All Swedish county councils have their own Facebook pages and update them an average of once every other day. The hospitals of Stockholm and Västra Götaland counties are the most active social media users. Medical students at Sahlgrenska Academy have just completed a survey on the subject.

The students asked a total of 80 hospitals and all 21 county councils about their use of Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. They received responses from 25 hospitals and 15 county councils. The results, which Alexander Appelstrand is presenting as part of his degree project, also include searches of the social media pages and websites of the various organizations, as well as interviews with officials at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Gothenburg and South Stockholm General Hospital.

His conclusion is that the Swedish healthcare system is rapidly staking out a position in social media. The number of hospitals with accounts in their names rose from 2 in 2009 to 43 in September 2014.

All county councils have at least one Facebook profile of their own. The county councils posted to Facebook an average of 13 times, 8 of them health-related, during the course of September 2014.

Hospitals exhibited more sporadic behavior. Only 20 of the 80 hospitals use one or more of the social media on a regular basis. The Stockholm County Council and Västra Götaland Region are the most active participants in social media, particularly Facebook and YouTube.

“Social media serve three main purposes for hospitals,” Mr. Appelstrand says: “Dissemination of information for the general public, hiring staff and self-promotion. Many hospitals are represented by a county council, which explains why they are less likely to establish a presence of their own.”

Most county councils follow guidelines that prohibit the publication of information about individual patients on social media, largely for reasons of confidentiality. Furthermore, hospitals are highly unlikely to maintain direct contact with patients on such sites.

“Many officials worry that social media can blur the lines between personal and professional involvement,” Mr. Appelstrand says, “and that such activities are amateurish and consume valuable resources.”

Fewer than half of the hospitals have a long-term plan for social media use.

“But a lot of imaginative ideas are floating around,” Mr. Appelstrand says.

Some hospitals want to promote greater commitment by individuals and departments whereas others are looking to revitalize their hiring practices. A number of them see the need for more thorough and detailed guidelines.

“I would have obtained a better overview of the situation if I had asked patients for their thoughts about integrating health care and social media instead of confining myself to hospitals and county councils,” Mr. Appelstrand says. “Any communication between care providers and the general public that works well is to be commended given that it raises awareness and broadens understanding on all sides.”

A PDF version of Use of Social Media by the Swedish Healthcare System, Mr. Appelstrand’s degree project, is attached.

For additional information, fell free to contact:
Alexander Appelstrand, Medical Student, Sahlgrenska Academy
Cell: +46 709-164 484

Supervisor: Dr. John Chaplin, Sahlgrenska Academy,, Cell: +46 708-628857


Krister Svahn
Pressansvarig kommunikatör och biträdande avdelningschef
Sahlgrenska akademin, Göteborgs universitet
031- 786 38 69
0766-18 38 69