Hospitals Can Block Facebook But Not the 21st Century


Healthcare organizations – hospitals in particular – have a moral and fiduciary duty to understand, evaluate and intelligently adapt to the technological and communications conditions of today.

This is a public health matter. In a world where data flows at the speed of electrons, doctors and nurses and other providers have unprecedented access to new ways of getting information and providing care to patients.

The issue of hospitals blocking access to social media like Facebook and Twitter has been a topic of debate. It’s time we address this matter with open minds.

You can catch up on this story if you need to here:

Before discussing hospital blocking of social media, let’s take a quick look at some general observations about our world:

  • Rates of technological change always exceed rates of cultural change
  • Human and organizational psychologies often convert legitimate concerns into irrational fears
  • The Web is an unstoppable media-producing medium
  • Communication, social exchange and information are critical components of Healthcare

Do you see where I’m going with this?

I know about privacy. And HIPAA. And patient dignity. (In fact, I’ve even had to fight hospital administrators over that last part.)

What I’m saying is: I know how important and concerning these matters are to administrators. They’re not “wrong” in being concerned. It’s the fear which is a problem.

I also know what it’s like to work in an environment with horrible information systems – systems that are disconnected from a world – literally a world – of information, crowd-sourcing and expert curation.


Facebook is a security problem.

You know what’s a security problem in hospitals? Ignorance. Misinformation. Fear.

Facebook is a risk.

You know what’s risky? Surgery. Suction tubes. Insulin pumps. Hospital acquired infections.

Surgery can kill you with the wrong cut. Facebook can’t.

Suction tubes can tear your lung tissue. Facebook can’t.

Insulin pumps can shunt you into hypoglycemia and kill you. Facebook can’t.

Hospital acquired infections kill approximately 100,000 people admitted to hospitals per year (that’s practically genocidal). Facebook can’t.

Healthcare has always had to address risk. What makes Facebook so more frightening than a hospital admission?

You know what else is risky? As more of the world uses social media as the leading way to publish and consume breaking news, it becomes easier and easier to miss critical alerts if you’re not monitoring Twitter or Facebook or other media.

Imagine a national disaster and hospitals are asked to partake in efforts, some of which are conducted via Twitter or other public media. Do you want to be in a hospital that has to take last-minute measures with IT to get connected?

See where else I’m going?


I can’t speak for other Healthcare professionals about whether or not we have a duty to learn about the Web and 21st Century communications.

But I will speak for myself: I took an oath to protect patients. And even though I don’t practice at the bedside, I consider my work and opinions and evangelism of the dangers and opportunities of the Web as extensions of my oath. I consider it my public health duty to do my best to explore, learn and question as much I as can about the Web.

In other words, I’ve done my best to bring a nursing perspective of the human condition to our understanding and use of the Web. And I have online colleagues who are doing that everyday.


Should Hospitals block Facebook?

That’s not really the question. Here’s the question:

Should hospitals block the 21st Century?

If they can, then that means they have access to technologies which can also probably cure all disease from the face of the earth.

Then they’d be out of business, and we wouldn’t have to fret about their policies over staples of mainstream communication like Facebook and Twitter. 🙂

And here’s the fiduciary responsibility part: the more comfortable a business is using social media internally, you know what happens? It becomes more proficient in marketing and public relations in our time.

Management is morally obligated to ensure the best care for patients. It’s also legally obligated to do what’s right for Investors.

They’re the ones with capital.

Which is to say: they are the ones who ultimately decide who keeps their job.

It’s a rough economy. Attention is a scarce resource.

Doing your best to know what century you’re in is never a bad career move.

by @PhilBaumann – @RNchat@HealthIsSocial

Recommended post: Inteview by @MarkRaganCEO on Executive Fear of Social Media

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