Phil Baumann

better living through enquiry

Posts in the Health care category

I’m not a fan of buzzwords: not only do they tire with time but they also constrict discussion and usually end up being the object of unimaginative and disconnected marketing efforts. In recent years, we have seen the emergence of the ePatient. And sure enough, we can now see that the term is beginning to be usurped by marketers. Of course, the ethics and effectiveness of that kind of marketing depends on the quality of execution.

SAY HELLO TO THE fPATIENT

A new service – which I won’t give direct attention-traction to by linking to its website here – promises to deliver revenues to healthcare organizations wishing to market to so-called ePatients. This service employs the use of a fictive patient named Sara Baker who even has a fictive Facebook profile. The bio on her profile (Page actually) discloses that she isn’t real but “represents healthcare consumers like you and me”. She is an fPatient.

Is that ethical? Is it an acceptable marketing practice to build a fake composite social object in order to facilitate the push for a product or service? There are differing opinions on that – some of which were raised on the weekly healthcare social media Twitter chat hcsm.

In my opinion, I think that the ethical standards for marketing healthcare ideas and products and services must be above board. Why? Because healthcare is a continuum, a stream, and when one part of the industry is tainted by fakery – no matter how seemingly insignificant – there’s always the chance that such fakery can leach into the stream.

One could argue that faux patients have been heavily used in traditional marketing: from billboard ads to television commercials. We perhaps can understand that kind of use given the limited nature of traditional media.

But when it comes to emerging media, especially the kind that allows conversation, it becomes critical that those conversations are honest and sincere and free of sham. That’s the key difference here: Sara isn’t conversing with consumers (someone else or some thing is) – and in spite of the tiny disclosure in her profile, there’s nothing in her stream to indicate that she’s not real – other than the fact that her status updates are droll and mechanical.

MARKETING MEDIOCRITY AND CREATIVE ANEMIA

Which raises another question: Is the deployment of fake profiles in Healthcare Marketing even necessary? Marketing not only has to be effective, it also has to be respectable. Why create a fake social object when so much more social capital can be built by simply being honest and truthful and direct? Why not take advantage of direct interaction and feedback?

Marketing in the 21st Century is evolving. The properties of emerging media are different from the properties of the unilateral mass communications media of TV, print and radio. Marketers who fail to understand those differences and invest in the time and resources to acquire the skills and proficiency for remarkable healthcare communications will eventually suffer a creative anemia.

Sara Baker can fool some people and maybe she’ll help her creators deliver some revenues to their clients. But she’s a mediocre and fake substitute for the hard work required to be remarkable in healthcare communications.

Healthcare Marketers: if you want to have a well-paying career in ten years, know that the cost of Dreck is rising. Fakery is Dreck. In today’s world, Dreck isn’t just bad copy or ugly creative design: it’s in poor social design and mediocrity of voice. Do you honestly want your name associated with Dreck?

You can debate and justify the ethics of using the fPatient ad nauseum but you’re better off investing your time in becoming fluent and proficient in conversational media. Otherwise, forget about social media. You still have some time left to benefit from traditional marketing: most of your customers probably aren’t using social media that much right now anyway. But time is running out.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS AN ePATIENT

The fPatient raises one final point here about labels and it’s very pertinent to the fPatient marketing.

It’s convenient to have a simple label to convey a message and make distinctions. When it comes to health care, however, language matters because how we use words influences how we think and feel and behave.

Let’s take two sentences to illustrate:

  1. “Tom is a schizophrenic.”
  2. “Tom has schizophrenia.”

By referring to Tom as a schizophrenic, his disorder is overlayed on his person. But Tom is a human being who happens to have a brain disorder. Tom isn’t his disorder. Such labeling can potentially influence how providers and others interact with him.

But by saying that Tom has schizophrenia, we are clearer in our language and aren’t confusing Tom with his disorder. Make sense?

So let’s extend this reasoning to ePatient. By referring to patients as ePatients, we encounter a similar problem of confusing the person with an aspect of their behavior.

When we say “Tom is an ePatient” what does that mean to a nurse or a doctor? If Sally is also an ePatient, does that mean a nurse should treat Tom and Sally the same with regard to their ePatiency (how’s that for a neologism)?

For when it comes to Tom’s and Sally’s use of online media and the way they speak for themselves, they can have different empowerment styles:

  1. “Tom uses various social media to acquire health care information and communicate with his providers.”
  2. “Sally scours PubMed for her healthcare information, prefers to communicate face-to-face with her providers and actively participates in online diabetes forums.”

That added layer of information is more useful to a provider: she has a better understanding of her patient’s behaviors.

How much value is there in telling a nurse or a doctor that Tom and Sally are ePatients? Perhaps some. But ultimately, providers need to know the specific and relevant characteristics of their patients. A general label probably doesn’t help much.

I’m glad that there are movements like the ePatient movement to raise awareness of the need for empowering patients. Patient empowerment is vital to health care. Responsible providers understand this.

But if words become objects in themselves and result in a new filing system, then they lose their value. Healthcare Marketers need to understand this.

WRAP UP

As I said earlier: Marketing not only has to be effective: it has to be respectable.

When it comes to healthcare communications and marketing, anything less than professionalism and excellence and clarity is Dreck. Not only is it Dreck, it can be harmful: the farther away healthcare communicators are from patients, the easier it is to lose sight of the impact of their messages.

Language matters – no less in health care. Usurping words just because they’re in style may have some effect but in the long-run, marketing and communications require innovation and creativity, clarity and honesty.

Too often, Marketers opt for what appears to be the easy road. But in a world where people can talk back and retweet and take snapshots of your work, going down the easy road may turn out to be a nightmare journey.

If you use fakery to get your message out, don’t be surprised if your message gets drowned out by the sound of your competitor’s fans who adore and respect the real patients who love their products and services.

Let’s hear your thoughts!

Note: upcoming post will be on the uPatient: the Unempowered Patient. We need to have that conversation: there are more unempowered than empowered people in the world.

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When I started #RNchat last year (@RNchat on Twitter), my hope was to assemble a simple and supple forum for nurses and the public to discuss important issues from the perspective of a diverse group of people.

Here’s a re-post of the transcript for Friday, February 12, 2010′s RNchat, with my commentary on the Winkler County, Texas Nurses case:

Below is a SlideShare of #RNchat for Friday February 12, 2010, organized in chronological order (from beginning of chat to sometime just after). The chat was moderated by Ellen Richter (@EllenRichter on Twitter).

The #WinklerRNs case was the topic of conversation. In Winkler County, Texas, nurses who went through the torment of being charged for leaking private medical information. One of the nurses went to trial and was acquitted within one hour. Now the nurses are responding

This is an important case, one which – among many other things – highlights the need for swift and bold and sturdy nursing organizations. This case isn’t just about defending nurses: it’s ultimately about the safety of patients, the ethical fiber of nurses and doctors and administrators and government officials. Had Anne Mitchel been found guilty, the ramifications could well have been ominous for the integrity of our entire health care landscape.

Friday’s RNchat, discussed topical features of this case: the best practices for whistle-blowing and how to get more organizations behind nurses and the public. Feel free to share the presentation below.

Let’s hope that nurses don’t become scapegoated victims. Do nurses make technical mistakes? Sure they do – we all do. But it’s critical that nurses never feel afraid of expressing their sincere perceptions, their intuition nor their ethical belief system. People can die under those circumstances.

Nurses are the last Jedi Nights of our faltering Republic. A cheesy metaphor? Yes. But it’s true. Anne Mitchell and the other nurses involved in this case are Jedi Knights who fought through a derangement of how ethics and law and responsibility should work.

Anne Mitchell has gone through a Kafka-like hell. Let’s hope she receives comfort and equity and sanity.

NOTE: We also are preparing for a special even in conjunction with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Details upcoming soon!

As always, thank you to those who joined today. If you’re new to #RNchat, just follow @RNchat on Twitter and we’ll provide updates and links on how to make the best use of this nursing chat. You can also send inquires to info [at] RNchat [dot] org.

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2009 was an important year for getting healthcare more up-to-date with web technologies. We have a long way to go: healthcare marketers have begun the process of sorting out the meanings of internet media. 2009 was also a year of extreme noise and echo-chambering. But that’s OK: that happens all the time with novel technologies, especially when there’s little understanding of them nor clarity about their purposes and uses and limits.

On this blog, I’ve always aimed to express my perspective on these technologies (which I believe is rather unique – and it’s this uniqueness which I hope provide you with something of value). Prior to 2009, it was a bit of a lonely place to discuss how health care could best adopt 21st Century technologies. But 2009 brought a first flood of attention. I believe Twitter may deserve credit: many hospital and other health care organizations never understood the Web much, and blogging must have seemed like a purely terrifying experience. But Twitter offered the uninitiated with a simple interface and connection.

As the year moved on, I decided to launch a Twitter chat for registered nurses – and the public in general. The hashtag is #RNchat and you can follow @RNchat on Twitter and subscribe to the blog which posts transcripts of the chats. Since most of the Twitter chats on Twitter are about how to talk about how to talk about talking about Twitter and other social media, I figured at least one of them should be about something that’s actually real. I’m kidding of course. No, I’m not. :)

At any rate, I’ve collected some of my best posts for the year. All of these posts are related to health care – although #3 only very indirectly (I had to include it because it serves as a release from all the social media hype I’ve been hearing for years). Scan the list and pick a few to read and share. Here are the 17 posts:

  1. 140 Health Care Uses for Twitter – I wrote this post because I wanted to start an open conversation about the opportunities we have with technologies and the cultural and regulatory limits stemming them. Years earlier, I had tired of paper medical records and bizarre bureaucratic rituals which slowed the pace and effectiveness of patient care. The idea of using micro-sharing communications as a way to “cut to the chase” in patient care had been working in my mind for some time. This post is the result.
  2. Pharma, Presence Marketing and You – Not having a marketing background – and yet fully understanding the importance of marketing in health care – I’m fascinated at the stumbling blocks beset before pharmaceutical and medical device companies: both from regulatory agencies and the companies’ own prejudices about what marketing means.
  3. Twitter & LSD – 25 Similarities – OK – is this a health care related post? Well, I consider humor a part of health care. And I do touch on the addictive qualities of Twitter in this post. I plan a series of posts in 2010 on Internet Addiction. So, go ahead – read this. And definitely tweet it out!
  4. The Social Capital Algorithm – A simple visual way to break down the utility of social media into simple concepts.
  5. Social Capital: An Accounting View of New Media – I started my career in accounting. As such, I don’t have much tolerance for vague references. And yet we use them all the time. This is just another way to look at the differences between financial capital and social capital.
  6. 1,001 Remarkable Pharma People to Follow on Twitter – A tease of a title. But I explain why you don’t need 1,001 people to follow to get value out of Twitter. Since this post was written, the FDA had a Public Hearing and you can follow the Twitter hashtag  #FDAsm for the latest.
  7. 66 Ominous Predictions About Twitter in Healthcare – This was my attempt at bringing some sanity (albeit humorously) into the social media echo-chamber. Those of us who are truly passionate about these technologies must challenge them. (Some of the Pharma predictions are interesting in light of the Public Hearing later on in the year.)
  8. Healthcare on Google Wave – Google Wave was one of those hyped Google products. I think it’s a powerful set of technologies, even though I don’t use it much myself (the API needs to be developed upon before it becomes truly usable). This is an embed of a Healthcare wave, demonstrating real-time embedding of content from Wave to blog.
  9. A Clinical Infusion of Google Wave -A hypothetical use case for Google Wave in the clinical setting.
  10. Healthcare’s Google-Facebook-Twitter Platform – Questioning the possibility of a gigantic healthcare social platform.
  11. Zen and the Art of the Tweet – Again, the theme of the health care effects of social technologies on our lives.
  12. An Interview with #hcsm Founder @danamlewis
  13. An Interview with @EndreJofoldi of HealthMash
  14. How to Make Health Care Remarkable – The @ePatientDave Interview
  15. Pharma & Social Media: Best Strategic Learning Investment for 2010 – Discussion of an eBook compiled by Ellen Hoenig about what things Pharma should focus on learning in 2010.
  16. Privacy Matters: Dirty Little Secrets Are Essential to Your Health – My attempt at resurrecting privacy from the social media rumors of its death.
  17. Can We Ever End Social Media Nonsense? – My concerns and hopes for the future of the so-called Social Web.

I’m anticipating 2010 to be a fast-paced year with many developments technologically, politically, economically and culturally. I’m hoping that the healthcare community not only continues to learn these technologies but also starts to think reasonably and productively about how to become better organizations.

Social Media won’t make a bad organization good, nor a good organization great. No, people do that. People with brains and creativity and chutzpah. People who have the courage to do what’s never been done before. Are you one of them? Or are you a cog in a machine that’s doomed to shut-down long before you retire? Either way, it’s never too late to change your part of the world.

I love you, my dear readers. Enjoy 2010!

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