and escape from reality for a few moments. However, as a health care professional, you know that you have to take extra caution not to let the personally sensitive nature of your career spill onto social media. If you post something that crosses the line of confidentiality, it can be hard to remove the information from the public sphere. How can health care professionals protect themselves online?

Although Facebook has been around for more than a decade, social media is still an emerging platform. As of 2014, 90 percent of physicians used social media for personal reasons, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

As social media continues to grow in our lives, here are three social media best practices for health care professionals.

  1. Understand your employer's social media policy

You know the ins and outs of the Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), but have you read through your employer's policy that could define additional rules on social media use?

Unfortunately, it usually isn't until someone in the workplace violates a policy that other employees take the time to make themselves aware of it. Ask your human resources department for a copy or ask them to post it publicly along with other workplace documents so that everyone is aware of the policy.

  1. Don't respond directly to patient questions on social media

While social media can be a great way to promote yourself and your organization online, it can be difficult to know when outreach goes too far. According to NIH, two-thirds of doctors feel uncomfortable using social media as part of their practice. Likewise, patients may use your personal or organizational social media pages to ask questions.

If a patient reaches out on social media, you may request that they contact your office directly via telephone or make an in-person appointment.

  1. Know the process to seeking help

If you receive notification from the state licensing board about a potential violation of HIPAA or another confidentially policy due to social media, it is important to understand your rights. Even if you felt you have done nothing wrong, a license defense attorney can provide coaching how to talk to the state board.

By understanding a few social media best practices as a health care professional, you can better provide focused resources to your patients.

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