MCSMN Blog

April 11, 2011

Social Media in Health Care… the Continuum

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At this stage in the evolution of the health care and social media continuum — what are some of the most important actions the that the seasoned health care and social media professionals could be taking at this very moment to improve the understanding of those on the periphery.

Standing at the periphery we have people, patients, physicians, nurses, other allied health care professionals, executives from hospitals, marketing firms, the pharmaceutical industry, the device manufacturing industry, IT professionals and many curious observers.

Do all the aforementioned individuals, who each have their own vested interest in health care and social media, have the same goals and objectives when they’re entering the intersection.  Clearly, the answer to that is no.  Social media, when appropriately deployed in health care will have the ability to broadly disrupt our our ability to teach, learn, educate, and to propagate (and collect) appropriate content and information.

Aside from all the *individuals* mentioned.  We also have to deal with the issue of personal versus professional; and  small business versus enterprise applications of social media in the healthcare marketplace.

Adoption, engagement, relationship building, and learning how to utilize the tools that the medium provides will go a long way to improving one’s ability to gain understanding and knowledge and aid in decision-making support when necessary.

Applications of social media and health care on the enterprise level have yet to emerge  to any large extent.  My own experience of trying to deploy Social Cast or Yammer on our campus has been an abject failure.

The majority of people entering the intersection of health care and social media remain within the *echo chamber*.   They are just starting to explore and understand what the underlying potential is.  They’re establishing relationships,  determining who to follow, determining how to  properly curate and perhaps even generate content meaningful to those who follow them.

But this is only the beginning — the very first steps that someone entering into the space needs to take to become comfortable and qualified to a point — prior to  diving deeper into the opportunities that engagement in health care and social media allow.

Those of us who have been within the intersection for a number of years now are starting to think more deeply about what exactly your presence in healthcare and social media could potentially look like.

Phil Baumann, as always, recently had a fairly provocative post titled “The Cold Straight up Truth about Social Media and Healthcare“.  For those who are comfortable in the early stages of their presence in health care and social media I think this is very useful article to read.  I think this thoughtful piece will enable many of us to begin to move beyond the echo chamber and further towards the ultimate definitions and goals of social media in health care.

Why did I title this blog a continuum?  I did so because there new people entering intersection everyday.  These people come from all walks of life, from many countries around the world and from many different professions.  Some have a well thought out goal or game plan in mind.  Most have absolutely no idea what’s going on.  Ted Eytan,  recently discussed the fact that he was asked by the Sermo staff to pose a question to their physician base about the their desire to participate in a  social media endeavor in the near future.  The resounding overall theme of the answers was no, to put it kindly.  I wonder if a significant percentage  of the participants in the poll  had anything more than a basic understanding of the concepts/definitions many of us have proposed when it comes to a presence in health care and social media.  My guess is that they did not and that they were merely thinking of Facebook and twitter and not much beyond that.

This is just the beginning… and this will take a long time to *figure out*.  We need legislative (HIPAA) reform, we need a better understanding of how people interact and learn from each other, we need to better understand the learning process and we need to do so in a manner that encourages those on the periphery to become a shareholder so to speak.  This is clearly an instance where the more people who have skin in the game, the better off we will all be.

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