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Why Pharma and Hospitals Shouldn’t Block Social Media Sites

Posted Jun 18 2010 8:58pm 2 Comments

I’m constantly amazed when I hear (usually once a week) of another pharmaceutical company or hospital that blocks access to Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites from their employees. You get the normal reasons ranging from waste of time, to privacy, to bandwidth and virus concerns.

It’s all BS of course. I remember clearly in the late 90’s when I was delivering a speech about the benefits of company Intranets and the power of the Internet for learning and training. A woman stood up in the audience and shouted out loud, “But if we let people on the Internet they will surf the porn!”  Surprisingly nobody laughed; apparently others thought this was a good reason to ban the Internet too. I on the other hand thought it was hilarious–If I had a clip of her “surf the porn!” scream I would loop it into a dance remix.

The irony of course is that these same hospitals and pharma companies invite me in to lead workshops that teach their employees how to use social media for marketing and health communication purposes. I just can’t actually get on YouTube or Twitter to show them things because it’s blocked in their building. So I always ask if we can hold the training at a nearby hotel and use WiFi.

Paul Levy, President and CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, put the counter argument best on his blog , “Facebook is a useful communications tool, just like email and telephones. The latter can be misused, too.”

And Paul conveyed e-Patient Dave deBronkart’s astute observation that in this day and age, if you ban it on the desktop people will just use their phones. It will only take them longer to get their message out.

And my personal take is banning anything, like most corporate rules is a cop-out by leadership. Employees will waste time and lose productivity? Well what kind of losers are you hiring anyway? What does this say about your level of trust in the organization? What does this say about your managers ability to manage, and your systems for tracking productivity and performance? Hire right, establish the right culture, and use performance-based compensation and you’ll never have to worry about productivity problems or people spending time “surfing the porn.”

[Shameless Plug: Meet them both. Pick their brains. Share your thoughts. We are honored to have both Paul Levy and e-Patient Dave as presenters at e-Patient Connections 2010 . A can't miss event. Did I say "event"? Experience.]

Comments (2)
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I am an IT management consultant and trust me when I say that when approaching your IT department about social media you should arrive armed with knowledge and facts. This is a whitepaper in a language they may understand best... It's an interesting whitepaper on the safety and security of your network and why employees should have access to their social media apps. Pass it along to your IT department. Best of luck!
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