Employing Social Media to Encourage Active Participation of the Members of a Junior GP Association: The Vasco Da Gama Movement Paradigm

Raquel Gomez-Bravo* Charilaos Lygidakis*
Martin Sattler*
Raquel Gomez-Bravo*, Vasco da Gama Movement, Madrid, Spain
Charilaos Lygidakis*, Vasco da Gama Movement, Bologna, Italy
Raluca Zoitanu, Vasco da Gama Movement, Bucharest, Romania
Martin Sattler*, Vasco da Gama Movement, Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Sara Rigon, Vasco da Gama Movement, Bologna, Italy
Soleman Begg, Vasco da Gama Movement, London, United Kingdom
Tiago Villanueva, Vasco da Gama Movement, Lisbon, Portugal

Track: Practice
Presentation Topic: Building virtual communities and social networking applications for health professionals
Presentation Type: Poster presentation
Submission Type: Single Presentation

Last modified: 2013-09-25

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The name of the great Portuguese explorer, who discovered the sea route towards India almost five hundred years ago, has been employed by the Vasco da Gama Movement (VdGM), the working network within WONCA Europe (World Organization of Family Doctors - Europe), dedicated to trainees and junior General Practitioners / Family Physicians (GPs/FPs). As they set out for their own exploratory voyage in the discipline of General Practice / Family Medicine in Europe, the movement functions as a communication platform and encourages their first steps by providing a forum, support and information. More than 30 countries in Europe are participating in our initiatives, which include Educational & Research activities and workshops, and Exchange Programmes.

Our Experience
VdGM jumped in the social media whirlpool in 2011. We have tried to encourage participation with frequent posts on primary care and WONCA on our Facebook (www.tiny.cc/facebookvdgm) and Linkedin (www.tiny.cc/invdgm) pages, while the Twitter account (@vdgmeu) has been used as way to inform followers for our updates and activities.

Moreover, VdGM has been experimenting with social media during the preconference event and main conference of the WONCA Europe since 2011. To facilitate participants commenting on the conference, VdGM distributed instructions on how to use the network and encouraged them to make observations on presentations in real time, suggest workshops, help and communicate with each other. A common hashtag that identified all messages related to WONCA and VdGM from all users was provided. Furthermore, useful information concerning the schedule was posted and photographs were shared instantaneously through the official Twitter account. VdGM has also prepared podcasts based on interviews that were carried out during the preconference and the main conference.

Finally, an overview of the applications of Social Media and Web 2.0 in Primary Care combined with practical examples of their potential was given in a dedicated workshop in 2012.

Barriers and the Future
During this short experience, we observed several barriers and differences among the members of VdGM. The age divide, the cultural differences and, in certain contexts, even the technological and social media literacy and fear of the medium are major concerns that need to be addressed in order to encourage more active participation. However, as a new generation of GPs/FPs is paving the way for a foundation of a new and enhanced primary care in Europe, VdGM will strive to employ any medium to improve communication and fight isolation.

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