The online world is growing. Facebook now boasts a “population” larger than the United States. Thousands of dentists are currently taking advantage of social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, LinkedIn, &c.) and smartphones. It is now what you could consider being the “go-to” place to market yourselves and your brand. The more you interact and connect with people on social media, the higher the chance you have of receiving followers. And yes, when it comes to being successful on social media, followers are very important. Some people even go to great lengths, like looking for a growth service similar to nitreo to help them to expand their accounts and reach even more people. You could say that this is social media done right, but there are potential negatives to everything. There are many other tools like this out there to use – including one called Kicksta. Users need to know what they are paying for/downloading before they do so they know they are making a good investment, as some are not recommended – Kicksta is one of them. That’s why with every tool there is a review online, for example there is a Kicksta review. See more at https://tool-busters.com/kicksta/. It is essential to take a brief look at some important issues and areas of concern for dental professionals using or considering the use of social media to build and promote their public, patient, and employee relationships. That said, dentists and professionals in the field also have to know how to efficiently streamline their business and run it successfully. Having adequate knowledge about how practice management software works could prove effective for them in achieving their goals.
The advantages of a strong social media presence are clear. Information may be shared with colleagues to sustain camaraderie, with patients to strengthen dentist-patient relationships, and with the public to bolster your reputation. However, what may seem to be a cheap promotional tool can quickly become a costly defamatory weapon. Having a strong social media presence is better than social media absence. However, as with any tool, it is best to educate yourself about the tool’s capabilities and drawbacks before its use. It is vitally important to consult with your legal advisers early and often when bringing your professional presence to an online forum.
It is becoming more common that social media and smartphone user data is tagged with an increasing amount of detail, including the author, date, time, and even location of all uploaded Information. If the content of the information is also medical in nature, depending on the forum,the Health Information Portability and Accounting Act (HIPAA) may be implicated. Members of the dental profession should adhere to the following guidelines:
(a) Dentists should be cognizant of standards of patient privacy and confidentiality that must be maintained in all environments, including online, and must refrain from posting identifiable patient information online.
(b) When using the Internet for social networking, dentists should use privacy settings to safeguard personal information and content. Dentists should routinely monitor their own Internet presence to ensure that the personal and professional information on their own sites and content posted about them by others, is accurate and appropriate.
(c) If dentists interact with patients on the Internet, dentists must maintain appropriate boundaries of the patient-dentist relationship.
(d) To maintain appropriate professional boundaries dentists should consider separating personal and professional content online.
(e) When dentists see content posted by colleagues that appear unprofessional they have a responsibility to bring that content to the attention of the individual, so that he or she can remove it and/or take other appropriate actions.
(f) Dentists must recognize that actions online and content posted may negatively affect their reputations, may have consequences for their professional careers (particularly for dentists-in-training and dental students), and can undermine public trust in the dental profession.
When dental professionals provide a social media forum for patient feedback, they risk running afoul of HIPAA rules and regulations. Prior to building a social media presence, it is important to develop policies and procedures designed to guide appropriate use of the relevant forum. A few key points follow:
(1) Clearly define what permissions are voluntarily given or granted to the site administrator when a patient posts in the forum and explain how the posted information will be used (prior written consent is always best); (2) Specify what degree of privacy can be expected in the forum (most Internet forums are publicly available and publicly accessible); (3) Make it abundantly clear that any social media forum is not to be used for personal medical advice; (4) State that the social media forum is not monitored continuously or on a twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week basis; and (5) Post consistent policies in a prominent location on all social media sites, tailored to the relevant forum.
Above all, be clear with a disclaimer that patient information is personal and should never be shared via the Internet. Inform participants that any posting that appears to be a violation of this policy will be removed. Do not edit posts. If the content of a post is questionable, it should be deleted. Do not become the co-author of a potential HIPAA violation. Always take medical conversations offline.
It is equally important to keep your employees from becoming lax about privacy rules when it comes to social media. Education is always the first line of defense when it comes to privacy and security safeguards. Make sure all employees are trained and up to date about the privacy and security rules and be sure to disseminate a written company policy outlining permissible and impermissible actions. Make social media training a part of your HIPAA compliance program.Social media is a powerful tool for expanding a dental practice, but be aware of the potential complications. Always consult your legal adviser before branching out into online forums.
Stuart J. Oberman, Esq.
Stuart J. Oberman is the founder and President of Oberman Law Firm. Mr. Oberman graduated from Urbana University and received his law degree from John Marshall Law School. Mr. Oberman has been practicing law for over 30 years, and before going into private practice, Mr. Oberman was in-house counsel for a Fortune 500 Company.
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