Episode #81 – Transforming human connectivity in healthcare with Lisa Bookwalter of Twitter

Dear Friends & Colleagues,

This is a timely podcast.  If you are not already a believer that social media is an integral part of our healthcare system and the larger social narrative on illness and health, then I would strongly urge you to listen to this interview.

In this episode, I speak with Lisa Bookwalter, the Director Health – Twitter Client Solutions.  Lisa, who joined Twitter this past September, oversees all health client partnerships as well as Twitter’s market positioning in the health space. Prior to joining Twitter, she was a senior director at Healthline Media where she spent the past 9 years creating innovative ways for advertisers to connect with their consumers and clients.

In this interview, you’ll hear:

  • The ways in which individual healthcare consumers are using Twitter, nationally and across the globe.
  • How healthcare providers and the medical community are using Twitter.
  • The role Twitter is playing in public health crises, like the current covid19 pandemic.
  • How and why pharmaceutical & device manufacturers are shifting from static websites to engaging consumers on social media channels.
  • How Twitter differs from other social media platforms; and how Twitter is deploying safeguards for their consumers, particularly in the domain of healthcare and health.

I was struck by a number of revelations during this interview.

First – I really appreciated how Lisa kept pointing out that Twitter is an open platform for authentic human connectivity. As she put it, Twitter is the place people go to tell strangers the truth about themselves. This rang true to me. Unlike Facebook, Twitter is not about connecting with family & friends, or some specifically defined & circumscribed community. It’s an open, global format focused on enabling the sharing of raw experiences, thoughts and issues. It’s the place you go to connect to issues of immediate and timely concern – issues that are enhanced by diverse outreach & participation.

Second – Twitter and other social media platforms are rapidly becoming the ‘go-to’ for brands looking to enhance consumer engagement. There is formal advertising on Twitter, but there are also other more organic forms of consumer engagement. The ability to ‘listen’ and understand consumers on Twitter – to receive authentic feedback on products and services seems to be emerging as superior to legacy forms of marketing such as brand websites.

Third – Twitter and other social media platforms are rapidly becoming forums not only for conversation, but also for customer service. I was unaware that some companies are already utilizing Twitter for actual customer transactions. During the interview, Lisa gave the example that airlines are leveraging Twitter to allow customers to change their flights.

Prior to speaking with Lisa, I hadn’t realized the extent to which Twitter could be used by healthcare consumers (patients) who were seeking information regarding treatment or referrals; and who were also wanting to connect with others who had been or were going through similar situations. During the interview I remarked to Lisa that Twitter has the potential to be the largest and most facile patient support group. It also has the potential to be a highly effective form of behavior change. Social network theory has demonstrated that one of the most powerful motivators for sustained change is the connection to others who are exhibiting specific behaviors. It might be that Twitter and other social media platforms are the next-gen motivational and behavior change tools in our society.

I came away from this interview with a much greater sense of how social media can, at an unprecedented scale, transform the healthcare consumers’ experience and healthcare professionals’ capabilities. Lisa Bookwalter’s fundamental premise is that Twitter is about providing people with authentic, meaningful, real-time human connection, on issues that are of immediate importance. If an underlying principle of healthcare is also about human connection, then there is a synergy here I think few of us have yet to fully comprehend.

Until Next Time, Be Well.

Zeev Neuwirth MD