Patrick Keady

What has Twitter got to do with quality, safety, risk management and governance in the NHS?


Social Media in Healthcare Twitter Facebook




What has Twitter got to do with quality, safety, risk managment and governance in the NHS?

I learned today that it has much more than I might think, including:

  • assisting patients give their views on experiences of NHS services
  • developing a new style of leadership in the NHS
  • helping CCGs and Trusts influence what people are saying about them
  • reducing the numbers of formal patient complaints about NHS services
  • helping patients, providers and CCGs in crisis management
  • “good’ and not so good types of tweets

I hadn’t realised how much science was behind it” was just one of the comments from delegates at today’s conference, Using Social Media in Healthcare.


Hosted by :

  • Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust
  • Patient Opinion and
  • Klood Ltd 

I was delighted to have accepted to invitation to today’s conference held today at Stadium MK in Milton Keynes.


While lots of very helpful information was presented, here are 11 take-home messages for the NHS and me.



“NHS Chief Executives need to :

  • be seen as separate from their Trusts/CCGs/LATs
  • have the space to “build regular dialogue”
  • be seen as people, not bureaucrats
  • open-up managerial decision-making
  • be accessible and transparent
  • share the dilemmas and complexities that they face
  • build trust”

Dr Mark Newbold, Chief Executive, Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust

Our relationship with Social Media

  • we contactable by anyone
  • we are ‘out there’ and part of the debate
  • anyone can debate current issues with us
  • we can be challenged by anyone
  • our views are stated and open to comment
  • we can publish details of our decision-making
  • how we spend our time is open and available for all to read


What people are saying about NHS services

The NHS probably does not see 99% of tweets about them !  Of all the tweets :

  • about 1% are directed to NHS bodies
  • 21% are opinions about the NHS
  • 35% of tweeters are being cared for by the NHS
  • 43% are sharing news and information about the NHS.

But how can the NHS tune-in with what’s being said?  By hash-tagging key words about individuals and organisations, we can easily keep tabs on what is being said. Check this out on software such as TweetDeck.



Have a social media policy so that staff feel that they have the permission and freedom to tweet.


Who is tweeting?

  • 60% Female and 40% male
  • 74% are aged 15 to 25 years
  • 15% aged are 26 to 35 years
  • less than 3% are aged over 56 years


Do’s and don’ts for NHS tweets

  • “Definitely tweet on Saturdays and Sundays
  • It’s optional mid-week
  • Less is more: never over two ‘official’ posts a day.  But three is good on Saturdays and Sundays
  • Photos are very popular
  • 52 second videos are too, with the key messages in the first 15 seconds.”

Vivion Cox, Chief Executive, Klood Ltd

Crisis management

  • be the first to speak about the crisis
  • be transparent
  • prepare for difficult questions
  • own up to mistakes


It helps to reduce formal complaints in CCGs and Trusts

  • by patients tweeting directly with the CEO in and out of office hours – the focus is on solving the problem
  • by bringing the complaints team from the ‘back-office’ to the front-office to work closely with the communications team.
  • by placing QR codes in each Ward, GP Practice, Clinic so that patients can make direct contact with the ward manager, practice manager etc.  


“Good” types of Tweets

  • links to what’s going on in publications and the media
  • active ‘communities’ discussing things related to the NHS
  • avoid personal ‘stuff’
  • while opinions provoke responses, opinion on policy is fine
  • don’t drink and tweet

And “if you are contactable, you will be contacted”


How to respond to complaints

  • “No stock responses
  • make the response personal
  • deal with the issues
  • say what you will do
  • timing is all
  • use the data
  • actively engage online”

Philip Dylak, Director of Nursing, Tameside Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust


People read what is being said about the NHS on the internet

“For example, information from and about Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust published on the Patient Opinion website has already been viewed 4,300,000 times”

Ben Path, Business Development Manager, Patient Opinion

These are my 11 take-home messages for the NHS and me.

For other views on the conference, please check-out the views of Andrew Huges, Highland Marketing and Dr Mark Newbold

What do you think about Twitter in healthcare?  Please enter your thoughs below.


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© Copyright 2013 Better Outcomes Ltd.  Feel free to print, download and save this article for your non-commercial use.

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