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Here’s to Your Health – Health and Healthcare in the Social Media World

A recap of the April SMCDC Event held on April 27, 2011 at the Spectrum Science Offices in Washington DC.

The panelists get ready to start

The room was filled with lots of eager participants, ready to hear our Moderator Alexandra Hughes (@AlexHughes01) lead our panel; Ted Eytan (@tedeytan), Alex Bornkessel (@SocialBttrfly) and Danielle Leach (@TeamInspire), as they discussed Health and Social Media.

The theme of the evening was centered around using social media in new ways to engage patients while they are well, rather than waiting until they are sick.

  • @smcdc: Use social media as a platform for behavior change, not just communication @SocialBttrfly #smcdc
  • @SpectrumScience: @tedeytan: We need to focus on prevention so we have more space for the people that have diseases that are NOT preventable. #smcdc
  • @kellyalysia: @tedeytan: physicians & communicators need to get on same page. Social media can help us change perspective on purpose of healthcare #smcdc

The panel started by talking about how healthcare providers can start implementing social media in their interaction with patients.  A lot of organizations get caught up in what tool they will use, rather than focusing in on a goal and then making the goal work for their purposes.  Not every tool will be appropriate for every audience. It is important to have a clear end goal and then build your social strategy around that.

  • @smcdc: When deciding to enter the social media sphere first ask yourself what success looks like @SocialBttrfly #smcdc
  • @smcdc: You have to be prepared to engage and listen @tedeytan #smcdc

  • @laurenlaughs: Don’t strategic plan your social media engagement to death – let some of it grow organically @teaminspire #smcdc

Some organizations only go into social media when they want to avert or address a crisis.  At that point there is not much impact that they can have unless the organization has previously been online.  Ted introduced the concept of building up a ‘bank of good will’ by having an established presence in the social space and a relationship with patients.

  • @ekivemark: #smcdc bank of goodwill. Don’t go to SocMed to protect yourself. You should already be there building goodwill.

From a pure communications standpoint, social media provides healthcare providers with an opportunity to get a lot of information out in a short period of time.  Rather than being afraid of talking to people, they have the opportunity to join in conversations that are already taking place.

  • @cristianliu Social media conversations are a way to correct misinformation. #smcdc

  • @ekivemark: #smcdc what if someone says something bad? They already are. You can pre plan how to respond worked it out.
Education is another key goal of healthcare providers on social media.  People are eager to learn about issues that affect them and the different ways they seek this knowledge is continually evolving.
  • @laurenlaughs:  2010 was the tipping point for health literacy – people are using social media to learn @socialbttrfly #smcdc

So how do you implement social media strategies and tools?  One of the main tasks is to get the leadership on board so that they work with you, not against you.  The second major step will be to find a way to engage your audience on whatever platforms that you choose to use.

  • @smcdc: One of the ways to get leadership to embrace social media is to get them to do it themselves @SocialBttrfly #smcdc
  • @smcdc: Build some incentive in your social media plan/tool to encourage people to participate #smcdc

  • @smcdc: The premise of inspire is that people will engage in the things that interest them without being directed @TeamInspire #smcdc

Mobile technology is increasingly favored by physicians, especially those who want instant access to patient records in a light, portable form.  It opens up new opportunities to reach people who have little or no access to computers but are constantly attached to their phones.

  • @SpectrumScience: Kaiser Permanente talking abt eliminating PCs frm their offices, going to ipads. AND @kpmemberservice is on Twitter-Thats a big deal. #smcdc

  • @districtjoe: Interesting point that moving to digital records forces doctors to think about their patients even when they’re not in their office #smcdc

The reality is that there are still large groups of people with little or no access to any technology. Another group is those who have access to technology but have no idea how to use  it. These individuals on the other side of the digital divide present a challenge because they cant just be ignored. In order to be a healthcare system that cares and works for everyone there is a need to look at reaching people on both sides of the digital divide.

  • @SpectrumScience: About 80% of US using internet in 2000….and about 80% using it in 2010…we can’t just say “oh they’ll get there” anymore @tedeytan #smcdc

  • @laurenlaughs: It’s going to take more creativity to reach hard to reach audiences – mobile isn’t going to do it @socialbttrfly #smcdc

Even when people do have access to technology, they still have a need for education.  They need not only to learn how to use their technology, but also what tools work best for different needs.
  • @smcdc: Give people basic education to show people what they are using and how to use it @TeamInspire #smcdc

More people are looking for public health information than they realize. They are talking about their personal experiences with illness, their doctors and the drugs they are using, as well as learning from other people.

While they value what they are learning from each other, there is still a hunger for authoritative medical information.  People say their doctor is still the number one source that they want to get their information from.  The problem is that very few actually reach out to their physicians outside their regular appointments.

  • @smcdc:  There is value both in authoritative medical information and publicly generated information @TeamInspire #smcdc

  • @laurenlaughs: More parishioners can email their priests than patients can email their doctors (3%) @tedeytan #smcdc

  • @smcdc: If the number one place people want information from is their doctor, then more doctors need to be in the social space @tedeytan #smcdc

Organizations that are successful in implementing a social media strategy externally also have to walk the talk internally, doing what they ask others to. A lot of conversation needs to take place around what is needed to bring everyone on board and make the strategy work.  What tools does the organization use to foster social interaction, and are they working? What fears does the organization have about participating in new media? Bring all these issues out on the table so that they can be addressed.

  • @smcdc: Organizations are often afraid of being pioneers in the social space @AlexHughes01 #smcdc
  • @smcdc: Highlight other people who are using social media well as examples of what your company could do @TeamInspire#smcdc
  • @smcdc: Invite your boss to events where they’ll be talking about social media in ways that are relevant to them @SocialBttrfly#smcdc
  • @smcdc: Internal intranets are built around projects while social networks are built around people and are therefore more engaging @tedeytan #smcdc

Healthcare organizations have built in content in the form of their patients experiences.  Find non-threatening ways to invite them to share their stories and perspectives, e.g. using third parties, surveys, or fliers.  Its not a good idea for physician to be directly involved in asking patients to do this since it could potentially be misconstrued as using their authority to force participation.

  • @SpectrumScience: uh oh. HIPPA came up. @tedeytan has the answer…”its a mistake to believe that patients don’t want to talk about their health” #smcdc
At the end of the day, the process of implementing a social media strategy organizationally is hard! It will take a lot of work and persistence to get something going and make it successful.
  • @smcdc: The truth is that the process of implementing social media organizationally is hard! @tedeytan #smcdc

A special thanks to our moderator and panelists:

We would also like to thank Spectrum Science (@SpectrumScience; for graciously hosting the event at their offices.


Event Recap: Entertainment and Technology

Despite the iffy weather and a rescheduled session, a bunch of hardy folks made it out to the Entertainment and Technology SMCDC event at the Consumer Electronics Association in Crystal City on February 1, 2011.  They were greeted by a top notch panel and some delicious cookies. The event moderator Joe Gizzi, (@districtjoe) kicked off the evening by introducing the panelists, Megan Pollock (@tech_tarheel), Lyn Slater (@queenofblogs), and Rick Kowalski (@rkowalski7).

CES recap and trends

First off the panel gave a brief recap of this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES) and shared some of their top tips and trends. Favorite picks included:

@queenofblogs: cars and the ‘green’ factor.

@tech_tarheel: new TV tech and appliances

@rkowalski7: tablets

The reality of CES is that a lot of the technology showcased will not make it to the general market.  Pollock pointed out that CES is more a venue where content providers and tech creators are coming together to make sure that there is content for new tech. Another constituent that was well represented at CES was the movie industry.  More celebrities and creative directors are showing up to the event each year. “Hollywood can’t afford not to be involved in both hardware and social media to keep up with what fans want,” said Slater.

The panel discussed what the implications of the trends we are seeing now could be.  A clearly emerging strategy that many companies are taking is having users create their own content for new technology.  Not all the technology developed however will be for everyone. A prime example of this according to Kowalski is 3D. Interim solutions in the form of set-top boxes and third parties like Netflix are filling the content gap.  Pollock says that consumers will be willing to pay for these services and devices as long as the cost is reasonable. @tracytran tweets “I would pay 4 Hulu as they keep doing newer shows. Netflix stuff is all usually older seasons (on demand).”

The future of Tablets

Gizzi asked the panel where they thought tablets, currently a hot topic with the advent of the iPad, would be going. Kowalski mused that the two key issues that would influence whether people would opt to make the move from smartphones to tablets would be portability vs. pocketability.  Right now Apple and Android seem to have the market on tablets cornered. Pollock said that it would be interesting to see what Blackberry was going to do. “Their playbook will be more business focused.” Pollock added that consumers would also be looking at networks and subscription costs as they made the decision as to what tablet they chose to adopt.  Slater however feels that people have certain preferences and will stick with those regardless of other factors; for example, people who like Apple products will remain on whatever network can support this..

Privacy concerns and their impact on the adoption of new technology

Another big topic of discussion was to what extent consumers need to protect their privacy and how that would affect the adoption of apps that shared their activities and preferences with their friends.  Gizzi theorized that with the mass acceptance of Facebook, users might find it easier to adopt services that predict what they want or would like, based on what their friends are doing.  Slater pointed out that Amazon has been doing this successfully for a while now in the way they suggest products based on a user’s browsing history and what similar users have bought. Referring to the Facebook privacy issues in the past year Kowalski said that as long as services are straightforward about how they are using user data, consumers may not be as disturbed about sharing their information.  The whole panel concurred that where privacy settings are concerned, the simpler they are, the better.

The discussion naturally turned to the use of location based apps.  Both the panel and attendees seemed to agree that users have to weigh the benefits of participating in these, versus the potential threat to their personal safety.  Because of sites that track the whereabouts of users @amyytam tweets “ I don’t want in check in on 4 square.” Pollock talked about how privacy, or the lack thereof, now has both personal and financial implications.  For example it is possible that in the very near future you could be denied/ granted benefits by your insurance company based on your level of fitness as determined by what sort of venues and events you check into.  It would be easy to monitor how often you work out.

@DistrictOfAris says that where safeguarding privacy is concerned “Users definitely have a role. As do platform providers. And educators.” Slater believes that ultimately it is the responsibility of the user to educate themselves on how privacy settings work and to learn how to guard themselves on the internet.  Ironically, Gizzi says, privacy on the Internet is schizophrenic; people who will not reveal their names think nothing of posting thousands of pictures of their children.

Social interaction and Apps

While there may not immediately be content that supports new technology, Slater thinks that content providers will most likely take the lead in providing apps that encourage users to interact with one another around certain shows or platforms.  Pollock observed that people seem more interested in having the same content available to them on all their devises.  What people really want, a member of the audience commented, is the ability to share specific clips of shows with friends.  Pollock says that with all the debates around digital rights management, we may not see a way to easily do this soon. Instead, Gizzi says that networks are tapping talent to interact with viewers in real time in an effort to get them engaged in whatever content they have out.

Senior Citizens and social media

It was pointed out that for certain shows targeting an older demographic there might not be as much of a need for widespread app offerings that are social in nature since viewers may not be interested in them.  Gizzi however feels that this may not be strictly be true.  “There is a mass later in life adoption of social media by Senior Citizens.”  Regardless of whether Seniors choose to adopt technology and services that are not social in nature,  Slater believes that there will be more apps that are developed specifically to cater to children and the families of Senior Citizens, allowing them to monitor their older relatives’ welfare virtually, e.g. the status of their medication.


And that’s your recap of the Entertainment and Technology SMCDC event.  A special thanks to the Consumer Electronics Association for hosting the event, and to our moderator and stellar panelists for the great content.  For more information about Social Media Club DC events, follow the conversation on Twitter (@smcdc), “like” us on Facebook (

Interested in more about consumer tech? Want to be the first in the know? CEA is offering a new Tech Enthusiast membership to help influence the future of the consumer electronics industry. Learn more at