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emPower eLearning: Twitter - Tweeting the HIPAA Way

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Twitter - Tweeting the HIPAA Way

The increased use of the social media, especially Twitter, is a cause for concern for many people, keeping in the mind, the strict HIPAA compliance norms pertaining to patient health information. Twitter, is turning out to be the most favored communication tool, for healthcare professionals who want to maintain, quick and easy, connectivity with their patients.The increased use of social media in healthcare settings points towards the strategy of the healthcare organizations to advertise their services especially through Twitter, because of the vast reach, which it provides. To cut down advertisement costs in face of increased competition and economic downturn, healthcare professionals and organizations find Twitter, a cheap and effective advertising media.
Some surgeons tweet from operating rooms to the relatives of patient and keep them updated on the condition of the patient. For a marketing perspective, this might be a good way to woo more patients to the hospital by advertising about service, which reflects the customer-centric policy of the organization.
But Twitter in healthcare settings, is fraught with dangers. The HIPAA norms make it mandatory for all the covered entities like hospitals, health insurance providers, billing services and other health providers along with their business associates to ensure complete protection of patient health information, which they store, process and exchange between themselves. Irresponsible use of Twitter might result is leakage of sensitive health information of the patient and invite heavy fines and criminal convictions, which can ruin careers of the medical personnel, and tarnish image and business prospects of the health care organizations.
Use of Twitter from the operating room should be discouraged as it might affect the electronic signals of the machines installed in the room. Further a wrong or premature information tweeted from the room can damage the reputation of the organization. Any tweet, which leaks the identity of the patient or information, will surely invite legal troubles for the personnel and the organization.
It is necessary regulate the use of Twitter through a well managed healthcare social media policy. Vigilance should be maintained on what is being tweeted into the social media from the organization and all the medical personnel should be made aware of the regulations pertaining to the right use of Twitter. The tweeting rights should be given too authorized and reliable personnel. They should be made aware of the legal and financial implications of any lapse, which results in unauthorized display of confidential patient health information, knowingly or unknowingly.
Increased awareness, collective and individual accountability, sound social media management policy and sharp vigilance can make it easy for the healthcare organizations to use Twitter safely without leaking patient health information as per HIPAA laws.
Twitter and HIPAA can can co-exist with each other.
Jason Gaya
Read more on HIPAA, at www.empowerbpo.com



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