Social Media in Healthcare: Risks Under HIPAA and Other Federal and State Laws

Minimizing Breach of Privacy and Physician-Patient Relationship Claims, Physician Licensure Concerns, and Other Potential Liabilities

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

Conducted on Wednesday, June 27, 2012
Recorded event now available

This CLE webinar will provide guidance to healthcare counsel on measures hospitals and physicians should take to minimize liability when engaged in social media. The panel will outline the risks inherent in social media use and offer best practices for developing effective social media policies.


Social media provides tremendous opportunities for hospitals and providers to share information inside and outside the healthcare community. However, the use of Twitter, Facebook and other social media channels also increases the risk of patient privacy breaches and other legal pitfalls.

Providers engaged in social media must ensure compliance with HIPAA's requirement to protect individually identifiable health information from disclosure. Physicians providing information to Facebook "friends" or via blogs must take steps to avoid inadvertently creating a physician-patient relationship.

To minimize liability exposure, counsel for hospitals and physicians using social media should guide clients in the adoption, implementation and enforcement of a social media policy that ensures compliance with HIPAA and other applicable federal and state laws.

Listen as our authoritative panel of healthcare attorneys examines the potential legal pitfalls for healthcare providers participating in social media communications and discusses strategies to minimize patient claims and government enforcement actions.


  1. What communication tools fall within the scope of social media?
    1. Tools hospitals are using
    2. Tools other healthcare entities are using
  2. Risks of using social media in healthcare — general business risks and healthcare-specific risks
    1. HIPAA and state privacy law violations
    2. Physician-patient relationship issues
    3. Physician licensure concerns
    4. Document retention concerns
    5. Litigation management concerns
  3. Developing a comprehensive social media strategy
    1. Components of an effective social media policy
    2. Policy enforcement and monitoring
    3. Staff training
    4. Use of disclaimers
  4. Hypotheticals
    1. Selectivity in accepting “friends” or “followers”
    2. Defining the role of physician in social networking strategy


The panel will review these and other key questions:

  • What risks do hospitals and providers face when using social media platforms to communicate with staff, patients and the general public?
  • What steps can healthcare providers take to protect patient privacy and ensure HIPAA compliance when engaged in social media?
  • What are the key considerations for healthcare provider counsel when developing and implementing policies regarding social media use?


Jennifer R. Breuer, Partner
Drinker Biddle & Reath, Chicago

She is Vice Chair of the firm's Health Care Practice Group. She represents health care providers, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, multi-specialty physician groups and ancillary service providers, as well as pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers in fraud and abuse and privacy compliance matters. She is a regular author and speaker on various health care issues.

Nicole D. Galli, Partner
Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff, Philadelphia

She counsels clients in the emerging area of social media, where the issues that arise can overlap a number legal disciplines, as well as raise new issues not yet addressed by existing law. She conducts audits of social media use to identify areas of potential concern or exposure, drafts necessary social media policies, and assists in training personnel on appropriate social media use.

David C. Harlow, Principal
The Harlow Group Health Care Law & Consulting, Newton, Mass.

He is a seasoned health care attorney and consultant recognized as an accomplished, innovative and resourceful thought leader in health care law and policy. He helps health care providers, vendors and payors navigate the maze of regulatory and business issues facing them on a daily basis. He is a charter member of the Advisory Board of the Mayo Clinic Center for Health Care Social Media.


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Health Law Advisory Board

Lowell C. Brown


Arent Fox

Jennifer L. Evans



Ryan S. Johnson


Fredrikson & Byron

Gina M. Kastel


Faegre Baker Daniels

Karen S. Lovitch


Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo

David A. Manko


Proskauer Rose

John J. Miles

Senior Counsel

Baker Donelson

C. Elizabeth O'Keeffe


Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs

J. Peter Rich


McDermott Will & Emery

Donald H. Romano

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Foley & Lardner

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Drinker Biddle & Reath

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