The Royal College of General Practitioners will road testing a Social Media Highway Code on the information superhighway tomorrow.
The code offers GPs tips and advice on how to navigate their way around social media communication, such as Facebook and Twitter.
The first draft was made available for discussion earlier this week, and will be the subject of a Twitter chat at 12pm on Friday, 5 October.
People can also post ideas on the RCGP’s Facebook page, and a dedicated forum on the Doctors.net.uk platform.
The code is built around ten guiding principles the RCGP thinks will give doctors a greater understanding of how to use social media while maintaining professionalism and protecting patients.
These include recognising that the personal and professional can’t always be separated and treating others with respect.
The authors – the RCGP’s chair of UK Council Clare Gerada and GP Ben Riley – say social media has the potential to alter the way in which doctors communicate with the public. However, they say: “We must ensure that we are all aware of this and that doctors understand how to practice safely.”
In a foreword to the code, the authors say that older doctors may need to learn about social media and how it can be used effectively. Younger doctors may be very tech savvy and know how to use Facebook and Twitter.
But they “may need to consider how to adapt their habitual online behaviours to take account of their less familiar professional responsibilities.”
The code says a survey of doctors in the Severn Deanery found that more than 80% of medical students and foundation year doctors had seen colleagues acting unprofessionally on Facebook; yet few were aware of any guidelines as to how to behave when they were using social media.
Despite this, the code says that one of the main rules for using social media is to “test out new ideas, learn from your mistakes – and have fun!”
The Social Media Highway Code is available for discussion on the RCGP website. The Twitter chat will use the Twitter hashtag #RCGPac
© 2012 EHealth Media.
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