22 August 2013

Medical staff are developing a reputation for misusing patient information. As an occupational group they are high social media users.  According to a DomPost report today a New Zealand Doctor survey found 55 per cent of GPs used Facebook.  That has given rise to incidents including posting medical photographs and patient notes, improper criticism of colleagues, and other inappropriate observations.

United States research by the Ethics Resource Center would suggest this is not uncommon. There is wide misuse of social media by professional groups. People who are frequent users of social media tend to have the poorest regard for codes of conduct and employer controls on information use. The report content may persuade employers to proscribe any social media use and to preclude access through workplace tools..

Perhaps unsurprisingly there is extensive use of social media in the workplace. Survey respondents were grouped into the frequency of their social media use.  Three out of four social networkers do so when at work, with 28% indicating they do so for an hour or more each day. Many admit that none of this is related to their work.

“Active social networkers” are people who spend at least 30 percent of their day participating in a social network. These active users seem to have least concern for ethical controls. They report that they would comment about their employer organisation if it were in the news; they would post information about work projects, and about a third say they comment about colleagues and clients.

The ERC noted that social networking is transforming the office environment in unpredictable ways. Getting benefit from this is a challenge for leaders who must also manage the risks. “Creative businesses can also use social networking to their advantage in terms of workplace ethics, using it internally to reinforce company values and build work­force loyalty and cohesion,”

The State Services Integrity and Conduct Surveys in 2007 and 2010 were based on ERC research material.  Both the SSC  and the Department of Internal Affairs have published guidance on social media use.