Photos, Videos, Social Media & HIPAA Compliance

Social media is becoming more and more relevant in how consumers make buying decisions.  It’s great for marketing and for your dental practice to really engage with patients and potential patients on a personal level.  However, using social media could put you in danger of violating HIPAA regulations.  If you choose to interact with current and prospective patients through social media, you should know how to comply with HIPAA and educate your staff about compliance and the risks of non-compliance.  Let’s get to it!

Complying With HIPAA in the Social Media Age

HIPAA exists to protect patient privacy.  However, privacy becomes difficult to define in this age of social media, where it seems everyone shares their personal lives so freely. There are a few things you can do to ensure that you follow HIPAA guidelines when you and your employees are using social media:

  1. Restrict anyone from discussing patients online, even if they do not mention any names.
  2. Create a consent form so patients can give you written permission to use their images/likeness online.
  3. Do not allow unauthorized employees to take photos or videos at work (they could unintentionally share sensitive information).
  4. Assume that everything shared online is seen by everyone.

Train Your Employees Properly

As a dental small business owner, you already understand the importance of complying with HIPAA guidelines. Your employees, however, may not fully understand HIPAA compliance. This makes training crucial to protect your practice.

After providing basic HIPAA training, encourage employees to think about what they have learned by having them evaluate real-world situations. For instance, you might create a situation in which a dental assistant mentions online that her boyfriend came in for a cleaning that afternoon. Then you would ask employees whether doing so violated HIPAA guidelines.

The more examples you provide, the more likely everyone will understand how to stay in compliance.  Also, make sure that each trainee participates. If one person doesn’t understand the training, it could cause problems for the whole practice.

Understand the Repercussions

The penalties for violating HIPAA guidelines are potentially severe. Civil penalties can cost anywhere from $100 to $1.5 million. Your practice may also face criminal charges that can lead to prison terms up to 10 years long and fines costing as much as $250,000.

In addition to these repercussions, a patient might sue the practice. If that happens, a judge will then decide whether the patient deserves financial compensation and what amount is appropriate.

Social media can make it more difficult for dentists and their employees to follow HIPAA guidelines. With the right understanding and training, you can stay in line with the law and avoid harsh repercussions.

Dental Practice Marketing: Be a solution not a service

The first step to marketing your dental practice is to know what your patients and potential patients need.  Rather than simply marketing a service, focus your efforts on the outcome — the solution — that coming to your office in particular will provide.

A Solution to a Problem

The dental problems and issues people encounter are usually consistent, but they tend to try a wide variety of solutions.  If you can communicate your solution to a potential patient, they will be happy to give you money to solve their problems.  Solutions are why they’re in your chair!  Your expertise and training eases their fears and concerns.  Gallup Business Journal discusses identifying the right solutions for customers by using critical information and emotional connection, along with strategic thinking.

A Way to Understand Your Customers

Coming up with your angle is as easy as asking yourself how well you know your dental customers.  Do they want to be more attractive?  Correct an old or lingering issue?  Interested in oral health basics?  When you take a look at who has accepted certain treatments already, delve a little deeper and analyze your customer’s mindset while purchasing.  Why was this treatment plan attractive enough to spend money on?  This is the “perfect storm” you want to replicate, and it should be present anytime you plan a marketing campaign.

As a dental practice advertises their solution, they are talking about their practice: who it has helped and what it has done for other patients.  Potential patients who are searching for a solution to that same problem will see that your practice has helped others like them, and they will be more interested.

Better yet, find the same type of people as your present customer base.  Give them something they didn’t know they were looking for. It is not always apparent to them that a particular product would solve their problem.  Be proactive in finding problems and providing solutions to your buying demographic.

An Economical and Efficient Method

Money spent advertising takes away the profitability of the practice.  Since it is much easier to understand consumers in the context of solving their problems, adopting this viewpoint will result in money spent intentionally.  Provide solutions rather than just services and patients will come looking for you in droves.