Alive and clicking: using the web and social media to share information with patients


The NHS Confederation have published another paper in their occasional series that looks at interactions between the NHS, individuals and communities.

This paper explores the potential for using and sharing information in the NHS. It looks at the costs and benefits of informing and communicating with patients through web and social media platforms versus the costs of not doing so effectively.

Managing information is an essential part of delivering good healthcare but historically difficult to get right. While the NHS drowns in information and spends more and more to gather it, it has struggled to use it to good effect for patients, often shying away from being transparent about how services are run and responding openly when things go wrong.

The short (8-page) paper makes the following key points:

  • The NHS has often struggled to use information to good effect
  • It is cheaper than ever to communicate online and the mechanisms available shift power towards patients and citizens
  • Patient feedback will have more influence to improve patient care in the future
  • Successful providers will get better at engaging their local populations
  • NHS organisations need to adapt how they communicate with patients and the public
  • Transparency of information drives change but formulaic responses to feedback can harm NHS organisations’ reputation


An uneasy consensus: patients, citizens and the NHS (PDF). NHS Confederation, May 2012 Paper 3.

Jim Kerr photo courtesy of KtD /

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Andre Tomlin

André Tomlin is an Information Scientist with 20 years experience working in evidence-based healthcare. He's worked in the NHS, for Oxford University and since 2002 as Managing Director of Minervation Ltd, a consultancy company who do clever digital stuff for charities, universities and the public sector. Most recently André has been the driving force behind the Mental Elf and the National Elf Service; an innovative digital platform that helps professionals keep up to date with simple, clear and engaging summaries of evidence-based research. André is a Trustee at the Centre for Mental Health and an Honorary Research Fellow at University College London Division of Psychiatry. He lives in Bristol, surrounded by dogs, elflings and lots of woodland!

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