Health Is Social

Infusing Social Media into Healthcare

Dear Doctor:

I started the the first clinical Twitter chat for physicians.

I am an advocate for the (intelligent and creative) use of social media in Medicine and the rest of Healthcare.

I am the first clinician to sit on the first advisory board of Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media.

Although I am a nurse and many of you only listen to other physicians (that’s cool, I get that), we nurses tend to be the most social in the industry and we are the ones who have your back – which is why it’s fitting that you receive this letter from a nurse.

I mention these things because I want you to know that I am in no way a Luddite in the area of “Social Media Healthcare”.

I am happy that more and more of you are starting to understand that social and other digital software can have important roles to play in connecting with others in your field, communicate more continuously and effectively with your patients, help to close gaps in care, quicken your search for vetted and timely information, and otherwise be part of a fast-evolving 21st Century of Medicine.

But I do have concerns.

I think there are too many people on the Web offering advice to you on how to use social media. Most of this advice is just regurgitated advice from people you may never have heard of before, but who got famous years ago simply because they were the first to voice their ideas before anybody else. (If you want names, I’m happy to oblige – just email me:

You really don’t need “How To” tips on blogging or Twitter. If you aren’t experienced, then just create accounts, experiment, and Google for a few videos or posts that give you the basics. That’s all you need. Oh, I’m confident that you’ll be told otherwise – but those folks, well-intentioned as they may be, don’t understand that you’re smarter than that.

You’re bright – you got through organic chemistry and medical school and years of residency.

You’re also frustrated – most likely, you didn’t sign-up for what you’re presently doing.

Take that brilliance and that frustration and forge new ways of using these tools. Avoid the contamination of mediocre minds who believe in tricks and tips to game things.

I can give you advice – but my advice is for what I do (and I wouldn’t recommend what I do and how I do it to most people). I do what I do because it’s what I do. If you follow the common advice, you’ll follow the same advice everybody else follows – nobody will see what makes you different, and you’ll eventually be abandoned no matter how temporarily ‘successful’ you feel.

Do what you do and do it the best way possible.

Think about the subtle problems and opportunities stemming from the presence of the technological and media changes transpiring now. Think about ethics and therapeutic communication and medical education. Lend *your* freshened perspectives. Heck – talk about things that nobody else has talked about!

Rather than learn bad habits from the get-go, take advantage of your lack of experience. It’s okay to make mistakes that don’t cause harm and violate the privacy and dignity of others.

We have been given tools that *can* change our world and to help make Medicine and the rest of caring better.

It’s not too late.

If you don’t give us fresh paint on fresh canvases with your wisdom (or humble ignorance even), experience, science, and humor, then we will be stuck with the voices of those who copied and pasted sloppy ideologies into Healthcare Social Media.

You’re better than that.

Give us the truths that are more enduring and universal than the actualities of your experiences.

The Medicine is the Medium.

Don’t let these media become the medicine.

Don’t let-down the patients out there who deserve the highest-quality information, insight, leadership, and nudging they deserve.

Lift them up.


Yours sincerely indeed,


Phil Baumann, RN



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  • My (and many other people’s) HERO.

  • Mark Browne

    Phil, let me be the first physician to say you are spot on! Courage and innovation will be the most important currency we can share in the next decade of medicine. Thanks for this post