On Beta Versions, Diversity and Perceived Facial Slaps

On Thursday we announced the first 13 members of what will eventually be our 25-member external advisory board for the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media. That same post included a call for nominations for the remaining 12 members, which we are recruiting through a crowdsourcing process. Here’s what I said in that post:

Our goal is to have a well-rounded board with diverse backgrounds, capabilities and interests that encourages a wide range of applications for social media tools to improve health and the health care system, and to bring perspectives from other industries and government to the conversations. These are volunteer positions, although members will receive free admission to events sponsored by the center.

The first 13 members selected for one-year terms are listed on the Advisory Board page. These are among the pioneers in applying social media in health care and humanitarian endeavors. We’re honored that they are willing to serve.

We want your help in nominating and selecting candidates for the remaining 12 positions to give us the well-rounded board we’re seeking, reflecting diversity in all its forms.

We’d like to have representatives from state, local or federal government, public health, medical and scientific journals, hospital and nursing associations, disease-oriented organizations and patient foundations, medical associations and specialty societies, and of course physicians. While we have a pair of patients among our initial members, we’re open to more. And we don’t want to limit nominations to the foregoing categories: we hope to also have representatives from other industries (such as the technology sector) that are more advanced in application of social media than health care has been.

I thought we had made it clear that this was just a start in naming the advisory board, and that we have a long way to go before it’s complete. Maybe it would have been better if I had just done the post with the initial names, instead of having the bios of the first members on this separate page.

DrVes tweeted Thursday night that  “Mayo Clinic Advisory Board for Social Media is a good idea but the doctors are missing in version 1.0.” That led Doctov_V to ask on his blog in a Friday post, “Mayo’s Center for Social Media – Does it Need Physician Advisors?KevinMD took it a step further, saying “Mayo Clinic Center for Health Care Social Media Disses Physicians” and that not having a physician among the first 13 was “a slap in the face.” Others noted the low proportion of women in the initial batch and that some other diversity was lacking, too.

Here’s a bit more background on the process and why we have approached it this way, mingled with some other observations:

Many of our first picks would have been on anyone’s recommendation list. If we had started with a blank slate and asked people to submit names of five people to serve on the board, @EdBennett, @ePatientDave and several of the others would likely have been on 80 percent or more of the ballots.

As I developed a list of people to ask, I started with those I knew best, and from whom I have learned much. I’ve met everyone in the first batch in real life, with the exception of one member with whom I’ve had extensive phone conversations. I was talking with some of them about the concept of our Center for Social Media long before we announced it. Their advice has already been extremely helpful, and it seemed right to ask them to help in a more formal, ongoing way.

After we defined the roles and responsibilities for the board and started inviting these first members, I also had a list of potential “slots” or perspectives we didn’t have represented yet and was asking the initial members for their suggestions.

Then an idea struck me: this is a social media advisory board, so why not build the rest of it socially?

We had some other potential members in mind, some of whom are physicians. But we’re also in the middle of hiring several staff members, creating an internal advisory team, preparing for our Social Media Summit on our Mayo Clinic campus in Florida in late September, and getting ready to launch some other initiatives. Crowdsourcing will help us keep growing the advisory board while also moving forward on these other projects. It will identify people who really want to participate.

And while we thought the remaining “slots” we had were fairly comprehensive and representative, by crowdsourcing we could have people suggest perspectives that we may not have even considered.

So it just seemed right to stop at 13, roughly the halfway point, and throw the process open for nominations. Everyone with whom I discussed this thought crowdsourcing was a great way to involve the community in forming the board.

We expect those who eventually fill the remainder of positions will be much more oriented toward clinical practice, medical research and medical education. It won’t be perfectly proportionally representative, but it will reflect diversity. And it will be matched with a similar advisory team drawn from among Mayo Clinic employees. We’re going to start crowdsourcing that internal advisory team later next week.

We could have tried to build a representative board through old-fashioned networking and waited to announce it until we had all 25 members. That would have taken a lot more work on my part, and the final results wouldn’t have been as good.

That’s the nature of social media. The first version you publish is a good start, and then you ask the community to help refine it.

One final thing about the tweet from DrVes that started this discussion. What we have release isn’t version 1.0 of the board. It’s version 0.52. It’s in beta. Exactly 52 percent of the members have been named. I appreciate that DrVes has been balanced in his comments, noting that physicians will be included when the full board. I also thought Doctor_V’s observations were, well…thoughtful.

But even though he wondered whether physicians would “make the cut,” I can say unequivocally that our external board will have physician members.

Perhaps the main good that will come out of the discussions of the last 48 hours is that more people will become aware of the advisory board opportunity and apply, or nominate others, and we’ll get a stronger board.

That was the idea.

Here’s a final comment from KevinMD, as we have interacted on his blog:

“IMO the entire panel should have been crowd sourced, rather than starting with an initial, invited few.”

I can understand that perspective. I hope what I’ve said here about the development of the board will help him, and others who may share his view, to understand mine.

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.

5 thoughts on “On Beta Versions, Diversity and Perceived Facial Slaps”

  1. It’s a tribute to your leadership that you have physicians nearly demanding MD inclusion while questioning/criticizing the start to your advisory board. I don’t doubt you will find essential leadership in those who provide care, run clinics, and help patients ultimately make their health decisions. Often, of course, these are the physicians. Particularly general practitioners. The medical home continues to exist (at least in my practice), and we certainly hope it will prevail in health reform.
    As a practicing physician, blogger, and patient myself, I know you are making the right decision to include MDs at the table. Here are 3 reasons why:
    1) Experience: How I use my EMR with my blog & my Twitter feed to educate my patients is not entirely what I imagined it would be. The practice of what I do is instructive. The experience of being responsible for my patients while also feeling the responsibility to educate a growing community online, is something you can’t just “think” about. You need those seeing patients to reflect their thoughts.
    2) Sustainability: learning from those who do rather than speculate on social media, is an important component. Using social media tools is time consuming. Social media often comes at a cost (lifestyle, privacy, research time). To get patients, MDs, ARNPs, SWs, RNs, PAs, and hospital systems on board, you’ll need to figure out how to embed social media easily into the work day for patients and practicing clinicians with finite energy. You must find efficient models. And they must be ubiquitous as time unfolds. Time is precious, particularly when it could otherwise be used to see sick patients.
    3) Impact: For better or worse, physicians are ultimately perceived as the leaders of health care. As Dr V notes, we have been dangerously slow to get MDs on board with social media efforts, mainly I believe because of confusion, a lack of time, and ignorance. You must have MDs talking with MDs to make change. Getting hospitals to adopt new policies, while setting aside funds for these important tools, will take time and patience but also outspoken, eloquent physician leaders.
    Good luck on your journey with the center. Already, you’ve provided essential leadership by a perceived omission. A lesson learned–for all of us.

  2. Thanks much for your thoughtful comments. I completely agree with those three points. We need to have physicians and other health care professionals in the mix so we can understand barriers to adoption and also identify opportunities to leverage these tools for good, in a way that hopefully enhances quality of life for all stakeholders. I look forward to meeting you next week in Jacksonville.

  3. Lee,

    Thank you for including me in the initial group. You and I have had several conversations about the Center over the past few months, and it was always clear that patient care providers would be part of the final group. (I wouldn’t get involved if their viewpoints were missing)

    I’m looking forward to working with you and the entire board – I expect you will have many excellent suggestions.


  4. Seek first to understand, then be understood ~Stephen Covey

    “Seek first to understand, then be understood”~Stephen Covey gives us practical wisdom. While I’ve never met Lee Aase in “real life” he has given direction and guidance as I attempt to walk the tightrope of social media. He has been generous to both the general public and those who specialize within the medical community.

    I was both shocked and saddened to see the blog title “Mayo Clinic Center for Health Care Social Media Disses Physicians” @kevinmd/Dr.Kevin Pho chose for the title of his recent blog entry.

    As I have read Mr. Aase blog entries, studied from his SMUG curriculum and have been given the opportunity to enjoy several great interactions I find it hard to believe Dr. Pho would not give Mr. Aase the benefit of doubt. While he is certainly a busy professional, I have been amazed how quickly he responds to any question, comment or concern.

    So….. when in doubt, talk it out.

  5. Echoing Ed Bennett — I’m very pleased to have been included and grateful to serve.

    Must note that never during any conversation did I suspect I might be filling the slots “oldest person” or “woman.” Be well assured that I do not think that now. From my perspective as the oldest, I would’ve thought we were beyond all that; public comments suggest otherwise.

    Frankly, I think that if any slot should be filled as a matter of diversity, it should be that of someone engaged with rural healthcare who also understands social media.

    Please, dear readers, note: from my perspective as a sociologist, understanding social media requires more than intermittent participation in online chats. It requires good virtual world citizenship — engaging in conversation, contributing content, building relationships, informing and educating others about what becomes possible when social media tools are used wisely and well.

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