MGMA 2009: Social media plays larger role at '09 conference

Social media has gradually become more and more important to the healthcare world, spawning conferences of its own such as last week's Health 2.0 get-together in San Francisco. Though technologies like Twitter and Facebook are arguably a bit less popular among rank-and-file physicians, a small but growing cadre of early-adopter doctors, practice managers and physician practice consultants are joining the party.

The growing trend towards bringing medical practices online is clearly in evidence this year at MGMA 2009, which seems to be making Twitter coverage of the event one of its key community-building exercises. This year's MGMA conference booth will feature a screen displaying all of the tweets tagged "#mgma09"--a technique which automatically scrolls not only official MGMA announcements, but also commentary by anyone who cares to be involved. This is actually part of a larger social-media friendly effort by the group, which has also gotten involved in training physicians to use social media, such as providing tips on how medical groups can create a successful Facebook page for their practice.

Of course, there will be lots of traditional journalists tweeting the event, such as Fierce reporters (@FierceatMGMA and @FierceHealth), HealthcareInformatics (@HCInformatics), HealthCareProfessional (@HCPLive) and Modern Healthcare (@modrnhealthcr). Journalists like ourselves have always had access to an audience, so that's not such a big deal.

What's more interesting is that our "professional" tweets are mingling alongside of those from any observer who cares to use the #mgma2009 tag. This doesn't only include providers and administrators, but also vendors, consumers, lobbyists and more. Given the nature of this event, all are likely to offer something special. It is possible that professional industry-watchers have a perspective that the press will not have. It should be an intriguing mix.

The move toward widespread tweeting, Facebook-ing and blogging at MGMA is just one sign of the egalitarian, consensus-building approach social media is bringing to medicine, one which will eventually bleed into clinical practice. While social media use was present at MGMA '08, this year is something of a tipping point for broad-based social media coverage of the event. If this event is any indication, expect to see a growing level of integration of social media commentary with traditional medical conferencing, education and clinical discussion.

To learn more about social media reporting at MGMA 2009:
- check the tweets on the MGMA Twitter page 

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