Social Media Can Complicate But Also Improve Hospital Care

The Los Angeles Times: "Hospital officials in California and elsewhere have faced an uneasy relationship with Facebook and other forms of social networking. Managers, struggling to prevent staffers from posting patient information on the sites, have developed no-tolerance policies and blocked employees from using Facebook and similar websites at work. The restrictions are being enforced as hospitals tout such sites as a way to boost their images and reach more patients. Shoring up patient privacy is particularly important for hospitals, including Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Kaiser Permanente Bellflower Medical Center and Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Southern California, that have faced investigations in recent years after employees improperly accessed patient records, including some for celebrity patients" (Hennessy-Fiske, 8/8).

The Boston Globe interviews Dr. Tara Lagu, "a health care researcher at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield," Mass. about social media and health care. She "studies social networking as a tool in patient care and quality improvement. She recently published a paper on consumer sites that rate doctors." Lagu believes that social media will next be used to patient ratings of hospitals and notes: "From the patient side, I think social media really offer an opportunity to become engaged in the process of improving health care quality. Patient satisfaction is so important, and so far in our attempt to improve quality I think this has been an area we tend to think about the least" (Cooney, 8/9).

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