Improving healthcare through social media: ready, steady, go!

This weeks Blog of the Week is centred around the use of Social media to improve healthcare – courtesy of the brilliant Naomi McVey! As always, tweet us your thoughts on the matter!

The power of networks

I recently spent the day at NHS England’s Allied Health Professions conference on innovation.  A theme throughout the day was the power of connections and networks in helping us learn and improve, with the launch of three digital initiatives to help.

Networks help us to share learning, innovation and best practice with other people, and there’s increasing focus on their role in improving healthcare. The rapid growth of social media means that digital networks now complement more traditional structures.

The numbers speak for themselves:

  • WeCommunities: 17 communities with over 120,000 combined followers run by more than 100 volunteers.
  • Physiotalk: 14,500 followers from over 100 countries and 50 tweetchats since 2015.
  • The Physio Matters Podcast: over 30 podcasts with an average of 22,000 downloads per episode.
  • Women’s Health Physiotherapy Facebook group: 4500 members, with multiple daily posts from around the world.

These are just a few examples of thriving grassroots communities driven by the enthusiasm of volunteers with the aim of providing better care and services for patients.

But there are boundaries that get in the way. Confidence, acceptance, outdated technology and restrictive employment policies mean that leading online networks can take time, persistence and courage.

Ready, steady, go…

Many people feel intimidated by social media but its bark is worse than its bite:

Get ready

Read your employer’s social media policy and guidance from your regulator and your professional body, including the CSP’s social media guidance. Need some inspiration after the rules and regulations? Watch these videos from the WeCommunities.

You might also want to check out a recent vodcast published on the The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists’ YouTube channel, which I’m on, which covers some of these issues.


Take your time, be patient, and ask for help. Set goals for using social media and make them relevant to your role, service and personal development plan. Focus on service improvement as well as CPD.


Widen your online network, seek out diversity of views and connect with people from different professions. Take part in conversations, listen, learn, and reflect. Take learning and information back to work, share it and act on it.

Move up a gear

Influence local policies by promoting the value of social media. Share examples of how getting involved has benefited you, your service and service-users.

People not platforms

Networks and social media are about people. The skills you need to network online are a continuum of what you use in your professional life. This isn’t about ‘real life’ and ‘virtual’, as for many people this is more fluid. Nor is it about online replacing face-to-face contact. It’s about using the right channel for the right purpose, and connecting with people we wouldn’t meet offline. Stay true to some key values, those of collaboration, integrity and professionalism, and you won’t go far wrong.

Take the jump, be brave and curious. Get involved in online networks to help you to develop the right knowledge, skills, values and behaviours to provide great healthcare.