You could call Dr. Jeff Livingston, OB/GYN, a social media pioneer.
As I explained in earlier blog posts here and here, the Irving,
Texas, physician has been using social media to educate and connect with his patients since his teenage daughter suggested he start a MySpace page to reach
out to high school students struggling with pregnancy and STDs.
I know that many doctors are reluctant to embrace social media for fear of HIPAA violations and negative comments, so I asked him how he responds to those
Avoiding HIPAA violations in social media is natural
“I don’t think it’s that hard (to avoid HIPAA violations),” Livingston says. “If you step out of technology and just think about how doctors communicate
throughout the day, they do it very naturally and never think about it.
“When you’re in a doctor’s lounge there’s a certain way of talking,” Livingston says. “When you get into the lobby, you change. And when you get on an
elevator, you completely change. And you do that very naturally. The same thing applies on the internet. It’s a very big elevator with a lot of people on
it. What you are already doing naturally can flow to the technology itself.”
Never disclose any kind of private health information
Livingston says the concept is simple.
“You can never disclose any kind of private, personal health information,” Livingston says. “You can’t diagnose. You can’t treat. But you can answer
general questions. You can be helpful. You can provide lots of health information. You can provide guidance. Just don’t diagnose and treat patients.”
A couple of years ago a patient posted a question on the practice Facebook page.
Is it okay to go swimming while you’re pregnant?
There is a safe way to respond:
Unless instructed by your doctor, there’s no reason why a pregnant woman can’t enjoy a swimming pool. Water is relaxing, it will take pressure off your
back and it will cool you off in a hot Texas sun.
Or there is the illegal way: Because you have difficult labors and an abnormal placenta, it’s not a good idea for you to swim.
How do you respond to negative comments?
“To be honest, it doesn’t happen that much for us,” Livingston says. “I’m not going to engage in controversial discussions on Twitter or post controversial
things on Facebook. We really haven’t had people put negative stuff on our Facebook page.”
He says patients know how to use social media.
“I have never had someone send me a tweet that said ‘I think I’m in labor,’” Livingston says. “I have never had someone put on our Facebook page, ‘I think
my water broke.’ People who use these networks understand the public nature and act appropriately.”