A Note to Readers

In the last few weeks, regular readers may have noticed some infusion of personal history into this blog. I have my reasons for that, but I have decided to shift back to a more ‘non-personal’ focus. Oh, the humor and edginess will be here. The goal, after all, is to produce content related to healthcare and technology that isn’t the same-old-same old.

You will, however, continue to see content that aims to get readers to think. In a Twitter world, thinking is losing its place.

Confession (of a professional kind): I’ve been concerned with the direction that today’s technologies – social media in particular – are taking us. This is a time when ideologies around technologies begin to form.

And it’s the emerging ideologies concerning Healthcare and Social Media that are giving me pause.

Why? Because I feel that we’re not taking enough alone-time to step back and critically think about what all this technology deeply means.

I’m no Luddite – not by any means.

I am, nonetheless, very concerned that we may be building a world we’ll one day regret.

And so I appeal to fellow Healthcare professionals and bloggers and communicators: let’s not take too much of the Kool Aid that the people who first talked about social media have pushed.

I know Healthcare is late to the conversation. I once hoped that was a good thing because I thought we’d start afresh. But that didn’t happen. Instead, many of the discussions have been heavily influenced by the Internet Famous bloggers who propounded their guesses about how social media “works”.

So what’s started to happen is a replication of the tiring social media echo chamber that started years ago. Once the unvetted claims of ideas that sound right lock-in, it’s hard to find the key to do any unlocking.

We can do better.

It’s not too late.

We care about health, not pet ideas that go viral just because they’re loud and popular and Retweeted without any thought.

We’re scientists, not mystics.

Therefore, it’s my hope that the material here continues to serve as a way for those who truly want to figure out how the 21st Century is affecting our health and its provision.

I’ve been doing my best to figure it out myself, but I need your help.

We need each other.

We need diverse minds reasoning together who have the courage to question their own assumptions and honestly look at how these media are affecting our lives.

If we don’t want to question the dark side of social media, we aren’t passionate about it. And we’re also irresponsible, because a new generation is coming of age – and the world we create (or fail to create) falls on them to bear.

So expect less personal history from me. I’ve goten what I needed to get out of my system (that’s a lie, but I’ll still keep that stuff off this blog and over here if you care).

Do, however, expect a different perspective – one with touches of insight, hope, anger, concern, pragmatism, depth and laughter. If you’re not comfortable with that, my sincere apologies for taking your time.

But I’m not here to comfort. I’m here to question, to care and to discover with  you.



0 Replies to “A Note to Readers”

  1. Phil, I think you’re right for us to give pause, but I also sense that the benefits are too large to stop the train from plowing ahead. Egypt and the MidEast are prime, but perhaps obvious examples that I wrote about yesterday. http://ideasarecheap.posterous.com/43202887

    I’m not trying to thump the social network drum, but things happen fast and furious now because of the enormous savings of time and the ability to connect on the fly.

    What’s most unfortunate thus far is that hcsm thus far hasn’t been too focused on actually getting care givers together to improve care, more on marketing and patient communities. That’s all good and is helping people as improving real clinical care could. We need more real results, not gaming followers.

    Perhaps that’s what you’re driving at? That there’s not enough science, not enough FDA to slow down the process of figuring out what’s true? Is what you’re saying that smart mobs are still mobs?

    1. Hi Leonard, great to see you here!

      I definitely think we need to keep talking and doing and advancing.

      My concern relates mostly to falling into thinking traps. The first people to lead the way (like the authors of the Cluetrain Manifesto) set the tone and the memes, which echo until today.

      Although I think there was wisdom on those conversations, they weren’t exactly vetted.

      I also have concerns about the effects of these technologies on our health. I’ve always had that concern, but anymore I’m seeing a trend (and it’s happening very quickly it seems) where these connecting technologies are – to an extent – pulling people away from each other. Paradox.

      Part of that is that these technologies aren’t designed with anything else in mind but their original intent. The programmers and engineers aren’t thinking about the cultural, psychological and other impacts they can have on us.

      We don’t need to talk less – we just need to be more critical.

      More alone-time and more time with friends reasoning together face-to-face.

    2. Thanks, great to be here.

      Certainly there’s a realignment going on. We find folks with similar passions, similar purpose online, and it’s great. We’re easier to find online than walking down the street (at least until augmented reality avatars come around – and they will :-)). We’re drawn towards these communities because, frankly, we hope that we’ll find people that can share and help in pursuing our passions. Naturally, that can take away from family and old friends, but that’s always a matter of choice. I haven’t noticed too much of a difference if I drop offline for a few weeks or a month and then come back. It’s actually kind of nice because I get to hear things like “great to see you here”.

      We all go through these changes, and it’s not just online communities or work. Life is about nothing if not the luxury of being able to choose how we spend our time.

      Since having kids, we don’t get out much. Priorities change. Our old pre-child friends, when we do go out, still say “great to see you here!, too” and that feels great, too. Priorities change as we move through life in changing world. That’s expected, but it’s how we manage them that matters.

  2. BTW, forgive me if I sound a bit fatalistic, but I’m reading “What Technology Wants” by Kevin Kelly. Highly recommend, but be forewarned, it may have the same effect on you. 🙂

    1. Yes, been reading KK for a long time, and the book is fantastic. Overall, he’s got the right kinds of insights needed.

      Other suggested authors:

      Sherry Turkle (Alone Together)
      Douglas Rushkoff (Program or Be Programmed)

    2. Thanks. Just got to the part about the fact that we don’t really have many logical choices besides testing the technologies to see what works best for us: an open mind as well as a critical mind.

      With that, what I think we need is more objective analysis of what works, what doesn’t, as well as the potential risks and downsides of any new technologies.

      Another thing I read that everyone might want to keep in mind: what works for the pundits who are at the top of their fields may not work for those on their way or in the middle. Total honesty about one’s thoughts and opinions might work for someone who’s made a name for himself, but it likely won’t work for your local HR department that’s neither familiar with the concept of information availability bias nor the benefits of social media accumen. 🙂

  3. And may I add an “Amen” to this, as well, Phil. I’m getting more focused on Connected Health, and how mobile platforms can move us toward that ecosystem where all key stakeholders at at the table — with the patient/person at the center. Miles to go before we sleep…thanks for raising our heads a little higher to take the bird’s eye view over the morphing landscape…

    1. Hiya Jane.

      I do think mobile is a catalyst for change. Like I said to Susan in the comment above, ideally, professionals should participate in two kinds of communities: ones where they can discuss issues unique to them, the others which bring everybody’s perspectives for share.

  4. Phil, I appreciate your thoughtful approach to the role of social media in health care. I do think we are all looking for leaders in this realm and, unfortunately, not many have emerged in health care yet. So we are left looking at the social media “gurus” who don’t have any foundation in what we need to consider in this most human of professions. I’d like to hear more about what you’re concerned about and I’d love to participate in discussions around how we do health care social media effectively. My guess is it will look significantly different from what we see happening with marketing and other business entities. Looking forward to more food for thought!

    1. Hi Susan.

      Anytime something is relatively new – where people are exploring and toying and kicking the tires – we’ll always see the formation of clusters of ideas.

      What I think has happened in the h/care social media arena, though, is that some of it has been too heavily influenced

      What I think would help: having the best of both worlds – communities of specialties having their own discussions thrashing about their particular views and issues, and then mixed communities where everybody can share their perspectives together.

      We’re seeing that – with the chats on Twitter – and I do think we’ll see some progress there as more healthcare professionals use the media more.

      But I also think we need more AFK (away from keyboard) community-building.

      There are still high-level leaders in important organizations who have a lot of catching up to do. If they’re not progressing their own awareness of 21st Century possibilities, they become a big limiting agent.

      We’ll keep the discussion going!

    2. Phil, I totally agree…what I see happening is people trying to make sense of social media in simplistic ways, most likely so they can just get their heads around it. But the reality is sm has the potential to be such a powerful force in health care, that by dumbing it down, we minimize it’s usefulness and it gives excuses to those who are resistant to get up to speed. We need a conference,don’t we? : )

  5. Incredibly thought provoking and you are absolutely right is there sufficient critical appraisal of the social media ‘resources’ that are being developed.

    I’m right with you.

  6. I hope you will continue to interweave personal thoughts, insights and experiences with your equally valuable thoughts, insights and experiences in and around healthcare/social media.

    Should come as absolutely no surprise that I advocate integrated rather splintered/siloed identity and think social media allows that to happen in important, dynamic ways.

    I am not, of course, advocating inappropriate spilling — although I could also make a case for when, why and how that could be valuable. I am advocating letting readers know the personal history that provides for professional concerns and analysis.

    Re: history. For many centuries, mystics were indeed scientists. There are several kicking around in this century too!

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