Social Media Can be Great – 3 Ways to Make Sure You Aren’t Violating HIPAA

You know, as a healthcare professional, that compliance with HIPAA is an extremely important aspect of the modern medical system. But have you given much thought to how it affects your participation in social media? The truth is, social media is a great tool that can help you advance your medical career, but only if you do it the right way to avoid breaking any confidentiality requirements. Here are three ways you can make sure you’re not violating HIPAA when you’re posting online with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or more.

1. Follow your company’s HITECH policy.

You already know that HIPAA is the Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act which was enacted in 1996. But digital technology has changed the way information is exchanged, and that happened pretty quickly in the last couple of decades. So, HIPAA had to update to include policies for digital social media. In 2009, HIPAA added HITECH, which stands for Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health to protect patient confidentiality in these instances. Review your company’s policy and be sure to follow it closely. For example, there may be cases where you have to take a photo for a medical record. If so, get permission first, zoom on the wound, and delete the photo from your device as soon as it is posted in the proper record.

2. Be cautious of posting photos.

But photos online go beyond the ones you take as a matter of course for your job. Who hasn’t taken a selfie of themselves after a long night shift or of their lunch for the day? You never know who you’re getting in the background, so you need to ensure that you’re not posting photos that may include other employees or patients online. You need to be responsible for your patients’ wellbeing and their privacy. So, it may be best to avoid posting photographs while you’re on the job at all.

3. Never post identifying information.

Identification can go beyond just photographs, even accidental cameos in selfies. For example, if you have a patient who has a notable feature or illness or maybe even someone with some fame or notoriety, don’t share that with your social media audience. Even if you think you’re being subtle, you may post something that can be recognizable and will create a larger problem for you, your employer, and the patient.

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