healthcare social media

Social Content, Allergies and the Parents who Diagnose Them

By Social Media

Photo credit: Muffet

I was allergic to dairy products until I was about 12 years old. Recent health issues led to surgery (I’m fine, now) and for the last month my diet has subsisted primarily of fruits, vegetables and lean proteins. I’ve been adding dairy back in gradually and it’s the weirdest thing — it all tastes off to me. In the last couple of weeks I’ve poured out a couple of glasses of milk that were fine, but for some reason just tasted really sour.

I’m fascinated by this new study that suggests food allergies may be more common than originally thought and that about 8% of American children likely have them.

The Booster Shots blog of the LA Times reports this:

KidsHealth, from the Nemours Foundation, has this to say about “growing out” of allergies:

“Most kids who are allergic to milk, eggs, wheat, or soy outgrow their allergies by the time they’re 5 years old. But only about 20% of people with peanut allergy and about 10% of kids with tree nut allergy outgrow their allergy. Fish and shellfish allergies usually develop later in life, and people are unlikely to outgrow them.”

Now, I hope that information like this study doesn’t result in a slew of parents downsizing kids’ diets. If anything, I hope that more parents seek allergy testing for their kids when they suspect sensitivities. The results of these studies are often inflammatory, whether that’s the intent or not.

I’m glad I outgrew my allergy to dairy early and suspect that this current aversion will work its way through my system as well. Studies like these and the wealth of health information available online may contribute to parents over-diagnosing allergies. Leave the diagnosing to the professionals, and read online social content such as blogs and warnings via social networks with a grain of salt.

Barnes Jewish Hospital: Using Social Media to Build Relationships and Community

By Social Media

There’s a lot to be proud of in St. Louis, the town I called home for more than 17 years. Barnes-Jewish Hospital, part of the system where I had my own two children, is one. Barnes-Jewish is the largest hospital in the state of Missouri. It’s a teaching hospital (which is why an audience of about 10 watched me deliver my son) and is affiliated with Washington University School of Medicine.

Barnes-Jewish is also the hospital where my brother-in-law died in 2000, as the result of a medication error that caused him to go into cardiac arrest while undergoing treatment for cancer. As a result of that, my mother-in-law and father-in-law have dedicated time, care and emotion, sharing their story and working with the hospital’s patient safety and quality committee to help the hospital continually improve patient care.

Thus, my personal perspective on the hospital’s manner of working with patients and their families has been up close. The culture of caring and commitment, even in times of crisis has never failed to impress me. When my family was going through what was truly hell on earth, the relationship with the hospital held up; and eleven years later is still strong.

I cannot share what I started to write about in this post without covering that very personal territory. When I sat down to write, I simply wanted to honor Barnes-Jewish for it’s blog Touching Base. I’ve been following the hospital’s blog since its beginning and have been consistently impressed with the content and the commitment to its mission of “building relationships and a community through sharing.”

The blog has a whole page dedicated to sharing guidelines, posting very publicly the expectations for employee interaction in social media platforms. The hospital’s mission, vision and values are plainly stated and the regularly updated content consistently provides interesting and valuable health information while also giving a behind-the-scenes look at hospital life.

Coincidentally, blogger and social media specialist for the hospital Kristin Hall is a friend and someone I attended Lindenwood University with (back in the Dark Ages before blogs existed). I’d say this even if Kristin wasn’t a friend; she’s really excellent at her job. Watching the way she has created content on behalf of the hospital and continued to stay on message and mission has truly impressed me. As a result of her efforts, Barnes-Jewish is one of few nationwide examples of hospitals using social media in a really effective, meaningful way.

Hospitals and health care organizations would do well to pay attention to not only the way Barnes-Jewish uses social media, but the way they develop and maintain relationships, the way they continue to interact with patients and patients’ families over time and the value they provide to the community, overall. There’s much to be learned from following the example of those doing this work well.