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Jun 7, 2013 · 47 Replies

Health Care Social Media and Professionalism

By Farris Timimi MD, Medical Director, Mayo Clinic Social Media Network @FarrisTimimi

Health Care Social Media and Professionalism explores professional expectations and behaviors relative to social networking tools and health care.

See the video presentation below. If you want a copy of the slides you may open them in another window on Slideshare for review and/or download.

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It is critical that you have effective and clear social media guidelines for your employees, with the expectation that they apply whether employees and students are posting to their own sites or commenting on other sites, to include personal blogs and other websites, including Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube or others.  Please review the Mayo Clinic Employee Social media guidelines.

For a Tweet-ready 12-word social media policy that focuses on the key and core elements of professional behavior in the digital era, see my Social Media Health Network blog post, dated April 5, 2012.

For an overview of the expectation and requirement to meet our patients where they are spending more and more of their time, see my position piece on the moral requirement for health care providers to participate in social media.

A critical element of professionalism centers on meaningful orientation.  Please view #SocialAtMayo – Mayo Clinic's Social Media Guidelines, our orientation video for Mayo Clinic employees.

As you are developing your plan for applying social media in your work, be sure that you have developed or reviewed your existing social media policy.  In addition, consider the development of an orientation strategy for new employees, coupled with ongoing review of expectations for professional behavior for your existing employees.  Finally, carefully consider your training tools for employees.  These three interventions, namely guidelines, orientation and training, can effectively ensure that your employees are your strongest asset in their use of social networking and social media.


Tags: Learning Modules, Legal & Ethical Issues

Lisa Lucier, JerrySoucyRN, Todd Lohenry and 8 others like this

Posted by @meganrmyers, Jun 11, 2013

I will be using social media to provide a platform for patients with Lynch syndrome to post questions and share personal stories about their diagnosis of Lynch syndrome. I will create podcasts with physcians who specialize in Lynch syndrome to help educate patients with Lynch syndrome who are speaking information on a syndrome that is under recognized.

Guest1 and Pamela like this

Posted by @dede, Jun 11, 2013

We have just drafted our social media guidelines and will be looking into how too disseminate the info ... Perhaps through a video blog or the introduction of yammer for our employees. We are just in the beginning of thinking about implementation of social media so all suggestions are welcome!


Posted by @amallouk, Jun 12, 2013


In the post below from @kaiosa, we share some of the ways we routinely inform/remind our employees of our guidelines. We find that each time we do a reminder, we get notifications of sites we were unaware of, or requests for start up, help, etc.

We use our intranet, employee emails, newsletters, etc.

Denise likes this

Posted by @kskipperfoster, Jun 12, 2013

Hi Denise. I like using Lunch & Learns because it gives you an opportunity to educate staff about social media and online safety - lessons they can take back to their families. It also gives you the opportunity to dispell popular myths. Going forward, it can be included in new hire orientation.

mgeoghegan and Denise like this

Posted by @FarrisTimimi, Jun 12, 2013

I agree Kari-achieving professionalism requires a multi-tiered approach, ranging from onboarding and established employees. I really think the most powerful examples are the often the most personal, to include discussions of actual errors and the correct approach.


Posted by @kaiosa, Jun 12, 2013

(replying on behalf of Alison Mallouk and myself)

Our organization worked closely with HR and legal to develop a formal social media policy. More recently, we have taken some key elements from the policy and broken them down into a friendlier, easy-to-understand one page sheet that is distributed at employee orientation.

We also have our policies and tip sheets on our employee Intranet and we make sure to create new guidelines each time we begin working on a new platform. In addition to the Intranet and new employee orientation, we routinely run reminder articles in our weekly hospital newsletter and enewsletter that outline some basics and direct employees as to where they can find full versions of the policies.


Carol Gunderson likes this

Posted by @FarrisTimimi, Jun 12, 2013

I think the idea of reminder articles is a critical yet often overlooked element. Risk mitigation is an ongoing process, and your approach of continued education is critical.


Posted by @carolgunderson, Oct 2, 2013

I agree with Farris. As a Mayo employee, I greatly appreciate the periodic articles/reminders that appear in This Week. We all need refreshers on current policies.


Posted by @mark994w, Jun 12, 2013

This video was by far one of the best I have seen. It was crystal clear in its message and how it met its goals. Beyond the topic of professionalism was the fact that this as much as the previous videos clearly demonstrated why SM is critical to improving healthcare when executed against an educational strategy. Perhaps I am mistaken but the issue of how to achieve professionalism is very clear and well stated here. It is something we as a community are struggling with but the ability to bring more HCP, providers, patients, etc. into healthcare social media is equally if not more important. This video seemed to do that well.

Posted by @FarrisTimimi, Jun 12, 2013

Thank you so much! I really appreciate your kind words and insightful observations.

Todd Lohenry likes this

Posted by @will, Sep 9, 2013

I have to concur with this sentiment.


Posted by @nataliedegrandis, Jun 17, 2013

When it comes to effective use of social media, my approach is strongly rooted in authenticity. The most effective HCPs possess more skills than just medical expertise; they have an outstanding bedside manner. With that comes truthful and honest interactions with patients that build a trusting relationship. If a HCP can’t effectively communicate with their patients (or audience), then it has ramifications and potentially even impede the healing process. In addition, a well-respected HCP will treat their patients with the upmost professionalism -- understanding the importance of privacy. These two skills lend themselves to social media as well. Simply because there a patient is not physically present, it doesn’t mean that they are not listening.


Posted by @mark994w, Jun 20, 2013

Hi all and it was a pleasure to meet everyone and to learn from our shared experiences. The course, the lectures, the exercises, and most of all the participants aided me in reinforcing my goals: to apply social media in my business.

My plan of action is to improve my ability and skill sets in communicating my business goals and experience to a wider audience with greater engagement. Linking social media with a business strategy is a key tactic to improve my knowledge and share that knowledge with others who share my goals to improve patient care and lower utilization costs. Thank you Mayo thank you fellow learners.

“We must, in other words, become adept at learning. We must become able not only to transform our institutions, in response to changing situations and requirements; we must invent and develop institutions which are ‘learning systems’, that is to say, systems capable of bringing about their own continuing transformation.” Donald Schon Learning, reflection, and change.


Posted by @kateballantyne, Aug 8, 2013

Our ehealth department has developed a social media policy, but I think disseminating it via our employee intranet and new employee orientations would be wise.


Posted by @paidem, Aug 12, 2013

We provide training in the dos and don'ts regarding social media at employee orientation and follow up through our mandatory annual on-line training.We've also rewritten policies at the regional level to address social media use by our organization.


Posted by @halleyrebecca, Aug 13, 2013

Our 'corporate compliance' department and HIPAA folks do a social media talk at new employee orientation. I try to add some tools to allow employees to interact online in a positive way. For example, making sure they're aware of our existing Facebook pages and are encouraged to like, comment and share stories on/from those pages if they want to share patient stories.


Posted by @halleyrebecca, Aug 13, 2013

I've been in my role for 11 months. The social media policy for our organization was written maybe a year before I came onboard. We are beginning to review it again with our legal department to update as needed. One thing I'm particularly interested in doing this year is writing blanket terms of service for our various platforms.


Posted by @will, Sep 9, 2013

Including patients and family is key. This is always a sticky point with legal review and governance of the corporate image. Our objectives are to ensure patient and family involvement with minimal governance of social commenting, etc. We believe this can be achieved through setting expectations on social media sites for appropriate, considerate public commentary on the educational materials made available and yet still allow for free expression and audience reception.


Posted by @kayeeip, Oct 3, 2013

This summer, a social media policy was incorporated into our organization's personnel manual for staff regarding use of personal social media accounts. But, our department (public relations) has had a policy in place since 2009 when we first started to incorporate social media into our communications outreach efforts to engage with the public and media on who orthopaedic surgeons are. And, we share this policy with those new to our department and expect professional behaviors from staff, especially when responding to posts/comments/tweets as an organizational representative.

I do like the above post about providing tip sheets and reminders in regular staff communications that would outline the social media policy.

Carol Gunderson likes this

Posted by @scottspielman, Oct 16, 2013

Good concise social media policy. We are currently refining ours in hopes of providing better access to social media to employees. Currently, it is not open access


Posted by @trlang78, Oct 17, 2013

We have multiple modes of communication to assist with disseminating the social media guidelines and new strategy throughout the department, including conferences, department and division meetings, and newsletters.

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