Social media guidelines emphasize respect, transparency

It wasn't that long ago that physicians who took part in social media were operating with virtually no rulebook (pun coincidental). But increasingly, large institutions, such as the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., as well as various professional organizations, are adopting formal guidelines to help employees realize the benefits of social media with fewer of the risks.

One of the latest groups to adopt healthcare social media guidance is the Rhode Island Medical Board, which recently released its seven-page guide. The document, based on guidance from the Federation of State Medical Boards, holds physicians personally and professionally responsible for any content they post and urges them to protect patient privacy at all timest, the Associated Press reported.

In addition, the guidance advises physicians on appropriate online behavior:

  • Avoiding requests for online medical advice;
  • Acting with professionalism;
  • Being forthcoming about their employment, credentials and conflicts of interest; and
  • Being aware that information posted online may be available to anyone, and could be misconstrued.

The Mayo Clinic, a leader in promoting positive use of healthcare social media, includes similar advice in its policy for employees. The organization also conducts a training program for employees of all levels on the use of social media, according to a YouTube video put out by Mayo.

Mayo considers social media engagement not to be "in addition to "employees' jobs but "part of their job, "as patients are frequently online, according to the video. Sharing ideas and content online support Mayo's mission to "reduce the burden of disease everywhere," not just in its clinics.

To learn more:
- read the guidelines (.pdf) from the Rhode Island board of Medicine
- here's the story from the AP via the Boston Globe
- check out the guidelines for Mayo Clinic employees
- watch Mayo's YouTube video