Without rules and best practices, healthcare would be a lot wilder. Think witchcraft, home remedies, and your dad saying, “Don’t worry kid, we can pop it back in.” Regulations and guidelines keep us operating safely, pun intended. Social media guidelines for healthcare professionals serve a similar purpose.
This blog will walk you through generally accepted social media guidelines in healthcare. We’ll explain why they’re important and cover what to include if you’re making your own.
Plus, we’ve got a bonus template and some examples you can shamelessly rip off. Let’s scrub in!
Social media guidelines in healthcare are institution-specific rules for how healthcare professionals should conduct themselves and the entity they represent online.
Social media guidelines in healthcare can be stricter than guidelines in other industries. That’s because of the added accountability that healthcare professionals have to the public.
When you work in healthcare, you’re responsible for upholding certain oaths, laws, and ethical standards. Guidelines help you and your employer avoid behavior that can make you liable for licensing or legal issues.
These guidelines differ from social media policies or social media style guides.
A social media policy details how the company should be portrayed on social media platforms. It helps protect an institution from legal risk. It’s also important for maintaining the brand’s reputation.
A social media style guide is a set of rules that dictate how your brand shows up on social. These cover things like your brand voice, visuals, and personality.
Content creators and marketers love style guides. They’re the best way to ensure your content is cohesive, consistent, and on-brand.
- Social media guidelines include things like tips, tools, and best practices.
- Social media policies cover rules and repercussions.
- Social media style guides define how to sound and look like the brand.
Hip, hip, HIPAA, hooray! That about sums it up. Social media guidelines help you to stay compliant with policies like HIPPA.
(HIPAA, FYI, stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. It’s a federal law designed to protect private health information from being disclosed without the patient’s specific consent.)
Navigating social media when you work in healthcare can be tricky. That’s why it helps to have guides and clear instructions on how to stay compliant. Guidelines give your team the tools they need to speak about your brand and the industry in a positive, inclusive, and respectful way.
Social media guidelines can also help you:
- Maintain patient confidentiality. This is critical for remaining HIPAA-compliant.
- Avoid ethical issues. These include problems like inappropriate behavior, conflicts of interest, and boundary violations.
- Build professional relationships. When your team follows best practices, other professionals want to collaborate with you.
- Enhance patient education. You can use social media to share general information about health and wellness. Guidelines help make sure the information provided is accurate and evidence-based.
- Reduce liability risk. Your social media policy will do most of the heavy lifting here. Still, guidelines can help you ensure your team’s behavior does not put you at risk.
- Enhance brand reputation. Guidelines will help you to build a positive online presence while social networking. This can attract new patients, enhance your reputation, and increase public trust. Win, win, win!
Dermatologist Dr. Chris Tomassian uses social media to share general health tips, not medical advice.
There are a few areas you must cover when you create your guidelines. Just be sure to tailor your rules to your company’s needs while considering what’s useful for your team.
If you need help getting started, use some of the components below for a jumping-off point.
Psstt: Don’t feel like coming up with a first draft on your own? You can also skip right to our template!
If your institution uses company accounts or hashtags, list them here for your team. This list is especially handy if your brand has been targeted by fake social media accounts.
Offer a brief overview of what’s expected and what’s important to avoid.
Need examples? Try “DO share company social media posts, events, and stories” or “DON’T engage with competitors in an inappropriate way.”
Cover the work-related content your team is encouraged or discouraged to post. If you want your employees to separate personal and business-related accounts, now is the time to let them know.
Employee advocates are a great way to extend your organic reach. We recommend encouraging they share information that will reflect well on your organization.
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Patient confidentiality and privacy should be one of your top concerns when using social media.
This section can include guidelines for protecting patient information. You can also use this space to remind employees to never use a patient’s confidential information to find them online.
When you work in healthcare, evidence-based information and sources are key. Remind your team to keep this in mind when sharing health-related content on social media.
This section can include suggested references or guidelines for fact-checking and citing information.
Outline expectations for professional behavior on social media. These can include guidelines for appropriate and inclusive language, tone, and conduct.
This section can also include information on potential conflicts of interest.
Cybersecurity poses a threat to all institutions and individuals. It is especially important to be aware of it in the healthcare industry.
The distribution of cyberattacks across worldwide industries in 2022. https://t.co/38w7TZnq2g #cybersecurity #cyber #security #cyberattack #cybercrime #data #global #industries #manufacturing #finance #energy #retail #education #healthcare #government #transportation #media #tech pic.twitter.com/aMtPJUJSF7
— Cyber Job Central (@CyberJobCentral) April 28, 2023
Outline best practices to keep your team and company safe. These may include tips like using strong passwords and two-factor authentication.
Ensure that your social media guidelines follow relevant legal and regulatory requirements. These include HIPAA, FDA advertising and promotion regulations, and state medical board rules.
If you have a healthcare social media policy in place, include a link to it here.
Establish protocols for responding to comments, messages, and other interactions on social media. This can include guidelines for handling negative feedback or addressing misinformation. If you have community guidelines, be sure to include a link.
Provide links to social media education and training for healthcare professionals. Include guidance on how to use social media for patient engagement and education.
Psst: If you’re looking for training for yourself, we can help. Check out our course on Implementing Social Media Governance within your Organization.
Provide the name and number of your social media point of contact. Make sure employees know they can reach out with any questions or comments.
We’ve taken all of the above components and created a simple plug-and-play template for you to use.
Bonus: Download your free, customizable healthcare-focused social media guidelines template to quickly and easily create guidelines for your team.
Once you’ve downloaded the template, you can customize the guidelines to reflect your brand, team, and audience.
If you’re curious about what others in healthcare are up to on social media, check out the examples below.
Professional Guidelines for Social Media Use: A Starting Point is a great resource. The article includes tons of useful, well-researched, and relevant information.
When you browse through, be sure to pay attention to Table 1. Online Medical Professionalism: Considerations Raised by the ACP-FSMB Guidelines.
Source: AMA Journal of Ethics
The CPSBC provides succinct and clear social media guidelines. It clearly states the college’s position on social media and includes resources at the bottom of the two-page PDF.
Bonus points for the CPSBC Social Media Guidelines for being short and sweet (unlike its acronym).
The CPSNS has social media guidelines that are specific to physician use. Good for them for getting granular.
One thing we love about the Physician Use of Social Media – Standards & Guidelines? It provides clear examples of inappropriate behavior from actual reported cases. This gives the reader an exact idea of what not to do.
Plus, some of the stories are pretty spicy doctor-goss! Spill that tea, CPSNS.
HCA Healthcare’s Social Media Guidelines clarify company-endorsed use of social media.
The document outlines the appropriate and inappropriate use of social media for HCA Healthcare. They’re very clear on not wanting to infringe on individual rights.
Source: HCA Healthcare
Other regulated bodies can also be a great source of inspiration. The Government of BC, for example, has its social media guidelines posted publicly on its website.
These guidelines are formatted as questions, which makes them easy to navigate. You can quickly find answers to questions like “Which social media tools is government currently using?” and “Does being a public servant impact my personal use of social media?”
Doctors, healthcare providers, and life science companies worldwide use Hootsuite to improve their customer experience, unify their social message, and ensure compliance with industry regulations. See for yourself why we’re the healthcare industry’s leading social media management platform!