Watch Out For The Social Media "Bite"!
Many of us appreciate social media, especially while sheltering at home. It is a convenient way to stay in touch with others and to obtain information. But…care is needed! A reminder: healthcare providers cannot share information about patients on social media without first securing their permission. Further, information cannot be posted on social media that allows for patient identification, even if patients are unnamed. The best practice is not to post any patient information online at all.
For instance, the CEO/President of a Western Kentucky hospice was recently suspended as a result of her Facebook posts. According to members of the hospice’s board of directors, the CEO/President posted a number of racially-charged comments on her Facebook page. Three of her posts were shared with news outlets by members of the board. The CEO/President acknowledged that she created one of the Facebook posts, but says the other two were the work of hackers.
A representative of the local Human Relations Commission said, “Obviously you are representing hospice. A lot of times we don’t realize that our positions affect not only where we work, but outside as well and what we do.”
The City Commissioner and member of the hospice board of directors, who also happens to be a person of color, added that, “All of these families, whose relatives are at the end stages of their life…we want to be sure that those people are taken care of with the utmost respect and courtesies that we could offer.”
There you have it! Staff members certainly have the right to freedom of speech. However, based upon the above remarks, there is something more at play when it comes to healthcare providers.
The public often views staff members of providers as representatives of their employers. Providers and their staff members are frequently respected and esteemed in their communities. When social media is used inappropriately, community members are likely to attribute inappropriate posts to the providers with whom those who post are associated. So, when staff members use social media, they must be mindful of the effects on patients and providers.
In addition, as indicated above, inappropriate posts may interfere with patients’ willingness to accept care from providers. What a shame to think that patients and their families might conclude that they cannot expect appropriate care from certain providers because of their staff members’ social media posts.
Be ever mindful of these concerns!
Elizabeth E. Hogue, Esq.
©2020 Elizabeth E. Hogue, Esq. All rights reserved.