Finding a space for using Twitter in a healthcare setting can sometimes be a little tricky. There are many issues to consider such as confidentiality, regulatory requirements and perhaps even the perception by some that Twitter is not a suitable setting for health discussions.
However, the social media phobes amongst us in the healthcare industry strongly need to reconsider their aversion if a recent article in the Health Service Journal is anything to go by. They analysed the use of Twitter as a communications platform for NHS Trust chiefs. Their investigations concluded that more than a third of NHS chiefs are now using Twitter as a means of keeping in contact with staff and exchanging ideas in order to drive better practice. Gavin Boyle, chief executive of Chesterfield Royal Hospital Foundation Trust is just one of the chiefs quoted in the article who says he uses Twitter as a staff engagement tool, with over two thirds of his followers being hospital employees.
It’s not only those at the higher management level of the NHS that are now embracing Twitter as a means of engagement. The #hellomynameis campaign started by Dr Kate Granger @GrangerKate is a wonderful example of using Twitter to develop better relationships between frontline NHS staff and patients. When she was diagnosed with cancer Granger became acutely aware of the lack of interaction between doctors and their patients. Unfortunately, when she received treatment last year for a routine kidney stent replacement, she discovered that more often than not she did not receive even a simple introduction by the members of staff providing her treatment.
In light of this, Kate invited healthcare staff to pledge their support and commit to introducing themselves properly to patients, spreading her message using #hellomynameis. The campaign has gained considerable traction, with many NHS trusts around the country encouraging their staff to embrace its message.
We have noticed the effectiveness of Twitter for our own clients. Just recently we were trying to reach a number of leading cancer influencers in the UK on behalf of a client who had compelling data around a new diagnostic they are developing. One of them in particular remained unresponsive to phone calls and emails. We decided to Tweet him a link to news around the published data and within hours he had replied requesting that we arrange a meeting. He is now in advanced discussions with the client about running their next clinical trial.
On a global scale, Twitter is being utilised for its ability to reach millions of people and collect lots of valuable data. The Center for Infectious Disease Dynamics based in Penn State University is developing algorithms that will harness Twitter as a disease surveillance tool, crowd sourcing information shared by millions of Tweeters in an effort to identify public health issues as they emerge.
These are just a few examples of the wonderful uses for Twitter in healthcare. So whether you want to use Twitter for tracking down that elusive key opinion leader or be at the fore front of the health crowd sourcing movement, there really are no more excuses. Please share any examples of Twitter being used in healthcare in the comments section below!