An Educational Curriculum Approach to Finding, Creating, and Posting Great Health IT Social Media Content

[This post is in preparation for the #HITsm tweetchat, Acquiring, managing & disseminating Healthcare Workflow IT Knowledge, hosted by @Shimcode, thank you very much Steve!]

Create an informal educational “curriculum” to guide your health IT social media and content acquisition, management, and dissemination efforts.

Take a look at this workflow for acquiring, managing, and disseminating health IT knowledge. It fits my frequently proffered definition of workflow quite well: a series of tasks, consuming resources, achieving goals.


Now take a look at this definition of “curriculum.”

“A planned sequence of learning experiences” (remind you of anything?).

Yes, workflow comes to mind. But I talking about curriculum, as in a structured collection of related educational classes and courses. Health IT social media and education have lots in common: sharing, learning, experts, novices, and communities come quickly to mind.

Here are some differences between curricula and health IT social media. Students are a captive audience. They proceed through task sequences. They actually do stuff that gets graded. Twitter audiences are quite literally the opposite. They come and go quite freely. They encounter my tweets in random order. And, for the most part, I have no idea what they do with what they learn. That said, there are exceptions. Folks who download workflow software and let me know what they think. Folks agree or disagree with my opinions. I suppose, who and how many follow me is a form of validation, but it’s more like they grade me than I grade them.

The curriculum plan = health IT social media plan analogy is imperfect. But it is still useful

I hope to convince you that an education curriculum, as part of your social media plan, is useful for designing and managing your health IT social media and content marketing workflows.

Most of you, my friends in health IT social media, are born teachers. I could go into why I believe that is true in general, but you already know I’m right! So why not take the next logical step? Design a curriculum to guide your acquisition, management, and dissemination of health IT content. You may likely already be doing so intuitively. But reflecting about your tweeting “curriculum” has important advantages for you and your efforts.

Twitter is incredibly malleable. I am continually surprised by its new uses. One popular use, especially among the #HITsm crowd I hang out is activism toward some goal. Examples include patient experience, engagement and empowerment; health IT system interoperability; user interface usability; design thinking; citizen (medical and health) science, and so on. In my case it’s healthcare workflow and workflow technology. For each of these topics I can think of at least a couple tweeps.

I am also reminded of the following Hatcam video of Michael Gaspar at HIMSS12: Can social media save the universe?

@MichaelGaspar on “Can social media save the universe?”

If the only reason you are on Twitter is entertainment, then God bless you. Until I got a puppy two months ago, Twitter was consistently the most entertaining thing I do. However… health IT social media has a higher than average number of participants who literally aim to change the world. Entertainment and changing the world are not mutually exclusive. My most entertaining experiences on Twitter have been due to not entertaining people, but entertaining debates between people with different ideas about what needs to be changed in healthcare.

If you aim to change the health IT world, turn your “WHY?” into “HOW!” by creating and leveraging an informal educational curriculum to guide your efforts.

To support our goals we develop a wide variety of personal and professional workflows, which we repeat every day to post great content. We speed-read thousands of tweets. We create lists of tweeps to whom we intend to pay close attention. Some of us create alerts in a variety of platforms to daily provide us raw content through which we pore, looking for the very best, most topically salient, tidbits of data, information, knowledge, and wisdom. We sort through this pile of content, crafting tweets. Sometimes we accept headlines as default tweet text. Sometimes we rewrite headlines to make them fit Twitter’s 140 character limit. Often we insert editorial comments, hashtags, images, and emoji, to serve a variety go professional and personal goals. And then we either tweet on the spot or schedule tweets to for later, sometimes relying on automatic scheduling services, sometimes picking specific dates and times.

This post is not about that.

Those are the tactical task workflows we’ve found work for us, through trial and error, since when we first dipped a toe in the Twitter water (and more like Niagara Falls during health IT conferences!).

As important as your practical health IT social media workflows are — to find, create, and post great content — to inform, to entertain, and, always, to connect and engage — I’m addressing something more strategic and fundamental: why are you tweeting (and then how to convert that why into health IT social media workflows serving your “why”).

Remember at the beginning of this post when I suggested you may already be relying on a “curriculum” to tweet? You have, in your mind, a collection of related ideas you hold dear. In my case it’s about a half a dozen healthcare workflow tech concepts (process-awareness, workflow engines, pragmatic interoperability, workflow usability, etc.). You arrived at your mindset after mastering prerequisite ideas. These were basic, not necessarily healthcare technology related… marketing, accounting, medicine, health, databases, networks, etc. These are ideas you had to understand in order to get to the ideas you hold dear. But then there is another layer of data, information, knowledge, and wisdom. This layer is about the goals and benefits of realizing your ideas in the world. Less disease. Happy patients. Reduced costs. And so on. You have to convince the world, AKA folks who follow you, or otherwise pay attention to the content you tweet out. These are the success stories and cautionary tales. Out there, in the world, your ideas are beginning to be realized. People, patients, healthcare organizations, and companies through trial and error and tells the world about the results.

In a traditional educational curriculum the prerequisites are called… core courses. That collection of related ideas is the “major”. And the real world benefits are the capstone projects and work study arrangement.

For example, an article about how people interpret tweets is not itself healthcare specific, but may be a useful prerequisite to understanding how people interpret tweets about healthcare. The core or major idea may be about using social media in healthcare. The project or thesis corresponds to case studies and success stories. All three kinds of content can come from a variety of resources, from health trade news sources, research papers and conference, from blog posts (including yours, specifically crafted to leverage and supplement you larger social media curricular efforts.

How do you create a curriculum? Brainstorm! Use mind mapping software to create a graph of related knowledge. Design your perfect degree program. If you could invent your own major, what would be the courses? Now look at what you create and generate search terms. Subscribe to any of a variety of services, Google Alerts being the most popular, and receive as many links to recent new content about what you love. Scan and sort. Craft tweets. Then post, but not all at once. When folks read tweets, they don’t want to see one hundred of your all in a row. Use Hootsuite or Buffer or some other service to spread them out during the day. But if you do this, I’d leave your notifications on. The very best time to reply to, thank, or retweet someone is almost immediately after they do the same. Once you get your workflows down, this last thing is the most time consuming, but also the most fun!

Fundamentally, curriculum design and development is about predicting and creating the future. I can’t think of a more useful strategic concept for use by health IT social media activists.

Examples of Curricula, and How They Were Created

Here is an undergraduate medical informatics curriculum I developed back in the nineties (the first!) Here’s the 25-page description (we changed it’s name when we partnered with the business school). This curriculum was developed over several years by a cadre of health IT educators. I often think of it when I am casting my net for great content, sorting through that great content, and crafting and posting even greater content! :)

(Your curriculum can be much, much simpler! See below…)


And here is the official document we submitted in order to get accredited… if you click through you’ll see lots of boxes and arrows: workflows!


Example collections of courses were paths through the curriculum (there are a bunch of these, depending on whether students want more clinical, IT, or business emphasis, in the original 25 page curriculum, which is much more readable).


Finally, each of those courses expands into actual course descriptions.


By the way, I published in a post descriptions and syllabi for the health IT courses I taught (they hold up remarkably well 20 years later!): Some Mid-Nineties Medical Informatics Course Outlines: Enjoy! (Oh, and there is a two-frame-per-second video of me introducing on of the courses for 1997… thinner, mustache, thinner…)

Of course you don’t have to do even one percent of the work necessary to create a curriculum as complex as ours. Instead, think of a three-course sequence, to get certified. Here’s an example I prepared for healthcare systems engineering conference.

How courses fit together:


Verbiage from one of the courses:


So, there you are: a three-course certification curriculum, fitting on less than a half dozen pages (and big font at that!). The search terms for content alerts come from the course descriptions. And all the pieces fit together into a coherent whole. When you select your links and craft your tweets, think about how the basics feed into the major and then how the success stories reinforce why folks need to play attention, learn, and, perhaps, even buy your wares.

In fact, a three-ring Venn diagram of domain knowledge is exactly where we started, to get to the 25 page description.


(If you’d like to see a retro animated gif of these circles revolving in 3D, see it here. I just couldn’t bring myself to embed it in this webpage: it is soo irritating :)

Then we fleshed out the knowledge circles with word clouds.


From there we wrote course descriptions and figured out what knowledge had to come before what knowledge. While you can’t enforce a similar order of reading your tweets, understanding the relationship among the knowledge(s) behind the tweets is invaluable for understanding the relationships among your tweets. For example, during a conference you may wish to schedule tweets linking to prerequisite content first, then “major” content second, and then benefits. Or maybe the reverse order! Or maybe in a cycle between the three sorts of content. That’s up to you, based on your strategic educational-marketing(-edutainment?) interests (edumarketainment?), plus gradually accumulated experience with what seems to work best.

In other words, a curriculum, even an informal sketchy outline of a curriculum, is an excellent addition to your health IT social media plan.

There’s also a content marketing angle here. You have to educate your potential customers before they can fully understand your unique value proposition. Engage your internal subject matter experts. Explain you are creating a hypothetical curriculum to help potential customers understand the theory and concepts behind you products. Turn that hidden health IT knowledge gold into public health IT knowledge, value, fame, engagement, and sales. (By the way, the genesis of this idea, of creating a curriculum model to driven content creation and social media efforts came from a conversation at a content marketing conference I attended several years ago.)

Who knows! You may have just founded your company’s corporate university.

Happy curriculuming! (and changing the worlding!)

Here are the topics for the #HITsm tweetchat on Acquiring, managing & disseminating Healthcare Workflow IT Knowledge, hosted by @Shimcode

T1: What are some of your favorite tools & methods for finding, curating, storing and sharing information? #HITsm

T2: What/who are some of your favorite and ‘go to’ resources for health IT information? #HITsm

T3: What are your preferred media, channels and formats for consuming and conveying information? i.e., Google, PDFs w/lots of graphics #HITsm

T4: What are some considerations you make when assessing the validity, reliability and usefulness of information? #HITsm

T5: What are some of the ways you organize and store the information you obtain? #HITsm

@wareFLO On Periscope!


P.S. I know, I need to get rid of the Blab link… just… not yet… :(

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