As I have mentioned in previous blog posts I am closely following the evolution of eHealth policy in the US. Based on policy direction from president Obama, the Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Healthcare IT is trying hard to be as open and transparent as possible about all discussions and decisions related to eHealth policy and standards. One way that the ONC is implementing this directive is to webcast all HIT Policy and HIT Standards committee and working group meetings.
At the end of each session the public is invited to offer their comments. I have been listening to many of the webcasts and was struck by the relative lack of public comments. For most of the sessions that I have attended there have been only one or two people stepping forward to offer comments or asking questions. For the past week I have pondered why there have been so few comments and whether this apparent lack of interest means that the webcasts are a wasted effort. It struck me this morning that the webcasts are simply one element in a complex social media ecosystem. While many people might not take the time to sit through literally hours of sometimes dry committee and working group sessions, bloggers and journalists are doing so and are reporting on the highlights of these sessions. These individuals then post and tweet about what they have heard and quickly spread the word. I have been amazed at how quickly summaries of committee and working group sessions are available.
The ONC is using a variety of techniques to keep people informed about their activities and to solicit their feedback. These techniques rely heavily on social media technology and, based on the information appearing in trade magazines and the mainstream press, seem to be effective at engaging many constituencies.