How to Use Social Media in Health Care – Interview with Dr. Mark Ryan

April 6, 2011
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While at the Virginia Telehealth Summit Meeting, I had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Mark Ryan speak on Social Media and Health Care.  Dr.

While at the Virginia Telehealth Summit Meeting, I had the pleasure of listening to Dr. Mark Ryan speak on Social Media and Health Care.  Dr. Ryan works at the Department of Family Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center.  He is also a member of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media Advisory Board.  Mark firmly believes in health care professionals using social media to engage and empower patients and he does a good job of explaining how to do this and why it matters.  Mark blogs at SocialMediaHealthcare and you can follow him on Twitter at @Richmonddoc.  I asked Mark to give me a short video synopsis of his presentation.

 

 

Video Transcript (by TranscriptionStar)

Joan Justice:  Hi I’m Joan Justice from HealthWorks Collective and I’m here with Mark Ryan.  We’re at the Virginia Telehealth Summit meeting and Mark just gave a talk on Social Media and Healthcare.  Mark why don’t you give us a short summary of your talk?

Mark Ryan:  Sure glad to, thank you.  The talk I gave today focused on the role that I see Social Media playing in healthcare conversations heading forward.  Take a little bit of background why I think this matters because it’s kind of natural especially for physicians to be a little bit shy about new things.  There are two patient-centered movements that are developing that I think are going to drive healthcare communications down the road; the idea of the e-patient not the electronic patient, I learned the hard way, but the engaged patient, the empowered patient et cetera, somebody who can actually be a partner in their care, who is going to join in the care and the discussion.  Coupled with the idea of what’s called health 2.0, where instead of information coming from a source high up and being filtered down to the patients’ ears for them to act on.  Instead patients can talk to physicians, physicians talk to patients to care givers to organizations and the dialogue is much more level.  The idea of the empowered patient, the activated patient and this health 2.0 collaborative nature of care makes social networks and social media tools really natural allies in communication strategies from that angle. 

 

There’s three that I think are big.  Blogs are probably the most traditional in the sense that it’s a post.  It looks like an essay or a paper.  You can allow for comments and dialogue in that setting but its more here’s my perspective and you can comment if you’d like.  It’s not as interactive.  Facebook I think is a step forward in the sense of being interactive because when you have an organizational Facebook page you can set it up to accept comments from people who are following the page.  You can engage in some dialogue on the page.  You can pass information broadly to your group of following accounts or you can send messages more precisely to people so it allows for varying levels of communication.  There are some cautions in terms of privacy which we can talk about in a moment but I thin there is a lot of value in extending messages to a network of people.  Twitter takes that one step further in the sense that on Twitter you may have hundreds or thousands of people following a certain account and any tweet, any message you send out through Twitter is received by anyone who is following you as long as they are public tweets as opposed to a private message, which means that information that comes from one source can get spread through a network of sources or network of accounts relatively quickly.  It also allows for a lot of dialogue.  

 

If I’m tweeting you, you can tweet me back, if I’m tweeting you and they hear me they can tweet us both and it allows for discussions to develop to two or three people at one time and it allows for a significant expansion of the voice and the information being provided in the discussion.  Now there are obvious cautions with Social Media.  It’s not all easy and fun.  You have to be very cautious about privacy, both your own privacy and patients’ privacy.  It is something as a physician that you do because you enjoy, because you think there is value.  It’s not reimbursed as part of healthcare services.  So you have to see the bigger picture to do it.  It’s not going to be a big money earner at this point but it really does connect you with patients in a whole different way.  It’s also a little tough as a physician; there is no real guidelines to this.  The AMA put out guidelines but I don’t think they were terribly helpful in giving physicians a sense of what would be best practices.  I suspect those guidelines are coming but they are not here yet so you’d have to be careful.  But I think if you look at the big picture; how can these techniques connect people; there is a ton of value there.  It could be a simple as I will send information out about a meeting or a lecture or a new treatment.  If I’m a public health agency I can send out information about a disease outbreak or an emergency response, for example in Japan with the tsunami.  Information could be spread rapidly in some cases globally to help with the response and the recovery assistance efforts as a result of something major that happens.  

 

You could also have an account for example, diabetes chat, which may well exist so I don’t want to take anybody’s trademark, but where you could send information to people who are following that account on self management, have you checked your sugar, did you take your insulin, here are some suggestions to live healthy.  Ways to spread that information out broadly and over time connecting with people and encouraging them to come in for care be it through a [secret] portal, be it through an office visit, if evisits and such and telehealth services are available can you get people in for care.  By engaging them in a very natural way online and then kind of bringing them in behind a secure interface for the actual definitive patient care.  I think patients are ahead of physicians on this.  I have a strong sense that patient communities are very much looking at Social Media as a way to connect with each other and physicians need to be listening and need to be adapting because I think this is the way things are going to go.

 

Joan Justice:  Thanks so much Mark.  I really appreciate that.

 

Mark Ryan:  Thank you.

 

Joan Justice:  Great talk.  

 

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