Guidelines for the Appropriate Use of Social Media by Optometrists

The nature of social media presents some risks for optometrists and patients alike. To manage these risks, when optometrists engage in the use of social media platforms and technologies, they are expected to adhere to all of their existing professional expectations and duties, including those set out in the relevant legislation, regulations, codes of ethics, and College policies. The College recognizes that if optometrists adhere to relevant professional expectations when engaging in social media, these platforms also present important opportunities to enhance education, professional competence, and collegiality and can also be an enjoyable source of information and entertainment.

Optometrists should keep in mind the principles of good optometric practice, which are also relevant to the use of social media. Optometrists have a responsibility to: 

  • safeguard patient privacy, confidentiality and trust by protecting patient information
  • maintain appropriate professional boundaries between themselves and their patients
  • maintain professional and collegial relationships with colleagues, other professionals, and in the public sphere
  • collaborate with other health care professionals for the purpose of information exchange
  • avoid conflicts of interest

In order to satisfy the professional expectations while engaging in social media, optometrists are advised to:

  • assume all content on the internet (anonymous or not) is public and accessible to all
  • remember that social media platforms are constantly evolving
  • refrain from invading the privacy of patients by seeking out information about them that may be available online
  • refrain from posting identifying information about patients in any context online; for example, in a professional blog, video-sharing media, or discussion forum
  • abide by statutes and regulations related to defamation, copyright and plagiarism when posting content in blogs or elsewhere online
  • apply the strictest privacy settings to protect their own information and information about them that could be posted by others
  • be mindful of their internet presence and be proactive in controlling and avoiding content which may be viewed as unprofessional or personal
  • avoid providing patient specific optometric advice online, for example, by posting information on an internet discussion forum that could be construed as optometric advice. In some circumstances, it may be appropriate for optometrists to provide health-related information that is not patient-specific in an online forum for the purpose of public and professional education
  • proactively consider how other professional expectations apply to the use of social media

These Guidelines have been developed based on the concepts of the draft “Guidelines for the Appropriate Use of Social Media by Physicians,” College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario.

(Click here to view an e-learning module on social media use in health care.)

Approved by Council – September 18, 2013