Next week, the American Physical Therapy Association House of Delegates will convene for the 2012 session.  This year’s House will discuss and vote on a number of motions, but – as a self-proclaimed social media junkie – one motion in particular has caught my attention.  The motion, introduced by the Washington Chapter, is known as RC 23-12 and proposes to set standards of conduct for physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and physical therapy students who use social media.  The exact language of the motion is as follows:

RC 23-12 ADOPT: STANDARDS OF CONDUCT IN THE USE OF SOCIAL MEDIA

Whereas, Physical therapists (PT), physical therapist assistants (PTA) and physical therapy students (students) must be knowledgeable regarding the principles of patient/client privacy, confidentiality and identifiable patient/client information as it relates to social media;

Whereas, PTs, PTAs, and students should use privacy settings to safeguard personal information. PTs, PTAs and students should monitor their social media presence to make certain that the information on their own pages and content posted about them is in concert with the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) Code of Ethics for the Physical Therapist and Standards of Ethical Conduct for the Physical Therapist Assistant;

Whereas, PTs, PTAs, and students must be knowledgeable regarding employers’, educational institutions’, or clinical training sites’ published policies on personal social media sites;

Whereas, To uphold appropriate boundaries, PTs, PTAs, and students should consider having separate personal accounts;

Whereas, If a PT, PTA, or student sees content posted by a colleague that appears unprofessional, s/he has a responsibility to bring that content to the attention of the individual, so that the individual can remove or modify the content; and,

Whereas, PTs, PTAs and students can be held personally and legally responsible for their publicly made opinions and comments, even on personally maintained sites and pages;

Resolved, That physical therapists, physical therapist assistants, and physical therapy students should demonstrate appropriate conduct in social media activities.

SS: Physical therapists (PT), physical therapist assistants (PTA), and students are using social media for professional/work/educational purposes, as well as personal interactions. The overlap creates potential conflicts in patient/client management. PTs, PTAs and students must understand that their online actions and content may negatively impact their reputation among patients/clients and colleagues, impact their careers and undermine trust in the profession of physical therapy. Conduct is defined as a verb to behave or manage (oneself); or to direct in action or course; manage. The PT, PTA and student must use appropriate conduct in the use of social media as the professional team. Currently, there are no APTA guidelines available for social media. APTA members are required to maintain patient privacy by following APTA’s Code of Ethics for the Physical Therapist and Standards of Ethical Conduct for the Physical Therapist Assistant, their respective state practice acts, and HIPAA rules at all time, including social media.

Whether you are an APTA member or not (you should be, join here), this motion could have significant implications for those of us who are already using social media, as well as those who may consider communicating using social media in the future.  What are your thoughts?  Is it time for the APTA to formally address professional use of social media?  Does this motion fairly and accurately describe social media and its uses?  If you do not support RC 23-12 as written, what are your suggestions to amend this motion?  What would you add?  What would you remove?

I urge you to share your thoughts on RC 23-12 in the comments below, join the #RC23 conversation on Twitter, and contact your state APTA delegate(s) to let them know how you feel about RC 23-12.  As a Delegate for the Kansas Chapter, I plan to be a vocal participant in this discussion, and I will share your thoughts at the House.  There will be no better way for me to illustrate the power of social media at the House of Delegates than by citing our very own social media discussions of RC 23-12.

Make your voice heard.  Together, we can shape the future of our profession – one status update, tweet, post, or comment at a time.

[icon style=”notice”]Update: A lively Google+ Hangout and Twitter conversation on the #RC23 hashtag has been taking place.[/icon]

RC23-12 Discussion on Google+

Summary of #RC23 discussion on Twitter via Storify.

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Kendra Gagnon is a new contributor to PT Think Tank. A pediatric specialist, she’s on faculty at the University of Kansas Medical Center and shares a common interest among PT Think Tank writers: she is a “self-proclaimed social media “junkie”, and uses technology and social media in the classroom to engage students and prepare them for using these technologies in the professional world.”

She blogs at Kendra Ped PT.