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Social media has its place in health care, but use caution

There is room for Twitter and Facebook in hospitals, as long as such social media tools are used with caution, say information managers.

Use of social media is prevalent in many industries, and health care is no exception. But its use there comes with caveats for patient information privacy and security, said Cecilia Backman, associate director in health information management for Parkland Health & Hospital System. She was speaking during the Legal EHR Summit hosted by the American Health Information Management Association. “We want to use social media, but we want to make sure we use it wisely.”

As more tools are used, providers are asking for help in developing social media policies.

Hospitals turn to social media for marketing, health events communication and education, but view social media tools less as an avenue for patient communication. Where other industries more frequently use things like Facebook as a platform for building customer relationships, health care is wary because of HIPAA concerns, Backman said.

But that doesn’t have to be the case. Industries use social media to meet market needs, influence buying decisions and learn more about their customers. It is, “in many respects, kind of replacing traditional research,” Backman said. “In other industries, they are using it in a far more robust way than we do. In many respects [social media] is kind of replacing traditional research.”

Parkland would understand the need for building more robust sources of information. The health system has been working on a corrective plan of action since a survey conducted earlier in the summer by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services found Parkland to be out of compliance with several policies. The federal agency has told Parkland it could lose its Medicare status by the end of this month if it does not complete changes and pass another survey.

The struggles have had a negative impact in the local news, but Parkland is using its Facebook page as well as its website to continue to keep the community up to date on its action plan and to explain its work. “Social media would be one good way to really present our side of the story,” Backman said.

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Hmmmm. RT@HITExchange: Proceed, with caution: Social media's place in health care http://t.co/1RavVVT #HealthIT #HITsm #hcsm #HIPAA
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RT @DonFluckinger Social media and health care: A compliance cocktail you've got to mix properly: http://t.co/q7Q636m
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Balancing #healthcare #socialmedia and #HIPAA compliance http://t.co/CitMpPSC #hcsm #hitsm
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Use #SM but be sensible! RT @SearchHealthIT: Balancing #healthcare #socialmedia and #HIPAA compliance http://t.co/2lOiaVHH #hcsm #hitsm
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How to balance #hcsm and #HIPAA http://t.co/gNgx54yr
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RT @j_denny: How to balance #hcsm and #HIPAA http://t.co/cNfTM4pB
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How to balance #hcsm and #HIPAA http://t.co/gNgx54yr
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RT @brad_justus: RT @J_Denny: How to balance #hcsm and #HIPAA http://t.co/ud0tmCbt
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Social media has its place in health care, but use caution http://t.co/1hmTMoX7
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Most agree that #socialmedia is a must for health care, but some urge caution http://t.co/NAROIk0z #hcsm
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