Social Media Rules: Think Before You Share — or Risk a HIPAA Violation

September 26, 2017

Recent Case with Financial Payout Underscores Risks of Noncompliance

// By Lisa D. Ellis //

How can you make sure your organization’s formal social media sharing doesn’t violate HIPAA regulations? A privacy expert offers advice on how to avoid shooting yourself in the foot when marketing via social channels. He also points to a new ruling that reminds groups of the consequences—and potential costs—of losing control of the information you share digitally.

Health care marketers have lots of hurdles to overcome to achieve their organizational goals, and one of the biggest to conquer is ensuring your organization meets HIPAA requirements in all that it does. To help you understand how this translates into your everyday operations, this month we look at the impact of HIPAA from two different angles, including how to effectively engage health care consumers via social media without violating patient privacy concerns (covered in this first article) and how to effectively host media at your facility without stepping on any legal landmines (explored in this second article).

You go to great lengths to protect patient privacy in your day-to-day operations and social media efforts. But with the breadth of social media channels marketers use to interact with your target audience and the rapid dissemination path of information as it travels through the internet, it’s all too easy for your patients’ protected health information to be broadcast through the array of social media channels without obtaining proper consent. In fact, with cell phones, tablets, and laptops so pervasive in the health care setting, there’s lots to worry about when it comes to potential Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) breaches that can occur—and the risk exists both in your organization’s formal digital communications efforts, as well as through employees’ personal social media sharing. This makes it important to take steps to protect your brand on both fronts.

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