4.) Social media is too risky and will result in a lawsuit.
Yes, a certain amount of risk is involved with using social media tools. Never before have we been able to engage in a two-way dialogue with our patients and consumers in a public space like this. Of course that can be risky. Especially since that dialogue is written and “discoverable” as lawyers like to put it and may come back to haunt us one day if we’re too careless. We all know that once something is published on the Internet, it’s there to stay.
But again, I don’t think letting employees have access to social media in the workplace is going to necessarily increase your risk of a lawsuit. Like I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, they’re already using social media at home and from their smartphones. Just because they can access it from work doesn’t really change anything. They are still representatives of your organization using these tools to communicate with their many social circles (again, I can’t stress enough the importance of having a social media policy, whether you unblock or not.).
This week, I attended the third annual Healthcare Social Media Summit, hosted by Mayo Clinic and Ragan Communications. Among the many informative and enlightening sessions they offered on social media in health care, there was one specifically dedicated to the legal aspect. As you can imagine, it was packed.
All of the panelists were extremely knowledgeable about this topic, but I won’t deny that at times the information they presented was a little scary. When you hear words like liability, lawsuit and federal indictment as they may apply to your job, it can send a wave of panic through your body and make you wonder why you even bother!
But then one of the speakers, Daniel Goldman, a lawyer with Mayo Clinic, made a profound statement that restored our faith. He said there are risks to everything, but that’s not a reason to not to do social media. Like everything, you have to learn how to manage the risks. He went on to say that we should remember the very practice of medicine is risky.
I would imagine that what goes on in an operating room is probably a little more risky than say, a blog or a Facebook page.
At the end of the conference, we heard a keynote speech by Dave deBronkart, better known as “E-patient Dave.” He reminded us why social media is so vital to health care. Connecting with other patients and using it to research information and treatments for his condition truly helped save his life.
But with all of the bad information circulating around the Internet, especially as it pertains to health, we have a responsibility as health care organizations to provide the public with credible and trustworthy information. Why would we block our organization’s medical experts from sharing their knowledge and expertise to help those online who are desperately seeking it (with the proper training and education of course)?
We have to start looking at social media as an opportunity, not a risk. To manage the risk, you should educate your employees and make them feel empowered and trusted. Start viewing them for what they really are—your ambassadors, your representatives, your real-life “fans” and “followers.” Not liabilities.
And again, create a good social media policy.
After all, where would we be if no one ever took a risk, especially in health care?
Ashley Howland is the social media manager for Baylor Health Care System, a network of 300 health care access points including acute care hospitals, surgery centers and clinics in Dallas, TX. She has been a member of the Marketing/Public Relations department for seven years with a strong background in media relations. In 2009, she built a robust social media program from the ground up and now oversees the strategy and content for Baylor’s primary social media networks. Additionally, she serves as the organization’s online spokesperson and as the editor of Baylor’s “Sammons Says” blog covering cancer prevention, treatment and research. This year, she helped lead an internal cross-departmental effort to unblock access to social media websites within her organization.
Part 3. Social media isn’t going away.
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