Seattle Children’s Hospital pediatrician, Wendy Sue Swanson, MD, MBe, FAAP presented in October at the Swedish 2010 Health Care Symposium on “How to Engage, Empower & Educate: A Physician (Mommy) Blog.” Swedish published a recording of the presentation online which I had the privilege of viewing for the first time earlier this week.
Dr. Swanson’s presentation resonated with me. The presentation was well-organized, communicated clearly and, most of all, genuine. You could tell she meant what she said, and I have no doubt her communication skills have helped her become the influencer she is today.
As a promoter of health care social media, I am naturally energized by this type of discussion. I truly believe social media provides us with a unique and unprecedented opportunity to talk with each other in a meaningful way.
Dr. Swanson identified a number of key points in her presentation that I believe translate well into explaining the purpose of the health IT industry’s involvement in this social media movement:
Key Point #1: Great intellectual property exists in health care and these voices have a lot to say.
People who have made the decision to dedicate and invest their careers in health care have not done so lightly. These are intelligent people, from physicians to technical aides, who are motivated by their passion to help people and have invested a recognizable level of education in order to provide the best care possible. “These individuals have a lot to say,” and social media provides the opportunity for them to communicate their messages. These messages, given the shared social nature of health care and social media, are easily accessible by virtually anyone listening regardless of geographic location, education level or employer.
Key Point #2: It is very relevant where our conversation starts. So learning what they know plays a big part in that.
It has been emphasized time and time again that social media provides an opportunity for docs and patients to listen to each other. Similarly, social media provides a similar opportunity for health IT professionals to listen to what the doctors and patients are talking about. Listening to (and ideally participating in) these conversations can be tremendously valuable for software engineers, CIOs and integration specialists so software and systems are created that complement the physician and patient needs.
Key Point #3: Television programs, from morning talk shows and prime time dramas, are extremely instructive on how we understand wellness as patients.
Yes. This is true for health care, but is also true for technology. Only until recently has television programming acknowledged the changes to electronic health records taking place in the health care industry. Moreover, this acknowledgement has been only in the form of advertisements from hospitals implementing this technology. Because of the limited coverage, there is an assumption that technology has been already adopted in health care. Furthermore, this idea is reinforced because mentions of electronic health records is limited only to instances where it is present. This can be problematic is the public perception of electronic connectivity differs from the experience. (See below.)
If the general public was truly aware of the lack of integration across the industry, I believe many would be stunned and confused because this information has not communicated to them by the media.
Therefore, as healthcare IT professionals we have a responsibility to participate in the discussions online to inform patients and physicians about the tipping point of opportunity at our hands and what is truly possible, if the rate of adoption was increased.
Key Point #4: We have to join in the stories so we are not reacting to them; we are creating them.
This statement is true regardless of who is participating in the conversation. From a communications perspective, conflicting information leads to distrust. Per the response above, the opportunity for disconnect is clearly realistic. If the public was aware of the lack of adoption in health care of electronic health records, there is the possibility for distrust of hospitals, the government, and the health IT industry itself if the public perception of the health care industry differs from what is realistically available at the moment.
Key Point #5: We are very dependent on the media for social movement.
We all recognize the health care industry is not where it needs to be, regardless if you agree with the ideals identified through the current understanding of health care reform. From a technological perspective, the health care industry is light-years behind other industries, such as finance. Legislative action is happening at a slow rate, but the media provides an opportunity to expedite social movement. Social media in particular has a profound effect on our society. (You are likely reading this post right now because of it.)
As Dr. Swanson suggests (and I agree), we need the media. But, we need to be a part of them. Social media is a way to do that and influence social movement in health IT.
Point #6: This is not about the bottom line. It is about preserving wellness in communities.
Dr. Swanson’s call to action is rooted sharing our stories. Fortunately, we can use the networks we have already established to create this genuine and novel content. Talking with each other and sharing our stories will help us all focus on the “fuzzier” parts of our perception and gain a clearer understand of the big picture.
My push for healthcare IT participation in the social media space is not rooted in a mere volume of participation. As Dr. Swanson points out, it all boils down to translating valuable content and sharing it with our networks. Many of these networks we already have established merely by going about our daily activities, professionally and personally. Leveraging those networks as information sources can help create “genuine and novel content” to challenge and advance our respective industries.
Dr. Swanson’s push for physician voices in health care is sincere and passionate. She wants to see participation by physicians in social media because patients are using the internet for information. She wants physicians to join their patients’ conversations and health care experience. In order to truly join those conversations, physicians need to meet patients at that level to ensure they are educated by accurate content and having their health needs attended to in a timely manner.
The push for health IT participation is not much different. Physicians and patients are having a conversation online about many issues that could eventually lead to legislative and structural change. Healthcare IT has a direct influence on the patient and physician experience within a health care system and is equally influenced by the legislative action currently taking place.
On a high level, health IT professionals can find authentic value in these conversations by listening to the patient and physician needs, then considering those needs in software development cycle.
All of us have the unique opportunity, perhaps the first in our history, to listen to each other in this way. Progress is happening. Let’s see what we can do to positively and proactively influence the “health” of our communities and networks.