Doctors really need to be on social media. So what’s holding them back? Fear is the #1 reason physicians and healthcare corporations are such late adopters of social media. An effective online presence is really critical for doctors and organizations alike, for dozens of reasons. On my Facebook page, I just finished a video that emphasizes the importance of a few simple best practices for doctors on social media, and healthcare social media in general. Specifically, we discuss a few things you should NOT do!

1) You should obviously not disclose or discuss the personal health information of patients online, even in a “private” or “physician only” forum. Your words or images may be construed as a violation of (HIPPA) – the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act – EVEN if you do not explicitly reveal the patient’s identity…more on this and the next items in the video.

2) Know your organization’s social media policy and follow it! Besides the basics, such as maintaining professional decorum, there are a few other common stipulations you should be sure to follow.

3) Be sure to make a distinction between general education and advocacy (which you SHOULD do), and be clear if you are or are not giving any specific medical advice. More on this in the video, and in the training “Should Doctors and Patients be Facebook Friends?” coming up next!

4) Finally, be sure you are transparent about any commercial relationships. If you are paid or have a potential conflict of interest related to your online activity, there are FTC and possibly FDA regulations to consider, in addition to professional ethical standards.

These four key tips will keep you out of trouble, so you can confidently and safely engage with others online and execute an effective digital strategy for your professional practice, academic success, health advocacy cause, or corporate mission.

Physicians can and should be active on social media and on the web in general, and healthcare organizations need a chief social media officer who understands the intersection of medicine, regulatory issues, social media outreach, and digital marketing. If you haven’t started yet, you are missing a tremendous opportunity.

(This video is part of a 30-module training on healthcare social media, including all the benefits, and specific how-to tips. Check out the rest of the curriculum here.)

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