Did you know that Chicago was nicknamed the “Windy City” NOT because of their weather (although there is a lot of wind blowing), but because back when Chicago politicians campaigned, their speaches were simply thought to have been “blowing a lot of wind.” Isn’t that hilarious?!
Anyway, my trip to Chicago was both professionally and personally refreshing. Not only did I attend the Healthcare Blogging & Social Media Summit in downtown Chicago, but I spent some time being a tourist, as well.
First, let me tell you about the conference:
The conference was attended by healthcare and medical professionals who wanted to learn how blogging and social media tools might help to promote health and medicine. Although my focus is slightly different from this audience, I was still able to pull relevant information to apply to the health, fitness, and wellness industry.
It’s a bit jarring when you’re at a health conference and 99% of the participants in the room are Twittering live and exchanging Facebook profiles instead of emails. In one session which specifically addressed health-related blogs, a presenter asked if anyone was currently blogging (she meant, as in, did anyone have their own blog). When one person raised his laptop and answered “I was, but I just lost my connection,” everyone laughed – he thought she had asked if anyone was blogging live during the session. To say the audience was technologically-savvy would have been an understatement.
Most of us have at least heard of the term “blog.” We either have one (whether we maintain it or not is another question) or keep hearing we should ‘get’ one. (Why do I get the feeling that not having a blog on the web is like not having a fingerprint on your hand – you may exist, but your identity is unknown.) The conference was less about “what is a blog and how can it be an effective tool in health” and more about discussing the deficiencies in healthcare (with regards to consumer care) and how blogging might be utilized to combat these issues.
According to Pew/Internet, 80% of Americans resort to the web for health-related information. But what’s even more interesting, about 34% rely on user-generated content (such as a blog) to help in their decisions about health. People are less hesitant to check a brand or company website directly. They are more likely to rely on someone “just like them” for advice. A popular example of this is the New2HIV blog - Dan, who was diagnosed with HIV recounts his medical experiences, shares his symptoms, and expresses his emotional side as an HIV patient. If he were to say something bad/good about a medication, it would probably impact the consumer more heavily than the millions of marketing dollars used to promote that product. This is one reason why healthcare and medical professions are interested in the roles social media and blogging have with consumers. All very interesting stuff, I thought.
Social media policy was another topic discussed – in other words, what is the hospital’s or pharmaceutical company’s policy on implementing social media into their marketing? For example, who is allowed to post on a blog and what are they limited (or unlimited) to say? In a field where everything is heavily regulated, having some control seems necessary. But if you have control over a blog, doesn’t that sort of defeat the purpose of the blog itself? Isn’t the goal to have a forum for honest commentary on products and services? Or what if the policy decides to not strictly control blogs. If people begin blogging about things that are disconcerting (i.e. side effects of certain medications, poor doctor services, etc.) will medical professionals be liable if they are aware of these concerns? Valid questions – no clear answers, yet. As a consumer myself, I know I’m not alone in my attitude towards healthcare. I am certainly skeptical and unsettled by what I see (or don’t see). And this is probably a second reason why healthcare and medical professionals want to utilize social media – it could allow for more transparency and create a human side in healthcare.
I could go on, but I’ve touch on two conceptual take-aways from the conference. Overall, I’m glad I went. I met some amazing people and gained a new perspective within this big, crazy world of health-something… care? war? market? commercial?
Second, a few site-seeing features:
Although I hardly spent any time in Chicago, I did get the opportunity to see several nearby attractions. Of course, you can’t be in downtown Chicago and miss Millenium Park. And being a lover of live music, I had to check out Buddy Guy’s Legends. As you know, nobody leaves the city without “singin’ the blues!”
Conclusion: I will definitely find a reason to come back to Chicago!