Patient Engagement at the OHA Conference

Last week I had the honour of attending a conference focusing on Social Media Engagement.  The Ontario Hospital Association ( @OntHospitalAssn ) held this event in Toronto, Ontario on January 23rd, 2015.  Coming from a northern Ontario city this was a chance for me to share the importance of social media for isolated patients in remote areas.

Social media has added to my life – as a patient and a caregiver.  The encouragement and learning I receive through online connections is so valuable.  It was good to know hospitals are engaging through social media as well.

It was an honour to add my comments to those of other patients in attendance that day – @DebMaskensKCC (Deb Maskens)  @anetto (Annette McKinnon) @PatientCommando (Zal Press) and @KathyKastner.  I must mention that @RobertHawke a comedian and coincidentally a patient (aren’t we all!), did a great job of linking our enthusiasm and value of Social Media with our patient experience.  It was great to meet each one of you!

Patients who bravely come to social media will be surprised at the communities existing there for them.   Speaking from my own experience I have always felt shy, nervous, afraid to say the wrong thing and amazingly enough  (to those of you who follow my tweet stream)  I will fall silent in the presence of those who are educated, have degrees behind their names, and who use words I have never heard before.  I surely can’t be alone in feeling intimidated or not smart enough.  I am learning to ask.  It’s as simple as that.  Social media gives us all a forum.

I am a senior and have had some difficult interviews or dialogues in a few doctor offices over the years. I felt  my point of view was not very important.   Not so.  We are valuable.  We are the other side of the conversation. Yes, we all could do better at communicating but that is improving.   Communication is better when working as a team with the HCP (Health Care Professionals) whom we meet in real life, in our doctor’s office or via Social Media.

My time on Social Media ( particularly Twitter ) encourages me to continue to bring others to the table.  I feel like I am breaking trail for those who come behind.  Often I feel unqualified, uneducated but still I reach out and try to learn.  We as patients want to be understood and we crave answers & support.  Let us in.  Let us talk together. Let us work together.  Let us improve the life of all patients, caregivers, family members.

#HCSMCA was the first chat I participated in via Twitter. It stands for Health Care Social Media Canada.  The Moderator and Creator @Colleen_Young has worked tirelessly to create a safe place for conversation, interaction and learning.  Thank you Colleen!  Meeting in person after 4 years of online chatting was a thrill – the connection is as real as can be!

At first Twitter and tweet chats felt strange.  But over time, watching round table discussions happening with doctors, specialists, patients, family members and mental health advocates I had to join in. Online discussions are difficult to duplicate and hard to organize in real life.  Distance and cost is a huge factor for patients in rural areas.  Social media gives us another way to connect and share.

I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of the discussion at the Ontario Hospital Association conference.  I came away feeling I was heard and welcomed.  I also wish to thank Oana Matei, Program Manager with the Ontario Hospital Association who did so much to make sure my (our) experience was positive and that everything went well.

The online chats with #HCSMCA members has encouraged me to be stronger, to say what I feel, think and experience as a patient and caregiver.  There is nothing wrong with standing up for yourself and for others you know, care for and care about.  Keep talking about your Patient Experience.  It matters.



You are invited…..

This past September I was delighted to see an email arrive..  “You are invited ” it started out.  A good friend online had presented my name – and I did not expect to be invited but there it was in black and white!

I am thrilled to participate in the up-coming Social Media Conference with the Ontario Hospital Association in Toronto on January 23, 2015.   This will be the first time that I will meet online connections that I have made over the past 4 years on Twitter. Certainly I have had phone calls, Google chats, Skype calls but nothing can compare with real life meetings.  Social media is how I connected with these wonderful people – as I would not have met them by walking my home town streets.

I have watched with interest and a bit of envy I must admit – as other friends and contacts have joined in other real life events.  It has been heartwarming to see people take part in speaking, presentations, taking Selfies with their online connections.  I always wondered what it would feel to be there and now I will get to find out.

The main reason for the conference is to explore connecting patients with community and health care facilities – and that is something I embrace.  It is an honor to use Social Media to learn, listen, learn and share.

As a patient living in a city isolated by miles of road and hours of travel or expensive flights – to participate in this conference is welcome and timely.  I live in Timmins  famous for long cold winters.  This is a welcome opportunity to escape the cold and meet the many good friends I have met online.

You can learn more about this conference on January 23, 2014 by going to  Ontario Hospital Association The conference is also available online as a webinar.

The focus of the conference is Engaging Patients and the Community through Social Media.  Being an epatient online – having some experience as a family member, as a patient myself, as a retired Personal Support Worker I value this opportunity to share in the discussion.

We live in a very different world from even 20 years ago.  Everyone is connecting via smartphones, computers, laptops I-pads and tablets.  We are now able to communicate, get support and information via Social Media and email.  We can connect with Health Care Professionals via Teleconferencing – a boon to patients who live in isolated areas of the province and country.  Health records are also becoming available online to doctor and patient alike, so i have heard.  Electronic Health Records – EHR is in our near future.

We are more involved in our own care and decision-making than ever before.  We are a valid part of the circle of care – in fact without the patient – there is no team.  We now voice our questions and opinions, participating fully in the details of our care and treatment.  We also find other patients who blog, Tweet or Facebook with passion.  This is so valuable – ending isolation and fear for many.

Attending a conference will add to my online experience in so many ways.  I am very pleased to be given this opportunity.