Where to draw the line in social media at your hospital

With technology changing every day, it sometimes can be difficult to regulate social media and monitor online etiquette of individuals at healthcare institutions. Even with a firm social media policy in place, sometimes gray areas are bound to pop up.

For example, the media relations officer at Rhode Island Hospital through Facebook addressed recent charges against a physician, letting readers know that the physician left the institution and his privileges were suspended, wrote Nancy Cawley Jean, senior media relations officer at Lifespan health system, on Hospital Impact. A patient responded accusing the hospital for a lack of discretion about an ongoing criminal and internal investigation. The event highlights whether Facebook is the appropriate forum for such news and comments.

"Being up front, honest, and transparent in social media is vital to its success and to the reputation of your brand, whether it be a hospital, a small B2B business, or your own personal page," Jean wrote. "A social media policy is absolutely vital," she continued.

In another gray area of online use, a healthcare leader used the hospital's blog as a forum to sound off on federal spending.

Described as a "hospital communicator's worst nightmare" by Ragan's Health Care Communication News, Children's Hospital Colorado CEO Jim Shmerling took aim at suggested congressional cuts to Medicare and Medicaid on the hospital's blog, CEO Chat.

Criminal charges and politics may or may not have a place at your institution's online venues. In creating or revising your social media policies, consider including guidance on personally identifiable information, owners of the social media responsibilities, and appropriate content, according to FiercePracticeManagment.

For more information:
- read the Hospital Impact blog post
- read the Children's Hospital blog post
- here's the Ragan's post
- check out the FiercePracticeManagement article

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