Seth Rotberg found out as a 15-year old that his mom had a rare neurological genetic disease known as Huntington’s disease. Five years later, he tested positive for the disease. Today I’m talking with Seth about secrets, strengths and recognizing the power of community on Get Social Health.
Get Social Health
A wise man once said laughter is the shortest distance between two people. Well, there’s no shortage of laughter in this episode with Jacob Weiss, who’s the director of High-Wired communities and Entertainment That Gives Back. Listen to the podcast and find out why laughter is the best medicine on Get Social Health.
Janet: 00:00 A wise man once said laughter is the shortest distance between two people. Well, there’s no shortage of laughter in this episode with Jacob Weiss, who’s the director of High-Wired communities and Entertainment That Gives Back. Listen to the podcast and find out why laughter is the best medicine on Get Social Health.
Announcer: 00:21 Welcome to Get Social Health, a conversation about social media and how it’s being used to help hospitals, social practices, health care practitioners, and patients connect and engage via social media. Get Social Health brings you conversations with professionals actively working in the field and provides real-life examples of healthcare social media in action. Here is your host, Janet Kennedy.
Janet: 00:47 Welcome to the Get Social Health podcast. Today I have somebody who is going to help me solve some personal problems and that is Dr. Jacob Weiss.
Janet: 00:56 He is a researcher and a social entrepreneur and he’s going to be speaking at the annual conference of the Mayo Clinic social media network that’s coming up November 14th and 15th in Jacksonville Florida. His topic is how juggling taught me to engage my community for health and well-being. Well I have to tell you I’m having a lot of trouble juggling and also juggling and engaging my community. So this is going to be a very valuable session for me. Welcome to Get Social Health Jacob!
Jacob: 01:28 Thanks thanks for having me.
Janet: 01:30 I was flabbergasted when I saw that we were going to have a person with expertise in juggling at the annual conference of the Mayo Clinic social media network and I’m thrilled because I actually have a cousin who is a professional mime, clown, and she has awesome juggling skills. So that is amazing.
Jacob: 01:52 Yeah it is. It’s going to be a lot of fun for a lot of people don’t realize the connections you can make and the AHA moments you get when you bring in something that’s a different industry. But where there is a really positive connection that you can make, and building bridges across.
Janet: 02:08 Absolutely. And I think some of this has to do with when you send people particularly to a conference or an event where they’re expecting the same old same old. And you throw them for a loop. They’ve got to kind of think differently.
Jacob: 02:24 One of the things I love about juggling is it’s that physical getting up and moving it’s visual it’s it’s not another PowerPoint slide for example and it and so if you’re trying to convey a message or teach or share knowledge you can’t just share the content you have to do in a way that keeps them awake. That makes them engage in a way that it’s really sticky that they can remember back to it when they want to use it. So that’s one of the powerful ways that we use juggling as part of sharing content and real knowledge as well.
Janet: 02:57 All right wait a minute I’m very easily distracted as you’ll probably discover in this podcast interview. However, I’m envisioning you being up there and juggling three to five balls and all this awesome stuff is going and your and you’re imparting words of wisdom.
Janet: 03:11 I gotta tell you I’m going to be totally focused on your juggling skills and I’m not going to be listening.
Jacob: 03:16 Fair enough. And I will give you a preview that most of the time that there’s talking. It’s not at the same time as the juggling so that the juggling will make you can enjoy it and have fun with it and then we use the other parts following before and after to connect when there’s a metaphor or sharing a story of what I’ve done with juggling and community and building healthy communities using both juggling and social media. So it’s not the distracting part it’s the get you to focus then you can listen.
Janet: 03:51 Well now folks know me as a social media early adopter and somebody who uses it probably to the point where they like Janet you need to take the day off. But I’m trying to put together my idea of social media and juggling. Well, the first thing of course is that’s all social media is I am bouncing from one thing to another trying to keep all my content up in the air respond to things like there’s a perfect metaphor for there. But what you’re actually saying this is a physical metaphor as well.
Jacob: 04:22 There’s the metaphor of keeping the balls in the air. And one of the things I talk a lot about is you know it’s a marathon, not a sprint when you’re learning to juggle. You don’t drop a ball and give up in two minutes and say I can’t do it. Same thing with social media. You’re getting started on that whether it’s a new career path or a new project with social media. You don’t just try something and say Oh did it work. I’m quitting it. It’s really that long-term goal and process which is the same as learning to juggle. So you’ve got those metaphors. But there’s also a real physical mindset shift that you can make a connection to while you’re actually physically learning to juggle. And so it’s not just a conceptual metaphor but it’s a physical experience that you can go through that that you can make connections to when you’re working on those other areas of your life or work.
Janet: 05:19 All right let me ask you something and maybe this is why I’m not very good at juggling and I can’t get past five passes the ball is because I’m always thinking about the ball’s going to land here and the ball’s going to land here as often we do and work of I’m going to do this again this which means everything just becomes a blur. Am I doing juggling wrong?
Jacob: 05:41 I would say you’re doing juggling wrong a lot of ways if you can. One of the ways we teach for example when we’re really teaching getting past the first couple of throws is to stand over a table or a desk and let those next. Those that you’re trying to get to hit the ground right it lands on the table. Then you have infinite time to make the next throws after that’s already landed on the ground. And it also helps you get past worrying about the drops and really focusing on that. So it’s it’s like with work when you’re working on social media or any really any work or project it’s its focus on what you can be getting done now not worrying about the next drop that could happen and end. And then you get to that as it comes. And so it’s juggling it really is almost like yoga or meditation is that sense of flow. You have a feeling of when it clicks in.
Janet: 06:39 I will say the other part of the metaphor that I really like that a lot of clients or big companies or even healthcare organizations have to grasp is that you’re going to drop a ball and in social media, you’re going to spell something wrong. You’re going to have a link that didn’t work that you’ve got to repost because when you think about the volume of what you’re putting out and the speed at which you’re putting it putting out if your social media is all 100 percent planned vetted reviewed edited and signed off on it’s boring. You know that’s like picking the ball up and then picking the ball up and then picking the ball up as opposed to ball hand, ball, hand, ball.
Jacob: 07:16 Exactly along the lines of what you said in terms of that’s boring people connect on social media. It’s not a press release. Right. It’s that you’re connecting you’re having real conversations with real people. And the same thing when you watch juggling. I often when I teach other performers they’re not watching the balls in the air they’re watching you having fun with the juggling on stage and it’s the same with social media. It’s not just the announcement here announcement their content they’re engaging with you and your personality and that has to shine through in a genuine way. Again it’s the same thing if you’re performing on stage five hundred people as if you have five hundred dollars on social media that you’re engaging with. It really just has to come from a genuine place from you not just what is the content that you’re sharing.
Janet: 08:07 You know I can talk about juggling forever but at some point, people are going to wonder why are we bringing a juggler to this conference and actually you get some letters after your name and you have some established academic credibility to this work you’re doing so tell us a little bit about your background and how you managed to bring this childhood love of something all the way through your academic career.
Jacob: 08:30 Sure. Apart from being a juggler since I was about 10 years old, I went to Princeton University for my undergraduate and I was focused on computer science engineering where in addition to developing computer-controlled juggling musical instruments that I’ve played while juggling with sensors I also developed in the pre-Facebook days Facebook-type friends list connecting sharing kind of building between aim AOL Instant Messenger and Facebook world and of bridging the gap and working on projects and developing concepts from that from the computer science and I then went from there to Vanderbilt University. I did my Ph.D. in biomedical informatics where I was taking a lot of that approach to social networking and the healthcare focus. And when I got there it was there was a really strong emphasis not just on the medical record as in information repository but the medical record as a communication medium between the doctors and the patients and the nurses and everyone involved and so that really was a powerful connection to what I was excited about and that was a time when a lot of things were you know how do we email doctors not even considering anything social media.
Jacob: 09:53 And so a lot of my research was when in the first iPhone came out. We were developing projects around medication management for kids using the early iPhone before you could even make official apps for it. And so all of my research has really been about how do you connect people online but offline as well.
Jacob: 10:16 So a big part of my focus and from that world is not just thinking about social media as something in it by itself it’s something that can also enhance and complement real-world relationships. Right. So if you can have patients all around the world talking. And that’s an important part of social media. But you can also use social media to coordinate emphasis with conversations that also happen in the real world. Whether it’s between the patient and the care team whether it’s in a local support group or which a lot of my work was looking at all of the different nonprofits working in health care in the local community who are very siloed and disconnected.
Jacob: 11:02 How do you find ways to create more connections between them and so did you immediately go into founding your own company or did you work in that traditional bioinformatics program somewhere.
Jacob: 11:16 Yeah it was pretty much right from my Ph.D. starting my own thing in part because I had continued while I was at Princeton I started up the student juggling shows on campus while doing my research. And when I got to Vanderbyl I started up the juggling group and shows on campus there. So I’d always been doing a combination of starting up juggling programs and creating social networking for community building and health care. And so there was no one job that equally considered both of them. There might have been one or the other and they said oh yeah you can do that little stuff you do on the side with you can’t do this while doing that. And so. So it really wasn’t it wasn’t something that I really purposely went into. It’s just continuing what I’ve always been doing really organically growing and so just kept going and applying a lot of my research work more on consulting or project-based work and then starting up a touring juggling performing company.
Jacob: 12:23 At the same time that’s a social enterprise. So we use that juggling and just like my research to create connections between nonprofits between companies and local nonprofits. And so it I sometimes describe even from the juggling side and doing more in line with my research than if I stayed in the field in academia doing what most informatics is focused on. Because my research really was combining the informatics work with community based participatory research models ethnography. How do you bring together a local community for collaborative design of an online space so it wasn’t just how do we use the online space to us? How do you bring people together to collaboratively design an online space for people who aren’t social media experts or designers? And how do you make it something that from participating they learn at the same time and can go back to their organizations and enhance the work they’re doing online themselves. Have you actually published your dissertation part, not the full dissertation? However many of these are papers but papers out of it. For sure.
Janet: 13:38 Okay. And is the word gentling used in near doctoral dissertation?
Jacob: 13:42 Well I don’t think I have to think I don’t think the word juggling ever specifically appears but I will say several of the conferences where I presented that for informatics there was juggling involved in those presentations and in my dissertation defense I believe there was juggling involved.
Janet: 14:02 Oh wow okay. So my really big question is does your mother say my son the juggler or my son the doctor?
Jacob: 14:11 I would say sure. It depends on the context. I think mostly she’ll say my son the juggling doctor but she actually works in medical informatics as well. That’s what got me introduced I’m interested in that field. And so she gets that part of it. But she also has been around since I was a kid so she knows the other half from the juggling side. And again it’s from the outside it seems very different. But if you think about it what I’m doing with everything I do is bringing people together and finding ways to connect with people and connect people to one another. And there’s a quote I like that came from Victor Borge –
Janet: 14:58 I love Victor Borge!
Jacob: 15:00 And it’s “laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” And that applies to what we do with our juggling performances and the outreach we do when we go to children’s hospitals and in the community. And it also applies to social media and making real genuine connections on social media. It applies to what we’re doing in the community and building real relationships when you facilitate conversations in a community. And so I don’t think it’s anything that’s completely different. They’re both two parts of that same mission of bringing people together.
Janet: 15:39 When I look at your LinkedIn profile I see that you actually have five concurrent jobs a year therefrom X to present. So. Oh my gosh, what exactly do you do for a living?
Jacob: 15:52 So again the concurrent it’s all part of all of the pieces that you see on LinkedIn where they’re all the different pieces and programs that we’re doing with the companies that I started. So technically there are two companies the informatics social media community building consulting and the other is the juggling performance side. But a lot of it weaves together in different ways. And so, for example, one of the programs that we’re doing that we just launched this past year it builds on what we’ve been doing with our touring performances and outreach and just really quick with that the model as a social enterprise it’s kind of like that Tom’s Shoes model if you know where every pair of shoes you buy they donate a pair of shoes to a child in need with our live performing. Every time our show is brought in to a corporate event we donate a visit to a non-profit in the community and we just launched a program that not just it’s not just our visit out in the community that’s real and we see the impact it makes but we’re able to donate excess of juggling balls as well to the different programs because again the juggling it’s the fun as the play.
Jacob: 17:06 But it also helps people connect with the mindset going from an I can’t do this mindset to oh I can do this. We have a path to success. A message that says try drop, try drop, try drop, over and over down the page. Pause. Breathe. Try. It will succeed. And when people learn to juggle they can connect to that mindset and apply it to other things that they’re doing. So that’s the that’s what do good and juggle is. But all of them are part of the kind of core companies that I’ve started.
Janet: 17:48 So what kind of companies are bringing you in, and do they know what they’re getting ahead of time?
Jacob: 17:54 Oh yeah, well some companies will bring us in for the entertainment and then as talking and they realize that I have my Ph.D. in healthcare and technology and also are giving back elements. Then we start talking even more about that piece and then some people are looking more for the community building consulting or corporate training or leadership. I teach a course on community engagement and leadership and end up bringing the juggling and improv comedy techniques and storytelling into that process of the class there and so sometimes people come from one direction and get the other and then it can be flipped depending on who the client is. But we did we do kickoff for a large healthcare company technology company conferences and we’ve been to the White House Madison Square Garden. So from the performing end, we do that side and then from the training side we’ve worked with a lot of some of the major marketing companies, for example, brought us to work with their teams as well as incorporate giving back elements so sometimes companies will bring us in when they’re trying to do something that gives back. But there’s also a team-building or fund program for their employees as well.
Janet: 19:12 Oh that sounds like a lot of fun when you were telling me before we started the interview what your schedule is like over the period where the conference is going on. I was sort of mind boggled. You have to have somebody who says Not today if it’s Tuesday it must be Belgium.
Jacob: 19:30 Right. So yeah we’ve got at least three possibly four. If I do something locally in Nashville that just came in that week. So basically from Sunday Sunday three different cities which is not always that crazy but it definitely can get a little hectic with that.
Janet: 19:47 Now what exactly is an entertainment? What is your show like? I mean no lions no tigers no trapeze. So what exactly are you doing? Is it a circus event?
Jacob: 19:59 So at the conference, I’ll be doing some incorporating some of the performance acts from our touring show and more so doing a lot of talking and making that connection to social media and healthcare and community building with our touring show. We also do that by itself where it’s an hour to 75 minutes no speaking. It’s a three-person show sometimes. And people have compared it almost to Blue Man Group without the crazy makeup. If that makes sense. It’s no speaking it’s got a lot of musical elements juggling physical comedy but really it’s just the three of us having fun on stage together and sharing that with the audience Dave juggles fire. We don’t juggle fire in the show. I can and have but are most of what I do with the performing it’s more about the creativity and the teamwork than it is about the danger elements.
Janet: 20:56 All right. This is going to be so exciting and it’s really going to catch people by surprise. I think this is going to be a great event.
Janet: 21:04 And I know that it sounds like you’re doing some really amazing things when you go to say do a corporate event you’ve got this pay it forward model where you’re doing something is it hospital visits are you doing fundraising shows?
Jacob: 21:20 Some of it’s been more into the fundraising style. Most of it is more going out into the community like to the hospital and visiting with the patients doing a show in the lobby for the patients and the families and the staff even which I think that’s an important part of wellness for the caregivers and the staff and ignoring that element. And so we’ll do that we’ll go out into a local school for example. And and so just giving you an example sometimes that if the client really wants to plan a big event that ties into a charity that they’re trying to support then we end up doing that if that’s what their interest is. But sometimes it might be just visiting, for example, local Ronald McDonald House and there is an example of an event we did. And we went. We went to the local Ronald McDonald House and it was pouring outside.
Jacob: 22:18 And so most of the families were stuck in the hospital and couldn’t get back to the house. But there was one family. It was the husband and wife whose child was in the hospital but they couldn’t get there because of the rain. And so we ended up just doing a short show in the living room for that couple and taught them to juggle. And it wasn’t what we planned in terms of how many people were going to be there. But on the way out and we were leaving and the house manager told us that was exactly what they needed at that time. And so we’ve had other people with our outreach describe how they haven’t left together as a family and over a year and that this was a way that they were able to do that and connect us especially if they were in the hospital or dealing with a challenge like that.
Jacob: 23:10 So so that’s our outreach. It really can be tied into the client wants to focus on health care education and we’ll work with them. But we just see the power and impact that it makes. And that’s something that came from my work. The first outreach we did was working with a lot of the Cancer Support Programs Gilda’s Club here in Nashville is an amazing program and we’ve worked with them. And I got to know them from when I was doing my research and working with the cancer center at Vanderbilt. And so we’ve found ways to do programs for them. And so most of it’s less about the fundraiser elements and more about really making that personal impact with the families who need it.
Janet: 23:57 I love all of this and I love the fact that you’re maybe the first person I’ve ever spoken to that had a passion as a child that they have been able to carry through their whole adult life and into their career. That’s awesome and cool.
Jacob: 24:12 And I will say it was not planned. If you asked me when I was doing my Ph.D. and doing this student shows at the same time if I plan to be a professional juggler in any way and I wouldn’t have said so. Actually, when I first got to Princeton I had no interest in performing I was just juggling I didn’t think I had time for it. And then it just gradually evolved. And so it’s it’s been very organic and not scripted in and how I want to incorporate it and that I’ve always dreamed of being a professional juggler since I was a kid. But it’s been something that’s been a solid foundation and core to everything I’m doing.
Janet: 24:53 All right so where do you go for professional development?
Jacob: 24:56 You know some of the people that I work with for example who do storytelling and storytelling as a way to see different ways to think about things whether it’s strategy or opening up connections. And so those kinds of those partners that I work with but also learn from at the same time there’s a lot of people that I look up to both from that and then there are people whether it’s in the fitness industry and they share advice and messaging around for example. You know trust the process which is a message around their fitness but it’s also a message for careers my career for what we’re doing with how we teach the juggling.
Jacob: 25:41 There’s a lot because it’s the typical industry where you go and take a professional development community building and juggling and healthcare technology all woven together. I kind of get it piece by piece. I do a lot of reading and listening to podcasts and following people look up to from that an awesome.
Janet: 26:01 Well OK. Is there a great circus podcast you’d recommend?
Jacob: 26:05 I don’t follow too much circus podcasts. I would say more from I would say the marketing. There’s a lot of videos that you know keep up with people posting videos from the circus and juggling side through Facebook and you know that network and I follow more of the marketing podcasts and healthcare and those side of things as well.
Janet: 26:29 Now you’ve got to have a guilty pleasure podcast. So is it serial killers or True Crime or history?
Jacob: 26:37 No I don’t. I haven’t really gotten into that side of podcasts listening although I would say that part of everything in terms of what I do free-time wise my wife and I have our 21-month-old at home. So everything’s been a blur for the past few years now.
Janet: 26:57 I can’t imagine. All right so just so you know this is a parent tip here when your child is 22 months old. Measure them double their height and that’s how tall they’ll be as an adult.
Jacob: 27:08 Interesting.
Janet: 27:09 Not 24 months.
Jacob: 27:10 I will look at that. I will look at that.
Janet: 27:13 I did that for my son and lo and behold he did grow up to be 6 feet 4 inches tall. So.
Jacob: 27:19 Well my wife’s mother is six feet tall and so maybe our daughter will get that side of the family but who knows.
Janet: 27:26 There you go. Well I am so looking forward to meeting you in Jacksonville and a hearing watching and sounds like actively participating in your program. It’s going to be a great event.
Jacob: 27:40 And I’m going to have a lot of fun. And look forward to seeing everyone there and always feel free whether you see me at the conference to come up and say hi and mine. Always happy to connect and look forward to meeting everyone.
Janet: 27:54 That’s going to be a blast. All right I’ll bring my own juggling balls and I will see you in a few months at the Mayo Clinic annual conference of the social media network. It’s taking place November 14th and 15th on the Mayo campus in Jacksonville Florida. If you happen to be new to social media and or health care there’s also an all day program on the 13th which is called the social media residency. So you can really get up to speed no matter whether you came from the journalism marketing side of the house and need to learn healthcare or you come from the healthcare side of the house and you’re not that experienced with marketing and social media. That is a great intensive daylong session that you will walk away from with practical and tactical ways to manage your own social media. So I encourage you to look into that as well. Social media dot Mayo Clinic dot org is the place to find this information. Again Jacob thank you so much for joining me and I look forward to seeing you soon.
Jacob: 28:52 Thank you.
Announcer: 28:52 And now here’s a social media success tip.
Lee Aase: 28:57 Hi this is Lee Aase. I’m the director of the Mayo Clinic social media network and happy to share one of my favorite tips and that is to don’t overcomplicate things. I know that in some of the early days with the flip camera many of the complaints that people had was an audio quality. And so they would often look for a camera that could have an external microphone and that would sometimes complicate things to the point where they didn’t shoot the video that they could otherwise abused. So one of the rules that I live by is that you can’t edit what you don’t shoot. Wow, I agree it’s great to get external microphones. I’d be focusing on some of the shotgun ones the ones that can attach to a bracket with the iPhone or Android phone but not to get overly complicated. Look at what you can do in terms of natural light as well as finding a good quiet place to do the interview so that you don’t get hindered from actually shooting the video. That could be really helpful for your communications purposes.
Announcer: 30:07 You’ve been listening to the Get Social Health podcast. The show notes are located at getsocialhealth.com. To join our healthcare social media journey, follow @getsocialhealth on Twitter and start a conversation.
Janet: 30:22 Thanks for listening to the Get Social Health podcast, a production of the Healthcare Marketing Network. And a proud member of the Healthcare Podcasters Community. I’d like to take a moment and tell you a bit about the Healthcare Marketing Network. We’re a community of freelance healthcare writers. Our organization can match your company or healthcare practice with clinically accurate, specialized, or general health care and medical content, from blogs to white papers to CME, the Healthcare Marketing Network has the writers you need to reach your business audience or patients. To find out more visit healthcaremarketingnetwork.com or contact me via social media or email at [email protected] Thanks for listening to the Get Social Health podcast.
Forced From Home Exhibition
Immigration is on everyone’s mind right now. As with so many current issues, knowledge of how this global social problem impacts individuals is misunderstood or even unknown. Recently I had the opportunity to tour the national exhibition, Forced From Home, presented by Doctors Without Borders during its stop in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was graciously given a tour of the exhibition that included interactive activities designed to convey the challenges facing the more than 68.5 million people currently forced from their homes. I saw a re-creation of a refugee’s journey demonstrating the dangers, deprivations, and uncertainties faced by men, women, and children in the millions worldwide every day.
My tour guides were Courtney Ridgway, Erin Ching, and Dr. George Record. As we walked between exhibit stations, they shared the purpose of the Forced From Home exhibition and answered all my questions. An audio podcast can’t fully reveal how moving this program was, so I hope you’ll visit the show notes for photos from the program and more information.
DETAILS: The Forced From Home exhibition offers free, one-hour guided tours with experienced Doctors Without Borders aid workers. Visitors travel through an immersive exhibition featuring a virtual reality (VR) experience, a 360-degree video dome, and interactive activities designed to convey the challenges facing the more than 68.5 million people currently forced from their homes.
Listen to the podcast, read the transcript or drop in at the time stamps below:
Janet: 00:00 Immigration is on everyone’s mind right now, as with so many current issues, knowledge of how this global social problem impacts individuals is misunderstood or even unknown. Recently, I had the opportunity to tour the national exhibition, Forced From Home, presented by Doctors Without Borders during its stop in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was graciously given a tour of the exhibition that included interactive activities designed to convey the challenges facing the more than 68 and a half million people currently forced from their homes. I saw a recreation of a refugee’s journey demonstrating the dangers, deprivations, and uncertainties faced by men, women, and children in the millions worldwide every day. Our tour guides were Courtney Ridgeway, Erin Ching, and Dr George Record, all experienced Doctors Without Borders, volunteers from international crisis songs. As we walked between the exhibit stations, they shared the purpose of the Forced From Home exhibition and answered all my questions and audio podcast. Can’t fully reveal how moving this program was. So I hope you’ll visit the show notes for photos from the program and for more information and now Get Social Health.
Announcer: 01:25 Welcome to Get Social Health. A conversation about social media and how it’s being used to help hospitals, social practices, healthcare practitioners and patients connect and engage via social media, Get Social Health, brings you conversations with professionals actively working in the field and provides real-life examples of healthcare, social media in action. Here is your host, Janet Kennedy.
Janet: 01:52 As I mentioned in the introduction, I got a slightly different kind of podcast for you today. It’s a live interview that was taken on the streets of Charlotte, North Carolina at the Forced From Home exhibition sponsored by Doctors Without Borders. Our interviews today are going to be with Courtney Ridgeway, George Record, and Erin Ching. As I walked through the exhibit, really trying to bring some awareness to our community about what it’s like to be a refugee from your home. I hope you enjoy the interview.
Courtney: 02:28 I’m Courtney Ridgeway. I’m the media coordinator for Doctors Without Borders. What are you doing in Charlotte, North Carolina? We’re here with the free interactive exhibition on the global refugee crisis and we’re trying to raise awareness and educate people about the 68 point 5 million people who are displaced around the globe.
Erin: 02:43 My name is Erin Ching and I’m the external relations manager for Forced From Home.
Janet: 02:47 So you’ve been on the road for a little while and you’ve got a few more stops. Tell me a bit about this road tour.
Erin: 02:53 So we are actually in our third year of this tour. So the first year we were mainly on the east coast last year on the West. This year we’re focusing on the mid-central region. So we’ve been in Minneapolis, Chicago. We’re currently here in Charlotte. And then we’ll be going to Atlanta and San Antonio after this.
Janet: 03:09 And how long are you at each location?
Erin: 03:10 We’re in each location for one week only, so it will be open here in Charlotte, October seventh through 14th and then finishing in San Antonio, November fourth through 11th.
Janet: 03:20 Now obviously you’re listening to a podcast, which means you can’t visualize what I’m seeing here. However, I am going to take some pictures so that you can look at it, but do me a favor and just describe it for people. What is this experience really like?
Courtney: 03:32 It’s 10,000 square feet. It’s outdoor. We basically take you through a series of interactive activities. We have a 360-degree video dome that depicts scenes from refugee camps in migration routes. We have a replica boat from the Mediterranean that people use to try and escape northern Africa. We also have a little bit of a replica of a refugee camp as well as some of our medical facilities.
Janet: 03:55 Now I will say I found this exhibit because I was going to a conference in Charlotte with the Convention Center, which is down in the beautifully new rebuilt downtown area right next to the gorgeous NASCAR Hall of Fame. And I actually thought, Gee, what is that trashy setup? And that is because this is what people are really experiencing. This isn’t a beautiful interactive experience to try to build empathy, you’re going to walk through this and really feel what people feel. And as it happens, while I’ve been in Charlotte, it’s rained a few times and I think that actually adds to the appreciation and understanding for, for what’s happening here. So when it rains, does everybody scoot into the dry or what does it feel like here?
Speaker 4: 04:36 Yeah, well that was a very intentional thing when we built this exhibition was to have it outdoors. I, like you say, I think it’s empathy building. so when it does rain, we have umbrellas and ponchos for participants. The tour must go on.
Janet: 04:48 Now here’s something that we’re going to talk about in a little bit, but when I walked in there was the classic event Porta Johns and I thought, Hey, those look pretty nice, but my guess is that’s not what people are experiencing camps around the world.
Courtney: 05:01 No, you’re going to see a latrine here today that most people will share. I think maybe there might be one for every 40 people, even 400 people in some camps and you’re squatting. It’s not a very beautiful situation.
Janet: 05:14 Alright, check, check that visual. All right, we’re going to walk into the exhibit and then we’re going to look at a few things and talk again. Okay. So to experience this, we know that there are refugees from hundreds of countries around the world all going in different directions, ending up in different places. So much like the Titanic exhibit or the Holocaust Exhibit. I get to really experience through the eyes of someone, so I have been given a card and it says that I am from the Republic of Burundi. So what else does this tell me?
Courtney: 05:48 It’s telling you that you’re a refugee, which is the most important element of it. A refugee actually has more rights than an internally displaced person than a migrant and a stateless person. So being a refugee in this context, as horrible as it is, it means that you will have some protections.
Janet: 06:04 Now you could have in the same camp a refugee. And tell me the other two again?
Courtney: 06:09 An internally displaced person or an IDP. We also have migrants and then stateless people. So could all of those people end up in the same camp? Theoretically? Yes. So does that mean that I’m in the line for the good food and they’re over people over here who are what? Struggling to get a place over their head.
Erin: 06:28 We can look at that when we moved to the legal station portion, but I would like to focus on the five different countries that we feature in this exhibition. So you hear our refugee from Burundi, but we also have, Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and Honduras because there are a refugee and displacement crisis is happening all over the world, and not just in one continent. So that’s something we really want to highlight by giving each participant and identity card and featuring these different contexts throughout the exhibition.
Janet: 06:58 All right, so trying to relate this to an experience, would we only be expecting a citizens of Honduras or would any of those countries theoretically ended up at the door of the US?
Erin: 07:11 Well, that’s. You used the word citizen, right? And so that’s one thing that we’re trying to raise awareness about is the different types of categories of the legal status of people. So not everybody even has citizenship. so we explore that in the legal section of our exhibition, where we talk about stateless people in certain countries, women don’t pass along their citizenship when they have children. So children actually born stateless without any rights of citizenship like you and I as citizens, which is something that a lot of s don’t realize.
Janet: 07:41 Because in America, part of some attitude is that people are coming here so they can have babies who can automatically be citizens. But you’re saying that’s not the case in other countries.
Courtney: 07:52 No, that’s, that’s not the case. And also, if we look at the top 10 countries that actually host refugees and asylum seekers, only one of those is a western country, which is Germany and that is very recent. Usually, when people are being displaced, they’re going and being hosted by countries that are closer to the crises that are already having weaker infrastructures to begin with. And we would see here in the US. So this narrative of like their people overflowing our borders is actually a false narrative.
Janet: 08:19 Alright, so the first station, we’re at a, you said, mentioned each of the countries and I’m looking at, some cards with some imagery on it. And you can again see the picture in the, on the blog post that goes with this. But what is this telling me we call this station push factors and we’re discussing the different reasons people leave home. So the ideas that people never leave home lately, they might leave home because of political strife, economic insecurity, more commonly we’re seeing people forced out due to war, violence and ethnic and religious tension. we’re all very familiar with what’s happening in Syria today and that is taking a lot of these different factors and putting them all into one small place. I’m driving hundreds of thousands of people out of the border. How do I experience?
Erin: 09:03 So your tour guide, who is an experienced Doctors Without Borders field worker will tell you a little bit about each context, discuss the push factors, and we’ll give you 30 seconds to choose just five items which you have to decide in 30 seconds. You know, what are you going to take? Which is supposed to put you in the mindset of being forced to flee from your home. Are you going to take your passport? Are you going to take your family photos? Are you going to take your family heirlooms? Or maybe you need your medication because that you have a chronic disease and you need your medication to treat that. Are you going to take your animals? Are you going to take your cell phones? You have to choose between all of these things like you would have to if you were being forced to flee.
Janet: 09:40 You mentioned a cell phone and folks who know me know I’m a social media lover so I can’t live without my phone and I carry three backup power because I do not want to run out of power for my phone. I’m not sure that there’s a whole lot of extra electrical when you’re jumping on a raft or going on a hundred mile hike through the woods. So is a cell phone a really essential tool?
Courtney: 10:03 That, that is a common misconception. A cell phone is actually one of the most useful items for people on the move. It helps you stay connected to family and friends to check if people are safe. It provides a map so that you know where you’re going. It helps you get in touch with someone who might be able to help you across the border and once you get into a refugee camp, it can even connect you for employment opportunities or to share money with family and friends.
Janet: 10:26 One of the things we’re looking at is a boat that might be a fun little get around boat on the lake credibly could take about eight people, but in this refugee situation, how many people are going to try and squeeze into this little boat?
Courtney: 10:38 We often see 30 people, 30 adult men even trying to squeeze onto a boat that safely. We’ll take eight people on a flat lake and these people are trying to go across the entire Mediterranean in rough water.
Janet: 10:50 And how long would that trip take?
Courtney: 10:52 It really depends. Most of them in a matter of eight hours we’ll capsize and drown if no one is there to save them. Otherwise, they could be stranded for days at a time hoping that someone will come across them.
Erin: 11:03 One issue that we see here is because the boat is so small, they try and pack so many people in. One of the medical issues that we see here is that when you have gasoline, petrol that mixes with seawater, it creates a skin corrosive. So we see and treat a lot of our patients who have burns on their skin. And if left untreated, that can become a problem.
Janet: 11:26 As you can imagine, not being at home can be very, very difficult if you really don’t know what your legal status is. So one of the things that this exhibition is talking about is the many different kinds of status that you might have and what kind of rights, if any, come with that. So share a little bit with me, Courtney, what, what are the legal statuses that are involved?
Courtney: 11:46 A refugee is a protected status that’s recognized internationally. It’s someone who has left their country and been accepted as someone who has a credible fear of persecution from violence, political affiliation, gender, etc. and they are in another country now. They are basically allowed to get aid from the UNHCR, which is the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. And the united nations is overseeing their protection and they’re also eligible in some instances for resettlement in countries like the United States.
Janet: 12:19 Can you actually become a refugee before you leave your own country?
Courtney: 12:23 No, you can not. Many people who leave their countries can seek asylum. So that’s the next status. Asylum seeker is someone who’s left their country, arrived at another and is asking for that kind of protection. So an asylum seeker can become a refugee or they can be denied and become a kind of person in limbo.
Janet: 12:42 All right, so you’re in a war situation and you just have to get your family out. What? Where would that fall?
Courtney: 12:47 You’re going to be an asylum seeker in that instance, and it really just depends on the country that you land in. We’re seeing this happen at our own borders and in some instances, you’re turned away. People don’t feel that you have enough proof that you had a credible fear to leave home.
Janet: 13:02 What about proving who you are as a person?
Courtney: 13:05 That can be difficult to. If you have 30 seconds to take everything that you want to, you don’t always get to take your identification. Your identification might also not mean anything at the place that you land. Everyone has a passport here in the United States. So if you were to suddenly end up in Cuba or Mexico, someone could easily say, we don’t recognize this id driver’s license that you’re carrying.
Janet: 13:30 Okay? It looks like I’m in the kitchen or the bathroom or all in about six square feet of space. So where am I?
Erin: 13:37 Right? So this is what we call our basic needs set section of our exhibition. And right here we are trying to visualize for participants, you know, what a refugee camp setting might look like. So one thing about this exhibition is we really want to try and put s into the position of comparing, you know, our life Here versus what somebody forced to flee would face. So if you look here for your guests, maybe you can post a picture of this. If you look here, we have these Jerrycans here. so right here we have 90 gallons, which is the average consumption water consumption for an uses in one day here in just one day. Can we have two gallons of water, which is the who minimum threshold for one person for one consumption per day? So if you can see the visual comparison, it’s a lot, you know, think about when you flush the toilet here, how much clean water we use in one flush versus in a refugee camp if you’re only allowed two gallons of water per day, you have to use that for Cooking, for washing, for cleaning, if you have a baby as well, and not only do you have just so little water, but you have to carry that to the water point to where you’re living.
Erin: 14:42 So just again, trying to put people in the comparative experience of, look, this is what we have here and this is what somebody that is living in a refugee camp might face. so we talked earlier the latrine as well, so you can see this latrine here. What does that look like to you?
Janet: 14:55 My, my guess is that’s a ditch dug in the ground.
Erin: 14:59 Water and sanitation needs are one of the greatest needs in these situations just because you have large numbers of people living so closely together. and if you have a poor water situation or a war poor sanitation situation, you can have outbreaks of communicable diseases like cholera, that can spread very quickly. so it’s really important that when we’re in these settings responding, that we have adequate water and sanitation facilities.
Janet: 15:23 So where is the water coming from?
Erin: 15:26 That’s a great question. It depends on the setting that we’re in. Sometimes it comes from a lake far further away. sometimes it’s trucked in, and sometimes it’s treated so existing water that’s been treated by chlorine systems, or filtration systems. And we have. One of the things that people don’t realize about Doctors Without Borders is that we have a substantial number of our staff that are non-medical professionals as well. Some of those, like myself in the field, our logisticians, who exclusively work on the supply chain of drugs and the treatment of the water systems as well as electrical supply as well.
Janet: 16:04 Sanitation is just a really frightening thing. I’m not crazy about going into a porta-john. and they’re pretty fancy now, but what you just showed me was absolutely frightening. It’s literally a place for your feet and a ditch in the ground and you could have how many people in a refugee area?
Erin: 16:23 Well, it really depends on the size of the refugee camp. you know, we work in bend two in South Sudan that has many refugees and, but right now I’m actually in Bangladesh with the Rohingya that is fleeing. It has now become the largest refugee camp in the world, larger than even Dadaab in Kenya. so we’re seeing refugee camps with upwards of hundreds of thousands of people living together in one camp setting. That’s mind-boggling.
Janet: 16:50 One of the things that I feel very guilty about is the fact that my water pressure at home is a little weak. So I was in a hotel this morning and I really enjoyed my shower, however, I’ve come over here and now what we’re looking at is a series of plastic Jerrycans, what you might use to tote water. And so over here on the right-hand side, how big are these Jerrycans?
Erin: 17:11 Yeah. So here we have two comparisons. I’m the who minimum standard for one person per day is two gallons of water, which you can see is just not even up to the halfway mark of one jerrycan versus the consumption of one average per day, which is over 90 gallons. so when you think about two gallons a day and that’S for your washing, your cooking, your cleaning. and we really want people to experience the difference. You know, what we’re used to versus what somebody in this situation might be facing. And it’s dark.
George: 17:43 Hi, I’m George Record. I’ve been working as a general surgeon for Doctors Without Borders since 2006.
Janet: 17:52 How many places have you been around the world?
George: 17:54 Seven or eight. And what made you become a doctor without a border?
George: 18:00 Well, a lot of that is what may become a doctor ever since working in the peace corps is a young man, living in a foreign country, you can get a little bit under your blood and if you live in a low resource country, you realize how precious the basic medical needs that we take for granted are. So it was as soon as my kids grew up, I took advantage of the fact that I, I had some time and money to allow me to work for Doctors Without Borders.
Janet: 18:31 Oh, that’s amazing. Now, when you’ve gone to a foreign country and you’ve been in a situation are, are they all high energy crisis or is there’s kind of a business as usual feeling about around a refugee camp?
George: 18:56 It’s all over the map. Working in post-earthquake, Haiti is definitely a high energy crisis working in Sri Lanka where there’s a smoldering civil war and we’re waiting for the next shoe to drop. It’s not so high energy. It’s treading water and until something bad happens.
Janet: 19:05 So as a surgeon in an area like this, what is your day like?
George: 19:11 It varies highly, but generally I work in a hospital and my doctor friends and I, and we say it’s really not Doctors Without Borders is doctors out doctors because most of the organization is involved in actually setting up the hospital, which is a tour de force. Good. Good water, good sanitation. So when I come, what we’re looking at has already been set up and we’ll start off in the morning. One of us might make rounds and the other will go to the operating room and pretty much operate all day long. A lot of Verne’s, chronic wounds, gunshot wounds, machete wounds, crocodile hippopotamus bites, complicated obstetrics, open fractures, a highly diverse set of problems.
Janet: 19:54 Sounds like you’re running an emergency department. Does that mean that chronic illness and/or just run of the mill feeling bad sort of gets pushed to the side?
George: 20:04 It depends on the context. Most of the time as a general surgeon, we work in areas of armed conflict, areas of natural disaster and we are oftentimes unfortunately limited to taking care of emergencies and chronic diseases such as, for example, a longstanding or hernia, which we just don’t have the time and manpower to take care of.
Janet: 20:30 Now we talk a lot about Doctors Without Borders, but I know you’re not doing this without a nurses, medics, LPNs, so how big is the medical force and what do you usually put together as as a team of professionals?
George: 20:44 There is no one standard. We 300 bed hospitals which have a full compliment of general surgeons, orthopedists, nurses, recovery room nurses, lab technicians, x ray technicians down to a one surgeon on one nurse, small emergency facility. It’s very much context dependent.
Janet: 21:08 And obviously geography dependent, how accessible it is.
George: 21:12 That’s correct. As you’ve been in the peace corps many years ago and now back in the field.
Janet: 21:18 I’m gonna take a wild guess that things seem a lot worse now than probably when you were in the Peace Corps?
George: 21:25 Well, It was different, but, the world has changed a lot.
Janet: 21:29 What keeps you motivated to keep facing these difficult situations?
George: 21:35 That’s an easy one to answer. The patients. The endurance of our patients is a prime motivator. I’ll tell you a story that’s always moved me. Our former president, James Urbanski was working during the Rwandan genocide. He was taking care of a woman with a huge chest wound and he just couldn’t stand it anymore and he started crying. And this woman looked at him and said, “Courage, Courage, Doctor.” And so it’s our patients that inspire us and, I’m inspired by the people I work alongside of. It’s really, a very dedicated, energetic workforce and we feed off each other’s energy and commitment.
Janet: 22:23 You’ve been boots on the ground for a long time and now you’re talking to citizens who in many respects don’t have a very good understanding of what anyone’s experiences. Like. What do you tell people? How do you try to convey the seriousness of what’s happening elsewhere and why we should care?
George: 22:42 The same way I’m talking to you. Your perspective just depends on where you’re living and I’ve, I’ve, since getting back from the Peace Corps, we all have stories of the disconnect we feel. I remember, as a 22-year-old getting, getting home from two years in Nepal and my best friend’s mother, all she could talk about was what an amazing plane trip that must have been – 22 hours on the plane! That’s just amazing. But people, if you don’t have some common knowledge, common experience, you connect with whomever you can. Questions like those are asked with the best of intentions.
Janet: 23:22 Well, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much, Doctor.
Janet: 23:27 One of the things that we’re looking at here is really a, a pictograph of what I assume are some kind of symptoms for something, but what am I looking at?
Erin: 23:35 So you asked earlier about what our teams in the field are composed of m and a lot of our projects, we use health promotion teams to actually convey information, projects, symptoms, et cetera to the populations and people that we’re working with. So what you’re looking at here is a health promotion board from one of our projects in Tanzania.
Janet: 23:55 All right. I can figure out the top. I don’t know what’s happening here in, in picture number five,.
Erin: 24:02 What we’re trying to explain to people is the disease themselves and the symptoms that they might experience in many populations that we’re working in. people may not know how to read. so we have to convey that information through pictures, which is what you’re seeing here. So here you can see a mosquito here and somebody’s sleeping, and then you see somebody that is now throwing up who has diarrhea, who might not feel well. Shivers, fever, aching pains, denying of wanting food, lack of hunger. and then you should see a series of these people who have experienced these symptoms come into our health center. So we’re trying to explain that. If you experience these symptoms, you can come and seek treatment at our health center.
Janet: 24:45 Excellent. What kind of issues are people bringing into a refugee camp and what kind of issues medically speaking, do you worry about once you have a lot of people in a tight situation?
George: 24:58 Prime one is measles. Measles killed 100,000 children a year and a malnourished anemic refugee. Children are particularly susceptible to measles. The refugee population has very rarely been vaccinated in their childhood. As soon as we see one case of measles in a congested area, we will begin a mass measles vaccination program, and once again, our logisticians, that is one of their real expertise is, is bringing in temperature-sensitive vaccines from a long ways away and what’s called a cold chain such that critical temperature roughly between 35 and 42 degrees Fahrenheit is never exceeded and this team can vaccinate as many as a thousand children a day.
Janet: 25:48 I assume it must be something like malaria, but there are probably other common diseases that you have to deal with?
George: 25:55 Malaria is probably number two. We have something called point of care testing for malaria. There’s a ninety-cent device where with a drop of blood, very similar to analyzing someone’s blood sugar with a drop of blood, we can tell if they’re infected with, falciparum malaria or not. It takes 15 minutes and that way we can accurately diagnose someone with symptoms like headache, chills, and vomiting and give them appropriate treatment.
Janet: 26:25 Even though you’re giving care and you have medical stations set up, the chance of something turning into an epidemic must be a daily issue you deal with.
George: 26:36 For me as a surgeon, no, it’s not a daily issue, but that’s, I mean that’s the big picture and that’s the big worry. I have a friend who has worked for a long time with Doctors Without Borders all over the world. He’s, he’s been in hospitals in Pakistan where he’s been bombed on an almost daily basis. And he told me that the scariest thing in his career was last April in Bangladesh in the Rohingya refugee camp where the first couple of cases of whooping cough or dip theory or were diagnosed and he was scared stiff there’d be a devastating outbreak of that. Thank God it was averted.
Janet: 27:18 Well, let me ask you a question about cultural differences. You’re bringing western medicine, western attitudes, western knowledge to a lot of different cultural environments. Do you ever have difficulty explaining the importance of some of the issues that you’re dealing with?
Erin: 27:34 Yes, yes. so that’s why we have health promotion teams like I spoke of earlier, to kind of emphasize why different health practices are important in terms of preventing malaria or preventing cholera. So the second health promotion board we have here talks about how to prevent these outbreaks from happening or how to protect yourself against even contracting malaria in the first place. So health promotion teams play an integral role in these refugee camps settings to translate the knowledge into something that is understandable locally.
Courtney: 28:05 We also employ 90 percent, national staff, meaning that while we think of Doctors Without Borders is being ex-pats here from the United States, going abroad and bringing a western perspective, the large majority of our staff is actually people that are born and raised in that country. And that helps us also learn from them what, what ways we can overcome different cultural differences and make sure that we’re being really sensitive to people’s differences and also helping kind of mesh those two worlds to give them the best care possible.
Janet: 28:35 So think about the worst camping trip you’ve ever been on and that is probably luxury incarnate compared to some of the samples of the tenting situations that we see here. And when I say tent, it’s really a loosely designed series of tarps, kind of like stacked on top of frames of all different sorts. There are some tents, there are some more sophisticated things, but for the most part it looks like you’re just barely keeping ahead of rain and drips. And definitely the thing I hate about camping more than anything else, I just hate my feet being wet. I hate the floor being muddy. Just can’t stand it. I would not be very good in this environment.
Courtney: 29:18 Yeah. So what you’re seeing here are some different structures. These are examples from three specific locations, including Somalia, Iraq, and Bosnia. The sad reality is that these are conditions that people will live in for up to 10 and 20 years even they might raise five children in a tent that would normally sleep one to two Americans in the woods for a weekend and you have to obviously get really crafty people are often cooking and educating their children in these tents. They might be raising teenage boys. I’m next to a family of, you know, young women and there’s a lot of different issues that can arise in these settings so people have to get really creative with how they approach their lives.
Janet: 30:01 So we’re at the last station of the Forced From Home exhibition that’s touring the United States right now, and it’s called Seeking Safety. So tell me a little bit about what this is all about.
Erin: 30:11 We’re at the final destinations portion, which is the last part of the exhibition, which is called Forced From Home. I’m in. What we really want to emphasize here is that when refugees and people who are seeking safety in depth in their country where they have arrived, it’s often times not the end of their journey, right? The experiences that they faced along the way are very traumatic and these traumas can last for years to come. So if you look at this map here, it shows the top 10 countries of origin and the top 10 countries of arrivals. So if you look at the top 10 countries of arrival, it’s Turkey, Pakistan, Uganda, Lebanon, Iran, Germany, Bangladesh, Sudan and Ethiopia and Jordan. These countries, first of all, the only western country is Germany. If you have a population, for example, in Lebanon, a population of three point five to 4 million, they’ve taken in over a million refugees. This narrative of people flooding our borders here in the us is really not the case. When people are fleeing these situations, they’re often fleeing into countries that are close and neighboring to the conflicts themselves. For example, Afghanistan into Iran and Pakistan, Iran, Iran has taken almost a million refugees. Pakistan is taken one point 4 million refugees and when you compare that to here in the us, which we’re on track to receive under 30,000 refugees this year, you know, the number is really stark.
Janet: 31:31 So this has been a very moving experience for me. Very eye-opening. I am amazed. I am appalled. I am hopeful, but I am also frightened for the millions of people who just don’t have alternatives that are humane. I wonder as this exhibit has toured the United States and you have a few more to go to. What exactly do you want people to think or do when they’re done with their experience here?
Erin: 31:58 What I hope that people realize is that most people don’t leave their homes willingly. Most people don’t choose to leave their homes. And the reason they’re leaving is because they’re fleeing violence. They’re fleeing persecution, they’re fleeing war. And really we want people to understand that these people who are fleeing their seeking safety in seeking safety isn’t a crime, shouldn’t be a crime. Seeking safety is not a crime. So I hope that people understand that when they go through this exhibition and get involved as part of the last exhibition station, it’s called take action. So we do highlight several organizations that work here locally to support refugee resettlement and integration into the community and encourage people to involved that way. But mostly I hope that people just understand and empathize, and recognize that seeking safety is not a crime.
Janet: 32:46 Well, I couldn’t have said it better myself and that’s obviously why you all are doing this amazing tour. So again, you probably will have missed it by the time you hear this, your next two locations that you’re going or where?
Erin: 32:59 Atlanta and San Antonio.
Janet: 33:01 All right, so you’re very lucky. Atlanta and San Antonio, you are going to experience something really amazing. However, have no fear. I will put at the end of the blog post for this podcast, a lot of information about how to find them in social media, what the websites are that you go to and how you can become a part of standing with rescue.
Announcer: 33:19 You’ve been listening to the Get Social Health podcast. The show notes are [email protected] to join our healthcare social media journey, follow at, Get Social Health on twitter and start a conversation. Thank you for listening to the Get Social Health podcast, a production of the healthcare marketing network, and a proud member of the healthcare podcasters community.
Janet: 33:45 The healthcare marketing network is a community of freelance healthcare and medical writers ready to support your business or practice. You can find [email protected] Thanks for listening.
Music Attribution-Lee Rosevere: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/
Marie Ennis-O’Connor is a social media consultant for healthcare and pharma. She visited the Get Social Health podcast to talk about her upcoming presentation for the Annual Meeting of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network. Marie visited the Get Social Health podcast 3 years about as a “must follow” social media expert and that is still very true. Listen to the podcast here or drop in at the time stamps below.
Janet: 00:00 One of my go-to healthcare social media consultants is Marie Ennis O’Connor. She’s a wonderful person who’s been on the podcast before and is very savvy about how to craft, must-read headlines and compelling content for social media and you know that’s a challenge we face every day. Find out how she does it on Get Social Health,
Announcer: 00:22 welcome to Get Social Health, a conversation about social media and how it’s being used to help hospitals, social practices, healthcare practitioners and patients connect and engage via social media. Get Social Health, brings you conversations with professionals, actively working in the field and provides real life examples of healthcare, social media in action. Here is your host, Janet Kennedy. Welcome to the Get Social Health podcast.
Janet: 00:50 Yay. I’m excited to have a friend of mine back on the podcast, Marie Ennis-O’Connor was with me a couple of years ago and a lot has happened in social media marketing and the online healthcare world since then, so it’s going to be exciting to catch up with her, but even more exciting is that I’m finally going to get to meet her in person because we are both going to be at the annual meeting of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network. It’s going to be taking place at the Jacksonville campus of Mayo Clinic in Florida on the 14th and 15th, and if you are relatively new to healthcare social media, you may want to think about joining the residency that takes place on the 13th the day before, so it’s a great three day conference. You’re going to meet some amazing people, not the least of whom is Marie O’Connor. Welcome to the podcast, Marie.
Marie: 01:41 Thank you, Janet. I think I’ll get you to do that introduction for me when I’m in Jacksonville, so that was very nice. Thank you.
Janet: 01:47 I might get to because I was asked to be a moderator in one of the rooms, so if I’m near you, I might get to do your interview. However, to folks who may not be familiar with you or haven’t had a chance to listen to your previous episode, let’s catch up and let me tell a little bit about. Marie is a digital communications strategist and she is an internationally recognized keynote speaker. She’s in Ireland, so it’s not as far a jaunt from here, but she’s going on her fall conference circuit, so by the time you get to the Mayo Clinic event in November, you’re going to be well-packed and well traveled.
Marie: 02:27 I imagine. You know, I have a suitcase that I keep packed all the time. When you travel like that, you do have to start getting very strategic about what you bring and yeah, so I’ve got it down to a fine art now. I did have a consultant that used to work with me when I was in the shopping center industry and she always packed 100 percent black everything, so she never had to worry about anything matching. It was just all black, I think a little depressing, but that certainly does simplify your travel. Yeah, no, that’s good. And I will let’s not get too much into, into fashion, but I just wear dresses because I just find they roll up nicely and they just always look fine. So that’s just my advice.
Janet: 03:17 Marie, what have you been up to since we last spoke?
Marie: 03:21 I am more than enough with social media than I ever been even the last time we spoke and I love to be able to say that. It’s just, we’re learning all the time where we’re doing new things, we’re trying new things, working with new clients. So I’m just more in love with social media than ever. I’m doing a lot of travel, which is wonderful. I get to meet some new people and I’m still loving this. Introducing people to the real power of social media. What’s interesting, Janet, I think even. I’m trying to remember back to what we talked about before. I’m still quite amazed that even these several years later we’re still having to almost go back to basic principles and explain what is social media, what is digital marketing and there’s still a lot of misconceptions around that. So I like to put people straight and I like to.
Marie: 04:10 I guess my background is in public relations, so I always go back to a real grounding in real communications and you introduced me as a digital marketing communications. I can’t even remember what I said I was and it’s because I still think sometimes social media has got this reputation of well we just put up a few tweets or we’ll just put up a Facebook page and they’re so, so much more to us. So I guess probably one of the challenges that I still face is really getting that across to people is that there is so much more about doing social media or using social media, it’s about how to do it strategically. So that’s been my life’s work and that’s what I’ve been doing for the last couple of years or however long it is since I spoke to you and I’m still finding it fascinating.
Marie: 04:53 Well I think what’s interesting about your perspective as well is that you’re in Ireland, so you’re kind of halfway between the US and Europe and you have clients across all those continents, correct?
Speaker 3: 05:06 That’s correct. And the wonderful thing is people don’t actually know I’m in Ireland. I always have to start off when people invite me or asked me to go on a call, I always have to start off with, well, you know, I am in Ireland. They go, no, I didn’t know that. I thought you were in the US or I thought you were in Australia or I thought you were wherever. But I think that’s the amazing thing is that you can be anywhere in the world and you can give that one world-class service.
Janet: 05:27 Oh absolutely. And it also means that you have to really learn how social media is being used in a lot of different cultural and more importantly governmental situation. So where in the US, you know, we’re just starting to feel the GDPR type of situation. You were deep in it this year over in Europe.
Janet: 05:49 Yeah. It almost became a Y2K thing. People got very worried about it. But it’s basic good governance. If you sign up to a newsletter, if you take somebody email, you follow these steps that people can opt out very easy. I mean it’s good practice. So I’m delighted to see GDPR come in, but you know, yeah, I think probably there’s a little bit more email spamming coming from the US, but we’re all going to start leveling off with that. I think that GDPR is something that’s incredibly important and I think we are going to see that as well coming through across the world. Continental.
Janet: 06:27 Absolutely. It’s just the best practice to follow it regardless of whether you’re legally obligated to.
Marie: 06:35 Absolutely, absolutely. I would have always practiced it anyway, even before GDPR came in. So it was great to see GDPR coming in. I’m still amazed at the amount of people who didn’t comply with this, even though there’s a lot of fines and very high. Fine. So we’ll see. We’ll have to see what’s going to happen with that.
Janet: 06:51 Now, what type of clients are you working with? Are they healthcare systems? Are they pharma companies? Are they health tech companies, health tech companies, and pharmaceutical industry?
Marie: 07:01 So a lot of healthcare startups, and the pharmaceutical industry, the pharmaceutical industry. I’m working more or less in social media marketing and more in terms of patient engagement. So I wear two hats, which I really, really enjoy as well. Well, you know, you’re on the board of the patient empowerment foundation and I’m not sure what that is. So tell me a little bit about that. So the patient empowerment foundation is really about empowering patients. It’s about giving patients a voice. Let’s say there’s a conference, we have sessions at the conference where patients can network niche but can really get access to the information that they need, so it’s about showing patients that they have this role to play and helping them to get the most out of a conference or get the most out of them out of the healthcare system. So it depends. It depends on what patients need. If it’s an individual patients or patient groups and that’s the kind of work that we’re doing.
Janet: 07:59 Are you finding that conferences are more aware of the need to say underwrite scholarships for patients to be able to attend their conferences?
Marie: 08:08 You know, yes, but I find it very interesting that there’s still so many conferences that aren’t, but what I find fascinating is that they’re almost being shamed into providing those scholarships. There’s the patients included accreditation which conferences can get if they provide that scholarship if they make it easy for patients to attend on. We’re, we’re definitely moving towards that. So it’s quite interesting sometimes to see, and this is, this is the part of social media that I don’t think conferences often get. The organizers now put a Hashtag up there, they’ll say come to our conference and if they haven’t made it easy for patients to come and it’s a natural place for patients to come, they will quickly be called out on social media, particularly on Twitter about it. So it’s quite interesting. And they are in, they are shocked to be called out on this.
Janet: 08:57 Well a little public shaming. Not that I’m a fan of it, I clearly don’t like shaming by parents of their children. That’s just so wrong. And that’s, that brings up the ugly side of social media, but definitely a respective call out to say, wouldn’t it be great if patients could be included in this conference and then see what kind of response you get.
Marie: 09:21 Yes, absolutely. And, and you’ve touched on that there. There is an ugly side to social media and I think that’s something that we do need to address and talk about and how do we deal with that? And it’s something that’s quite interesting and it’s very off-putting for a lot of organizations. So I agree with you. There’s a way to do that. There’s a way to open that dialogue rather than jumping in there and saying, I don’t see any patients. Where are the patients? And it becomes this, this confrontation.
Janet: 09:46 Absolutely. Well, the interesting thing is here we are busily talking all about social media, but it’s your writing side that you’re going to be featured as a speaker at the Mayo Clinic annual meeting of the social media network. So let’s talk about that a little bit.
Marie: 10:01 I was going to say that, you know, it’s one of the most exciting things for me. When I was a little girl, I always wanted to grow up to be a writer and it didn’t happen for me. And yet through this social media, through communicating, I’ve rediscovered this love of writing again. And that has been really, really personally fulfilling part of the work that I do. So I’m excited to be sharing with people what I’ve learned about writing, about how you communicate about how you get more people to read what you’ve written because it’s very disheartening when you’ve poured your heart and soul into something and you realize that, well, nobody’s read it apart from your mom or your best friend. So, you know, there’s a little techniques which I’m looking forward to sharing the annual conference. Well, excellent.
Janet: 10:45 Well, I’m going to tell you right now that you’re going to have to write the title for this podcast. So let’s talk about that because your topic is actually crafting must-read headlines and compelling content for social media. So I’m assuming blogs, but also, uh, we’re talking about other content as well?
Marie: 11:02 You know, blocks primarily. I am such a huge fan of getting quality content out there. So be that blogs, be that, even doing that Facebook live, it’s even how you title that. It’s the content that you want to share. And really at the bottom of all of this is what do your audience want to hear? And that’s the content you should be creating. Open out here, I don’t know what to say, and I say, well, what do your audience need to hear from you? What piece of expertise do you have that will be so valuable to share with your audience? So whichever, whether it’s a podcast, whether it’s a video, whether it’s a blog, whether it’s part of the Twitter chat, what is that content? So all of that great content begins with discovering what your audience wants to hear.
Marie: 11:47 All right, we’re going to break this down a little bit. So let’s use this specific podcast as an example. I have a Marie Ennis O’Connor, who has a known online social presence. We’re talking about the Mayo Clinic’s annual meeting of their Social Media Network, and we’re talking about a great presentation about crafting must-read headlines. Well, gee whiz, which is the most important part? How do I figure out how I should lead with this podcast title?
Speaker 3: 12:17 I would do? I love Gdpr. Janet, I’m not sure how much of a Twitter person that you are, but I will often do some preliminary research on Twitter. I will ask people, in fact, the very title when I was debating the title with Dan, him and we were going back and forth and some titles and I said, you know what, why don’t I just put the question out there, why don’t I ask my followers on Twitter, my Linkedin group, my Facebook group, why don’t you just ask them which of these titles would you be most interested in coming to a talk? And they voted and they gave me the title. So I always say ask your audience. And so that’s, that’s how I will always start with something. I always crowdsource ideas. I’m going to rise pretty in-depth article. I’ll ask my community what are their best tips and I’ll always share them as well. so I’m almost doing the. I’m almost amplifying a know how I’m going to promote what I’ve written if I start with asking the audience because they will also want to promote that and amplify what I’ve read.
Janet: 13:16 Oh, fascinating. Now, how much does a keyword research play into your decisions on titles?
Marie: 13:23 It should play more. It should play more of a role than it is because I teach how important it is and it absolutely is important, but sometimes people get too hung up on that and it can almost stymie them, so there’ll be obsessed with putting the right keywords in there, so I always say do that keyword research, but don’t get too hung up on this and I find that with the keyword research, I think one of the really interesting things that I’ve discovered in the last year or so is if you do a google search, it’s what people also searched for appears at the end in sentence form in the more natural way. So instead of you would ask maybe how do I write such and such a title? How do I write awesome titles, or how do I write titles that will attract more readers and so I will build around those rather than just a specific keyword.
Janet: 14:12 Oh, okay. That’s a great tip. Well, when we talk about what you’re going to be talking about at the annual meeting, what kinds of things are you going to be focusing on?
Marie: 14:23 I’m very much going to take it back to that basics, what I was saying, which is what are you going to write about? How are you going to find out what your audience wants to read about? So you go and ask your audience and then you do a lot of listening. Maybe you go into Twitter chats and you see what are the topics, what are the questions people are asking in those Twitter chats? If you go into them, what are they asking in Facebook groups? What kind of questions are they asking on blogs? So you can read your favorite industry blogs, shoot down to the questions and see what have they not answered in that? What other questions are people asking? And then you go and create that content? So I’m very much a fan of that, about not just writing something without going and doing your research first, and I always start with that.
Janet: 15:07 Well, you know, I’m going to take the devil’s advocate viewpoint here as I envision busy hospital because the majority of the folks who are going to be at this program are members of a hospital marketing or communications team. When I envisioned this sometimes very thin team they’re, I dunno, what I’m sensing is they are more focused on here are the messages I need to push out as opposed to what do people want to read. So they’re coming down with, you know, the people above them saying, we need to talk about this new doctor. We need to talk about this cardiology procedure. We need to talk about our brand new nursing wing, blah blah blah blah, blah. Do you really feel that hospitals are actually taking the time to do this kind of research and to ask their audience what they want to read or are they just trying to take their agenda and make it as friendly as possible?
Marie: 16:01 You know, I think it’s even more important that they do take the time to do that research. And where I’m going to come back to what I say, time and time and time again when I work with clients, if you’re going to do it, then you need to do it well and you need to do it strategically. So why should somebody care about your new hospital wing? If I. I’ll go back and play devil’s advocate back to you. You need to say why should they care about it? Just because you have news doesn’t necessarily mean that the world wants to hear that news or is interested and how much use do we hear how many hospitals are telling us about their new research or their new hospital wing or their new staff member. We’re bombarded with that information so we need to take deeper or that information is only going to interest a very select few. And I guess as well, that’s also the dilemma that I find when I’m trying to explain to people what social media is about.
Marie: 16:55 It’s not about that newsletter that you used to send that with, here is our latest news. It has to go deeper than that. It has to go wider than that. So I’m going to be quite strong about that when I speak about us.
Janet: 17:08 Now, how about from the standpoint of developing content calendars? Are you going to walk through some of the basics of a of a content calendar?
Marie: 17:16 Yeah, sure I am. I would do that a lot with clients as well. We need to map out in advance because we can start off with social media and everybody’s very enthusiastic and then I’m sure as you know Jonathan start petering out and petering out, but if we have that content calendar and I like to go depends on the client, but monthly or quarterly and we’ve mapped it out, then we know there’s always something there that we can draw on. I’m also a big fan of having, when it comes to Twitter, having a tweet bank, having boilerplate tweets that you can draw on. Having it all there documented is hugely powerful and it really focuses you as well. So if you’re looking what’s coming up in the next month or the next quarter, what are the disease awareness days? Maybe Is it National Doctor Day, is it International Nursing Week and what can we do around that so that that’s essential. It’s absolutely essential to have that mapped out in advance and have that calendar sewn up.
Janet: 18:14 Well, now he’s just going to ask you that about, is this heart healthy month? Is that lame? Is that something that, well, everybody’s doing it. That doesn’t make my content unique or original. How do you work with clients to take it to that next level or to look at the same old same old topics and given new spin to it.
Marie: 18:34 You know, I agree and I’m going to go back and say it again. I go back and I will look and see what’s everybody doing and what’s missing from that. What if people knock covered? What kind of questions are on Reddit or Quora or on Twitter chats? What are patients asking, what are they not already hearing, and that’s the content we need to be creating. And then I’m also a big fan. People still love graphics and infographics are still hugely popular. They’ve got a high high sharing race, so I will do a lot of work around visual content when it comes to that and creating those graphics and those infographics about telling the stories about bringing what’s happening within a hospital or within a healthcare facility. Really bringing that out into the public so that people can really see who are the people that are working in this area. I agree with you that we’re almost over-saturated with these awareness days, but we also have to get in there and show that we’re part of that as well.
Janet: 19:34 One of the things I’m really interested in is this concept of storytelling, and again, I go back to that very stretched thin, lightly staffed content department to tell a story is a lot harder than one would think both from the skills that are necessary to be able to effectively tell a story, but also to find a story in a busy, busy hospital where it’s probably hard to get a hold of people. So how do you go about coaching? Finding those good stories and what to do with them.
Marie: 20:08 I think if you go out and looking for the stories, that is quite difficult, but if you start early enough, if you start gathering those stories, if you start embedding that idea that we are a storytelling organization and those stories start, you start looking for the stories then in a more natural way and then you collect those stories and an, a story doesn’t have to be an interview, it doesn’t have to be written piece. I mean really a picture does tell a story. So there are incredible moments where you might be able to take a picture. Obviously, we will also need to talk about the ethics of that and, and having permission to use pictures. But sometimes that photograph, sometimes, that moment is there. So it’s about getting into that mindset of finding those moments, those storytelling moments. but it’s almost a cultural change as well.
Marie: 20:58 So it’s, it’s very much about getting people thinking like that, looking for those stories, sharing those stories among themselves and thinking in terms of story. But every day is a story. My Gosh, I think when we’re working in a healthcare organization, I’ve also worked for some B, two b companies and that’s a lot harder, but when you work in healthcare, we are surrounded by stories 24 hours a day.
Janet: 21:23 How often do you encourage healthcare systems to look outside their own walls for stories?
Marie: 21:30 That’s a great question. And you know, item of tour that I ever have, so if you stumped me with that one, that is such a great question. Yeah, I haven’t got an answer to that one. I haven’t done it yet. So get ready. I’m going to ask it when you’re at the annual conference in November, so I’ll be ready for it then.
Speaker 3: 21:52 Well, tell me a little bit about, uh, the kind of work you do with clients. Is, uh, is it predominantly strategic? Are you actually doing execution?
Marie: 22:00 I am doing execution as well, but I, I love the strategic part and I tend to do the execution part to get people started on, on a good footing, but then I will pull away. I will train somebody up in the organization or I will recommend that they employ somebody who will be the digital marketer, the social media person, and I will interview that person because I’ll have a good idea of the company culture as well at that stage and who will fit back company culture. So yeah, I’m much, much prefer that strategic side of it, but I’m also really, really happy to get in there and just do a little bit of execution as well. It’s easy for me because I love social media.
Marie: 22:37 It’s never a chore. But yeah, it’s, it’s very much about getting that culture of social media started within an organization.
Janet: 22:45 I always wonder about the social media strategist who’s “do as I say, but not as I do,” who doesn’t have expertise. Actually posting things, scheduling things and looking at. I’d posted this. It didn’t do well. I wonder why,as opposed to being a little bit on the 10,000 foot level. It’s easy to preach and it’s easy to point fingers, but if you’re not in the trenches going, oh my God, I posted something. It’s gone now. I have to do it again and again and again and again. You don’t really understand how stressful it can be as a social media person to be constantly coming up with new content.
Marie: 23:25 Oh my gosh, I agree with you so much and I would never ever recommend a strategy or a platform or anything without having tried it myself and then knowing the organization and often. You know, sometimes Janet often I will work with an organization and at the end I’ll say, I don’t think that you’re ready for social media because I’m aware that you just don’t have the time to do this. Even though I’ve showed you all these time-saving tricks. The willingness isn’t there or just the passion isn’t there and that comes through in what they’re doing and it can be quite alarming for them to hear. I don’t think you should be doing social media or I think you should just do this one little bit, but it’s more important to me that they do it well. Then they just do it half-heartedly or that it runs out of steam after two or three months.
Janet: 24:12 How about from an advocate standpoint, do you find that you really do need the C-suite or some higher levels on board with the idea of social to make it really fly or if there’s a really passionate marketing group, they can overcome the naysayers internally.
Speaker 3: 24:29 You do need that c suite buy-in. I really feel that you do, but now that you mentioned a passionate marketing group, they’re more powerful than the seat suite, so it really doesn’t matter whether it’s one or the other, but the main thing is that they. They’re willing to do it and that they’re committed to it and they can bring others along with them within the organization. So once you have or even just one person that has that little bit of leverage, that little bit of power, then we can get good traction.
Janet: 24:56 Now, the last year, really the last two years in the United States, social media has become a very uncomfortable place to be for a lot of folks and we’ve obviously seen a lot of divisions happen because the old adage of never discuss religion or politics has gone through the window and all we seem to be discussing is religion and politics. From a corporate standpoint, are you getting pushback with people saying, well, I was thinking about social, but now that I see all this happening, I think we’ll just pass?
Marie: 25:30 Oh my goodness. Yes, absolutely. More so than ever for sure, and I wonder sometimes I like them to go back to social media content marketing rather than the social media. Going back to the writing, going back to communicating and what is the message that you want to communicate and maybe pulling back a little bit from the social media side, which can be perhaps promoting the content, doing a little less of that, but more about just driving people to your website because remember you have control over your website in the same way that you wouldn’t have control if you’re on Facebook or in Twitter, you’re opening yourself up to a lot, so I would actually take it back to the website into creating great content when it comes to that rather than just abandoning any kind of digital communication.
Janet: 26:19 Well, I couldn’t agree more, but we’re. We’re both singing from the same song page because we are both members of the external advisory board for the Mayo Clinic, Social Media Network and are big believers in social and also in the community that social can develop.
Marie: 26:36 Absolutely, and it’s a wonderful network, Janet. It’s a wonderful place. I’ve been doing this for almost 10 years now and I’m still learning. I still have questions and it’s wonderful to know that you have a place of likeminded people, people who are in the trenches with you, who you can just run things past and you can just say, you know, should I, should I go that angle? What should I do? Should I tell my clients maybe not to be on social media without naming names obviously, but just that general, being able to speak to someone else who really gets it is incredible and it’s a very friendly group. It’s such a helpful group. It’s been incredible to me to be able to turn to that group over the last two years.
Janet: 27:14 I couldn’t agree more. So here’s a little sales pitch for the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network. You can find them at socialmedia.MayoClinic.Org, and please visit. You can learn a lot of things there. There’s ongoing education, there’s opportunities to connect with your peers. There appears of all levels and there’s always somebody willing to both answer questions and answer questions with experience in your specific area, in the healthcare vertical. And now it isn’t just hospitals. There are definitely people that are like myself, I guess I qualify as a vendor now, but there are other experts that are in the group as well as physician practices and other related healthcare industries, so don’t think it is just about hospitals. It’s a much broader than that.
Marie: 28:05 Because I’m not in it. I would not work with the hospitals that much, but I work with work with startups. I would work with the pharmaceutical industry so we all bring some new expertise to it. And the other thing about the network, Janet is our member joining and thinking, Oh, if I ever have a very simple question, I’d be almost afraid to ask it, but that’s just so not true. People are so willing to share their expertise and to share what’s worked for them. And that’s incredible. We can read industry reports, we can read the Social Media Examiner is of this world and I do, but there’s nothing that beats been able to say, does this actually work? Did it work for you? It doesn’t seem to be working for me. What am I doing wrong? So that’s incredible to be able to do that.
Janet: 28:43 And of course it’s a network that is a log in network, so it’s a safe place. It’s a space where you can ask a question about, hey, is this a HIPPA violation or this patient said this, how should I respond? Uh, you gotta have a place where you can do that, that that’s private, insecure and the respect in the group is, is very, very high,
Marie: 29:04 Very high and incredibly friendly and welcoming and more so. Now we’ve done a wonderful sales pitch. No more not on commission. We genuinely mean this.
Janet: 29:13 Absolutely. Well, I can’t wait to meet you in person, Marie and again, we are both getting together at the annual meeting of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network coming up November 14th and 15th and then their pre-event called the residency, which is really bringing you up to speed on how social media is being used in healthcare. If you are new to healthcare, say for instance a lot of folks come from the news side into healthcare or maybe you’ve come to marketing and you haven’t been exposed to that much social media, that one-day intensive is really, really helpful. So I recommend that you look at all of those pieces and we’ll have links in the show notes to both the Mayo Clinic event as well as how to find Marie but in the short term you. What’s your Twitter handle?
Marie: 30:01 @JBBC, what does that stand for? There’s a whole story behind that. I would never do it now, but I just. The whole story behind it is how I got started in social media. Well, 14 years ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer and I started a blog and I got very involved with the whole patient advocacy side, but it broadened out, but the JBBC stood for my blog which was journeying beyond breast cancer, which got shortened to JBBC. I ended up creating a community around that. So I started with that and you know, a lot of people don’t even ask why are you JBBC anymore? So I’ve just decided to just leave it. I’m just JBBC, it doesn’t necessarily mean anything apart from the fact that it’s, it’s still very special and important to me that this journey started for me with wanting to communicate once you define the community. When I was extremely ill and I felt very isolated at the time. So my love for social media really goes back to those roots and that’s why I keep up, put her hand.
Janet: 30:57 Oh well awesome. I cannot wait to meet you and to make our friendship happen in real life as we say.
Marie: 31:05 I’m so excited about that. There’s nothing like a digital communication is wonderful. Meeting people online is wonderful, but you know what, there’s nothing like meeting people face to face.
Janet: 31:14 Absolutely. Well, we’ll see you there. Maria and I hope other people who are listening will join us and it is an annual event that moves around the country between the Rochester, Minnesota campus, the Jacksonville and the Arizona campus. So jump on board and come meet your fellow colleagues in healthcare, social media. This has been the Get Social Health podcast and I thank you all for listening today
Announcer: 31:39 And now. Here’s our social media success tip.
Dan: 31:43 Hi, I’m Dan Hinmon, President of Hive Strategies. More and more hospitals and clinics are considering starting a Facebook support group, and if you are, I have two important tips for you. A successful Facebook support group solves a problem both for the hospital or clinic and for the patient, so start by aligning your group with a key hospital marketing or business objective that will make sure you have the internal support that you need. And secondly, find out if your patients are even interested by interviewing five or 10 potential members of the group. If you find interest and you’ve aligned the community to your business strategies, then you’re on the right foot to start a successful four Facebook support group
Announcer: 32:31 You’ve been listening to. They Get Social Health podcast. The show notes are [email protected] to join healthcare, social media journey. Follow at, Get Social Health on Twitter and start a conversation. Thanks for listening to the Get Social Health podcast, a production of the healthcare marketing network, and a proud member of the healthcare podcasters community.
Janet: 32:54 I’d like to take a moment to tell you a bit about the healthcare marketing network. We’re a community of freelance healthcare writers. Our Organization can match your company or healthcare practice with clinically accurate, specialized or general healthcare and medical content from blogs to white papers to CME. The healthcare marketing network has the writers you need to reach your business audience or patients to find out more, visit healthcaremarketingnetwork.com, or contact me via social media or email at [email protected] Thanks for listening to the Get Social Health.
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How does the internet impact healthcare?
Susannah Fox, former CTO of the HHS and the Obama White House joins Janet Kennedy on the Get Social Health podcast to discuss research, social media, and online healthcare communities. Listen to the podcast or drop in at the time stamps below.
Thank you for listening to the Get Social Health podcast, a production of the healthcare marketing network. The HMN is a community of freelance healthcare and medical writers ready to support your business or practice. You can find [email protected] On the podcast today, I had the honor of speaking with Susannah Fox, one of healthcare’s leaders in the field of data research and understanding the implications of how the Internet has changed our ability to communicate and connect. She is a fascinating person and I know you’ll enjoy our conversation on Get Social Health.
Announcer: 00:36 Welcome to Get Social Health, a conversation about social media and how it’s being used to help hospitals, social practices, healthcare practitioners and patients connect and engage via social media. Get Social Health brings you conversations with professionals actively working in the field and provides real-life examples of healthcare, social media in action. Here is your host, Janet Kennedy.
Janet: 01:03 Today on Get Social Health I have the honor of speaking to somebody that I may stumble a little bit when I ask questions because I’m a true fangirl. Susannah Fox is really a legend to those of us in the digital health and marketing world because she’s the person that validates so much of the information that we use in marketing and communications in the healthcare space. Welcome to the Get Social Health podcast, Susannah.
Susannah: 01:28 Thank you. I’m thrilled to be here.
Janet: 01:30 Well, I want to give people an opportunity to learn a little more about you, but I will say you’re one of the few guests that I could literally say and she needs no introduction, so let’s lay some groundwork here. The reason I’m talking to Susannah, is that she’s actually going to be one of the keynote speakers at the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network annual conference coming up November 14th and 15th at the main campus in Jacksonville, Florida, and so I’m honored to be able to talk to her today and I have so many questions. So first we’re going to lay some groundwork and we’re going to talk a little bit about Susannah’s background leading up to where she is today. Now as I came into healthcare, Susannah Fox, this name was often mentioned regarding the actual data of healthcare and how people were interacting with social media and the Internet. Her work was one of my go-to places as I got up to speed on how social media and marketing and healthcare and the Internet all came together at that time. You were with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, but I’m sure you actually had a job before then. So. what is your real backstory?
Susannah: 02:43 Well, my backstory starts way back in the nineties when I like to say dinosaurs roamed the Internet and we were just starting to understand that the Internet was going to have a big impact on all sectors of society, but the nineties, a lot of people really focused on the business.com aspect and I was at that time I worked for a startup company. I helped start the website for US News and World Report magazine. I was building websites and then got pulled towards research and had the opportunity to help start the Pew Internet project, which is a part of the Pew Research Center here in Washington DC. What I loved about the Pew Charitable Trust charge to us, they said, we want data about the social impact of the Internet. A lot of people are looking at the business impact. We want to find out how is the internet affecting Americans lives in terms of their family’s education, government and health, and healthcare.
Janet: 03:47 Well, I have to say that a very different conversation would’ve been held a couple of years ago and we can kind of touch base with some of the dramatic changes that have happened online since the 2016 election, but prior to then it really was a very happy and healthy place to be. People were using social to be social and new and fascinating things were happening in the healthcare space with people connecting. Is that what you found? Pre-2016?
Susannah: 04:16 Yeah and I still see it today, so I will confess to being like my dad, who his therapist once told him, you are in the rational optimist, you are irrationally optimistic about the world and I tend to share that trait in that I still see reasons for hope even now, especially in healthcare because of the Internet, the power to connect people with the information data and tools that they need to solve problems.
Speaker 1: 04:47 Absolutely, and if anything, I think it’s health care that shows the greatest opportunity for using social media in a proactive way and when I hear people dis my favorite platform, which is Twitter, I’m like, you have no idea what amazing things are happening in Twitter, particularly in healthcare, so don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Let’s figure out how to make this work.
Susannah: 05:11 I agree. Sometimes I describe Twitter while I described certain hashtags on Twitter as campfires that if you need it, you can go to a certain Hashtag like you would gather around the campfire and find other people like you exchange stories sort of strengthen your spirit for going back out into the dark. You know, it’s not for everybody, but when you find a campfire that works for you, then it really is special. It really is helpful.
Janet: 05:43 I can’t describe it better myself. That is such a wonderful analogy and I am already visualizing how I’m going to make a cool meme out of this. So you were working with Pew and you were part of a team that developed all of the fascinating insights. Things that we hadn’t really realized before how teens were using social media, how young adults were very digitally savvy and they literally would go to the Internet to ask their healthcare questions. Whereas a generation before we always went to our parents.
Susannah: 06:16 That’s right. Or if we went and books or we only relied on clinicians for advice. What we saw when we were doing our initial research, this is back in the year 2000, 2001. We were looking at how people were using the Internet to gather information. You know, this was really pre-iPhone. It was pre-Google. People were stitching together research and finding ways not only to find information but to find each other. And that was one of the early indicators to me that social media was going to be huge because people were finding a way to be social when it was just bulletin boards, you know, shout out to the old school people who number would a BBS is or Listservs, you know, when it was just email communities.
Susannah: 07:14 What we saw even back then is that people are really thirsty for connection and in healthcare. People were starting to trade information and data and I should hasten to say that back then and today when you ask people when you need a diagnosis or you’re formulating a treatment plan, who do you turn to for advice? And it’s still the case that the vast majority of American adults turn to a clinician, but they will get a second opinion from family and friends. And from what I like to call Dr. Google,
Janet: 07:54 Well, you’re maybe the only person who likes to call it Dr. Google. So and that’s a big pushback from clinicians is they, they really get frustrated when inaccurate information is brought to them. Or a very broad range of information is they feel like they’re not being very efficient in having to really allay people’s concerns about information they don’t like in the first place. So you know, my response to that is then you need to be creating the information that you want your patients to be seeing. That we need clinicians to step up and be producing content at a much higher rate.
Susannah: 08:31 Yeah. You know, I have a lot of empathy for people who have not yet gathered around one of those campfires had described. I have empathy for people who were raised and trained in a world where we didn’t have access to the resources of the Internet and so one of the reasons why I’m so passionate about research and playing this role of ambassador between the research world and the clinical world and other places, is that we need to convince people with data. We can tell stories, but we also need to have data to show this is the majority of American adults and it’s reaching now into populations that a lot of clinicians might not expect. It’s reaching into older adult populations. It’s reaching into people who are living in lower income households. People with a high school education are now likely to have a smartphone. I’m more often than they did five or 10 years ago, certainly, and so you know, I have empathy for people who feel like the landscape is shifting under their feet.
Susannah: 09:43 Oh, I agree totally. Although I will say, and this is going to date me a little bit when I was pregnant with my one and only son, I had the opportunity to potentially be the first person to use the labor delivery something something or where basically it was all done in one room because back in those days it was, you know, you were here for a while and they rolled into the delivery room and so they were just inventing this alternative kind of space and it was the oldest physician in the practice who was over 70 who really was hoping to be the first person to use that room. So I will defend the mature generation and say it isn’t just generational regarding whether they’re willing to adapt to new things. Because I see, for instance, in the entrepreneurial world, the average entrepreneur is over the age of 40, so we kind of get in our heads that it’s all the millennial’s in the digital natives, but I see all kinds of people in a more mature segment trying to learn and catch up.
Susannah: 10:43 I totally agree. Thank you for saying that. And what I’ve also heard in my fieldwork and talking to people who are living with life-changing diagnosis and rare conditions, is that the specialists that they go to value when patients have done a lot of homework, they value when patients come and say, well, I’m part of a worldwide network of people with this condition and we’ve all pooled our data. Here’s what we believe, you know, can we investigate this? And so, you know, as we think about the spectrum of who is open to the Internet’s impact on health and healthcare, we absolutely can’t just talk about age and generational differences. You know, we can talk about specialty differences. You know, how our pediatricians different, for example, from geriatricians. And you know, one thing that I love is I’m really interested in the quality improvement movement as well and when I go to those meetings there so often dominated by pediatricians and I find that so fascinating that pediatricians seem to be really open to the possibility of change in their industry. And it actually dovetails really well with their audience being the moms and dads who are searching online for information that’s a team that surrounds a child that’s really ready to use all the information available to help that stay healthy.
Janet: 12:12 Oh. And I love what’s happening over in the American Academy of Pediatrics. They are embracing social media. You can become a tweety attrition and help them share stories. And when I interviewed the president of the AAP a few years ago, one of the things that was said is that had pediatricians been online and active in social media in numbers that many years ago when the whole discussion of vaccines and autism came up, if they had been able to end moss respond authoritatively in social media, it might not have turned into something. But unfortunately, by being more passive about it, they let other people take their voice and really change healthcare for pediatricians. And so I think that part of their response and being open-minded is we can’t afford not to be because we can see the devastation that can happen when pupil spread incorrect information.
Susannah: 13:09 Yeah, I love that story and think that it is a story that could be told across multiple disciplines. There are going to be other moments when there is misinformation when there is misunderstanding and so it really makes sense for clinicians to be ready and to have, you know, their field marshals out there ready to go on social media.
Speaker 1: 13:34 Absolutely. Because the other thing with knowledge comes wisdom and comes confidence and indeed comes hope because if nobody’s responding with information that’s accurate and correct, then people worry. So if you are there with them, don’t worry. Here’s what happens. You know, if you can imagine when we had to healthcare providers come to the United States with a confirmed exposure to a bola and how literally the whole country was freaking out. That’s a time when we needed healthcare people. And many of them did step up and say, you don’t have to worry. Don’t panic.
Susannah: 14:13 That’s right.
Janet: 14:14 Well, I think that’s absolutely fascinating work now. You also then worked for the US Department of Health and Human Services. So tell me what the transition was like and what kind of projects you worked on when you were a government employee.
Susannah: 14:27 I should say that when I left the Pew Research Center it was because I felt that I couldn’t write another research paper about the internet and healthcare. I felt like I. I had some answers and I wanted to try and get in the trenches a little bit and try to change things based on all the observational work and data collection that I’d done. And so first I went to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to work because of their entrepreneur in residence. While I was there, I got a call from Brian Civic and Todd Park. Todd was the first CTO at the US Department of Health and Human Services. He was appointed by President Obama to create that office and then had moved up to become the CTO of the White House. And Brian took the spot as HHS CTO and they called and said, we think that you’re the third CTO, we think that you should be the next one, and I, I have to tell you, I said, no, no, no, no, you don’t understand.
Susannah: 15:29 I’m really enjoying my work here at the foundation. Then they started describing what the portfolio does. So the portfolio of the office of the chief technology officer to HHS oversees the open house data initiative. Well, I love that initiative. That’s really what I believe is going to unlock well being for a lot of people and that is that data should flow to where it needs to be, whether we’re talking about national data in the realm of public health, whether we’re talking about improving it at the practice level or whether you’re going to give access to an individual. So they caught my attention to that and then the rest of the portfolio is so much about empowering HHS employees, whether they work at NIH or CDC or FDA or Indian health services to try new things, to act like they are entrepreneurs. Well, I couldn’t resist the opportunity because I really do believe that a lot of the spirit of the Internet, which some people associate with silicon valley, but I really think now is is everywhere.
Susannah: 16:45 This idea that we should be experimented with, new ways to deliver care. I think that shouldn’t be limited to startup companies and it was amazing to serve at HHS and to talk with people about how to unlock data, how to unlock the information that the federal government holds to better serve the American people. Now I should pause and say the other part of the role is to serve the leadership, to serve the secretary and the leadership at each of the operating divisions. As sort of a lookout and I sort of think about the role of the chief technology officer as someone who’s up in the crow’s nest of a ship, scanning the horizon for opportunities and for hazards in the technology landscape. And so that, for example, an opportunity that I saw in the landscape and then I brought to the leadership was this new movement towards not only innovation in software and data but in hardware like medical devices and assistive devices for people living with a disability.
Janet: 17:57 Oh, okay. Fascinating. Well, did you see the cybersecurity issues on the horizon?
Susannah: 18:03 So, yes. And cybersecurity was something that we discussed quite a bit and that was particularly in terms of how to handle, for example, data security around the blue button initiative. The Centers for Medicare Medicaid services created a way for Medicare beneficiaries to be able to download a simple text file of their claims data and the veteran’s administration had done it first. The VA had created the blue button download for veterans. It had been really popular and so cms rolled out a version for Medicare beneficiaries and what my office did was start to work on the creation of an API so that Medicare beneficiaries could not only download the data but directed to an app of their choice. But what’s very, very important here is that you need to make sure that it really is that Medicare beneficiary who’s downloading the data that, that no one else is getting access to it because it is sensitive data. So that’s an example of something that we worked on.
Janet: 19:18 Very, very cool. Now you’re not necessarily a computer scientist by training, however.
Susannah: 19:24 No, I studied anthropology and. Okay.
Janet: 19:29 Tell me the correlation between.
Susannah: 19:32 Yeah, so when I was in school, so, so first I should say that I’m the daughter of an engineer and a journalist. My Dad was an engineer and my sister’s an engineer. My brother’s an engineer. And so I was an early Internet user at home because of my dad. He was the kind of person who would, who would read like C++ books at night for fun. And so I was not as manager to technology, but I studied anthropology because I saw it as a really interesting systematic way to understand society, to understand the culture. I use the skills of an anthropologist in my work as a researcher because most of the Pew Research Center’s work is based on national surveys. But what I saw is that there was no way for us sitting in an office building in Washington dc we couldn’t possibly understand and therefore ask good questions of Americans who are using the Internet for health and healthcare if we didn’t get out there and listen if we didn’t get out there and do fieldwork in the way that an anthropologist. And so when I was developing questionnaires, I would start by doing online surveys and online listening tours of people who were gathering in communities. And it turned out to be kind of a secret weapon. People would say. How were you able to predict the rise of mobile so early? How were you as the Pew Research Center at able to predict the rise of the importance of health data so early? And it was because of the field work that we did, talking to people, especially as I mentioned, with rare and life-changing diagnoses.
Janet: 21:22 And how did you do that exactly?
Susannah: 21:25 The first time we did this kind of field work? I was very, very fortunate to have a mentor in Tom and Tom was someone who had graduated from Yale Medical School. But decided that the most important thing for him to do was to find ways to empower people with health information. And by the way, this was in the 19 seventies, so selfies in seventies. Yeah. So in the sixties and seventies, he, for example, was the first medical editor of the whole earth catalog. And as soon as the internet came along, he understood that it was finally the platform that would allow people to connect with information. He really believed that people should get health education in the same way that we get drivers education. And so he became a, an advisor to us at the Pew Internet Project and he became a mentor to me personally and he knew all kinds of wonderful people who ran online communities. For example, John Lester and Dan Hoke Ram, the first online community for people with neurological issues, seizure disorder, traumatic brain injury. And so for example, one of our first pieces of fieldwork was in that community in doing a survey, asking people to tell us stories about what they learned by being part of that community.
Janet: 22:54 That is such a good example of go to the source and that I feel like sometimes our information is just rehashed versions of rehashed versions of older data and gee, old and the Internet feels like, you know, if you’re more than three years old, your data, that could be a problem.
Susannah: 23:13 Absolutely, and what I also have found is that if you want to see the future, you should pay attention to what hackers are doing, what artists are doing, people who really push the edges of whatever field they’re in and in healthcare. That is people living with rare and life-changing diagnoses. People who are living with ALS, for example. That was the motivation behind patients like me, which was a very early platform for people to collect and their own data about how they’re reacting. For example, two different treatments and medications so that if you can track the progression of your disease, you might be able to see the future a little bit faster and crucially do need that data to the common meaning. It might benefit you, but it will certainly benefit the people who are behind you on the same path. That’s again, something that I see as very, very hopeful that the internet can often unlock the ability for altruistic action and I really believed that it is part of human nature to want to help other people, the platforms where I like to hang out, those where people are helping each other.
Janet: 24:38 That’s definitely one of the things I felt when I came into the healthcare community is that everyone was so willing to share information, to answer questions and to be helpful and I felt like it was a very nonjudgmental space. Now we have newer challenges as more and more people are joining social without necessarily having appropriate social skills, but that’s something that as individuals we can aspire to improve.
Susannah: 25:08 Absolutely, and there are differences between open platforms where anyone can join and closed platforms where there’s a little bit more moderation. There’s a gate, if not a wall…
Janet: 25:21 and basic guidelines. If you come in here, this is going to be a place of good behavior.
Susannah: 25:26 Exactly. As opposed to the wild, wild west, which just now Facebook and Twitter and the other platforms are having to figure out retroactively how do you set rules for an environment that didn’t have very many rules? So let me ask about where you are right now. You left the HHS position in January of 17. So what have you been up to? What I decided to do is get back into research because when I finished my service, yes, I looked around and saw that the Pew Research Center had decided not to continue my portfolio of health and technology research and really nobody had picked up that baton.
Janet: 26:05 I want to cry now.
Susannah: 26:08 Well in some ways our initial findings of how many people look online for health information became old hat. It became something that everyone assumed that everyone knows. And so what I am continually interested in is again, pushing the edges. So where are the new edges? It was edgy back in the year, 2000 to ask people about whether they are looking for a diagnosis online. Now the edges are more in terms of what I call peer to peer healthcare and we hadn’t had a fresh measure of that since a survey that I did in 2012 and so I was approached by Hope Lab foundation in San Francisco to create a research project and national research project that asked teens and young adults about how they use social media and other digital health resources. They have a special interest not only in this age group, 40 to 22-year-olds, but they and a partner that came onto the project, the wellbeing trust have a special interest in emotional wellbeing and so in addition to asking traditional questions about how people use the internet to gather, share and create health information, we also ask questions about whether the respondents were experiencing depressive symptoms and so it’s through that lens that we were able to do some really interesting analysis about emotional wellbeing.
Janet: 27:41 Well, since you’re talking to this age group, obviously the topic of online and cyberbullying is really big. Now we know that kids are bullies and have been bullied since kids were kids. So my question is, are you finding comparing offline bullying to online bullying, is it worse?
Susannah: 28:00 So we didn’t go after the bullying question straight on. What we were interested to find out is whether social media is a platform that makes teens and young adults feel better about themselves or feels worse about themselves, for example. And bullying is one aspect of that. We were also interested in hearing from them directly. So in addition to asking traditional survey questions, we made sure that the survey included five essay questions. This was an online survey. So that’s the magic doing an online survey. It allows for an open-end set of questions. And so we ask people, tell us the story about when you’ve gone online and use social media, did it make you feel bad or did it make you feel good? Tell us the story about those things. And cyberbullying was mentioned, but not as often as other aspects of social media.
Susannah: 28:59 The dreaded FOMO, fear of missing out was part of it. People also mentioned that seemed like everybody else was doing better in life, but you know, it was really interesting is that there were more stories about how teens and young adults are using social media to boost their spirits, to find inspiration. You know, there were a lot of stories about people who carry their social media feed to make sure that they really see positive images. They talk about how if I’m feeling low while I go on Instagram and I look at funny cat memes and that cheers me up, or another person wrote about how they follow accounts that share inspirational biblical quotes and that really helps them to feel better. And so I think what’s emerging is more of an understanding that social media can be used as a tool and that we have an opportunity to help educate people about how to use it as a tool for positive outcomes. And that that’s actually something I’m really excited for. All kinds of people to explore. Whether it’s in healthcare, whether it’s educators, whether it’s policymakers, whether it’s technology companies. Looking at this data and seeing that this is already happening. How can we boost the signal on using social media for good?
Janet: 30:27 All right, well I. I hate to be a devil’s advocate, but I’m going to do it anyway. If everybody is filtering only for the good, now in some cases the good is only what I want to hear, but what you end up is that whole silo or you’re in a vacuum and you’re just reinforcing. Now I get what I get what you’re saying about young adults and wanting to only read positive things, but that means they’re reading nothing about politics and if we want to engage them in society, they’ve got to be getting some information about what’s going on in the world around them.
Susannah: 31:04 Absolutely. So these questions pertain to when you’re feeling low, what do you do so that it wasn’t necessarily about how do you gather information about current events? Because actually, the Pew Research Center is continuing to do research about that. They have some new data about how people are using social media to gather information about current events and as you might expect, it’s a pretty high level, especially among young adults. So it’s not a question of turning away from current events or politics, it’s a question of when you yourself are feeling sad, how do you use social media and empowering people to to frankly put down their phone if they know that social media makes them feel bad, then telling people it’s okay. You don’t have to look at Facebook today. You can put down your phone if it’s making you feel sad.
Janet: 32:06 See, that was my next question. You already answered it, which is sometimes social media is not the solution and going out for a walk or go and have a coffee with friends. It really is.
Susannah: 32:18 Absolutely. And people told stories about that as well. And in our survey that they say, when I’m feeling low, I put down my phone, I go offline, I call somebody and say, you know, can we get together? One aspect which I thought you might be interested in is people who are potentially in a minority group are isolated, are likely to go online and look for other people like them. And I’m thinking here of teens and young adults who are in the LGBTQ population, they were more likely, um, unfortunately, to report that they were experiencing depressive symptoms and more likely to use social media to reach out to other people. We had a question where we asked, have you read, listened to or watched other people share about their health experiences online and LGBTQ youth were more likely than those who you know as, as they say, cisgender and street youth to go online and look for people who were telling their stories online.
Susannah: 33:29 And that can be is really important because so often in healthcare social media circles, we talk about the value of sharing stories and here’s some data that shows how important it is. If there is an audience out there, what’s also important is you never know who’s going to watch that story, who’s going to watch that video, who’s gonna read that blog post and it’s really going to make a difference and they might not leave a comment you might not know that you made. And that’s why I was so passionate to do this research and what law. Let me just tell you, it’s 61 percent of all teens and young adults in the United States say they’ve read, listened to or watched other people share about their health experiences online, positive or negative, positive or negative.
Janet: 34:22 Oh Wow. That’s huge. That’s a huge number. And particularly when we talk about how hard or younger demographics are to reach, put the information out there, make it available. They’ll find it obviously.
Susannah: 34:35 Well that’s what we’re finding out is especially video.
Speaker 1: 34:38 Oh, that’s interesting. So what about the level of anonymity that some people in the communities, the communities that are concerned about exposure? Are they finding that it’s literally going on camera and being seen is what helps?
Susannah: 34:54 So we didn’t ask the question. This survey specifically about data security or anonymity. What my friends who study privacy and security tell me is that younger people are quite savvy about cloaking their identity if they want to. They are able to create throwaway emails to register for a site under a pseudonym, for example, and it’s actually older adults, baby boomers who are less likely to be as savvy about cloaking their identity online. So that’s one aspect of that I think is an opportunity across the board for education. If you want to remain anonymous, what are the ways that you can do that?
Janet: 35:42 And what is going to be the end result of all this information that you’ve been gathering through Hope Lab?
Susannah: 35:48 We published a report at the end of July that goes into detail about how teens and young adults use digital health tools and then we had a whole chapter specifically about looking at it through the lens of the teens and young adults who are living with depressive symptoms versus those who are not. And so that report is available for free on the Hope Lab website.
Janet: 36:14 Great. Well to those folks listening, I will have a link in the show notes so that you can get right to that and take a look at this. Well, that’s fascinating. Now you’ve taken 15 years of research, in particular, your most recent research and you’re going to be speaking at the Mayo Clinic, social media networks annual meeting, which as a reminder is going to be November 14 and 15 of 2018 in Jacksonville, Florida. At the Mayo campus and your topic is to share, connect, engage social media as a platform for hope. Now we’ve talked about hope and I think you and I are singing to the choir here that we definitely believe that social media has many, many positive things going for it. Uh, and that we shouldn’t be turning our backs on it just because we hear things that we don’t necessarily want to hear. That said, what is your topic going to address?
Susannah: 37:06 What I hope to do with this talk is give the choir some data. So often when I’m talking to people, whether it’s an audience, as you say, of preaching to the choir or it’s an audience of skeptics. I like to come with data that shows that the facts are on the ground. This is how many people are using these tools in various demographic groups across, you know, income and education groups. And so if you want to reach people, then you need to reach people through social media. What I’m also going to do is tell some of the stories that I’ve collected in my fieldwork of examples of how people have been able to connect to each other to find the clinical trial that they needed to find the doctor for their child or for their loved one, and to say to this audience, use this data to convince your colleagues to convince your funders, whoever it is that controls the information silos in your organization or who controls the budget.
Susannah: 38:22 Make sure that they know how many people, for example, are using their phones to look for information and use that data to help them to see how important it is to make every healthcare website mobile first. Not just mobile friendly, and that once you make your information find-able and shareable, that’s how we’re really going to help unlock well-being because you’ll have agents you don’t even know about who is out there ready to collect information and share it in their neighborhoods. Whether it’s a virtual neighborhood or a real neighborhood, an offline neighborhood. There are so many people who want to connect to science who want to connect to fact-based information and who then want to be able to share it. So how do we empower those people to be part of healthcare?
Janet: 39:24 You know, one of the statistics from Pew that I often quoted my teaching is that a 10 percent of mobile users, their phone is their computer is their only access to the internet, so it’s not like they’re glancing here and then they’re going to go home and open up the laptop. That’s their only source of access to the Internet.
Susannah: 39:46 That is true and, and something that’s, that’s important to know is that that’s often the lower socioeconomic status folks who are mobile only and so sometimes I’ll speak to, for example, a group of hospital CEOs and there’ll be from a whole range of communities, some serve a safety net population, some sort of a higher income population. And what I always tell them is, is that by making sure your information is mobile friendly and even better mobile first you are serving all populations. You’re serving that mobile-only safety net population as well as the higher income folks who are also using their smartphones to gather health.
Janet: 40:34 Fascinating. Now, this project ended in July. Does that mean you’re now getting new clients for your, for your practice?
Susannah: 40:42 Yeah. I got permission from the Pew Research Center to take the portfolio that I created there and republish it as an Ebook, so I’m working on that project and we’ll be writing new introductions to that material because what I find is that some of the material is evergreen. You know, we, we need to update some of the numbers, but in looking back at what I published in 2012 and 2013, it really is salient today’s population. So I’m working on that and yeah, I’m actually looking for partners to work on a survey of the adult population in the US since the Hope Lab and well-being trust survey focused on teens and young adults. I now really to do a survey that renews our data about older adults.
Janet: 41:39 Absolutely. I mean, my eyes were opened this morning listening to an NPR story about medical cannabis clinics, getting buses and going to senior centers and picking people up and bringing them over to go shopping or learn about cannabis and who’d have thought?
Susannah: 41:57 Yeah, and we’re really just at the beginning, hopefully of a whole range of possibilities and innovations for older adults. You know, it’s a passion of mine because I see such an opportunity. That’s one of those things, you know, being up in the crow’s nest, we’re looking at across the landscape, it’s both an iceberg and potential paradise island of opportunity. We’re going to have a population of older adults that I’m not sure that we’re really ready for in terms of our caregiver population and so wow, we really need to think about how to care for older adults and there’s great innovation to be had.
Janet: 42:39 Absolutely. Well, Susannah, I’m thrilled that you joined the podcast today and I really look forward to meeting you in person at the Mayo Clinic, social media networks annual conference coming up November 14th and 15th in Jacksonville, Florida. It’s going to be easy to find when you Google online, but socialmedia.MayoClinic.Org. We’ll get you to the right place and I so, so appreciate your time today. Fascinating. As always, I have pages of notes and I’m definitely going to be looking into some of the things that you referenced today, particularly Hope Lab and the well-being trust. Thank you so much for joining me.
Susannah: 43:17 Thank you.
Announcer: 43:19 And now here’s a social media success tip.
Farris Timimi: 43:22 Hi, I’m Ferris Timimi with the Get Social Health podcast. My social media tip would be for healthcare providers. Consider social media strategy’s not as a broadcast medium, but rather as a listening strategy to truly understand the lived experience of a patient as they progress through their disease to recovery. There can be no better avenue for gathering real-world data.
Announcer: 43:46 You’ve been listening to, they Get Social Health podcast. The show notes are located at getsocialhealth.com to join our healthcare social media journey, follow at, Get Social Health on Twitter and start a conversation.
Janet: 44:03 Thanks for listening to the Get Social Health podcast. A production of the healthcare marketing network and a proud member of the healthcare podcasters community. I’d like to do to take a moment to tell you a bit about the healthcare marketing network. We’re a community of freelance healthcare writers. Our organization can match your company or healthcare practice with clinically accurate, specialized or general healthcare and medical content from blogs to white papers. To see the healthcare marketing network has the writers you need to reach your business audience or patients. To find out more, visit healthcare marketing network.com or contact me via social media or email me at [email protected] Thanks for listening to the Get Social Health podcast.
Reach out to Susannah:
Michael Sengbusch – Facebook and Healthcare
Meet Michael Sengbusch
On the Get Social Health podcast, Janet interviews Michael Sengbusch about Facebook and marketing for healthcare systems. Give a listen or review the transcript notes below:
Janet: 00:00 Podcasting is a fun, yet sometimes time-consuming passion. As some of you may have noticed, I took a little hiatus from podcasting so I could focus on the launch of the Healthcare Marketing Network, a company that brings together healthcare companies with healthcare writers. I’ll tell you more about the Healthcare Marketing Network at the end of the podcast. However, in taking my little leave of absence, I had previously recorded a few interviews that hadn’t been published. Today’s conversation is with Michael Sengbusch, a healthcare technology and marketing expert. In my intro, you’ll hear that I mentioned where he was working at the time of the interview, but I’ve got a little update on Michael’s career since we recorded this interview.
Janet: 00:42 Michael Sengbusch, left Influence Health in 2017 and joined the advanced technology development center as their CTO in residence. ATDC is Georgia’s oldest, largest and most influential startup incubator. Hosted by Georgia Tech at ATDC, Michael mentors and advises over 40 startups in Atlanta. He continues to be actively involved in both healthcare and marketing technology and will be speaking at Healthbox studio in October on healthcare marketing topics.
Janet: 01:14 Now let’s jump into our conversation, a Facebook, so needed for marketing yet such a challenge to manage for healthcare. Today I’m speaking with healthcare marketing and technology expert, Michael Sengbusch about Facebook tracking and CRM on Get Social Health.
Announcer: 01:37 Welcome to Get Social Health, a conversation about social media and how it’s being used to help hospitals, social practices, healthcare practitioners and patients connect and engage via social media. Get Social Health, brings you conversations with professionals, actively working in the field and provides real-life examples of healthcare, social media in action. Here is your host, Janet Kennedy on Get Social Health.
Janet: 02:05 I’ve had the opportunity to talk to a lot of different people in my field, but occasionally I run across someone who we should have crossed paths ages ago. I don’t know how I haven’t met or talked to Michael Sengbusch. Yes, but the day is my day. I’m really excited about it. Michael is currently serving as the Influence Health senior VP and GM of Consumer Experience. Michael has established credibility through the healthcare industry as a thought leader in digital healthcare marketing and with expertise in leveraging Facebook as a successful patient acquisition channel. I know my listeners are going to be really excited about how that works. Welcome to Get Social Health, Michael.
Michael: 02:48 Thanks for having me today.
Janet: 02:49 All right. I want to jump right to how does Facebook bring patients in, but I think we need to set a few background stories here to get people up. Speed. So first off, do you mind sharing a little bit about your background and how you got into healthcare and social media?
Michael: 03:07 That’s actually kind of an interesting story. So my background is in technology and in computer science, so I’ve been kind of trained and spent the first half of my career as a software developer as an engineer and it kind of took that path and got more into product development and then sales and startups. And then I was at a startup. I was one of the early members of a company called bright whistle and we were doing digital marketing technology and we were exploring different spaces and we kind of stumbled upon a gap in a healthcare marketing technologies, particularly in the provider space with hospitals and so I don’t think when we started that we decided to go attack healthcare marketing for healthcare providers, but we did kind of stumble into that based on some connections that we hadn’t realized that it was an underserved area.
Michael: 03:56 There was a lot of opportunity there and we decided to just go heads down and work on digital marketing for healthcare providers and health systems across the country and that’s what was created as Bright Whistle which was acquired about two and a half years ago by Influence Health and I’ve stuck around here for the last couple of years and helped integrate those platforms together and it’s really kind of a grown from there.
Janet: 04:20 No, that’s exciting. You actually survived an acquisition and ended up coming out on top, so congratulations to you. Tell me a little bit about the award that you won in 2014 at Bright Whistle.
Michael: 04:32 One of the early things that we were doing was experimenting with Social Media Marketing and if you go back to 2000, 10, 2011, social media was new and social media marketing was extremely new and in healthcare it was bleeding edge if not unheard of. And so while we were doing a lot of search marketing and social marketing for, for health systems and hospitals, we were bringing that to the table and one of the reasons why we were able to do that kind of so early was we were one of the early companies that was building software and technology on top of the Facebook marketing API and when we worked with Facebook early on, the different marketing partners that they accepted in program all really had to have something unique and different about them. So you know, what were you going to bring to the table? Now some of these companies brought scale. They brought big advertisers, big dollars. We brought healthcare and that was just kind of a weird. It was, it was kind of weird for Facebook at the time. What are you guys doing in healthcare? That seems a little, it seems odd.
Michael: 05:34 but that seems interesting because we know it’s important. So we didn’t represent a huge market share as it relates to marketing. We didn’t drive a whole ton of advertising, but we brought a really interesting story to the table. So working really closely with Facebook to do marketing a technology. We participated in the 2014 Facebook innovation competition and that brings all the Facebook marketing partners together. People submit different case studies and applications from all across the globe. So there’s thousands of Facebook marketing partners, and we were awarded the winner and in our category and we were able to win that for some of the really interesting marketing group doing it Facebook, but more importantly, not just the marketing, but what we were doing with the data and how we were actually measuring the results of those marketing campaigns. So, we won that by actually using Facebook targeting Facebook marketing and then tying that to a healthcare CRM to figure out attribution and figure out what type of marketing campaigns actually generated results in a clinical setting.
Janet: 06:42 So that’s really, really exciting. Now, is that still an operation? Is that part of the Influence Health program?
Michael: 06:48 Yeah, that was actually the beginning stages of what we would call kind of our next generation CRM solution and CRM and healthcare has been something that’s been changing a lot over the last few years and one of the key components to any kind of CRM system is being able to use that not just for the outbound targeting but also that consumer experience which happens after somebody responded to a marketing campaign. So how do I learn more about that person, how do I personalize that information and then how do I use the data that I have in the CRM system, clinical information, claims information, diagnosis information in order to learn more about how that person made the healthcare decision that they made and then which channels can I better communicate to them through that?
Michael: 07:34 So that was kind of the early stages of what we call a healthcare CRM and that makes up a big portion of what we do here at Influence Health.
Janet: 07:42 Well, I do want to ask you a question about CRM and crossover. So when you talk about CRM, you literally are talking about patient information, not a marketing database or the email lists that’s used by the marketing team to send out the newsletter for the hospital.
Michael: 08:00 Yeah, I think those start to bleed together. So in a sense, depending on who you’re talking about, sometimes it could be two different things and sometimes it is the same thing and that’s kind of where I think you’ve seen marketing bleed into what you would call, you know, either CRM or into data to analytics to population health, customer service, patient satisfaction. All those things start to come together. The more you centralize that data source.
Janet: 08:27 Although I am confused or concerned at what point does a patient’s HIPAA information become a problem? I know you’re obviously not looking at individual patient records and you don’t have access at that level, but at what point is it reasonable to assume that if I am a patient of a particular hospital and you have this information about me that you have tied together, the fact that I like your Facebook page and I click on these links, is that what you’re saying you’re able to do?
Michael: 08:59 It’s a little bit more decoupled than that. So we do deal with a clinical information and patient records and that makes kind of the bulk of a healthcare CRM. So a healthcare CRM is really a combination of the clinical record combined with demographic and socioeconomic information. We use that information to run analytics, to do outbound campaigns, to pull an email list.
Michael: 09:21 That’s a very simple example when it comes to the Facebook side of things. What we’re using is the native Facebook targeting capabilities and then we are using the conversions that we’re getting through a target audience that we maybe have identified inside the Facebook and any conversions that happened through that. Whether it’s somebody making a phone call, you know, maybe somebody’s talking to a call center, somebody filling out a form or registering for an event. That information does make its way into the healthcare CRM database and that can be used for marketing standpoint, in which case none of the PHI has revealed or it can be used from an analytic standpoint in which case you mind into the clinical data to look at things like procedure codes and diagnosis codes and contribution margins and that type of more detailed clinical information.
Janet: 10:10 I didn’t even realize that this magical ability to combine social data and patient information actually existed.
Janet: 10:20 So for instance, with your tool, you can create an advertising campaign on Facebook and say, I want to target prediabetic diabetes patients and I know I need to be including these kinds of demographics. Or is that an oversimplification?
Michael: 10:40 Facebook opens up literally thousands of different demographic and socioeconomic targeting attributes directly in Facebook. So that’s probably something that anybody who’s new to Facebook marketing probably doesn’t understand about how Facebook actually makes money. I think most people think about Facebook marketing to in terms of I’m going to go after my fan base, you know, and targeting your fans is what we would call organic social and you have a relationship with your fans and that’s a way in which you can communicate to them, I would say kind of the first generation of Facebook. That’s kind of what people did, right? That was kind of the standard way to do any type of marketing.
Michael: 11:22 There’s a lot of limitations to that. Couple ones are your fan base is limited. I’m your fan base is not necessarily made up of people that you want to market to. Especially with the health system. You’ll find that a lot of people who are fans of a health systems Facebook page aren’t usually patients. A lot of times their friends and family of people who work there, so it’s not really a great targeting pool. So then it opens up the rest of kind of Facebook marketing and what people don’t usually understand about how Facebook actually makes money and how they sell ad space to marketers is Facebook is buying, you know, millions upon millions of consumer records. So Facebook will partner with folks like Experian data logics, Axiom, Bluekai, who are the same type of consumer companies that you use to do any type of consumer analysis, right? Wherever you could do direct mail or, or whatever. Facebook buys all that data and then they match it to your record inside of Facebook. they do a cross reference and they make all of those hundreds and hundreds of attributes available back to marketers who are doing marketing. And that’s how you get access to things like demographic, socioeconomic, income, education, ethnicity, all those types of targeting parameters become available via Facebook, through their acquisition of third-party consumer data.
Janet: 12:43 Okay. I have actually purchased ads on behalf of some healthcare clients and we’re doing things generally with demography, but more targeting who likes this page, who likes this association, who has an interest in this, a healthcare organization or this health issue. So, because I’m usually with my clients doing B to b business to business tracking. But what you’re saying is the hospital could be actually looking for patient profiles in.
Michael: 13:18 Yeah and the best analogy for that is healthcare CRM has existed for healthcare for probably the last seven, eight, nine years. Those types of marketing databases, the same type of queries that you would run on those, you can find good substitutes for those just querying directly into Facebook. So that’s a real easy way to open up Facebook audiences to be much bigger than just your fan base. You know, Facebook really about four years ago, five years ago, really turned their ecosystem into a pay for play kind of environment where there was not a lot of free marketing left inside of Facebook. You had to go pay, you had to run ads. It was inserting suggested content in newsfeed posts and sponsored stories directly into the newsfeed, was the way in which to actually reach your audience that you wanted to get to. so from a healthcare standpoint, that opens up a couple things.
Michael: 14:12 The first thing that opens up is it’s the largest audience that you can reach at any given point in time, online period, end of story, right? So if you had to pick one channel, if you are going to focus your dollars on Facebook’s going to be the channel that you’re going to want to spend those dollars. It’s the largest and most engaged audience that you can find online. Certainly in North America. And you can spend $5. Yeah. And it’s very cost effective where if you try to compare that to what you might do in Google, so the Google would be the other primary paid channel. Google is also highly effective and most health systems are very familiar with how to do Google ad words into how to use google to identify and capture demand. The thing with healthcare in Google though is that it can be very expensive because medical related keywords and Google can have a pretty high price tag, so highly effective, but it could be less efficient with your marketing dollars because it can be very expensive.
Michael: 15:13 Facebook has a wider reach and a more engaged audience, so that was the first part. Second part is that it also opens up mobile where most of the traffic that you’re going to see on Facebook is mobile. If you’re going to do a mobile first web strategy, you should have a mobile first marketing strategy and for us we think that that’s a Facebook strategy. I think the stat is something like one out of every five minutes spent on a mobile device is spent within Facebook, which is just an insane number. Very embarrassing for me to admit that that’s true. I get to say I do this for a living, so I have a reason to keep opening Facebook. Exactly, and it cuts across. You know, if you’re, if you’re going to go mobile, right? If, if, if that’s your strategy. The reason why I think it’s effective is I think mobile’s the one medium that kind of cuts across demographic and socioeconomic boundaries where you know, mobile, you can reach a urban audience in a rural audience, you can reach an older and a younger population.
Michael: 16:11 You can reach a affluent and a middleclass and a poor population. Everybody has a smartphone, and this wasn’t true five years ago, six years ago, but now the numbers are astounding about where people choose to use their dollars and that first purchase really from a technology standpoint, is to have a smartphone where that, you know, that technology barrier they used to talk about was, you know, there’s homes in households that couldn’t afford a computer, you know, and that’s still true, but they can afford a smartphone and you really capture everybody in that medium and Facebook is the way to do it. So Facebook’s the way you’re actually going to have the paid channel to go open up that audience on mobile. So that’s the other reason. In addition to the targeting capabilities, which I mentioned earlier, when you talk about doing Facebook marketing and advertising, obviously I assume you you’re working with the marketing channel, but do you find the clinical side of the house is interested in this data as well?
Michael: 17:10 I think the clinical side of the house is more interested in understanding the data, less about the marketing. What I hear when we talk to marketing departments is the difference between the clinical folks, the marketing folks, the population health financial folks. I think the thing that they all have in common is they all want to see some type of results and they want to see some type of measurement. That’s where I really like to focus on the data side of it and that’s why the CRM side of things is, is pretty interesting. Social for me starts to become kind of that second pillar of a two pronged kind of paid digital strategy and I think everybody is comfortable with using social as a channel just for engagement but also for acquisition and that wasn’t always the case when we were doing this kind of five or six years ago.
Michael: 17:55 We got a lot of blank stares around how we were going to use that channel. I’m not just for communication but also for for acquisition. I think everybody’s really comfortable with that now to the point where they actually expect it and I think the users have come to expect it as well and health systems have caught up to the point where they’re very comfortable working in that medium where it was. That wasn’t the case three or four or five years ago.
Janet: 18:21 What would you say healthcare is still uncomfortable with?
Janet: 20:39 Okay. So in the Facebook world, and if I am a small business or even a healthcare organization, I have an email list of marketing email list. I can upload the email addresses only, no other information whatsoever. Facebook will try to match them and they’ll say, oh, guess what? We found about a third of your patients or customers we have now matched and we’ve created this magical file that we have tagged who your customers are. We now are going to destroy your email list. We don’t keep it, we don’t use it, we promise, we promise, and then you, you, you can use that to build your own custom audience. And then you can tell Facebook, okay, now find people who look like my people but who are not my people. Sounds great. But somewhere along the line, because this is patient information, is there an approval process necessary?
Michael: 22:35 So that’s the first thing. The second thing is when they do identify those people, they never tell you what people are actually identified. So if you send a thousand people that’s been hashed information, Facebook, they matched 700 of them. You never actually know which 700 and neither does Facebook. So it sits in a way in which it’s a one-way mapping which can never be downloaded or breached or have any type of intelligence about who that person is. So that scenario, we’ve worked with many kinds of compliance departments and legal folks at health systems and that’s usually sufficient once you walk through that and explain to them how it works, they’re cool. In fact, what I find, what happens more often is people use the same email addresses and they’re sending them to Mailchimp or constant contact or other far less secure places than sending it to Facebook.
Michael: 24:20 Yeah. So I think as it relates specifically to Facebook, I’m a couple of years ago when I would talk about Facebook, I kind of changed how we frame Facebook. So it used to be kind of framed as hey are you doing social media marketing? And then a couple of years ago I kinda changed our approach and that kind of stopped calling it social media marketing and just lumped it in with digital marketing because it’s less about the social side of it and more about this is just the dominant place to reach people online. And the fact that it happens to be social in nature is kind of besides the point now where, you know, Facebook is. I mean it hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s been around for over 10 years, continues to grow their numbers, look, continue to look strong. Their revenue numbers are strong.
Michael: 25:09 Other competition that comes up like an Instagram, they buy Instagram, Snapchat comes up and they just replicate all of Snapchat’s features. So they buy Whatsapp, you know, they create messenger so they’re kind of here to stay. So it’s Kinda like, you know, rather than saying, do, do you do search marketing? It’s like it’s google, you know, google is kind of like Google one, right? Facebook kind of one this side of it. And when it comes to digital ad spend, there’s two dominant players. It’s Google and then Facebook and everybody else behind that are niche players at best when it comes to the ad dollars that they consume. So it’s really less than it being social because there’s lots of cool social things about it. And almost anything you do online today has some type of a social component, right? Is plugged into some type of a social graph.
Michael: 26:07 It has some type of engagement or commentary or some network effects in place. So everything’s kind of social. So treating Facebook as a social media marketing I think is kind of besides the point, and I think of it as I have a limited number of channels that I can go out to with my limited marketing dollars because we deal with health systems and in the grand scheme of things, health system is still kind of a small business when it comes to the amount of marketing dollars that they spend. You know it’s not IBM. It’s not Coca-Cola, you know they don’t. They don’t have a ton of money and so you have to be really careful about what channels you use because your marketing dollars are limited and you want to make sure that they’re going to the most efficient channels. And to me, the top two are going to be Google and Facebook and everything else. You have to make a really strong case to want to spend money in those channels after you’ve saturated Google and Facebook.
Janet: 27:02 When you work with clients, you’re coming in because you have a lot of answers and capabilities in the digital space and the online space. But the way I hear you’re talking, I’m hearing that while there shouldn’t be social media marketing or digital marketing, now I’m wondering is, is it all just marketing now and at what point are we going to stop having a digital online budget and a traditional budget and it’s all just one budget?
Michael: 27:31 That’s exactly the way people should be thinking about it. And I think what I’ve learned from doing this over the last six or seven years is people used to ask, you know, they would say, well, what channel is better or what’s better should I use this or that? And what I’ve learned is, you know, it depends, you know, different service lines have different calls to action, different, goals. And you know, running an orthopedic campaign is a lot different than running a pediatrics campaign or a breast cancer awareness campaign. You know, we’re running a bariatric surgery, campaign and all those things have different nuances about who’s the audience, how do you want to engage them, where do they respond, what are the costs in the individual channels that you could use? And I think they’re all kind of different and you do them enough and you start to figure out that there’s a different combination that works and all those combinations of channels and budget levels are really just kind of starting points and then you figure out what’s working in that individual market for that specific health system and then you go from there.
Michael: 28:34 So I think that’s a long way of saying, yeah, it should be treated as all one budget and then you figure out what’s my most efficient allocation that are the channels that are going to drive the best results. And then you go from there. I don’t think it’s one hard fast rule about what you should use or shouldn’t use, let alone do I carve out different budgets for your digital versus offline. I think it should all be looked at together and then you make a decision based on what you believe is gonna be the most efficient allocation.
Janet: 29:02 Now one of the things I’m hearing from you is really an evangelism for understanding the holistic role of marketing and of digital in the whole. And I understand that in the sense you are a thought leader and you’re going out to share this evangelism, you’re really on a speaking tour, are hitting a lot of conferences. So where are you going to be going in the next few months to tell people about, these new ideas.
Michael: 29:31 Thanks for mentioning that. I try to stay engaged with the healthcare marketing community as best I can. We were at SHSMD a couple of weeks ago and coming up here October 23rd through the 25th is going to be HCIC healthcare Internet conference that’s going to be an Austin, Texas and I’ll be doing a panel discussion there, which I’m really looking forward to. It’s going to be on the role of healthcare CRM and what does that mean moving forward. And like I was saying before, you know, CRM is a big piece of what I’ve been working on recently and marketing is a huge component to a, to a CRM system. So if anybody is going to be in Austin, Texas, October 23rd to 24th will be at the HCIC, a healthcare Internet conference that center since it’s, since we brought it up that they actually, the health care conference I think has always been the best, for the customers and for the industries and the products that I work with lately.
Michael: 30:34 I think it’s always the right mix of people. It’s not too big. It’s not too small. Always has a pretty good sense of what is trying to accomplish. The speakers are usually pretty good at the conference is not too long and again, it’s not too short. so hci is coming up and then also in 2018 I will be speaking at HIMSS this year and looking forward to that hymns. For anybody who’s not aware is enough. That’s going to be March fifth through March ninth in Las Vegas and I’ll be doing a speaking session there with Christus health. Christus health is a health system in Texas, actually much larger than that, but their headquarters in Texas. And we’re going to be talking about how to leverage healthcare CRM beyond marketing and since we’re talking primarily about kind of social and social media marketing on this call today on this podcast, I really start to see marketing bleed into a lot of different areas and marketing I think has got a lot of attention over the last five years in healthcare, but I think they’re taking on more and more responsibilities and various departments are starting to kind of bleed together.
Michael: 31:50 Is it a patient satisfaction? Is it customer service? Is it population health? All of these things start to converge and marketing’s, they’re converging with it as, as well. with how do you actually manage a patient population? How do I communicate with the community? How do I know more about my healthcare consumers so that I can better not just better market to them, but then how can I better engage with them once they come in to the health system. And that’s something that healthcare, particularly the healthcare providers are learning how to do. And as compared to other industries, they’re really not very good at it, you know, and they’re, they’re getting a lot better.
Janet: 32:26 Well, let me ask you to put your prognosticators hat on and as you are a little bit on cutting edge here, when we talk about CRM and things happening in the digital space, what you see as big changes coming down the pike, either that we can avoid the, might as well embrace it or that really could be game changers from a standpoint of healthcare marketing and slash or social media.
Michael: 32:52 Let me touch on the last point there first. So as it relates to healthcare and social media, first of all, Facebook isn’t going anywhere. I think after four years or five years of Facebook, people are like, oh, is this a fad? Is this going to be my space? Or something like that. Nope. Facebook one, it’s dominant. It’s a platform for the next 15 to 20 years. Easily. Facebook is not going anywhere. Twitter’s kind of a dud when it comes to marketing. So I was really positive on Twitter about two or three years ago and have not seen any of the campaigns that we’ve run in Twitter, provide a meaningful challenge to what we’re seeing in Facebook or google. So I think Twitter is kind of missed the boat when it comes to a paid marketing channel. Like I said before, Instagram is part of Facebook and I see a lot of great things in Instagram.
Michael: 33:43 So Facebook makes it pretty easy to extend your marketing campaigns into Instagram now. So I think that’s big. Snapchat I think is you’re kind of number three player in the social space. I dunno if it’s great for health systems yet they haven’t really figured out how to turn it into a direct response or a conversion channel. It’s more for brands, you know. So it’s getting big branding dollars from national and international advertisers don’t see it being a big channel for, for health systems yet. I’m one of the channels I’m more interested in from a marketing side is actually next door. So I don’t know if any of the listeners have used next door. Next door is a neighborhood social network and as far as an ideal audience for health systems, I think next door could be really interesting, so that’s something to be on the lookout for.
Janet: 34:33 I actually joined my organization that I’ve been living in my neighborhood for 15 years and next door has been around actually for quite a while, but I finally bit the bullet and joined I know six or eight months ago and I now actually no my neighbors all days. You take cookies next door you’d meet, people know everybody stays inside, but I feel like I know them virtually through next door and the amount of recommendations and or questions for services is amazing. Plus people give away a lot of great free stuff.
Michael: 35:06 Yup, Yup. It’s highly trusted. They’re starting to open up from a marketing standpoint, I think it’s to be determined how health systems could use it, but it seems a natural fit for community interaction for a health system, for a physician practice, for an urgent care to be nearby. Highly, highly relevant. I think for healthcare, I don’t know if it’s going to pay dividends from a marketing standpoint, but I would keep my eye on that. When it comes to kind of new and innovative things to look out for kind of coming up in the kind of the healthcare or the marketing technology space, I’ve had this question a lot and it’s not a really sexy, interesting answer. It’s really actually kind of boring if I think it’s things like call center. So the front lines of patient communication is who answers the phone when somebody responds to a marketing campaign, it’s kind of an overlooked but really critical thing that health systems do really poorly and as they get marketing sorted out, whether it’s search or social or digital or offline or email or direct mail, they’re getting those things figured out and they have their own problems and that’s getting sorted out. But the problem that persists is, hey, that’s great. You did a great marketing campaign. What happens when the person signs up for something or when they make a phone call? It’s a highly broken process from an operational standpoint, which requires a lot of technology to integrate to things like scheduling a two callbacks to follow-ups and that all connects directly to marketing if you ever want to figure out what’s happening.
Michael: 36:45 So it’s not a very interesting kind of, you know, high tech answer. It’s kind of fixed the call center.
Janet: 36:50 Well, and that’s the challenge, right? Nobody wants to work on the boring everyday stuff. They all work on the sexy new things, but I understand your title is a Senior VP and GM of Consumer Experience. That’s unique. Yeah, and I think you’re going to see that trend a lot. Even in health marketing. Our marketing teams are moving away from the marketing term and it’s kind of becoming more a patient experience. Consumer experience. When I talk and when I do, I’m a collateral or presentations. I tend to downplay words like patient because I think in healthcare now I think patient implies somebody’s sick and so much of what we’re doing is about wellness and preventative and being involved and taking care of your health and if you’re taking care of your health, I don’t think you’re a patient.
Michael: 37:40 Right. And then things when it comes to, you know, terms like acquisition rather than acquisition, things like experience where the health system is now trying to engage with the community to be able to influence the healthcare decisions that they’re making. And that crosses a wide gamut of is it preventative, is it wellness, is it child care, is it pediatricians or is what we normally think of kind of acute care, right? I’m hurt, I’m sick, I need to go to the doctor. So I think you’re seeing a lot of terminology change there and that’s happening because health systems are, are growing in their responsibilities and also that’s why you see marketing kind of bleeding into other groups and it’s becoming more about consumer healthcare, consumer experience rather than particularly how do we treat or find sick patients?
Janet: 38:31 Well, everything you’re saying is so exciting because it sounds, if not easy, doable.
Speaker 3: 38:38 Yeah. I think a lot of this stuff is pretty like I said, I think marketing’s been getting better. it’s come light years in the last four or five years. I think now they’re struggling with data and making sense of the data because there’s a lot of data from a lot of different disparate systems within the health system and then how do I actually close that middle layer? Some of it is kind of basic blocking and tackling and it’s kind of the boring stuff sometimes. But you know, a lot of successful companies, a lot of successful people got that way by solving kind of the boring problems, ones that no one else wants to tackle.
Janet: 39:14 Exactly. And make them seem fun on the front end because they weren’t focused on user experience.
Michael: 39:20 If you had asked me 20 years ago if I was going to be doing healthcare marketing and talking about a healthcare call center, I would’ve told you you’re crazy, but there’s a lot of stuff that you can do there. And I think it’s a hugely kind of overlooked, a niche in the industry and I’ve been happy to be a part of it over the last six or seven years. Well, that is exciting and I look forward to reading your posts and social and following your talks at coming up events. I think you’ve got a really great solution and I expect even better things coming from you all in 2018 and forward.
Michael: 39:51 Well, thanks again, Janet. I appreciate it. Thank you so much for being here. No problem. Talk to you soon.
Announcer: 39:57 And now here’s our social media success tip.
Jeff Callaway: 40:01 Hi, this is Jeff Callaway. I’m the Senior Content Specialist at Cook Children’s Healthcare system based in Fort Worth, Texas. My advice would be to not be too PR, which sounds weird because I work in PR and I know a lot of you listening do as well, but we try very hard to write as journalistic as possible to make the stories interesting and to make what we do appointment viewing and to create a trust with our audience that when they read it, it’s going to be real and accurate journalism.
Announcer: 40:34 You’ve been listening to the Get Social Health podcast. The show notes are [email protected] To join our healthcare social media journey, follow at, Get Social Health on Twitter and start a conversation.
Janet: 40:50 Thanks for listening to the Get Social Health podcast, a production of the healthcare marketing network, and a proud member of the healthcare podcasters community.
Janet: 40:58 I like to take a moment to tell you a bit about the healthcare marketing network. We’re a community of freelance healthcare writers. Our Organization can match your company or a healthcare practice with clinically accurate, specialized or general health care and medical content from blogs to white papers to Cmi. The healthcare marketing network has the writers that you need to reach your business audience or patients to find out more, visit healthcare marketing network.com, or contact me via social media, or you can email me, [email protected] Thanks again for listening to the Get Social Health podcast.