Pascal Bergeron
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More and more social media is becoming a part of people’s everyday lives.  It has even changed how we communicate. Many people are regularly publishing status updates, videos, and pictures of their daily lives to stay connected to their friends and families near and far.  Of course, even businesses use social media to market and connect with their target communities. However, there are dangers of social media you may not foresee.

Many assisted living facilities (ALFs) are using Facebook or other social media platforms to help residents stay connected with family or to market their services to potential clients. With the possibility of confidential information becoming public or infringing on the privacy of a resident looming, it is important to understand the risks.  In addition to your own facility social media interactions, you also need to consider your employees and visitors. What are they sharing from inside your facility?

 

Here are some important things to consider:

  • State laws.  Your state will have unique laws that relate to ALFs.  Be sure to fully review these laws and also look at laws that relate to posting and sharing photos, videos, et cetera online without receiving consent.
  • HIPAA regulations.  If your ALF posts any information, photos, or videos that related to or include residents without obtaining their consent, it can be a serious HIPPA violation.  Fines for this violation could be as high as $50,000. Be sure you have a signed consent form from residents and their families, and that your consent form is HIPAA-compliant. Click to see HIPPA Guidelines

 

One of the best ways to protect yourself and your ALF is to create a strong social media policy that contains clear procedures and expectations surrounding social media use.  This policy can pertain to employees, visitors, and residents as well. There are several considerations to ponder when crafting a policy.

 

These considerations include researching what the law says.  Look at state law as well as HIPPA regulations. Cite these laws in the policy.  Also, set limits. Be clear in your policy what is appropriate in your facility, and how much.  Next, consider other policies already in place. Is there a code of conduct for employees related to this as well?  Be sure you are clear about the culture and expectations in your facility. Finally, be sure to clearly outline what the consequences will be if the policy is not followed.  For employees, refer to your existing discipline policy and outline the steps that will be taken with each infraction.

 

Once your policy is drafted, you are ready to put it to the test.  Make sure each of your employees receives, reads, and understands the policy, and create a plan for sharing the policy with visitors and residents.  Shortly after implementation, review the policy and see if any adjustments need to be made.

 

Creating a clear policy is important not just because social media has become pervasive.  It is also needed now because the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services directed State Survey Agency Directors to survey the policies and procedures of nursing homes.  While the current focus is in the nursing home sector, that could shift. It is best to be proactive to protect your ALF and your residents.

 

Examples of how ALF staff and Social Media can and create big problems for your facility ranging from regulation standpoints, lawsuits and overall a horrible image of your ALF.

 

 

 

Review your ALF’s current Social Media Policy and share it often with your staff so they understand what is expected of them and what the concequences are if they dont obey to the policy.

If your facility does not have a Social Media Policy in place you need to get one as soon as possible.

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