By Rob Anastasio
FHP&R Staff Writer
January 26, 2010 - Social media has been a powerful tool for the Military Health System in delivering key messages and information to its constituents and beneficiaries, said the head of the MHS strategic communications office at the 2010 MHS Conference Jan. 25.
Dr. Michael E. Kilpatrick, director of MHS Strategic Communications, said that his office’s goal is to link the providers and the users within the MHS through a variety of media, which includes the burgeoning social media.
“The strategy is to inform and educate the audience and personalize the MHS for that audience,” said Kilpatrick. Social media has been at the forefront of that communication effort, which is focused on bringing leaders, service members and their families, health care providers, and planners together on truly patient-centered health care.
Kilpatrick said that social media is the choice communication medium because it provides its users information “where they want it, how they want it, and when they want it.” To do just that, the MHS strategic communications office has leveraged social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, podcasting, YouTube, and an MHS blog to allow people to receive or provide information.
The challenge lies in the fact that the virtual social interactions it enables come more so from the bottom up than from the top down –certainly a change of pace for a military organization to adjust to, but it’s one that is well worth adapting for.
“We are so anchored in the way we used to do things that we lose sight of how we could do things.” said Capt. Kevin Berry, MC, USN, Special Studies, JTF CAPMED, who spoke alongside Kilpatrick at the conference. “The information has always been there, but it’s the quality of the experience that has changed.”
“We must think and act differently in order to embrace this change,” Berry said. He described how social media blurs the line between an experience and a service, saying that an experience is “staged and memorable” while a service is “delivered, intangible and customized.” The MHS has been taking advantage of social media opportunities to reach its audiences, and people are adapting quickly. Continued acceptance of social within the entire MHS will allow the MHS to more successfully and efficiently inform and educate all of the players in the overall partnership for health.