Health care companies are operating in a technology-driven world. Patients expect access to your practice through technology, including social media. Today, over 94% of hospitals have an active Facebook page, and an increasing amount also use additional social media platforms to reach their current and potential patients. A practice’s lack of or unsavvy social media presence may even have patients looking for a provider with a more robust online presence.
Why your social strategy matters
Ten years ago, patients would turn directly to their physician for medical advice. Today, they turn to the internet for online research and advice through their social networks. Research shows, 73% of millennials use the internet as their primary, even only, source of health information, and nearly half of adults in our country rely on the internet for healthcare decision making. Having a health care social media strategy is vital, and few simple steps can help physicians better reach and engage with their patients, ultimately improving quality of care and even decreasing readmission rates.
- Identify your goals and target patient audience.
- Set a time commitment and decide how often you’ll post.
- Partner with your staff to educate customers with multimedia content. This is an opportunity to answer common patient questions, share relevant health alerts, provide accurate information in an area inundated by inaccurate and often risky content, and strengthen your brand by creating trust.
- Engage in conversations around healthcare policy and practice issues, allowing your practice to proactively manage patient expectations and relationships.
- Engage with influencers to share your content.
How to create an effective and compliant social strategy
An important consideration in building a socially savvy practice, is utilizing employees to expand your social media presence. But with this, comes the need to protect patient privacy. Developing a solid social media policy will ensure your staff understands the dos and don’ts as it relates to using technology to communicate about work. This policy should cover both materials posted on the practice’s social media platforms as well as employees use of personal social media related to work-related posts. Such policies ensure compliance with HIPPA and HITECH and safeguard protected health information (PHI) and confidential business information (e.g. vendor agreements, marketing plans, employee files, etc.). And then, don’t forget, you must balance all of this with the employees legally protected rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
Build out a clear and concise social media policy, having a trusted attorney review. A well-crafted social policy can limit the risks associated with employee electronic media use, while allowing health care providers to take advantage of technology. This policy should include:
- What the policy applies to (e.g. work-related posts only, or also personal posts related to the medical practice)
- Technology covered – list applicable social media sites while being broad enough to allow for changes in technology
- Unacceptable activities – inform employees what social media activities would result in a violation of the policy (e.g. giving specific medical advice, sharing PHI, acknowledging a physician-patient relationship, revealing confidential business information, etc.)
- Compliance and enforcement – outline how the organization will ensure compliance with the policy and consequences of a violation.
Once your policy is drafted, you’ll also need to:
- Develop employee training on the topic.
- Make sure all employees receive, read, understand and sign off on the policy.
- Train employees, giving specific examples and hypotheticals.
- Enforce the policy consistently and fairly, thoroughly documenting any violations and disciplinary action.
- Provide annual refresher training.
- Update the policy when necessary, as social media, labor law, and HIPPA regulations are all subject to change.
Social media is an important tool for your practice. It’s essential that you understand how to leverage the benefits while still mitigating the risks. Having a social media policy in your employee handbook is an important first step. For questions or concerns about your handbook and social media policy, you can always email us here or call us at 920-996-1000.
More Educational Opportunities for Health Care Practices
Lunch and Learn – Complying with DOL Laws
The health care field has been under strict scrutiny about their payroll practices. The Department of Labor (DOL) announced an updated overtime and salary level threshold rule that took effect on January 1, 2020. To protect against the threat of litigation, it’s imperative that health care companies take a pro-active approach. Join us for a free lunch and learn. We’ll review the changes to the law, share best practices and answer your questions about how you can protect your practice.
Wednesday, March 4 2020 at 12 PM – 1 PM
Epiphany Law, 2800 East Enterprise Ave, Appleton WI 54913