Making Social Media Work for You – Part 1: Facebook

Social media platforms like Facebook can be a great way for nurses, pharmacists, physical therapists, and behavioral health professionals to connect with patients and colleagues. Of course, there are potential pitfalls that lurk among the fantastic possibilities. This means that healthcare professionals must know how to make social media work for them.

There are numerous legal issues that healthcare professionals must circumnavigate when using Facebook or any social media platform to communicate with patients, the general public, or colleagues. Patient privacy and offering medical advice to specific individuals are chief among them, but so too are fraud and abuse, tax-exempt status, and licensing.

FacebookFriending patients on social media sites may pose risks under Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and state privacy laws. Information protected by HIPAA includes anything that can be used to identify a patient, including pictures. As a rule, healthcare providers should not use social media to share any health information that could be linked to an individual patient, such as names, pictures, and physical descriptions, without the patient’s consent.

While dispensing medical advice or diagnoses is a definite “don’t”, Facebook is a wonderful way to share general health information with patients or the public. It’s important to have a disclaimer on blogs and web pages clearing stating that your recommendations are not substitutes for medical help and advising people to consult with their physicians.

Facebook for Nurses

Nurses and other healthcare professionals who frequently move from hospital to hospital for assignment periods must be aware of the social media policies for the environments in which they work. That being said, Facebook can be a wonderful way to get acquainted with other nurses at a new assignment, build connections, and share information that can lead to new jobs or assignment opportunities.

Also, healthcare providers who want to establish a Facebook page can use it for pushing out content to the public as well as for providing an interactive forum where patients can share comments and experiences patient success stories and more. These methods not only provide valuable insight to your readers and patients, but they also help establish you as a thought leader in your field. This can have far reaching benefits in terms of career trajectory.

Physical Therapists and Facebook

For physical therapists, a Facebook page can have a profound impact on helping patients deal with the mental and emotional challenges that come with recovering from an injury or a chronic condition. The Facebook approach provides a forum where these sensitive issues can be discussed. By talking about typical emotional and mental hurdles faced by people with specific types of injuries, physical therapists can make it easier to open a dialog with their patients. This translates to a more productive face-to-face physical therapy session.

Facebook and Pharmacists

In general, the same opportunities and cautions hold true for pharmacists using Facebook. Pharmacies and related companies could have pages where they can promote education on disease states, therapy, and new services that the pharmacists and pharmacy are offering patients.

It is quite common for patients to be unaware of the breadth of services and support that pharmacists provide, so using their Facebook page to blog about those attributes is both good for business and good for patients. By reaching a larger audience, pharmacists can drive home the benefits of medication adherence and safety while also dispelling myths surrounding particular drug and medication therapies.

In an age where drug makers advertise their latest products to the general public, it can be vital to have clear information about how they actually work, the science behind them, and the often narrowly defined patient population that can actually benefit from the drug. This is particularly true of over the counter medications where patients may not be consulting their physicians about their use. Facebook provides a way to inform patients while encouraging them to keep their physician and pharmacist in the loop.

Facebook for Behavioral Health Professionals

While behavioral health professionals can share equally in these models of making the most of Facebook, a well maintained and updated Facebook profile page can help provide possible patients with a clear professional profile. This is an immense help in bridging the gap in attracting, connecting, and interacting with potential or current clients and colleagues.

For behavioral health professionals, resumes, or curriculum vitae can be clinical but not very informative about the person behind the credentials. The same is not true of stories about lessons learned in different working environments or working with particular types of patients. Using this approach can be much more beneficial in providing a way for patients and potential employers to understand your strengths, mindset, and emotional bearing.

Facebook can be a powerful tool for healthcare professionals if used correctly, monitored consistently, and updated often. By establishing a framework that avoids violating privacy rights as well as direct solicitation and highly targeted medical advice, healthcare professionals can create a platform that enhances their careers and understanding. This can be a winning situation where they can help patients, the institutions where they work, and the general public.

 

General Healthcare Resources, Inc. (GHR) is a leading healthcare staffing agency for nurses, pharmacy professionals, therapists, and behavioral health professionals. Through our blog, we strive to provide helpful information that our employees and our clients’ employees can use to develop skills in their respective occupations and to grow their careers. For information about our healthcare staffing services, please visit our website or contact us at info@ghresources.com.

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