Social Media Guidelines for Healthcare Professionals

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The recent “sexting” Twitter scandal of Congressman Anthony Weiner is putting inappropriate use of social media at the top of media headlines. Many in the healthcare industry are wary of jumping on the social media bandwagon due to legal limitations, fear of exposing privileged information, and damaging relationships with patients and partners.

Be that as it may, social networking is just too big for many people to ignore. New stats from Nielsen, report that sites like Facebook and Twitter now account for 22.7% of the time spent on the Internet. In comparison, E-mail as a percentage of online time use has plunged from 11.5% to 8.3% from June 2009 to June 2010.

Whether you are a company manufacturing health care products, or a healthcare professional, social media is an easy way to stay connected with patients, customers, and colleagues. The good news is that utilizing social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn, doesn’t have to be so scary. Social media disaster can easily be avoided by following simple guidelines and methods.

The American Medical Association suggests the following as basics for all clinicians using social media. These basics can easily be applied to product manufacturers, as well:

  • Remain business focused and define a clear intent for your social media accounts.
  • Maintain a positive and professional presence.
  • Make use of privacy settings and monitor your Internet presence.
  • Maintain appropriate relationships with “friends” and “followers” and set boundaries.
  • Monitor posts, respond to comments, and filter out the bad.
  • Report misuse of social media by colleagues.
  • Don’t post any identifiable patient information. The doctor/ patient confidentiality relationship also applies to online interactions.

Mayo Clinic suggests speaking in the first person and distinguishing personal thoughts and beliefs from those of your organization. The Mayo Clinic also stresses the importance of disclosing a connection to the company you are associated with when communicating public interest about the organization.

Product manufacturers should create business accounts for their social media activities. Health care professionals might consider having separate personal and professional accounts in order to alleviate the stress of over-sharing. Professionals should maintain a somewhat professional presence even on personal accounts as privacy settings are not always iron clad and anything posted on the Internet is permanent in some form. Be cautious of who you “friend” as those are the people who can view your social media profile and public activity.

General Social Media Guidelines:

  • Do not publicize guarantees about a product or service.
  • Do not diagnose, prescribe treatments, or provide medical advice.
  • Do not publicize private conversations.
  • Do not publicize comments that are biased or derogatory.
  • Do not publicize false statements, information, or photographs that may cause harm to any business or person’s reputation.
  • Do not engage in customer service issues. Instead direct the customer to a website, or help line where they can receive assistance.
  • If you wouldn’t say it in a room full of your business associates, don’t say it online!

Social Media Sharing Tips:

  • Share news related to your industry.
  • Share good news about what is happening at your company.
  • Interact with other businesses and professionals related to your company or industry.
  • Interact with customers, patients, and clients by asking general questions related to your industry.

The purpose of social media is to interact, and build relationships. It allows customers to forge personal connections with professionals and businesses that were not previously possible. For a business this can mean building a loyal customer base, or utilizing customer feedback in order to improve service. For industry professionals, social media can be an opportunity to connect and learn from peers located all over the world.

Kestrel Health Information maintains a presence on LinkedIn and Facebook, connecting with both clinicians and product manufacturers alike. Through a combination of product-related information and niche specific news media, these social media sites provide valuable points of contact, as well as a platform for industry-related discussion.

Increase your visibility within your industry. Follow these suggestions and begin using social media by visiting some of the sites listed below!

Kestrel Health on Facebook:

Kestrel Health on LinkedIn:

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