The dos and don’ts when using social media as a health care professional

Written by Michael Hoon

If you’re in the health care industry, social media can be a powerful tool both personally and professionally. But in order to get the most out of it, you have to take care with whatever you post—no matter how small. Anything you say on public sites can impact the privacy of your patients and the integrity of your career.

Make sure you’re following the best practices and also making the most of the public forums you use. Here are a few handy dos and don’ts to keep you straight.

DON’T give out patient information.

First of all, it’s insensitive. Second, it’s a violation of HIPAA policy. It’s not worth even casually mentioning patients on social media (or in any social setting). You might think you’re being discreet by omitting names, but if any case details are recognizable you’re in violation. If you accidentally release patient information, you can face civil and criminal penalties via the HIPAA Privacy Rule, plus find yourself in license trouble.

DO represent your profession with pride.

You can and should be a proud and shining representative of your profession. Talk about yourself, your work, your thoughts on the industry—everything but sharing information you shouldn’t. And while we know you’re in one of the most draining professions out there, try not to complain about how awful and tiring your job can be. Remember: future employers can and probably will look you up on social media while considering hiring decisions.

DON’T include specifics.

Keep identifying details, especially about your employer, to yourself. Don’t talk about your patients (it’s worth saying again!) or complain about coworkers. An innocent comment about your employer or a coworker could land you in very hot water, even if you don’t call them out by name. And try to stick to a “no photos ever” rule, unless they’re harmless selfies—but be careful of those as well.

DO share your feelings.

Social media channels can be a great way to share your thoughts and emotional responses to a job that can often be intense. If you want to build an online presence and have a lot to say, a personal blog is a great way to share in a longer format. If you’re better in smaller bursts, try Twitter, which also has the added benefit of being a great tool for immediate reaction—you can be a trusted voice in the crowd to give accurate information and weigh in on current events.

DON’T mix work and play.

Learn your company’s social media policy back to front and make sure never to cross it. Don’t ever post to your social media accounts from work, especially via your employer’s internet connection. And when you are posting, make sure not to say anything that you wouldn’t be comfortable having your boss or HR see.

DO follow other professionals.

Fill your feed with good influences. Find interesting accounts run by health care professionals you trust and admire, and follow facilities you really respect to keep up with what’s going on outside of your immediate sphere. Keep track of hashtags for useful intelligence gathering on the fly from others in the industry and check in often to see what people have to say. Social media can really enrich your own career and boost your reputation if you establish and grow an online community of like-minded professionals.

About the author

Michael Hoon