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Healthcare and Social Networking: The Case for Twitter

Posted By Gonzalo Bacigalupe, Monday, September 14, 2009
Updated: Wednesday, June 1, 2011

It's all the rage - you know or else you would likely not be looking at this blog right now. You see, social networking is one way to continue to ensure that our voices are heard. There has never, in my professional life, been an opportunity as timely as now, to take advantage of social networking and engage in the national dialogue on healthcare and health reform.

Harvard Business School posted a nice article outlining social networks. For the full article, CLICK HERE.

One of the points the author makes in this article is that online social networks are most useful when they address failures in the real world. Hmmm. Failure in the real world? You see the healthcare tie in now dontcha? As the IOM stated, "the health-care delivery system is incapable of meeting the present, let alone future needs of the American public". Ah, now you see where I am going.

We are all looking for solutions to the healthcare problem. We need more evidence, and we need an outlet. We need more stories, and we need an easy way to disseminate our information.

Let's start with Twitter. Twitter is like texting, but online - and (almost) anyone can see what you have said. In 140-character messages, Twitter allows users to get their message out there as often as they would like. Being a Twitter neophyte, I am new to much of the "Twitterease", but can tell you that tweeting can have great benefit to healthcare engagement. My Twitter name is not original or witty, but I knew once I heard about Twitter I had to at least check it out.

At first, Twitter was like an old college roommate you had not seen in some time. You were comfortable (read texting), but you weren't sure how your new life would interact with their new life (read everyone reading your "tweets"). You exchange anecdotes ("Del Mar is not a bad place for lunch"), but there is something dramatically unsatisfying about this. You want to go deeper, but you're not quite sure how or what to say.

Then it dawns on you, I am passionate about healthcare, I work in healthcare, I need to know what's happening in healthcare at all times, maybe I should tweet about healthcare (WARNING - actual tweets: "In all the #healthcare debate, we cannot forget about the inclusion of mental health in the patient centered medical home"). You learn the lingo (placing # before any word means that anyone searching for the word following # will see your tweet - try it by clicking on #healthcare above). You learn how to shorten lengthy links with great websites like THIS ONE so that your long website now fits within the 140 character limit. You learn who else is out there sharing information (you follow them). You learn about software that let's you keep track of who is saying what. Once you grasp the subtle concepts of Twitter, your posts evolve (What the public thinks of evidence-based #healthcare? & one answer to provide more #evidence:

So, how does this all tie in to natioanl reform efforts? Well, I know that on Twitter, there are a ton of people, and very few of them are talking about collaborative care! I know that while not many people follow me, many people follow some of the people who follow me (you see the systems connectivity here?). I want to disseminate information on healthcare the fastest way possible. I see Twitter as one avenue for doing this.

#Intrigued? So am I!

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