Social media has many benefits, including staying connected with family and friends, keeping up with current events, donating to important foundations and marketing small businesses and services. However, when you’re a healthcare professional, what you post on your personal account can affect you professionally as well. Being conscientious about the things you share on the internet is especially important for healthcare professionals on social media. Keep these three things in mind to avoid the challenges of social media in healthcare.
Healthcare professionals on social media beware: With great power comes great responsibility
The global pandemic has increased the amount of time we spend in front of the computer, whether we are working, learning, socializing or shopping. COVID-19 and the app TikTok have also contributed to the increase in popularity of “medical influencers,” certified doctors and nurses share their expertise, give advice, and their personal opinions on specific topics. Some of these viral influencers have spread very important and positive information that teens need to know about but aren’t comfortable asking their doctor face-to-face.
However, other healthcare providers are spreading misinformation that is mostly based on their own personal beliefs. One example of a healthcare provider misusing social media is a viral TikTok of a nurse suggesting that abstinence until marriage is the best way to prevent getting an STD. Not only did this video spread false public health information, it actually made some viewers more afraid to go to the doctor’s office. TikTok can potentially be a great tool that gives teens and young adults free access to helpful healthcare information; however, when healthcare professionals spread misinformation, it makes it extremely difficult to know which healthcare professionals on social media can be trusted.
Doctor-patient confidentiality still applies on social media
Perhaps one of the most common forms of inappropriate behavior by healthcare professionals on social media is violating a patient’s privacy and confidentiality. Posting the name of a current or former patient, sharing photos, or giving out private information regarding a patient’s medical records are just a few examples of common HIPAA social media violations.
Although, for the most part, it’s smart for healthcare professionals on social media to avoid disclosing any kind of information or stories regarding their job, there are some circumstances where sharing personal experiences have been beneficial to the public. For instance, the emotional stories shared by nurses and doctors that took to social media to share what it was like to be on the frontlines of the COVID-19 outbreak prompted the public to think twice about their role in stopping the spread of the virus. However, these personal stories and experiences were very carefully told so as to not violate any patient’s private information or information that could lead to identifying a patient. Make sure, if you are sharing any personal experience online, that you aren’t mentioning names, attaching photos, or giving specific details about a patient or their treatments.
Unprofessional behavior can be a violation of healthcare laws
Healthcare workers have pledged to treat and care for every patient with dignity and respect no matter the patient’s race, class, religion, or political beliefs. Therefore, if your posts don’t reflect that kind of fairness and inclusion on your social media accounts, even if they are personal accounts, then you shouldn’t publish them. You should also probably consider another profession if your beliefs don’t reflect equality and fair treatment to all. Unprofessional behavior on social media could lead to serious consequences for healthcare workers who violate laws put in place by HIPAA and the NCSBN.
Social media can be a great way for healthcare professionals to raise awareness on important health topics, answer common questions, and combat misinformation. However, when healthcare providers misuse social media and violate a patient’s privacy, disciplinary actions must be taken.