GP practices in one area of England are contacting up to 250,000 patients through social media to tell them the consequences of failing to attend appointments.
One practice in Stoke-on-Trent used Facebook to tell patients that 96 missed GP appointments and 215 missed nurse appointments created 61 hours of wasted HCP time in October alone.
NHS Stoke-on-Trent CCG’s ambassador for Telehealth, Dr Ruth Chambers, said that additional pressures were being placed on already stretched services by patients who failed to attend booked appointments. By alerting patients to the consequences of DNA appointments via social media, GPs hope to reduce the numbers who fail to present.
Dr Chambers, whose Furlong Medical Centre currently has 623 ‘likes’ on Facebook, said: ‘The discussion this generates is helpful, as hopefully people will begin to learn to tell practices in advance if they can’t make their appointment so it can be given to someone else who needs it.’
The social ‘reach’ of posts from GP surgeries in Stoke has exceeded the 250,000 mark over the last six months, with a third of practices in the area taking to Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to distribute health messages and practice news.
Stoke-on-Trent CCG says that Stoke residents have taken a ‘real interest’ in GP practices’ online presence, with over 11,000 people regularly interacting with practices via Facebook alone.
GPs are also creating private (‘closed’) Facebook groups to introduce patients with diabetes, weight management problems, or asthma to each other, in an attempt to help them manage their conditions more effectively. Some doctors are also using YouTube to post asthma inhaler demonstration videos and to promote services available in the practices.
The CCG says that in future they hope to introduce consultations via Skype and video conferencing, to allow patients to speak to GPs and nurses without having to visit the practice.