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I just attended the Association of Academic Surgery (AAS) meeting in San Diego. This was my first time there and I enjoyed the meeting very much. Many of the surgical papers showed a trend away from randomized controlled trials, with more focus on large patient databases such as NSQIP, National Inpatient Sample, SEER, National Cancer Database, etc.
Some had told me that AAS meeting attendees tended to be cool, almost aloof, but my experience was the opposite. Because the AAS provided lunch during some of the meetings, I was often seated with many whom I did not know. On many occasions, I found a ready handshake and easy conversation.
I did notice a few things about the meeting. The Hyatt hotel was large, hosting at least 3 or other meetings, so I noticed that once inside the building there were no signs to point out the registration desk. After I was directed from the 3rd floor to the main floor lobby and wasted 15 minutes, I found the AAS meeting. I would suggest that certain folks be easily identified to help those of us who are new to find our way. Improving signage would also help.
In addition to many new face to face contacts, the AAS also provided electronic means of connecting. Twitter opened the attendees to collaboration opportunities between different centers. There were sessions devoted to media, communication skills, career advancement, billing, global surgery, and political issues like Obamacare and Gun Control. To my delight a great deal of focus was on Social Media with even one paper presented on Twitter use. The slides from that presentation were uploaded to SlideShare for all to see. Some attendees wore a Twitter ribbon indicating they were going participate heavily by Tweeting during the meeting. Many conversations were started through Twitter. This surgery meeting was probably one of the first not to demand attendees to turn off their phones which were busily used to engage via Social Media.
It is nice to see a surgical society come into the digital age by embracing these Social Media tools.
I will return.
With all the buzz online and in the news about the Twitter – how it should be used, the stock, can it make a profit, I decided to write about how I came to embrace Twitter. Before October 2013, I knew nothing about Twitter. I only started an account after attending a course in Social Media at the Mayo Clinic.
Around that time everyone, everywhere was chatting about the upcoming Twitter IPO. People asked what was Twitter, what was its role, how could one use it. Many predicted the IPO would not do well as it had yet to make a profit and some felt its growth was slowing.
I read “Hatching Twitter” by Nick Bilton who wrote there “were two completely different ways of using Twitter. Was it about me, or was it about you? Was it about ego, or was it about others? In reality, it was about both.”
For some, like celebrities, it is about sharing status, where they are, or what they are doing. For others it is about sharing news, more a “communication network, not just a social network” Bilton writes.
This disagreement underpinned that of two Twitter founders, Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey, which lead to each falling out as friends and partners.
I don’t care if Twitter ever makes a profit. I am happy to use it my own way as each and everyone of you can use it as yours.
As a professional, I avoid Tweeting about myself as much as possible. I use Twitter to post links to interesting articles about my work, health care and surgery. I can always go back to these references later. In that way, Twitter is a catalogue of my online professional musings and learning.
I attend several medical conferences a year. Twitter allows me to share what I learned from these meetings and some have gone so far as to say that social media tools like Twitter may make attendance at these meetings obsolete. I hope not. While at a meeting, I use Twitter to share information, start conversations, and share my adventure as a tourist with pictures of local sights, restaurant finds, and discussions of things to do.
On a personal note, I do use Twitter as a form of a diary. It matters little to me if my followers read it as I am tweeting for myself. I spend a lot of my leisure time travelling, eating out, reading and at the movies. Sometimes I forget what I did or when I saw something or travelled somewhere. I attribute this to age. So I record most of my day on Twitter so I can reflect back on these experiences and memories later. I expect that with time and a growing number of posts, going back to review these will become more difficult.
How you use Twitter will not be the same as how I do it. Perhaps you want chat about a topic, investigate an interesting topic, market or sell something. I wanted to write about the particular way I use this social tool.
Because of Steve Jobs everyone can be a publisher. When he unveiled the iPhone on Jan 9, 2007 he put the ability to ‘publish’ within the reach of all. We no longer have to sit at a computer, printing press, TV or radio station, use a tape recorder, a still or video camera. We carry all the means of broadcast in our pocket, we can do it on run. No one can shut us down. As Marshall McLuhan said, “the medium is the message.” Now the message is the message.
I learned a lot at Mayo this week and quickly applied it. I want to share this knowledge with my colleagues but the story would really play more like this:
One day I left my village and travelled to the city. I read many wonderful books and I came back to my village and told the villagers about these books. However they could not see what I learned nor could I show them because books are banned in my village.
I felt like a delegate from North Korea who came to the Mayo Clinic to learn about Social Media. Upon my return home, I was not able to show my country folk the value of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest since my country does not allow access to these sites.
This is the problem I face at my hospital. I want to demonstrate to my colleagues the wonderful things that social media can do for their practice and for medicine and for their patients. The problem is the access to all social media on the Internet at my hospital is blocked. The only way to show them the benefits of social media is by taking them off campus.
Even more laughable is that all emails from my friends at the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media are filtered out by my hospital system spam filters. So much for a two way conversation.
I want to start somewhere, for me it’s the bottom rung. I see a long climb ahead. I am a neophyte in these arenas but I have started my on my own. My employer will not support me and I suspect, some will try to stop me. They cannot stop me from expressing my views. I am not going to make defamatory comments. I do not plan to disclose any medical, personal, or confidential information. I will follow the ethical guidelines for Social Media use as outlined by the Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic Social Media Guidelines
Let light shine out of darkness as it says in the Bible 2 Corinthians 4:6
In early October 2013 the Geisinger Health system held a special one-day conference on social media. I was unable to attend since I was at the annual American College of Surgeons meeting in Washington DC.
I would hope that from such a meeting Geisinger would come out of the dark ages and start to allow its employees and others to access social media while they are on their facilities.
Since the meeting nothing has changed. Though wireless access now no longer requires a password when you get a message to ‘like’ Geisinger on Facebook while on it’s wireless system you find yourself instantly blocked.
Similarly, access to Twitter, Pinterest or any of the other important social media sites continue to be blocked. Any inquiry about the reasons are met with the answer that Geisinger is very concerned about patient privacy. Why can large systems like the Mayo Clinic successfully engage with social media? Is Mayo any less concerned about patient privacy than Geisinger, I doubt this is true.
Meanwhile patients and their family, doctors, nurses, other healthcare providers are walking around Geisinger most of whom are carrying a mobile computer in the form of a smart phone or tablet. These folks have the ability to photograph or film anything going on in the hospital so if Geisinger is so concerned about privacy why doesn’t it confiscate these devices at the door? Instead of metal detectors, Geisinger could install detectors for smart devices.
I am being facetious. My hope is that with time and I hope this time is soon, that the Geisinger system will allow access to Social Media. It is only through such access that the system can improve its engagement with patients and their families. The benefits are immeasurable.
I am like everyone is learning how Social Media interacts with Surgery, specifically my own specialty of Colon and Rectal Surgery.
The wrong thing to do is to turn away, say I’m too busy, I have enough patients to see. The key is not to look strictly at Social Media as a marketing tool.
Everybody has a digital footprint. All doctors can be found on every search engine.
Many things are being written about us, how good we are or who bad we are.
We have to write our own story I learned today. If we doctors don’t write our own story, someone else will do it for you.
We need to control our story, that is why we need to engage in Social Media. We have to drive the conversation.
We can’t stay on the sideline, we have to get into the game – now.