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Managing Social Media without violating HIPAA


With an estimated 300 million Americans using the Internet daily, 90% of them use social media (cite.) Understandably, there is interest among medical professionals to tap into this market and ethical concerns about how patient communication can work on these platforms. At Social Cascade, we specialize in helping you strike the right balance.

Why bother with social media, anyway?

When you post using social media, you meet your patients and families where they already are. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram allow pediatric clinics to share information about their services, new research, and health tips effectively. Using existing social media platforms has proven more effective than emails and patient portals, offering convenience and ease of use for families.

Additionally, social media can provide a way for pediatric clinics to engage with their patients and respond to their questions and concerns. By creating an online community, clinics can build trust with their patients and help foster a sense of belonging and support. It is, indeed, Social Cascade’s mission to harness the ubiquity and power of social media to enable a greater connection between pediatricians and the families they serve.

But, what about HIPAA?

A major concern of many medical care providers is staying within HIPAA guidelines, since it does apply to social media messages. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is a federal law that regulates how healthcare providers can use and disclose patients' protected health information. This can include personal details, diagnoses, and even the fact that the person is a patient.

How to stay legal and use social media

Clinics must be careful to stay in compliance with HIPAA. But the great news is: it can be done. Use these tips to stay compliant while engaging with patient families on social media:

  1. Focus on broadly-messaged content. If you’re posting a picture or video of a patient, you must obtain written consent from the patient or legal guardian. By curating content from existing streams, you’ll avoid this pitfall.

  2. Keep Protected Health Information secure. Be sure that in all posts, you aren’t sharing any protected health information about patients, which includes names, addresses, diagnoses, and other personal details.

  3. Monitor the comments. One of the mixed blessings of social media is the ability for users to post comments. Monitor the comments on your posts frequently to ensure no protected health information is posted in the comments.

  4. Communicate protected health information using secure channels only. Do not use social media to communicate specific advice or diagnosis information to families. If a patient or family contacts you using the private messaging of social media platforms, refer them to your practice’s secure channels.

Use Social Cascade to post compliant content

Social Cascade’s unique technology helps pediatricians navigate this challenging terrain so they can successfully engage with their patients using social media. With the click of a button, we enable you to share information from approved sources, like AAP and xxx, all guaranteed HIPAA compliant. When your patients and families see your posts on social media, they’ll feel more connected to your practice and more educated. To learn more about your options, visit our website.

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