Social media is a great way to market your urgent care services. But in a highly regulated industry like healthcare, it’s important to establish the ground rules via a comprehensive social media policy.

Welcome to Part I of a series on developing a social media policy for urgent care! We’ll cover tips for compliance, operational efficiency, and effective marketing. In this part, we focus on policies for employee use of social media—both on and off the job.

What a social media policy looks like

There are clear and measurable benefits of social media for urgent cares. But social media is an open platform, which means it can be risky. Businesses can articulate best practices about how their clinics will engage with the public through various platforms. Implementing these practices consistently can help protect the business’ reputation and revenue.

 

The policy should cover two broad categories:

  1. Employee private use of social media
  2. Appropriate use of the company social media pages

In this post, we outline how to develop such a policy. These are general guidelines to get you started, but information on the Calibrater Health blog is not legal advice. Healthcare professionals should always check with their legal teams to ensure compliance in marketing.

Policies for employee use of social media

First thing is first. All employees (not just the ones in charge of social media) must understand the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. And it’s not just because you care about your patients’ privacy. HIPAA violations can result in a hefty financial penalty.

HIPAA prohibits the sharing of protected health information to anyone who doesn’t “need to know” this PHI. Sharing PHI does not have to be specific. It could refer to a patient by describing a situation that could then reveal identities.

That’s because the kind of incidents and outbreaks that bring patients into urgent cares can be newsworthy. Your urgent care may provide radiology services to someone involved in a headline-making roadway or workplace accident. This coverage makes it possible for readers to connect the dots from medical and demographic generalities to a specific patient. So, a provider venting frustration online could be breaking the law—even if they don’t name names!

Pharmacology & Therapeutics offers a comprehensive list of topics a social media policy should cover. The urgent care landscape is extremely competitive, and it’s not all about location and convenience. The business model thrives on efficiency, brand awareness, and reputational excellence.

From P&T’s list, here are some of the employee issues most relevant to urgent care:

  • Leaking of proprietary information
  • Damage to the organization’s reputation (as well as other organizational impacts, such as productivity)
  • Employee behavior outside the realm of employment (e.g., when posting material to their personal social media sites)
  • Limitations on employee access to the Internet or social media on work premises
  • Employees’ responsibilities when witnessing inappropriate use of social media
  • The use of organizational email addresses and graphics
  • Disciplinary actions for the inappropriate use of social media
  • State and federal guidelines for patient privacy
  • Why it’s important to adhere to the social media policy

Photographs and videos should also be addressed in the policy. During the coronavirus pandemic, many healthcare employees are sharing affirmational group photos from work premises. These photos, and the likes and comments that result, can be great for boosting morale during a time when front-line healthcare workers are experiencing record burnout.

But beware! An employee could take an innocent picture of coworkers, while inadvertently sharing an open computer screen, or even a picture of a patient in the background. Training should encompass all these possibilities.

A comprehensive, required annual training program is recommended for all employees. Vendors should receive similar information and agree to it as part of the contracting process.

Stay tuned for Part II!

We hope this post has been helpful for you in crafting a social media policy that governs employees’ use of social media. Come back for Part II, which will focus on organizational use.

In the meantime, check out our white paper on automating provider engagement via Net Promoter Score alerts. Social media training takes time and manual effort, but patient experience improvement can come in a steady drip of “automagical” insights.

Provider Alerts

The alert will include the Provider’s recent NPS® Score and the overall NPS Score of the organization or region. Also included in the alert is a link to recent comments submitted by patients seen by the provider. There is also a blinded ranking of all provider NPS scores across the organization.