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Top 10 Guidelines for Success


Please consider the following top 10 guidelines - before you get started - to help you be successful in your journey using social media:

  1. The Law, the UMHS Code of Conduct and U-M/UMHS Policies Still Apply

Whether using social media for personal or business purposes, whether at home or at work, the UMHS Code of Conduct and U-M/UMHS Policies still apply.

Conduct that would be illegal or a violation of a Health System or University policy in the “offline” world would still be illegal or a violation of policy when it occurs online. 

Policies addressing issues like Patient Confidentiality, Respecting Coworkers, Handling Proprietary Information, Photography & Video, Release of Information, Political Activity, Computer/E-mail and Internet Use, etc., must still be followed.

Please keep in mind that failure to follow existing laws and policies subject you to disciplinary action, up to and including termination from employment, for failure to follow U-M and UMHS policies. You could also subject yourself to governmental enforcement – civil and criminal – and/or private litigation depending on the situation.

  1. Be Professional

Don't post anything that you would not be willing to advertise on a highway billboard.  It is in your personal best interests to refrain from posting references to or pictures of unprofessional behavior, whether pertaining to yourself or to your friends.   

  • What if a Patient requests you to “Friend” him? As a UMHS employee, you are required to maintain a professional relationship with Patients/Families and research subjects. “Friending” a patient, family member and/or research subject is strongly discouraged – this is especially true in the case of minor patients. Exception is made in cases where you already have an established friendship before he becomes a patient.
  • What relationship should supervisors have with employees? To maintain the professional relationship with employees, supervisors should seriously consider refraining from “friending” their employees – this prevents any perception of unequal treatment (e.g., if you “friend” some employees and not others, your actions could be perceived as favoritism. Refer to "Risks to Health Care Professionals" for more information.
  1. Maintain Privacy

Remember: Confidential is Essential! This is especially true for anything related to our patients.

  • Can you post confidential information? No, absolutely not.  Do NOT post patient or research subject information of any kind.  This applies to patient privacy especially, but also to private/sensitive/proprietary information belonging to UMHS. 
  • Can you post pictures of your coworkers? Protect and respect the privacy of others (e.g., fellow students, coworkers, colleagues, etc.) First get their permission before posting their picture or a recount a private conversation you’ve had with them. You shouldn’t post something that you wouldn’t post to the public at large to view. 
  • Does the information belong or pertain to U-M/UMHS? Maintain Confidentiality of all UMHS Information (Patient information, Quality Improvement activities, Risk Management, Research, Etc.)
  • Protect Yourself! It is best to use the strictest privacy settings possible to protect yourself!
  1. Do No Harm, to patients, coworkers, yourself, UMHS and the University of Michigan.

If you wouldn’t want your supervisor or coworkers to see your comments for any reason, it would be unwise to post them to the internet. Information posted there, even when deleted, is stored in a database and can be retrieved by anyone with access.

  1. You are Responsible for the Content You Post

You can be held liable so be careful about what you post.  Ask yourself: 

  • Do you have rights to post the information?  If not, you must seek permission for doing so.

  • Is the information copyright protected, trademarked or proprietary? If so, you must also seek permission from the owner or purchase the rights to post this information.

  • Is it truthful? Credibility is key to building online relationships. Posting inaccurate or false information can ruin your ability to do so.

  • Is the information defamatory, libelous and/or obscene? Defamatory or libelous posts are subject to legal action. Be clear about the meaning of libel, slander and defamation are and your legal responsibilities for posting about individuals online.

  1. Don’t Misrepresent Yourself and/or the University

As an UMHS employee, your personal online activity should not falsely give the impression that you are acting on behalf of UMHS or the University. Examples of things to avoid that might otherwise constitute a misrepresentation include:

  • Posting pictures of yourself wearing a UMHS lab coat or behaving inappropriately while wearing work-issued scrubs with the UMHS logo.

  • Endorsing a product, political issue or other form of endorsement on behalf of U-M and/or UMHS

When on-line, you are speaking in your personal capacity unless you have been given prior approval from your manager or another UMHS representative (e.g., Public Relations & Marketing Communications) to speak for UMHS. 

  1. Use a Disclaimer to Indicate You are Not Officially Acting On Behalf of UMHS

If at any time you identify yourself as a UMHS employee, either through a bio or comments you should add the following disclaimer to your personal site and/or profiles:

"The views and opinions expressed here are my own and not necessarily those of the University of Michigan Health System, and they may not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes."

For example, if you list UMHS as your employer on your Facebook information tab, you'll need to add the disclaimer as well.

  1. Be Aware of the Risks for Health Care Professionals

Information sharing by health care professionals through social networking may lead to or impact the course of malpractice litigation. Some examples of the risks are:

  • Record of electronic communications may support existence of a physician-patient relationship and create exposure to claims of medical malpractice or patient abandonment

  • Potential licensure implications if a physician “practices medicine” via online communications with patients in other states

  • Enabling communications may support patients’ expectations that the health care professional is constantly monitoring their health information on line.

  • Failure to check website (e.g. a patient’s blog or Facebook page) regarding a patient’s medical history and medication allergies could give rise to a medical malpractice claim

Other risks besides litigation exist. For instance, what will you do if a patient posts something negative about you?  What if a patient posts something erroneous? What will you do in these situations?
You should be aware of these risks before proceeding with any interaction with patients via social media sites. If you are or your department is contemplating an online social media interaction with patients, you must work with Public Relations & Marketing Communications.  Fill out the online request form to begin this process.  

  1. Ensure that Your Social Networking Activity Does Not Interfere With Your Work Commitments

While UMHS does not block access to social networking sites, many units/departments forbid the use of them while working. Check with your supervisor if you don’t know your specific unit or department policy.

  1. Get Approval - And Help - Before Using Social Media for Business Purposes

If you have a business reason to set up an account on one or more social media platforms, you must work with Public Relations & Marketing Communications. Fill out the online request form to begin this process.  

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