Mayo Clinic Social Media Network Conference ’19 part 1: Hype cycles and context collapse

Each year we’ve seen an evolution at the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network Conference that mirrors the evolution of the digital healthcare field.

In the early days, if you look at it like the Gartner hype cycle, there was a big spike of amazement. Everybody was excited. Then everybody got depressed when Facebook’s algorithms changed, and marketing plans went out the window.

Now we’re getting back to understanding where the actual opportunity lies. People are optimizing and finding the real value of digital tools. We’re venturing outside the strict confines of social media – how to use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. – into conversations around the bigger picture. Conversations like how to manage digital efforts with a small team, how to integrate CRMs, how to measure marketing efforts.

The emergence of those conversations indicates that we’re reaching a point of digital maturity where the tools are just tools within a larger strategic bucket. Today, unlike a couple of years ago, there’s not much delineation between CRM and social media, where one stops and the other starts. That’s allowed us to take a much more holistic view of our customer – whether it’s the patient or the caregiver or someone else – and assess how they want to connect with us across the board and not just on a particular social media platform.

Putting digital in the right context

We’ve seen what can happen when we lose sight of technology as a means to the end of better marketing, better patient care, better operations. Technology in the wrong context becomes an end in itself, resulting, for example, in barriers between patients and doctors. This is where Dr. Bryan Vartabedian came in with his keynote at MSMNC 2019. He talked about the evolution of technology, focusing more on clinical tools like telemedicine than on social media and the like.

Vartabedian referenced the Norman Rockwell paintings with a doctor sitting next to the bed and looking into the eyes of a child. Today, that physician is likely staring at the EHR. Technology, Vartabedian maintains, has removed much of the interpersonal interactions – even to the point of the bad news robot. Yes, that’s exactly what it sounds like: a robot that rolls into a room with a clinician on screen to deliver bad news like the impending death of a patient. Now, telemedicine isn’t inherently bad. It can do amazing things for improving access to care. But again, we have to put it in the proper context and not let the hype of a technology blind us to its appropriate role. Otherwise, we end up with misguided and detrimental uses like the bad news robot – or even an automated social media tool that keeps sending scheduled tweets during an inappropriate moment.

Digital professionalism and context collapse

At the conference, Vartabedian also hosted a workshop on digital professionalism for physicians, which had implications for all professionals.

Consider, he said, that historically, a medical student would act and speak a certain way when he sat down with the dean or attended class. He’d act another way on a clinical unit with his fellow students and another way on the weekend with his friends.

Now we have Twitter. It creates a collapse of context where all of those interactions happen – and can be seen – in the same place at the same time.

Vartabedian suggested that most online transgressions are due to context collapse, where historically something you’d say to your friends on the weekend isn’t something you’d say to the dean or a patient. But now that you’re saying it online, you’re saying it to them all, and it’s causing some issues. Individuals will have to make decisions about how they act without these contextual barriers, and schools and employers will have to (and already are having to) decide how to respond when contextual boundaries are crossed.

Reed Smith