Managing Social Media in Health Care

Social media can no longer be dubbed “the next big thing.” Although the players may change, it’s here to stay. Managing social media for an organization can be, and is for many, a full-time job. Add the complexities of privacy laws, and the job gets even more challenging for health care communicators.IMG_3822

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is designed to protect the confidentiality of health care information. It was passed in 1996, not long before some of the first social media sites started to emerge.

With the tendency for people to “overshare” details of their personal lives on social media, it becomes tricky for social media managers to walk the line of not violating HIPPA while still being helpful to patients and other social media followers.

What are some of the golden rules when it comes to social media management in the health care industry? There are many, but remember this advice:

  • Patients can say whatever they want about themselves; however as a health care provider, you cannot. Develop a social media policy response plan that’s centered on HIPAA guidelines.
  • Think twice about retweeting from your followers. Even if someone says they had the greatest experience in your hospital, you can’t acknowledge someone is a patient even if they say they are. This can be tempting, especially for all those positive stories.
  • Respond to issues offline. People often share their experiences, especially negative ones, in public forums with an audience. When someone is upset, send them a direct message for follow up.

With a thoughtful approach, social media is a great way to communicate with your patients and online community.