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True or false? I can answer patient questions about procedures on social media

True or false? I can answer patient questions about procedures on social media

It’s an important marketing strategy for many of today’s aesthetic physicians to be present on social media. Social media gives doctors the option of interacting with patients and others in public forums, which can be a blessing for business… or a curse if they violate privacy laws.

The Aesthetic Channel asked attorney Bradford E. Adatto, with the ByrdAdatto law firm in Dallas and Chicago, to answer whether the answers to these four common social media scenarios are true or false and why.



True or false?

I can answer patients’ questions about their procedures done in my office on social media.

Adatto: False
Short answer: You cannot release protected health information without the patient’s written consent.

“The major assumption in all of these scenarios is that either the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) applies or your state’s privacy laws apply. If HIPAA doesn’t apply you might still have your state’s privacy rules to be concerned with. With that in mind, you cannot release protected health information without the patient’s prior written consent,” he says.
 

True or false?

I can answer non-patient questions about cosmetic procedures in general social media.

Adatto: True
Short answer: But make sure you do not establish patient-physician relationship in providing this information.

“Yes, you can always answer general questions, however, you have to be very careful when a patient-physician relationship is established. A patient-physician relationship is established when the patient perceives that you’re giving medical advice. This becomes problematic if the patient is in other states where you’re not licensed,” Adatto says. “You have to be careful to be general versus specific when answering these types of questions.”
 

True or false?

I can answer patients’ (negative and positive) comments about their experiences in my practice on social media.

Adatto: False
Short answer: You cannot release protected health information without the patient’s written consent.  

“The reason I answered this one false is, what happens with the cases I’m familiar with is providers have responded to something and released protected health information. So, I always say, don’t. However, if you do, you have to de-identify any information that’s related to that particular patient,” he says. “Often, the push-back I get from our clients is, ‘Wait, if somebody says something negative about me, why can’t I respond to them.?’ I say you can if you really want to but you can’t respond acknowledging they are your patient or acknowledging anything as it relates to that patient’s procedures or anything that can identify that patient. Because of restrictions, you have to be very mindful of what you say.”
 

True or false?

I can answer patients’ questions about other types of procedures they’re interested in having at the practice and mention they’re patients.

Adatto: False
Short answer: You cannot release protected health information without the patient’s written consent.  

“Unless the patient has consented to your being able to disclose that they are patients, you couldn’t do that. If someone says, ‘I’d like to come in and have this done.’ You can make a very general statement like the staff is always happy to welcome any individual, while never acknowledging that patient has had anything done,” Adatto says.