Walk the Line: Tips for being HIPAA Conscientious While Posting on Social Media Sites

By Sarah Sendlbeck, MusicWorx Intern #105


Many have heard of it, some have not.  HIPAA is an acronym that stands for Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.   If you have ever been actively involved in a hospital or facility, these letters have been screamed at you.  “I just have to make sure that, no matter what, all the information regarding my patients and clients remains confidential, right?”Right.

Music Therapists are beginning to expand their online presence through various social media sites (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogging). However, it is important to be conscious of what your putting up on your sites.  It makes me cringe when I see colleagues posting pictures, updates, thoughts or stories that border the very thin line between okay and violation.

Here are a few tips to ensure that you’re not crossing that line:

  1. When in doubt, leave it out.
  2. Remove any identifying information- Just remember: NOLF (Name, Occupation, Location, Facility).
  3. If you wouldn’t want the public to know it about your mother, don’t share.
  4. All photographs, video, drawings, art, poetry MUST have a waiver signed by the patient allowing you to use/share.
  5. Every time you’re writing something, double-check. Ask yourself, “Am I violating my client’s privacy by saying this?”

Keep this in mind: Would you want information about your upcoming surgery, intimate moment with your therapist or struggles posted online for hundreds of people to see? I don’t think so.

In conclusion:

DO NOT assume that people cannot infer who a patient is.

DO NOT assume your patient “won’t mind if I talk about this.”

DO use your moments of learning for reflection and teaching moments.

DO trust in a mentor so that you may process any exciting or difficult sessions (sticking to HIPAA protocol of course!).

DO put disclaimers in blog posts and updates letting your audience know NOLFhas been changed to protect confidentiality.

DO get permission from patients and clients to share those “WOW” experiences.

Sarah Sendlbeck is the author of the music therapy blog, The Eclectic Guitar.


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