Is all health care local?

This presentation from John Norris caught my eye on Twitter because of how he promoted it through a tweet:

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Give his presentation a review and then I’ll share some thoughts that he stirred in me (since I work for @mayoclinic, and particularly with our Twitter account.)

I think this slideshow has a ton of useful ideas for a hospital interested in using Twitter or similar tools effectively. Phil Baumann’s 140 Healthcare Uses for Twitter is another good read.

When John says “All healthcare is local” that’s true…except when it’s not, just as Tip O’Neill’s “All politics is local” was occasionally trumped by national issues.

I would instead say “All healthcare is personal.”

And social media platforms are, above all, personal.

Most of the healthcare people get is local. But sometimes they look outside of their local for specialized expertise. And part of the power of social media is that it makes that expertise available to a community that can be globally dispersed.

But as John points out, the social tools (including Twitter) can be extremely helpful for a local community, too. Just because a Twitter community can be global doesn’t mean it has to be, or that the only worthwhile Twitter efforts are those with thousands of followers.

Ed Bennett’s list of the hospitals with most Twitter followers was interesting and fun, but as he says, you shouldn’t read too much into it. A hospital with a few hundred followers could be providing a great service and interacting with that local community.

The point is to be of service to the community, whether it’s geographical or interest-based. If the information you provide is useful, and if you can interact with that community, the activity can be valuable both to you and to the people you serve.

For example, people might want to follow and interact with @mayoclinic AND their local hospital (e.g. @InnovisHealth in Fargo, ND), and maybe a service like John is providing in Corvallis, Oregon called @CorvallisHealth. They would be likely looking for different information from each source, and to have different conversations with each.

Twitter lets users (including each hospital/corporate user) decide on suitable goals that meet their objectives. As John suggests, don’t let someone else’s Twitter strategy have too much influence on you. Look at what Twitter can do, and what you can do with Twitter, and decide what makes sense for you.

Then go for it, without worrying about “competition.”

I’m looking forward to learning about lots of other innovative uses of Twitter at the Health Care Social Media Summit Mayo is hosting in October in Scottsdale, Ariz,, co-sponsored by Ragan Communications.

If you’re using Twitter in an interesting or different way, I’d love to hear about it and help spread the word about it. By sharing what you’re doing, you may spark ideas in others. Not that they would necessarily do the same thing exactly, but it may help them see connections they could make in their communities.

And since most health care is local, you can just feel good if someone in another community can gain from what you’ve learned.

Author: Lee Aase

Husband of one, father of six, grandfather of 15. Chancellor Emeritus, SMUG. Emeritus staff of Mayo Clinic. Founder of HELPcare and Administrator for HELPcare Clinic.

3 thoughts on “Is all health care local?”

  1. I think you nailed down solid points here.

    Twitter’s local value is often overlooked. In fact, as a general observation about the greater web, local is an import locus of organizational strategy.

    In some regards – depending on the specific organization – Twitter’s “ROI” may actually be very measurable within a local reach. For community facilities the pliancy of Twitter’s uses has enormous potential to provide priceless value to the local stakeholders.

    It’s nice to see movement in Healthcare’s efforts to extend a helping hand.

    I shall tweet this out. 🙂


  2. I could not agree more.

    Social media allows a person to participate in a variety of communities, each bringing value to that individual.

    Being able to tap into some of the highest quality medical expertise available, with the Mayo Clinic’s @mayoclinic, is simply amazing. Having local experts address local issues can be equally important. They complement each other.

    Thank you for your thoughtful post, a prefect example of the value of the larger community.


  3. This is simply a great set of ideas, and while it may be a leap to say so, it suggests to me how important it is for hospitals to embrace and lead with such an expansive sensibility as health agent in their serving areas.

    I often re-state the Tip O’Neill line in this way: “All people are local.” 99% of care is provided, experienced, discussed, and paid for locally; which makes it, as Lee says, highly personal (throw in word-of-mouth too). The knowledge base that informs the provision of care, of course, is everywhere. So too is the knowledge base that informs the expectations of care (much to the chagrin of many providers). John’s panorama illustrates to me how a local institution, through its (in this case) Twitter presence, can inform, amplify, respond to and otherwise play a positive role in the formation of those expectations.

    Much to consider here. Thanks John.

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