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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Social media-enabled breast cancer trial enrolls 2,000 patients in 7 months

Social media-enabled breast cancer trial enrolls 2,000 patients in 7 months | Social Media and Healthcare |

Researchers have enrolled 2,000 people with metastatic breast cancer in 7 months using a social media-enabled, direct-to-patient model of recruiting. The study is using social media and blogs to drive patients to a website where they can consent to share medical records and genomic data with the researchers.

A team from the Broad Institute and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute set up the study to address the lack of genomic data from the tumors of patients with metastatic breast cancer. This situation is a consequence of many breast cancer patients being treated in community care settings. Faced with this shortfall in knowledge, the researchers designed a study that allows patients to consent to share parts of their tumor biopsies, medical records and saliva samples using at-home spit kits.

The design of the data-gathering elements of the trial free participants from the need to visit a study site. This makes it easier for the researchers to enroll subjects, but only if they can contact patients and persuade them of the value of participating. Like Pfizer ($PFE) before it, the Broad/Dana-Farber team has used social media to enroll subjects in its virtual trial. But, while the approach proved to be flawed for Pfizer’s trial, the strategy pursued by Broad and Dana-Farber is working for its study.

With enrollment topping 1,200 in three months and 2,000 in 7 months, the trial has turned heads. “[This is] incredibly, incredibly rapid enrollment,” Dr. Sumanta Pal, a medical oncologist at City of Hope, said in a statement. Pal, who is not involved in the study, thinks the trial represents a proof of concept for the direct-to-patient approach. “If this paradigm continues to enjoy the success it has thus far, the patient-driven model is something we can implement across disease types,” he said.

Pal’s statement is very different in tone than those made at the end of the Pfizer study, which was axed early because of slow enrollment. Yet the divergence in performance is not primarily to do with the social media aspects of the trials. Pfizer was successful at getting people to its website--perhaps in part because of the high profile of the study--but large numbers of potential participants dropped out at each step of the filtering process.

More than 20,000 people viewed Pfizer’s study introduction website, 1,519 met the inclusion/exclusion criteria but ultimately 8 patients were randomized. The Broad-Dana-Farber team is yet to share a breakdown of numbers for its enrollment funnel, but a lower dropout rate would be unsurprising. Pfizer’s virtual trial was a randomized, placebo-controlled, Phase IV study. The Broad/Dana-Farber effort is a simpler, data-gathering project that asks less of its participants.

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Why healthcare executives need to embrace social media

As a social media enthusiast and healthcare industry executive for Regence BlueShield who guides community relations, I use social media platforms to connect and engage with consumers, customers and influencers whenever and wherever they might be. However, it seems my industry peers don’t always agree. According to Fortune, only 39% of Fortune 500 CEOs are active on social channels. For me, social has become a habit that has paid dividends in the relationships built and the business value created; it is a direct pipeline to the topics, trends and events affecting our industry in real time.

See also: Online tools increasingly important in healthcare market

 [Image credit: Bloomberg]

In addition to engaging with a broad audience, an executive being active on social can build trust. The Edelman Trust Barometer shows only 51% of the general population trusts CEOs in the healthcare sector, but 57% believe building trust can start with CEOs who share their views on social media. The general population expects more from our industry in terms of transparency, inclusive leadership and sustainable business practices.

See also: 5 social media behaviors employers hate

These ideals can be hammered home and showcased on social. Recently, I participated in a panel discussion at the Cambia Grove in Seattle with Healthfundr Managing Partner Dave Chase and Washington State Medical Association CEO Jennifer Lawrence Hanscom. During the webcast, the audience asked great questions and I was able to share my top tips for leveraging social media as a healthcare industry executive. While everyone’s approach is different, these are at the core of every successful social profile.

Know your audience. I enjoy the different audiences I’m able to reach based on the channel I’m using, whether it’s Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. It is important to be aware of what each social network has to offer and how the audiences differ on each platform when you’re strategizing content and engaging with other users.

Be genuine. Part of my daily routine includes being consistent and candid on social media, along with creating my own content, posting often, and engaging and responding. It is vital that industry leaders personally respond and control the content that is going out on their social accounts. Your personal brand on social directly corresponds with the brand of your company.

Don’t be an egg. You should learn how to use social media and the foundational things needed to be successful and effective on choice social platforms. This can be as easy as updating your picture on Twitter from the default egg image. Don’t be an egg (unless you are in the egg industry, then maybe) and of course, have a good profile picture.

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Digital marketing is becoming the new wave of healthcare marketing

A look back at the history of healthcare marketing, the present and the future. Healthcare marketing has evolved to both online and offline media. Read more: h…
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Try Snapchat to “snap up” patients

Try Snapchat to “snap up” patients | Social Media and Healthcare |

As millennials, many of us are quite familiar with the app Snapchat. Whether we’re face-swapping with our dogs, or using it as a great way to embarrass that classmate who fell asleep in class again, the growing popularity of this mobile app has enabled us to connect effortlessly with our friends, family and even some celebrities. But could Snapchat also be a powerful, untapped marketing tool for health care professionals?

In a market that is moving towards increased commoditization of professional services, dentists must make a difficult choice: sell “affordability” by cutting fees or sell the experience that your practice offers. We want patients to focus less on purely seeking the lowest fees and focus more on the unique traits that make each provider different because we understand that patient needs can vary greatly. So how can we stand out?

For better or worse, our phones have become the portals through which we access most of our information and entertainment. Image- and video-sharing applications such as Snapchat, and even Periscope, are rapidly growing modes of communication for the next generation. Thus, an easy way to stay current is to embrace the rapidly evolving technology. In the advent of social media, the possibilities are endless. Social media provides dentists the opportunity to showcase what makes them different and engage current (and potential) patients on an easily accessible, personal level. According to the company, Snapchat has more than 100 million daily users, 60% of whom are 18-34 years old. Snapchat has also outpaced both Twitter and Instagram as the second most popular social network in the United States. Similarly, Periscope users have created more than 200 million live broadcasts to date and watch a combined 110 years’ worth of video content every day. Launched in 2011 and 2015, respectively, these two mobile app-based social networks are only two examples of how rapidly the landscape of communication is changing.

Some dentists have tapped into the potential of these applications and have started utilizing these emerging social networks as innovative ways to both “humanize” the patient-provider relationship and enhance personal branding. Notably, Dr. Daniel Rubinshtein, a 2013 graduate from the New York University College of Dentistry, has been recognized for his prolific and effective professional presence on networks such as Snapchat. The New York City-based dentist sees these emergent platforms as a means to break down existing barriers to care.

“Sharing content on apps such as Snapchat can help alleviate common fears that patients have of visiting the dentist by allowing them to familiarize themselves with our practice from the comfort of their own homes,” Rubinshtein shared. “People fear the unknown, and as health care practitioners we need to leverage the transparent nature of social media to alleviate the fear of the unknown for our patients”.

Dr. Rubinshtein thinks of social networks as channels for genuine dialogue with patients and an exposition of day-to-day life in a dental practice. For him, this is one of our best opportunities as dentists to showcase personalized care and encourage patients to pursue treatment with the goal of holistic dental health, rather than as an itemized series of services. As he shared with me: “Leveraging the marketing tools of today is how we can overcome the challenges of an increasingly commoditized marketplace and gain the respect and trust of our patients.” So who knows? Maybe all those hours spent honing your Snapchat game will finally pay off.

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Internet of Things in Healthcare

HealthTech Sydney To be the leading ecosystem for healthcare innovation in Australia that improves education, accelerates commercialisation and improves socia…
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The Do's and Don'ts of Social Media for Your Medical Practice

The Do's and Don'ts of Social Media for Your Medical Practice | Social Media and Healthcare |

Last week I discussed a the importance of implementing a social media marketing plan. Here are a handful of do’s and don’ts to help your practice develop a social media presence and gain more exposure.     The Do’s:   Be Purposeful: Your social media page has been created for a purpose: to increase your marketing reach and to educate your audience. Being purposeful about your social media page means posting relevant content related to your purpose. The purpose is based on the type of physician specialty. A physician will not want to share a video of a dog swimming in a pool. It simply isn’t relevant. Now, a video of how to check your heart rate, however, is very relevant.   Post for your audience: As doctors, it’s very easy to get caught up in the scientific disease process and the research related to the treatment and care of said disease processes. The truth, however, is that our patients don’t understand this kind of talk. If we post research and blog posts that are written above their head, patients will not read them, and the goal of educating people will be a failure. Post to social media to educate and inform your target audience. Post content that is interesting and easily understood by the target audience and that is shareable. Be Unique: Unique content that isn’t found somewhere else is one really great way to engage and keep an audience. There are a lot of ways to be creative with content: video tutorials, helpful tips about products and diseases or even posts targeted to patients dealing with specific illnesses. The sky is the limit. The important thing to remember is that creativity is different; the audience likes fresh new content that can’t be found elsewhere.     The Don’ts:   Over-Sharing: This is a common mistake made by businesses on social media. Over-sharing can lead the audience to become annoyed and dislike or delete the business page. It’s not necessary to constantly post and re-share content. Once daily posting is sufficient for most physician practices. These can be scheduled in advance.   Getting Too Personal (Remember HIPAA): As mentioned already, it’s incredibly important to be discreet when it comes to posting content and responding to content on social media. Never post about specific patients, post images of patients or engage patients in conversation on social media.     Things to Remember:   Pictures and Videos: The phrase, “a picture is worth 1,000 words” is most definitely true when it comes to social media. Pictures and videos are very valuable as social media posts. They are more easily visible to users and are seen more quickly. It’s easier to scan through pictures than it is to read status updates and blogs. People relate to pictures.   Quality Content vs. Content Quantity: One of the most important aspects to remember about social media marketing is the concept of quality content vs. content quantity. On the web, the quality of the content matters far more than the quantity. It’s not about posting as much as possible. Rather, the emphasis is on the posting of high-quality content that is most helpful to the reader.   Social media marketing can be an incredibly useful tool and should be incorporated as a key component of every marketing plan. There are multiple outlets including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram. All of these sites present great opportunities for physician practices to engage their audience, share quality information, and create a larger following. It’s important that a social media policy be drafted to protect the interests of patients, staff and the practice as a whole. Ultimately, social media marketing is a cost effective and successful method of marketing your practice. - See more at:

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A Conversation About Pinterest And Healthcare Marketing

For healthcare marketers, Pinterest offers opportunities to promote companies, products, programs, services and wellness. This presentation profiles key featu…
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Facebook Can't Cure Breast Cancer, But Here's A Way It Might Help

Facebook Can't Cure Breast Cancer, But Here's A Way It Might Help | Social Media and Healthcare |

Posting on Facebook can't exactly cure cancer, but it might actually help. A recent study at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center measured the effects of online communication in breast cancer patients. The results, published in JAMA Oncology last week, show that for some women, sharing their experiences can actually help them feel more deliberate about their treatment decisions and more satisfied with their choices.

Of the women surveyed, 41% said that they communicated online at least sometimes, including texting and emailing as well as Facebook, Twitter, etc. — the mean age of these patients was 61.9, after all, so they probably weren't the most active Snapchatters. Usage was much more common among younger, more educated, and white patients than in patients of color and older women.

"Email and texting were primarily to let people know they had been diagnosed," Lauren P. Wallner, an assistant professor of medicine at the UM and the study's lead author, said in a press release. "They tended to use social media sites and web-based support groups to interact about treatment options and physician recommendations. Women also reported using all of these outlets to deal with the negative emotions and stress around their breast cancer diagnosis. They're using these communications to cope."

The women who said they frequently communicated in this way reported more positive feelings about their treatment decisions. Sharing literally made them feel better (though not necessarily physically). That's not to say doctors should be prescribing Instagram accounts to their patients just yet.

"We don't know a lot about the type of information women are finding online," Wallner said, we can only assume alluding to the way social media can be as much a source of unscientifically based anecdotes as of real facts. "What are they sharing and what is the quality of that information? We need to understand that before we can really harness the potential of social media to better support patients through their cancer treatment and care."

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Maximizing Potential With Social Media

Maximizing Potential With Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

As the use of social media continues to grow in leaps and bounds, physicians are increasingly trying to find ways to maximize its potential to improve healthcare delivery. “Social media can be an important means for medical practices to raise awareness about healthcare and to further educate and engage patients,” says Stephen R. McCallister, CPEHR, CPHIT. “The average person has more than 200 friends on Facebook, for example. Those connections can mean a lot for practices to gain exposure in the community.”


Considering Risks

Despite its potential benefits, history has shown that use of social media to influence healthcare can go wrong in some instances. “There are cases in which social media use has led to HIPAA violations by staff who do not fully understand the inherent lack of privacy in posts,” explains McCallister. “Considering the risks, physician practices often utilize a ‘defensive policy’ in which they restrict staff use of social media.” The thought behind this rationale is what is not said cannot hurt you.


Helpful Strategies

Rather than fall victim to defensive policies on social media, McCallister advices physician practices to seek a balance to protect patient privacy and discourage public relations mistakes. Such a balance also requires knowing your staff and making efforts to show pride in the healthcare institution’s work. McCallister says that designing a good social media policy can lead to a more positive experience for physicians and their patients.

According to McCallister, physician practices should keep things simple when developing social media policies. “It’s important to develop policies that are direct and to the point,” he says. “Practices should determine how they value social media while maintaining compliance with HIPAA laws and regulations. Ideally, social media can enhance the professional image of practices and help ensure that the workplace is both productive and focused.”

In addition, practices are recommended to avoid being too specific with social media policies because the technology is constantly evolving. Policies will likely need to be revisited frequently in order to ensure that they do not become obsolete.


Use Available Resources

Several professional groups and organizations throughout the United States have developed easily adaptable policies for social media use that are available online. One such group, Social Media Governance, provides a comprehensive database of such policies from the professional sector, including healthcare, at McCallister adds that the American Medical the Association and National Council of State Boards of Nursing also provide valuable resources for physicians and nurses. “These resources can be an important asset when developing, integrating, and reevaluating social media policies,” says McCallister.

According to McCallister, an important overriding goal when developing a policy for social media should be to consider the positives and negatives of using these platforms. “Even in small practice settings, you can reach thousands of people with positive messages if the right policy is in place,” he says.

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How is social media helping to inform patient choice?

Social media is fundamentally changing the PR and marketing industry, and the healthcare sector is no exception. From Facebook and Twitter pages to blogs, YouTube videos and Snapchats, these channels give healthcare organisations the opportunity to influence patients in their pursuit of healthcare. There’s even a social network dedicated to health that allows patients to seek support and advice from hundreds of health communities. Healthcare has got social. 

With easy access to vast amounts of healthcare information, the patient-doctor dynamic is changing and patients are now much more informed about conditions and treatment options. With hashtags categorising conversations within social media, be it #Diabetes or#BreastCancer, patients can discuss specific conditions, in real time, accessing information from other patients and any engaged clinicians. The information patients find does have a significant impact: a survey by Adweek found that for more than 40% of consumers’ information found via social media affects the way they deal with their health.

Listen to what patients are saying

Social media allows clinician and practices the opportunity to ‘listen in’ on these conversations and many of these online communities will provide the perfect targets for information from private practices. What’s more, group members will also be more likely to take recommendations from other group members and online friends, particularly younger people. In one recent survey by Search Engine Watch, 90% of respondents from 18 to 24 years of age said they would trust medical information shared by others on their social media networks. If someone in a group or forum says good things about a private practice, other potential patients may hear about it and follow up on the recommendation.

Patient using Twitter to find recommendations for an Orthopaedic Surgeon in London.

Healthcare information on the internet can be inaccurate, so by engaging with thoughtful and intelligent content, clinicians can establish themselves as experts on certain topics. When searching for a private practice, potential patients are much more likely to choose one they see as specialist, unless of course you decide to post videos of your surgery all over snapchat.

Build brand loyalty

Social media also offers a great opportunity to develop the ‘brand’ of a private practice. Sharing success stories and news can help to engage patients and encourage loyalty. Private practices can use social media channels to gauge how satisfied patients are and any complaints can be addressed immediately. Even though specific details should be kept private, practices can respond in public with an apology and remedy so that others can see action is being taken.

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7 Social Media Dos and Don’ts for Healthcare Providers

7 Social Media Dos and Don’ts for Healthcare Providers | Social Media and Healthcare |

As a physician, nurse, or other healthcare provider, you must be always “on.” Your patients need answers and a lot of time you must think on your feet, respond quickly to situations and look for solutions. As we continue to grow as a global society, the needs of patients will only grow too. Especially when it comes to having access to practitioners and the medical information they possess. Most research about possible conditions or practices begins online these days, so it would make sense for your practice to join social media or one of the numerous healthcare websites. And for the most part, it is a great idea to reach your patients where they are online; however, it is vital to do your research beforehand to avoid costly mistakes. If you are making the move to creating an online community, find out where your patients are and follow these dos or don’ts for success.

7 Dos and Don’ts for Healthcare Providers’ Social Media

  1. Do
    Post and Share Quality Information
    —Your social media presence is the face of your practice to the world. Make sure that you post verified and accurate content. Gaining and keeping the trust of your followers and fans, who are also patients and colleagues is of the utmost importance.
  2. Do Train Staff—If you will be having anyone other than yourself post on your page, train them to avoid HIPAA violations. This meanshaving a HIPAA policy in place and reminding staff that they cannot comment on patients or the office either on the professional page or even on their own personal page.
  3. Don’t Give Advice—If you receive any questions about conditions or care, encourage the commenter to call the office for advice. Do not offer any advice online.
  4. Do Post Regularly—The best way to remember to post consistently is to set up a writing calendar. If you are not able to post regularly, train a staff member to handle the pages. Keep in mind that regular postings foster good relationships between the page and your fans and it also keeps your page high in the search rankings.
  5. Do Have Fun—Just because your page is about a serious medical practice, it doesn’t mean that you can’t have fun with it. Interact with your fans in a conversational manner and share light-hearted, trusted information.
  6. Don’t Friend Your Patients—If you have a personal Facebook page, it is a good idea to never friend your patients, unless you want them to see everything you post. Keep it strictly professional and encourage them to like the business page to keep tabs on what’s happening with the practice.
  7. Do Complete Your Profile—Fill out the About section on your company and include the credentials of you and your staff. Make sure that information shared is correct across all pages.


By using social media wisely, you can set your practice apart from the hundreds of others out there. A great online presence can mean referral after referral from your fans and followers. Remember to play it safe and professional and you shouldn’t have any problems.

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How to effectively engage patients on social media

How to effectively engage patients on social media | Social Media and Healthcare |

By now, most hospitals know they should be on social media, but they still struggle to understand where the value lies for them.

Consider this: More than 40% of consumers say that information found via social media affects the way they deal with their health. Social media offers hospitals the opportunity to impact health outcomes on a large scale.

That kind of impact requires more than just liking or retweeting. Share original content as a way to start and guide the online health conversation with your patients. If you’re strategic about it, you can communicate with them on social media with relatively little effort and use it to build trusting relationships with them.

Once you’ve decided to engage patients on social media, think about what you want to share with them and then do it regularly:

  • Share health content that’s meaningful and relevantPatients can find health content anywhere—and they do. 72% of internet users search for health information online, where they often find unreliable resources. What they don’t often find is content that is meaningful and relevant to them. Your content should give patients the tools they need to support a healthy lifestyle, while establishing your hospital as their trusted source of health information, inside your four walls and outside—online.
  • Consider sourcing reliable content from outside your organizationSure, you could try writing your own content. But generating enough quality healthcare content for social media is a full-time job. Chances are you don’t have the time to add that to your list of responsibilities. Some nonprofits offer a handful of free posts to promote events like national health-related holidays. Keep in mind, though, that these often promote the nonprofit at the same time, so posts like these won’t do much to build your hospital’s brand.You can also license ready-to-go, evidence-based healthcare content that you can post on Facebook, Twitter or other channels. Adding this kind of content to your social media mix is a helpful way to augment marketing-oriented posts that promote your hospital’s events, awards, etc. And because this content comes directly from your hospital, it helps to establish your team of healthcare providers as thought leaders.
  • Keep Your Health Messages ConsistentWhat do you want to teach your patients about or get them to do? Stick with specific themes and topics. Maybe you need to remind them to check in with their PCPs, or to check out a new practice at your hospital. Or perhaps you want to impact population health by sharing the risk factors for heart disease and how to avoid them. Whatever the health concern, social media is an effective tool for behavior change—but only when your message is consistent across all social media platforms.

Adding social media helps round out the ways you communicate with patients into a solid digital healthcare communications strategy. But don’t think you have to go it alone. Enlisting the help of digital health tools makes engaging patients on social media efficient and effective.

Photo Credit: Big Stock  

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How Your Healthcare Practice Can Reach Patients Online

How Your Healthcare Practice Can Reach Patients Online | Social Media and Healthcare |

Want to bring new patients to your healthcare practice? You’d better have an online presence. Consumers expect to be able to do just about everything online, and that includes looking up health-related information and making medical appointments.

One of the most important components to consider when reaching new patients online is having a website full of patient-friendly information. In addition to building up your website, it can be valuable to engage with potential patients on the social media networks and review sites they’re most likely to frequent.

Need more tips to get started? Below are five ways your healthcare practice can gain new patients online.

Optimized Health Practice Websites

According to a recent Pew Research Centerreport on U.S. smartphone use, 68% of respondents have used a mobile device to search for information about a health condition. Because of this trend, mobile design is an important component to acquiring new patients online. Responsive Web Design (RWD) is a web development process that allows patients to view your medical practice site across desktop, tablet, and mobile devices without lag or disruptive design elements. This approach will enable your medical practice to provide a rich site experience and empower patients with quality information about symptoms and health conditions when they need it most. Another benefit of having responsive web design is that users will be easily able to access one of the most important components of your site: the contact form. Optimized contact forms should be quick to fill out and should only request essential information needed to follow up with the patient.

Health Content

Google reports that around 1% of all search queries they receive are about health symptoms. Searching for illness indicators to self-diagnose is all part of the digital patient journey. However, one of the biggest challenges for some healthcare practices is providing easy-to-understand health information to prospective patients. An easy way to draft and implement content for your medical practice site is by focusing on common health conditions first and then moving upwards into more complex illnesses. A content strategy for your site should include critical information about diagnostic methods, possible outcomes, and ways your medical practice can provide solutions. Having this type of search engine-optimized content will allow your medical practice to gain new patients who are seeking health-related information.

Quality Care through Online Services

A recent 2016 Physician Compensation Report found that most doctors spend around 13 to 16 minutes with each patient. With such limited time, your medical practice can face challenges meeting the new demands of quality care. An effective way to improve efficiency through your website is by enabling online users to submit documents such as patient questionnaires and other intake forms electronically. Adding this feature to your medical practice site can help speed patient wait times and improve overall satisfaction. Another way to improve the quality of care and gain new patients is to provide additional online support after the consultation. Website content about common procedures, chronic illnesses and medication guides can empower patients to make necessary recommendations, support adherence to treatments, and improve outcomes.

Social Media Engagement

Embrace social media and acquire new patients by building relationships and credibility. Many healthcare practices avoid using social media because of the liability of patient information and other legal considerations. However, it is possible to create protocols for social media communication that are compliant with all regulations and state laws. For a full list checklist on how to use social media for your healthcare practice, check out theForbes guide.

Online Reviews

Healthcare review sites such as ZocDoc andYelp are important to patient acquisition. In fact, a Software Advice survey found that 77% of patients use online reviews as their first step in finding a new doctor. Review sites can provide your practice with a wealth of information regarding patient experiences and overall satisfaction with the services provided by your practice. This valuable feedback can be used to make improvements in quality of care and present to prospective patients the key benefits of choosing your practice over others.

Considering technology use, search trends, and emerging services can help your healthcare practice get new patients and retain existing ones. Your website should serve as a portal with the most reliable and up-to-date health information. You can make that information accessible using proven and reliable web optimization strategies that connect new patients with your services.

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How to create a social media calendar for marketing your healthcare practice

How to create a social media calendar for marketing your healthcare practice | Social Media and Healthcare |
How to create a social media calendar for marketing your healthcare practicePosted on August 18, 2016 by Howard

When you run an active healthcare practice, it might seem impossible to keep up with the demands of an active social media slate at the same time. How do you generate enough new posts every week to remind the world of your work?

That’s where a social media calendar comes in. It can be a saving grace for a busy practice, helping to lay out a road map for months worth of content. Best of all, it can radically reduce the amount of time you spend on social media while radically raising its effectiveness. Below are a few tips for creating a social media calendar to help market your healthcare practice:

  • 1. Identify your networks. Quality matters more than quantity, so pick a few social media networks to really focus your attention on. Use a visual icon to identify each network on your calendar, and you’ll be able to see when you’ve over-posted or under-posted to one of them. Keep in mind that some networks demand more frequency than others; experts recommend posting at least five times a day on Twitter, while Facebook can thrive with as few as three posts a week.
  • 2. Create or mine your content. Decide on the content you want to post, and make a plan to get it! If you’re linking to a blog post on your website, make sure that your calendar includes a reminder to assign a writer to create that post in advance. If you have special events or deals to offer your patients, be sure to spread the word several times across your networks well in advance of the date. If you want to share images, be sure to assign a staff member as designer or photographer. And if you’re sharing health-related content from other sources, be sure to identify the system – such as Google Alerts – you’ll use to mine that content.
  • 3. Humanize your content calendar. Content comes not just from within your practice but from outside it, as well. Search for important healthcare dates, such as National Nurses Week, updates on MACRA, even staff birthdays, and put them on your calendar to be posted. Human touches light up your social media presence.
  • 4. Use your calendar as an analytics tool after the fact. Calendars aren’t just for looking forward! Mark what kinds of post generated the most views, interactions and shares, and use that information to design next month’s content and posting frequency.

With this detailed social media calendar saving you time and work, effective social media marketing is easier than you think. You’ll see the direct benefits when your online interactions help to bring new patients in the door.

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5 Reasons Doctors Should Google Themselves

5 Reasons Doctors Should Google Themselves | Social Media and Healthcare |

According to Pew Research, more than half of American adults have Googled their names at least once. People with more education and more income are more likely to Google themselves, but most people check their online reputation rarely. We don’t Google our clients regularly — we have alerts for reputation management — but we’ve had to Google a few doctors recently.

What we found made me want to recommend that you check how you look in the SERPsevery now and then.

You need to bear in mind that what you see is not what others see. Different people get different results, not only because people’s searches — the things they actually type in the search box — are different, but because Google takes into account your location, the things you’ve searched before, your social media connections, and so forth.

One doctor client recently found a mean comment about herself at an obscure blog. It showed up for her at the top of the page and was naturally very upsetting. We had to do a dozen searches before we could make it show up at all. That means that most people are not seeing that when they look for her name. We would not have known that comment was there if she hadn’t Googled herself and found it.

So that’s reason #1 to Google yourself.

You can find the negatives and deal with them.

For many medical professionals, healthcare grade sites like Healthgrades. com and are the top results on the search engine results pages. A Loyola University study found that the average rating at sites like these is based on just one or two reviews. And anyone who has looked at these sites knows that negative reviews are more often about support staff or billing than about the qualifications of the doctors.

But patients and prospective patients who Google a doctor’s name and see three stars at the top of the page are likely to feel less confident about that doctor. The same holds true for news stories.

Sometimes you can reach out to a website’s owner and ask that negative information be removed, especially if it isn’t accurate. Even if they won’t cooperate, though, you can fix the problem once you’re aware of it by pushing those items down the page. Your website and social media can and should take up the top spaces on the search engine results page and push those results down.

You can find the positives and promote them.

We were surprised when we saw negatives for the doctors we searched, but we were also surprised by some positives. The clients didn’t mention all the great stuff they’d done, and those small town newspaper reports or outdated newsletters were many pages into the search results. Once we found the information, we had the opportunity to promote it.

Those of us with long careers can’t be expected to keep our accomplishments in mind all the time, but Google can do it for you. If you Google your own name and get a result that makes you think, “Oh, right, that was a cool thing we did!”, then you can put that information somewhere prominent, like your own website.

You can correct information.

One thing that we often see when we Google a client is old information. Old phone numbers and addresses, profiles that say “for two years” instead of “since 2001,” and other now-false data lives on in listings all across the internet.

You need to get in there every now and then and correct that old information. Or have a company like Haden Interactive do it for you.

You can catch damaging images.

Images don’t affect search engine results very much… except in image search. One of our recent searches was for an image we could use for a blog post. A search for our client’s name brought up sultry shots of someone with the same name. Or they could perhaps be sultry shots of our client. We don’t want to know.

A professional photo or casual snaps that convey the professional image you want should be the first results. Those first few images often show up on the SERPs even if the searcher doesn’t click on “Images.”

Image search is a lot less precise than text search. Check out my name’s search results below:

The text is all me, but an actress who shares my name gets most of the image space. That’s reasonable, and it’s not a problem for me — but how would your patients feel if they saw these images and assumed they were yours?

Gideon’s SERPs show a lot more personal images. Nothing embarrassing — but do they convey the message a medical professional would want?

Most people are surprised by the images Google chooses for their name. If yours don’t communicate the message you want them to, it’s worth fixing.

Your patients Google you.

And that’s really the most important point. Doctors get looked up by name more than most professionals. You need to make sure that your practice or facility’s website comes up first when people look for you. You don’t know exactly what your patients see when they Google your name, but checking what you see on a few different computers can help you get an idea of how you’re showing up in the SERPs.

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Now May Be the Time for Pharma to Get Serious About Instagram

Now May Be the Time for Pharma to Get Serious About Instagram | Social Media and Healthcare |

Despite the fact that FDA recently cited Duchesnay for a violative Instagram Diclegis ad that featured celebrity Kim Kardashian (read "Kim Kardashian Instagram post draws FDA warning"), Instagram may be the social medium of choice of pharma marketers now that it has added a new feature.

Until now, I didn't think Instagram was good for pharma. While its demographics (see charts below) may skew too young for marketing most of the products pharma has to sell, it is a growing population. Plus, now that Instagram is owned by Facebook, the demographics -- especially among women (the best target for drug marketing) -- will likely shift to resemble FB's demographics.

Click on image for an enlarged view.

According to eMarketer, now that Instagram is open to all advertisers, by the end of 2016, 48.8% of marketers are expected to use the platform (read "Instagram Set to Rock the Social Media Marketing World").

Due to FDA regulations, the necessity to expend resources to monitor comments for adverse reactions (read "One (BIG) Reason Pharma Shouldn't Reconsider Instagram"), lack of expertise in measuring social media ROI, etc., pharma marketers have not given social media a warm reception no matter what the platform. But the new Instagram feature I just learned about, may make it more appealing to pharma marketers. Continue reading to see why I feel this way.

The new feature I am talking about is Instagram "Stories," which was launched on August 2, 2016 (see here).

Instagram’s Stories is somewhat similar to Snapchat’s. You can share multiple photos and videos to a specific story throughout the day, which are displayed in a slideshow format. You can add text, draw on them, and be creative with the content. The photos and videos usually disappear after 24 hours and won’t appear on your profile grid or in the feed. But the stories can also be permanent (see below). You can also easily hide your entire story from anyone you don’t want to see it, even if they follow you.

That last feature would be of interest to shady pharma marketers, like those hired by Duchesnay perhaps, who wish to post videos that violate FDA regulations and get away with it. But let's assume there are few of those types of pharma marketers left standing after FDA sent that letter to Duchesnay.

There are other features of Instagram Stories that will appeal to ethical pharma marketers. The chart below, taken from this SlideShare presentation, summaries a few:

Lastly, but most importantly, there are no public comments to worry about. If anyone wants to comment on something they see in a story, they can send a private message using Instagram Direct.

Private messages could be a basis for better patient support by pharma or they can just be ignored and no one would be the wiser (except the people who sen the messages). This, of course, is a big deal for pharma due to the fears I mentioned at the start of this post.

I'm not sure, but perhaps messaging can be shut off altogether, which would be an added bonus for pharma companies that lack the necessary FTEs to handle comments (this has been cited by pharma as one reason for abandoning social media efforts. Read, for example, "Janssen to Shut Down Psoriasis 360 FaceBook Page").

Patient stories are all the rage these days among pharma marketers (read, for example, "Patient Storytelling Marketing" and "Data gives credibility, storytelling provides truth in pharma"). Instagram Stories may just be the ideal social media platform for pharma to tell these stories.

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The 101 On Social Media for Dentists Looking to Reach New Patients - Blog

The 101 On Social Media for Dentists Looking to Reach New Patients - Blog | Social Media and Healthcare |
Social media for dentists shouldn’t be scary. It’s easy to make a place for your practice online.

So you manage a busy, yet somewhat small dental practice. It’s your responsibility to create and handle the social media for dentists in your office. In your most recent office meeting, reports showed that business is a bit stagnant, and the entire team decided that a sincere focus should be made on attracting and engaging with prospective customers on all social media platforms.

But where should you start?

Twitter for dentists

Twitter is a smart way to reach new prospects, especially if you plan your character count well and use location-specific hashtags.

Here are the simple facts on for utilizing Twitter: for each Tweet you share, you have 140 characters available for your message. In those characters, you can include searchable hashtags, such as #dentalhealth or #dentaltips. Hashtags also work in your favor when used in your bio section. Including location identifiers such as #BostonDentist or #LAEndodontist helps new patients find the practice, as long as other dentists are using those hashtags, too. You can find out by going to Twitter and searching for different hashtags.

So, what should you be sharing on this fast-moving network? Twitter is a great platform to share links to blog posts you’ve written or articles by dental insurance or product companies. We’ve also seen dentists include before and after cosmetic restorations, and many dentists use the hashtag #DentalTip to share useful information.



Facebook for dentists

With over 1.71 billion monthly users, you’re bound to find a handful of new patients on Facebook. By creating a Facebook page for your practice, you’re increasing your visibility to the people in your community.

Because Facebook allows for a much higher character count, there’s more space for storytelling. Use it! Facebook is ideal for sharing testimonials from current patients. While everyone else is sharing #ThrowBackThursday posts, you can post #TestimonialThursdays, featuring happy patients. They’ll see the posts, share them on their own networks, and their acquaintances in need of dental care will reach out to you.

Just don’t forget to share more content on other days of the week. Pictures, videos, blog posts, quotes, or even just questions to get your followers to engage are great options for nurturing your Facebook Page.

You can be funny, like this dentist:

Promote before and after images, like this dentist:

Umbie’s cloud-based Dental Practice Management Software helps dentists manage patients, organize dental records, and handle scheduling and billing all through one easy-to-use platform. Schedule a demo today. For more information on integrating Umbie DentalCare into your business strategy, call (855) 835-5424 or email

Or re-share testimonials like this dentist:

YouTube for dentists

With over a billion users, YouTube is another smart platform to exercise social media for dentists. Why? Well, not only is your video content available and searchable on YouTube, but it’s easily shared to any other social platform and can be embedding into blogs or in other areas of your website. According to Google, “searches related to ‘how to’ on YouTube are growing 70% year over year, and more than 100 million hours of how-to content have been watched in North America so far this year.”

So how can you leverage this momentum? First, create and upload videos of your practice and employees. Next, utilize your staff’s know-how and  film “how to” videos. The options are endless. People are wondering how to brush their toddler’s teeth and how to use a water flosser, among many other topics.

Be the expert.

And don’t stop at simply uploading the clips to YouTube. Once they’re there, share them with your followers on all social media channels, email newsletters, and especially on your own website.

Below is an example of a dentist who regularly posts answers to common questions that dental patients ask online.

And here is an example of a dentist who is using YouTube to publish testimonial videos:

Pinterest and Instagram for dentists

When it comes to teeth, seeing is believing, which is why Pinterest and Instagram can draw new patients into your office.

We could argue that anything you can take a picture of would work well on Pinterest and Instagram, and that’s true. Share pictures of your front office staff at work, your waiting room during busy and slow times, your hygienists in their offices, and your dentists interacting with patients.

However, here’s one way to prove you’re a great dentist in one social share: before-and-after pictures. Take one photo of your patient’s smile before their treatment – whether that be veneers or teeth whitening – and then a photo after you’ve completed your work. A collage of both pictures together speaks volumes, and can be sent out quickly.

One last thing: these tips on using social media for dentists will also help keep your current clientele engaged. Don’t forget to connect with your current and past patients, too.

Social media for dentists: Tips to consider before joining any platforms
  • Make yourself as accessible as you can be. It should be easy for patients and prospects to find you online. One way to do this is by using the same name across all social platforms. Don’t be “Jefferson Family Dental” on YouTube, but “Jefferson Dental” on Twitter.
  • Be as clear and upfront as possible. Make sure all relevant information is accessible and easy to find once someone has found you. That includes your location address, phone number, email, and office hours.
  • Keep your social media posts related to the dental industry. It’s one thing to share motivational quotes every once in a while with your followers, but it’s entirely different to post pictures of your most recent vacation. Be personable, but remember that this is not your personal page.

- See more at:

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The importance of social media for patients and families affected by congenital anomalies

The importance of social media for patients and families affected by congenital anomalies | Social Media and Healthcare |

We aimed to define characteristics and needs of Facebook users in relation to congenital anomalies.


Cross-sectional analysis of Facebook related to four congenital anomalies: anorectal malformation (ARM), congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), congenital heart disease (CHD) and hypospadias/epispadias (HS/ES). A keyword search was performed to identify relevant Groups/Pages. An anonymous survey was posted to obtain quantitative/qualitative data on users and their healthcare needs.


54 Groups and 24 Pages were identified (ARM: 10 Groups; CDH: 9 Groups, 7 Pages; CHD: 32 Groups, 17 Pages; HS/ES: 3 Groups), with 16,191 Group members and 48,766 Page likes. 868/1103 (79%) of respondents were parents. Male:female ratio was 1:10.9. 65% of the users were 26–40 years old. Common reasons for joining these Groups/Pages included: seeking support, education, making friends, and providing support to others. 932/1103 (84%) would like healthcare professionals (HCPs) to actively participate in their Group. 31% of the respondents felt that they did not receive enough support from their healthcare system. 97% of the respondents would like to join a Group linked to their primary hospital.


Facebook Groups/Pages related to congenital anomalies are highly populated and active. There is a need for HCPs and policy makers to better understand and participate in social media to support families and improve patient care.

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Social media use by patients raises ethical issues

Social media use by patients raises ethical issues | Social Media and Healthcare |
The growing use of online social media to get answers on medical issues raises ethical questions for doctors. It’s a new dimension in the ever expanding digital and online world where people look for information on e.g. their medical condition or try to find about about what symptoms they show might indicate.

Social media in particular can affect how patients interact with doctors and what type of care they expect. Dr. Chris Feudtner, director of medical ethics at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, together with some colleagues wrote about this development in an article about ethics in the journal Pediatrics.

"Clinicians should ask about what patients and families have read on the Internet, and then work through that information thoughtfully, as sometimes Internet information is not helpful and sometimes it is helpful," Feudtner elaborates in an e-mail reponse on Fox news questions. "Doing this takes time and effort, yet trust is built with time and effort."

Feudtner and his colleagues wrote about possible ethical issues by using a fictional case, blending elements of several recent real-life situations in order to explore the ethical challenges posed by patients' virtual lives. In this hypothetical case, the parents of a 10-year-old boy hospitalized with cancer started a blog. Doctors, nurses and other hospital staff were among the 1,000 subscribers to his blog. After a relapse the boys’ parents parents launched an online petition in order to get access to an experimental cancer treatment that was only available through clinical trials. No trials were accepting new patients. The petition drew 60,000 supporters in 48 hours, with news crews descending on the hospital.


This situation raises broader ethical issues about how treatment decisions should be made. One such issue is the fact that not everybody has the same access to social media or skill at using online communities to advocate for the care they want to receive, the article argues.

It is suggested in the article  that hospitals and other healthcare institutions have policies in place to handle situations when patients' social media posts go viral and take steps to respond proactively. Clinicians need to know they will be supported for providing appropriate care even when this clashes with what patients and families advocate for on social media.

According to Robert Macauley, medical director of clinical ethics at the University of Vermont Medical Center, the ficctional case is also a reminder that doctors need to work with patients to keep the lines of communication open. "More and more often, patients are not only exploring potential treatment options on the Internet, but using web-based resources for determining diagnosis and prognosis."
Especially when doctors know there's a lot of inaccurate information online, they should be pro-active about asking patients and families what they've learned from the web, so they can help dispel misperceptions and ensure that both physician and patient are starting with the same set of facts.

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Communication Crossroads: Managing Patient Interactions, Online Personas on Social Media

Communication Crossroads: Managing Patient Interactions, Online Personas on Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

It seems as though the negative stories always make the headlines: The humanitarian physician group sent to aid Haiti earthquake victims that posted not only patient photos on Facebook but also pictures of doctors drinking alcohol and brandishing soldiers’ firearms.1 Or there’s the story of the Redding, Calif.–based hospital accused of sharing a patient’s files with journalists and communicating via email about her treatment to hundreds of hospital workers.2


The pitfalls that can complicate the intersection of social media and patient privacy often come as no surprise when they arise, but digital communications, and social media sites in particular, also have made many positive contributions to the medical profession.

“Social media allows physicians to communicate with each other, to publicize items of interest, to solicit input from colleagues—even people that we don’t know—on a variety of topics,” says Brian Clay, MD, SFHM, interim chief medical informatics officer and associate program director of the internal medicine residency-training program at the University of California at San Diego.

But there is a dark side of social media, too, and some physicians have made significant missteps in social media use. Ryan Greysen, MD, MHS, FHM, assistant professor in the division of hospital medicine at theUniversity of California at San Francisco, has authored multiple studies on physician violations of online professionalism. In a report published in the March 2012 issue of JAMA, Dr. Greysen and co-authors note that 92% of the executive directors at state medical and osteopathic boards surveyed reported encountering at least one violation of online professionalism.3 Another report in the January 2013 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine co-authored by Dr. Greysen notes that 71% of state medical boards have investigated physicians for violations of professionalism online.4 The consequences of these errors in judgment can be dire: Should your employer come across it or a colleague report it, you could lose your position and even lose your license.

Professional Guidelines

To avoid these significant and potentially career-ending blunders, the American College of Physicians(ACP)—in conjunction with the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB)—published recommendations offering ethical guidance in preserving the patient-physician relationship in context of social media.5 Similarly, the American Medical Association (AMA) published an opinion on professionalism in the use of social media.6 Their guidelines can be summarized in five succinct points.

  • Maintain standards of professional ethics in online communications, including respect for patient privacy.

Katherine Chretien, MD, associate professor of medicine at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., a clinical associate professor in medicine at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md., and chief of the hospitalist section at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center also in Washington, D.C., warns physicians to use the utmost caution to maintain patient anonymity when publishing case stories online. When publishing clinical vignettes, physician blogs, and other forms of online media, all details that can identify a patient must be completely removed, including all forms of the date (references to “yesterday” or “last week,” for example, can identify the date). Check anything you intend to publish against the HIPPA list of 18 identifiers.7 (See “HIPPA Identifiers” below)

“The safest way to proceed when publishing patient narratives online is to get consent,” Dr. Chretien says. “If consent is not possible, as in cases of incidents that occurred several years ago, change the personal details, such as location, and clearly disclose that you have. Or make the example very general.” For example, instead of discussing how frustrated you became with a patient with asthma who you saw at a particular hospital in a certain year (a clear violation of patient privacy), paint the illustration in broad strokes. Dr. Chretien suggests you might phrase your observations in this way: “One of the frustrations I find when treating asthma patients is …”

It would also be wise to seek advice from colleagues before posting patient information, she notes.

  • Do not blur the boundaries between your professional and social spheres.

In a 2011 study, Gabriel Bosslet, MD, assistant professor of clinical medicine and associate director of the fellowship in pulmonary and critical care medicine at Indiana University–Purdue University at Indianapolis, noted that 34% of participating physicians reported receiving a Facebook friend request from a patient or patient’s family member. As Dr. Chretien points out, this is less of a problem for hospitalists than private-practice physicians because the relationship with patients is transitory. The AMA, as well as the ACP and FSMB, note that physicians should not “friend” patients, accept friend requests, or contact patients through social media. Physicians are advised to keep their public and professional online personas separate, even to the point of creating distinct online identities for their personal and professional lives.

  • Maintain professionalism in your online persona, and continually monitor your online image to ensure it reflects positively on yourself and the medical profession.

Some physicians fall into the trap of placing questionable postings on their personal pages, including posting content that can be inappropriate for public consumption or venting about patients and employers. Stories or incidents that medical professionals find intriguing or exciting may be disturbing to those outside their community, and medical humor can be offensive.

“[Physicians] assume [their social media page] is their personal space, so they can post whatever they want,” adds Dr. Chretien. “Part of their error is that they believe they are addressing a small group of close friends, but they forget that postings go out to the larger, peripheral audience of all Facebook friends and can often be accessed by the general public.” An ill-considered anecdote can damage not only your own reputation but also the overall perception of the profession. Physicians are always viewed in their professional role, even in social interactions.

  • Use email and other forms of electronic communication only in cases of an established physician-patient relationship and only with informed patient consent. Documentation of these communications should be kept in the patient’s medical record.

Any request a physician receives for medical advice through a social media site or email must be handled with caution. The ACP and FSMB state that email and text communications with established patients can be beneficial but should occur only after both parties discuss privacy risks, the appropriate types of information that will be exchanged electronically, and how long patients should expect to wait for a physician response. Patient preference should guide the use of electronic communication with physicians, especially text messaging, says Dr. Greysen.

  • Be aware that any postings on the Internet, because of its significant and unprecedented reach, can have future career ramifications. Consequently, physicians are advised to frequently monitor their online presence to control their image.

Dr. Greysen points out that presenting a positive image of physicians in the media is not a new challenge. “Physicians have been publishing books about their experiences for decades. But posting online without oversight, or in the moment without reflection, can be devastating to a physician’s career because the reach of the Internet is exponentially vaster than that of any printed material,” Dr. Greysen says.

Deliver Better Healthcare through Social Media

Perhaps one of the most dramatic ways in which social media is positively impacting healthcare is the FOAM movement, or free open access medical education. Jeanne Farnan, MD, associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago Department of Medicine and lead author of the ACP and FSMB social media position paper, points to the dynamic collection of resources and tools for ongoing medical education as well as the community that participates in openly sharing knowledge as examples. FOAM resources are predominantly social media based and include blogs, podcasts, tweets, online videos, graphics, web-based applications, text documents, and photographs, many of which are available by following the Twitter feed @FOAMed (see “FOAM Links” below). This FOAM community is dedicated to the belief that high-quality medical education resources and interactions should be free and accessible to all who care for patients and especially to those who educate future physicians.8

Social media also affords physicians the opportunity to be a force in public health policies. “There is an active group of physician and medical student social media users in the blogosphere and on Twitter who use their social media presence for activism, and this presence is intimately tied to how they see themselves as a medical professional,” Dr. Farnan says. “They blog and tweet about medical education issues and other public topics such as access to care and care disparity.”

Michelle Vangel, director of insight services with Cision, a Chicago-based public relations company specializing in social media communications, praises the power of social media for raising awareness of public health issues.

“In terms of public health, social media is valuable to better understand how health-related news resonates with the public,” Vangel says. “Two salient examples of major health crises reactions tracked on social media were the Ebola outbreak in Africa and the measles outbreak at Disneyland in California. At times, there was near hysteria over Ebola and vaccine debates, with misinformation spreading quickly. However, many hospitals and physicians tried to get ahead of the hysteria by providing concise, accurate information on different social media platforms, with Facebook often a popular channel to post information.”

Social media sites can also help by making emotional support available at disease-specific sites. These communities address the patient experience of the disease that goes beyond purely medical disease information. Vangel points to several online communities that “host pivotal conversations for patients,” she says. “There are Facebook community pages dedicated to a host of conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, and cystic fibrosis, where patients discuss the challenges of medication compliance, side effects, and even dissatisfaction with healthcare professionals. provides message boards about a wide array of topics for people trying to conceive, pregnant women with health conditions, and parents of babies with health issues. and the health and wellness boards at provide support to specific disease populations.”

Vangel encourages physicians to monitor online patient-support sites to better understand the difficulties patients experience while under treatment. These sites can also help physicians recognize and address the gaps in patient understanding about various diseases and explore programs geared toward the populations suffering from a wide range of conditions. TH

AchhiKhabre's comment, August 27, 3:24 AM
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Here's How Healthcare Can Use Social Media To Create Trust

Here's How Healthcare Can Use Social Media To Create Trust | Social Media and Healthcare |

Last year, I had a terrible toothache. However, due to many cavity fillings and braces in my childhood, my relationship with dentists wasnt the best. Unfortunately, after trying many home remedies that proved to be just temporary fixes, I realized that a trip to the dentist was necessary.

For two days, with the help of Google and social networks, I researched all the dental clinics around town in relation to tooth extraction. I found a clinic (and a dentist) that I thought I could possibly take a liking to. I took the risk and now I can proudly say that my relationship with dentists has definitely changed for the better.

The point of this story though wasnt to talk about a personal experience. Rather its to discuss how the dental clinic used their online presence to convince potential customers to visit.  

Finding them online

You can have a well-designed website, regular social media and great online reviews but none of that will matter if your (potential) customer base doesnt get to see them. Make sure youre visible in Google search for the keywords that you want to target. Tip: check which keywords your competitors are using and which relevant keywords are being searched for most. Those are probably your best bet!


Its pretty simple – people trust people. Now that users are on your website and social media pages, they want to know what your existing customers think about you and your services. Make sure to highlight these reviews. Also, rather than showcasing all the reviews that say I loved their serviceemphasize on those reviews that are recent and are insightful as to what made YOU stand out for your customers.

Visual content

Lastly, as a potential customer, I want to know whether I can trust you. Use your social media pages to showcase your relationship with your customers. The dental clinic I ended up going to has a relaxed and fun-filled look with a jukebox in the waiting area. Its social media pages were filled with pictures of their staff and patients having fun before and after procedures. And that—the personal side of the business—is what finally clinched the deal for me!

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Where Social Media Meets HIPAA

Where Social Media Meets HIPAA | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media, once all but verboten for healthcare professionals, is now recognized as a great tool for providing information, establishing expertise, educating and interacting with current and prospective patients, and establishing a brand — a particularly important function for anyone trying to grow a practice. But, as with any other use of social media in a professional realm, there’s a risk of making major and significant mistakes on a public stage.

For medical professionals in particular, social media advice goes beyond “Don’t post too many times in a day” (when do you have time anyway?), “Don’t make every post about self-promotion” (no one wants to hear you talk about yourself all the time), and “Know the difference between ‘it’s’ and ‘its’” (the first one is a contraction, the second one is a possessive). Medical professionals have to worry about HIPAA — and one careless Facebook post can accidentally reveal protected health information with the click of a mouse.

Five tips for avoiding privacy violations when using social media:

2010: An ER doctor in Rhode Island posts patient information on Facebook. She thinks that by leaving the patient’s name out, she’s made the patient unidentifiable. She’s wrong. Others in the community are able to identify the patient based on other information in the post, and the ER doctor is fired and fined $500 by the state medical board.

Don’t talk about patients.

Posting about cases is one thing — common or uncommon conditions, novel treatments, unexpected complications. But when you cross the line between the case and the actual patient, your chances of revealing privileged information skyrocket.

HIPAA lists 18 identifying features for PHI, one of which is essentially “any other identifying feature.” The information provided in your social media profile itself — names, locations, photos, dates — combined with even minimal information from the post could paint a surprisingly clear picture of PHI with minimal detective work.

Don’t friend current or former patients.

(And definitely keep your personal and professional social media accounts separate.) Social media is a casual and personal way of communicating, but it’s still crucial to maintain a certain amount of professional distance.

Remember that anything you post on a patient’s Facebook wall is visible to all of their friends; you might think that a particular story is funny, or that a particular message is innocuous, but it might not be the kind of thing your patient wants their friends to see.

Even if the patient is posting every minute detail about their treatment on their wall, you’re still beholden to privacy laws.

2013: An OB-GYN in Missouri complains on her personal Facebook wall about a chronically late patient who has shown up late for her induction. In comments, she clarifies that she has “put up with it” because of a prior stillbirth. Someone posts a screenshot of the doctor’s post on the hospital’s Facebook page. Hospital administrators determine that no patient privacy laws were broken, but the doctor does get a well-earned reprimand — and her Facebook wall gets a good combing-over to check for any other potential HIPAA violations.

Don’t post patient-related gossip.

Even if you think you’ve disguised their identity. If the patient in question could recognize themselves with the information provided in your post, that’s enough to leave it out. Venting and joking are best saved for the break room. If you wouldn’t say it in line at Starbucks, don’t say it on social media. New patients aren’t going to be attracted to the doctor who likes to gossip (or allows staff to gossip) about existing patients.

Look at photos carefully.

Is that a patient in the background of your office selfie? Is that a patient file under your artistically arranged plate of sushi at a working lunch? Scan your photos like a detective on a police procedural to make sure you haven’t unintentionally caught anything inappropriate or privileged.

Set an office social media policy, write it down, and make sure everyone stays up to date.

Resist the urge to hand your social media passwords to the youngest (and tech-savviest) person in the office to post for you. Make sure that everyone — of any age, in any position — knows to watch for possible violations before they post anything online.

The image you portray on social media might be the only image a prospective patient will see of you.

One more HIPAA-unrelated but essential piece of advice. Make sure that every post, share, retweet, and “like” conveys something about you and/or your practice that you want people to know. Be the person online that patients can expect — and will want — to meet when they come to office for the first time.

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Social Media, Healthcare, And The Need To Be Liked

Social Media, Healthcare, And The Need To Be Liked | Social Media and Healthcare |

I’m a chapter ahead of how most people read the world.

If life can be funny, the Internet is hilarious. In the last several years, The Internet has created an entire culture around the need to be liked, and to show others how liked you are.

ebay is an example where telling not telling someone that you liked their product can get you hate mail. When you purchase something, you have the opportunity to let others know that the vendor was very good and that you liked their product. I do not do that. I do not give someone a like simply for doing his or her job, but I do get emails pleading for my imprimatur of approval.

Uber is another good example of our need to instantly know that we are loved. That, however, is a service where I will rate the driver, in part because I know that for the drivers to keep their job, they have to maintain a high rating. I also do it because they designed their system such that I do not get my receipt emailed to me until I complete the rating.

Social media is the same way. Facebook has given way to groups like Instagram and Snapchat so people can get liked faster. Post a picture of what you ate for desert and everyone in your network will let you know what a good choice you made by sending you a like. People who don’t send you the instant gratification that you deserve run the risk of being defriended, or even worse, abused.

Healthcare has one example of how ridiculous collecting likes has become. While Epic does not have a place on its homepage for you to show your love, it does have a place on its Facebook page. If you search for Epic on Facebook, you will find that 5,987 people like it — or them, I’m not sure which. Lemmings drinking the Kool-Aid. People allowed to decide whom our next president will be.

(I was at HIMSS this year and I did not see a single person wearing a t-shirt with the words “I love my Epic” printed on it.)

Rumor has it that the current administration is considering issuing an executive order that will require people who use Facebook to like everything their friends post about themselves in order to improve everyone’s self-image.

I do not do instant gratification. Go ahead, abuse me.

If you are a fan of the movie Bambi, you may recall that Thumper’s mother told him, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” I think that same message applies to people and organizations that want you to tell you that you like them.  The thing is, they do not want to know that you do not like them. For example, on Epic’s Facebook page there is no thumbs-down icon for you to click, just a thumbs-up icon.

So here is why I am writing about our incessant need for gratification. A friend emailed me a link to a story about pediatrician offices in Lee County, Florida that were dropping patients because patients because the parents did not post superlative ratings. If Comcast dropped customers simply because people rated Comcast poorly, Comcast would not have any customers.

When I dislike a service I receive, I feel obligated to let someone know. If the provider of that service had the temerity to drop me as a customer, I would feel the moral imperative to let everybody know.

Physicians, especially pediatric physicians, may not understand just how involved it is to get their child to and from a doctor’s office. I posted this diagram recently that showed there are as many as 11 steps a parent must complete to take their child to the doctor.

Moms and dads are busy. And the least you can do after you have asked for their feedback is to not rub their faces in it by dropping them.

A bad experience is your problem, not theirs.

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