When Hospitals Block Facebook, Laziness Is The Real Issue

Phil Baumann argues that hospitals should seize the Twenty-First Century by the sub-epididymal masses and set free Twitter and Facebook. “Should hospitals block Facebook?” he asks,

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.

I don’t disagree with Phil Baumann much about the supposed reasons hospitals block social networking sites: risk management, security and patient privacy are common excuses, and are mostly founded (as Baumann says) on fear and ignorance. But I think the real purpose of hospitals blocking Twitter and Facebook has more to do with control and productivity than risk reduction and confidentiality. Plainly speaking, social networking sites make people lazy.

Let me illustrate. My employer, Acme Regional Health Centre unblocked Facebook  and Twitter from hospital computers for a short time. I won’t exaggerate and say it was an unmitigated disaster, but when you sit down at a nursing station and see every computer terminal opened to Farmville, and the nurses in Resus are tweeting the nurses in Exams, there’s a problem.

The experiment lasted about a month. It failed because it ignored a fundamental fact of human nature: if people are given the choice of doing something amusing and fun, like playing on Facebook, and doing something tedious and boring, like filling in MARs*, amusing and fun will win every time.

And yes, it looks extremely poor if patients and their families catch you fooling with your Facebook photo albums, when you should be getting the bedpan for the 98 year-old in Obs Six.

In the end, health care professionals — I include physicians as well as nurses in this categorization — can’t act, well, professionally with social networking sites. The ideals suggested by Phil Baumann are exciting and visionary. The reality is somewhat more drab and prosaic.


*Medical Administration Record


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  1. #1 by jennjilks on Tuesday 17 August 2010 - 1128

    Well said.

  2. #2 by Cartoon Character on Tuesday 17 August 2010 - 1140

    I would agree with you. Even if it isn’t EVERYBODY playing on the internet….it only takes one or two to create extra work for everyone. I personally am a computer junkie, but when at work….it’s WORK TIME. I really resent those nurses who take time away from their patients to play on the computer – and then ask ME to do their work for them because they are “too busy” (and yes, that has happened! and yes I told them NO.).

  3. #3 by atyourcervix on Tuesday 17 August 2010 - 1225

    Then there are those who will find any reason to use the internet for personal reasons on their cell phones — while at work. And yes, I’ve seen nurses and doctors access their facebook while at work, on their cell phones.

    • #4 by torontoemerg on Tuesday 17 August 2010 - 1247

      Awful as it sounds, if I had my druthers I would ban Blackberrys et al. on the floor too, for the same reasons — but I think that’s unenforceable.

  4. #5 by Lisa b on Tuesday 17 August 2010 - 1755

    I was SO disturbed to find nurses on FB in the icu when my daughter was a patient. The manager told me she had no way to know when people were on break and I told her they were on all day.

  5. #6 by Cartoon Character on Tuesday 17 August 2010 - 1812

    He claims that facebook doesn’t kill….but I am certain that the distraction it causes, the inattention to patient care and the depletion of actual nursing staff on the unit because of it CAN kill. I stand by that as an EXTREME facebook /internet user….and an RN…..and no, I don’t do internet stuff outside my break time in the hospital situation. And yes, FB is blocked in all the hospitals I have worked…..and also where I work now. Do I mind? No. It isn’t my computer and I am being PAID to work…not to socialize. I guess it’s my work ethic….but I feel that if I am being paid the bucks…that’s my undivided attention they are purchasing. (side note: I don’t have a cell that I use other than for 911 calls)

    • #7 by Phil Baumann on Friday 27 August 2010 - 0820

      Good point you raise.

      But the greater issue is whether or not hospitals can create environments that are in line with the reality of this century.

      I think you may think that these media are only for stupid things like Farmville, etc.

      Unfortunately, that’s a very narrow view of things.

      But these media can be repurposed.

      The fact is: stupid people are stupid, with our without Facebook. If RNs and Docs and others can’t maintain their professional standards in the face of patient care, they shouldn’t be in the healthcare profession.


      • #8 by torontoemerg on Saturday 28 August 2010 - 0635

        Thanks Phil. Actually personally I don’t think that: even for the narrow purposes of this weblog (for example), services like Twitter are enormously useful, so much so I have abandoned my initial scepticism.

        But apart from the examples you listed in the original article (i.e. for emergencies and the like) can you think of a practical way I would use Twitter in my day-to-day practice as a nurse?

      • #9 by Cartoon Character on Saturday 28 August 2010 - 1151

        PHIL: My view of FB is not so simplistic as “Farmville” – re: your condescending remark…..in fact I BLOCK that app out on my FB feed. I have been into computers since the 1980s so am quite aware of the progress and the usefulness of all things techhie, and am in fact quite pro progress in these areas. HOWEVER…I still stand by what I say. If there is a daily usefulness for FB or Twitter….perhaps that can be reviewed through the proper channels….but not only do I see a problem with time taken away from the patient – but also a FOIPPA concern.
        Your logic is also a little off. I don’t equate poor decision making re: Twitter and FB with bad medical decisions to the extent that those health care professionals shouldn’t be working in their field….

  6. #10 by wilomis on Tuesday 17 August 2010 - 2139

    remember when nobody knew what we were doing…. at the exact time we did it…

  7. #11 by Terri Schmitt on Thursday 19 August 2010 - 0640

    Good post and well said. I would agree that health care professionals seem to have (and the rest of the world) no concept of professional computer behavior at work. However, having said that…. it is something we nursing faculty need to be teaching. Recently, I had a girlfriend shoot me a shining example of how the next generation communicates. She took her 17 year old son and his girlfriend to a concert. She said “I have no idea how they saw the concert, but they could recount the entire thing, because they tweeted and texted each other the entire time. They barely spoke to one another and they were sitting right next to each other”.
    This generation communicates via social media. So now, we have to educate them as to how to use it and what is professional. FB is for personal time, as is texting, personal calls, cell phones, twitter, etc….. Other than our obvious reaction of banning everything how can we stop the madness in places of employment.
    People… your bosses can see when you are on face book at work and exactly when you fed your goofy farm animals.
    Unfortunately banning the internet entirely is sad because there is a wealth of great health information that can now be accessed through sound and open sites. These sites will no longer be accessible to help educate our patients through discharge and beyond because the entire internet is blocked in some places.

    • #12 by torontoemerg on Thursday 19 August 2010 - 0806

      Thanks Terri for this. I actually think that’s right. I went to a church conference not long ago where a controversial piece of business was on the table for discussion, favoured by young people (and me!) and ut was remarkable how they mobilized for the debate using Twitter and their phones — and the business passed.

      The Internet itself — well, I agree with that as well. When I worked in the U.S. we (the nurses) had Internet access. Unfortunately, one of the residents was downloading and printing naughty pictures, one of which ended up in a patients chart. Huge uproar. End result: the Internet was deemed to be a huge risk, and was taken away from the nurses.

    • #13 by Cartoon Character on Saturday 28 August 2010 - 1211

      We only have a partial/selective block at our place of employ. We can still access those good sites that we need for gleaning information that is useful for nursing care. It doesn’t need to be a full block of all internet.

  8. #14 by SW on Wednesday 01 September 2010 - 2107

    Why can the IT people not put a block on hospital computers while the general population is able to access. The ability to access facebook, see family and friend photos, interact with friends, keep up with friends can be vital to the sense of wellbeing of a patient. Patients who customarily do this WILL feel isolated and that will affect their sense of well being toward healing. Considering that the guy in the next bed with the 3G iPad, or iPhone or android or laptop with 3G insert WILL have access it creates even more of an issue. This needs to be rethought —
    from me, a cut off patient

    • #15 by torontoemerg on Thursday 02 September 2010 - 0725

      Yes, I agree.I think some hospitals are beginning to offer their patients wireless.

  9. #16 by lalalalala on Monday 20 September 2010 - 2336

    This software http://www.timedoctor.com/1 uses a better method than blocking Facebook as it only monitors Facebook in work hours. So team members can always use it on lunch breaks. Also some employees might need Facebook for work so it’s not good to indiscriminately block it.

  10. #17 by Cartoon Character on Tuesday 21 September 2010 - 0129

    I really can’t think of ONE instance that FB would be useful at work. Someone please let me know if there is. What IS useful – is a nurse that is OFF the computer and helping out with the patient f2f……

  11. #18 by quicksilver on Wednesday 22 September 2010 - 1358

    Ive been using http://bit.ly/bJwmma . It uses a better method than blocking social media sites because it only monitors sites like Facebook in working hours. Team members can still use it for a breather or during lunch breaks so its really unecessary to block it. Sometimes they use it for work too in helping reach decisions.

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