The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency’s (AHPRA) preliminary consultation paper on a social media policy for health professionals has been exciting a lot of concern (as reported at Croakey last week – see here and here).
It also generated plenty of discussion at the recent Healthcare Communications and Social Media in Australia and New Zealand or #hcsmanz Twitter chat group.
The group is encouraging people to provide feedback to AHPRA (due by COB tomorrow, 14 September, to socialmediaconsultATahpra.gov.au). A revised paper will be issued for public consultation later in the year.
Meanwhile, for more analysis and commentary:
…To me, the document appears uniformly negative, short-sighted, misguided and even somewhat paranoid. The sort of thing that one might have read in the tabloid press concerning the perils of the ‘information super highway’… about 15 years ago.
My initial reaction to this draft policy is the underlying premise is that social media is a very risky activity for health professionals to engage with, and demonstrates a lack of understanding of how social media can be used – to increase communication, collaboration, transparency, sharing, research, education and community engagement. There is a lack of understanding of how consumers want health practitioners to engage with them.
The draft policy ignores the fact that social media is so much a part of life now. Instead of educating practitioners to use it professionally and effectively, it is taking a punitive approach. This will not work because social media is so embedded in what we do, and it is impossible to tease out our private use from the public use. It will also be impossible to police.
One of my main recommendations is to turn this policy on its head, and take the opportunity to educate practitioners in a positive way, using guidelines. I have always appreciated the UK NMC’s guidelines – they offer practical advice, yet recognise the benefits of social media. Another recommendation will be for AHPRA to work with practitioners and consumers who are currently working effectively and professionally with social media, in order to educate themselves, as well as pick their brains about the issues.
Meanwhile, it seems that senior NSW health bureaucrats are also being briefed on the issue.
On related topics
• A New York medical college has received a two-year grant to study how aspiring physicians use social media and what ethical issues it creates with patients. “It’s the latest milestone in social media’s conquest of the medical profession,” says a news report.
• A hospital in Pittsburgh is using blogging to improve communication in a cardiac intensive care unit, according to a recent article in a nursing journal whose abstract says:
In the health care clinical environment, blogging can help to promote 2-way communication among nursing staff and leadership. Blogging can serve as a valuable method of relaying important updates, changes in practice, and educational resources. Incorporating a blog into the ICU environment involves a cultural shift and some potential barriers. Lack of a technological understanding of social media, outdated software systems, and limited hospital policies may pose issues when incorporating a blog into the health care setting. The benefits though are impressive. Blogging is a form of rapid, real-time communication for which any person may post or comment on an important thought or message. Blogging can help to increase compliance with quality measures, update staff on need to know information such as changes in policies and procedures, and provide up-to-date educational resources at any time, from anywhere.
• A slide show on using Twitter in medical education