Social Media and HIPAA compliance—you can have both

Understanding HIPAA regulations can feel like an impossible task, so it may seem easier to be overly cautious with social media marketing to avoid dealing with a possible violation.

But that’s a short sighted solution. Use of social media as a marketing tool is only going to increase in the dental industry as traditional marketing, like Yellow Pages, continues to lose its effectiveness.

So what’s a practice to do?

Well, first, understand that when it comes to social media most of the HIPAA regulations are in place to protect patients’ privacy. And this can easily be done while still having a successful social media presence with a few easy steps.

  1. Have a “No Photo and Video” policy for your patients
    This way you avoid one patient inadvertently getting another patient into the precious shot of their son playing in the reception area or in the video of their daughter right out of wisdom tooth surgery.
  2. Assign a certain spot for you staff to take photos with patients
    Choose a spot that is well lit but fairly bare—a plain wall or a spot in your reception area that doesn’t have any patient information—to take photos that show off your great patient relationships without accidentally capturing and private information.
  3. Make sure patients sign a consent form before photos are taken
    Your consent form should be thorough and include all the following for the patient to sign off on: what the patient is specifically authorizing, the purpose of the authorization (to use on social media, your website, etc.), the ability to revoke the authorization, an expiration date, and who the patient is giving consent to (your dental practice).
  4. Have proper social media procedures training
    This should include how to handle photos of patients, copyright laws for external content you share on your page, professionalism in their personal social media presence, etc. You can find a great example of guidelines here.