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Leading Thoughts

March 15, 2017
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SXSW: Discussing a Doctor’s Dilemma, “To Tweet or Not to Tweet”

Guest post by Pauline Ma, Senior Digital Strategist

An important part of putting patients at the center involves also considering the professional perspective. Social media has posed an interesting challenge to healthcare professionals and facilities overall, who, although they may recognize that it is “the place to be” to reach patient communities, still grapple with how to embrace what is seen as a high risk mode of communication.

In a panel at SXSW 2017 titled “Doctoring Up Social Media Advocacy,” representatives from Baylor Scott & White Health and Mayo Clinic presented their team efforts to continue pushing the boundaries of HCP adoption of social media.

Lee Aase, Director of Mayo Clinic Social Media Network (MCSMN), shared that to incentivize its staff to become fluent in the compliant use of social media—while also recognizing the time constraints of physicians’ schedules— his team offers formal social media training that is available both via in-person workshops and online training; regardless of how training is completed, participants can receive CME (Continuing Medical Education) accreditation.

Dr. Skye Clarke added her perspective as a physician on how to view the inherent risk involved with using social media, urging her peers to step outside of their comfort zones to embrace it and understand what levels of control are possible. “It’s about setting expectations- safe interactions can include sharing content, providing information… but direct dialogue with patients is where the risk really presents itself,” she said. Drawing an analogy between social media and participating in a radio interview, she added, “You can’t see the person at the other end of the line and you may not know exactly what is going on, but we need to be empowered to feel comfortable with this scenario.”

Collectively, the panelists were honest in their view of how success for HCP social media usage tends to be different from what’s considered successful from a consumer/patient standpoint. Aase asserted that it’s natural to have engagement taper off, with peak engagement usually centering around a milestone event (such as a Twitter chat). Jacob Sloane, Director of Social Media for Baylor Scott & White Health, added that while patient-HCP interactions via social have limits, there is also a lot of interest from physicians to use social media as a means of connecting with their colleagues (HCP-HCP).

Among the case studies discussed, Sloane disclosed that it took a year of preparation for Baylor to live tweet a heart transplant last year; recognizing the preparation required was just one step, but getting executive buy-in on this opportunity to break down barriers of how people view the transparency of healthcare institutions was another. Similarly, Mayo Clinic has featured the story of a face transplant patient on its social channels as a way to allow a patient who really wanted to tell his story to do so in an authentic way, in support of his sense of obligation to the patient community.

While there’s still work to be done across networks of healthcare professionals to become better accustomed to social media usage, there is great opportunity. “What’s really changed is that it used to be that there was a lot of skepticism among physicians whether social media was worthwhile and whether to be involved… now, there continues to be movement in discussing how we should smartly, strategically use these tools.” As Dr. Clarke cleverly described, “It’s time the HCP community progresses past using HIPAA as “the garlic to keep social media opportunities away.”

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