I read Shael Holtz‘s blog post (and am reading the series) on hospitals and social media with interest. I really appreciated how he didn’t champion social media, but rather, he clearly laid out the facts. The entire idea has left me with a million questions, and I would love to know if others feel the same way.

To start, what is the goal of getting hospitals to be more engaged online? Are we trying to make them more approachable? Are we hoping they help educate the public when doctors make decisions we don’t fully understand? Is it purely for customer service and image?

When I think of social media, I think that it is a place where I can communicate directly with organizations and have my voice heard. A place where I can affect change. Should social media be able to change the way doctors and hospitals make decisions?

Doctors have four years of college, four years of medical school, seven years of residency (ok, the one I live with does, I don’t know how long others do) and often go on to do a one or two year fellowship after that. I have one year of high school biology. Even though I consider myself a smart person, I am not in a position to know better about any medical situation.

Doctors have years of training to expose themselves to every medical situation, every option and every possible outcome. They weigh each option based on a laundry list of variables and the percent chance of a favorable outcome. They need to do all of this, without getting emotionally involved. Social media thrives on just that, emotion.

In the examples Shael gives, both seem to come down to two things: fear and money. Fear makes everyone do irrational things, I think that’s clear. Money, however, seems to be a confusing topic when it comes to medicine.

Are hospitals to pay for every case that tugs at the heart strings of the Internet? Where does funding for this come from? Do people think hospitals have unlimited resources? What will then outcome be for the patient? Will their quality of life be such that they need expensive medical equipment to keep them alive? Full time care? Who will pay for that? Does that come from the hospital as well?

If hospitals went online to discuss some of these things, to teach us more about why and how decisions are made, I would be fascinated. However, if we encourage hospitals to go online solely for the purpose of pressuring them into making poor decisions based on emotion, I’ll question my entire career choice.