Social Media and Healthcare
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Social Media and Healthcare
Articles and Discussions on the intersection of Social Media and Healthcare.
Relevant to Healthcare Practitioners, Pharma', Insurance, Clinicians, Labs, Health IT Vendors, Health Marketeers, Health Policy Makers, Hospital Administrators.
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Social Media Implementation Checklist

Social Media Implementation Checklist | Social Media and Healthcare |

Set goals first. If traffic, leads and sales are part of the goal, then gotta have the next focus be on content creation. Then, using social to share. Can't get much value out of social unless you're actively creating, publishing and sharing content. 

Hupertan's curator insight, September 23, 2015 4:32 PM

The implementation of a communications strategy in social media in healthcare need not stick with the drafting of a check list. There she is!

venisabella's comment, November 4, 2015 10:36 AM
MARGARITA's curator insight, December 31, 2015 5:15 PM

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5 Best Practices To Augment A Pharma Social Media Strategy

5 Best Practices To Augment A Pharma Social Media Strategy | Social Media and Healthcare |

Although pharma has been active in social media for some time, the industry is still in the relatively early stages of social media maturity. The findings of a recent survey conducted by C3i Healthcare Connections, a Telerx company, confirmed this point. The purpose of our survey among global life science and pharmaceutical professionals was to gain insights on current social media practices within the industry. Only just over a quarter of respondents (27 percent) indicated that they currently find their own social media programs “effective,” and even less said they were “very effective” (13 percent). No respondents described their programs as “extremely effective.”

As patient centricity continues to move into the foreground, it is increasingly necessary for companies to identify compliant methods to safely — and effectively — engage, support and learn from key stakeholders through social media platforms. In order for the life sciences industry to raise the bar on their social media programs, increase program success, and advance to the same level of maturity as other industries, integration and innovation needs to occur.

Based on our research, these five key factors are expected to drive social media participation in the life sciences industry over the next 18 months.

1. Focus on integration

Integration and collaboration are extremely important in the early phases of strategic planning. The survey results indicated that roughly half of respondents have developed a corporate social media strategy, and far fewer have developed other critical policies, such as formal interactions training for those working in social media, escalation procedures and adverse event monitoring and triage guidelines. Ensuring objectives are directly tied to broader strategies, and not developed as an isolated venture, is critical to the success of utilizing social media as a part of your overall strategy.

Combining social media data with traditional data sources, including CRM data and data from patients and providers, and market research for companywide insights can be very valuable. The volume of data generated within social media can feel at times overwhelming. In addition, mapping out these processes — linking data from divergent systems, and then integrating this data — can seem daunting from a logistical perspective. In our survey, 36 percent cited concerns with integrating social media with other channels and touchpoints (phone and email, for example) for insightful reporting from an operational perspective. However, companies that start by identifying and implementing the best ways to structure social media activities across their organization to promote collaboration, with clearly defined objectives, will be able to utilize social media insight to support other data-driven initiatives. Specifically, social media data can help support new product and reformulation launches, offer new insights for corporate reputation and competitive analyses, or further define trends on quality-related issues.

2. Embrace regulation

The fear of uncovering adverse events (AEs) has been a primary regulatory concern in the life sciences industry for some time. In our survey, one-third of respondents cited finding AEs and implementing a process to report them as a social media concern. While complying with necessary drug safety requirements may seem challenging, implementing clear and manageable processes, like those that triage and transfer AEs to pharmacovigilance teams, can help alleviate these concerns. Regardless, pharma is responsible to monitor comments that are left as a result of content that they produce, so having these plans in place is necessary. Once processes are in place to ensure social AE monitoring requirements are met, pharma can begin to look to the broader social media space and begin to implement a proactive approach to AE monitoring — allowing them to discover valuable product and patient behavior insights, as well as identify trends and early warning signs, to augment risk strategies.

3. Start with what is required and manageable

As organizations and brand teams see value in expanding their social media presence, pilots and individual projects are the best path for new ventures. Begin with narrowly scoped projects, such as social monitoring on one of your current social media assets, to glean insights, gain experience, and test best practices.

Remember, presence on and participation in social media should be tied directly to goals. It is less critical to have a presence on every social platform than it is to select and focus efforts that will help meet business objectives. Understanding and leveraging the nuances of specific channels is necessary to a successful platform strategy.

4. Structure for success

Forty percent of our respondents indicated they have no social media roles currently staffed. It is likely that their brand or marketing personnel are handling social media activities as part of their responsibilities. As social media participation grows, we’re expecting to see more centralized social media hubs, dedicated social media roles, and specialized social partnerships to fill gaps and accelerate progress.

Some companies are finding a centralized social media function is the best approach. Under this design, core functions and decisions regarding social strategy, technology, and governance are consolidated under a single group, while execution and implementation efforts are left to individual brand teams. Others have begun to engage specialized social media partners that can help fill gaps and accelerate progress by sourcing social technology solutions, providing regulatory insights, and designing social processes and engagement guidelines.

5. Drive patient-centricity through engagement

An emphasis on the patient will see an increased focus on customer service through social platforms, accompanied by greater productivity and the need to operationalize social media work that is being done to support digital strategies. Deeper audience targeting, such as targeting of specific patient profiles, will also emerge as key stakeholders become the focus of social listening and engagement efforts.

Having honest and meaningful conversations on social media is critical to success. Processes need to be identified up-front to identify when to engage through social platforms, when to take a conversation offline, and when to refrain from engaging altogether. Expected scenarios should be mapped out so compliant engagement can be delivered in timely manner — i.e., minutes, not days.

Industry expectations, patient needs, and technology are constantly evolving, and as they do, life sciences organizations need to evolve with them.

For more information or to download a full copy of the social media benchmarking report, please clickhere.

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Indiana University Scientists Mine Social Media Data For Health Research

Indiana University Scientists Mine Social Media Data For Health Research | Social Media and Healthcare |

Combining the tools of Big Data analysis and visualisation with the vast amounts of data generated by social media, a group of scientists from Indiana University has started to tackle new areas of health research.

"We try to find the commonality between biological, social, and technological networks, and the internet. Previous studies -- whether in hospitals or by sociologists -- could handle only 20, 30 or 40 patients in a study," said Luis Rocha, principal investigator of the Complex Adaptive Systems and Computational Intelligence (CASCI) group at Indiana University.


"Software is now driving our research, so through social media we can plug into millions and millions of people worldwide with very different types of conditions. This helps us tap into the psychological and social elements of healthcare, making this a major game changer," Rocha said.

The researchers partnered with Pune-based Persistent Systems, a provider of large-scale software-driven healthcare solutions, to develop sophisticated algorithms to analyse the connection between medicine and social behaviour in health issues, particularly how they are discussed across social media.

For example, in looking at the analysis of depression, millions of posts are first analysed based on defined hashtags with the relevant drug names across social media channels such as Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter.

The algorithms find connections on how drugs interact with each other, and how people are describing them, while also looking for clusters of symptoms at a scale not previously possible.

Identifying and validating new clusters of drugs, natural products and symptoms can act as an early warning system for adverse drug effects and interactions.

The methodology also allows the study of multiple health issues with distinct social attitudes, such as depression and epilepsy.

Another goal is to allow health specialists to visualize and interact with the data in three dimensions, allowing them to study cohort and individual behaviours in much detail in a virtual reality setting.

"Tapping into the scale of social networks offers an incredible source of consumer and patient data, opening up a whole new type of software-driven solution," Sid Chatterjee, Chief Technology Officer at Persistent Systems, said.

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Supplements, FDA Regulation And Social Media

Supplements, FDA Regulation And Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Dr. Kevin Campbell

Increasingly, we use social media to research our medical conditions, the drugs and vitamins we take, our doctors, specialists and hospitals. At the same time, regulators such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) attempt to protect the patient-consumer with a series of rules and regulations that govern the communications of organizations providing health related products and services to the public. Or does it?

If you are like me, your cabinets are filled with vitamins and dietary supplements. They are all “healthy”, right? Well maybe not. It turns out that supplements “are the ‘Wild, Wild West’ in terms of regulation” according to Dr. Kevin Campbell. Dr. Campbell is an internationally recognized Cardiologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of heart rhythm disorders. Dr. Campbell is the Medical Expert for WNCN and appears weekly on the NBC17 morning news and also makes frequent appearances nationally on Fox News and CBS. Unlike many physicians, he is an enthusiastic user of social media and you can follow him on Twitter @DrKevinCampbell. Below is an edited version of our latest discussion that occurred over the phone and email.

Belbey: Could you describe supplements, how they differ from pharmaceuticals and how they are regulated?

Dr. Campbell: Dietary supplements contain substances that are naturally occurring and cannot be synthetic in any way. Pharmaceuticals can be natural compounds with man-made compounds. These two substances are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) very, very differently. For supplements, you just need to show that your labeling accurately reflects what is in the powder, pill, or bottle. On the other hand, with pharmaceuticals, must prove both safety and efficacy before they come to market. You start with animal models and you need to push it all the way through to Phase 3 clinical trials where you’re actually working in humans. You must show with certainly that benefit outweighs risk. Plus, post marketing surveillance (or gathering information once the product is released) is significant in pharmaceuticals. However, with supplements, rather than making companies conduct post market data collection and trials, supplements rely on the consumer to report any adverse effects to the FDA. If the FDA gets enough comments on a particular supplement, they may choose to act at that time.


Belbey: In short, FDA regulatory requirements are very different between supplements and pharmaceuticals?

Dr. Campbell: Supplements are the “Wild Wild West” in terms of regulation , whereas I consider pharmaceuticals over-regulated. It’s two wide extremes. I’d like to see something more in the middle with more regulation of supplements to protect the consumer and more meaningful streamlined regulatory action on the pharmaceutical industry. For example, in my opinion, when we have a medicine that has been proven to be safe and effective and has a change in packaging, the pharmaceutical firms shouldn’t have to go through whole lengthy process for approval. We need to create a fast track for drugs that could potentially have an immediate impact, such as life-saving cancer drugs, or some of the new drugs for Hepatitis C, for example.

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Can social media shed light on cardiovascular disease? Possibly, Stanford journal editors write

Can social media shed light on cardiovascular disease? Possibly, Stanford journal editors write | Social Media and Healthcare |

Clearly social media is part of our every day lives, recording our personal communications in a way previously unimaginable.

Researchers are now analyzing this wealth of social media data to better understand what people think and say about their health. Recently, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania sifted through 10 billion English-language tweets to identify and study more than 550,000 U.S.-based tweets related to cardiovascular disease, asreported in JAMA Cardiology.

The research team found that people who tweeted about five cardiovascular conditions — high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes, heart failure and cardiac arrest — were more likely to be older and female compared to the general population of Twitter users. They also tweeted within minutes or hours in response to events, such as celebrity deaths or to mark World Diabetes Day.

This study was discussed in the issue’s Editor’s Note by Stanford journal editors Mintu Turakhia, MD, an assistant professor of medicine, and Robert Harrington, MD, a professor and the chair of the Department of Medicine. In the editorial, they acknowledged that the Penn Twitter study was atypical research to include in JAMA Cardiology but noted that digital health is now a major priority for the journal. They explained:

We accepted [the paper] because it highlights the potential for using these emerging data sources such as Twitter for cardiovascular research, in this case to evaluate public communication about cardiovascular medicine in a manner not previously possible on such a scale.

Turakhia, the journal’s associate editor of digital health, elaborated in an email: “Twitter and other social media data allow us to examine daily interactions in a connected life in ways not possible before. Previously, in order to gain insight on the public’s perception or interest in cardiovascular disease, we were limited to examine historical news and media archives or direct surveys.”

Although the editors believe that Twitter is a new and important research tool, they raised a few questions about future studies. They wrote in the editorial: “The use of Twitter and other social media platforms for cardiovascular research is in an early, proof-of-concept stage. Many important questions remain: Is there signal in the noise? Are these data or results… from the ‘Twitterverse’ generalizable to a broader population?” They also emphasized the need to establish analysis standards and overcome any ethical issues involved with linking the data with clinical information. Turakhia added:

Twitter users do not represent the broader population, but that’s not really its purpose. Twitter allows us to examine a highly connected subset of society and learn how cardiovascular disease might manifest in their connected world.

Ultimately, researchers hope to use this new information to improve their patients’ health, but the research is in its infancy, he said, adding:

We haven’t yet figured out how Twitter or social media can be definitely used to improve health and health care. The obvious avenues would be through social and community engagement. Although sharing of personal information is at the cornerstone of the success of social media, I’m not sure that society is ready to be as open with posting health information, as they are with selfies or pictures of kids. However social media could be used to gamify health care behavior by providing incentives, and that won’t need disclosure.

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Which Social Media Platform Works Best for Your Pharmacy Business?

Which Social Media Platform Works Best for Your Pharmacy Business? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Without an effective social media presence, you may never know how your brand’s being represented online.

Although traditional advertising via commercials and billboards remains the focus of the marketing budget for most community pharmacies, large chains have set a clear example by investing in tools like Google Ads, e-mail messaging, and social media channels.
Your patients have access to social media at their fingertips, and they’re talking about your business. It’s time to take control of the platforms that best serves your business and its needs.
Here are some key options for those just getting started with social media and those who want to try something new:
Facebook is a must.
According to Pew research, 72% of adult Internet users are on Facebook. That’s a captive audience just waiting for engagement.
Not only are younger users actively engaged on Facebook, but this platform is also the easiest way to access every age group. If you don’t have a Facebook page, make sure to check and see if a temporary page has been created already with map details.
Use Facebook to share your hours, highlight promotions, and provide meaningful tips to your users. Keep content short and sweet, using images or videos whenever possible.
Tag and engage local community groups. For example, if the local high school’s playing its rival, tag the  team’s page in your message. This will allow your post to be seen by more users and increase likes.
Try running a promotion where Facebook followers get 10% off in your store.
Twitter will help you build relationships with the next generation.
Twitter’s a much different platform than Facebook. Its users are mostly younger, so it provides a tool to engage the next generation of patients. Tweets are limited to 144 characters, so you really do have to keep it short and sweet.
If you’re managing a social content calendar, your Twitter post can largely mirror your Facebook one. However, hashtags are even more important on this platform. Use them to call out your city, so when a user is looking at a list of tweets about #ATL (Atlanta), for example, they may run across your pharmacy and decide to follow it.
Yelp is a can’t-miss opportunity for the new word-of-mouth.
Yelp is the go-to platform when deciding which restaurant or local business to visit. Pharmacies have a huge opportunity to know what’s being said and serve a proactive response role.
Consumers today want to know what their peers think about a local provider. They listen to feedback and have access to unique avenues to do so. Yelp is one of the key platforms for this authentic review. If a customer is looking for a pharmacy in your area and your page doesn’t exist, or the pharmacy down the road has more reviews, you’re already missing a chance to engage that customer.
Upload pictures of your pharmacy and ask regular patients to post a Yelp review. Perhaps, offer 10% off for those who review your service.
It’s very possible to get a negative review on Yelp, but at least then you know it’s out there, and you have a chance to respond and make it better. Much like with any social platform, you’ll want to respond in a timely fashion to demonstrate your commitment to customer service.


Google+ will make sure you’re integrated into Google’s network.
Google is so pervasive that it’s become a regularly used noun and verb. Google+ may not be the favorite platform for consumers, but it’s increasingly important for businesses.
Through a Google+ page, you can update your Google Maps location information and ensure that reviews are available from Yelp or other programs. Successful integration with Google+ may also mean better search optimization. When someone’s looking for your business, it’s a must that they’re able to find it.
Build and maintain a basic Google+ page with the same details you use on Facebook. Make sure to include imagery and strong branding, and as with any other platform, be prepared to engage.
YouTube lets you tell your story.
Videos are becoming easier to create and are very effective when engaging on social. Do you already have commercial running on a local station? Upload it to YouTube and start posting it on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
Don’t be afraid to create additional videos. Introduce your staff and do a walk around your pharmacy. Whatever your goal, use this platform to introduce your viewers to your pharmacy and what makes it different.
Then, share the videos on your social platforms and encourage comments and engagement. Perhaps you get a question on Facebook about staying healthy during flu season: do a quick video response and thank the user while providing helpful tips for others in the community.
This level of responsive communication is the key to building authentic relationships and gaining patients for life.
Other options exist for the social explorer.
Instagram and Pinterest are great for retail pharmacies that have products in the storefront to show off. A compounding pharmacy could also use these outlets to share a unique product or solve problems for a specific group, like women facing menopause. Although Instagram should be updated at least weekly, Pinterest can be engaging without constant input.
For social video and images, consider Snapchat or Vine. They both engage a younger group, but if you have some great product to showcase or tips to share, they’re worth considering.
Finally, LinkedIn is a great opportunity to highlight your pharmacy in the business community. It can help with recruiting and allows for posting to local professionals. If you’re hoping to engage medical professionals in your community and encourage nurse practitioners or any other groups to send business your way, look no further than LinkedIn.
Using one or more of these platforms will help you know how your brand’s being represented online and guide you to invest in other social media channels.

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4 Ways Social Media Has Changed Healthcare

4 Ways Social Media Has Changed Healthcare | Social Media and Healthcare |

The modern healthcare landscape is more different than generations past could ever have dreamed of. One of the key technologies for the contemporary healthcare user is social media. The proliferation of services in recent years has given providers more flexibility than ever before in figuring out ways to make contact with and support their patients.

We’ve compiled the following 4 ways that both patients and providers are benefiting from social media when it comes to navigating healthcare needs and concerns.

1. More informational awareness

By keeping up with social media accounts run by healthcare providers, patients can now become more educated on general health topics on a daily basis. That way, they’re much more likely to recognize health issues when they occur and schedule a consultation with their primary care physician. There’s also been an increase of hospital-run podcasts that help inform listeners of the latest advancements in healthcare, helping to keep physicians in the loop when it comes to new innovations.

2. Quicker communication between provider and patient

We all know just how important regular checkups are, but it’s easy to forget to make those appointments or even attend them. Providers can now use social media to send reminders and enable easier scheduling for patients, in addition to sending out customized health information tailored to the needs of the individual. With all this information online, this drastically reduces the number of phone calls that patients must make to the doctor’s office, which also helps providers dedicate more time to the important work of treatment.

3. Spreading knowledge of disease support and prevention

When a new disease hits the scene, it can never be too soon to get educated. Thanks to services like Twitter and Facebook, healthcare providers can now alert the public to diseases such as Zika that much sooner. Foundations for causes such as AIDS and cancer research can use social media to garner more support and awareness, as well.

4. Accountability to patients

In the healthcare industry, there’s always the risk of mistakes being made. When that happens, the faster providers can respond via social media to rectify the mistake, the more patient satisfaction improves. And using social media, patients can compare notes on providers and rate the best ones in the area, a process that previously was done word-of-mouth and excluded newer members of the community.

Healthcare has become a more efficient process over the years. Part of the driver for that change has been the increased communication possibilities engendered by social media. With social media in one’s toolkit, there’s no reason not to achieve the best healthcare experience possible for patients.

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Minding your social media manners

Minding your social media manners | Social Media and Healthcare |

Remember when the necessity of a website for medical practice was something of a debate; especially for smaller private practices with tight budgets and limited staff support? The funny thing is that those were the practices that stood to benefit the most, and now days that’s understood, accepted and utilized — no question.

Social media is sometimes thought of as the next step in digital marketing and one that smaller practices are sometimes hesitant to take. Without having the benefit of a legal department handing down a policy, it’s not unreasonable to be concerned about potential risk and liability. Like a website, social media marketing has become a necessary component of a well-balanced marketing plan.

The good news is, if your practice is a late adopter of social media marketing, you have one advantage over practices that jumped on the bandwagon early on when it was still the Wild West of marketing. That’s the advantage of letting all the early guys make the mistakes and wrestle their way sloppily through developing best practices. No doubt many early adopters made their fair share of mistakes along the way, but if they stuck with it, they have also likely built up followings and learned how to provide consistent, reliable content that patients enjoy and look to for relevant information.

Whether you’re a late adopter finally ready to dive in to social media marketing or a practice with a well-established social media presence, there are plenty of data-driven guidelines, best practices and getting-started information available now. You can find credible resources on subjects like developing your first social media campaign, where to get content and which social media channels work best for different types of marketing.  Below are ten social media “manners” tips —  basic online social media behavioral habits — that newbies can use to guide their policies and seasoned social media marketers can use to review their existing social media marketing practices.

  1. Keep it positive. No matter how antagonistic a patient might get on line, you lose the game as soon as you snap back with justification, accusations or denial. Instead, take it offline (see next bullet) while keeping it positive by expressing your commitment to the patient experience and a hope to find a solution (even if you’re raging mad on the inside). Your bigger concern is all the other eyeballs watching the exchange, and diffusing the negativity — not winning an online argument. The same goes for commenting on any current event. You may hate something your local hospital is doing or a major employer in your community, but there are ways to be authentic while shining bright. One way to accomplish this is by expressing your desired outcome such as “Despite this change, we hope that effected families will be able to…” or “Hoping all our first responders come home safely. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your families.” Be sincere and honest while keeping it positive.

  2. Take it offline. When a person wants to start an argument or post accusations online, it’s usually to try to damage your reputation. The way you avoid that is simply by expressing your regret that they FEEL that way, your commitment to the patient experience and healthcare excellence, and asking them to contact you directly so you can discuss a solution. You have no idea how many eyes are watching your exchange.  Online comments can live on for years, don’t take the bait. Stay calm and continue to request that they contact you directly, which positions you as the peacemaker. Be sure to make good on your offer and let staff know exactly who this person is and that you are to be notified if they call.  Resolving the issue offline quickly, if possible, is the best solution to diffuse their emotion and prevent further damage.

  3. Maintain confidentiality at all times. It should go without saying, but never ever refer to a patient or a specific case when it could possibly be identified. Years later you might say “I once saw a case of...” but not referring to the place, how long ago, etc., protects you and your patient. Liability is very real and years ago ER doctors got themselves in hot water for posting crazy x-rays of patients on their personal social media accounts. Always maintain the utmost respect and confidentiality for your patients. Respect goes both ways; be worthy of theirs.

  4. Remain neutral. When politics are blazing hot, current events are getting people riled up or medical debates are front and center, remain supportive, neutral and positive whenever possible. Your patients will look to you for a balanced opinion and recommendation on topics related to your expertise. Don't withhold it, but always present the risks/benefit, pros/cons. Respectfully acknowledge that patients must make their own health decisions. you are there to partner with them not impose your values.

  5. Stick to your expertise. Always defer to the experts on topics patients shouldn’t look to you for answers about. Keep your medical recommendations within your field as much as possible. Physicians sometimes get a bad rap for arrogance, by deferring to other experts you debunk that preconceived notion, look classy and humble. Talk about what you know best!

  6. Be loyal to your community. You may be a fan of your college football team or pine to move back “home,” but endearing yourself to your community will make you feel good and has a great ROI. Give a shout out when a local high school makes it to the playoffs; notice local heroes and stand out volunteers. Give to local causes and participate in local events (with your staff, wearing your practice tees) — photos and captions of these make great social media posts!

  7. It’s actually all about “others.” The fastest way to a sure social media death is to talk about yourself and the practice constantly. We can all relate to being stuck with that person who talks only about himself through an entire dinner date, why do the same to your hard-earned social media followers? Always consider what is on the minds of your patients and try to be a resource of good, relevant information. They aren’t following you to hear constant ads, pitches and promos. One way to gauge this is by paying attention to patient questions and concerns that arise in the office. In other words, what’s on patients’ minds? It could be a seasonal issue, a public health issue, or a specific concern related to your target demographic.

  8. A picture is better than a thousand words.  Our society has become fast-paced and visual. Video and photo communication have become the fastest, most preferred way of communicating. Patients get information quickly and marketers capture the attention of their audiences. Use photos and video in appropriate ways to educate, welcome and express good will to your community and patients through your social media platforms. A campaign that is all text will bore followers, be shared less often, and could result in a reduction of followers, which defeats the purpose of your efforts.

  9. Make it personal, sometimes. If the voice of your social media is an individual person, such as a physician’s blog, it’s very endearing for readers to hear tidbits of your personal life. This can warm readers to the human side of a provider but can be done while maintaining your privacy. An example would be referencing the emotions you feel on your son’s first day of kindergarten, without naming your son or his school. With a little tongue-in-cheek, you can offer a proverbial “shoulder to cry on” with other parents who are seeing their kids off to milestones of growing up from preschool to college.

  10. Don’t ignore the obvious. You’ll look out of touch by ignoring current events that everyone is effected by or talking about. So long as you can stay within the above guidelines, it’s a good thing to talk about what people are concerned about. An example would be a nearby fire that is spreading, a medical outbreak, or a violent attack in the news. Express support for those affected and offer assistance when you can.

If you’re just starting out, it would be wise to follow a few colleagues in your specialty whose social media strategies you respect. This will boost your social media marketing IQ and provide something to aim for. Keep these ten tips nearby as you develop your practice policy on social media. In addition to avoiding pitfalls, they will help you stay relevant and positive with online communication while giving your practice a glowing social media presence and reputation.

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Social media for tracking disease outbreaks – fad or way of the future?

Social media for tracking disease outbreaks – fad or way of the future? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Infectious diseases kill more than 17 million people every year. Large outbreaks, known as epidemics, are becoming more frequent. And more serious infections have emerged in the past decade than any time previously.

The social and economic impacts of epidemics can be severe. SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), for example, cost the global economy US$54 billion.

There is also a growing risk of unnatural epidemics from bioterrorism as a result of quantum advances in gene editing.

We need better surveillance systems to detect epidemics early. But while there is the potential to predict epidemics by mining data of rumours and news reports (rumour surveillance), or clusters of disease symptoms (syndromic surveillance) described by social media users, we’re not quite there yet.

Traditional disease tracking systems

Traditional disease surveillance relies on data obtained from doctors, hospitals or laboratories through formal reporting systems. This yields valid and accurate data about emerging outbreaks and the impact of control strategies such as vaccinations. But it’s often not timely.

Epidemics can rapidly spiral out of control. Take the 2014 outbreak of Ebola, for example. There was an exponential rise of cases between July and October, with each case resulting in two new cases, or effectively doubling in each generation *(every few days, depending on variations in incubation period) – so 10 cases becomes 20, 20 becomes 40, and so on.

The earlier epidemics are detected, the easier they are to control. Detecting and acting on the Ebola epidemic early, when there were only ten cases a day, could have prevented more than 600 cases a matter of weeks later.

Rapid detection using social media

Digital data are now publicly available from many sources. People talk about epidemics on social media using key words such as “fever” and “infection” before they are officially identified.

A surveillance system for detecting outbreaks of Ebola using Twitter, for example, could set geospatial tags for specific locations such as the African continent. It could search for a cluster of terms on the Twittersphere such as “haemorrhage”, “fever”, “virus”, “Ebola”, “Lassa” (an illness that can be confused with Ebola).

A system trying to identify influenza could mine terms that reflect visits to the doctor, purchase of tissues, paracetamol or aspirin from pharmacies, sick leave from work, as well as terms specific to the clinical syndrome of influenza.

But while there have been some attempts to use social media for disease surveillance in the past, such as Epi-Spider (an outbreak tracker in Atlanta, Georgia), none are currently operating.

Social media has, however, been successfully mined for other health applications. The CSIRO, for instance, developed a tool called WeFeel to measure the emotional pulse of countries using data from Twitter.

Using news media

Several publicly available web-based applications collect event-related information from news articles (but not social media), such as HealthMap and MedISys. Data is automatically collected and processed, and is sometimes moderated by a human before potential health threats are identified and published.

HealthMap was able to provide an alert for a “mystery haemorrhagic fever”, which became the 2014 West African Ebola outbreak, nine days before the World Health Organisation (WHO) announced the outbreak.

The WHO estimates that 60% of its initial outbreak alerts are from informal sources such as the Global Public Health Intelligence Network (GPHIN), a news aggregator developed by the WHO with Canadian Public Health.

Google Flu Trends ran from 2008 to mine data from Google searches to predict influenza epidemics. But analysis of the value of this approach has been mixed and Google ended the initiative in 2015.

Moderated expert sites

Expert sites that report unofficial information from health experts are also a valuable source of epidemic alerts. Flutrackers and ProMED-mail are moderated sites known for timely and high quality outbreak information.

Many important epidemics have first surfaced on ProMED-mail, such as the Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) Coronavirus and Ebola. ProMED-mail has now teamed up with TEPHINET (Training Programs in Epidemiology and Public Health Interventions Network), HealthMap and the Skoll Global Threats Fund to create a new rapid epidemic detection system, EpiCore.

Epicore is a closed virtual network of health professionals around the world who provide feedback on rumours and news stories to enhance epidemic surveillance.

Expert blogs are also a source of information, but can vary in reliability and quality.

Trade-off between accuracy and timeliness

Ideally, we want disease surveillance systems to obtain timely and valid data, but this is seldom feasible.

Traditional surveillance systems are subject to a number of checks to ensure the accuracy of their data. While this maximises validity, it results in delay and limited practical use.

For rapid detection of epidemics, a trade off is required between speed and data validity.

Social media-based surveillance isn’t a replacement for traditional surveillance, but an enhancement to it that improves our capacity to detect outbreaks early.

Once a rapid signal is acquired, public health authorities can then investigate and confirm the epidemic, and traditional surveillance can take over.

How can we better use social media?

Social media presents an opportunity to enhance epidemic detection and control. But unofficial information is unstructured and not created for public health purposes.

Algorithms designed to pick up “fever”, for instance, may detect false positives such as “Bieber fever”. So we need well-constructed algorithms for data mining.

The vast quantity of data available requires super-computing power, and methods to filter out background “noise” reliably.

Methods such as time series analysis can be used to compare several years of data to test if an epidemic signal is higher than expected compared to previous years. We already use these methods to improve traditional surveillance data, so they can be applied to social media data.

Machine learning holds promise for the future, but we need thoughtful human analysis and expert interpretation of the data.

In the meantime, a more active approach could involve user engagement and participation in surveillance activities, where citizens can send reports or surveys directly to public health authorities via mobile applications or websites.

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Pharma's social media activity is up, but there's still work to be done on audience insights

Pharma's social media activity is up, but there's still work to be done on audience insights | Social Media and Healthcare |

The good news is that pharma is solidly onboard with social media use. The not-as-good news is that most companies still have work to do in understanding their social media audiences, according to the latest Social Check-up by Ogilvy Healthworld, part of Ogilvy CommonHealth.

The group partnered with Pulsar for its third annual review of pharma social media use, with researchers expanding this year from 13 companies to include the 20 largest pharma companies by revenue. They evaluated each one’s corporate social media presence, including the number, type and content theme of posts across Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

Boehringer Ingelheim and Novo Nordisk ranked at the top with the highest social media engagement numbers, while Allergan, Teva, Takeda, Gilead and Astellas all ranked pretty closely together among those with the lowest engagement.

However, simply putting out the most content didn’t always equate with better engagement. Eli Lilly, for example, posted the most content by pure number of posts during the 6-month period study, but the Indianapolis drugmaker only ranked slightly above average in engagement.

In general, the average pharma company’s use of social media tracks closely with general business posting rates, the researchers said. Every week, the pharma companies averaged 7 Facebook posts, 26 Tweets, one YouTube video and four Instagram posts.

As far as what those posts contained, Ogilvy CommonHealth found that 29% were about disease awareness, followed by 25% company news, 19% around meetings and events, 13% corporate social responsibility, 8% product and research updates, 2% pharma industry news with the remaining 3% other topics.

But once again, more didn’t always equal more. Disease awareness was the most common theme in pharma social media content, but engagement with consumers on those posts was fairly low, said digital strategist and study author Rick Evans. Company news had the highest engagement rate, followed by corporate social responsibility posts.

“It’s difficult to say exactly without going through each pharma and analyzing their audiences, but it would appear that either they don’t really know who their audiences are so they’re not pitching the appropriate content, or it could be that they’re not necessarily attracting the audience they want,” he said.

Rebecca Canvin, social media director at Ogilvy Healthworld, said that means it’s up to pharma companies to make sure their posts are reaching the right audience--and to possibly use tools such as paid social media to help do that.

“I think it’s time to stop saying pharma is such a highly regulated industry and limited in what they can do on social media, and start recognizing pharma companies are using social media and some of them really well,” she said.

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New Guidelines for Doctors on Social Media Use

New Guidelines for Doctors on Social Media Use | Social Media and Healthcare |

The Ethical Code and Ethical Guidelines released by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) on Wednesday (14 Sep) include new guidelines on social media use for medical professionals.

"Social media is now part of everyday life and doctors use it as well," said Dr Tan Chi Chiu, chairman of the working committee for the review of the guidelines.

The guidelines needed to reflect this, among other developments, but “the principles of protecting patient confidentiality and doctors maintaining professional conduct remain the same”.

Last revised in 2002, the guidelines were updated to keep up with a “more complex” medical practice due to advanced technology, innovative communication, new modes of treatment, a wide range of organisational and business models in medicine, as well as changing patient expectations, said the SMC.

Under the new guidelines, medical practitioners should not initiate social media relationships with patients. However, if patients initiate such contact with them, they can respond, keeping in mind not to share anything that might compromise patients’ privacy or jeopardise the doctor’s own professionalism.

This is to prevent others from having access to confidential medical issues discussed on social media platforms, according to the new guidelines.

The guidelines state that patients may also be put in a position where they feel obliged or pressurised to engage with practitioners.

Medical confidentiality may be breached if the information is shared in a way that allows others to find out about the doctor-patient relationship, even if no medical information is shared online.

Social media platforms include Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, online forums, Web chat sites and blogs, and refer to websites and applications that enable users to create and share content and network socially, said Dr Tan.

Besides social media provisions, the guidelines have also been updated for the practice of using telecommunication and information technology to provide healthcare services or information beyond geographical or legal borders, and for aesthetic practice and telemedicine.

The revised ethical code and guidelines will take effect on Jan 1 next year.

What are your thoughts on the new guidelines on social media use by medical professionals? Share them with us!

Source: “Doctors get new guidelines on using social media”, (The Straits Times, 15 September 2016)

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Embarrassing things that you should never post about your patients on social media

Embarrassing things that you should never post about your patients on social media | Social Media and Healthcare |

The advent of social media has brought about much change to the medical profession, especially when it comes to doctor-patient relationships. In the midst of their frustration and stress, some medical professionals have taken to social media to rant about patient behavior, and in doing so unintentionally breaching their patient’s confidentiality boundary.

As such, it is really important to remember that whatever you post as a doctor, nurse or hospital staff can compromise patients, and may even jeopardize your career. Even posts that you make in a personal capacity to your online friends may leak out and be shared in public. In order to maintain complete professionalism, here are some of the main things you should avoid posting at all costs:

1. Pictures of your patients in a state of undress

Patients are often required to disrobe in order to undergo certain examinations, diagnostic procedures, treatments and more. Never take and upload any of their pictures while this is going on, even if you hide or blur out their faces. Inevitably, you may give out other information on your post that may help identify them. Most patients feel intimidated and uncomfortable enough having to disrobe in front of strangers and exposing them in social media will only make things worse.

2. Stories of patients’ private lives

As a medical practitioner or support staff, patients are bound to confide in you certain things that they keep secret from their loved ones and friends. If you post their stories on social media, you risk exposing them in public. Even if you do not name them or change their names, again, other details may give them away. So no matter how juicy or interesting the story is, just try and keep it to yourself.

3. Patients’ shortcomings or mistakes

Do you have a patient that never takes his or her medication? Do you have one that annoys you by asking to be hospitalized for mere sniffles? Is there a patient that rattles on and on without getting to the point? Despite being mad or cheesed off, you should resist the urge to rant about them on social media as this breaches patient confidentiality and does not reflect professionalism at all. If you have a problematic patient, find a firm but polite way to confront them and settle the issue face to face. This method is more effective than blowing off steam online.

4. Awkward diagnostics or screening results

Some medical screening results, such as X-rays of patients who have swallowed unusual items, may be humorous to you, and will make you want to whip out your smart phone and snap a few pictures of it. However, it would not be funny to the patient whose results you have posted online, and they may lodge a complaint against you, which may result in job termination.

Maintaining proper patient confidentiality is highly important in a medical career as patients trust you with their most private information. Recently, the Malaysian Health Ministry issued a directive discouraging doctors from using social media to discuss their patient’s cases. It is hoped that this directive will help enhance doctor-patient relationships in the future.

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Can social media help us hear patients?

Can social media help us hear patients? | Social Media and Healthcare |

A growing number of people turn to the Internet for information on healthcare. More and more of them also use social media—like Twitter and Facebook—to share their personal experiences—whether it’s rating their healthcare provider or discussing their medicines.

Understanding the benefits and risks of medicine from a patient’s point of view is important to the evaluation of our medicines.

"We need to hear from patients about their experiences with our medicines,” says Dr. Murray Stewart, Chief Medical Officer for GSK, who is charged with looking out for patient health and safety when it comes to GSK’s medicines. “Social media presents an opportunity to listen in a much more immediate and direct way than we’ve used in the past.”

We set out recently to find new ways to tap into the information patients share about their ‘real-world’ experience with our medicines.

Real-time safety data

With the help of digital experts from outside GSK, we began to analyze publicly available internet posts, filtering out unrelated information and anything that would identify individuals to GSK.

In a 2-year period, we found approximately 22 million Twitter and Facebook posts discussing potential adverse events for 1,000 medicines. Compare this figure to the 8.6 million adverse event reports received by the  U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS) since 1968, and the size of the challenge becomes clear.

Real-time benefits data

An additional evaluation of 15 medicines showed that 26% of posts also mentioned the benefits of taking the medicine and useful information around how long a medicine took to work, how long the effects last, and how it compared to other treatment options.

Monitoring social media when one of our inhaled allergy medicines became available over the counter was also hugely helpful. The feedback enabled  us to understand how well the product worked for patients when their healthcare professionals were no longer involved in choosing the medicine or giving instructions on dosing.

Protecting patients through social listening

Social media posts have also helped us to evaluate and characterise abuse of a medicine, for example reports of crushing tablets that were meant to be swallowed and then consuming them in other ways such as by injection or inhalation. Being aware of common misuse of treatments helps us to make decisions on appropriate labeling and further guidance.

More opportunities to explore

While we’ve come a long way in our use of social media, there is still a lot of work to do to fully understand the strengths and weaknesses of this data and to establish best practices. For example, we are working to create automated tools that can sort through very large volumes of information and identify urgent issues so they are addressed quickly.

We believe people will continue to use social media to share their experiences with medications. By paying attention to comments -- whether they are about the benefits or about potential drawbacks – social media can help us to understand the full context of patient experiences. We’re excited by the potential of social media to improve our patient care and we can’t wait to see where it may take us next.

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NU Innovation in Teaching Series: Social Media in Medical Education

"The Dynamic Role of Social Media in Medical Education" presented at The Garage of Northwestern University in the Innovation in Teaching Series by Dr. Michael …
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An introduction to Digital Marketing for the Healthcare Industry

I work with a great deal of small to medium sized clinics with no dedicated marketing, sales, or communications professionals, who are always looking for ways …
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Effective Social Media Marketing: 8 Tips for Hospitals

Healthcare is a difficult industry in which to market. It is both a product and a service, and it is consumer-driven. But, going to the hospital is not somethi…
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Using social media to monitor mental health discussions − evidence from Twitter

Using social media to monitor mental health discussions − evidence from Twitter | Social Media and Healthcare |
Objectives Given the public health importance of communicating about mental illness and the growing use of social media to convey information, our goal was to develop an empirical model to identify periods of heightened interest in mental health topics on Twitter.

Materials and Methods We collected data on 176 million tweets from 2011 to 2014 with content related to depression or suicide. Using an autoregressive integrated moving average (ARIMA) data analysis, we identified deviations from predicted trends in communication about depression and suicide.

Results Two types of heightened Twitter activity regarding depression or suicide were identified in 2014: expected increases in response to planned behavioral health events, and unexpected increases in response to unanticipated events. Tweet volume following expected increases went back to the predicted level more rapidly than the volume following unexpected events.

Discussion Although ARIMA models have been used extensively in other fields, they have not been used widely in public health. Our findings indicate that our ARIMA model is valid for identifying periods of heightened activity on Twitter related to behavioral health. The model offers an objective and empirically based measure to identify periods of greater interest for timing the dissemination of credible information related to mental health.

Conclusion Spikes in tweet volume following a behavioral health event often last for less than 2 days. Individuals and organizations that want to disseminate behavioral health messages on Twitter in response to heightened periods of interest need to take this limited time frame into account.
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Local authorities unveil new social media guidelines for doctors

Local authorities unveil new social media guidelines for doctors | Social Media and Healthcare |

Doctors will now have to be more careful on what is posted online and look into their personal branding on social media platforms, said a new ethical guidelines by the Singapore Medical Council (SMC) which revised its Ethical Code and Ethical Guidelines (ECEG). The last revision was in 2002.

The new guidelines which covers more than just social media conduct, serves as an update to address increasing complexities of the medical practice in light of technological changes and advancements.

The ECEG comes with examples listing the entire range of possible inappropriate behavior on social media such as appearing intoxicated, engaging in lewd or inappropriate behavior, posting personal or derogatory comments about patients or colleagues, to name a few.

Michael Banner, general manager at McCann Health, said the new guidelines are in line with the increasing digitisation of healthcare. He added that social media, an element of digitisation, is something which is already an integral part of the patients’ personal and professional life and will naturally form a component of a patient’s relationship with their trusted advisors, which includes healthcare professionals.

However, the right to medical privacy needs to supersede all else when it comes to health digitisation. According to Banner, this is a particular challenge when it comes to building digital solutions for healthcare clients in APAC where each country has their own unique code of conduct.

“When a doctor’s personal Whatsapp-account is doubling up as their professional account it’s a recipe for disaster,” Banner said, adding that another area that will require more detailed guidelines is doctor-to-doctor use of social media to share and discuss patient information in a secure and ethical manner.

Whilst social media guidelines are a must in this day and age, it is also important to remember that there will always be situations that the guidelines will not cover. This is where common sense must prevail.

According to Kiran Aswani,  business head at iris Worldwide, the move to address social media conduct is something which is natural given that the last time the guidelines were revised was in 2002.

“A lot has progressed in the healthcare industry since then, including the proliferation of social media into our daily lives and democratisation of healthcare,” Aswani said.

She added that having the guidelines will ensure there is more conscious approach to the healthcare conversations that are taking place online. It also avoids potential avenues for misunderstandings of medical conditions and any inaccurate treatment recommendations to occur due to physical absence of the patient.

“This is especially important in a country such as Singapore where healthcare environment is regulated keeping in mind welfare of the people. It is crucial to ensure that people are conscious about promoting the right healthcare versus the drug and consultations,” Aswani said.

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Social Media Can Help Women Make Important Health Decisions, Study Shows, And The Reason Why Makes A Lot Of Sense

Social Media Can Help Women Make Important Health Decisions, Study Shows, And The Reason Why Makes A Lot Of Sense | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media isn't always the most encouraging of places, but it can actually be pretty useful when it comes to sharing your health-related experiences. According to a new study published in JAMA Oncology,women who turned to online networks for help after getting diagnosed with breast cancer felt better and more secure in their respective treatment decisions.

Researchers followed how 2,460 newly diagnosed breast cancer patients used a range of online communication tools — such as email, texting, social media, and web forums — to discuss various issues related to their diagnosis, including treatment and care. Of those people, 41 percent used some form of digital communication to share their diagnosis with others. Unsurprisingly, younger patients tended to rely on online forums more, while older women (the study's median age was 61.9 years old) didn't use them quite as much.

But regardless of age, there was one common theme among the women who did turn to online forums after diagnosis. As the study concludes, those patients felt "increased satisfaction and decision deliberation during the breast cancer treatment decision process.” Why? Talking through their options with other people who had similar experiences helped them feel more confident in their treatment decisions. Finding support on networks like Twitter and Facebook also helped them cope during an anxious and stressful time.


Of course, it's important to be safe and smart while seeking treatment advice online. While there may be a wealth of information on the web, not all of it is reliable or legitimate. But as long as you make sure to find scientifically-backed sources and verified forums, women battling breast cancer and other health conditions may find a whole new level of support online.

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Five Reasons your Dental Practice must Embrace Social Media

Five Reasons your Dental Practice must Embrace Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Is your dental practice still waiting for a good reason to jump into the social media game? Dental practices that have embraced social media continue to reap many rewards, while strengthening patient loyalty and reaching the right patients at just the right time.

If your dental practice is struggling to stand out from its competitors in the online arena, you may want to take advantage of our social media services at Practice Maximization.

The more you know about your current and prospectivepatients, the more power you have over what they learn about your practice. Social media, more than any other medium, gives your dental practice the ability to learn about your patients even before they become your patients. By targeting your message to the correct audience through social media, you gain precise control over your advertising dollar and the direction of your brand image.

What makes social media so unique is that it encourages individuals to open up and be honest about their experiences, wants, needs, preferences and spending habits. Whether your patients are on Facebook, Google Plus,Twitter,YouTube, or other popular social media sites, gaining access to this useful information gives you the power to react to trends and refine your branding strategies. Your patient base can also help you connect to other potential patients that share their likes and dislikes, and who can be influenced by others within their social circle.

For tech-savvy dental practices, your social media can provide a useful stream of data to help you adapt to current trends and subtle changes in your potential patients' preferences.

If your practice is still reluctant to embrace social media, here are five more reasons your business can thrive through strategic online marketing.

1. Social Media Creates Brand Awareness And Can Set You Apart

Do you have a brand? Does your dental practice have an online identity? If you haven't been following your dental practice closely on social media, how do you know how people currently view your practice? If you are not communicating your brand on social media, someone else may eventually do it for you.

Social media helps your dental practice connect with patients on a more informal level that forges brand awareness and a true understanding of how potential patients view your business. Social media can help you to differentiate your practice from your competition and help you show off your strengths to potential patients.

2. Valuable Patient Feedback Is Right At Your Fingertips

Every practice can appreciate – and benefit from — honest patient feedback. Social media is the ultimate patient survey, where individuals open up and tell you how they really feel. Whether these reactions are positive or negative, your reaction can mean the difference between losing a patient to your competition or winning them over and strengthening loyalty. If you have ever been curious about what your patients want, social media can help you run a more patient-oriented practice.

3. Social Media Helps Your Content Reach Untapped Markets

If you're not using social media, your dental website might not even show up on Google's first page of search results. Increasing your web presence not only increases your SEO, but can also get you in touch with future patients.

Think of social media as an advertisement that is only seen by your current patients and their social media circle. Not only can you reach out to new patients, but your current patients are in the position to advocate for the quality dental services you offer.

4. Social Media Helps Patients Remember You Are Out There

Social media can help your dental practice secure patient loyalty. Through social media, your patients may be tempted to leave you for another dental practice if they are persuaded by their circle of friends and family. This is why it is important for you to maintain a stream of information for your patients via their favorite social networking websites. Your patients are constantly being bombarded by advertising from the competition. Social media will remind your patients of your quality dental services and encourage them to continue coming to your office for years to come.

5. Social Media Supports And Generates Traffic For Your Website

Social media and your dental website will forever be linked. While each has a special role, they are always working together to give patients what they want. A great social media campaign may eventually drive patients to your office, but first they will visit your website. Your dental website should drive patients to your dental practice.

Google now ranks websites in their search results according to their social media activity. Your dental practice's online reputation depends on your ability to be a part of the conversation on social media. By joining the online community, you can increase your popularity and online relevance. As your presence on social media increases, search engines will recognize your dental website as being more authoritative, helping you to rank higher.

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Leading kidney charities launch social media campaign to raise awareness of polycystic kidney disease

Leading kidney charities launch social media campaign to raise awareness of polycystic kidney disease | Social Media and Healthcare |

Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) International has joined forces with six European kidney charities to launch a social media campaign called Give PKD the Bump. This campaign unites patients, families and the public through the gesture of a fist-bump – representing the size of a healthy kidney and the symbol of the campaign. Friends, family and work colleagues are challenged to film, share, nominate and donate via social media using #BumpPKD.

Give PKD the Bump aims to raise awareness of PKD, and to generate funds for vital research and support services for people living with PKD – a progressive, incurable and life threatening inherited disease, which affects an estimated 12.5 million people worldwide. All proceeds from the Give PKD the Bump campaign will go towards improving the lives of those living with PKD. For example, research into biomarkers to develop a simple urine test to predict when PKD kidneys might fail or funding a Bio-resource Bank to contain cell, tissue and fluid samples of ADPKD and ARPKD for medical research.

PKD International spokesperson, Tess Harris said:

PKD is a devastating inherited disease, often described as a ticking time bomb, which has a profound and under-recognised impact on the lives of affected adults, children and families. I’m so proud to support the Give PKD the Bump challenge; something as simple as a fist bump signals not only solidarity but triumph too. With the help of the #BumpPKD, we hope to raise funds and awareness to create a world where everyone has healthy kidneys the size of their fist. The money we raise will help save lives. Together we can beat PKD.

PKD causes fluid filled sacs to develop throughout the kidneys, making them swell to up to four times their normal size (about the size of a rugby ball) and become up to 100 times heavier, causing patients a lifetime of pain, fatigue and kidney failure. Symptoms include high blood pressure, chronic stomach and back pain, kidney stones and blood in the urine. PKD may also affect the liver and some people are at increased risk of life-threatening brain aneurysms.

The most common type of PKD is autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) - caused by inheritance of a dominant PKD gene. Therefore, if someone has ADPKD, there’s a one in two chance of them passing it on to their children. ADPKD is the fourth cause of kidney failure worldwide with approximately half of people diagnosed requiring a kidney transplant or dialysis by the age of 54. The other type of PKD, autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease (ARPKD), is expressed if a person inherits the ARPKD gene from both parents. The diagnosis of ARPKD can come as shock for parents since neither parent has experienced the symptoms of PKD before.

How can people support the campaign?

  1. Through a social media challenge: Everyone and anyone can Give PKD the Bump, using just their smartphones and social media accounts. The aim of the challenge is simple: Grab a friend, film your fist bump, tag three other friends and pass it on using #BumpPKD
  2. Donate: Once a #BumpPKD video has been created, text BUMP22 to 70070 or visit to donate online. Donations will be invaluable in achieving our goal, from funding vital medical research to developing diagnostic tools for patients and helping provide the support that PKD patients and their families need.
  3. Wear a pin: Our exclusive ‘fist-shaped’ Give PKD the Bump pin can be purchased online for a small donation at Wear it to show support for patients and commitment to funding research that will lead to a cure.
  4. Go the extra mile: In addition to the social media challenge, people can support PKD patients by taking part in a nearby event, such as running for PKD or by holding a cake sale. More information and downloadable posters can be found at
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Why Are Healthcare Professionals Not Using Social Media?

Why Are Healthcare Professionals Not Using Social Media? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Do you ever feel like you are drowning in regulations? If not, then you probably do not work in the medical and healthcare industry. Many physicians think that social media marketing in particular is a waste of time. That’s probably because they see the amount of effort required to tackle social media marketing while respecting regulations. However, some thought leaders in healthcare have found smart ways of gaining insights and branding themselves through social media channels.

Today we’re talking about how those working in the healthcare field can market your business on social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I’m focusing on small business in healthcare, because that is where I see the most value for using social media marketing.


Social Media Regulations for Healthcare Professionals

The Limitations
The main issue facing physicians today is privacy as it relates to HIPPA compliance. Physicians and their staff should be fully aware and up to date on the HIPAA laws as well as any state laws in regards to protected health information (also called PHI). It’s generally easy to respect this boundary in your marketing, but there are inadvertent moments of exposing private information to be thoughtful about.


1. Patient Info. Healthcare organizations and businesses should actively supervise the employees who can access PHI. Inadvertent sharing often comes from an overly zealous person excited to share great information, so it is likely to happen among the sales and marketing staff. These are the folks who should be well trained to understand these restrictions and supervised.

This means that those juicy testimonials you want to share need to be thoughtfully posted without the person’s name or any other unique identifiers. It’s wise to keep posts in broad terms by talking about specific conditions and treatment options, but not specific patients.


2. Confidentiality. When information is shared with someone in a trusted relationship, such as a doctor, it holds a heavy weight. This area is a little harder for some to comply with because it sounds obvious, but there are some actions on social media that should not be taken. You should not “friend” any patients on social media platforms. You can invite them to like your fan page, but the mechanism of friending on a one-to-one basis is a bad idea.


3. Medical Advice. This is an obvious one, but offering any medical advice via social media is generally a bad idea. It’s okay to offer general insights or broad responses to an issue, but specific cases should not be discussed in a social media forum.

A recent AMA Journal of Ethics article titled “Why Can’t We Be Friends? A Case-Based Analysis of Ethical Issues with Social Media in Healthcare,” analyzes the ethical issues for healthcare providers using social media. Check out the AMA on Facebook Page too.

There are Great Opportunities for Healthcare Providers to Leverage Social Media

What I love about using social media for healthcare practitioners is that it can extend the relationship you have with patients beyond the office and appointments. While it is not a one-on-one communication tool, you get an opportunity to impact their daily lives in a broader scope. Share educational information that can support patients and the larger community without getting too specific. For example, you can create a meme that shows 3 Tips to Have a Healthier Mouth.

Here’s a helpful guide from KRC&L Attorney’s in Dallas: Physician’s Guide to Social Media

Beyond reaching patients, social media platforms provide an opportunity for developing professional connections with colleagues and peers. Using a space such as a private LinkedIn group to debate on key topics in your industry and share new insights is great. These kinds of interactions allow you to build a network for referrals and show your authority.

Healthcare providers with a helpful blog ( with SEO Keywords integrated) can leverage that content across social media platforms to reduce the overall work. It’s a valuable source of information for patients, referring industry peers, and the larger community.


  Best Practices for Social Media Marketing



  • Ensure the team has a thorough understanding of the patient privacy laws and how it pertains to your business.
  • Create a social media and communications policy for all staff to follow. Include a checklist of guidelines and provide it with new hire materials.
  • Create a content marketing strategy for your social media and other marketing communications (email, blog, etc). This should include any metrics for measuring the success of your marketing.
  • Use an editorial calendar for review & approval of social media content before anything is posted.
  • Within your office, create a marketing working group to discuss new ideas for social media and share any concerns. The group should include representative from various parts of the organization.
  • Monitor your social media channels by checking in at least once a week. It’s wise to look into the different kinds of cloud-based software platforms that make this easy.
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3 Ways Healthcare Providers Can Take Advantage Of Social Media Disruption

3 Ways Healthcare Providers Can Take Advantage Of Social Media Disruption | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media and the internet are having a profound effect on healthcare—a digital disruption that currently impacts more than 1 billion potential patients and is estimated to affect 2.5 billion by 2018. For healthcare providers, this disruption presents both risk and opportunity as the traditional doctor-patient relationship is radically modified by digitally empowered patients, online channels for direct and immediate patient-doctor communication, and a plethora of freely available and easily searchable medical “advice” that can lead to misguided self-diagnoses and impede proper treatment.

1. Patient Empowerment

The introduction of social media in healthcare has given rise to healthcare consumerism, giving patients more power than at any time in history. No longer do patients have to choose a healthcare provider from a haphazardly compiled list, the phone book, or friends’ recommendations. Patients can review doctors’ education, experience, and ratings online; seek information about treatment; engage with other patients; and make informed decisions before they ever make contact with a provider.

In fact, according to the Harvard Business Review, 48% of all patients say online reviews from other patients influenced their decision when choosing a healthcare provider.

Obviously, more information can be helpful in making a decision, but there is a downside to online reviews not only because they can be subjective but because they can give a disproportionate amount of power to disgruntled patients. (That old trope that satisfied customers tell a few people, while dissatisfied customers tell everyone, is nowhere more evident than on social channels.) It is critical, therefore, for healthcare providers to be active participants in social media and online reviews, responding to patient complaints before they spiral out of control.

Risk: One or two disgruntled patients post undefended complaints or bad reviews about you on social channels, and your reputation takes a dive.

Opportunity: One or two disgruntled patients post complaints or bad reviews about you on social channels, but your quick and professional reaction builds your reputation as a responsive, knowledgeable provider, brings out loyal patients who defend you online, and wins new patients.

2. Communication

A month ago, I went to the doctor and took a calcium test. At the end of the appointment, the doctor asked if I wanted to sign up for her practice’s patient portal. I did, and voilà, when the time came, I was able to log in and see my test results along with notes from my doctor. I didn’t have to schedule a follow-up visit. The doctor didn’t have to call me. No one had to kill a tree to send me reams of paperwork.

Online test results are just one aspect of the digital revolution in healthcare communication. Some healthcare providers have social media ambassadors who represent their organization on Facebook and Twitter, directly engaging with patients. In other health centers, doctors are using custom mobile applications or Skype to communicate directly with their patients.

In a health survey conducted in 2014, 40% of physicians responded that they believe the use of digital technologies to communicate with patients can improve outcomes over office visits alone and the same percentage said they are increasing their use of digital tools. And according to a recent study conducted by CVS Health, 70% of patients that were offered a telehealth session agreed to it and one third preferred telehealth interactions to a traditional visit. To stay competitive, healthcare providers clearly must invest in digital methods of communicating with patients.

Risk: Content to stick to predigital practices, you continue to communicate with patients via telephone and snail mail and rely primarily on in-office visits for diagnoses, treatment advice, and follow-up. You are compelled to keep long office hours because you cannot take advantage of telemedicine even as your practice shrinks when patients turn to providers that take advantage of social media and other digital capabilities to communicate with and provide care for their patients.

Opportunity: In your modernized practice, you start the day consulting with a traveling patient via Skype, advising him to find local medical attention for what appears to be an allergic reaction. Between office visits, you remind patients via Facebook and Twitter that it is flu season and offer family discounts for flu shots, and you share and retweet reputable studies that support your views on childhood vaccines. You also ensure that patients’ test results are posted on your secure patient portal. You leave for dinner on time, knowing that you can check in on a vulnerable patient via video chat later in the evening. Your practice and reputation grow as patients spread the word about how accessible and proactive you are as a physician and how easy it is to deal with your practice.

3. Medical Advice

Got a symptom? Type it into Google, and you’ll get plenty of information about it. You’ll be served with legitimate-sounding websites, government-sponsored information, forums, doctors answering questions, and a bevy of other inputs.

That’s both good and bad. While some sites will reassure patients, other sites may scare them and send them in the wrong direction as they self-diagnose. For example, in many cases a curious red lump may be described as normal and something thousands of other people have experienced. On other websites patients may get a “could be cancer” page that ruins their night and leaves the healthcare provider to deal with the fallout.

A  study conducted in 2012 found that 80% of individuals between the ages of 18 and 24 would share information online and 90% would trust the information they found there. Veracity is an issue with almost any area of the internet, of course, but special care should be taken when seeking health advice, with patients doing due diligence to confirm these online “physicians” are reputable medical professionals with experience relevant to the advice they offer.

Risk: During a six-month period, three of your digitally connected patients demand CT scans in response to mild headaches, one patient insists his recent back pain requires an emergency MRI, a handful of patients criticize you—on social channels—for belittling their concerns when you asked them where they obtained their medical information, and a group of parents publicly and incorrectly includes you in a list of doctors whose views on childhood immunizations is not in keeping with the US Department of Health and Human Services’National Vaccine Program office website.

Opportunity: Knowing the risks involved in self-diagnosis, you and a member of your office staff regularly scan the most-popular health-related sites for misleading information and keep an updated list of reputable sites and relevant studies on your practice’s website and Facebook pages. Particularly dangerous claims are highlighted and when appropriate are debunked with reputable information. In addition, you post your own health content online and promote it via social channels, decreasing the chance that a misinformed patient will overlook a dangerous symptom or overreact to a benign one and increasing your brand as a trusted provider of healthcare information.


More and more healthcare is moving online, empowering patients by providing a channel for health education and literacy and increasing patients’ role in taking responsibility for their own health. The digital revolution also has made communication easier for both patient and provider. Physicians and their staffs, therefore, would be well served to be as technologically savvy as possible: healthcare providers must become active users of these disruptive technologies and make sure they are used effectively, securely, and ethically—not only for the sake of their patients but also for the sake of their own medical practice.

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 Paul Buchanan: Social media and the patient experience

 Paul Buchanan: Social media and the patient experience | Social Media and Healthcare |

Previously a stranger to the “health” world there was now an imperative to learn, and learn quickly, how to live with and manage a life-long chronic condition. The team of doctors and nurses who initially diagnosed and treated me did everything by the book and by the accepted wisdom of the day. To be able to learn about diabetes as a condition, with the aid of Professor Google, was a matter of application and long days and nights reading medical texts, scouring the websites of the charities involved in the condition area, and spending hours on the phone with a spectacular diabetes specialist nurse.

However, learning to live with diabetes—well that was a completely different story. Here in the UK, I discovered a gaping hole in the provision of day to day life lessons for a person newly diagnosed, whereas in the USA I discovered they have such things as Certified Diabetes Educators—essentially private ”consultants” who you can pay to teach you what you want to learn. Perhaps this is something that needs to be aired and discussed more widely in the UK, after all, we pay for “personal coaches” in almost every other aspect of our lives, from executive coaching, to diet and exercise coaches. Whilst pushing service delivery may be the trend and the general direction our government wish to take our NHS, there are not as yet plans for this type of “life-coaching” to become a private sector service paid for by patients, is it just a matter of time?

It also struck me that I couldn’t be the only person in the UK with a need, so I took to social media to see if there was anything “out there” that could help. The short answer was no. Thus the #gbdoc was created.

15 August 2012 and @theGBdoc posted its first tweet, inviting any and all people with diabetes (#pwd) to join in a #tweetchat on the topic of hypoglycaemia. That first week’s #tweetchat was a success, much to my amazement! It grew. In the first four weeks it made over 2.5m impressions in twitter. By the end of the first three months there were participants from 24 countries, and in its first year it reached over 13m people. Initially there was considerable scepticism, especially from within the word of the healthcare professionals—was this any more than a random collection of emotive rants about our own condition? What about safety?

Critics cited the lack of accountability and oversight, perhaps even lack of identity because of the anonymity that twitter offers, as justification to claim the posts could be potentially causing harm. Let us not forget though, within the online community is perhaps the greatest level of scrutiny available, the best possible form of peer-review, people with whole lives of experience of living with a condition, to balance, mediate, moderate, and make suggestions.

Now, some four years later and with social media (SocMe) acceptable to the establishment (thanks to people like @weNurses), #gbdoc is a resource that healthcare professionals use. They let their patients know about it so they can learn from it, and engage with and be supported by their peers. And many healthcare professionals use it as a resource for their own use—to dip into the daily lived experience, to ask questions about specific issues that may have no answer in the journals or academic papers, and to help frame the very questions you want to ask us as patients about how we are coping with our condition, to ask us about the things that we talk about.

If you look through SocMe, you will find a rich, deep, and peer-supported world of care that you as a professional can use to help your patients. For every condition there is a group out there. For every issue there is patient that has lived through it and come up with an answer that worked for them, a “life-hack” to fix a problem. For every patient there is support from their peers. It’s not perfect, there are always ”personalities,” squabbles and fallings out, but—and it’s a big but—there are thousands of people giving their time, effort, and care to help the next person along have an easier time of it than they did.

On a personal note, a big thank you to the many thousands of individuals who make up the #gbdoc and for the care, support, help, and friendship that you have shown me over the last four years. Peer support at its very best. Over and above the excellent care I get from my healthcare team, I can honestly say that without peer support I would not be able to manage my condition as I do.

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Social Media and Health Care | Kaplan Test Prep

Social Media and Health Care | Kaplan Test Prep | Social Media and Healthcare |

Long gone are the days when social media was just a trivial platform for sharing pictures and cat videos (although that still happens). Now, it has very practical implications, like helping us predict health care trends, self-diagnose, and boost patient satisfaction.

One on hand, it can be a source of contention between physicians and patients, as social media tends to blur the lines between expertise and self-sufficiency. But it can also help bridge the gap and be a useful tool that mutually benefits both parties.

Here are a few ways social media is affecting the world of health care—for better or worse—from patients and physicians to medical corporations:  

Social media and patient trends  

Think of all the times you’ve been on Facebook or Twitter and saw that someone was sick. Or you were feeling under the weather and did a google search on your symptoms and the best home remedies. While these behaviors may seem insignificant, or in some cases to threaten physician expertise, they can actually be used by medical experts to identify sources of foodborne illnesses or predict an oncoming virus based on search volume.

Relying on the instantaneous nature of social media is useful as well, especially when it comes to health risks. For example, a social media mining program called HealthMap identified an Ebola outbreak in Guinea two weeks before it was officially announced. A geography-based illness forecaster program calledSickweather predicted whooping cough in the U.S. a few weeks before it was publicized.

Social media and physician reviews

In addition to patients posting about themselves, they also have the freedom to post about physicians. Though these physician reviews are intended to motivate physicians and guide patients, there can beundesirable consequences based on the knowledge gap between the two. Rather than trying to manipulate the system, communication and transparency go a long way. Balancing quality and efficiency will lead to the most positive experience, and therefore, the most favorable reviews.

For example, a physician may feel pressured to perform unnecessary tests/exams out of fear an instant judgment could render them unthorough. Or they may be tempted to turn a patient away whose diagnosis has more room for error. These fears can be remedied by openly communicating with patients what you observe, giving them the option to opt out or proceed with precautionary exams, listening to them, and involving them in as much of the decision making as possible.

Social Media and corporation policies   

Not only does social media reflect patient satisfaction; it can also set the tone before a patient even enters the hospital. Patients will get a first impression of an institution based on their social presence and etiquette. Much training takes place in health care today to educate physicians on how to respond professionally to reviews, comments, friend requests, and the like.

One top medical institution, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, adheres to certain social media guidelines to preserve their integrity and patient satisfaction. They include responding to all reviews promptly and empathetically, not endorsing products, and not friending patients on Facebook, to name a few. For more patient engagement strategies, check out this recent seminar conducted by Letizia Affinito in Rome on Creating a Positive Impact on Patients’ and Physicians’ Actions Through Social Media.

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Explore the Benefits of Creating an Online Community for Your Practice

Explore the Benefits of Creating an Online Community for Your Practice | Social Media and Healthcare |

In today’s digital world, being a member of online communities is essential for engaging patients with your brand. Establishing and maintaining online relationships via online communities is critical to the success of your practice.

What exactly is an online community?

An online community is an interactive platform where two-way conversations can serve marketing goals for your practice. Many physicians have started engaging via online communities, as they facilitate communication with patients/potential patients, foster innovation, provide interactive support and help build brand equity. While some people just watch and read the conversations in an online community, there are many who actively participate and share information with their friends, family and peers.

Why being a part of online communities can influence the success of your practice

The healthcare market is teeming with competition, and healthcare providers and hospitals are working to maximize opportunities and redefining strategies for leveraging digital mediums to engage and extend relationship with patients.

There is a famous quote by Albert Einstein, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” Online communities offer an edge to your practice, as they enable you to offer information to others that is of value. It creates a sense of trust and credibility will ultimately make your practice successful.

Online communities already exist in one form or the other. For instance, there can be a common set of people reading blogs about preventive measures of a particular disease/disorder and sharing their experiences through comments. If people can be engaged around their information needs by building specific online communities, it can be a symbiotic association – serving the best interests of patients as well as physicians.

Successful online communities can be created on many social media platforms by responding to tweets, lively discussions on LinkedIn, replying to messages and comments on your Facebook page or creating pages for discussion on special topics on all these platforms or your website. The “golden rule” is to provide tailored content customized to the latest trends through which people can get accurate information on topics they are searching for. The empowered digital consumers are smart enough to distinguish reliable, scientifically accurate and informative content amid the vast reserves of online information. They are likely to trust the healthcare provider whose content posts are useful for them, and there’s a high possibility that they will share these post with others. This functions as a medium of online reputation-building for your practice through which many others can learn about you and your practice.

By their nature, online communities are social hubs where providers interact with people in addition to connecting with one another. The discussions and information exchanges that take place from your end reflect a lot about your practice. The social proof that can be developed by analysis of your engagements is a direct representation of your skills, expertise and reputation.

Depending on your online marketing goals and the target groups you want to engage, there are different types of online communities. Whatever areas of interest you identify to build around an online community, always remember to treat them like a garden – you need grow and nurture your community for achieving continuous success.

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