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CDC gets into health care social media policy

The CDC has published a report offering guidance on creating a health care social media policy that will help organizations build business and manage employees' personal use.

On the heels of the Ohio State Medical Association offering doctors' offices guidance on creating a health care social media policy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published its own report.

The 60-page Health Communicator's Social Media Toolkit is a detailed guide for health care providers of every size. It includes forms to help spur their development of a social media policy and evaluate the goals they want to accomplish with their social media outreach.

The toolkit covers all kinds of social media, from Twitter to Web widgets to contextual links, as well as such touchy social media policy matters as risk communication. Many examples come from the CDC's own experiences, catalogued in more depth at its Gateway to Health Communication & Social Marketing pages.

The CDC's social media policy tips include the following:

•   Don't use Twitter just to post messages and links -- use Twitter Search to monitor Twitter activity. You then can "listen" to conversations about important health concerns, find messages about your organization and monitor how audiences are responding to those messages.

•   Consider modeling your Twitter use after that of other organizations that are behind such Twitter public health sites as CDCeHealth, Minority Health and the Canadian CBC Health. Also, view them as potential sources for retweets.

Health care podcast content requires some careful up-front planning for the audience's level of knowledge of medical terms and concepts.

CDC's Health Communicator's Social Media Toolkit

•   Reach out to bloggers with "bloginars" -- webinars that, in the case of health care providers, offer information about outbreaks or public health events. A bloginar might feature a presentation by a subject matter expert, a presentation of relevant social media products, or a Q-and-A session.

•   For blogs and social media pages that represent your organization, develop a policy for responding to inappropriate or derogatory comments. Here, the CDC points readers to its own social media comment policy.

•   As for podcasts, they require some careful up-front planning. Podcasts designed to reach health professionals can contain medical terminology, but those for the general public should use common terms -- chickenpox instead of varicella, for example. This is particularly important with podcasts, because listeners or viewers may have downloaded the podcast onto a personal device and may not have access to the Internet or a dictionary.

•   Finally, let listeners leave comments on the podcast landing pages. Feedback helps you determine whether your content is on point, and might yield suggestions for future topics.

The toolkit's reference section comes with links to traffic analysis tools and to many documents for further reading. These resources explain how you can stay up to date on new social media tools, and offer emerging best practices for identifying your audience, developing your message and figuring out how best to use in-house resources to get it done.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Don Fluckinger, Features Writer.

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