Pharmacy and social media

With social media becoming an ever-increasing part of life, Leanne Beverley considers the benefits and pitfalls of this modern medium 

For most of us, mobile phones have become the epicentre of our world, and so much can now happen at the click of a button or a tap of an app. 

Social media is a phenomenon which continues to grow, with the likes of Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn being used more and more by businesses to engage in public dialogue, share news and promote services. And pharmacy is no different. 

Engaging with social media can be extremely worthwhile, whether it’s pharmacy companies communicating with patients or pharmacy staff keeping abreast of topics or expanding their professional networks. 

Social media allows us to take part in conversations or read breaking news quicker than you can say ‘140 characters’. For example, the Department of Health defence team’s claim at the recent judicial review that pharmacists “sell sandwiches” and “lurk at the back” broke on Twitter before it could hit printed press as ‘PharmTweeps’ retweeted lines from the case at the high court. 

Social media also enables two-way communication. For instance, when chancellor Phillip Hammond’s personal intervention in pressing for cuts and a transformation of the way pharmacy services are delivered was revealed, pharmacy professionals were able to reply, give opinions and react to the so-called #sandwichgate with a whole array of examples and prove that this is not an accurate portrayal of pharmacy.

Many community pharmacies have their own social media pages, too. For Monarch Pharmacy, this is a platform to promote services, advertise opening hours, promote events we are involved in, such as a recent Macmillan Coffee Morning, and share our successes. 

For me, social media allows me to share events and presentations, helping me to empower pharmacy staff and promote the expanding role of the pharmacy technician.

Whilst the benefits of social media are clear, pharmacy professionals must be mindful that patient confidentiality is maintained at all times, professional standards are continuously met and the duty to act professionally – whether face-to-face or online – is at the forefront of all that we do. 

With a limited number of characters, a message can sometimes be lost, shortened words can appear unprofessional and just one negative review on the pharmacy Facebook page could impact badly. It is therefore important to have internal policies around the security, content and privacy of social media pages and established rules for the use of sites by staff, such as only retweeting trusted information. An inactive account or an out-of-date website can also have a negative impact, so keeping content up to date is imperative. 

Learning from others and analysing the impact of your posts via social media analytics tools can help you get the best from your page, as can guidance from the GPhC and PSNC.

Leanne is an accuracy checking pharmacy technician and supervisor at Monarch Pharmacy, Coventry. She is an NVQ/BTEC assessor for pharmacy training providers, including NPA and Scientia Skills, and is the business development officer for the Association of Pharmacy Technicians UK (APTUK).

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