December 4, 2009

VUMC creates guidelines for use of social media

VUMC creates guidelines for use of social media

As social media tools such as blogging, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have become more popular, many people want to use these tools as part of their jobs, but have had questions about how go about it.

This month, Vanderbilt University Medical Center's first social media policy — which has been developed over the course of many months with contributions from, among others, physicians, nurses, communications professionals, risk management, general counsel, information security and the privacy office — begins providing some answers for workplace uses of social media.

“The social media phenomenon offers us new avenues for communicating and directly engaging our consumers, but it is not without some risk,” said Jill Austin, VUMC's chief marketing officer, who shepherded the policy process.

“This policy offers parameters for faculty and staff that helps protect them as well as Vanderbilt University Medical Center's brand and reputation and the privacy and confidentiality of our patients and families.”

The policy has been vetted and approved by several policy-making bodies, including the Vanderbilt University Hospital Operations Policy Committee, the Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt Hospital Policy and Practice Committee, and the Vanderbilt Medical Group Executive Committee.

Generally, the policy says that official social media sites at VUMC have to be “initiated and authorized through the efforts of the VUMC Marketing, News and Public Affairs (NPA), VUSM, and/or VUSN communication departments,” although working through the offices named above, pages or content areas can be assigned to departments, divisions or programs in all areas of VUMC.

Currently existing sites will be reviewed to assure that they meet the policy, and the VUMC Marketing department will offer administrators recommendations to assure that they do, Austin said.

This policy applies to only official use of social media at the Medical Center, not private use from non-VUMC e-mail addresses.

“This policy is not intended for Internet activities that do not associate or identify a faculty or staff member with VUMC, do not use Vanderbilt e-mail addresses, do not discuss VUMC and are purely about personal matters,” the policy says.

“Many of us are engaging in social media in our personal lives, with Facebook, Twitter and other tools,” Austin said. “But for an organization like Vanderbilt to use social media effectively, there needs to careful thought given to the specifics — what is the objective? Who will maintain the site's content and monitor activity? How will responses from the community be handled?

“Our goal is not to tell people that they should or shouldn't do this, but rather to help them think through how and even whether social media is the right approach to help meet their objectives, and then to provide parameters for those who choose to participate,” Austin said.

Informational meetings regarding social media in general, as well as the new policy, are currently being scheduled and details will be announced soon.