I recently met with a group of physicians to discuss connecting to communities and use of social media (SM). There was agreement for the need and indeed a desire to communicate and interact more frequently with patients. There was agreement on the need to use tools that many in the community are using to interact with other organizations. There was a sense of responsibility to include interactive educational activities, openly communicate health system performance and provide preventive care reminders. Since much of healthcare is information sharing, face-to-face contact is not always necessary, social media tools could be leveraged to improve the clinic and health system’s image and relationship with the surrounding community.
As I mentioned there was a desire to leverage SM tools but concerns were expressed –
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1 – How do I fit all this new “stuff” into my workflow with all that I already have to do?
2 – What about privacy and security?
3 – Can the health system or clinic support and sustain the new capabilities?
Regarding #1, each person has to set their own ground rules and parameters (like answering a cell phone). Twitter and SM can be time wasters (there are addicts out there, see http://ow.ly/1vpsX). The tools don’t force you to do anything. They are instantaneous but not have to be real-time. Regarding #2, Twitter and other public SM tools are not appropriate for one-on-one patient care. Patient care communication should be performed using secured messaging built into EHR/PHRs. As far as #3, any organization that communicates and/or interacts with the public must figure out how to incorporate SM into the mix. I think that SM needs to be built into already existing strategies/tactics; there is no need for complicated SM strategies. Organizations can build out the use of SM incrementally, introducing it slowly into the organization. Public SM tools are appropriate for general information sharing, commenting on condition specific blogs, topical/seasonal communication (H1N1) and notification of events. There seems to be alot of interest, but some confusion on when/where/how to use SM.