Pharmacist use of social media

The most recent hat tip for alerting me that one of my articles was published goes to @redheadedpharm, who also has one of the most thoughtful pharmacist authored blogs out there IMHO.  I should note that by drawing my attention to the article, TRP does not endorse the contents nor see eye-to-eye with me regarding pharmacists, pharmacy, or social media.  And that’s ok. I have to think no rational person just wants an echo chamber.  In fact, I may revisit the whole ‘landscape of pharmacist blogs’ in a future post if I can figure out a way to do so that doesn’t involve generating the hate e-mail and widespread snark that the AJHP article did.* 

In any event, I did want to share that the article I assisted Drs. Alkhateeb and Latif with is titled Pharmacist use of social media and was published in the International Journal of Pharmacy Practice.  As you can see to the left, this is a Short Communication and essentially provides a snapshot of social media use by pharmacists in West Virginia.  The most frequently used applications in this group of surveyed pharmacists included: YouTube (74%), Wikipedia (72%), Facebook (50%), and blogs (26%). Twitter (12%) and LinkedIn (12%) were also used by the respondents.  In a sense, it was a confirmatory study in that it verified some things we thought we knew about pharmacists and social media.  Some of the findings (e.g., 50% use of Facebook) were a little surprising.  Use of Facebook, in particular was examined a little more in-depth; only 15.8% indicated they used it for any professional purpose.  Usage patterns largely reflected those of non-healthcare professionals…these pharmacists used Facebook to keep in touch with colleagues, chat, upload pictures, etc. 

@kevinclauson

*It’s interesting how ‘hate e-mail’ can be a touchstone for publication topics.  The pharmacists blog study generated a dubious top 5 level volume of hate e-mail.  It was among the best written hate e-mail (which was oddly encouraging), but didn’t come close to the level produced after our Wikipedia paper came out.  To be fair, the sheer number of Wikipedia users and the widespread coverage** it received probably contributed to its you-are-as-bad-as-the-scientists-doing-research-on-puppies outrage. 

**Curious fact, of all the interviews I’ve done about our research over the years (e.g., New York Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN, BBC, NPR, New Scientist, etc.) the most hardcore fact-checkers were from Good Housekeeping and Fitness Magazine. Seriously.

Digital Participation Guidelines and Social Media Policies

Social Media Governance,  by Chris Boudreaux (@cboudreaux), maintains a list of companies with linkable social media guidelines and/or policies.  He currently has 154 company entries in his database ranging from Ford Motor Company to The Ohio State Medical Center to MD Anderson Cancer Center. 

The topic of corporate and company social media guidelines and policies seems to be coming across my desk more often of late.  Although the Scribd (i.e., ‘social publishing ‘ site) item above is only a summary document with the friendly title “Digital Participation Guidelines” and not from a company focused on healthcare, it is still instructive.  I like the emphasis on transparency and in putting employees in a position to succeed when ‘participating digitally’.  The guidelines are promising in doing the following things:

  1. Recognizing employees’ propensity to make mistakes and trying to help them be proactive in avoiding them.
  2. Providing a clear idea of what circumstances support an individual employee’s qualified comments versus mandating a higher level response.
  3. Reiterating that digital now equals permanent.
  4. Encouraging collegiality and courtesy in communications.

Granted, from a legal perspective, they can be considered a little vague – but to be fair they spell that out along with the link to their more detailed, internal docs on the topic. 

A more formal example is from the Ohio State University Medical Center (OSUMC).


I also like this more detailed breakdown of institutional and personal use by OSUMC.  A particularly useful example it provides is when an employee creates a personal blog on their own time but mentions or describes themselves “in their OSUMC roles”.  Despite all other aspects being ‘personal’, once that staff member introduces OSUMC employeement into the equation on their blog, that blog is then “governed by the Social Media Participation Policy” of OSUMC even though it also carries the required, “The views expressed here are my own and not those of my employer” statement.

Another great resource is the CDC Social Media Tools Guidelines and Best Practices.  It actually has a breakdown by tool (e.g., Microblogs, YouTube, SMS) with separate documents covering each.

Bottom line: if you are using any social media/Web 2.0 tools and have mentioned or plan on mentioning your place of employment, you would be well-served to check and see if your institution has any social media guidelines or digital participation policies.  Even if they don’t (yet), conducting yourself as if they do and following common conventions in those spaces would not be a bad idea.  I suspect we may eventually see that social media policy training will be as universal as the sessions we get now on HIPAA and sexual harassment.  It may just take a major lawsuit to cross that barrier – here’s hoping it’s none of us that make history in that manner!

@kevinclauson