Professional development and training blog of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA)
April 15, 2011

Digital Health Care Challenges Examined at Panel and Tweet Chat

Ethics is the backbone of public relations. After all, how can you build relationships and trust, if you don’t do it in an atmosphere of integrity and transparency? Lately, however, the growing array – and popularity of – social media tools has created some new ethical dilemmas and uncertainties. How does the PRSA Code of Ethics apply to tweets? If I do Facebook on my own time, what right does my employer have to complain about – or perhaps fire me for – what I say and show? The fact is, much of social media is uncharted territory. We know the rules for traditional media. Now, we’re trying to figure out if, and how, they apply in the new media world. There’s a lot of blurriness out there – between news and opinion, news and entertainment, privacy and “sharing” with Facebook and Twitter friends.

If you’re in the field of health care, things can get especially complicated. At the annual Health Academy Conference in Washington, D.C., April 27–29, a panel of top health care public relations professionals will delve into “Ethics and Today’s New World of Health Communications: An Interactive Look at What’s Right, Wrong and Just Depends.”

The idea for the session grew out of a program on ethics and social media sponsored by the PRSA College of Fellows at last October’s annual conference. It drew a standing room only crowd as well as almost 100 PRSA members participating via Twitter. A lot of discussion ended up addressing some issues in health care, represented on the panel by Tom Vitelli, assistant vice president, Intermountain Healthcare. Tom will be back — and I will again be serving as moderator for the Health Academy Conference session. We’ll be joined by Michael M. Durand, senior health care communications counselor, and Diane Gage Lofgren, APR, Fellow PRSA, senior vice president, brand strategy, communications and public relations, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan Inc. Our special Twitter moderator will be Leigh Fazzina, principal, Fazzina & Co. Communications Consulting. We’ve already received some input from our PRSA colleagues on issues to address.

If you’d like a sneak preview, come to the #PRSAHealth Tweet Chat, April 20, 2–2:30 p.m. EDT, with Diane (@dianelofgren), Michael (@michaelmdurand) and Leigh (@leighfazzina).  Meanwhile, here are a few “teasers” to think about:

  • Some of the patients in a trial for your new drug are taking part in on-line conversations that can unintentionally unblind the trial. What can you do?
  • You’ve been asked to ghost-write a blog for the head of your hospital. Is that ethical?
  • A nurse praises a patient’s fortitude in the face of serious illness via a tweet. Is that okay?

Hope you can join us on the #PRSAHealth Tweet Chat and then the conference session at 9 a.m. Friday, April 29 – in D.C. or via Twitter.

Podcast Preview

Interested in hearing more? Visit the Health Academy Conference website for a podcast interview with Judy Phair and Health Academy Conference Co-Chair Ellen Beth Levitt.

Health Academy Podcast Interview


PRSA Past President Judith (Judy) T. Phair, APR, Fellow PRSA, is a senior public relations executive with extensive experience in strategic planning, branding, worldwide public relations and marketing, media relations, fund raising, and government relations.

She served from 2006 to 2010 as vice president, communications, for the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC®), an association of 179 top graduate business schools around the world.  GMAC is the owner and administrator of the GMAT examination. Judy led the Council’s worldwide strategic communications planning and oversaw advertising, media relations, and print/electronic communications activities.  She headed a major branding initiative for GMAC and the GMAT as well as the redesign of the GMAC web site, and implemented an extensive international media relations and advertising campaign, with a special focus on European and Asian markets.

In 2002, Judy founded her own public relations and marketing agency, PhairAdvantage Communications, and has now resumed a full-time focus on PhairAdvantage. Among her clients have been the American Council on Education, University of Southern California, Bucknell University, Drexel University, Johns Hopkins University, Loyola University of Chicago School of Law, University System of Maryland, and the National Association for College Admission Counseling.  She is an active consultant with GMAC and recently coordinated and participated in a successful media tour in India for the president and CEO of GMAC.

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