Social Media Policy Necessity for Senior Care Companies

Home care and other senior care companies are behind the curve in their use of social media, but that doesn’t mean they should blindly dive into the social fray.

Strategic planning is a necessity, but so is something that is still overlooked by many including some of the largest healthcare providers: a social media policy.

Social media for senior care companies shouldn’t start with the creation of a Facebook page or Twitter account. It should instead start with an internal social media policy, to protect the company from exposure to serious consequences from violations of HIPAA, which is designed to protect the privacy of patients.

According to the Boston Globe, a doctor in Rhode Island was fired and reprimanded by the state board for posting information about a patient online. The post did not use include the patient’s name, but gave enough information about the patient that others in the community could discern the patient’s identity according to the board filing. The article also stated that hospitals in Wisconsin and California have also fired nurses and staff members for revealing information about patients online or posting pictures of them.

These HIPAA violations may be done unwittingly – posting a picture of a smiling patient is still a violation without written consent – so senior care companies should take the time to create a social media policy to protect themselves and educate their employees.

Not sure what it should say? This website offers different social media policy forms for different industries including healthcare. Many social media policies are a few pages in length, and cover employee activities on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, YouTube and other social outlets. For example, a version of the social media policy of Kaiser Permanente discusses what employees are allowed to do on their own personal blogs and social channels, when it has something to do with their work at the company.

Senior care companies should also request disclaimers from their employees on their personal social channels, reflecting that the content reflects the individual, not the company.

Navigating the social media waters can be tricky for senior care companies, but they may sink without the lifejacket of a social media policy in place.  Does your senior care company have a social media policy in place?

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