HIPAA And Social Media Photos In Your Practice

By December 21, 2017Blog, Dentistry, Orthodontic, Vision

This article was originally published in September 2015. The topic is so important that we’re bringing it back!

HIPAA And Social Media

It’s not as complicated as you may think.

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As I travel across the country speaking to groups of dentists, orthodontists and eye doctors, there are always sincere questions from audience members about posting photos and HIPAA compliance. So, let’s visit about it…

First, here’s some important broad-stroke thinking from prominent healthcare attorney, HIPAA expert and blogger, David Harlow. He’s one of my favorite thought leaders on this topic:

“People say, ‘I can’t do this, or I can’t do that because of HIPAA…’ and those who just don’t want to do things blame the law. We forget that the rules are there to protect patients, not to create barriers… It’s possible to work within the guidelines… If a patient consents, that’s up to the patient.”

5 HIPAA And Social Media General Compliance Action Items

Let’s review five general HIPAA and social media compliance action items that may help your practice. Item #5 talks specifically about patients giving photo consent.

  1. HIPAA rules have been around now for 20 years—long before you were using social media. If you have HIPAA compliance problems, generally, fix them! HIPAA’s application to your social media marketing efforts probably isn’t your first problem.
  2. Put a simple social media policy in place for your team, then train them. We have a template below that you can download as a starting point.
  3. Never use social media to practice medicine online. You don’t need to—and, that isn’t social media’s purpose. Always take those kinds of conversations offline.
  4. Consider designating specific places in your practice for taking photos with your patients (see example image below). For example, find places where the lighting is good and where there’s nothing in the background of photos that may violate someone’s privacy.
  5. Use a consent form. We have one below that you’re welcome to download. If you decide to create your own, be sure it has the following six components: 1) what the patient is specifically authorizing, 2) the purpose of the authorization, 3) the ability to revoke the authorization, 4) an expiration date, 5) the opportunity to receive a copy, if desired, and 6) who, specifically, the patient is giving authorization to.
HIPAA and Social Media

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Download Photo Consent Form & Social Media Policy Template

When it comes to using social media to better serve your patients and to help grow your practice, HIPAA compliance doesn’t need to be difficult. With a tiny bit of team training, it only takes a few seconds to get consent.

(The form and template below are provided by My Social Practice for general convenience purposes and do not represent legal advice. Additional compliance rules vary from state to state, country to country. If you feel like you need legal consultation, be sure to consult your practice attorney for advice pertaining to HIPAA compliance, the HITECH Act, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regulations. My Social Practice is a social media marketing company. We are not attorneys. We don’t even play attorneys on TV. As such, although the form and template provided are based on our own research to ensure compliance, they do not represent legal advice.)

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Download Sample Consent Form & Practice Policy