GPs use social media to keep patients informed

GPs in Stoke on Trent are using social media to keep thousands of patients up to date with important health messages.

Dr Ruth Chambers: social media boosts contact with patients (Photo: UNP)

One in three practices in the city use Facebook pages, You Tube videos and Twitter accounts to communicate with patients in their own homes.

In the past six months more than 100,000 people have viewed online information - including health information and practice updates - from the Stoke practices. More than 11,000 patients in the city regularly interact with their practice on Facebook alone.

Stoke on Trent CCG clinical telehealth lead Dr Ruth Chambers said: 'Some of our practices have been able to use Facebook to send important information out about the numbers of people who don’t turn up for their appointments or the excellent services that can also be provided by local pharmacies.

Online patient information

'One practice, for example, was able to use Facebook to tell patients that in October there were 96 missed GP appointments and 215 missed nurse appointments – a total of 61 hours of missed appointments at that one practice alone. The discussion this generates is helpful as hopefully people will begin to learn to tell practices in advance if they can’t make their appointment so we can give it to someone else.'

Practices are also using closed 'community groups' within the social networking website to introduce people who share medical conditions such as diabetes or asthma. 'Some of these people rarely come into contact with other people who suffer in the same way so hopefully these groups will help them manage their conditions together,' she said.

Practices have used sites such as You Tube to give asthma inhaler demonstrations and promote services available in the practices. The CCG plans to introduce the use of Skype and video conferencing to allow patients to speak to GPs and nurses from home.

Hear Dr Ruth Chambers speak on integrating telehealth into primary care at the Commissioning Primary Care 2015 conference on 4 February in London

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