Patient Engagement

ENGAGE: Understand ‘theory of reciprocity’ in healthcare social media

One of the enduring critiques of texting, instant messaging, e-mail and any other form of text-only online communication is that often is impossible to discern nuance and emotion. The same might be true in social media.

One of the enduring critiques of texting, instant messaging, e-mail and any other form of text-only online communication is that often is impossible to discern nuance and emotion. The same might be true in social media.

“Intention can create as much or more tension as the actual consequences” of online communication, Ryan Squire, senior director of social media at long-term care provider Kindred Healthcare, said Tuesday at the MedCity ENGAGE conference in Bethesda, Md. With some forms of social media, “We lose the ability to understand that intention,” he said.

Squire said that anyone engaging in social media should understand the “theory of reciprocity,” which he called “just normal human behavior.” He demonstrated this at the beginning of the half-hour “fireside chat” by telling MedCity News Editor Chris Seper to get up and walk around the meeting room with him, shortly after Seper joked that he wasn’t getting any exercise by hosting three consecutive sessions in the same chair at the Hyatt Regency Bethesda hotel.

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This activity showed that he was listening and started the “cycle of reciprocity,” Squire explained. It also showed empathy, an important factor in any healthy relationship.

“It’s super-powerful when it plays out in healthcare,” Squire said. He then referenced a video that Humana CMO Dr. Roy Beveridge showed at the beginning of the conference about people having different attitudes about “health,” “care” and “healthcare.”

Squire also discussed public reviews of physicians and hospitals. While it may be a good idea in theory, it could be problematic and not representative of the wide range of patient experiences.

Only 3 percent of Internet users will ever write a review of their healthcare providers, Squire said, and more often than not, they will write a negative review because disgruntled consumers tend to be the ones seeking out ratings sites. The negative sentiment “becomes the reality,” Squire said.

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He noted that with ridesharing service Uber, the driver and passenger rate each other. Squire said it would be “fascinating” if physicians could rate patients, though HIPAA might prohibit this from happening because doctors are not allowed to name their patients publicly.