The Great Facebook Debate
By its own count, Facebook lost 15 million users over the past two years. But the dominant social media platform still had 2.45 billion active monthly users in October. While Facebook’s troubles are nothing new, privacy issues that have shadowed the company in recent years have health care organizations wondering whether it is OK for them to continue using the tool as part of their social portfolio.
This debate rounded out the first day of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Conference, held October 22 and 23 in Rochester, MN. There, social media marketers and clinicians from large health systems to small clinics gathered to learn and collaborate about best practices for social media in health care.
I attended this year thanks to a scholarship from Social Media Breakfast Madison (Thank you!). The conference did not disappoint. Ann Handley (@annhandley) gave the best session on digital content I have heard at 8 a.m. – or any other time of day for that matter. And Sue B. Zimmerman, the Instagram Expert (@SueBZimmerman) brought me up to speed on all the newest tips and tricks on the IG.
The Mayo Clinic Social Media Network started in 2010 and has become the go-to resource for health care social media professionals. #HCSM exists in an industry governed by patient privacy rules and regulations (hello HIPAA) which carry hefty fines for breaches. Perhaps worse, there’s the risk of compromising trust with patients on a platform that has a reputation of being cavalier in protecting private information.
Which brings me back to the debate about whether Facebook’s disregard for user privacy compels responsible hospitals and health organizations to dump the platform. Although the spirit of the three-versus-three debate was in fun, there were some good points made both pro (stick with it) and con (#deletefacebook) to this complicated and nuanced issue.
Most agreed that Facebook has not handled data properly and believed the company’s practices have been found unscrupulous. Those attending the conference have personally scaled back use of or abandoned the platform. A poll taken prior to the debate found a majority there saying that health care should dump Facebook.
Colleeen Young (@colleen_young), content director with Mayo Clinic Connect argued that it’s highly unethical for hospitals to use Facebook Groups as peer-to-peer support network. Dave deBronkart (@ePatientDave) – who has himself left Facebook – agreed. But he also acknowledges that health care organizations need to meet patients where they are, and that’s still Facebook.
In addition, it’s important for health care orgs to stick with the platform to correct any misinformation, as well as to be there for patients to provide reliable and trusted information. And, arguably, by now, users should know that in signing up for an online platform, you’re giving up some privacy – when it’s free, you’re the product.
In the end, a new fast poll showed the audience had flipped — most saying that health care should stay with Facebook.
There are no easy or quick answers to this debate. But it is promising that these conversations are happening and continue in post-conference coverage in blogs and this podcast from Touchpoint Media.
This blog post was written by Lynn Welch, Communications Specialist at Access Community Health Centers. She received a scholarship from SMBMad to attend this conference.