Why Docs should connect to Social Media

Update from Patient Opinion Australia

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There’s a story about a bloke who was caught in rising floods.  In the first instance, a policeman knocked at his door and said he’d better prepare to evacuate.  But he ignored his advice saying “I believe in God who will rescue me”.  As the floods rose, a boat arrived and encouraged him to climb aboard. However, to their surprise, the bloke ignored their help saying “I believe in God who will rescue me”. The floods rose even higher to the point where the man had to sit on his rooftop.  As he sat there watching, a helicopter arrived and shouted through the megaphone to grab onto the rope so he could be rescued. But the man refused saying  “I believe in God who will rescue me”. Sadly, not long after, the man was washed away by the floods and drowned.  When he got to heaven he was quite irate and asked God why he abandoned him to drown, especially since he was a believer.  God smiled and said, “I never abandoned you.  I sent you a policeman, a boat and even a helicopter!”

I guess the moral of the story is that miracles happen in everyday events, and we should respond to the technology/support that is before us rather than adopt an attitude of “I know best”.  Well, social media is a technology that has arrived and is very much upon us.  It will be increasingly difficult to ignore both now and in the future.  Patients and their carers/families are now going online and writing about their healthcare experiences.  Even the traditional complaints process is being by-passed by the public in favour of social media which gives them quick and easy access to having their say for all to hear, not just those in regulatory or authoritative positions.  The public want to tell anyone and everyone who might be listening. 

And the public is becoming increasingly mistrusting of organisational-led social media platforms. The reason for this mistrust is that there is little anonymity, and the organisation has control of the story.  For example, some hospitals use Facebook as an avenue for patients to ‘tell their story’, but, if you think about it, what patients would want to tell their story about their depression, or IBS so that all their friends and acquaintances will know about their personal circumstances?

Another potential problem with the public using social media is that doctors don’t usually have a right of reply (eg  www.rateMD.com).  Traditional social media platforms (such as Facebook and Twitter) are generic and great for social conversations.  However, in the context of healthcare, they may be highly unsafe in that the postings are not moderated.  Therefore, such platforms might be dangerous for both patients and staff in that personal identities are revealed. 

So what makes Patient Opinion different?  Unlike generic social media platforms focused on social conversations, Patient Opinion is a bespoke platform that is about improving services.  It is designed for healthcare. And we are not a TripAdviser of health were the focus is on comparing doctors.  Far from it.  We are more about helping consumers change their experience of care, not choose care.  Our focus is on what is working well, and what might be improved. It’s all about driving citizen participation geared towards service improvement.  Most of the stories (50%) on Patient Opinion are positive, and we believe that doctors can learn much by hearing these positive stories.  Only 1-5% of stories are highly critical, and again, we believe that doctors can learn from these critical stories too. 

So Patient Opinion is about learning and engaging with the public in an open and transparent way.  It’s about forging new relationships with patients as they engage more and more with the world of social media.  So come on board and don’t get left behind drowning in the world of “I know best”.

Why not visit our website (www.patientopinion.org.au) and see what people are saying.  Your organisation may want to use our free widget which can be found here  https://www.patientopinion.org.au/info/api .  This is a great way of encouraging your patients to write their story on your own website.  Contact our staff if you would like to know more at info@patientopinion.org.au or 07-33544525.

 

 

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