Social media and healthcare: Driving awareness and improving engagement

Health minister Dr. Dan Poulter recently predicted that smartphones and technology are about to dramatically change the health industry as we know it.

One of the most powerful healthcare innovations in recent memory has been the dramatic increase in 24/7 access to health information - enabled by wireless internet access, smartphones and tablet devices.

Having this information available wherever and whenever we want it means users can research and plan for preventive measures for many diseases, track changes in their health and increasingly take charge of their own wellbeing.

More importantly, advancements in technology will enable patients and healthcare services to engage with each other more effectively. For example, patients will soon be able to consult their doctors using video software and update their medical records on smartphone apps.

Health services will use social engagement to drive awareness of their services and improve patient satisfaction.

Driving awareness of health services with social media

We’re already seeing this in action at NHS Blood and Transplant, where we’re using social media to increase engagement and awareness with our current and prospective donors.

NHS Blood and Transplant has over 450,000 Facebook ‘likes’ and 42,000 Twitter followers, allowing the organisation to disseminate information quickly and efficiently as well as receive useful feedback from the public.

We post updates on services, changes in administration, campaigns and relevant news articles. Additionally, we monitor social media updates for feedback from patients’ and donors’ experience with the organisation to make improvements as needed.

Secure and effortless engagement

Not only can donors share feedback and monitor for news from NHS Blood and Transplant, they can also use their Facebook or Twitter log-in details to gain secure access to the website and complete their online donor registration.

To enable this experience, NHS Blood and Transplant has partnered with identity security company Ping Identity to deliver a secure and simple online donor experience to drive registration, interaction and awareness of giving blood with media-savvy donors.

Patients, and those interested in donating, use their social media log-in details to gain access to the NHS Blood and Transplant website where they can register, book an appointment, find a convenient donation session or view their recent donation history.

Donors are reminded of their appointments via in-app tweets or Facebook messages and can publicise the fact they are giving blood via their social media platforms, amplifying and spreading the important ‘give blood’ message.

Enabling communication between patients and service providers

In a field such as healthcare, which is highly complex, constantly evolving and relevant to everyone’s day-to-day lives, an effective means of communication between organisations and patients is critical.

It is no wonder recent technology advancements in on-demand communication and social media are transforming the way we engage with our healthcare providers.

Patients and donors need to use social platforms that are engaging, seamless and secure. We live in a digital age, where people want to access information seamlessly, securely and in a way that suits them.

By engaging with patients on a social level, healthcare organisations can improve patients’ experience while driving awareness to their services and campaigns.

Jon Latham is assistant director for Marketing and Donor Contact Service at NHS Blood and Transplant.