Watching healthcare reform and social media shape each other

Regardless of where you stand on the infinitely complex landscape of healthcare issues in America, there is one thing you can probably agree with: healthcare is one of the most talked about issues of our time. It’s even difficult to get through a meal with friends and family without the conversation eventually leading to subjects like health insurance, hospital administration, and healthcare reform legislation.

Given Americans’ propensity to discuss health issues, it makes sense that social media sites like Twitter are being embraced as a means of taking the conversation to even greater heights. Even professionals in the healthcare industry are using Twitter to facilitate open discussions. A great example is the Healthcare Communication and Social Media community (@HealthSocMed), which hosts a conversation on Twitter every Sunday night about communications and marketing practices by healthcare organizations. The hashtag #hcsm is used to tag tweets participating in the conversation.

Among individual Americans, the conversation has been a steady rumble for much of the past 12 months, but it found a new peak the night of March 21, 2010 following the House of Representatives’ vote to pass a massive health overhaul bill.

Trendistic, a web site that shows graphical trends in Twitter topics, showed that the term “health care” hit a spike around midnight Sunday night as the graphic below shows.

Another Twitter trend-tracking site called Tweetstats shows that healthcare reform was one of the biggest trending topics in the 24 hours that followed the bill’s passing.

Twitter is not the only cyber social outlet for people who want to discuss healthcare. There are an array of options like WebMD’s Health Exchange and the Revolution Health community where people can go to ask health questions, connect with other people who have similar health issues, and much more.

So whether you’re a professional in the healthcare industry, a politician, or just an individual consumer, healthcare conversations taking place online will surely touch your life and career in some way. And given the added visibility cast by social media and the collaborative communities engendered by such sites, it’s likely that the conversation will ultimately shape the outcome.

If you’ve used social media to discuss healthcare issues, let me know in the comments.

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