Focus on social media

27 September 2018

Social media has become part of daily life for many of us and it can be a powerful way for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to collaborate with peers and colleagues, as well as patients and the public. But it can be challenging to use social media as a health professional.

Patients, colleagues, and employers expect health professionals to always behave professionally online, just as they would offline. But the boundaries between personal and professional use can often be blurred on social media, and it is easy for online comments to be copied and redistributed, and be taken out of context.

Advice from a leading healthcare journalist

We recognise that it can be difficult to manage the risks and make the most of the opportunities of social media. And it can be useful to get advice from someone who successfully uses social media as part of their role.
So we asked Shaun Lintern (@ShaunLintern), Patient Safety Correspondent at the Health Service Journal (the leading trade publication for healthcare leaders), to give his perspective on how health professionals can use social media successfully.  In his role at the Health Service Journal, Shaun regularly interacts with healthcare leaders, health professionals and patients via social media. Here’s Shaun’s advice:

Social media has revolutionised the way healthcare professionals, patients and others (including journalists) interact with each other. 

It is still a relatively new medium for people to communicate but one that has become pervasive in modern society. It has many faults and downsides but I am an unashamed enthusiast for social media use by clinicians. 

There is a lot of focus on social media encouraging people to live in a bubble, but in my experience, in healthcare, it can have the exact opposite effect.

Embrace the fact that other clinicians from different specialties may have a view on your work; patients may have a particular take on what you do and how it impacts them. 

You may find yourself confronted with uncomfortable views. Or challenged to justify why something is the way it is.

Initially this can seem daunting but there is great opportunity too. You might learn of a solution to a work problem that's evaded you or your team. Someone will have the journal article you need. A patient may be prepared to share their experiences to help you design services.

Social media doesn't have to be all about work either. In my own experience, people I have talked with about many issues have become friends, we've met up in the real world and continued the conversation.

One of them even became my girlfriend.

The key tip for social media is to be yourself. Don't fall into the trap of having a public persona you have to maintain. If you disagree with someone then be civil; even if they're not.

Make the most of the educational opportunities to learn and discuss issues with colleagues and to support each other where necessary.

Don’t be afraid of talking to patients. They're the experts you need to hear.

If you find yourself in the wild west of social media remember...you don't have to reply. The block button is there for a reason.

Guidance and supporting information

Other organisations have also produced advice on using social media for pharmacy professionals and pharmacy teams:

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