Christina Thielst, Host of Christina's Considerations
Christina Thielst, Host of Christina's Considerations

Below is an article I wrote for Patient Safety and Quality Healthcare that really captures how I think about social technologies and the related media channels (brands).  Yes, Marketing/ Communications comes first to mind, but the possibilities for social media are really so much more.   Leave a comment and let me know what you think about these ideas.

Reprinted from PSQH Online First

Social technologies offer powerful tools that can be applied in healthcare settings to improve the quality of care and patient safety, especially as the U.S. healthcare delivery system transforms to accommodate changes brought about by the Affordable Care Act and aging baby boomers.

The anticipated shortage of healthcare providers along with significant increases in individuals accessing care means we must significantly transform how we approach and deliver healthcare services. Airlines, banking, and retail have had to re-envision their customer experiences and radically change business processes to accommodate evolving attitudes, expectations, and behaviors. In each of these industries, technology and online tools have played a major role in the transformation.

The shift away from a focus on treating episodes of illness to improving the health of populations highlights the need for automation of processes and more self-service options. Population health involves three fundamental components, each of which can be accommodated by social technologies (Care Continuum Alliance).

The first component is central care delivery and leadership role of primary care. It makes sense to offer consumers and patients an integrated approach to the presentation of the health information and access to trusted resources for self-management of their conditions. Too often providers offer their patients access to their electronic health information through a patient portal without any guidance or tools that can help them take action.

The second component is the critical importance of patient activation, involvement, and personal responsibility. Social technologies that have patient-centric design features are engaging, present information in a way that patients can understand, and facilitate closed-loop communications.

The final component is patient focus and capacity expansion of care coordination through wellness, disease and chronic care management. Social technologies are user directed and scalable. They can accommodate intimate groups or large pools of individuals in public or private conversations. They bring individuals together, even those who are graphically dispersed or have transportation challenges. Users self-select those in their network and can join as few or many communities as they like. The tools also facilitate the tracking of communications between a few or many.

Consider some of the goals and activities (below) that are required to effectively manage the health of a population and the potential efficiencies offered by use of social technologies, especially for those with multiple chronic conditions or complex needs.

    • Assessing risks
    • Tracking patients on population basis
    • Confirming completion of preventative screenings
    • Monitoring adherence to care guidelines and treatment plans
    • Coordinating care across different settings
    • Intervening with individuals, as needed

For those who have difficulty envisioning the use of social and online tools in care processes, it is important to consider the entire care continuum and the fact that 98% of the time our patients are not standing in front of us. Visits to a provider make up a relatively small portion of a patient’s life. That means that population health can’t happen if we only focus on those processes when the patient is in our facility. It requires that we maintain contact and find ways to engage patients and their family caregivers before, during, and between encounters with the healthcare system.

Examples of organizations that are well positioned for population health activities by their demonstrated use of innovative social technologies include:

    • Boston Medical Center’s use of an avatar to conduct pre-conception assessment of teens at risk for poor reproductive health and family planning outcomes
    • United Health Centers of San Joaquin’s use of a social networking platform to help safety-net providers and patients manage chronic disease.
    • Partners HealthCare’s use of texting for reminders and prevention messaging with multiple populations to realize improvements in adherence to care plans, decreases in “no show” rates and sustained behavior change.
    • Boston Children’s use of social media to augment traditional surveillance methods of hypoglycemia in diabetes to expand knowledge of complications and impact behaviors.
    • Children’s Hospital Dallas’s secure online social networking community for patient and family peer support.
    • Nemours/Alfred I DuPont Hospital for Children’s using a secure social enterprise network to collect real-time feedback from family advisors.
    • Aetna’s use of a social networking platform to support beneficiaries recovering from addiction and to help prioritize case manager outreach activities.

Healthcare leaders are expected to seek out and apply best practices, as well as adopt those information systems that support patient safety and quality. As we look toward a transformed healthcare delivery system, we can expect to see the most effective leaders leveraging what social technologies have to offer.


Care Continuum Alliance. Advancing the population health improvement model. Available at

First Posted at Christina’s Considerations on 11/5/2013


Christina Thielst
Host, Christina's Considerations. A hospital administrator, consultant and writer with a passion for improving healthcare! Interests: the patient experience; health information, telehealth, social media, and mobile technologies; health information exchange; the business, environment and quailty of healthcare; workplace health and wellness; children and families; Louisiana and my family.


  1. Thinking about 4 times before prescribing statins would help. Accepting a -NO- from a patient about statins would help. Patients with thyroid problems have a 25% chance of negative side effects. Female-25%, small 15%, athletic -like jogging with hounds 20%. I had a about a 90% chance that stains would ruin my life-and black pee is scary.
    Statins-* premature aging-just what I needed. * loss of balance-so true. *nausea-I started getting motion sickness from walking and had to sit down. * peeing black-doctors said that I should be on a transplant list by 2017. * Achilles tendons going out-yes that happened 7 months 2 weeks after I started the crap. *myopathy- yes. * rhabdomyolysis-yes. Dementia-no. Diabetes-No. Peripheral neuropathy yes- I fell into the wall- I looked down and I was walking on my ankle with the foot sideways.
    What good is quality control- support groups if doctors poison their patients. You ruined my life.


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