Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Health Answers@home Hospitals Ramping Up Social Media Presence

Newspaper article Evansville Courier & Press (2007-Current)

Health Answers@home Hospitals Ramping Up Social Media Presence

Article excerpt

"It's Thursday, it's noon, and that means it's time for a Deaconess Facebook Lunch & Learn. Today we're going to address..." In something a little reminiscent of listeners tuning in to live radio shows of old, an apparently growing number of fans are going to Deaconess Hospital's Facebook page for a new weekly episode of medical and wellness answers in real time. It's one example of how local hospitals are using social media to increase their presence in the community while responding to new ways people get information in a high-tech age.

Lunch & Learn was born at the beginning of last year, an hour devoted to a set topic with physicians, nurses, counselors and other specialists standing by to post answers to questions. The hospital had been on Facebook "for a while," said Deaconess spokesman Sam Rogers, "when we decided to reach out with some practical medical advice."

Lunch & Learn started out monthly, "but we ramped it up last summer" to once a week, Rogers said. For the final Thursday in January, Dr. Majed Koleilat was on hand for questions on food allergies. Koleilat, an allergist at Deaconess Clinic, hosted a Lunch & Learn last autumn on pollen-fueled respiratory illnesses when they were at their worst in the Tri-State, often termed the Hay Fever Capital of the World (a designation Koleilat has said is not far off the mark).

Participants learned among other facts about food allergies that the most common children's food allergies are peanut, milk, egg, soy, fish and shellfish. Shell-fish and nut allergies most commonly affect adults. Food allergies are frequently misunderstood and can be dangerous, even fatal. And people who suffer peanut allergies should shun tree nuts because there's a probability conveyors used in processing nuts (including peanuts) are not thoroughly sanitized between batches.

Koleilat informed an inquirer about lactose intolerance that it's not an allergy, but the result of an enzyme deficiency (the enzyme lactase breaks down lactose, a sugar found in milk).

The overthe-counter remedy Lactaid, Koleilat added, helps but "it isn't a fix" - only avoiding dairy products will eliminate the condition and its symptoms. Other recent Lunch & Learn topics have included pediatric sleep disorders, arthritis, home health and hospice, holiday stress and depression, SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder).

If you see something you're interested in, Facebook stores the questions and answers from every session - just go to the Deaconess Facebook page. Anyone can participate or follow along with the Thursday noontime Q&A. Rogers said about 1,700 people have linked in by clicking "like" on the Deaconess Facebook page.

For those who tweet, everything posted on the hospital's Facebook page rolls over to its Twitter account. At St. Mary's Medical Center, a major department has used social media for other purposes. St. Mary's LifeFlight has been on Facebook for a year and a half, finding it a reliable means of keeping caregiver customers and emergency responders updated on LifeFlight department news and new developments in the airborne paramedic industry, said Keith Miller, lead flight paramedic.

"Occasionally, for example, we will have to use a backup aircraft when our primary one is out of service," Miller said. The backup is comparable in capability and equipment, but it's likely to have a different paint scheme. LifeFlight shoots a photograph of the stand-in aircraft, then posts the picture on Facebook along with the date it will begin service and how long it will be in use before the regular helicopter returns. …

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