Practitioners and Social Media

Access to immediate information via the internet has become the way of the world in the 21st century. From the introduction of instant messaging on MSN Messenger, to Myspace, then the development of Facebook and now to a nearly endless list of social media networks connecting people and businesses around the world, it has never been more important to carefully consider what platform you use, if any, for your personal life as well as your professional life.

Social media has now become the tool of choice for marketing and advertising as it is cost-effective, or free, and in some cases can generate income if the page/user has enough followers. However, in the healthcare industry, it is important to understand the information used on social media must be able to be validated. Simply posting something without explanation because it looks good, or it could gain clicks and interest, is not good enough when it comes to health.

If you are going to use social media for your business, there are several points that must be considered when doing this.

Understanding any regulatory requirements for using social media

Many professional industries have special requirements for using social media for business purposes. The healthcare industry is no exception, and in fact, may hold individuals to higher accountability as information shared on these platforms may be viewed as health advice and must be able to be substantiated.

For our Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine practitioners who are registered professionals, the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) have their own guidelines for practitioners to adhere to. Information stays on social media indefinitely and once published can be circulated widely, easily and rapidly. Therefore, it is important that you are careful about what you engage with and post online, regardless of where in the world the site is based or the language that is used.

Additionally, for our members who have other modalities that are not regulated by AHPRA, you should still adhere to the same standards of practice where social media is concerned due to the complications that can arise from the nature of this form of media. Additionally, nothing should be posted or advertised that cannot be substantiated as it may result in penalties under consumer law.

Professional Posts vs Personal Posts

If you do decide to have a social media presence in a professional manner, unfortunately, your personal posts will no longer be considered personal as professionals are always representing themselves in their profession. Therefore, personal posts and online statements can be considered representing a professional view and due care needs to be considered when personal posts are made.

Understanding the Platform you are Using

Social media is a fantastic platform to convey short messages, however, not all information suits this style of communication which is something to consider when using each platform.

Due to the variety of social media platforms available today, it is important when using these to read and understand the terms and conditions, the privacy policy, and how they access and use information.

Professional Boundaries

Some discussions and topics may not be suitable for social media, especially if the conversation is open to the public, are on topics of a personal nature, or include the personal medical information of any individual. Therefore, it is important to know when a discussion should be taken offline and to set boundaries for this.

Language and tone used on social media that does not reflect a professional relationship, ie. overly personal, familiar or suggestive, could be a breach of the Code of Conduct for your State.

Additionally, clients may find your personal social media accounts and want to start a line of communication. Engagement through personal accounts can blur the professional boundaries so it is important to be mindful of who can access personal accounts and how you choose to interact with them.

Guidelines for Social Media Use for Businesses

  • Never Post in Haste

Posts can be made on the run with the click of a button. It is recommended to have a plan and carefully think through what content you are going to post and when you plan on posting. If you make a mistake, you can change it, but by that time the mistake is out there and has been accessed, shared and possibly saved before it has been corrected.

  • Business Social Media should have Guidelines
    • Due to the risk associated with social media interactions, it is very important that businesses have a clear process for who is responsible for posting on social media. Posts should be business related to the topics associated to the business and not personal.
    • Consider training staff who will be responsible for the business social media account.
    • Discuss the topics that are off limits and how responses should be made.
    • Create a policy/procedure whereby all posts are vetted before being posted to ensure the brand and reputation of your business stays intact.
  •  
  • Social Media Business Plan

Create a business plan for the social media use. Is this simply brand awareness? Are you trying to acquire new clients? Are you providing educational material to the wider community? Once this has been determined, the posts can be planned and scheduled accordingly.

Subscribe to ANTA News

Recent Posts