This month, Paul Grant and I attended the Healthcare Social Media Twitter Community Global Camp (#hcsmgbc). This was the third annual event hosted by the community, and it demonstrated how the #hcsm movement has grown from interested individuals interacting on Twitter, to an informally-structured think tank.
Twitter interaction around the topic of healthcare and social media began with the hashtag #hcsm, and regular chats moderated by Dana Lewis (@danamlewis), based in the US. In 2009, an EU specific community (#hcsmeu) was set up by Andrew Spong (@andrewspong) and Silja Chouquet (@whydotpharma). Since then, further regional chapters have been established on Twitter, such as #hcsmanz for Australia and New Zealand, #hcsmin (India) and #hcsmla (Latin America), as well as national chapters.
The EU community holds weekly moderated tweet-ups, or discussions on Twitter, around questions relating to healthcare and social media, which can be contributed by anyone who follows the community. A definition of the hcsmeu community, and its initial aims and objectives can be found here.
The camp took place in Brighton, UK on 12th September. It was organised by Andrew Spong and hosted by John Worth (@johnworth01) of Worth Digital. There were attendees from a number of European countries, and digital consultancy, engagement strategy, the pharmaceutical industry, patient advisory groups and the healthcare profession were all represented on the day.
The day included 3 break-out groups and corresponding report-back sessions, with the following topics:
- Trust filters and health information: In this session, groups explored the concept of filters in the often confusing world of healthcare information. We discussed how both technology and healthcare professionals could act as trusted filters of information for patients
- The evolution of the patient-HCP relationship: Here, we looked at the changing dynamics of the doctor-patient relationship, its importance for health outcomes and the role digital media has played here
- Healthcare design, healthcare delivery: social media, the ideal and the real. In this break-out, the potential of social media tools for improvement of healthcare services was examined, and current real-world examples were reviewed.
Each topic sparked much discussion and idea generation, but often raised yet more questions. Summaries of the discussion outputs are available on the #hcsmeu Facebook page.
The day ended with a live Twitter session, answering questions posed from around the world.
The coming together of a Twitter-based community “in real life” to discuss healthcare and social media demonstrates quite clearly the power of Twitter to create genuine networks. What began as a group of geographically dispersed individuals swapping comments and ideas online has grown into a movement, with real interpersonal connections. This phenomenon also highlights the existence of a relatively large number of like-minded people – a vibrant group of diverse professionals who are committed to the concept of improving healthcare through digital/social media.
Currently, though, there is a large gap between the thoughts and ideas generated by groups such as these, and what is possible in practice. For example, in the UK, service redesign would need to take into account not only the needs of the patient and potential offered by new technologies, but also crucial cost saving imperatives. Furthermore, not all healthcare professionals and managers are bought into the concepts of social media in healthcare, or participatory medicine.
The next step for communities such as hcsmeu could involve the participation of managers or policy makers in healthcare, who could provide financial and logistical perspectives on the sometimes harsh realities of day-to-day co-ordination of healthcare environments.