Shutting Down Social Media? Not Here.


Paul Levy is the President and CEO of Beth Israel Deconess Medical Center in Boston. He blogs about his experiences at Running a Hospital, one of the few blogs we know of maintained by a senior hospital executive and where this post first appeared.

The following email message was broadcast last week in a Boston hospital. Of course, you can guess my view of this: Any form of communication (even conversations in the elevator!) can violate important privacy rules, but limiting people’s access to social media in the workplace will mainly inhibit the growth of community and discourage useful information sharing. It also creates a generational gap, in that Facebook, in particular, is often the medium of choice for people of a certain age. I often get many useful suggestions from staff in their 20’s and 30’s who tend not to use email. Finally, consider the cost of building and using tools that attempt to “track utilization and monitor content.” Not worth the effort, I say.

Good morning,

Effective immediately, the Hospital is blocking access to social networking sites including Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter from all Hospital computers.The decision is based on recent evidence that some employees have been using these sites to comment on Hospital business, which is a violation of the Hospital’s Electronic Communications policy and a potential HIPAA violation.

The Executive Team will be working in the coming months to ensure that we have written policies in place that articulate the appropriate use of social networking sites while on duty at the Hospital. Once these written policies are in place, we have educated all employees about expectations and disciplinary action associated with violating the policies, and we have the appropriate IS tools in place to track utilization and monitor content, we will consider once again providing access to these sites. We expect this will take a period of about 6 months.

In the interim, please note that the Electronic Communication policy states that “incidental personal use of electronic communications systems may be allowed so long as such use does not consume more than a trivial amount of resources, interfere with staff productivity, preempt any business activity or violate Hospital policy”.

Employees are free to use Hospital computers during their break periods to check personal email, or access the Internet, but you should be aware that the policy also states, “employees should not have any expectation of privacy with respect to any information on Hospital electronic communication systems or the contents thereof, including email, internet usage, voicemail, fax or other similar vehicles. [The hospital] reserves the right to monitor, review and inspect all uses and the contents thereof.

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