Alert Solutions Blog

Using Social Media as a Communication Tool in the Healthcare Industry

Posted by Cassie Breen on Wed, Oct 23, 2013 @ 15:10 PM

In recent years social media has become a vastly used communication channel for companies in all industries.  This includes the healthcare industry, although there are some guidelines that must be followed for medical practices, doctors, etc. who choose to use social media as a communication tool.

A major concern of utilizing social media in the healthcare industry involves HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, and more specifically, it’s Privacy Rule.  This is the first comprehensive Federal protection for the privacy of personal health information. 

Companies required to abide by HIPAA must ensure they do so when utilizing social media as well.  For example, an emergency room doctor in Rhode Island discussed a patient’s case on Facebook. The text contained enough detail to allow the patient involved to be identified, resulting in a violation of HIPAA’s Privacy Act and the termination of the doctor involved.

There are ways that those working in the healthcare industry can use social media as a tool while avoiding legal and regulatory entanglements.  Here are some examples:

1.       Information Creator:  Blogging is a great social media tool to relay information in your area of expertise.  This requires pre-existing knowledge and research, but can be a great way to interact with and inform people.  Press releases and best practice guides are also examples of how information can be relayed in this process.  Any of these writing materials can then be spread throughout social media sites, such as Facebook or Twitter.

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 2.       Information Curator:  A curator collects, organizes and helps to reach understanding on a body of knowledge or information.  This technique allows you to use medical news, journals and articles that are published in your field to inform people.  Share these findings with your social media “followers.”  Your viewers, patients, etc. will then see you as a source of where they get there information.  This means you must ensure that the information you are sharing is relevant and trusted.<<Get some ideas and check out more healthcare blog posts here. >>

3.       Conversation Contributor:  As well as maintaining your own social media profiles, become involved in conversations happening on other social media pages.  For example, if a medical association posts a healthcare blog on their Facebook page, you could add your expertise by commenting on their post.  If you have written your own article or blog about the topic, sharing that as a comment as well will show your credibility to the conversation.  This will help develop traffic to your own social media profiles or websites and will help establish professional connections.

Applying any of these techniques can assist you in developing a social media strategy that keeps guidelines in mind.  However, utilizing all three techniques is the best way to help maximize social media exposure in the healthcare industry.

Topics: Medical, patient communication, social media marketing

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