Healthcare News & Insights

Prevent social media nightmares with airtight policy

Are employees fully aware of your hospital’s policy for social media use? It’s best to make sure they are – otherwise, you may face a difficult situation like New York Presbyterian Hospital had to deal with regarding one of its emergency department nurses.

facebook twitter linked inAccording to an article on ABC News, the nurse, Katie Duke, was fired from her position when she posted a photo on her Instagram account showing the aftermath of treating a patient with a gunshot wound in one of the hospital’s trauma rooms.

Although the photo didn’t have the patient in it, officials at the hospital weren’t pleased with the photo being displayed on social media. They told Duke the photo was “insensitive” and shouldn’t have been posted at all.

Hospitals across the country are facing similar issues with staffers who are posting confidential info about patients on Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms, everything from details about their treatment and conditions, to actual photos of patients.

These thoughtless actions can lead to a lot of negative PR for your hospital should they become public knowledge. Even worse, they could lead to legal action from patients claiming their privacy rights were compromised.

Key elements

Hospitals can fend off these situations by being sure employees are aware of and understand their limitations under social media policies. The best hospital social media policies are:

  • Clear. The policies should be free from jargon and legal speak. The language used should let employees know in clear terms what behavior is and isn’t tolerated on social media.
  • Realistic. Social media isn’t going anywhere, and most of your hospital’s staff members likely use it on their personal time. They may even access it on the clock using their smartphones. So your policy shouldn’t flat out ban social media use, or ignore the impact it likely has on workers’ lives.
  • Specific. Give a clear definition as to what constitutes “social media” under your policy. And list exactly what social networks these rules apply to. Because new ones pop up all the time, you may want to do research to see what’s out there, and which ones your staffers are using the most.
  • Positive. Along with listing what types of info or images hospital staff can’t post online, give them examples of appropriate social media use that doesn’t put the reputation of the hospital in danger.
  • Consistent. The rules – and consequences – should be the same for all workers, regardless of their status or position at your hospital.

So it’s key to review your hospital’s current social media policy to see if it contains these elements. And if you don’t have a specific social media policy, now’s the time to create one.


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