How is social media changing healthcare? Let me count the ways (and questions)…

The power of social media has been harnessed by businesses, marketers, public relations reps, and the media. In some cases (I’m thinking specifically of traditional print and television news reporting) this has meant significant changes to the way business is done – some good, some bad, all angst-invoking.

At the Partners HealthCare Connected Health Symposium, we’re talking about how the business of healthcare is changing. Social media, big data, telemedicine, and the Affordable Care Act are all top of mind in these meetings with health professionals, innovators, and inventors.

When Facebook rolled out integrated blood donor registration, over 10,000 Facebook users quickly registered to donate.

Innovators are working to design edutainment, a combination of gaming and teaching or physical therapy that incents patient participation, making their treatment another addictive technology. Why not harness the power of CandyCrush for good? Giving virtual badges for good behavior doesn’t seem to be enough to engage patients over the long term. Can the act of data capture itself be made fun enough to encourage engagement?

Patients are collecting scads of their own data on their devices everyday. They wear FitBits; they track calories on cellphone apps. But, how can we motivate patients to share this data? What happens when they get busy, stressed, or just tired of collecting data? There are very exciting ways to wear devices that automatically gather data, and complementary devices that automatically transmit that data to your healthcare team. But, if this were all as easy as wearing a t-shirt, would you?

People watch YouTube videos about everything from healthy cooking lessons to shaping their behinds. But with all this information available for free on the Internet – whether it’s good information or not is quite debatable – how do we pay for its production? If we make patients pay, what incentive do they have to actually do it? Should insurance companies pay?

Bottom line: There is no “easy button” solution patient engagement. Patients at different stages of their lives (pre-op, post-op, maintenance, etc.) require different engagement strategies. And, strategic development is not enough. There are barriers to adoption for both caregivers and patients, and until we can address these, changing the structures limiting behavior change, the incredibly awesome innovations we’re seeing are nothing more than inventions.

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Technophobes, get ready for the future of healthcare

Meet RoNA (Robotic Nursing Assistant). She’s only one of the hundreds of new, connected technology developments aimed to change patient and provider experiences in healthcare. Designed to lift patients, RoNA reduces injury to nurses and frees them up for other aspects of care. RoNA is only one of the fabulous new technologies I’m learning about over the next few days at the Partners HealthCare Connected Health Symposium.

We’re talking about behavior change – ways to engage patients in their own care – and physician behavior change management – how to get health providers to deliver care differently. Proactively.

We’re talking about crowd-sourcing measurements, so that scientists can predict when you need to get extra rest to avoid a virus, to tell you to stop and call 911 because you’re about to have a heart attack, to forecast the next super-virus and help providers to prepare for crises and emergencies.

New medicine is inherently social. It’s about using our connected devices to monitor our health, and integrating that data into care modules automatically.

As a health communication professional, the education and behavior change possibilities are incredibly exciting as healthcare moves more to improving outcomes, reducing readmissions, and finding ways to measure and integrate quality-of-life data in our care.