Here’s to Your Health – Health and Healthcare in the Social Media World

A recap of the April SMCDC Event held on April 27, 2011 at the Spectrum Science Offices in Washington DC.

The panelists get ready to start


The room was filled with lots of eager participants, ready to hear our Moderator Alexandra Hughes (@AlexHughes01) lead our panel; Ted Eytan (@tedeytan), Alex Bornkessel (@SocialBttrfly) and Danielle Leach (@TeamInspire), as they discussed Health and Social Media.

The theme of the evening was centered around using social media in new ways to engage patients while they are well, rather than waiting until they are sick.

  • @smcdc: Use social media as a platform for behavior change, not just communication @SocialBttrfly #smcdc
  • @SpectrumScience: @tedeytan: We need to focus on prevention so we have more space for the people that have diseases that are NOT preventable. #smcdc
  • @kellyalysia: @tedeytan: physicians & communicators need to get on same page. Social media can help us change perspective on purpose of healthcare #smcdc

The panel started by talking about how healthcare providers can start implementing social media in their interaction with patients.  A lot of organizations get caught up in what tool they will use, rather than focusing in on a goal and then making the goal work for their purposes.  Not every tool will be appropriate for every audience. It is important to have a clear end goal and then build your social strategy around that.

  • @smcdc: When deciding to enter the social media sphere first ask yourself what success looks like @SocialBttrfly #smcdc
  • @smcdc: You have to be prepared to engage and listen @tedeytan #smcdc

  • @laurenlaughs: Don’t strategic plan your social media engagement to death – let some of it grow organically @teaminspire #smcdc

Some organizations only go into social media when they want to avert or address a crisis.  At that point there is not much impact that they can have unless the organization has previously been online.  Ted introduced the concept of building up a ‘bank of good will’ by having an established presence in the social space and a relationship with patients.

  • @ekivemark: #smcdc bank of goodwill. Don’t go to SocMed to protect yourself. You should already be there building goodwill.

From a pure communications standpoint, social media provides healthcare providers with an opportunity to get a lot of information out in a short period of time.  Rather than being afraid of talking to people, they have the opportunity to join in conversations that are already taking place.

  • @cristianliu Social media conversations are a way to correct misinformation. #smcdc

  • @ekivemark: #smcdc what if someone says something bad? They already are. You can pre plan how to respond http://2.healthca.mp/lEGKvwUSAF worked it out.
Education is another key goal of healthcare providers on social media.  People are eager to learn about issues that affect them and the different ways they seek this knowledge is continually evolving.
  • @laurenlaughs:  2010 was the tipping point for health literacy – people are using social media to learn @socialbttrfly #smcdc

So how do you implement social media strategies and tools?  One of the main tasks is to get the leadership on board so that they work with you, not against you.  The second major step will be to find a way to engage your audience on whatever platforms that you choose to use.

  • @smcdc: One of the ways to get leadership to embrace social media is to get them to do it themselves @SocialBttrfly #smcdc
  • @smcdc: Build some incentive in your social media plan/tool to encourage people to participate #smcdc

  • @smcdc: The premise of inspire is that people will engage in the things that interest them without being directed @TeamInspire #smcdc

Mobile technology is increasingly favored by physicians, especially those who want instant access to patient records in a light, portable form.  It opens up new opportunities to reach people who have little or no access to computers but are constantly attached to their phones.

  • @SpectrumScience: Kaiser Permanente talking abt eliminating PCs frm their offices, going to ipads. AND @kpmemberservice is on Twitter-Thats a big deal. #smcdc

  • @districtjoe: Interesting point that moving to digital records forces doctors to think about their patients even when they’re not in their office #smcdc

The reality is that there are still large groups of people with little or no access to any technology. Another group is those who have access to technology but have no idea how to use  it. These individuals on the other side of the digital divide present a challenge because they cant just be ignored. In order to be a healthcare system that cares and works for everyone there is a need to look at reaching people on both sides of the digital divide.

  • @SpectrumScience: About 80% of US using internet in 2000….and about 80% using it in 2010…we can’t just say “oh they’ll get there” anymore @tedeytan #smcdc

  • @laurenlaughs: It’s going to take more creativity to reach hard to reach audiences – mobile isn’t going to do it @socialbttrfly #smcdc

Even when people do have access to technology, they still have a need for education.  They need not only to learn how to use their technology, but also what tools work best for different needs.
  • @smcdc: Give people basic education to show people what they are using and how to use it @TeamInspire #smcdc

More people are looking for public health information than they realize. They are talking about their personal experiences with illness, their doctors and the drugs they are using, as well as learning from other people.

While they value what they are learning from each other, there is still a hunger for authoritative medical information.  People say their doctor is still the number one source that they want to get their information from.  The problem is that very few actually reach out to their physicians outside their regular appointments.

  • @smcdc:  There is value both in authoritative medical information and publicly generated information @TeamInspire #smcdc

  • @laurenlaughs: More parishioners can email their priests than patients can email their doctors (3%) @tedeytan #smcdc

  • @smcdc: If the number one place people want information from is their doctor, then more doctors need to be in the social space @tedeytan #smcdc

Organizations that are successful in implementing a social media strategy externally also have to walk the talk internally, doing what they ask others to. A lot of conversation needs to take place around what is needed to bring everyone on board and make the strategy work.  What tools does the organization use to foster social interaction, and are they working? What fears does the organization have about participating in new media? Bring all these issues out on the table so that they can be addressed.

  • @smcdc: Organizations are often afraid of being pioneers in the social space @AlexHughes01 #smcdc
  • @smcdc: Highlight other people who are using social media well as examples of what your company could do @TeamInspire#smcdc
  • @smcdc: Invite your boss to events where they’ll be talking about social media in ways that are relevant to them @SocialBttrfly#smcdc
  • @smcdc: Internal intranets are built around projects while social networks are built around people and are therefore more engaging @tedeytan #smcdc

Healthcare organizations have built in content in the form of their patients experiences.  Find non-threatening ways to invite them to share their stories and perspectives, e.g. using third parties, surveys, or fliers.  Its not a good idea for physician to be directly involved in asking patients to do this since it could potentially be misconstrued as using their authority to force participation.

  • @SpectrumScience: uh oh. HIPPA came up. @tedeytan has the answer…”its a mistake to believe that patients don’t want to talk about their health” #smcdc
At the end of the day, the process of implementing a social media strategy organizationally is hard! It will take a lot of work and persistence to get something going and make it successful.
  • @smcdc: The truth is that the process of implementing social media organizationally is hard! @tedeytan #smcdc

A special thanks to our moderator and panelists:

We would also like to thank Spectrum Science (@SpectrumScience; http://www.spectrumscience.com/blog) for graciously hosting the event at their offices.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>