One of the most compelling images from the Olympic opening ceremony was the tribute to the NHS, unifying a Britain that is increasingly a digital nation says Andrew Jackson, healthcare IT consultant and social media professional at Dell.

This digital future lies at the heart of the NHS Information Strategy, which seeks to transform our experience of care by using feedback from patients, users and communities to improve services.

With 77% of British households connected to the internet and 59% regularly using social networks, online feedback will become increasingly important. Yet, our experience at Dell reveals a range of responses by care organisations to this cultural change. At one end of the spectrum we see some organisations that are reluctant to engage, perhaps through fear of loss of control, potential misuse, network security concerns, or confidentiality issues.

Changing attitudes to social media are perhaps best illustrated by Patient Opinion, a non-profit organisation which allows patients to provide feedback on their experiences of care and health service staff to respond. Resulting service improvements are reported, moving closer to the full integration of social media into care.

Care organisations also remain mindful of a digital divide, where 5.7 million British households are without an internet connection. These people tend to be older, with low incomes, disabilities or long-term conditions and may have a high requirement for care.

Face-to-face and online feedback will need to be captured, combined and analysed to deliver the Strategy’s aims. This will be complex: the NHS provides 1 million interactions every 36 hours and journeys of care can cross a range of services from multiple organisations.

To overcome these challenges, at a time when the NHS has to find efficiency savings of £15-£20 billion, will require care organisations to implement strategies which clearly demonstrate how investment in patient feedback and social media delivers service improvement.




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