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Social Media & HIPAA: A look at legal FAQs

A few weeks ago, attorney Alex M. Clarke published an article on social media and health care.  In his article, Social networking pitfalls in the health care arena – the perils of a parallel universe, Clarke discusses a number of social media and HIPAA related issues in a question-and-answer format.  Clarke’s article is strictly focused on hospital settings; however, much of the information he shares can be applied to LTC.

Here’s a sample of the questions Clark addresses (a total of 16 Q&A’s were presented):

  • Can workforce posts on social networking sites constitute a HIPAA violation for the hospital?
  • Does it matter if the SNS [social networking site] posting is after hours and from home, rather than during work hours and on the hospital’s computer?
  • What is the hospital’s responsibility for PHI [protected health information] posted by patients under their own identity on hospital-sponsored sites for the purpose of sharing experiences or seeking advice?

Clark points out something that most of us are all too aware of: “[the] social networking phenomenon has vastly outpaced the legal and policy responses to deal with the many issues growing out of the use of these sites.”  This leaves us professionals treading cautiously <together> through uncharted territory.

As a self-described social media evangelist/geek, I tend to view this uncharted territory with intrigue and excitement.  And, my gut-reaction was to balk at Clark’s title — his words pitfalls and perils scream out “Danger, Will Robinson!”  But, we all know that the truth is, any open and collaborative venture we explore through social media does come with risks.  I appreciate Clarke’s article (despite the title) because it presents us with information that we can use to move forward with diligence and intelligence.  In practice, we have the opportunity to re-frame “pitfalls” and “perils” into new best practices, educational opportunities, and staff training programs.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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