Social Networking in Full Effect at HIMSS12

By Jennifer Dennard
12:51 PM

Now home from HIMSS, I’ve had some time to start to digest all the sights, sounds, strategies and strong opinions I heard discussed at the show. Plenty of buzzwords were bandied about, to be sure. Dr. Farzad Mostashari himself listed many of the most popular in his keynote on Thursday as part of his engaging recap of how far healthcare IT has come, and just how far it still has to go. (If his enthusiasm is any indication, 2014 will be the Golden Age of EMRs.)

For me, this particular show’s strength was connecting people and ideas through the use of social media – Twitter and LinkedIn, in particular. Everyone by now knows that tweets with the #HIMSS12 hashtag were almost too much to take in – like “drinking from a fire hose,” as the popular saying goes. It was so popular that it set a world record last Tuesday - 6,438 tweets on a single day from a healthcare conference, according to My friend John Lynn, aka @techguy/@ehrandhit, used his social media reach to extend the hashtag with a total of 447,811 impressions on Twitter.

I wonder how greater these figures would be if so many of the attendees, like myself, hadn’t had problems with their cell service. No access to voice, text or tweeting capabilities left me in a particularly ironic spot for a social marketing director at a tech conference.

Sub-hashtags popped up to help groups of people better navigate the HIMSS12 tweet stream according to their particular area of interest. (My favorite has got to be #HIMSSanity – a play on pop culture used by the clever @larrylin, among others.) Even Mostashari gave his fellow Twitter users a show of support at the beginning of his speech – a clear indication, in my mind at least, that the HIT community at large recognizes the power of social media and the part it can play in empowering patients to become more aware of their own health.

On the tradeshow floor, it seemed that more exhibitors than last year used social media on the front and back ends. Exhibitors’ social logos were more prominently displayed in more creative ways than I remember seeing last year, and I came across many HIMSS12 marketing efforts from exhibitors that integrated multiple platforms into one contest or educational promotion.

Like most of us, the relationships we foster and create once a year spill over into many different parts of our profession, and it is this opportunity for real-life encounter that is so valuable to a marketing professional and blogger like myself.

I had the opportunity to participate in a session at the HIMSS12 Social Media Center entitled Meet the Bloggers: Healthcare IT Edition, that (hopefully) educated our audience a bit about what tools and strategies bloggers and social media enthusiasts like me, moderator Brian Ahier, and my fellow panelists John Lynn, Neil Versel and Carissa Caramanis O’Brien are using on a daily basis. One of my favorite questions (and I’m paraphrasing here) was “Is the goal of social media to take online relationships into the real world?”

I’m pretty sure we all agreed that, at the end of the day, that’s what social networking and media is all about. As Dr. Geeta Nayyar, CMIO at AT&T, told me at the show, healthcare is nothing if not social. Interaction with our fellow human beings is at the heart of the profession. And to be able to take a virtual relationship into real life is really the ultimate win for us all. In my mind, it opens the door for even more knowledge sharing, partnering and problem solving.

I’m preparing for a webinar on Thursday, March 15, with the International Center for Exhibitor and Event Marketing on “Successfully Leveraging Exhibitor Social Media,” and would love to know how you have seen social media at shows like HIMSS bring people together, foster relationships, drive business and enhance patient care. Please share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Jennifer Dennard is Social Marketing Director for Atlanta-based Billian's HealthDATA, Porter Research and Connect with her on Twitter @SmyrnaGirl.

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