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Posts Tagged ‘Social media’

Healthcare Social Media: Healing or Hurting?

April 20, 2012 11 comments

The Social Health Web

Social web sites are growing as a health care medium. They connect patients with each other and with care givers. Social media are a conduit for patients to share their health concerns and gain knowledge. But they may also be a rumor mill of misinformation.

So far the US healthcare system has been slow to adopt social media for the exchange of health information, leaving patients to find other sources.  Two recent studies show a growing gap between patients’ needs and hospitals’ delivery of a quality social health experience.

Hospitals Not Delivering

A new report by CSC shows US hospitals lag far behind hospitals in countries such as the Netherlands and the UK in the use of social media to deliver health information. According to the study, only 27% of urban hospitals and 10% of rural hospitals in the US deploy social media sites.

Yet according to a report by consulting firm PWC, patients use social sites like Facebook as an important source for health information. Of 1,024 consumers studied, 24% say they post health information on social media sites and 45% said they would use information from social media sites as justification for seeking a second opinion.

Health professionals should be alarmed by these findings. Facebook and Twitter take second guessing physicians’ medical recommendations to a new dimension.

Why anyone would use hundreds of Facebook friends as a sounding board for whether to have surgery is beyond me, but the evidence suggests that it’s happening with more frequency.  And with the ease and anonymity of internet publishing, anyone can present themselves as a medical expert.

Privacy Concerns Versus Information Sharing

Why don’t more hospitals use social media? Concerns about liability and patient privacy are the primary reason. Clearly, the freewheeling give and take of social media commentary interferes with the doctor-patient relationship.

But here’s the problem, patients will seek the information wherever they can find it. We humans are a curious sort. We pay no attention to our health until we get sick. Then we plumb the internet for any source we can find for as much information we can get.

Physicians often spend more time wading through patients’ questions about alternative treatments and self diagnoses than they do in actual treatment. The physician’s role as the sole source of medical information went out of fashion with Marcus Welby, M.D.

It’s a classic case of if you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. Why not be seen as the best source of medical information and clinical sharing? It’s unfortunate that aversion to risk prevents hospitals from using social media’s potential for healing by placing the patient at the center a continuum of care through social communities of physicians, case managers, family and friends.

What do you think? Are hospitals obligated to create social media sites and share health-related information with patient communities? Share your comments by clicking on “comments” at the top of the page.

Photo credit: Health in 30

The Act of Becoming: Branding on Social Media

March 15, 2012 7 comments
Social Influencers

Malcolm Gladwell wrote The Tipping Factor. He showed that trends are not spread by the many, but by a few influential connectors.  Marketers identify and leverage these connectors or social influencers to build their brands in the social marketplace.  As  brands engage with these key customers and taste makers, what are they hearing? The social marketplace is no place for brands who don’t have a firm grasp of their identity. Social media marketing is an exacting science and but it can also be a rude awakening.

The Exacting Science Part

Like the ripples of water from a rock thrown in a pond, marketers identify each degree of separation and influence. There are  power influencers, idea starters, amplifiers, etc.

Marketing agencies and research firms have developed innumerable measurement and analysis tools. From buzz analysis to tweet and blog level,  Klout to PeerIndex we know who to court and woo. We seek favor for the brand with a blog or podcast mention. We know the demography and social media profile of  second level influencers, the “brand ambassadors” and on to the next. Let the word of mouth begin.

The beauty of social media marketing is that you can learn which programs, messages and offers work and which don’t.  ROI is a snap.  For new brands and small marketing budgets, it’s the only way to go. For many big brands, it’s an effective way to keep their customer base. Ford Motor Company is revitalizing their brand with an improved product line and great social marketing.

The Rude Awakening Part

The world of social media has no tolerance for executive, top down brands.  Traditional brand messaging does not resonate in this world. Today’s consumers are on information overload. They want to make brand decisions on their own terms, filtered through their network.

Consumers use social media to create a cultural context that has meaning for them, a “collective I”, as Alex Wipperfurth describes it.  The brand must become something with meaning and authenticity to take part in that world. Who are you and what do you stand for?  It’s surprising, but many companies don’t really know.

Luxury brands that rely on cache have not done well in the democratic arena of social. Campaigns with even a hint of controversy can go viral negative in days. The California Milk Board’s “PMS” campaign polled positive, but stirred a firestorm of negative social media backlash. Relevance and resonance displace reach as the prescription for success in social media marketplace.

To quote Mr. Wipperfurth again, “It’s no longer about positioning…it’s about taking a position.”

Please let me know your thoughts by clicking on the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post.

Why is Health Information Exchange so Hard?

March 13, 2012 1 comment

US Healthcare Information Technology is still paper based

Fatal Communications Breakdown

Josie King died at Johns Hopkins Hospital in 2001 – age eighteen months. She did not die from her condition but from dehydration coupled with non-indicated use of narcotics. She died from poor communication and coordination of care at one of the best hospitals in the world.

Every year, almost 100,000 people die from medical errors in the US. The Joint Commission‘s Annual Report on Quality and Safety 2007 found that inadequate communication between healthcare providers, or between providers and the patient/family was the root cause of over half the serious adverse events in accredited hospitals. The instantaneous movement and sharing of information is part of daily life in the US. The lack of the same capability in our healthcare system is appalling.

Interoperability: the Biggest Challenge

The US has a private medical system. Healthcare delivery happens locally and regionally. IT implementation grew organically in that model and today is a crazy quilt of antiquated incompatible systems. The US is building a healthcare IT infrastructure to connect these systems together. IT Infrastructure is the central nervous system, a conduit for medical information to flow from anywhere to anywhere. Interoperability is an enormous problem in a fast-changing world of wired and wireless devices.  Standards committees work on two-year timetables while our innovation economy pours new devices into the marketplace at a dizzying rate.

Glacial Progress

The priority for HIT gained traction in 2004-2005, but since then progress has slowed to a crawl.

  • 2004 – H.R. 4880 The Josie King Act introduced to spur growth of national HIT infrastructure – bill died in committee.
  • 2004 – HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson launched the “Decade of Health Information Technology“.
  • 2005, IBM announced it was investing $250 million in R&D to design a national IT infrastructure.

It took until 2009 to enact meaningful legislation.The HITECH act invested nearly $30 billion in health IT to improve the quality, safety and efficiency of health care. Most of this money went to the CMS for incentives to healthcare providers to accelerate implementation of electronic health records (EHR). Widespread adoption of EHR’s  in the healthcare system is a key enabler to achieve cost and quality reforms.

Three years after passage of  HITECH, less than 20% of the healthcare is delivered electronically in the US. According to Charles P. Friedman, CSO for the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT, adoption of EHR’s will become more or less “national” in 2019 when penetration will hit 80%. Can we wait that long?

The pace of change will remain glacial unless health IT is given the national importance it deserves. The effort to create a robust interoperable health information backbone deserves the same urgency that built the interstate highway system or US space program. Instead the popular political dialog focuses on the health insurance mandate.

We lack the threat of Russian ICBM’s orbiting the earth to motivate us in this goal, yet our need is urgent. Efficient healthcare information exchange will not only improve patient safety, it will improve outcomes and cost-effective care. Without it, access to care may one day depend on one’s ability to pay for it.

Please let me know your thoughts by clicking on the “Leave a Comment” link at the top of the post.

 

Mission-Driven Social Media

February 28, 2012 7 comments

A few years ago I took a consulting assignment for an incoming college dean.  My job – write the school’s new communications plan.  In my first meeting I asked what the school’s mission was.  “Every college and university has basically the same mission,” she said.  I explained that a unique mission is key to a high quality communications program.

There was an effort among the senior faculty to write a mission statement but it became the product of consensus.  I’ve learned it takes a lot of hard work to create a mission statement, particularly if you’re not a founding father.

It was a missed opportunity to create something powerful.  Mission-driven communications integrate naturally; stories gain context.  They are the basis of great brands like IBM and Apple.

I remembered that time when I learned about a unique and powerful social media strategy at the Mayo Clinic, The Center for Social Media.  A video presentation by CEO John Noseworthy, M.D.  introduces the center as extending their founders’ mission, now over 100 years old.  Drs. William and Charles Mayo wrote, “The best interest of the patient is the only interest to be considered and in order that the sick have the benefit of advancing knowledge, union of forces is necessary.”

Dr. Noseworthy explains how that mission came to life in the early years of the Mayo clinic, “It drove the Mayo brothers to invent the concept of group medical practice at a time when the notion was considered a breach of physicians’ individual responsibility.” They used that concept to create other best practices and shared them with physicians around the world.

How does this tie in with social media? Social media are a great way to assure that the patient receives a continuum of coordinated care.

One early Mayo innovation was the unified patient medical record. “It’s goal is to build a network around the patient.” says Dr. Noseworthy. That is the opportunity for social media. Networks of physicians, support staff and other patients may improve outcomes when coordinated through the clinic.

Lee Aase is the director of the center.  In a “Conversations on Health Care” podcast, Mr. Aase details the many ways in which the center’s programs define excellence in patient centered care through social media.  In each case, the linkage to the Mayo Clinic mission is clear to see.

Visit the center’s website, see the video blogs from physicians, read the patient stories. There is nothing slick or artificial. An aura of authenticity surrounds this program.  This its true in part because of its connection to the clinic’s mission.  Other academic medical centers have similar programs and they are well executed.  But the visceral connection to the institution is often missing.  The whole is lesser than the sum.

Well done Mayo Clinic.

Photo credit: Salvatore Vuono
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