NHS calls on staff to use social media for improved patient care

17 January 2013 (Last Updated January 17th, 2013 18:30)

The NHS Employers organisation in the UK has published guidance encouraging the NHS to approach social media openly and responsibly to improve the quality of patient care.

The NHS Employers organisation in the UK has published guidance encouraging the NHS to approach social media openly and responsibly to improve the quality of patient care.

The guidance, titled ‘HR and social media in the NHS’, aims to assist human resources managers, leaders and communications staff in using social media more effectively within their organisations.

"In the NHS it isn’t social media itself that’s the issue, but the need for greater clarity on professional behaviour and confidentiality combined with a more permissive approach in organisational policies encouraging staff to use social media safely."

The NHS Employers organisation director Dean Royles said that people throughout the NHS are now realising that the benefits of social media outweigh the risks.

"I know some people have concerns about confidentially and reputational issues. In the NHS it isn’t social media itself that’s the issue, but the need for greater clarity on professional behaviour and confidentiality combined with a more permissive approach in organisational policies encouraging staff to use social media safely," Royles added.

"I hope our new guidance helps many organisations find that clarity."

The new guidance outlines three key ways in which social media can help improve care: its increasing use by patients for understanding available healthcare options and services, and the opportunity this presents for the NHS to ensure it is helping patients find the right information; the ability to track emerging developments among staff or patients, such as concerns about the quality of care, and to improve services accordingly; and the ability of social media to help support stronger engagement between staff, employers and the public.

‘HR and social media in the NHS’ explains that policies followed by various NHS organisations, based on the principle of ‘if you wouldn’t say it in the canteen, don’t type it’, help in preventing the misuse of social media but that there is a need to develop them further.

Initial steps recommended by the guidance include watching out for the #nhssm hashtag on Twitter, reading the blogs of colleagues who are active on social media, and signing up to quality social media sites featuring recent news, views and statistics.

The guidance also calls on managers to find possible arrangements to tackle potentially difficult social media situations.