Some of the most forward thinking, passionate, hardworking and dedicated health care professionals I know are those I have met through Twitter.  There is a groundswell of grass roots thinkers and do-ers who use Twitter to throw about ideas, thoughts, evidence & research, they use social media to support and inspire one another, to share new things and new thinking and all in the name of improving the care that we give.  I have often thought to myself what would it be like to get a group of these people in one real space … to bring this virtual vanguard together!

 

There can be no doubt that #WGT16 or WeGetTogether 2016 started in an unusual way … as a tweet, a single idea compressed into 140 little characters that said something along the lines of “we should organise a get together” that tweet then sparked a conversation that galvanised health care professionals and people interested in health into action.  The event was crowdsourced through a twitter discussion that asked people what they wanted from an event and then it was crowdfunded with both individuals and organisations contributing. The event venue was kindly donated by the University of Salford and everyone who worked as part of the core team to make the event a reality gave their time and expertise for free.  It was, as is any event for 250 people, really hard work, however, it was one of the most worthwhile and awe-inspiring projects I have ever been involved in.

 

There were three aims for the event the first being to merely bring together the amazing virtual vanguard into one space to exchange ideas and to meet, this was achieved with bells on! People met, and hugged and laughed and shared throughout the day, we made sure that there was plenty of time to talk .. and people talked and talked. The second aim was to create a blueprint for a 21st-century healthcare conference  – this was not only in terms of how the event was conceived and planned but also in the delivery of the conference.  We wanted to ensure that whether people were inside the room or outside of the room the still felt part of the day.  We used a plethora of social media both in the planning and on the day itself; we used Twitter, Blogs, YouTube, Infographics, Vines, Pinterest, Periscope, and Flickr and we wove them all together to create a media stacked experience and a bank of resources that could be used both pre, during and post the event.  Our third and final aim was to explore the future of social media in healthcare and how together we could use social media to improve peoples lives and health care services through social media – there was lots of discussion and sharing around this and since the event we have been collating and exploring some of those discussions in order to turn the energy of the day into actions for the future.

 

#WGT16 was a healthcare event that was the first of its kind and one of my hopes for the event is that we can learn from it and take that learning to shape future events.  Time is precious in health and we are all often short of time so coming together has to be worthwhile and it has to drive action.  We need to change events from those where we are passive watchers being talked at by the few to events where the energy, passion and expertise of many are used to drive the future of health. The lovely Helen Bevan spoke for a brief time at #WGT16 and she said that #WGT16 was “history in the making” … I agree with Helen it was certainly that … however, I think it was also the future in the making.  It seems to me that the hard work has just started and the future is being driven right now by the people brave enough to engage and share. In order to now make #WGT16 really worthwhile we need to take our learning and share it, to move forward with health events and change how we plan and deliver them, in addition to this we need to harness the energy of the virtual vanguard into real action and start to plan the future of social media and health. If anyone can do it the virtual vanguard can.