The use of social media platforms and online networking forums (e.g., Facebook, Linkedin, YouTube, Twitter, blogs, etc.) continues to grow exponentially and has become a common way of communicating, networking and sharing health information. While social media provides valuable tools for personal and business purposes, it can easily blur the lines between a physiotherapist’s personal and professional life.
When using social media, it is important to consider ethical and professional obligations and is imperative to remember and maintain one’s professional integrity. Physiotherapy practice is guided by legal, professional and ethical responsibilities that extend to online communication.
Physiotherapists must consider the inherent risks associated with social media and other online activities including the potential for professional discipline when there is unprofessional content and/or breeches of privacy. Remember and recognize that online activity creates a digital record accessible to clients, colleagues, employers, professional contacts and millions of other users.
View the Use of Social Media practice guideline in PDF.
- Protect the privacy, security and confidentiality of client information. Do not reveal any information which may identify a client or their medical history. The disclosure of even a few basic facts may be sufficient to identify a client to a family member or friend. Before you post, consider if the content has the potential to breach client privacy and confidentiality.
- Assume all online content is public and accessible to everyone. Do not assume an individual can maintain control over the audience. Content intended for a limited audience may be disseminated beyond an individual’s control.
- Be aware that privacy settings are imperfect and may be compromised.
- Do not initiate personal online contact with clients.
- Be proactive and consistent: develop your own policy about how you will deal with a request from a client for online communication or how to manage a reply to professional posts that may involve a client.
- Be thoughtful, responsible and accountable for all social media and online activities.
- Keep your personal and professional profiles separate and distinct.
- If you do identify yourself as a physiotherapist consider using a disclaimer when making personal posts. Use a disclaimer such as “The posts on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent the position, opinions and behavior of physiotherapists in general.”
- Refer to all clients in a professional manner.
- Do not disseminate information which may demean or embarrass a client or clients in general.
- Do not post disparaging remarks about clients, colleagues, supervisors, employers, educators, professors, mentors or a regulatory body.
- Pseudonyms will not make inappropriate content somehow appropriate and suitable to post.
- Be mindful of a personal internet presence and be proactive in removing or editing content which may be viewed as unprofessional. Remember that identifying yourself as a physiotherapist creates perceptions and professional expectations about what you post.
- Familiarize yourself with privacy settings associated with the social media tools that you use. They are fluid and change from time to time.
- Remember that the speed, ease and immediacy of social media often results in less time spent considering the appropriateness of the content.
- Advertising online for business purposes must meet Physiotherapy Alberta’s Advertising and Promotional Activities Standard of Practice.
- Be aware of and comply with relevant employer policies specific to social media usage or general policies on computer and internet usage.
- Remember that “revelation of character” may be a factor in you keeping or losing your job. Consider if your online behavior may damage or be perceived to damage the reputation of the employer or is your behavior is inconsistent with the values or goals of your employer.
- Think about copyright and what might be proprietary when sharing resources online.
And always ... pause before you post.