Code of Conduct for Healthcare Professionals on Social Media
The digital domain is an excellent platform for communication. And if professionals across several industries are getting connected then why should professionals from the healthcare industry lag behind? They too can share their views with everyone. However, healthcare professionals don't get as many liberties when it comes to the virtual arena as they need to maintain a code of conduct while posting. So whether you wish to share public health information, promote your own health facility services or brands or even answer a generic medical question, you will have to tread the path of social media very carefully. It may be a valuable resource but it can also backfire when you're into healthcare if used inappropriately.
If you don't wish to lose your healthcare or medical job, or don't want to be reprimanded because of misleading posts on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter or any medical social networking site, follow the useful tips listed below -
1. Understand Your Employer's Social Media Policy
The prevalence of social media has been spreading in all directions and fields. In today's technologically-advanced era, all healthcare employers and hospitals have their own social media presence. And in order to protect that presence they have set up social media policies. Considering your employers have done the needful, make sure you get acquainted with those policies and understand them well. You can contact the Human Resource department and request the HR professionals to provide you with a copy of the rulebook. You may ask questions to clear all your doubts, if any. If your facility has employed a social media manager, use the opportunity and learn how to establish a strong presence on the social domain without endangering your job.
When used responsibly, social media can boost your image and visibility as an expert in the field. You can also become a valuable resource to the patient community. Sharing ideas and receiving comments will also help you learn from other people in your network. Thus, it is important for a medical professional to learn how to socially share ideas in a safe and acceptable manner.
2. Learn About HIPAA
The Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) safeguards the health information of patients. It prevents personal information from going into the hands of wrong entities. This compliance with HIPAA is an important part of a healthcare professional's career, especially when it involves social media.
One of the main mistakes made by healthcare workers in the virtual world is that they may include identifiable information about their patients in the posts they share. Even if you don't disclose the name of the patient it doesn't mean that s/he can't be identified. If you must post something related to the medical scenario, remember to keep it very vague and general. Do not relate it to the cases you handle at work, else it would be considered as violation of HIPAA.
3. Think Before You Act
Healthcare profession demands you to be both sensible and sensitive. Once you disclose something on the social media, you won't be able to undo it. Even if you decide to delete that post, it is possible that someone has already seen it and the purpose of deleting has now been defeated. The power of digital access is riskier than you may realize. Your revelation could have offended someone and they may have taken a screenshot of your post for posterity. Therefore, always keep in mind that your posts have the power to impact lives, both positively and negatively. And being in the healthcare profession, you are responsible for saving lives and spreading happiness, not upsetting your patients and their families. So next time you are going to write on a wall, remember how you would feel if your shortcomings or ailments were discussed publicly.
4. If Ever In Doubt, Leave It Out
If you have to devote too much time for deciding whether you should or shouldn't share something on the social network, it would be wise to leave it out. Intuition and uncertainty are good parameters for making you realize that what you have in mind should be kept in the mind and not made public for the world after all, at least when it comes to the internet which is the strongest and most unforgiving medium on today's date. And with healthcare set to invest significantly in technology, health content and records are moving on to clouds and digital devices, which means you wouldn't want to mess up your social reputation. So go for the gut feeling and if still unsure, confirm with another healthcare professional by seeking his/her opinion. Your conduct may not violate the HIPAA, but it could still be inappropriate as per your organizational policies. Don't give your employer any reason for which they may have to discipline you.
5. Follow Respectable Healthcare Veterans On Social Media
There are several reputed healthcare professionals who are veterans in their field of work, while also being experts at managing social media. You should look up to one of these pioneers and learn how to maintain a balance of sharing informative and educational health-related information. Their deportment will teach you how to convey messages without over-stepping your boundaries, without violating any acts or without revealing any private information.
You may also join networks and follow healthcare facilities, like The Mayo Clinic facility whose staff leads the way in the arena of health care social media. MCCSM or Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media is a pioneering effort and has set up a website plus social media network providing a wealth of knowledge regarding the best industry practices related to health.
Hope the above tips are useful for all you healthcare professionals. Good luck with social networking.
Follow Sudha Mishra on Twitter