Talking Politics on Social Media: Be Careful Where Health Care is Concerned

Talking politics

The recent government shutdown over funding of the Affordable Care Act sent millions of Americans straight to social media to air their views.

We know you saw them: posts that ranged from your friends on the far left decrying tea party politics to those on the far right accusing the Obama administration of attempting to derail American life as we know it.

The question here is, do these kinds of posts—or tweets, or blogs—have an impact on your job?

When the topic of your conversation has anything to do with health care, the answer could be yes. While this is the good old USA, and you certainly do have the right to free speech, sounding off about political issues like the Affordable Care Act or other aspects of health care reform should be approached with caution.

Here are a few rules you can follow to ensure you don’t inadvertently say something you shouldn’t while you exercise your right to free speech:

  • First and foremost, don’t post anything ever about a specific patient. You are an employee of a health care facility, which means you fall under the HIPAA privacy rules whether you’re at work or at home on Facebook. So while it may be tempting to use that COPD patient in 645 who often has to forego her dinner to afford her medications as your poster child for covering the uninsured, just don’t.
  • Keep your comments civil at all times. Political issues bring out the passion in everyone, but coming back at your opponents with something like, “Obamacare will cost zillions and I hope you’re the first one to lose your job because of it — you deserve it,” could make your boss think twice about your character.
  • Stay accurate too. Before you spout off about something, check your facts and make sure what you are advocating for or against is actually true.
  • Remember that simply “liking” something someone else has said on Facebook can do damage to your reputation as well. While “likes” are more likely to go unnoticed than those in-your-face posts, you never know who might be clicking over to see “who the heck actually ‘liked’ that.”
  • When it comes to Twitter, carefully consider who you follow. Following people or places that resort to snide remarks or hateful comments to get their points across are best avoided.
  • If you like to blog, and health care reform is your topic of choice, be sure to present a balanced view of whatever aspect you are writing about. You can still express your agreement with one side or another, but do it in a way that presents the other side of the equation as well. Your readers will walk away with greater respect for your views if you at least make an effort to tell both sides of the story.

As noted earlier, we all have the right to free speech in this country. But if we want to keep our jobs, we need to ensure we exercise that right in a thoughtful and respectful manner at all times – particularly in the brave new world of social media.