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How to Avoid Hiccups with HIPAA on Social Media

Written by Robert Ottone
December 5, 2014

The world of HIPAA violations as they pertain to social media is pretty murky. Over the years, we’ve seen multiple instances of medical personnel being slammed with heavy fines, as well as suffering other harsh penalties.

It’s important to remember that while social media is an incredibly valuable tool for marketing and promotion, it can be a double-edged sword when resulting in potential HIPAA violations.

Discussing Information About a Patient

Even in an instance where an individual’s name isn’t used, it’s still best to err on the side of caution and avoid discussing a patient online. The reason being is that even in an instance of innocent discussion regarding a patient, it’s all-too-easy to connect the digital breadcrumbs of where an office is, what patients are fans of that office on Facebook and who has recently checked-in at that office.

Having followers for your office on Twitter is great, but openly discussing a patient’s medical history isn’t a great idea. In the past, nursing personnel were fired from their jobs as a result of chatting about a patient via social media, in what was deemed a clear violation of HIPAA protocol.

Do I Post That Selfie or Not?

Taking pictures in the office isn’t a terrible idea, however, you should make sure that no relevant patient information is visible in the photo. Even something as slight as capturing a patient’s file in a door in the office hallway is a potential HIPAA violation issue, so, best to tread lightly when posting photos to social media.

What's the Best Course of Action?

Personal social media accounts are best kept under a nickname or pseudonym, as doctors’ names are publicly-shared information. A clear separation between a professional and personal social media account is also important.

Marking personal social media accounts as private so they can’t be discovered by patients is a good way to avoid this type of conflict.

MedNet Can Handle It For You

Too busy to manage your social media accounts? Let MedNet help! We can plan an organized and effective strategy to get potential patients interested in your services! Contact a MedNet Representative to learn more about our new customized packages.


Category: HIPAA Compliance


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