Last updated: 1 June 2013

The aim of this guide is to encourage and facilitate the growth of healthcare social media in Northern Ireland.  I’ll start by explaining what healthcare social media is, then I’ll explain the benefits, followed by some advice on avoiding pitfalls.  And finally I have compiled an NI Healthcare Social Media Directory to help you navigate your way into the HCSM community.

My intention is to continue adding to this guide incrementally – so if there’s something I’ve missed or just something useful you think I should include please drop me an email or a tweet.

What is healthcare social media? And how do I get involved?

It’s pretty much what it says – the use of social media for healthcare.  The main platforms are Twitter and blogs like this one you are reading.

Blog is short for Web Log and most blogs are websites where the author ‘posts’ articles on various topics.  For an excellent round-up of Health Blogs check out this Scoop it Health Blog Round-up created by Emily and supported by Dr Mark Newbold (@drmarknewbold).

Twitter is known as micro-blogging because each ‘post’ is limited to 140 characters – similar to the length of a standard text message on a mobile phone.

You might be sceptical of Twitter and social media because of what you have heard about in the media or read about in the press.  But like many things in life it’s what you make of it.  There is an active and growing healthcare professional community on Twitter which provides the opportunity to use Twitter for networking and discussion.

The back-of-a-napkin guide to Twitter

  • Signing Up: You can sign up for a Twitter account at
  • Handle: To use Twitter you need to create a username or ‘handle’.  Mine is @DrStevenKinnear for example.  It’s best to avoid numbers and underscores in you username and you should try to choose a username that clearly identifies who you are.
  • Bio/blurb: Don’t forget to complete your bio/blurb when you create your account. This information will be displayed under your username on your profile and helps people learn a bit about you and decide whether to follow you.  You may not get many followers until you complete this.
  • Tweeting: A tweet is a post on Twitter.  A re-tweet is when you share what someone else has posted, a bit like forwarding an email.
  • Hashtags: There are millions of people on Twitter posting millions of tweets so hashtags are used to organise information and make it easier to find.  For instance if you’re tweeting about healthcare social media you could type ‘#hcsm’ in your tweet.  And if you’re looking for information or discussions about healthcare social media you could search for ‘#hcsm’.  There are a number of popular and commonly used hashtags but anyone can create one.
  • Live tweeting: This is one of my favourite uses for twitter.  Live tweeting is when people attending an event or conference tweet in real time to share the key messages and discuss them.  It makes the event more interactive and creates the opportunity to engage with other people at the event and even with people outside the event.  It also means you can follow a conference or event you were unable to attend.  To help people find and join in a conference live tweet an event hashtag is used. e.g. #NICON  If you’re going to organise a live tweet at a conference or event it’s a good idea to publicise the hashtag in advance and at the event so everyone knows what it is and uses the same one.  You can also register your hashtag with the Symplur Healthcare Hashtag Project to promote your hashtag and access lots of interesting features and analytics for your live tweet.  Check out these slideshares from Dr Janet Corral (@edtechcorral) on How to Use Twitter at Conferences and How to Rock Social Media for Your Academic Conference Presentations.

If you need further explanation or want to learn more you should check out the British Columbia Patient Safety and Quality Council (@BCPSQC) guide: Twitter for Health Care Professionals

If you want an extensive (but still easy to follow) Twitter guide check out


Five reasons why you should use Twitter

  1. You will learn a lot from other people.  Twitter is used extensively to share not only opinions and news but also links to blog articles, news reports, and academic articles.
  2. You will stay right up-to-date with what’s new and happening in your areas of interest – from links to blogs and articles from key opinion leaders, to live tweets from important conferences, press-conferences and the health committee.  You can access up-to-the-minute news and information wherever you are.
  3. You will be able to share important views, news, information and links with other people and you can use Twitter to raise the profile of issues that are important to you.
  4. You can use Twitter to network with other people in healthcare and best of all you can broaden your network with the opportunity to debate and converse with a diverse range of people from junior doctors, nurses, managers, patients, senior doctors, policy makers, CEOs, Directors, politicians etc.  People you might not normally have easy access to.
  5. You will have fun learning, sharing, discussing, debating and getting to know people.  It’s just like any conference or event. You get to broaden your horizons by meeting new people, learning new things, and sharing, except you can access it at will from your smart phone, laptop or tablet.  And you can do so while on the train, in a queue at the supermarket or sitting on the sofa at home.


Tips for using Twitter

  1. Understand what Twitter is. Twitter is about dialogue so don’t use it just to transmit.  That will turn followers off and you won’t get the most out of it.  Don’t be surprised if people respond or challenge what you say.  Engage in discussion with them but remember to be polite and measured just as you would in face-to-face dialogue.
  2. Be yourself.   Even if you intend to use Twitter professionally, don’t be afraid to share details of other things you are interested in such as sports, hobbies and the weather, just like you would with colleagues and patients at work.  We all connect better with people when we feel we know and understand a bit about them.
  3. Be responsible.  Remember that you are a health care professional and have a responsibility to conduct yourself appropriately.  Do not post anything online that you wouldn’t say face-to-face or when addressing an audience you didn’t know.  Apply the kids, mum, granny and sunday papers tests – how would you feel if your kids, mum or granny read it?  Would you be embarrassed or compromised if your post became the headline of the sunday papers?  If so – don’t post it.
  4. Have a strategy. Using twitter takes time so you need to decide what you want to get out of it so you know if it’s time well spent.  Are you following the right people?  Are other people following you?  Are you learning useful things?  Are you getting involved in interesting and stimulating discussions?  Are you keeping up-to-date with relevant conferences and events when you can’t attend in person?  Are you getting involved in live tweets yourself?  Are you succeeding in raising the profile of issues that are important to you?


More arguments for using Twitter (and tips for using it well)

Ten Reasons Why NHS CEOs Should Use Twitter by Dr Mark Newbold (@drmarknewbold), CEO, Heart of England Foundation Trust

Ten top tips for NHS tweeters by Dr Mark Newbold (@drmarknewbold), CEO, Heart of England Foundation Trust

Dispelling Five Myths of Social Media Use in the NHS – PR Week blog by NHS Employers Chief Executive Dean Royles (@NHSE_Dean)

Why you should be convincing your CEO and senior executives to take to Twitter – blog on the Association of Healthcare Communications and Marketing website written by Lisa Rodrigues CBE (@LisaSaysThis), Chief Executive of Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Social Media for NHS dummies – blog on the HSJ website written by  Lisa Rodrigues CBE (@LisaSaysThis), Chief Executive of Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust


Guidance from professional bodies and organisations

I find the GMC Guidance on Doctors’ Use of Social Media to be very succinct and particularly useful.

The BMA have also published guidance here

The RCGP recently published the Social Media Highway Code

Check out the NHS Employers Guide to HR and Social Media in the NHS


NI Healthcare Social Media Directory

There are a number of active members in the NI health care social media community.  Below you will find a list of some of those people with links to their Twitter profiles (and blogs if applicable).  I have not included those with twitter accounts that are not actively tweeting.  And I have not included those who have not completed the bio/blurb in their profile – just in case they’re dipping their toes in the water and wish to remain inconspicuous.

If you don’t see your name below and would like to be included, if you wish to suggest someone for inclusion, or if you see your name below and would like to be removed from the list or have your entry edited please email me.   Happy tweeting!

Dr Steven Kinnear – Me, the author of this guide!

Dr Gavin Lavery – Clinical Director of the HSC Safety Forum & Critical Care Consultant.

Dr Philip Gardiner – Rheumatologist interested in social media and blogging.  Blogs at

Dr Richard McCrory – Nephrology Registrar tweeting about nephrology, health care social media and more.  Publishes the HCSM Report.

Dr Damian Fogarty – Consultant Nephrologist, Medical Director of the UK Renal Registry, teacher & researcher.

Heather Moorhead – NI Director of NICON (Northern Ireland Confederation of Health and Social Services) and organiser of the annual NICON conference.

Helen Siberry – A manager working at the Health & Social Care Board who is passionate about improving health and social care.

Marc Neil – A young HSC manager working in Northern HSC Trust, interested in quality and service improvement.

Dr Sara Hedderwick – Infectious Diseases Consultant & deputy Chair of the BMA Consultants’ Committee.

Heather Monteverde – General Manager of NI Macmillan Cancer Support, lay member of South Eastern Local Commissioning Group and Chair of  LTCANI

Dave Schwartz – A pseudonym for someone tweeting about health and social care in NI.

Dr Martin Duffy – Consultant in Anaesthesia & Intensive Care Medicine.

Hugh McCaughey – Chief Executive of the South Eastern HSC Trust.  To my knowledge our only tweeting Trust Chief Executive.

Ian Sutherland – Director of Children’s Services/Social Work at South Eastern HSC Trust.

Edwin Poots MLA – Minister for Health, Social Services and Public Safety.

Sue Ramsey MLA – Chair of the Assembly Health Committee.

Jim Wells MLA – Deputy Chair of the Assembly Health Committee.

Seamus Mullan – Head of Health and Social Wellbeing Improvement, PHA (Public Health Agency).

Helen McAvoy – Senior Policy Officer, Institute of Public Health in Ireland.

Mark Tully – Lecturer in Physical Activity and Public Health, Queen’s University Belfast.

Stephen Kennedy – Senior Government Relations Manager for GSK in NI.

Dr Mark Roberts – Consultant in Acute Medicine and Geriatrics at RVH.  New to twitter.

Seamus McAleavey – Chief Executive of NICVA (Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action).

Majella McCloskey – Chief Executive of CO3 (Chief Officers 3rd Sector).

Med Lead Symposium – The official twitter account of the annual Northern Ireland Medical Leadership Symposium.

Barry Henderson – Business Development Manager at C-TRIC (Clinical Translational Research and Innovation Centre)

Jacqueline Williamson – Founder & Chairperson of Kinship Care NI (@KinshipNI).

Siobhan Doherty – Chief Executive of Aware Defeat Depression.

Peter McBride – Chief Executive of NIAMH (Northern Ireland Association for Mental Health).

Dr Clodagh Loughrey – Consultant (metabolism/nutrition).

Dr Paul Fogarty – RCOG Officer and Consultant Obstetrician & Gynaecologist at Ulster Hospital, Belfast.

Jim Livingstone – Previous DHSSPS Director.  Author of the Quality 2020 strategy.  Leadership Consultant interested in quality improvement.

Mr Andrew Kennedy – Upper GI Surgeon interested in end of life care.  Runs Marathons to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care via Just Giving.

Dr Shane McKee – Genetic doctor tweeting about Genetics, Egyptology, Religion & Science.  Blogs at

Mr Colin Weir – Vascular surgeon interested in teaching doctors. Also cooking, gardening, wine, Italy, JS Bach, photography, and learning electric blues guitar.

Dr Ryan Boyle – Acute Medicine Registrar.  Tweets about football and a bit about health care.

Bob Brown – Nurse, primary care lead and triathlete.

Levette Lamb – Registered Nurse and patient safety advisor at the HSC Safety Forum with  a passion for high quality patient care and improvement.

Simon Coey – Insulin dependant type 1 diabetic, civil servant, accountant, and voluntary worker/organiser/fundraiser.

Mr Terry Irwin – Surgeon in Belfast. Professional account so tweets about surgery, training and health care.

Dr Helen Noble – Lecturer, Nurse, Assoc. Editor Evidence Based Nursing (@EBNursingBMJ); Improving care for dying renal patients and carers.

Dr Nigel Hart – GP, Educator and Trainer in Belfast.  Interested in collaborative healthcare, connected health, and mountaineering.

Dr Johnny Cash – Consultant Hepatologist at RVH.  Interested in health care modernisation.  Also interested in road, trail, and fell running.

Fiona Quigley – Healthcare eLearning Producer based in Belfast. Blogs at


Some people in the wider health care social media community you may wish to follow

Atul Gawande – Surgeon, Author, Researcher.

Dr Mark Newbold – Medically qualified CEO of Heart of England Foundation Trust.  Chair of NHS Confederation Hospitals Forum.  Author of the weekly CEO Diary.  Health care social media leader.  Blogs at

Dr Margaret McCartney – GP in Glasgow, author, broadcaster, evidence-based medicine champion.  Blogs at

Dr Stuart Flanagan – Originally from NI and now in London.  Resident Doctor on BBC Radio 1’s Surgery. Presenter of Science Docs on Radio 4 & TV Medic.  Blogs at

Dr Kevin Fong – Anaesthetist, Author, Broadcaster.

Claire Gerada – GP and Chair of the RCGP.  Prolific tweeter and co-author of RCGP Social Media Highway Code.

Dr AnneMarie Cunningham – GP and Clinical Lecturer.  QUB graduate.  Prolific tweeter.

Dr Kate Granger – Doctor, Author and Patient.

Mr Dermot O’Riordan – Surgeon/medical director in Suffolk.

Isoflurane82 – Anaesthetic Registrar interested in medical education and leadership.

Shaun Lintern – Journalist at Health Service Journal and Nursing Times.  Helped expose Mid Staffs scandal and covered the Francis Inquiry.

Dr Natalie Silvey – Well known doctor on Twitter.  Runs the Twitter Journal Club.  Led the defence of the Liverpool Care Pathway.

Peter Sharp – CEO of Centre for Workforce Intelligence

Dr Chris Roseveare – Consultant Physician, Editorof the Acute Medicine journal, President of the Society for Acute Medicine.  Interested in writing and teaching.

Dr Patricia Elliot – Tweeting doctor from Edinburgh.  Engages in many Twitter discussions.

Dr Elin Roddy – General and chest physician from Shropshire.  Prolific tweeter (over 16,445 as of now).

Christina Krause – Director with the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council (@BCPSQC).

Dr Chris Tiplady – Haematologist and Foundation Tutor in Northumbria, Interim DME in N Cumbria, Regional Advisor for Education in Northern Deanery.

Dr David O’Reilly – Rheumatologist in East Anglia UK with an interest in Rheumatoid disease. Like their team motto: Remission is the mission.

Amanda Taylor – Social Work Lecturer at University of Central Lancashire.  Prolific tweeter.  Originally from beautiful Co. Down.

Sarah Amani – Tweets about Health, Tech, Music, Family & Friends. Emerging Leader Award Winner 2010, Mary Seacole Award Winner 2011, and TEDMed Scholar 2012.  Blogs at

Karen Maskell – Passionate about singing, the NHS, patient participation & healthy debate! BACCG LayMember PPI.

Marie Ennis-O’Connor – PR professional with an interest in healthcare social media and patient advocacy. Social Media Manager @Health2Dublin. Healthcare & Social Media blogger.

Anjetta McQueen – Works on the Kaiser Permanente Labor Management Partnership, former journalist, recovering attorney.

Anne Cooper – Nurse with Type 1 Diabetes who tweets about diabetes and other things.  Works in informatics.  Has an interest in leadership.  Blogs at

Jo McCormick – Nurse Consultant. Patient Safety & Quality Improvement champion. SPSP fellow.

Dean Royles (@NHSE_Dean) – Chief Executive of the NHS Employers organisation (@nhsemployers).  Tweets and blogs regularly with the latest HR thinking & advice.

Helen Bevan (@helenbevan) – Leader of improvement, innovation & radical change in English National Health Service.

Jane Cummings (@JaneMCummings) – Chief Nursing Officer for England based in the NHS Commissioning Board.

Viv Bennett (@VivJBennett) – Director of Nursing at the Department of Health and Acting Lead Nurse for Public Health England.

Lisa Rodrigues CBE (@LisaSaysThis) – Chief Executive, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Paula Vasco-Knight (@SDHCCEO) – CEO of Torbay Hospital, National Lead for Equality and Practising Nurse.

Jan Sobieraj (@JanSobieraj) – Managing Director of the NHS Leadership Academy (@NHSLeadership).



Photo Credit: Matt Hamm via Compfight cc