Palliative care and social media

Categories: Opinion.

Why the resistance? If ever there was a clinical discipline where being social was important, palliative care is it.  We function within multidisciplinary teams (social) with both patients and their families (social) together with the broader medical community we serve (even more social)!  So it can’t be the social side of it, can it? Even for me, who is described by some of those to whom I am closest, as a prince of anti-social behaviour!

Perhaps, then, it is the media. Wikipedia, a free online encyclopedia, defines social media as “media for social interaction, using highly accessible and scalable communication techniques.” Critics have asked whether the telephone and email may meet this definition, and these technologies were around long before “social media” became fashionable. So social media perhaps needs a better definition.

Anthony Bradley in a “blog” defines social media as an “on-line environment established for the purpose of mass collaboration.” Bradley poses a number of constructs upon which this is based:

  1. Social media is an environment not a technology. For example, Facebook is a social media environment built on social networking technology.
  2. There must be a purpose to the technology, otherwise it is just technology.
  3. While you can do many things with social media, its real and unique value comes from mass collaboration.
  4. Never before have such large numbers of people been able to effectively collaborate. Bradley suggests his preference for using the term “mass collaboration technology” rather than “social media.” (Source: Bradley AJ.  Defining Social Media: Mass Collaboration is Its Unique Value)

ehospice has the potential to be a mass collaboration technology and can fulfill that potential through your mass engagement. Yes, your mass engagement.

I resisted engaging in this social media thing for many years.  My children, at college and high school, were using Facebook, and they certainly didn’t want me to know what they were doing, but I set up a Twitter account in March 2009. My kids weren’t using Twitter, so I thought I would give it a try. My Twitter account sat largely un-used until March 2010, until I was asked to participate in a “tweetchat” with @abchealth of a topic of my choosing. For that hour, I was interacting with people all over the world using ‘tweets’ of 140 characters of less. Questions, comments, stories, links all came through twitter.

This issue of interaction is critical and it comes back to “mass collaboration.” Global palliative care is at a tipping point.  Our collaboration together has the opportunity to make a significant difference in global palliative care, and ehospice is a great opportunity to promote that collaboration.  While the technology is there to facilitate its use it is your use and your interaction that has the potential to further raise the profile of palliative care in the global health agenda.

So jump on, and let me share with you some tips to start engaging with social media:

1.        Find your channel, be it Facebook, Twitter, Linked-in, Pinterest, email, or  Google+.

2.        Make the jump, sign up and observe (‘lurk’) for a bit.

3.        Follow a few people, organizations, or themes to start. Some examples include:

Twitter: @jfclearywise, @ctscinclair, @thewpca, @ehospicenews, @eapc_linus, @apcassociation, @painpolicy, @treatthepain, @helpthehospices, @globalgamechanger, @palliumindia, @livestrong, @palliativemedj, @richardhorton

Facebook: The WPCA,, EAPC, AAHPM, APCA, etc.

Blogs; painpolicy, geripal, pallimed, etc.

4.        To start with, dedicate a few minutes either once, twice or three times a day to check your channel(s).  Don’t start by being “on” all the time.

5.        Think about joining a tweetchat (usually a dedicated hour) where people from all over the globe get together on Twitter to interact and discuss a shared interest. Past topics have included: cultural barriers to palliative care, do not resuscitate orders, the UN’s high level meeting on non-communicable diseases, and Kenya’s progress in palliative care.

#hpm 9pm Wednesdays: US Eastern Daylight Saving Time

#hpmglobal 1 pm Mondays: London Daylight saving time.

6.        Start following and then tweeting from conferences. This can be almost as good as being there!

7.        Start combining your channels. A tweet can go to Facebook. Or you can ‘pin’ and image from a website onto Pinterest.

Life is a story and we all have a story to tell. Even if only a few others are interested, they will never know unless you share that story. Many, including government officials and politicians, philanthropists and the media, are interested in the stories of our work with patients their families and our efforts to improve global palliative care.

See you online!


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