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Digital engagement and the NHS

Paul-DaveyThe growth in popularity of tablets, smart devices and social media platforms mean that the sharing of information online is now integrated into virtually every aspect of daily life.

When used as part of a wider digital strategy, these platforms have the potential to spread key messages faster and more efficiently than ever before, whilst promoting and supporting key organisational objectives. The Department of Health also recognise this potential, as referenced in their revised Digital Strategy:

Sharing experiences through social channels equips people with information to help them to get the right support or care. Remote diagnosis and surgery are no longer the stuff of science fiction.

…This step change means everyone will benefit from more joined-up care, better services, and more transparent sharing of information. Patients and the public will access information or services in ways designed for them, not for the system. And health and care professionals will spend more time caring for the people most in need, and less time serving inefficient information systems.

(‘Digital Strategy’ – Department of Health, 2012)

What does it mean for commissioners?

The need to engage with a wide and varied audience means that participation can come in many forms. This can range from a simple website enquiry or Retweet to the completion of an online survey as part of a wider consultation process. It is important to note that participation in the online sense, and by definition engagement, is about more than just communicating or sharing a message. It should involve some sort of meaningful interaction with the end user.

Core principals

  • The use of individual digital platforms should be considered as part of a wider digital strategy. They are rarely as effective used in isolation as when part of an integrated, considered approach.
  • Integrated digital campaigns employ a mix of channels to convey a message and stimulate conversation.
  • Online participation allows commissioners to reach more isolated areas of the community, such as those with mobility issues who may not be able to reach events.
  • Social media offers an exceptionally valuable and low cost approach to patient and public engagement.
  • Intelligent use of web and social platforms allows for the communication of vital information in real-time.
  • Online discussion affords those who might not usually participate a safe, secure and often anonymous environment in which to interact.
  • The online sharing of opportunities and information by cascading through partner organisations can help to spread the message further and wider.
  • Analysis of data (web page visits, social media interaction etc.) helps to understand how and when users are interacting and which content is of interest to them. 

What does it mean for you, either as a patient, member of the public or commissioner? Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences below.

Paul is the web and social media lead for South East CSU, why not check out his biography?

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