A "HealthTweep" Pulse Check

Exploring transformational potential of social media

Towards a values based ‘social media manifesto’ for hospitals and health systems

with 10 comments

In the ‘Twittersphere’ (aka micro-blogging) and blogosphere space we are witnessing increasing conversation into the nature and relevance of social media in general and its optimal application(s) in particular.

Just today we had some lively exchange in a Twitter ‘health care marketing‘ stream, using the #hcmktg hashtag.

As an affinity group primarily of marketeers, though not exclusively, the subtext of the questions generally focus on how can marketing, PR or communications specialists, better apply (i.e., ‘leverage’) this evolving technology in support of their institution’s mission? During these exchanges, we hear intermittent echoes of ROI, and other ‘metrics’ to measure performance, and therefore demonstrate value; particularly to the ‘C-suite” or usual suspect laggers to innovation.

The predominant interest seems to be how to perfect, deploy and manage a platform that essentially adds value to the individual facility or parent system in the aggregate. What might some of these dependent variables (or target outcomes) to measure be? In all likelihood, once we advance beyond image mindshare or service specific broadcasting, the likely ends include:

  • improve payor mix
  • maximize profitability
  • steal share from competitor(s)
  • position institution for proactive pursuit of defined or niche customer markets
  • reduce re-admission rate (wait, who said that? actually no one yet)
  • better integration with medical community
  • reduce costs

Don’t get me wrong, I love these tweeps (at least most of them). They are my people, and I delight at being a member of the tribe in occasional good standing as measured by select indicia of ‘twitter love’. Yet, no where in the discussion is the the application of this technology to impact the dyfunctional, often bloated and patently un sustainable business models on which some of their very jobs depend.

Where is the active exploration and application of social media tools to “transform’ or ‘re-engineer” the tapestry of admitted failed business models that constitutute ‘mainstream’ US HealthCare?

If social media tools are not used in service of the purposeful transformation of ‘dsyfunctional’ healthcare delivery and financing paradigms, what value does it add? Absent a values based application of social media technologies, I will answer one the questions posed above: ‘Is Twitter A Fad’? in the affirmative. It will flame out of it’s own weight, and ‘look what I can do’ chatty irrelevance.

In future posts, I intend to craft a draft ‘manifesto’ and welcome your active participation and comment.


Written by 2healthguru

July 10, 2009 at 1:08 PM

10 Responses

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  1. And I’m toying around with the notion of creating a social media initiative that will benefit the practitioners in the integrative health world. Not only do they not really have any marketers, per se, they are in a health sector no consumer even understands as “integrative.”

    What they do have is near universal word-of-mouth as their primary marketing factor. I.e., they depend on conversations. If they can move that into the social blender, perhaps a broader sense of the nature of integrative health will emerge.

    This is of some interest because this class of practitioner often offers the kind of inexpensive, less invasive and efficacious therapies that seriously address the cost issues and that can refocus attention toward a prevention-first approach to being well.

    Something of a tall order, I know.

    Taylor Walsh

    August 24, 2009 at 12:54 PM

    • Taylor: Me thinks you’re on to something! As with retainer, micropractice or concierge medicine models, there is no standardization from a consumer standpoint either. The range or practices that can fit into one or all of these descriptions vary widely, and is somewhat of a Rorschach like projection as to what ‘it’ (the model) is. Similarly, WOM plays a significant role in the channel that bridges consumer and supplier of services.

      I hadn’t thought about ‘integrative” or alternative/ complementary medicine per se.


      August 24, 2009 at 5:19 PM

      • Gregg, perfectly stated: outside the WOM circuitry of these practice areas, most people don’t think of CAM. But there they are: 400,000 small businesses, in every market, serving many millions of people, to the tune of ~$35 billion/year or so (99% out of pocket). All the med schools have centers of integrative medicine, NIH has put ~$2 billion into this area, 35% of hospitals doing something. Almost strikes me as a parallel universe.

        To the extent that consumer choice has been entirely responsible for creating this market for integrative services and thus forcing these adjustments within the conventional system, we have a population that has responded to different options through a kind of leverage of peer experience and even disenchantment. They are at worst open to “another way,” which may find some amplification via social media.

        I like the Rorschach image and thinking in terms of concierge. Always more to consider.

        Taylor Walsh

        August 24, 2009 at 9:46 PM

  2. I understand and absolutely agree that values-based applications for social media need to emerge sooner rather than later. And I have no doubt that we’ll
    get around to “the active exploration and application of social media tools to ‘transform’ or ‘re-engineer’ the tapestry of admitted failed business models.” We’re just not there yet.

    Those new to social media are currently under the exhilarating thrall of what these media make possible: conversation, deep listening, relationship, community building.

    Those experienced enough to view Twitter as the most recent manifestation of social media would, I suspect, rather show than tell how these media might transform the healthcare system.

    ‘Is Twitter a Fad?’ As a particular platform for interaction, possibly. As a means of experiential learning about the transformational power of conversations, I think (and hope) it proves more durable.

    Meredith Gould

    July 10, 2009 at 5:03 PM

    • Meredith: appreciate the perspective and yes I do agree that Twitter is fundamentally not a fad. I see its application at multiple levels to remedy many of the problems rampant in our health care ‘system’.

      I simply meant that if Twitter were used primarily as an opportunistic push media model, than it’s value would rapidly erode and experience an untimely death.

      I do not think that is likely due to the power Twitter is clearly demonstrating to connect dots, create real time open collaboration where it did not previously exist, and generally build the conversation beyond what was here to for considered possible in a closed container.

      Thank you for your comments!


      July 13, 2009 at 9:03 PM

  3. So, here’s what I think. (Full disclosure: I haven’t talked with a single one of the people you’re talking about, so I’m guessing based on the patterns I see, and the bits of dialog I’ve overheard.)

    What I think is that when a clueless person gets a transformational new tool, they don’t have a clue what to do with it, so they try using it for the same-old same-old.

    This goes beyond “treat everything like a nail.” I don’t have a new metaphor. But having been one of the clue-free (about Twitter) a year ago, and having never written a blog post until 20 months ago, I do know what it’s like to discover something I had no way of imagining.

    One metaphor, stolen from some Michener book: you can’t write about what swimming is like by watching it. Everything you might SAY about it would be accurate, but it couldn’t compare to what you’d say about breaking the surface of the water, pulling against it with your arms, etc. You wouldn’t have a clue what you were talking about.

    That’s imperfect in this case because I know people are looking for ROI etc and I don’t see that aspect in this metaphor.

    See, some people think social media is about publishing and being visible. It’s good for that, and making connections. But it’s also good for LISTENING. And I mean really LISTENING.

    A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed for NextGov about the White House’s social media sites, and the writer wanted to discuss whether I (or anyone outside the beltway) ever go there. I pointed out that there’s more to social media than publishing; I said people in the administration are clearly listening, and so are people in thinktanks.

    I pointed out that in the first definition of meaningful use, there wasn’t a peep about patient access to their data. I said that through Twitter and my blogs, including my post about my PHR that got me notoriety, I came to the attention of people who surely never would have met me if I’d stayed home in New Hampshire, and one thing led to another and I’ve been to three policy meetings in DC, and (surely not just due to me) patient access runs all through meaningful use.

    This is a complete manifestation of the ClueTrain Manifesto, which is now a full ten years old. I will bet you that the people you’re talking about have barely heard about it and certainly haven’t read the 95 theses. It’s remarkable that the Manifesto was written in the last century (it was visionary).

    And what the Cluetrain is about, more than anything, is conversations. Conversations are two-way.

    Get in the pool. Listen, speak authentically, and let yourself be heard.

    (Man, this is long with a lot of code…. I hope it pans out right. You should get a preview widget. :-))

    e-Patient Dave

    July 10, 2009 at 3:58 PM

    • Wow Dave; energetic is an understatement. I hear you loud and clear.

      Thanks for the affirmation of a transformational imperative amidst these immature, convergent and rapidly evolving technologies.


      July 13, 2009 at 8:55 PM

  4. Good points. Twitter and other social media platforms certainly have marketing applications, but the really exciting potential is in transforming health care delivery. Some of it is using the tools for more effective collaboration among employees; some in sharing in-depth information with patients and consumers.

    We’re hosting a symposium at Mayo Clinic in Sept. called Transform, and our Mayo Clinic Health Policy Center is engaged in the national health reform debate. Social media tools will play a huge role in both efforts.

    I think it’s natural, though, for people to look first at how tools can be used in their current work. So don’t be too hard on our #hcmktg tweeps.

    Lee Aase

    July 10, 2009 at 3:16 PM

    • Thanks Lee. My intention is to stimulate some creative thinking and get marketing folk to look beyond a push form of story telling; and mere listening for brand monitoring purposes.

      I look forward to your Transform symposium; it’s a delight to see Mayo blaze a trail in the application of tools in the social media tool bag.


      July 13, 2009 at 8:52 PM

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