There are several benefits to combining social media with healthcare, but there are also several risks. As always, pros and cons of social media in healthcare must be weighed carefully. Fortunately, there are some ways to solve the complex issues social media raises.
The rise of social media in the last decade brought new opportunities to share information more efficiently. This includes personal, private information that could be spread at the tap of a screen.
According to the Pew Research Center, 96% of Americans own a cell phone. This figure also includes many healthcare professionals. All it takes is one moment of poor judgement, and personal information could be broadcast to the masses. A photo of an X-ray, a partial view of a medical record, or even a tweet about a patient could be enough to expose someone’s identity.
Under HIPAA, medical professionals are not even allowed to discuss vague details about the patients they treat. Even innocent conversations can be a breach of privacy. Small tidbits of information, however ambiguous, can help the media narrow down patient identities. If you had a hand in helping a patient become a news story, it could cost you your job.
Photographing patients is also a major HIPAA violation. Doing so could have more serious consequences than being fired. Even if the photo is taken down immediately, social media can cement its presence online.
It is essential for all healthcare workers to receive adequate training about HIPAA policies, especially with social media being widespread. The perpetuation of everything posted online means serious ramifications for victims of HIPAA violations. HIPAA protocol must be taken extremely seriously.
Imagine this scenario: You had a disagreement with a coworker, and you each thought the other was wrong. Perhaps some heated words were exchanged. You went home, and poured out your feelings on Facebook.
Now you could be accused of lateral violence and subject to disciplinary action at work. Although it might seem like a harmless vent, ranting about anyone at work on any social media platform can have far-reaching consequences. Even if you delete the post immediately, it could still be accessible.
Aside from landing you in hot water with your boss, feeding a hostile situation at work could put your patients at risk. A medical team that is not working together harmoniously is not providing the best level of care for their patients. Taking your gripes to social media will not solve anything, and those situations are best left to human resources.
A data breach is a real concern for any organization. It is especially important to secure your medical practice, since so much sensitive information is at stake. The use of social media in healthcare, especially apps and pages for your practice, can be useful for connecting and communicating.
But one of the disadvantages of social media in healthcare is it provides another opportunity for data theft. The same goes for telemedicine firms. Virtual healthcare has become a popular counterpart to high-tech healthcare. It is an excellent alternative for patients who cannot travel to see a practitioner regularly. But it creates its own set of security concerns.
Verifying identities when you cannot check an ID at the reception desk presents a challenge. Telemedicine companies are responsible for verifying patient identity in other ways to avoid medical identity theft. A responsible company will also provide end-to-end encryption on any platforms on which they operate. Otherwise, private information could be vulnerable to “man-in-the-middle” cyber attacks.
Sometimes a company’s social media page can be hacked and temporarily overtaken. Someone could also create a fake medical practice page. In either scenario, people could be tricked into sharing a lot of sensitive information. The elderly are particularly vulnerable to “brandjacking.”
Impersonating a medical practice gives an attacker access to what should be secure information. The information often comes from the patient themselves. If they think they are speaking to someone from their practitioner’s office, they are liable to give out anything. They could reveal Social Security numbers or credit card information, which is a recipe for identity theft.
The threats are extensive if someone hacks a medical practice’s social media page. The hacker might be intending to get private information from followers of the page. The hacker could set up a false version of the page for phishing purposes, and spread malware to unwitting users.
Any organization in the healthcare sector must be vigilant against impersonation threats. One attack can be incredibly damaging to the reputation of the company.
36% of consumers say they trust posts from a pharmaceutical firm over that of a medical practice. It might not sound like a lot, but taking the opinion of a brand over that of an actual doctor could be detrimental to your health.
The good news is that 60% trust the doctor over the pharma ads. The ads are not as regulated as you might think, which is why they can heavily influence that 36%. Doctors can combat this issue by strengthening their own online presence.
Those in the medical industry might want to take advantage of the benefits of using social media in healthcare. Although there are risks, there are also solutions to make implementing social media as safely as possible to your practice and your patients.
For more information
As with any company, client data should be protected rigorously. Cyber attacks are a constant threat, meaning constant cyber security is vital. If you’re ready to fortify your medical practice, contact Scale Technology at (501) 522-8969 to discuss which security option is right for you.