15/03/2013 17:34 GMT | Updated 14/05/2013 06:12 BST

Patient Banned From GP Clinic After Twitter Comment

The use of social media in the healthcare industry has taken an interesting turn this week with a patient tweeting about his experience with a local GP clinic. The disgruntled man tweeted that the staff were a bunch of 'incompetent tw*ts' and was subsequently removed from the clinic's list of patients.

The abusive tweet was sent after the patient experienced a difficult phone discussion with the clinic where he was told he would have to wait three weeks to see a doctor. In a society where social media and the liberty to voice opinions freely exist, surely the outcome is a little too extreme. The clinic claims they have a zero tolerance for unacceptable behaviour, but does this mean that all services should deny customers or patients if they appear off-hand or rude? Or is this a case of online marketing anxiety?

In a conference held by the Royal College of General Practitioners late last year it was well established that there is a great divide among GPs as to the understanding and appropriate use of Twitter. In a case such as this, it is understandable that practice managers may find an offensive tweet detrimental to their reputation. However, there are many instances of patients, consumers or clients and the like, expressing their opinions in a negative manner who have not subsequently been denied a service. There is no excuse for rudeness however this often comes hand in hand with customer service, particularly given the UK's reputation.

Twitter has many advantages, and in this case, disadvantages for the healthcare industry. It has proven to be a useful resource for patients and clinicians for networking, engagement and bridging the patient-GP gap. The social media site is also an excellent tool for healthcare professionals to share ideas and contribute to current clinical discussions, particularly at a time where there is so much change in the NHS.

Conversely, Twitter provides an avenue for patients to give negative feedback about their treatment or service and allows anonymity of opinions. This then begs the question, at what point is a reaction or response required? Surely feedback to a service is beneficial as it allows the delivery of better customer service and care. It is unfortunate that the nature of the feedback was offensive and it seems the only difference between the comment being left in a 'suggestions' box and Twitter is that the 400+ followers of the disgruntled patient were privy to the description of the clinic staff.

This is where users of Twitter need to be careful about how their comments can easily be turned into a marketing nightmare. The clinic's reaction to remove the patient from their register has turned many Twitter heads with the story being picked up in multiple online media streams and many do not see it as a positive move.

Twitter users are well aware that not all negative comments or feedback are lost in an abyss of self-righteous drivel and that internet trolls are so prevalent the term has been entered in the Oxford dictionary. Twitter provides a simple avenue for complaints and this must be understood by services signing up for accounts. Ever wonder why Ryanair does not have an active Twitter account?