Social Media for Healthcare

Chitambo Hospital, in central Zambia, is making history.  Not only did they establish 2 Facebook pages for emergency healthcare communications last week (one open and one a closed forum for discussing confidential clinical issues) but they have also initiated a WhatsApp emergency care support network.  This was launched on Friday 27th November and so far 2 ‘live’ emergency cases have been discussed.

The first case concerned hemorrhage following an abortion in a 15 year old patient.  The second was a road traffic accident, with 2 victims, one with multiple fractures.

In both cases, staff from Chitambo Hospital and Rural Health Clinics were able to discuss management and obtain support and advice where necessary.  For example, in the case of the abortion, the clinic nurse was advised to determine whether it was a complete or incomplete abortion; assess the patient’s overall condition; establish an intravenous line; give antibiotics; monitor amount of bleeding, and refer the patient to hospital if bleeding was excessive.  The team provided support and invited periodic updates. The bleeding subsided and the patient did not need to be referred.

In the case of the RTA, the team was alerted, through the WhatsApp network, to ready the ambulance and expect 2 victims.  The patients were admitted to Chitambo Hospital and updates were given on their condition.  One patient was transferred to the Provincial hospital the next day and the emergency team gave support to the accompanying nurse during the journey.

This is very innovative work.  The group includes internal and external medical advisors, as well as experienced local clinicians.  My only question is, should the emergency ‘line’ be separated from more general discussions so that responses to real emergencies are not delayed?  What do you think?    

I have signed up for this free online course on Social Media in Health Care, which starts today:

I hope that I will find time to do it as it seems highly relevant.  The opening message says:

“We believe that social networking is an important trend: health care stakeholders who do not consider how to incorporate social networks in their practice risk being run over on the super-highway of health information sharing.”

Chitambo partners are very ‘switched on’ to social media as a way of sharing information.  No danger of them being run over…..not on that particular highway at least!

Best wishes

Dr Jo Vallis

Research Officer

NHS Education for Scotland


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