Friday, February 18, 2011

7 Best Practices For Hospitals and Social Media | Hospital Financial and Business News

Kevin Troutman is a partner at Fisher & Phillips LLP in Houston and serves as the chair of the firm's Healthcare Practice Group. Additionally, Mr. Troutman has more than 17 years experience in healthcare management positions, once serving as the senior HR manager for 22 hospitals in five states. Mr. Troutman outlined seven best practices for hospitals to consider regarding social media and hospital employees.

1. Update your policy to include social media. Roughly one-third of employers have enacted policies that address employees' use of social media sites, says Mr. Troutman. While this number is growing, employers still aren't catching on as quickly as expected, especially since sites such as Facebook or Twitter will never phase out but only evolve. "Hospitals need to address social media — they can't just proceed as though they don't exist," says Mr. Troutman. He said most hospitals already have strong confidentiality policies in place, but these need to be amended to include specific parameters for social media use.

2. Decide how much restriction employees will face while at work. Some hospitals have enacted prohibited social media policies for employees, while others have restricted their use all together. While this decision may vary from hospital-to-hospital depending on the work environment, Mr. Troutman shares some general advice. "Encourage employees to minimize the use of personal websites or personal activity while they are on work time. You have to recognize that, once in a while, employees will need to send a personal e-mail. But generally, the policy should be this: while at work, you do work. "

3. Train supervisors so they don't inadvertently create problems. In the ambiguous realm of friending, private messages and wall posts, supervisors need to anticipate potential problems regardless of their intention. For instance, a supervisor sending a friend request to a lower level employee could set up potential claims of fraternization, harassment, or — in extreme cases — stalking. Mr. Troutman shared an instance where a supervisor signed into a Facebook account under another username to look up an employee's social media activity, which could be considered defrauding the employee or invading his/her privacy.

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