Socializing and Enabling Health Care - Social Media Pearls

Socializing and Enabling Health Care

Colleen Young on Socializing & Enabling Health Care

Colleen Young, Founder of HCSMCA and Engagement, Community Manager of Canadian Virtual Hospice

Under the umbrella of socializing and enabling health care, I recently had the opportunity to interview Colleen Young, Founder of Healthcare Social Media Canada and Engagement & Community Manager of the Canadian Virtual Hospice. The topic was: “What is the social activity in the health care space and how is it enabling our approach in health care?” I was thrilled that I could get into her schedule on two separate occasions to have this discussion [one being part of my Rise Of The Patient Talk Radio Show]. Below, I capture 7 key highlights from those interviews:

1. Healthcare Is No Longer Paternalistic

People are no longer consuming health in a paternalistic way. The paradigm is shifting from a “transactional business”, where a patient receives instructions and /or a prescription, to an “outcome business”, where people are asking for more understanding of their health and health management regime [Jamie Heyword, PatientsLikeMe]. People are taking more ownership to stay in a state of good health and/or managing their disease state.

2. Enabling Health Care Management

Socializing and enabling health care can take a number of forms that include both people and technology.


One of the key and critical enabler, that has driven change, is of course the social web. The Internet has provided significant access to information and social networks. Furthermore, the social web gives a broader access to a larger group of people. This is especially true for patients with a rare disease. Patients with a rare condition no longer feel they are totally alone, as the social web has given them access to others living with the disease. Technology has certainly increased one’s resources and support when it comes to enabling and socializing health care management. 


Even before the advent of the social web, people have always formed networks. A good example of course are mothers meeting to talk about the health and well being of their children. Is this not socializing? Today, people continue to socialize, network and enable health care management; bridging a number of forums that are available to them, whether it is on the internet-, or in the physical- space.

Another critical enabler is the community moderator. A community moderator facilitates and creates environments that promote conversations and engagement within a community. A good community moderator is critical to the success of socializing and enabling a health care community. A good example is the Canadian Virtual Hospice.

3. Participatory and Peer-to-Peer Health Care

Susannah Fox, of the Pew Research Center, coined the phrase peer-to-peer health care management. This describes the action of patients helping patients. In her research, she has shown that one in four Internet users, living with a chronic disease, have gone online to find others with similar health concerns.This growing collaboration between peers and healthcare practitioners is also known as participatory health care management. It is an excellent behavioural example of socializing and enabling our healthcare space.

4. The E- Patient

With the paradigm change in our approach to health and the drivers that help us to enable health care, it has given rise to

epatient dave; Socializing and Enabling Health Care Mangement

David de Bronkart at Medicine 2.0, Boston. September 2012

what is known as the e-patient. The term e-patient stands for a patient that is equipped, enabled, empowered and engaged in their healthcare decisions. The most well known example of an e-patient is e-patient Dave, David de-Bronkart. David de-Bronkart had terminal kidney cancer and was given 24-weeks to live. In seeking support, he joined an on-line, cancer community: ACOR (Association of Cancer Online Resources).  ACOR  advised him of a treatment that only sometimes works. He found a clinic that would indeed treat him. The treatment regime was successful; his last treatment was July 2007. Today, David de-Bronkart is on the world conference-circuit, sharing his story and driving participatory medicine on behalf of the patient.

5. Health Care Collaboration

There are pockets of excellent examples where health care practitioners/ professionals have collaborated with health care consumers. The following two examples demonstrate what opportunities can be had with such collaborations:

  • The Redesign of the Princess Margaret Chemotherapy unit, Toronto, Canada. The redesign included  the co-creation with patients. Patients were intimately involved in formulating the design requirements of the unit to ensure a well-received patient experience while staying at the hospital.

  • Clinical Trials of the Rare Disease, SCAD at The Mayo Clinic.  Katherine Leon and Laura Haywood both have the rare condition known as, spontaneous, coronary artery dissection [SCAD].  They were instrumental in persuading Sharonne Hayes [a Mayo Clinic Cardiologist] to conduct clinical research in SCAD. They used social media to identify other SCAD patients to be part of the trial. This was truly an example of socializing health care with this  patient-initiated research project.


6. Healthcare Social Media Communities

Great examples of socializing and enabling health care are the health care social media communities.

Health care social media communities are very vibrant and engaged communities in the social space. Their mandate is about  people making health care more open and connected for all. The first health care, social media community [#HCSM] was founded by Dana Lewis [the global founder] in the US. The second geo-chapter was launched in Europe [#HCSMEU].

The third geo-chapter was the Canadian chapter [#HMSCA]. HCSMCA was launched by Colleen Young, in September 2010. This Twitter community has had over 6000 members using the hashtag HCSMCA. Colleen further describes the Canadian chapter, as a community of practice where people come together to problem solve, share ideas, make change and learn.


7. Public Health and Social Media

My final highlight is how we are socializing public health! Social media tools provide an excellent opportunity to monitor and track public health. A good example was the twitter-feed(s) used to detect the on-set and spread of the cholera epidemic after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Tracking these social data streams have proven to be a very efficient method in providing public warnings compared to the traditional approach.


Those were my 7 highlights! There are some great things happening in the social health care space. I urge that you also  listen to the interviews. I have attached the recordings below for your convenience. The recordings provide a wonderful overview on both health care today and how we are socializing this industry sector. 

Let me know what you think.
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5 Responses to “Socializing and Enabling Health Care”

  1. Thank you, Shirley, for such a comprehensive overview of your interviews with Colleen. This is a clear, uniquely helpful and highly-readable chunk of good social media information all in one place!


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