Social Media Guidelines for HCPs

Updated: Aug 29, 2021

When used wisely and prudently, social media sites and platforms offer the potential to promote individual and public health, as well as professional development and advancement. However, when used carelessly, the dangers these technologies pose to HCPs are formidable. Guidelines issued by health care organizations and professional societies provide sound and useful principles that HCPs should follow to avoid pitfalls.

Many health care professional societies have issued guidelines for the use of social media. In 2012, the ASHP released a statement regarding the use of social media by pharmacists.

The ASHP advised pharmacists:

- to provide clinical advice only in adherence with professional standards (i.e., when a complete history is known)

- to recognize when a patient’s needs would be better met by other means of communication

- to provide timely and accurate information when appropriate

- to rebut any misleading information

- to protect patient privacy

- to maintain the pharmacist’s reputation during anonymous or personal use of social media.

The ASHP also recommended that hospitals or health systems that allow the use of social media establish best practices in the form of policies and procedures that balance the benefits of social media with the potential risks and liabilities of such media.

In 2010, the American Medical Association (AMA) released official guidelines for the ethical use of social media by physicians. These guidelines emphasize the need:

- to maintain patient confidentiality

- to be cognizant of privacy settings

- to maintain appropriate patient–physician boundaries

- to provide accurate and truthful information

- to act with collegiality

- to avoid anonymity

- to declare conflicts of interest

- to maintain separate personal and professional profiles.

The AMA’s policy also recommends that members be aware that privacy settings may not provide complete protection and that anything posted on the Internet may be permanently available online.

The Federation of State Medical Boards (FASB) published a guidance document on the appropriate use of social media in medical practice in 2011.This document emphasizes protection of patient privacy and confidentiality; professionalism and transparency; the avoidance of dispensing medical advice online; and the caveat that once information is placed online, it can be distributed interminably.

The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) also issued its White Paper: A Nurse’s Guide to the Use of Social Media in 2011. This document includes practical guidelines for governing the appropriate use of social media in the health care environment by nurses. A summary of concepts included in most professional guidelines is presented in below:

By: VSHR Digital Media

Source: NCBI, 2014

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