Jigsaw LLC


Healthcare and social media: Boundaries without barriers

— Media & Technology —

Yesterday I went to an excellent panel discussion on social media in healthcare, including Dana Lewis from Swedish Health Services, Daniel Goldman from Mayo Clinic, Ed Bennett from University of Maryland Medical System, Jennifer Shine Dyer from Ohio State University and Dr. Keely Kolmes, a private psychotherapy practitioner. These are all individuals who are very committed to integrating social media into their organizations and practices, and they shared some very useful tips on how to do so without violating patient privacy or personal ethics.

Note: these are my takeaways from the session on what I found most relevant to us and our Jigsaw clients, not an attempt to summarize the entire session.

Dana Lewis shared a great suggestion for approaching physicians to encourage them to participate in social media. Don’t just go to them and say “We want you to do social media.” Show them why first by having the physician Google himself or herself, and explain how social media can change search engine results. Of course, there are other reasons to participate in social media, but this may help the proverbial light bulb go on.

Daniel Goldman, corporate attorney at Mayo Clinic, talked about the initial challenges of dealing with negative comments on social sites. While at first this caused create quite a bit of organizational anxiety, Mayo found that “the place didn’t fall down”, the brand can tolerate the negative comments, and they even make the organization stronger. He also stated that, contrary to general perceptions, “(Social media) is not a particularly risky sphere to give good healthcare information.” The challenge, though, is the “outlier”, the axe grinder. Some people just won’t like you, and that comes with the territory. A smart strategy that was discussed to minimize the axe-grinding is to give patients another outlet for reviews so they don’t necessarily have to talk about you only online if they have a problem, by systematizing patient feedback within your organization or practice, for each patient. The key, he said, is to provide healthcare information and education, not treatment. Of course, patients still need to sign a HIPPA authorization that allows the healthcare organization to respond to them in online forums.

Dr. Bryan Vartabedian, a physician in the audience, also made an excellent point regarding not talking to physicians about “engagement.” Rather, frame it for them in terms of sharing general information and creating an opportunity for health education. This is more relatable, relevant and actionable.

Ed Bennett said he encourages physicians to imagine they are on a radio call-in show called “Ask the Expert” when responding to questions in social media channels. This makes it more intuitive and less intimidating. They can speak to what we know about the condition, where to go for more information, and offer a secure e-mail response, not a diagnosis through social media.

Dr. Kolmes shared her social media policy and spoke about how she created it to inform patients regarding how she handles requests for Facebook friendship and the like. She initially drafted it on her blog for feedback. It is posted there now, as well linked to from her Twitter profile so patients know what to expect. She also actively monitors and posts information on Yelp. She also spoke about how she finds the time for social media: it is just part of her life and fits “easily” into her day. She checks it in the morning along with her e-mail, checks it again at night while reading journals, and gets push notifications to her phone.

Clearly, these are practitioners who “get it” and there is much to be learned from them.

How do their insights apply to you?

Posted by Jigsaw