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Social Media Policies for Dentists

Why You Should Have a Social Media Policy
Social Media Policy

If you put in place a carefully drafted social media policy for your dental practice, your employees will likely have a better understanding of what’s permitted and what is prohibited, which may help avoid legal problems down the road. Regulating what and when you post is vital for getting the most value out of your social media outreach.

Three key things to remember about social media

  1. The same rules regarding discrimination, privacy or employment policies that apply in the “real world” also apply to the online (social media) world.
  2. The trend is to favor free speech and open discourse. Indeed, policies which can be construed to prohibit employees from discussing with each other the terms and conditions of employment are illegal under the National Labor Relations Act. Accordingly, take care to avoid creating policies or making employment decisions that might discourage legally permissible discussions regarding working conditions, hours and wages.
  3. Social Media Law is an evolving field; what is written here will likely change dramatically, so keep abreast of the latest developments.

Five rules of engagement

Does your practice maintain a website or social networking page? If so, the person who manages content—you or someone from your staff—should keep these five rules of engagement in mind:

  1. Do not post copyrighted or trademarked content without permission from the content owner or a citation, as appropriate.
  2. Do not disclose any of the practice’s confidential or proprietary information.
  3. Do not post information about a patient, employee, or another individual, including a testimonial, photograph, radiograph, or even a name, without the appropriate written consent, authorization, waiver and release signed by the patient (or the patient’s guardian).
  4. All postings on your social media sites should be monitored for compliance by a designated individual in your practice. Keep in mind that if your practice has a policy to monitor media sites and fails to do so (or fails to act on information discovered through monitoring), it could be exposed to liability. Inappropriate, derogatory, or disparaging postings should be removed at your discretion—err on the side of caution.
  5. Maintain final approval on postings, even if you designate an employee to monitor and manage social media. Employees shouldn’t speak on the practice’s behalf unless you have authorized them to do so.

A few tips to get started

  • Avoid creating an overly broad policy that could be interpreted to prohibit comments related to working conditions, hours and wages.
  • Establish limitations on expectations of privacy (employer monitoring public social media comments, right to access company computers/electronic communications).
  • Mimic traditional company policies on harassment, confidentiality, discrimination, professionalism, etc.
  • Sample Disclaimer Policy: When connection to company is apparent, make it clear that you are not speaking on behalf of company.
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