Social Media Sustenance and the Value of Community in Health IT

Max Stroud is a Lead Consultant with Galen Healthcare Solutions & the founder of Doyenne Connections, a networking organization for Women in Health IT. She is passionate about leveraging health IT to improve patient care.

I live at the intersection of Social Media and Health IT. Frequently, I have friends and co-workers question the value of the investment that I have made into Twitter. Isn’t it full of trolls? Isn’t it all just marketing? What is the value?

In the TV Show “Halt and Catch Fire,” that chronicles the story of tech startups in the early era of personal computing, there is a pivotal scene where one of the characters discovers that in their dial-up gaming system people are starting to chat with each other, not just during games but after. She builds a platform to enable stand-alone chatting and calls it “Community.” The first online chat room was created in 1973. Over the course of the past 40+ years technology and connectivity have changed dramatically – and still what is the primary thing we want most of platforms to do? We want to connect with people. We want community.

Twitter provides a modern-day platform for discovering and connecting with communities. The communities are connected using hashtags. It doesn’t matter if you have 5 followers or 5,000 – you can still join a #HCLDR (healthcare leader) chat on any Tuesday evening and contribute to the discussion. There is a rich and robust array of communities that relate to the work that we all do in healthcare.

There are so many healthcare related hashtags and tweetchats, that Symplur has created the Healthcare Hashtag Project, which it describes as “a free open platform for patients, caregivers, advocates, doctors and other providers that connects them to relevant conversations and communities.”

In business, often we conceptualize relationships as transactional. What can I do for them and what can they do for me? Communities are different. I grew up in the kind of neighborhood where you could easily call on a neighbor to borrow a cup of sugar. The sugar was never transactional – it was not in exchange for money, there was not a sense of “you owe me one.” It was just a cup of sugar, and maybe even a quick visit. It was just an aspect of our relationship as neighbors that we would help each other out. I recently had an interaction with a fellow member of the #pinksocks community that reminded me of this.

Communities are all in this together, we are communities because we are connected because of some shared goals, values or interests. Our interest in advancing those goals brings us together and fosters a culture of sharing resources, collaborating and cutting across boundaries to have discussions that matter, and then to make things happen.

Through social media, I am connected to multiple communities. There is the #HCLDR community that brings together a wide cross section of people invested in improving healthcare – there I get to talk with physicians, CEOs, patients & technologists. I chat on Fridays with the #HITsm (health IT social media) crowd that live at the intersection of Health IT and Social Media with me. I connect with other women in the industry through #WomeninHIT, #HealthITChicks and #WomeninHealthcare. I hang with the #pinksocks tribe, who wear funny socks at conferences but also connect around the values of collaboration, generosity and making healthcare better. I frequently connect with and spend “listening time” with the #epatient community to keep myself grounded in the realities of being a user in our systems.

What is the value of being involved in social media communities? I will tell you this: it is not transactional. My communities sustain me and inspire me, they educate me and challenge me, they remind me that we are all in this together.

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Watch Max share her HIMSS17 takeaways and observed opportunities for the health IT industry. (Video stream begins at 0:32)