Tonight I watched a live stream of Health Care Social Media Canada's Tweet Up, a panel discussion by health communicators about the opportunities in implementing social media in healthcare.
As some of you may know, I use social media very often in my personal life and I am passionate about social health issues, but I am also starting to use social media as I begin my career in health communications as an intern for the Association of Ontario Health Centres.
I love what social media can do to engage patients, not just with a hospital or a community health centre, but with other patients and with their communities. It's a great way to share information and concerns, but also a great way for healthcare centres to stay attuned to the needs of the communities.
And I am enjoying this idea of healthcare social media as a patient as well. I want to know what kind of research a hospital is doing; I want to connect with other patients who have the same issues I do.
But it doesn't just happen. The attitude that "If we build it (a Twitter page), they will come" just doesn't work. What I'm most interested right now is learning how to engage people and build followers. That can be hard for an organization, I think, because there isn't necessarily the time or money to effectively operate a Twitter account. Also, I think another obstacle is that an organization Tweeting doesn't necessarily have a face. People like to talk to other PEOPLE. And it has to be interactive with @mentions and relevant, valuable link sharing.
I keep asking myself: do community members want to add hospitals and community health centres to Twitter? Do they want to "chat" with them? More importantly, do the patients and staff who could most benefit from healthcare interaction on Twitter actually even use social media? And how can we encourage people to get accounts and use them?