Having a presence on social networks such as Facebook or Twitter can be a great opportunity to engage new and existing patients. However, it’s not essential that you’re on every social network. For many practices wanting to use social media, starting out with Facebook may be an easy first option. Before getting started though, it’s important to put your plans in place.
The RACGP has a good overview of social media for healthcare professionals and organisations, including tips and case studies.
Questions to ask before choosing a social network
Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest or any of the multitude of social networks, it’s important to answer these questions before committing to be present on there.
- Does it fit within our online communication strategy?
- Do we have an active audience to engage with on this social network?
- Do we have the skills and knowledge to maintain this presence?
- How will we measure the value of this social network?
Developing a social media policy
While there are many benefits of being active on social media, there are some risks. When publishing information online, it is important that your practice adheres to the legal and ethical standards for medical practitioners.
Developing a policy for the use of social media by your staff is an important step in making sure you reduce the risks associated with being active on social media.
When communicating or publishing content online on your website or social media, it’s best to approach it as if you were talking to a patient in a public space. It’s likely that there will be other people listening in (reading what you write).
Three things to keep in mind when publishing content (comments, posts, sharing) online:
- Consider all your posts are public
- Expect that other people are ‘listening in’ (i.e. reading what you’re writing)
- Consider all your posts to be permanently online. Even if you delete a comment or post, there’s no way to stop people from taking a screenshot (e.g. a copy) of what you posted.
- The above points also relate to private communications!
- There is a risk that conversations can be taken out of context
- Text communication can be misinterpreted. Be clear, concise and unambiguous.
AHPRA Guidelines for social media posting
The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) have also established a more formal Social Media Policy which recognises that content posted on social media may also be considered as advertising. Therefore, it’s important that you approach your social media communication with the AHPRA Code of Conduct and AHPRA Guidelines for Advertising Health Services in mind.
These also take into consideration legal ramifications of posting content which break these guidelines.
Read these three important documents linked below:
Developing a social media policy for staff
Equipped with an understanding of posting on social media, you can now develop a social media policy designed to keep your staff and practice safe online and ensure that your communications are well formulated.
The RAGCP has an excellent social media policy guiding proper use of social media. The policy is in a template so it can be adapted. The template for the policy can be downloaded from their Guide for the use of social media.