Twitter, bellyflopping, and the heretical hospital

So hospitals are finding Twitter (for the uninitiated).  Thanks to Ed Bennett you can find which organizations have (and YouTube, Facebook, and blogs).  Polite golf clap, please.

Okay, that’s it.  Because it has been more of a “dip the toe to test the water” effort than a fearless jump into the cold swimming pool.  That is to be expected.  It might even be a good thing.  But using Twitter as another medium to push press releases will not lead to brand engagement (brands as Twitterers is a completely different conversation).  Remember, social media is about the conversation.  It takes two+ to tango.  Until hospitals engage in conversations (individual to individual) the effort will be largely unsuccessful.

But Twitter-like white-label internal applications hold potential to help health care personnel.  It could provide quick answers to questions that may, without such an application, go unasked.  Nurses asking nurses.  Physicians asking physicians.  Managers asking managers.  Managers managing employees.  Alerts.  Updates.  Internal news.  Nurses asking physicians asking managers asking nurses.  Or encouraging.  Or correcting.  Or improving quality and processes and collaboration.  You get the idea.  That rant could go on.

Skepticism abounds.  Expected.  It’s much easier to find reasons not to use such technology than to find reasons for its use.

Be assured there is some serious opportunity here for the heretical hospital.  An organization must allow and encourage (and implement) such technology for communication to take place.  A Toronto Globe and Mail column offers advice from Don Tapscott:

Twitter has emerged as a “powerful tool that can speed up the metabolism of an organization, keep everyone better informed and enable greater agility and responsiveness to changing conditions.”

He encourages people to experiment with it. Managers should try it out – at least to understand how it works – and give employees a chance “to self-organize and collaborate using these tools.”

Steve Prentice, president of consulting firm Bristall Morgan in Toronto adds his two cents in the same column:

He suggests companies start trying it out on an internal basis – starting from the top, with CEOs, to boost communication with staff. And companies should have a policy in place so workers understand perimeters.

Here’s to bellyflopping into the pool.  Adjusting to the coldish water happens quickly.  Though the red skin may linger for a while, the pain recedes in time.

2 thoughts on “Twitter, bellyflopping, and the heretical hospital

  1. Thank you for the polite golf clap 🙂

    I agree – hospitals are not diving in the pool, but considering the the very conservative nature of health care it’s a good start. Everything you describe in this post is possible, and positive. I think you will see things happen, but not at an Web 2.0 pace.

    In the meantime, please keep the pressure on.


  2. To me it seems that even mainstream businesses have been slow to adopt social media and applications like Twitter, so for hospitals (with entirely different business models) to dive in head first just seems unlikely. I can appreciate what you are saying though. A lot of the good case studies that exist today for brands doing well on Twitter CAN be tweaked and adjusted for a good hospital strategy. The key will be engaging with their audience, rather than simply pushing out information.

    The other end of this involves using these types of tools internally, as you highlighted. Are there any hospitals or health systems out there with private networks set up on Yammer? It seems that the info sharing component of these tools is something that could be widely received by the healthcare community, provided it has the right security measures in place.

    I too will applaud Ed Bennett and his efforts to document those in the healthcare world jumping on board and taking a swim in this new medium called social media. They will be the examples that others will operate by, so it’s good to keep track of what everyone is doing.


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