A recent study of more than 1,000 emergency medicine professionals turned up a lot of social media problems. Residents admitted the following social media faux pas:
- 26% posted identifiable patient information.
- 52% posted an identifiable image.
- 84% posted one or more pictures of drunken colleagues.
Their supervisors put the numbers of residents doing these things even higher for posting identifiable patient info and pictures:
- 46% posted identifiable patient information.
- 63% posted an identifiable image.
- 57% posted one or more pictures of drunken colleagues.
It looks as though their supervisors can’t always tell that residents are drunk in their Instagram posts.
Official requirements for emergency medicine professionals now include “maintains patient confidentiality” and “uses social media ethically and responsibly.” But this study points to a concern that may come up outside of emergency rooms and even outside of medical contexts.
Many of these social media problems arose in private social media. Posting a picture of a friend who’s had too much to drink is never smart or kind, but it happens often. If that friend is a nurse or a doctor, it may be much more serious than it is for a post office worker or a retail clerk. Patients need to be able to have confidence in their healthcare professionals.
What’s the solution?
- Have a written social media policy. HIPAA social media guidelines are a great starting point, but it’s also worth reminding your team that you count on them to present a positive, professionally appropriate image in their personal social media accounts, too.
- Educate your team. We know how we use social media as individuals. But knowing how your patients and clients use social media can help your team understand why it’s important for them to be thoughtful about what they share. Chances are the residents who shared about a patient didn’t intend to be disrespectful; make sure your team is aware of these concerns.
- Communicate the consequences. The study mentioned above found that most administrators who answered the survey had let people go because of social media problems. For some organizations it can be a question of lawsuits, while for others it could be a question of the bottom line. Let your team know what’s at stake.