Medicine & Social Media: A Balancing Act

Here on the PadillaCRT health team, we work with all kinds of clients—health systems, medical professionals, device-makers, you name it. A strong social presence is often key to growing an organization’s market presence, but when it comes to our clients, we know that balancing social media and patient privacy can be a tricky game.

There’s a general absence of knowledge when it comes to the impact of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), so when it comes to social media, many health organizations and professionals are inclined to avoid the issue altogether.

The good news is, there are a couple of options that are now providing physicians and experts with a valuable—and authentic—platform to share their voices and position themselves as experts.

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Photo Courtesy of Figure1

Figure1. Known as the “Instagram for doctors”, Figure1 is a photo-sharing app for physicians, nurses and members of the medical community only. It’s a space to safely share clinical cases and discuss treatment, and users have access to a library of clinical images and feedback from hundreds of thousands of healthcare professionals.

Physicians can follow colleagues, share expertise, verify knowledge and ask questions. They’re in good company, as apparently one third of users are “physicians and med students; another third are nurses, nurse practitioners, and nursing students; and the remainder are paramedics, pharmacists, physiotherapists, acupuncturists.”

For physicians within a certain field, it’s an opportunity to position themselves as an expert among their peers, with a relatively simple interaction.

And rest assured, they’re taking your privacy concerns seriously. All submissions must have removed any identifying details related to patients, with several tools to allow users to remove those details built into the app. Next, the post is reviewed by a medical officer and a team of moderators. If the Figure1 team determines that an image potential identifies a patient, it’s destroyed.

Periscope. Twitter’s live-streaming app is not only good for journalists and pet videos—it’s also a great tool for education.

A bariatric surgeon from Connecticut hosts regular Periscope chats, during which he educates viewers about the world obesity pandemic. It’s a casual Q&A format, giving him a chance to interact with interested viewers and share his knowledge.

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta used it to stream live from an operating room, and one California primary care physician regularly shares in-office procedures, making sure to keep the patient’s face off-camera.


Finally, whether you’re a physician looking to interact with other experts, or a health system trying to build a presence in a new community, it’s a good idea to get the legal department on board from the beginning. Caron Treatment Centers, a multi-state addiction treatment center, has been applauded for their strong online social communities, which all began with a collaboration between the PR team and the legal department.

 Who else is doing health-related social well? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below! 

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