Social Media as a Tool for Consumer Engagement in Hospital Quality Improvement and Service Design: Barriers and Enablers for Implementation

Document Type : Original Article


1 Centre for Health Communication and Participation, La Trobe University, Bundoora, VIC, Australia

2 La Trobe Rural Health School, La Trobe University, Bendigo, VIC, Australia

3 Independent Researcher, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

4 Orygen, Parkville, VIC, Australia

5 Albury Woonga Health, Wodonga, VIC, Australia

6 Safer Care Victoria, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

7 Northern Health, Bundoora, Australia


Social media can be used to engage consumers in hospital service design and quality improvement (QI) activities, however its uptake may be limited by a lack of guidance to support implementation. This article presents the perceived barriers and enablers in using social media for consumer engagement derived from an interview study with public hospital stakeholders.

Semi-structured interviews with 26 Australian hospital service providers and consumer representatives. Data were analysed using a deductive content analysis method.

Data were collected between October 2019 and April 2020. Facebook was the platform most commonly used for consumer engagement activities. Barriers and enablers to social media-based consumer engagement were identified. The barrier themes were (1) fears and concerns; (2) lack of skills and resources for social media engagement; (3) lack of organisational processes and support; and (4) problems with social media platforms and the changing social media landscape. The enabler themes were: (1) hospitals facilitating access and use; (2) making discussions safe; (3) cultivating a social media community; and (4) building on success.

Using social media to facilitate consumer engagement in hospital service design and QI activities is feasible and acceptable to service providers and consumers. Hospitals and their executives can create a supportive environment for social media-based engagement activities through developing clear governance systems and providing training and support to all users. Consumers need to be involved in co-designing social media-based activities and determining which forms of engagement are accessible and acceptable. For some consumers and service providers, barriers such as a lack of resources and distrust of social media companies might mean that social media-based engagement will be less acceptable for them. Because of this it is important that hospitals provide complementary methods of engagement (eg, face-to-face) alongside social media-based methods.


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Volume 11, Issue 10
October 2022
Pages 2287-2298
  • Receive Date: 09 April 2021
  • Revise Date: 21 October 2021
  • Accept Date: 02 November 2021
  • First Publish Date: 03 November 2021