5 Social Media Do’s and Don’ts for Rheumatologists

Social media is essential for rheumatologists looking to connect and interact with patients. Here's what to do and what not to do on social media.

It may seem like social media is just for sharing pictures of cute animals, but it’s also a great marketing tool for rheumatologists. In fact, according to a survey published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, 71% of young rheumatologists and basic scientists use social media professionally.1

Why such a large percentage? Because it works. A whopping 77% of Americans are on social media,2 making it the place to go if you’re hoping to connect and interact with patients. Just keep in mind, as a healthcare professional you’re held to a higher standard than most. Take a peek at this list of do’s and don’ts before you hit send.


1.   Remain current. Follow the accounts of colleagues, thought leaders, and facilities you admire to keep up-to-date on all that’s happening outside your practice. Check in regularly and you’ll be among the first to know about new case studies and other rheumatology news.

2.   Inform your patients. Help your patients stay current, too. They’ll be interested to know what’s new in rheumatology. Provide links to content from credible sources and you’ll establish yourself as a dependable source of information.

3.   Stay on topic. While a video of an otter dunking a basketball is undoubtedly adorable, it’s not relevant to your audience. The things you post should be related to rheumatology. If you wish to share and opine on other subjects, create a personal profile and set it to private.

4.   Keep it simple. It’s easy to get caught up in numbers and figures. It’s also easy to write an essay when a sentence will do. If you don’t address the “so what?” quickly, your audience will move on.

5.   Post regularly. An abandoned social media profile gives the impression you’re not tech savvy or, worse yet, not even in business. You don’t need to tweet and “like” all day long, but try to set a reasonable target for how frequently you post. Maybe that’s once a day, once a week, or even once a month. Whatever target you set, commit to hitting it.


1.   Violate patient privacy rules. Sometimes the obvious needs to be stated because it’s that important: do not compromise any patient’s privacy online. While HIPAA predates social media, you and your staff are still responsible for upholding its standards. Implement a HIPAA social media policy and train your staff to execute it. When in doubt, follow this rule of thumb: if you wouldn’t say it in public, don’t say it online.

2.   Accept friend requests from patients. While it may feel rude not to accept your patient’s friend request, you need to maintain proper boundaries. Social media can blur the line between professional and personal and alter the way your patients see you.

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3.   Give out specific medical advice. If a patient asks a personal health question on social media, politely direct them to contact your office.

4.   Snoop on patients. Every now and then you may be tempted to type a patient’s name in the search bar. Resist the temptation. Looking through a patient’s profile is a breach of their privacy and trust.

5.   Rant or complain. No matter how bad your day was, don’t take to social media afterward to rant or complain about it. Even if a patient or staff member drove you nuts, know that if you post it online it can – and probably will – come back to bite you.

Remember, there’s a right and a wrong way to use social media. Keep these do’s and don’ts in mind and you’ll stay trouble-free. Now, back to the cute animals on your private profile


  1. Nikiphorou E, Studenic P, Ammitzbøll CG, et al, on behalf of EMEUNET. Social media use among young rheumatologists and basic scientists: results of an international survey by the Emerging EULAR Network (EMEUNET). Ann Rheum Dis. 2016;76(4):712-715.
  2. Percentage of U.S. population who currently use any social media from 2008 to 2018. Statista. Accessed July 5, 2018.