A smart healthcare social media policy is detailed and thorough, covering every scenario employees are likely to encounter in the social media arena. However, it's equally important to be clear and concise; a social media policy that's 20 pages long or reads like an archaic legal document isn't likely to be read and understood by employees.
Finding the right balance isn't always easy, so here are five examples from established healthcare organizations. While every healthcare social media policy should be specifically tailored to the organization, these samples will help you get started and demonstrate an effective balance between specificity and brevity.
- Mayo Clinic: The Mayo Clinic's social media policy spells out exactly what sort of activities it covers, then goes on to instruct employees on the form of expression, necessity of observing privacy and other organizational guidelines, friend request policies, prohibition on endorsements and general guidelines on propriety--all in fewer than 500 words. It's an excellent example of a policy that covers the bases without being unnecessarily wordy or complex.
- Ohio State University Medical Center: OSU opted to include more background and detail in its social media materials, but avoided getting employees bogged down in lengthy and confusing documents by breaking the information into three documents: a social media philosophy, participation guidelines and a social media participation policy. One key addition in the Medical Center materials is a brief statement of possible consequences for violation of the policy/guidelines.
- Cleveland Clinic: Like the Mayo Clinic, Cleveland Clinic keeps its policy concise. The single page document includes eleven enumerated points. The Clinic does elaborate in one area not covered in so much detail in many other organization's policies, setting forth a long list of specifically prohibited activities ranging from copyright violations to profanity. If you're formulating a healthcare social media policy, numbered paragraph 4 in the Cleveland Clinic policy is worth a look.
- Vanderbilt University Medical Center: Vanderbilt's policy runs a bit toward legalese, but it provides clear steps for situations not covered by some other policies, such as a process to follow if contacted by media--a situation much more likely to occur in the age of social media than in earlier eras. Vanderbilt also provides a "social media toolkit," including Best Practices, to help staff and students comply with the policy and make safe, effective use of social media.
- Sutter Health: Sutter is a different type of healthcare organization than the others listed, and that's reflected in its social media policy. It's by far the longest and most detailed on the list here, and includes not only guidelines for employees but management responsibilities with regard to social media. It's worth reviewing not only for its thoroughness, but because Sutter goes all out in making the information accessible to employees, supplementing its very detailed policy with a Social Media Tip Sheet and even a video available on YouTube.
The best social media policy will be one crafted specifically for your organization; adopting someone else's policy wholesale won't provide the best protection for you or the best guidance for your employees. However, that doesn't mean that you can't take advantage of the legwork already done by other organizations to ensure that you're covering all critical issues and presenting your guidelines in the most effective way for your employees.
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