Table of Contents
The use of social media and other means of electronic communication has been expanding exponentially. Electronic social media tools that are available to healthcare practitioners comprise social networking platforms, media-sharing sites, wikis, blogs, video sites and micro blogs. These tools can be used to enhance the realm of professional networking, public health programs, patient education and care. However, the electronic devices can also be detrimental if they discredit the professional network and convey misleading information. In this regard, health practitioners should always conform to the stable medical tenets that guide their profession, trust, humanism and integrity.
The ulterior objective of this paper is to put emphasis on how social media can be useful for medical practitioners. Additionally, a debatable argument where the perks and drawbacks of social media are highlighted will be presented. Both aspects will be substantiated, and the paper will culminate with a final decision as to whether social media can be considered as a useful tool in the realm of medicine.
Efficient Utilization of Social Media
Social media can be an effective tool for sharing of vital information that fosters professional connections and promotes timely communication between family members and patients (Fraser 78). As a result, patients can access health-related information, find support in discussion groups and track the evolution of their illnesses. Social media can also be used as a platform for finding responses to general questions. Moreover, through social networking and micro-blogging, patients can also tap into various health subcultures that provide encouragement and accountability. Social media can also be used as a data-sharing platform that provides quantitative information different various medical conditions. This knowledge will help patients improve their outcomes, share their conditions and symptoms, and track their health progress (Fraser 82).
Medical practitioners can also use social media and social networking for crowdsourcing in clinical questions (Black and Chitty 78). In this regard, social media offers a reservoir of information that helps clinical care become better. There has also been an emerging trend where health practitioners attempt to connect and engage with their patients on social networks. This decision makes them seem more approachable and ensures their active involvement into their clinical progress. Similarly, health practitioners can also use social media, such as Facebook, twitter or blogging, for personal correspondence (Black and Chitty 119).
As a result, the use of such platforms for personal purposes allows practitioners to communicate by sharing workplace experiences, especially challenging and emotional occurrences. However, it is imperative to protect patients’ privacy by not sharing information that can disclose their identities. However, most employers’ policies do not give practitioners any prerogative to discuss issues that do not pertain to workplace issues. Therefore, the inappropriate use of social media can expose them to serious ramifications.
In addition, one more concern that stems from the use of social media is its impact on team-based patient care (Fraser 112). In this regard, online comments or sentiments expressed by a health practitioner may amount to lateral violence. Lateral violence encompasses disruptive behaviors on the internet (Black and Chitty 89). Such activities endanger the patient’s safety. Similarly, negative comments can adversely impact the cohesive care delivery of the healthcare team, which might lead to sanctions. In addition, social media as a means of communication can only be used with technology savvy patients who provide their consent for such form of communication.
The Value of HIPPA in the Healthcare Sector
The proponents of Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) dictate that no medical institution should disclose protected health-related information. The aim of the act is to allow patients to control their personal health information. Therefore, this data should not be exposed to the public without the consent of the patient. However, the act has an exception, where patient information can be shared if it is being used in healthcare operations. Additionally, the same information can be disseminated internally with other physicians. Payment companies are also entitled to receiving patients’ private information for insurance purposes (Lewis 217). This process might even take place without the consent of the patient.
In this regard, even though it might be possible to carry out a hospital-patient relationship online, the recommended practice would be initiating the same relationship in real life. Medical practitioners should also obtain appropriate authorization from the patient. As a defense mechanism, major actors in the health sector should take initiative of reviewing their social media platforms on a daily basis. Such responsibility will enable them to provide timely responses to the positive and negative comments and that come their way (Lewis 219). As a result, they can get rid of comments that reveal private information, as it disregards HIPAA regulations. It is also imperative to remain professional and explain the reasons for some comments being deleted.
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Health care providers can also consider taking part in social media consultation by first ensuring that the network meets security protocols (Fraser 69). Similarly, social media platforms should be utilized in ways that can safeguard against HIPAA breaches. It is vital to acknowledge is that even though he patients have a right to say whatever they want about themselves, a health care provider does not. Additional rules should also be adhered to in the quest of avoiding HIPAA violations on the internet. They include avoidance of discussing patients even in general terms without specifying conditions, and undertaking of appropriate treatment and research (Weaver, Lindsay, and Gitelman par 9). Health care providers should ensure that their personal and personal lives do not intertwine.
The Violation of Patient’s Rights
A violation of the patient’s right encompasses an impermissible use or disclosure of private data. Common examples of such infringement include dissemination of verbal gossip to third parties. In this respect, third parties have been used as individuals who are not involved in the patient care process (Montenery et al. 53). Moreover, violation can still occur, even if the identity of the patient is not disclosed. Protected health information is a broad term that comprises diagnosis, admission procedures, age, telephone numbers, treatment options and a healthcare plan. In fact, as a rule, medical practitioners should not post anything they would not say in a coffee shop or elevator. Patients are also given the option of establishing an authorization date when their information can be revealed to specific parties (Lewis 214). Revealing any information after the expiry date is an encroachment of patient’s rights. Therefore, the failure to conform to the authorization date is equivalent to the violation of the patient’s rights.
Another offense occurs whenever medical practitioners delay the release of useful information. In fact, the proponents of HIPAA dictate that the patient is entitled to electronic copies of health records at all times (Black and Chitty 108). Another violation of patient’s rights is sharing photographs or other form of PHI without the patient’s knowledge. It is vital to acknowledge that the rules applicable to patient’s privacy should also be applied in relation to social media.
Health care organizations can also take the initiative of ensuring that all employees are well acquainted with HIPAA regulations (Lewis 198). They should also consider developing social media policies that will be communicated to all employees. Internal and external policies should be put in place to prevent sharing of images and information among the personal accounts of the staff members (Montenery et al. 55). Unfortunately, sometimes the practitioners can even post revealing information without the patient’s consent. For example, an employee may post a lunch picture with friends while the patient’s files are visible on the table.
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Authorized administrators should be in charge of posting on social media platforms on behalf of healthcare institutions. In case a HIPAA breach occurs, a witness should always report it to the compliance officer as soon as possible. It will then be the goal of the compliance officer to adhere to appropriate procedures, such as notifying the HHS secretary. However, medical practitioners who are active on social media can post information about treatments, conditions and research (Weaver, Lindsay, and Gitelman par 11). Social media can be a very useful tool for patient engagement. Therefore, health care organizations can derive various benefits from social media while adhering to the regulations stipulated in HIPAA.
Medical science is evolving and embracing new technologies. This advancement encompasses new diagnostic equipment, therapies and advanced communication platforms, such as electronic media. Social media has power to amplify individual’s lapse of judgement, as the content can be accessed globally within seconds. The very nature of such tools can pose risks, as they allow little time for reflective thoughts. However, social electronic media can be very valuable for healthcare practitioners if used wisely. HIPAA can fill the gap in judgement by instigating standards and requirements that ought to be conformed to while transmitting health-related information. The violations of patient’s rights stipulated in HIPAA can be avoided if employees are educated about all possible potentially hazardous mistakes. Therefore, health practitioners will then be able to enjoy numerous benefits from the use of social media.
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