10 Critical Social Media Guidelines for Surgery Center Physicians and Staff

The following article is written by Kim Woodruff, VP of corporate finance and compliance for Pinnacle III.


Social media is employed in the healthcare arena for a variety of beneficial reasons:

  • It can be an inexpensive marketing tool.
  • It can be utilized to promote wellness and dispel healthcare myths.
  • It is increasingly how we stay connected … to nearly everyone.


When used appropriately, social media in healthcare can establish a relationship, create a discussion and build trust in an organization. Suitable and worthwhile reasons for ambulatory surgery centers, and other healthcare facilities, to use social media include:

  • promoting physicians when they are providing seminars;
  • announcing when the organization/physician wins an award or receives recognition;
  • informing the public that an addition or remodel is undertaken/completed;
  • publicizing the purchase of a significant new piece of equipment; and
  • posting information about a new study when it is released.


On the other hand, inappropriate use of social media can damage a surgery center, its physicians and staff members. Reputations can be damaged, lawsuits might be filed and licenses can be lost. As more people use and connect through social media, the likelihood of these negative ramifications increases.


10 components of an effective social media policy

This makes it critical for ASCs and all healthcare facilities to establish an organizational social media policy which ensures the proper level of patient privacy as well as the perceived online professionalism of the physicians, clinicians and employees. Your policy should address the following 10 critical components.


1. Refraining from disclosing confidential and proprietary organizational information.


2. Avoiding exposure of personal identifying information related to a provider or colleague.


3. Assuming personal liability for all communications and information published online.


4. Being aware that company liability can be incurred for communications that are transmitted via an organizational email address.


5. Outlining a physician's or employee's right to participate in social media and networks using their personal email address with the caveat that anything published on personal sites should never be attributed to the organization or appear to be endorsed by, or to have originated from, the organization.


6. Identifying the limitations on material that is allowed to be published online.


7. Retaining control over the creation and management of organizational online content.


8. Responding to an outside party's posts containing inaccurate, accusatory or negative comments about the organization or any of its employees.


9. Refraining from publishing comments about controversial or potentially inflammatory subjects.


10. Avoiding hostile or harassing communications in posts/online communications.


5 guidelines to follow

To help with compliance with your social media policy, follow these five guidelines.


1. Think before you post. Never post anything online that is directly related to a specific patient. Doing so compromises patient confidentiality safeguarded by HIPAA. If specifics about a case are posted — how an injury occurred, the age and gender of a patient, photos containing identifying information (i.e., a birthmark, tattoo, piercing) — anything that leads a patient to believe that his/her case is being alluded to, even in the most generic of forms, may open the posting party up to disciplinary measures, termination, monetary sanctions and/or suspension of a license.


2. Think before you post. Avoid dispensing medical advice or making specific care recommendations via social media.


3. Think before you post. Separate personal and professional content online. Is the information you make available on yourself personally going to affect you (or the organization you work for/with) in an adverse way professionally? Run the "embarrassment" test. Would you be embarrassed if anyone you knew read something you or one of your colleagues has posted?


4. Think before you post. Maintain appropriate professional boundaries observing the same ethical guidelines in Internet transactions that you would observe in any other context (office visit, phone consult). Refrain from "friending" patients.


5. Did I mention think before you post?! Recognize that Internet content, even if subsequently removed, is likely available somewhere permanently. Use disclaimers and ensure posts are not in violation of organizational or professional-liability carrier policies or professional societies' ethics codes.


Learn more about Pinnacle III.


More Articles Featuring Pinnacle III:

7 Critical Areas of Focus for a Successful Turnaround of a Physician/Hospital Joint-Venture ASC

5 Critical Questions to Ask Before a Surgery Center Invests in Spine


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