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Social Media Policy

This policy covers faculty, employees, contractors, and students, when the aforementioned are understood to be officially representing the University of Maryland School of Medicine (SOM) on a social media website or blog. This includes sites representing School of Medicine departments, programs, research centers, institutes, offices, graduate programs and labs. Social media websites include Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, but may also include any website with a social media component.

This policy does not apply to the personal social media websites of faculty, employees, contractors, and students, or to personal online social networking.  

Social media websites representing any facet of the School of Medicine in an official manner should be reported to the Office of Public Affairs. This is to ensure maximum exposure for these sites, to ensure that sites adhere to branding standards, and to maximize collaboration between all entities representing the School of Medicine in the social media space.

Please Contact: 

Caelie M. Haines, MS
Manager, Public Relations/Social Media Specialist
(410) 706-7508
E-mail: chaines@som.umaryland.edu  

Guidelines

Individuals who manage SOM social media sites or contribute to them as representatives of the School of Medicine should:

  • Protect and enhance the value of the University of Maryland School of Medicine brand by maintaining positive interactions with all those you encounter while representing SOM online.
  • Ensure that social media content representing the school is in compliance with applicable privacy laws, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). 
  • Refrain from revealing private information about students, staff, faculty and patients except in the rare instances where you might have that person’s express permission to do so. In the case of students or patients, written consent is required. Please contact the Office of Public Affairs for information about obtaining written consent. 
  • Be certain to use the correct name when referring to the school: The University of Maryland School of Medicine.
  • Visit the University of Maryland branding page for guidelines on using the School of Medicine or University logo on your site.
  • Refrain from making derogatory remarks online.
  • Be honest about your affiliations. If you have a vested interest in the topic you are discussing, do not try to hide those connections.
  • Be helpful and offer advice in your area of expertise, but only where appropriate.
  • Do not post content that is unrelated to your page topic or is inappropriate for your target audience. (Keep your personal content on your personal pages or profiles.)
  • Refrain from spam. Sites representing the school should not be used to sell products or services.

Professionalism in the Use of Social Media

The School of Medicine Office of Public Affairs endorses the following American Medical Association policy (E-9.124) on Professionalism in the Use of Social Media:

The Internet has created the ability for medical students and physicians to communicate and share information quickly and to reach millions of people easily. Participating in social networking and other similar Internet opportunities can support physicians’ personal expression, enable individual physicians to have a professional presence online, foster collegiality and camaraderie within the profession, provide opportunity to widely disseminate public health messages and other health communication. Social networks, blogs, and other forms of communication online also create new challenges to the patient-physician relationship. Physicians should weigh a number of considerations when maintaining a presence online:

  1. Physicians should be cognizant of standards of patient privacy and confidentiality that must be maintained in all environments, including online, and must refrain from posting identifiable patient information online.
  2. When using the Internet for social networking, physicians should use privacy settings to safeguard personal information and content to the extent possible, but should realize that privacy settings are not absolute and that once on the Internet, content is likely there permanently. Thus, physicians should routinely monitor their own Internet presence to ensure that the personal and professional information on their own sites and, to the extent possible, content posted about them by others, is accurate and appropriate.
  3. If they interact with patients on the Internet, physicians must maintain appropriate boundaries of the patient-physician relationship in accordance with professional ethical guidelines just, as they would in any other context.
  4. To maintain appropriate professional boundaries physicians should consider separating personal and professional content online.
  5. When physicians see content posted by colleagues that appears unprofessional they have a responsibility to bring that content to the attention of the individual, so that he or she can remove it and/or take other appropriate actions. If the behavior significantly violates professional norms and the individual does not take appropriate action to resolve the situation, the physician should report the matter to appropriate authorities.
  6. Physicians must recognize that actions online and content posted may negatively affect their reputations among patients and colleagues, may have consequences for their medical careers (particularly for physicians-in-training and medical students), and can undermine public trust in the medical profession. (I, II, IV) Issued June 2011 based on the report "Professionalism in the Use of Social Media," adopted November 2010.

Federation of State Medical Boards Guidelines

The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) has also issued Guidelines for the Appropriate Use of Social Media and Social networking in Medical Practice.

The guidelines are designed to protect physicians and patients online.

Here are a few of its recommendations. 

  • Always adhere to the same principles of professionalism online as you would offline.
  • Don’t use social media to develop inappropriate relationships with patients.
  • Don’t misrepresent your professional credentials.
  • Don’t refer to patients in a way that may identify them.
  • Act professionally and do not post information that is ambiguous or that could be misconstrued or taken out of context.
  • Keep online information updated and accurate.
  • Disclose any financial, professional, or personal conflicts of interest.
  • If you are an employed physician, always refer to an employer’s social media policy for direction on the proper use of social media related to your employment.

For more information on social media guidelines, please see the full FSMB report .