The Over-promising of Healthcare Social Media

Healthcare has been late to using social media. It appears, on the surface at least, that the industry is finally catching-up.

Conferences on Healthcare Social Media are popping up. A Healthcare hashtag is born every minute. Experts, gurus, and consultants are everywhere now.

So too is the overpromissing.

Healthcare Communicators and Marketers are being sold these promises.

Consumers are being sold these promises.

Healthcare providers are being sold these promises.

What are these promises?

Increased ROI! Improved outcomes! Better provider-patient relations!

Yes, social and digital technologies can move these dials.

No, they don’t solve the fundamental problems that marketing, clinical challenges, HIT conundrums, and other concerns involved in Healthcare encounter every day.

There’s an assertion that is made on almost every Twitter chat, HCSM conference, and blog that’s been blindly ripped-off from the early days of social media ‘wisdom’: “social media is about people!”

It is? Really?

Well then, if social media is so much about people, why are we talking about social media?

Do you see the fallacy of cloudy rhetoric here?

Let’s not get carried away by platitudes and the over-promising of what are ephemeral software.

Twitter may be cool and all. And it may have its promises.

But let’s be careful about the dopaminergic effects of these trinkets on our minds – and on our perceptions of their true promises on their impacts on Healthcare.

For you see, the focus of my words here is this: as long as we dwell on the over-promises and the teenage fascination concerning these technologies, then the more we overlook whatever potential they have to improve patient care, medical and nursing education, information flows, and healthcare technological development.

I can’t say that what you’re seeing on Twitter and hearing at conferences is all Snake Oil.

Then again, get-rich schemes come in all styles.

Indeed, health is a social process – absolutely, from the cellular networks of our bodies to the hands we hold at childbirths and funerals.

Social software? Try to be serious: They’re just on/off switches.

And they’re aren’t necessarily all that good for your health.

Phil Baumann

Facebook Is A Mess

Facebook is a mess. It really is. All the insane features that always change. No security – at any moment, data can just vanish – or appear in places it shouldn’t.

The worst part: for all of the features and filters and options, you have no control of, or equity in, any of the design. Every.single.Page is the same – hundreds of millions of the exact same cargo boxes of Walmart blue and white and Lucinda.

One long train heading for a wreck, and we’re either the passengers or the innocent bystanders.

I  hope that there is never ever going to be a “Facebook for Healthcare”. You think Healthcare is a mess now? Imagine what it will look like as it gets Facebookitized.

Imagine Love having to conform to Facebook’s algorithmic architectures.

Please do not make the mistake of thinking that these are “just tools” – they are forces in this world: their impact is completely independent of their content.

When people talk about Facebook or Twitter on TV, the radio, at the supermarket – you don’t usually hear about the content in those media, do you? You hear talk of the media themselves.

We are at an important moment in the evolution of technology – and the way it’s packaged (Facebook is a package: you are meant to fit into it, not the other way around). Well-designed technology goes with the grain of human endeavor, not against it.

We shouldn’t try to figure out how to fit Healthcare into social media. It’s supposed to be the other way around.

After this Social Media phase we’re in right now – and it will end, even if it takes a decade or more – we will come to appreciate the beauty of owning the only thing we can own and design on the web: our own domains – and even that is a tenuous proposition.

Yes, having different spokes and nodes are important – I get all that – but this, what’s being built under our passive consent, this is madness.

Will the Like Button Weaken Emotional Resilience?

Within the homeostatic range of healthy ego-drive is our need to be liked – loved in fact.

It’s a healthy mechanism with which we’re all born. As we grow older, our egos learn to respond – or react – to positive and negative events.

If one of us grows up with all too many bruises, it’s quite possible that the ego develops narcissist defense mechanisms (which don’t necessarily make the whole person a narcissist).

Children who grow up without witnessing, or who grow up isolated (physically or emotionally) are more left to their own to develop defense mechanisms: from deflation of the ego to inflation of the ego.

Think: if you’re abandoned or feel helpless, inventing a grandiose ego has its advantages. It helps the child from laying down and utterly giving up on life…but it also ultimately self-defeats.

So often, Depression sets in because people’s egos have taken hits. A lover leaves, and the ego breaks down. A job is lost, and the ego’s self-value deflates.

This is why witnessing during the childhood years is so vital. Bad things happen to us as we grow. How we cope depends on genetics and environment. But if we’re surrounded by others who can help us through our wounds, it’s more likely that the ego stays in its homeostatic domain.

The problem, however, with our egos:  it goes the other way too. Too much inflation of the ego is a setup for its own weakening. An inflated ego, just like a balloon, loses its resilience to popping as the tension of its surface increases. The balloon’s taught sensation, like that of an ego, might feel resilient but its tension is its very lack of resilience.

As our children grow up in a world of Facebook and Twitter and other social software that foster the “Like” behavior, what happens to ego-resilience?

As our children spend more time connected via electrons, and less via touch and pheromones, the chances increase that their isolation-evolved defense mechanisms turn against them. All that Liking, and no sense of inner Love.

Software which seamlessly invokes a mentality of “being Liked” can invisibly inflate the ego’s need for more and more and more.

What’s the effect of all this expectation (especially when this expectation sinks into the unconsciousness)?

Think about the events over your life – if you could go back, what events and what kind of people could have made your life right now healthier?

It’s OK to develop narcissistic mechanisms in the short-run to protect yourself. Eventually, however, we have to outgrow them and replace them with resilience – which is the ability to remember that you are not a function of what happens to you. You are much more than the fascinating mechanism of your ego.

What’s not OK, is living in a surrogate sibling environment that conditions you to believe you are a function of what a little blue button signifies.

I don’t know about you, but if I were sixteen again, I’d choose one kiss on the lips over a 100 Billion Likes.

May my son feel the same way when it’s his time.



A Pocket Guide to Social Media for Physicians, Nurses and Other Smart Heroes

This is the super condensed Pocket Guide to Social Media for Physicians, Nurses and Other Smart Heroes.

  1. Figure out how social media platforms and tools work – you can do this on your own. To get started, Google keywords, like “social media”, “Twitter”, “Facebook”, “Blogging”, “Youtube”, “API”, “Hashtags”, “Google Places”.
  2. Use your imagination to figure out how these media can be re-purposed in Healthcare, networking, professional development or anything else that interests you.
  3. Reflect on topics such as: Ethics, bedside manner, HIPAA, patient dignity, professional development, peer networking, collaboration.
  4. Become a better professional: call a patient or colleague whom you haven’t seen in a while and ask “How are you?”

There it is: your Pocket Guide to Social Media for Physicians, Nurses and Other Smart Heroes.

Now this isn’t intended to be a sarcastic post: these tips are simply about the rudimentary elements of being literate in the 21st Century.

The truly difficult parts of doing social media in the long-term while achieving success – well that’s something that comes from experience, determination and surrounding yourself with other smart heros.

The guide is available for download here and here.


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.




Vicarious Media





Let’s be honest: the media we have begun to use aren’t exactly social.

“Social” means living or communicating or collaborating directly with other people: I like you. I don’t Like you.

As we Like, RT, Share and + away, what we’re doing is pushing buttons which activate vicarious ecosystems.

The platforms that engender these ecosystems are Vicarious Media.

Vicarious Media do enable certain kinds of indirect connections among people, but it’s information accumulation through other people’s media, not with them.

Yes, we can say that there are/is Social Media.

But: living socially and living vicariously are vastly different from each other.

Please don’t confuse the two.

Why I Write Quirky (and Potentially Offensive) Posts on Healthcare Social Media

…Because: Long-term success is inversely proportional to how seriously you take it.

Pretty Much Everybody’s Full of It When It Comes to Social Media

…incuding me.

But I at least apply critical thinking.  Here’s how I arrive at my (alterable) conclusions:

  1. Ask: How does this tool work?
  2. Ask: What are the limits and possibilities of this tool?
  3. Ask: What happens when I bend this tool as far I can?
  4. Ask: How does this tool relate to other tools?
  5. Ask: When these tools combine, what’s the chemical reaction?
  6. Ask: How much of ourselves is embedded in this tool?
  7. Ask: How much of the tool is embedded in us?
  8. Ask: What are the political, psychological, ethical and other human ramifications of the *presence* of these tools in our worlds?
  9. Ask: What am I *not* seeing about this tool?
  10. Ask: What will this tool reveal?
  11. Ask: What will this tool conceal?
  12. Tell people what I think (in my case I use various satirical, sarcastic and jolting techniques through the use of several personas using the very media I’m telling the world about).

Chris Brogan is full of it. (But he’s cool, and isn’t afraid to keep learning and sharing.)

Brian Solis is full of it.

Altimeter Group is full of it. No, really – they are truly full of it.

Jeremiah Owyang isn’t full of it…he just doesn’t know what’s going on. <rant>I’m not kidding here – and, although it may seem unkind of me,  I’m passionate about this stuff for the right reasons and I’m saddened that guys like this are paid to mislead the world. I don’t care if I’m shunned for saying this. I have character.</rant>

You name all the big names and…yep: they’re full of it.

That’s OK. …Unless…

…unless clients are getting ripped off or the public believes in un-vetted guesses by people who are full of it but too arrogant to say “I’m full of it”.

Everybody is full of it. You too.

And I’m completely full of it.

Which is to say: come here, say Hi to me on Twitter and elsewhere, listen to what I say and process what I’m getting at, and…

…and, most importantly:

…think this stuff through on your own (try my twelve-step algorithm or whatever).

…think this stuff through on your own.

…think this stuff through on your own.

Question everything. Believe nobody.

Especially @HealthIsSocial or @PhilBaumann because you’ll never be quite certain who is whom.

– Phil



A Minimalist Approach to Healthcare Social Media

Some foundational points:

^ Strong talent in a few areas beats diffuse mediocrity.
^ Serendipity Obesity will sink you.
^ Time spent leading returns more than time spent monitoring.
^ Creation spawns reproduction.
^ Standing out trumps sharing popular content.

Some tips:

^ Keep an unpublished journal for your team to post ideas.
^ Build everything out from your overall communications strategy.
^ Establish a content schedule and tickler system using your journal.
^ Create a CRM from your social media accounts (e.g. convert contacts to csv file)
^ Do not create a ‘social media strategy’. There is no such thing.
^ Give it up if it’s not working out. Really, it’s OK. Re-think it later.

^ BONUS: Don’t get caught up in all the ways to share content. Pick a few curators (people or publishers), reflect on the material and develop the ideas using the above recommendations. Too many people are doing that – a trap set a few years ago when social media became a buzz phrase.

You can do much more with fewer tools.

For Healthcare professionals and organizations who struggle with this social media stuff, it truly is a sound decision to adopt a minimalist approach.

– Phil