Health-related social media use by health consumers and organisations is increasingly common but few health organisations have embraced its potential for engaging stakeholders in health service design and quality improvement (QI) activities. Social media has the potential to engage a broader range of stakeholders and could provide new ways to gather data to inform QI and design activities within health services.
The objective of this scoping review is to examine and map the research on how social media is being used by health services, providers and consumers to contribute to service design or QI activities.
Following the development of a protocol, the review was undertaken in line with the Joanna Briggs Institute methodology for scoping reviews. An advisory committee of stakeholders (including patients, carers and health providers) provided guidance and feedback throughout the review process. Inclusion criteria for the review were studies of any health service stakeholders, in any health service or health policy setting, where social media was used as a tool for communications which influenced or advocated for changes to health service design or delivery. A descriptive numerical summary of the communication models, user populations and QI activities was created from the included studies, and the findings were further synthesised using deductive qualitative content analysis. Features of social media use were mapped to identify a typology of uses.
40 studies were included, with the majority from high income countries. A variety of user populations, including organisations, clinical and non-clinical service providers, young people, people with chronic illness/disability and First Nations people were involved in the health service design and QI activities. Twitter was the most commonly used social media platform for health service design and QI activities. Most activities were conducted using two-way communication models, and health organisations were most frequently responsible for hosting and managing the social media spaces. A typology of social media use in health service QI is presented and identifies nine major models of use. The typology demonstrates how different social media platforms and communication models can be used to engage different user populations in a variety of QI and design activities.
This review identifies the range of ways in which social media is being used as a tool to engage stakeholders in health QI and service design activities, with different models of use being appropriate for different types of activities, user populations and stages of the QI cycle. Diverse communication approaches are presented which create opportunities for innovation in designing and trialling new ways of engaging stakeholders in QI and health service design that were previously not available to health organisations, service providers and consumers.