The Question

Will the transparency that comes with social media offer our patients greater protection? This was a question that was tweeted to WeNurses this morning, and at the start of the week that sees the release of the Francis report it is a very interesting question indeed.

With social media comes transparency, there is no doubt about that … existing in a very public space as an organisation you can only be transparent and honest because if you are not someone will very quickly hold you to account. However we need to explore in more detail as to whether it offers the people we care for greater protection:

So what would happen if the Mid Staffs journey started here, today, this minute? Concerns over Mid Staffs started in 1999 which was pre social media taking off I big way and before mobile technology gave us information and connectivity at our fingertips….so would social media have escalated and brought concerns to light quicker, would it have identified early patterns and nipped Mid Staffs in the bud? Social media has the capability to do this but that currently within healthcare we do not take it seriously enough to use it in this way.  Social media is often seen as a toy and until healthcare organisations start to see it is a professional tool we are just pushing water uphill.

It is obvious that the people we care for are talking about their care on social media, a quick search of the word hospital on twitter confirms this:

In order to make social media work for healthcare and use it to protect our patients and provide the best possible care we need to consider these three points:

Be here !! – Be where the people we care for are, exist in the same space as them … there is no point is us communicating in smoke signals when our patients are using social media, we need to communicate with them in the way in which they are communicating.


Listen – listening is a fundamental social media skill. We need to be listening to each and every individual but also we need to be listening en masse.  We need to be aware of what is happening and map any trends, be aware of keep track of the normal and know when there is any deviation.  There are tools that allow us to be location specific, gender specific and sentiment specific in our listening these are the technologies we need to be looking towards.

React – Reactivity is key to any interaction, not just social media, however there is no point in listening and gathering information if we do not use it to improve.  Action is needed both when faced with individual concerns and with looking at trends.  In order to improve our service and protect our patients listening is certainly key but it is nothing with reactivity.

So back to the original question – Will the transparency that comes with social media offer our patients greater protection? My answer is yes it can but we have to ensure it does by being here, listening and reacting.