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Social Media in Healthcare and Off-the-Clock Posting

The rise of social media in today's digital era has been incredibly impactful, reaching far and wide into various sectors, including healthcare. Many dental, optometry, and veterinary practice owners often find themselves at the mercy of social media, facing online criticism, and left wondering, "How do I effectively manage negative social media postings?"

To help you out, we have compiled five essential 'Rules' that you must follow when dealing with social media in your healthcare practice:

Here are 5 'Rules' to Follow When it Comes to Social Media & Your Practice

1. Draft a Social Media Policy

First and foremost, you must draft a detailed social media policy to incorporate into your healthcare practice's employee handbook. Employees need to understand the expectations they have as their employer and know that they are accountable for their actions when discussing the practice and its affiliates on social media. Additionally, you must outline that your practice is not discouraging or disciplining team members who engage in protected concerted action.

2. Lead by Example

Often, we find practice owners engaging in the same behavior they admonish within their teams. Remember, you must lead by example. For instance, if you discourage your optometry associates from venting frustrations on social media, you should also refrain from doing so. You set the tone for your practice's culture, so keeping your online actions in check is crucial.

3. Never Request or Require an Employee to “Add” You on Social Media

When you discover a posting because you are already “friends” with your employee, it could encroach the line of “monitoring” and complicates the options you have when handling the situation. You must consider how you discovered a posting. Did you seek out postings or pressure your team to add you on social media? Did you initiate adding someone on your social media? Did another employee inform you? These questions are important because they will influence how a posting is addressed. In short, it is easier to discipline if a posting comes to your attention from a fellow employee or even a patient because it involves other parties who felt uncomfortable. When you discover a posting because you are already connected with someone, it begins to encroach the line of “monitoring” and complicates the situation.

4. Address Concerns with Open Door Communication

Many issues stem from an employee’s frustrations of feeling that they do not have a voice in your healthcare practice. Similar to leading by example, you must work in good faith to address and document all issues. By getting to the root of a problem you illustrate your good faith efforts — and due diligence — to solve possible workplace issues that could escalate to legal claims in the future. If they are not justifiable complaints, but simply the employee feeling unhappy, they will be more receptive as to why they are being disciplined and have a better understanding as to what is appropriate moving forward.

5. Consult with an HR Professional

It is important that you speak with an HR specialist or an employment law attorney to assist with high-risk situations in your dental, optometry, or veterinary practice as it pertains to social media. Inadvertently discriminating against a team member or class of employees, or disciplining your employee for engaging in protected action are of considerable concern. It is imperative you speak with an HR Specialist or employment law attorney to assist with these high-risk situations.

It is also important to note that many states have differing specifications of what is protected on social media. In addition to the limitations under federal law, mostly imposed under the broad Electronic Communications Privacy Act, several states have enacted their own statutes regarding social media. Although many state statutes prohibit an employer from requiring or requesting employees to disclose usernames and login information, it is still safest to consult an HR professional to evaluate if you have crossed any invisible lines you may not be aware of. 

Get Compliant with HR for Health

HR for Health is an all-in-one HR software solution dedicated to helping the dental, optometry, and veterinary industries. Our human resources platform features all the tools practice owners need to manage payroll, timekeeping, 401(k), and more with total integration and ease. 

Whether you’re looking for HR support for a small business or you’re a large group dental practice, HR for Health has the solution to fit your practice and budget. Reach out to a HR for Health account representative to learn more, today.