Draping the Patient with the Social Medium

If physicians, nurses and other practitioners are going to work with patients via Social Media, should they at least know how to drape them?

What does it mean to “Drape the patient with the social medium”?

Two points to note about draping (as surgical procedure and metaphor):

  • Patients are susceptible to harm
  • Media cultivate vectors of infectivity

Social media are not sterile fields – unlike non-absorbable paper, or muslin, there are no finite end-points for these media. You can’t create a 1″ inch border so-to-speak.

Anytime an HCP approaches a patient, she brings along her experiences, skills, world view, prejudices, brilliance, blind-spots…and ideas.

What’s fascinating about social media is that each medium bends in its own way(s) – at the speed of light – the communication and presence¬†of the HCP.

The most common error about the intersection of Healthcare and Social Media is this: that the online world is analogue to the offline world. This is a superficial – and dangerous – view.

It’s not that HCPs need to work in a sterile manner if they are to work with patients via a particular digital medium. It would be ridiculous to take the metaphor that far.

Rather, HCPs need to grasp that digital draping – as metaphor – can guide them in having a robust awareness of their communications, interactions and judgements.

For just as surgical draping is also a frame-of-mind to heighten awareness, social media draping is a professional (even if informal/human/humorous) demeanor of practice.

It’s not enough to work these problems out on blogs – we do need research and much more critical thinking (not over-thinking…but critical thinking) in how HCPs relate with patients (and in their general digital presences).

The flip side here, though, is that it’s easy for the social medium to do the draping – in turn, masking from the provider certain key clues as to the problem she, reasoning with the patient on the other side of the medium, must work to solve.

Every transaction online is a simulacrum. We are creating billions of tiny simulacra everyday. The Healthcare simulacra embedded within social media must be understood as such, lest simulations get confused with reality. (More on this in a future post.)

The speed of the medium is directly proportional to the absorption of the message, but inversely so to its interpretation.




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