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“Health Is Social” with Phil Baumann

Phil Baumann, a thought leader in healthcare social media and the community organizer for #RNChat on Twitter, recently participated in a panel at SMCRVA along with Dana Lewis and Nick Dawson to discuss the pros, cons and future of social media in healthcare.

You raised some points regarding some real dangers of Social Media. What are your thoughts?

What’s great about social media is that it can enable conversation, networking and sharing among patients, families and providers – and that, in theory, healthy messages can be positively reinforced.

Although the Internet is a bountiful source of data, content and community, it’s also where misinformation, especially under certain social contexts, can be transmitted and spread without sufficient vetting.

This means that, under certain conditions, social media can also reinforce unhealthy or dangerous behaviors, especially if the information that is accepted and promoted by the community is not vetted via scientific methods.

In a clinical setting, what do you see as the practical applications and what are the pitfalls?

Social media provides nurses, doctors and other providers with unprecedented opportunities to gather information, network and collaborate with peers, interact with patients and the public, and enables the publication of ideas, knowledge and experiences that traditional media never could.

Clinical operations could benefit immensely from truly real-time social media. But, real-time media is not instant media. This is an important distinction, especially within a clinical or Enterprise environment. Twitter and Facebook updates are instant media – they provide ongoing streams of data, and the only order is chronological. Real-time media, however, delivers the right and relevant information at the right time in the right context.

Therefore, if developers can build robust social software that deliver real-time information in clinical or other settings, that could go a long way to fully realizing the powers and values of good social media.

Of course, major pitfalls that must be considered are

1.  HIPAA violations – Providers will need to be mindful in their communications through social media.

2.  Boundary violations – It’s much easier to violate boundaries on public social media than in person.

3.  Dignity violations – Privacy and dignity are inherently related; patient dignity must always be kept in mind.

There are many other considerations, but a rough guiding principle for providers to follow is: Would I do or say this face-to-face?

The discussion centered on the premise that health is social. Can you explain?

Think about it. Our cells are social; the neurons in our brain are social; our mutual support systems are social. If you isolate and disconnect a human being from the rest of her community, you probably shorten not only her lifespan, but also quality of life.

It is essential we take advantage of any media that enhances and extends social relations. But, we must also keep in mind that social systems can reinforce misunderstanding, promote misinformation and – most importantly – congregate and reward unhealthy behaviors. How we learn in social environments affects what we learn.

Healthcare is a broad field, spanning birth to wellness, illness to death. There will never be one silver bullet solution to the problem of figuring out how to do healthcare social media “right”.

•  Providers must learn the properties of emerging media, how to integrate them into their communications and participate in contributing their voices and expertise.

•  Patients need to speak with providers about their communications needs and expectations, understand the nature of having an online presence and think critically about the information and communities they find online.

•  Healthcare organizations – advocacy groups, hospitals, professional healthcare marketers and communicators – need to develop proficiency in communicating via emerging media; they also need to re-think their marketing and communications practices so that they remain relevant and functional in the 21st Century.

•  Government organizations – including regulatory bodies like the FDA – must fully understand the nature of emerging media, think deeply about their effect on culture, economics and information-sharing, so that the right and relevant policies are in sync with the realities of what’s possible with the Web.

Health is social, social is health.

A video summary of the event can be found here.

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6 responses to ““Health Is Social” with Phil Baumann”

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  4. Great observation on the distinction between real-time and instant. Totally agree.

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  6. Great article. This is the first time I have visited your site.

    Well laid out, easy to navigate, but in the interests of quality improvement (which is my focus in the health care field), I thought I would mention that the text on this page is extremely difficult to read. I have 20/20 vision and I find the font too small.