What healthcare professionals should know about social media profiles and industry guidelines

Two years ago, only a few healthcare professionals are using social media. Not so these days. The rule is , if you’re not on social media, you are the “exception”.

The growing popularity of social media and smartphone brought innovations in healthcare. Healthcare became “social”. The classic patient- provider relationship grew into networks or communities of collaborating patients, providers and healthcare institutions. Social media provided additional tools and avenues for learning diseases, get psychosocial support or spread advocacies.

But the ease of sharing in social media placed “privilege” healthcare information at risk of being “leaked” into public space. The ramifications of such breach in patient privacy and confidentiality is still isn’t fully understood. What is clear is it violates the patients rights and does not look very good for the healthcare provider. Thus the concern now is shifting from just “access”, to responsible use of social media.

How do we then evaluate if any social media post violates patient privacy? How does the post breaches the confidentiality clause inherent in patient- provider relationship? In the Philippines, the lack of social media guidelines (self or institutionally driven) creates confusion. (Note: It is for this reason that #HealthXPh spearheaded and is continually advocating a crowd sourced Social Media and Medical Professionalism Manifesto. You should sign here if you support this advocacy too!)

I once asked a provider his reaction to a negative comment  about a  seemingly “innocuous”,  run of the mill work scene (an OR picture with the patient’s belly inside the picture) he posted in his facebook timeline. His answer is classic:

“It’s my personal account anyway. I can do whatever I want there. Besides, the privacy settings are strictly limited to my friends only. “

There is confusion on what constitute private space on social media. Also, many believe (though I probably could not prove this now) there’s  a dichotomy between “personal” and “professional” social media profiles. There are still HCPs believing one profile does not overlap each other even though both represent only one and the same person.

We at #HealthXPh would like to move forward the discussion of medical professionalism and social media guidelines in the Philippines. The healthcare social media manifesto is a work in progress. We are asking for your opinion. Join us this Saturday April 25, 2015 9:00 PM Manila time, as we discuss healthcare social media profiles and industry guidelines.

  • T1: Should personal social media accounts of HCPs be exempted from social media policy or guidelines?
  • T2: Who do you think should enforce healthcare social media guidelines?Government? HCP governing bodies, like PMA, PNA? Why?
  • T3: Will social media policy stifle the use of social media in healthcare? If yes, how?

Photo credits from this post http://www.topfloortech.com/blog/2014/03/12/10-guidelines-to-creating-a-social-media-policy

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