Like it or not, social media has proven to be the most vital, efficient, inexpensive information-sharing medium in the history of the planet. From revolutions in Europe to earthquakes in New England, social media has spread news to astonishingly large audiences, many of whom needed little more than a $10 phone to get involved.
Not only that, social media is the best human-knowledge multiplier imaginable. Admit it — even if you hate Twitter, you’ve gotten bits of information there that you’d never, ever find otherwise. And if you’re like me, that information may well have turned into a host of new insights, which get tweeted and exploded out further. It’s this generation’s version of nuclear fission.
But EMRs, unfortunately, don’t include social media-style sharing.
Why? Well, one obvious reason is that people in the database business, which is how I’d ultimately categorize EMR vendors, are a rather conservative group. (Hey, you can’t have the people managing your most critical data running around with lampshades on their heads.)
Another is that the social media networks are notoriously, terrifyingly insecure — in fact, they’re the ultimate in information exposure. While private social media tools wouldn’t offer access to, say, 500 million Facebook users, the idea still lingers in peoples’ minds.
But I think the issue runs deeper than that. The truth is, the database is a linear concept, even if its design is fluid. The intention, even if someone stacks decision support tools on it, is ultimately to make sure that enterprises have all their data ducks in a row.
Social media aims at those ducks, shoots them and blows away the feathers. Its purpose is to continually remake how information is correlated — to create new contexts for knowledge rather than associate pieces of existing knowledge with each other. In the final analysis, social media information sharing does what databases wish they could do.
I say, it’s time that EMR vendors get over themselves and start using the massive scalability, context-generating capabilities and info-sharing tools social media offers. Isn’t that just what we need?
After all, hospitals don’t exist just to collect patient data; ideally, they leverage it to improve the practice of medicine as a whole. And how better to learn new things than to adopt an approach known to redefine assumptions on a daily basis?
Why aren’t we demanding that EMRs include social media mechanisms for sharing patient data, say, in the cloud, so elegant that they’d make Biz Stone cry? Where is the impatience? The sense of outrage, even? It beats me.