Tag Archives: social media

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.




Feedback May Impact ONC Timetable

The U.S. Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) recently issued a call for comments on its proposed stage 2 and stage meaningful use requirements.  This call for comments has generated considerable feedback, most of which has been posted publicly and has been reported in various publications.   According to recent healthsystemCIO.com article, an ONC workgroup “will review the timing of its staging structure”.

Of particular interest to me was workgroup member Judy Murphy’s observation that “There appears to be a groundswell movement which has people sending (blog) postings back and forth.”.  Apparently, public debate using social media tools such as a blog can have an impact.


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.



ONC Musings on Engaging their Stakeholders

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT in the US (more commonly known as the ONC) continues to amaze me with their willingness to listen to and react to what they are hear from their stakeholders.  In a recent post on HealthITBuzz, the ONC blog, Jodi G. Daniel, Director of the Office of Policy and Planning, shares her thoughts on what the ONC has learned from the input they have received to date.  Highlights include:

  • “We should take greater advantage of social networking tools (and this means much more than blogging) when bringing our policy conversations outside of the walls of HHS.”
  • “We have been reconsidering the label “consumer” and thinking about using “individual” instead. Calling people consumers implies that they are necessarily consuming something, whereas an individual may not need to consume anything (health care or otherwise) to manage his/her health more effectively.”
  • “It is not just about changing the behavior of consumers. Health IT offers a tremendous opportunity to change the health care system to become more “consumer-centered.”
  • “In order to include consumers in the health IT policymaking process, we cannot expect them to come to Washington or to find this blog online (although the ones that do are amazing!). To truly be representative, we must go to consumers’ conversations.”
  • “Data liquidity, including consumer access to their health information, is the first step to fostering innovation. Innovation is not just about technology; there is also a real need for innovation on implementation, replicating successes, and using data in advanced ways. But it is the industry that will be leading any such innovation, not the government.”

Engaging the community using social media is a scary prospect for many healthcare organizations.  Fortunately, there are some good role models to emulate and many great resources from which to draw ideas and lessons learned.




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.


Use of Social Media by UK Secretary of State for Health

I have written several blog posts over the past few months about the use of social media by the Office of National Coordinator for Health IT in the US.  I recently discovered that the new gov’t in the UK is also making aggressive use of social media.  Check out a recent blog post by Andrew Lansley, Secretary of State for Health, in which he invites comments on a recently released consultation document entitled “Liberating the NHS: An Information Revolution”. In this blog post, Mr. Lansley notes:

“We need information about health and care services to be more innovative.  Information cannot be just another bureaucratic process within the care system. We want better information for our professionals too – so we can help them improve services and achieve healthcare outcomes that are among the best in the world.”

He also makes it clear that his department needs “to hear your views to help achieve these changes” and offers several mechanisms for doing so:



ONC use of Social Media

I have made comment in several blog posts regarding the use of social media and other online tools by the ONC to seek input and communicate plans and priorities.  Several people have asked me for specific examples.   One such example is use of a blog by the Privacy & Security Tiger Team to gather community input.

On Oct 21st, I received the following email from the ONC:

The Privacy & Security Tiger Team seeks your comments on how the identities of provider organizations are authenticated for the electronic exchange of protected health information.

Specific questions to consider include:

  1. What strength of provider-entity authentication (level of assurance) might be recommended to ensure trust in health information exchange (regardless of what technology may be used to meet the strength requirement)?
  2. Which provider-entities can receive digital credentials, and what are the requirements to receive those credentials?
  3. What is the process for issuing digital credentials (e.g., certificates), including evaluating whether initial conditions are met and re-evaluation on a periodic basis?
  4. Who has the authority to issue digital credentials?
  5. Should ONC select an established technology standard for digital credentials and should EHR certification include criteria that tests capabilities to communicate using that standard for entity-level credentials?
  6. What type of transactions must be authenticated, and is it expected that all transactions will have a common level of assurance?

You can submit your comments on the Federal Advisory Committee Blog. Take the opportunity to join the discussion today. Remember, the deadline for feedback is October 29.

As of this evening (October 26th), there are seventeen comments posted on the blog.



Healthcare and social media – forgetting the ‘social’…again?

Richard Booth is a post-graduate nursing student, instructor at McMaster University, lecturer at the University of Toronto, and the Project Lead for the Registered Nursing Association of Ontario’s (RNAO) Nursing & eHealth project.  I have known Richard for several years and we have shared information on various eHealth issues from time to time.  As we are both interested in the use of social media in healthcare, I was thrilled when Richard offered to write a guest blog post on this topic.


Over the last two years the interest in social media has become a palpable force within healthcare organizations in Canada and the world.  To date, I have been approached by three organizations interested in leveraging ‘social media’ in their clinical environments to spread their message or build awareness.  It has been from these interactions and my involvement within the informatics discipline that I’ve begun to notice a trend that is mirroring much of what I saw during the early rise of ‘eHealth’ back in the early-mid 2000s: technology first, people second.

The most commonly asked questions I receive pertaining to social media always seem to be technology focused.  There appears to be a consistent trend toward individuals wishing to implement the latest ‘buzz’ social technology, without first appreciating (or recognizing) the inherent complexities of the social environment in which the technology exists.  Worse still (and potentially more scary), I found that the majority of organizations I’ve come into contact with still do not truly appreciate the potential decentralization of power that social media imposes on the ‘owners’ of the information.  For instance, I’ve spoken with individuals who were upset that a pharmaceutical company linked to their blog/RSS feed without their permission.  This individual felt violated that information she put up on her health blog was being capitalized upon by others in a way she never intended.  My reiteration of “that’s kind of how social media works” did not do much to appease her frustration.

Equally, I’ve found that a number of healthcare organizations have truly underestimated both the potential and limitations of social media in the dissemination of health advocacy, awareness and promotion.  At this point, most of the ‘functional’ healthcare social media examples I’ve seen in Ontario have been developed in-house by technologically savvy individuals who were able to generate enough managerial/leadership support to have their visions implemented.  Similarly, some of the larger health organizations around Ontario have begun to create various social media policies that range in strength from Orwellian directives to flexible guidelines that encourage commonsense on behalf of staff/clinicians.  I’ve found these corporate social media policies to be excellent barometers of a given organization’s receptivity toward social media and their corresponding willingness to accept a decentralization of power in terms of communication with staff/consumers.  That said, there is currently significant diversity in opinions regarding the value of social media in healthcare and alignment of philosophies seems unlikely in the near future.  Since the return on investment of social media does not tend to align to traditional ‘success’ metrics, I foresee reluctance by organizations to treat social media as anything more than a playful novelty.  Hopefully time (and health consumers) will change this.  Recent examples of the power of social media during the Toronto G20 demonstrations (i.e., by the media, protestors, bystanders, and police alike) and the widely successful OldSpice viral commercials (http://www.youtube.com/user/OldSpice) will undoubtedly provide a bit of reinforcement to the potential importance of this modality of communication.

In the meantime I’ve created a basic social media policy outline that I use when speaking with individuals/organizations interested in the topic.  Normally I use this framework as a vetting tool to establish some sort of common ground between an organization’s expectations and the realistic outcomes that social media might be able to provide.  I also hope this framework outlines some of my previous arguments regarding the social environment in which the social media exists – this area is all too often neglected when speaking of ‘technology’.

Finally, although I realize this model still contains some significant conceptual gaps (namely in the area of sustainability, privacy/ethics, and consumer interactivity), it has helped me begin the process of framing how social media might interact with healthcare organizations in the coming years.  Similarly, as Michael noted on an earlier draft version of this posting, the interactive potential that social media provides appears to be missing from the following model.  Therefore the current iteration of the model presents a largely one-way framework of communication using social media in healthcare – hopefully in time, and as receptivity of this modality of communication is established, a true ‘social’ mode of communication will occur between healthcare organizations and the consumers they serve.  Given some of the arguments tabled in the preceding paragraphs, true interactivity with consumers will probably be a slow evolutionary process, tempered by concerns regarding privacy and information security.  It should be an interesting process to watch unfold over the next few years.

1) What is your purpose? What is the organization’s purpose?
2) What is your demographic?
3) How does your demographic access information/content in 2010-2011, and potentially beyond?
4) What is the message you want to convey?
5) Is this message important? It needs to be important to not only you, but others who will be reading it….and potentially important to those who it wasn’t even intended to reach (e.g., politicians, news, government, vendors, business, academia).
6) Tools (this is 6th on the list on purpose….technology should never come first…the people/message should)
7) How these tools and humans work synergistically together? (this will require some experience with said tools… if you are unfamiliar with the tools and are leading the project, I would suggest highly that you start to immerse yourself quickly).
8) How do you plan to evaluate success?  Your traditional metrics will probably not give you a good idea of the penetration or success.  You’ll need to rethink what ‘success’ will be in this decentralized, largely self-evolving modality of communication.

Richard Booth

Use of Social Media for Patient Engagement

The latest Ipsos Interactive Reid Report offers some fascinating insights into the channels that people use for text communication.  While many of us in the health sector may still rely on email for text communications, there appears to be an overall movement away from email in favour of other text communications including Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft Messenger, and Blackberry Messenger.

According to the report, the average number of emails that Canadians receive in a week declined by 35% in a little over a year.  Study author and Ipsos Reid Associate Vice-President Mark Laver notes:

“These findings also have significant implications for those businesses that rely on email marketing for some or all of their business. These companies should be evaluating to see if social media platforms are an effective method for distributing their message.”

As the health sector rushes to catch up with other industries in use of electronic communications with their clients / patients, the choice of electronic communication medium needs to be carefully considered.  While many people have been encouraging physicians to communicate with patients via e-mail, we should be careful to not favour one form of electronic communications technology over another.  Technology continues to evolve rapidly and we need to be mindful of the shifts in user preference that technology changes engender.


Social Media and Healthcare

I focus on three technology areas in my little consulting practice – eHealth, mobile technologies, and social media.  I am particularly fascinated  by  the opportunities that exist at the intersection of these three technology areas.

When I talk to senior healthcare decision makers and thought leaders in Canada, I find a general reluctance to explore or use social media.  I have in previous blog posts suggested eHealth leaders such as Greg Reed from eHealth Ontario make use of social media to engage wider communities and to keep interested stakeholders abreast of what they are thinking and doing.  Alas, my pleas seem to have fallen on deaf ears 🙂

Given the apparent reluctance to use social media that I have encountered to date, I was intrigued to find a blog maintained by Paul Levy, the President and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.   According to their web site, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is “a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School” that is “renowned for excellence in patient care, biomedical research, teaching and community service. Located in the heart of Boston’s Longwood Medical and Academic Area, it hosts nearly three quarters of a million patient visits annually in and around Boston.”  Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a large hospital by Canadian standards, with “621 licensed beds, including 419 medical/surgical beds, 77 critical care beds and 60 OB/GYN beds.”

Paul Levy finds the time to  post to his blog nearly every day.  According to a recent blog post on the topic of social media, Paul argues:

“A major advantage of social media is its asynchronicity. The person or people with whom I am communicating do not have to be doing it at the same time as I do. Another advantage, of course, is the broader reach of social media, being able to be in touch with dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people.”

Paul not only demonstrates that value of social media but also shows that it is relevant and powerful tool for senior executives.   Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from Paul’s experience for other busy executives.