Would You Use Social Media To Stay Healthy?

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I want to be up front about what I do… I am building a social media program for the Ohio State University Medical Center.  I love my job. Over the last couple of days, I’ve heard rumblings that we may want to allow certain areas of the medical center to shut down access to social media.

To a certain extent, I’m not completely opposed to this.  I wouldn’t want a physician surfing YouTube when the physician should be providing care to a patient.  At the same time, is turning off access the best way to ensure our physicians, nurses, or other staff are attending to their responsibilities?  Well, it depends on who you ask.

I’m of the mindset that managers should be able to set boundaries for employees, teach them responsibilities that come along with access.  Of course, I am keenly aware of all the opportunities that social media afford us to connect with patients and customers.  What about the people who aren’t aware?  It’s not that they are wrong thinking we should shut off access… if they don’t see the value, why would they want the headache of having to manage its use in the workplace?  I empathize with them, I’ve managed people.

This all begs the question… Would You Use Social Media To Stay Healthy?  Would you connect with a physician or care team to talk about best practices?  Are you already talking to your friends about health issues?  Would you want a health care provider to chime in on that conversation?  Would you engage a health care provider?

As health care professionals, we have a responsibility to keep patient health information private.  How do you view this responsibility in regards to social media?

Please take 5 minutes and pick a question or two to answer because I need your help.  I need every piece of evidence I can find to make a case that turning off social media will adversely impact our ability to serve our customer in every corner of our business.

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Filed under Building a Social Media Program, personalized healthcare

7 responses to “Would You Use Social Media To Stay Healthy?

  1. mary ellen

    I think anytime you can give someone access to medical advice from an actual physician it’s a positive use of technology and if that avenue is social media then access for the doctors should be granted. You’re right though, there needs to be a time and place for it, because face to face healthcare can’t suffer for social media.
    however, if there is a way to use social media to give anyone access to the expertise that OSU medical center offers…why wouldn’t you want to do it? It’s probably the best thing the medical center could do as far as community outreach. So many people have the internet and surf webmd for their symptoms or concerns, etc…you could become the go to resource if you build a social media program that is accessible to anyone..just my 2 cents.

  2. Ryan, I would to some extent. I don’t know that I’d do any kind of serious discussion with my doctor via IM/Twitter, etc, but I’d have no problem doing stuff like asking for refills, or rescheduling an appointment.

    I definitely use Social Media to research some things. I’m diabetic, and take almost a dozen different meds for various issues, so I do my own research regarding drug interactions and such. If I develop a concern from that, then I ask my doc. If she or the practice were available via social media, I might try that. But I don’t know that the typical brevity of IM/Twitter conversations is the best format for that.

    I think the place social media would really shine is professional development. Any online community built around a medical specialty, or disease or condition would probably go for toward advancing research and awareness of medical professionals about advancements, new treatments, etc.

    I don’t know that closing the door to social media sites and technologies is the right response to management’s valid concern. I think any manager has to have faith in their employees that they’ll follow policies; if they don’t then they need to address that issue with the individual. Post a sign on the door; don’t lock it.

    I’m not sure if that answered any of your questions; feel free to ask for clarification.

    • Ryan Squire

      Bob, I love your last thought about posting a sign, not locking the door. The problem with a locked door is that only a little bit of time has to pass before you start to assume it will always be locked. If we decide to open that door eventually, no one will even know it is there because we’ve already trained them to know it’s locked.

      While you are doing that research on drug interactivity, wouldn’t it make you feel a little better to know that a pharmacist was right along side you, waiting to answer any questions? Even if you aren’t going to ask the questions or get an answer via twitter, social media could still provide a channel to a professional. That’s where I want to get.

  3. Linda Vining

    Yes, I use social media to look for health care resources. It’s an easy way to find input from similarly situated folks. (Other migraineurs, for example.)

    I’m also a respiratory therapist at another large Columbus hospital. Personally, I would and do engage patients via social media in my professional capacity. But I too have managed people and it would require both a pile of evidence AND a convincing plan of action to persuade me to avoid the simple solution of just banning use of social media at work. Hope this helps.

    • Ryan Squire

      Linda, thanks for your comment and thoughts. What kind of evidence would you be looking for? Have you seen what the folks at https://www.hellohealth.com are doing?

      What do you think a social media plan MUST have in it to be effective?

      • Linda Vining

        Hi Ryan-

        Q #1: Looked at hellohealth. My thought is it *does* look workable because a) it does indeed have a very tight plan for sculpting interactions/expectations on both the customer and care-provider side, and b) face-to-face medical evaluation appears to be readily available at the option of either the provider or the patient.

        Q #2: I think a social media plan *proposal*, in an inside the business context, needs to meet the old investigative journalism mantra, “who, what, where, when, how, why”. I used to be in-house legal counsel to large financial corporations (before I became downwardly mobile), so I’ve reviewed many a plan from a risk-management standpoint. (You do have to get past us, you know… sorry). So:

        Who amongst my employees will use social media to interact with patients/customers? Who will not, and how do we choose?

        What platform will my employees use? How will we choose it? What will it cost us, and how will we pay for it (just generally). Who will oversee and maintain this platform, and what’s our fallback plan for downtime. (This last one is important — liability can be insane without a plan for downtime/crashes.)

        Where will these interactions take place? Solely online? Online and face to face? What limits do we choose and how?

        How soon/not soon can we go live? How do we prepare our employees and our clients for that? And how do we know if we are ready/not ready?

        What personnel must we dedicate to getting this thing up and running (whose job is it — like “Ryan’s”). Does he have the equipment/resources he needs already, or do we have to get him something/someone? And (probably most important) will this person be obliged to push this string through our organization by sheer charisma and personal energy, or will there by some paving of the way in advance to be sure this person gets a fair hearing from other employees who are already overworked and under loved?

        Finally (almost), “why”? This should be first in a corporate proposal. And the right answer is always the same: “because we have This Problem, and my project will fix/ameliorate it.” Identify a target you already KNOW the company is obliged to hit in the near future (cost savings, lower FTE’s, regulatory obligation to serve a particular demographic, or marketplace need to top a particular competitor). Demonstrate how your project will cause this target to be hit.

        Finally (really), identify measurable, meet-able, incremental goals in advance. DONT let anyone else do this for you in retrospect, or you will be cannon fodder. Create a proposed timeline, identify your “deliverables” along the way, define how you will measure them, and plan a way to keep ongoing track of your progress/data. This way, even if you miss the company’s target, you will be able to present VALUABLE, quantifiable data regarding how far you got, what worked, what didn’t, and why. If you miss the target, you can still present useful take-away work product to the company.

        Geez, I am so glad this is not my job anymore! Patient care is more fun.

        You know, you don’t have to wrap all this up in one package by yourself. When you present your plan, you can ask others to help fill in a few blanks — no one will expect you to know all the company’s resources or go-to’s, for instance. But at least be able to identify what you don’t know, and still need to know.

        Hope this wasn’t too basic or preachy — but “basic” works, you know. Sorry I just flash-backed all over your blog, there. Break a leg, buddy! 😉


  4. Jerry Thomas

    Ryan ~

    I think there are a few issues here. I tend to think of multiple ways people can use social media. For example, health care professionals can use social media to connect with each other as peers. This could be their own private system that allows them to enhance and expand their professional network and increase their effectiveness by increasing their access to other peers. In a world where people become more and more specialized we need tools to connect and engage with each other to solve complex issues.

    Second, shutting down access is an idea that just does not work. It simply sends the message that people can’t be trusted and that leadership is not effective at leading so they must resort to controlling. Influencing people through education, dialogue, and example is messy but works better. Both Bob and you are in touch with this by talking about parameters or policies.

    Third, there seems to be a growing trend in “telemedicine” or connecting with patients differently. See this Fast Company article: http://www.fastcompany.com/magazine/135/the-doctor-of-the-future.html

    Last, I think OSU would lose an ideal opportunity to connect with people hungry for accurate information. Our brand is huge and we have research showing that people want trusted sources. And the trends all indicate that more people are using social media and related tools to find solutions. It would be a failure of leadership to turn away from this now.

    You already know how I feel about these tools, so I’m probably going on a bit but I hope this helps.

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