SoMe, You + AHPRA

First-up, just in case you’re late to how this story started, let me give a bit of background/context as I understand it.

  1. The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA) lost control of distribution of their preliminary consultation paper on social media policy.
  2. The document started turning-up online – think WikiLeaks-Lite – and was soon being shared amongst health professionals and others via (you guessed it) social media (BTW: social media is often abbreviated as “SoMe”, which I hope is an ironic hat-tip to the assertion that using social media is a narcissistic undertaking – “it’s so about me“).
  3. For a week or so, it was the most dominant topic of conversation on Twitter amongst those who have an interest in Healthcare & Social Media in Australia & New Zealand (HCSMANZ). To get a feel for these conversations see this Storify (collating some relevant Tweets from 03/09/12 to 10/09/12), and this #HCSMANZ transcript (09/09/12)

Here’s a copy of the email I sent to AHPRA (it’s been in the public domain before now):

Dear AHPRA

As part of the consultation process, please follow the link below for a demonstration of how one arm of social media works

AHPRA on Twitter (with images, tweets)

I have found this conversation on twitter informative, thought-provoking, occasionally irreverent, often entertaining, and something that enhances (not risks) my understanding of what it is to be a health professional.

As you will see, health professionals are engaging with social media in a manner that does not conform with the draft guidelines. Health professionals are critiquing matters they find important, some are advertising their services, they don’t always hide their comments from the public (ie: their patients could read them), and are doing so in manner that is probably very similar to how they would interact in a tea room, at the nurses station or while attending a conference. That is the point I would like to make most strongly: social media is not different to real life, it is real life.

Social media does not stand apart from real life anymore than the telephone, email or letter-writing does. Health professionals are trusted to go “behind the curtain” (both literally and metaphorically) when with people (aka patients) often at their most vulnerable time in life. Surely then, health professionals should expect to be trusted in the very public arena of social media.

I submit the suggestion that AHPRA should revisit the draft policy from a completely different standpoint. Acknowledge an assumption of professionalism whenever a health professional is representing themselves as such, and encourage health professionals to embrace the potential of emerging technologies, not fear them.

Paul McNamara

It is a pretty unsophisticated response compared to many of the other comments made. If you really want to get into the detail of what others were saying, follow the links in the Tweets collated on Storify. If you don’t want that level of detail, but still want to understand what all the fuss was about, just read this response from Phillip Darbyshire (07/09/12), which ends:

If AHPRA cannot support this movement [health professionals using social media] positively and enthusiastically, then it should at least have the grace and wisdom to step out of the way and do not obstruct it.

Ironically, AHPRA have motivated me to get more involved in SoMe than I would have otherwise. I found many like-minded people via this Twitter hashtag: #HCSMANZ and have been inspired to do more, not less, with SoMe. I hope AHPRA finds this creative, energetic, kind-of-geeky group worthwhile consulting with in future.

APHRA have sent an email acknowledging receipt of submission to the preliminary consultation paper on social media policy, and advise there will be a round of public consultation.

You Me We haven’t heard the last on this subject.

Paul McNamara, 25 September 2012

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