Jacobs School Social Media Guidelines

Before posting on social media, it’s important for you to familiarize yourself with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) social media rules and violations, as well as our general guidelines and resources.

Photos taken in health care environments can expose you and the university to HIPAA violations. Never disclose protected health information (PHI) on social media.

Partner Hospitals and Institutions

Do Not Take/Post Photos or Videos in Hospitals

The properties and buildings of our partner institutions and hospitals are private spaces. We do not have permission to take or share photos of subjects and interiors of those private spaces.

If you are in doubt about whether you can take/post photos or videos from your location, do not take or post the photograph or video.

This non-exhaustive list includes many of our partner institutions and hospitals. Do not take or post photographs from any of these locations:

General Guidelines

Be professional

As medical students and physicians, we should represent our profession well. Adhere to rules of ethical and professional conduct at all times.

Be responsible

Carefully consider content and exercise good judgment; anything you post can have immediate and/or long-term consequences and carry the potential for significant public impact and viral spread of content. Therefore, all statements must be true and not misleading. Make sure you differentiate opinions from facts.

Maintain separation

Avoid interacting with current or past patients through social media, and avoid requests to give medical advice through social media.

Be transparent/use disclaimers

Disclose yourself and provide an appropriate disclaimer that distinguishes your views from those of the clinic, hospital system and/or university with which you are associated (while at the same time being careful not to violate any social media policy that you may be subject to by such organizations). Without specific direction from the appropriate personnel, you may not present yourself as an official representative or spokesperson for said organizations. Also, be sure to reveal any conflicts of interest and be honest about your credentials as a medical student or physician (resident or otherwise).

Be respectful

Do not use defamatory, vulgar, libelous and potentially inflammatory language, and do not display language or photographs that imply disrespect for any individual or group due to age, race, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, marital status, genetic information, military status, or any other protected characterization or group.

Follow copyright laws

Comply with copyright laws. Make sure you have the right to use material before publishing.

Protect client/patient information

Do not discuss confidential information and follow standards of patient privacy and confidentiality and regulations outlined in Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA, 20 U.S.C. § 1232g). Remember that you could personally face a HIPAA violation if there are enough details in the post for patients to recognize themselves.

Avoid politics

Political endorsements or advocacy positions should generally be avoided.

Comply with all legal restrictions and obligations

Remember use of social networking sites or weblogs can carry legal and professional ramifications. Comments made in an unprofessional manner can be used in legal, professional or other disciplinary proceedings (i.e., hearings before a State Medical Licensing Board).

Be aware of risks to privacy and security

Read the social media site’s terms of use and privacy policy. Be cognizant of continuous changes in these sites and closely monitor the privacy settings of the social network accounts to optimize your privacy and security.


These lists highlight some but not all issues surrounding the use of social media in health care environments and communication.

Academic Publications