The rules of engagement

I love this tweet from a recent #hcsmca chat:  “The SM Policy: What you write is ultimately your responsibility.” 

Short, simple and to the point.  A complex subject summarized in seven words.

And I love the irony of seeing it just after we finalized our “Terms of Use” — a 700 word document.  Hmmm.

Of course, the simpler version wouldn’t have worked for us. Hospitals are conservative in nature, with a detailed policy and procedure for everything.  So for something like social media, which takes many way out of their comfort zone, you know you’ll need to spend significant time setting up the rules of engagement.

Like many other hospitals, we wrote our “Terms of Use“ to help guide the behaviour of people interacting with us through social media, and to help address any potential liability concerns.  I took at look at what was available on the web already and found lots of great examples from organizations like  the Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, and Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.  Each one has its own flavor, because it was designed to meet a specific need, I’m sure.  And there are many other versions from U.S. hospitals available at Social Media Governance and Found in Cache.  

But again, I found myself struggling for Canadian examples.  The first came to me via one of our doctors who is also associated with the University of Ottawa Faculty of Medicine.  They have “Guidelines for the Appropriate Use of Internet, Electronic Networking and Other Media”.  Unfortunately, I was never able to find an on-line version, but they’d likely share a copy if you asked them.

The most interesting and detailed one I’ve seen in Canada is from CareToKnow.org.  Christine Stewart, their community animator (which is a great title, btw), pointed me to it after an #hcsmca tweetchat.  It is as thorough and as detailed as any I’ve seen. Of course, when you check out their site, you’ll see why.  It is one of the few Canadian sites I’ve seen where people are actively encourage to share their medical experiences in public discussion forums.   There are a lot more examples like that in the U.S. with Patients like Me and CarePages.  But we’ll get to some more examples in a future post.

If you haven’t already, I’d recommend you spend some time on your “Terms of Use”, in consultation with your privacy officer and legal advisors. Although I’ve noticed that a lot of hospitals don’t seem to have one, and I’d love to hear your thoughts on that.  Does your organization not see a need for it or is it still simply on your things to do list?

If anyone is aware of any other Canadian examples of Social Media “Terms of Use” please let me know. I’d like to add some more examples to the resource section.

2 Comments to “The rules of engagement”


  1. Maggie Gyllenhaal 1 January 2011 at 5:16 am #

    You made some nice points there. I did a search on the matter and found mainly folks will agree with your blog.

  2. Kennett Square 4 January 2011 at 5:32 am #

    Good day its just me back again mearly said that I might come back and take a look at in which way the topic was moving.


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