August 22, 2009

Gary Schwitzer at the Schwitzer health news blog calls for the end of Twittering surgeries:

What mysteries of surgery will be revealed? And the worry of surgery? Maybe patients SHOULD be worried about surgery being done while TV and Twitter are going on in the background.

And regarding the “new way to keep patients’ families informed” — no thanks. Good old fashioned face-to-face talking about risks and benefits, about evidence, and about alternatives is good enough for me. Better for me than “dialogue” 140 characters at a time.

Let’s stop the live Twitter marketing, er, surgery.

I don’t want to hear details of a prostatectomy via Twitter. I don’t want to to hear about laser toenail fungus removal via Twitter.

I do want to hear more discussion about the need for real and meaningful health care reform.

The Tweets from the operating room do have a gimicky marketing feel.  But it’s a new technology and health care organizations are just starting to explore its opportunities.  Will it serve a useful purpose in the future?

Maybe.  But it’s hard to argue when at current growth rates “everyone in the US will have a Twitter account by August 22 of this year,” writes Ross Dawson at Trends in the Living Networks.

This comScore data, tracking unique U.S. visitors to Twitter, is astounding:

Twitter Trend Report

As for the health reform discussion, there are some meaningful health care reform conversations happening on Twitter.  Smart individuals who likely would have a reduced voice on the matter without such a platform are sharing their insights daily.  Start here.

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.

Twitter and Health Care

Do you know what Twitter is? (Here, read this if your answer was anything but a confident YES!)

I wish I could describe what Twitter will mean to health care, especially to health care organizations.  But I can’t. Because I don’t know.  But I have a hunch it is going to do something for health care.

So it seems appropriate for all of us to take notice of Tech Soup’s non-profit Twitter event today:

Join new media consultant and blogger, Marshall Kirkpatrick and Michaela Guerin Hackner, Director of Online Strategy at World Learning, as they dive deeper into how and why to use Twitter to benefit your nonprofit. We’ll look at more complex ways Twitter can be incorporated into your marketing strategy, help with professional development, and build your community of supporters. This is a great chance to discuss ask any further questions you have of our expert event hosts.

Here’s the link for the event.

Here’s my Twitter feed.