Equity and diversity addressed in new social media guidance for Ontario doctors

For the first time, Ontario physicians are being given advice by their regulatory body on how to use social media to support equity diversity and inclusiveness (EDI).

The guidance is contained in a companion document to a new policy on social media published last month by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CSPO). The new policy puts an emphasis on preventing conduct on social media that could harm the public’s trust in individual physicians and the profession especially the publication of misinformation.

The updated CPSO policy and companion materials show the regulatory body continues to keep pace with the current social media environment and also drops what I saw as some of the more controversial aspects that were contained in draft materials published a year ago as detailed in an earlier blog post. The reference to physicians swearing on social media as an example of disruptive behavior has been dropped. Also dropped is advice for physicians to maintain separate professional and personal accounts.

The new CPSO policy stresses the need for physicians to act professionally on social media by not posting misinformation and only posting information that is “verifiable and supported by available evidence and science.” The policy also acknowledges the important role physicians have in advocacy and states “while advocacy may sometimes lead to disagreement or conflict with others, physicians must continue to conduct themselves in a professional manner while using social media for advocacy.”

The new policy places an emphasis on protecting patient information and not sharing individual patient information without very clear, explicit consent from the patient. The policy also states physicians must refrain from seeking out a patient’s health information online without patient consent. However, the policy details several exceptions including if the information is necessary for providing health care or if accurate or complete information cannot be obtained from the patient and obtained in a timely manner.

The new section on EDI states “It is also important for physicians to be aware that their conduct on social media (including liking, sharing, or commenting on other content) may be visible to others and that unprofessional comments and behaviour (which can be overt, or more subtle, like microaggressions) have the potential to make others feel marginalized and impact their feelings of safety and trust, and potentially impact patients’ willingness to access care.” The section references cultural safety and humility and says the CPSO supports physicians “striving to foster” an inclusive environment.

The advisory document notes physicians may choose to keep professional and personal accounts on social media but acknowledges the professional and personal are not always easily separated and says it is important that physicians act professionally in both contexts.

In addition to the specific reference to advocacy in the new policy, the CSPO also addresses this at more length in the companion document. For example, it notes that “if you practise in an institutional setting, you may be subject to their policies or guidelines around social media use. Some institutions may require express permission before engaging in advocacy activities on social media that could be interpreted as directly involving them.” When advocacy efforts on social media could impair a physician’s ability to deliver quality care or collaborate with others, the CPSO says the physician should consider whether their advocacy activities “are in fact in the best interests of patients and the public.”

The College also recognizes physicians can experiencing personal attacks or harassment online due to their advocacy activities and supplies a link to a list of health and wellness resources as well as urging physicians to be aware of privacy controls and reporting mechanisms they can use.

Misinformation on social media threatens healthcare reform: @CMA_Docs president

Dr. Katharine Smart

Widespread dissemination of misinformation about healthcare on social media is threatening the capacity of Canadians to transform and improve how healthcare is delivered.

That is why Canadian physicians have an obligation and not an option to be active on social media platforms.

This statement was made by Canadian Medical Association (@CMA_Docs) President Dr. Katharine Smart (@KatharineSmart) at the Canadian Conference on Physician Leaders held recently in-person in Toronto. It represents one of the most high profile and strongest statements supporting physician involvement on social media made to date in Canada.

It was probably no coincidence that the #CCPL2022 hashtag was used extensively by physicians and others throughout the two-day meeting – and beyond – with both those in attendance and many others remotely commenting on and retweeting proceedings.

In her address, Dr. Smart singled out as an emerging threat to healthcare “the ineffectiveness of traditional communication tactics in a social media world, the rising threat of misinformation, a loss of trust with experts, and increasing polarization even amongst experts themselves.” She added “I think these issues threaten not only health, but pose fundamental threats to our democracy and civil discourse.”

Dr. Smart asked how physician leaders and physician organizations can compete in this new environment. “Our traditional press conferences are really no match for a well done Tiktoc video or Instagram story. Social media has become the source of information and truth for many people, youth and adults.”

“One of the lessons we’ve learned through the pandemic has been around the critical role of health communication, how much we struggled to do well, and how powerful the misinformation movement can be,” she continued.

“I think we need to recognise that social media is where we’ve evolved in terms of our community gatherings or town halls and how we distribute information and communicate with each other. If we don’t evolve and show a presence on social media to educate and impart our knowledge about health, medicine, science to the public, and even things about the health system itself, other less qualified non medical individuals will.” Dr. Smart said the CMA has made a conscious effort as part of its modernization process to become more involved and engaged on social media and has a result garners millions of impressions monly across its social media platforms.

However, with more physicians and other healthcare providers speaking out and advocating on social media, Dr. Smart acknowledged the number of personal attacks and abuse has risen. At the CCPL last year, past CMA president Dr. Gigi Osler and gun control advocate Dr. Najma Ahmed gave a workshop on just how to deal with this abuse.

Dr. Smart showed a word map demonstrating it is the most emotive words on Twitter that create the most engagement. “I believe that this is driving polarization and can negatively impact information sharing and discourse. People that are yelling are often getting the most attention and the people that actually have productive things to say … don’t always stand out in these spaces.”

She told physicians that “angry advocacy” is not the way to go and that physicians must work to counter the current “infodemic” that “threatens to disrupt and undermine our work.”

Tweets signaled COVID-19 outbreaks

Twitter and other social media platforms can serve as powerful tools to help predict outbreaks of both infectious and non-infectious diseases and should be viewed as more than just a breeding ground for misinformation.

This was recently confirmed in work by Gina Debogovich, senior director at the United Health Group and Dr. Danita Kiser (PhD) at Optum which they discussed at a session during last week’s Health Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) meeting in Orlando, FL.

Their assessment of several million US tweets in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, showed that information contained in tweets about COVID-10 was 7-10 days ahead of public case data.

The work of Debogovich and Dr. Kiser was based on the hypothesis that “social media conversations may contain insights into COVID prevalence and may be a leading indicator for cases and hospitalization.” Debogovich said Twitter was chosen as the social media platform to evaluate because meta-data with the tweets often contains the geographic location of the tweet.

In their study, natural language process techniques were used to identify COVID-19 related tweets and classify them into different categories. Statistical analysis and machine learning was then used to determine if the tweets were leading indicators of COVID-19 spread in a community.

In their initial work,  more than 15,000 geo-located tweets that contained either an address or the latitude and longitude of the tweeter were hand classified into 7 primary categories and further divided by proximity or no proximity.

The categories used were:

  • Confirmed (the tweet stated the subject had or believe they had COVID-19)
  • Showing symptoms (the tweet indicated the subject had symptoms of COVID-19)
  • Perished (subject had died as a result of COVID-19)
  • Recovered
  • Quarantine (subject was in quarantine)
  • News (usually about a news article related to COVID-19)
  • Hoax (message contained misinformation)

Tweets were further categorized by whether they contained location data or not.

Having developed the categories, Debogovich and Dr. Kiser then assessed 100 million tweets posted from February 2020 to February 2021. They found that in the first phases of the pandemic public case data lagged tweets by 7-10 days on average. However this was reduced to 2 days in second wave of pandemic.

As a result of these findings, Debogovich and Dr. Kiser concluded that Twitter data could be useful for predicting future COVID-19 cases but the accuracy depended on the dynamics of the pandemic and tweets were most beneficial during times in which cases were rising or trending up.

Waste-water analysis and other tools are helpful in predicting infectious disease outbreaks but digital surveillance could be more effective in predicting spikes in symptoms, said Debogovich.

The study confirms early research done during Twitter’s infancy in which researchers showed how tweets could be used to predict outbreaks of influenza and other diseases. During the presentation, Debogovich said the rapid analysis of the huge amounts of data available on social media platforms remain underutilized for research and public health purposes. Mining data from social media is “hard work” and complex but could be the next big thing in predicting disease outbreaks, she concluded.

Being a doctor on Twitter in 2021

Being a doctor on Twitter in 2021 meant trying to provide the most accurate and timely information possible regarding COVID-19 and the pandemic. But it also meant facing an unprecedented number of personal insults and threats from bullies, bots, anti-vaxxers and others unhappy with what the science indicated.

If you are the president of the Canadian Medical Association (@CMA_Docs), a pediatrician and mother (@katharinesmart) it also meant taking a high profile stance on the value of vaccinations for children and so being called a child-abuser and other names as a result. It also meant being stalked.

Also at the end of 2021, two other prominent COVID-19 physician communicators (@NaheedDosani and @NathanStall) found themselves facing a bounty for urging responsible action in the face of the pandemic.

All of these attacks have resulted in an unprecedented outpouring of support from both other physicians and the rest of the Twitter community as well as support for legislative initiatives to protect doctors and other healthcare providers from abuse both on Twitter and other forms of social media and from those protesting in front of hospitals and other healthcare settings. This reinforced the perspective that Twitter can offer physicians strong supportive communities when they need them.

Being a doctor on Twitter in 2021 meant sharing the good and bad moments in your life from births, marriages and deaths to personal mishaps such as broken ribs (get well soon @DrJenGunter), unfortunate incidents involving racial abuse when you and your partner try and occupy your rental property in Arizona (@DrMakokis) or just the sheer weight of exhaustion and frustration from trying to treat COVID-19 patients with often inadequate resourcing. It also meant making a personal decision about whether you wanted to

  •  present a well-rounded profile to the Twitter world as both a professional and as a person.
  •  maintain two separate Twitter accounts – one personal and one professional (as at least one regulatory College in Canada is now recommending and which virtually no physician that I know does)
  • confine yourself strictly to commenting on professional issues.

While some physicians found Twitter a particularly powerful medium for sharing their stories in broad strokes or as focused anecdotes others such as @EricTopol argued that effective story telling was not possible on social media given the limitations of the platforms. Some prominent and generally well-respected physicians learned the hard way in 2021 how just one Tweet and its 240 character limit can generate a huge Twitter storm of opposition and critical comment after being misinterpreted.

Being a doctor on Twitter in 2021 meant advocating for your patients and especially populations such as the homeless who may not be as well-equipped to advocate for themselves. It means speaking out for Indigenous populations, racialized communities and those in long-term care homes who often bore the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic especially in the early stages of the pandemic. It also meant amplifying the voices of powerful patient advocates (such as @suerobinyvr) who were already present on Twitter.

For others it meant to continuing to speak out about uncomfortable issues for the profession such as the ongoing structured racism or sexism in medicine or to maintain unpopular perspectives not held by the majority of the profession.

For some physicians (@NaheedDosani @Sgabrie) it meant exploring a new element of Twitter (Twitter Spaces) to expand the scope and audience for this advocacy.

Being a doctor on Twitter in 2021 meant using pictures, memes and inspirational quotes to try and maintain the morale and well-being of your colleagues.

It also meant sharing powerful professional experiences and beautiful pictures so a those posted by public health and preventive medicine resident @yipengGe from his elective rotation in Iqaluit.

Being a doctor on Twitter in 2021 meant using the platform to communicate the already powerful messages you were already relaying so effectively in prominent newspapers and books (@nilikm and  @GillianHortonMD) or in radio broadcasts (@NightShiftMD). It also meant amplifying those messages by posting more personal reflections on what had been said elsewhere.

Being a doctor on Twitter in 2021 meant continuing to foster productive conversations between the profession using the platform (the regular weekly tweetchat #healthxph in the Philippines continues to stand out in this regard) or to provide a consistently thoughful physician voice on more general platforms (thinking of you, @gailyentabeck and #hcldr). It also meant continuing to fill a valuable role in live tweeting from what proved to largely be virtual medical conferences in 2021 – although none will probably ever being able to match the productivity of @rheum_cat and the volume of her tweeting at #ACR21.

Being a doctor on Twitter in 2021 meant continuing to explore the value of Twitter and other social media platforms in medicine and in advancing this knowledge in academic publications. As always @TchanMD from McMaster continues to excel in this regard from a Canadian perspective.

Being a doctor on Twitter in 2021 meant, for some, choosing not to be on Twitter any more and to either confine oneself to other social media platforms (especially LinkedIn) or avoid social media altogether because of the growing toxic nature of the platform. In fact I saw more physicians leave Twitter in 2021, some temporarily others for good, for this reason. It’s a view I can totally appreciate.

For those of you who choose to stay, I believe 2022 will show Twitter to be just as rewarding, frustrating and generally cantankerous as ever.

Lead illustration courtesy of The Cut

The (healthcare) social CEO: Now more than ever

SocialCEO

The social CEO: Now More Than Ever

Social media can make you a stronger healthcare leader – especially in times of crisis such as the current #COVID-19 pandemic.

One need only look to individuals such as @DrJoshuaTepper, the current president and CEO of North York General Hospital and former CEO of Health Quality Ontario. Over the past few years, Tepper has shown seemingly effortlessly how he uses Twitter to engage with different audiences, espouse views that matter to him, and amplify messages from the organizations which he is represents.

But Tepper and others like him continue to be the minority in the Canadian healthcare system.

Which is why Damian Corbet’s book The Social Ceo: How Social Media Can Make You A Stronger Leader (@TheSocialCsuite) released last year is particularly relevant. In the book, Corbet provides strategies and techniques leaders can use to develop and maintain strong social media platforms.

Corbet also provides a number of first person case studies of CEOs in various industries who have harnessed social media to advance their agendas. For the healthcare sector, Corbet could not have chosen a better voice than that of Julia Hanigsberg (@Hanigsberg), the President and CEO of Holland Bloorview (@hbkidshospital) in Toronto.

As with Tepper, Hanigsberg, has proven adept at using social media and especially Twitter to develop a respected presence and expand her role as CEO to incorporate new communications channels.

As she writes in the book, “my approach has been to use social media as an extension of transparency in my leadership … If you imagine the quintessential open-door leadership approach, how much more effective is it if that door is open to all of Twitter?”

Hanigsberg

CEOs such as Hanigsberg and Tepper have been able to use their strong presence on Twitter and other social media platforms to become trusted and credible voices when it comes to COVID-19.  It is easy to find many other good examples in Canada such as @AlexMunter, the president and CEO of the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and relative neophyte social media presence @BrucePSquires, the President of McMaster Children’s Hospital.

In national or provincial healthcare organizations examples again are easy to find, such as @DorisGrinspun, CEO of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario and @EGruenwoldt, President and CEO of Children’s Healthcare Canada.

They all bring an an authentic presence, transparency, and credibility to the discussions taking place.

But social media is not for all healthcare CEOs.

If it does not fit your personal style and if you do not have the support of a strong communications team, social media can be at best an onerous additional burden and at worst a public relations nightmare. Communications staff can help with providing strategic guidance and monitoring of social media accounts but those CEOs who abdicate their personal accounts totally to the control over others are missing the point, big time.

It needs particular skills and presence to be willing to put yourself forward on social media and to be the target of every member of the public (and/or staff) who are unhappy about your particular organization. Also, in many Canadian organizations and associations, the CEO is not the official spokesperson for the group and that often precludes them having a strong professional role on social.

Some healthcare organizations such as Michael Garron Hospital in Toronto took an organized approach some years ago and trained the C-Suite as a unit on how to use social media effectively. This paid off with individuals such as hospital VP @IreneAndress continuing to use Twitter to great advantage.

However, many healthcare organizations continue to struggle to develop comprehensive social media strategies and find a fit for the CEO in those strategies.

After reading Corbet’s book I quickly roughed up a list of pros and cons for healthcare CEO involvement on social media:

Why the CEO should be on social.

  • Raise profile of CEO as chief spokesperson for the organization
  • Amplify work of the organization
  • Provide a more personalized approach
  • Permits more engagement with others than corporate account
  • Potential to increase credibility of the organization
  • Provide ability to network/connect with other senior-level health care administrators
  • Allows use of other social strategies such as tweet chats
  • “Go where you stakeholders/constituents are”

Challenges/drawbacks

  • Needs personal attention to be effective (e.g. posts not done by corporate staff)
  • Can be time consuming to monitor and manage
  • Can open CEO to attacks and unpleasant interactions
  • Can raise unreasonable expectations from those expecting direct action from CEO
  • May not match personal style/approach of CEO

As noted above, social media is not for all CEOs.

But for those or are interested and looking for a handy primer, The Social CEO is a good, current primer.

Help for the helpers: #Covidwellness tips

Emily

Last Thursday evening, a small but dedicated group participated in a #COVIDWellness tweetchat and shared tips and advice for supporting healthcare providers during the current COVID19 pandemic.

Organized by @ChildHealthCan, the chat was co-hosted by @BrucePSquires, president of McMaster Children’s Hospital, @DrGigiOsler, past-president of @CMA_DOCS, and @KathyReid5, nursing leader at Stollery Children’s Hospital.

The hosts and others shared not only useful information on dealing with today’s situation but also for one hour created a positive community

Much of the information provided reinforced what other credible individuals have been saying about maintaining good mental and physical health during this time while striving to stay safe but connected.

A small sampling from the chat follows:

chat10

chat1

chat2

chat3

chat4

chat5

chat6

chat8

Twitter in the Age of #COVID19

Coronavirus-CDC

In this the year of Our Lord 2020 we truly are seeing the power of Twitter and social media.

As individuals around the world struggle to cope with physical distancing and social isolation, Twitter and other mainstream social media channels have become major conduits for information and networking and are arguably strengthening many people’s mental health by helping ward off isolation.

Just as the spread of COVID-19 has been enabled by our global culture and ability to span the world in hours, so the global reach of social media has enabled people to stay in contact and informed even as they are confined to their homes. And COVID-19 is very definitely where it is at right now. Ninety-five percent if not more of the tweets now appearing in my feed from the 4,000 plus people I follow (admittedly mainly health-care related), deal with COVID-19 issues.

However, it is well worth remembering that Twitter and the like are just media platforms and are neither inherently good nor bad. And so, along with enabling better communications and interactions, social media platforms are once again showing with the COVID-19 pandemic how easy it is to transmit and amplify erroneous and downright dangerous information.

Another challenge is the asynchronous, ominpresent, yet selective nature of social media. Tweets are appearing in my feed that first appeared 3-4, if not more days ago – not a good thing given the fast-moving nature of what we understand about this pandemic. Information about outbreaks, number of cases, and availability of badly needed health care supplies needs to be timely to be useful and that is often not the case with what is appearing on social media.

Also, tweets are appearing from around the world – another challenge for those of us in countries such as Canada where public health measures and other badly needed information is determined at the provincial level. Much of what we are seeing is not relevant to our own situation and can be misleading.

Social media such as Twitter allow us to choose who we follow. This selection bias means we are not getting the whole picture and can be misled about what is going on in the world around us – another critical failing if we are isolated at home. The good news is that in a stream such as mine which is so heavily health-care focused, many good people are retweeting solid scientific evidence or opinion from others I am not following directly. Unfortunately, I am sure people in other echo chambers are having poor or inaccurate information amplified. And for those of us who spend their time predominately on social media and dealing with health care in Canada we need to remember the vast majority of physicians and other health care professionals have neither the time nor interest in social media, thereby limiting our ability to view what they are contributing.

Yet, I believe my Twitter worldview to be fairly balanced. For every picture of people ignoring social distancing and filling the beaches of Sydney, Australia or Clearwater, Florida there are pictures of dedicated health care workers going about their work.

Unfortunately the unprecedented situation we find ourselves facing this pandemic have caused some to forget the basic principles of being on social media – being transparent, accurate and respectful: And in the case of health care, respecting patient privacy and confidentiality especially if that person is a physician or healthcare worker infected as a result of their work.

With social media potentially being the window on the world for many of us for some time to come those principles of human conduct which have served us so well in other avenues of life should remain top of mind.

(Image from the CDC)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Patient portals – windows to health care

Tweetchat_Patient_Portals_Graphic

Patient portals that offer the ability to access information from a hospital or physician provide a valuable window to at least part of a person’s health and care. But such portals remain unavailable to many and often fall short of being comprehensive.

Those were conclusions that could be drawn from a lively chat on Twitter that I helped coordinate on behalf of Health Quality Ontario (HQO) on March 20. Hosted by HQO Interim President and CEO Anna Greenberg (@AnnaGreenbergON) and respected patient advisor Alies Maybee (@amaybee), at #HQOchat the discussion saw more than 500 tweets from almost 100 participants over the course of an hour.

However, that’s just part of the story as tweets on the topic continue to be seen on the @HQOntario Twitter account days after the chat. The topic of configuring patient portals also promoted a lively exchange between a largely Ontario-based group of participants on Twitter earlier this year.

Greenberg and Maybee set the stage for the chat in a background blog that also framed the debate by asking about people’s experiences with portals, the scope of portals and their functionality. The portal discussion inevitably overlapped a discussion on electronic access to one’s health record even though this is often not a function of hospital-based portals.

The chat involved many patients, physicians, representatives from one of largest patient portals in the province (@MyUHNPatientPortal), Canada Health Infoway (@Infoway), other senior HQO staff, and others including representatives of quality care organizations and the @MyOpenNotes initiative.

As Ontario currently has no province-wide patient portal initiative (unlike Quebec, Nova Scotia and Alberta) it was not surprising that patients described a wide range of experiences with the portals. While some people talked of having up to six different portals, others said they had no access to such a portal.

Many expressed thanks for having access to what a patient portal has to offer. One of the most positively received tweets came from a specialist at the hepatology clinic at UHN who stated:

Our staff have embraced it (clinicians and support staff): fewer calls: patients happier: less printing of results for patients: patients pointing out errors. Overall very positive

Others felt the experience fell short of expectations. To quote one comment:

I have had access to a patient portal and while the concept is very exciting, I have been disappointed with the reality. The patient portal I have used has a limited # of parts of my record and lacks notes and referrals etc. so it is not a complete picture 

And Maybee commented:

I found that the hospital needs to update appointments right away. I went for an appointment listed on the portal, waited 45 mins until someone told me “Oh, that was cancelled but we are behind a lot on updating the portal.” Way to discourage us! 

The chat closed with a discussion of whether patients should be able to access their own laboratory or other test results before these have been discussed with their physician and the response was – with a few dissenters and caveats – an overwhelming ‘yes’. The same was true on the issue of whether patients should have access to their physician’s notes.

Dr. Irfan Dhalla (@IrfanDhalla), a general internist and VP at HQO commented:

Good news is that overwhelming majority of physicians are supportive of patients having access to their own notes. Some express nervousness, but usually this goes away after some experience.

It is clear that recent efforts to improve the availability and functionality of patient portals are paying dividends. But while they are useful tools, these portals managed by hospitals, clinics or medical record vendors are no answer for patients who seek a complete record of their health and care that they control.

And as another Canadian-lead discussion on Twitter a week ago makes quite clear, the numerous barriers facing patients who want to easily correct errors in their own medical record show how far the culture and environment need to change to truly make the new digital health environment patient-centred.

As Maybee commented:

We need to see the great stuff in portals all in one place — perhaps an aggregator?

To which another participant commented:

Bingo – I’m going to go one step further (sorry) but what I really want is one record, regardless of hospital, organization or discipline. If I go to 6 hospitals, I want to have a portal with the complete picture and full record. Call me a dreamer! 

And two other comments which summarize this point:

Allow patients to control their own data – we’ve spoken to thousands that want to share and export to their circle of care. System level change takes time re: connectivity, but empowering patients to share can be done sooner. Patient control = patient centred. 

While most of Canada have no access, some of us here in the know have several portals. That’s great! And it’s confusing. With @access2022 & @infoway talking to vendors now about creating the #digitalhealth highway for HC data in Canada we need #interoperability #HQOChat

 

 

Something is happening here … #HIMSSEurope18

Sitges1

You try so hard but you don’t understand
Just what you will say when you get home
Because something is happening here but you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones?

                                             Ballad of a Thin Man: Bob Dylan

The problem with a Health Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) meeting – any HIMSS meeting – is that there is so much going on at one time that it is impossible to craft it into one coherent narrative.

That is the challenge with HIMSS Europe 18 currently underway here in Sitges near Barcelona, Spain as hundreds gather to discuss the latest in digital health and health information technology and to network, network, network. And it’s doubly challenging as this meeting is being held in conjunction with Health 2.0, the health innovation conference recently purchased by HIMSS.

(Now wait a minute, wait a minute you say – you get to go all the way to a resort hotel in Spain, with a clothing optional beach within 5 minutes walk, where they serve wine at the some conference buffet luncheons, only to cop out and say you can’t write coherently about it. Patience please).

As a social media ambassador here and lively live tweeter I can supply you with an endless number of insightful tweets or sound bites from just the first 24 hours. For example:

“We have gone from a paper world to a digital world in a short period of time”: Dr. Robert Wachter

“There is a lot of tokenism in health(care) innovation, and some think you can change or even fix health(care) overnight. It is not about technology, nor about the process, it is about changing the culture of an organization”: Lucien Engelen

“Pay patients and value them as the experts that they are”: Marie Ennis-O’Connor

But while I think these tweets provide a useful running commentary of the meeting they – and even the twin meeting hashtags #HIMSSEurope18 and #health2con – provide only a partial and episodic picture of what is going on.

Individual presentations or sessions are also noteworthy. For instance I have never heard as passionate a presentation supporting the role of nurses in the future digital world as that given by Angelien Seiben and Shawna Butler from Radboud University Medical Center. And Dr. Jordi Sorreno Pons a GP and CEO of the Universal Doctor app jammed so many ideas into his 8 minute presentation on future developments in medical innovation that it was almost incomprehensible.

The big subject areas – patient engagement, big data, artificial intelligence – are all given their own sessions or streams here.  But in the time available they tend to focus on specific projects or regional initiatives.

Certain things have changed from HIMSS or eHealth meetings held 15 or 20 years ago. The digitization of patient records is now a reality and not a vision and patients are not only discussed but included (#patientsincluded) as presenters in their own right.

But as to what all of this means for the future of digital health in Europe or worldwide – we are too much in the moment to have a clear picture given the complex nature of health systems and the endless number of variables that impact such systems.

For the numerous people here with an start-up to promote or an niche application to profile the meeting is a far simpler place.

(This is the first of what we hope will be a series of posts from Sitges)

#Ehealth2018: Beyond the keynotes

ehealth2018_ambassador_badge

Ehealth 2018 to be held in Vancouver, May 27-30 continues to occupy an unchallenged position as Canada’s premier conference dealing with health information technology (IT) and digital health.

Now in its 18th year, the conference shines a light on where Canada stands when it comes to the introduction and implementation of new digital health technologies.

While the keynote speakers at the meeting provide the ‘wow factor’ for those in attendance it is the smaller focused concurrent sessions where one can get a truer sense of what is really going on in research and at the front-lines of care.

A brief review of the sessions and presentations on offer at e-Health 2018 offers some intriguing hints of how the health IT landscape is evolving. Bear in mind the caveat that session titles can often be misleading and relying on titles rather the entire abstracts can often lead – as many conference delegates have learned to their sorrow – to deep disappointment when the talk does not live up to expectations.

This year, even the session headings at e-Health 2018 are more helpful as they tend to be more explicit than most. For example, there is a session titled not just ‘Telehealth’ but “Geography and Telehealth: It’s Not Always Distance”. However, beware over-imaginative session copywriters who can come up with a title such as “Labs, Drugs and Rock and Roll”.

From the session headings it is clear that top-of-mind IT and digital topics such as block chain, telehealth and big data are high on the Canadian agenda this year just as they are south of the border.

Individual presentation headings – as always – range from the meaninglessly vague to the intriguing. It’s worth taking a look at the presenters as well, as this can point to some talks worth bookmarking.

For instance, Dr. Jeremy Theal from North York General Hospital, a leader in computerized physician order entry in Canada is scheduled to talk about “A Novel Provincial Approach to Implementing Advanced Hospital Information Systems”. Long-time digital health stalwart Glenn Lanteigne will be giving a talk titled “Blockchain in Healthcare – Separating the hype from reality,” and another noteworthy presenter will be eConsult pioneer Dr. Erin Keely talking about “Provider Experience – the Fourth Aim of Innovation in Healthcare Technology”.
With patient-centred care once again at the forefront there are also several presentations that seem to merit a look including these two:

  • The Secret is Out: Achieving High Patient Portal Adoption – Selina Brudnicki, University Health Network.
  • Engaged Patients Are Driving Healthcare Innovation and Efficiency – Shannon Malovec, TELUS Health.

As noted above, it is always buyer beware when it comes to picking presentations by title alone but for those of us interested in the use of social media in health care it might be difficult to resist Nishila Mehta’s scheduled presentation on “Data Mining Twitter to Detect Prescribing Cascades: A New Concept.”

However, as everyone has their own concerns and interests it is worth combing the program carefully to find those presentations that provide insights and new information for you personally.