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Pat Rich

Tweeting about quality: How social media can help improve care

Informing and connecting: If social media is supporting the development of quality care in Ontario and elsewhere, it is through effectively performing these two key tasks.

While social media may still only be used by a portion of health care providers, policy-makers and patients in the province, the platforms we have come to associate with social media – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. – can be influential in supporting quality care initiatives.

In developing a system that we wish to be patient-centred, social media has emerged as an important platform for allowing patients and members of the public to engage with health care providers and policy-makers to make their views clear. The degree of interaction between those with lived experience with a disease or illness with those providing their care is unprecedented thanks to online communities and social media like Twitter.

The Twitter hashtag #metoomedicine, galvanized women physicians and their supporters through Twitter to demand more equity and gender equality within the medical profession and has helped bring a much higher profile to this issue. It is an example of how social media has emerged as a powerful tool for helping health care providers share their experiences and insights. It can also help providers deal with their challenges to support the fourth pillar of the Quadruple Aim in quality care – that of enhancing provider wellbeing (although to be fair, social media can also impede this by adding more time pressures to already stressed providers or exposing practitioners to frankly hostile or upsetting views or individuals).

Social media has enhanced the development of a quality care network too, connecting people provincially, nationally and globally. Leaders in the development and promotion of quality care initiatives exist in every jurisdiction, and platforms such as Twitter allow them to share their experiences and knowledge with each other and those who follow them. Examples in Ontario include Health Quality Ontario’s own Dr. Irfan Dhalla (@IrfanDhalla), Lee Fairclough (@LFairclo) and Dr. David Kaplan (@DavidKaplanMD) and family physicians such as Dr. Sarah Newbery (@snewbery1) and Dr. Cathy Faulds (@fauldsca). Elsewhere in Canada there are others too numerous to list although some such as Dr. Dennis Kendel (@DennisKendel) in Saskatchewan merit mention because of the outstanding job they do in sharing information about quality care initiatives. Globally, health quality leaders such as Helen Bevan (@helenbevan) in the UK are highly active on social media and have shared ideas that appear in health quality presentations in Canada and elsewhere.

Conferences such as Health Quality Transformation hosted by Health Quality Ontario and the upcoming BC Quality Forum (#QF19) hosted by the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council significantly expand their reach and generate much broader conversations about quality through use of Twitter and other social media channels.

For health quality organizations such as Health Quality Ontario, social media are invaluable for sharing information and engaging about initiatives and programs. Any organization or individual choosing to use social media needs to first consider how and why they are going to use certain platforms or tools.

For instance, Health Quality Ontario (@HQOntario) uses Twitter extensively to engage with its followers and others because it has found Twitter to be the most strategically useful platform to connect with work in or use the province’s health care system. We also use Facebook because many patients and members of the public rely on Facebook to keep informed and we have much that we would like to share with them and seek their opinion. Health Quality Ontario also hosts a vibrant online community about health care quality called Quorum.

It is important to remember that social media can promote and amplify bad ideas and opinions just as easily as good. “Fake news” flourishes on social media, but that is no reason to dismiss the platforms themselves.

For those choosing to embrace social media to support quality care, it is also important not to forget that your social media contacts and online communities do not mirror the real world. As we can choose who to follow on Twitter or which Facebook or LinkedIn groups to join, we often create social media worlds that are amicable to our own worldview and, unless we are careful, can forget other voices and opinions that can be just as influential. To combat this tendency, it is good to follow people or organizations on social media who have views with which you may not agree, so as to gain a broader perspective.

Writing in this space recently, the former CEO of Health Quality Ontario Dr. Joshua Tepper (@DrJoshuaTepper) said one of the seven core competencies of leadership should be familiarity with social media and an understanding of how the growth of social media platforms “is transforming traditional communications hierarchies, means of information sharing and participation.”

I would extend this argument beyond leaders to everyone who has an interest in supporting the principles of quality care and promoting agendas that see these principles more fully enshrined on our own health care system.

Pat Rich is Senior Digital Writer at Health Quality Ontario


1 comments on article "Tweeting about quality: How social media can help improve care"

Joan Conrad

In consideration of social media usage, it is important to remember many people still worry about the misuse and vulnerability of some of the platforms you identify. I do not use Facebook and Twitter to a limited extent for this reason but would still want to have access to current and credible information

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