Just my two cents

Musings on social media and the world as I see it

What doctors need to remember in social media

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laptop and stethoscopeBack in 2011, I wrote a post about why doctors should be careful when using social media. Not that I’m changing my stance on that, but I think social media, and clinicians’ use of it, has come a long way in just a short amount of time. If it was accepted before, it’s expected now!

So what prescription should a doctor write for himself when it comes to using social media? The answer is pretty simple. Use it, and remember what it’s for!

Recently, the Rhode Island Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline issued guidelines for doctors on how to use social media appropriately. I’m glad they did this for two reasons – it lets doctors know that it’s OK to post out there in the big social sphere, and they won’t lose their license by doing so. It also gives them the dos and don’ts of what to do. And that’s always a good thing.

There are a lot of doctors out there who figured out a long time ago that social media is a great tool. They are leaders in the field, and their use of social media has allowed them to voice their opinion on hot health topics, to serve as thought leaders on the healthcare industry and the use of social media, and to simply share information.

Two that immediately come to mind are Kevin Pho (@KevinMD on Twitter and on his blog) and Wendy Sue Swanson (@SeattleMamaDoc on Twitter and a blogger for Seattle Children’s Hospital). They learned early on the power of social media and have been touting the benefits of connecting with people through these channels for years. They’ve been tweeting, speaking at conferences, and becoming leaders in the industry through their openness, their acceptance of new technology to reach more people, help people, and perhaps just maybe, make people healthier.

Then there’s the other side of the coin. There have been some well publicized cases of physicians using social media inappropriately. In one such case, a R.I. physician posted protected patient information on Facebook. She was fined, and she removed her Facebook account.  In another, more recent case, a physician clearly stepped over the line talking about a patient’s chronic lateness and of a stillbirth.

That’s why having official guidelines is not only recommended, but is  a necessary part of hospital business these days, at least in my humble opinion. Well before the R.I. Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline developed its guidelines, we developed our own for our physicians. We felt that by arming our physicians with the information they needed, they would be less likely to get into trouble, and perhaps be less timid about using social  media  as a communication tool.

When the R.I. Board came out with its guidelines, we saw it as an opportunity to remind our own physicians of the guidelines we already had in place, and in case they missed them, we provided a link to the state-wide guidelines. From our own @RIHospital, I’m thrilled that one of our emergency medicine doctors, Megan Ranney, M.D. (@MeganRanney), has taken to Twitter like a pro. She was also interviewed by the Associated Press for a story on the release of the new guidelines.

In the article, Ranney is quoted as saying, ‘‘I do think you have to use your professional judgment.” She also gives good advice – think twice before posting something.

For hospitals in today’s social world, keeping your doctors abreast of the many uses of social media is an important part of the communications and marketing efforts for any hospital. Get them on board, let them comment, let them blog – being “social” can help position your hospital’s brand positively, if, of course, the tools are used appropriately.

Do you support doctors’ use of social media at your hospital? Would you want to connect with your doctor through social networks? I’d love to hear from you! 

This post was originally written for and appeared on http://www.hospitalimpact.org

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Author: Nancy Jean

I love reading, writing, music, the beach, and being a mom to two rescue dogs. My job is social media for health care.

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