What role does Facebook play - if any - in health information technology? Currently, the healthcare community is working toward greater platform interoperability, which in turn can lead to health information exchange on a larger scale. This kind of data sharing has precedents already in the world, partly in the form of social networks.
As EHRIntelligence reported, physicians, lawmakers, vendors and EHR software developers are all looking for ways to improve software while keeping patients engaged. And a lot of the discussion happens to be taking place in social media environments. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and especially blogs all facilitate the most important conversations going on today about health IT. In fact, a recent study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research indicated that 24 percent of physicians use some form of social media to share or research medical information each day. Just over 14 percent of responding doctors contribute actively, while 61 percent keep up-to-date via news feeds and discussion groups on a weekly basis.
That being said, it is unlikely that doctors will start tweeting the results of blood tests or Facebook messaging prescription information any time soon. And social media sites specially designed for healthcare industry workers do exist - tibbr being one example, according to the news source - but even with their familiar interfaces, these sites have yet to really take off.
HIPAA and social media
As EHRIntelligence observed, the primary issue is patient privacy. What does the Health Information Privacy and Accountability Act (HIPAA) have to say about social media?
OpenSesame, an elearning center, spelled out that HIPAA violations on social media breach both Privacy and Security rules. However, because of the nature of social media, some employees might not realize their actions have violated HIPAA. To provide clarity, an OpenSesame blog highlighted three common mistakes regarding HIPAA and social media.
The first reminded healthcare providers that discussing patients in any context on social media is a violation, even if personal or identifying information is not a part of the discussion. The second warned against workers taking photos at work. Even if the picture is not of a patient, unintended information could potentially be revealed in the photograph. Third, the blog reminded providers that public figures are protected under HIPAA as well - an easy mistake for some workers to make. The blog provided stories for each example in which ignoring each basic HIPAA rule led to violation.
In health IT, social media remains untapped for the most part. But utilizing this tool for healthcare platforms will take time and careful experimentation, as well as a likely addendum to HIPAA in the coming years.