From Blogging to Tweeting to Facebook
There is nothing like a millenary milestone in social media to bring about reflection on just what purpose your hundreds of 140-character tweets have served. After reaching 1,000 followers on Twitter a few weeks ago, I got to thinking about how we use social media in the health care field, and why it is so pertinent today.
In Anne Ellis’ (Allergy & Immunology, Department of Medicine) Medical Grand Rounds talk1, she zeroed in on this topic. Anne points out that the use of social media in health care has changed the face of research and the way that clinicians interact with patients. Where researchers once worked in relative isolation, Anne pointed out the ease with which a researcher can find collaborators or network with peers through the various social media platforms. Knowledge translation is another benefit. Research results can be shared by the researcher, who is then directly accessible for questions and clarification. As a result, a conversation is created, instead of the traditional one-way medium of print. The researcher in turn has the ability to share their successes and see what resonates with the public.
On the patient care side, we are now seeing clinicians and hospitals alike opening the doors of communication with patients. This can form a perpetual cycle of education where both groups inform one another and provide feedback. Anne points out that there are already proven benefits: patients often gain increased understanding of their conditions and there are lowered rates of ER visits and hospitalization.1
Social media is also a powerful tool on a global health care level. Early in the Ebola outbreak, epidemiologists analyzed social media activity to make predictions about the geography of future outbreaks. “They’re not only gathering data from diseased neighborhoods and hospitals. They’re also using sources like flight data, Twitter mentions, and cellphone location services to track the disease from afar. Researchers, in short, are sifting through the detritus of mobile lives to map the spread of an unprecedented outbreak.”2
My own social media portfolio includes a twitter account (@DeanOnCampus), a blog, and as of this week, a facebook page. Each allows me to get messages out while offering varying degrees of visibility, depth and frequency. What these channels have in common, however, is their ability to spark conversation and encourage interaction.
Thanks to social media, I engage with a diversity of people, ranging from current students to alumni who graduated in the 1950s; from residents of Kingston to colleagues across the globe. And what does this broad audience want to hear? What I have seen so far is that it is our stories – challenges and successes in research, patient care, education – that keep our audience engaged, sharing, and coming back for more.
To those of you who haven’t already, I invite you to “like” me on facebook as another means to stay in touch and hear about what’s happening in the Faculty of Health Sciences. And to our faculty members and students: Content is King3. You are the source of our stories, and I encourage you to share your successes, big or small, with me and our Communications Coordinator, Jen Valberg, so that we can continue to publicize the great things happening in our faculty.
If you have any comments about social media in health care, respond to the blog, drop by the Macklem House (my door is always open), or better yet, send me a tweet or comment on facebook!