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Is Social Media Use an Ethical Professional Obligation for Healthcare Professionals?

PrincessPiperSTEMPrincessI was lucky enough in May to attend Mayo Clinic’s Social Media Residency Program.  First, as an outsider, I was impressed that ALL Mayo employees were welcome to attend the residency program.  But second, I’ve also subsequently been lucky enough to watch their blog from afar since the live training (or, rather, they push their blog to my inbox every morning, which is one of the few things I actually read on a regular basis in my inbox).

An interesting comment was posted recently by Lee Aase, the Director of the Social Media Center at Mayo, where he stated the following in this post:

  • “…social media should be recognized as tools health care professionals are expected to use, and that effective application of social media is part of professionalism.”

I’m going to let that sink into your brain for a second, especially if you are a healthcare professional.

While I can’t speak to what they are teaching students in other healthcare programs, I can tell you that in pharmacy, professionalism is front and center.  In fact, in the ACPE 2016 draft guidelines (of which pharmacy schools are held to as our accrediting body), professionalism is all over the draft guidance document and standards.  Here are just a few draft standards that are applicable to professionalism and social media:

  1. “3.2 Education – The graduate [pharmacy student] must be able to educate all audiences by determining the most effective and enduring ways to impart information and assess learning.
  2. 3.6 Communication – The graduate [pharmacy student] must be able to effectively communicate verbally and nonverbally when interacting with individuals, groups, and organizations.
  3. 4.4 Professionalism – The graduate [pharmacy student] must be able to exhibit behaviors and values that are consistent with the trust given to the profession by patients, other healthcare providers, and society.” (ACPE 2016 Draft Standards)

Next, watch this video (which I believe is also in Lee’s talk above).  The item that blew me away in the video is that one college has altogether stopped sending email to students.  Wha…?!?

If you bundle all this together – in order to educate and communicate as a professional, you have to go where the audience is – right?  If that’s true, and social media is now the predominant platform where people get their news, share their lives, and learn about society – shouldn’t pharmacists as professionals therefore be right there in the middle of social media land?  Do we have an ethical, professional obligation to be there?

I’m not going to push it and say that social media management should be part of mandatory healthcare curricula just yet.  That may be too revolutionary for today.  But, I will say that I think we need to go there.  I’m there personally, as I’ve been part of the inception of the Social Media Dames Unconference Series in Indiana (which, by the way, tickets are now on sale for the November 20, 2014 event in Indianapolis here.)  It’s now more than “hide your Facebook profile” when it comes to professionalism, social media, and the internet for healthcare pros.  If we are truly trying to keep costs low, educate, communicate and be true helpers of public health and wellness of society at large, shouldn’t we go where the masses are?

I’ll leave this for you to ponder today…


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