The world's first International Health Care and Social Media Summit was held in Brisbane last week.
I was so very grateful to have the opportunity to get some sunshine and thaw out my bones from the cold Melbourne winter. But more importantly, I was thrilled to attend Mayo in Oz - as the Summit was affectionately nicknamed.
What a great opportunity! There were so many people I spoke to during the Summit who shared my sentiment - that this was one of the best conferences they had been to. Why? Well, it is hard to put my finger on what all the factors were that resulted in such a fantastic event. Many people said it had something to do with the event bringing together like-minded people in the industry to talk about their passion and interest for social media and health care. I am sure it also had something to do with an enormous amount of thought and preparation going into the program development. Everyone was also very excited to have, in our midsts, a number of internationally recognised experts (including the amazing Ed Bennett and wonderfully energetic Dr Wendy-Sue Swanson), Dr Norman Swan as the MC and a group of very talented people from the world's leader in social media and health care - Mayo Clinic's Centre for Social Media.
I got an enormous amount out of the Summit and thought I'd share the top three things I discovered while I was there.
1. It is so important to include people who have used or are using the health system.
The inclusion of their stories and the insights they brought to the Summit was fantastic and so beneficial to all. The generosity of spirit showed by these people, to openly share their difficult journeys, was admirable.
What was so important was to see it from the 'outside in' from the users' perspective rather than just from the point of view of the provider or organisation. As one of the presenters in this session mentioned - it is important to have the voice and perspective of those using the health system. "What we need is true, mutual and honourable conversations." I couldn't agree more - let's have more of them together!
We also had a potent reminder - through a truly inspirational and heartbreaking story of a family's struggle to save their beautiful son - that many worthy goals are not quantifiable, that success is sometimes measured through love and smiles. Of course at the end of this session, there was not a dry eye in the house. We were all in awe that even after such a loss this mother had the strength - and had generously made time - to share her story with us that day.
Oh, and did you notice I didn't once refer to these people sharing their stories as 'consumers'. This was something raised in the session exploring online communities. What do you call people who have or are using the health care system?
'Patients' was debated to be an inappropriate term due to the fact that in lots of cases people don't know they are sick, or think of themselves as a 'patient' if not admitted into a hospital etc. So this was counted out as not relevant and misleading. The term bandied around as perhaps the most appropriate was 'health consumers' - however, for me and a number of others, this term is crass in a health care setting. We aren't selling handbags or fast food. In fact, we should be careful with any term that suggests we are 'selling' a service - like the word 'consumer' does - as this takes away from the focus that we are providers of care. My suggestion for what it is worth - why can't we just call them people?
2. Be prepared and keep calm in a crisis
This might seem like such an obvious tip, but really it was such a relevant point mentioned by all three speakers - Cynthia Floyd Manley, Belinda Hughes and Lisa Ramshaw - in their discussion on how to manage a crisis in a social world.
Simple things can make such a difference: such as knowing your processes in advance of a crisis as well as having internal and external templates prepared and ready to use - with everyone familiar with them.
They stressed the importance of making connections and meeting with key people before an emergency hits. It was recommended you meet to discuss processes, responsibilities and to educate them (if required) about the role of social media during a crisis. This is also a critical time to gain agreement on boundaries around 'authority to act' to avoid unnecessary delays in communicating with those involved or the general public. Additionally, the point was made to ensure governance and a process for social media passwords are in place - and to be able to access your tools offsite, if necessary, during an emergency situation
3. Apply the timeless principles of good communication
Marie Ennis-O'Connor's closing key note had many salient points for people to apply to their social media strategies. She reminded us to live 'adventure to adventure' rather than 'project to project' or 'paycheque to paycheque' - that you should not be involved in social media unless you are genuinely enthusiastic about it. There was no doubt about her enthusiasm and passion - it was contagious! Marie Ennis-O'Connor cleverly applied the principles of Dale Carnegie to guide us in our social media journey. In particular, she reminded us of the power of laughter, the importance of listening, of being relevant and admitting when you are wrong. Not just great principles for communication - but equally good principles for life in general.