Healthcare Social Media Is Not Social Media

I think we need to understand the differences among different kinds of social media and how the different kinds fit or do not fit into Healthcare. My concern is that too many advocates of social media who want to see Healthcare adoption of these technologies are thinking in terms of consumer social media (Twitter, Facebook, blogs, etc.). We need to expand our conception of social media beyond that view.

Granted, many of these consumer media have places in Healthcare. But Healthcare includes many angles and different processes which simply can’t be helped by consumer social media. Clinical collaboration is a great example.

So what’s the difference between consumer media and enterprise media? I’d argue that they have to do with a number of things: Time, Accuracy, Relevance, Content, Context and Process.

Fundamentally, the difference between consumer media and enterprise media rests on the difference between Instant Media and true Real-time Media. Let me elaborate.

Twitter, Facebook and other consumer media are instant streams that flow in one-direction along time. A tweet or status update or post arrive when they arrive – time is their only filter. They are Instant media.

On the other hand, Realtime media are far more robust. Here’s my definition:

Realtime media are technologies which deliver the right and relevant information at the right time; in the right context; and within the right process.

This is a critical difference that must be understood. So far, we don’t have the kind of innovation and technological excellence we need to develop true realtime media. It’s a huge challenge to create these platforms, but the market is certainly there and so is the talent.

Social media in general are creating disturbances and opportunities and dangers. But we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking social media is just the kinds of consumer social media that have made it big in terms of popularity.

We have yet to see social media come into its full being. Things have only just begun.

So, my hope is that we can focus our hopes and views concerning social media in healthcare on the truly heavy-duty tools that can make real differences.

I love Twitter but even I know we need far far more potent software solutions to the pressing problems of healthcare communications in all its forms. And not only do we need software solutions – we’ll need to address the necessary cultural and behavioral needs required to put the technology to work for us, not the other way around.

@PhilBaumann – @HealthIsSocial – Newsletter


0 Replies to “Healthcare Social Media Is Not Social Media”

  1. A significant development along these lines is the Direct Project, which allows for secure messaging of patient health records between providers, and has been signed on to (though not yet implemented) by folks covering 160 million patients in the US. See my post about this with links to other resources here:

    Does this come within a broad definition of social media for health care? Not sure, but it is a new ecosystem enabling communication and coordination of care that has not existed before.

    1. Thanks, David – that’ great info. That’s a key feature we need to have baked in to our systems.

  2. Interesting post, Phil. In your opinion, would the ability for providers to have a conversation with patients online constitute what you consider real time media? More than mere social media, sort of a real-time focus group? There is tremendous potential out there. You mentioned it in January – that is, just how much people want to share their story. I’m sure they’ve got opinions and questions too….


  3. Great post – but would you mind providing a point of clarification- when you are talking about healthcare are you talking about pt-healthcare provider/institution interactions? I’ve approached social media integration into hc from the medical device/industry perspective. Its frustrating as the positive of sm, even toe dips towards embracing it and incorporating into communication/marketing plans is a positive as it can help to create a more relevant experience for all involved(patient, hcp and product). Its difficult for many companies to venture into this grey area without the guidance from the FDA but common sense should prevail here – use good marketing practices and move slowly – but move.

    1. @Deborah — The FDA managed to not release SoMe guidance again today … the challenge that some regulated companies are meeting is communicating even in the absence of precise guidance. I agree with you: Those that hold back and do nothing put themselves at a competitive disadvantage.

  4. Good point. It is exactly this type of robustness and functionality that we miss @tweetspreekuur , our Dutch primary care service on Twitter. With healthcare insurers interested in offering this service, we hesitate because of the limitations of Twitter when employed at a larger scale. Will follow the developments in this field.

  5. First I’ve heard about Realtime Media, can someone post some RM for dummies links?

    Interesting what you say about Healthcare thinking of social media in consumer terms. I do a lot of pushing for device companies to think of their device users as consumers not patients. If they can do this for social media, why not devices?

    1. “Realtime” has been used a lot – usually it refers to streaming media like Twitter for Facebook status updates – the idea of information flowing “realtime”. That’s the accepted way of describing a globally connected Web that can pull information together instantly.

      But I define it differently because “instant” communication doesn’t mean relevant, etc.

  6. Good to see the conversation moving way beyond 140 HC uses for twitter;) I agree with pretty much everything you write here, but I’m not sure that your use of the term ‘real-time’ is the way that most other people use it, though I get what you mean.
    There is much more to healthcare at all levels than just information… relationships are important. It will be interesting to see how social media/enterprise architecture solutions can really help with these tasks.

    1. You’re right – most people don’t use it that way, and I think it’s an unfortunate misunderstanding.

      So I’m trying to correct that šŸ˜‰

      Remember, there are many social media evangelists who don’t have much experience within Enterprise, so they don’t understand the need for the kinds of systems which Twitter, Facebook, etc. simply can’t provide. For those media, “Streaming” or “instant” is more accurate imo.

  7. Very interesting post. I agree, we must be looking beyond our current tools and towards the development of resources addressing some concerns- such as confidentiality, or boundaries.

    Here is an example of a forum developed on a subscription basis (free if you’re in the South East) which seems to set a good tone for accessibility, expertise, confidentality and safety. It’s definately something to keep looking at.

  8. Social media is a great tool to get a conversation going. I get the enterprise model especically for post-sale transactions.

    But what about pre-sale? Doctor/partient referrals? Reviews? Price negotiations? Patient acquisition?

    Social media can have a huge impact on helping consumers find value maximizing healthcare.

    1. I am a Clinical Psychologist with specialized training in BehavioralHealth now in private practice, but with an academic/scientific publication background.I think social media can play a key role in improving treatment of conditions (e.g., pain, obesity, addiction) requiring long-term behavior change & multidisciplinary care

      (1) Sites with experts to locate high-quality met-aanalyses, national guidelines etc, translate these into usable recommendations, add new studies. forums for providers to comment re usability etc
      (2) Online confidential medical records accessible by all providers
      (3) Sites with validated tools for data collection e.g., validated pain, depression scales, exercise diaries etc.
      (4) Social media forums moderated by professionals that can provide patients with social support and mentorship
      (5) Sites with search engines to locate high-quality articles on a topic by science journalists (Time Healthland, Science Daily et)
      (6) Coordination with hashtags on twitter, facebook sites where ppl can post.
      (7) Referral sites indexed by topic area (e.g., pain), specialty (e.g., family med), and qualifications (e.g., phd, md, mft), & whether the person has been trained in empirically-based treatments.
      (8) National organizations to certify providers re training in approaches that have scientific support.

      That is my vision. I believe empirically-trained health psychologists could play a role in informing and implementing many of the above recommendations. i would be interested in consulting to organizations developing or wanting to develop these types of applications, speaking engagements etc.

      My website is http://www.melanieagreenbergphd and my blog (one of top 50 by a psych professional) is I also write a blog for Psychology Today called the Mindful Self-Express.

      Melanie A. Greenberg, PhD
      @drmelanieg (13th most followed psychologist on twitter)

  9. I wish I could gather you all up and bring you to the ACPE meeting happening right now. Social media is being discussed in a session on Monday and there just doesn’t seem to be enough interest/understanding to have discussions like what is taking place here. Looking at what social media COULD be, rather than what it currently IS, is the key (I’m not a physician, but the spouse of a physician). This post started a linkedin discussion, too.

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