HealthCare, Social Media, and Google+ – Information and Tips

July 18, 2011
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Google + is the new social media network in the healthcare space.. A select group of healthcare professionals have received invites and are learning about the new social media network.

Many physicians, healthcare providers, hospital employees and government agencies are now participating in streams on the network. Interest appears to be intense.

Google + is only available by invitation for the time being, and even with that throttle, it is growing exponentially, growing from zero users to over ten million users as of last week. 

Training Tools:

Google + is the new social media network in the healthcare space.. A select group of healthcare professionals have received invites and are learning about the new social media network.

Many physicians, healthcare providers, hospital employees and government agencies are now participating in streams on the network. Interest appears to be intense.

Google + is only available by invitation for the time being, and even with that throttle, it is growing exponentially, growing from zero users to over ten million users as of last week. 

Training Tools:

If you are a Google Plus, Healthcare Plus  ‘newbie’ I suggest several web sites that are excellent and easy to follow by watching videos.

One of the best and most comprehensive Google +  education and training sites is to be found at Mashable

Google Plus, The Complete Guide  I think this is the most complete guide to Google +

Google + Video Guide  

Beginners Guide to Google +

Google Plus Starter Guide

Discover-ability and Privacy Issues:

During the past ten years the internet has become a central and integral part of society, business, personal relationships and legal liability.   Social media data and conversations are now considered the same as telephone, email and other electronic means of communication.  As such they are subject to the rules of disclosure and can be and have been subpoenaed and used in a court of law.  What was once trivial and a ‘fun’ sport has become serious enough that employers routinely search and screen social media about potential hires. Posting pictures and comments on social media sites can be risky if the content is deemed inappropriate especially to a potential employer.

Regulatory:

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruled that postings on any social media network can be saved by on-line background companies for up to seven years.

The best analogy is the conversation at a ‘cocktail party’ with some whispered commentary about the company that comes to the attention of HR or the CEO of the company. What you say, show, or type is in the public domain and eventually comes to light.  Seven years is a long time and company executives or employees may not even remember comments made about a potential future merger or business dealing.

In the United Kingdom (UK) The British Medical Association recently issued a new guidance, advising doctors not to accept friend requests from former and current patients because of how doctors’ personal information could be perceived and shared. The guidance comes after several doctors and nurses were suspended in 2009 for posting pictures on Facebook of them lying down in random places — including a hospital helipad,  

The American Medical Association doesn’t ban doctors from being Facebook friends with patients, but it still urges caution. According to its Professionalism in the Use of Social Media policy, doctors should factor in confidentiality and privacy issues when creating an online presence, and should self-monitor what they put on the Internet because information on the web lasts into perpetuity.

Even in some cases with patient’s names removed patients will read and recognize a case as their own, and feel betrayed by their physician.

The bottom line for physicians is the Hippocratic oath which, in part, goes ‘All that may come to my knowledge on the exercise of my profession or in the daily commerce with men, which ought not to be spread abroad, I will keep secret and will never reveal’.  

Ownership issues:

It is still unclear who owns your stream of conversation or your lists of circles. Facebook recently blocked an API allowing FB users to export their friends’ lists to Google plus. It is unclear if this violates the term of the EULA and it will most likely end up in a court of law as an important precedent for case law.  In healthcare the predominant opinion has been that the patients own their medical record data and should have access to it at any time.

Relevant Humor:

With all the geek speak and health reform, where does Google + fit in with ACOs (Accountable Care Organizations), Health Insurance Exchanges, EMR Incentives and/ or Penalties?  Well, it will provide another interactive forum for opinions, and arguments pro and con.  I wonder if any health care pundits and reformers will ask, “Is Google the result of  an outcome study?”  Is there a CPT code for a Google + hangout billed as a video teleconference? Is Google + evidence based? And finally will G + be part of the individual mandate where health insurance and Google + will be inexorably linked. (unless Google + is declared unconstitutional.)

For the time being you can forget about using Google + for commercial purposes as Google has requested that users refrain from that type of application until Google + officially notifies that it is ready for ‘heavy duty usage.”

The use of Google + for discussions of patients is also verboten by HIPAA, and if cases are discussed they must be anonymous.  Observation of practice habits on twitter and Facebook will reveal there is almost no discussion of individual medical cases. Those forums are used to discuss references.

Hospital administrators, health care consultants, department heads can form their own circle of interest for horizontal links to colleagues with similar interests or responsibilities to communicate items of interest without having to wait for the annual meetings and links or even video can be embedded in their Google + stream. Each stream can be made selective.

A useful addition would be password control of who can join your circle, or a permission token to join the circle.

 

Attributions:  

 

 Allergy Net Australia, John Weiner, MD:

http://www.allergynet.com.au/author/john-weinerme-com/

AOL- Huffington Post 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/14/doctors-facebook-patients_n_898557.html

British Medical Journal:         

http://www.bma.org.uk/images/socialmediaguidancemay2011_tcm41-206859.pdf   

American Medical Association

http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/meeting/professionalism-social-media.shtml