GPs on social media – Where can we find them?

Yasmin Clarke

writer

Yasmin Clarke

Data analyst; Journalist

Felicity Nelson

writer

Felicity Nelson

Science journalist; strategy consultant

 

GPs seem less active in their social media use compared with the general Australian population, exclusive survey data reveals.

Social media has become an important tool for community connection for many GPs over the past few years, but few studies have examined these patterns of use in detail. (1-4)

The following survey data collected by Healthed is the first publicly available documentation of GP social media usage patterns that we are aware of. (5)

Understanding patterns of social media use is important for educators, marketers and publishers and those seeking to influence and understand the GP community.

GPs surveyed by Healthed appear to use Facebook less frequently than the Australian general public, with 26% of GPs checking Facebook daily compared with 50% of the general public.

This may be partly due to an age difference, as 68% of GPs surveyed by Healthed were aged 55 or over.

GPs appear to be more engaged with the private messaging platform WhatsApp than Facebook, with around half of GPs checking WhatsApp every day.

In the general population, the highest proportion of Australian social media users are found on Facebook (77%), Instagram (58%), WhatsApp (38%), TikTock (32%), Pinterest (29%), LinkedIn (26%) and Reddit (22%) (6-7).

Three-quarters of GPs surveyed by Healthed used WhatsApp and just over half used Facebook, with Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, TikTok and Reddit being less popular social media platforms.

Healthed has tracked GP usage over three years and found no meaningful change in usage patterns of WhatsApp, but use of Facebook seems to have declined since 2020.

Almost all GPs surveyed (94%) reported using social media for personal reasons, such as communicating with friends and family, reading the news and for entertainment.

Slightly under half of GPs surveyed (44%) used social media for professional reasons, ranging from clinical education and professional development, to running their business, to connecting with like-minded GPs.

Interestingly, few GPs surveyed were using social media to follow GP-specific forums.

Only 12% of the GPs surveyed belonged to the Facebook community ‘GPs Down Under’, which was started in 2015 and has grown in popularity since then.

Healthed has heard anecdotes about social media forums for GPs developing toxic cultures, however these incidents appear to be rare.

Only 16% of GPs surveyed by Healthed had witnessed negative and unprofessional behaviour in GP-related groups.

GPs were divided on whether social media had a positive or negative effect on their patients.

References

  1. Guide for the use of social media in general practice’, RACGP, 2015
  2. ‘The role of social media in primary care’, Malays Fam Physician, 2021
  3. ‘How doctors view and use social media: a national survey’, J Med Internet Res, 2014
  4. ‘RACGP enters GP-only social media space’, The Medical Republic, 2015
  5. This claim is based on a search using the terms ‘social media’ and ‘general practice’, ‘doctor’ and ‘Australia’ on Google and a search using the term ‘social media’ on trade media websites (Australian Doctor, RACGP’s newsGP and The Medical Republic). Healthed found no recent studies that investigated the most popular social media platforms for GPs or explored which professional  groups GPs belonged to on social media platforms.
  6. ‘Australia Social Media Statistics 2022 | Most Popular Platforms’, The Global Statistics, 2022
  7. Social Media Statistics for Australia (Updated July 2022), Genroe, 2022

Credits

Survey design & analysis – Healthed GP Advisory Board
Data analysis, visualisation & reporting – Yasmin Clarke
Editing & research – Felicity Nelson

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Yasmin Clarke

writer

Yasmin Clarke

Data analyst; Journalist

Felicity Nelson

writer

Felicity Nelson

Science journalist; strategy consultant

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