Health care, Social Networks and the Radio Call-in show

A few days ago, Phil Baumann posted “140 Health Care Uses for Twitter”, a long list of thought-provoking ideas for this tool. The list is great, but he also takes on the usual resistance to these services:

“It’s the 21st Century: let’s be imaginative, determined and innovative. Let’s be remarkable…In the health care industry there is often a fine line between caution and fear. It is the fear of change so common in health care that I hope we can overcome.”

I’ve seen this resistance many times over the past ten years, and it’s always mystified me. The objections are usually over patient privacy, HIPPA and risk management. These are important, legitimate concerns, but concerns that have been addressed by establishing codes of conduct for health care professionals to follow.

Web sites, email, text messaging, blogs, social networks, twitter and the dozens of other Internet services are, at their core, communication tools. The proper behaviors that apply to non-Internet communications also apply to them.

If it’s not appropriate to say something by phone, fax or hand-written letter, then it’s not appropriate for the open Web. The example I use with doctors is the radio call-in show. Let’s say you’re a physician being interviewed about latest treatment options for a particular condition. How do you handle callers to the show seeking medical advice? You certainly don’t diagnose or prescribe over the air. Instead you educate, discuss options and encourage the caller to seek the advice of their doctor.

How is this different from the proper way to interact on the open Web?

As John Sharp, an IT Manager at a major medical center commented in his recent post, Twitter for Health care:

“the innovation will need to be outside of the official channels with individuals as champions on new technology by demonstrating its usefulness.”

We already know how to behave; the innovators in health care will show that these tools simply extend their ability to reach, teach and help people in new ways.

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One Response to Health care, Social Networks and the Radio Call-in show

  1. I completely agree Ed, fear results in this paralysis. One of my self-imposed job duties: fight the good fight, and keep on fighting 😉

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