The College of Optometrists

Benefits and risks of using social media

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If you use social media it can support your work as an optometrist and enhance your patient care by:
  1. being involved in clinical, public health or policy forums and networks
  2. participating in professional networks to find out about good practice
  3. contributing to information about eye health and services which patients can access.
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You should consider the purpose of your online profile and use appropriate security and preference settings.
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Social media sites can blur the boundary between professional and personal life, and comments that you publish in a personal capacity may become accessible by a much wider audience. 
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If you identify yourself as working for a particular organisation, you must make it clear that any views you express are personal ones, and not necessarily those of your employer.
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If patients contact you for professional purposes, using your private profile, you should indicate you are unable to respond privately and redirect them to your professional profile or contacts. See section on Maintaining boundaries.
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Communications with colleagues and other professionals may be more informal and less precise than if you use other formal means of communication, and this might lead to miscommunication. You should also be aware that by making an online posting you are publishing text and this is subject to the same laws of copyright and defamation as other written or verbal communications, whether you make them in a personal or professional capacity.236, 237 You should not make personal or derogatory comments about patients or colleagues on public internet forums. You should be aware that material that is posted online can be traced back to the original author, even if it is done anonymously.
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Social media sites can often lack context and a posting can be misinterpreted.

References

236 Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988
237 Defamation Act, 2013

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