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The Top 10 Best Ideas from the #hcsmca Symposium

March 8, 2016

Have you ever played musical chairs … with 170 adults? We sort of did at the #hcsmca Symposium. But with purpose. To end our brain busting day, we used the 25/10 liberating structure to sift out the 10 best and actionable ideas from the symposium.

On a recipe card, each attendee was asked to answer:

  1. What is the best idea you heard today?
  2. And what first step would you take to get started?

Then the music started. Everyone started passing around the cards. The object was to never have your own card in your hand and to ever only have one in your hand. Keep the moving. There were smiles and some laughter, but this was serious business.

Photos by Mike Savage //


Then the music stopped. Participants were asked to rate the idea and action on a scale of 1 (not for me) to 5 (great idea).


And the music started again. We did this 5 times, so that each card had the potential to have a high score of 25.

Here are the Symposium’s top 10 best ideas

1. Proceed until apprehended. Pick an idea that has been on the the back burner and just go for it on Monday


2. First step in any new initiative is to engage patients. Recruit a network of patient partners.


3. Emphasize respect over power. Focus on patient stories to create community engagement.




4. Don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good. Make it your new motto. Create a culture that allows mistakes and progress in lieu of perfection.


5. Social media has the power to change our healthcare system for the better. Try it and learn. Don’t be risk adverse. Believe.


6. Learn what patients want from social media and their perspective on privacy. Talk to patient groups for patients with chronic disease.


7. Encourage flexible leadership. If there is someone working with you and they are more of an expert, let them lead. Listen more to my peers and let them drive change.


8. Define and publicly display 5 measures related to patient perspectives of how healthcare providers/system communicate. Have focus groups with patients and providers to propose ideas and brainstorm possible metrics.


9. Make your social media strategy part of your organization’s business strategy. Audit your organization’s digital capability and develop/implement a forward thinking, integrated digital strategy.


10. Use videos for patient prep before office visits to answer basic questions. Find a physician willing test and measure time savings.

What was your best idea from the Symposium?

See all the Symposium photos by Mike Savage // on Flickr.

Chat Summary 250: #RareDiseaseDay: Do stories change anything?

February 29, 2016

By Emma Rooney (@blumencasey)

Rare Disease Day

On February 3rd #hcsmca explored how stories can change things. We asked

  • T1. How do patient stories impact the rare disease community?
  • T2. How can we better value patient stories and respond to the insights shared?
  • T3. What benefits should patients look for from contributing their stories?
  • T4. What stories are missing from the rare disease community and how can we encourage different voices?

Here’s the Storify of our discussion.

Read the complete #hcsmca chat 250 transcript.

#hcsmca: 5-year Retrospective and Looking Ahead

February 28, 2016

It’s been an amazing 5-year journey with #hcsmca. Here’s the retrospective that I shared at the #hcsmca Symposium on Feb 24, 2016. (Slides)

Who would’ve ever thought that 140 characters could change an industry? Health care is an industry built on science, art, evidence and communication. But the social Web and the networks we build are causing a paradigm shift in how health interactions are perceived.

Pat Rich tweetPat Rich said this exactly a year ago at the 2015 #hcsmca Meetup in Toronto. But look at the last part of the tweet. “No time to discuss that here.” Today, we have time. Today that’s why we’re here – in person and online.

Five and a half years ago, when social media were still quite new to most people in health care, I established the hashtag #hcsmca – Health Care Social Media Canada. While the first #hcsmca tweetchat was held in September 2010, the journey began weeks before.

I set out purposely to build a community. An inclusive open network of people who share a strong common interest, interact online and form relationships. First step: invite key first followers, people who would ensure that the community had a healthy mix that would model the inclusiveness and diversity I wanted this community to be built upon.

What is online community

I contacted people in my offline and online networks across the country from all walks of health care – patients, providers, communicators, educators, researchers, KT specialists and so on. If I wanted to attract multiple stakeholders and wide geographic representation to #hcsmca, then representatives of those people had to be the first adopters.

Remember this was 6 years ago when there were few clinicians or organizations on Twitter, and even fewer patients and caregivers.

Already by the second wildly successful chat I started to think, Wow we’ve gone from fledgling to a flourishing community in just 2 weeks.

Still I was rather surprised when Ujjal Dosanjh, former Minister of Health joined in and submitted this topic: How can social media help caregivers find good/solid advice when they need it most? Conversation about caregiver needs, usage of social networks and criteria for “solid advice” ensued. I’m not sure what the Liberal party had hoped to gain by participating in #hcsmca, but they definitely got plenty to listen to. @ujjaldosanjh’s final post before leaving for question period read: “this forum proves there are a lot of ideas out there. Great info to share with my #LPC colleagues esp when talking w constituents.”
Fledgling to flourishing

That same week the other 2 topics were submitted by Mike Martineau and Kathy Kastner, an IT specialist and a patient. This was the format of the chats for the first 2 years. People submitted their topic or question to a open Google spreadsheet; one topic per person, 3 topics per topics per week.

Six months in and #hcsmca was meeting its goal, making health care more open and connected. We were getting noticed outside the social media vacuum too. Canadian Press wrote this piece that was syndicated across Canada.

Metro news

Being included in the free public transit paper in several urban centres, #hcsmca-ers heard from their colleagues, friends and family – Is this what you’ve been talking about?

You bet it is. Let’s look at the numbers. Since 2010 we’ve had

  • over 19,000 participants
  • contributing 220,000 tweets
  • in 252 chats,
  • hosted by 95 moderators.

Offline events strengthen the the sense of community of an online network. Robyn Sussel recognized this when she and colleagues started Evening Rounds – a monthly meetup here in Vancouver. In Toronto, we’ve hosted 8 meetups of over 100 people, each event using a different format from panel discussion to speed dating to Pecha Kucha competitions. Today is the first full day event! Thank you Quality Forum for inviting us to be one of 3 pre-forum events!Activity

When #hcsmca was 2 years old, Anatoliy Gruzd and Caroline Haythornthwaite did a social network analysis sampling one month – November 2012.


I was thrilled with the picture this revealed: a well connected network with no central figure of influence. Meaning #hcsmca is not an audience, not a gathering, but rather an well distributed community of practice, sharing knowledge and expertise. The researchers’ analysis showed there was “no preferential attachment among people in the same professional group, indicating that the formation of connections among community members was not constrained by professional status.

It indicates a healthy sense of community where members have a feeling of belonging
and identity. The goals of members match those of the membership. Members feel they can influence and be influenced and that they share a history, experience and/or an emotional connection.[McMillan and Chavis, 1986]

It was because of #hcsmca’s strength of community that I was asked to contribute an essay in Mayo Clinic’s book “Bringing the Social Media Revolution to Health Care” called Twitter Chats Build Community.

Community Lifecycle

Every community has a lifecycle from inception, to establishment to maturity – many stay in this stage for years – and for some there’s a mitosis or death. As #hcsmca moves through its lifecycle, it’s been imperative to stay relevant, to evolve with the community, acknowledge and enable the roles people take on and challenge the collective into areas where they may not have thought to venture.

The first role that I was keen to enable was born out of necessity. It’s a lot of work to moderate a chat every week. So I invited people to help out. Over 95 people have moderated #hcsmca.


By the 3rd year, I changed the model of 3 questions from 3 people to make each chat based on a theme so we could dive deeper into a topic. The host would choose a theme for the chat, write a preparatory blog which brought focus and depth to the conversations. Another role that emerged were the summary creators. While there is a transcript for every chat, the summaries are short commentaries, infographics, storify’s. Other roles include the welcome wagonners, the data collectors, the event planning committee members and my moral supporters.

And then there are special projects. Take for example the revision of #hcsmca’s vision and mission. Last year, Shirley Williams along with Pat Rich and myself, led this incredible online consensus building initiative. For as #hcsmca grew and matured, and social media became practically ubiquitous, hosting a community focussed exclusively on social media no longer made sense and the scope was expanded to social collaboration for better health and health care.

Every #hcsmca chat shifts the needle in our understanding, perception, practice and empathy; sometimes a little, sometimes a lot.

Elise Bradt from the Council of Academic Hospitals of Ontario wrote to me after their chat about patients and research, “we are very proud and just delighted at the response we’ve received. In fact, I met with Dawn Richards the next day and we took much of our conversation from the chat into the real world, discussing CAHO’s 2015-2020 commitment to driving best practices for patient co-design of research. In my mind, this transition of dialogue (from virtual to actual) is the very purpose of the #hcsmca community.

Patients and caregivers have also hosted chats. Annette MacKinnon and Natrice Rese co-hosted chats about online vs. in-person patient support services and health advocates.

I, too, have brought the #hcsmca community knowledge with me to Medicine 2.0 in Boston and London, and flipped my MedX panel twice with you before going to Stanford Medicine X 2014 and 2015.

#hcsmca is a safe and trusted place to test out new ideas. Members know they have a community of people encouraging them to be innovative and to take risks; one that will applaud successes and help missteps become learning opportunities.

All of the 252 chats and their respective blogs are archived  – an incredible treasure trove of data.

In my opinion the single biggest achievement of #hcsmca has been to help people step back from their own area of expertise. When moderators submit their topics, often their questions need to be reframed to include everyone. While their goal may be to specifically get patient opinion or to feedback from physicians, I remind them that #hcsmca is a diverse and inclusive community and this has to be reflected in the questions. This is how #hcsmca dismantles health care’s silos and help creates pathways to connection – connections that less than a decade ago were thought impossible.

For the past 5 and half years, 70-100 people have gathered weekly, over 90,000 in total, making real connections, recalibrated their thinking and opening their minds. Yes, we can improve health care 140 characters at a time.

However, the time has come for me to take a bow. Starting in March, I will no longer be leading weekly tweetchats. But this is not the end of #hcsmca. The hashtag will live on. Today, I invite you to take up the #hcsmca baton and help create the road map of the next part of our evolution.

Thank you!


National #hcsmca Symposium Blog Roundup

February 23, 2016

Here’s everything we’ve organized and written about the #hcsmca Symposium so far. Big thanks to the entire Planning Committee Marina Bastawrous, Toronto; Janelle Chung, Vancouver; Colin Hung, Toronto;  Isabel Jordan, Squamish BC; Lori Last, Vancouver; Leah Lockhart, Vancouver; Trish Paton, Edmonton; Pat Rich, Ottawa; Kevin Smith, Vancouver; Robyn Sussel, Vancouver; and Colleen Young, Toronto.

How to Unconference & the Challenges

Speakers and Program

panelists 2


 Why a National Symposium

Patients Included (Caregivers and Students too)

 Why Vancouver

Vancouver 2

Photo credit: Michelle Preston, BC Patient Safety Learning System


How to take part in the #hcsmca Symposium remotely

February 22, 2016

By Trish Paton (@trishpaton)

You can’t make it to Vancouver for the #hcsmca Symposium? That’s OK. We would love to see you, but we know it can’t work for everyone. And we can’t fit all of #hcsmca in one room, anyway.

We’ve been planning on ways to participate if you can’t be here in real life. Here’s a few ideas you can use.

  • Follow the #hcsmca hashtag all day.
  • Tweet @hcsmca a question with you’d like to ask the panel between now and Feb. 24, and we will get some of those questions into the morning.
  • You can tweet questions throughout the day, too. We may not get to all of them, but we will do what we can! Make sure to use #hcsmca so we can find them.
  • Stay on the #hcsmca channel for the day. We’re encouraging Challenge teams to have tweeters in the room, so a wider audience can participate.
  • We are asking Challenge teams to use Google Docs to take live notes from sessions

Fitbit from TelusBe sure to follow along and tweet #hcsmca. A FitBit ChargeHR will be given to the top #hcsmca Symposium tweeter (whether you attend in person or remotely). Prize donated by @telushealth.

After the conference, everything we can get our hands on or take pictures of will be uploaded for the whole #hcsmca community to share. We encourage the Challenge teams to continue their work past Feb. 24th and to report back their progress (both what worked and what didn’t).

See you online!

#hcsmca Symposium Program & Speakers

February 21, 2016

On Feb 24, 2016 in Vancouver, #hcsmca will host its first National Symposium.

Download the #hcsmca Symposium Program (PDF).


Robyn Sussel (Symposium Moderator), @robynsussel, Principal, Signals

headshot Robyn Sussel

Robyn has devoted her career to helping health and research organizations communicate their often hidden but compelling stories.

As one of two principals at digital firm,, Robyn leads the client services team and speaks regularly on the subject of health and research communications and knowledge translation as well as digital transformation and integrated communications strategy and planning.

In 2015 Robyn won the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Ripple Effect award for her contributions to health charities. In 2016, she was nominated for the YWCA’s Women of Distinction Award in the Health and Wellness category, again for her contributions to health and human rights charities.

Pat Rich, @pat_healthSenior Medical Writer and Editor, Commentator on Canadian Health Care

HBrBen8WPat Rich is a veteran medical writer and editor and commentator on social media in the context of health care. He has been editor-in-chief of Canada’s only newpaper for physicians and recently parted ways with the Canadian Medical Association after serving for 14 years in a variety of senior communications positions including as publisher of the Canadian Medical Association Journal

Colleen Young, @colleen_youngFounder, #hcsmca, Online Community Director, Mayo Clinic Connect

Headshot Colleen YoungColleen Young (@colleen_young) is an internationally recognized expert in building online health communities that thrive. She is the Founder of Health Care Social Media Canada (#hcsmca) – an inclusive, cross-disciplinary community driving social collaboration for better health and health care. She is also the Community Director of Mayo Clinic Connect, an online patient community.

In 2012, Colleen was awarded the Journal of Medical Internet Research Award at the Medicine 2.0 Congress at Harvard University for her leadership in developing best practices for building online communities. She frequently speaks and writes about the impact of social web in health and health care, including presenting at Stanford Medicine X 2014 and 2015.

Kicking off the event is a powerhouse panel with Lee Aase, Larry Chu, Colin Hung and Isabel Jordan. Each of the panelists have built silo-busting communities in health. On Feb 24, we’ll bring them together on stage and learn more about their communities, the labours, trials, successes and how they are each making a difference in health care now and their plans for the future.


The Panelists

Lee Aase @LeeAaseDirector, Mayo Clinic Social Media Network

Lee AaseLee Aase is the Director of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network, which provides training resources, educational and networking events and a collaboration platform for healthcare communications professionals and medical providers, as well as patients and caregivers who want to safely and effectively apply social and digital strategies to fight disease, promote health and improve health care.

By night, Lee is Chancellor of Social Media University, Global (SMUG), a free online higher education institution that provides practical, hands-on training in social media for lifelong learners. In 2013, he was inducted into the Healthcare Internet Hall of Fame, and in 2014 he was appointed to a two-year term on the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Social Media. He also was named to the list of “20 People Who Make Healthcare Better” by HealthLeaders Media.

Prior to joining Mayo Clinic in 2000, Lee spent more than a decade in political and government communications at the local, state and federal level.

Larry Chu, MD, MS @larrychuAssociate Professor of Anesthesia, Stanford University School of Medicine; Executive Director, Stanford Medicine X

Larry Chu-roundLarry Chu is a practicing anesthesiologist who runs the Anesthesia Informatics and Media (AIM) lab at Stanford University. He is an associate professor of anesthesia on the faculty of the Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Chu teaches three courses at Stanford University, Engage + Empower Me (a patient engagement design course) and Design for Health (applying design innovation to improve healthcare) and Medical Education in the New Millennium (challenges and opportunities for innovation and digital disruption). He collaborates with researchers in simulation and computer science at Stanford to study how cognitive aids can improve medical team performance in a crisis. Dr. Chu has received several NIH grants to study opioid-induced hyperalgesia.

Dr. Chu is also the Executive Director of Stanford Medicine X, a project of the Stanford AIM Lab. Medicine X is a catalyst for new ideas about the future of medicine and health care. The initiative explores how emerging technologies will advance the practice of medicine, improve health, and empower patients to be active participants in their own care. The “X” is meant to encourage thinking beyond numbers and trends—it represents the infinite possibilities for current and future information technologies to improve health.  

Colin Hung @Colin_HungDirector of Marketing, Stericycle Communication Solutions

Collin Hung-roundColin Hung leads the marketing efforts at Stericycle Communication Solutions, a division of Stericycle Inc that is dedicated to strengthening patient engagement through better communication. He is a true believer in healthcare technology and has been working for over 15 years at various #HealthIT companies.

In 2015, Colin was named one of the Top 20 HealthIT bloggers and one of the Top 100 healthcare Tweeters. He also served as a social media ambassador at the 2015 Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) conference and 2015 Mayo Innovation Transform conference. Colin co-founded the Healthcare Leadership online community (#hcldr,, one of the most popular and active in healthcare.

Colin received an honours BA in Applied Science from the University of Waterloo and is a registered Professional Engineer in the province of Ontario. He speaks and writes regularly about healthcare, technology, marketing and leadership. Sadly Colin still cheers for the Toronto Maple Leafs, his hometown team.

Isabel Jordan @seastarbatitaChair, Board of Directors, Rare Disease Foundation

Isabel JordanIsabel Jordan is Board Chair and one of the founding members of the Rare Disease Foundation. The Foundation funds care-focused research that is informed by the priorities of the rare disease community and connects families touched by rare disease. This creates a network of families, patients, health care providers, researchers and volunteers that together are working towards the same goal of making a better future for the rare disease community. Isabel is the facilitator for the Rare Disease Foundation’s Vancouver Parent 2 Parent Resource Network and helps to lead the growth of connected Resource Networks across Canada.

Thirteen years into the journey of parenting 2 children, one with a rare disease, has taught her many lessons – one of the biggest is that building community can provide care, support, resources and answers. Connecting with other parents and health care providers in the rare disease world has made her a strong proponent of patient advocacy and family- and patient-led care. These life lessons have ripples far beyond the rare disease community. Patient engagement and building community aren’t buzzwords, they are the pathway to creating a better health care system.

The stunning plenary panel is only one reason not to miss this event. Take a look at the exciting program outline, tapping in to our collective knowledge. We’ve designed a day to explore how digital communications impact quality of care, support patient-provider co-design, contribute to research and knowledge translation, and lead to interdisciplinary decision-making.

Join the #hcsmca Symposium Dine-Around Feb 23

February 21, 2016

By Kathy Kastner (@kathykastner)

Kathy Kastner-roundNo need to dine alone the eve before the #hcsmca Symposium.

I’ve had such fun at conferences when a pre-conference dine-around was arranged. So, I’m going with the Nike slogan “Just do it” and am coordinating one for the #hcsmca National Symposium.

How it works

Sign your name to the restaurant of your choice in this Google doc. The sign-up sheet also includes and addresses of each restaurant. They are all within walking distance of the conference hotel The Hyatt Regency 655 Burrard St, Vancouver.

Meet in hotel lobby at 5:45pm on Tuesday, February 23. (Eat time is 6pm to accommodate the Eastern time zone-ers.) We’ll head to our respective meet ‘n eats for a get-to-know you IRL (in real life).

Here’s the list of restaurants to choose from. No special menu just special people. In case it’s not obvious, you pay your own way.

Reservations are under my name – Kathy Kastner.

Sign-up here to join us. See you Tuesday!


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