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emPower eLearning: Balancing Social Media with HIPAA

Monday, February 22, 2010

Balancing Social Media with HIPAA

Social media is completely changing the way people communicate with each. The online networking platform that social media provides has made it quite easy for the people to converse, exchange ideas, share opinions and distribute information, to shape mass opinion about an individual, product, policy, healthcare, education, etc. The list runs long.
An organized and credible healthcare system is crucial for well being of the human society. Health insurance also falls under purview of healthcare system and patient health information is of great significance. Insecure and a compromised patient health information system can have severe implications on the health and financial condition of the patients. HIPAA plays a pivotal role by enforcing strict regulations, which provide complete protection to confidential patient health information. The covered entities like the hospitals, clinics, billing and insurance companies and their workforce are governed by HIPPA compliance laws. Any lapse on their part can invite strict penalties and convictions.
Doctors, nurses, medics, paramedics, surgeons, etc are nowadays using social media tools like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc, to communicate with each other. The patients also use social media to search for the right physicians or surgeons who can address their specific healthcare needs. This is the positive aspect of the social media in the healthcare settings. Also increased accessibility gives the patients the opportunity to share and improve their knowledge about a disease and treatment. The use of social media, word-of-mouth testimonial benefits the patients by providing them reliable information, which they can count on to conclude successfully, their pending health issues.
But there are also some threats, which social media poses to the privacy of patients. Lack of proper social media usage policies for healthcare workers and the human lapses can seriously put the integrity and confidentiality of the patient health information at risk. The intentional or unintentional display of the patient health information will surely invite strict penalties and convictions as per HIPAA regulations.
Instead of creating friction or conflict between HIPAA with social media through irresponsible use, the health care organizations should administer a sound social media management policy, which ensures that no leakages occur and what ever goes on the net is not detrimental to healthcare rights of the patient. If some how the information does manage to slip through, strict vigilance should ensure timely removal of the content from the net. The medical staff should be trained to handle social media in such a manner that both, organization and patients, are benefited through its constructive use.
Instead of opposing each other, the social media and HIPAA must be harmonized in such a manner so that the vast reach, which social media provides, is used effectively to address the healthcare issues, without compromising the individual or collective healthcare privacy rights.
Social media and HIPAA can go hands-in-hands to provide great benefits to healthcare system.
Jason Gaya
Read more on HIPAA at www.empowerbpo.com

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