Photo by NEC Corporation of America via Creative Commons license on Flickr
If you’re a healthcare executive, you well understand the bottom line burden – growing or maintaining your patient base to create revenue, and minimizing expenses, often in the form of penalties and fines. Good news – there are many examples of social media being used in the healthcare industry to support those bottom line objectives.
There are three main categories of social media for healthcare, or as we refer to it here at red balloon, “The Social Media Trifecta” – 1) social media used by your marketing team for business development and outreach, 2) social media used by patients, and 3) social media guidelines that should be in place for ALL employees.
Your organization’s social media guidelines and training should encompass all three of these categories, both for business development purposes and to avoid violations. Read on to learn more.
1) Social Media for Your Marketing Team
Social media makes sense for engaging past, current and prospective patients. A recent study by Mediabistro found that 40% of survey participants indicated that information found through social media affects they way they deal with their health. Your organization has an important part to play in providing meaningful and accurate information to those patients through social media channels.
Many healthcare organizations are shooting from the hip, though, allowing untrained or inexperienced employees to post to social media channels on the fly. Social media processes should be documented and all in-house and outsource marketing members should be trained on those processes. Consider planning posts in advance to ensure posts are well thought out and error free. Have a second employee review all posts before they are published to catch grammatical errors, typos and potential violations (for example, identifying a patient by publishing a photo without written consent).
Bonus Tip: Have a plan for dealing with a complaint or negative publicity on social media before it happens (it will).
2) Social Media Used by Patients
Mediabistro also found that 18-24 year olds are twice as likely to use social media for health related conversations than their older counterparts. You can bet on explosive growth in the numbers of prospective patients looking for information about conditions and treatments, or looking to connect with those who have similar situations in the years to come. Not only should marketing employees be meeting these patients where they are (on social media!), social media may play a valuable role in health and well being.
A manuscript published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information had this to say: “During the last 30 years, researchers have shown great interest in the phenomena of social support, particularly in the context of health. Prior work has found that those with high quality or quantity of social networks have a decreased risk of mortality in comparison to those who have low quantity or quality of social relationships, even after statistically controlling for baseline health status.” Further, a study cited in the publication found that those with lower social interaction and less social support were 1.5 times more
likely to have a myocardial infarction (heart attack) and were twice as likely to be readmitted to the hospital than patients with strong social support systems.
We will continue to see leading healthcare organizations encourage patient use of social media, and integration of social media into the healthcare environment.
Bonus Tip: An interesting note on the use of social media for giving support – those providing support also benefited; according to the publication, elderly individuals who provided social support felt more useful and experienced fewer incidences of disability and mortality.
3) Social Media Guidelines for All Employees
There are a number of cases of HIPAA and NLRA violations in social media in recent years. Take the case of Kathryn Knott:
“Babysitting a 36 yo 30pillxanax overdose and holding the urinal for him is definitely what I wanted to do today #winninglikeVegas.” – Kathryn Knott, ER Tech via Twitter
In the fall of 2014, she and two friends were arrested for allegedly assaulting another couple. During the investigation, a treasure trove of the stuff you do not want your employees posting was found on her Twitter account. In addition to the post above, she also published photos of patients’ x-rays, one patient’s severed fingers and more. Unfortunately, this is not a unique situation, there are many cases of nurses, techs and physicians who believe that they are in the clear when posting photos or intimate details of their patients’ conditions as part of sharing their days on social media sites.
Your social media guidelines should align with your code of conduct, should clearly define protected health information (PHI) and provide examples of professionals who paid the consequences for posting PHI.
Bonus Tip: Not only should employees receive training on avoiding HIPAA violations in their personal social media use, managers should understand how to avoid NLRA violations (for example, reprimanding an employee for posting about wages or workplaces conditions on social media).
Have questions or need help to succeed with the Social Media Trifecta? Contact me and set up a complimentary 30 minute phone consult. We have packages to fit many budgets and to serve several scenarios including consulting retainers, social media management that is effective and compliant, and corporate training on avoiding NLRA and HIPAA violations. Contact me at 480-270-5395 or Jennifer@redballooninc.com
For a limited time, you can also download a complimentary copy of The Healthcare Executive’s Guide to Social Media, full of stats and case studies on how healthcare organizations are using social media and how to avoid HIPAA and NLRA violations as related to social media usage.
Jennifer Maggiore is a nationally recognized social media consultant, author and speaker. She launched her company in 2005, quickly expanding her business as one of the country’s first social media consultants.
Today, she and her team work with public and private companies throughout the United States, offering social media management, strategy and training services, including a specialty in HIPAA and NLRA consulting for healthcare organizations.
red balloon was named a Top 10 Marketing Firm in her home state of Arizona, Jennifer was recognized as one of 35 Women Entrepreneurs in Arizona Under 35, and she was most recently interviewed for the show Roadtrip Nation.