Webinar: Policies Essential to Protect Patient Privacy on Social Media Sites

March 8, 2013 | Strategic Insights for Ambulatory Care


To address some risks that social media poses for healthcare organizations, a healthcare defense attorney recommends that organizations adopt policies prohibiting their staff from identifying their employer on their personal social media accounts, such as Facebook. “A staggering number of people are posting information on social media sites, often indiscreetly,” said Terry C. Cavanaugh, J.D., partner in the Pittsburgh office of the law firm Marshall, Dennehey, Warner, Coleman & Goggin, speaking at a February 21, 2013, webinar, “Social Media: The Continuing Saga,” sponsored by the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management (ASHRM). Healthcare organizations can get pulled into unwanted situations, as well as litigation, when a staff member posts information on his or her personal social media site that identifies confidential and protected information about patients treated at the facility where the staff member works. Not only can the post reveal protected patient health information, it can also damage an organization’s reputation. As an example, Cavanaugh referred to a Missouri obstetrician who posted information about a patient on her personal Facebook page, including information about the patient’s past stillbirth and the patient’s failure to show up for appointments (see the February 22, 2013, Physician Practice E-News).

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