Walter van den Broek (@DrShock) summarizes the findings of a paper published in the Annals of Interval Medicine that presents a structured review of websites of 1,800 US hospitals focusing on their Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts:
* 21% use social media * More likely to be large, urban hospitals run by nonprofit, nongovernment organisations * More likely to participate in graduate medical education * Use social media to target a general audience (97%) * Provide content about the entire organization (93%) * Announce news and events (91%) * Further public relations (89%) * Promote health (90%).
Social media’s impact on the healthcare industry is greater than it’s ever been with entrepreneurs developing industry specific platforms and a cottage industry of “executive education” springing up
Social media – Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to name but a few – have been impacting healthcare for as long as they have been around. Now, instead of simply using existing social media, healthcare entrepreneurs are developing platforms designed specifically for the industry.
Smart Phone Healthcare reports on ECG Capture, “an iPhone app that is being lauded as the ‘Instagram for Heart Attacks’” that was actually inspired by the online photo-sharing and social networking service. Developed by students and faculty from the University of Virginia, ECG Capture was tested more than 1,500 times and was found to transmit vital ECG data in less than six seconds, far less than the up to two minutes traditional methods can take.
Forbes contributor Larry Husten describes ECG Capture by writing, “The iPhone app takes a photo of the ECG, reduces its size, and transmits the image over a standard cell phone network to a secure server. The image can then be viewed at the receiving hospital by physicians qualified to read an ECG.” This method of delivery, combined with drastic reduction of transmittal time, could save lives.
Facebook is also serving as inspiration to healthcare, from Wichita, KS, to Bristol in the United Kingdom. The Wichita Business Journal reports on Adam Flynn, “a physician by trade (who) is leading an effort to push Electronic Medical Solutions LLC — a company he and two other partners own — forward to help health care providers share patient information securely and in real time.”
Flynn saw the need for a system to alert healthcare providers when electronically-stored patient information is available and designed a “Priorus system (that) works like other social media sites, such as Facebook, allowing information to be posted and shared quickly.” According to The Wichita Business Journal, “The main difference is that information is more secure, and Electronic Medical Solutions does an independent verification of each user before he or she is granted access.”
Flynn’s platform mirrors that of another Facebook-inspired clinical social network reported on by The Guardian. DocCom was an idea born in 2007 when “two young trainee surgeons frustrated by the ineffective communications that restricted (their) ability to make a difference” harnessed social networking technology to develop a secure cloud-based solution exclusively for healthcare. Dr. Jon Shaw, founder of DocCom, writes in The Guardian, “The DocCom system is like Facebook, and enables clinicians to find colleagues, connect, collaborate, and share information securely. The privacy of networks is protected by identity, validation, and authentication checks for users.”
Healthcare social media consultant Symplur didn’t repurpose an existing social media technology, rather it mined Twitter and incorporated the information found in tweets to design The Healthcare Hashtag Project. The goal of The Healthcare Hashtag Project is to make “the use of healthcare social media and Twitter more accessible for the healthcare community as a whole (by) lowering the learning curve of Twitter with a database of relevant hashtags.”
According to its website, Symplur’s database of hashtags reveal where healthcare conversations are taking place and who to follow within a specialty or disease, as well as provide trending information from conferences in real-time or archive.
Other organizations are following Symplur’s lead by helping organizations learn how to use existing social media effectively. The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) reported on an NHS Employers guide for chief executives that “explores how using social media platforms can help … develop a collaborative leadership style that helps get results in the complex system of health and social care.” It lists the top five tips on how social media can help chief executives in their day-to-day jobs as:
deliberative engagementsetting, maintaining and communicating a visionconsistent communication with multiple stakeholdersnetworking with peershelping build a collaborative leadership style
Healthcare Finance News offers five social media tips specifically for hospitals courtesy of Lee Aase, director of the Center for Social Media at Mayo Clinic, who said, “Using social media may be a fairly new concept to hospitals and health organizations – hospitals, for the most part, are three to four years behind the general public – but the return on investment can be incredible. If you keep your investment really small, you keep your ROI really high.”
Aase’s five tips include keeping things simple, utilizing Twitter and Facebook, and establishing a hospital blog. Aase concludes by saying the “Mayo Clinic’s success in utilizing social media comes from its multi-platform approach in which the hospital utilizes as many social media outlets as possible.”
HealthCanal takes the impact of social media one step beyond enhancing healthcare to serving as a catalyst that “can revolutionize medicine,” writing, “Social media are often beyond the control of government, and allow citizen groups to form, share information and respond more quickly and with greater reach than ever before. With so much disaffection with modern healthcare, will healthcare too soon have its own Arab spring?”
HealthCanal concludes by writing, “No one is saying Facebook or Twitter are the solution to changing health patterns (although they might help). The opportunity we have is to learn from the success of these technologies, and to understand how we can use similar tools in healthcare.”
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