2013: Three videos and a commentary


Living on Twitter in 2013 has produced the usual mixed bag of insights and feelings – the enjoyment and intellectual stimulation of interacting with old and new acquaintances globally and live tweeting numerous conferences tempered by the frustrations of seeing the use of social media continue to make limited penetration into the physician community and health care system.

As with all journalists at this time of year, the temptation to try and summarize and catagorize the year into a compilation or list is impossible to deny. However, in the interests of blogging brevity I will limit my list to just three videos and one commentary that I think stand out as providing perspectives of how social media and new technologies can or should shape the Canadian health care system.

            * First of note is Dr. Ali Jalali’s (@AliRJalali) short video produced for the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada explaining why physicians should consider using social media professionally.  A professor of anatomy at teaching chair at the University of Ottawa, Dr. Jalali has been in the forefront of the noticeable attentions paid to the role of social media in medical education in Canada this year. I think the video does for Canada what Dr. Farris Timini, a Mayo Clinic cardiologist did for the use a couple of years ago when he produced a video providing an articulate rationale for the use of social media by physicians in that country.

            * The second video does not have the production of values of the first, but is a thoughtful and comprehensive explanation of how new media tools can reshape the delivery of health care in Canada. The video just shows British Columbia family physician Dr. Eric Cadesky (@drcadesky) addressing an arthritis conference in Vancouver and focuses on one video conferencing tool available in that provice. However, Dr. Cadesky using the time well to express his passion and insights into how new technologies will transform the doctor/patient relationship.

            * The third video – a patient education presentation on flatulence – serves to highlight the whole ongoing series of excellent videos produced by Toronto family physician Dr. Mike Evans (@docmikeevants) and the skilled team of graphic designers and artists he works with. Dr. Evans and the team are leading the way in using the “white boarding” video technique that have taken patient education to a new level. The flatulence video is just one of the latest in a series that has included dealing with issues such as opioids, IBD and concussion. Internationally, Dr. Evans is showing what being a physician as communicator really means.

            * I have written about the commentary before (‘Out of Bounds‘) but I feel it is so important that it needs to be singled out again. In their August editorial in JAMA (Social Media and Physicians’ Online Identity Crisis” Aug. 14 v.310, no: 6, 581-582) authors  Matthew DeCamp, Thomas Koenig and Margaret Chisolm (@whole_patients) confront and rebutt the whole concept of physicians maintaining a false boundary between professional and personal life on social media. The authors provide a succinct and elegant suggestion has to how doctors should act on social media that is fully in keeping with how.Given how the boundary issue continues to reoccur and intimidate physicians interested in using tools such as Twitter I really feel this commentary warrants more attention.

So – three videos and a commentary. Hugely inadequate for encapsulating all of the vibrant conversations about health care that  are going on in the social media space in 2013 – but hopefully an appetizing morsel for end-of-year digestion.


#hcsmca – Is yesterday’s future ready for tomorrow?


The first #hcsmca  chat I remember being actively involved in took place on Jan. 19, 2011. Since that time I have been involved in a number of formal chats and ongoing conversations on #hcsmca almost continuously – and some might add even excessively.

Since Colleen Young started #hcsmca in September, 2010, the community has touched more than 8000 people (i.e. they have used the hcsmca hashtag) and contributed to arguably some of the most intelligent conversations occurring on Twitter with respect to the use of social media in health care. It has also helped introduce countless physicians, health care publicists and just plain folks with an interest to the world of health care and social media.

The virtual community has even become the subject of academic discourse with the presentation in London in September and then subsequent publication in the Journal of Internet Medical Research of work by Drs. Anatoliy Gruzd and Caroline Haythornthwaite on enabling community through social media

But at this very pinnacle of its success I have noticed something disconcerting – the number of participants in the weekly chats that make up the core of #hcsmca have dwindled sometimes alarmingly and the ongoing flow of knowledge represented by tweets referencing #hcsmca also seem to be in decline.

These signals have taken place at a time when the practical if not spiritual heart of #hcsmca, Colleen herself has taken on new responsibilities and divested herself somewhat of daily curation of the site.

#hcsmca has always been championed as a truly democratic virtual community where the moderation of weekly chats has been shared by a very large group of stalwart supporters. But some of those supporters are sometimes not as visible on #hcsmca today.

These observations raise certain critical questions about #hcsmca specifically and Twitter-based virtual communities in general

  • Does the format of #hcsmca in 2013 still meet the needs of its members
  • Has the use of social media in health care reached such a level of maturity that a virtual meeting place to educate people is no longer necessary
  • Is it realistic to expect that altruism alone can keep a virtual community going indefinitely

I raise these questions with the hopes that the #hcsmca will provide answers that I personally don’t have – but I do believe answers must be found if #hcsmca is going to continue to fluorish