Bringing social media into health care – one woman at a time

Written by Silja on 6 October 2009 in Events, other musings - 4 Comments


Last week, I had the chance to assist an amazing event: The annual meeting of the European chapter of Healthcare Businesswomen Association (HBA). The HBA is the most powerful association of women in the health care industry. Its mission is to get more women into senior management positions in health care and to provide support for these women so that they can strive, grow and become amazing senior leaders. The HBA is a support to women in leadership positions in health care companies, so that they can network, exchange experiences and mentor one another.

Women, in my humble opinion, are THE most important stakeholders in the health care system:

Women are patients and caregivers: Women arguably make up 50% of the patient population, but they are also the caregivers and decision makers in their families when it comes to health. The influence women have  over who will go to the doctor when in their families is tremendous and they often play a vital role in ensuring adherence to the treatments prescribed.

Women lead in the nursing profession:  According to this study of women in health care & bioscience by Catalyst, women are actually more likely than men to take on leadership positions in the nursing profession (albeit earning 6% less salary).

Women physicians are at parity, but hit the glass ceiling in academia: Despite the fact that women are almost at parity in terms of medical school degrees, they hold the fewest positions among full professors with a share of only 15.5 %.(see study here)

Women in the health care industry are underrepresented in senior management: While women’s share of bioscience degrees relative to men has grown in a similar fashion than in the medical field, only 2%-16% of women make it into senior level management positions (huge spread due to large differences by country). Also the rate at which women are moving into senior positions are very slow. At the current rate, it will take another 127 years to get to gender equality in this industry in Europe!

The healthcare industry is suffering from what Tabi Haller-Jordan calls the BOGSAT’s syndrom: Bunch Of Guys Sitting Around Talking. Achieving a critical mass of at least 33% women on the senior management level is thus one of the key aspirations of HBA EU.

The idea is that by increasing female representation at the board level pharma’s gruesome reputation could be swayed, that the voices of women, wifes, mothers and daughters at the table could change the way  top management decisions are made in the health care industry.

As you can see, I am quiet passionate about the mission of HBA. I am equaly as passionate about getting social media a share of mind within senior management at health care companies.. and what better place to start than with the HBA?

In Europe, more women go online than men:


According to this research, women are also significantly more likely than men to search for wellness information online – 71.7% versus 60.5% .

Women are one of the fastest growing segments on social networking sites: In Europe, 75% of women with children regularly access the internet to social network.

Finally, 36% of women would rather give up chocolate or Prada than their social media site – wow, this is really serious!

So, women are really a great target audience, if you want to drive social media adoption in healthcare.

The HBA EU board and I thus set out to cover their annual meeting via social media with two objectives in mind:

1.  to help HBA EU raise awareness about its mission and activities via social media

2. to teach the senior  leaders present at the meeting how social media works

To be completely honest, we did not really know, whether there would be an audience for this topic online, nor whether the women present would be the least interested in what we were doing. This was thus a sort of experiment to see what impact such a social media coverage could have on the organization.

Also, true to my conviction that social media is sharing great content at 0 cost, I used my Mac and a digital photo camera with a video function (special thanks to Giollo for letting me use his and for all the artistic pics). I twittered to cover the conference content, twitcamed to catch live interviews with participants and created an event page on facebook to upload pictures and videos-  bringing it all together in one place, live and at no expenditure – besides my own time and energy.

I was overwhelmed by the response that I got from the participants. I initiated and signed up over one third of participants onto social media sites during the event. I also managed to get 7 participants in front of the twitcam with me to talk about to the different highlights of the meeting. Some of them were very senior leaders in the health care industry!

Check out this small sound bite, for example, of Thomas Ebeling, CEO at ProSiebenSat.1 Media,  past CEO Consumer Health and Pharma at Novartis and member of the HBA EU advisory board:

Thomas has been one of the driving forces behind bringing the HBA to Europe, during his tenure as CEO at Novartis and he continues his support to the organization despite having moved industries. This to me is in and of itself is a strong endorsement of the strategic value of HBA EU.

Cherie Faiella, who conducted this quick interview with Thomas, is another driving force behind HBA EU. Executive director of Ernst & Young, Cherie puts her incredible experience and strategic thinking to work at the HBA EU advisory board so that the organization can grow and achieve its mission.

Renee Tannenbaum, Chief Commercial Officer and EVP at Elan Pharmaceuticals as well as member of the advisory board, even traveled across from California to show her support to HBA EU and share her experience with us. She was so kind to share her thoughts with me on why women should join the HBA – A must see, for all of you women in health care out there:

The dregree of participation and interest in social media of the senior leaders present at the meeting was thus outstanding. So was the list of high-caliber speakers and content provided at the event!

For an extensive review of the event go to the HBA website, but let me point out some highlights from the social media adoption perspective:

Michelle Gasden-Williams shared her experience of driving diversity and inclusion (D&I) within Novartis – a compelling illustration of how important it is for women to stay authentic to their style whilst working around the diplomacy of the corporate environment. The change management process she described to drive D&I, to me showed many interesting parallels and best practices needed to drive social media adoption within large organizations. Let’s compare notes here to make it happen.

Barbara Annis presented mind-blowing evidence on differences in female vs. male brains: Great minds actually think unlike. Read her book, Leadership and the sexes, if you really want to understand your colleagues… or wife for that matter ;-)

Tabi Haller-Jordan from Catalyst presented how an organization can make a compelling business case for more diversity. She illustrated the challenges women face in leadership and offered avenues of how to overcome them.

Both Barbara and Tabi reminded me of a key success factor with respect to driving social media adoption within the health care industry: Like the diversity initiatives, we need to start collecting a compelling body of evidence to create a convincing business case for social media. I do not necessarily mean ROI, which is ever so difficult to define in both diversity and social media. It’s about tracking adoption and impact with metrics that are relevant to the initiative and then setting clear goals and objectives around these.

Alexander Tsiaras presentation taught us how important it is to tell the story behind the data. His company, the visual MD uses beautiful visualizations allowing patients to travel within the human body to understand what is going on. His company produces these videos for broad distribution amongst Internet sites and hospital centers: Quality information told in a comprehensible, compelling manner and distributed to a maximum number of patients in the true spirit of social media!

To those of you who regularly follow my blog, it will come as no surprise that I was in heaven ;-) To me this approach is the future of driving disease awareness and adherence in health care. Alexander’s presentation made another important point for me though. It is not enough to have great data and a compelling business case. You need a heart-grabbing, inspirational story to spread the word and motivate people to act – Where is our 2 min video of why social media is THE catalyst for revolutionizing patient care?

Finally, check out the HBA site, facebook and twitcam pages for more incredible content. Like Bill Young ‘s workshop for example – a leading voice and presentation coach for women, he pointed out how LITERALLY women neeed to find a strong voice. Or the drumming workshop – ever heard 60+ senior leaders in health care call the tribes of diversity? Impressive!

Thanks to all participants in the event off line and online – special thanks to Odom Lewis for the excellent blog post.

This has been a great learning experience for me and I am sure many of the senior leaders within HBA… and just maybe it will advance both the cause of women and social media in health care – one woman at a time ;-)

4 Comments on "Bringing social media into health care – one woman at a time"

  1. Daria Blackwell 19 January 2010 at 17 h 53 min ·

    Dear Silja,

    Thanks so much for providing this great overview of the meeting. As I was at sea at the time and could not take part in person, it gave me a good feel for how much the HBA has accomplished in such a short time in Europe. Bravo to all who worked so hard on creating the event and ensuring its success.


  2. Tammy 17 February 2010 at 20 h 12 min ·

    I enjoyed your posting. Especially the part about the, BOGSAT’s syndrom: Bunch Of Guys Sitting Around Talking. That brought a big smile to my face, and isn’t that so true.

    I’m going to use that phrase if you don’t mind.

    Thanks for sharing.

  3. stephanie alicia lawson 3 May 2010 at 3 h 42 min ·

    it is totally awesome.if there is any more of this wonderful activities,please call me at my number that is 017-7735025.i would really like to join.take care.keep in touch always.thanks for everything.from,stephanie alicia lawson..

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