Refresh for the RACGP’s social media guide

Morgan Liotta

10/05/2019 2:41:59 PM

The updated guide is designed to help new and experienced social media users.

Social media on tablet device
A range of general practice teams, consumers and medico-legal organisations were consulted to assist with the update of the guide.

Social media in general practice provides recommendations on the professional and safe use of social media in general practice settings – which, the guide states, is ‘paramount’.
The updated guide is aimed at practices that are new to social media, but is also beneficial to those already using it, outlining key advantages and disadvantages for individual practices engaging in social media.
The guide includes new sections on common social media platforms, including:

  • Instagram – the guide recommends the direct messaging function not be used to communicate directly with patients
  • Twitter – including tips for writing effective tweets and following ‘influencers’
  • Facebook – the guide recommends the star ratings function be disabled so reviews are not interpreted as testimonials. This is in accordance with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency’s recommendations on the use of testimonials.
The Social media policy template for general practices has also been updated to accompany use of the guide.
Dr Tim Senior is a GP who has been active on Twitter since 2011 and currently has nearly 9000 followers. He uses the platform to engage in discussion with other health professionals, academics, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health organisations.

When using social media, Dr Senior is sure to set himself some ‘rules of engagement’.

‘I don’t say anything that I wouldn’t say loudly in a hospital lift or a lecture theatre,' he told newsGP.

‘Everything is public and will be observed and, like it or not, people will see us as representative of our profession.’ 

Dr Senior is also deliberate when engaging with other social media users, particualrly when there is a difference of opinion.

‘Engage with people and answer questions in a fun, professional way,’ he said. ‘Don’t get drawn into the personal attacks that are so commonly seen on social media.

‘It’s often much more helpful to ask questions of someone’s position, rather than tell them why they are wrong.’
While highlighting his use of Twitter to acknowledge his profession as a GP, he is clear that he does not post on behalf of a practice or his employers.
Dr Senior said he has found Twitter to be ‘a useful tool in enhancing his career as a GP’, enabling him to link directly with a thoughtful and informed group of like-minded professionals, as well as research and patient perspectives, across Australia and the world.

‘Social media has allowed me to learn from other doctors and patients, and helped in my education of registrars,’ he said. ‘And it has enhanced my ability to advocate on behalf of my patients and other patients like them in a way that I would never have had before social media.’
Citing his own rules, Dr Senior avoids tweeting unless he has something interesting to add and often deliberately tries to question or challenge prevailing wisdom. He regularly bases opinions on evidence, using humour and posing questions to provoke discussion.

‘Social media is often best used as a listening device rather than a telling device,’ he said. ‘If you have something interesting to say, then say it, but provide your own perspective as to why that is interesting. Or say something that no one has said.’
The development of social media guide saw the RACGP consult a range of GPs, practice managers, consumer representatives and medico-legal organisations to provide the most up-to-date advice to general practices on the use of social media.

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