Using a geographic hcsm hashtag for South Africa
As far as the use of social media in the South African healthcare industry goes, more users are emerging by the day. The issue we still face locally is the use of hcsm hashtags which is not consistent, making it difficult for others to search our conversations and to expand our local and global networks.
#hcsmSA is an acronym for Health Care Social Media South Africa and it is one of many other geographic communities associated to the global thread #hcsm which was originally established by Dana Lewis in 2009.
Hashtags are represented by the pound symbol (#) and are used together with a relevant keyword or a phrase, (without any spaces) in a users post. The hashtag system is available on multiple social platforms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linkedin. Using a hashtag enables others to follow conversations by clicking on them, they also group users together by the topic of interest which encourages networking, but most importantly hashtagged keywords help us improve our ability to measure sentiment for big data analytics more precisely. This data is important to understanding the issues pertaining to sustainable health innovation.
What is the benefit of using the #hcsmSA hashtag in your social media posts?
One of the main purposes of a single geographic hashtag is to bring all diverse healthcare stakeholders together. Other disease hashtags like #Cancer or event hashtags like #AfricaHealthExb can be included in a single tweet with #hcsmSA, but the geo-hashtag defines the region as well as makes it more easily searchable. Current global hcsm communities include #hcsmCA (Canada), #hcsm (Global), #hcsmEU (Europe) and #hcsmANZ (Australia). A complete list of registered communities is available on Symplur.
The benefit of a hcsm Twitter chat
#hcsmSA currently also operates monthly as a 60 minute Twitter chat to openly discuss Sustainable Health Development (SDG3) in South Africa. We invite diverse stakeholders both locally and globally which include nurses, doctors, students, educators, payers, investors, health IT companies, journalists, startups, patient advocates, NPO’s, hospital CEO’s, pharma, policy makers, corporate and private sector. The #hcsmSA chats are open to both invited panel experts as well as public attendees to enable a more dynamic and diverse session. A blog is distributed prior to the chat on the hcsmSA website which outlines the topic and also lists 3-4 questions which are asked during the discussion to share ideas. Transcripts are recorded and made openly available to the public on Symplur which can be beneficial to stakeholders like government or innovative entrepreneurs.
If you are an avid hcsm user already, you may be familiar with a few Twitter chat tools like tweetchat.com or tchat.io. You might even have participated in several global health chats like the Center for Disease Control’s #cdcchat or the Healthcare Leader weekly global chat#HCLDR. If you haven’t, here are a few guidelines to help get you started. #hcsmSA also encourages it’s members to submit topic requests which can be done by tweeting to @hcsmSA.
How to use the #hcsmSA hashtag
The type of information you should distribute using a geographic hashtag includes medical blogs (both HCP’s and patients), tips on using hcsm, journal articles, local health-related news, emerging technologies, daily health tips, events and conference updates. Any health news which is relevant to the local community is useful, as long as it is not deemed as SPAM or inaccurate. Keep the information you share with others quality orientated, so they can learn and benefit from you.
The current hcsm landscape in South Africa
The current state of hcsm in South Africa is disconnected because users don’t include standardised hashtags. To demonstrate this fragmentation of information dissemination an example of Twitter is illustrated below in Figure. 1.1. Some users include hashtags on broad keywords like #SouthAfrica while others don’t include hashtags at all. Some users hashtag irrelevant keywords like #solutions or #decisions, unaware that it serves no purpose to a healthcare audience when doing so. Not only does this misguided use of hashtags make local health information less accessible, it can also make it undiscoverable.
Figure. 2.2. further illustrates how one geo-hashtag can be used in a tweet to connect the stream locally. With so much information online already and an expected explosion of digital information ahead in the Internet of Things (IoT), standardised hashtags can help us to build smarter, social communities that refine big data by using collectives and conversations. Learning their fundamental use is going to be an important aspect to ensuring quality-driven analytics for e-Health in future.
Figure 1.1 – e.g: Using broad hashtags or no hashtags in health-related tweets
Figure 1.2 – e.g: Using the geographic hcsm hashtag in a tweet