Engaging Conversations on Healthcare using Social Media

It is no news that social media is claiming territory in the healthcare space.

Social media is personal; healthcare is personal. It should be no surprise that healthcare organizations have taken advantage of this opportunity and have begun to engage in conversations, using social media, with patients and customers that are willing to chat.

Given the personal nature of the content shared, the relationship between social media and healthcare has raised a few concerns regarding the disclosure of information. However, the true value of these conversations is immeasurable and changing the way we interact as patients and providers.

Ensuring privacy is a concern, therefore a number of organizations have taken the steps to provide others with a set of “best practices” for those individuals and organizations using social media to discuss healthcare topics.

This month, the Ohio State Medical Association (OSMA) developed and released a social media toolkit to guide the use of social media for physicians and other healthcare providers. According to the OSMA, the document is intended to provide examples of “how best to handle certain situations that a physician might encounter when using social media, including whether or not to ‘friend’ a patient” (Social Networking and the Medical Practice).

This document is one of many social media toolkits that have become popular with the help of content sharing sites like Twitter and Facebook. The Center for Disease Control also released a similar document defining specific online actions (The Health Communicator’s Social Media Toolkit).

Twitter is one social media platform, in particular, that is a leader for sharing healthcare content. Twitter makes it easy to follow topics and trends with the use of hashtags (“#”) that “tag” a topic in a post. Hashtags are user generated and are created daily to reflect changes in the conversations taking place, and these hashtags follow a fraction of the many topics discussed online.

Popular healthcare IT related hashtags to follow are:




#EHR and #EMR

The Fox Group has also compiled a comprehensive list of hashtags used to discuss healthcare on Twitter. You can find their list by clicking here.

Social media is dramatically changing the way we discuss the care of our health as patients, providers, vendors and organizations. It is our responsibility to be educated on the resources available so that we can engage in the conversations taking place in a ‘meaningful’ way.

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Erica Olenski

Erica V. Olenski currently serves as an account executive at Corepoint Health. She has focused her research and professional experience in healthcare communications and new media opportunities within the healthcare IT industry. Erica is a leader in the health IT social media community, serving as the VP of Communications for the HIMSS DFW Board of Directors for 2011-2012, and was the founder of the #HITsm (healthcare IT social media) tweet chat held each Friday at 11 a.m. CT. (For more information on the #HITsm chat, visit: http://ow.ly/536eu) For updates on healthcare IT and social media, follow her on Twitter: @TheGr8Chalupa.

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