Where are all the healthcare social media policy examples?
While it’s easy to find social media policy examples for retail, finance, and marketing industries, there is far less information available for healthcare organizations.
The fact is, healthcare organizations need to take extra precautions when it comes to managing their social media presence. With sensitive patient data and an ever-growing list of regulatory and compliance requirements, having a comprehensive healthcare social media policy is crucial.
That’s why we put together this guide to healthcare social media policies, including examples and templates to help you create your own.
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Healthcare organizations using social media face unique challenges, particularly when protecting patient privacy and adhering to regulatory requirements. Federal laws like the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) offer some direction, but compliance alone often isn’t enough to keep healthcare organizations safe online.
Here are some key reasons healthcare organizations should create a social media policy.
Clear expectations around social media activity will help protect your organization and staff. A healthcare social media policy helps to define acceptable behavior that reflects positively on supervisors, colleagues, patients, and the organization as a whole.
Brand safety is especially important in healthcare, as a misplaced post or poorly handled comment can cause significant reputation damage. A social media policy can help ensure that posts associated with your organization represent the values of the organization and its mission. It can also create guidelines around personal posts by staff who may be seen as brand ambassadors, even when they aren’t at work.
Smile! April is #OralHealthMonth. 🦷
Taking good care of your teeth and gums helps prevent tooth loss and keeps the rest of your body healthy.
— Vancouver Coastal Health (@VCHhealthcare) April 6, 2023
Inaccurate or misleading health information can have a variety of harmful effects on healthcare organizations, from undermining public trust to causing direct harm to patient health.
A healthcare social media policy can help define guidelines for vetting the information shared on social media to ensure accuracy. This can include double-checking sources, fact-checking statistics, and verifying health claims with clinical experts
Dr. Moore, Ontario’s CMOH has released his 2022 Annual Report.
The report is a call to take lessons from the pandemic and past outbreaks like H1N1 and SARS to ensure Ontario is ready for any future outbreak or pandemic.
— Ontario Ministry of Health (@ONThealth) March 7, 2023
Creating a social media policy for healthcare employees can also help ensure that all content released by the organization complies with licensing standards set by its governing body.
This includes making sure that posted content meets required disclosure laws, such as those regarding advertising or endorsements, and adhering to any relevant HIPAA regulations.
Having well-defined social media policies helps protect patient privacy. Your policy can help ensure no personally identifiable information is posted or shared, such as photographs or patient names, and that any conversations are kept confidential.
In the event of a crisis or negative feedback, healthcare organizations can use their social media policy to ensure that they respond in a timely and appropriate manner.
The policy should outline protocols for responding to customer complaints, addressing potential PR issues, and providing support to patients and other stakeholders.
Finally, a healthcare social media policy helps organizations enforce their expectations and protect themselves from potential legal liabilities. Outlining disciplinary action for policy violations, such as warnings or termination of employment, is an important part of any healthcare social media policy.
Looking for healthcare social media policy examples to shape your own policy? Here are a few examples from well-known healthcare organizations.
Johns Hopkins Medicine operates social media channels for all of its six hospitals. In its healthcare social media policy, the organization outlines the importance of seeing social media as “a front door into the organization” while also being an important part of connecting with its patients and community.
Johns Hopkins Medical’s social media policy is based on a set of key principles:
- Respect for individuals and the organizations they serve
- Transparency of information
- Patient privacy
- Kindness in communication with others
- Accountability for actions
All policy notes relate back to Johns Hopkins’ core set of values: Excellence & Discovery, Leadership & Integrity, Diversity & Inclusion, and Respect & Collegiality.
Source: Johns Hopkins Medicine
Johns Hopkins also combined its high-level notes into a simple, effective, animated video that can easily be shared among staff and healthcare leaders.
This is a great example of how creating interactive, design-forward social media policies can help companies stay compliant while also inspiring employee participation.
Every healthcare org, big or small, needs to have a social media policy in place. Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), an organization that serves more than one million people across British Columbia and beyond, is no exception.
VCH’s guidelines for the use of social media by staff, volunteers, physicians and external partners are detailed in their Privacy, Confidentiality, & Social Media policy.
The policy covers topics like:
- Respectful communication.
- Use of official VCH accounts.
- Proper use of photos and videos.
- Confidentiality, privacy, & security considerations.
- Appropriate comments and posts.
- Unacceptable or illegal activities.
To get staff and practitioners on board, VCH created an interactive digital learning module that walks staff through common scenarios and provides guidance on how to handle them.
The module features multiple choice questions like the one below…
Source: Vancouver Coastal Health
… and offers detailed explanations for each answer, helping bring wider context to sometimes puzzling policy violations.
Source: Vancouver Coastal Health
“To deliver high-quality care in fast-paced environments, various modes of communication, access-to-information, and digital tools are important. Regardless of your role, you may encounter confidential business-related, patient, or staff information. You are responsible for using and sharing this information in a secure manner. So ask yourself: Do I need to know?”
While videos and interactive media can be useful in engaging audiences, you don’t have to break the mold to create an effective social media policy for healthcare employees.
The University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) healthcare social media policy is a simple, online PDF that outlines:
- Why social media matters to UTMB.
- Important notes on privacy and security.
- Best practices for posting and communication.
- How to protect personal and professional reputations online.
- Who to contact if you have questions about appropriate use.
This document isn’t fancy, and it’s probably not going to win any design awards. But, it does give great, clear, and actionable advice on how healthcare providers can use social media in a responsible way.
Outlining clear guidelines for personal use of social media by employees also helps protect UTMB from any potential legal or reputational liabilities.
Source: Mount Sinai Health System
Somewhere in between Johns Hopkins and UTMB rests the simple branded beauty of Mount Sinai Health System’s social media guidelines. This visually appealing and informationally in-depth digital PDF explores the following topics:
- Why social media matters to Mount Sinai.
- How employees can “join the conversation” online with Mount Sinai’s social channels.
- The importance of developing a social media strategy before launching channels.
- Specific tips for Facebook and Twitter.
- Detailed notes on acceptable and unacceptable use of professional and personal social channels.
- Contact information for the social media department.
The document also provides a helpful template for defining a social media strategy. This includes a table outlining goals, KPIs, and competitor references.
This healthcare social media policy is a great example of how organizations can define corporate rules, while also promoting positive use of personal social media at the same time.
Organizations that operate globally will have increasingly complex needs when it comes to healthcare social media policies.
The World Health Organization (WHO) operates on eleven different social media channels, reaching an audience of 6 million people. The WHO Strategic Communications Framework for Social Media provides a comprehensive example of an effective social media policy for healthcare organizations operating on a global scale.
Source: World Health Organization
This document includes specific guidelines for:
- Naming conventions for corporate accounts.
- Design specifications for animations and quotes.
- A style guide for crafting Tweets.
- What to do if WHO accounts are compromised.
- In-depth training on responding to outside media.
- Crisis communication policies.
- Multilingual communication guidelines.
- Policies on disseminating credible information.
1 in 2 young people is at risk of hearing loss due to unsafe listening.
— WHO Ghana (@WHOGhana) April 12, 2023
When crafting a healthcare social media policy of your own, you should aim to include the following points.
- Employee access: Define who is allowed to access the company’s social media accounts and who can post on behalf of the organization.
- Licensing and regulations: Outline any licensing and regulations that apply to healthcare employees when working with social media, such as HIPAA compliance.
- Information verification: Stress that employees must appropriately vet any information they share on social media and use appropriate disclaimers to protect the organization’s interests.
- Posting standards: Healthcare organizations should include guidance on appropriate content, comments and language for posts. This can include content on official channels as well as recommendations for us of personal accounts.
- Platform-specific rules: Organizations should provide specific guidelines for the types of platforms they will use and the purpose or goals of each. For example, Twitter may be used to broadcast announcements, while Facebook encourages more interactive engagement with community members.
- Confidentiality: Healthcare organizations should also include guidelines in their policies related to protecting confidential information, as well as protecting patient privacy.
- Patient communication: In addition to protecting patient privacy, healthcare social media policies should provide guidance around employee interaction with patients. This includes the need to direct patients to engage through official, secure channels instead of joining their social networking sites.
- Consequences of breach: Finally, healthcare employees should be informed of the consequences if they fail to adhere to a policy.
Remember, this is just a starting point. Your organization knows its needs best, so customize, add, and subtract from this list as you need.
Ready-made healthcare social media policy templates can help organizations quickly create a comprehensive and compliant policy.
Use this template to create a healthcare social media policy for your organization.
Bonus: Get a free, customizable social media policy template designed specifically for healthcare institutions to quickly and easily create guidelines for your team.
Once you’ve created your policy, it’s time to implement it. Here are five steps to help ensure successful policy implementation:
- Communicate the policy: Send out a copy of the policy to all healthcare employees and make sure everyone knows what’s expected of them.
- Educate staff: Provide training sessions and regular reminders about the policy and its importance.
- Monitor compliance: Regularly monitor employee activity on social media to ensure the policy is being followed.
- Take action: If someone is found not following the policy, take appropriate disciplinary action.
- Review regularly: Over time, update your policy to reflect any changes or new situations that may arise.
Remember, new social media channels pop up all the time. Make sure to stay informed and adjust your policy as needed.
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