16 March 2020

Coronavirus makes social media platform call for GPs

Communication General Practice RACGP Social Media

When a crisis causes the tide to go out, some parts of a system, such as the College's ShareGP platform, become exposed for what they really are

The RACGP is closing its once much-vaunted social media platform ShareGP, while the independently GP moderated GPs Down Under Facebook group is literally going viral during the COVID-19 crisis.

When a crisis causes the tide to go out, some parts of a system become exposed for what they really are. In the case of social media communication, the RACGP social media play, ShareGP, by the College’s own admission, has no users.

New management at the College has made the decision to be transparent with their members, admit to the failing, and shut it down to prevent any potential further losses to the College.

That the College is shutting down during the coronavirus crisis is probably sensible in a communication sense as well, as it lessens the options, but the recommendation for other social media sites for some reason does not include any non-College entitites, such as GPs Down Under.

In a tweet late last week @RACGP the College announced:

“After almost 4 years, the @RACGP will close shareGP. As an alternative, the @RACGP is inviting GPs to network, collaborate and support one another through private Facebook groups. Join your group today (excludes CPD participants and free student members): http://bit.ly/2W7bO8m.”

RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon  subsequently told Australian Doctor that GPs were questioning the return to the college of the platform given that few GPs were actually using the service.

When ShareGP was originally set up, costs were said to be significant, including trips by various College representatives overseas to view platforms being used in the US. At the time four years ago, there was speculation the College was worried about the growing influence of the GPs Down Under platform, which by that time had considerable engagement with nearly 4,000 members.

In its announcement, the College refers its GP members via the link above to a series of private Facebook groups it has been running, but the average membership of the 17 recommended groups is just 50 users, and seven of them only have two users.

In the meantime, the virus crisis has led to a massive increase in the engagement statistics of GPs Down Under (GPDU). In the last 28 days, the site has had over 191,000 engagements from GPs, with more than 6500 GPs actively participating of a total membership of just over 7,100 users.

Commenting on the role GPDU is playing during this crisis, one of the founding moderators, Dr Karen Price, told The Medical Republic that a key communication across the network currently was helping GPs get organised amid an array of eclectic and variable messages coming out of government and from overseas.

“Sharing and comparing around the holes in the information being given,” was one role the site was serving, Dr Price said.

Dr Price noted that the site moderators were co-operating with GP leaders and with the chief health officers and there was a strong community sense between the GPs and their allied health peers, including pharmacists, in trying to keep everything going.

“It’s so gratifying to see how GPs are leading here,” she said. “Caring for their patients, clinics and staff.”

Dr Price said that a big issue facing all GPs now was financial survival if clinics lost key staff to quarantine, or if there were big shut downs.

“Many are innovating so that all clinic consultations are performed by telehealth,” she said.