6 Considerations When Using Facebook Groups in Healthcare

Clients often ask us about Facebook groups and whether or not they should utilize them. While there are circumstances where groups can be beneficial, there are also some concerns (especially for Healthcare systems). Here are six key points to consider when using Facebook groups.

  1. Closed vs. Secret Groups. In a closed Facebook group, the group name, description, tags and member names are all visible to anyone online. The group can also be found in search. Posts in closed Facebook groups are supposed to be visible only to group members, but due to frequent changes in Facebook’s privacy policy there have been instances of those posts showing in news feeds and in search. Secret groups are more secure in that no one except group members can see the group description, tags or member names. Secret group members must be invited; the group cannot be found via search. While secret groups are more secure, it is very difficult for a healthcare organization to gain members, since an admin of the group would have to invite each member. Even secret groups are not 100% secure due to changes in Facebook’s privacy policy and the fact that a member could easily copy and paste the information from a secret group to a public timeline.
  2. Must use a personal profile. An employee must be willing to use their personal Facebook profile to create the group.
  3. Must use a moderator at all times. To enforce the rules of the Facebook group and facilitate conversation, there must be a group moderator at all times. This requires a substantial amount of resources without much of an ROI.
  4. Security. Unfortunately there is no guarantee that a closed Facebook group is actually 100% private. Using a Facebook group is not the most secure place for an internal communication platform. There have been instances where posts in closed groups have appeared on group members’ friends’ feeds. Additionally, posts in closed groups and even secret groups have also been found in search.
  5. HIPAA concerns. As stated above, Facebook groups are not 100% private, which poses risk for HIPAA violations. While the purpose of the group may be internal communications or for patient support, there is always a risk that a group member may share information that goes against the group rules and guidelines.
  6. Legal issues. If a hospital or health system does create a Facebook group, they need to protect themselves legally with a group policy and guidelines. It is important that group members know that anything they post should be considered public, that posts do not equal medical advice and that participation in a group does not create a care provider-patient relationship.

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