Navigating Social Media And HIPAA Privacy Laws For Your Dental Practice

Like it or not, we live in a culture centered around social media.   Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram or Snapchat most businesses and practices use multiple social media platforms to expand their sphere of influence, nurture their current patients and attract new ones.

There are powerful benefits to using social media in your practice including; to help build rapport with your existing patients, attract new patients, showcase the culture of your practice, share promotions, educate your audience on the importance of oral-systemic health and more!

However, before you start taking and sharing patient selfies, boomerangs, and Instastories it is critical that you first educate yourself on the HIPAA Privacy Laws and learn how it affects the way you and your practice use social media.   Not taking the time to empower yourself and your team with these privacy laws could get you and your practice into serious trouble.

The first rule in using social media in your dental practice is to not share private patient health information on social media without consent.  

This includes personal patient contact information, patient services acquired, patient history and more.  It’s important to note that this also includes sharing images or videos or even captions where the patient could be identified (yes, this even includes photos of your office interior that unintentionally include patients).  The surefire way to safely include PHI on social media is to have the patient sign a written consent form stating that they agree to your practice sharing images/videos on social media in the specific manner in which you intend to use it on social media.  That specific manner is important. Should you use it for any other manner, well, again…big trouble could be coming for you!  

The second must-know when sharing on the socials for your practice is training your team on the HIPAA Privacy Laws.  

“Well, I know the laws so we’re covered”, you might think. Think again.  If you’re not the one creating and managing your social media channels and your team doesn’t know the Privacy laws, you are putting you and your practice at risk.  Take time to create social media policies within your practice and share them with your team. Educate your team on the HIPAA Privacy laws and provide them with social media samples that are within HIPAA Privacy laws.  Lastly, communicate the consequences of a team member not adhering to these policies and HIPAA laws. If you want to go the extra mile, you could incorporate a practice policy of pushing all social media posts through your legal department prior to posting to be extra cautious.

The final tip we have in safely navigating the socials is to avoid over-engaging in comments/reviews.

People can say the nicest things in comments/reviews but they can also turn sour pretty quickly if someone has a bad experience or is just plain old cranky.  Either way, it can be tempting to engage with the comments when thanking a kind review or trying to resolve a negative comment. When you go down this rabbit hole,  you run the risk of oversharing and exposing the patient’s privacy without meaning to. For best practice, we recommend keeping any engagement general and provide personal reach outs to resolve any patient concerns or to show appreciation for a praising patient.  This allows your patients to feel heard and appreciate, demonstrates that you care about their feedback while keeping you and your practice safe.

Social media is a fun and engaging space to connect, share and grow your community.  Protect yourself first, know the HIPAA laws to keep you and your practice safe, and then share, like, comment and enjoy!

Now that you know more about including HIPAA in your marketing, it’s time to start putting your content strategy together!”  

Get started with The New Patient Engine now!

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