Tweet that? Know your social media obligations under the National Law

Once upon a time, interacting with patients was something that only happened face-to-face, over the phone or via snail mail.

But in our brave new digital world, people are increasingly choosing to interact with various professions, including dentistry, over social media.

The array of sites and thus options is extensive, ranging from news and social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp through to media sharing platforms like YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram to discussion forums like Reddit and Whirlpool and on to professional networking sites like Linkedin and content production platforms such as Tumblr, Wordpress and Blogger.

Recognising this seismic shift in the communications landscape, AHPRA and the National Boards have released new guidance on social media that aims to set out a dentist’s obligations under the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (National Law).

The first thing to remember is that existing obligations remain in place.

“When using social media, the Health Practitioner Regulation National Law (the National Law), your National Board’s code of ethics and professional conduct (the Code of conduct) and the Guidelines for advertising regulated health services (the Advertising guidelines) apply, just as when you interact in person. A listing of relevant documents and resources is available here (document listing resources).”

These obligations can be met when using social media by:

• complying with confidentiality and privacy obligations
• complying with your professional obligations as defined in your Board’s Code of conduct
• maintaining professional boundaries
• communicating professionally and respectfully with or about patients, colleagues and employers, and
• not presenting information that is false, misleading or deceptive, including advertising only claims that are supported by acceptable evidence.

One of the primary aims of the National Law is protection of the public, an objective that fundamentally influence AHPRA’s guidance on the use of social media at your practice and which should guide the material you choose to disseminate through which platform/s you’re using.

Issues like patient confidentiality, cultural awareness, public health messages, the intersection of personal views and your professional standing, professionalism and the maintenance of professional boundaries must always be a consideration, regardless of whether you are posting in a personal and professional capacity. 

To access the full range of guidance on the use of social media by health practitioners, go to Social media: How to meet your obligations under the National Law