4 Tips for Avoiding HIPAA Violations on Social Media

A doctor smiling while using a phone, taking care to avoid HIPAA Violations

Social media certainly has advantages for medical practices when it comes to branding and marketing to new patients. However, social media has placed many medical professionals in the crossfire of HIPAA violations. With little guidance available, it’s easy for medical professionals to make seemingly small mistakes online, but these mistakes can have huge consequences. The general rule of medical social media is to keep your patients’ protected health information (PHI) safe – but how do you do that? Here are four general rules to keep in mind as you create content for your social media channels. 

  1. We don’t talk about PHI. Pop quiz! A plastic surgeon posts about a 25 year old female who underwent breast reduction surgery. Did he violate HIPAA? Yes. It is easy for anyone viewing that post to assume who that patient may be based off of the time frame that the post was made in, your practice’s location as your address is public information, and other personal information like the sex and age of the patient. Followers can look at posts and draw generalizations quickly. Avoid using protected patient information in your social media.
  2. Don’t collect any patient-specific information on social media. Social media isn’t encrypted and therefore isn’t safe for any PHI. 
  3. Outsourcing your marketing? Make sure it’s HIPAA-compliant. Social media tools are a great way to cut down on the amount of time you spend managing your practice’s pages. However, if the tool or service you’ve chosen is creating content for you, it’s important to make sure there’s the same level of HIPAA compliance that you expect in your own clinic. After all, your name is on the account, which means any violations and resulting fines are your responsibility. 
  4. Double check all your images before you post. A surprising number of HIPAA violations occur through images, simply because PHI was included in an image inadvertently. Creating a process to double-check your photos and images for violations will save you headaches down the road.

We Can Help

Too busy to manage your social media accounts? Social Power is the answer! We have 20+ years of experience creating HIPAA compliant content for social media. Contact one of our digital marketing experts for more information. 

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