Just my two cents

Musings on social media and the world as I see it


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Talking to aging patients

With baby boomers now eligible to be members in the AARP, talking to an aging population is a challenge for health care providers. Here’s a great post from the folks at Writer Girl Associations, called “How to speak to your elderly patients.”

http://www.writergirl.com/speak-elderly-patients/


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Ebola, enterovirus, and the dark side of people

ebola virusFor several weeks, concern has been building to a level that is becoming close to a panic here in the U.S. People are very concerned about the potential spread of the Ebola virus. Parents are worried about their children being affected by Enterovirus D-68. Their concerns are certainly justified, as these diseases can have serious or fatal outcomes.

During times of crisis, I always thought that we saw the good side of people. And to some extent, we have. I know there are medical staff from my own organization who have jeopardized their own health and safety to go to Liberia to join others and help address the Ebola outbreak there. These are the people who are doing good and have stepped up to the plate to help their fellow man.

Unfortunately, what is becoming more apparent to me is that times like these also bring out the worst in people, and their ability to be cruel. Let me explain what I mean. There are people who call in “anonymous tips” from a hospital saying there is an area quarantined and that someone with Ebola is there. Or a hospital nurse who calls into a radio talk show to report she doesn’t know how to use protective gear and staff are frightened and declare the hospital is not prepared to deal with it (when in fact it is).

What do these people think they are accomplishing? Do they find it funny? I’m sorry but I fail to see the humor in any of this. Are they disgruntled staff who think they are hurting their employer’s reputation by reporting such false information? If that’s the case I hope there are repercussions for their actions.

Such actions not only instill fear, but also diminish the public’s trust that the hospital is prepared to handle such an outbreak. And social media only adds fuel to the fire. People actually became ill due to a false rumor that circulated across the globe telling people drinking salt water would protect them from Ebola. These rumors even resulted in deaths. 

To me, what may be even more disturbing are also those irresponsible members of the media who use their position to further stir up panic due to ignorance, ego or a lack of understanding of how false information can spread like wildfire. Rather than doing what responsible members of the media would do and report the facts only, and do their best to quell a panic, there are the members of the media, who are out there stirring up their own levels of panic: the radio talk show host who falsely announces that a man with Ebola was vomiting outside a major trauma center, and who declares that the hospital is not ready to care for these patients (his opinion). Then there is the nationally known doctor who appears on a morning talk show and declares that the virus could mutate and become airborne.

So come on people, act responsibly. Do your job, whether it be providing health care or reporting the news, get the facts straight, don’t start rumors, and help to allay the public’s fears, rather than add fuel to the fire.


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More changes in Facebook and “Heartbleed” – what you should know

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Things always change in the world of social media and sometimes it’s hard to keep up. Recently, two things cropped up that deserve more attention than others.

You can read more of this post on Hospital Impact:


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Communicating with patients; stick with the tried and true

Even in our socially networked world, sometimes the best form of communication is a blast from the past.

Even in our socially networked world, sometimes the best form of communication is a blast from the past.

Over the years, the way we communicate with patients has changed drastically. I remember the days when, working for a health plan, we would coordinate postal mailings. Then email came along and then text messaging. And of course, there’s always been traditional media outlets–television, newspaper and radio…

You can read the rest of my latest post for Hospital Impact here:


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What job candidates can teach health care communicators

Sometimes a fresh look can do a world of good for your communications!

Sometimes a fresh look can do a world of good for your communications!

Sometimes we do a job for so long that we lose perspective. We think “been there, done that.” But it’s never a bad idea to take a fresh look.

I recently had the opportunity to interview a candidate to fill an open position on our media relations team to replace a colleague who recently left. I developed four questions I thought would give me a good sense of her work style and skills and where her passion lies. Getting a better feel for that would help me determine if she was a good fit for our team.

The interview went really well, and the questions did exactly what I hoped. They led us to a much deeper discussion of how things have changed in the world of public relations, marketing, and inevitably, social media.

As I spoke with her, though, I realized our discussion was actually making me reexamine how we do things. As a result, I came up with some essential actions hospitals should consider when launching their own marketing plans and social media efforts.

Blogging – Don’t have a blog? That’s understandable. While incredibly valuable from a content marketing standpoint, they are time and resource intensive. So why not counter that by looking for guest blog opportunities for your experts. They could be either one-time posts on a breaking news item or a regular column on timely topics. Either way, by selecting well-respected and well-read sites (think KevinMDWomen’s Health or Psychology Today), you’re positioning your expert among a whole new segment in the population. Be sure to include links to your social sites so these new readers, in turn, can connect with you there.

What’s on your calendar – Hopefully you’ve got a calendar for social media, similar to an editorial calendar that will guide your content through the year, at least on a general basis. But is that working for you? How are you developing that calendar–are you building it in a silo, or as part of a team looking at the larger objectives and mission within the organization? Does the calendar include posts that will build engagement and trust for your brand, or is it only a placeholder to support tactics in the marketing plan? It’s a new year, and it’s time to evaluate your calendar and its content.

That brings me to another topic I didn’t discuss with the candidate, but something that needs to be addressed on a regular basis:

Analytics – That dreaded word. But the fact is, if you’re not looking at how your social media efforts are working, then they are probably not worth doing. We all know resources are short, especially financial ones, but the back-end analytics on many of the more popular social media sites like Google+, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter are all free. (As a side note, if you set up a Twitter advertising account, you will then have access to the analytics for your account. On Pinterest, as long as you verify your website, you also will have access to the analytics.) These give you a snapshot of what is and isn’t working in your social media plan.

You also can dig as deeply as you’d like in many of them. I’ve found Tweet Reach for Twitter accounts, campaigns and hashtags. For Pinterest, you can check out one of my favorites, Tailwind (formerly PinReach). If you do have a budget for it, then you’ve got even more choices. The fact is, though you can still analyze what you’re doing at a basic level for free, you want to be sure you’re moving in the right direction and not wasting your time in the social world.

Those are three things we should all be looking at, but there are plenty more. What are you reevaluating or working on in terms of your social media plan?

A version of this post was originally written for and appeared on http://www.hospitalimpact.org. One thing to note, we ultimately hired that fantastic candidate (hi Elena!). 


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10 health care marketing folks to follow on Twitter

I’ve been on Twitter for almost 5 years now. It has become my go-to source for everything: research, breaking news, trends, health care marketing information, and meeting wonderful people. Over the years, I’ve used the “list” function in Twitter to easily organize the people I follow so I can quickly browse through categories like “news outlets,” “journalists,” or “healthcare marketing” folks.This post is to highlight some of those on my list because if you are in health care social media you should be following them too. Now believe me when I say this list is not all-inclusive, and I know there are many folks who deserve to be on this list, but there’s just not enough space in a blog post to single out all the amazing minds who are sharing info!

@leeaase Lee Aase is probably one of the best known folks in health care social media. If you look him up on Wikipedia, here’s what you’ll find: “Lee Aase is an American pioneer in using social media tools in the hospital environment, and is an advocate for social media adoption in health care.” I’ve had the opportunity to talk to him a few times by phone, and even called him once to get his opinion on a course of action when we were going through a crisis situation. Of course his advice was amazing, but beyond that, he’s a genuinely nice person who has really figured out what it takes for a health care organization (or any organization for that matter) to be successful in social media. Be sure to check out his blog too .

@edbennett Ed Bennett is someone I came to admire admired several years ago when I  first I stumbled upon him and his blog, Found in Cache http://ebennett.org/. I was so grateful to make that connection. He’s got a  soothing voice, is quite witty and also loves dogs, which in my opinion makes him a great guy! I think of him as one of the pioneers in this field, and we have much to thank him for, including the big list of hospitals in social media (now moved over to the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media). While we haven’t met in real life yet, I’m hoping (fingers crossed!) it will happen one of these days. It would be my honor.

@nickdawson Nick is a guy with some wonderful, original thoughts about health care and the social media world but is also willing to talk about many subjects. I LOVE his LinkedIn profile: “Former hospital leader now using design-thinking to inspire better staff and patient experiences.” He seems to travel a lot more than I ever could think about, and is a speaker at many of the big conferences. I’m hoping to hear him one of these days, but until then, I’ll have to follow him on Twitter and I hope you will, too. And, don’t forget to check out his blog.

@hivedan Dan Hinmon is the head of Hive Strategies, and works in hospital social media.. He shares a wealth of information and personally is such an enjoyable person to chat with. He’s also got a blog that should be on your reading list, the Social Media Strategy Blog. And be sure to check out his 7 core values at the heart of social media.

@danamlewis Dana Lewis is one of those people who I consider simply amazing. She manages the social media efforts of Swedish Health Services and is the founder of Healthcare Communications and Social Media, #hcsm, a weekly Twitter chat. You can find information on #hcsm here. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked her a question on Twitter and always receive a quick, helpful response.

@riggrl When I met Jen Riggle on Twitter, she was working for a firm on the East Coast. She’s got a wonderful take on the industry and she is also a guest blogger here on Hospital Impact , so you may be familiar with her amazing work. She is kind, thoughtful, smart and witty, and shares fantastic information you won’t want to miss.

@ReedSmith Reed is one of those really smart guys who is thoughtful and is always on my “go-to” list with questions about the industryHe is the founder of the Social Health Institute and is also a consultant for health care organizations and practices that are using social media. Be sure to follow his blog for new insight into health care and social media.

@Ahaval I’ve followed Ahava Leibtag for quite a while, and recently had the honor of being interviewed for her blog. She is one of those people who never seems to stop! She’s smart, funny and so hard working that  her passion for this industry comes through loud and clear. She’s a thought leader on digital strategy and a talented writer who always shares valuable information. You can check out some of her publications here and her blog here.

@chrisboyer Chris directs digital marketing for Inova Health System, and is simply amazing. His blog says “Chris Boyer is an active participant in the rapidly evolving field of healthcare new-media marketing. He’s a speaker and educator and someone who puts talk into action by creating and testing new digital strategies.” He is, in a word, brilliant, in my humble opinion, and I’ve learned so much from him. Be sure to follow him on Twitter AND subscribe to his blog.

@dandunlop Dan Dunlop is the president of Jennings, a health care marketing agency. Dan is one of those folks who you feel as if you’ve known for a long time, even if you’ve never met him in real life. I chat with him often on Twitter, and also love to read his blog, The Healthcare Marketer, where you’ll find plenty of tips and tricks of the trade, as well as some through-provoking questions on why we do what we do.

If you’re using social media for your hospital or medical practice, or if you’re in the field and just tweet personally, be sure to tweet these folks and introduce yourself. And like so many people in the Twitterverse, they are all kind and willing to help you with questions you might have, or point you in the right direction.

There’s also a group of “health care influencers” who can provide an overview of the health care industry and trends.  Also, be sure to follow the hashtags #hcmktg and #hcsm to keep up with all the latest in the health care marketing field.

Now I know there are so many others I could and should have mentioned here, but I limited myself to 10. So let’s add to this list and share some of the “tweeps” on your health care social media list.

 This post was originally written for and appeared on www.hospitalimpact.org


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Just sitting in the waiting room, working

Thanks to technology, many of us can work anytime, from virtually anywhere! Especially when social media is your job. (Photo by mikecough/Flickr)

Thanks to technology, many of us can work anytime, from virtually anywhere! Especially when social media is your job. (Photo by mikecough/Flickr)

My dad has had a rough time lately. After experiencing a rogue gallstone that caused a little havoc and a big scare, my 86-year-old dad was recovering nicely from his surgery. Until last week. He fell outside his surgeon’s office. He ripped up his hand pretty badly and that led to him not being able to drive again for a bit.

So I’ve been my parents chauffeur for their “social calendar” as my mom says. That basically consists of a wide range of doctors appointments, blood work, lab tests and runs to the market.

Thanks to the miracle of today’s technology (which I will never understand!) and a boss who is amazingly supportive and trusting, I’ve been able to keep up with my workload and not miss a beat. When you do social media for a living, a phone, tablet or laptop is all that is required, and it can literally be done from anywhere. Given the ridiculous amount of time spent in doctors’ waiting rooms, it’s like I’m sitting at a desk anyway!

And that brings me to my point. Many of us can do our jobs any time, from anywhere. And for people who are given the opportunity to telecommute, I am willing to bet that their employer is getting back a lot more than they expected. After spending many years in offices and those dreaded “cube farms” I am so ridiculously grateful for the opportunity to telecommute. I know I work hard, but I also appreciate the fact that my director trusts me. In my mind, it all comes down to trust.

I would never do anything to damage that trust because I recognize how much I value this aspect of my professional life. That’s why when I see big companies like Yahoo rethinking their telecommuting policy, I think what a shame it is to do that to people. With the craziness that is our lives, and the demands of jobs and the balancing act that so many of us juggle between work and home, frankly, when there’s trust, then employees who CAN work from home SHOULD be given that opportunity.

Of course I’m not an employer. And honestly, my company does NOT have an official telecommuting policy. Of course in healthcare, that’s rather difficult… or is it? We see more and more about online medical care. So I don’t think we should discount that either!

But if I WAS an employer, I would hope that I would and could trust my employees enough that I would give them the freedom to do their jobs in the best way, best place and time for them. After all, if you’ve got happy employees, won’t you have a better bottom line?

Oh, and to all those doctors who make you wait an hour and a half in the waiting room, our time is valuable too.