The American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP) encourages pharmacy professionals working in hospitals and health systems who use social media to do so in a professional, responsible, and respectful manner. Such use may complement and enhance their relationships with patients, caregivers, other members of the health care team, and the public. To achieve that goal, pharmacy professionals should
- Thoroughly consider the purposes and potential outcomes of participation in social media and develop the strategies and skills required to effectively utilize social media to meet their goals, and
- Exercise professional judgment and adhere to professional standards and legal requirements in both private and public social media communications, especially legal and ethical obligations to protect the privacy of personal health information.
The term “social media” may be defined as online tools that allow interaction among individuals. Examples include professional networks such as ASHP Connect, career-building networks such as LinkedIn, and sites such as Facebook and Twitter that are primarily social but which may serve multiple purposes.1–3 Informational sites regarding medical information that allow for commentary from users and medical professionals (e.g., PharmQD, The Pharmacist Society, Sermo) should also be considered collaborative social media.
Social media have transformed the way people communicate by reducing barriers to the exchange of information, increasing both the amount of communication and the number of people who can participate. Health care organizations (e.g., hospitals, health systems, professional societies, pharmaceutical companies, patient advocacy groups, pharmacy benefit companies) have chosen to use social media for both communication and marketing.
Like other health care professionals, pharmacy professionals have adapted to advancing technology and are using social media to communicate with patients, caregivers, other health care professionals, and the public. Pharmacy professionals (including pharmacy students as professionals in training) should continue to incorporate these new tools into the armamentarium of pharmacy practice and apply them with professional judgment to pursue the goal of helping people make the best use of medications. Social media provide pharmacy professionals with opportunities to educate patients and practitioners, seek advice from and provide advice to colleagues, optimize the medication use of individual patients and populations, promote the role of pharmacists in caring for patients, and engage in debate about issues in health care practice and policy, among other things.1–5
Participation in Social Media
Hospitals or health systems that choose to use social media or permit practice-related social media use by staff should have in place policies and procedures that
- Balance the benefits social media provide with the obligations and liabilities they may create, and
- Encourage the development and application of best practices by users of social media.
The details of such policies, procedures, and best practices are beyond the scope of this statement, which has as its purpose to briefly outline some of the considerations that should guide pharmacy professionals’ participation in social media.
Pharmacy professionals should carefully consider the purposes and potential outcomes of their participation in social media and develop the strategies and skills required to achieve their goals. They need to be aware of and employ best practices when using social media, because health care practitioners, including pharmacy professionals, are held to a higher standard of professionalism within and outside the workplace than members of the public.6 Pharmacy professionals who participate in social media should strive for a high degree of professionalism in their communications and ensure that patient privacy is not compromised.
ASHP has long advocated for the adoption of high professional aspirations for pharmacy practice. Pharmacists’ responsibilities as professionals include “advancing the well-being and dignity of their patients, acting with integrity and conscience, [and] collaborating respectfully with health care colleagues.” 7 The following recommendations for the use of social media represent high professional aspirations, and pharmacy professionals are encouraged to exercise their professional judgment in incorporating them into their practices.
Advancing the Well-Being and Dignity of Patients. The following recommendations can help pharmacy professionals who choose to participate in social media advance the well-being and dignity of patients.