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Interview with Dana Lewis: Moderator and Founder of #HCSM Chat

I had the pleasure of interviewing Dana Lewis who is a health and digital strategist at Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center as well as the moderator and founder of the weekly Healthcare Social Media chat session on Twitter.  We chatted about a variety of topics including the inspiration for the HCSM Twitter chat, hurdles the healthcare community faces with social media, and more.

  • In 2009 you created the weekly HCSM Twitter chat conversation.  What was your inspiration for creating it?

My interest in Twitter was personal (and patient-oriented) at first – I loved being able to connect with people, find new topics and discussions, and engage people I wouldn’t have been able to connect with otherwise. My patient-oriented discussions quickly translated into an awareness of how Twitter could be used to help connect health-care professionals, regardless of geography. #hcsm was born out of a simple desire to have a conversation among multidisciplinary health care professionals (from lawyers and doctors and nurses to communicators and payers alike) – and realizing that Twitter, and a hashtag, was a great way to have these kinds of conversations.

  • What’s it been like seeing it evolve to its current state?

Seeing this chat quickly grow into a community, which is the current state nearly four years later, has been phenomenal. Each week, we have new individuals join the chat and become enmeshed in a powerful community of all types of people working to improve the world of health care, and to help patients. It’s so inspiring, and I’m honored to get to help spur the conversation each week.

  • Has it been tricky curating a chat conversation that includes many different members of the healthcare community (doctors, nurses, etc.)?  

Sometimes it’s challenging because we have so many different cultural and societal perspectives joining the conversation. But in the same vein, it also makes for an incredible conversation. That’s why I traditionally open the chat by asking for introductions – it helps people understand where others’ are coming from with widely varying perspectives, and it helps start the conversation by highlighting shared (or differing) experiences.

  • Where would you like to see the HCSM chat go in the future?

#hcsm started as a chat, and quickly turned into a global community. I’d love to see #hcsm, and HCSM in general, continue to grow and evolve and help bring innovation to health care. At the end of the day, it’s about the patient (aka, us!), so I hope that the community continues to find ways to help patients and improve health care.

  • As an expert and advocate for HCSM, what do you think are the biggest hurdles for physicians currently using social media platforms & those looking to take the plunge?

The biggest obstacles for HCSM adoption from physicians is often time and misunderstanding (and often confused with fear). Many physicians think SM is people tweeting about what they had for lunch – and in many cases its true!

But, what I had for lunch is important, because I have celiac disease and type 1 diabetes, so there’s a group of people who care about what I’m eating, why, and where I found it. I use this example as an opportunity to show that SM is about relevance: what is relevant to one person may not be relevant to another, but it may be relevant to someone else, and that’s ok. The key is finding people and discussions that are most relevant to them, and to maximize their time spent listening and engaging, for maximum efficacy of their time online.

So really, the hurdle to overcome is figuring out why health care professionals are online – is it to connect with fellow professionals, to grow their business, to learn from patients (or some combination of the above)? Once they figure out what they want to get from being online, finding the relevant groups of people (patients, providers, public, etc.) online is pretty easy.

  • What are some new ways you are seeing the healthcare community embracing social media?

I’m seeing more multidisciplinary health care discussions, which has grown over the past few years. I think this is great – social media breaks down a lot of barriers, like socioeconomic, geographic, or language barriers. It makes sense that social media will also help break down traditional industry barriers, and enable health care providers and employees of all types to engage in discussions and work together via social media.

  • What are your thoughts when people say HCSM is just a phase? Do you think it’s a phase that will just pass?

I’m not surprised that people think HCSM is just a phase, but I disagree. HCSM is something that’s here to stay and is becoming embedded in our health care experience.

  • With your position at Swedish Medical Center, you are heavily involved with implementing social and digital health strategies.  What are some things individuals in the healthcare community can do to protect themselves while engaging with different social media platforms?

#hcsm is something I do in my free time, but my full-time role with Swedish (in Seattle) involves implementing social and digital strategies across the organization, which includes educating our staff and providers about ways to be safe, smart, and effective online.

Many times individuals in healthcare worry more about a potential conversation online that rarely happens (i.e. a patient seeking medical advice from them publicly). Individuals need to remember that they know what to do if someone comes up to them at Starbucks or the local grocery store and starts sharing their medical history and asking for individualized medical advice. In that scenario, providers might counsel patients to call and make an appointment with their office, or find a more appropriate (not public) place to have the conversation.

The same applies to social media – if that happens, help the patient by providing ways to take the conversation offline, and document the encounter or request in the medical record. Often time’s patients don’t know that social media is not secure or the best place to engage with their providers with specific medical questions. As a result, one of the best things I think health care professionals can do is educate patients & the public on the levels of engaging with them online and off; and by protecting and educating patients, they will also protect themselves.

  • What do you think are some of the biggest things the healthcare community can gain from social media?

One of the biggest reasons I love social media is because it provides endless opportunities to learn from others. Patients can learn not only health information from providers, but also what a provider’s job is like. Providers can gather insight as to what life as a patient with a chronic condition is really like, and find tips and resources to share with their patients. This dual improved understanding of each other’s roles goes a long way in health care!

Communicators, lawyers, payers, and all kinds of other individuals working in health care can also learn from others online and improve their understanding of the health care system and what it takes to make it work. It’s really powerful, and I’m hard-pressed to find another kind of tool that enables this much casual learning across such a complex industry.

  • Any last thoughts for the MDWebPro readers?

No matter what your role in health care is, there’s probably something to be learned or observed online, and I encourage you to find the sites, tools, and communities that are right for you and help you learn and grow as a health care professional! Regardless of your role, if you have an interest in health care, I invite you to join us any Sunday night on #hcsm – just search on Twitter for #hcsm on Sundays at 8pm CT. See you there!

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About stuart@ds6.net
Stuart Wainstock is a former educator who has taught overseas and in the United States. Stuart began blogging while living overseas as a means to communicate with family and friends back home. He is a contributing author to the MDWebPro blog. Stuart is an avid follower of technology, and their constantly changing trends. He also enjoys discovering new and excited music, as well as photography. You can follow Stuart on Twitter @stuartwainstock,@MDWebPro and Google+

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