Is Healthcare Social Media a Bad Idea?

This week, some nurses at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach, California were fired for posting pictures of a dying stab victim that came into their ER on their Facebook pages. Now, many are questioning whether healthcare’s dip into social media sets a good example.

Our take? Just because health systems are using social media to connect with patients and better market themselves, it doesn’t give workers the right to blur the lines between their professional lives and their personal online accounts. This really highlights the need to educate employees on what is considered okay social media use. As healthcare professionals, they are held to a higher standard. They must take HIPAA very seriously. If you haven’t had training with your staff, now is the time.

We must also realize that social media is not the problem. Social media hasn’t changed the landscape of communication; it just expanded its speed and reach. We simply have to shift the way we think about communication as it evolves.  Healthcare social media guru Ed Bennett echoes our sentiment in a blog response: “We probably have another year before these stories focus on the patient privacy violation itself, and not the communication tool that was used.”

Ultimately, health systems and practices must realize they cannot control what employee’s post, but they can educate and set a good example.  Take it as a lesson to be more proactive in social media: publish goodwill pieces, highlight your loyal patients. The best way to combat bad online publicity is with your own good publicity.

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