G’Day Alfred Health

I’m sure they’ve never been greeted like that before. Kind of like my work colleague, Sara Bakken, who married a guy named Eric Lee. Now nobody doesn’t like her. Or my friend Kevin, who after the first Matrix movie grew tired of being called “Missss-ter Anderson.”

Anyway, as I tweeted earlier tonight, I had the distinct pleasure of a Skype videoconference at 6 p.m. CDT with the communications team from Alfred Health in Melbourne, Australia. It was about 8 a.m. Wednesday for them:

It was a great discussion and we covered a lot of ground in 30 minutes. Being a public hospital, their challenges are somewhat different from those we have in the U.S., but the point I made with them is not to necessarily emulate exactly what we have done with social media tools, but to see how they can be used to meet the goals for their health system.

So, for example, they may want to see how social tools can help with behavior modification, and perhaps even to provide low-cost or no-cost medical guidance to patients so that they don’t need to come to the hospital. Among the limitations we generally have in the U.S. is that there is little economic incentive for health care providers to invest in prevention, because for the most part seeing patients is the way they get paid. So instead of using social tools to make patients aware of unique services, which could lead to increased demand, they may want to apply them to prevention or support groups or guidance in when self care is appropriate.

In follow-up I mentioned our Mayo Clinic Symptom Checker iPhone app, and how that (or something like it) could play a role in helping patients be wiser about when they need to seek care.

What do you think? How can social media tools and other digital platforms be used to improve health and health care in places like Australia or Western Europe, where the health care systems are much different from the U.S.?