Everyone reading this post probably cringed a little at the title, but what we are about to discuss requires a serious look internally before it becomes a potential problem at your facility. At CMSCG, we work with our clients to develop policies and procedures for systems across the gamut, whether it’s nursing, dietary or facilities management, but here’s one that we didn’t think we would need to discuss – social media. While there aren’t any regulations about social media for the industry currently, think about the potential impact of social media on two key compliance areas – dignity and abuse prevention.
We mention this now because on March 8, 2015, Senator Tom Carper sent a letter to HHS asking for information on how the Agency is addressing possible HIPAA violations related to nursing home staff posting “inappropriate” pictures and videos of residents on various social media sites. His letter is based on a 2015 ProPublica story that references the growing number of these incidents.
Now, developing a social media policy for a company that has an active social media presence can be complex, but we wanted to provide some food for thought related to the post-acute/long term care industry for anyone – with or without social media accounts.
- Monitoring – How does your facility monitor or track what is being said on social media? We see many negative reviews posted on nursing home websites, Facebook pages, and Google+ or Yelp by family members or disgruntled staff that go unanswered. In many cases, the facility doesn’t even have a website, yet there is a Facebook page filled with inappropriate content that is not being monitored by anyone from the facility. You’ll probably be surprised if you do an internet search on your facility to see what people may be saying or sharing. Think about the impact of those types of search results on potential consumers. Yes, they may look at Nursing Home Compare and see that you have a 5 Star Rating, but what may be more meaningful in today’s world is someone’s review about the awful smell in the building when they visited, or the person who is yelling for help but not assisted.
- Responding – If you are tracking your facility’s internet presence, how do you address inappropriate comments, posts and pictures from your staff? We see plenty of Facebook photos on public pages for facilities with staff members posting non-work related photos that may not be appropriate on their company pages. What kind of reputation does this create for your facility when it looks like staff are having a dance-off in the hallway rather than taking care of residents? (Yes, we’ve seen these . . . and no, this isn’t a recreational-therapy-approved activity we are referring to).
- Oversharing – Do you have a written policy that is provided during orientation or in HR paperwork by HR that ensures they are made aware that posting photos of residents and other information about the facility are in violation of the facility’s policies and that they may be terminated? A reminder about what your facility expects of its employees from a “sharing” perspective is often warranted. The internet is increasingly less private, and the culture of oversharing is common, so something that may have been meant to send to one or two people – even if that is inappropriate – can quickly spiral into sharing that gets picked up by the media.
Read the press release and take a look at the ProPublica report if you missed them. It will make you think twice about what you might be missing in your own building. Both documents note that the residents in the photos and videos often had dementia. It is your responsibility to protect this vulnerable population, just as you address abuse prevention and dignity in your other policies.