Thanks, Dr. V, for a Powerful Reminder About Healthcare Social Media

flickr: Mike Licht

In the world of social media, it’s easy to get wrapped up in the mechanics. We talk about tools and monitoring and statistics and likes and followers and comments and impressions and time management – the bones, so to speak.

Every once in awhile something comes along and stops you in your tracks, something that adds muscles and nerves and flesh and blood.

A recent blogpost by Bryan Vartabedian, MD, at 33 charts did just that to me. Dr. V was writing about hypocrisy and social media research, but it was his advice to “live in the space” that grabbed me by the shoulders and looked me square in the eye. Here it is:

Fail and confront the dilemmas.  Worry about getting sued.  Face the hairy eyeball from your compliance officer and keep going.  Fight with your spouse over your passion and obligation to communicate as a doctor.  Fight with your spouse again – and keep going.  Block a patient.  Tell a 19-year-old ex-patient college freshman why you can’t be her Facebook friend. Initiate and create a social media policy for a major medical organization.  Create a social media policy for a hospital.  Face the issue of an emergent medical situation dropped on your lap via twitter.  Take a difficult position.  Have a mother friend you on Facebook for the sole purpose of getting an appointment.  Start a blog.  Maintain a blog for more than 4 months.  Maintain a blog for more than 4 years.  Get up at 4:30 am to share an idea with the world.  Stay up really late to share an idea with the world then the next morning decide that it’s not the right idea.  Worry about getting fired.  Get burnt out with social media.  Go dark, then come back.  Shutter a blog.  Deal with the humiliation of a troll.  Get falsely accused of using Twitter to sell products for Pharma. Put your Twitter name and blog address above everything else on your business card.  Confront some guy in India who’s scraping your content.  Post something, worry all night about it, then take it down.  Post something, worry all night about it, then change just a word.  Overstep a HIPAA boundary then learn from it.  Confront the temptation of taking money for posts.  Convince your hospital for 3 years to start a blog.  See your hospital’s blog become a success.  Struggle with your position as part of the new media.  Anger your academic peers then work it out.  Get laughed at by your peers then help them when they want to get started.  Jump on a shiny new social platform, watch it rise, then watch it fail.  Think obsessively about where this is all headed.  Recognize that social media doesn’t exist solely as an opportunity for your individual academic advancement.

Thanks, Dr. V, for reminding us that powerful, make-a-difference social media is not a cakewalk, not a 5-easy-steps-to-success proposition. Done right, it’s a 100% all-in effort, full of passion and sometimes angst, with the potential to change everything.


Hive Strategies helps hospitals engage patients through social media. We don’t manage social media. Instead, we help hospitals establish a social media strategy and mentor them through the start-up process.

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