Although blogging has been around for some time, personal blogging has recently exploded. As of 2012, there are an estimated 31 million bloggers in the United States alone. Personal blogging does not require superior technological skills or payment for the instant worldwide publication of a blogger’s personal thoughts. These blogs pose a potential risk to dental offices.
Unfortunately, employees often write about the owner of a practice on personal blogs. Since many practice owners do not monitor or consent to the publication of content posted on their employees’ blogs, office policies should be established that clearly state not only blogging guidelines, but social media guidelines.
Dental practice owners have discovered that employees are posting confidential information on their personal blogs, such as details about their work day as well as patient information. Many employers have terminated employees because of a blog post or as a reaction to an employee’s blog.
The extensive use of blogs as a personal outlet for employees has lead to an increased risk of employer involvement in litigation. A practice owner may be sued by a disgruntled former employee after his or her employment is terminated due to the content of a personal blog, or even by a patient, if the employee posts confidential information about a patient that is protected under federal law.
As a matter of risk management, practice owners must have a clearly defined and specific Internet usage, blogging and social media policy in place. A practice owner must ensure that their policy clearly states what statements may and may not be made about their patients, their work, their colleagues and their employer. In addition, the Internet, blogging, and social media policy should mandate that employees comply with all HIPAA regulations regarding the confidentiality of patient information.
By implementing an Internet usage, blogging and social media policy, practice owners may be able to limit their liability exposure and ensure compliance with federal law.