There’s no question that the social media explosion being led by companies like Facebook and Twitter is having a profound impact on healthcare. While the introduction of such innovative technology into the healthcare industry is sure to be met with fiery debate, I continue to be amazed at the rate at which it’s being adopted (as of August, there were 552 hospital Twitter accounts and 341 Youtube channels) and the uses the industry keeps finding for it.
Since February 2009, when Henry Ford Hospital performed the first live-tweeted surgery, several other hospitals have followed suit, including Voalté’s first customer and key development partner, Sarasota Memorial Hospital. The hospital used this to demonstrate a new, minimally invasive approach to treating renal cell cancer from the operating room to physicians attending the Southeastern Section of the American Urological Association’s Annual meeting in Miami.
The use of hashtags have also exploded since the first healthcare hashtag, #hcsm, appeared two years ago (What is a hashtag, you ask?). Today, several dozen other hashtags are used, driving trending topics, discussions, and even weekly conversations such as the #hcsm chat on Sundays from 9 PM – 10 PM EST. Hashtags have become so critical to the online healthcare conversation, that when Fox ePractice unveiled its Healthcare Hashtags Social Project to better organize the conversation, over 1 million tweets were catalogued in the first week alone.
If you stop and think about it, it’s truly quite remarkable that an industry not typically known for its early adopters has really embraced this trend and pioneered some really innovative uses for it. For a Company like Voalté, it’s validation that we’re heading in the right direction, but more importantly, it represents the opportunity for caregivers to further hone their craft on a (global) scale that was previously not possible, while making enormous strides in the way patient care is delivered.
The debate over social media’s role will surely continue for some time, but it’s exciting to think of what this may all mean for the coming year and beyond. When @Jack sent the world’s first tweet back in 2006, I don’t think he expected surgeons to be live broadcasting procedures just a few years later. Are new innovative uses just around the corner for others like Foursquare or newcomer Quora? Welcome to 2011—a new decade in healthcare.