Sunday, 30 October 2011

Social Media Monitoring in Healthcare

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One year ago a story was shared on the nhssm (NHS social media) blog. The story was about what happened when St. George's trust in London started monitoring Twitter for mention of their name. Social media monitoring is a practice that is becoming increasingly common for businesses and it is not surprising that there is increasing discussion about this in healthcare.

Generally talk about the use of social media in the NHS tends to be driven by people who work in communications teams. This is evident from the programme of the first joint conference between NHSSM and Guardian healthcare, Social Media in Healthcare. None of the presenters are from a clinical background although I believe that another conference is possibly being planned. It is my belief that clinicians (doctors, nurses and other health professionals) and patients should be involved in developing social media strategies for any healthcare organisation.

Back to the St. George's story. When the team started monitoring they came across tweets from a patient who had recently had a renal transplant. Something in his tweets concerned the communications team and because no policy had been devised on how to handle a situation like this they were uncertain what next steps to take. Eventually the patient's clinical team were made aware of the patient's tweets. The patient only became aware of all of this when his consultant mentioned the tweets to him in a consultation.

The story provoked a lot of discussion with 39 responses and a follow up post by Dr. Dan O'Connor on the ethics of social media monitoring in healthcare. I urge you to read both of these posts and have a look at the comments. I've made several comments on both.

Generally I have not come across a lot more discussion of this topic in the last year. I'm not sure if many NHS organisations have developed policies on social media monitoring and I'm not sure how many have involved clinical staff or patients in developing these policies. In fact, I might not have thought a lot more about this if I hadn't attended a breakfast meeting at Evidence 2011 by Ben Breeze of Dell. He talked about how individual members of staff, outside the comms team as far as I understand, were being trained to represent the organisation.

So I am wondering what you think about this. What would be gained from an NHS organisation monitoring social media for mention of their name? Who should be involved in developing policies? How should clinical staff be involved? What are the risks and benefits?