SNF snapshot of trouble

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Elizabeth Newman
Elizabeth Newman

While Emily Mongan covered a lot of the grosser parts of the HCR ManorCare hepatitis C story earlier this week, there's a specific part I want to revisit.

An employee is accused of several bad practices, including reusing needles. But the part of the brief that stopped me in my tracks was a photo of the employee wearing a single glove while drawing blood at the North Dakota State Fair. It was in a 2008 edition of Trinity's “Health Talk” newsletter.

The photo was likely found by a young law associate sifting through hundreds of these types of documents to build this brief. While conventional wisdom leads us to think good lawyers win due to their oratory, the truth is lawyers often win through relentless digging, or having a team that goes through document after document. The photo stands out among the 50-page brief.

The point is not to rag more on Trinity and what may or may not have happened to cause the outbreak, but to look at our use of photos, videos and marketing.  

I spent a chunk of my career working on an employee newsletter for a healthcare system, so I don't blame the marketing employee who snapped or placed that photo. That department's employees are not hired based on their clinical expertise. Still, the photo in question reminds us of the power of the visual.

This is also true of the Snapchat cases we've written about, including this week a California case involving an employee allegedly using the app to photograph a resident stepping into the shower. (My suggested headline of “Terrible people are terrible” was rejected.) I've heard millennials flippantly comment on how they were always told anything on the Internet lasts forever, and how Snapchat makes that untrue. Snapchat doesn't protect you from someone taking a screenshot. While it's an evolving field, the evidence is moving toward police and law enforcement interviewing witnesses or gathering data reflecting the crime at hand.

Fear, however, also can provide an excuse for senior living communities to go too far in the other direction and ignore social media, websites or even printing materials showcasing the facility. This bubble is impractical: Employees are always going to have smartphones, and consumers want to find more than a Nursing Home Compare listing to judge a nursing home.

The best plan of attack is to stress to staff — in new employee orientation and in training — the proper use of social media. This includes patient privacy and HIPAA elements, of course, but also ambassadorship. If you are wearing employee-branded scrubs, you are representing the facility. This is a point lost on many employees. They don't realize, for example, that they're also representing the facility when they are on Twitter complaining about your co-workers.

Elizabeth's Etiquette Tip of the Week: A good investment is a case in which you can place your sunglasses. Remove — or remind your employee to remove — sunglasses both from his or her face and head, if applicable. Otherwise, it implies an inappropriate casualness, a desire to be in the entertainment industry or a drug addiction. (Or any combination of the three).

Elizabeth Newman is Senior Editor at McKnight's Long-Term Care News. Follow her @TigerELN.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.