Interview: Justin DeJong of American Medical Association

I had a great interview with Justin DeJong, Vice President of Internal and External Communications at the American Medical Association. Justin has worked a great deal in government, politics, and public affairs, and his position at the AMA represents the first foray he has had in healthcare directly. Before coming to the AMA, Justin worked with the State of Illinois, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, the Department of Agriculture, and on the presidential campaign to elect Barack Obama. Justin entered the workforce at a time when Internet communications and Web 2.0 was just heating up and becoming an important aspect of communications.

Justin spoke at length about his role at the AMA and how he was brought on board there to reimagine what digital footprint the organization could have. His wealth of experience in social and new media has served him well and he feels the topic is less important than the medium—at the heart of his work are stories and he aims to explore digital mediums as a channel for communicating.

Similar to my own experience, medical associations, while definitely healthcare related, have fewer regulations and rules to follow. While evidence-based content and good science are very important, communications teams in medical associations aren’t working to adhere to a drug information insert, or concentrating on HIPAA (while important, medical associations primarily work to educate, inform and advocate on behalf of clinicians, and patient data isn’t a huge piece of that work).

We also spoke about social media adoption among clinicians. Clinicians tend to be cautious when exploring the medium—there is less regulation, more room for incorrect or incomplete interpretation by patients or others, and clinicians are just getting comfortable in the space. Social media has really met the need for quick, accurate, and useful resources and education for clinicians. Clinicians are able to curate content easily when they aren’t able to read each and every journal or article in print. A channel like Twitter can easily help clinicians to keep up to date, network and engage with other like-minded healthcare providers.

Justin and I also discussed what he’s most excited about in new media for the AMA and he indicated that the organization’s Twitter chats had been immensely popular and had drawn both clinicians and patients to the table to chat about important health topics. He also indicated a new AMA Wire project launching very soon which will simplify the process of social engagement and social amplification—it is essentially a tool designed to provide easy to use digital content for the end user. The content focuses around areas of strategic importance to the AMA and allow for easy adoption and dissemination in the form of multimedia pieces— prewritten tweets, videos, and other designed elements.

Justin and I also talked challenges. He felt his biggest challenge at the AMA was speed to market for new ideas. The group would love more podcasts and apps, but the organization was fixing core digital challenges first, like launching its new website and other important properties so they were optimized for mobile (responsive design).He also noted it takes time, energy, fiscal resources and effort to move cutting edge projects forward. I absolutely agree with Justin’s sentiments, as we have several projects waiting in the wings within my own organization, but limited resources sometime stall those efforts and projects.

Thanks very much to Justin DeJong. I found myself nodding along in agreement to many of Justin’s opportunities, struggles and industry insights! Stay tuned for my next expert interview.

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