Saturday, October 24, 2009

A note to other 89%: You are in the minority

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about a Boston hospital that had shut down employee access to various social media sites and offered my view that it was not a productive thing to do. Here's a similar view from Socialnomics. The site notes that only 11% of companies do not put some kind of limitation on use of Facebook by their workforces.

I like this set of comparisons.

Banning social media in the work place is:

  • Analogous to banning the Internet
  • Analogous to banning the phone because you might make a personal phone call
  • Analogous to banning paper and pens because you might pass a note that is not related to class or work
  • Could potentially signal to current workers and future recruits that your company just doesn’t “get it”


DrV said...

I think that there's a real difference between restricting social media and restricting what's conducted on social media. While its true that we can't squelch 'the conversation', as health professionals we have an ethical responsibility to limit the public dialog that emanates from our hospitals and clinics. This is my concern.

While I trust that you at BIDMC have firm policies in place to protect my privacy, other hospitals may not be there yet. And until that happens health facilities need to be cognizant of what 20-year-old medical assistants are discussing/broadcasting.

Well-established, well thought out policies and discussion will build a foundation of confidence on which SM can enjoy wide adoption.

Anonymous said...

Val, I think you are missing a major point. This is not about having policies in place for social media, as distinct from other policies. We all have (and need) general policies with regard to the transmittal, in any public form, of private and privileged information. In that sense, having distinct policies in place with regard to that information on social media forums is not necessary. The same rules should apply as would be in place for any "public" kind of talking or writing.

The point about trying to ban social media is that you cannot do it. Portable, employee owned equipment like cell phones and PDAs enable transmission to and from social media sites. Outlawing Facebook and the like on hospital computers is increasingly useless in the face of this technology.

Likewise, banning use during working hours is likewise not enforceable. A person sitting in an isolated spot (think bathroom stall) with a PDA or cell phone can send and receive a lot of messages in just a few minutes. Or someone stepping out across the street for a cup of coffee.

So, the point here is that you cannot stop use of technology like this. If you put up barriers, people will go around them. Meanwhile, too, you loose easy access to very worthwhile work-related information in the workplace.

Anonymous said...

Exactly. You don't need special policies to say not to share protected health information on facebook. Just one policy about how to treat it in general. is a good read regarding this type of policy creep on wikipedia.

A bigger loss for places blocking facebook, and one unique to healthcare, is that you end up blocking it for *patients*. When patients are in the hospital it is really unacceptable to block them from the internet, and social media in particular. This is how many patients connect to their friends and family, and you would be blocking it at a time when it is most important for them. Their access needs to be *as easy as possible* anything less is a disservice to your patients.

DrV said...

Oops, not Dr Val, but DrV. I'm not nearly as good looking or smart ... and my patients are much smaller.

Thanks for your response. I think we're on the same page. You are just more comfortable with the judgment of your employees. And this is likely testimony to the culture that you've created.

I can't find my glasses and the mini font on this comment panel is driving me batty. Perhaps I'll post something more extensive on 33 Charts.

And I'm trying to watch Texas offer Mizzou a well-deserved spanking.

Anonymous said...

On a wider front consider the impact of these sites on whole countries like Iran and China, where they are used to connect the oppressed in a way that has been impossible on a large scale to date.
(not that I'm trying to draw an analogy between hospital employees and the oppressed, LOL!)
But I think Paul is right - you can't enforce it, trying to makes you look silly and outdated, and it creates disrespect and mistrust among your employees.


Dr. Val said...

Chuckle, chuckle. I am mistaken for Dr. V (Bryan Vartabedian) in comment sections on a fairly regular basis. Thank heavens he's a good egg - and he almost always says smart things that are consistent with what I'm thinking anyway. In this case, of course, I'm all for social media - have devoted much of my career to it - though this new age of transparency has an ironic underbelly: the use of data to target people with sales pitches and marketing WITHOUT being transparent about how that's happening and who's doing it.

I've learned a lot recently about unscrupulous "lead generation" strategies that pay bloggers (and other websites) for embedding links to sites that pose as "helpful tools" for patients (without disclosing that the links are paid for). During the course of filling out surveys, the sponsor collects demographic data on the patient that they use to target them with messages related to buying their products/services and creating a perceived NEED for them.

So as I think about the world of social media - it is both a wonderful tool for self-expression and education, but has a seedy side where users fully expose personal information, much to the delight of the cloaked industry/product people online.

And that's not even related to HIPAA. :)

James Accord said...

It is certainly the responsibility of the hospital's management to protect ALL of the institution's stake holders. The questions now become;can this course of action by the hospital's overseers be defended as "the right decision" in the long term? Who will measure the effect of their decision and who will be accountable if the decision is proven to be a bad one?

Karen Zgoda said...

Re: patients using social media to keep in touch with friends and family members, I'd recommend setting up access for a free site. Each patient can have a site up and running in less than 20 minutes and keep loved ones updated on treatment. For more info check out: A Valuable Tool for Social Workers and Those With Critical Illness