Every morning at 5:30 AM, I am at my computer scouring the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and other news sources for articles about health care and wellness. These articles are then summarized in 140 characters with a link to the original article and tweeted. As of today there are 3070 followers of my informal aggregated health care news service, and I hear about it if I am late or slack off on the job. My twitter community depends on me, and I depend on them.
Twitter has transformed my professional life as an independent physician executive consultant-keynoter who advises health systems and medical groups. Twitter is the main tool I use to monitor the latest developments in the world of health care delivery, payment reform, and physician integration.
I follow about 1,000 health care professionals on twitter, and I often learn about developments in real-time long before they hit the newspapers and journal articles. A few months ago, I was preparing a keynote for a Governance Institute Conference on Social Media for Hospitals and Doctors. One of the people I follow on twitter mentioned a Deloitee Touche white paper on just this subject. I looked it up and included some of their findings and recommendations in my talk (http://ow.ly/29QZy). Without my twitter community, I would probably have never seen this valuable resource.
Moving to the south is an eye-opening experience. First, there’s the friendliness of everyone; I remember the first time a stranger talked to me in the grocery store, it made me nervous. In Philadelphia, where I went to med school, anyone talking to you in the grocery store was either hitting on you or crazy. Add to that list: “or from the south.”
Then there’s the politeness factor. Kids are expected to say “yes sir” and “yes ma’am” when answering questions asked by adults. Most northern-bred transplants to the south that I’ve talked to think this is a good thing – a refreshing change from the rudeness you often get from kids.
But perhaps the most foreign thing in coming to the south is something called “Social.” Social is a manners school where kids are not only taught how to eat right at the dinner table, but also how to address members of the
opposite sex and to perform various dances with a partner. The formal training happens around 6th grade, but the talk of who will get partnered with whom is fodder for many parental discussions for several years leading up to the actual course. Parents arrange partnerships between their children – kind of like arranged marriages. My two oldest kids participated in Social (which is run by a local family), and gave it mixed reviews. We didn’t force it (although we did get calls regarding our kids’ availability), and one of them liked it enough to do it three years, while another barely tolerated one.
All of this came to mind because of a phone call I got this morning requesting an interview about social media and the medical field. How are doctors handling blogs, Twitter, and Facebook? What are the guidelines I abide by, and should the professional societies (AMA, ACP, etc) be involved it directing their members on how to use social media? The interview was particularly timely because I was working on a post that quoted some funny patient/doctor interactions, but was having second-thoughts due to confidentiality concerns. How do I quote patient interactions without making it sound like I’m making fun of them?