I don’t blog, I never blog! By the time I get around to typing something legible I get distracted and the blog is neither finished or has become old news. However, when I was asked by Dr Ken Donaldson to write a blog for the new Dumfries & Galloway Health blog page I thought ‘hmmm – I’m not a clinician, what could I possibly write that would be of interest. Let’s give it a go!
My name is Samantha Johnston and I am the lead for the Patient Advice and Support Service (PASS) which is a project delivered by Dumfries & Galloway Citizens Advice Service. I also maintain and promote D&G CAS through the use of social media. You can find D&G CAS at www.dagcas.org where you will find a range of useful information on our projects as well as updates on the forthcoming welfare reform changes. Or you can visit our twitter account @DAGCAS
As patient adviser, I have been listening to the patient experience in Dumfries & Galloway since the launch of the Independent Advice and Support Service set up in 2007 which was later rebranded to PASS in 2012 with the Patient Rights (Scotland) Act coming into force. The introduction of the Charter of Patient Rights & Responsibilities also summarises the rights & responsibilities expected for all NHS users in Scotland. Focussing on communication & participation: What does that mean for patients? For me it means an increase in communication, more information about my health so that I can participate in any decisions made about my health. You can take a look at the charter for yourself by clicking on the icon here –
Social Media in Healthcare – There are many forms of social media in which technology allows users to easily create and share content including text, images and videos. As an active social media user since 2007 I have tried a few but my personal choice is Twitter. Why? Because it’s quick, easy to use and keeps me up-to date with what’s going on in other health board areas as well as updates from organisations such as Patient Advice, Patient Opinion, NHS Education for Scotland and Health Improvement Scotland. You will find all of these on twitter via @PatientAdvice @PatientOpinion @NHS_Education @online_his.
What started out as a bit of fun for me quickly became a place of knowledge and learning which enabled me to engage with like-minded individuals who have a keen interest in the patient experience and health improvement; I have also established some very useful contacts that I can signpost patients to should the need arise.
In my first year of tweeting I had witnessed a number of health boards taking to twitter to communicate and engage with their communities and as my excitement grew, it was becoming apparent that Dumfries & Galloway was lagging behind.
Not good! I had mentioned this to NHS staff, tried to establish who dealt with communications but was unsuccessful. Aaargh, frustration ensued. Eventually however NHS Dumfries & Galloway established a twitter account (hurrah) @DGNHS and it is very good but was it enough? No was my answer, putting people at the heart of the NHS which respects individual need must be coordinated in a way that provides choice to the patient and although their twitter account is informative, they were not really engaging in the way that I felt they could be.
Break through and my excitement grows again. I was invited to attend an enhanced patient experience event at NHS Dumfries & Galloway education centre and with that I came across Dr Ken Donaldson – finally I had found someone who was keen on the use of social media in healthcare within Dumfries & Galloway. It was an excellent day with various front-line staff (including the medical director & CEO) engaging in the patient experience. I had left the event feeling invigorated in the fact that Ken was making an impact by using social media to communicate with his audience on the patient experience. Further developments meant the launch of the DGhealth blog and I am encouraged to see that it is going from strength to strength. Big thanks and well done to Ken for being brave and taking a leap of faith by bringing Dumfries & Galloway NHS into the realms of social media.
Whether you have not yet begun or you are already actively engaging, social media is here to stay and there are a number of relevant policy documents and drivers that make the patient experience an imperative. A useful place to start is the Scottish Government’s eHealth strategy 2011-17 which sets out a vision that affirms the view that information and communication technologies are as important to the improvements in quality as are the ambitions set out in The HealthCare Quality Strategy for NHS Scotland.
Of course there are barriers to using social media in healthcare including patient confidentiality, patient/physician boundary issues and professional liability. These barriers however can be overcome if used in the correct way. The question should not be “Do we use social media?” The question should be, “How well can we use social media?” What are our aims? What is the message we want to get across and who will be our audience?
Access to on-line information has created an opportunity for non-clinicians and patients to take a more active role in healthcare. To actively support and enable quality improvements in healthcare across Scotland, the NHS must work with the people who use services to make these services better.
Patient Advice & Support Service
Next Weeks blog will be by Dr Jean Robson, GP and Director of Medical Education NHS Dumfries and Galloway