Tag Archives: Social Media in Healthcare

Join me for a Social Media Panel Discussion – April 17th

I am thrilled to announce that three of my highly respected social media friends are joining me in Ottawa on April 17th for a panel discussion on social media in healthcare.  As active social media users they are all well qualified  to debate the benefits, pitfalls, and practical realities of using social media in a healthcare or other setting.  Equally important, each offers a unique perspective on social media in healthcare and will offer solid advice on a range of social media issues.

For more details and to learn the identities of my esteemed panelists, click here. I look forward to seeing you on April 17th.




Social Media Panel at HIMSS Ontario AGM

It was an offer simply to compelling to refuse.  In my day job I was approached by HIMSS Ontario to sponsor their annual general meeting.  In return for this sponsorship I was given the opportunity to moderate a panel discussion on social media.  Given my company’s current efforts to encourage use of social media by healthcare organizations AND my personal involvement in various social media activities, I jumped at the opportunity.

The HIMSS Ontario AGM takes place next week on June 23rd, 2011 at the Royal Woodbine Golf Club; check out details here.   Four panelists will discuss “The impact of social media on health and healthcare”.    The panelists are:

  • Richard Booth, a doctoral candidate at the University of Western Ontario and a fellow social media advocate
  • Karim Keshavjee, MD, and CEO, Infoclin.
  • James Williams, a privacy consultant
  • Glenn Lanteigne, CIO, SouthWest LHIN

This panel offers a diverse perspective on social media and I look forward to a stimulating discussion.  Colleen Young, #hcsmca founder and expert community manager, has agreed to tweet from the event.

Anyone thinking about how to use social media in their healthcare organization should consider attending this event.  If you read this blog and decide to attend, please make sure that you introduce yourself.  I really enjoy meeting readers. For those of you who cannot attend the event, I encourage you to send your questions for the panel to either Colleen or me in advance of the event or even during the event.


Grokking Social Media

In my teens I loved to read science fiction.   I still marvel at how many of the predictions about the future that I read in these books have come to pass in one form or another including my beloved iPad and my nearly constant companion, the Internet.

One word that stuck with me from my mostly forgotten love affair with science fiction is “grok”.  According to author Robert A. Heinlein in “Stranger in a Strange Land”, to grok “means to understand so thoroughly that the observer becomes part of the observed”.   When it comes to social media, I sometimes wonder if it is not enough to understand it but, to really get social media and appreciate its full potential, one must grok it.

A friend of mine, a marketing and communications expert, is, partially at my urging, trying to figure out social media.  He recently participated in a weekly meet up on twitter of people exploring how to use social media in healthcare (again, at my suggestion) and was underwhelmed, to say the least, and I wonder whether he might think I’m a little crazy given my constant exhortations to use social media on this blog and other venues.

While the term social media may be new to many people, I contend that it has been one of the driving forces that accounts for the rapid adoption of the Internet.  Indeed, like the Gutenberg press, the Internet fundamentally changed the way that we communicate.  Prior to the Internet, mass media was controlled by relatively few corporations and individuals had limited ability to communicate their message to a wide audience.  The Internet shifted control over content to the masses and anyone with a computer can now interact with just about any audience they choose.   Further, and equally important, the Internet opens the possibility of two-way communication on a scale that other media simply cannot match.

As the authors of “The Hyper-Social Organization” (a great read, by the way) point out, Social Media has little to do with technology and everything to do with what they call “Human 1.0”.   We are wired, they argue, to share with anyone who will share with us and the Internet (and the social media tools such as Facebook and Twitter that leverage the Internet) provides the technological means to interact with people outside our immediate geographic vicinity.

Social media is not just another communications channel, as my friend likes to argue, but a platform for creating and sustaining communities of like minded people in a way not previously possible.   Social media is not a concept that can be merely understood but, in my view, one that must be grokked.   To my friend, I respectfully suggest that he cannot simply dip his toe in the social media waters but must immerse himself completely.   Further, he must remember that like other forms of social interaction, some social media experiences will be more memorable and more useful than others.



Infoway launches blog

With little fanfare, Canada Health Infoway recently put a toe in the social media waters with the launch of its new blog; check it out by clicking the “blog” link on the Infoway home page (www.infoway.ca).

I have been making the case (some say I am “advocating while others are suggesting that I nagging or even badgering) for increased use of social media by organizations such as Infoway and eHealth Ontario for the better part of the past year.  As it turns out, these organizations are proceeding slowly and cautiously.  Given the pitfalls and dangers that accompany the many benefits of using social media, their methodical approach to implementing social media is understandable.

I encourage you to read and contribute to the Infoway blog; I have already posted several comments.  Social media works best when there is an active conversation and I know that the people responsible for social media at Infoway truly want to create an active dialog with as wide a group of stakeholders as possible. So, here is your chance to put them to the test!


Another Interesting Social Media Initiative

When asked about social media many people will mentionTwitter or Facebook or even LinkedIn. Mentioned less often is Wikis, a technology that allows multiple people to contribute to developing on-line information resources. According an article in Healthcare IT News, HIMSS has launched a CPOE wiki “with the goal of bringing data, documents and guidelines on meeting and exceeding meaningful use in one location”. The article quotes HIMSS Enterprise CPOE Workgroup chairman Dr. Paul Kleeberg as saying “Physicians, nurses, implementation staff, pharmacists and anyone supporting the adoption and use of CPOE can find and contribute valuable information resources on the wiki.”

HIMSS use of wikis offers yet another example of the many different ways that social media can be used to engage members of a community.   Do you have any interesting examples of how social media that you’d like to share?


Growing Use of Social Media by Hospitals

According to a recent article on amednews.com, “more hospitals are hiring staff members dedicated solely to social media — and getting physicians to use these tools”.  While the article notes that “there are little data to show hospital executives about the financial and quality-of-care effects of social media”, it offer sthe following explanation of the growing interest in social media from Robert Matney, a partner who follows health and social media for Austin, Texas-based consulting firm Social Web Strategies:

“Part of why hospitals are heading in this direction is part of the general zeitgeist, the general awareness that these ways of communication and connecting with each other are transforming hospitals and their relationships.  Top executives in the medical industry [have] not yet come to terms with the fact that this change is profound and pervasive. And it’s a transformation in how business is getting done.”

The article includes an informative sidebar on social media best practices.  These include:

  • Listen before you leap. The best way to learn about how social media works — and what you can do with it — is to spend time on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and other sites just seeing what’s going on. That way, you can get a feel for the rhythm of each site, think about what your place would be in the conversation, and determine which site, or sites, fits in with your social media goals.
  • Have something to say — and speak often. To build an audience, you need to have something interesting to say to your intended audience. And you can’t just post once a week and expect feedback. You have to post with some frequency and regularity to get people to look at you as a source.
  • Ensure that conversations go both ways. One of the most effective ways to build a social media audience is to respond to what others have to say. You’re talking to and with people, not at them.
  • Don’t be a jerk. Avoid being argumentative, or posting anything that is libelous, profane, obscene, threatening, hateful, harassing or embarrassing to another person. Beyond any professional repercussions, remember that, just like in real life, people on social media don’t want to be stuck in a conversation with a boor. Assume that whatever you post stays on the Internet forever.
  • Abide by all laws and policies. You might know that posting information about a patient could violate privacy laws, but you might not know that pasting a picture from a newspaper site onto your blog violates copyright laws. Meanwhile, if you are posting as a representative from your practice or hospital, you should abide by all policies that cover electronic media. You should use a disclaimer to say that any opinions are yours and don’t represent the organization.
  • Think before you post. Nothing says you have to post a thought as soon as you have it. If you’re not sure whether a post is appropriate, many hospitals, medical associations and others have contacts with which you can discuss whether the post meets all legal and ethical standards — or whether the post is merely just a bad idea.


myhospitalidea.com – Social Media and Ontario Hospitals

Just attended a webcast on a new OHA initiative – myhospitalidea.com.  This initiative was developed collaboratively with the Innovation Cell at the University of Toronto and provides a platform that hospitals can use to learn from the communities that they serve as well as the ones that they don’t currently serve.  By giving hospitals access to real-time discussions among various constituents in the communities that they serve, myhospitalidea.com can gather information that will help them find new and more effective ways to serve these people.

Neil Seeman from the Innovation Cell offered insight into the concepts underlying myhospitalidea.com.   According to Neil, the main problem driving myhospitalidea.com is good ideas get buried due to fragmented communities.  myhospitalidea.com will provide a collaborative community that provides a vehicle for exposing ideas to a wider audience and challenging organizations to consider these ideas.

There are three goals for myhospitalidea.com:

  • Share ideas
  • Issue regular challenges
  • Publicize leading innovations and innovators  (build network effect)

The Innovation Cell is establishing a “Collaboration Council” to provide feedback and advice as well as champion myhospitalidea.com in their communities.   They are hoping to have four to six organizations representing a broad variety of hospital types (small, teaching, community, etc) on the council.

The OHA and the Innovation Cell are hoping to begin a six month trial on the websites of Collaboration Council members, with system-wide launch in the summer of 2011.

As I have noted in other blog posts, Canadian healthcare organizations are cautiously approaching social media and still seem to have many concerns about the value of social media.  myhospitalidea.com, with OHA backing and support, is a positive move in encouraging use of social media by Ontario hospitals.








Social Media and Canadian eHealth Organizations – A Rant

I recently attended an event at which a senior eHealth leader and decision maker suggested that “people aren’t interested in what I had for breakfast” when asked about his organization’s plans for social media.  He then went on to explain why social media wasn’t an appropriate vehicle for communicating updates on what is happening within his organization.

I was annoyed at this person’s flippant response that perpetuates a common misconception about Twitter and feel that I needed to respond.  I have opted not identify this person because (a) I hold him in high regard and see no need to embarrass him to make a point and (b) the sentiment that he has expressed has been espoused by other senior eHealth leaders and decision makers.

I am not surprised by the general reaction to social media among many eHealth leaders and decision makers. I saw similar reactions to e-mail and the web in the 1990’s when the Internet started to hit the mainstream.  Social media is still, in many ways, a new technology that many people don’t understand how to use to their advantage and therefore find it easy to poke fun at.

Social media encompasses a wide range of technologies including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, and YouTube to name just a few.  I have found each of them to be indispensable in my day to day work.  I am constantly amazed at  the new and innovative ways that organizations both public and private are using social media as a tool to meet business objectives.

I have heard many people complain recently that we as a community are not doing a good job at informing each other and the  public about the many effective uses of health IT across Canada.  Many of these projects are small, local initiatives funded not through federal or provincial programs but from existing organizational budgets.   I have also heard the same eHealth leaders and decision makers who are wary of social media talk about these projects in one-on-one discussions or public presentations.  Imagine if they each started a blog and, on a regular basis, shared their discoveries with a larger audience?   I contend that having such influential and high profile people blogging about the effective uses of IT that they personally witness would do more to raise the profile of these projects than just about any other public awareness campaign.

One my favourite bloggers is Dr. John Halamka, Chief Information Officer of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Chief Information Officer at Harvard Medical School, Chairman of the New England Healthcare Exchange Network (NEHEN), Chair of the US Healthcare Information Technology Standards Panel (HITSP)/Co-Chair of the HIT Standards Committee, and a practicing Emergency Physician.  Dr. Halamka’s “Life as a Healthcare CIO” blog not only offers interesting insights into the many ways in which HIT is shaping the delivery of healthcare but also offers glimpses into Dr. Halamka’s personal interests and philosophies.   I enjoy the opportunity to get to know Dr. Halamka as person as well as a CIO.

What are your thoughts on the use of social media by Canadian eHealth organizations?  Do you think that agencies like eHealth Ontario or Canada Health Infoway could benefit from more aggressive use of social media?


PS – Since publishing this blog post, I came across yet another fan of John Halamka’s blog. Check out this article in Health Data Management.

Use of Social Media by Canadian Healthcare

Ken Tremblay is CEO at Peterborough Regional Health Centre  (PRHC), a Canadian healthcare organization that is embracing social media.  I have been following Mr. Tremblay’s blog for several months and noted today they have set up a twitter account (@phrc1).   According to their blog post on this topic, ….embracing change includes communicating in the medium of the day. We must stay in touch, and be in charge of at least some of what is said about our institution.” They also note that “this all new” and that they will becreating some policies and procedures for our use of social media – perhaps leading the way for other hospitals.”

I’d like to start tracking which Canadian healthcare organizations have embraced social media in some way.  If you are aware any such organizations, please let me know.  I will devise some scheme to share this information.