Monday, June 29, 2015

How Can a Health Plan Employee Use Twitter?

Photo Credit:
People ask me: “Steve, how can Twitter help me as someone who works for a health plan?” I tell them: “Monitoring Twitter – aka ‘social listening’ - can help you in lots of ways. Even if you don’t actively share on Twitter, you can monitor what others share for a variety of purposes depending on your role, objectives and which department of the company you work in.

Here are some ideas for using Twitter to support your job:

Member Services

More and more people are using social media to express their needs and concerns. Twitter should be monitored for members in need of support. Being proactive and actively engaging health plan members can satiate member needs and provide new insights about its members.

Human Resources

Similar to Member Services, human resource departments can use social monitoring to understand what current and former employees are saying about the company.


The marketing department can use social listening to obtain insight into what programs, messages and service offerings are successful with different member segments.

Product Development & Management

Twitter provides valuable information that can support development, testing and refinement of new products and services. Research and development costs can be minimized by learning from other companies.

Market Research

Market research teams can identify industry trends and member wants and needs. And keep tabs on competing health plans by understanding their positioning, strategies, and how their messages resonate with members.

Influencer Analysis

Influencers are an increasingly popular way of reaching and engaging with potential members and business partners. Twitter can be used to identify influencers in a given area so that they can be leveraged for marketing to members and prospects.

Crisis Management

Public relations and corporate communications departments may utilize social listening to detect any emerging issues that may be harmful to your brand’s reputation. Monitoring social media during a crisis can help to determine the scale of the problem, and provide steer regarding how best to respond.

Social Listening is an Increasingly Popular Discipline

These are just a few of the ways in which Twitter – and other social media platforms – can be used to assist health plan employees do their job. Check this out for more information on “How to build a social listening strategy.” You may also want to check this out to get an idea about “The opportunities and obstacles to know” about social listening.

To be sure, you don’t have to be a social media wizard to benefit from social media monitoring.For more information on social media, healthcare information and the business of healthcare, consider following me on Twitter.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Why is Health Care Considered a Right? Someone Please Explain.

For years now I’ve heard many apparently intelligent people emphatically and proudly claim that “health care is a right.” In remarks today, Barack Obama stated “health care is not a privilege for a few, but a right for all.” In most cases, the people making these claims are either quite wealthy, have a vested interest in additional money flowing into the health care system and/or are otherwise in a position to directly benefit from free or low-cost health care services.

Indeed, I get the altruistic intentions of those making this statement. No argument from me that we need world peace and everyone should have their own pony.

But just what does “health care is a right” really mean? 

Someone, please help me meaningfully understand this nebulous statement. Be specific, please.

Context and Details of Healthcare as a Right

In the context in which “right” is used, I believe its definition is “a written, moral or legal entitlement to have or obtain something or to act in a certain way.” 

So in what ways is health care considered a moral and legal entitlement bestowed upon American citizens? Some questions I’d like to have answered for me by all those claiming that health care is a right include:

1. What are the limitations as to medical and other services that must be provided to support this right?

2. Why do you believe poor personal choices leading to the need for extensive health care services shouldn't be a factor in the denial of this right?

3. Who’s ultimately responsible for paying for the health care services needed to support this right?

4. On a percentage basis, how much of YOUR annual earnings (and your children's and your children's children) are you personally willing to contribute to others in support of this right?

5. Why do you think hundreds of thousands of dollars – maybe millions of dollars - should be spent on a person who’s 70 or 80 or 90 years old? What about a million+ to save an extreme preemie who will, in best cases, need millions more of lifetime support after having been “saved?”

6.  What health care services should be included in this right? Should elective services be included? What about things like expensive experimental procedures? How should ancillary services like ambulance transportation be handled?

Somebody Substantiate Healthcare is a Right. Probably Won’t Happen?

I’ve raised my thoughts about this in the past. In most cases, the standard response is typically something along the lines of “you’re a selfish bastard,” “you’re just a greedy person,” and/or “why are you so mean?” Sometimes I get the “you’re an angry, old White guy. I expect this from you.”

But no one ever answers any of the questions I pose. Can you?

Comments are not moderated and there's really no easy way for me to know who leaves a comment on this blog. So go ahead and help me understand why healthcare should be considered a right. Don't be shy!

Top 10 Posts for 1st Half of 2015

Posts about using social media, popular healthcare conferences, price transparency and, of course, ICD-10 were among the top 10 posts that received the most hits on my blog during the first six months of 2015.

Posts below are ordered based on the most popular to least popular.

How to Participate in a Tweet Chat - Like #FLBlueChat 

What if Diners Paid Their Restaurant Bill with Their Health Insurance? 

AHIP Institute Sessions I'm Looking Forward To 

Being a Catalyst for Change in the American Healthcare System 

The Opportunity for Consumerism in the American Healthcare Delivery System 

ICD-10 Codes in Non-Claim HIPAA Transactions 

@ShimCode Interviews @HITConfGuy About the 2015 HIMSS Conference in Chicago 

ICD-10 Conversations - Almost Every Day of the Week!

Twitter Collections on a Wide Range of Healthcare, Information Technology & Other Topics 

Curated Tweets from Today's #hcsmca Tweetchat 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How to Use Twitter to Resolve a Customer Service Issue

Social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook have emerged as a new channel which people are using to express their pleasure or dissatisfaction with a company’s products or services. Many people also make customer service requests and resolve their issues via social media. Smart firms recognize this and are monitoring social platforms to address customer service issues.

What’s the Benefit?

Unlike using the phone – historically the most common channel used to initiate and resolve customer service requests –using social media can be easier and more effective for two primary reasons:

1. You can push your issue at the company and wait for the firm to respond to you; versus searching for a phone number and getting trapped in IVR Hell. Essentially you shoot up a flare and wait for a response.

2. Companies want to avoid their customers airing their grievances in a public manner so they will typically respond quickly.

My Experience

Over the past couple years, I’ve used Twitter to quickly and successfully resolve service deficiencies experienced with a major airline, a large financial firm and two local restaurants. I’ve also shared my experiences with about a dozen firms without an expectation of any resolution. In each instance, I followed a similar approach and my issues were either resolved to my benefit in a manner much greater than I expected or I felt a satisfaction that I had helped the company understand how they failed.

Steps & Best Practices

1. Identify the proper Twitter account with which to direct your issue

Depending on the size of the company, there may be a dedicated Twitter account for customer service issues. You should use that dedicated account if it’s available. You should also follow the company’s Twitter account so they can direct message (DM) you. You can always unfollow the account later.

2. Consider who’ll see your tweet

This is an important consideration that many people using Twitter have a hard time understanding. And something that’s too detailed for this post and is described here. I suggest being discrete at the start. You can always share your concern to a wider audience later.

3. State your need succinctly

You’ve got 140 characters to convey your issue so use them wisely. Use more than one tweet if you must but don’t feel that you need to provide all the details up front. Those are for later. You want to grab the company’s attention.

4. Don’t be overly negative

Even if your issue has you boiling mad, restrain yourself. You’ll catch more bees with honey than crap. And, like the details of your issue, you can always share more about your angst later.

5. Wait a while – Give the company time to respond

One of the benefits of using social media is that you get to push your issue to the company without having to spend excessive time on the phone. Accordingly, you should allow the company time to respond to your tweet. I suspect many firms don’t have a team of people monitoring social media channels.

Moreover, your tweet may not have been clearly stated and understood. If the company doesn’t respond within 24 hours, try again or go ahead and use the traditional channel. If you do end up calling the firm, be sure to let them know you tried to contact them via social media.

6. Finalize the resolution privately –via email or phone

In almost all instances, you won't and shouldn’t be using Twitter to respond to and/or provide all the details of your issue. Most companies will want you to switch to another channel like the phone or email. Do it. Once you’re in that channel, you’ve set the ball in motion and you’re likely to have your issue resolved to your satisfaction. I suggest avoiding Twitter’s direct messaging feature. It’s too limited and hard to use as documentation. I prefer email myself.


If you’re someone who expects a certain level of customer service, you should consider using a social media platform like Twitter to help you resolve your issues in an efficient and worthwhile manner.

For more information, ideas and tips on using social media, consider following me on Twitter.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

What value do conferences like #HIMSS15 and #AHIPInstitute provide?

Attending a conference is major investment of personal effort, time, and money. Typically a conference fee, airfare, ground transportation, lodging, meals and other expenses are involved. And, depending on whether a company is paying your way or not, one might have to use personal time off and pay their own way. The cost for a multi-day conference can easily exceed a few thousand dollars.

So what’s the benefit for this cost? I’ll use my most recent attendance at the 2015 AHIP Institute in Nashville to illustrate what I personally obtained for my investment.

Hearing from Industry Experts

The keynotes, sessions and presentations at many conferences are provided by true industry experts; often luminaries in their field. I find it very valuable to hear and learn first-hand how new ideas, practices, systems and technologies are being applied or will soon be applied in the healthcare space. At the AHIP Institute earlier this month I was able to hear and learn from a wide range of experts on a plethora of topics.

Learning New Skills, Hands On

Many conferences have workshops and other venues where the attendee can gain hands-on experience. Increasingly, I see presenters structuring their presentations in an interactive, give and take manner. The Dell presentation on “Health Plan and Provider Convergence: Increasing the Value of Data Analytics” was a good example of this interactive approach.

Learning about New Systems, Processes and Technologies

Between the industry experts and vendor exhibits, a conference provides a one-stop shop for learning about new ways of serving healthcare consumers and patients. Being able to get an overview of literally hundreds of new systems, processes and technologies – all in one space – and take a deeper dive into those of interest is invaluable.

Networking with Peers and Associates

There’s nothing like face to face interaction. The advent of social media has made it even easier to get to know people before the conference and make the actual face to face time more enjoyable and productive. It’s a lot of fun to attend presentations, have a coffee, dine with and/or otherwise hang out with new people having the same profession and interests as you.

Networking with Potential Customers, Employers or Partners

Just like networking with peers and associates, networking with others who may be able to produce or consume products and services of mutual interest is very beneficial.

Speaking Opportunities

Conferences are a great place to to present, share information and otherwise develop your brand. I was able to participate at AHIP on two levels. One was as a social media ambassador (SMA) with some associates and the other was in a taped discussion with my fellow SMA’s on Why Social Media Matters in Healthcare

So I fell my investment of a few thousand dollars was well spent and I look forward to attending next years 2016 HIMSS event in Las Vegas, the 2016 AHIP Institute and other healthcare conferences.

Note: For information on heatlhcare information technology and related conferences, consider following me on Twitter where I share info as @ShimCode and @HITConfGuy.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

ICD-10 Codes: Bizarre, Outrageous, & Absurd. But ‘Funny?’ I don’t think so.

(What's the ICD-10 Code for "Idiotitis?")

Show of hands: who thinks a child drowning is funny?

Hopefully you don’t think so. Yet just recently the ICD-10 code for drowning in a bucket of water was labeled “funny” by – wait for this – someone connected to medical coding services - a company called Medical Billers and Coders. 

Why is this? Why do seemingly intelligent people who should know better insist on publicly displaying such crass ignorance? And why would a company that makes its living by providing medical coding services take such a tack?

Here’s what this company posted last month on YouTube.

And when I called them out on it via the YouTube comments and a tweeet, this was the reply via their Twitter account

@ShimCode None of the injuries are funny but having codes for such uncommon injuries is something that we were targeting here.

There’s a Better Way

Unfortunately this company is not alone with thinking tragic, real life events are “funny.” There have been many firms and people calling out child drownings as "bizzare," funny," and "hysterical." I wrote a post about such idiocy a while ago.

If you want to make fun of ICD-10, I suggest you take an approach like The Happy Hospitalist took in his post titled “Funny ICD-10.2 Codes Never Before Discovered.”

For instance:

Abdominal Pain In The ER, Not Exacerbated By Big Mac Brought In By Baby Daddy

Any Injury Due To Less Than 1/10 of an Inch of Snow; Atlanta, Georgia

Know This All You Budding Comedians

If you're still desperately searching for some reason to make fun of ICD-10, consider reading Richard Averill’s post on “Why the U.S. actually needs those crazy ICD-10 codes."

Then maybe you will rethink your need to somehow bash ICD-10 at the expense of people who have lost loved ones to drowning.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Day 1 of the 2015 AHIP Institute in Nashville is Almost Over

Daylight of Day 1 of the 2015 AHIP Institute in Nashville is almost over and the Opening Night Concert event with Martina McBride is about an hour away. What a great day for those of  us who work for or are connected to health plans. There were educational sessions for every area of interest and the exhibit hall was active but not crazy packed like they can be at HIMSS events.

Some observations and highlights from Day 1:

Nashville – Not comfortable in business attire

In Arizona we joke that “it’s a dry heat.” In Portland it’s humid but most often quite cool. In Nashville today, it was warm and humid. Sticky and wet. And wearing a suit coat adds to the discomfort. For future events in similar weather, one must consider how best to dress to remain comfortable.

Music City Center is Huge!

The Music City Center at over a million square feet spread across four floors provides plenty of space to host an event like the AHIP Institute. It was nice to not have to wait in lines, to be able to walk freely at whatever pace you wanted and to feel the openness of the venue throughout the entire day. I wish the venues HIMSS uses were more like this venue.

Customer and Engagement are the Focus

If there’s a common theme at the Institute, I’d say it was the evolution of healthcare to focus on the customer, member, patient – or whatever you prefer to call the person that health care is really all about. Nearly every organization in attendance, whether a health plan, software vendor, service provider, hardware vendor or other, had some sort of focus or tack on the customer. Finally!

Exhibit Hall & Vendor Booths were Nice

Like the Music City Center itself, the exhibit hall and vendor booths were spacious and approachable - not overly crowded. It was pretty easily “navigated” but one thing that needs to be improved is the exhibitor map. Exhibitor spaces weren’t numbered in any orderly fashion on the Exhibitor Map that AHIP handed out. If there were twice as many exhibits this would have really sucked.


The AHIP folks did a nice job keeping plenty of coffee, bottled water and all kinds of "Cokes" (as many call all "sodas" in the South) readily available seemingly everywhere.  And plenty of free boxed lunches were offered. And the venue had other options that were quick and easy. Nice!

Day 2 Approaching

Given what I learned today, I expect tomorrow’s AHIP Institute experience to be even better. Whether you’re here attending or following from afar, consider following the #AHIPInstitute Hashtag and AHIP’s social media ambassadors