The Centre has been sponsored by the local NHS Trust to explore how social media could be used to improve interaction. Over the past few months, we have been working with a group of Wirral Patient Participation Groups (PPGs). [PPGs are committees of worthy volunteers, usually retired, who work with a GP practice to make the practice more responsive to the needs and wishes of patients]. The group reviewed the various social media tools, and the potential benefits and likely issues of introducing such an initiative. We chose an approach based on a WordPress weblog linked to a facebook page where both sites are controlled by the PPG. The weblog is effectively an interactive noticeboard with the facebook page connecting to a wider patient network. With our help, three PPGs have developed this approach and are now starting to publish news, share concerns, carry out surveys, and open up dialogues with patients.
The group presented this progress to other Wirral PPGs at a recent forum and the Centre is now starting to support other PPGs. Details of this work can be found on the project weblog and facebook page.
The Centre believes this is pioneering work; we know of no other initiative where PPGs are actively using both weblogs and facebook pages to communicate with patients. We are creating a strategy to exploit this work. We want to publicise the project widely beyond Wirral, to recruit more PPGs, and to continue to help our existing PPGs use these tools effectively.
This project has been a noteworthy example of agile development. Although our client is the local NHS, the users are those members of the public who volunteered to run the PPGs. The project progressed by building up a group of volunteer users, by listening to their needs and views, and, most importantly, by providing them with close help and guidance to allow them develop ideas.