Nearly everyone who walks into your dental practice is carrying a smartphone and the majority of those people are also on social media. This can make it incredibly difficult to control the pictures and videos that are taken at your practice and distributed online. Further, while the growth of your own social media presence dictates that you create content that is personal, protecting your dental practice from potential lawsuits and HIPAA violations should be your paramount concern. It’s important to define safeguards and guidelines that will protect both patient privacy and your practice.
Establish a no photo or video policy.
AAPD Chief Operating Officer and General Counsel C. Scott Litch suggests that dental practices should “just say no” to allowing patients and their guardians to take photos. In his September 2015 article in Pediatric Dentistry Today, Litch indicates that parents who inadvertently take photo or video of patients other than their own children in the background are compromising the privacy of others. He also makes a strong risk management case for refusing to allow parents to take photos or videos in treatment areas. It’s incredibly easy for pictures or videos to be taken out of context and not adequately give a full picture of any situation.
Obtain authorization and consent before your staff takes photos of patients.
If you use pictures or video of your patients online, your practice should establish a systematic approach to obtaining parental consent. Before your staff takes pictures of patients, you might include a simple waiver in your new patient forms or when updating patient information. (Read our blog post about using a dedicated “office iPad” to empower your staff to take more pictures). You could also verify that you have consent at each visit by having parents sign a consent form before pictures are taken. This information should be stored and protected in case there are any future questions. You should be aware that specific rules may vary from state to state.
Find effective ways to post patient pictures.
When you’re taking pictures of your patients you’ll want to be certain to post them in a way that gives you the most benefit from Likes and Shares. This is a great opportunity to ask parents to Like or follow your your social media accounts. You might consider even texting the picture to parents and ask them to share the photo themselves, being sure to tag your dental practice in the picture. Or, if you decide to upload it directly to your business Page, you could ask the parent to tag themselves in the picture. This will increase the number of people who see any given post and drive more likes and engagement to your Page. Ultimately, your goal is to get the picture online and encourage parents to interact with it.
Don’t allow fear to prevent you from embracing social media.
We often hear from dentists who refuse involvement in social media because it simply seems that the risks for problems are too high. But traditional marketing avenues like the Yellow Pages are no longer relevant and ignoring social media means missing thousands of potential patients in your area. Additionally, your practice likely already has a presence on sites like Facebook, Yelp and Google that you may not even be aware of. We believe it’s best to own and control your own online presence instead of leaving it to social media networks to create one for you. Further, with proper guidelines and policies in place, you can successfully and safely take charge of your online reputation.
Keep in mind, Smile Savvy is an internet marketing company and not a law firm and this blog does not constitute legal advice. This is provided for general information and for your convenience. Ultimately, you alone are responsible for your online presence and any questions should be directed toward your own legal counsel, your state board and/or the AAPD.