Health Is Social

Infusing Social Media into Healthcare

Posts in the Healthcare Social Media category

The application of Social Media – especially in Healthcare – may seem to be a relatively simple matter.

But it isn’t.

Look around at the times were in: we have different generations aiming to use social media – and they all are looking at the world through different lenses, angles, contexts. The 50-year old social media guru makes assumptions about those inexperienced millennials. Those inexperienced millennials make assumptions about that 50-year old who thinks she’s a genius because she was on Twitter before them. (It all smells like teen spirit these days.)

Here’s the reality – few things worthy of doing well are easy to do.

Mapping out visions, developing strategies, organizing tactics, executing every single day in the face of questionable return, undying change, and conflicting political dynamics – these are not categories that easily dovetail.

So while executives and managers in Healthcare who fell into a worm-hole in 1991 may be finally figuring out what “that @ thing on *the* Twitter” is, the chances of any one organization to succeed on a day-to-day, week-to-week, year-to-year basis is low. Sorry – but it’s just true.

Expectations-setting is a critical part of achieving good Healthcare outcomes.

Right now, the Healthcare industry is being sold very high expectations *and* being told it’s “not all that hard”.

But it is. Anybody who has been involved in running Enterprise-level social media knows that it is. We know how ideas get killed, how poor internal communications demolish productivity, how frustrating it is to get consensus on even the simplest problems, etc.

Here’s the good news: You don’t have to waste your time. You do have other choices. You do have values to offer – if doing social media won’t come easy, do you think it will make your core values any better? If it takes your best communications personnel more than 15 minutes to write 3 short paragraphs on a known topic…well, let’s just say you’ve just failed a critical litmus test*.

The claim that you will be left behind because you don’t use social media is baseless mimicry of Silicon Valley babble.

It’s not that these media don’t have roles to play.

It’s just that once you start playing, you better know your game.

Like the back of your hand.

Disappointed? Don’t worry – 1991 wasn’t a bad year to get stuck in a worm-hole.

*Rule of 3: 3 sentences per paragraph, 1 paragraph in 5 minutes ==> 3 paragraphs (9 lines) in 15 minutes.

In The Medium is the Medicine, two implied questions were: What are the essences of media and medicine, and at what point does a medium of digital medicine become the message?

This may be a strange line of questions. After all, the most common conception of digital pressences is that they are, superficially at least, mere analogues of traditional face-to-face relationships.

A medium, however, is quite literally a middle-place.  (So is medicine – medi is the Latin origin of middle. Incidentally a doctor is a teacher/reader – docere: and a teacher is a medium too.)

It’s that middling (muddling?) that does something to the content (message), the sender, and the receiver – to a point where the media become the messages.

The idea that the medium IS the message goes back to McLuhan. That is, regardless of the content, it’s the medium itself which is the message. Think of TV, Radio, Print: the media themsevles were forces bending society – the content was ancillary in the bending of society.

It’s not that McLuhan was wrong (he wasn’t), it’s that he didn’t take his idea far enough.

It’s that the media go beyond themselves and create Hyperreality.

We have been living in Hyperreality for quite some time, especially after the arrival of TV and Radio. Disneyland is a perfect example of Hyperreality. So are all the ads we see.

This isn’t some drafty Matrix analogy – that way of looking at this problem, as just a dismissive jocular metaphor, distracts from understanding what’s going on here.

Most importantly, and perhaps most invisible: Ideology is Hyperreality.

Ideology surrounds us – we even have our own personal ideologies (your life is an ideology, and how you live it depends on how much you comply with it or revolt against it – just something for you to ponder by the way).

So in Heatlhcare, we must understand much more fully that with which we’re dealing. We aren’t just dealing with media that simply allow us to connect and communicate and relate.

What we must understand is that any revolution countering the status quo quickly becomes a status quo, subject to revolution itself. The 21st Century is Hegel’s Dialectic on steroids.

We are dealing with emerging Healthcare Ideologies. We are dealing with media that are fast evolving new Hyperrealities – some beyond our grasp, others within our reach. There is a very real possibility that as social media become more and more used in Healthcare that Healthcare itself morphs into a Disneyland.

That may not necessarily be a bad thing all together. Being able to go from “Germany” to “France” in 30 seconds does have its conveniences.

But when it is bad, then it’s very very bad. Especially when the bread in “France” isn’t the same as the bread in France.

It’s one thing for the map to become the territory.

It’s quite another to confuse the two – particularly when you become a part of both.


Phil Baumann

Healthcare has been late to using social media. It appears, on the surface at least, that the industry is finally catching-up.

Conferences on Healthcare Social Media are popping up. A Healthcare hashtag is born every minute. Experts, gurus, and consultants are everywhere now.

So too is the overpromissing.

Healthcare Communicators and Marketers are being sold these promises.

Consumers are being sold these promises.

Healthcare providers are being sold these promises.

What are these promises?

Increased ROI! Improved outcomes! Better provider-patient relations!

Yes, social and digital technologies can move these dials.

No, they don’t solve the fundamental problems that marketing, clinical challenges, HIT conundrums, and other concerns involved in Healthcare encounter every day.

There’s an assertion that is made on almost every Twitter chat, HCSM conference, and blog that’s been blindly ripped-off from the early days of social media ‘wisdom’: “social media is about people!”

It is? Really?

Well then, if social media is so much about people, why are we talking about social media?

Do you see the fallacy of cloudy rhetoric here?

Let’s not get carried away by platitudes and the over-promising of what are ephemeral software.

Twitter may be cool and all. And it may have its promises.

But let’s be careful about the dopaminergic effects of these trinkets on our minds – and on our perceptions of their true promises on their impacts on Healthcare.

For you see, the focus of my words here is this: as long as we dwell on the over-promises and the teenage fascination concerning these technologies, then the more we overlook whatever potential they have to improve patient care, medical and nursing education, information flows, and healthcare technological development.

I can’t say that what you’re seeing on Twitter and hearing at conferences is all Snake Oil.

Then again, get-rich schemes come in all styles.

Indeed, health is a social process – absolutely, from the cellular networks of our bodies to the hands we hold at childbirths and funerals.

Social software? Try to be serious: They’re just on/off switches.

And they’re aren’t necessarily all that good for your health.

Phil Baumann

Facebook Is A Mess

Facebook is a mess. It really is. All the insane features that always change. No security – at any moment, data can just vanish – or appear in places it shouldn’t.

The worst part: for all of the features and filters and options, you have no control of, or equity in, any of the design. Every.single.Page is the same – hundreds of millions of the exact same cargo boxes of Walmart blue and white and Lucinda.

One long train heading for a wreck, and we’re either the passengers or the innocent bystanders.

I  hope that there is never ever going to be a “Facebook for Healthcare”. You think Healthcare is a mess now? Imagine what it will look like as it gets Facebookitized.

Imagine Love having to conform to Facebook’s algorithmic architectures.

Please do not make the mistake of thinking that these are “just tools” – they are forces in this world: their impact is completely independent of their content.

When people talk about Facebook or Twitter on TV, the radio, at the supermarket – you don’t usually hear about the content in those media, do you? You hear talk of the media themselves.

We are at an important moment in the evolution of technology – and the way it’s packaged (Facebook is a package: you are meant to fit into it, not the other way around). Well-designed technology goes with the grain of human endeavor, not against it.

We shouldn’t try to figure out how to fit Healthcare into social media. It’s supposed to be the other way around.

After this Social Media phase we’re in right now – and it will end, even if it takes a decade or more – we will come to appreciate the beauty of owning the only thing we can own and design on the web: our own domains – and even that is a tenuous proposition.

Yes, having different spokes and nodes are important – I get all that – but this, what’s being built under our passive consent, this is madness.

Within the homeostatic range of healthy ego-drive is our need to be liked – loved in fact.

It’s a healthy mechanism with which we’re all born. As we grow older, our egos learn to respond – or react – to positive and negative events.

If one of us grows up with all too many bruises, it’s quite possible that the ego develops narcissist defense mechanisms (which don’t necessarily make the whole person a narcissist).

Children who grow up without witnessing, or who grow up isolated (physically or emotionally) are more left to their own to develop defense mechanisms: from deflation of the ego to inflation of the ego.

Think: if you’re abandoned or feel helpless, inventing a grandiose ego has its advantages. It helps the child from laying down and utterly giving up on life…but it also ultimately self-defeats.

So often, Depression sets in because people’s egos have taken hits. A lover leaves, and the ego breaks down. A job is lost, and the ego’s self-value deflates.

This is why witnessing during the childhood years is so vital. Bad things happen to us as we grow. How we cope depends on genetics and environment. But if we’re surrounded by others who can help us through our wounds, it’s more likely that the ego stays in its homeostatic domain.

The problem, however, with our egos:  it goes the other way too. Too much inflation of the ego is a setup for its own weakening. An inflated ego, just like a balloon, loses its resilience to popping as the tension of its surface increases. The balloon’s taught sensation, like that of an ego, might feel resilient but its tension is its very lack of resilience.

As our children grow up in a world of Facebook and Twitter and other social software that foster the “Like” behavior, what happens to ego-resilience?

As our children spend more time connected via electrons, and less via touch and pheromones, the chances increase that their isolation-evolved defense mechanisms turn against them. All that Liking, and no sense of inner Love.

Software which seamlessly invokes a mentality of “being Liked” can invisibly inflate the ego’s need for more and more and more.

What’s the effect of all this expectation (especially when this expectation sinks into the unconsciousness)?

Think about the events over your life – if you could go back, what events and what kind of people could have made your life right now healthier?

It’s OK to develop narcissistic mechanisms in the short-run to protect yourself. Eventually, however, we have to outgrow them and replace them with resilience – which is the ability to remember that you are not a function of what happens to you. You are much more than the fascinating mechanism of your ego.

What’s not OK, is living in a surrogate sibling environment that conditions you to believe you are a function of what a little blue button signifies.

I don’t know about you, but if I were sixteen again, I’d choose one kiss on the lips over a 100 Billion Likes.

May my son feel the same way when it’s his time.