Background: Social media has been utilised in a variety of healthcare settings. While its potential for extending healthcare services is recognised by the NHS, potential pitfalls exist. The place, benefits and practical problems of using Facebook in general practice are unclear. Aim: To understand the utilisation of Facebook by general practices, whether Facebook provides novel insights when compared to other centrally-hosted feedback platforms, and the prevalence of unofficial Facebook pages. Design & setting: Eighty-three general practices in North Staffordshire. Method: Publicly available information and feedback relating to general practices on official and unofficial Facebook sites was examined and compared to other, centrally-hosted feedback platforms (NHS Choices and Patient Satisfaction ratings). Thematic and descriptive analyses were undertaken to understand the nature of the content. Results: Thirty-one practices had publicly-accessible, practice-owned, official Facebook sites which, overall, had received over 7000 likes. Two had integrated booking systems, 14 allowed reviews and all had accurate practice information. Most remaining practices (41/52) were found to have an unofficial Facebook page. Conclusion: General practice use of open Facebook pages is variable, but most commonly used to provide generic practice information and for gaining patient feedback. Patient engagement with pages suggests demand for this technology. Risks associated with unmoderated unofficial pages can be mitigated by practices having official pages hosted by the practice with appropriate protocols in place for managing them. Practices need to be supported to better understand meaningful uses of this technology and the potential risks of unofficial practice Facebook pages.
Moore, K., Cottrell, E., & Chambers, R. (2018). Facebook in general practice: A service evaluation in one health economy. BJGP Open, 1(4). https://doi.org/10.3399/bjgpopen17X101181