Thursday, May 12, 2011

HIPAA Regulations and New Technology: May 2011

We have received a lot of feedback on our post about HIPAA and new technology, and because of that, we will continue to share news on this very important issue that will play a major role in how the industry evolves.

It is well documented how doctors and other medical practitioners have been slow to adopt social media, and there is next to no following available for those that do. A recent poll revealed that only 11% of those interviewed would participate in social network interaction with their doctor if it was offered. Unlike the compliance issues that are holding health plans back, the only thing keeping physicians out of social media is a lack of interest. Many argue, however, that a lack of interest does not create a lack of responsibility. More and more patients are turning to social networks for advice on medical treatment, pharmaceuticals, and diagnoses. As a result, it is the responsibility of medical professionals to ensure that the information they find is accurate and up to date.

Obviously, some restraint is necessary. Doctors are just as required to follow HIPAA policies online as they are in any public setting. There should be no harm, however, in presenting generalized and accurate medical information, as long as the required compliance issues are handled responsibly.

HIPAA regulations also come into play with mobile technologies. Thousands of companies, in and out of the medical industry, are turning to mobile devices like smartphones and tablet computers to simplify the logistics of their operations. New advances in mobile tech have lowered the cost and time-consumption of training programs, and eased the transition of work materials from one workplace to the next.

The problem with this ease of access is just that; the access. In the wrong hands, a major company’s mobile technology could provide private data on hundreds, if not thousands, of clients and customers. Mobile devices need to be very well secured in order to meet HIPAA standards. This required level of compliance does not seem to be affecting the devices’ popularity, however.

So how do you take advantage of social networks and mobile technology without worrying about misinformation and HIPAA involvement? By creating your own network, of course. OrthoMind, by orthopedic surgeon Jon Hyman, MD, is a social network open only to other orthopedic surgeons. The exclusive community allows for the simple exchange of thoughts, practices, and techniques without the added downsides of outside influence. Because the network is not marketing toward any consumers, or sharing patient-doctor conversations, there is also no worry of HIPAA reprisal.

Networks like OrthoMind are extremely important for physicians, who may find themselves bombarded when patients that believe they are informed show up with armfuls of inaccurate medical advice. While it is superficially wonderful that patients are being empowered by social media to research things on their own, a doctor needs to be just as informed in order to be capable of separating the good advice from the bad.


  1. Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life.

    HIPAA Compliance