Social Media Guidelines for Reps

February 17, 2011 at 10:59 pm Leave a comment

You’ve seen the news headlines like these:

Emergency Room Workers Post Photos of Stabbing Victim on Facebook.  (Yes, they were fired.)

Nurse Accuses Hospital Employees of Posting Photos of Sedated Patients.  (In the courts now.)

So surely by now, your business – hospital or healthcare vendor – has documented its social media policy for employees.

A recent survey by Vendormate of healthcare industry representatives indicated that virtually all of them are using smartphones.  So it stands to reason that most are also using social media sites like Facebook and Linked In.

Certainly the vast majority of representatives are conducting themselves in a responsible manner just like they do in all other aspects of their business relationship.  Still, we have had hospitals ask us whether they should add a social media policy to the acknowledgements they present to representatives.

Social media policies tend to focus on how employees represent themselves relative to their employer.   Many policies require that employees identify themselves as such to avoid any conflict of interest. If the employee is posting on a company site, then there are additional guidelines for good behavior.

Healthcare representatives are not hospital employees and do not access hospital social media sites in ways that anyone else in the general population would.   Reps would be bound by the guidelines of every other user, so no extra policies are required.

Still, healthcare representatives can have access similar to the news stories above.  And the temptation to snap a picture and post it could arise.

A review of several of our hospitals’ policies show that few make explicit statements about social media in regard to HCIRs.  And between the general vendor behavior guidelines and existing patient privacy (HIPAA) policies nothing additional is really needed.   If a hospital is still concerned, our recommendation is that a statement be added to existing general vendor guidelines rather than adding another document.

What do you think?   Do hospitals need a social media policy targeted specifically to reps?


And if you’re one of the hospitals that has yet to create a social media policy, you might enjoy these resources:

Social Media Governance — a collection of hospital policies

Social Media in Healthcare — from ACHE

Also, here’s  HCCA’s survey about Social Media Policies

Entry filed under: Ethics Policies. Tags: , .

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