Social media refers to the various modes of electronic communication used to share information and create online networks. It includes websites, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, to name a few. It does not include email communication.
In this digital age, social media offers many personal and professional benefits that veterinarians and other professionals are recognizing; however, it is also important to remain aware of the potential risks. Veterinarians are expected to uphold their obligations to professional integrity and ethics, and earning the public trust. When using social media, veterinarians should reflect on several fundamental principles:
- The maintenance of professionalism and ethics
- The importance of privacy and confidentiality
- Compliance with relevant legislation, including the Veterinarians Act, Ontario Regulation 1093, and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)
- The maintenance of professional and respectful relationships with clients, colleagues, co-workers and staff
To assist veterinarians with appropriate use of social media and adherence to the above principles, it is recommended that veterinarians:
Assume that all content on the Internet is public and accessible to all and apply privacy settings to safeguard personal information and content to the extent possible. Once information is posted on the Internet, it is likely there permanently.
Exercise caution when posting information online that relates to a client/patient. Unless client consent has been obtained, refrain from posting identifiable client/patient information online in order to comply with legal and professional obligations to maintain privacy and confidentiality.
Refrain from seeking out client information online without prior consent. How personal information about clients is collected, used and disclosed is protected by the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).
Refrain from providing clinical advice to clients through social media.
Protect the public trust by not posting content that would be viewed as disgraceful, dishonorable, unprofessional, or be regarded as conduct unbecoming.
Comply with relevant legislation and standards with respect to advertising.
Comply with the law related to defamation, copyright, and plagiarism when posting content.
The content of this document was adapted from the following resources with permission:
Guidance on the Use of Social Media, November 2015, Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario
Social Media – Appropriate Use by Physicians, The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario