Celebrate Social Media Day Carefully

June 30, 2011

Today is Social Media Day. The holiday was triggered no, not by Hallmark but by Mashable.com, a website that gives its readers the latest in Social Media news.  It is a day to celebrate the revolution of media becoming social. You can celebrate Social Media Day with Mashable by attending or organizing a meetup near you on June 30th. It is there you can connect with your social media community.


Social media can be used to connect with long lost friends and keep in touch with distant family members but some physicians are using sites like Facebook to connect with their patients on a new platform. This new found way of communicating is causing concerns for violations of HIPAA and even stronger, the HITECH Act.


For those who have questions on what they can and shouldn’t put online, The Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA) and the Mayo Clinic have paved the way for those just stepping in. Avoid these simple guidelines at your own peril.
OSMA guidelines www.osma.org/socialmediapolicy.

Mayo Clinic http://sharing.mayoclinic.org/guidelines/for-mayo-clinic-employees/


Dr. Alexandra Thran from Rhode Island in April of this year posted information about a patient on Facebook. Dr. Thran was careful enough to not release the patients name while using Facebook. But she typed enough unique information about the patient, that someone was able to identify the patient.   The Rhode Island Board of Medicine found Dr. Thran’s posting to be “unprofessional conduct” for revealing a patient’s personally identifiable information to third parties.


Physicians need to remember, just because staff are not involved with social media at work doesn’t mean improper posting won’t occur from home.  Written policies are legally binding and make it easier to take action during a time of discipline. A written policy should include, but is not limited to the following:

a)    Employees and staff should agree to treat all information about the practice and patient care as confidential and will not disclose any such information to any third party without Physician’s written consent.

b)    Workers should refrain from directly or indirectly publishing or airing commentary upon Physician and his practice, expertise and/or treatment.

c)    Publishing is intended to include attribution by name, by pseudonym, or anonymously.

d)    Worker will work to prevent the publishing or airing of commentary about Physician from being accessed via Internet, blogs, or other electronic, print, or broadcast media without prior written consent.

e)     Worker will use all reasonable efforts to prevent any member of their immediate family or acquaintance from engaging in any such activity.


Social media has become omnipresent and these guidelines are to help physicians as they seek to embrace or are dragged into what is a very different world in which we communicate today.

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