I had a dream

Earlier this month I had a dream in which the role of social media in relation to health care was clearly laid out before me.

Of course, the minute I woke up the clarity of this relationship was lost. All that remained was a sense that the ways we frame how social media tools and platforms can and should influence medicine and the delivery of health care must go beyond conceptual models we are currently using.

(And, yes, those who think I should get a life so I dream about more interesting topics are correct).

This lingering residue of the dream leaves me convinced we must stop thinking about social media platforms in relation to health care as mere extensions of traditional media and defining social media’s impact in those terms.

It has become abundantly clear that social media are not going to become significant new channels for the delivery of health care services or even health information anytime in the near future. I can still name by name among the tens of thousands of practitioners, the physicians, nurses and pharmacists who effectively use major social media channels such as Twitter and Facebook for professional purposes in Canada – and that’s after these channels have been available for a decade.

In Canada at least the language of social media is just not part of the health care professional’s lexicon.

That being said, I do believe social media are having a transformative impact on health care in ways that are more subtle and indirect.

For example, Twitter and LinkedIn are building connections between health care practitioners, researchers, pundits and patients on a global basis in ways that would have been impossible in the past. My own experiences with doctors in the Philippines and Ireland can attest to that.

And through those connections, we now have physicians and other health care providers with an empathy for patients they would not otherwise have had because they experienced these patients’ stories through blog posts, Twitter exchanges and other social media channels.

Despite the fine work done by medical futurists such as Drs. Eric Topol (@EricTopol) and Bertalan Mesko (@berci) – we cannot predict the future direction of medicine and health care because the variables, the unknowns and the complexity of interactions between these two are just too numerous to accurately map.

But I am confident that social media will be playing a role – one that is very different from what we would predict based on past experiences with other media. The details of my dream may be lost but the fading general outline of the theoretical construct for this role remains to guide me.

Having recently parted ways with the Canadian Medical Association, I now have more scope to observe this evolving nature of this interplay between social media and health.

And so, on to 2016 and the next chapter.


#hcsmca National Symposium in Vancouver: The Last Waltz


An opportunity to hear insights from two of the leading global experts on social media in health care  together on the same panel makes the upcoming National #hcsmca Symposium a ‘can’t miss’ event.

The National #hcsmca Symposium for health care and digital communication will be held in Vancouver, Feb. 24. Leaving aside for a moment the significance of the hashtag community itself and the important work to be done during the one-day meeting, both of which I will discuss in future postings, let’s talk about the glam factor.

The health care social media (hcsm) world is too young to have icons and the community itself has long shunned people who dare describe themselves as experts in the field. But arguably there are some outstanding institutions and individuals in the hcsm world. Putting two of them on the same panel at the #hcsmca symposium is, I feel, a truly significant event. I am referring to Lee Aase and Dr. Larry Chu who have both agreed to speak at the conference.

The Mayo Clinic was the first major academic institution anywhere to create a specific centre for social media in health care and expand its influence globally. Lee Aase is the articulate and influential Director of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network. For his part, Dr. Larry Chu has made Stanford University an internationally recognized leader in patient empowerment in health care with the annual Stanford Medicine X conference of which he is Executive Director.

Having both Lee and Larry on the same panel must be viewed as a coup for the #hcsmca founder and conference organizer Colleen Young as I am not aware of any other meeting that has had Lee and Larry share the podium to talk about the communities they have built.

And let’s not downplay the other members of the #hcsmca symposium panel. The peripatetic Colin Hung is a leading light in hcsm in Canada not just for his expertise in taking selfies but for his role in co-hosting the #hcldr chat and for his insights into the use of social media in health care. Isabel Jordan is a leading patient advocate in Canada for her work with the Rare Disease Foundation and will bring a critically important dimension to the panel discussion.

Read more about the #hcsmca plenary panelists.

For those of us of a certain age and rock and roll disposition, the Feb. 24 meeting can be viewed as the equivalent of The Last Waltz, the seminal film of the last concert held by The Band. It certainly has the same level of guest stars. And like The Last Waltz was certainly not the last time we have heard The Band, I do not imply this conference is the end for #hcsmca.

In two subsequent posts I will deal with other reasons I believe this symposium to be so important. (Disclaimer: I am part of the voluntary organizing committee for the conference)

Learn more about the Symposium and register today.