Nervous about patient privacy, hospitals limit staff access to social media sites

From Hospitals and Health Networks:

Tweeting, Facebooking and blogging are easy ways to communicate and are becoming nearly ubiquitous in this age of portable computing. But for some hospital staff, they are becoming taboo activities.

Social networking can present dangers to patient privacy and other business practices. Neither the American Hospital Association nor the American Society for Healthcare Risk Management has official policies regarding social networking, leaving hospitals to decide individually how best to police work time usage.

The threat of privacy violations is real but it is unrealistic to expect hospitals to sever all access to these sites, says Robert Coffield, health care attorney with Flaherty, Sensabaugh & Bonasso, Charleston, W. Va. The challenge is training staff to use them properly while controlling their access. “Educating people to use social networking appropriately is difficult,” Coffield says. “Communication between hospital and patient is two-way, but it’s restricted from the hospital’s perspective to protect the patient.”

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