Hospital Filters Internet Use over Productivity and Privacy Concerns

March 2, 2010 ( - University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics started this week blocking employee access to certain Web sites.

According to news reports, the hospital has implemented technology to block access at all clinical workstations to Web sites deemed inappropriate in the health care workplace, including social networking sites such as Facebook, gaming sites, and “malicious” sites that attempt to infect computer workstations. Officials are evaluating expansion of the filter to other areas at the hospital.

In a memo, hospital Chief Executive Officer Ken Kates said “viewing inappropriate Web sites for non-work-related purposes consumes employee time and organizational resources. Moreover, access to inappropriate sites creates the potential for a negative experience for patients, visitors, employees and students.”

Kates said the decision was made “in the interest of patient safety, fostering a positive work environment, and assuring appropriate use of resources.” He noted that such filtering is common in many large health care organizations and other industries, and that the hospital’s decision was in response to concerns voiced by patients, visitors, staff members, and supervisors.

The news reports said many employers who limit use of social media cite a study by Nucleus Research that found employees with Facebook accounts used them for fifteen minutes a day, on average, which translates to a 1.5% dip in worker productivity.

A recent study by Deloitte LLP also highlighted the reputational and privacy risks companies face from employee use of social networking, and found only 17% have programs in place to monitor and mitigate the potential reputational risks related to the use of social networks (see Survey Finds Reasons to Rethink Employee Social Networking Use).