Though much has been said about what Amy Tenderich described as the "army of well-informed patients" who are poised change the healthcare system, for the most part, companies are still on the sidelines. Asked why that is, I often point to the highly regulated environment we work in. But that isn't the only reason -- most companies still need to get their arms around just how people form and use communities online to talk about health and improve their healthcare outcomes. It is only by understanding just WHO is online, WHAT they are talking about and WHY they are turning to others online that we can begin to figure out a way to join in.
With that in mind, a few weeks ago Margaret Gurowitz and I invited a few people who use social media tools to a meeting we hold each year for communications professionals from throughout Johnson & Johnson and its operating companies.
First off, Lisa Emrich from Brass and Ivory and the Carnival of MS Bloggers talked about blogging about living with MS and what that has meant to her. We then turned to Alice Krueger who talked about how through Second Life, people can connect and form relationships which ultimately helps them improve their lives:
We closed with Kim McAllister from Emergiblog who talked about how she got involved with blogging and how she used her online connections to better manage a family health matter.
In all, it was pretty powerful stuff -- and underscored how social media isn't just a playground, but an important tool that people are turning to to better manage their health and improve their lives. For those of us in the business, it's time to start paying more attention to how these communities work and then determine how best to engage and get involved.