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A Smart Approach To Medicine And Social Media

Posted on August 29, 2012 I Written By

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

It’s always a pleasure to touch base with the thoughtful blog  (33 Charts) written by pediatric gastroenterologist Dr. Bryan Vartabedian. This time, I caught a piece on how Dr. Vartabedian handles social media communication with patients, and I thought it was well worth a share.

While your mileage may vary, here’s some key ways Dr. Vartabedian handles medical contact online with consumers:

* He never answers patient-specific questions from strangers

As he notes, people generally ask two kinds of questions, patient-specific and non-patient specific. While he’s glad to answer general questions, he never answers patient-specific ones from strangers, as it could be construed that he’s created a professional relationship with the person asking the question.

* He guides patients he’s treating offline

If an existing patient messages Dr. Vartabedian, he messages back that he’d be happy to do a phone call. He then addresses their concern via phone, while explaining to patients how both he and they could face serious privacy issues if too much comes out online. Oh, and most importantly, he documents the phone encounter, noting that the patient who reached out in  public.

* He flatly turns down requests for info from people he loosely knows

The only exception he makes is for family and very close friends.  In those cases he arranges evening phone time and spends 45 minutes getting facts so he can offer high-quality direction.

I really like the way Dr. Vartabedian has outlined his options here — it’s clear, simple, and virtually impossible to misunderstand.  It’s hard to imagine anyone being offended by these policies, or more importantly, having their privacy violated.  Good to see!

If you’re a doctor how do you handle your social media interactions with patients?

Healthcare Social Media #hcsm

Posted on March 13, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’ve been reading tweet after tweet recently about healthcare social media. I guess that’s appropriate that they’re using social media to talk about healthcare social media. Reminds me of a tweet from SXSW recently that said they were tweeting from a talk by Twitter Founder talking about the start of Twitter. That’s pretty meta.

Let’s take a look at a few of these tweets:

I love Dr. Bobby Ghaheri. He’s not afraid to talk about the issues of social media in healthcare head on. He’s also not afraid to use them too…even with patients. I’m sure that MANY doctors will have major issues and inhibitions about engaging patients on social media (even outside of medical care). When you even mention the idea you can brace yourself for the insane patient who has unreasonable requests and how that could translate if you engaged them in social media. I should get Dr. Ghaheri to do an interview with me about social media.

This next tweet I think describes Dr. Ghaheri very well.

Note that the tweet says to have a good offense. That doesn’t mean you should be wreckless or thoughtless in your approach to healthcare social media. It means you take a reasoned and well thought out approach to find ways that social media can benefit you as a doctor.

I understand where this tweet is coming from. Although, I don’t necessarily agree. It’s kind of like trying to lead a doctor to EHR that just frankly doesn’t want to do it. The human will is one of the most powerful things in the world. I don’t want to lead and lure someone into doing something they don’t want to do.

Personally I approach it much different. I prefer to convert them to the idea of social media (or EHR if you prefer) and then there’s no leading or luring required. Instead it’s about supporting, directing and educating. That subtle change makes an enormous difference!

I’ll end this little roundup of healthcare social media thoughts with this insightful look at types of patients and the benefits of social media to the various types of patients from a blog post by Jay Parkinson.

My biggest problem with Jay’s thoughts on healthcare social media is that it assumes our current model of healthcare. I can’t help but wonder if social media will help to inform the patient population in ways that we are attracted to healthcare even when we’re not “sick.” I call this treating the healthy patient. Social media awareness could be the driver behind this new trend.

Foursquare for Medical Practices

Posted on January 11, 2012 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As most of you probably know, I’m a huge fan of technology and it’s also fair to say that I’m a pretty early adopter of social media. In fact, I’m sure that some of you think that I live on social media. I prefer to just say that I’m active in social media. Despite my love and participation in social media, I must admit that I’ve never really been able to get into the love of Foursquare.

For those that don’t know much about Foursquare, it’s an app on your phone where you can check in to specific locations and you can see which locations your friends, family and colleagues have checked into as well. As you check in, you get rewards for checking in and virtual awards such as badges. Plus, if you check in to a certain location enough times, then you become Mayor of that location. Foursquare is far from the only one in this space, but it is definitely the leader and the originator of the space. Although, don’t be surprised if Facebook Places doesn’t give them a good run for their money.

My personal problems with Foursquare is that at least on my cell phone it’s clunky to use, hard to understand and the data gets outdated so quickly that I don’t find it that useful. I’m sure that part of my problem with Foursquare is that I don’t have enough real friends and colleagues on there to really get the benefit of knowing what everyone’s doing and where they’re at. Yes, the idea of sharing and other people knowing this information is scary, but it turns out to be a really cool thing if done right. I know since I often learn where someone is at during a conference by seeing tweets from them.

Considering my lack of adoption of Foursquare, I was of course intrigued by this article talking about why medical practices should be on Foursquare. Here are the main reasons they offer:
1. It’s easy to use.
2. It’s big, and getting bigger.
3. It’s a search engine and a way of being found when people are looking for a doctor.
4. If you don’t claim your place, someone else is likely to do it for you.
5. It says your medical practice is social and tech savvy.

Obviously I disagree with the first one, but that might be my bias. Maybe it’s so easy to use that it’s useless to me. My bias aside, I actually agree with this article that a medical practice should take the 5 minutes it takes to get their practice listed on Foursquare. I’m not suggesting that a doctor or medical practice should become really active on Foursquare. Instead, I’m just saying they should sign up and claim their spot on Foursquare. Then, you get to control your listing as opposed to one of your patients which adds your office for you.

A comment in the above article makes a really good point too. If you want to be active in social media and reach the typical visitors to doctors offices that tend to skew female and older, you probably should be on Twitter and Facebook, not Foursquare. Yelp is another good recommendation for many cities. Lots more could be said about those three services. If people are interested, then we’ll cover those in future posts.

Social Media Indicators

Posted on June 3, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.


I’m not sure how many of you have followed the announcement of the Google 1+ button. If you haven’t seen them yet, you’ll start seeing them sprinkled all over the internet soon. I just added them to a couple of my sites including EMR and HIPAA. You can see it next to the Facebook button on the right side of each post. Feel free to click it if you’re reading a post that you like. It’s a simple action which can tell me a lot about whether people like the post or not.

Of course, I’ve been using social media indicators like this for a while. For example, I’ve known the number of people who tweeted out my various posts on Twitter. I often can see how many times an article gets published on Facebook. I always love to get feedback like this that tells me that someone liked the article I created. However, often tweeting a link or sharing a link on Facebook is more than someone wants to do. The Google 1+ is an even simpler and more anonymous way of telling a blogger or other website that you like what they’ve created. I’m interested to see how many people are willing to take the simple step of clicking the Google plus 1 button when they like a post.

However, beyond the benefit to a blogger of knowing which content its readers like, Google is no doubt going to use this information as well to create more targeted search results (and likely ads as well). Some people bristle at the idea that Google would have this information. However, I don’t have any problem with it. In fact, I like that Google will be able to provide me a better service. For example, if I search for EMR on Google, they should know I want to know about electronic medical record sites and not the EMR paintball one. I think data like the plus 1 could help Google to improve that experience for me. That’s a good thing.

I’ve been really interested in these social media indicators and the influence that someone can have online. For example, just because someone has a lot of followers, does that make them an authority? What if you find some health information online? How do you know the quality of that information? What if you’re searching for EMR software? How do you evaluate the quality of the information that’s being provided? What about any biases that information might have? Can social indicators help you to improve your understanding of the quality of the information?

I’m not sure the answers to many of these questions, but I do think there’s power in a crowd of people expressing their opinions on a subject. Even something as simple as clicking on a Google plus one benefit. Will it cure Cancer? No. However, it can still have a profound impact on the way we discover information and how we help others understand the quality of that information.

Healthcare Twitter Roundup

Posted on May 1, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

It’s that time again for a quick roundup of some interesting tweets happening out their in the wonderful twittersphere.


This series of responses made me laugh. Mostly because my response was totally facetious (and just like me in real life). I wouldn’t have said it if it were true. 33 Charts is an amazing blog. Especially if you love social media and healthcare.


Since we’re talking social media and healthcare, this tweet seemed appropriate. I love when people say that they don’t like Twitter because they don’t care what someone ate today. My do people that say such things not understand the real power of social media. I sum it up by saying that Twitter is amazing at connecting people.


Fine, if @ahier and @janicemccallum say I must read it I will. Although, I’ll actually book mark and and post about it later.


I’m a sucker for charts. These are quite interesting. At least if you care about the costs of healthcare and where the money is spent.


I’m not sure if I’m ready to usher in the digital pen and paper technology as the path to meaningful use. Although, many of you will likely remember how much I enjoyed Shareable Ink when I first saw it.


I’m not sure about the article, but I love the commentary on blogging. I love the comments on the blog. They definitely do a great job of balancing out and mistakes in my posts. Not that I’ve ever created a “biased post.” Not me;-)

Social Media Sessions at HIMSS and Other HIMSS Talk

Posted on February 2, 2011 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As many of you probably know, I’m a big fan of social media. Certainly it’s been a great way for me to market the content I create on my websites, but it is much more than that for me. Social media (like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc) are a great way for me to connect and interact with other people. I’ve heard so many people tell me they don’t understand Twitter. I like to explain that Twitter is about being able to connect with people related to almost any topic imaginable. It gives you a way to follow them and to communicate with them in a passive and interesting way. It’s incredibly powerful.

Plus, Twitter and other social media is fun. You get the chance to learn a lot from those around you. Not to mention those connections can do some powerful things. I’ve gotten everything from free conference attendance to free graphic design to finding my accountant on Twitter. It’s a beautiful thing if you use it right.

The problem most people have is that they don’t know how to use it and their afraid to get started. Well, I will tell you it does take some commitment of time to make it effective. However, it’s been well worth it for me.

Back on topic, the HIMSS 11 conference in Orlando is going to be a great event to see some of the power of Twitter. You can do it by following what people are saying about HIMSS (and the hashtag #himss11) or check out some of the various HIMSS Twitter lists. You don’t even have to be on Twitter to consume the content. It’s pretty interesting to follow even now.

HIMSS also has created a social media pavillion on the exhibit floor where they’ll be having a bunch of social media center sessions. Here’s a sample of some of the session titles, “Twitter Created the New Radio Star” (so true), “Physicians and Meaningful Use: What We Are Seeing in Social Media” and “Blogging as a Career: Strategies for Clinicians and Health IT Bloggers” (by Dr. Kim) and lots more. Cesar from HIMSS always puts together a lot of interesting social media content at HIMSS.

Of course, I put together the New Media Meetup at HIMSS to also bring together some of the smartest and most interesting people using New Media in healthcare. The event has nearly reached capacity and I’m also happy to say that we’ve added a new sponsor, Ozmosis, who will be giving away an iPad at the event. Pretty sweet if I do say so myself.

If you can’t tell, I have HIMSS on the brain right now. Maybe it’s because I’m inundated by all the PR people asking to meet with me at HIMSS. The good thing is that my schedule is nearly full and so it’s easier for me to say sorry when the schedule is full. Although, there’s always more room to add to my list of possible parties to attend. So, if you know of any I should attend, let me know.

I was also amazed by the list of government officials that will be attending HIMSS. That’s pretty much all of the high level health leadership that exists in the US government. The only person that they could add to top what’s on that list is Obama and/or Biden.

I won’t go over all the other HIMSS sessions that look interesting, including some interesting HIMSS 11 keynote speakers. All in all I think it will be a great event where I’m running all over the place. However, I plan to run quickly between places, but to have slow, valuable conversations with those with whom I do meet. I’d rather have 10 valuable conversations with smart people than 100 shallow conversations with random people.

If you’re attending HIMSS, what gets you excited?

P.S. Here are the links to some of my various social media profiles:
@ehrandhit – Twitter feed of EMR and healthcare IT news
@techguy – EMR stuff, but a little bit of everything else that interests me too
EMR and HIPAA on Facebook – Like the EMR and HIPAA fan page and get the latest EMR news on Facebook. Plus, you’ll make me feel good when I see the number of fans go up.

North Dakota Hospital Uses Social Media to Communicate

Posted on March 31, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

As most of you know, I’m a big fan of social media. I live it and love it. I honestly think that’s one reason why this blog has done so well. So, I was really interested to see how Innovis, a hospital in North Dakota, was using Twitter and blogs.

I’ll let their work speak for themselves. Here’s links to their Twitter stream and wordpress blog.

I think we’re still at the beginning of how we’re going to be able to use various social media tools in health care. I know I’ve connected to people in amazing ways lately. I think that’s the real power of social media tools like Twitter. It connects people that wouldn’t have met otherwise. Many people go to conferences to connect with people. Twitter is like a virtual ongoing conference where you can meet people with like interests. The best part is that we’re really only at the beginning of what technology is going to do to connect people together.

Great Viral Video on EMR Benefits and Lack of Adoption

Posted on October 9, 2008 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

My main hobby is playing with social media, website marketing and things people like to call viral marketing. So, you can imagine my interest in this EMR video from Allscripts describing the benefits of EMR ina really unique way.

I love what Allscripts is doing. They even have a channel on YouTube called AllscriptsTV. I’m not sure this is the right way to market an EMR, but I’m impressed with what they’re trying to do. Things like this will hopefully start to break down barriers to EMR adoption.

I will admit that a couple things disappointed me about the video. It was much too long. The same message could have been told in about 2-3 minutes instead of 5 minutes. Even the most entertaining videos are best at 2-3 minutes. With a subject as raw and uninteresting as EMR, 2-3 is plenty long.

I was also quite disappointed with the link at the end. The image seems to state that there will be a discussion of EMR at the website listed. However, instead of a discussion of the various EMR issues, it was just basically an advertisement for Allscripts with a few simple comments. Maybe I should have assumed that it was commercially driven, but I had hoped for more of a conversation if you’re going to claim it’s a conversation.

All in all, the video makes some amazing points for those looking at EMR. If I had the time I’d go through the video and list the points they make. They were just that salient.