How Are You?

How are you?

This is the most important question in health care to ask.

Three words. A ton of purposes.

Every clinician should ask this.

It says you care.

It gives permission to the person you care for to open up.

It sets the tone for partnership.

It gives you the chance (and responsibility) to listen attentively.

It’s the most social act in the world.

It leads to better care.

So, how are you?

Phil Baumann



Do Social Technologies Make Some People Less Social?

We know that social software does have some effects on people – in the extreme case, there’s the alone together phenomenon.

But that’s not what I’m wondering here.

I’m pretty connected, like most people anymore. I’m in different circles, so-to-speak. And I’m pretty early-adopter-ish.

I’m noting a curious thing: there are people who seem to adopt and incorporate all sorts of add-ons and plugins and hacks into their social media platforms. They’re definitely early adopters and I suspect that they’re actually kinda social people. And yet…

…And yet: in spite of all their technological link-ups and gizmos, they don’t seem to be terribly social.

In fact, they’re kinda boring actually. Nothing edgy to say. Not even any confrontations that may squeeze out useful ideas.

Maybe I’m missing something.

Maybe it’s me: I don’t like being told what to do by people who don’t know what they’re talking about – and I certainly don’t like having tools enslave me.

And maybe that’s the explanation: maybe some people don’t have within themselves the ability to express what they want, and so they end up submitting their human voice to inhuman software.

Or, at least, the unchecked convenience of inhuman software dampens the unsettling human voice.

Phil Baumann


Rescuing the Message from the Medium

I fear we’re losing the message to the medium.

McLuhan was right – the medium is the message. But when McLuhan wrote his works, he was living in a time when media evolved in serial stages – that is, for hundreds of years, print dominated; then for decades radio came along; and then television.

Each of these media had their own particular influence on our senses: print enhanced our visual processing while dampening our oral tradition; radio somewhat brought back our oral tradition; and television further enhanced our visual and auditory senses.

Before the Web, people had time to adapt to these media because they came along in different stages. Media evolved serially in time.

But today the Web is evolving all different kinds of media at the same time. Today’s media evolve parallel in time.

The Web is mother of all media.

The influences of these ever-evolving/devolving media come at us at once – not over centuries nor decades, nor even years but months.

So if the media are the messages, what are we talking about? What’s being said? What are we losing?

Soon, our immersion in these media – by choice or not – will mean that the messages we send and receive are the media we use.

The implication of the medium is the message is that the message is a prisoner of the medium!

But there’s something wrong about that. There must be some rescuing element.

We simply can’t be social if the messages we send each other are not messages but media.

So how can we snatch back the message from the medium?

I argue that the rescuing element is Art.

I argue that Art is Technology’s creative twin.

Art has always been Able to Technology’s Cain.

And yet, Art always resurrects. “Art is eternal.” You never heard that about Technology, did you?

While Technology advances according to what’s created, Art creates what advances.

Art is our creation of meaning. Meaning, not the medium, should be the message.

If you want to have a meaningful life in a time where media are proliferating at an an unprecedented and ruthless pace, I suggest you do the work of creating the meaning instead of making turkey stuffing for media.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a lone individual expressing your passion or a multinational corporate enterprise: if most of what you’re doing is fueling the medium with messages, you won’t create meaning.

Any enterprise without meaning is just a shell – an empty medium propogating meaninglessness.

The way to rescue the message from the medium is to keep at the message.

Forget focusing on the media so much – create! create! create!

Create the message so full with meaning that it bursts right out of the medium.



Healthy Writing Habits: Copy Is Not Dead

Long copy.

Short copy.

Copy is dead. Long live Social Media!

Uh huh.

Let’s stop fooling ourselves that we can remarkably market great ideas, products, services, brands, religions just by being social.

Hey, don’t get me wrong: I get it. I’m Mr. Social and all that. (How ya doing btw? You look amazing – I wish I could retweet your beauty. See what I mean?)

I know attention spans are thinning. So you may have concluded that you need to forgo macro content for micro.

But let’s take this all the way to its logical conclusion, shall we?

  1. The volume of content approaches infinity.
  2. The span of attentions approaches zero.
  3. Ergo: Nobody will consume any content.

Do you follow this syllogism?

There’s something wrong with this conclusion if you step back, right?

Think: if the trend of diminishing attention spans reaches this point, then marketing is dead. Totally dead.

So what’s going on here?

People do – and will – pay attention. Their spans won’t actually reach zero.

The volume of content will approach infinity, but that doesn’t mean people won’t seek out content relevant to them.

Back up….”relevant”.

Thats’s the word: relevant.

“Relevant” is what breaks the syllogism down. If nobody cared for relevant content, then the syllogism would probably ring true in a few years.

So be careful not to fall into this fallacy of going only with micro-content.


Nobody uses the word “copy” anymore.

I wish they did.

Why? Because copy suggests skill. Writing copy isn’t just about writing.

It’s about thinking. It’s about research. It’s about experimenting. It’s a willingness to learn what works and what doesn’t.

Copy builds character.

Copy doesn’t have to be text. Today’s copy is audio, video. It’s creative use of geo-location, RFID tagging and other innovative uses of presence technologies.

What you call “Social Media”? Actually that’s copy too!

When I respond to your tweet or comment on your post or your Facebook update, I’m writing copy.

If it makes you feel better – because you’ve been sold that it’s all social now – then add the word “social” to copy.

Social Copy.

Happy now? Try getting into the habit of befriending copy. Forget how the 20th Century defined copy.

Even though the Web is disturbing things and it seems like chaos, you don’t have to cave in to the peer pressure culture of Twitter’s frenzy.

Copy isn’t dead. Boring copy is dead.

Copy lives. Copy spreads. Copy works.




Keep a journal. Sart or re-start your blog, even if it’s private.

The more you write, the more ideas you have.

Writing is the oil of creativity.

Write when it feels right.

Write when it hurts.

In love? Write it!

Broken-hearted? Write it!

Marketing in today’s world getting frustrating? Write about it!

Think about your information-customers. Where will they be?

What kinds of messages do they need to hear at the right time?

How you can arrange different media within media? Where can a placement of a short video on Cardiovascular Disease fit within long educational copy?

Mix things up: short copy for when attention is short; long copy for when attention is piqued and focused.

Ask: “what sense organ is most receptive to the message?” Would video of someone having a heart attack work better than text?

What’s the experience of your consumer going to be? How would it look and feel from their perspective?

Map out all of your properties: print, TV, Twitter, Facebook, Website/Blog, proprietary networks, email, mobile apps, etc.

Connect it all together. Draw out the possible flows of all the different copy.

Use colors for lines. Blue for long. Red for short. Green for social.

Think it. Map it. Plan it. Write it. Work it.


Size matters. Knowing which size to use where when and how…Ah, now there’s a skill. 😉

Don’t ask: “Should our marketing efforts focus on micro-content or long form?”

Ask: “What do people need – when, where, why, how.”

Someone may see a tweet, click a link and see that you have something of interest.

Say it’s about your cardiology practice.

I may love Twitter, but if I’m an savvy patient with questions about my heart health (at some level), then I’ll probably want to know more about what you have to say.

If you have nothing more than your tweet and a link to a poorly designed website (or droll release copy) that doesn’t tell me more (hint: longer-form), then I’m gone.

Make it easy for me! I don’t want any more heart trouble!

You make it easy for me by doing the hard work.

You make the hard work easier on yourself by establishing healthy writing habits.

Look: Communications is the cardiovascular system of Marketing.

Keep that cardio-vasculature fit.


Write everyday.

Write everyday.

Write everyday.

@PhilBaumann@HealthIsSocialMy Steamy Love Letters


Healthy Promotion

Promote yourself.

It’s OK. In fact, you owe it to the object of your passion.

Yes, I know, all those blogs you’ve read, those social media conferences you’ve attended – they’ve laid down the rules about engagement.

Just because we can talk with each other, it doesn’t mean the only way to communicate it to wait for someone to retweet you.

Social = Broadcasting + Friendliness

That’s it – that’s the equation (if you’re looking for one).

If you want to market a great idea, a wonderful service, a product – whatever – just promote it.

We desperately need the great ideas about healthcare promoted.

We need the wisdom of physicians and nurses and life scientists to infiltrate Google.

Those great ideas and all that wisdom won’t be found unless the brains behind them know how to promote.

Two key points about healthy promotion:

  1. Promotion and narcissism aren’t the same thing
  2. Broadcasting and message-blasting aren’t the same thing

People love being living parts of an audience. Make it easy for them to be part of the show.

Healthy promotion is about expressing your passion, engendering community around it and leading with others who share your passion.

It’s not about you. It’s about your passion.

If you’re passionate about something, why on earth would you silence yourself?

@PhilBaumann@HealthIsSocialPurple Passions


Caring Is King: Doctors, Nurses and Social Media

Imagine if every step in the care that you provided your patients were tweets or blog posts or anything else you post online. Would your care be retweeted, re-blogged, Liked?

If you run a practice and are seeking the Web to market your service, you may have heard the tired (and tiring) adage that Content Is King. It’s just a cliche. Is it true? Sort of, but it’s incomplete. A more complete understanding of media production would be:

Content is King. Context is Kingdom. Process is Power.

That’s certainly a rule you should remember when it comes to general online marketing (whether it’s for promoting your business or networking or just having your voice recognized).

But for physicians, nurses and other individual healthcare providers – including Healthcare and Life Sciences enterprises – Caring trumps Content.

In fact: Caring is the content.

The caring is the message.

Care is the medium which propagates the profession.

More and more doctors and nurses are using social media. This is a welcome evolution: we need their voices.

It’s in their interest – and ours – to be sufficiently media-savvy.

Using the tools aren’t hard. It’s the discipline, diligence and integrity to produce quality content, appropriately market their messages, interact with their core audience and to help extend the art and science of caring from the bedside to the byte.

If you don’t care for others, they won’t care for you.

That’s as true for healthcare as it is for blogging.

Caring is King.

Caring is Kingdom.

Caring is Power.


(Apologies for the paternal-dominated language – I had to work with a paternal-dominated cliche.) 🙂

Authenticity in Healthcare Communications

Authenticity as a buzzword needs to die. I’m going to kill it. Love is my gun. So sit back and watch.

During the last Webinar that Health Is Social hosted, an attendee asked a great question about authenticity in communications with patients online. But there are times when the word Authenticity is used and I’d like to address that.

We all want authentic communications – it’s sort of one of those things you just expect. Who wants you to be Inauthentic?

But I don’t think healthcare communicators should worry too much about how to reconcile a professional/corporate personal with Authenticity.

What?! OMG – you can’t be serious!

Hold up – this is what I mean. People want all sorts of things – value, honesty, feedback, information, resources, support, humor… When they deal with an organizational representative, for the most part they understand that they’re working with someone who is playing a role. It’s OK to play a role – doctors play roles, nurses play roles, leaders play roles.

It’s when the roles people play hide things or divert attention that communications and trust break down.


If your interactions with people are honest and clear and helpful, you don’t have to worry about authenticity. In fact, the more focused you are on being authentic, the less authentic you’ll be. Why? Because authenticity becomes a goal onto itself rather than a natural consequence of everything else you do.

Here’s an illustration of this phenomenon. Read the following sentence, pause for a moment and do exactly as it requests: Don’t think of pink elephants prancing in tutus! You thought of pink elephants prancing in tutus just now, didn’t you? Some things you just can’t command – Authenticity is one of those things. Make sense?

When consumers interact with you and you give them what they’re looking for (whatever it is), I doubt very much they go home and say: Hey honey, I had a great back-and-forth online with ABC Company today. I got everything that I needed from them – great customer service, sincerity, empathy and useful information…but I’m devastated because I just don’t think they were authentic.

In the same way, when most people speak highly of you, the most common things they say probably don’t include “Wow, she was authentic! She was really authentic!”. Who talks like that? No, they’re going to talk about what you did for them.

I think Authenticity may be a misleading thing to worry about in online communications. Sincerity is probably a better term. You might care about appearing or being authentic, but I don’t really care. Basically, I want you to be honest and useful.


Ever love somebody? If so, were you worried about being authentic? Or did you just love?

Healthcare – and the communications that weave within and orbit it – need a lot of love in addition to hard work.

Love? Sounds corny. No place in business. Not a Healthcare term.

OK. BUT: If you hate communicating, do you think you’ll communicate well or turn off those who you need?

On the other hand, if you love communicating, don’t you think you’ll turn on the people whom you need to tune in?

Authenticity in Healthcare communications is what happens when you do all of the hard work of serving your informational customers.

If you don’t love what you do, authenticity isn’t your biggest problem, is it?

Not everybody loves what they do. Which means: you have an edge over them.



Love is the ultimate competitive avantage.


Our next Webinar will touch on Authenticity. Sign up here!

Healthcare Blogging: Wide Open Opportunities

“Blogging is dead.” I can’t tell you how many times I hear that. According to Ed Bennett’s Hospital Social Network List, fewer than 90 hospitals have blogs. That’s less than 2% of all US hospitals! Meanwhile, over 600 hospitals have Twitter and Facebook accounts. Does that mean blogging is dead? Or does it mean that hospitals are passing on important opportunities to communicate?

I understand why some people think blogging is dead. More and more people are turning to Twitter and other ‘real-time’ media to publish and interact.

Also: Resources are scarce: a tweet…well a tweet is 140 characters. It’s Twitter. How can it get any easier? Why blog when you can tweet? Attention spans are short anyway.

Twitter and Facebook also supposedly ‘viral’ (wonderfully seductive buzzword for the uninitiated).

I’ve been in discussions with clients who have told me their agencies advised them that Twitter, Facebook  and Youtube were all that’s needed anymore and that their websites were basically useless. That blogging wasn’t worth the effort and that nobody reads blogs.


Nobody reads blogs? Well: Google does. Google loves blogs. Don’t you think Google is an important ‘follower’? Hypothetical: which of these two kinds of ‘followers’ would you rather have?:

  • Ten thousand followers on Twitter, 99.9% of which ignore your tweets and the rest aren’t paying strong attention to you
  • 1 search engine, like Google, who indexes and archives your blog’s content and serves it up to people who are actively looking for what you might have?

Patients read blogs too. “Oh, we tried a blog, but only had 25 subscribers.” Only 25? You mean those 25 people – human beings – don’t matter? What if a few of those readers were healthcare journalists or philanthropists or patients who are connected via their own communications platforms to thousands of others?

For that matter, what if you had 1? What if she’s the one person with a condition and she finds your content of immense and rare value? What if your content enables her to lead a better life, even if in some small way? Why would you refer to her as an ‘only’?

Nobody reads blogs. OK, well nobody reads your tweets. 🙂

You see, Twitter and Facebook and other streaming media create the illusion that longer form content doesn’t matter much anymore.

Actually: where do you think all that good stuff people share on Twitter and Facebook come from? Who do you think earns ROI (however it’s defined) from those tweets and other social streams? The fact is, many of the items shared on streaming media are links to…blog posts.


You need three integrated things in today’s world in order to have any chance of having an audience: content, context and process. Content and context provide relevance – a no-brainer.

But you need process in order to deliver that relevance. If you have none of the skills required for blogging, then you won’t understand how to develop and execute the kinds of processes needed to properly execute whatever strategies you have. It’s that simple. Blogging is a skill, and it’s no longer just putting up content – it’s a process.

You don’t need a huge following on your blog. You do need to be good at content generation. Twitter and Facebook won’t do that – in fact, they’ll make you sloppy and lame if that’s all you do.

In today’s world, you do have to be swift in your interactions. But that’s a skill too, one best honed by the experiences of blogging. Too many agencies and clients have for too long forgone the education and skills-building that blogging provides.

I’m not saying you need a blog – I am saying you need the underlying skills. If you know another way to garnish those skills, more power to you.


You (or your client) don’t own Twitter or Facebook. You don’t own your tweets. You have no control over Twitter. No control over Facebook. You don’t even own your name on those services.

The only place you own on the Internet is your domain name. Why would you abandon the only thing in an uncontrollable world that you have some control over?

Why would not take advantage of the wide opportunities to produce an infinite combination of content – enduring and timeless content – that matters most to the very people you serve?

Don’t get taken in by get-rich schemes.

21st Century communications is an endurance feat, not a popularity contest.

Healthcare content is far too important to leave to Twitter and Facebook. You (or your client) are experts (I hope). If you are, I hope you know how to bring forth your expertise online.

There’s so much content in Healthcare and yet one of the most common questions is: But what do we talk about?

OMG – the amount of topic is more than one organization can ever cover. So the opportunities are wide open!

Twitter and Facebook and other social media have value, don’t get me wrong: but without a home-base of your own, you’re missing a key ingredient in your online presence. Kind of like apple pie without real apples.

The Internet is the Electric Sea of Infinity: it’s easy to get shocked and tossed and drowned if you don’t have the right kind of boat.

A well-written and engaging blog is about the only place on the Sea of Infinity where you can build a boat with an anchor.


In future posts and Webinars, I’ll discuss more about healthcare blogging because I think it’s an ignored topic.

Citizen Patient: Empowered and Unempowered

Empowered. Unempowered.

Engaged. Disengaged.

Educated. Uneducated.

Enlightened. Unenlightened.

Electronic (digital). Analog.

Words. Words matter. Words matter because they have the power to do completely different things, like: clarify and confuse.

Does it matter what we call human beings who have medical conditions? Are they patients? Do we use qualifying words to describe them? Empowered patient? Unempowered patient?

Lately there’s been words about the word ‘e-patient’. “Should we use this word?” “Shouldn’t we use this word?”

Does it all matter? I think it all depends on who you are.

If you’re my provider, you can call me a muther effer – I don’t care, as long as you know what you’re doing, assess me appropriately, answer my questions or point me to reliable resources, educate me…But that’s me. Not you. Or him. Or her.

Recent discussions and the meta-discussions about them have raised questions about the appropriateness and necessity of words like ‘e-patient‘. Susannah Fox proclaims:

New concepts need gimmicks. Proven concepts do not.

An eternal truth, with one exception: a proven concept without an audience might still need a gimmick. And perhaps all the discussion about these words comes down to the desire for a noble gimmick. Not an easy desire to satisfy. It’s a tenuous endeavor, a marketing problem really – one which can be brilliantly executed…sadly, more often botched.

Here are two other voices – read their stuff and you’ll be able to follow all the necessary links.

Bryan Vartabedian (@Doctor_Vasks if the e-patient revolution is over. I didn’t know there was a revolution but he makes a solid point about the commonness of analog and the perils of the proverbial echo chamber. He also notes that many patients aren’t using electronic resources – we could call them Analog Patients I suppose.

In a French-roasted post, Daphne Swancutt of HealthIntel, makes the case for not euthanizing the ‘epatient’. In it, Daphne may have identified the key pivot in the chatter over words:

One day, we’ll get to a point when all patients are e-patients. Perhaps then, we go back to the future and begin anew with “patient,” which will implicitly suggest e-patient. But, we’re not there, yet. Not today. Not tomorrow. Likely not next year.

That’s it: she’s acknowledged that ‘epatient’ isn’t ideal but that perhaps – for now – we do need some convenient call-bell to signify and communicate where we’re coming from so that providers and others invested in our well-being can take the most appropriate courses of action with us.

Now I don’t know if ‘epatient’ is that bell (you can read my preliminary views on what I coined the fPatient here), but her argument seems to be at the crux of the matter. The trick lies in how proliferative the word becomes – and if the sender and receiver are on the same page of meaning.

Ideally, healthcare professionals should have the training and experience and therapeutic communication expertise to treat their patients in accordance with their unique array of characteristics – we all have different communication styles, personalities, levels of passivity or activity.

Unfortunately, when they don’t, patients (my God -what word do I use in this post?!) are left to their own resources. And that’s where adjectives and letters might make a difference: those with the resources can ring their call-bell to others – to rally support, seek curated information, learn more about their condition, etc.


There is no right or wrong answer here. What matters is meaning and communication and citizenry (more on that word in a moment). Perhaps an amusing moment from Through the Looking Glass is worth invoking:

`When I use a word’, Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’

In its simplest abstraction, seeking and receiving healthcare is about finding and getting solutions to problems.

Some people are actively engaged in their healthcare. Other’s aren’t. Engaged versus disengaged.

Some people use digital technologies. Others: not so much. Electronic (digital) versus analog.

But here’s the thing: regardless of your empowerment today, it might be lessened or taken away tomorrow. You might be Humpty Dumpty – and all you can hope for is that either you’ll be put back together again or change your world-view and find liberation in dignified acceptance.

When you become an unempowered patient, you are no less human than before. You do, however, become dependent on others to impute empowerment onto your person and to confer onto you the full rights of dignity and care and technical expertise which any true civilization labors to bring forth into a world of chaos.

We’re not always empowered, regardless of what we do. There are times when we are varyingly unempowered. What happens when you become unempowered?

Who takes care of you? Who speaks for you? Who breaks their back to rescue your dignity from death?

Regardless of what words we use, the fact is: we ultimately depend on professionals who manifest their oaths everyday – from their care to their research findings. We need cultures of caring that lessen the need for linguistic work-arounds. The Empowered Healthcare Culture.


If you asked me what word I might prefer that we call patients, I’d say: citizen. Neither more nor less.

A citizen has rights and responsibilities. A healthcare culture that encourages citizens to exercise the former and assume the later, engenders a more optimal environment of communication and healing.

And as a citizen loses power – either by lack of resources or education or disease or despair – we are obligated to raise our voices. The provider becomes charged with empowerment. The Empowered Provider. (Laugh, but remember: when providers work with limited resources and loony policies, they become less empowered. The Unempowered Provider.)

But here’s an interesting example of the power of words: If I asked my providers to refer to me that way – citizen – I’m certain many would wince quizzically and maybe even become outright dismissive. Why would they do that? Because it sounds to some ears, well, kind of ridiculous. It’s totally out of place with what we’re used to hearing in the context of healthcare.

Institutional Habituation.

And therein lies a deep problem: if viewing me (the patient) as a citizen is the tiniest bit unsettling, that says something about the culture of healthcare.

Think about that: in a sane culture, citizen is a word that should never tempt dismissal.

So allow me to utter the ridiculous (‘cuz that’s what I do best):

The empowered patient is a citizen.

The semi-powered patient is a citizen.

The unempowered patient is a citizen.

We are not all patients…all the time.

We are all citizens…every moment, from birth to death, engaged or disengaged, educated or uneducated, electronic or analog, enlightened or unenlightened, empowered or unempowered.

@PhilBaumann –  @HealthIsSocial@RNchat

Coming in a few weeks: an introduction to social media for healthcare. Sign up for our Webinar here.

The Engagement Paradox

Yes, it is a social world. It always was. But as more and more organizations realize this, there’s a temptation to believe that it’s all about conversation – that somehow the more engaging organizations become the better off they are. But we live in a non-liner world of limits.

Social media can be a lot of fun. It has a place in our personal lives and in marketing and in patient communities.

It’s also a great seduction if you forget about your purposes.

Not everybody wants the same level of engagement as everyone else – and they don’t necessarily want the same level you believe they want.

Conversation may be a new element in marketing, but it’s not a strategy. It’s just of way of doing business these days. Another skill – one of many. (My skill is not drawing smooth curves as you can see. :))

All strategic initiatives need to allocate multiple resources in a finite world.

Engage, but don’t ignore all the other work you’re responsible for accomplishing.

In healthcare, it’s true that more and more patients expect engagement. But the fact is, they’re just people with problems and who want solutions.

Make sure you have solutions to talk about.

Make sure you know how to support them in their moments of suffering.

Remember: silence has its place too.


If you want a realistic view how this social media stuff fits best in healthcare, join our upcoming Webinar. We’re not charging a fee – but you do need to invest your time and attention if you want to earn a return. Learn more and sign up here!