The Importance of Best Practices

Austin Chiang, MD MPH

Social media activity by health professionals may steer public discourse surrounding health topics and influence public health. The Association for Healthcare Social Media (AHSM) does not seek to regulate online dialogue. Rather, these best practices serve to encourage clinicians to use social media by providing a framework based upon evidence-based approaches, expert consensus of current standards, and existing platform policies. While individuals objectives and audiences may vary on social media, these guidances will help distinguish productive use of social media while helping users maximize efficacy, preserve integrity of online health information, and minimize the potential for pitfalls.

As quickly as social media platforms are rapidly evolving, the way in which professionals are engaging with the general public on social media is also becoming increasingly complex. Recommendations put forth by other medical societies have not taken into account a rapid evolving social media milieu and the methods health professionals employ to engage on social media. AHSM seeks to deliver best practices formulated by expert clinicians who heavily utilize social media to capture the nuances of each social media platform in addition to general counsel. These platforms and add-on functionalities may pose specific challenges. Similarly, AHSM seeks to foster conversation and potential consensus to resolve existing debates in how social media is currently being used.

Some of the best practices AHSM aims to address include (but are not limited to) standards in citations, appropriate disclosures of industry relationships and credentials, and professionalism concerns by platform. These best practices may stand to benefit both seasoned clinicians who may be less familiar with social media, as well as students and trainees who may not recognize certain liabilities of online dialogue.