News & Events

Herald Oct 14 09 Hospital cuts off use of Facebook (New England Baptist)

Hospital cuts off use of Facebook

Cites patient privacy for ban

By Christine McConville

Wednesday, October 14, 2009 – Added 1d 18h ago

New England Baptist Hospital has jumped into the middle of the digital divide by banning Facebook, and other social media, until it crafts an at-work policy for the popular social networking site.

The ban was triggered by concerns that hospital workers were revealing too much information about patients in their online posts.

“We are a leading-edge hospital filled with technology and innovation,” said spokeswoman Erin McDonough, “but when it comes to patient privacy, that’s priority one.”

McDonough said employees complained to hospital administrators several times this summer about co-workers spending a lot of time on Facebook.

As the complaints mounted, administrators realized that they have strict policies on e-mail, but nothing for increasingly popular social networking sites.

McDonough said she asked other area hospital leaders. Some have blocked at-work Facebook access for months.

Others, including Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center CEO Paul Levy, say social media helps build a workplace community.

“It’s a gray area,” McDonough said. “Facebook can be a great marketing and communication tool.

“But some people don’t seem to understand the ramifications” of posting on what she called “an electronic bulletin board that anyone can see.”

“It’s particularly troublesome in health care,” she said, “because at the end of the day, we are taking care of human beings.”

The Facebook ban will remain for six months or so, until the Boston hospital develops the electronic tools to monitor use and content, she said.

“Our hope is, as soon as we get the policies in place, we will reinstate use,” she said.