How should healthcare professionals respond to a medically related social media posting?

Case # 1: A medical intern was captured on a cellphone video, was ate bedside of a patient, holding a phone on his left hand and a paper ( a referral letter? ) on the other hand. This video was posted on facebook with a caption (in Filipino language) “Are all doctors like this?…My patient is near death and he still does this?”

Case # 2: A physician regularly conducting medical missions in one hinterland wrote several letters to local government authorities regarding the unusual prevalence of Hepatitis B in one tribe of local indigenous people. He asked for help to the same authorities for years. He related help never came from the government sector. As a last resort, he posted his difficulties on facebook.  This facebook postings did receive a ton of encouragement and support. What’s more scathing though is the few “negative comments”. The physician is clearly devastated.

What’s common in these two examples? How should healthcare professionals respond to similar social media postings?

First, the healthcare professional’s medical actions went public via a social media site. Second, while both healthcare professionals received encouragements and support, the negative comments are a bit more scathing for them.

“Negative publicity” has always been one of the major reasons why healthcare professionals don’t like social media. Negative publicity take toll on the HCPs personal and professional life. In reality however, like in the first example, it is not anymore a question of whether we want to be in social media or not. Someone- somewhere and somehow, will post something about us and our medical actions online. It’s simply a question of “when”. It’s paramount that HCPs develop a “strategy” for responding to social media publicity that affect the profession.

We had a tweetchat before about protecting online reputation, how should the HCP respond if he receives a negative comment or how should a healthcare institution respond to negative publicity.  The consensus after the previous chat is for HCPs to develop a response strategy to handle such on negative publicity online. It was also a general sentiment that the response should be as soon as possible.

The recent spate of healthcare related negative comments online urges us to examine deeper these response strategies.  Vanderbuilt University Medical Center developed a Social Network Response Guide for healthcare professionals on how to respond to social media postings related to their profession. You can find that algorithm here.

Dr. Iris Isip Tan adapted  this Social Network Response Guide for UPCM/ PGH in developing their own social media policy.


Vanderbuilt University Medical Center Social Network Response Guide as quoted and modified by Dr. Iris Isip-Tan for use of UPCM-PGH in developing their own social media policy ( Photo courtesy of Dr. Iris Isip- Tan)

The end goal of this guide is for the healthcare professional to have a calibrated response using the strategy of transparency, timelines for thinking and responding, a more personal tone and credible sources.  How we implement this algorithm to our own specific case is one of the main goals of this tweetchat.

Join us this Saturday July 9, 2016 9PM Manila time as we discuss- how should healthcare professionals respond to social media posting related to the profession
Our aim for this upcoming chat is to provide template guides for healthcare professionals in responding to social media postings related to our profession.

  • T1: How should healthcare professionals respond if the social media post about him or her is “positive”?
    T2: How should healthcare professionals respond if the social media post about him or her is “negative”?
    T3: How should healthcare professionals act if you are not directly related to the social media post or posting is not within your area of expertise?

Join the discussion via twitter, using the #HealthXPh in all your tweets, answering the above topic questions, from 9-10PM Manila time July 9, 2016.