In our ever-connected world, it can be tricky to figure out who we should and shouldn’t interact with on our social networks. Dental assistants are in a unique spot when navigating the confusing world of social media followers and friends because of the relationships they have with patients, co-workers and dentists, and because of patient privacy laws.
We asked dental assistants to tell us what they think about “friending” patients and co-workers on social media. Do you “friend” your professional connections on social media?
Yes — My co-workers are like family.
For some dental assistants, staying in touch with co-workers on social media is a great way to network, build relationships and stay connected. In fact, some say having friendships online and off with co-workers makes the dental team stronger. But, despite that openness, many assistants still seem to be a little wary of “friending” patients.
“I like to friend my co-workers because I want to be able to work as a team, and being friends makes that easier.”
— Jamie C.
“How can I not friend my co-workers? We’re like family. But I only ‘friend’ patients when I really know them and at least a few people in their family. I just hate when they come at me with dental questions in the middle of the night!”
— Margie R.
“Coworkers, yes! Patients, no — could have some really bad repercussions.”
— Johanna C.
No — I always keep things separate.
For other dental assistants, the risks are too high and privacy is too important — they prefer to keep work and social media totally separate.
“It’s better to keep some things to yourself!”
— Pat G.
“I keep my personal life and work life separate. I don’t have anything to hide — it’s just my preference — and I still have great relationships at work.”
— Cassie D.
“I try to keep my work life at work. If I do become friends with someone, I’d rather exchange phone numbers than connect on social media.”
— Alejandra R.
Maybe — but I’m always careful!
For dental assistants who do choose to interact with friends, patients and co-workers on social media, it can open up issues around patient privacy, and it’s important to be aware and tread carefully. Be sure to talk to your employer to ensure that you are complying with HIPPA (patient privacy laws) and your employer’s dental practice policies and requirements for continued employment.
“Coworkers — absolutely, for the camaraderie and networking. I’ve had patients request to be my friend and it really depends on their interactions with me. If they come off as creepy then no, but if we have a great rapport, I have no problem accepting their request. I have nothing to hide, but I have boundaries.”
— Shannon L.
“I’m friends with my co-workers and a couple of patients. My page is generally clean, but if I want to post something controversial, I just ‘block’ certain people from seeing that post.”
— Llogan B., CDA
“There’s always a risk for a HIPAA violation — you have to be incredibly careful not to violate a patient’s privacy!”
What do you think?
Do you know the requirements and implications of HIPAA as this law relates to identifying patients in social media? Do you know your employer’s policies regarding social media?