By Rachel Pugh
GPs should consider embracing social media to share innovative practice, build a sense of community and to gain support when facing professional challenges, in the knowledge that they are in control of the information they post.
Speaking on the benefits of social media, blogging and podcasts at the Royal College of General Practice Conference in Liverpool, Nottingham GP Dr Hussain Gandhi said: “Some GPs have even told me that they have kept working because of the support they have had on social media.”
A self-confessed social media fan, and owner of eGPlearning and eGPlearning Podblast, Gandhi was joined by Cheshire GP Chair NHS Vale Royal CCG Dr Jonathan Griffiths and Ben Gowland, Director at Ockham Healthcare and presenter of General Practice Podcast to explain to GPs how to use social media safely, protect their patients and benefit their profession.
Acknowledging the fears expressed by GP colleagues about intrusion into their personal lives, trolling and controlling patient data, the trio provided safety tips on how to post:
* No clinical content to be used even with patient consent
* Reference to a specific patient case well after the event, and having removed patient information
* Use stock images, never patient images
* Provide an opinion but never advice, and if a patient makes contact, direct them back to their GP practice.
More detailed social media guidance has been produced by preSCRIBE (1) and by the RCGP (2).
With 7.1 million people in UK listening to podcasts weekly - a 24% growth in last year - Ben Gowland believes they represent the future of communication for GPs. He is a presenter on General Practice Podcast, which was launched Feb 2016 to share changes and to tackle challenges of new roles and working practices. So far it has notched up 190 episodes and 130,000 downloads.
Gowland said: “Podcasts give you a chance to share your stories.” Other useful podcasts aimed at GPs are eGPlearning podblast, 2 GPs in a Pod, You Are Not a Frog, The Business of Healthcare, SAGE General Practice and The Art of GP Locuming.
An overview of platforms suggested Facebook is a powerful tool for community building, particularly with the development of Primary Care Networks. GPs are advised to consider creating separate personal and professional pages and to make use of the ‘friends’ private settings. Hundreds of specialist GP pages exist such as GP Survival, which provide networking opportunities and support.
Microblogging is recommended as a news source and for networking. LinkedIn is an effective channel of work opportunities for family doctors. YouTube provides a platform for learning skills and concepts.
Dr Jonathan Griffiths challenged GPs to make their voices heard rather than to leave messaging to corporate information channels but urged caution particularly with Twitter. He said: “If I do not want to see my tweet printed on the side of a bus then I will not tweet.”