Healthcare News & Insights

Social media in health care: Another risk to weigh

Social media has real business benefits within health care — and serious negatives that can be hard to protect against — whether or not you even use the sites.

The open nature of social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn means that no matter how carefully you manage your own profile — or even if you choose not to use them — there are some things you simply can’t protect yourself from.

Take the case of Jerry Penner, the CEO of Murray-Calloway County Hospital in Murray, Kentucky.

Shortly after coming to the hospital, a hospital VP made a joke about Penner having sent a friend request to all of the VP’s staffers, but not the VP himself. The only problem? Penner hadn’t sent any of the requests.

A little sleuthing turned up a fake profile of Penner that used a photo of him from a hospital web page, and his basic biographical info such as his educational and work history, which were correct aside from a few mistaken dates. There were few posts made on the page, and aside from some poor grammar and spelling, none of the information posted was damaging or harassing to Penner — but he was understandably disturbed.

Penner said his privacy settings on the site are relatively high and he uses the page mostly to communicate with business connections and promote the hospital.

Activity on the fake profile died down until recently, when a flurry of Penner’s real-life friends and colleagues received friend requests from the fake profile. Most upsetting to Penner: One hospital employee received a friend request with an “I love you” note attached.

In that instance, the person was already connected to Penner on Facebook and knew there was an impostor afoot. But Penner has no ideas who else may have received such inappropriate messages, and if those people realize they aren’t coming from him.

Penner said he had received little assistance from Facebook about the fake account — while he can no longer see the page when he logs on, he said other friends of his can.

For medical professionals who are already leery of social media’s privacy pitfalls, this may seem like one more reason not to use it. But not having the ability to monitor what other people say about you (or say as you) on social networking sites can be even more damaging in the long run.

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