4 Common HIPAA Violations on Social Media

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Health is a business like any other business. Doctors are and should be using social media to reach more patients. The only (slightly major) difference is that medical professionals can face a hefty fine or even lose their license to practice over a social media snafu. When it comes to HIPAA, it doesn’t matter if the violation is online or offline which complicates things with the popularity of social media. Here’s a look at 4 common HIPAA violations that some people might not even realize are violations…

1. Posting information about specific patients (even without using their name) without their written consent. Example Violation: Posting about a patient after a car accident and saying something like “should have worn his seatbelt”. You can’t post information that could make a patient identifiable in any way. 

2. Posting photos of patients in any way- even if they aren’t clearly identifiable. You don’t need any example for this one!

3. Accidental background shares. Example Violation: This could be as innocent as taking a staff photo and accidentally capturing a patient or document in the background. *Have a photo policy in your office about photo sharing*

4. Assuming posts are private. Example Violation: A doctor summarizing a specific patient (again, no names needed) on her personal Facebook page because “it’s personal”. It’s not. The same goes for groups, forums or gossip columns/blogs. The general rule of thumb is that the Internet and social media are not private. 

Ok, so what can you post on social media if you’re a doctor or medical professional? Here are some ideas!

  • Health tips 
  • Events patients might like to attend
  • Research in your field
  • Honors, awards and achievements (build your social proof!)
  • Blog posts that incorporate all of the above

Above all, make sure that all staff members understand your office’s HIPAA requirements. And, when it comes to your social media, let us handle the content and posting so you don’t have to worry about violations.