Archive for 'Twitter'

BC, MB, NB and NL lists updated

I’ve just updated the hospital social media lists for the provinces of BC, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Newfoundland.    If you know of any others to add, please let me know.

Both Eastern Health and Western Health in Newfoundland look like they’ve only just added their Twitter accounts.  Why not send them a welcome (@EasternHealthNL, @WesternHealthNL).



Making noise with social media

Today I’m pleased to present this guest post from Pat Rich (@cmaer).  Pat is the Director and Editor-in-Chief of On-line Content at the Canadian Medical Association, and a frequent public speaker on topic of healthcare and social media.

Canadian physicians and the organizations that represent them should be, and in some cases already are, using social media as another platform from which to advocate on behalf of their patients and themselves.

That was the clear conclusion of a discussion that used one of the new media platforms – a tweetup on Twitter – to discuss this very issue.

“Open dialogue also encourages trust in health care system,” was a phrase repeated by many participants in that discussion.

Physicians from within and outside Canada, health communicators and media, patient advocates and even, briefly, Ontario health minister Deb Matthews participated in the pre-arranged one hour debate on Wednesday, May 30 using the 140-character microblogging site Twitter and a prearranged virtual meeting spot (#hcsmca).

The heavy involvement by Ontario doctors in recent protests against plans by the federal government to stop providing health care to refugee claimants served as both a timely example of how physicians can use social media to advocate for a cause and also served to show how even the debate itself could be used to continue lobbying efforts.

For those unfamiliar with the intricacies of social media such as Twitter and Facebook, the entire context of the discussion – how it arose on Twitter and the format in which it was conducted must seem incomprehensible – especially with references to tweetups, hashtags etc.

But as Toronto physician Dr. Ritika Goel explained during the debate, social media are just another dimension to enhance traditional advocacy tools already in use to get the message out and reach the necessary audiences.
For instance in the recent protest in which Toronto physicians occupied offices for a brief time at Queens Park to protest the refugee policy, real-time communications including photographs from the protesters helped give new dimensions to the protest.

In addition to discussing the value to date of using social media in this campaign, participants also took the opportunity to use the Twitter discussion to begin to exchange ideas and set the stage of another protest June 18.
Much of the discussion on Wednesday focused on Twitter as the most useful tool for advocacy efforts because of its ability to reach media, politicians and others in a timely way. However, others spoke of the value of an associated Facebook page and even videos to further support lobbying efforts.

Dr. Shady Ashamala, an oncologist, spoke about his experiences and the way he was able to use Twitter effectively.

“Through the powers of twitter I have been interviewed by National Post & John Tory show, published oped in Post, and met with MoH,” he tweeted.

Use of social media channels for advocacy was acknowledged by the Canadian Medical Association (@CMA_DOCS) whichalso participated in the discussion.

“A combination of both Facebook and Twitter is ideal. We saw it with our national dialogue last year,” the CMA tweeted.

While focusing on the topic of physicians and advocacy, one participant noted patients were communicating online long before the medical profession.

The discussion on Wednesday would not have been possible without the infrastructure that has developed on Twitter over the past couple of years to bring together like-minded individuals to discuss issues. Those interested in how social media can be used to improve health care around the world have started using the hashtag (hcsm – health care social media) accompanied by an abbreviation for the region in question focus their discussions on Twitter (in the case of Canada, #hcsmca).

In Canada, the #hcsmca community has been coordinated and fostered by Toronto health communicator Colleen Young and is now a vibrant community where attention is focused on weekly one-hour discussions such as the one that took place Wednesday. Participants include many health care providers and patients and the forum also attracts participants from the U.S., Europe and other regions who exchange views in both English and French. Wednesday’s discussion was moderated by Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario communications director Ann Fuller.


Get out from behind the stacks: sharing health information with online communities

Today I’m excited to present a guest post from Colleen Young, founder of the #hcsmca community and plain language health writer. 


Medical librarians often play a key role in the patient information continuum, and yet they remain “unsung”. Kathy Kastner and I are confident social networking can help change that. So when we were invited to present to medical librarians from the Consumer Health Information Providers Interest Group (CHIPIG), we jumped at the chance.

Present? Forget it! We wanted to learn, so we made it an interactive workshop. We started by asking “Why do you want to engage with people online?” and they fired back:

  • we can be a GPS to relevant and reliable resources
  • we can encourage participatory medicine
  • we can help guide e-patients
  • we can educate healthcare professionals to become e-providers
  • we want to help interpret health information
  • we want to reach a more diverse demographic
  • because more and more physical resource centres are closing

Tellingly, the question “What social networking tools can you use?” became a comparison of hospitals’ restrictions and blocking of social media sites. Sadly, many librarians have never been able to access their hospital’s Facebook page from their workplace. Luckily, some hospitals and organizations subscribe to free flow of information – St. Mike’sCHEO and UHN to name a few. Are there others?

We wrapped up the workshop with a challenge: Think about how you can use existing social networks to engage, build, inform and learn from online communities. For example:

  • join Twitter
  • create a health librarian’s hashtag
  • search and participate in health discussions and forums
  • post on blogs
  • start your own blog
  • participate on your hospital’s Facebook page

How do you think medical librarians can use social networks to help them get out from behind the stacks?

Twitter for professional development & collaboration… aka my Twitter “aha” moment”

I was going to write a post today about the Top 10 reasons why using Twitter helps me in my job.

But then I went back and read Colleen Young’s post on “Why add #hcsmca to your tweets”, and decided that pretty much the same things apply. So I’ll suggest you read her post instead.  And I’ll add a couple of new pieces of context.

  1. When I started pulling together the social media strategy for the hospital, I was struggling to find examples of the use of social media for patient support. I found more things in one afternoon with Twitter than in one month with my old best friend, Google.
  2. I’ve met lots of incredibly knowledgeable people working through the exact same challenges I am working through.  Some have been at it longer than I have, some for less time — but both provide me with new ideas and support.
  3. I doubled my take-aways from an OHA conference on community engagement which I attended — by reading the tweets from other people at the same conference.  It was funny how they took completely different things from the same presentations.  It was kind of like borrowing some one else’s poli sci notes back in university.

I tweet for my hospital, and I tweet for myself.  I try to keep the two distinct — even though they are both work-related.

Originally I had opened my own account only as a practice ground before launching the hospital into the world of Twitter. I learned more than I expected.

But my big “aha” moment didn’t really come until I discovered #hcsmca.  If you haven’t discovered it yet, check out this link.  It is an incredible on-line community of people interested in health and social media (but not necessarily just health and social media).  I peruse the hashtag stream through Tweetdeck throughout the week, when I have time.  And I try not to miss the weekly tweetchats, Wednesdays at 1 pm.  Not all the topics on Wednesdays are completely up my alley, but I figure you need to give some to get some.  And I’ve gotten plenty.  So I regularly grab a coffee, shut my office door…and prepare to read and type fast.

Through the #hcsmca stream I’ve come across other topic hashtags that have also been interesting or useful for various projects.  So I like to think of #hcsmca as kind of a home base, from which I take lots of day trips.

There are lots of other health hashtag communities to follow, like #MDChat, #RDChat, #hcsm, #hcsmeu, #mentalhealth, #mhsm, #patientsafety… and the list is endless.  Mental health, palliative care and chronic pain all seem to have very active communities.  Oddly, I haven’t yet found “the” hashtag for kids health topics (my main area of interest).

Does anyone have a suggestion for a new hashtag for me to love?

Hearing from…the people that…we are listening to

On Monday I talked about “listening” on Twitter. It is always interesting to read tweets about your hospital because you better understand your patients’ experience.

If you’d like to see a powerful example, check out this blog from Pamela Stewart.  Pam gave birth to twins in November and little baby Hailey was in our ICU for a month. Pam regularly blogged and tweeted about the experience, posting photos along the way. 

I asked Pam’s permission to refer to her tweets as a case study, and she was kind enough to say yes. Unfortunately, I can’t send you a link to her tweets from that time period, but if you visit the blog, and scroll down to the beginning of November, you’ll get an idea for the stories she told through her tweets.   

Pam has been on Twitter since November 2009 and is a very active tweeter — sometimes tweeting a couple of times a day, and sometimes 10 or 20.  She is also an avid blogger and Facebook user.  Here is what she had to say about her social media activities: 

“I find social media a rich interactive sharing environment where not only friends and family could and would benefit from my updates, but others lesser known to me could also participate, learn, interact and offer support and information, not to mention empathy for the situations in which we found ourselves.

I also use Twitter as my ‘google’ often asking questions and getting answers or confirmation that my hunches are right via first-hand accounts and experienced responses. 

I haven’t had issues sharing my daughter’s condition online, but then, I operate on the perhaps naïve belief that the benefits are worth the risks associated with doing so.  Until I am burned, I wish to openly share and interact, and while I don’t do so ignorantly without any awareness of the issues that might arise, I do in fact ignore a number of cautionary tales and hope that it won’t happen to me.

The positive results, well….a more connected Mommy, feeling supported, loved and thought of by many while we struggled to get through. We found others via twitter and the blog who also suffered through CDH babies’ ordeals, and got incredible information and first-hand accounts to help us cope and learn what to expect – not to mention made new friends as a result.

And of course, my blog allowed me to ‘deal’ with what was happening. I find writing cathartic, and so my blog was almost a personal journal to me, allowing me to vent and express my feelings; the only difference being that my musings were being read and love and support was pouring forth as a result.”

Thank you Pam.  I really appreciate your sharing your story and answering some additional questions.  As hospitals learn more about social media, it is really useful to understand how and why our patients use it themselves.  I think we all still have a lot to figure out, and it is helpful if we talk it through.

Back in November and December when I was monitoring my hospital’s Twitter account, I couldn’t help but see Pam’s tweets.  And when, one day, I saw her tweet that her daughter was discharged from the hospital, I couldn’t help but smile and give a little cheer!

So here is an interesting question for other hospitals or healthcare groups…when you see tweets like this, do you respond with encouragement and support  or do you try to maintain a bit of a distance — both to uphold the patient’s right to privacy and to maintain appropriate clinical boundaries? 

And, if any patients happen to read this, what do you think?


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