Patient involvement: GP practices should not be scared of using Facebook

Social media can play an important role in promoting patient-centred care and improving practice's relationships with patients, writes Dr Ruth Chambers.

‘Facebook? It’s just used by teenagers to share pictures of their family and say what they had for tea.’ This is what, I suspect, most of my fellow clinicians would tell you if you asked about the social media channel.

But I firmly believe, if used properly, it can transform the relationship between GP practices and the patients they serve.

Using social media to promote patient care

Over the last few months, I have been championing a project that aims to show how social media such as Facebook can be used by clinicians and professional to promote person centred care.

We have held workshops across the West Midlands to introduce, train and hopefully develop staff in practices to use it as an engagement tool.

At each workshop, the same questions and comments were raised: ‘Isn’t Facebook just for young people?’; ‘When am I going to get time to do it?’; ‘Won’t it just lead to people posting negative stuff about the practice?’; ‘Most of my patients won’t have access to Facebook.’

But the reality is different. Latest stats show 85% of homes have access to the internet, more than seven in 10 adult internet users have a social media profile and the fastest growing smartphone market is the 65-plus age group. In 2013, 28.9m people accessed Facebook regularly. This is set to increase to 33m by 2018.

And rather than lecturing colleagues about how great Facebook is, we showed them some real life cases studies of what practices could achieve by using it.

How practices are using Facebook

Jenny Woodfint, practice manager at Belgrave Medical Centre in Stoke-on-Trent, was quite sceptical about Facebook, mostly because of time constraints. But through Facebook, the centre has been able to transform their patient participation group and attract new members who would normally not want to get involved. The group now Has more than 40 members.

Kate Sherwin, assistant practice manager at Birches Head Medical Centre and Hulton House Surgery also in Stoke-on-Trent, is another professional who has used Facebook to improve her practice's relationship with patients.

They were both interviewed as part of the project I am leading. You can see those interviews here and here.

I am pleased to say that the message is getting out there. We now have more than 30 practices in Stoke-on-Trent using Facebook, about half of all practices in the city. We get a weekly reach of around 700 patients on average per practice.

Digital technology is a top priority

The NHS sees digital technology as a top priority. Indeed, only last month, NHS England’s director of digital technology, Beverley Bryant, told the sustainable healthcare conference that all clinicians had to embrace digital technology and information.

The message was loud and clear: we have no option but to embrace technology to improve outcomes for patients.

Facebook and other forms of social media are cost effective tools we can use to meet this agenda. Indeed, the potential is huge. But professionals fear it. We shouldn’t let fixed ideas about what it is stop us exploring and exploiting that potential.

  • Dr Ruth Chambers OBE is a GP in Stoke-on-Trent and has recently been appointed chair of Stoke-on-Trent CCG

Photo: UNP

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins


Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

External wall of GP surgery with wording 'medical centre'

‘Utterly toxic’: GPs speak out over abuse and physical attacks on practice teams

GPs have condemned a rise in verbal and physical attacks on practice staff - warning...

Artist's image of a spiked virus

Javid warns of 'substantial risk' from new COVID-19 variant

The highly mutated COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529 'may pose a significant risk to public...

Desk with lettering 'LMC conference'

LMCs reject 'outdated' GMS contract and demand move to item of service payments

LMCs have voted to scrap the 'outdated and inadequate' GMS contract and to replace...

GPs at an LMC conference waving green voting cards in the air

LMCs demand ringfence on enhanced services cash and clear GP representation in ICSs

LMCs have called for a ringfence on enhanced services funding, along with a guarantee...

Close up of hands typing on a computer

Practices should not be required to provide online consultations, say LMCs

Online consultations should no longer be a part of the GMS contract and targets for...

Sign outside BMA House

More than half of GP practices prepared to pull out of PCNs, BMA ballot shows

More than half of GP practices in England are prepared to opt out of the PCN DES...