Friday, August 12, 2011

The Listening Tour: Teaching, learning, and social media at academic hospitals

Hillary Clinton came through my little Upstate NY town in 1999 to kick off a “listening tour” on her senate campaign in which she handily defeated challenger Rick Lazio. She demonstrated the power of starting by listening.

Academic hospitals can channel the same power to broaden their reach, and teach.

The first step in launching a social media strategy, according to Hive Strategies, is to listen:
Listen to how patients are talking in the waiting rooms. Listen to the questions new moms in your birthing center are asking nurses. Go to the FAQ web pages created by your Centers to read what they feel are the issues of key concern to patients. Go sit next to the person who answers the hospital’s main phone line. What questions is he or she answering for patients? Listen to the voicemail introductions of each of your centers to give you insight into what the managers think their patients need to know? Listen to the conversations in Emergency Rooms. Listen to what your patients are saying on patient surveys, and listen to how the media talks about your hospital.
What if medical students were used to do this listening as an elective? They would gain exposure to the real needs of various stakeholders in healthcare. Reporting on their discoveries, they could research supporting evidence and share it using a social media tool like Yammer. All the students working on such a project could upload their findings and discuss them in a common, secure web document that could serve as an informative portfolio for the social media strategy.

Such a listening tour would offer students valuable insight into the realities of healthcare barriers and quality issues, as well as some exposure to the applications of social media both to share information and tackle these barriers to deliver better care. The hospital would get free “boots on the ground” for the fact-finding step as they reach to claim the mantle of "healthcare innovator." The college of medicine gets their students talking about issues and passing them along to the whole class, as well as incorporating social media into the curriculum. And, some day, patients get better care.


Kari Skipper Foster said...

This is an interesting idea. You could team up with marketing to hammer out details on what to gather, how to gather it and how to present it. And, of course, then there's what to do with the info. Follow-through could be a challenge but worth it!

astupple said...

Kari- Marketing... yes yes.... How to present it... another good thing to think about. I'm hoping the hospital's social media director will take care of follow through. Too wishful? Obviously, the next step here is huge....

Any ideas you have for follow-through that medical students could do would be more than welcome.

Thanks for reading!

Anne Marie said...

Hi Aaron,
I love the idea that students can contribute to the development of an organisation. This can be through identifying highs and lows in the patient-experience, but also through identifying risks to patient safety.

I am less certain about the role that social media has to play.

astupple said...

Anne Marie,
I'm thinking that developing social media applications for the curriculum may actually be an opportunity to teach stuff like quality improvement, public health, exploring barriers to care, as stated in this post, as well as things like professionalism (the following post).

So, maybe teaching social media in med school is valuable as a teaching tool for traditional, but poorly represented, MedEd topics.

Thanks for reading!

Anne Marie said...

My concern is that social media and marketing are often aligned. The comments prior to mine suggested the same.

I think of social media as public- as 'to many' communication- but is that form of communication what serves these goals best?

astupple said...

I guess the co-alignment of social media and marketing doesn't bother me in principle, though I can see where problems could arise.

I think a lot of good medicine is marketing. For example, many primary care doctors try to "sell" their patients on better diet and exercise. Billboards try to convince people not to smoke, and they're most effective when they use sophisticated marketing.

So yeah, third party marketers can get in this space and cause problems, but that doesn't mean the marketing aspect of social media is bad per se.

Or am I just falling into the generally more permissive relationship with PHARMA etc. characteristic of this side of the pond? :)