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The Benefits and Dangers of Social Media for Long-Term Care Facilities

Social media is a new frontier for businesses. On one hand, letting employees post positive messages regarding work or their employer is publicity that cannot be bought. In addition, a Facebook page or other social media website can provide free or low-cost advertising to interested consumers. On the other hand, one disgruntled employee can ruin a business' hard-earned goodwill by a 140-character or shorter Tweet.

Nowhere is this more true than in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Families who entrust the care of an elderly or disabled relative to such a facility will quickly lose faith in that care if they see a YouTube video posted by an employee showing a nursing home resident suffering from bedsores or other maltreatment. Policing employees' social media habits can require a delicate balance, though. The following recommendations may help ensure that social media is used to benefit both long-term care facilities and their residents:

  • Ensure that residents' health remains private: A written, signed policy, along with mandatory training, can help a long-term care facility ensure that its employees understand that confidential and protected health information must remain private, and that no identifying information regarding a particular patient's health should ever be posted online.
  • Require employees to post a disclaimer: All blog and social media posts by employees should include a disclaimer that the posting is the sole opinion of the poster and does not represent the facility in which they are employed.
  • Do not give medical advice: Employees should not answer medical questions or give medical advice, as this could result in a malpractice lawsuit.
  • Do not post photos without permission: It can be beneficial to show photos of social outings and fun activities, but the resident or the resident's legal guardian must agree in writing to show the picture.
  • Remind employees that the facility monitors online postings: It is perfectly legal to monitor the online presence of employees. In all employment agreements, a long-term care facility should include a provision that the employer can discipline and even terminate the employment of any employee that disparages the long-term care facility or its business practices, or otherwise violates its social media policies.

If you have questions regarding the best way to protect your facilities' online presence, contact an experienced medical malpractice defense firm.