Smartphone and Social Media Policy Recommendations in Hospitals

Social Media and Health Care Policies

Smartphone and Social Media Policy Recommendations in Hospitals

Recently, the use of smartphones and other personal devices has rapidly increased. The smartphone is especially popular in young adults who are educated and with relatively high income. The trend has also been noted in the healthcare system, where almost all healthcare workers own smartphones. According to a study done in 2015 by the Boston consulting group, a smartphone is the most popular device amongst physicians and nurses in recent times (Ventola, 2014). The survey reported that more than half of nurses and physicians used smartphones instead of asking their colleagues to get information (Ventola, 2014). These devices are likely to cause a barrier between patients and healthcare workers as they are mostly unaware of their clinical benefits. Distraction from patient care is caused by the constant connectivity of social media, personal calls, texts and emails by the healthcare workers.

Social media’s distraction is the major challenge in the hospital setting as some of the staffers go as far as disrespecting the patients’ rights to privacy, autonomy, and respect. Healthcare institutions should have clear policies defining inappropriate and appropriate use of smartphones at workplaces and ensure that employees adhere to the policies (Ventola, 2014). The policies should include; patient privacy and safety, personal versus professional use of social media, and disciplinary actions to be taken if a staff member violates them (Ventola, 2014). The disciplinary may start from verbal warnings to dismissal, depending on the magnitude of the violation.

Recommended Rules and Policies

  • The hospital staff should not post work-related/clinical experiences on their sites, which may infringe on the patients’ right to privacy and respect.
  • The employees should keep their professional and personal communication apart always, e.g., keep their sites separate from work sites and keep away from controversial topics at all times.
  • Employees should never discuss the patients, supervisors, employers, and topics related to work outside their work scope.
  • The staff should not betray the patients’ trust by posting their private information on social media or any other avenue.
  • Employees should know that the internet never forgets; thus, they should limit information posted online.
  • Suppose an employee is coerced into a situation they do not feel comfortable with my patients or coworkers, such as taking pictures to post on social media. In that case, they should politely decline (Cain & Fink, 2010).

Healthcare workers have a mandate of protecting themselves and their patients by using their social media and smartphone judiciously (Cain & Fink, 2010). Hospitals should put policies where their employees who want to post pictures related to work should seek permission from all those featuring on the photos. Doing that will protect the institutions from human resources and privacy problems. The healthcare institutions should also ensure that their staff is aware of information that can and cannot be shared, especially on social media, to protect the organization. Hospitals should ensure that the relationship between patients and health caregivers remains professional. Further, healthcare institutions should develop regulations on smartphone use at workplaces such as cellphones, emails, and social media to be used professionally at work.

Potential Ethical and Legal Liabilities for Violating Hospital Policies

Liabilities for Violation of Hospital Social Media Policies

Social media is a powerful tool for carrying positive or negative information. It is undoubtedly changing the way people interact and communicate, and although it is still undergoing a revolution, it will remain part of the world for a long time to come. Depending on the jurisdiction, some institutions have specific laws governing healthcare workers’ unruly social media behavior. Other states use the existing laws to investigate and handle cases such as; unethical behavior, unprofessional conduct, breach of privacy and confidentiality, and exposing privileged communication (Cain & Fink, 2010). Some repercussions can befall professionals with unlawful conduct, including violating federal laws such as laws protecting records confidentiality, invasion of privacy and intentional causing of distress. These violations can lead to criminal or civil penalties, fines and jail time.

Violation of patients’ rights in social media, such as the right to confidentiality, can expose the health care professionals (HCPs) and healthcare institutions to liability in the Health insurance portability and accountability act (HIPAA), which is a body that permits the disclosure and use of the patients’ information (Cain & Fink, 2010). The HIPAA rule states that any patient information posted on social media must have all details about their identity removed (Cain & Fink, 2010). It can be done through omitting or changing the patients’ true details from information published on social media.

The HCPs can lose their licensure and credentials if found liable for illegal and unethical social media conduct. The US licensing authorities do the revocation of licenses. Studies show that over 60% of medical students posted inappropriate information about social media on social media, including using inappropriate language (Ventola, 2014). In 2009, a nursing student was expelled from a renowned university for making unethical remarks about a patient’s religion and race (Cain & Fink, 2010). Further, HCPs are advised not to give medical advice on social media to expose themselves to lawsuits. Social media possess risks to the patient’s information safety and licensure of the HCPs. Therefore, the hospital should establish clear guidelines on the use of social media.

Employers Access to Employees’ Social Media Posts.

Generally, employers are legally permitted to access and monitor their employee’s social media sites. Thus employees should be cautious about the information they post or display on social media. According to a survey done in 2007, 30% of employees were fired for social media misuse in the United States, while 28% were fired for misuse of emails. On the other hand, employers use social media to background checks before hiring potential employees. However, screening potential employees through their social media accounts can cause unnecessary biases, leading to favor or disfavor without proper scrutiny.

Relationship between Accreditation decisions, Reimbursement, Quality of Care, and Informatics

Ensuring high quality is important for health care systems. All patients expect to receive optimal care when they visit hospitals; however, most health institutions are far from giving quality care. Due to that, the national strategy is ensuring quality care through accreditation (Alkhenizan & Shaw, 2011). It is done using an independent external body that uses a formula that ensures that hospitals use scientific practices to improve patient outcomes. However, as much as the government strategy ensures optimal for all patients, some hospitals still lag. The centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) pushes health care institutions to get accredited (Kristensen et al., 2018). Health care institutions may choose to work with one of the many accrediting institutions to undergo a survey process after paying a certain fee. Due to the cost and workload involved in accreditation, systemic evaluations are greatly helpful. Hospital accreditation remains the best way of ensuring quality inpatient care. It is the best way of ensuring patient safety and effective care.

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