Should Hospitals Block Facebook?


Yesterday’s piece in the LA Times created quite a kerfuffle in the social health infosphere.  When Facebook goes to the hospital, patients may suffer detailed some of the issues facing hospitals that have chosen to flirt with Facebook.  Stories of nurses posting images of dead patients.  Lawsuits and employee rights.  An interesting read.  It offered up a serving of fresh red meat for those health professionals looking to keep their heads squarely in the sand.

A couple of thoughts.

Blocking Facebook won’t stop stupidity. Read Paul Levy’s most recent post on the issue.  He reminds us that administrative legislation will not stop ignorance.  It’s the messenger, not the medium.  As healthcare administration’s most vocal advocate for social adoption, I’d recommend you check out Paul Levy.  His point of view is remarkable.

Good employees may not understand privacy. We need to go to the next step and address the fact that many hospitals have employees who don’t understand the privacy laws.  We still have a responsibility to protect patients from the misinformed.  While it’s suggested that you ‘can’t stop the conversation’, it’s important that hospitals take responsibility and educate their employees regarding what’s appropriate and what isn’t.  Many health professionals I know innocently believe that by simply excluding an individuals name you’ve protected their privacy.  We have work to do.

You can block but you can’t hide. The natural course of human conversation will occur whether or not hospitals block Facebook.  The adoption of smart phones has created avenues for conversation that were barely on the radar two years ago.  Tablets will soon be found in every purse.  WiFi is ubiquitous.  Technology will continue to become more accessible but the way health care employees understand patient privacy needs to stay the same.

The media never cared about patient privacy until Facebook came along. It’s interesting that privacy infractions were never a media concern until social media became sexy.  Sure the scale of Facebook exposure is greater that that of an employee sharing protected information on a cell phone.  But you have to admit that there’s a subtle element of schadenfreude surrounding these stories.  Be certain that Andrew Keen has this piece bookmarked for prominent mention in his next book.

I thought this was a generally fair piece but a little attention to social’s upside might have helped the cause.  My server isn’t big enough to hold the examples of how our connections have improved the way we see ourselves and our diseases.

Ed Bennett was quoted in the piece and amidst the chatter on Twitter yesterday afternoon suggested that we all stay calm and remain seated.  This too shall pass.