OMG! Does Your Doctor's Facebook Status Violate HIPAA?

Lynn Sessions and Cory Fox write:

Recently, the Federation of State Medical Boards (“the Federation”) released its Model Policy Guidelines for the Appropriate Use of Social Media and Social Networking in Medical Practice (“Guidelines”). The Guidelines are intended to address how physicians can utilize social media to facilitate patient care while still maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of patient information and the appropriate level of professionalism.

Social media usage, such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogging, has increased amongst healthcare providers. One survey indicates that 87% of physicians use social media websites for personal use and 67% use social media for professional purposes. Another study indicates that 35% of physicians have received friend requests from patients or their family members, and 16%of physicians have visited an online profile of a patient or a family member. The expanded use of social media raises challenging questions for healthcare providers, such as the extent to which physicians can share their work experiences online without violating the privacy and confidentiality of their patients and how to clearly delineate appropriate boundaries of professionalism. An analysis of physician blogs found that nearly 17% included enough information about patients to identify them.

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