Online and Social Media; The Medical Professional Strategy

Social media is a fantastic opportunity to connect with your community, to raise awareness and educate about your specialised topic and to grow and enhance professional networks.

Update; you’ll be pleased to note I now have the ‘Mayo Clinic Social Media for Healthcare Certification’.

The use of social media, in particular blogging and use of online professional forums such as those provided by LinkedIn, is growing. More and more people research potential health professionals through social media or online Google searches or online forums. This is because patients no longer just want to know what you do, but who you are, what you like and what you support.

The community landscape and your role as a health professional within it, is changing. Time to skill up. With over a billion people on Facebook alone, we can assume they are someone’s patient (and that patient will Google you).

  • Inappropriate online behaviour can potentially damage your personal and professional integrity, doctor-patient and doctor-colleague relationships, and of course future employment opportunities if any of your actions go pear shaped.
  • Appropriate online behaviour can intensify your personal and professional integrity, value and reputation. You seek a powerful, respected voice online.

A comprehensive guide has been written as a joint initiative of the Australian Medical Association Council of Doctors-in-Training, the New Zealand Medical Association Doctors-in-Training Council, the New Zealand Medical Students’ Association and the Australian Medical Students’ Association, called “Social Media and the Medical Profession: A guide to online professionalism for medical practitioners and medical students”. Download the pdf here:

It covers the topics of:

  • Be careful about what you say and how you say it
  • Keep your friends close and others … not so close
  • Consider the destiny of your data
  • Take control of your privacy
  • Are you maintaining professional standards online?

3 Actions To Implement Immediately

In practice, what are some simple rules to follow? Well, let’s look at 3 actions you should implement immediately:

  1. Statement; Develop a website/blog statement such as “Please review our xyz page for more information about your topic. If this does not fit your situation, please seek a patient referral. Dr XYZ does not consult with patients online. Kind regards“. Use as needed.
  2. Policy: Create a social media statement that explains to patients what your stance is for connecting with them online. It may say something like “As I am unable to accept requests to connect via my personal Social Media accounts for professional and ethical reasons, I would be delighted if you would follow my professional business page / blog, which provides information relevant to my professional practice.” This strategy advises that you won’t connect privately with them, while promoting your professional pages. You may wish to use it at the bottom of your emails, in a marketing piece, on brochures, in a newsletter and on your website!
  3. Content: Create a blog that generously provides generic educational content, written in a friendly tone. If nothing else, it could simply be healthy living messages, exercises and recipes! If you have no other social media presence, this would be what you ask your patients to subscribe to.
    NB: Ensure your blog has the “Comment must be manually approved” selection ON. Also ensure users must be logged in to comment and then only approve a comment to appear on your website if it is appropriate. Reply privately if not or use your statement from #1.

At all times remember you have a private practice that is run with industry rules and ethics. Online has opened a wonderful world of connections, information and blue sky horizons to enhance what is already known about you when worked well. There are many risks sure, but if they are recognised and known of up front, they can be managed. Complicated scenarios will arise, but hopefully these basic steps will start you off on the right foot.

Of course, from your own perspective, online activity must be done with an air of caution.

**I personally recommend you use an online mentor until you are comfortable (shameless plug).

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