The #MCSMN Story (2): Early Mayo Clinic Enablers and Encouragers

About 15 years ago I was blessed to be in the right place at the right time to lead Mayo Clinic’s initial exploration of social media. As manager of enterprise media relations I was able to find ways to use social media platforms, especially Twitter and YouTube, as tools to support our media relations work.

In my first post in this series I highlighted a few early external allies in the health care social media revolution, and today I want to recognize people from within Mayo Clinic who made special contributions to our growth and leadership in social media.

My team was then responsible for syndicated media production and for media relations at the enterprise level (as opposed to the specific campuses in Rochester, Arizona and Florida), and Dana Sparks and Joel Streed were my two direct reports. They had started as freelancers, but we were using them so much at a relatively higher hourly rate that I was able to make the case for hiring them full-time, which gave us several bonus hours of work capacity every week at no extra cost. Their willingness to experiment with what we called “new media” at the time was essential to our early good results. If they hadn’t been so cheerful, eager, open and engaged we wouldn’t have built our momentum so quickly.

Chris Gade was my division chair for External Relations, and our chair for the department of Public Affairs was John LaForgia. Both actively encouraged growth in our staff and exploring new ways for Mayo Clinic to connect with our key audiences, and supported me bringing in external consultants Shel Holtz and Andy Sernovitz in 2007 and 2008 to help make the case for new media and blogging. In addition to helping us learn, Shel and Andy provided an external “Lee isn’t crazy for wanting to do this” perspective, verifying that many companies in other industries were actively embracing these technologies.

In August 2009, Dr. John Noseworthy had been named as incoming CEO of Mayo Clinic, and he sent and email with a link to a news article he’d read about the growth of social media to John LaForgia, and asking whether Mayo should consider doing more in this area. As that message was forwarded to me, it gave me license to at least start contemplating an opportunity for team growth.

We were still just coming out of the 2008 Great Recession, and budgets were tight, with very little new hiring especially in administrative functions like Public Affairs. My perspective on what was possible in getting a bigger team was therefore somewhat constrained, and that’s where a meeting with two key internal visionaries was crucial to our next step.

In late 2009 I sat in the office of Dr. Victor Montori along with Jim Hodge, a senior leader in Mayo’s Department of Development and shared my vision of doubling my team from two to four members. As I talked, Jim noticed Victor (he insisted I use his first name instead of “Dr. Montori”) gradually start to slump in his chair, and he asked what was wrong. Victor was losing enthusiasm because he didn’t think I was asking for enough given the potential I was describing.

What Jim said next caused my pulse to quicken: “I have a regular monthly meeting with Dr. Noseworthy. I’ll turn over that time to you, so you can update this proposal and present it to him.”

I was astonished…and a little terrified.

In January 2010 the big moment arrived, as John LaForgia and I met with Dr. Noseworthy and Shirley Weis, who was then Mayo Clinic’s Chief Administrative Office. I outlined some of our efforts to that point, and how we had used social media to generate increase traditional media exposure and to interact with audiences directly, and Mayo Clinic’s leadership because many of our peer organizations hadn’t yet gotten involved.

My proposal called for four new staff, which would triple my direct reports. Showing the photo featured at the top of this post, I said that the good news is our “lead” in social media was actually bigger than Secretariat’s in the Belmont Stakes.

The bad news? “There’s no finish line.”

About halfway through my presentation, Shirley interrupted, “Time out. I’m sold.” Turning to Dr. Noseworthy, she said “Aren’t you, John? I just think it needs to be bigger and bolder.”

I hadn’t even gotten to my “ask” yet!

With their blessing in principle, I was then empowered to convene a broader group to develop the plan for what would become the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media (MCCSM). I’ll describe what resulted from that effort in my next post in this series.

But before I close this discussion of key early internal supporters who aided our pre-MCCSM social media journey, I need to mention a few more:

  • Brian Kaihoi, who led the Public Affairs team responsible for MayoClinic.org and Mayo.edu when I came to work at Mayo Clinic, was and continues to be a fountain of knowledge about Mayo history and particularly negotiating its technical infrastructure.
  • Amos Kermisch, who succeeded Brian leading the web team, was a great collaborator who encouraged me to explore blogging and also helped me to understand that I could use WordPress.com and domain mapping to provide the hosting infrastructure while maintaining a Mayo Clinic look and feel.
  • Mindi Klein, who was part of Brian’s and then Amos’ team, programmed the RSS feed as an “above and beyond” task which made our first podcast possible.
  • Jane Jacobs, also on the web team, but with a media relations background and a good understanding of how we could harness the web for media relations. We were and are different in almost any category you could imagine (and even did a joint presentation based on that theme at a conference in Orlando), but these different perspectives made our combined work much stronger.
  • Karl Oestreich, my successor as manager for media relations, whose hiring in 2008 enabled me to focus on our syndicated media and on social media. His support was essential to keeping the media relations team engaged. He’s now my interim division chair and has been a great colleague. I’m thankful Chris Gade recognized that we needed to split up my job in 2008, because it brought Karl into our leadership team and also gave me the psychic bandwidth for leading the charge in social media.

Teamwork is among the foundational values of Mayo Clinic, and I have been blessed to work with these team members and so many more over the last 21 years. I’ll recognize more of them as this series continues.

The Mayo Clinic Social Media Network (MCSMN) Story

Mayo Clinic’s announcement of the creation of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media was 11 years ago next Monday.

With the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network (MCSMN) site sunsetting on July 31, today I’m starting a 10-installment series to tell the MCSMN story and to share some memories and insights with and about this global community I’ve been blessed to help lead, in partnership with our Medical Director for Social Media, Dr. Farris Timimi.

Between now and my Aug. 3 retirement from Mayo Clinic, I’ll be doing daily posts (except Sundays) looking at the origins, mission and accomplishments of MCSMN as I have seen them.

I also want to recognize and thank people who have played important roles, either as part of our staff or as co-belligerents in our mission of Bringing the Social Media Revolution to Health Care.

Today it seems normal and natural that hospitals would be actively engaged in social media platforms. That certainly wasn’t the case a dozen years ago when a small community of like-minded activists started to gather online and also found opportunities to meet face-to-face.

I had been blogging personally since July 2006 and was exploring how blogs and social media could help me do my job as manager for media relations at Mayo Clinic more effectively. As I attended communications and health care conferences I live-blogged the presentations and shared my perspectives, and over time was invited to speak about how we were using these tools at Mayo Clinic.

I renamed my blog Social Media University, Global (SMUG) in January 2008, which created at least a pseudo-academic motif to shape my observations. Another major inflection point came on October 31, 2009 when I emulated Rev. Martin Luther and posted my 35 Social Media Theses on the 492nd anniversary of his theological declaration.

We had lots of good examples of early success in using social media at Mayo Clinic, and I’ll be reviewing many of those in coming months in the My Career Journey series. A few of the key ones included promoting a discovery of a type of wrist ligament tear as well as the procedure to repair it, a viral piano duet in the Gonda Building atrium by a delightful elderly Iowa couple, and using the Flip camera for nimble sharing of news.

We also launched our patient stories blog, Sharing Mayo Clinic, in January 2009, and developed an published our Social Media Guidelines for Mayo Clinic employees.

Between early 2008 and December 2009 I shared our stories, practices and my perspectives in more than 560 blog posts and delivered presentations in nine states. The last several months of 2009 were kind of magical, including an opportunity to keynote the 2009 Healthcare Internet Conference at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. I also had my first opportunity for an international presentation as the great Lucien Engelen invited me to speak at his Zorg 2.0 conference in the Netherlands.

It was during that time I also made connections with and met some key colleagues including Reed Smith, Ed Bennett, Chris Boyer, Dana Lewis, Meredith Gould and Dave DeBronkart. Those face-to-face meetings led to some great conversations and developing a shared vision of what social media could mean in health care.

Dana had started the weekly #HCSM Twitter chat, Ed had created the online list of hospitals using social media, and Reed was actively encouraging social media from his position with the Texas Hospital Association. Dave was bringing the voice of the ePatient to the fore. I met Chris at Healthcamp in the Twin Cities where we had a chance to discuss why Mayo Clinic’s non-standard use of Twitter made sense for us at that time, and Meredith and I bonded over my left-behind Flip camera.

This surge in social media interest in late 2009 led me to begin thinking about what an expanded Mayo Clinic commitment to social media would look like, as well as how Mayo Clinic’s leadership could encourage other health care organizations to take the plunge. In tomorrow’s post I’ll tell the story of how and why we created the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media and the Social Media Health Network, which later combined to become MCSMN.

Given the impending retirement of the MCSMN site, I hope this blog post series will serve as the repository for gathering memories about the evolution of social media in health care. If you have a memory or perspective to share, I hope you’ll do that in the comments below.

How I Got Here

That’s the title of a new podcast series by Touchpoint Media, hosted by Reed Smith, and I’m honored to be the subject of the first episode.

I’ve known Reed for more than a decade, and he’s been a great friend and trusted advisor as we developed the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network. Likewise with his Touchpoint Media partner, Chris Boyer.

I hope you enjoy our conversation as much as I did, and that it provides some insights you might find helpful in your career and life.

I look forward to the rest of the series, which features some old friends like Ed Bennett as well as others I’m looking forward to getting to know better.

Listen on iTunes or Stitcher and be sure to subscribe.

Diabetes is Devastating

As my blog starts its new direction, I had planned on beginning in my next few posts with some background on my health exploration journey, but a news release about a study from Mayo Clinic that came into my inbox yesterday caused me to revise my plan.

The study in the Rochester, Minn. area identified 116 patients with diabetes and 232 who didn’t have diabetes, but otherwise were matched for heart failure risk factors like age, hypertension, sex, coronary artery disease and diastolic dysfunction.

Following both groups for 10 years, researchers found that 21% of the patients with diabetes developed heart failure, while just 12% of the patients without diabetes did.

So while we’ve long known that diabetes is associated with a host of health problems, here’s fresh evidence of another: almost doubling the risk of heart failure, although in this study it didn’t increase mortality.

Still, this new study adds to what already was a grim prognosis, both for individuals with diabetes and for society as a whole. As this paper in the journal Population Health Management put it:

Diabetes and its complications, deaths, and societal costs have a huge and rapidly growing impact on the United States. Between 1990 and 2010 the number of people living with diabetes tripled and the number of new cases annually (incidence) doubled. Adults with diabetes have a 50% higher risk of death from any cause than adults without diabetes, in addition to risk for myriad complications. Reducing this burden will require efforts on many fronts—from appropriate medical care to significant public health efforts and individual behavior change across the nation, through state- and community-specific efforts.

That same paper suggests that in the next decade

  • the total number of Americans with diabetes will increase from 43 million to nearly 55 million,
  • that annual diabetes-related deaths will increase by more than 55,000 and
  • annual diabetes medical costs will go up almost $100 billion.

It all means that preventing (or even reversing) type 2 diabetes is probably the most important thing we can do.

But the statistics are clear: what we’ve been doing as a society for the last 30 years hasn’t been working.

What I’ve been learning and experiencing over the last three years through personal investigation and application suggests that we have more ability to influence this trajectory than we might think.

I’ve read about thousands of patients with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes getting their Hemoglobin A1c levels down to the point where (under medical supervision, of course) they have been able to discontinue taking insulin or diabetes medications, and are no longer considered even prediabetic.

I know some people are skeptical that type 2 diabetes can be reversed, but given the scope of the problem it sure seems worth exploring.

If type 2 diabetes is three times as prevalent as it was a generation ago, this can’t be a genetic problem. Our genes don’t change that fast.

Since changes in our environment and behavior are likely responsible for the epidemic, shouldn’t we look at reversing those changes as much as we can, at least in our personal lives, where we have the most control?

I was never diagnosed as prediabetic, but I’ve made some significant changes and have seen lots of benefits in my own health. I couldn’t have made them all at once, but I evolved them over time.

Type 2 diabetes isn’t the only disease that seems to have potential for lifestyle prevention or reversal. Some of the same interventions seem to work in other diseases, too – mainly because diabetes, as we see in this Mayo Clinic study, is a risk factor for a host of other ailments.

Curious? Follow along on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook and I’ll tell you how it happened.

AASLD Webinar: Have You Googled Yourself?

Today I’m giving a webinar for the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) focusing on the role social media can play in online reputation management for physicians.

Here are my slides:

AASLD has a helpful Social Media Essentials page you should check out, too.