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Social media activity ‘difficult to police’ – HSE

The Medical Independent (MI) understands that patients are using smartphones to record activities in hospitals and, in some instances, to record interactions with healthcare staff.

In a statement, the HSE said there is no specific policy from its Human Resources or Acute Hospital Divisions to address this matter. However, some hospitals have informal arrangements in place.

At St James’s Hospital, Dublin, patients, staff and visitors are not permitted to film on-site and members of the security team are vigilant about ensuring that the privacy of all patients, visitors and staff is respected, a HSE spokesperson told MI.

There are policies around photography and filming by members of staff and the media in the University of Limerick (UL) Hospitals Group, but no formal policy relating to patients and relatives.

“However, there are informal arrangements whereby staff will request patients/relatives to refrain from taking photos or filming in clinical areas out of respect for the privacy of fellow patients and staff,” the HSE’s spokesperson explained.

“Signage to this effect is posted in a number of locations around UL Hospitals Group. UL Hospitals has found that most patients adopt a common sense and respectful approach in the use of camera phones.”

Hospitals in the Children’s Hospital Group (CHG) do not have social media usage policies for families, parents or patients.

“These hospitals deal with occasions, whereby they become aware of social media content placed that could be deemed inappropriate, on a case-by-case basis, acknowledging that we live in an incredibly world-wide digital health world where it is difficult to police social media activity and put any constraints around this activity, bar keeping a watchful eye,” the spokesperson explained.

“Photographing and filming of children within the CHG hospitals is only permitted by the parent/guardian of the child or with consent of the parent/guardian. If parents/guardians are photographing/videoing their own child, they must ensure no other child is captured in the photograph/video.”

The HSE has developed guidance for employees on social and digital media.  

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