All Articles Marketing Social Media Health and social media at SXSW: New channels take on old problems

Health and social media at SXSW: New channels take on old problems

3 min read

Social Media

Today’s guest post is from Doug Naegele, an avid SmartBrief on Social Media reader and inveterate entrepreneur. His firm, Infield Communications, lives at the intersection of Health 2.0 and mobile solutions.

At least 10 sessions centered around health care and technology last week at the South by Southwest Interactive conference.  I attended eight and came away with a few observations that may be valuable to the health community and those that serve it:

Infectious disease & Twitter
At the session titled When Swine Flew: Embracing Innovation in H1N1 Response we learned that in 2009, The National Institutes of Health collected all the swine flu related tweets from one hour of one day — a total of 1,300 tweets.  They fed the tweets into a semantic language engine and analyzed the frequency of certain concepts.  NIH saw patterns in the discussion, identified specific misinformation about the outbreak and had a head start on what topics to emphasize to the public.  Follow discussion on this topic at #whenswineflu.

Suicide prevention, YouTube & Facebook
The panel entitled RT: I’m Going to Kill Myself. Preventing Suicide Online spotlighted YouTube’s Safety Center which users can link to from bottom of every YouTube page and offers videos from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline that connect troubled youth to prevention resources.  On Facebook, status updates containing suicidal content trigger a chain of back-end events which may lead to a referral to the Lifeline and/or reaching out to the poster directly.  Follow discussion on this topic at #preventingsuicideonline.

Inactivity & apps
The wrap up session called Social Health Summit 2010: What We Learned highlighted a few gems, such as the social application which enables users to issue fitness challenges to their friends. (Think: I’ll do 15 pushups if you’ll climb two flights of stairs). Research shows that an asynchronous challenge, when two parties do things separately and not at the same time, is three times as effective as a synchronous challenge. (Think: You and I meet at the stairwell, and I do my pushups while you climb the stairs). Fascinating!

How providers communicate with patients
Many discussions at SXSW surrounded how doctors and hospitals can and should use social media to connect with patients, but two major roadblocks emerged.

  • Many hospitals are hamstrung because they’re concerned about opening themselves up to negative feedback via social media. And to complicate matters, patient satisfaction can increase or decrease hospital reimbursement rates.
  • Regulators are worried that if the social media genie is let out of the bottle, HIPAA — the federal law that imposes strict penalties for compromising patient data — may be compromised. Many doctors and hospitals are so concerned about HIPAA that its mere mention stops every social media discussion before it starts.  Follow the discussion on this topic at #er20.

Image credit: Cimmerian, via iStock