Social media can be useful to health professionals in the management of coronary heart disease (CHD), according to a trial undertaken by the Heart Centre at University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust (UHNM).
The UHNM Cardiac Rehabilitation Service was supported by Stoke Clinical Commissioning Group and funded by the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network, to develop the use of social media in clinical practice at the trust.
The team at UHNM set up two distinct Facebook pages; one being an open public page for patients and interested members of the public to access generic health promotion material related to CHD. The second page is a closed group for the team’s patients and their family members. This group allows for clinical questions to be asked and for patients and family members to support others with the condition.
A team of exercise physiologists, nurses and physiotherapists monitors posts regularly to ensure that any discussion is clinically accurate. A Cardiac Pharmacist and Cardiac Consultant are also available should any complex medical question need to be answered. This has resulted in a greater multidisciplinary approach to patient care within the department.
The trial, which has now been adopted full-time at the trust, found that patients were able to self-manage their CHD far better, with many viewing the pages as a welcome middle-ground between hospital and caring for themselves on a day-to-day basis at home. Patients were given far greater power and many were open to sharing their knowledge of the condition and symptoms with other users.
UHNM staff were often able to answer multiple people’s questions in one response. This enabled other users to view the threads at a later point and therefore easing clinical pressures. Health professionals have then been able to adopt a monitoring role without needing to directly input to every query posted, whereas these queries would have likely been directed to GPs, the discharging ward or the cardiac rehabilitation office.
This new way of working has resulted in an extended reach of important health information, whilst easing pressures within the department and allowing patients to access immediate and correct responses from their own homes. The outcomes have also been published in the latest edition of the British Journal of Cardiac Nursing.
Sonya Meigh, Senior Therapist at the trust, helped to set up the pages. She said: “Since starting the pilot, these pages have proven themselves to be a worthwhile addition to our service. The pages have given us the scope and resources to access wider patient support networks in a way that was previously unobtainable and has helped move our service a step closer to public health promotion and primary prevention.
“I hope that the publication of this online article will encourage other health professionals to engage with the use of social media in the management of long term conditions, such as CHD.”
The open public Facebook page can be found at www.facebook.com/UHNMCardiacRehabTeam.