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GP practices advised to set up official Facebook pages

GP practices should prioritise setting up official pages on Facebook to capture patient feedback, a study has concluded.

Carried out by researchers at Keele University and focusing on the areas of Stoke-on-Trent and North Staffordshire, the analysis found that a majority of practices have some presence on the popular social media network.

However, out of 83 practices studied, only 31 had a practice-owned, official Facebook page. Meanwhile, 41 out of the 52 remaining practices had an unofficial page.

The study, published in BJGP Open, concluded that 'patient engagement with pages suggests demand for this technology' but that there were 'risks associated with unmoderated unofficial pages'.

The paper said: 'Evidence was found of unofficial pages having been vandalised and used for the non-intended purpose of advertising local businesses; further, there was a trend towards less positive feedback on unofficial Facebook pages.

'Thus, it is suggested that practices consider the value of hosting at least an official landing page which, as a minimum, would act as a directory listing for a practice.

'This would serve a subsidiary function of preventing unmoderated, inaccurate, and inappropriate information within unofficial pages being prominent in search results; although, within the examples found, content was generally not harmful, these have potential to seriously damage the reputation of a practice if interpreted as being practice-endorsed.'

The researchers suggested that these risks, which included pages set up entirely without the practices' knowledge, 'can be mitigated by practices having official pages hosted by the practice with appropriate protocols in place for managing them'.

The researchers set out to understand the use of Facebook by GP practices and whether the platform provides 'novel insights' compared to other patient feedback tools, such as NHS Choices and the Patient Survey.

They found that, generally, 'the number of Facebook reviews was higher than the number of NHS Choices reviews', which they said 'suggests that Facebook may represent a conduit for feedback not captured elsewhere'.

They also found that practices' use of Facebook pages is 'variable', but 'most commonly used to  provide generic practice information and for gaining patient feedback'.

They added that GP practices need better support to 'understand meaningful uses of this technology and the potential risks of unofficial practice Facebook pages'.

Readers' comments (8)

  • Azeem Majeed

    We have had a Facebook page for my own practice for a few years. In that period, we have received a total of 4 comments.

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  • Cobblers

    Social meejah is a double edged sword. I don't see the benefit to a medical practice in having such a presence. OK with a practice website but that is as far as it goes.

    It may reflect my luddite views but to me Facebook is to keep in touch with extended family and friends.

    Too much of this touchy feely web rubbish. Bah Grump!

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  • Stalkers paradise.

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  • You can at least delete posts if you are accused of being being a dog rapist, if it is your own site!

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  • AlanAlmond

    Social Media like Facebook is in my humble opinion primarily a force for social harm. It facilitates the bullying of our children, it magnifies peer pressure and the desire to conform, it encourages the spread of half thruths and the rule of the mob, it enables sad nobodies direct access the pretty much anyone to troll at will, it glorifies introspection and vanity and it’s the absolute antithesis to the concept of mindfulness (i.e being in the here and now) ...and it’s forever promoted by the Media and stupid articles like this research paper as some kind of non-negotiable life necessity.
    I have no doubt there are many benefits and many people really couldn’t live without it, they will consider me a Luddite, backward and stupid. But to them I say..wake up! Go talk to someone face to face, stop posting photos of your kids and take a look outside...that’s where life happens
    (The irony of this post as a comment on a social media site is not lost on me..not all online comment is rubbish , and give me a break I’m on a train, I’m reading PULSE and at least I’m not talking about myself on that sad virtual mirror reality distorter - Facebook)

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  • No time to point score to keep pen pushers in their jobs.

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  • Couldn't care less if there are unofficial pages about my practice about which I am unaware. Ditto with reference to the trolls who comment on NHS choices. I run a professional but hopelessly unresourced service; not a beauty contest. I don't see the punters flocking to nearby practices because we don't have an official social media presence or because we only have 2 stars on NHS choices. We won't be setting up a Facebook page.

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