Still about listening: Health 2.0 DC and Ragan Health Care Communicators Summit

Last week was Health 2.0 – DC (finally!) and the Kaiser Permanente hosted Ragan Health Care Communicators Summit, and after a small bout with either a food-borne or non-food borne illness of some kind, I can now write about it.

Heatlh 2.0 DC

This Health 2.0 was a milestone for me – the first time that I (a) sat on a panel with a patient as a peer and (b) did media with a patient as a peer. The last Health 2.0 I was at had me sitting on a panel on stage with the patient “encouraging” us from the balcony. A small step toward last week…

The patient is @ReginaHolliday , who ultimately took a significant chunk amount of time from her schedule to sit on a panel with me, do multiple and honest interviews about her experience as a Kaiser Permanente member, and lead a “Patient 2.0” session later in the day.

This feels as right, as natural, as I thought it would, and the converse, not having a patient involved feels as unnatural, as uncomfortable as I thought it would.

Their presence virtually also helps –  a disclosure, I am the “friend” that Regina refers to in this blog post – surrogate blogging is something we can do with each other to mix our perspectives for complicated issues.

Behind the scenes at Health 2.0

Matthew Holt ( @boltyboy ) and Indu Subaiya ( @bluetopaz ) were, as usual, terrific hosts, and one memory I will have from the day is of Indu beginning the round of applause that greeted the news that Kaiser Permanente is the first health and hospital system in the United States to receive a perfect 100 % on the Healthcare Equality Index. This relates very much to a passage in Charlene Li’s new book, Open Leadership (review coming soon) where she refers to the skill of Open Leaders “Knowing when and what to “check at the door” – something that many women and minorities innately understand.” Matthew, Indu, and the Health 2.0 community always create an environment that doesn’t require people to check anything at the door.

The panel I was on, by the way, included some of my favorite people in health information technology, Josh Seidman, Ph.D., from the Office of the National Coordinator ( @jjseidman ) and Jon White, MD, from AHRA (Jon, are you on Twitter??). All have been interested in making health information technology happen for a really long time and can bring a good sense of optimism as its time comes….

Ragan Health Care Communicators Summit

In part 2 of a whirlwind week, I joined health care communicators from across the nation at Kaiser Permanente’s Sidney Garfield Health Care Innovation Center ( @KPGarfield ) to share and discuss the application of new media in health care communication.

A low fidelity backdrop to impressive accomplishments in communication

The positioning of the Summit ( you can see the Tweetstream here ), by the way, is/was a nod to the work that Holly Potter, Vice President of Public Relations and National Stakeholder Management ( @htpotter ) and Diane Gage-Lofgren, Senior Vice President for Brand/Communications/Public Relations ( @dianelofgren ) have been doing to transform relationships with their stakeholders. And look at the results to date (photograph).

Two things worth mentioning are that I was not the only physician there (hooray!) – Wendy Sue Swanson, MD ( @SeattleMamaDoc ) from Seattle Children’s Hospital did a wonderful job conveying the benefits she has discovered in being open in her physician leadership through her work on the Seattle Mama Doc blog, and really just from being present, because I think that’s all physicians have to be at this point. I was energized for sure!

The second thing is the progress of my former employer (but happy affiliate to my current employer), Group Health Cooperative ( @Group_Health) as shared by Katie McCarthy ( @kamseattle ). I think it’s okay to say 3 years later that we used to go on walking meetings in Seattle to talk about how the organization we enjoyed being part of so much could share more with its stakeholders using new media. And, they are doing it.

What Katie and Wendy Sue did that was especially “in the spirit of” in my eyes was relay with authenticity the challenges they have faced in learning and teaching about social media. I captured one of Wendy Sue’s experiences in this tweet and one of Katie’s in this tweet. In particular, the observation about “the network is for patient care, not social media” is an observation that I think will change – because social media is not social media, social media is communication, and communication is at the core of patient care. Right? Right.

We were also treated to a wonderful closing day keynote by Matthew Holt ( @boltyboy ) (he’s everywhere!). I don’t think I have actually seen him out of his conductor of the orchestra hat, so it was a treat to see him create a nice sense of urgency and engagement in an audience that is not as familiar with his incredible-ness as I.

Speaking of communication, the Summit was a glimpse into the state of communication between health care and stakeholders.

It seems to me that parts of health care may not know what is expected of them in terms of their communication with their communities, and maybe this comes from not feeling the impact of not communicating with their stakeholders, relative to peers in other, less GDP-hungry industries. From that perspective, it was great to meet the professionals in this group, which ranged from the extremely adept and model leaders/organizations to the really interested and getting started leaders/organizations.

We, the medical profession, need to be there with them, as partners, listening and learning. When we live up to the image that they have of us, it’s a sure thing that we will do great things for the people we serve.


Thanks again to the teams at Ragan Media, Health 2.0, and leaders that participate in teaching each other about what this is really about (listening).


Thank you Ted for all you do. Thank you for being such a wonderful model of what a doctor/patient relationship can be when you involve online communication as a tool for better health.

Thank you for letting me blog about your story. It was such an important comment. It led to an email thread, that led to a comment by Christine Kraft. This led to speech and a blog and a slide-share. That slide-share has now has 2475 views. We are spreading the word and we are doing it together. This is what medicine should be: a collaboration with infinite potential.

Ted Eytan, MD