Health Is Social

Infusing Social Media into Healthcare

These are some things that matter in the intersection of Healthcare and social media:

Clear Signals It’s easy for nuances to get lost in different kinds of media. A missing emoticon can rupture an intended meaning, and even ruin someone’s day.

Silence Communication isn’t always a good thing. During conflict, for instance, communication at the wrong time can intensify violence. An angry patient might go ballistic via social media because her father died of sepsis at a mediocre hospital. “Engaging” with her at that moment might not be helpful. We don’t always have to talk. There is strategy in silence.

Understanding Human Needs This is both the easiest and hardest part. When someone is grimacing in agony, it’s a clear signal to us to do something. When someone is clinically depressed, he may put on a mask – and there’s no quality signal to tell us what’s important. He may say angry things online, but is just in pain. Do you understand both the human psychology and its conveyance or blurring on social media? Furthermore, the human condition is complex and what we know about it offline may not be enough to understand how the Web impacts it. Knowing how to communicate via social media is not the same as understanding the human condition in light of evolving technologies.

Transcending the Medium (This is tricky for me to articulate, so bear with me). Because Marshall McLuhan was right that the medium is the message, we must prove him wrong because the message should be the medium. This sounds like a paradox, but think about it. We don’t want the medium to be the message, even though it is! So what are we to do? Well, this is where knowing the three points above come into play: our messages must be created so full with meaning (within moments of silence) and communicated with such clarity and understanding of human needs, that they burst through the medium. You want an example, don’t you? Well, go read through this transcript and see how the message of Alzheimer’s burst through the medium of Twitter. (Tip: search for “the red light” in the bar at the bottom of the document and read the tweets before and after that part.)

That’s it for now, friends – more things that matter in healthcare social media.

@PhilBaumann – @HealthIsSocial – Newsletter

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  • Hi Phil, I quickly scanned your blog post, enjoyed it….and stopped in amazement re: the patient whose father had sepsis. Completely disagree with going silent. This is a time to take the conversation off line, yes, but going silent? Absolutely not. Study after study show that giving patients and family members a chance to be heard is the first thing to do — it’s the humane thing to do and at a minimum, it reduces medical malpractice suits.

    • Going silent doesn’t mean not doing anything.

      Going silent means taking a moment to 1) assess the situation, 2) plan what
      should be said and 3) approaching the patient appropriately.

      I think you’re missing a very important point that I”m trying to make here,
      which is that we have to consider the context and properties of these media
      before just engaging without thinking.

      Even offline, I’ve seen too many instances when people say the absolutely
      wrong thing to say in the face of death – they don’t mean harm, but if
      they’re not prepared and just talk to say something, that’s not necessarily
      good.

      So I’m going to have to push back on what your saying and ask you to think
      about what the best holistic approach to these matters is online.

      You don’t have to talk all the time. You have to think first, feel and then
      decide what’s an appropriate approach. Make sense?

      • Going silent as “doing something” is, in some parts of the social world, known as “the ministry of presence.” Even I, who talks and tweets incessantly, am a strong advocate of strategic — and healing — silence.

        • Yes, there’s a healing power in silence.

          @Lisa makes a great point, but in a different context – and it’s a common belief that in the face of loss you have to say something. But presence can be enough – and in the online world we have now a question: what is presence, how in way can we be present (engagement isn’t necessarily it). (I realize this is a toughie for some, but we’ll work it out.)

          Thank, Meredith!