Part of the evolution in health care is the use of social media to help motivate and support health behavior change in areas such as weight loss, smoking cessation, and even alcohol use. There are concerns and debates concerning HIPAA laws and standards that apply to social media use by health care organizations and their employees. As a health care professional, you may be asked to educate others on privacy and create policy relating to social media use. What would your policy look like? Why?
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Everchanging technology requires policies to be adapted to fit these changes. Social media usage requires a specific policy to address appropriate usage in the healthcare setting. A policy for social media needs to be included during the new employee’s onboarding HIPAA training. The policy needs to include that any protected health information of any patient or family cannot be used in any social media post. It should also address that the employee is not allowed to “check-in” at the hospital location when making a social media post about procedures. Posting pictures, videos, or mentioning patients’ conditions without specifically naming could lead to their identification, and therefore must be prohibited. These examples need to be clearly stated in the policy so that there is not confusion as to what is appropriate. Any violation of the policy must be disclosed to the affected patient. If a release form has not been signed by the patient allowing usage of the patient’s images, the employee could face termination. Employees should also be required to complete a yearly computer-based learning refresher course on HIPAA training.