3 Ways to Ensure HIPAA Compliance While Building Your Online Brand

by Brad Garland

We live in an era of constant communication, and brand awareness demands that health care institutions maintain an active social media presence. At the same time, however, there is increasing emphasis placed on safeguarding personal information, and the regulations governing health data are appropriately restrictive. 

Health care institutions must walk a fine line to simultaneously manage HIPAA compliance and an open, approachable brand identity. Here are three tips for finding that delicate balance:

1. Inform, but keep it broad

Health care providers are in a good position to provide information that users will find helpful. Thirty-five percent of the adult population of the U.S. have tried to figure out a medical problem by going online, according to the Pew Research Center, and half of these users then went on to make a medical appointment.

Local health care providers can increase their brand’s value by offering helpful medical reference information in a public manner. As long as the content does not mention individuals and doesn't seem to target a narrow demographic, you should be in the clear for protecting the privacy of the patients you care about.

2. Maintain a professional yet friendly tone

One of the trickiest parts of expressing professional identity in a friendly, conversational way is choosing what tone to take in writing posts. Social media platforms naturally tend to bring out people’s most laid-back forms of expression, but a health care provider who tosses up casual posts in hopes of sounding approachable might end up losing professional credibility.

It’s crucial to put health information into friendly, easy-to-understand language while still preserving professional dignity. People interact with health care professionals at highly vulnerable periods of their lives, and they want the reassurance of knowing that their providers are serious about their work.

3. Be proud of what you post

How many stories have chronicled the rapid decline of someone in the public eye who tweeted something inappropriate? Once that “submit” button is hit, your words belong to the ages. Never post a quick joke or a sarcastic response to something, no matter how tempted you might feel. Instead, vet every word you write: how would it sound to the CEO of your institution? Every print ad, banner, tweet and website article must convey quality and professionalism, and every single word you type contributes to that impression.

Medical practices can use social media to enhance their brand’s identity as a friendly, approachable source of health care. The Health Care Compliance Association provides detailed guidance for ensuring that your social media program complies with HIPAA regulations. Paying attention to these guidelines is an important foundation for building a solid online health care brand.