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RCGP unveils draft Social Media Highway Code for doctors

Offers UK healthcare professionals 10 guiding principles to follow

RCGP draft Social Media Highway CodeThe Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has published the first version of its social media guide for UK doctors and other healthcare professionals.

At its heart are 10 guiding principles the RCGP hopes will encourage doctors to make greater use of social media, while at the same time ensuring they meet their professional obligations and protect their patients.

Work on the Social Media Highway Code, which is intended as a guide and not a rulebook, was led by Ben Riley, a GP and medical director of curriculum at the RCGP, and Clare Gerada, the RCGP's chair of UK Council.

Introducing the Code they said: “As keen users of social media ourselves, we believe it offers enormous potential benefits for doctors and patients. But there is nothing 'unique' about the values that underpin how doctors behave and interact in this new environment.”

Riley and Gerada note the age of doctors may influence which elements of the Code they need to focus on.

Younger, less professionally experienced, doctors “may need to consider how to adapt their habitual online behaviours to take account of their less familiar professional responsibilities”.

Conversely, senior and more experienced doctors “may have a responsibility to become more technically skilled and social media savvy”, Riley and Gerada said.

The RCGP's Social Media Highway Code, which was produced in partnership with online community Doctors.net.uk and new media training consultancy Lime Green, boils down to these ten principles:

1. Be aware of the image you present online and manage this proactively

2. Recognise that the personal and professional can't always be separated

3. Engage with the public but be cautious of giving personal advice

4. Respect the privacy of all patients, especially the vulnerable

5. Show your human side, but maintain professional boundaries

6. Contribute your expertise, insights and experience

7. Treat others with consideration, politeness and respect

8. Remember that other people may be watching you

9. Support your colleagues and intervene when necessary

10. Test out new ideas, learn from your mistakes – and have fun!

The draft Code will be the focus of a panel discussion at the RCGP's annual Primary Care Conference and a Twitter chat (#RCGPac) on October, 5 at 12pm.

The RCGP has also set up a Facebook page for the Code and discussions about it and is running a dedicated forum on Doctors.net.uk and so far initial feedback appears positive.

• The draft Social Media Highway Code is available to view online

2nd October 2012

From: Marketing

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