Blog - Purple Sparrow

Healthcare Privacy and Social Media: 6 Tips to Avoid Crossing the Line

Privacy issues have become a big concern in recent years, especially now that social media is a main tool in getting information to larger audiences, quicker and more efficiently. However, one major issue has been patient rights regarding using social media in healthcare. Legally, this could be troublesome for organizations posting to social media platforms if they are not careful.

As a social media consultant/manager/specialist, you will definitely run into privacy issues, especially when you are dealing with healthcare clients and organizations. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was put in place to define boundaries to protect patients’ medical information.

So how do you know what can and cannot be posted or shared? How do you engage with someone who asks a personal question on social media? Here are a few tips to navigate those murky waters of knowing when to post and when not to post.

1.) Never post an image of a patient without written consent and their signature. Public events are usually okay, but if this is a sponsored event by the organization you represent, play it safe. You can have a posted sign at the event as well as consent forms to fill out. 

2.) Do not post information about a patient on social media. Whether you mention them by name or not, never put specific information in a post.  

3.) Sharing images inside a healthcare facility where PHI (protected health information) or patients’ images can be seen should never be done. Recently, I took a picture of a decorating contest in a client's health center and later noticed that there was a file folder with a name on it, sticking out from under the computer. I was able to crop it so it didn't show. However, it's always good to go over images to make sure something didn't get "snuck" in the photograph. 

4.) Never share information regarding a patient to a private group. This is a big "no-no!!"  Never, ever share patient information to a group. You are still leaking information that is meant to be confidential and it is still protected by  law. 

5.) Do not get into discussions with someone who has entered their personal information or PHI on social media. Rather, tell me to send you a private message if you are qualified to talk with them or refer them to the appropriate person. If they continue to ask questions, make sure they understand that you cannot discuss their health issues in a public forum. 

6.) Monitor discussions to make sure private medical or personal information is not relayed. Sometimes, employees of a health organization will start a vague conversation about a patient that will attract others and then, before you know it, personal information has already been leaked. Delete the comments and make sure employees understand that what they did is not only wrong, but it could be cause for a lawsuit in extreme cases. 

To avoid any case of "ignorance," make a Social Media Policy and Procedures Manual for your company, outlining privacy regarding patient information and make an effort to discuss this within your organization. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." 

Don’t Be A Social (Media) Misfit…Or Do!!

Do you continuously scroll through article after article, getting more and more envious of those who seem to be up-to-date on all the new social media practices and protocols, all the while running out of time trying to do the bare minimum?  If you do, you are not alone. 

It is hard not be envious of those who seem to have it "all together." However, speaking from experience, it is hard to keep up with the ever-changing social universe, especially if you are a business of one. As a business owner with a family and home to run, I can tell you that it is hard for me to learn everything as it changes. So how do you combat these constant changes and keep up with the growing trends?  

Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

First...STOP IT!! I'm sure that's not what you want to hear and it's not a popular thought, especially when you are bombarded with different information from different marketers. But, seriously...just stop it!! When you are working with a small budget and don't have a team of people at your disposal, learn to quit comparing yourself to those "influencers." 

Learn Who Your Audience Is

Second, you are unique. What works for others may not work for you. Learn who your audience is. I can't stress this enough. If you are selling sports apparel for high schools, your audience would be different than if you were selling health insurance. I have a health care client who serves the medically vulnerable. Our target audience is both male and female but mainly women. Facebook is the platform of choice. Why? In most households, women take care of the health care needs of their home. The age of our audience shows that Facebook is the platform of choice as well as the data we have compiled. Instagram is also a good choice when sharing pictures. If I wanted to reach the younger generation, Snapchat would be the way to go. 

Stick to What You Know

Third, stick to what you know. We have all heard the old adage, "If it's not broken, don't fix it." If something is working and the ROI is proving that, stick with it. Keep putting content out there that's getting your brand noticed. This doesn't mean you can't try something new. If posting on Facebook is getting you engagements but you want to add Instagram, do it!! 

When babies are learning to walk, they start out crawling, then climbing up on furniture until, finally, one day their legs take off and you are running after them. There is a progression to everything, even in business. Learn to take the appropriate steps and not rush. Otherwise, you are setting yourself up for setbacks. 

In conclusion, being a "social media misfit" isn't a bad thing. Once you learn to stop comparing yourself to others, learning who your audience is and working with what you know, you will feel more relaxed and confident in growing your business and helping others. 


1 Stressed Out With Work? These 5 Steps Will Help You Relax

As a small business owner doing the work of a team of twenty, it is hard sometimes to get rest and to just relax. My mind races in several directions at once and I can't seem to slow down, no matter how hard I try. That's just the nature of the business.

However, I have learned there are ways that I can relax and release some of the "bad" stress that comes along with the mental fatigue. It's not always easy to push aside all of my tasks to take a break for me. I have to force myself sometimes. So how do I rest and "de-stress?" 

Here are a few ways I have learned to recharge my batteries so I work better and feel a little more relaxed. 

1.) Meditate or pray. This one is just a habit with me. I dedicate each morning to prayer and reading my Bible. It is my way of getting prepared for the day. I find my mind is more focused after doing this. Some people meditate and think positive thoughts for their day. 

2.) Exercise. It's rather hard to stop and exercise if you are working, but there are ways you can get up and move. Stand up at your desk and stretch, especially the neck and shoulder muscles. If you take a break for lunch, go for a walk. 

3.) Take deep breaths. According to WebMD, deep breathing slows the heart rate and lowers the blood pressure. Close your eyes to help focus on the breathing.

4.) Talk to someone. Sometimes, all we need is a listening ear.  Reach out to a friend and just vent a little. Share some concerns you might have or get some feedback on how to better organize your day. 

5.) Laugh. Laughter really is some of the best medicine. Experts at Mayo Clinic claim that laughter can soothe tension and, as a long-term affect, improve your immune system, as well as other health benefits. 

When you are feeling stressed or just need to re-focus, try these methods first. You will be amazed at the benefits a few adjustments will make during your work day. 

Lack of Content Overwhelming You? Look No Further

Managing social media can be frustrating at times, especially trying to find content to fill each day. If you are a small business, it can be even more overwhelming, especially when your time is limited. However, sometimes, you just need a spark of creativity and some ideas to get you started. Most of the time, you just need someone to push you in the right direction.

Don’t stress!! Here are a few ideas to get you started on your way to being social media gurus. Of course, don’t limit yourself. Remember, you will learn what works with your audience as you continue to publish content.   

  • Share events. If you have a contest within your company or organization, post it!! Are you part of a local community initiative? Post it!! This is also a great way to network with like-minded organizations and/or people.  
  • “Pictures are worth a thousand words!” That’s especially true in the social world, too. People enjoy pictures and videos. You know those events you advertise? Have someone take pictures and post them. (A word of caution, though. If it is a public event, you are usually free to take pictures. However, at private events, you may need to have guests sign a release form to take and post their picture.)
  • You can also do a “repeat” each week of a certain type of post. For example, for one of my clients, we feature “Motivation Monday” and offer an inspirational or funny quote. “Throwback Thursday” is also a fun way of getting others engaged. Find those old pictures and share away!!
  • Educate your audience. Do you offer a certain service or product? Share it with others and give a detailed description of what it is and how they can obtain it. Make it interesting.
  • Recognize someone in your organization that has accomplished something outstanding. Do you have an employee or team member that has excelled in sales? Maybe they’ve acquired a certificate in their industry? Let others know by posting their accomplishment as well as a picture.

Check out pages of other companies and organizations and see they are sharing. This can sometimes ignite an idea in your mind for a great post on your page and give you a fresh perspective.

These are just a few ideas to take the frustration out of posting each day. Make it fun, not only for you but for your audience. Make it interesting. Make it educational. Once you start sharing content, the ideas will flow.

Social Media: 3 Reasons Why To Take the Leap

social media, take the leap, three reasons why

A few years ago, my family and I went on vacation with my in-laws. My father-in-law has a boat and the kids always enjoy riding on the inner tube. I do not. I can’t swim; therefore, no water tricks for me!! However, that year, I made a decision that, instead of watching everyone else have fun, I was going to get on that thing, even if it meant I would crash and burn!!

The next thing I knew, I was putting on my life jacket and me and my daughter were slowly being pulled out on the water. Before I knew what was happening, we were bouncing along as we both held on for dear life!! I know I screamed but I’m not exactly sure what I was saying.

After my “death ride” was over, I actually felt elated. I did something that I thought I couldn’t do but got the courage to jump in and it felt great!!

The same principle applies to social media. Are you ready to “jump in” with social media but too afraid to take that first step? Even the thought might be a little intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be.

There are several reasons why you should be using social media, but I am going to focus on three.

  • Social media can help you increase your brand awareness. By creating profiles for your business and interacting with your followers, as well as networking with other like companies, your business will increase in visibility. People will take notice and become more engaged as they become more aware of who you are and what you are trying to promote.
  • It’s cost-effective. Bottom line, it’s cheap. You can set up an account on social media platforms for free. You may have to pay to advertise, but you can go slow and start small. Find out what works for your company or organization. Facebook is always a good place to start.
  • You can engage with your followers. By engaging with your audience, you also provide better customer service and can begin to understand their needs and wants. This also leads to brand loyalty from your followers. Let’s face it…we all are loyal to certain brands. Why? It comes down to trust. For example, I only buy a certain type of toothpaste for my family. I have tried other brands but always come back to this certain one. The quality has always been better, and it gets the job done. Engaging with your follower can lead to conversion which, if you produce what you promise, will lead to trust and loyalty.

There’s no better time to start using social media than now. Take the leap  and you will begin to see the benefits. You won't get anywhere unless you take that first step.