Not so long ago, health care professionals, along with a lot of other businesses and professions, though social media was a passing fad, much like the pet rock. Well, we all know how that turned out. Social media is not going anywhere, indeed we can expect it to expand and evolve. It will become an even larger part of the world of healthcare.
I personally love the ability to network with my colleagues, learn from them, help someone when I’m able, and share different things I’m writing and doing.
However, with all the “social” of social media, we sometimes are not as careful as we should be – especially as healthcare professionals. I’d like to offer a few tips in how we navigate the online world – not only to make it more effective, but to reduce our personal risk as providers.
1. YOU CAN’T HIDE: If you don’t read anything more than this, if you don’t adhere to anything else that is ever said about online behavior…remember this. Every post, every email, every comment on any social media platform is always discoverable. This mean that anything can be found, resurrected and presented to our respective boards and in court. This includes private messages and postings in closed groups.
Bottom line…NEVER post anything that you would not want seen by the courts, your board, your current/future employer or your mother.
2. HIPAA: We are charged with protecting patient information. Even if you don’t share a name and date of birth, you must be careful when asking for opinions from you colleagues. Is the situation identifiable? What about that photo of an ear you posted? Who is that in the mirror or in the background? Who was in the office that day that might know what you are talking about? You cannot be to careful. If you are going to post something regarding a patient, make sure the patient has given you permission to do so.
Along this same topic, if you are answering a question, consider referencing the answer with it’s source. If it’s anecdotal, say so. If not, give the source.
Better yet, if you really want to discuss something clinical, consider a site that verifies your clinical status before you can participate. Two sites are Clinican1 and QuantiaMD. Bonus: both have CE’s available.
3. The Myth of “Common Courtesy”: I am always amazed when reading comments left by viewers of videos or readers of a news story. It seems that some people take their comments to new heights of rudeness. Unfortunately, this is not limited to CNN or YouTube. This also happens at times in social groups online. The sad thing is that I doubt we’d see this behavior in person at a conference. I still don’t know when it became okay to be rude, crude in impolite just because we are writing in a comment box or replying to a post. Sometimes trolls are posting this stuff, sometimes not. But as one former troll said…don’t feed the trolls. It’s good general advice.
4. Imprecise Communication: Effective communication relies on a myriad of clues: visual, sound, tone, body language, context to name a few. When we are faced with a post or an email our clues are significantly reduced. We only have the words on the screen. By the time those words reach our brains they have had to travel through our own filters and emotions. What finally gets translated may have no connection with what the words were intended to convey. Therefore it’s always a smart practice to count to 10, or better yet 300 before replying in haste to what is written.
5. Be Social. On any social media platform we are the guest. We don’t own Facebook, google plus, Twitter, Pinterest. We are guest at the party. It’s always a good idea to be nice and follow the rules when we are visiting someone, least we not be asked back. Never assume that you cannot be banned from any of the platforms. I’ll say it again, be nice, follow the rules. Nasty behavior is not social and it won’t get your far in social media.
Got more tips? Share them below. I’d love to hear from you – What do you struggle with on social media?