Social media can benefit healthcare providers, but there's also a dark side to be aware of. Frankly, it can ruin people's reputations, says John E. Steiner, Jr., chief compliance officer for Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Steiner points out that HIPAA has a criminal provision because people have been known to hurt other people by blasting libelous and defaming information on social media sites.
From a practical standpoint, Steiner said that a healthcare organization's legal exposure grows as the number of social media channels proliferate to include blogs, websites, emails, instant messaging, text messages, chat rooms, statements to the media, and any other forms of communication that may appear in the future.
He stressed the importance of having a social media policy in place so healthcare employees have some kind of guidance. When a hospital, for example, issues a PDA or a laptop to its employees, they are using property that's provided to them by the company and, as a result, they need to follow company policies when they are using that type of technology, Steiner said.