Professional use of social media is slowly moving into the Australian health care sector. At the 2012 Travel Clinics Australia Conference held in Singapore recently, many travel clinic doctors and nurses showed interest in professional social media networking.
I thought the discussion during and after the conference was good: The right questions were asked and the need for a Social Media Policy was discussed.
What should a policy look like? First of all, the purpose of the policy is to outline some guidelines about how to engage within social media networks. Sometimes it’s part of, or referred to, in a broader communication policy that outlines when and how to use eg email, messenger and social media. For example, if you expect an answer from someone within 24 hours it may be better to send an email or pick up the phone than to send a message via Twitter or Facebook.
Social media is an excellent tool for health promotion and sharing information, to listen to & engage with clients - respecting privacy of all parties at all times - and for marketing purposes such as strengthening your brand. A social media policy should take all this into account and provide some basic guidelines how to achieve these goals.
A common topic usually addressed in social media policies is how to behave online to avoid a conflict between private life & your (employee’s) professional role.
Our practice has the policy to never consult or give medical advice online as this can lead to all sorts of problems for patient & doctor. Interestingly, we have never been asked to do this so I guess most people are aware of the issue.
I do recommend the AMA Social Media Guidelines (http://ama.com.au/socialmedia), as it gives lots of examples of how not to use social media. There is some anxiety amongst health care professionals about the medicolegal pitfalls but common sense goes a long way: just like the information provided on many practice websites, the information published in social media networks is public and people can and should read it. Remember the overheated discussions in the nineties when doctors were going online for the first time? It’s my guess that in 2-3 years time nobody will blink a eyelid about social media anymore….
Sharlyn Lauby has published a great article on Mashable about creating a social media policy, and there are a few simple things to keep in mind to avoid missteps and engage customers.
10 tips to create a social media policy:
1. Introduce the purpose of your social media policy.
2. Be responsible for what you write.
3. Be authentic.
4. Consider your audience.
5. Exercise good judgment.
6. Understand the concept of community.
7. Respect copyrights and fair use.
8. Remember to protect confidential & proprietary info.
9. Bring value.
10. Find the right balance between social media and other work.
Here is the link to the full article: http://mashable.com/2009/06/02/social-media-policy-musts/