Connections and reflections: a day in a social media village

I spent yesterday in a village with a difference: the social media village at EHI Live, a Digital Health Show. The rest of the conference had more the air of a city, populated largely by men in suits, manning stands with gadgetry I would have been interested to explore but had insufficient justification for taking up their time, their freebie stress balls and, to my regret, their chocolates! The village felt very different, a small community of people who knew each other. Actually, we didn’t all know each other, but it felt relaxed and friendly, a place to meet, a place to talk, share and learn from each other. Just like social media in fact!

Sarah Chapman and Teresa Chinn EHILive2015
With the amazing Teresa Chinn, founder of WeNurses, in the social media village at EHILive 2015

What a line-up! I listened to nurse leader Anne Cooper, WeNurses founders Teresa and Nick Chinn, Jodi Brown from the Horizons team and Roy Lilley from The Academy of Fab NHS Stuff. I was lucky enough to be able to chat to several of them too, along with others from the WeCommunities, James Munro, CEO of Patient Opinion and Terri Porrett of Fab NHS Stuff. I’ve come away with some exciting possibilities for future collaboration. But for now I want to share with you some of the themes that emerged from the day.

Digital isn’t optional

This is the landscape we inhabit. Digital is imperative for modern healthcare. Yet many health professionals remain invisible on social media, either not using it at all or settling for the odd retweet on Twitter. To those who say they haven’t got time for social media we say none of us have time NOT to use it. We had some interesting conversations about how we can help reluctant adopters engage; an ongoing challenge.

The professional-private interface

Dealing with this seems to be a barrier for many. Anne Cooper shows us how it’s done and she gives some good advice in her presentation, which you can see here. Anne reminded us that social media is great for helping with continuing professional development, for networking, for plugging the gaps left by reduced opportunities for face-to-face meetings. Also, that social media is much more than just Twitter…

It isn’t about the platform

Decide which social media platforms suit you, decide what you’re doing there and do it well. It’s really not about the platform, it’s about engaging people and perhaps getting them to be passionate about your cause. Which brings us onto the next point…

It’s social and emotional

Social collaboration engages the emotions. What’s more, so much of what we’re trying to do, as people working in health, is to make things better for patients. That’s where we’re all heading, isn’t it? We all care about this stuff! Connecting in social spaces is a great way to make things happen, partly because we’re emotionally engaged.

Social media allows openness

Social spaces are generous places. If we are willing to put things out there and be happy for others to take up our ideas and do things with them, then interesting things can result! Which brings me on to…


We’re hearing more and more about this and its potential. It’s a great way to harness resources, expertise, information, ideas and passion. Jodi Brown talked about the Change Challenge, the first ever crowd-sourced theory of change in the NHS (see her slides here for this and more examples) and we looked ahead to #WeGetTogether, a conference to look at the future of social media in health for which crowd funding is currently being sought.

Take a few risks!

Something that struck me as I listened to each speaker was that I felt very at home with these people who are all prepared to take a few risks. Along with those we interact with in social spaces, I think we’re all connected by an enthusiasm for sharing positive things, learning from others, passion about our bits of the healthcare jigsaw and how we can connect up with other bits for a larger benefit. Also by a willingness to experiment – or even a delight in doing that, replacing “we’ve always done it that way” with “we’ve never done it that way – let’s try it and see!”

It’s a great way to keep learning and improving

I thought I’d got a good grip on tweeting but in chatting to Terri I discovered I’m not tweeting about the blog nearly enough and that making this simple change should improve its visibility and draw more readers. I need no convincing about the power of stories and delight in sharing them in blogs yet I’d overlooked a very obvious one, one of my own.  I was talking to Anne about our plans for Evidently Advent this year, the scaling down of our plans and our nervousness about our home-made Lego videos about Cochrane reviews. Tell the story of making them, Anne advised; home-made is fine but tell the story of how you made them and your experiments with making evidence engaging. Good advice Anne, I will!

Every day can be like this!

So, to sum up my day in the social media village. I heard things and had conversations that challenged my thinking, sparked new ideas, inspired me and helped give me direction. I noted down interesting projects and websites I want to explore further. I shared information I thought others would find interesting or useful. I enjoyed meeting some people for the first time and others I see only rarely; delighted in conversations about work and overlapping interests and had some laughs too. It’s like this every day on social media, though without the hugs! Don’t miss out, will you?

Catch up with the presentations from Jodi Brown @JodiOlden, Teresa Chinn @AgencyNurse and Anne Cooper @anniecoops. You can join in the conversation on Twitter with these and @RoyLilley, Nick Chinn @NRCUK, Terri Porrett @gbtpo and James Munro @jamesfm55. 

Connections and reflections: a day in a social media village by Sarah Chapman

is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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