Allow Access to Social Media, a Recap

I hope everyone had the opportunity to read Ashley Howland’s series of posts on why health organizations should unblock social media sites for their employees. I had the privilege last week to meet Ashley, and many others, at the Mayo Ragan Social Media in Health Care Conference, hosted by Mayo Clinic and Ragan Communications, where almost 400 participants from around the country – a vast majority associated with health systems – gathered to learn ways they can use social media outlets to create meaningful conversations with patients.

One eye-opener for me occurred Monday, during the pre-conference, when presenter Shel Holtz asked for a show of hands from attendees who worked in organizations that block access to social media sites. I would estimate that more than half of the attendees raised their hands. That is shocking and rich with irony:

More than half of the attendees at a conference on social media use in health care actually work for organizations that block access to social media!

These conference attendees, tasked with guiding their hospital’s marketing efforts, must perform their work in a silo, unable to share their activities or get feedback from their coworkers who are most likely to benefit from their efforts. It’s a classic example of, “The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing.”

Obviously, I believe in the medium, as does everyone else, even if they don’t admit it – Facebook passed Google to become the most popular website on the Internet. This blog exists in the realm of social media.

Social media is media. It’s not a fad, it’s not something the kids are doing and it’s not just a massive time suck. (Read: Don’t Have Time is the Wrong Answer) There is real value here.

Take up the banner and work to get access opened at your organization. Use social media (this blog, and others) to counter these common arguments that Ashley discussed in her great series:

Social media poses a risk to patient privacy.

HIPAA concerns are legitimate, but an employee can just as easily breach patient privacy in the hospital cafeteria from his or her smart phone or from a home computer. Education and a solid company social media policy is the way to go.

Social media will impact employee productivity.

If an employee is neglecting patient care, frequently engaging in non-work related activities and missing deadlines, it’s probably a work ethic issue that should be addressed by a supervisor. It may not be social media’s fault.

Social media opens the door to computer viruses and slows network performance.

Like social media sites, viruses and hackers are here to stay. Social media sites pose no more of a risk than a link embedded in an email. Instead of blocking your employees from social media in an effort to protect the organization, empower employees with knowledge.

Social media is too risky and will result in a lawsuit.

Employees are already using social media at home and from their smartphones. Just because they can access it from work doesn’t reduce the risk of litigation. Again, education and a strong social media policy are best practices to avoid risky Internet behaviors at work.

Have you worked to get access granted in your organization? What additional insights can you offer on the risks — both real and perceived — of unblocking social media sites?

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Chad Johnson is managing editor of and senior marketing manager at Corepoint Health. He has worked in healthcare-related fields for more than 15 years, including working directly with physicians, nurses, radiologic technologists and health IT professionals.
  • Lyndask22

    too many nurses are on the computer behind desk,and not making rounds on patients.