Social media has emerged as a powerful tool for hospitals to connect with patients, share general health information, and enhance their brand presence. However, the increasing reliance on social media also introduces many legal and reputational risks. THIE’s Claims Department explores the landscape of social media liability in hospitals and delves into the various insurance claims that can arise from these risks.
We understand that social media has become essential for hospitals to engage with their communities, disseminate general health information, and humanize their services. From sharing patient success stories to educating the public about health conditions, hospitals have recognized the potential of social media to connect with a broader audience.
So, how can social media cause liability for hospitals? One of the most significant risks hospitals face is unintentional patient privacy breaches. Sharing identifiable patient information or images without explicit consent can lead to HIPAA violations and potential legal action.
Misinformation and medical advice through social media platforms have turned themselves into newsworthy stories over the past few years. With the continued spread of known and new illnesses, we rely heavily on social media to share information to help us understand their impact on our communities. However, dispensing incorrect medical information or advice on social media can lead to patient harm and legal actions. Even well-intentioned posts should be based on accurate and evidence-based information. They should include a disclaimer that the information is not intended to be medical advice and that individuals should consult with their physicians in making health care decisions.
Another area hospitals should consider as a risk to navigate is hospital personnel’s personal social media accounts. Disparaging or offensive posts made by hospital employees on personal social media accounts can reflect negatively on the hospital and lead to claims of workplace harassment or a hostile work environment.
What types of insurance claims arise from social media liability, and what lines of insurance protect us from those claims?
- General Liability Insurance: This coverage can help protect hospitals from claims related to defamation, libel, or privacy violations arising from their social media activities.
- Cyber Liability Insurance: In cases of data breaches resulting from social media interactions, this insurance can help cover the costs of notifying affected parties, managing the breach, and potential legal actions.
- Media Liability Insurance: This specialized coverage addresses claims related to defamation, copyright infringement, and other media-related risks, including those originating from social media platforms.
- Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI): EPLI can come into play if an employee’s social media posts lead to claims of harassment, discrimination, or a hostile work environment.
What we don’t want to do with this article is discourage you and your facility from utilizing social media. The goal is to know the best ways to mitigate social media liability and insurance claims. Your facility can do this through:
- Robust Policies: Develop clear and comprehensive social media policies that outline acceptable content, confidentiality guidelines, and employee responsibilities.
- HIPAA Training: Regularly educate hospital staff about HIPAA requirements, social media policies, and maintaining patient privacy.
- Legal Consultation: Seek legal advice to ensure social media practices comply with healthcare regulations, privacy laws, and intellectual property rights.
- Crisis Management Plans: Prepare for potential social media crises by establishing a plan to address negative feedback, misinformation, or privacy breaches promptly and transparently.
While social media presents hospitals with remarkable opportunities for outreach and engagement, it also introduces substantial risks regarding HIPAA compliance and potential claims. By understanding these risks, implementing robust policies, and investing in appropriate insurance coverage, hospitals can navigate the dynamic world of social media while safeguarding their reputation, patient trust, and financial stability.
For access to a free Social Media Policy & Checklist for your facility, visit The HIPAA Journal’s website at https://www.hipaajournal.com/hipaa-social-media/