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Personal Use Guidelines

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 the realm of social media communication platforms.

  • Do not share confidential or proprietary information about 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.
    • Never post or publish photos relating to your patients or their care.
    • 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 general, err on the side of caution and refrain from even vague references to patient care duties, given the potential for HIPAA violations.
    These rules apply even when a patient was profiled on (or if the patient directly posted a comment on) a URMC blog or social media site.
  • 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).
  • Do not publish or post false information about URMC, its employees, its patients or its affiliates.
  • 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.
  • 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. To avoid confusion, we strongly recommend you take these steps:
    • Include this disclaimer in the “About Me” or bio section of your profile: “The views expressed on this [blog; website] are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer.”
    • Use a personal e-mail address (not your “urmc.rochester.edu” address) as your primary means of registering for entry into personal social media platforms.
  • If discussing URMC or URMC-related matters on social media platforms, we encourage you to specify your connection to URMC, use good judgment, and strive for accuracy in your communications. If you receive negative or hurtful responses, it is best to ignore, mute, block or report those posts rather than to engage with the offending account. Our experience shows that it is difficult to convert strong opinions in a social media commenting debate. Again, to avoid confusion, it is always prudent to distinguish between your personal views and an official URMC position.
  • · If you are experiencing privacy, harassment or control issues on your personal social media accounts, or are having trouble moderating negative or hostile comments, there are several steps you can take to feel more secure when interacting and engaging with individuals online. Each of your social media platforms provide a few options to help moderate conversations, most notably, muting, reporting, blocking and filters. For more details on those methods of protection and how to implement them, click here: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, and for additional training on moderating your accounts, contact the URMC Communications Department at socialmedia@urmc.rochester.edu.
  • If bullying and harassment escalates to a threatening level, take screenshots and copy URL links of any unwanted attention, and contact your HR business partner and/or law enforcement.
  • 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.
  • 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 is practically impossible to completely erase content once it has been published in cyberspace.
  • 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 Communications (585-275-3676 or socialmedia@urmc.rochester.edu) if you have further questions about what is appropriate to include in your personal blog or social networking profile, or if you are experiencing any bullying, harassment, or threatening comments, contact the communications office, your HR business partner or law enforcement.

*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.

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