Healthcare News & Insights

Are your hospital’s employees spending too much time on Facebook?

One impact of the greater use of technology in health care: It gives employees more opportunities for distracting personal Internet use. 

facebookEmployees spending excessive amounts of time on social media sites is an issue that many organizations in all industries have had to deal with.

Often, businesses follow the strategy of leaving employees free to browse social networks and other personal websites whenever they want, as long as managers hold them accountable to get their work done.

However, hospitals might want to take a more proactive approach to curbing personal browsing at work, according to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research. Excessive social media use may have a serious impact on employee productivity and the quality of patient care, researchers say.

For the study, the researchers monitored the web use of 68 workstations in the emergency department at the University of Florida’s academic medical center. Over the course of 15 days, researchers found:

  • Hospital employees went to Facebook 9,369 times
  • Employees browsed the site for 72.5 hours, with each of them spending an average of 12 minutes per hour on the social network, and
  • Visits to Facebook actually became more frequent as patient volume grew.

What hospitals can do

Excessive personal social networking can cause problems for hospitals, the study’s authors warn — especially since employees unexpectedly seem to become more glued to Facebook and other sites when they have more work to do.

That’s why hospitals may want to take another look at their policies regarding social networking in the workplace, and consider blocking personal websites on at least some workstations. Some keys organizations should keep in mind:

  • Remember employees’ personal mobile devices — In addition to workplace computers, many employees also visit social networks using personal smartphones and tablets during work hours. It’s tougher to block that access, but hospitals can at least address it in their policies.
  • Tell employees someone’s watching — Even if the organization doesn’t block access to websites, it’s usually a good idea to monitor employees’ Internet use — and let everyone know that monitoring technology is in place. Often, just knowing that’s the case is enough to keep employees off personal sites.
  • Train for HIPAA awareness — Beside productivity concerns, another danger of social media for hospitals is that it makes it easier for employees to share sensitive information about patients. It’s important for staff members to know what to avoid posting online.

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