Don’t Let HIPAA Scare You Away From Social Media

Posted on Jun 26, 2018 by Jackson Hadley

Don't let HIPAA scare you away from social mediaGetting your patients involved in your practice’s social media efforts can do incredible things for your business’s growth and culture. Train your team on a few simple guidelines, and you can be sharing photos and videos from your practice worry-free and in total compliance with HIPAA.

It’s not as complicated as you think.

As more and more practices in all areas of healthcare become interested in social media marketing, concerns about HIPAA inevitably come up. Of course, in all social media marketing efforts that involve patients, patient comfort and privacy come first.

But as you work to make your social media activities fun and engaging, you’ll find that patients WANT to participate and share their experience at your practice!

Here’s an important point from prominent healthcare attorney, HIPAA expert and blogger David Harlow on the topic:

“People say, ‘I can’t do this, or I can’t do that because of HIPAA…’ and those who just don’t want to do things blame the law. We forget that the rules are there to protect patients, not to create barriers... It’s possible to work within the guidelines... If a patient consents, that’s up to the patient.”


Five HIPAA and Social Media General Compliance Action Items

Here are five general HIPAA and social media compliance action items that may help your practice.

  1. HIPAA regulations are nothing new — they’ve been in effect for over 20 years now — long before the rise of social media. If your practice has existing HIPAA compliance problems, start by fixing them! A social media strategy is much easier to implement when your practice already has a strong foundation in HIPAA compliance.
  2. Put a simple social media policy in place for your team, then train them. Consult with your practice attorney to create a policy that fits your practice’s needs.
  3. Never use social media to practice medicine online. You don’t need to, and that isn’t social media’sDon't let HIPAA scare you away from social media purpose. Always take those kinds of conversations offline.
  4. Consider designating specific places in your practice for taking photos with your patients. For example, find places where the lighting is good and where there’s nothing in the background of photos that may violate someone’s privacy.
  5. Use a consent form. In general, a consent form explains these items: 1) what the patient is specifically authorizing, 2) the purpose of the authorization, 3) the ability to revoke the authorization, 4) an expiration date, 5) the opportunity to receive a copy, if desired, and 6) who, specifically, the patient is giving authorization to. Consult with your practice attorney to create a consent form that fits your practice’s needs.

When it comes to using social media to better serve your patients and to help grow your practice, HIPAA compliance doesn’t need to be difficult. With a tiny bit of team training, it only takes a few seconds to get consent to share a photo or video that includes a patient.

You’ll find that you can be regularly sharing posts that include patients to build your brand, strengthen relationships and help new patients find you.

To learn more about creating a great online presence, download our free checklist, "11 Tips to Create the Perfect Social Media Post."

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Jackson Hadley

Jackson Hadley

Jackson Hadley is a marketing strategist with My Social Practice, which provides a complete social media marketing solution for dental, orthodontic and optometric practices. A public relations specialist, Jackson combines the advertising and trust-building aspects of social media to help businesses connect authentically with their communities.

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