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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14 replies »

  1. I guess it’s safe to say that the hospital in question doesn’t have a FaceBook Fan page? Perhaps if they did they’d have a better understanding on why it’s such a powerful communication tool. As just one example, Beaumont Hospitals is on FaceBook with over 1,100 fans and they are now on Twitter. http://twitter.com/beaumonthosp

  2. Why do hospitals allowed nurses to take their iphone or cellphone while on duty? Hospital management should not allowed them to use it while on the clock. That is my own opinion, their duty is to care for patients and if there is no patients to care, send them home!
    There is phone next to their desk if they need to make a phone call? They can make a phone call during their break time.
    If we allowed them to have all the opportunity to access social media online, with their cellphone inside their pocket, and they can do that inside the bathroom or any room to play social games, oh well-sorry I guess I am exposing some already, sorry.

  3. Hello:
    This is only my own opinion. The media is now going on around USA hospitals and maybe around the world and with some attorneys posing as patients looking over your shoulders and see you guys what are you doing? Negligence of the law excuses no one. You could use your brain or you can brainwash your brain and tell yourself, well- everybody seem to be doing it? It is the younger generation of nurses who are bored, working at night, use their cellphone, chat online, doing nothing who seem to be the one making the nursing profession like a spoiled little brat: I like to have a freedom like this and this and this– they are in control of what they want instead of becoming a nurse, they are become a brat nurse.

  4. 20 and 30 year olds won’t be blocked. They’ll just find a way around it. Plus, there’s no easy way to manage this. Sometimes you just have to trust your employees.

  5. In addition to my experience with HIPAA, I have been involved in similar environments that are regulated by SOX. The arguments on both side of the fence are similar in both cases.
    On one side, concern for liability on the other the need for collaboration. In the middle lies the answer and the IT group. In my opinion it is the responsibility of the IT leadership to bring solutions to the table that satisfy both sides.
    There are cost-effective tools available today that are designed around the need for access to these types of sites. No need to build on your own.

  6. Have a problem…write a policy.
    Do they seriously think another rule is going to stem the flow of social media???

  7. Beena,
    The problem is the baby and bathwater approach proposed. Social media is not (contrary to what the uninformed believe) some type of childish video game with no redeeming qualities or something which should be relegated for use “in their homes…”
    This new form of communication has the ability to revolutionize patient care if used properly.
    Social media represent a set of tools. Powerful tools. Can they be misused? Of course. So can a telephone or a fax machine. Banning such technology is short-sighted and ill-informed. 10 years from now such moves will seem ridiculous to everyone.

  8. Beena, Paul is saying that he gets a lot of useful suggestions via facebook type discussions, and he doesn’t want that to shut down. These are work-related issues.

  9. It is odd to note that no one posted anything about the fact that this is a work environment. The computers at said hospital are there in order to facilitate patient care. The hospital is not blocking people’s personal communication in their homes…

  10. All social media tools are available on any iPhone or other smart phones…..
    The hospital cannot block those and most people have them. This is futile policy.

  11. It is not about blocking communication. It is about demonstrating that your policy is to block communication for a future defense in a future lawsuit.

  12. hmm … any educated guesses on who the mysterious unnamed hospital is?

  13. Great move blockng adults from accessing communication outlets and inlets. It will continue to foster healthy suspicion and distrust of all things and persons in positions of authority and power.
    Only the unskilled and paranoid block reasonable people from communicating with other reasonable people.

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