Thoughts on using social media from a GP

A GP who is also an education professional and an expert user of social media, Anne Marie is a natural and presents a superb discussion posing some difficult questions of her readers:

How are people using social marketing in health? Now you have surgeries tweeting, blogging, opening YouTube accounts but what has social media got to do with me as a health professional?  What does ‘engagement with consumers’ using social media, ‘establishing a brand’ got to do with health and health care organisations?

Anne Marie has a real life example of a Government organisation encouraging people to use twitter to contact a sexual health nurse, Zena.  Zena is using twitter, a website and a facebook page to contact patients. But:

  • What about private issues being discussed between health professional and patient on a public site?
  • How to guide patients online? To use it in a safe way?

This is what this presentation is about – well worth a listen to and if you are really struck with how good this is, the comments on Anne Marie’s blog from health professionals including Zena and patients are enlightening too.

Health professionals and social media

And my two pennies worth: – I admire what this sexual health nurse is doing – not only getting her head around the technology, but putting herself out there as a professional in social media opens her up to all sorts of discussions, comments and criticisms, in a very public way.

I agree with Anne Marie’s concerns that what happens online stays online.  Forever. And from the comments from patients here it’s worth remembering how vulnerable people are especially when they have health problems, their concerns may overtake their care for privacy.

I see what professionals like this nurse are doing as advertising good information to people on a variety of networks, giving them the channels to communicate/find someone, and then taking the conversation off line.

Even if you have the best expertise in health – if you don’t use social media how are patients going to find you?

In response Anne-Marie wrote

“I agree that social media may be a useful way to disseminate contact details. But I do have grave concerns about encouraging its use a contact medium. And it may be heresy but the people who probably most need Zena’s help probably have the least access to social media in any form. This is where enabling patients to make contact by SMS is really useful. Those are 140 private characters.”