New social media guide for registered physios


The Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (Ahpra) and the national boards have published a new guide to help all registered health practitioners understand and meet their obligations when using social media.

The guide does not stop you from engaging online or via social media; instead, it encourages you to act ethically and professionally in any setting. The guide also outlines some common pitfalls practitioners may encounter when using social media.

Physiotherapy Board of Australia Chair Kim Gibson said, ‘Community trust in registered physiotherapists is essential. Whether an online activity can be viewed by the public or is limited to a specific group of people, physiotherapists have a responsibility to behave ethically and to maintain professional standards, as in all professional circumstances.’

When using social media, just as with  all aspects of professional conduct and behaviour, you need to be aware of your professional obligations and other relevant legislation, such as privacy legislation.

You can meet your obligations when using social media by: 

  • complying with confidentiality and privacy obligations
  • complying with your professional obligations as defined in the Physiotherapy Board of Australia’s (the Board’s) code of conduct
  • maintaining professional boundaries
  • communicating professionally and respectfully with or about patients, colleagues and employers
  • not presenting information that is false, misleading or deceptive, including advertising only claims that are supported by acceptable evidence.

Inappropriate use of social media can result in harm to patients and the profession, particularly given the changing nature of privacy and the capacity for material to be posted by others. Harm may include breaches of confidentiality, defamation of colleagues or employers, violation of practitioner–patient boundaries or an unintended exposure of personal information to the public,  employers, consumers and others. Information stays on social media indefinitely. Information published on social media is often impossible to remove or change and can be circulated widely, easily and rapidly. Therefore, it’s important that you are careful about what you like or post online regardless of where in the world the site is based, or the language used.

What is social media?

Social media is a term that is constantly evolving but generally refers to internet- based tools that allow individuals and groups to communicate, to advertise or share opinions, information, ideas, messages, experiences, images, and video or audio clips. They may include blogs, social networks, video and photo-sharing sites, wikis, or a myriad of other media, used for:

  • social networking (Facebook, Twitter, WEChat, Weibo, WhatsApp)
  • professional networking (LinkedIn)
  • discussion forums (Reddit, Whirlpool)
  • media sharing (YouTube, Flickr, Instagram)
  • content production (blogs [Tumblr, Blogger] and microblogs [Twitter])
  • knowledge/information aggregation (Wikipedia)
  • virtual reality and gaming (Second Life)
  • booking sites and apps (HealthEngine, Whitecoat, Podium).

Where relevant, the Board may consider social media use in your private life (even where there is no identifiable link to you as a registered health practitioner) if  it  raises  concerns about your fitness to hold registration.

While you may think you are engaging in social media in a private capacity, it is relatively easy and simple for anyone to find your registration details through the register, or make connections using  available  pieces of information.

Take care to ensure you do not inadvertently post or communicate publicly, while thinking you are communicating privately.  And, make sure you know and understand the relevant security and privacy settings.

Visit the Board’s website for more information and useful tips to help you understand and meet your obligations.

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