Bagpipes…Another Reason to Open Hospital Social Media

flickr: vigil246

My elderly mother has had many health challenges lately. With a recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s and dementia – both her mobility and memory are compromised.

She lives in another state, and communicating with her has been increasingly challenging. She has trouble putting together coherent sentences, so she avoids the phone.

A few weeks ago my colleague blogged about piano-playing octogenarians at Mayo Clinic, and then a week later I saw a tweet about Kent Alexander’s beautiful voice. As I listened to Kent sing Amazing Grace I got goose bumps, and I thought of my mom who loves Amazing Grace, especially on the bagpipes.

I began to think of the importance of music in hospital settings. The American Music Therapy Association advocates music to “promote wellness, manage stress, alleviate pain, enhance memory, improve communication, and provide unique opportunities for interaction.” Many religious traditions and cultures advocate the use of  “sacred music” in the care of the sick and dying, just check out the World Festival of Sacred Music annually held in Los Angeles.

Music options provided to patients in hospitals are often non-existent, limited or commercial (complete with depressing newscasts every ½ hour). There are hospitals with active music therapy programs (check out Beth Israel, Stanford Hospital and Rochester General), but many hospitals don’t have the resources. Only five cities in the U.S. have a branch of Musicians on Call, a nonprofit organization that brings music to the bedsides of patients in healthcare facilities.

What if social media was used to help hospitals provide music therapy?

What if social media was used to help hospitals provide music therapy…or at least provide individualized music choices for patients? What if patients were loaned iPods, iPads (with headphones) or other devices pre-loaded with the applications for Pandora, Spotify or Jango?

These customized music options have the potential for broad acceptance – from the young child who wants to listen to Disney tunes, to the senior citizen who wants to listen to the sounds of the Big Bands. The power of music enhanced by the power of choice can, at a minimum, brighten patients’ days … and, in the best circumstances, contribute to their healing.

Often when people are in the hospital, they forgo some very basic-level choices–what to wear and what to eat. With free social media-enabled music, hospitals can introduce choice for their patients–music choice–even if the patient wants to listen to the bagpipes.


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Hive Strategies helps health systems create HIPAA-compliant online communities for better health, lower costs and greater loyalty.

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