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Forum on social media in health explodes on Twitter

Christina KrauseVANCOUVER – A public forum on how social media could be used to connect the general public with health professionals and health policy makers, held in Vancouver in February, generated more than 1.5 million impressions on Twitter and trended strongly in Canada that night.

The session was co-organized by the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council (BCPSQC) and the UBC Faculty of Medicine eHealth Strategy (eHSO) Office. In addition to excellent participation of an in-person audience and an online webcast, the hashtag #sm4health achieved 1.59 million impressions on Twitter.

This enthusiastic online participation via Twitter signified the popularity of this topic and the public’s strong interest in exploring how this medium can contribute to quality of health communication and dialogues.

The public forum opened with BC Minister of Health Terry Lake, and the Executive Associate Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Dr. David Snadden.

eHSO Director Dr. Kendall Ho welcomed the audience and BCPSQC Executive Director Christina Krause (pictured) gave a keynote presentation to share her personal story of why she became involved in patient safety and quality in healthcare.

In particular, the BCPSQC (@BCPSQC) has used social media to gather best practices and suggestions through World Sepsis Day by engaging global participation via Twitter.

Next on the agenda, Dr. Keith White, physician co-lead for the Shared Care Polypharmacy initiative of the Doctors of BC/MoH, offered a specific case example of how polypharmacy – giving more medications to a patient than clinically required or appropriate – can cause more harm than good.

Dr. White emphasized the need to be vigilant about the judicious use and reduction of medications, and the important role of patients and families as partners with healthcare professionals. A video produced by the Fraser Health Authority was shared on this subject.

Audience members were invited to share their thoughts on this topic, and were asked how social media could be optimally used to improve healthcare and reduce the risks of polypharmacy.

Live Tweets were displayed on the screen with participants from in the room and around the world. Ideas captured included:

• “What about social media reminders to the public/family members to schedule a “Med Review” with primary care MD or Pharmacy?” @NurseNerdy

• “Social media channels would be a great way to disseminate PSA, awareness campaign, etc. on polypharmacy to various audiences #sm4health.” @HelenJoey

• “Twitter or google chat w pharmacists to let families ask questions about #polypharmacy (thought needed around privacy though).” @Gndv

Twitter afforded the ability to capture a large amount of relevant data to inform future practice via crowdsourcing. The use of social media as part of the proceedings extended the discussion from the live audience to virtually anywhere.

Healthcare and Twitter are an excellent match. New studies can be shared instantly (think of Twitter’s 140-character limit as the ultimate book preview), YouTube videos can help spread important messages, blogs and microblogs can give insights and engage others through sharing of reflections.

We hope to leverage these media to reduce the average of 17 years it takes to use medical knowledge generated from medical research for routine and safe use in clinical practice, and improve the community members’ understanding of and participation in health care improvement – one tweet at a time.

During the forum, live polling was used to capture people’s thoughts and uses of social media in their daily lives. Twenty-five per cent of the in-house crowd indicated they use social media daily in their professional work, with many more using social media in their personal and social lives. A challenge and a benefit of social media rests in its ability to blend one’s personal and professional identities, a challenge that can be even more pronounced in healthcare.

Perhaps it was said best in this tweet: “Personal experience makes many of us want to improve the patient experience.” @TerryLakeMLA

The entire evening was captured on webcast and can be viewed at http://bit.ly/1iaUOSa. eHSO has published a listing of social media groups (http://ehealth.med.ubc.ca/harnessingthesocialweb/) and recommended health apps (http://ehealth.med.ubc.ca/resources/resourcesmobileapps/) as resources to help community members get started on their exploration of social media for health. As well, the BCPSQC has a “Twitter for Health Care Professionals Guide” available here: http://bcpsqc.ca/documents/2012/11/Twitter-For-HealthCare-Professionals.pdf.

We welcome and want to hear your ideas and perspectives about Connecting for Quality: Social Media and Health Care. Please drop us a tweet!

Christina Krause is the executive director of the BC Patient Safety & Quality Council. Dr. Kendall Ho is the director of UBC’s eHealth Strategy Office and a professor in the university’s Department of Emergency Medicine. You can find them on Twitter at @ck4q and @KHo8888, respectively.

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