Use social media to enhance relationships, not to increase the cost of health care

This great blog comment from the discussion that Susannah Fox (@susannahfox) started on her blog caught my eye. It’s from Jeff Livingston of the well known MacArthur OB/GYN practice (@macobgyn)

Sounds like you are looking for a social media purist–a doctor or group using social media to connect and engage. What I mean is connecting because it expands the doctor patient relationship beyond the four wall of the office making the doctors life easier and the care they provide better. Many practices and groups focus on the marketing aspects if social media and forget the original purpose if social media —-be social. Strip away everything and what do you have? Two people talking. That’s what makes social media special. Marketing is secondary and if you keep you motivation pure will happen naturally.

I agree.

It was interesting for me to hear when I was at a recent conference on social media in health care, that an attendee (from non-integrated care) stood up and said, “We’ve discovered that when we have a physician give a lecture and promote it via social media, they are more likely to make an appointment to see that physician.”

The implication from the comment was social media -> physician appointments -> more procedures -> more revenues.

At this moment I had an epiphany regarding the way parts of health care are picturing the use of social media, and it didn’t sit right with me. With that in mind I tweeted the tweet on slide 3 during the conference, and used it to frame the rest of this presentation that I gave, to the social media club of DC in April.

I am getting the opportunity to put some of this interest into action, working with the Kaiser Permanente Sidney Garfield Health Care Innovation Center (@KPGarfield) to put together a technology demo day of social media applications this September that could be used for these purposes (improve relationships, make health care more affordable) instead of some of the current uses. I’ll post on that in a few days, because we are still interviewing potential presenters (usually a total of 6 vendors maximum), and we’re looking for more ideas to create the dream world that Susannah talks about.

In the meantime, take a look, see what you think, comments welcome.


Ted… I think this is a great, short, valid follow through initiated by the threaded comments on the e-patients site and post from Susannah… I'm not sure whether social media in healthcare will lead to " physician appointments -> more procedures -> more revenues" or simply a redistribution of the current spend as patients seek out physicians, and hospitals who are willing to engage?

Hi Howard,

I agree with you, not in every case. It was the way it was said, though, you had to kind of be there, because it was as if the goal was to get more medical care into people's lives. What I was thinking when I reflected on this was, "wow, if there was a physician lecture in an integrated system the goal would be the opposite, to provide the patient with knowledge so they don't have to come to the doctor if they don't need to."

Kind of reminds me what the fast food/tobacco folks sometimes say, "this isn't about driving demand, it's about increasing market share,"


Ted Eytan, MD