Why it’s a bad idea to block social media at your hospital

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What You’ll Learn:: 

A hospital has a transplant program, and, as happens these days, a patient connected with one of her nurses on Facebook.

Late one week the patient posted that she wouldn’t have time to pick up a prescription refill before a weekend hootenanny.

The nurse jumped in to say, “Oh, do you know what will happen if you don’t get that refill? You have a risk of rejection,” adding further details, according to Valita Fredland, chief privacy officer at Indiana University Health.

The nurse was trying to be customer friendly, offering urgent advice for a patient. But she also revealed confidential information, a firing offence and most health care organizations.

So should you shut down social media at your hospital—or at any organization with sensitive information?

Not so fast. It’s unrealistic to lock your staff out of the new digital world—and you’ll miss out on the benefits of social media, these panelists say. Indeed it’s impossible to wall off your staff in an era when nurses and patients are on smartphones, when people try to connect to their doctors on Facebook, when staff spout off on their Twitter accounts from home.

Bans don’t work. Embrace social media, but educate your staff.

Learn how IU Health Center and Baylor Health unblocked social media at their health centers. In this session from Ragan’s 4th Annual Health Care Social Media Summit at Mayo Clinic, you'll learn:

  • Common organizational concerns that lead to blocking social media sites
  • Tips for identifying and alleviating concerns about social media
  • The internal departments you should engage to unblock social media
  • How to win over execs and others who can unblock social media
  • Why writing a social media policy is the key to unblocking
  • How to educate employees about using social media at work
  • Why blocking social media websites can affect your future workforce
  • Why unblocking social media sites benefits your organization

Why is legal jittery about social media? Health care is sometimes late to the table in technology; but with social media, health care is early, Fredland says.

“The reason they’re hesitant is because there’s not a lot of precedent,” she says. “I have nothing to go look at. Somebody says, ‘How many lawsuits have there been against hospitals related to social media posting?’ I can’t find a lot to offer to you.

Learn why you—and legal—are going to have to deal with those issues, like it or not.

Hear why one panelist uses social media case studies, rather than best practices. Discover why—notwithstanding the nurse mentioned above—social media can engage with patients in a helpful, safe way. Find out how social media boosts organizational transparency.

Think you’ve got social media locked down? You may have nursing units that are already planning schedules via Facebook, or medical teams currently engaging patients.

Find out why you shouldn’t approach social media from a perspective of “Should we or shouldn’t we?” but, “How can we do this within the culture of our organization?”

Discover how social media meets goals in health care and other organizations, among them building a culture of trust. Employees who feel they are part of a culture of trust are more likely to be at a best place to work. And social media can relieve the pressure on customer service teams burdened by calls.

This smart session takes you through the risks and benefits, and explains why, even in health care, blocking access is denying reality.

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October 2012
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Presenter bio: 

Ashley Howland is the social media manager for Baylor Health Care System, a network of 300 health care access points including acute care hospitals, surgery centers and clinics in Dallas, Texas. She has been a member of the marketing and public relations department for seven years. In 2009, she built a robust social media program and now oversees the strategy and content for Baylor's primary social media networks. She serves as the organization's online spokesperson and as the editor of Baylor's "Sammons Says" blog, which covers cancer prevention, treatment and research. In 2010, she helped lead an internal cross-departmental effort to unblock access to social media websites within her organization.

Libby Manship is the director of eHealth for Indiana University Health. Since the organization's rebranding in 2011, the eHealth team has developed its first social media strategy, launched new (and closed) several social media channels, and implemented tactics through social media channels. The organization has also adopted a new social media policy and updated social media communications internally, making access more open and understandable for its 25,000 employees.

Valita Fredland is the associate general counsel and chief privacy officer at Indiana University Health. A native of Indianapolis, Fredland earned her undergraduate degree in economics at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Mass., her law degree at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and a master’s degree in clinical biomedical ethics at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va. She was admitted to the New York bar in 1993 and to the Indiana bar in 1994. In 2005 she certified with the International Association of Privacy Professionals. Fredland’s career in health care includes serving as a protocol coordinator in the Office of Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland, senior policy analyst at the Indiana State Department of Health, and director of legal services for Wishard Health Services in Indiana. She's also an adjunct faculty for the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, teaching health law and bioethics.

Randy Schwarz (panel moderator) is a consultant for Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media.