Social Media in a Regulated Industry



Social media is a very common piece of marketing strategy for many businesses, including dental practices, and often these businesses look to their customers to help create content. Customers are generally asked to either provide content (like reviews, testimonies, success stories, etc.), or they are asked to be the subject of marketing content (like photos, videos, etc.). For a lot of businesses, the process for asking permission to use a customer’s information or image for marketing purposes is pretty standard. But for those of us using social media in a regulated industry, like healthcare or financial, the release of information gets a bit trickier as we consider regulations like HIPAA.

As a dental practice, there are a lot of different types of content you can promote on social media, and while it’s great to get a picture of Jake after he just had his braces taken off, it’s important to consider whether or not Jake’s guardians have authorized you to use a photo of him on your social media accounts, website or any other communication. Consider what a simple photo of Jake and sentence on Facebook could potentially reveal:

  • Name
  • Age
  • What dentist the patient visits
  • Implication that patient has had dental work done
  • What dental work has been done
  • Location

There are any number of reasons that someone may want to keep their healthcare information private (and perhaps they don’t even want to disclose that they visited a dentist or physician). So as a healthcare provider, it’s important for you to keep your patients’ sensitive information protected. It’s not just the responsibility of the dentist. Everyone in the practice is bound by the HIPAA regulations.

This doesn’t mean that social media is off the table for dental offices or other healthcare providers. It only means that you need to be aware of industry regulations and what protocols should be in place to help you make sure you’re in compliance. Over the next couple of weeks, Rita Zamora and Linda Harvey will be taking a deeper dive into common questions and concerns regarding social media use and HIPAA in the dental industry. So if you have any questions, concerns, or comments that you’d like to have addressed, leave us a comment below, or you can send us an email at socialmedia@pattersoncompanies.com

2 comments on “Using Social Media in a Regulated Industry

  1. Hot topic for sure, but it need not be a scary, expensive, or time-consuming one to address.

    Here’s 2 best preventative practices we employ, included each in every new member Playbook:

    1. HIPAA business associate agreements should be standard for vendors, partners…business associates.

    2. Get signed releases from every person – simple one page form for people to sign before posting their mug all over the interwebs.

    Looking forward to learning more from Rita & Linda!

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