Hospital blocks access to social media to scream to world that “we don’t get it.”

Paul Levy posts a statement circulated at a Boston hospital last week (most definitely NOT his).  It’s a typical we-weren’t-prepared response from a way-too-conservative institution.

Is availability of social media in an extremely private environment scary?  Yes.  But policy-ing your way out of the morass isn’t the answer.  Is sharing private health information inappropriate?  Most always that answer will be yes.

But we trust employees not to share information with co-workers at lunch, a wife at home, or a neighbor in the backyard.  The magnitude of the conversation doesn’t matter.  A full-on embrace of the tools is the appropriate action, complete with whatever reminders the hospital would like to issue (no, more policy is not necessary, there is no need to over regulate employee actions, the policies in place are likely plenty fine).  Reminders like: patients trust their privacy to us: be cognizant of what you are posting online, current policy regarding compliance with HIPAA regulations includes social media, and what you post to these sites can be seen by lots of people, etc. are helpful.

It’s time to stop seeing only the negatives associated with social media tools.  Mr. Levy highlights positive examples of use in his post.  For your own organization: give the power to the employees and let them find the ways social media will make their jobs better.

Enjoy.  Or cringe.

Good morning,

Effective immediately, the Hospital is blocking access to social networking sites including Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter from all Hospital computers.

The decision is based on recent evidence that some employees have been using these sites to comment on Hospital business, which is a violation of the Hospital’s Electronic Communications policy and a potential HIPAA violation.

The Executive Team will be working in the coming months to ensure that we have written policies in place that articulate the appropriate use of social networking sites while on duty at the Hospital. Once these written policies are in place, we have educated all employees about expectations and disciplinary action associated with violating the policies, and we have the appropriate IS tools in place to track utilization and monitor content, we will consider once again providing access to these sites. We expect this will take a period of about 6 months.

In the interim, please note that the Electronic Communication policy states that “incidental personal use of electronic communications systems may be allowed so long as such use does not consume more than a trivial amount of resources, interfere with staff productivity, preempt any business activity or violate Hospital policy”.

Employees are free to use Hospital computers during their break periods to check personal email, or access the Internet, but you should be aware that the policy also states, “employees should not have any expectation of privacy with respect to any information on Hospital electronic communication systems or the contents thereof, including email, internet usage, voicemail, fax or other similar vehicles. [The hospital] reserves the right to monitor, review and inspect all uses and the contents thereof.

Should you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me.

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