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Doctors.net.uk helps to create Social Media Highway Code

Practical guide will help UK doctors navigate their way around the ethical and confidentiality dilemmas of social media

Doctors.net.uk has helped to create the first-ever practical guide to help UK doctors navigate their way around the ethical and confidentiality dilemmas of social media.

The Social Media Highway Code has been published by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) in collaboration with Doctors.net.uk and LimeGreen Media.

The Code is a collation of practical and supportive advice based around a 10-point plan. The advice was provided by a range of people with an interest in social media, including doctors, nurses, journalists, lawyers, students and patients.

It is intended to help and encourage healthcare professionals to communicate effectively using various social media channels, whilst adhering to the conventions that their patients, their colleagues and the public might reasonably expect.

The points in the Code include:

• Recognise that the personal and professional can't always be separated
• Engage with the public but be cautious of giving personal advice
• Respect the privacy of all patients, especially the vulnerable
• Show your human side, but maintain professional boundaries

A first draft of the guide was launched at the RCGP annual conference last October and prompted an exciting online debate joined by doctors across the UK, Europe and Australia, which trended at number one in the UK on Twitter.

Since then, healthcare professionals from all over the world have been providing feedback on the Code through Twitter, Facebook and the online forums on Doctors.net.uk. The feedback has now been reviewed and the themes incorporated into the Code, which was given an official stamp of approval by RCGP Council in February.

Changes added include more information for GPs working in the Armed Forces and in controlled environments, more on the extra responsibilities that doctors can hold as 'data controllers', and more tips and advice on communicating with the public and with colleagues.

Whilst primarily aimed at healthcare professionals, the comprehensive and common-sense Code is transferable to other professional spheres. There has been interest in adapting the content for education professionals, with the potential to extend this to legal and political spheres and other professions where ethics and client safety are paramount.

For more information on Doctors.net.uk, please call Simon Grime on +44 (0)1235 828400, or email Simon.Grime@mess.doctors.org.uk. You can also follow Doctors.net.uk on twitter: doctors_net_uk

4th April 2013

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