Social Media Guidelines

Providence believes in the importance of using new technologies that open communication, build community and boost brand awareness among the communities we serve. The burgeoning use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and other popular sites lets us communicate with wider audiences. 

We respect the right of employees to use social media during their personal time. While living in the Information Age benefits our society in many ways, it also presents challenges in protecting health information. 

It is important that the official use of social media is properly managed so we can ensure that the Providence brand and reputation are upheld over time. For these reasons, the following guidelines have been created to help the people of Providence understand how our policies apply to these communication technologies and how you can participate with confidence, both personally and professionally. These guidelines support the Providence Policy on Social Networking.

You can contact your local or regional marketing/communications/public relations department for assistance or you can contact the System Office or your Regional Marketing and Communications team if you have any questions about what is appropriate to include in your blog or social networking profile. Remember that if you wouldn’t want your manager or others at Providence to see your comments, it is unwise to post them on the Internet.

Social Media (or Social Networking Websites)

Web-based media designed to be disseminated through social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable publishing techniques. Examples include Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, and blogs.

Official Use of Social Media

A Providence site is considered an official site if it is registered with a social network under a region, facility or department name or if it is created on behalf of an event that is organized and coordinated by a Providence Health & Services ministry (e.g. Providence Alaska Medical Center, Providence Heart Center, Providence Health & Services Alaska, Providence O’Christmas Trees).

Private Use of Social Media

Any person of Providence who chooses to share their own personal opinions via any web-based communications method such as their own personal site or comments on someone else’s site.

Web Based Communications

Electronic communication technologies, including but not limited to electronic mail (e-mail), instant messaging and web-based technologies (internet, intranet and extranet).

Establishment of official external sites representing Providence Health & Services or any Providence ministry must be approved and coordinated through local marketing/communications/public relations departments. These teams provide oversight and assistance to guide development of new social media platforms, sharing knowledge and instituting best practices for successful implementation.

In addition, these teams will supply the name and graphics to be used on these sites. Any sites found using the Providence name and/or brand without permission must be taken down immediately.

Follow all applicable Providence policies. You must not share confidential or proprietary information about Providence Health & Services and you are required to maintain patient privacy by following Providence Privacy and Security policies and standards and HIPAA rules at all times. Among the policies most pertinent to blogging or using social networking sites are those concerning computer, e-mail & Internet use (*PROV-PSEC-812); the Providence Code of Conduct; the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services; photography and video; release of patient information to media and patient confidentiality (*PROV-PSEC-806). Please always remember Providence’s Core Values, especially Respect and Compassion, when you engage in online conversations or posts.

Do not provide health care or other professional advice unless it falls within your area of expertise. It is perfectly acceptable for you to discuss issues related to your career field or personal experiences, but you should not discuss areas of expertise for which you have no first-hand, direct background or knowledge.

Press Inquiries

Blog postings or other social networking messages may generate media coverage. If contacted by a member of the media, you must direct the reporter to your local marketing, public relations or communications department and notify your local communication staff.

Process for Setting up an Official Providence Presence

  1. Consider working within existing Providence social media outlets if possible. This makes it easier for Providence to present a consistent external presence on social media sites.
  2. Create a brief statement of your business plan or objectives along with a plan for how the site will be maintained to ensure effectiveness and how it will be monitored to ensure material and content is appropriate.
  3. Contact your local or regional marketing/communications/public relations department to discuss your plan and obtain approval for creating the Providence presence.
  4. Receive the name and graphics to be used on the site (or get assistance for setting up the site) from the marketing/communications/ public relations department. Only approved Providence logos, colors and styles and naming conventions may be used. 
  5. Go live on the site and build relationships. Maintain the site and respond appropriately. 

Elements to be Included in Official Providence Sites:

  • Include Providence contact information as applicable to the site’s purpose.
  • Post the following statement in a conspicuous place: “Providence is committed to protecting the privacy of its patients and other customers. We will use and disclose the information you provide in accordance with applicable federal and state law.” If this language will not fit due to space constraints, this language should be included in an “About me” section of the blog or social networking profile.
  • Direct individuals visiting the site to contact 911 if they are experiencing a health emergency.

Rules of Engagement for all Official Blogging or Social Networking Activities

 As Providence engages in conversations on the Internet, the following rules of engagement apply, both on Providence-sponsored sites and in comments on other sites.

  • If you communicate on the Internet about Providence Health & Services or Providence-related matters, disclose your connection with Providence and your role with the organization.
  • When using or visiting a Providence page for official use, using your e-mail address is acceptable. 
  • Providence blog posts and comments will be accurate and factual.
  • Providence will acknowledge and correct mistakes promptly.
  • Providence will delete spam and/or comments that are obscene. Providence will reply to e-mails, posts, tweets, and comments when appropriate and without disclosing personal or confidential information.
  • Providence will link directly to online references and original source materials, and will offer established methods to contact Providence in a private or secure setting when appropriate.

Reference Documents for Providence Employees

*You must have be signed onto the Providence network to access these policies as they are only available through the Providence Intranet.

It’s important to remember that you can be held personally and legally responsible for the publicly made opinions and comments you make, even on personally maintained sites and pages. This means you cannot share confidential or proprietary information, photographs or videos about Providence on personal sites. You are required to maintain patient privacy by following Providence Privacy and Security policies and standards and HIPAA rules at all times. Examples of such confidential or proprietary information that cannot be shared include: protected health information (PHI), personally identifiable information (PII), business plans, and other information or data, whether conveyed in writing or orally, that is known to be confidential or proprietary.

People of Providence are also encouraged to exercise caution with regard to exaggeration, colorful language, guesswork, speaking in generalities, obscenity, copyrighted materials, legal conclusions, and derogatory remarks or characterizations. Our values should guide our behavior. Never forget that anonymous comments sent to websites often can be traced to the sender via email address. 

Nothing in these guidelines is intended to restrict employees from discussion, transmission or disclosure of wages, hours and working conditions in accordance with applicable federal and state laws.

  • When creating a personal site or commenting on other sites and you include your connection to Providence as your employer, you need to make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of Providence. In those circumstances, you may want to include this disclaimer: “The views expressed on this [blog/website] are my own and do not reflect the views of Providence.” Use good judgment and strive for accuracy in your communications. Errors and omissions reflect poorly on Providence, and may result in liability for you or Providence.
  • If you support or oppose a political candidate you should either not mention your connection to Providence or make it clear that you are speaking for yourself and not on behalf of Providence. In these circumstances, you may want to include this disclaimer: “The views expressed on this [blog/website] are my own and do not reflect the views of Providence.”
  • Use a personal email address (not your address) as your primary means of identification. Just as you would not use Providence stationery for a letter to the editor with your personal views, do not use your Providence e-mail address for anything other than official business purposes. This helps ensure that anyone reading your blog, posting or other online activity understands that you are not speaking on behalf of Providence. 
  • With the exception of the discussion of wages, hours and working conditions between employees, if your blog, posting or other online activities are inconsistent with, or would negatively impact Providence’s reputation or brand, you should not refer to Providence or identify your connection to Providence.
  • Be respectful and professional to fellow team members (supervisors, physicians, nurses, co-workers, etc.), business partners, competitors and patients. Be thoughtful and accurate when posting comments, and be respectful of how others may be affected. Those that identify themselves as connected to Providence in their postings and comment on Providence at any time should notify their manager of the existence of their posting to avoid any surprises.
  • Provide Context to Your Argument. You should provide enough support in your posting to help readers understand your reasoning, be it positive or negative. Readers generally appreciate multiple perspectives, so help them to understand your perspective by providing context to your opinion.
  • Engage in Private Feedback. In order to maintain an open dialogue that engages everyone, contributors to online blogs and conversations often welcome “off-line” feedback from their colleagues who would like to privately respond, make suggestions, or report errors without having their comments appear publicly.
  • Ensure that your blogging and social networking activity does not interfere with your work commitments.
  • You should always respect copyright and other laws. Do not post any information or other material protected by copyright without the permission of the copyright owner. Do not use any words, logos, or other marks that would infringe upon the trademark, service mark, certificate mark, or other intellectual property rights of the owners of such marks without the permission of such owners. Do not use any Providence logos or trademarks for any commercial purpose, or in any way that would reasonably mislead others into thinking that the communication is an official Providence communication.