Social Media Notebook: 1.0 and 2.0 Communication Are Both Needed in Today's World

MDNG Primary Care, February 2010, Volume 12, Issue 02

My daughter's school has a cool e-communication system, which they love; they post everything on it, from the monthly calendar to grades. The problem is that the school didn't bother to clue in the freshman (or their parents) about this fancy system; early in the year, many important events and announcements were missed, such as back-to-school night, H1N1 clinics, and due dates of forms. There was an orientation and a huge packet sent home, and the kids all have a homeroom, so one would think that somewhere in one of these venues, this system would have been highlighted. They even could have gone old school and sent home a newsletter.

My daughter’s school has a cool e-communication system, which they love; they post everything on it, from the monthly calendar to grades. The problem is that the school didn’t bother to clue in the freshman (or their parents) about this fancy system; early in the year, many important events and announcements were missed, such as back-to-school night, H1N1 clinics, and due dates of forms. There was an orientation and a huge packet sent home, and the kids all have a homeroom, so one would think that somewhere in one of these venues, this system would have been highlighted. They even could have gone old school and sent home a newsletter.

I learned about the system when I called the high school administrative office to inquire about why we were not getting the newsletters and notifications. The response I received was a curt “Everything is posted on Dr. T’s weekly newsletter on parent connect. You are checking it regularly, aren’t you?” My response was simple: “We’d be happy to check it regularly had we known about it.”

The school learned the hard way during the H1N1 season that some announcements require redundancy, such as calls and true newsletters. The high school was the only school that had trouble informing people about their clinics, because of their online-only communications system. The other schools—the middle school and elementary schools—were using paper, phone calls, and a simple list-serve to make sure this very important information was received by everyone. Eventually, the high school caught up, but not before great confusion!

It isn’t just in education where these communication errors are occurring. Healthcare is facing the same set of issues. The exuberance of a high-tech system often blinds many administrations to the need to continue the prior, less glitzy communication systems—the 1.0 systems. As we move to fancier communication systems within healthcare and more streamlined health 2.0 systems, we run the risk of similar issues occurring, with stakes that are much higher. A back-to-school night missed is innocent enough, but what if that had been an echocardiogram or a thyroid biopsy? What if it had been an automated call from a healthcare provider to call back about an important test? What if that had been a message left on a secure system to contact the doctor about an abnormal test but because I didn’t know to log on, months went by before I knew to call the doc?

We’re truly in a state of transition for communication, and that’s perfectly ok. Eventually, we’ll find a nice balance between 1.0 and 2.0 systems. The key is learning when to use which system and not to go so high-tech that we fail to connect one to one when it’s truly needed. It’s scary to think that the images portrayed in the Disney/Pixar movie Wall-E of humans not remembering how to communicate are starting to come true…but they are…and because of technology.

So, as you communicate with your patients this month, make sure your families know that health 1.0 communication is just fine by you when it matters most; perhaps call with those results instead of e-mailing them. The value of that call in the doctor—patient relationship will well offset the few seconds you’ll be behind in your day.