Meetings and Education

Social Media Best Practices

  1. Establish an online identity
    • Create a professional handle (i.e., @DrJohnSmith) and use a professional photo.
    • Share what is important to you as an individual and as a physician. Social media is an excellent way for others to connect to you, including other physicians, health care professionals, patients, patient advocacy groups, hospitals, specialty societies and research organizations (e.g., ASTRO, NRG, SWOG, EORTC).
    • Some people want to keep their private lives offline. If you want to separate the professional and personal aspects of your life online, consider creating separate personal and professional profiles in order to post specific content to your private or professional account.
    • Be aware that, if you do not have separate profiles, what you share personally may be seen by others as part of your professional identity.
  2. Protect physician-patient confidentiality
    • Remember that anything shared on the Internet is public and lives forever (a paper or digital trail is left behind even if you delete a post). Whatever you post is public knowledge for patients, colleagues, bosses, administrators and your family.
    • Never share any specific, identifying details about patients.
    • Do not give personalized medical advice on social media.
  3. Engage in real time
    • Network with other physicians who are also online to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration locally, regionally, nationally and internationally.
    • Post updates from live events that you are attending, such as annual meetings or conferences.
    • Share research updates or presentations that might not be published or accessible elsewhere yet (if permitted by the presenter). When sharing results or retweeting slides, adding your own summary or insight is an excellent way to include your personal perspective on a particular piece of data.
    • Sharing information facilitates a high level of online discussion. Back up your recommendations with data by sharing links to articles, figures, and graphs.
    • Raise awareness and promote pertinent, timely topics in radiation oncology and health care in general to colleagues, other physicians and the public. Examples of this participation include online journal clubs or tweetchats.
  4. Educate and innovate
    • Use social media to learn best practices both in oncology and medicine overall. Learning from other physicians online is an excellent tool.
    • Be open to new uses for social media, such as boosting accrual for clinical trials or obtaining grant funding.
  5. Be transparent about conflicts of interest
    • Disclose conflicts of interest and be careful about promoting specific products or companies for which you have an actual or perceived conflict of interest.
    • Check your institution’s policy on social media.
    • Be clear you are tweeting for yourself, and only you. A common phrase to include in one’s Twitter bio is ‘‘views are my own’’ and ‘‘retweets do not mean an endorsement.”
  6. Respect the platform
    • Follow the unofficial rules of each social media platform you use, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or other platforms. Start slowly and take time to observe others who seem to understand the etiquette, so you can learn them.
    • Invite individuals to groups for which they legitimately belong. For example, if a Facebook group is for physicians only, don’t invite physician assistants. Likewise, do not join groups where your specialty or experience does not match.
    • Include appropriate hashtags in your messages or tweets to expand impact. For example, #radonc, #lcsm (lung cancer social media), #bcsm (breast cancer social media). See symplur.com source below for a full list.
    • As you should in face-to-face interactions, be kind and courteous to your online colleagues, even if their opinion differs from yours. Patients and patient advocacy groups are often following or participating in discussions. They might form impressions of you based on your tone, as much as, or more than, the content of your commentary.
    • Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If there is a concern about offending someone, trust your instincts and consider rewriting or not posting at all. If you don’t want to post a message to everyone, send the intended user a private or direct message (DM).


Recommended Sources for Future Reading:

  • To get step-by-step help setting up a social media profile, see www.astro.org/HowToVideos
  • Attai D.J., Sedrak M.S., Katz M.S. Social media in cancer care: Highlights, challenges & opportunities. Future Oncol. 2016;12:1549–1552
  • Bibault J-E, Katz MS, Motwani S. Social media for radiation oncologists: A practical primer. Advances in Radiation Oncology. 2017;2(3):277-280. doi:10.1016/j.adro.2017.04.009.
  • Cancer tag ontology. Symplur.com. Accessed 2/20/2018 https://www.symplur.com/healthcare-hashtags/ontology/cancer/
  • Logghe HJ, Boeck MA, Gusani NJ et al. Best Practices for Surgeons' Social Media Use: Statement of the Resident and Associate Society of the American College of Surgeons. J Am Coll Surg. 2018 Mar;226(3):317-327. Doi: 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2017.11.022. Epub 2017 Dec 7.
  • Rouprêt M., Morgan T.M., Bostrom P.J. European Association of Urology (@Uroweb) recommendations on the appropriate use of social media. Eur Urol. 2014;66:628–632.
  • Shore R., Halsey J., Shah K. Report of the AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs: professionalism in the use of social media. J Clin Ethics. 2011;22:165–172.