4 ways hospital CEOs are like start-up entrepreneurs

  1. Passion.  When we’re so personally and professionally involved in something, we begin to fear our emotions will get in the way. For self-preservation reasons, we often start to pull away (or in the case of poor, struggling health start-ups, start applying for other jobs) because we’re SO involved that we fear our emotions might impede our judgment. But this passion for promoting health care, well care, health literacy, telemedicine, mHealth, etc. – this passion is what got us started in the first place.
  2. Empathy. Without concern for and understanding of the user (or patient) experience, we’ll fail to provide quality, life-changing care. We need to know what brought patients/users to us, why they keep coming back, what we can do to improve their experience, to help manage their expectations, etc.
  3. Problem solving. Physicians take on massive amounts of debt to go to medical school, and complete residencies and fellowships. They don’t expect to get rich. Physicians study medicine because they want to help people, to identify problems, and fix them. This should ring true with health start-ups as well. People who start health-tech companies aren’t looking to for wealth. They see pain-points in the delivery of health care and seek to solve problems from the outside in.
  4. Failure. We all fail. Physicians and entrepreneurs see failure as part of the iterative process of our business. If something doesn’t work, we find out why, and try it a different way the next time. Over and over and over again. The key to our success is listening to our failures.

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Social Media Planning: Make a List and Check It Twice

Tasked with reading non-fiction by my daughter’s third grade teacher, last night we cuddled into bed to read one of my favorites from her shelf: Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women.  The last time we read it together, I must have skipped the introduction.  So, this was the first time I realized that the Apgar scoring system that screens newborns for potential health emergencies immediately following birth was created by a woman: Dr. Virginia Apgar.  I was struck by how such a seemingly simple checklist could make such a significant difference in the lives of many children, including my own preemie (now the third grader, thriving and healthy).  I’m thrilled that Dr. Apgar was a woman, but what got me thinking was really that a checklist could be considered an invention.


Image from exkaliber.com

This reminds me of a book I read over my brief summer break from graduate school, recommended by a professor (and later discussed on Stephen Colbert) by Dr. Atul Gawande: The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right.  In this book, Dr. Gawande suggests that something as innate as communication – in the form of lists – can drastically improve our chances of getting things right in times of crisis.  As a busy working mom of two children, I don’t just use lists in times of crisis, I use lists EVERYDAY!  The first thing I do when I sit down at my desk each morning is write a list of important tasks for the day. I don’t always get to all of them, but somehow the process of writing them down, and crossing them off as I go, pleases me.  It helps me to focus more on the moment, knowing what will come next and what I’ve already accomplished.

When I talk with organizations about using social media, I hear a lot about how overwhelmed they feel already by tasks and endless email inboxes; they say that using social media just isn’t a priority for them.  Social media is not a passing fad.  Social media has changed the way customers communicate with businesses, requiring increasing transparency; it’s changed the way and speed at which news is delivered; it’s allowed people to develop a sense of community with peers across distances.  These changes are here to stay – the world is smaller and more transparent, and a lot more preoccupied with their new iPhones.  The thing is: using social media does not necessitate obsessively checking Twitter and Facebook.  If done right, it means selecting the platforms that seem appropriate for your organization, deciding how to use them strategically, and then setting a schedule (i.e., making a list).  Set aside a time of day, maybe 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the afternoon to check-in on your social media accounts, check for mentions, and respond to comments, then let the rest go.  Set up your account so that you’re alerted each time your brand is mentioned in social media and trust the system.

After all, there are only 24 hours in a day.  Make a list, check it twice, and for heaven’s sake, keep your smartphone away from the dinner table.

Be Careful What You Tweet: You Can Now Search for Every Tweet in History

ImageI won’t say I told you so.

But, according to Mashable, it’s now possible to search for any historical Tweet.

That’s right.  The Tweet you accidentally sent while at happy hour with some friends about how much you wanted to quit your job.  That Tweet about your mother-in-law sent after too many servings of Thanksgiving turkey.  That picture your teen took that made her look 20 years older and sent to the Twitterverse.

So, I won’t say I told you so.  I will say: be careful what you Tweet.  Everything we post online is a reflection of our values.  It’s permanent.  Nothing is anonymous anymore.

And, if you’re nervous, take a deep breath.  There are some 450 million Tweets created every day.  Searching it will be difficult, just not impossible!

Flamingo Baking: Lessons in Accepting Limitations and Coming to Terms with the Past on Facebook

Every year as my children’s birthdays approach, we start talking about cakes.  Not what flavor necessarily, but the shape.  Their cakes set the theme for their parties and they’ve made very elaborate baking requests in the past.  I generally spend weeks thinking about the upcoming cake, considering my strategy and ingredients, and at least a day baking and building the thing.  This week, recognizing the limitations of my broken foot, I ordered one from a local bakery.  I felt some guilt in this, despite the fact that Anna and I together couldn’t even remember all the cakes from the previous seven years.

Even my Shutterfly account only had cake pictures going back to 2009.  To dig deeper I had to consult Snapfish and Walgreens using an old email account.

Elmo cake - 2009

Elmo cake – 2007

Castle Cake - Anna's 4

Castle cake – 2009

Bubble Bath Cake - Noah's 1

Bubble bath cake – 2009

Merry-go-round cake - 2010

Merry-go-round cake – 2010

Train cake - 2009

Train cake – 2009

The thing about digging this deep into the past is that you find more than just cakes. You find your life history, chronicled somewhat haphazardly at first, and then more regularly with the rise of Facebook.  Ghosts of your past may still linger on Facebook – my own certainly did as I posted a status update indicating how strange it is that I remember what time I was taken to the hospital, who drove me, the faces of the nurses who cared for me, being told not to push because the chord was wrapped around her neck.  What followed – the gory details of having a somewhat premature baby in the special care nursery, the 8-day hospital stay during which I didn’t know if she’d survive, my relationship with the abusive breast pump, the 15 months of sleepless nights, the post-partum depression – these details get fuzzier with each passing year.  I didn’t expect the ghosts to pop up – my ex’s friends sending nasty comments in a public forum.  At first, I was shaken – why would they choose my daughter’s birthday to amplify their hateful message?  Then, I realized that it was high time I edited my friends list.

As social media managers, we have many options when it comes to treading the muddy waters of social media public relations.  When criticism is taken social, we have two choices: 1) address the criticism in the forum in which it is presented; or 2) take the conversation offline as soon as possible.   Option 2 seems best, especially if you’ve been monitoring your social mentions and catch the comments as they are made.  I did respond privately to one particularly misguided comment, but the others I simply deleted from Facebook.  This is ALWAYS an option!  Also, why are these people still listed as my friends?  I haven’t unfriended anyone in nearly three years; unfriending is still seen as such a dis and I’m generally open to maintaining relationships from my past, with a glimmer of hope that something that once tied us together remains.  It’s different when someone tries to rain on your kids’ birthday parade.  Instead of just unfriending, I opted to BLOCK them from my Facebook page altogether. This means that not only are we no longer friends, but that they won’t be able to find me if they search for me on Facebook and I’ve wiped the slate clean.

Anna, of course, insisted on taking tie-dyed cupcakes to her class – not exactly standard fare at the local grocery store.   Empowered by the rush from BLOCKing the negativity from my life, I rigged a stool on which to rest my knee and stood on one foot – flamingo style – at the mixmaster to bake my peace-loving hipster of an 8 year-old the cupcakes she wanted.  It was painful, and perhaps I should’ve just accepted my limitations and told her that mom’s not superwoman; but sometimes learning to accept our limitations means finding creative solutions rather than giving up.


Tie-dyed cupcakes baked flamingo style

Thanks Anne E!!!

Last night my daughter sang with her favorite singer/songwriter (and mine too!) in our backyard!

Anne E. Dechant and band, thank you so much for playing and for inspiring my little girl (and women everywhere) to do great things!!

Overcoming Anticipatory Anxiety: Jump in Anyway!

“MOM! I’m NOT drowning!!”

The first time my son got into the pool this summer, he was completely terrified. The water was cold. The pool seemed bigger than he remembered.  The painted black lane marker on the pool floor looked like a whale.  He clung to me, pleading that I not let go and each time we got wet he began to scream “I’M DROWNING”, alerting the lifeguards and generating some nasty looks from neighboring parents.  We went to the pool three times each week for several weeks.  I didn’t push him past his comfort zone, but each time we went, he became more comfortable. He realized he could touch the bottom of the pool (only 3 feet deep) and walk around on tiptoes.  He learned to float with a belly board.  He started putting his face in the water and blowing bubbles.

I felt the same terror when I began this semester, my first in grad school, my first schooling of any kind in over a decade.  And, of my first courses, one was in social media.  I’ve described my unfamiliarity with social media, and technology, in this blog before. But, when I saw my son floating in the pool for the first time on his own with a smile on his face, I started thinking about fear – how limiting it is, how we can get so caught up in anticipatory anxiety of an event that we eventually forget what or why we were afraid at the beginning.  Fear can be overwhelming.  Like learning a new language or jumping in the pool for the first time (or falling in love), the only way to really understand social media (its applications, its power, its limitations) is to immerse yourself in it.  At some point – and you probably won’t notice it at the moment – you’ll realize you aren’t drowning and stop struggling.  You’ll learn to trust the system (or the water) to hold you up.  You might even have some fun with it!