School of Dental Medicine Social Media Guidelines for Students and Workforce Members

In today's digital age, social media plays a significant role in communication.  It's crucial for everyone associated with the UB School of Dental Medicine to be aware of our Social Media Guidelines.  These guidelines address considerations for our organization, our services, our employees, our partners, and most importantly, our patients.  Before engaging on social media, it's essential to understand the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) social media rules, as well as our general guidelines and resources.

Taking photos or videos in the clinics or waiting areas is Prohibited – no exceptions.

SDM Squire & Foster Hall Clinics and Mobile Dental Unit

The UBSDM Clinic Manual explicitly prohibits the use of personal mobile devices in clinical areas.  It also categorizes "voluntarily allowing or participating in inappropriate dissemination of confidential patient information" as unethical and unacceptable behavior.  (See SDM Clinic Manual - pages 28 and 67 for more details.)

Photos taken in healthcare environments can expose both you and the university to HIPAA violations. It is imperative to never disclose protected health information (PHI) on social media.

Do not discuss confidential information.  Follow standards of patient privacy and confidentiality, adhering to regulations outlined in HIPAA and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  Recognize that you could personally face a HIPAA violation if there are enough details in your posts for patients to recognize themselves.

Partner Hospitals and Institutions

Do Not Take/Post Photos or Videos in Clinics, Waiting Areas, Hospitals, or Rotation Locations

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 the 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:

Key Guidelines

Personal Responsibility:

  • Carefully consider what you plan to post.  Remember, you are personally responsible for all content you publish on social media.  When in doubt, discuss with your supervisor, manager, or the SDM's Compliance Officer before posting.  You have sole responsibility for your social media content, and poor judgment or violations of University at Buffalo or UB SDM policies may lead to legal or disciplinary actions.
  • Do not use defamatory, vulgar, libelous, or potentially inflammatory language.  Avoid content that implies disrespect for any individual or group based on various characteristics.

The Permanence of the Internet:

  • Always remember that online content is accessible to patients, colleagues, and supervisors, and it will never disappear.  Even content initially intended for friends and family can be forwarded or found through search engines and archives.

Patient Privacy: Dos and Don'ts:

  • Avoid interacting with current or past patients through social media.  Do not provide medical or dental advice through these platforms.
  • Sharing a patient's post can inadvertently expose their information to different people, potentially leading to privacy breaches.
  • Well-intended posts, such as those requesting prayers or celebrating with patients, could unintentionally breach privacy.
  • Identifying a patient as a UB Dental patient or commenting on their posts might constitute a breach.
  • When UB SDM posts pictures of patients, releases from the patients have been secured.  You can repost or retweet these without causing a breach.

Professionalism and Responsibility:

  • As student doctors, professionalism is paramount.  Adhere to rules of ethical and professional conduct consistently.
  • Be responsible and exercise good judgment.  Ensure that all statements are true and not misleading, distinguishing between opinions and facts.

Transparency and Disclaimers:

  • Disclose yourself and provide a disclaimer that distinguishes your views from those of the clinic, hospital system, or university you are associated with.  Do not misrepresent yourself as an official representative or spokesperson for these organizations.
  • Be transparent about any conflicts of interest and honest about your credentials as a dental student or dentist.

Avoid Politics:

  • In general, political endorsements or advocacy positions should be avoided.

Compliance and Legal Obligations:

  • Comply with copyright laws.  Ensure you have the right to use material before publishing.
  • Remember that the use of social networking sites can have legal and professional ramifications.  Comments made in an unprofessional manner can be used in legal, professional, or other disciplinary proceedings.

Privacy and Security Awareness:

  • Carefully read the terms of use and privacy policies of social media sites.  Keep an eye on changes in these sites and monitor the privacy settings of your social network accounts to optimize your privacy and security.

These guidelines are designed to ensure that your engagement on social media reflects positively on UB School of Dental Medicine while protecting the privacy and interests of patients and the university.  Always use social media responsibly and professionally.


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

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