On the brink of SoMething special?


NHS Social Media is at a crucial point in its development and maturity, not dissimilar to the adoption around 20 years ago of the web itself by NHS organisations, both at national level and amongst frontline organisation and their staff delivering on the ground.

It has matured from being a new-fangled concept, through a bleeding-edge set of tools and approaches, to a point where most NHS organisations now realise:

  • it is increasingly the arena of choice and activity for growing numbers of patients, families, staff and stakeholders;
  • the NHS really needs to up its game and begin to use it properly;
  • if used properly it could deliver real value to the NHS itself as well as the people working in it and the individuals it exists to serve; and
  • it isn’t going to go away.

Report CoverOur Report is intended to help the NHS move beyond the brink, fully embrace the Social Media stealth revolution and reap the benefits for staff, patients, service users and their families.  Thanks to great support from NHS Providers, you can download a copy for FREE.

Like the early days of the web, and associated false dawns and fashions such as the first attempts at “e-government” in the early 1990s, the initial commercial approach into the NHS of business-related social media was led and delivered mainly by technology-focussed or traditional consulting and PR firms.  This has often led to attempts to sell into the NHS approaches and solutions that are heavily concentrated on specific channels, ‘technology-for-technology’s sake’ projects or in some cases simply repackaged traditional communications, management and PR consultancy sales and services with a tacked-on social media sprinkling and an unhealthy dose of overcomplicated fancy jargon designed to mystify.

There has also been a danger for centrally-managed ‘social media’ activities or initiatives to take place within frontline NHS organisations as standalone activities, not fully embedded in core priorities such as listening, engagement or service improvement.

Meanwhile, however, something remarkable has been building out on the NHS frontline and in the homes and lives of thousands of individual members of staff, young leaders, middle management, patients and their families.  These thousands-strong individuals have been joined by a growing cadre of visionary Chief Executives and senior management.  Rather than wait for their organisations to catch up, these individuals have begun to embrace and promote social media, using it to help with the day to day challenges they face and the basic human instinct they possess to connect with and support each other.  In some cases, it has led to truly remarkable transformations in engagement and communication between the NHS and its users.

Their combination of determination, ingenuity, passion, mutual support and sometimes sheer bloody-mindedness has been a stealth revolution whose day is about to come.   This stealth revolution may not have been televised.  But it has been tweeted, re-tweeted, favourited, liked, followed, tagged, poked, shared, webcast, thunder-clapped and crowdsourced.

Won’t allow us to access social media through the organisation’s IT infrastructure?  We’ll use our own devices.  Don’t see the benefit of using social media during work-time?  We’ll use it during our breaks and home time.  Doesn’t fit with our inflexible website and jealously-guarded web policy?  We’ll ignore the web and go straight into the hands of our stakeholders and users through social media and their mobile devices. Say it can’t be done?  We’ll find thousands of others who are actually doing it.  Stay in a safe comfort zone?  We’ll go out on a limb and gamble on something revolutionary, innovative and new.

This maturing process has yet to fully run its course but, thankfully, there are increasing signs that the NHS is finally ready to step up to the mark and bring social media into mainstream core business operations, delivering real value and improvement across activities such as listening, engagement, improvement and collaborative innovation.    It also appears that the stealth revolution increasingly is beginning to be embraced by mainstream leadership and frontline across the NHS.

However the bulk of the mainstream NHS still doesn’t yet know how to truly embrace and exploit social media and in some cases remains suspicious that it could be simply another fad.  As a result, the NHS has found itself teetering stubbornly on the brink of something special.

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