Social media has become a significant part of the fabric of our lives. We’re becoming more and more connected via electronic devices, and social media is playing a large role. Healthcare seems to be the field that could benefit the most from successfully implementing the right social media strategy. Social media can also be dangerous if it’s misused. Thankfully, we have many knowledgeable people in the healthcare field who have taken to the social media channels to interact, learn and teach. We’re proud to be hosting the Healthcare Social Media Review this week. The articles here include examples of best practices, cutting edge ideas and general commentary on the use of social media in healthcare. We’ve linked each author’s name to his or her Twitter page so that you can easily follow them if you’re not already.
Oh, and Happy Halloween! In the spirit of the holiday, we’re including some spooktacular pictures. What do you do when one of the two pumpkins your kiddos picked out at the pumpkin patch turns out to be half rotten? Well, you make it into a helmet for the other pumpkin. And then they hang out next to the pumpkin that you carved a few weeks too early. This is all Jay’s @lukkyjay handiwork decorating our front porch.
To start things off, I thought we could use a little framework and ground rules on how we should be using social media in healthcare. Dr. Howard J. Luks – @hjluks has a great understanding of the role social media plays in healthcare – his blog is an excellent resource if you’re interested. It was hard to pick out just one of his articles, but Tweet or Retreat is an outstanding article that details how and why physicians and healthcare industry folks should – and should not – be on Twitter (and I would say the ideas in this post apply to all social media channels, not just twitter). Dr. Luks notes that if you’re only on social media in order to market yourself, you need to rethink things a bit and “come back when your passion to help people becomes your primary driver.” Tweets and Pins and YouTube videos and Facebook posts should not just be a series of hashtags and promotional buzzwords. There has to be real interaction, coupled with a desire to learn from what others are posting. Fundamental advice about social media that applies to pretty much all industries – not just healthcare.
Jason Berek-Lewis @jasonbereklewis on @healthystartups details six reasons your medical practice needs a social media strategy. Excellent article, and it meshes very well with Dr. Luks points about being on social media for the right reasons. None of Jason’s six items have anything to do with marketing or profits or attracting new patients. Instead, he explains how social media can help doctors show their human side, interact with their colleagues, get to know their patients while also inspiring and empowering them, and ultimately be a force for building a healthier community.
David Napoli @Biff_Bruise explains how the Schoolhouse Rock format of short, informative-yet-fun videos could be a great way to teach healthcare concepts. And this style of education material is a perfect fit for sharing on social media. Most people are not interested in wading through reams of information on WebMD. But watch a three minute cartoon-style video? Sure – that’s a lot more manageable. It’s worked before. And it’s also a lot more likely to get people excited and be shared on social media, making its impact even greater.
Lucien Engelen @lucienengelen explains how FaceTalk can help doctors connect more efficiently with patients and colleagues around the world. FaceTalk allows doctors the next best thing to being in the room with each other and with their patients. They can virtually “meet up” to collaborate on a diagnosis without all of the time and expense involved in physically getting together. They can share xrays and other scan results in real time, and get a second opinion from another doctor while the patient is there in the office. A decade ago, all of these things would have required extensive travel, phone conference calls that miss out on all of the visual information that is being shared, and more patient trips to doctors.
Duncan Cross always gives us a candid look at life from the perspective of a Chron’s patient, and Chronology – social media for the sick? is an excellent read. Chronology is an IBD patient-led online community where patients with ulcerative colitis and Chron’s can come together to ask questions, share tips and support one another. Duncan writes his own opinions of the site and compares it with other IBD forums he’s visited in the past. I know from my parents’ experience with a Wegeners Granulomatosis patient forum that online support can be crucial for mental well-being, especially if one is physical isolated from other patients with the same illness. Duncan notes that although there is some forced optimism on the site, the viewpoint that “being sick sucks” is also allowed on the site. I also thought it was interesting that in the Treatment section of the forum, Duncan points out that you have to scroll down to treatment #23 before you get to something that needs a prescription – and even then, it’s medical cannabis. On this patient-led site, non-prescription treatments are getting more traction than prescriptions, which is far different from what Duncan (and probably most other patients too) has been told by his doctors.
For anyone concerned about the legal ramifications of social media use, David M. Adler Esq. @adlerlaw provides us with plenty of details. Social media regulations are still being devised and hashed out, but there are definitely rules, especially with regards to maintaining privacy, and truth in advertising. The privacy issue is obviously a big one for healthcare, but so are the other issues that Adler brings up. His post includes a section specifically devoted to healthcare and the pharmaceutical industry, with a link to the FDA’s warning letters that have been sent regarding pharmaceutical advertising.
Maggie Mahar @maggiemahar never fails to deliver, and Breakfast with Atul Gawande is outstanding. Maggie’s reputation as a thorough, thoughtful healthcare writer is no doubt what garnered her a spot at a breakfast gathering where Gawande spoke with a small group of doctors, hospital administrators and healthcare reform folks from IBM. Gawande’s writing has inspired me every time I read one of his articles, and I wish I could have been at that breakfast too. But Maggie’s article is the next best thing. Maggie recounts Gawande’s frank discussion about early efforts to reign in healthcare spending, the reluctance of doctors to abandon their pre-conceived notions that bigger, better, newer, and more expensive are always the best way to go when it comes to healthcare, and ways that hospitals and doctors can realistically be compensated for providing better, more efficient care without losing money (lower volume might be more efficient when it comes to healthcare, but in our current fee-for-service system, it also means lowered revenues – that’s a good thing in terms of overall healthcare costs, but a bad thing if you’re the hospital that relies on that revenue in order to function). In a discussion about efficiency and coordination of care, Gawande noted that doctors get an average of 1100 faxes per month – and asks “what other industry besides medicine still uses fax machines?” Indeed, just as the medical community has been slow to embrace digital communication and social media in general, relics of the past like fax machines are still a way of life in an industry that operates under the sometimes onerous burden of HIPAA and myriad administrative paperwork. Electronic medical records and electronic coordination of care will help to bring the medical industry into the digital era – and the happy result should be more efficient healthcare delivery, less provider time spent on paperwork, improved patient outcomes and satisfaction, and hopefully, lower healthcare costs.
Family Practice Doctor Kathy Nieder, MD @docnieder writes about her experiences with RelayHealth – the new online portal that she uses to communicate with her patients. She describes a Saturday evening in the quiet of her home, reading and responding to a couple messages from her patients. From Dr. Nieder’s description, the electronic patient portal sounds pretty great. It allows patients to communicate easily with their doctors and possibly avoid a trip to urgent care or the ER. And Dr. Nieder notes that doctors need not worry that patients will abuse such open access to their physicians; in her experience, the number of patients who use the portal is limited, and she is in control of when and how often she logs in to respond to messages. There is no need to be constantly connected, but it is nice to be connected at any time. Feeling a burst of energy at 3am? With an online communication system, doctors can use that time to check in and see what messages their patients have sent them recently, and perhaps scratch several things off the next day’s to-do list.
Michael Sherman @waxcom writes about patients’ desire for more interaction with their doctors that is aimed at keeping them healthy, not just acute care when they’re sick. Patients want digital communication from their doctors – text, emails, mobile apps that are focused on wellness. Although some medical offices are embracing new technology for keeping in contact with their patients, the use of digital communication and wellness interaction is still lagging behind patient expectations. I wrote about this topic recently too.
The Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media @MayoClinic has a touching story about Melissa Hogan @savingcase, mom to an adorable five-year-old boy named Case. Case has Hunter Syndrome (MPS II), and his mom was a speaker at this year’s Health Care Social Media Summit at the Mayo Clinic. Her speech was titled “Social media gives patients a voice. Are you listening to it?” and she has taken to numerous social media channels to raise awareness about the rare disease her son is battling.