“How many times have we heard that the NHS needs to become better at sharing information and best practice? That we need to establish better dialogue with patients? That we need to learn from other countries and other sectors?” These are some crucial issues brought up by the editors of The Health Service Journal (HSJ) and Nursing Times in the foreword of a collaborative supplement published last year.

The authors propose that a simple and easy solution to the above issues exists in the effective use of social media, and I am strongly inclined to agree. With more patients turning to the Internet for health news and advice, it makes sense to have a strong presence from healthcare professionals, NHS leaders and other knowledgeable individuals. Communication within places like hospitals can be greatly improved, and with social media flattening hierarchies there can be a boost in trust and transparency. In addition, the ability to connect with others on a global scale can lead to new best practices being introduced for the benefit of patients and doctors alike. These are just a few of the number of ways that social media can help drive innovation within healthcare systems, but it must always stem from dedicated individuals.

The supplement highlights twelve Social Media Pioneers, selected by a panel of judges based on how they have used social networks such as Twitter and Facebook “to improve healthcare and affect its future”. The list contains several notable healthcare professionals including nurses like Teresa Chinn (@AgencyNurse) and Anne Cooper (@anniecoops), as well as specialists such as Ron Daniels (@sepsisUK), Helgi Johannsson (@traumagasdoc), and Partha Kar (@parthaskar).

Included are pieces of advice on how to be effective in social media, which are part of a toolkit that is provided free-of-charge by NHS Employers. Among these are:

  • Choose the platform (LinkedIn, Facebook, blog, etc.) that is best for achieving your goals in social media
  • Consider what kind of groups you will be engaging with
  • Generate useful content that will resonate with your audience

Resources like this can encourage people who are passionate about health, whether or not they are healthcare professionals, to get involved in sharing and collaborating online. I hope to see this become a yearly appreciation of social media experts in healthcare because it could serve as a source of inspiration for future digital leaders.

It is excellent to see recognition for those that are making an impact in the UK. However, the Internet is a big place, and there are also hundreds of thousands more doctors, nurses, patients, leaders, and advocates across the world contributing to making the world a healthier place, one tweet at a time.


Image source: NHS Employers