Dear Healthcare Employers: Update Your Internet and Social Media Use Policies!

Taking into consideration the numerous benefits that come along with connecting employees and work systems to the internet and social media, employers in the healthcare industry must keep themselves apprised of the policies governing them. Employers’ own social media use policies need to stay current with ever-shifting information use rules, set their own best standards and practices, and devise clear disciplinary actions for violations.

Due to the omnipresence of social media, encompassing online connections in a broader sense, employees may forget that the optics of their interactions online aren’t as protected as they might assume – especially in the workplace. Even with stringent privacy settings and the use of pseudonyms, online devices are so intrinsically linked with day-to-day job duties that it can be easy to lose awareness of the high potential for information exchange. While having written policies in place is important for the protection of sensitive information, routine auditing of employees’ internet use on work networks in addition to publicly available social media platforms and websites is the best way for employers to spot problems as early as possible. The resulting reduction in legal and reputation risk is paramount for businesses.

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An adequate internet use policy for a work environment should include a variety of elements depending on the nature of the business, but healthcare employers should focus on four key areas. Clear purpose is the best framework for laying out the goals of the policy, and the setting of realistic expectations for employees’ behavior on online platforms further provides transparency. Specificity on conflicts of interest as dictated by company, such as opinion representation and third-party financial relationships disclosures, should be included, as well as outlines for training and education resources for employees to progress their knowledge on effective social media use regarding work.