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Spanish Physicians Take Heed: Social Media Influences Healthcare Decision-Making

The Spanish Twitter chapter of #hcsmeu (hashtag #hcsmeuES) held its first unconference on April 1st in Barcelona. For many it sounds like a convention of freakish fans of some cult science-fiction TV show (a group I’m also part of, by the way). But its actually a group of about 200 healthcare professionals from all over Spain who share their interest in social networks and their influence in this particular industry.

Many of those present were meeting face to face for the first time but all of them had previously been gathering weekly on Twitter for a one-hour discussion about the relationship between physicians, pharma, patients and ICT, just as other groups across Europe.

Nowadays even the most reactionary guy admits that both new technological advances and social networking are changing our world, and healthcare won’t be an exception. But these people saw it coming, they are ahead of their time.

In 2010, top searches in Google –in Spain– were for terms Facebook, YouTube, Tuenti(*) and Twitter, all social networks. An average Internet user typically spends 22% of his online time in social networks. Advertising expenditure declines on every media except the Web, where it keeps growing month after month. In fact, big brands have already detected a switch from direct influence –they get less visits to their websites– to mentions in social media: 63% of Spain’s Twitter users do use it to recommend products. 61% express their opinion about products and services. 84% don’t mind getting messages from brands, and many say that companies that make use of social media are outdoing their competition’s revenue and profit. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Diario Médico*

Automatic Translation Services: Miscommunications Still Likely

Health IT is valuable in many ways and I do believe it will revolutionize how we practice medicine. However, we’ve got a long way to go yet, especially in auto-translating English into other languages. This short exercise in English-Spanish translation (through a computer software program) reminds me of how far off “seamless” health technology really is…

(My mother is fully bilingual in Spanish and English and decided to test the auto-translator service with a sentence from a book. Here is the result:)

ENGLISH: He popped a deep-fried sardine into his mouth and washed it down with a few swallows of beer.

LITERAL TRANSLATION OF SPANISH RESULT: He punctured a sardine fried deep in his mouth, and he laundered it near the bottom along with some swallows (referring to the birds) made of beer.

Live Show: March 4, 10:30am EST: Twitter Unites Physicians From Spain And The USA

Will Twitter wonders never cease? I was recently contacted by one of my Twitter followers from Spain – Alain Ochoa Torres, a journalist with Diario Medico (Spain’s leading publication for healthcare professionals).  Alain has spearheaded a creative new social media strategy: the Twitterview. I am the eighth interviewee in a series featured on Twitter. Tomorrow (March 4th) at 10:30am EST I’ll be typing back and forth – live – with Spanish physicians who have questions about American medicine and the media. You can tune in by following me “drval” on Twitter, or by searching for this word on Twitter: #dm8 (that stands for Diario Medico, interview #8).

For those of you who don’t know about Twitter, it’s a micro-blogging platform that is limited to 140 characters per post. That means I’ll have to master the “sound bite” in my interview responses! To see how I do… you can watch the interview live or search for it later on Twitter by entering #dm8 in the search box at the bottom of the Twitter home page.

This is a really innovative use of Twitter technology – and one that brings together physicians from both sides of the Atlantic. I’m really honored and excited to be part of this social media event and hope to do more of them.

And the good news is that this interview will be in English (my Spanish vocabulary is limited to things like “where is the pain?” and “turn your head and cough” – hardly substantial enough for a Twitterview.)

Hope you’ll join the experiment with me.

Latest Interviews

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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