This week I was in Chicago where I spoke at a meeting of the Illinois Association of Healthcare Attorneys as part of a panel of lawyers about my favorite topic – social media and healthcare. In attendance were many lawyers who serve as legal counsel for varying sizes and types of health care providers.
During the course of the question and answer session, it became apparent that some counseled or considered counseling their clients to ban access to social media platforms in the workplace, except perhaps for those who work in marketing. In the course of discussion – the question was posed – why would you allow people to engage in entertainment while working?
I thought that an interesting comment because it expresses the point of view, that is undoubtedly common, that social media is primarily for entertainment – while I perceive it as a medium primarily for communications.
After all, all of the top 100 major newspaper outlets I believe are now on Twitter, subdivided by category of interest – sports, politics. Reporters are now tweeting away, not to mention blogging. Many people use Facebook as a primary means of email and I personally discovered news about some of the recent earthquakes not by means of mainstream, traditional media, but by seeing one of my friends post it on Facebook. In fact, Facebook could provide a means for a close-knit family to stay in touch with one another all day long.
Granted, there is entertainment to be found in the realm of social media. I just LOVE watching Sweet Tired Cat on YouTube (though, of course, not at work). So it is true.
But there is also entertainment to be found on radio – on television – elsewhere on the Internet – and even through your own personal email account. Are you going to ban employee access to all of these things? And given the mobility offered by smart phones and pad technologies – even if an institution cuts off access from its own computers to social media sites, most employees will be able to access from their handbag or briefcase.
But the communications/entertainment argument aside, is it desirable to cut off access for employees when serious healthcare opportunities and learnings are becoming increasingly available. Major science and research players such as The New England Journal for Medicine, The Lancet, The British Medical Journal and the Journal of the American Medical Association, to name just a few, have any combination of social media platforms up and running, including Twitter and YouTube. In fact, on my own Twitter site, I have made a list of medical journals now on Twitter. Would a health care employer NOT want an employee to see the latest information from these sites?
Indeed, medical conferences and medical training are now occurring in the realm of platforms such as Second Life. In fact, health care institutions may want to be exploring ways to save significant amounts of money using Second Life to stage trainings across geographies.
Social media may be viewed by many, if not most, as entertainment, particularly given the inclusion of the term "social" when referring to it. But it would be a mistake not to regard the emergence of social media as an entirely new set of communications platforms, which are rapidly integrating and developing from Web 2.0 stand-alone platforms to Web 3.0 integrated systems that fundamentally are changing the way we communicate. Banning the platforms isn't going to change that evolution.