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 for Healthcare Providers

Social Media for Healthcare Providers | Social Media and Healthcare |

Here’s a question probably percolating in the marketing and communications department at your hospital system: Should we start a Snapchat account?

Wait. Stop. Back up.

While healthcare providers (and all organizations) should consider different social networks, assessing them as one-offs leads to a scattered strategy that never pulls together, and never delivers the impact you’re looking for. You spend your time and money chasing the latest shiny thing and inevitably waste a lot of effort zigzagging across the online landscape.

When people go online, they’re looking for health information. Maybe not every time, but it’s definitely one of the top topics people are searching for the internet; according to a Pew study, 80 percent of internet users have looked online for health-related information.

And that means healthcare providers have an opportunity to fill that void by creating and distributing patient-focused health and wellness content. In fact, it can be argued that healthcare providers’ mission requires them to educate the community and steer them away from that One Stupid Trick That Helps You Lose Weight.

It starts with creating high-quality content that helps people understand how to be healthier, and then quickly becomes about distributing that content. The key is to establish an agreed-upon understanding of your audience, get management buy-in, and then set clear goals for what you’re trying to accomplish. Once you know and document your marketing goals and have determined what types of content you want to create, you have to consider social media.

Through shared interests and history, social media brings people together in a place where they often feel more open to share and invite others into their lives. And that can include your hospital.

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Here’s what you should consider when forming your social media distribution strategy.

Which social networks are right for you?

Another way to ask this question is where is the audience you want to engage with? If they’re on Facebook and Google+ (word to the wise: They’re almost certainly not on Google+), then those are the social platforms you should prioritize. If you think you can make your mark with visual posts and women are a key target demographic, Pinterest might be the way to go.

If any marketing consultant ever starts a conversation by saying you have to be on Social Network X, ignore him. Kick him out of the room. You don’t have to be anywhere. And you certainly can’t be everywhere. Choose one or two social platforms to begin, and do everything you can to make those channels successful. Only then should you consider layering in additional social channels.

Organic distribution vs. paid distribution

There’s a bit of a false premise in this subheading: organic and paid distribution are not at war with each other; in fact, to have a significant impact you must do both. Social media algorithms have changed so that organic distribution (what your followers see in their newsfeed simply because they follow you) isn’t enough by itself. Consider that on Facebook, your organic reach is about two percent, which means that only two percent of your followers will see your posts, unless you pay to promote them.

Good news: It doesn’t have to cost a fortune. Spending a couple hundred bucks to boost an article can potentially put it in front of thousands and thousands of people. Of course, you can’t do this one time, so it is going to add up. But even a $2,000 to $3,000 monthly budget for paid social campaigns can make a significant positive impact. Think of it this way – it’s cheaper than that billboard, and far more targeted.

Better news: You can get very specific in your targeting. Looking to get your content in front of 35-year-old working moms in six specific zip codes? Piece of cake.

Which social media tools do you need?

There are dozens and dozens of tools that can help you run your social media program, and many of them are low cost or even free. Some of them look crazy cool, and it’s tempting to spend all your time trying out new tools to help you do your job. However, we find this to be a rabbit hole you can disappear down for months and months.

The primary functions you need tools for are social scheduling, social listening, and analytics. Some combination of Hootsuite, Buffer, Radian6, Sprinklr and Google Analytics should give you just about everything you need. There are a few other technologies you might want to explore, but this doesn’t need to be as complex as launching a rocket – keep it simple, and your team will thank you.

Which brings us to….

Who’s doing the work?

Odds are, you’re not going to suddenly get to hire a huge social media team. However, our best advice is to not try to make it part of everyone’s job – that typically ends up being no one’s job, and the initiative never gets traction.

And don’t automatically give it to the youngest person on the team because “the kids know social media;” you need to be strategic, so you likely need someone with some experience and context for the goals you’re trying to accomplish.

For starters, depending on the scope of what you’re trying to accomplish, you need one dedicated full-time person who’s charged with social. That means they’re coordinating with other parts of marketing, communications and public relations. That person is managing a paid social budget, and perhaps managing an agency relationship as well. The job should not be simply about scheduling tweets and seeing what happens. It needs to be both strategic and tactical, with the person implementing strategies to reach your goals.

Not so long ago, hospitals leaned on traditional tactics like advertising in newspapers, on radio and billboards. But that’s changing, as healthcare marketers realize they don’t have to rent those media companies’ audiences and can start to build their own instead. A smart approach to social media enables healthcare providers to educate their community, demonstrate that they care, and build trust.

And, ultimately, that is going to both drive patient visits and create a healthier community.


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How to successfully launch a rare disease drug in a patient-centric world

How to successfully launch a rare disease drug in a patient-centric world | Social Media and Healthcare |

While all drug launches are complex, launches of rare disease treatments are particularly so. Our experience suggests that companies that launch rare disease treatments must excel in four areas.

Patients affected by rare diseases often find there are no treatments for their condition. Of 7,000 known diseases in this category, 95 percent—referred to as orphan diseases—do not have a single FDA-approved drug treatment. Rare diseases by definition affect a small number of patients, and they historically have not attracted significant pharmaceutical investment.1

Recently, though, large pharmaceutical companies have begun to pay more attention to rare diseases, drawn by government incentives and the greater likelihood that treatments for what are often life-threatening or severely debilitating diseases will be successful for both pharmacos and for patients. The sidebar “Government incentives” describes some of the measures governments and regulators have introduced to encourage innovation in diseases with low prevalence2and high unmet need.


Government incentives


The effect has been that, in 2015, 45 novel rare disease therapies were approved by the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, significantly more than the average of 28 approved during each of the previous nine years.3With sales of orphan drugs forecasted to achieve compound annual growth of 10.5 percent a year4to account for 19 percent of worldwide prescription sales at a value of $176 billion by 2020, and with typically low commercialization costs, rare disease therapies are becoming increasingly attractive and are expected to further bring transformational patient benefits.

How pharmaceutical companies with new rare disease drugs launch their products will be crucial to their success, however. For while all drug launches are complex, launches of rare disease treatments are particularly so. Usually, when a large company introduces such a treatment, it is entering the relevant therapeutic area for the first time. It is therefore likely to lack both expertise in the disease and in-depth understanding of the health ecosystem and of patients’ experience of the disease. Because the condition is rare, the launch team will have few, if any, analogs from which to draw lessons. And because the company is likely to have bought the drug from a small biotech company at a late stage of development, it might allow too little time to prepare for its launch.

To be successful, the launch of a rare disease treatment needs a different approach from the standard launch framework. This paper explains why, and describes the hallmarks of success.

Four strategic pillars for a successful rare disease drug launch

Our experience suggests that companies that launch rare disease treatments successfully excel in four areas. They show great commitment to the rare disease community, whose support is key. They use innovative methods to identify patients who need treatment. They take a highly tactical approach to patient access. And they help patients and their caregivers navigate a healthcare system not usually geared to supporting those with rare diseases. These pillars might be in place for a few launch archetypes, such as specialized oncology drugs, but the level of commitment and the tactics and capabilities needed to launch a rare disease treatment are of a different order.

Commitment to the rare disease community

Many pharmaceutical companies underestimate how hard it is to generate the insights upon which the successful launch of a drug for a rare disease depends, when so few people suffer from the disease and so few other stakeholders are familiar with it. What is the patient’s experience from first noticing symptoms to diagnosis? How many and which types of physicians might they see in search of a treatment? How many treatment centers are there, and where?

This kind of knowledge of the patient ecosystem is crucial, as it will inform every aspect of the launch: the search for patients and prescribers, securing of market access, and ongoing support of patients who ultimately undergo treatment. Those companies that have successfully launched rare disease drugs have discovered the vital role that the rare disease community—patients and their families, advocacy groups, and a small number of therapeutic area experts (TAEs)—plays in generating these insights. In addition, it is this community that will help to build awareness of the disease, including among payors. Its members are therefore crucial partners in the launch of a drug, and pharmaceutical companies must be genuinely committed to them to meet their needs.

Launch teams need to invest significant time with patients and caregivers early in the launch process to understand their journey and the barriers they might face in accessing treatment. This in itself can be a sign of commitment, but more can be done. For example, setting up a social media platform can prove valuable to patients who are geographically scattered, enabling them to share experiences and creating a sense of solidarity. Such a site is also a channel for dispersing information about an upcoming launch.

Advocacy groups, on which patients often rely as their primary source of clinical information, are equally important partners. In the absence of market research, they can be engaged to help in the development of patient databases and surveys of patients’ needs, the design of clinical trials, and in finding and enrolling patients for those trials—a task that can be extremely challenging even if only a few dozen patients are required. In return, companies can show their commitment to advocacy groups by providing logistical support for fundraising and awareness-raising activities, or by financing studies that go beyond drug approval requirements—Phase IIIb and IV studies, ISTs, and outcome registries.

TAEs too are valuable, especially in building awareness of a disease. For many physicians, dedicating time and attention to a specific rare disease is a major career choice, and companies can back them, for instance, by involving them as investigators in clinical trials.

Companies will of course need the ability to piece together the various insights they glean in order to formulate a launch plan; there is no launch blueprint. Often, it falls to senior launch leaders to “join the dots,” and this will influence the skills to be embedded in the launch team.

Patient group identification

Identifying the largest possible patient group is a lengthy task. Beyond building relationships with diagnosed individuals, advocacy groups, and TAEs, how should pharmaceutical companies go about it?

Their approach will depend on the disease. For rare diseases with low diagnostic rates, companies can work with advocacy groups to distribute free diagnostic tests. In the case of Fabry’s disease, for example, Sanofi Genzyme partnered with the Muscular Dystrophy Association in the United States to supply laboratories and physicians with testing kits.5Other tactics include hosting events and mounting digital campaigns targeted at educating healthcare providers.

Companies need to learn how to use every piece of information that might help them to identify patients who experience many of the typical symptoms of the disease but have not been diagnosed. Sufferers of rare diseases might by definition leave no digital trace in the form of claims codes, but they do have a medical history. Algorithms can be devised to search for de-identified patients’ claims codes associated with a given disease. For instance, patients suffering from the genetic disorder Gaucher disease might experience fatigue, a distended abdomen, low appetite, bruising, and stunted growth, and hence have accumulated claims codes for splenomegaly, hepatomegaly, anemia, or thrombocytopenia. Armed with this statistical analysis, a company’s field force can focus its visits on physicians with the highest probability of having a patient with the specified rare disease (while those with a lower probability of having a patient suffering from it can be approached through less expensive digital channels). As more and more de-identified patient data is gathered, the algorithm can be refined and improved to target more physicians, more accurately.6

Patient access

Navigating patient access to rare disease therapies, key to the success of such drugs, is challenging because of their high cost. In addition to cultivating partnerships with advocacy groups and TAEs, there are three ways in which pharmaceutical companies can work to ensure patient access: by devising early access programs, minimizing the time between a patient’s diagnosis and treatment start, and helping to close potential funding gaps.

Devising early access programs to enable commercial use. These programs take various forms. “Experimental access” gives free access to study patients for two to three years prior to a treatment being granted approval in any given country. This can be extended to life even if no commercial access is granted. “Named patient access” offers early access for patients prior to a drug’s registration. And “humanitarian access” gives free access for patients in markets where a treatment is not commercially available, which will stop only if commercial access is granted.

Which countries to prioritize for early access will be shaped by the number of patients requiring treatment. But the likelihood of achieving sustainable patient access also counts, influenced by the regulatory system, the availability of alternative funding sources such as private donors, and a program’s potential to act as a catalyst to bring about reimbursed access for a broader patient population. Pharmaceutical companies’ distribution channels will also be a deciding factor. The particular characteristics of each country will determine which form of early access program is appropriate.

Minimizing the time between diagnosis and treatment start.Preparing the application for coverage of treatment fees can require a considerable effort from the patient, particularly in the United States and some emerging markets. Companies can assist patients with the paperwork and, if coverage is denied, with the follow-up process. In some countries, companies will have a department dedicated to giving this support.

Helping to close potential funding gaps. Patients’ access to rare disease therapies can be hindered by high treatment cost or the lack of specialized centers of care. To close funding gaps and facilitate specialized treatment centers’ setup and maintenance, companies might partner with third parties such as governments and private donors.

Patient and caregivers’ support

Once started on therapy, patients and their caregivers must be given sustained support to ensure adherence to the treatment. Among sufferers of rare diseases we have observed a particularly high rate of discontinuation as a result of both clinical and psychological factors.

There are several ways pharmaceutical companies can help enhance patient experience and avoid discontinuation. These include providing nursing services to educate patients on how to administer a drug and manage its side effects, and undertaking to update treating physicians on their patients’ condition. Along with social media groups designed to enable patients to exchange information and share concerns, most successful companies also set up help lines. In addition, they might offer educational resources for patients to learn about their disease and treatment.

A company can provide these support services internally or externally through advocacy groups or other third-party providers, depending on cost considerations and regulatory constraints (a direct interface with the patient is permitted in the United States but usually not in Europe, for example). We found that when permitted, providing these services internally allows for a more consistent patient and provider experience. It is important that companies monitor and refine support services continuously, as once a drug has been launched, much can be learned from patients’ experience of their treatment, including whether and why they might consider discontinuing it.

Operationalizing the rare disease treatment launch team

When it is clear what needs to be done, the question becomes how to deliver it. Much hinges on the launch team, the composition and deployment of which will be quite different from pharmaceutical companies’ standard model.

Embed a culture of cross-functional collaboration

An unusually high level of collaboration is required between members of a launch team for a rare disease treatment, for several reasons. First, there are only a small number of TAEs for most rare diseases—in some EU countries there might be only a handful. This means that if the medical, access, and commercial members of the team operate independently, they risk inundating TAEs with multiple approaches and conveying inconsistent messages. A thoughtful, coordinated strategy is required to identify and develop relationships with TAEs and advocacy groups. Cross-functional collaboration is equally important in order to join the dots between the pieces of information accrued by medical and commercial field representatives and thus to generate the patient ecosystem insights required to craft the launch strategy.

One way to achieve the required level of coordination is to put in place a centralized communication system that tracks team members’ interactions with the various stakeholders, all the various launch activities, and any key insights. Some companies enforce collaboration and coordination through appropriate incentives.

Another way to avoid a silo mentality and enforce collaboration is to make the team roles themselves cross-functional. Instead of appointing a conventional sales representative, for example, a “field entrepreneur” can be assigned to manage a given territory. He or she will develop and execute a multi-stakeholder plan that includes building and maintaining relationships with physicians and advocacy groups, engaging in discussions with local authorities and payors, and developing patient-finding algorithms. This position requires excellent strategic and commercial capabilities, knowledge of market access and public affairs, and scientific expertise.


Cross-functional roles support a successful launch


Similarly, conventional medical science liaisons can be replaced by “therapeutic area expert developers” who not only build and maintain relationships with TAEs and are able to respond to medical questions raised by prescribers, but also collect insights from the field that are shared with field entrepreneurs and other team members to shape the launch plan. Medical and strategic capabilities are therefore required. The sidebar “Cross-functional roles support a successful launch” describes the operational roles within a high-performing launch team for a rare disease drug.

Size launch teams accurately and deploy them early

As a rule, launch teams for rare disease drugs are smaller than those for more conventional treatments, and tend to be allocated fewer resources. Given the challenges associated with finding and supporting patients, developing insights, securing access, and generating real-world evidence, though, they arguably have more to accomplish. To use their resources as efficiently as possible, therefore, successful companies take great care in deciding the size of a team and how it is deployed.

Exactly how many people are needed will depend on certain factors in five areas: the disease, the regulation, the patient journey, the market access situation, and the competition level. For example, finding patients with a particular disease will require fewer resources if there is a straightforward genetic test for it that physicians can conduct. But more resources will be needed if diagnosis is harder and physicians need to be educated on how to make it. Likewise if a disease has especially strong side effects that require the implementation of a patient support program. In addition, the more treatment centers there are and the more decentralized they are, the bigger the launch team must be. In countries where early access programs are appropriate, dedicated medical capacity will be necessary early in the launch process.

What is certain is that the field entrepreneur for a rare disease will be responsible for a larger sales territory than the sales representative for a drug for a more prevalent disease. Typically, a field entrepreneur for a rare disease treatment in the United States is responsible for a sales territory worth between $25 million and $30 million. For a specialty drug (not for a rare disease), that figure is $5 million to $10 million.7In the biggest European countries—Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, and Italy—a launch team of between four and eight people with one or two field entrepreneurs is often sufficient to ensure a successful launch.

In respect of deployment, large pharmaceutical companies typically invest in building field capabilities for a standard drug launch between six and twelve months in advance at country level. Staffing for the launch of a rare disease treatment has to begin earlier, although not everyone has to start at the same time. The medical field force—that is, the therapeutic area expert developers in the cross-functional team—begin first, 15 to 18 months before launch, in order to engage with TAEs and advocacy groups and build awareness of the drug. Policy and access shapers usually start three months later to ensure they have enough time to engage with payors. The rare disease analytics and marketing experts kick off three months after that to generate detailed insights into the local patient ecosystem, while the field entrepreneurs can be deployed three to six months before the launch, just as sales representatives are for a standard launch.

In Europe, companies should take care not to duplicate the entire team in each country. Rather, resources should be shared unless specific, country-related activities need to be undertaken. Field entrepreneurs, for instance, are typically anchored at country level (and accounted for within the country P&L) in large and mid-sized EU affiliates, as they will need to engage with local stakeholders. But other launch roles that do not require specific country knowledge, such as an understanding of local regulation or local language skills, can be shared across countries, even when covering large and mid-sized countries. Small countries are mainly covered through regional hubs, whatever the role.

A further organizational best practice that helps reap economies of scale is the building of regional centers of excellence in areas such as market analytics and supply management. Their role is to build knowledge and share insights, and hence improve capabilities.

Excel at generating real-world evidence

Given the typically high price of a rare disease drug, companies often struggle to win rapid market access, particularly in Europe. Payors frequently wish to see evidence of a drug’s value beyond the data packages usually used to achieve market authorizations, often because of the low number of patients available for Phase III studies. Pharmaceutical companies which are successful at launching rare disease treatments therefore put significantly more resources into generating evidence in the real world for several years in order to strengthen the case they put to payors, often securing sustainable patient access in Europe within two or three years of European Medicines Agency approval.

The process for generating evidence is in principle straightforward. Companies first define the value of the treatment, decide what arguments are needed to support their definition of value, determine what data is needed to support the arguments, and design registry protocols, Phase IV studies, observational studies, and other vehicles to generate the data. To achieve this, an exacting level of operational excellence involving fluid and compliant collaboration between the medical, access, and commercial functions is needed.

Studies need to be devised with care if they are to yield high-quality data. Any failings in design might not become apparent for several years, especially if companies decide to delegate studies to contract research organizations. Many practicalities need to be taken into consideration to make the process work. Is the data input interface user-friendly? Are healthcare practitioners able to observe in real life the data the protocol is asking for? Are contracts with third parties structured so that incentives for high-quality data delivery across many years are aligned? And are the third parties charging a competitive rate?

Devising a launch for a rare disease treatment does not necessarily come easily even to a large, efficient pharmaceutical company, as it is likely to challenge the status quo with a new approach and processes in the cause of relatively small patient populations. Companies that have launched rare disease treatments successfully help others to understand where best practice lies. Companies aspiring to emulate this success and help solve hard medical problems for patients should scrutinize their capabilities, their highly tuned medical, access, and commercial operating models, their thinking on organizational structures, and their resource levels—and learn fast.

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It is critical for physicians to use their long-held trust wisely

It is critical for physicians to use their long-held trust wisely | Social Media and Healthcare |

During sports physical appointments, I routinely address preventive health topics that range from asking about alcohol, drugs, and sexuality, to addressing accident prevention and updating immunizations.  At one such appointment recently, a young male teen was due for two routine vaccines.  The mother accompanying him had no concerns about one of the vaccines, but expressed concern about the other. A friend had recently shared information on Facebook about how the particular vaccine contained “poisons.”  She was waiting for more friends to “weigh in” on the concern before she made a decision. I asked more about the information her friend had shared, but she hadn’t read it yet.  She allowed her son to receive just one vaccine that day.

I am always disappointed when parents choose not to vaccinate their children for whatever reason.  Vaccines save lives and prevent disease before it can occur, and one less vaccinated person may mean one more disease, with a life potentially changed.  This particular interaction, however, struck me because of how the Internet — especially social media — may be shaping how individuals make decisions, and influencing the very nature of trust.


“Trust” implies an implicit belief in the accuracy, reliability, and integrity of information. Trust typically does not happen overnight; rather, it is built with time and consistency. For example, the trust that develops in a close relationship builds over years and is the product of cumulative positive interactions. Or similarly, trust in an institution is established over years of positive and reliable experiences.  Sometimes trust occurs with a conscious decision, but more often it builds with experience and time.



The Internet is increasingly becoming a trustworthy institution: In general, it is reliable, consistent, and has not let us down.  While some worry about privacy and security, these concerns have not seemed to dampen the trust we place in this vast tool of the information age. For example, it has become commonplace to conduct financial transactions and to communicate confidential information online. Meanwhile, there seems to be an increasing reliance upon collective opinions expressed on the Internet.   Whether it is a product, an experience, or a professional service, online “reviews” matter.  Decisions are made based on a majority of “five-star” reviews versus a few lesser reviews.  This method of making decisions — of trusting — is spreading to virtually every corner of Internet life. Meanwhile, social media communities such as Facebook and Twitter make sharing personal information and opinions easy and routine.

The Internet is a powerful and amazing tool, and has fostered the exchange of ideas and information as never before.  It has been consistent, reliable, and has gained our trust, fostering a revolution of increased reliance on reviews and ratings to base our decisions.


I am concerned about this trend, however, and am worried that this level of trust has insidiously increased to unhealthy and potentially harmful levels as individuals lose track of the foundations of what should be trustworthy information when it comes to making health care decisions.  As is the case with any powerful tool, the Internet has its limits, and as a society, we need to be careful in how it is used. When a mother weighs a decision to vaccinate her child based on the majority opinion of her peers rather than years of scientific research, something has gone wrong.  Research has shown that a patient’s “vaccine confidence” is associated with such attributes as knowledge and trust. My patient chose to use her friends as her knowledge database, and trusted the information shared through social media to make her decision.

The physician-patient relationship has historically been one of trust:  Patients have trusted us that our knowledge and recommendations are accurate and that we have had our patients’ best health care interests in mind.

In today’s age, in which we may be witnessing a potential shift in reliance of who to turn to for information, it is critical for physicians to use our long-held trust wisely. We need to encourage our patients to be mindful of their reliance upon social media and how it may adversely influence their health care decisions.  Whether it is during conversations with patients in the exam room, in our communities, or within the realm of social media, it is time for doctors weigh in and promote trust in the scientific process.

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2017: The Year Of Patient-centric Creativity

2017: The Year Of Patient-centric Creativity | Social Media and Healthcare |

The healthcare sector has always lagged behind other sectors, especially when it comes to consumer centricity—mainly because of the tendency for healthcare marketers to want to educate around the features and benefits of their products instead of trying to connect with their end-customer, the patient. Over the past few years, many companies have resolved to focus on patient centricity as a guiding principle, though it has yet to be fully realized. That said, with the explosion of health tech and the advent of the tech-empowered patient, there’s a new sense of urgency. Now, finally, it’s all about the patient.  

The patient-centered sky is the limit.

We’re living in an unprecedented time in which we have the potential to truly shift how we care for patients. This patient-centered world is here to stay and will only continue to grow as tech continues to innovate in this sector. The future of personalized medicine is all about you. Whole-genome sequencing is here, empowering patients to identify and prevent health issues before they even happen. And with the humanization of health tech, we now have the ability to care for patients while lightening the burden of the caregiver. This is only the beginning of how we’ll   redefine prevention, treatment, and how we need to communicate.

This is an incredibly exciting time, and this brave new patient-centered world provides a unique creative platform from which to build.

How to create in a patient-centric world:

1. Empathy. Always walk in the shoes of the patient. Create ideas that focus on the patient’s feelings—because when you do, you connect with them on an emotional level. It’s visceral and can help you understand their health struggles. With virtual reality (VR), you can literally and figuratively feel what it’s like to be a patient with an ailment. Think of analog situations where you experience the lack of control on a bicycle to understand what it’s like to be a patient with multiple sclerosis. Or how social media is able to create an experience of random unwanted messages that mimics someone with Tourette’s syndrome. This is only the beginning of how to use empathy to connect with patients. Imagine a future world where there’s an empathy experience linked to every condition.

2. Authenticity. When you’re creating for patients, it’s best to be real and be human. Speak their language, be down to earth, be authentic. When you’re real with your content, you connect with patients; this, in turn, helps connect patients with other patients.

3. Humanize tech. Technology is cold, humans are warm. Making health tech more human offers the potential to make health gadgetries desirable in today’s households. One example is with the elderly who may be desperately trying to maintain their independence. This presents opportunities to provide technology that cares for them and also supports the caregiver—everything from reminding a patient to take their medication to making sure your mother isn’t lost to keeping someone company. The power that humanizing tech brings is meaningful and will only become more so in the future.

4. Put a face on compliance. Compliance continues to be a challenge with an ongoing need to create and think about in unique ways. Wearables have had relative penetration in health and apps have become standard practice, with the advent of pill plus programs. But there are so many new ways to think about compliance, like borrowing from today’s pop culture trend of using emojis to create a form of expression that behaves as a compliance tool. By playing and creating in spaces where patients already live, you have a greater chance of driving stickiness, which could lead to improved compliance and adherence to a medicine or health routine.

6. Create experiences. Remember that patients are consumers, too.When you create a brand experience, put the patient at the center, not the brand. (This is not earth-shattering news, but it’s not standard practice either.) Create experiences that touch and strike emotional chords with the patient. Create value-added services as key differentiators of your product, which will repeatedly demonstrate that you (as a brand) are there to support their health. If you do this with empathy, with an authentic voice, and through a highly engaging experience, you’ll surprise and delight your customer, the patient. Once a patient feels understood, they’ll acknowledge it, remember it, and likely become your advocate. It happens organically.

We’re living this now. But imagine the places we can go in 2017. It’s the Year of the Patient. Our industry can make a resolution to create on a whole new canvas—one that is truly personal and emotional, one that might not even exist yet. So think and create for the patient because they are the ones who will be intimately involved with your brand. Their needs will drive the demand for new and better ways to be treated and cared for. Here’s to a healthy New Year!

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Social Media for Marketing and Healthcare: Focus on Adverse Side Effects

Social Media for Marketing and Healthcare: Focus on Adverse Side Effects | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media users generate an immense volume of posts on a daily basis. By analyzing these posts marketers can get real-time information about the products, thus toppling their rivals. How can the required information be retrieved from hundreds of millions of social media posts? Natural language processing (NLP) is a way out as it can be used for a variety of purposes.

NLP tools can be applied to find out users’ opinion about a specific product or service. E.g., some researchers believe that these tools can predict movie’s performance prior to its production. The access to such information will give a politician a competitive advantage over his/her counterparts. In criminal investigations, when time really matters, the data squeezed from social media posts may be pivotal.

So, it is evident that the information that people share on social media is not limited to beautiful pictures, links to different websites and funny statuses. There is much more valuable information, and personal health issues are part of it. Social media posts may contain information about adverse effects (AEs) and thus play a vital role for newly approved drugs.

AEs and New Drugs

The process of drug approval requires much time. In the U.S., for instance, an experimental drug needs more than 10 years to make the journey from the laboratory to the market. The drug undergoes many tests, trials, and studies before it is launched. Still, some AEs may remain undiscovered due to various limitations of clinical trials.

Considering the fact that first six months after a new drug is released define its position among similar drugs, manufacturers continue working on products after their launch in an effort to detect new AEs and reduce or eliminate them.

They can obtain information about AEs from official authorities, but such reports are published few times a year, and the information may be outdated. Besides, the reports lack data from patients due to the voluntary nature of reporting. Drug manufacturers are the only ones who are obliged to inform officials about AEs. That is why many of them pour significant sums of money into post-marketing clinical trials and focus group studies.

AEs and Social Media

The study showed that 11% of social media users post comments, queries, or information about health or medical issues. People now join health-related social networks, such as PatientsLikeMe, to share their experience on a particular drug. Users of social media giants (e.g. Facebook and Twitter) also post such information. And researchers can obtain it with the help of linguistic tools. Let’s take a look at how NLP can be used to extract data on AEs from tweets.

AEs and Twitter

Twitter boasts 313 million monthly active users. People put hashtags in their tweets to draw other people’s attention. These hashtags may include names of specific products, manufacturers, regulatory agencies, medical conditions and diseases, medical communities, etc.

See examples of the tweets below:

Twitter is a valuable source for researchers. The relevant tweets can be collected by making use of Streaming and Search APIs. Twitter data can also be purchased from resellers, such as Gnip, Inc.

Searching for AEs on Twitter: Difficulties

Companies offering services for custom applications development (and linguistic tools, in particular) face some difficulties:

  • It may be difficult to separate a signal from the noise.
  • Misspelling is a common problem for many users. For instance, they can write Peroxicam instead of Piroxicam.
  • Many people use the lay vocabulary that does not correspond to official terms (see MedDRA).
  • There are many promotional tweets that should be found and removed.
  • One user may own several accounts where he/she may post similar tweets. So, retweets should also be considered.
  • Marketers and manufacturers will not be able to find out more details about AEs (e.g. their duration) posted in non-promotional tweets. They may try to find a user who tweeted to get in touch, but taking into account the reluctance of users to answer seem-to-be-spam messages their chances to get further details are low.
  • A single tweet about AEs may create a snowball effect by encouraging other users to share their experience in dealing with a specific drug. The AEs mentioned in these new tweets may have been already addressed by a manufacturer.
  • Cultural and contextual differences may occur, and researchers may need to address an experienced linguist to get assistance. But it should be noted that a portion of tweets with such differences is unlikely to be big enough to drastically affect the search results.
  • People can use different languages for their tweets. NLP tools mainly analyze texts written in English. So, many tweets mentioning a particular drug may remain untapped.

The Real Cost of Missed AEs

Approved in 2002, Essure by Bayer was marketed as a safe and effective permanent birth-control system. But in reality it ruined health of thousands of women who used it. The women discussed side effects they had for 14 years before their voices were noticed and FDA issued a warning.

They posted their complaints on many online sources: forums, Facebook groups and personal pages, Twitter pages, etc. Headaches or migraines, weight issues, insomnia, skin irritation, heartburn, hot flashes, metrorrhagia are only few of the most common complaints. Death cases and fetal deaths linked to Essure (303) were also cited. This would not have happened if the manufacturer and government paid more attention to social media posts.

Here are some tweets where women tell others about such effects:

At first, the women did not know about the frequency of medical issues they experienced, but then they brought their voices together and eventually became strong enough to be heard by official authorities. This story has not come to an end yet. Essure lawsuits and investigations continue.


We live in the era when social media websites have great power over our minds. With millions of users sharing their thoughts with each other, businesses are now intertwined with social media where they run their marketing campaigns.

These websites provide not only marketing, but also research opportunities for companies and individuals. Businesses can gain a competitive advantage by analyzing social media posts with the help of linguistic tools.

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82% of patients use social for research or support

82% of patients use social for research or support | Social Media and Healthcare |

Inspire ran a survey against their user base and collected over 10-thousand responses from patients with chronic conditions. The results show what "engaged patients" are doing, who certainly over-index for most of these activities, but still this report is fascinating and gets our highest recommendation. Below are some selected highlights but the whole report is worth a download.

82% of respondents use social media for research/support, up from 67% in 2015. Notice below that Google+ and Blogs have the highest personal-to-health usage (we wonder if respondents mistook Google+ for the search engine -Ed.):


Image modified from Inspire report

They don’t concentrate only on those, however:

Overall, patients use an average of 2 social media sites, while patients under 50 use an average of 3 social media sites.

When using social platforms, treatment information is far and away the most sought information:


Image modified from Inspire report

When looking at information sources we see that patients look for information on a regular basis. Once they find a good source they will return and will know that website or blog by name. They will continue to search for new information as well on regular basis.


Image modified from Inspire report

Other findings in the report:

  • 90% of patients use more than one information resource
  • 90% of patients think that some type of tools/materials would be helpful for people to use with their physician
  • 89% of patients ask about treatments at least once a year
  • 64% regularly go to doctor’s appointments prepared with notes and/or questions

Digital healthcare marketers owe it to themselves to download this report, every one of its 25 pages has new and interesting insights.

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Blog - The Do’s and Don’ts of Healthcare Social Media -

Blog - The Do’s and Don’ts of Healthcare Social Media - | Social Media and Healthcare |

Healthcare and social media go hand in hand. It’s essential for all modern businesses — but only if it has a purpose. Social media can help businesses to tap into personal and professional networks that encourage discussion and participation – which in turn can help spread key messages, and influence customers and decision makers.

Social media also helps to reach people when, where and how they want to receive information, which improves satisfaction and trust in the health messages delivered.

However, this isn’t just about sending out tweets to get followers or likes on Facebook. It is about building social capital through the story you want to tell, to the audiences you want to engage with. The more valuable your content the greater influence and impact you will have, through your social media channels.

Below are 10 tips to get the most out of social media:

1.Understand – Define your purpose and objective. Identify which social media platform is best suited for your business. Define your processes and guidelines for mitigating risk (e.g. how to respond to negative comments, pharmacovigilance etc.).

2.Connect – Follow others. Identify accounts with opinions you find interesting and think about how your connections reflect on you. Importantly, don’t feel you need to connect with everyone who follows you.

3.Voice – Outline your preferred approach (corporate-led vs individual-led). Set a tone that is appropriate for your social media platform as well as your corporate voice on other channels.

4.Plan – Create a content plan, which considers your agreed objectives. However, don’t share too much. The same industry guidelines apply on social media as they do on traditional channels.

5.Create – Have a point of view. Generate engaging content that is original and shows off your personality. Make sure your key messages remain clear and consistent.

6.Share - Be generous. Share content from others that will interest your followers. Add comments to demonstrate your point of view. 

7.Converse – Be brave. Join conversations that interest you. Participating in discussions online will provide a platform for you to share your point of view, and build relationships with key influencers. 

8.Time of day – Timings is everything. Find out when your followers are most active and post during those timeframes. 

9.Reply – Don’t ignore or delete negative comments. Reply to comments or messages in a timely manner and do not rely too heavily on automated responses. 

10.Evaluation – Pay attention to analytics. Benchmark against competitors and champions. Make sure your social media activity is achieving your desired objective.

Here's a video of with more information.

At Onyx Health, we have a wealth of experience of integrating social media into businesses and health communication campaigns – working with start-ups right through to established pharmaceutical, medical device and diagnostic companies.

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Social Media for Doctors: Connect with your Patients in the Digital Era

Social Media for Doctors: Connect with your Patients in the Digital Era | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media has become an integral part of people’s daily lives. So much so that professionals also use it to connect with clients. Social media for doctors has become even more essential. Not only for business, but also for fulfilling their mission.

With all the issues and concerns that can pop up, social media can be a minefield for doctors. It is important for them, and other health professionals, to have a strategy when using it. Read on to learn how you can develop such a strategy to use in your work.

What social media can do for doctors

Connect with patients and build patient-centered relationships

Nick Nydegger of medical marketing consultancy firm WhiteCoatDesigns notes that one-third of consumers now use social media for medical and health-related activities. Furthermore, around 45 percent say that social media sources have an effect on their decisions. Thus, your presence on the platform can help them a lot, as they will have a reliable source of information.

This presence can be used to further build patient-centered relationships, it can also be a way to check in on your client’s sentiment:

  Follow Annie Hatfield @HatfieldAnne

My doctor reports that my latest blood work is “enviably robust.” I think that probably means fat, but he's a nice man.

1:21 AM - 7 Jan 2017     184184 Retweets   422422 likes


Patients can be more willing to communicate with you on social media. This gives you the opportunity to get in touch with them outside of appointments, letting you monitor their progress better.

It can be used as cost-effective marketing

Whether it is from a business perspective, or from a professional standpoint, marketing your service is important to reach more people. Social media allows you to do just that without having to spend a lot.

  Follow kim @_KimHernandez

So my doctor walked into the room saying to her aide "look we have a new victim in the office"

I almost burst out laughing how great she is

2:02 AM - 6 Jan 2017     11 Retweet   44 likes


The testimonies and comments left by your patients on your social media profiles also help draw more people to avail of your services. Furthermore, social media engagement provides an easily trackable ROI you can use to gauge your success.

Social media can be used for the greater good

Doctors have the sworn mission to help save lives, and do no harm. This goes beyond treating patients directly and extends to helping the public be informed about health-related issues and getting them involved. And social media also plays a significant role in accomplishing that.

In fact, medical consultancy firm Power2Practice notes that more than 28 percent of health-related conversations on social media are about supporting particular causes. Being on social media, you can guide the public on how to better act on and contribute to the cause they are supporting.

Choose the right social media for doctors

With dozens of social media sites online, it might seem like a daunting task to try and visible on all of them. But you don’t need to be. All you need are the right ones and you can establish a significant presence on the platform.

Facebook for doctors

In most cases, you might already have a Facebook account for personal use. Don’t use this. Instead, spend the time to create a dedicated page for your service.
When creating your page, you have to make it look professional. For that, it should have the following.

A proper name: Unless you are already widely known in the field under a nickname, use your full name instead. If the page represents a clinic or a hospital, put the company name and the general location. Completed about section: Fill out all the required information in the About section. When writing your descriptions, be sure to include keywords you want to be associated with. Don’t forget to set a custom URL for the page for ease of search. Basic contact information: Your clinic’s address and phone number are the essentials here. Note that you can specify that the page is for a “Hospital/Clinic” and it will be indicated alongside your contact info. A good profile picture: While your clinic’s logo might be the most common recourse for a profile photo, you can add more personality to it by using a picture of yourself in uniform. Preferred target audience: Set the specific age, gender, location, and even interests of the audience you want to target. These will help increase the chances your page will appear in the news feed of that target audience.

All of these should suffice for a basic fan page for your practice. But you can still tweak it further with various options to make the page even more interesting.

Once you have the page up, the next question is what to put in it. Here, your biggest priority will definitely be work-related content. Talk about the various developments happening in your practice, such as new milestones or the latest services that you are offering.

Your content can also be used to directly engage your viewers into participating in specific advocacy campaigns. This is how the famous ALS ice bucket challenge got started in 2014.

You don’t have to be that grand, though. Even a small activity centered around the community you practice in can benefit a lot from getting your Facebook followers to rally around it. Be sure to have a compelling call to action to get them moving.

Twitter for doctors

At first glance, Twitter might not seem to be the right social media for doctors and is more for celebrities promoting to their fans. The key is knowing how to establish your presence on the site and engage your followers in real time.

Creating your account on Twitter follows pretty much the same the same pattern as in Facebook. You can be a bit more creative with your Twitter handle, though, and opt for an easier to recall nickname. Write a short, detailed description of your practice for your profile’s bio.

At this point, you might be wondering “What should I tweet?” For a start, tweet your own tips and reminders about the particular medical conditions you deal with. You can also post links to your Facebook posts, blog articles, or any related content you have. Building your practice by getting more retweetsshould be a constant goal. Here is one physician showing you:

View image on Twitter
  Follow Kevin Pho, M.D.   ✔@kevinmd

5 ways doctors don’t give patients what they really want ; via @kevinmd

7:35 PM - 5 Jan 2017     1010 Retweets   1515 likes


Being on Twitter isn’t just about spreading your own content. You also need to retweet content coming from others within your industry. This not only serves to increase your presence on Twitter, but also helps accomplish your mission of providing relevant health information to others.  

Another thing to keep in mind when it comes to Twitter is that to attract more followers, you also need to be a follower yourself. Follow experts in your practice, as well as those from related fields, to get info on the latest developments in your work. HealthWorks Collective gives a list of some of the most popular medical practitioners to follow on Twitter.

YouTube and video marketing for doctors

When it comes to video, YouTube provides you with an even bigger avenue for your video content. The site boasts more than a billion viewers each month looking for a variety of video content, including medical and health care-related ones.

Video documentaries about the various treatments your clinic offers are the most common content you could upload. When creating this kind of video, they should not end up looking like blatant commercials. They should appeal to a diverse audience and contain information that anyone can use.

“How to” videos are also popular. Post a video series on how to prevent the particular illnesses your practice deals with. Or you can provide helpful training for assisting patients, such as this one by the Singapore General Hospital.

You can also use YouTube to answer the questions asked by your patients. For this, you just need to write down the questions and answer them in front of the camera. While you would be directing the response to a specific person, your other viewers would still find the responses useful, especially for those having similar conditions.

Outside of promoting your practice, YouTube is also a great place to connect with other medical practitioners and expand your professional network. In fact, around 29 percent of health care professionals actually use the site for that purpose, even without making a video themselves. A focus ongetting YouTube subscribers should be important to you once you begin posting content.

LinkedIn for doctors

LinkedIn is specifically geared towards professionals, which means your profile here is rated higher than in other sites. This adds a lot of credibility to your online presence.

Creating your LinkedIn profile requires a bit more work than your other social media profiles. After all, it’s a site for professionals, thus you need the profile to be presentable. Your basic profiles should have these basic elements.

A good profile picture and headline: Use a professionally shot photo for your profile. As for your headline, it should be able to catch the attention of possible patients and connections. Use keywords to make it more searchable. A well-written summary: When writing your LinkedIn summary, have it in the first person, as if you are talking directly to the audience. Mention your specialization and other details you think will better present your practice. Skills and Experience: Detail all the jobs that you have held as a doctor, as well as the accomplishments for each. List at least five skills you have related to your field. Credentials: Honors and awards are useful in making your profile stand out from the rest, so write as many relevant ones possible.

Be sure that all of these elements are filled out correctly to make your profile as comprehensive as possible. Once you have all of them ready, try using our LinkedIn Followers service to help build this vital social media platform faster.

Specialist social media sites for doctors

There are a lot of sites which are specificaly social media for doctors, and you can take advantage of them. As these are geared towards medical professionals like you, they have features that are specifically designed for your practice. Take a closer look at:

Referred to as a “virtual doctor’s lounge”, Sermo is designed to help doctors connect with each other for collaborations. Medical professionals can also get in touch with each other in real time to get answers for their work-related question.

With more than 500,000 members, Doximity is second only to Sermo. The site aims to connect medical professionals with their colleagues, with it claiming that 60 percent of US physicians are currently members. Doximity also features a job board.

DailyRounds offers doctors a variety of tools that can be used to send information to their colleagues in the field. You will be able to upload and view medical case files and related videos. There is also an easily accessible drug database for consultation, as well as chat functionality.

QuantiaMD serves as a learning platform for medical professionals, letting them connect with experts in their respective fields. It also lets them collaborate much easier with their colleagues, offering connectivity on both personal computers and mobile devices.

Figure1 lets doctors share images of patient illnesses they are dealing with. They can then ask other physicians for help in identifying the particular case and getting opinions on how to best treat it. The site protects patient anonymity by automatically blurring out identifying marks.

Developing your social media strategy

One of the major challenges of social media for doctors is knowing how they can effectively use it not only for marketing their trade, but also for fulfilling their mission. This is where having a good social media strategy comes into play. When developing your social media strategy, there are several elements to take into account.

Connecting and engaging with your patients

The first key to successfully engaging your patients through social media is knowing which accounts are used for what purpose. Your Facebook page, for instance, could be used as for directly engaging your patients. On the other hand, your LinkedIn profile should strictly limited to work. This way, your accounts will be more organized and it will be easier to update them.

In most instances, your staff will be the ones handling the accounts for you while you attend business. Train them accordingly. Also, it would be a good idea to spread the work to several members of the team to ensure that every account is regularly updated. Make sure that updating the pages should not take a lot of time.

Educating patients and the wider public is another important aspect of social media engagement. There are a variety of ways in doing this, such as:

Disseminating your own work. Curating resource materials and sharing these to your audience. Directing them to experts who can provide more information. Promoting health literacy and influencing policy-making.

In all of these, thoroughly check the quality of information you are sharing with your audience on social media. This will ensure that they get only those truly beneficial for them. Youtube medical education channel Strong Medicine provides a more in-depth look at how social media helps in medical education.

Building your professional network

Expanding your professional network is not only for career purposes. Having more connections within your field and other areas also helps you deliver services to your patients.

When expanding your professional network on social media, you have to strike a balance between a strictly professional connection and less uptight interactions. This not only builds stronger relationships, but also increases the other party’s willingness to lend you a hand. Here is an example from Dr. Andrew Weil:

View image on Twitter
  Follow Andrew Weil, M.D.   ✔@DrWeil

Enjoying the Ancient Grains Bowl at the opening of the Chicago True Food Kitchen restaurant. #truefoodkitchen #truechicago

12:55 AM - 18 Nov 2016 · Chicago, IL     3333 Retweets   312312 likes


Also, note that it is not just about you. Become an integral link in others’ professional networks by helping them get in touch with your own connections. Sharing their work to those who might be in need of them and direct them to the source properly.

Social media ethics for doctors on social media

Ethics is one of the biggest issues surrounding social media for doctors. Patient confidentiality is a major concern here. To protect your patient’s privacy, the Medical Defence Union advises that doctor-patient communications regarding specific illnesses should not be done on publicly accessible social media sites like Facebook.

When posting about a particular case, either to inform the public about it or ask additional information on it from experts, be careful not to divulge too many details that could make the specific case identifiable. It would be best to ask permission from the patient first before publicly speaking about his or her condition.
Proper professional conduct should also always be observed when interacting with patients online. Some ways to maintain this are:

Directing patients to your official page, instead of using your personal account to engage them. Being aware of your language and demeanor. Avoiding conflict with people online. Properly identifying yourself as a doctor when posting online. Stating your affiliations and addressing any conflict of interest.

Finally, keep in mind that social media is not always the appropriate channel for tackling patient concerns. Social media should only be used for initial inquiries, with the more in-depth review of a patient’s case being conducted through proper consultation.

Doctors can use social media

As you have learned, there are many benefits in using social media for doctors. But, to make the most out of those, you need should know how to properly utilize the platform.

Know what social media sites to use. You don’t need to be in all of them, even being in just a handful can help build your presence. Have a well-planned social media strategy. This is not just about marketing your clinic or practice, but also being able to provide help to your patients and the public through the platform. A cross-platform strategy which integrates the most important social media sites will help you connect efficiently with a wide cross section of patients. Build your professional network. Social media provides you with the means to connect with experts in your field. This can be used not only to expand your career, but also provide even greater assistance to patients. Be aware of the ethical issues. These not only can affect your image online, but also your overall practice.

Follow all of these steps and you can establish a significant presence on social media. Your patients will gladly welcome to move, and integrate you even deeper into their lives.

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 WhatsApp with Social Media and Zika Research? :

 WhatsApp with Social Media and Zika Research? : | Social Media and Healthcare |

Whether you follow Twitter or Facebook or still read the newspaper, it is difficult to dispute that social media has a meaningful impact on everyone. One could argue that social media was the primary source of political information for many in the United States in the recent presidential election, influencing the tenor and even outcome of the race.


If the new role of social media in our political discourse is distressing, you may find it refreshing to hear that a tool that can be used to spread rumors and innuendo is now an agent in furthering medical research and patient care, especially in areas that need the most help — the battle against Zika virus.

A total of 28,723 cases of Zika infection were confirmed in the United States and its territories as of October 2016, and 2,027 pregnant women have tested positive for the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Infected mothers could give birth to babies with microcephaly, which could result in developmental delay and intellectual disability depending on the severity of the condition. Yet much remains unknown when it comes to this debilitating disease.

What we do know, however, is that Zika virus, transmitted by Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, was first identified in 1947 in a rhesus monkey in the Zika forest of Uganda. It was not until 1952 that the first cases of human infection were detected in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. Sporadic outbreaks were found mainly in the African continent and Southeast Asia. The largest outbreak to date was detected through public health screening in 2015 that found an increase in children born with microcephaly in Brazil. This outbreak, anticipated to affect more than a million people, prompted the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a Level 1 public health emergency in February 2016. (Arq Neuropsiquiatr 2016;74[3]:253.)

Like other members of the flavivirus family, such as dengue, the West Nile virus, yellow fever, and Japanese encephalitis, Zika virus infection manifests with acute fever, non-purulent conjunctivitis, headache, arthralgia, myalgia, asthenia, and a maculopapular rash, which resolves clinically after four to seven days. Most infections are asymptomatic. Clinically significant infections are treated with supportive care such as antihistamines for the rash while avoiding NSAIDs, which cause hemorrhagic complications in similar flavivirus infections. A commercially available vaccine is not yet available for Zika, but the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has begun human testing of one.


Zika's Neurologic Reach

The neurologic manifestations of Zika virus infection, including Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS), encephalitis, meningoencephalitis, paresthesia, facial paralysis, and myelitis, were first recognized in a 2013 outbreak on the islands of French Polynesia. A definitive link between Zika and these neurological symptoms could not be established at that time, however, because Zika infection was not demonstrated by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) amplification (the gold standard for detection) in most patients. It remains possible that some cases may have been caused by other viruses such as dengue or West Nile.

Basic research has now established a direct link between Zika infection and neurologic pathology. A mouse model of Zika infection has demonstrated that Zika destroys nerve tissue and damages the central nervous system, in part by inducing excessive immunopathology. (Arch Gesamte Virusforsch 1971;35[2]:183.) Zika virus also directly infects and replicates within neurons and astroglial cells, reducing their viability and halting developmental neurogenesis. (Brain 2016;139[Pt 8]:2122.)

Microcephaly, now the most feared consequence of prenatal Zika infection, is associated with many common viruses and rare genetic diseases. Zika can be detected in human amniotic fluid and fetal tissue, and recent data show a temporal association between microcephaly and outbreaks of Zika.

One small observational study of children whose mothers had PCR-confirmed Zika showed that microcephaly is a consequence of multiple brain injury mechanisms such as ventriculomegaly, and it pointed to microcephaly as part of a congenital Zika syndrome. (JAMA Neurol 2016 Oct 3 [Epub ahead of print].) The theorized correlation between Zika and microcephaly has now been directly replicated in mouse models demonstrating that Zika infection of pregnant mice leads to fetal brain infection and growth restriction. (Cell2016;166[5]:1247.)

Despite these recent advances in our understanding, many questions about the neurologic consequences of Zika infection remain unanswered. The role of Zika in GBS, which has also been associated with dengue and chikungunya, remains poorly studied. It remains unclear why Zika virus persists (up to several weeks after acute infection) in pregnant women longer than similar viruses.


Social Media against Zika

Research into the etiology, pathophysiology, and treatment of emerging viral pathogens and their consequent diseases is challenging in the regions where they are most devastating: the resource- and infrastructure-limited developing world. Organizations like the WHO and NIH are using systematic research tools and funding laboratory studies to improve our understanding of the neurologic sequella of Zika and other viruses, and innovative researchers are using social media to tackle these important questions in new and exciting ways. (N Engl J Med2016;374[16]:1506.)

Ferreira da Silva, et al., have harnessed the power of social media to identify new cases, review diagnostic data, and offer remote consultation to isolated patients in Brazil. (Neurology2016;87[15]:e180.) The RIO GBS-ZIKV Research Network utilizes WhatsApp, which allows end-to-end encryption and a confidential communication tool for their hospital network. Through WhatsApp, this group has identified a larger number of patients in the first three months of 2016 than all cases identified in 2013-14. Other forms of social media, such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, are being deployed to spread public service announcements that will curb infection rates, especially in pregnant women, and Google has partnered with the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund to map potential outbreaks.

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10 things for pharma marketers to know about Facebook and Instagram

10 things for pharma marketers to know about Facebook and Instagram | Social Media and Healthcare |

According to Facebook Health industry manager Danielle Salowski, it's the combination of reach, scale, and engagement that make Facebook and Instagram useful tools for healthcare marketers. Facebook reaches 1.7 billion people around the world per month; on mobile, it reaches more than one billion people every day. Similarly, there are 500 million people using Instagram every month and 300 million each day.

One in every five minutes on mobile is spent on either of the social media platforms, Salowski noted.“When you think about that in context, there's actually a Super Bowl happening every single day on mobile in the U.S.”

It goes without saying that marketers continue to fall over themselves to affiliate themselves with the Facebook juggernaut. There are four million active advertisers on Facebook and 500,000 on Instagram, with 98 of the company's top 100 advertisers using both platforms. While Salowski declined to share specific details about the presence of pharma and healthcare marketers, she said that opportunities for them are numerous, given the six million health-related groups on Facebook that together accommodate 70 million users.

See also: 8 ways for pharma to improve the way it uses Twitter

“We're getting there with pharma brands getting more comfortable on the [Facebook] platform,” Salowski added.

Established about a year ago, Facebook Health is the social-media giant's newest industry team, comprising a mix of experts from pharma, healthcare, and digital media. It is staffed by Facebook veterans across a range of markets, including New York, Washington D.C., and Menlo Park, California.

For pharma marketers hoping to more effectively reach audiences on Facebook and Instagram, Salowski offers the following ten tips from the Facebook health team.


Parents spend 1.3 times more time on Facebook mobile than those who are not parents.

Some drugmakers may think that Facebook is not relevant to their audience, but Salowski said that parents and users over 45 years old are actually quite active on the platform. According to the company's findings, parents spend 1.3 times more time on Facebook mobile than those who are not parents. In addition, Facebook found that 82% of its 45-plus audience said that modern technology allows them to connect with friends and family easily.

“We see new moms using groups a ton. When you think about that life stage, there are obviously lots of questions you have. You want to create a community to get answers,” Salowski explained. “We also see a lot of groups for caregivers. They have a loved one who's suffering from a certain condition and the groups become a way for them to vent.”


With a common advertising infrastructure, advertisers only need to create a single ad for Facebook and Instagram deployment. Photo credit: Franklin Heijnen/Creative Commons

As part of its effort to be marketer-friendly, Facebook has a common advertising infrastructure across all of the company's products. This means that advertisers only need to create a single ad for Facebook and Instagram deployment.

“All the technology, targeting, and measurements live in one portal, so it's really easy for advertisers to start using Facebook for mass global reach across variants and different products,” Salowski said.

Of course, advertisers with more flexibility can choose to tailor their ads to provide custom content for each platform.“For pharma, sometimes it can be so hard to just get that one asset approved, they may want to use that across both platforms,” Salowski continued. “What we want the brands to do is experiment, because there's not a one-size-fits-all.”


Since both Facebook and Instagram are feed-based products, all advertising is integrated in the user's feed. There are no pop-ups or interstitials.

“When you think back in the day, people used to have really personal relationships with their physician and pharmacist. We got a little away from that, but we believe that Facebook can help bring that back and help pharma reconnect with people one-on-one,” said Salowski.


At a basic level, Facebook can target users by age, gender, and device, but it can target by specific interests and locations as well. “We built an interest graph where we can target people based on things they're interested in, people they follow, and pages they like,” explained Salowski. “It's not just mass marketing being bought on television. Our targeting can get to the root of more about your patient than just age and gender.”


Building a branded page provides drugmakers with a vessel for their media content and allows them to leverage Facebook advertising's capabilities. At the same time, It can serve as a tool for drugmakers to drive business outcomes.

“Our goal is to work as a partner with [pharma companies] every step of the way and get from asset creation to talking about content strategy and helping them navigate med/legal review,” said Salowski. She points to Allergan's Facebook page for immunosuppressive agent Retasis as an example of a branded page done well.


AstraZeneca's Save Your Breath community for patients suffering from COPD has nearly 100,000 members.  

“We've seen some brands build unbranded communities off their Facebook pages that become safe places for people to come together and connect,” said Salowski. “It's more about the condition they're suffering from.It's never actually about the drug.” To that end, AstraZeneca's Save Your Breath community for patients suffering from COPD has nearly 100,000 members.  


Bayer was the first pharmaceutical company to test Facebook's scrolling ISI capability within the newsfeed. The drugmaker is using the ISI capability on an ad for its bluetooth-enabled auto-injector Betaconnect. The ad includes a click-to-call feature that directs users to Bayer's nurse call center.

While not a new ad product, Facebook's scrolling ISI allows advertisers to layer text on existing Facebook ad units. Drugmakers can stitch together a static or video ad with a scrolling video of all the text in the ISI.


Drugmakers have the option to disable comments on Facebook pages to avoid adverse event reporting. It's a change the company made with pharma in mind, Salowski noted.“There are clear ways to contact the brand that we feature. But if the user has a question or wants to connect with the company,  they can do that through the page.”


A video for GSK's meningitis campaign garnered more than 63,000 views and nearly 2,000 likes to date.

More than 100 million hours of video are watched on Facebook every day, and pharma advertisers who have brought their videos onto the platform have seen good results, said Salowski. In September, GlaxoSmithKline ran a campaign on Facebook to raise awareness of meningitis. One of its videos for the campaign garnered more than 63,000 views and nearly 2,000 likes to date.

Drugmakers such as Pfizer are also starting to experiment with Facebook's more immersive products such as Canvas, which combines text, links, images, and videos for a full-screen mobile advertising experience. “Canvas is a product where you can activate sight, sound, and motion to take over the entire screen,” said Facebook Health's Sachin Nanavati at Digital Pharma East in Philadelphia in October. “The average dwell time on Facebook Canvas ads is 31 seconds.”

And there's also Facebook Carousel, which allows users to scroll across several images and integrate video. “It's a good opportunity to tell a story on mobile,” said Nanavati.

"Canvas and Carousel ads are appealing because of the opportunity that additional screen space provides to display the appropriate balance of information related to our medicines and their ability to engage and inform consumers in an interactive way," said Julie Thaler, Pfizer's director of digital strategy and data innovation, in a statement. 


There are two different purposes for each platform, said Salowski. Facebook is about content discovery, while Instagram is a platform for inspiration.

“When I go on Instagram, I'm following fashion designers, beauty artists, and fitness stars – those are the people who inspire me in my life,” she explained. “You're going to Facebook to seek information. You might want news or you might want to see what your friends are up to. When you think about that from a brand perspective, brands can have it all on both, especially if you're demanding mobile first.”

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10 Online Tools Everyone Physician Should Be Using

10 Online Tools Everyone Physician Should Be Using | Social Media and Healthcare |

As a busy healthcare provider, it’s important to stay organized. You probably already know that painfully well. The question is how?

If you haven’t already checked out the wide variety of online tools available for physicians, now is the time! We’ve gathered up a list of the top tools here so you can start off 2017 with a clean slate.

Beyond investing in a cloud-based practice management software, these online tools can help you stay connected with the medical community, stay tuned-in to latest research updates, or manage your online reputation.


Over half a million healthcare professionals have already joined this social media platform made exclusively for the medical community. Create an account to stay connected with colleagues, get the latest medical news updates, and even earn CME’s from reading journal articles.


Feedly is a handy RSS feed aggregator that lets you see all your blog and publications subscriptions in one place.

Say you want to keep up with latest news from the AMA, NPR health, and NIH? Just create a Feedly account, add your favorite sites and voila — your personal news stream is ready and waiting. They have a great mobile app too!


If you want to focus on building a better online reputation in 2017, Mention is a helpful tool to check out. Mention lets you monitor what people are saying about you, online and across social media. It helps you play up the good and quickly address any negative comments.


Want to get a notification anytime your name or practice is mentioned in the news? Looking for an email update of new findings specific to your field or a certain medical condition? Google Alerts lets you set up a no-brainer email or RSS alert based on specific keywords you’re interested in.

You can choose to get a daily or weekly digest sent to you automatically with whatever you’re interested in. Similar to Mention, it’s another great way to monitor what people are saying about your practice!


Looking for help navigating recent reform to the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA)? The AMA has put together a new Payment Model Evaluator assessment to help you see where your practice stands under MACRA.


Looking for one online, completely secure place to save all your documents online and share with your team when needed? and Dropbox both have business plans that offer PHI-compliant ways to store files online, in an easily accessible place.


Handle all your business expenses in one place and streamline your taxes for the coming year.


Looking to grow your practice’s social media presence this coming year? Hootsuite and Buffer are both very affordable tools that help you monitor all your social media activity in one place, respond to comments, post updates, and more.


If you don’t already have a solid practice website — now’s the time to get one! Sign up with a user-friendly platform like WordPress, which comes with loads of tutorials, a helpful user community, and free design templates.

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Smartphones Move from Social Media to Social Medicine

Smartphones Move from Social Media to Social Medicine | Social Media and Healthcare |

Cellphones have evolved from a luxury to a necessity in the past 20 years, and now smartphones are making those same inroads (as of September 2012, 45 percent of American adults owned a smartphone, according to research by the Pew Internet Project). With the added versatility and “brain power” supplied by these enhanced phones, as well as their superior imaging capabilities and bright, efficient light sources, their use in the field of medicine, perhaps more than any other application, has the power to improve our day-to-day existence.

A number of research groups throughout the world are developing, or have already developed, ways for mobile phones to be used as microscopy tools, something particularly useful in remote locations without access to such diagnostic systems.

Mobile phone microscopy layout schematic, prototype and sample images of the CellScope created at UC Berkeley. (a) Mobile phone microscopy optical layout for fluorescence imaging. The same apparatus was used for bright-field imaging, with the filters and LED removed. Components required only for fluorescence imaging are indicated. Not to scale. (b) A current prototype, with filters and LED installed, capable of fluorescence imaging. The objective is not visible because it is contained within the optical tubing, and the sample is mounted adjacent to the metallic focusing knob. (c) Bright-field image of 6-µm fluorescent beads. (d) Fluorescent images of beads shown in (c). The field of view projected onto the camera phone CMOS is outlined. Scale bars are 10 µm. Courtesy of “Mobile Phone Based Clinical Microscopy for Global Health Applications,” PLOS ONE, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0006320.g001.

Here are just a few of the up-and-coming applications of smartphones in diagnostics that promise to improve life:

The Camera Culture research group at MIT’s Media Lab has created NETRA (Near-Eye Tool for Refractive Assessment), a quick, simple and inexpensive way to determine your own glasses prescription, without the need for a trained professional. The device measures refractive errors of the eye – something that affects as many as 2 billion people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization – such as nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism and age-related vision loss. If left untreated, the errors are the world’s second-highest cause of blindness.

The small plastic NETRA device forgoes the need for a Shack-Hartmann sensor to shine a laser into the eye of the patient and measure the reflected light with a wavefront sensor. It can be produced for less than $2 and clips onto a mobile phone screen. The subject uses the phone to signal when patterns projected onto the screen overlap. After the process is repeated several times at different angles for each eye, custom software loaded onto the phone crunches the data and creates a prescription, all within a few minutes.

Bioengineers at the University of California, Berkeley, have fitted a smartphone with magnifying optics to create a real “cell” phone – a diagnostic-quality microscope that can be used in developing countries.

The researchers, in the bioengineering and biophysics lab of Daniel Fletcher, initially envisioned a device so rugged that it could be used for high-resolution imaging outside of the lab. But Dr. Eva M. Schmid, who works in the lab, decided to evaluate the device, called CellScope, in a middle-school science classroom after a chance encounter with a secondary school science teacher in San Francisco.

The CellScope, created in the lab of bioengineering professor Daniel Fletcher, turns the camera of a standard cellphone into a diagnostic-quality microscope with a magnification of 5x to 60x.

Those middle schoolers helped develop the educational side of the device, using it for a year to take macroscopic and microscopic pictures of objects in their homes, gardens and other environments and then displaying them on the screen and posting them to social media platforms to promote discussion. The devices are now being tested with other classrooms and in museums.

Schmid described CellScope’s development at the annual meeting of the American Society for Cell Biology in December in San Francisco.

The commercial potential of the CellScope attracted a $1 million investment last summer from Khosla Ventures, the venture capital firm led by Sun Microsystems Inc. co-founder Vinod Khosla.

“Health data, the key ingredient to useful analysis and diagnosis, is starting to explode exponentially – and CellScope is on the cutting edge,” Khosla said.

CellScope’s first consumer offering will be a smartphone-enabled otoscope that enables physicians to remotely diagnose ear infections in children from pictures taken by parents using the smartphone’s camera. Pediatric ear infections result in 30 million doctor visits annually in the US alone.

Future CellScope products will address throat and skin exams and nonclinical applications, including consumer skin care.

Dining out with severe food allergies can be nerve-racking, relying on a busy server or kitchen to make sure you’re not served something that could make you sick or, even worse, deathly ill. Even prepackaged foods can contain ingredients not listed on the label. Now, a team led by UCLA associate professor of electrical engineering and bioengineering Aydogan Ozcan wants to give control back to those with allergies by allowing them to test their meals on the spot using a cellphone.

The lightweight (less than 2 oz) device, called the iTube, uses the phone’s camera, in combination with an application, to test with the same high level of sensitivity as a lab would, Ozcan said.

Aydogan Ozcan and colleagues at UCLA have developed the iTube platform (Left), which attaches to a cellphone and uses colorimetric assays and a digital reader to detect allergens in food samples. (Right) A screen capture of the iTube App.

The device tests for allergens by optically measuring a sample of the food in question mixed with water and an extraction solvent, then mixing the prepared solvent with a series of other reactive testing liquids.

The method digitally converts raw images from the cellphone camera into concentration measurements detected in the food samples. The test goes beyond just a “yes” or “no” answer to the presence of allergens by quantifying how much of an allergen is in a sample, in parts per million.

Left: Ankit Mohan of MIT Media Lab’s Camera Culture research group holds NETRA, the Near-Eye Tool for Refractive Assessment, a quick, simple and inexpensive way to measure refractive errors of the eye. Right: Mohan demonstrates the device.

The iTube platform can test for a variety of trigger foods, including peanuts, almonds, eggs, gluten and hazelnuts, Ozcan said.

“We envision that this cellphone-based allergen testing platform could be very valuable, especially for parents, as well as for schools, restaurants and other public settings,” Ozcan said. “Once successfully deployed in these settings, the big amount of data – as a function of both location and time – that this platform will continuously generate would indeed be priceless for consumers, food manufacturers, policy makers and researchers, among others.”

The device was introduced in 2012, and, so far, the UCLA researchers have successfully tested the iTube using commercially available cookies, analyzing the samples to determine if they have any harmful amounts of peanuts. Their research was recently published online in Lab on a Chip and will be featured in an upcoming issue of the journal.

In 2008, Ozcan’s lab introduced the imaging platform LUCAS (Lensless Ultrawide-field Cell monitoring Array platform based on Shadow imaging). Instead of using a lens to magnify objects, LUCAS generates holographic images of microparticles or cells by using an LED to illuminate the objects and a digital sensor array to capture their images. The technology can be used to image blood samples or other fluids in Third World countries, such as monitoring the condition of HIV and malaria patients, as well as testing water quality.

“This technology will not only have great impact in health care applications; it also has the potential to replace cytometers in research labs at a fraction of the cost,” Ozcan said in a 2008 university release announcing the technology.

Since then, he has built upon the LUCAS technology to develop a lensless microscope the size of a chicken egg for telemedicine applications.

KeepLoop Oy of Tampere, Finland, a spinoff of VTT Technical Research Center of Finland, last summer introduced what it said was the first digital mobile 3-D microscope. The prototype, capable of measuring surface microtopography, was demonstrated at the drupa 2012 exhibition in May in Düsseldorf, Germany.

The KeepLoop 3-D digital mobile microscope measures surface topography over an area of around 5 x 5 mm at approximately 10-µm resolution.

The portable system measures surface topography over an area of around 5 x 5 mm at about 10-µm resolution. Using the photometric stereo machine vision technique, three images with different illumination are combined, and 3-D data is calculated by a special algorithm.

The system is based on a custom-made optoelectronics device that attaches to the master device and forms the 3-D microscope together with the proprietary software. The technology can be implemented in mobile phones or tablets.

Improvements in microchip technology and new scientific advances enable scientists at the University of Texas at Dallas to tap into the terahertz range, a result that could lead to cellphones that can be used to see through walls, wood, plastics, paper and other opaque materials, they announced in the spring of 2012.

“We’ve created approaches that open a previously untapped portion of the electromagnetic spectrum for consumer use and lifesaving medical applications,” said UT Dallas electrical engineering professor Dr. Kenneth O. “The terahertz range is full of unlimited potential that could benefit us all.”

Using the new approach, images can be created with signals operating in the terahertz range without having to use several lenses inside a device, reducing overall size and cost.

To create their device, O and his team combined terahertz and CMOS microchips used in smartphones, personal computers and other consumer electronic devices.

“CMOS is affordable and can be used to make lots of chips,” O said. “The combination of CMOS and terahertz means you could put this chip and a transmitter on the back of a cellphone, turning it into a device carried in your pocket that can see through objects.” (Due to privacy concerns, they are focused on uses at a distance of less than 4 in.)

Consumer applications of such technology, they say, could range from document authentication and counterfeit detection to process control in manufacturing.

The research was presented at the 2012 International Solid-State Circuits Conference in February. The team will work next to build an entire working imaging system based on the CMOS terahertz system.

A sugar-cube-sized spectrometer developed at Fraunhofer Institute for Photonic Microsystems (IPMS) in Dresden, Germany, can be installed into smartphones and used in grocery stores to determine the ripeness of a piece of fruit or the tenderness of a slab of meat.

The application is based on a near-infrared spectrometer that measures the amount of water, sugar, starch, fat and protein present in products by shining a broad-bandwidth light onto the item in question and “looking” several centimeters below the surface. The item will reflect various wavelengths of light in the near-infrared range with different intensities, resulting in a spectrum that tells scientists what amounts of which substances are present in foodstuff. For instance, it can detect whether the core of an apple is already rotting.

“We expect spectrometers to develop in the same way that digital cameras did,” said Dr. Heinrich Grüger, who manages the business unit of Fraunhofer IPMS, where the system is being developed. “A camera that cost €500 ten years ago is far less capable than the ones you get virtually for free today in your cellphone.”

Conventional spectrometers are manufactured by assembling individual components: The mirrors, optical gaps, grating and detector each have to be put into place individually and properly aligned.

The Fraunhofer researchers instead manufacture the individual optical gaps and gratings directly onto silicon wafers, which are large enough to hold the components of several hundred spectrometers, enabling hundreds of near-infrared systems to be created at one time. They stack the wafers containing the integrated components on top of the ones bearing the optical components, then align and bind them, isolating them to form individual spectrometers. The resulting devices are more robust than their handmade counterparts.

Aside from inspecting food, the researchers are confident that the spectrometer could be used for forgery detection or to test the contents of cosmetic creams and drugs.

A prototype of the spectrometer was on display in May at Sensor + Test 2012 in Nuremberg. The scientists are working on a corresponding infrastructure for the device and say it could be ready for market launch within the next three to five years.

In November, Virginia Tech’s Arlington Innovation Center: Health Research announced that it had been awarded a $2.2 million contract from the US Army Medical Research and Materiel Command to develop the MedicPhone, a field smartphone for military medics.

The three-year research and development venture has two partners, including Seoul National University of South Korea for Android expertise, and Starix Technology of Irvine, Calif., for ultrawideband communications interfaces between the phone and field medical devices. The project expects to attract additional partners in the near future.

“We’ll be starting with state-of-the-art off-the-shelf components because there is just so much tech in the mobile phone market now, there’s no reason to duplicate that effort,” said Kenneth Wong, the principal investigator of MedicPhone Project.

The product Wong describes will likely be slightly larger and more robust than a cellphone and will enable military medics to monitor patients without the equipment usually associated with an intensive-care unit. The idea is to create a handheld device that can collect information on a patient’s condition from a variety of sources and provide medical teams with access to this data in a single, portable display. This feature will allow medics to monitor a patient from another location – an important consideration when medics are charged with multiple patients in austere or even hazardous environments.

“Medics carry a lot of equipment already, so anything we can do to reduce weight and size is good,” Wong said. “The idea of a phone is a useful platform – there is a lot of computer power in a small space, and it’s a familiar technology, so when people pick this up, they’ll be able to use it quickly.”

The team envisions that the phone will evolve into a hands-free mobile communication hub for military medics as well as civilian emergency responders.

A new kind of polymer that is cheap and easy to make reflects many wavelengths of light when viewed from a single perspective and could form the basis of handheld multispectral imaging devices, say researchers at the University at Buffalo in New York.

Engineers at the university developed a one-step method to fabricate the polymer, which will make it feasible to develop small devices that connect with cellphones to conduct multispectral imaging, said Qiaoqiang Gan, assistant professor of electrical engineering.

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How You Can Market Providers in Healthcare 2.0

How You Can Market Providers in Healthcare 2.0 | Social Media and Healthcare |

When one looks across providers delivering healthcare and the marketing, one has to wonder if there is an understanding of the importance of marketing in healthcare 2.0. Which begs the question, will big box hospitals have a chance of surviving in a highly competitive, efficient retail medical marketplace without clear and unambiguous marketing?


After all, it's already apparent, even though hospital and health system leadership have their heads in the sand, that the consumer only needs you for three things:  emergency care; intensive care and care for acute complex, medical conditions.


 And here’s a new one, physicians don't need the hospital or health system either.


Healthcare 2.0 is a market animal that is completely different than anything Hospital leadership has ever had to contend.  And this animal has teeth with little regard for whether a hospital or health system survives. Highly competitive, innovative and retail in nature, the sole focus is on understanding and meeting the needs of the healthcare consumer.  Note this importance of that sentence.  It’s focused on addressing the needs of the healthcare consumer, not the hospital or health system.


That implies that the hospital or health system evolves from being in the hospital business forever in search of a revenue stream to a healthcare business model that meets the needs of the healthcare consumer regardless of clinical service, time, and place.


What is healthcare marketing’s role? These five will determine growth and success. Failure to change means you are looking at joining the growing pile of the ash heap of history.


  1. Voice of the Customer


VoC is far more important now in healthcare.  There are over 147 healthcare consumer and patient touch-points in the typical hospital.  Each interaction is the opportunity to hear about organizational performance.  Then most importantly is the ability to use that information in an actionable way to identify and meet healthcare consumer needs. 


  1. Using market data to manage the patient experience and engagement


Patient experience and engagement mean just that- not one isolated clinical or administrative service experience but understanding what that patient experience is at all touch points.  Next is the challenge of managing that experience to its fullest potential for the benefit of the patient and the organization. Patient experience is an integrative process across the entire organization internally and externally.  The rallying cry in any hospital should be one view of the patient, one patient view of the organization. 


  1. From demand generation to demand management


The hospital is no longer the center of the healthcare universe.   Marketing needs to understand what the demand for health care services will be, when required and manage service demand in making sure that the hospital or health system has the right resources, in the right place, at the right time to meet demand.  The days are rapidly slipping away where marketing will be driving demand to fill hospital beds. They will drive demand to the appropriate place and location of service. 


  1. Preparing the hospital for enhanced competition


It’s sad but true; providers continue to fall behind non-traditional providers and new entrants into the market. Hospitals are losing share and revenue to others.  There are many reasons for this, but the most striking is the inability of traditional providers to connect the dots through technology, data and an in-depth understanding of the healthcare consumer to meet their needs.   It’s about the capacity to have the market research and internal data to draw actionable insights to meet the healthcare consumer’s needs and competition. 


Is it any wonder why non-traditional competitors are leading the way and taking revenue and share from providers?  Their deep understanding of the consumer and the dynamics of price, choice, convenience, experience and engagement give these companies and others an edge that providers are missing. 


  1. From outbound features and  interruptive marketing, to inbound value solutions marketing


Value marketing is making the case to the healthcare consumer how you are solving their medical problem, offering a solution, giving results and even making them happy.  Value marketing is about a creative exchange between people and organizations in the marketplace.   It is a dynamic transaction that continually changes based on the needs of the individual compared to what the healthcare provider has to offer.


In the end, it’s all about giving the consumer what they want not what the provider wants. That is healthcare 2.0. Welcome to the new marketing reality.

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The Evolution of the Online Physician Profile

Over the past few years, there has been a landslide of new opportunities for physicians to promote themselves online. But with all of these new websites, new t…
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What’s Next in Pharma Social

What’s Next in Pharma Social | Social Media and Healthcare |

Patients, doctors and pharmaceutical companies regularly use social media to learn, educate and share information about diseases and treatments.  

While patients and doctors have been active social media participants since its inception, pharma companies have been slower to adopt due to regulatory concerns.  But now pharma has worked through what the guidelines are, and how to communicate in a way that is compliant with internal and external regulatory, medical and legal groups.

Many face challenges in becoming faster to act and change, and there are still some who are slow to adopt, but we have reached critical mass in Social 1.0 – the use of social media channels for content marketing.

What’s next for pharma and social media?  We call the next phase “Agile Social.”

In this next phase, pharma social will move from informational to experiential – think immersive video, virtual reality, merging apps and devices with content, and more.  

What is especially exciting about pharma is that it deals with some of the issues ripest for experiential media…what it feels like to have a disease, what medicines DO in the body, the joy of healing.  Healthcare is by its very nature anchored in the human experience.

We wanted to know how companies compare in moving from informational to experiential social.

To find out we created the Health Innovation Index. By analyzing over a dozen attributes of a company’s footprint and behavior, we are able to objectively assess who is lagging, keeping pace, and who is leading the way in this transformation.

At Ruder Finn we are big believers in pushing the boundaries to better connect companies and their stakeholders.  And in our healthcare practice, we believe the move to experiential media presents a huge opportunity to give pharma and other healthcare companies a special place in peoples’ minds and hearts due to the essential human nature of health.  

We’d love to share what we learned via the Healthcare Innovation Index with you.  Please contact us and we’d be happy to share what we found about you and your peers, and to discuss…….what’s next.

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Social Media, Care Providers Texting: How Do You Protect PHI

Explore the new types of privacy and security risks facing companies in the long term care industry with the rapid pace of technological change, including empl…
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Surgeon Says Apps May Turn Organ Donation Support Into ‘Concrete Action’

Surgeon Says Apps May Turn Organ Donation Support Into ‘Concrete Action’ | Social Media and Healthcare |

Users of Tinder, the popular online dating app, usually swipe right on their mobile screens to gain a potential match. Come September, the same action might allow them to save lives by registering to be an organ donor.

The donor registration drive is the culmination of the partnership between Tinder and a nonprofit group called Organize, which aims to end the organ donor shortage. A similar campaign between Tinder and the National Health Service was carried out in Britain last year. Organize is also partnering with the comedy video website Funny or Die, Facebook, various universities and hospitals to launch apps and social media campaigns to boost registrations for organ donations.

These partnerships were mentioned as part of a White House push last month to increase organ donations. That effort called for a more streamlined process for organ donations and an increase in research on fields such as tissue preservation and cell-replacement – that may eventually lead to organ replacement.

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This KHN story can be republished for free (details).

The wait for an organ transplant can be daunting. Half of all kidney transplant patients spend more than 3.6 years waiting for an organ. On average, 22 people die each day while on a transplant list.

Traditionally, the registry for organ donation has been run through state motor vehicle departments, and people can register when getting their driver’s license. But that doesn’t capture everyone. According to the White House, 95 percent of Americans support organ donation but only half are registered as donors.

Dr. Thomas Fishbein, a transplant surgeon and the executive director of the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute, is optimistic about the Tinder and Organize partnership in attracting potential donors, especially younger ones.

Fishbein says recruiting more organ donors would be easier if there was a standardized way for people to register, such as box to check on their taxes. (Photo courtesy of Keith Weller)

Fishbein says recruiting more organ donors would be easier if there was a standardized way for people to register, like a box to check on their taxes. (Photo courtesy of Keith Weller for MedStar Georgetown University Hospital)

His institute is trying a somewhat similar strategy by developing a free app that allows people to indicate their desire to be organ donors. The information would then be sent to the relevant donor registry and to friends or family members designated by the person who is signing up to be a donor. He said the app is slated to go live at the end of this year.

Fishbein spoke with Kaiser Health News’ Zhai Yun Tan recently about organ shortages and technology-centered solutions to attract donor. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: Why is there a discrepancy between the number of Americans who support organ donation and those who are actually registered as donors?

A: There is not an automated, standardized mechanism through which people — who might generally support organ donation — [can] in a very simple action become registered to be an organ donor. When you turn 16 or 17 and you get your driver’s license, you are asked in many states, because the donor registry collaborates with the motor vehicle administration, if you want to be an organ donor and they print it right on your driver’s license. Right there with a simple “yes” or “no,” a check on the box, you’re registered.

[Otherwise] you’ve got to figure out on your own how to become an organ donor. It’s not that easy because you don’t have an automatic interaction. Imagine if every year you fill out your income tax you have to check the box “yes” or “no” — “I will become a donor” or “I won’t become a donor.” You don’t have to opt in, you can opt out, but at least you have an automatic interface and then you turn the form in and you are automatically registered.

Q: How did the idea for the app come about?

A: We have within MedStar an institute called MI2 which stands for the MedStar Institute for Innovation. This app is Pete Celano’s brainchild. He is a super technologically savvy innovator who comes up with things that bring health care to patients through technology. He happened to have a family friend who needed a transplant and was asked the question “Why the heck don’t we have a super easy simple way that people can just register to be a donor?” That grew out of a simple personal, human interaction. So that’s what transplants are all about — it all comes down to the human interactions that people have.

Q: Other initiatives focus very much on sharing personal stories on social media to attract potential donors. What do you think of this approach?

A: It’s very individualized what people are comfortable with and not comfortable with. Some feel like their health care needs are very private and don’t feel like sharing them. We’ve had patients who, for instance, did not want us to promote them in local or national news stories and other people are very extroverted and feel very comfortable with that. More and more, people are telling their stories and looking for specific donors who will help them.

We have over 1,000 patients right now sitting, waiting on our organ transplant list so we couldn’t possibly get the attention of the news media for a 1,000 patients. The patient and the families may do that themselves.

We try to educate the community at large, I think, get [people] invested and active about the problem. Ultimately through actions like these — very easy interactions between a person and turning the idea of supporting organ donation into a concrete action — we’re going to possibly in the future eliminate the shortage that we have now.

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Big Social Data Analytics for Public Health: Facebook Engagement and Performance

Big Social Data Analytics for Public Health: Facebook Engagement and Performance Nadiya Straton1 , Kjeld Hansen1,2,3 , Raghava Rao Mukkamala1 , Abid Hussain1 ,…
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Musings and social media tips from 7 health care communicators

Musings and social media tips from 7 health care communicators | Social Media and Healthcare |

You don’t need a crystal ball to discover what’s hot in health care communication.

Here is a sampling of tech tools and insights to keep communicators busy in 2017.

Storytelling continues to be on communicators’ minds. Matt Braun, PR manager at Aurora Health Care in Milwaukee, offers this advice: “Focus on telling great stories through earned and owned media, and never underestimate the importance of strong relationships with media contacts.”

Braun’s department focused on storytelling in 2016. One standout: “I’m really proud of a story about a new transplant technique that’s led by one of our physicians,” he said.

One tech tool that Braun recommends is TV Eyes: “It’s a great tool to help us track television coverage throughout our geographic footprint. We’ve also begun using live video tools like Facebook Live to tell stories of our facilities through owned media channels.”

Braun says that this year he would like to see “how we can grow our owned-media tactics to capture more moments at our facilities that demonstrate how our clinical experts are helping people live well.”

Internal communication is on the mind of Ben Maycock, a media relations and social media coordinator at IWK Health Centre in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “We are in the first phase of an intranet redevelopment. I’m hoping to harness its mobile component to tackle the complex problems associated with reaching shift workers,” he said in an email interview.

[White paper: Improve Employee Engagement Through Live Video.]

Maycock recommends Typorama for “throwing together images and text to share on our social media and throughout the public screens within the hospital.”

Echoing Braun, Maycock says storytelling is a priority for 2017. He encourages PR pros to walk the halls.

“There are as many stories within the hospital as there are employees and patients. Walk the halls and chat with people, seek out the remarkable accomplishments and dramatic narratives. Be available, approachable and proactive,” he says.

Those high-maintenance blogs

Regular bloggers know that hospital and physician blogs need attention. Here are a few nuggets of advice from agencies and PR pros about writing, SEO, consistency and content:

  • On SEO: “It's not the long or short tail words of what you need for search engine optimization. It is the long and short tail words your prospects use to find answers.”—Sheryl Hill, executive director,
  • On metrics: “Content generation in 2017 will be all about ROI, not just eyeballs. Make sure you have a great tracking system in place so you can measure how your content is leading to awareness and, ultimately, to relationships and new business.”—Nancy Shenker, CEO, The On Switch
  • On consistency : “The only way to gain any traction is to have some predictability for followers to check in regularly and build an audience. My goal is to post every Tuesday, no excuses.”—Tom Cameron, president, Digital Pudding
  • On influencers: “The one thing you must learn about blogging in 2017 is to raise up other people in your influencer community. Mention them in a post, share their material on social media, and ask to interview them, if appropriate. This helps get on their radar in an authentic way. It also helps get your content and blog in front of their audience, which supports organic growth.”—Katrina Fox, founder, Vegan Business Media
  • On content development: “Repurpose content across different [media]. If you publish a blog post, talk about it on a live stream. If you create a video, transcribe your words and publish it as a blog post. These little hacks can go a long way and will become increasingly important in 2017.”—Lindsay Mauch, founder, LTM Digital
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Multiprofessional social media communities: improving health and care

Naomi McVey of @weahps talks about using social media communities to improve healthcare, at the Innovation Agency's #EngageWell event.
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Avoiding unwanted attention from patients - guidance for doctors

Avoiding unwanted attention from patients - guidance for doctors | Social Media and Healthcare |

At this time of year, many doctors will be receiving gifts and thank you cards from grateful patients. While it’s nice to be appreciated, occasionally gifts and cards can leave doctors feeling uneasy because they believe the patient may want more than a professional relationship.

The MDU has helped around 100 members over the last five years with advice on how to deal with patients making amorous advances. One trend we have noticed is that with the availability of social media, doctors are more accessible to patients wanting more than a professional relationship. Amorous advances made via social media can be particularly intrusive and if they are not nipped in the bud, or even unwittingly encouraged, things can get out of hand.

On rare occasions the situation can even escalate to the doctor being stalked or harassed. One case to hit the headlines involved a GP who called for an increase in sentencing for stalking offences, after beingstalked by a patient for seven years.

Amorous advances by patients, can range from receiving unwanted letters and gifts and more commonly now text or social media messages. In more extreme cases, patients have turned up at a doctor’s work or home and this has the potential to develop into stalking and harassment, with some patients creating a fantasy affair that the doctor is completely oblivious to.

Some patients can be very distressed if they feel their advances are being ignored or rejected, and their behaviour can become aggressive, or vindictive. The MDU has seen cases of doctors referred to the GMC by patients alleging a fabricated sexual relationship, or even complaints to the police of sexual assault.

See defence union advice

Your medical defence union can support you if facing this difficult situation so involve us early on if you have reason to believe that a patient wants a personal relationship with you. If this happens, it’s important to make it clear to the patient that their behavior is inappropriate and must stop.

If that fails and your professional relationship with the patient has broken down, you may need to transfer the care of the patient to a colleague. Explain why you have decided to do this to the patient.

The MDU has issued advice on dealing with amorous patients in our latest Journal which includes:

  • Contact your medical defence organisation for advice as soon as you become aware of a potential difficulty with a patient.
  • Ensure you inform your line manager of the situation.
  • Keep a log of all inappropriate contacts from the patient.
  • If you continue to care for the patient, then it is advisable to use a chaperone for all consultations.
  • Accepting gifts from patients can be misconstrued, so consider very carefully whether it may be better to politely refuse a gift.
  • Do not use personal email addresses or mobile number for work purposes. Withhold your telephone number if you must use it to contact a patient.
  • Review your social media privacy settings.
  • You may need to consider reporting the patient to the police if you feel threatened or in danger.

The following anonymised example shows the type of scenario which can develop.

Doctor stalked by patient on social media

A doctor saw a patient in relation to a knee injury, and shortly afterwards he delivered a box of chocolates and a thank you card. He included his address and telephone number in the card, but at this stage the doctor was not concerned.

Shortly afterwards, the doctor received a Facebook message  from the patient, asking why she hadn’t contacted him, as he had strong feelings for her and would like to meet for a drink. The doctor ignored the message and told her colleagues so that all future appointments would be booked with her male colleagues.

The patient wrote to her at work, saying he loved her and wanted to meet up. The next day he sent multiple messages via social media, insisting that she respond to him. The doctor contacted the MDU for advice at this point, as she was frightened by the intensity of contacts.

The MDU adviser agreed that the doctor should not respond directly, or see the patient in consultation. If she had to see the patient in an emergency, it would be best to have a chaperone present.

The MDU adviser also suggested that a manager should write to the patient, making it clear that the behaviour was inappropriate and causing distress, and that it must cease. The letter should explain what would happen if he tried to contact the doctor again, such as police involvement.

The doctor was advised to keep copies of all contacts from the patient, as well as ensuring her social media security settings were at an appropriate level.

Unfortunately, even after the warning letter was sent, the patient’s behaviour escalated, and the doctor was forced to involve the police as she was concerned for her safety.

The police warned the patient that further contact would result in a charge under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and the contact then ceased.

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How Nurses Can Balance Social Media Engagement and Patient Privacy

How Nurses Can Balance Social Media Engagement and Patient Privacy | Social Media and Healthcare |

Technology has changed the landscape when it comes to connections between clinicians and patients -and as is always the case, there are new factors that nurses & nurse practitioners should take into consideration when it comes to compliance with HIPAA regulations. After all, the introduction of new technological elements does inherently introduce privacy risks when it comes to patient care.

In the modern day and age, there are many ways for nurse practitioners and nurses to connect with patients. For example, an increasing number of nurses are using text messaging and other instant messaging services to connect directly with their patients. The use of FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, and Google Hangouts may seem like it provides nurses with a quick and efficient way of having one-on-one consultations with their patients – thus enhancing the amount of time they can dedicate to interactions with clients and making continuing care accessible even for those patients who do not have ready transportation to consultations.  However, these methods are not a safe and secure way of connecting with patients. Most of these services can have privacy leaks since they lack encrypted email or video storage.

While physicians are on board with developments in the use of technology in the field of nursing, it is important that they are doing so in a manner that complies with HIPAA regulations. So how can nurses ensure that they provide this sort of care while still keeping in line with HIPAA regulations?

One of the first things to bear in mind is that the technology that nurses use to communicate with patients must beHIPAA certified and encrypted to protect patient information. According to HIPAA rules, nurses can be fined for using uncertified methods to contact patients. Stories of this happening have only increased as the technology becomes more readily available for them to do so.

A key factor of HIPAA that nurses must be aware of is the protection of their patient’s information when they connect with them through technological means. At this point, everyone has heard stories about nurses who accidentally allowed patient information to leak – such as Katie Duke, ER Nurse featured on NY MED.  The information they choose to share through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, are not adequately protecting their patient’s confidentiality – which constitutes a privacy breach. Healthcare organizations rely on software programs that alert Quality Officers of staff members’ negative or positive comments about their organizations. Social media is also frequently used to screen “new hires” or currently employed staff members.

It is important when connecting with any patient through any means to ensure that information is password protected. If necessary, information must be deleted to ensure that nobody can access that knowledge if they do not have the right to do so. Failure to do so could result in charges of negligence, which can be a grave violation of HIPAA policies.

None of this is meant to scare nurses off from the use of technology when it comes to fostering patient connections. On the contrary, as the technology improves and as nurses become more used to using it on a regular basis, it will only become easier to take the necessary steps to protect patient information. Simply being proactive in one’s approach to the use of technology can ensure that nurses make the best of the technology that they have at their disposal when it comes to patient care. Here are a few resources:

1. Email Messages – EmailPros

2. Text Messages – TigerText

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Naomi McVey of @weahps talks about using social media communities to improve healthcare, at the Innovation Agency's #EngageWell event.
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Pharma companies turn to LinkedIn to engage

Pharma companies turn to LinkedIn to engage | Social Media and Healthcare |

While the three granddaddy social networks, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, have spent a decade publicly duking it out for share of human attention-span and commercial usefulness, LinkedIn has quietly and efficiently evolved to become an essential pillar of corporate practice, for individuals and organizations alike.

In fact, it's almost impossible to imagine that its founders could have wholly foreseen or planned for the true magnitude of its impact on business today.

LinkedIn was unleashed way back in 2003—two years ahead of YouTube, it should be noted—and attracted just 4,500 members during its first month of operation. By the time Twitter came into being and Facebook had thrown open its doors to anyone/everyone, both in 2006, LinkedIn had already launched its “public profiles” and had amassed close to five million users. These days, the network is available in 24 languages and boasts more than 9,200 full-time employees with offices in 30 cities around the world. Membership currently stands at more than 400 million people worldwide, 122 million of whom are in the US.

See also: Pfizer's Susman: Customer-company relationship has changed

LinkedIn has been something of an enigma and part of the reason has been the difficulty of pinpointing its core purpose. For a long time, it was seen as a professional advancement network, crudely dubbed “Facebook for jobs.” But while career advancement and recruitment is still a major function, over time LinkedIn has evolved into an effective publishing platform for professional content, which has had profound implications for corporate communications and marketing activities. Indeed, marketing solutions now represent 18% of LinkedIn revenues.

A big part of LinkedIn's appeal lies in the high level of engagement of its members and the potential for precise targeting of content and talent searches. In the healthcare space, membership encompasses all stakeholder groups: pharma companies, patients, healthcare professionals, marketing agencies, hospitals, investors and, of course, employees (read: the talent pool).

Of the largest pharma companies, AstraZeneca currently has around 455,000 LinkedIn followers, versus approximately 27,600 on Facebook. Similarly, Novartis has 794,000 LinkedIn followers versus 121,000 on Facebook), Johnson & Johnson has one million (versus 695,000) and Pfizer 1.1 million (versus 195,000). Each of these companies posts content regularly on LinkedIn. Conversely, Gilead Sciences publishes only job listings and counts just 106,000 LinkedIn followers, which illustrates the importance of posting useful content beyond career opportunities.

Consider also the personal posts of individual pharmaceutical executives. Pfizer CEO Ian Read currently has 108,000 followers. His three most recent posts deal with topics as diverse as career tips for young professionals, treating diseases in developing countries and clarifying Pfizer's tax position regarding the Allergen merger. The “tips” post garnered almost 60,000 views and generated more than 200 comments.

The number of US healthcare professionals using LinkedIn is currently estimated at more than four million. A 2015 survey by CMI/Compas Media Vitals of 2,152 physicians across all specialties showed that 33% used LinkedIn for professional purposes (versus just 8% for Facebook). The numbers vary between specialties, with 44% of dentists and 40% of dermatologists using LinkedIn professionally.

The evolution of LinkedIn from a career network to a publishing platform has had a profound effect on social-media responsibilities within pharma organizations. Likely to initially have been placed in the hands of human resources and talent recruitment executives, LinkedIn is now a fully fledged communications vehicle. It goes without saying that a unified corporate message projected across all posted content is crucial.

See also: Hints from the pros: Social media done well requires risk

Takeda Pharmaceuticals is one organization undergoing such a transition. Caroline Onagan, associate director of Takeda's global talent acquisition operations, is the company's LinkedIn veteran, having clocked about six years of regular use for recruiting purposes. “For talent acquisition, we use LinkedIn end-to-end for all stages of the candidate lifecycle,” she explained. “We create awareness for those that don't know us, we engage those that do have familiarity and have shown some level of interest, and we convert the people we want to hire into employees.”

A major part of this mission is branding the company as a career destination. “We regularly push out updates to show all of the different things that are happening at the company, whether it's news about acquisitions, information about some of the initiatives that we have or the partnerships we have,” she said. “But we also try to engage employees to push out what it means to work at the company. It's authentic content, and that's a big focus for us as we move forward on LinkedIn.”

Onagan notes that she is also increasingly interviewing candidates via video and experimenting with reaching out to potential employees with video content about Takeda. If you're thinking this sounds more like corporate communications than recruitment, well, you'd be right. Onagan now has an entire communications team working with her.

Leading the charge is Rob Scott, Takeda's digital transformation leader in global communications. Scott describes his position as a “uniting role” for social media and digital monitoring across the global organization. He focuses on four pillars: education, empowerment (governance/good guidance), growth and innovation.

See also: Lack of expertise limits pharma's Facebook use

Takeda's LinkedIn strategy has three foundations: consolidation, engagement and growth. “The first thing we're trying to do is understand how we can service the needs of a global organization in a local approach,” said Scott. “Next, it's about using the data from that global audience to understand how we can create content that the audience wants, so that we can educate them about our therapeutic areas and our business in a way that they want to hear. The third piece is about how we can grow LinkedIn into a key channel for us.”

For Takeda, LinkedIn is very much a work in progress, particularly when it comes to melding together the corporate content and recruitment objectives. “We're taking a very data-led approach to building an understanding of the different ways that we can deliver content,” Scott continued, emphasizing the importance of social listening and monitoring.

Regulatory considerations are obviously paramount with any pharma-generated social-media activity, and Scott leads a cross-function digital governance group with the objective of building “very, very simple guidelines, protocols and processes to ensure that we follow the regulatory requirements,” he said.

Scott has plenty of advice for other companies looking to build out their LinkedIn activities. “The first golden rule is to engage a cross-functional group of people,” he said. “The second is to take a strong approach to understanding and listening to what your audience wants to hear and not necessarily just what you to say. The third is to test things and then learn from them.”

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