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Health-care groups turn to social media

December 29, 2010

Always trying to find examples of how social media is working its way into day-to-day life, here is an example of how Canadian health-care taking advantage of the possibilities provided by different mediums.

Keeping up to date on the barrage of medical information available online can be daunting, and health-care professionals are now turning to social media to figure out how to make it easier.

Every Wednesday, as many as 70 health-minded Twitterers meet online to debate — in 140 characters or fewer — the best ways to use the web to get accurate information to those who want it, without overwhelming them with an unmanageable number of tweets or viral videos.

“There are a lot of people and organizations struggling with how to do that on social media, in health care in particular,” said Colleen Young, who started the Healthcare Social Media Canada (#hcsmca) group last September.

Getting health-care professionals and the public talking will help organizations understand what kind of online content users find most valuable, explained Ms. Young, a freelance medical writer for cancer organizations and patients.

“There are very definite ways that they want to get public health messages.”

Ms. Young said that patients are more interested in a two-way conversation with health providers. Rather than being bombarded by only links to a new anti-smoking campaign or research on healthy eating, users want to share their own news or opinions with health-care groups and hear back if they find it interesting.

“The organizations have to make a wholesale change of attitude and that is that they’re not just pumping out information.”

Canadian hospitals are increasingly interested in looking into expanding their social-media use beyond one-way education, said Ann Fuller, who is the director of communications at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

“As hospitals in Canada we have to sometimes do more and more with less and less. Is there a way for social media to fill that gap?”

This article was originally written for Canada’s Globe and Mail Health section.

Keep following to learn of how social media continues to affect our lives, maybe even yours.

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