Heard of the popular show, "A Minute to Win It"? Well to borrow from the title, for health care professionals (doctors offices and hospitals in particular), you’re playing a much more dangerous game "a Minute to Lose It".

What is "it"? It is patient data.  And right now it continues to be at risk every day.  With a single post, valuable client data could be gone in a minute without you even knowing about it until it is too late.

Now, you might protest: We already have a HIPAA Privacy Policy. We’re fine.

That’s good. Just not good enough anymore.

Now, you might say: You’re being alarmist.

To which I say, yes. Because just like the e-mail revolution over a decade ago, we’re in the midst of another one right now and too many people are unprepared for what is unfolding in real time.  

What are some steps to take? First, the easy one: a social media policy. Like yesterday. Because while you’ve been napping, social media has taken root all over America. And health care institutions — which access sensitive personal data every day — are at risk for not taking steps to protect the data.  

Is it happening? Yes. Employees are tweeting, Facebooking and networking as this article suggests. And they’re talking about work.  

But health care professionals now need to go beyond a policy and should provide training and guidance to employees on how to use social media safely without jeopardizing patient data. And monitoring compliance is another key aspect. A program like Hearsay is one of the vendors trying to seek your  business in this area. 

This is still uncharted territory. But a lawfirm (like ours, naturally) can help provide that security (and I’d be happy to respond to inquires from companies about it).   But ignoring the problem will not make it go away — as much as some of you would like to remain ignorant about social media.  

Complicating the issue further are state and federal data privacy laws that overlap (and contrast) as well.  So, between HIPAA, data privacy rules, and other state laws, there’s a lot to keep track of.  

I’ll talk about some of these issues at a March 24 forum for public health agencies (details soon).  In the upcoming weeks, I’ll also share some additional tidbits for health care professionals to think about as well.  If there’s a particular topic you’d like to see covered in an upcoming post, feel free to let me know and we’ll see if I can get to it (within the constraints of the blog).