A Case of Chronic Otitis Media Walks into an AA Meeting: Shortening the adoption curve for social media.

Consider the parent of a three year-old who is part of your pediatric practice. This is the second visit within six months. During the first visit you confirmed uncomplicated acute otitis media. An antibacterial was prescribed. The parents reported that the symptoms appeared to resolve within three days and did not complete the 10-day regimen. Upon examination you could not confirm a certain dx of acute otitis media. You recommend observation with an analgesic. The parent is concerned about missing work and the need to resolve the pain. During the next 48 hours your office receives multiple calls from the parent asking for Rx. There are many parents experiencing this scenario.

What does otitis media have to do with Topic 3 in the Sunday evening #HCSM chat? “How do you infiltrate a health care organization with social media? What people (positions or types) make the biggest difference?”

I would not argue that perhaps I was hung-up by the word infiltrate. Do we need to approach SM in a covert fashion? Sneak in and co-op key players to make it happen? That is a long hard row to hoe especially with the risk adverse.

It has taken me a few days to sort out my thoughts on this topic. This, in some fashion, extends the post by @richmondDoc 1…2…2… Lift Off? Launching a new account on Twitter or FaceBook, etc.

Two comments summed up my feelings and offered a view of how I would move organizations to more quickly adopt social media.

@miller7: There is an interesting top down vs. bottom up approach with social media. Often it begins at bottom, but needs buy in from top.


nickdawson T3: wellness, administrators, experts and social media zealots. Get them, you are home free. Get one person passionate about the patient experience and you are golden.

@miller7 captured the feeling I have long held that HCSM is not about large, global Pepsi type SM programs but, small discreet exercises that are developed in parallel with the organizations’ mission and corporate goals. It’s about the pediatric department serving up information regarding otis media to help anxious parents. Not the ped department marketing themselves to gain larger share of the local market. (That will happen over time as the word is spread on how you’ve solved problems) SM is being effectively sold as a mass marketing tool to garner buzz that converts to sales, when in point of fact, SM is a highly focused tool that can effect change.

In healthcare we are walking a fine line between marketing and helping. I found the following quote from Jay Baer in his article The Key to Social Media Success is Just Two Letters: “The difference between “selling” and “helping” is only two letters, but the gap is in reality, much larger.” The basic premises here is to reduce friction and uncertainty with your customers. In healthcare it is solving problems patients are seeking solutions to. Here is the link to this article: http://tiny.cc/2fnyx

Demonstrating how SM can better solve problems patients are seeking solutions to is the key to shortening the adoption curve. Helping patients solve problems to improve their healthcare is the overriding goal in healthcare. That’s what patients are seeking in healthcare, not being one of 16m FB fans of Lady Gaga.

Identifying how SM can advance the mission statement or corporate goals of an organization is the first step. What can you do to change patients understanding, knowledge, use, etc. that will meet corporate goals? What are the problems and issues patients want solved? (I hope to post a short article on needs assessment in SM development). We need to approach the adoption of SM not from the current vista of the large marketing companies that get all the media attention but demonstrate that SM is the digital extension of a community with greater benefits.

Once you understand what problems patients are seeking solutions for and I am not talking about large issues everyone wants to solve but small important topics patients seek solutions to every day. You then identify ways to solve them with traditional media compared to SM.

Let’s consider otitis media again as either a department in a hospital or a large group practice. You’ve identified a small group of parents with children who have chronic otitis. They are anxious and demanding. They require additional time, more office visits, overuse of antibiotics etc. Solutions to changing behavior or improving knowledge for the group would be patient aids in the waiting room, bi-monthly newsletters, emails, posters in the office, extended visits, etc. All of these will have some effect over time but do they achieve two key features of SM? They do not offer interaction and engagement with the parents. SM is engaging and dynamic and as such it builds advocates of your service.

Perhaps you create a FB page for just this group and other parents who have successfully navigated otitis. Offer the same information you would’ve offered in your patient aids or emails and allow the group to share their experiences and knowledge. Monitor and guide as needed with the proper constraints and cautions required. Over time the effect of this dynamic will be greater in achieving the outcomes you’ve set as they relate to the corporate mission and goals.

What is happening here is you are demonstrating what SM can do. Not trying to create an advocate by overcoming objections that are based on mass media driven knowledge. In healthcare we need to carve out our own language and use model for SM. We should not rely on the larger marketing demonstrations. Those larger marketing forays can offer insight into behavior, ideas for use, and metrics but they are not the building blocks of changing outcomes in HC.

Again I want to draw from Jay Baer Web site because I think he has captured some key points. I am going to take the liberty of adding HC language to his quotes “Trust takes time, creating healthcare advocacy takes time.”
“Social media isn’t about quickly building weak bonds between a HC professional and large portions of its patient base, it’s about slowly building strong bonds between healthcare knowledge and a select portion of patients.”

There’s a powerful example of SM who’s that’s been at work since the 1930s. Its success is unparalleled. AA (Alcoholics Anonymous).is the best example of SM in action. Discreet groups of people meeting to help each other with problems they are seeking solutions to.

AA meetings are not about how many Facebook fans they have. It is about the experience I have in groups and how it relates to others. It might be as small as 10 in a meeting working as individuals in guiding each other to an outcome. I believe the same model can work in HCSM if we approach those in power to consider how SM can advance the corporate mission and meet our goals. Don’t try and compete with a Pepsi FB page. Consider what problem you and others can solve, helping the mother of a child with otitis media, for example. Your SM goal is that patient sitting across from you today. What are other ways to shorten the adoption curve of SM?

5 Responses to A Case of Chronic Otitis Media Walks into an AA Meeting: Shortening the adoption curve for social media.

  1. Sandra Burrer says:

    I get where you are going with this, but I think OM is a poor example, as a parent who had a kid w/ chronic OM. SM and groups aren’t likely to be interesting to someone who is sleep deprived w/ a miserable toddler, or to keep me out of your office if I don’t have my own otoscope. I think “real” chronic diseases like DM are better examples, or special needs parenting groups. But I love the reference re: “selling” vs “helping”.

  2. @Marksphone says:

    I would agree that it may not be the best example but it met two key points: It was common and it was an issue that frustrated parents. My belief is that even with these outliers people would want to engage in learning from others through SM focused locally.

  3. […] media is a highly focused tool that can effect change,” writes Carmen Gonzalez in her article A Case of Chronic Otitis Media Walks into an AA Meeting: Shortening the adoption curve for social me…. She goes on to say, “health care social media (hcsm) is not about large, global Pepsi-type […]

  4. The suggestion of extra ways to get information to the parents distressed by otitis media is an interesting one. And I can understand the interest in Facebook since it is such a common medium. But it is a good space for health professionals to recommend? All content on a FaceBook page is public. By encouraging families to use this you are encouraging them to break their confidentiality. Is that OK?
    Lots of discussion about use of Facebook here:

  5. marksphone says:

    I hope my example did not leave you with the impression that I wanted the patient and physician to violate HIPPA. My hope was to bring together parents with similar issues and problems around the physician and the clinical issue. Allow the parents to share experiences to help each other. Networks are strengthened by links sharing knowledge around finding solutions to problems

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