Engagement with social media on health issues “humanises” doctors in the eyes of patients, a consultant rheumatologist told delegates at the ICGP Winter Meeting.
Galway-based Dr Ronan Kavanagh, who addressed members through a pre-recorded interview that is available on YouTube, said his engagement with social media sites like Twitter “allows me to present a more human side of myself to patients”.
Dr Kavanagh writes regular blog posts that help patients “decipher topical medical news” and his Facebook page allows for a certain discussion with the patient population. “I’m happy to answer generic questions, as opposed to questions specific to their healthcare,” he said.
Social media also facilitated him in connecting with the international rheumatology community.
Dr Kavanagh acknowledged many doctors were not interested in social media but emphasised that it was a very powerful tool.
“You need to be at least aware that it is going on. If you are sceptical and there is a GP practice down the road offering a social media service to patients, just see what happens,” he said.
In response, one GP at the workshop, expressed a view shared by many, that GPs were “overwhelmed” and engaging with social media seemed like more work. “My concern is this is another addition to my overwhelmed life,” he said.
Medical columnist Dr Liam Farrell, who hosted the workshop with ICGP Network of Establishing GPs (NEGs) Director Dr Peter Sloane, said that although social media “sounds like a lot of work”, it could reduce workloads if used “astutely”.
The Facebook page of the Haxby Group, a provider of GP services in the UK, was shown to delegates. The page — as opposed to profile — updated patients on surgery times, commencement of seasonal flu vaccines, professional achievements of staff, and national and international media news. Patients who ‘liked’ the page would receive latest news into the feed on their own Facebook profile pages.
None of the GPs attending the meeting raised their hand when asked if they had a practice Facebook page, which is free to set up, whereas several had paid-for practice websites.
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