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Before you tweet, post or share pics on Instagram, check out these guidelines and suggestions on best practices when using social media.
When handled properly, social media can be a valuable tool for osteopathic physicians, offering a platform to promote health information and the distinctive care DOs provide. When engaging on social media, be sure to comply with the established AOA Code of Ethics and refer to social media guidelines/policies (if available) from your respective specialties, state medical boards and/or employers.
The following social media guidelines are meant to be just that—guidelines and suggestions for professional conduct on social media.
Ensuring patient confidentiality
Patient privacy is of the utmost concern under ethical requirements and state and federal privacy laws, such as HIPAA. Never post identifiable patient information on social media platforms, even if you are posting anonymously.
Checking account privacy settings
Use strict privacy settings to limit who can access your content and/or photos wherever possible. Privacy settings on social media sites often change, so be sure to confirm settings regularly.
Maintaining professional relationships
Consider creating separate accounts/pages/handles for professional and personal interactions. It's okay to ignore personal requests from patients on accounts that are not used for professional purposes.
Disclosing conflicts of interest
Any information or advice offered on a website or social media site should clearly state financial, professional or personal information that could impact any statements made. This includes discussions, reviews, retweets or other comments on products or services.
Citing your sources
Just as you would cite sources if writing a letter to a medical journal, be sure to note whether information you're posting online is based upon scientific studies, expert consensus, professional experience or personal opinion, when possible. Clearly state if opinions are your own on forums that may include patients.
Providing advice with caution
Be cautious when providing medical advice online. You could be liable for advice given to patients with whom you haven’t conducted an appropriate in-person exam. It's advisable to recommend that patients seek in-person patient care for any medical concerns.
Thinking before you post
Strive for accuracy, and when in doubt, pause and think carefully before posting in a public forum. Each post shared on social media platforms has the potential to negatively impact not only one’s own reputation, but also the public’s perception of the osteopathic medical profession.
If you disagree with others’ opinions, keep your response appropriate and polite by avoiding any negative statements about other medical professionals that could be construed as libelous. Also, use caution about statements made when responding to negative comments about you or your place of employment on social media.