Personal Use of Social Media

These guidelines apply to any URMC employee using any social networking sites in a way that identifies him or her with URMC.* That is, if the individual lists themselves as a URMC employee or volunteer, if their site contains a written or graphic reference (photos, etc.) to URMC, or if the individual discuss events, people, or issues to which only a “URMC insider” would be privy.

Before engaging in blogs, Facebook, and other social networking sites, remember that the basic principles and policies that apply to your URMC professional life also hold true in online forums. The guidelines below offer examples of how existing URMC policies play out in realm of modern communication platforms.

  • Personal use of social networking sites should be limited to non-work time, and should not interfere with your work or the mission of the University.
  • Do not share confidential or proprietary information about the URMC or its affiliates.
  • In keeping with HIPAA regulations, never use or disclose Protected Health Information without official, signed consent from the patient or research subject. Even a casual reference—such as the fact that you were a patient’s nurse—amounts to a HIPAA violation, since it acknowledges that an individual was or is hospitalized. These rules apply even when a patient was specially profiled on (or if the patient directly posted a comment on) a URMC blog or Facebook site.
  • Also in compliance with HIPAA privacy law, never post or publish photos relating to your patients or their care. Remember, even references to the care of a patient who is not identified by name, but who is identifiable to your co-workers or others in the URMC community (due to knowledge of circumstances), are problematic. In fact, in general, we encourage you to err on the side of caution and refrain from even vague references to patient care duties, given the potential for HIPAA violations.
  • Use a personal e-mail address (not your “urmc.rochester.edu” address) as your primary means of registering for entry into social media platforms.
  • Personal use of social networking sites should not violate University policy as it relates to co-workers, supervisors, or other members of the University community. For example, social media should not be used to post comments or references to co-workers, supervisors or patients that are vulgar, obscene, threatening, intimidating or harassing (i.e., all examples of misconduct under the University’s corrective discipline policy, Policy 154), or a violation of the University’s workplace policies against discrimination, harassment, or hostility on account of a protected class, status or characteristic (e.g., age, disability, race, religion, sex, etc., under Policy 106). Behavior violating such policies can result in discipline.
  • In some instances, the personal opinion of a URMC faculty and staff member (who directly or indirectly identifies themselves as a member of the URMC community) could be misconstrued as an official URMC stance. In those circumstances, we strongly urge you to use this disclaimer: “The views expressed on this [blog; website] are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer.”) We suggest including this language in an “About me” section of your online profile.
  • If discussing URMC or URMC-related matters over the Internet, we encourage you to specify your connection to URMC, use good judgment, and strive for accuracy in your communications. Errors and omissions reflect poorly on URMC. Again, to avoid confusion, it’s always prudent to distinguish between your personal views and an official URMC position.
  • Clinical caregivers should not provide consultation or medical advice online; in the same vein, we encourage caregivers to avoid muddying professional duties with personal social media accounts by “friending” or connecting with patients online.
    • On a related note, if you must connect with a patient by e-mail, plan to leverage a secure, institutionally sponsored tool (like MyChart, which is built to help you connect in an encrypted, private environment). These electronic exchanges, if systematic and thoughtful, can supplement a face-to-face relationship, enhancing the overall care experience; however, they should never stand alone.
  • Some of the information you post online may be available more broadly than you expect (social media platforms are often less private than they seem), and could potentially be misconstrued. Since URMC’s patients and the community see our faculty and staff as extensions of the organization itself, we advise you to exercise good judgment and take personal and professional responsibility for your online behavior. Consider the sage adage of “pausing before posting” to think how your message or photo might be perceived by the general public. Remember, even once comments are deleted, and tweets are “recalled,” it’s practically impossible to completely erase content once it’s been published in cyberspace. (Dr. Danielle Ofri wrote a great article for the New York Times regarding the importance of safeguarding your professional reputation. You can read it here.)
  • Do not publish or post false information about URMC, its employees, its patients or its affiliates.
  • Be courteous and professional when interfacing with URMC’s corporate social media platforms such as our official Facebook sites, Twitter feed, You Tube channels, etc.

A good rule of thumb: If you would not want a broad audience to see comments you share online, you might not want to post them to the internet.

Call URMC’s Office of Public Relations & Communications (585-275-3676) if you have further questions about what is appropriate to include in your personal blog or social networking profile.

*Nothing in these guidelines is intended to prohibit employees from communicating in good faith about wages, hours, or other terms and conditions of their or their co-workers’ employment.