Pharma insight on digital marketing, social media, mobile apps, online video, websites and interactive healthcare tools
by Dominic Tyer
The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) is compiling 'Highway Code' style guidelines to help family doctors use social media sites like Twitter and Facebook appropriately.
Taking inspiration from the UK's rules of the road, the RCGP's social media Highway Code will offer GPs positive, practical tips and advice on how to get the most out of online communications.
In doing so the RCGP aims to establish “the norms and conventions that patients and the public might reasonably expect of doctors in the online environment - and that doctors might expect of their colleagues”.
The RCGP's chair Dr Clare Gerada, herself an active user of Twitter with over 8,400 followers, said: “Social media is changing how GPs and other professionals communicate with each other and with the public.
“It is important that GPs are at the forefront of this change – but our rights as doctors come with responsibilities and these apply in the online world as well as in the consulting room.”
The new Highway Code, the development of which the RCGP is collaborating on with Doctors.net.uk and a working group of professional organisation and healthcare professional representatives, aims to help GPs get the best out social media while avoiding its possible pitfalls.
It will be launched at the RCGP's Annual Primary Care Conference, which takes place in Glasgow in October.
It is likely to cover issues such as potential risks to privacy and confidentiality, as well as how to maintain personal and professional boundaries online.
Inevitably, as with similar pharma initiatives, the Highway Code will be of more use to those reluctant to use social media rather than those in the vanguard who have readily adopted the channels.
Standout examples of these in UK healthcare including the Wishful Thinking in Medical Education blog by GP and clinical lecturer Anne Marie Cunningham and the Twitter Journal Club, where doctors, medical students, and others use the social network to discuss clinical medicine publications.