In only a decade, the number of American adults who use social media has climbed from fewer than one in 10 to almost 7 in 10 (and counting). With so many active users connecting and sharing information, social networks offer health professionals countless opportunities to network, improve patient education, and promote public health. On the other hand, these tools open the door to patient privacy violations, distribution of false or poor quality information, and inappropriate personal-professional relationships.
For advice on how to avoid these pitfalls and use social media in a positive way, three executives/social media super-users from the University of Cincinnati’s academic health colleges and UC Health share their best tips and how they interact on these platforms.
1. Approach with Caution
“You really have to pay attention to the professionalism piece and know that everything you say will live on in perpetuity,” says Jeffery Hill MD, M.Ed., assistant professor and assistant residency director of UC College of Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine.
Dr. Hill recommends identifying the purpose for a post and “if you can’t justify it, don’t post anything.”
2. Know the Policy
Victoria Norton, RN, JD, MBA, CHPC, director and chief privacy officer of UC Health’s Corporate Compliance department, says hospital patients and visitors commonly search for their health care providers on social media, and so do potential and current employers. She recommends professionals familiarize themselves with their employers’ social media policies beyond HIPAA regulations.
UC Health, for example, suggests its employees provide a disclaimer on their profiles stating their posts are personal, not shared on behalf of the health system.
3. Use Platforms Appropriately
Neil MacKinnon, PhD, dean of UC James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy uses LinkedIn and Twitter mainly as career tools and Facebook as a personal space. He set up two Facebook accounts, one for professional use and one for personal use, to separate work and home life.
“You don’t have to be uber-paranoid, but assume people will look you up,” says Dr. MacKinnon, who was ranked second worldwide in mentions in the 2015 Global #Pharmacist Tweet-a-Thon.
4. Find your Niche
Social media provides a way for like-minded professionals to connect and foster discussion. Dr. Hill suggests care providers listen to what people are talking about on social channels to keep up with the latest industry news.
Get plugged in by:
- Following users who share meaningful health content, such as health care celebrities, such as @drsanjaygupta, or health-focused accounts of media outlets, such as @WSJhealth, @USATODAYhealth and @forbeshealth.
- Following accounts of professional associations related to your health care field, such as @ANANursingWorld.
- Searching conference hashtags and joining conversations about topics of interest (remembering to be careful about what you say).
- Looking up authors who provide their social media contact information on research articles.
With so many people using social media to connect with others and share information, health professionals must consciously craft their public presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other platforms. Remember to find and follow your employer, university or clinical site’s social media rules and regulations, and consider your intentions before you post to your accounts.
Use social media to your advantage by connecting with industry professionals and following health news providers and discussions.