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. 

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Digital Marketing Strategies for Hospitals | 5 ways to get more patients

Patients have more options than ever before. With so much information available online, they no longer feel the need to visit the hospital or practic
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Social Networking Sites for Medical Professionals

Social Networking Sites for Medical Professionals | Social Media and Healthcare |

There are so many social networking sites available - which ones should you join? In addition to the general sites for all professionals, such as LinkedIn, there are many social networks online that are specifically designed for healthcare workers.

Some websites are more broad, targeting anyone in the healthcare industry, while some social networks consist of one type of healthcare professional, such as doctors, nurses, or any other type of medical professional.

This list explores a few sites, to help you decide which ones meet your networking needs, depending upon what type of healthcare professional you are.


Medical Mingle

Buero Monaco/Taxi/Getty Images

Medical Mingle is a website created by the owners of Absolutely Health Care, a medical job board. Medical Mingle is a "free professional social network for people interested in, working in, servicing, or studying for a career in the medical or healthcare field..." Medical Mingle offers blogging, job postings, and career resources.



MedXCentral is another community that is open to medical professionals of any type or role. Whether you're on the clinical side or the industry side of healthcare, you can connect with others on MedXCentral. Like Medical Mingle, MedXCentral also has a facebook page where you can get additional updates right to your facebook account. MedXCentral has groups which are subsets of the larger community you can join based on your role or subspecialty within the healthcare field. MedXCentral works in conjunction with Twitter, YouTube, etc. Jim Canto, who started the network, regularly posts news and informational updates about the medical industry that you can receive on the site or via the facebook community. His goal is to "become a centrifuge for all things related to the medical and health care industry on the web."

MedXCentral also has a free staffing exchange called "MPOPS" (Medical Professional Online Profile Service).


Sermo (for Physicians Only)

According to the Sermo website, one physician member described this network as a "highly intellectual, vibrant, live community of doctors." Sermo allows physicians to explore job opportunities, share clinical information and do case studies, and earn honoraria while having their voices heard.

Sermo is exclusive to physicians and the site does require that you submit professional and personal identifying information in order to confirm that you are in fact a physician when you sign up to join the network. According to the Sermo site, features include interacting with drug experts, participating in forums with members of Congress, and numerous other opportunities to get involved, learn, share, and earn money.

Sermo's site states that it has 112,000 physician members across 68 specialties. seems like one of the largest, most active nursing networks. (That statement is is based primarily on the author's anecdotal evidence and observation - not on any hard numbers.) The site appears to be very active based on the number of threads and number of active readers at any given time, (4,000+ online when visited last), which is posted on the homepage so you can see how many people are actually logged in to the site when you are there. Additionally, the site seems well-organized and easily navigated due to clearly labeled tabs you can click on across the top, which was very helpful at a glance.

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Why would patients agree to be on social media? | 

Why would patients agree to be on social media? |  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Packed into that question of why patients would agree to be on social media is a different question people really want to know. Do doctors incentivize patients to agree to be on social media? In other words, do they give the patient something to get them in front of the camera?


Agree to be on social media

The short answer in my case, is no. We do not give the patient anything to coerce them into being on social media. We simply ask. And if they have concerns, we delve into what those concerns are. If we can allay those concerns in one pass and they agree, great. If not, that’s end of the conversation. We don’t shame them or hold a grudge.


But under no circumstances do we offer any favor or treatment or money in an effort to get them to agree to be on social media. There are several reasons for this. We don’t want them to feel pressure. If there is some renumeration, there’s a risk they would regret it and have buyer’s remorse.


There’s also a power or education gap between the patient and doctor. The doctor is in a position where their mere presence can cause undue pressure on the patient to make a decision they normally would not.


Ironically, you don’t have to offer the patient anything to be on social media. By the time they reach out to our office, they’re already following us on social media. They’re already learning from us. And for that reason, they want to be on social media. Just as they learned from other patients that agreed to be on social media, they want to pay that education forward.

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Social media opens new avenue to advocacy in rheumatology

Social media opens new avenue to advocacy in rheumatology | Social Media and Healthcare |

Political activism is more accessible than ever thanks to the amplification offered by social media, and rheumatologists can use social media — particularly Twitter — to advocate for the profession and their patients, according to Angus Worthing, MD, private practice rheumatologist and chair of the Government Affairs Committee for the American College of Rheumatology.

Worthing recently sat down with Healio Rheumatology to discuss his rheumatology advocacy campaign, called #ThingADay, in which he posted actions rheumatologists could take each day to advocate for the profession and to improve patient care.

 Stay Informed and Active

One of Worthing’s recommended tasks was to learn more about biosimilars, which as he stated in the Twitter post, are “the most medically acceptable [and] politically feasible way to lower rheum drug prices.”

Worthing said biosimilars can be thought of roughly as generic biologic drugs; the main difference between generics and biosimilars is that biosimilars can have slight differences from their brand name equivalences due to their size and complexity.

“The FDA did not have the authority to approve [the generic versions of] biologics until the Affordable Care Act included that authorization in 2010,” Worthing explained. “Now the FDA has a pathway for a biosimilar approval process and there are 18 biosimilars that have been FDA-approved — several in rheumatology — but unfortunately only two of those biosimilars are available for rheumatology patients in the marketplace.”

For biosimilars to become readily available in the U.S., Worthing said step therapy needs to be reformed and insurance companies and pharmacy benefits managers need to be more transparent. According to current step therapy protocols, Worthing said, biosimilars can only be used if the preferred drug is tried and shown to be ineffective.

“Even when I prescribe a biosimilar, which is about 20% less expensive than a bio-originator or brand name, it’s often not approved. Instead, the patient is supposed to take the more expensive drug,” Worthing said. “Step therapy and these kinds of legislation management tools are some of the most frustrating parts about being a doctor in the U.S. today and they are very frustrating for patients because they delay effective treatment.”

While Worthing wants to improve the availability of biosimilars and has been working with the ACR to connect with leaders in Congress on this issue, he noted that his goal for other rheumatologists is to educate themselves and come to their own conclusions about biosimilars.


“I think the main way that rheumatologists can get involved is simply to learn and become comfortable with what a biosimilar is and find out more about them,” he said. He suggested an ACR white paper, “The Science Behind Biosimilars,” (of which he is a coauthor) as a good starting point.

Promote Research and Preventive Measures


Another action item from #ThingADay was to email Congress in support of arthritis research, specifically a $20 million request to the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) to create an arthritis research program. Worthing noted that one in three military veterans have arthritis and it is the second most common cause of medical discharge.

“The DOD is an excellent place for arthritis and rheumatology research to happen, partly because they can design and implement ways to protect the joints of our service members; for example, to avoid injuries that would lead to osteoarthritis of the knee or other joints. They also have a serum bank, so blood samples are drawn from active service members that can be tested for evidence of autoimmune diseases later on. There are also excellent longitudinal medical records that can be researched to find out some potential causes and treatments for arthritis.”

Additionally, Worthing suggested rheumatologists support increasing access to DEXA scans, in particular by advocating for the Increasing Access to Osteoporosis Testing for Medicare Beneficiaries Act (S. 283). Worthing said since reimbursement for DEXA scans decreased to less than the cost to provide the service, far fewer scans have been provided. “Now unfortunately we are seeing an uptick in ... surprise hip fractures ... which is really a shame in the United States, that we are seeing worsening in a medical problem that is easy and inexpensive to prevent,” he said.

According to Worthing, S. 283 “raises the reimbursement for a DEXA scan service to a level that is sustainable and allows doctors to provide the service, and we hope that more people will be able to obtain this screening test so that we can prevent more fractures.”

Develop a Professional Voice

Worthing finds value in Twitter as a platform that gives everyone a voice. “It’s such an effective way to communicate with fellow advocates, people involved in health policy and also the actual leaders and their staff on Capitol Hill,” he said. “It’s instantaneous and free and can be leveraged really quickly. When influencers, or people in media or leaders — the people who are writing bills and legislation — see tweets and retweet things, ideas and issues can come up and suddenly get noticed.”


Worthing said he created the #ThingADay campaign to provide easy access to many ideas that anyone could implement in their typical day. He wanted to create a handy guide on “how to email Congress, how to read up on the issues, how to connect with other people, invite Congress into your office if you’re a physician — all the little things you can do, large or small, sort of as ‘one thing a day’ to be a political advocate.”

He said the ACR’s Legislative Action Center showed increased activity after the #ThingADay campaign, which is the exact response he had hoped for. In his volunteer leadership role with ACR, Worthing helps coordinate ACR’s response to federal decisions, and one of his goals is to increase the number of rheumatologists who use ACR’s online Legislative Action Center.


“Ultimately, I think my job as kind of a lead advocate for rheumatology is to get people using these tools on their own and making their own — either Twitter threads or using [the information] on their own in productive ways,” he said. “I usually try to encourage people to use social media, which is, I think, really effective on a professional level ... putting out a professional face as a physician advocate.”

Worthing added that RheumPAC, the ACR’s political action committee, is an additional way to pool a group of voices. “For a small specialty like rheumatology, with only 6,000 out of the million doctors in the country, RheumPAC is a very effective way for us to leverage our voice,” he said. He noted that RheumPAC is for ACR members only, and supports “candidates on both sides of the aisle who are champions of rheumatology reforms.”

He added, “I think in a representative democracy, our institutions require informed input, and I strongly support my fellow doctors and our patients to raise their voice[s] because we are the experts that Congress needs to hear from, and social media and Twitter are a great way to do it.” – by Amanda Alexander

Disclosure: Worthing reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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The Challenges of Social Media in Healthcare and How to Solve Them

The Challenges of Social Media in Healthcare and How to Solve Them | Social Media and Healthcare |

If you’re leading your healthcare marketing team, you know that social media marketing executed the right way — through the lens of today’s connected-consumer —  yields a number of organizational benefits:

  1. Immediate channel access and more exposure to prospective and current patients who are living mobile and digital lifestyles; and who use technology to manage their lives and help achieve their goals. Case in point, for the first time, Americans spent more time on their mobile devices in 2019 than they did watching TV; and 39% of adults 18-29 rarely disconnected from the internet in 2018;  according to Pew Research cited in Mary Meeker’s 2019 Internet Trends report.
  2. Assisting your organization in being more approachable and transparent; two very important traits to Generation Z and Millennials.  In fact, 93% of all marketers indicated their social media efforts have generated more exposure for their businesses, while 87% reported increased traffic. (2019 Social Media Marketing Industry Report; Social Media Examiner).
  3. Following above, helping to build or repair trust, which has plummeted across industries
  4. Next, social media can contribute to building preference, choice and loyalty

Perceived Challenges of Social Media

Despite these advantages, a significant percentage of healthcare organizations are still hesitant to use social media to engage with current and prospective patients. This is not only because of heavy regulation and copious amounts of scrutiny. Part of the reason, we believe, is because brands aren’t sure how and where they fit in the context of how consumers manage their social lives and use social connections to help:

  • feel connected to others
  • assert their self-image and self-esteem
  • make decisions
  • live their lives more efficiently and effectively
  • enhance the value they get from a brand

Said another way, today’s digitally-enabled connected and empowered consumer demands more value from social media beyond “social”. They’re looking for valuable content that educates and informs, helps them find support and make more objective healthcare decisions.

Other Challenges of Social Media


The Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act protects privacy for patients, and there are serious fines for releasing Protected Health Information (PHI). From, some of the most common HIPAA violations include:

  • Posting of images and videos of patients without written consent
  • Posting of gossip about patients
  • Posting of any information that could allow an individual to be identified
  • Sharing of photographs or images taken inside a healthcare facility in which patients or PHI are visible
  • Sharing of photos, videos, or text on social media platforms within a private group

Patient-related posts, like patient testimonials, will have to go through a costly and time-consuming de-identification process and get reviewed by HR and HIPAA regulators before being posted.

Organization Policies

Many healthcare organizations discourage and even block social media usage on company networks. Aside from productivity issues, it can cause security breaches. For perspective, in 2018, 15 million patient records were breached during 503 healthcare data breaches. In these cases, there are serious repercussions for these companies. In 2017, recovery costs for stolen medical records were $380 per stolen record.


Healthcare organizations need to safeguard their image given the high stakes nature of their services. In addition, with trust already a problem, it’s better to be safe than sorry as it relates to social media postings that might backfire on the organization. For these reasons, social media content needs to be monitored by a seasoned marketer to manage the healthcare organization’s reputation.

Unclear Benefits

Healthcare organizations find it to difficult to measure ROI for inbound marketing techniques like social media marketing. In a recent 2019 Social Media Marketing Industry Report from Social Media Examiner, only 44% of marketers agreed they were able to measure their organic social activities. In this same report, 86% of marketers agreed that they’d like to learn more about Facebook analytics, and 89% agreed that they’d like to learn more about Google Anaytics.

Solutions To Combat Healthcare Social Media Challenges

Here are some solutions to combat the challenges healthcare organizations have with social media:

Determine The Role Social Media Will Play

What’s the role social media will play in helping your organization help your prospective patients, e.g.

  • education
  • thought-leadership
  • research
  • building top-of-mind awareness of your organization/service lines
  • creating positive brand associations of your organization

Determine Your Social Media Approach

Questions you need to answer include:

  • type, e.g. articles, videos, white papers, podcasts
  • style, e.g. interactive, authoritative, more friendly
  • sources, e.g. inside your organization (e.g. CEO, marketing, cross-functional), third-party
  • keywords that you want to own
  • guardrails, e.g. frequency, legal implications

Keep Patient Name and Information Anonymous in Blog Posts

To negate potential breaches of patient privacy, consider using patient personas instead of patient names when posting success stories. Prospective patients understand about privacy issues and will not disregard the value of a patient success story if a real patient’s name isn’t used.

Formalize Social Media Listening Practices

Integral to successful social media marketing is listening to what is being said about:

  • Your name, your handle,
  • Your services and possible misinformation
  • Competitor’s names/handles
  • People in your organization (CEO, spokesperson, etc.) and in competitor’s organizations
  • Campaign names and keywords
  • Branded hashtags and competitor’s hashtags

Set Up an Efficient Social Media Monitoring Work Flow

Creating a consistent and effective work flow is important to avoid review by HIPAA compliance officers.

Update Company Policies

What policies are in place for employee participation, brand consistency, crisis situations, etc. Company policies should be up to date to ensure that social media use by physicians, staff and others meet your organization’s criteria. Integrate employee training into the process to ensure that social media practices are understood and being followed.

Strengthened IT Infrastructure to Stay Secure

IT Infrastructures should be strengthened as follows:

  • Ensure no firewall holes
  • Ensure all antivirus protection is up-to-date; consider changing to stronger antivirus protection software if data has been breached in the past
  • Employees trained to recognize phishing scams and suspicious hacking activities
  • All employees who leave the organization are revoked of social media rights


Since 1999, Trajectory has shaped and guided brands across the healthcare and wellness landscape – launching, rebranding and implementing integrated marketing and digital programs. Reach out if you’re looking to bolster your social media marketing program.

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Social media comments may hinder credibility of health professionals

Social media comments may hinder credibility of health professionals | Social Media and Healthcare |

For health professionals, posting a single negative comment on their Facebook profiles may hinder their credibility with current or potential clients, according to a study.

The findings, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, show that Facebook posts that may affect people's perceptions of professionalism.

Researchers found that only one subtle comment posted expressing workplace frustration was enough for people to view one as a less credible health professional.

"This study provides the first evidence of the impact a health professionals' personal online disclosures can have on his/her credibility," said Serge Desmarais, Professor at the University of Guelph in Canada.


"This finding is significant not only because health professionals use social media in their personal lives, but are also encouraged to use it to promote themselves and engage with the public," Desmarais said.

For the study, the research team involved more than 350 participants who viewed a mock Facebook profile and rated the profile owner's credibility and then rated their own willingness to become his client.

The researchers tested factors, including the identified gender of the Facebook profile owner, whether they listed their profession as a veterinarian or medical physician and whether their profile included a posting of an ambiguous work day comment or a comment expressing frustration.

The only factor that influenced viewers' perception of the profile owner's professionalism was a single work day frustration comment. 

On a scale from 0 to 100, the profile with the negative workday comment was rated 11 points lower (56.7) than the one with an ambiguous work day comment (67.9).

"That's a meaningful drop. This shows that it takes just one simple comment for people to view you as less professional and to decide they don't want to become a client of yours," said Desmarais. 

"Depending on who sees your posts, you may really hurt your reputation just by being up late one night, feeling frustrated and posting your thoughts online," Desmarais added. 

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 Incorporating social media into physician assistant education: opportunities to benefit patients

 Incorporating social media into physician assistant education: opportunities to benefit patients | Social Media and Healthcare |

We read the recent paper by Wanner and colleagues1 with interest. The authors surveyed physician assistant (PA) students about their experiences with social media and concluded that educators might formally incorporate the use of social media into curricula designed for PA students to augment more traditional modalities like textbooks and lectures. We agree with the authors’ conclusions but would emphasize an additional benefit of weaving social media into PA student education – the benefit to their future patients.

Social media use is widespread among patients,2 including children and adolescents.3 The American Academy of Physician Assistants has advised PAs about standards of professionalism in their personal use of social media, largely centered around patient privacy.4 Other professional organizations such as the American College of Physicians2 and American Academy of Pediatrics3 emphasize the important role that clinicians should play in counseling about safe and appropriate social media use. For adults, this might include guidance about reputable sources of medical information,2 whereas discussions with younger patients might also include counseling about cyberbullying, sexting, and permanence of the digital footprint.5

We conducted a survey of PA students in their final semester at Yale University to gauge their own engagement with social media, and their attitudes and behaviors regarding the clinician’s role in counseling about social media. The electronic survey was sent to all 37 final semester PA students in the fall of 2016, 24 of whom (65%) responded. Similar to Wanner and colleagues,1 social media utilization among students was high, with all 24 (100%) respondents having engaged in social networking to stay personally connected with family, friends, and other trainees. Social media use for professional purposes was far less common with 7 (29%) having used social media to share medical information; 1 (4%) student was connected with faculty via social networks and 0 with patients or patients’ families. Despite high social media utilization, and agreement that “clinicians have a role in counseling” about social media use (17/24, 71%), only 3 (13%) felt comfortable doing this counseling, and 1 (4%) felt that she had received adequate training in the area.

Wanner and colleagues1 argue that formal inclusion of social media into PA student education was well received because the modality is familiar and engaging for the learners. In Wanner’s study, despite their familiarity with social media, many students felt it should be “an optional adjunct” in their education because of time demands and lack of reliability of online sources.1 The pervasiveness of social media justifies its use as an adjunct in medical education. However, student acceptance of social media as a formal part of the curriculum, rather than “an optional adjunct”, might have been improved if teaching about social media had accompanied teaching with social media.

Educators and clinicians must not forget that the pervasiveness of social media also affects our patients and their families in clinically meaningful ways. This point should be discussed with a generation of learners who, despite high levels of personal usage, still are quite reticent to discuss the positive and negative health and developmental effects of social media with their patients. In addition to engaging students with course content, we posit that the use of social media by educators would present an occasion to address learning opportunities identified by our survey and emphasized by professional organizations. Specifically, as social media takes hold in PA student education, discussions about the clinician’s role in discussing social media with patients and standards of professionalism would naturally follow.

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A physician shares her positive experience with social media

A physician shares her positive experience with social media | Social Media and Healthcare |

An opinion article was recently published in Stat by Daniel Sokol, PhD, who is a London-based bioethicist and lawyer specializing in medical law. His article, entitled “Doctors should use social media with restraint,” discusses the role of doctors on social media. This was very interesting timing for me as I have only very recently embarked on a professional online presence. Mr. Sokal uses Sir William Osler as his example of how a physician should behave. Indeed Sir William Osler is a well-regarded forefather of modern medicine often referred to as the “Father of Modern Medicine.” He was one of the four founding professors of John Hopkins Hospital, and he created the first residency program for specialty training of physicians. He was also the first to bring medical students to the bedside for clinical training. He referred to doctors as “the great army of quiet workers.”

I had many thoughts while reading through the article. My first was how much medicine has changed since the time of Sir William Osler. Physicians are now subject to online reviews and patients who come in after a night spent on-line with “Dr. Google” and have their agenda and unrealistic expectations before they ever see a physician. We have insurance companies and administrators having more and more say over how we practice. Medicine and the practice of medicine would be unrecognizable to Sir William Osler. What may have been appropriate a century ago may not be appropriate now.

I got to thinking about my professional online presence. Are my posts harmful and degrading to my field? Am I perpetuating a lack of confidence in the medical profession? I recalled my reason for starting my professional accounts. It was for the patients. Time and time again, I saw misinformation online. I was dealing with patients who had received misinformation or who were unable to interpret the information they had been reading. I read scathing reviews of good medical institutions over unrealistic expectations and a basic lack of understanding of how the medical system works. It seemed to me there wasn’t enough real information from real doctors for these patients to grab onto and rely on. I wanted to help. I wanted to contribute to real information for patients. I felt I could do more than explain to each patient one at a time. Social media seems the perfect outlet as it is consumed for hours and hours a day by billions of people across the globe. Why not be part of it and create something useful? To me, it seems patients are more and more skeptical of the medical profession because we have been so quiet. Most don’t even understand what our education process is like and the sacrifices we made and continue to make to take care of others. There is strong data to support a doctor is less likely to be sued if they are well liked by their patient. What better way to be well-liked by your patient than to be a human being with them?

Dr. Sokol’s article certainly caused me to reflect on my social media presence. I scrolled through my Instagram account and noted each of my posts. They were all geared at education. Each one offering sound advice and knowledge. Each careful to remain professional. I also note I have received nothing but positive feedback. My followers know they can ask me questions. My followers have told me they find my posts useful, eye-opening, and entertaining. I have also made many connections with other like-minded physicians and have already found a home in SoMeDocs and the Association for Healthcare Social Media.


So far, my experience with social media has been very positive. I feel I can make a difference in the lives of people I have never met. I agree that we should use caution. We should maintain dignity and respect above reality TV and sensationalist news. We are better than that. We are educators and examples to those around us, and we must be aware of that. With great privilege comes great responsibility.


Claudine J. Aguilera is an internal medicine physician.

Image credit:

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The Value of Social Listening for Healthcare Organizations |

The Value of Social Listening for Healthcare Organizations | | Social Media and Healthcare |

Healthcare organizations, like many organizations, should take advantage of the insight at their disposal that customers are offering up on social media. Social listening can lead to better informed social media and content strategies, with the needs of the customer at the center.

Utilize social listening for your content strategy

With the advancement of technology and social media, the obstacles that patients have historically faced to receive healthcare guidance are being diminished. Today, patients are able to ubiquitously access physicians’ opinions and advice via social media more easily than ever before. What once required an appointment and pointed conversation can now be found in Twitter feeds, on Facebook pages, and in blogs and forums, where doctors and patients are willingly volunteering their thoughts.

Healthcare organizations contributing to these conversations have the opportunity to gain impressions, drive traffic to their site, and ultimately win new customers. In order to produce relevant content that captures the attention of physicians or patients, social listening is a crucial first step in the creation of a well-informed social media and content strategy.

Reach new customers

With the growth of healthcare related education on social media, large numbers of patients are turning to it with certainty when faced with medical questions. More than 40% of consumers say that information found on social media affects the way they deal with their health.

Given this large population influenced by social media when it comes to their health, engaging in social conversation is a beneficial way for healthcare professionals and organizations to reach new customers and influence their decisions. Social media is shifting from an outlet for meaningless chatter to a valuable platform that can provide credible perspectives on today’s challenges and issues, including those that are insightful for doctors.

From a recent study, 54% of patients are very comfortable with their providers seeking advice from online communities to better treat their conditions. Doctors can feel comfortable perusing social media for insight and opinions from other professionals, knowing patients are comfortable with them doing so.

Understand what topics are trending

Before brands craft posts and content to reach these patients and physicians, significant research on the front end is needed to understand what topics are trending and worth exploring. Social listening allows brands to get a pulse on the current conversation, where customers are freely offering their thoughts and opinions. It’s a valuable tool useful for any organization wondering what consumers are saying about their brand, their product, or the industry, in general. But healthcare organizations, specifically, have a unique opportunity to be on the forefront of the growing community of trusted authorities sharing accurate, relevant content that helps educate the public and grow the relationship between the brand and the consumer.

By understanding the topics that are leading the most patients and doctors to post their thoughts, questions or concerns on social media, content can be tailored to fill these gaps in information and brands can position themselves to receive maximum engagement. Blindly creating content without taking the time to conduct social listening can lead to wasted time and money and failure to take advantage of the large volume of patients and doctors looking to online communities to better treat their conditions.

If you are interested in taking your organization’s social listening and content strategy efforts to the next level, contact the experts here at Engage!


Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

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Your social media posts can be reveal your health condition. Here's how

Your social media posts can be reveal your health condition. Here's how | Social Media and Healthcare |

study has found that Facebook posts can help detect mental and physical health conditions like depression, anxiety, and diabetes. Researchers say that they can predict whether or not a Facebook user will have at least one of 21 medical conditions, simply by analysing their profiles and posts.

The study was “particularly effective at predicting diabetes and mental health conditions including anxiety, depression and psychoses”. 

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Stony Brook University said that they studied 999 patients’ social media presence on Facebook and could deduce whether or not that patient is likely to present with a medical condition.

Lead Author Dr Raina Merchant said, “… insights gleaned from these posts could be used to better inform patients and providers about their health” as what someone posts online is reflective of their state of mind, personality, and lifestyle.

Patients who volunteered for the study allowed automated data collection tools to scrub their profile for information and for their medical records to be linked to Facebook, as well. The researchers then studied the data in three verticals— only Facebook data, only demographics data, and a combination of the two.

How does this study work?

The researchers explain that they obtained Facebook statuses going back five years and restricted themselves to only those subjects who used a total of 500 words in all status updates combined as it is the threshold word count for language analysis. They also obtained demographics such as age, race, sex, and prior diagnoses. 

Instead of analysing words that were most commonly used, the study analysed words that were most significantly related to a certain medical condition. For example, “drunk” or “bottle” were linked to alcoholism. These phrases were then grouped together and viewed as word clouds to visually ascertain which ones stood out.

Also readSecond person to be HIV-free spells hope for the global AIDS fight: All you need to know

The study found that more expletive language was linked to substance abuse, while religious language was linked to diabetes.

Dr. Merchant said that healthcare professionals can use information from a patient’s social media profile to better understand their lifestyles and state of mind and more efficiently advise them medically.

However, the study does not directly address the performative aspect of social media. Scores of public figures and social media influencers may not necessarily be honest and transparent in their thoughts and feelings.

People also use social media for a variety of reasons–– while some use it as an outlet or medium of expression, others use it as business platforms or a source of creative discovery. Those who sell wellness products, for instance, might be more likely to use certain terminology related to physical or mental conditions. The study does not clarify whether or not such profiles will be a hinderance to prediction.

Additionally, social media platforms are often used facetiously and people make comments in jest, sarcasm or irony–– the study does not explicitly mention that it takes literary devices or tonality into account.

The study is also limited to Americans and not intersectional.

This is problematic because other cultures may have different norms of social media usage. Although other countries may also use Facebook in English, non-American phrasing carries different, deep-rooted cultural and socio-economic context that must be taken into consideration especially because the study is so heavily based on linguistic analysis.

Moreover, the study also brings up crucial questions about privacy and the dangers of sharing too much identifiable information online.

Google’s AI can accurately predict lung cancer

In May, Google announced that it was developing a new artificial intelligence (AI) tool that can help diagnosis lung cancer more accurately than currently available methods.

“Using advances in 3D volumetric modeling alongside datasets from our partners (including Northwestern University), we’ve made progress in modeling lung cancer prediction as well as laying the groundwork for future clinical testing,” said Google.

Using 3D modelling, researchers are Google use a patient’s current and previous CT scans to form a malignancy prediction. After testing 45,856 chest scans and corroborating its findings with six different US board-certified radiologists, Google says that its AI tool reduces false positives by more than 11% and already is 5% more accurate than radiologists.

The value of technology in all sectors—especially in healthcare—is swiftly increasing. Technological innovation is redefining the speed of healthcare development and vastly improving its quality. The one hurdle now is to make these state-of-the art technological tools affordable and accessible to the masses. 

Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius

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Pharmaceutical Marketing: 3 Ways to Manage Patient Relations |

Pharmaceutical Marketing: 3 Ways to Manage Patient Relations | | Social Media and Healthcare |

As digital marketers, we look at a website and think about how it interacts with its stakeholders. For pharmaceutical companies, the stakeholders we most often think of include healthcare professionals, specialists/consultants, and physicians.

However, the patients—the consumers—of pharmaceutical products require equal attention and communication. In an industry that is especially business-to-business (B2B) oriented, pharmaceutical marketers can struggle to understand where the individual patients exist within a company’s digital space, so we often overlook their needs.

Our businesses’ success depends on addressing our patients’ needs within our website and effectively communicating with them. According to Physicians Practice, effective pharmaceutical marketing and communication with patients can reduce patient bills, mitigate risks of litigation, and increase referral rates.

In this post, we’ll discuss how managing your patients' expectations, providing them with educational information, and building relationships with them are ways you can improve your digital strategy and develop patient preference and trust.


The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) says that creating reasonable expectations with your patients results in trust and confidence. Think about all the ways you make a promise to your patients and double check that you’re delivering. Managing expectations is about helping patients know when to be satisfied.

The same holds true in the digital world. So if you promise them that you will respond to their email in one business day, make sure that’s what you’re doing. Otherwise, patients are right not to be satisfied.

Rational and Emotional Value

Managing expectations is about overseeing patients’ rational and emotional value. The following definitions come from AAOS:

Rational value: Created when actionable expectations are met. You can manage the rational value of your patients via appointments, phone calls, consultations, or even responding to an email as pointed out in the example above.

Emotional value: Created when you explain what you’re about to do before you do it. You can manage the emotional value of your patients by developing content that shows patients what to expect before they buy your drug or what to expect before they come in for a consultation.

Boston Digital Client Focuses on Patient Expectations


Many times companies want to manage expectations, but don’t know where to start. Setting up surveys or checking in with patients through emails is a great way to uncover expectation gaps.

Listen to your patients and get their feedback. Make sure that once you get this feedback that it doesn’t hit a dead end. Set up a course of action to rectify the situation.


According to Pew Research Center, 72% of patients get their health information online. To be an effective communicator, you need to convert your website’s information from an electronic brochure to an educational resource. Every patient goes through a buyer’s decision journey.

In the early stages of their buyer's journey, your site must have the resources necessary to inform patients about your product or service provides life-saving solutions to them. Once you offer the solution, you can then convince them why your approach is superior.

Some great ways to turn your information into easily digestible content for patients are:

1. Use clear illustrations and simple words to show users what life would be like with your product or service.

Boston Digital Client Genzyme Puts Its People Front and Center with Beautiful Photography

2. Create visual comparisons so patients can assess your product.

Boston Digital Client Kynamro Compares Its Syringe Size to a Penny

3. Simplify complex situations to lists to help guide patients through intricate procedures step-by-step.

 Boston Digital Client Kynamro Creates Simple-to-use Guides for Patients


The process of improving patient health is as much the pharmacist’s responsibility as it is the patient’s. Jeffrey Brenner, renowned physician and founder of Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, boasts that he loves getting to know his patients and talking with them because he believes the trick to healing and wellness is relationship building.

In fact, evidence supports that positive doctor-patient relationships are therapeutic for the patients and promote healing. You can emulate these relationships through your website strategy. In order for any good partnership to work, both parties need to have a role. You can give patients a role in their health decisions by:

  • Developing an intuitive navigation 
  • Creating prominent calls to action
  • Providing informational resources
  • Never leading patients to a dead-end

In the end, the tools and information you provide your patients show your care and consideration. When you manage expectations, develop the right educational resources, and build solid partnerships with your patients, you give your patients control over what ails them, and you build a trust that can never be broken.

Do you have advice about how to communicate with patients through a website? Share your experiences with us. Message us on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn

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7 Digital Marketing Strategies for Healthcare

7 Digital Marketing Strategies for Healthcare | Social Media and Healthcare |

Digital transformation has accelerated the game for healthcare. Patients now have more options and methods to monitor their health online or seek care. For healthcare brands, the clear path to success today is in establishing a solid online presence and effectively implementing mobile-first digital marketing strategies that get you front and centre to patients who are online.

Insight:  For many healthcare customers, the search for a health provider often begins online and on mobile.

Data: 90% of all healthcare journeys start online, and 60% of health-related searches start on a mobile device. In fact, consumers are now spending over 15 hours per week researching service providers from their smartphones. (Google Think Insights)

Key Action Point:  Mobile first is a different way of thinking. UX and channel choices are vastly different and should be considered independently in implementing the right digital marketing strategy that drives the best results for healthcare brands.

According to Consumer Barometer, 61% of people in Australia use local online and offline research to find local businesses and service providers. This means if you want your business to be found, you need to be online.

Today’s service directories are found on mobile; if your business is not getting traction on online channels yet, you may be only setting yourself to fail.

But it’s not too late to reverse this. Below are some of the best mobile-first digital marketing strategies that can make all the difference for healthcare brands today.

  1. Create Seamless Patient Portals
  2. Make Patient Booking and Scheduling Easy Online
  3. Build Mobile-First and Responsive Websites
  4. Develop Faster Site Speeds for a Better User Experience
  5. Use PPC and Display Ads Targeting Mobile
  6. Leverage Patient Feedback, Reviews, and Testimonials
  7. Win Your Patient’s Micro-Moments


1. Create Seamless Patient Portals

No one likes having to visit the doctor’s clinic or going to the hospital for a check-up, to renew old prescriptions, or to access important health records every single time. Giving your patients access to an online patient portal not only empowers your doctors and medical team, but you also give your patients exactly what they need — their time back.

In a survey by CDW Healthcare, 89% of patients want easy and seamless access to their personal health records, and a survey by Accenture shows as much as 78% of consumers are interested in receiving virtual healthcare.

According to Accenture’s 2018 Consumer Health Survey, 56% of consumers are already using websites to manage their health, 46% use their mobile phones and tablets to book doctor appointments, and 38% access their health records electronically.

As shown in the graph below, patient portals and virtual healthcare are preferable in offering patients timely care, reducing medical costs, and accommodating both patient and physician schedules.

Image credits: Accenture

For online patient portals to be effective, it needs to have access to the following:

  • Doctor or specialist look-up features
  • Online booking or self-scheduling features
  • Easy access to patient health data or records
  • Online bill payment options
  • Online prescription renewal
  • Patient-provider messaging and chat features
  • A knowledge-based portal containing patient health information and explainer videos
  • Patient access to virtual check-ups

Image credit: Petal MD

Patient portals serve both patients and doctors alike; they save time and promote efficiency. If you want to stand out to your patient-customer base, you need to strongly consider online portals and virtual health tools and apps to level up your online offering.


2. Make Patient Booking and Scheduling Online

Though the majority of the patients prefer to call for appointments, majority of the Millennials (71%) think taking time off to see a doctor is inconvenient and would rather book appointments online or through mobile apps; they would rather consult a doctor virtually rather than making a trip to the clinic.

Data from Accenture also points out that by the end of 2019, 66% of health systems will offer self-scheduling and 64% of all patients will use this feature.

Making online booking and self-scheduling available to your patients helps you save time, provides easy tracking and booking management, and minimises costs.


3. Build Mobile-First and Responsive Websites

Your practice will be judged by your website’s design and user experience. If your website’s performance is not up to par, it hurts your credibility and potential patients turn somewhere else.

According to research by Klein & Partners, 11% of visitors to a hospital or health system say poor website experience led to negative feelings about that brand.

Keep in mind that Google puts a prime on the user experience when ranking websites.  Mobility is fast becoming the new standard. In Australia, 60% of consumers use their smartphones and tablets to find local information, according to Consumer Barometer.

Website responsiveness and mobile optimisation are only some of Google’s key ranking factors. If your website is not responsive and fails to adapt to different devices, you lose out on visitor retention and user traffic, and time on site comes crashing down.


4. Develop Faster Site Speeds for a Better User Experience

Did you know that it only takes 5 seconds to lose a website visitor or a potential patient because of a slow website? Today’s online consumers hate slow loading times and can only wait so long before moving on to something else.

As of July 2018, Google has announced that page speed will be a ranking factor for Google searches.

To check that your website speed is up to par with today’s standards, head on over to Google’s Page Speed insights tool to check how well your page performs on the Chrome UX Report and get suggestions as to how you can optimise site performance.

Other useful tools that you can check out are the Chrome User Experience Report and Lighthouse, another chrome developer tool, which audits the performance and accessibility of web pages.


5. Use Pay Per Click and Display Ads Targeting Mobile

SEO may get you to the top of Google’s first page results, but notice the top recommendations belong to pay-per-click (PPC) and display ads. With PPC or paid search, you can create a budget for your PPC spend so your practice is listed on top of search engine results for specific keywords and terms.

Not only does this dramatically increase visibility, but you also have a better chance to track your return on investment for PPC and display ads that can be set to appear on the sidebar or triggered to “follow users around” on other websites based on their search behaviour and intent.

With 9 out of 10 searchers ending up buying after a mobile query, mobile search has a great impact on consumer’s purchasing decisions. Smartphone and tablets now account for 32% of paid search clicks and 25% of all PPC ad spend.

This means that setting up your ads and landing pages to match consumer intent can lead to a more successful mobile PPC campaign.


6. Leverage Patient Feedback, Reviews, and Testimonials

When looking for a health provider we can trust, we all turn to positive feedback from their former patients or check reviews online. Patient recommendations and feedback are frequently the driving force to new patient visits. In fact, 97% of people read reviews for local businesses, which drives the purchase decisions of 93% of consumers.

They are effective at creating social proof, increasing credibility and trust, and giving you a direct line to engage with your patients. Whether on your website or your social pages, these patient reviews and feedback should be highlighted front and centre.

Using video testimonials from your patients are a great way to share your brand story, build trust, and increase conversion.  

So ask for reviews from your patients as much as possible. Always follow-up on feedback, and use it as an opportunity to evaluate their healthcare experience and identify ways to improve your services. It goes a long way to build trust and credibility for your practice as well.

7. Win Your Patient’s Micro-Moments

Have you ever had those “I need to know” moments where you have a sudden need to learn about skin cancer or stem cell therapy? These micro-moments happen more frequently than we realise, and we turn to our smartphones or any device at hand to search for something, and we demand quick answers at a moment’s notice.

Your patient’s micro-moments are an opportunity to position your brand exactly where your patients are looking. Being able to answer these questions and showing up when these micro-moments happen drives conversion.

Google points out that consumers and patients are drawn to brands that can deliver their needs during these micro-moments. In healthcare, these are the four micro-moments you need to pay attention to so you can leverage your marketing strategy when they do happen:

  • What’s wrong with me? Be ready to answer random patient queries by optimising your web pages and creating content that addresses these questions such as explainer videos, blog posts, and infographics.
  • Where can I get treatment? This is why getting your business listed online and in Google is critical because “near me” searches matter, especially in health-related services. You need to make sure you’re visible in Google Maps where your practice is located so search engines can make online recommendations according to patient proximity.
  • Whom can I trust? After healthcare providers are determined according to proximity, online patient reviews, feedback, and trust-building content are what gets potential patients to call you.
  • How can I book an appointment? This final step is crucial to getting the first call and driving conversion. Make sure your booking and contact information is easy to find. Offer seamless options, and make the booking process as convenient as possible.

Explore further: 10 Healthcare Marketing Case Studies to Inspire Your Next Move


Tying It Together

With the increasing need to be mobile-first, healthcare practices today need to take the next step and embrace digital transformation. To stay relevant, adapt to mobile-first digital marketing methods that answer the changing needs of health consumers today.

Today’s digital marketing solutions hold the promise of timely and excellent care for patients, lower costs, and empower your brand and your patients throughout their customer journey.

Healthcare brands that turn a blind eye to these digital marketing strategies will not only limit themselves and what they can offer, but they also run the risk of alienating the huge percentage of healthcare seekers who turn to practices that are already mobile and online.

Get in touch with us today to explore how you can connect digital transformation to your customer strategy.

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Laying the foundation for experimentation-based digital marketing in healthcare -

Laying the foundation for experimentation-based digital marketing in healthcare - | Social Media and Healthcare |

The headlines are everywhere: biosensors, point-of-care diagnostics, artificial intelligence, next-generation sequencing—the healthcare industry is evolving rapidly. The way healthcare is marketed and delivered to consumers and patients? That’s another story.

The Current State of Digital Disruption in Healthcare

Overall, the global digital health market is growing steadily. In 2015, it was valued at $80B. By 2020, it’s expected to increase to over $200B. The estimated global electronic health records (EHR) and electronic medical records (EMR) market in 2020 alone is $24B. The forecasted global telemedicine market size in 2021? $41B.


Perhaps that explains why a 2018 study from Ernst & Young found that 91% of healthcare companies already had or planned to begin a digital health initiative within the next year to improve patient experience. How? 51% of healthcare companies said data analytics were the top initiative, followed closely by competitive benchmarking, among others.

Medical startups are securing ample funding in 2019. In fact, the total digital health industry funding worldwide in 2018 surpassed $14B.


A study conducted by a team of scientists last year indicates that the best way for large companies to approach digital disruption in healthcare is likely through collaboration. Corporations must learn from startups, and vice versa:

Digital transformation is an opportunity to accelerate health care performance by lowering cost and improving quality of care. At an economic scale, business models can be strengthened and disruptive innovation models enabled. Corporations should look for collaborations with start-up companies to keep investment costs at bay and off the balance sheet. At the same time, the regulatory knowledge of established corporations might help [startups] to kick off digital disruption in the health care sector.

The study looked at how technology corporations, life science companies and medical startups are investing in digital disruption. Technology corporations are investing heavily in adherence hardware and treatment platforms. Similarly, life science companies are investing heavily in adherence hardware and software. Treatment services are also becoming a priority.

Medical startups, on the other hand, are more diversified, actively exploring all six major customer needs: adherence, diagnostic, lifestyle, patient engagement, prevention, and treatment.


With the proper funding in their pockets, the increasing demand and their diversified efforts, medical startups will only add to the mounting pressure to tackle digital disruption head-on.

Currently, however, most companies are falling short of consumer and patient expectations.

Michael Song from MedImmune presented some surprising numbers at Digital Pharma EAST late last year:

  • There are 325,000 health and fitness apps on the market.
  • Only 41 of them have more than 10M downloads on Google Play.
  • In fact, 85% have fewer than 5,000 downloads.
  • 50% of mHealth apps will never break even the 500 downloads mark.
  • Over 50% of apps see a usage drop-off rate of 64% after just 30 days.

Yet, according to a survey conducted by Transcend Insights, 64% of patients say they use a digital device (e.g. mobile apps) to manage their health. 71% believe it would be useful if their doctor could access that data as part of their medical records.

Again, the demand exists, but isn’t being met (yet). All of this information paints a clear picture: consumers and patients want the way healthcare is marketed and delivered to catch up to the pace at which healthcare as a whole is going digital, yet companies are consistently falling short of those expectations.


Consumers and patients want the way healthcare is marketed and delivered to catch up to the pace at which healthcare as a whole is going digital.



The tricky thing about this industry shift is the sheer number of factors to consider. For example, according to Bain and Co., the five pillars of digital disruption in healthcare are:

  1. The Amazon Effect: As non-traditional healthcare companies, like Amazon, enter the space, competition and innovation are heating up.
  2. The Digital Revolution: Tech innovations, such as smart devices and machine learning, are making digital treatment and care a reality.
  3. Regulatory Change: New and complex regulations, like the debate over the US Affordable Care Act, make for an unpredictable future.
  4. Consumerism: Consumers and patients have more choices than ever before.
  5. Personalized Medicine: Medical products and services will be increasingly tailored to specific consumers and patients based on their unique medical history.

This digital disruption is a healthcare evolution, not revolution. You will notice the impact in small pockets of the industry first, but it will continue to spread. The best time to start thinking about this shift was yesterday, but today is the second best.

What was going on in your business when you decided to start running experiments?

“It goes back to Providence’s mission. We’re here to help the poor and vulnerable, to ease their way. How can we make the experience as smooth as possible so consumers can get to the healthcare solution they need faster? Answering that question seemed like a really important, worthwhile task. A combination of analytic thinking with that desire to make the consumer’s way as seamless as possible prompted us to drive toward experimentation.” — Marc Schwartz, Director, Growth Marketing at Providence Health and Services


John Ekman from Conversionista shared a few industry-agnostic tips for companies looking to chase digital transformation at CXL Live 2019:

  1. Digital transformation is a result, not a goal.
  2. Digital transformation is largely the result of combining momentum, proper resources and strategic evaluation.
  3. There are five ways to “go digital”: digitize the product itself, add a digital service layer to the product, digitize your processes, digitize your marketing and sales strategy, and come up with net new digital products.
  4. Allocate budget and resources to new projects first.
  5. Listen to what your consumers need, act quickly on those needs, and scale.

For the rest of the article, we’ll focus on how to digitize your marketing and sales strategy.

The Challenges of Digital Disruption in Healthcare

You will encounter a number of contextual challenges as you start to digitize your marketing and sales strategy, from stakeholder support to resourcing. Universally speaking, though, there are two major challenges that make going digital particularly difficult in healthcare: Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA) and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA); and the lack of a traditional online transaction in healthcare.

1. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA)

As Bain and Co. suggested above, regulations, both new and old, have a big impact on the healthcare industry. HIPAA and its Canadian counterpart, PHIPA, complicate the collection, use, and disclosure of personal health information.

These acts are incredibly wide-reaching and nuanced. HIPAA is designed to protect patient rights and promote the safeguard of electronic protected health information (e-PHI). Here is a high-level summary of what’s covered under HIPAA:

  • All e-PHI created or received must be kept confidential and available to those entitled to access.
  • Anyone with access to e-PHI must take all reasonable steps to identify and eliminate potential threats to the security (and integrity) of that e-PHI.
  • Anyone with access to e-PHI must take all reasonable steps to identify and eliminate potential impermissible uses, disclosures, alterations, or deletions.
  • Anyone with access to e-PHI must take all reasonable steps to ensure HIPAA compliance within their entire organization.

Here is a high-level summary of what’s covered under PHIPA:

  • Consent is required if you want to collect, use or disclose personal health information.
  • All personal health information is considered confidential and those in possession of it must take all reasonable steps to maintain its security.
  • Everyone has the right to access their personal health information at any time.
  • Everyone has the right to instruct those with their personal health information to not share it with others.
  • The rules around using personal health information for research, fundraising, and marketing purposes are even more rigorous and nuanced.
  • Everyone has the right to correct errors in their personal health information at any time.

There are a lot of gray areas here. These acts cover everything from a single practitioner medical office to multi-national health plans. What’s important for us, as marketers, to remember is this: PHIPA and HIPAA make sourcing usable data for marketing activities in the healthcare industry particularly difficult.

How have HIPAA restrictions impacted your strategy?

“HIPAA is always top of mind as it should be for healthcare companies. Consumer privacy is of top importance in dealing with such sensitive issues like health. It was interesting to learn In some of the research we did around personalization, that one of the assumptions that people have about healthcare companies is that we’re going to be trustworthy and reliable. Because HIPAA exists, that’s implicit.

We also found that consumers give more data use latitude to a healthcare company if it helps them. So it puts the onus on the healthcare company to ask, ‘Is what I’m doing helpful for the consumer?’ It should never just be helpful to you.” — Marc Schwartz


2. The missing transaction

As Marc Schwartz, Director of Growth Marketing at Providence Health and Services, explains, there is often a lack of a traditional online transaction in healthcare: “There’s no basket. There’s no actual care that happens on our site; the care happens in the doctor’s office. Our doctors and their services are our product. So how quickly and easily we get someone to a doctor’s office becomes really important. Your measures of success need to be different.”

This forces you to adopt a utilitarian mindset. Your visitors already know what they want to do and they’re already convinced they need to do it, they just want to get it done as painlessly as possible. They need to find a doctor with availability, they need to find a clinic close by, they need to book an appointment with a specialist, they need to understand the science behind their unique condition—you name it.

The burden of persuasion is lifted, but this forces added pressure onto your user experience (UX) and customer journeys.

Why Experimentation is the Crux of “Going Digital”

Think of experimentation as your emergency vehicle through this complex period of digital disruption. Why? There are the internal benefits, of course:

  • Experimentation brings voice of customer data to the forefront by prioritizing consistent research and improvement.
  • Experimentation encourages strategic resourcing and unbiased digital decision-making.
  • Experimentation processes can be applied to every element of your sales and marketing strategy.
  • Experimentation fosters a test and learn culture.

More importantly, though, experimentation benefits the end consumer.

Schwartz explains: “Experimentation has made us realize how many hoops we make our consumers jump through just to do a transaction, and how frustrating that is. Experimentation forces you to ask why and the more you ask why, the more you realize your language is confusing, the number of steps required is too daunting, you don’t give enough direction, etc. Frankly, experimentation has shown us how hard we’ve made it for consumers to do what they want to do.”

It’s not enough to simply “go digital”; you have to “go digital” effectively. That means a commitment to fine-tuning the UX and customer journeys, a job that’s never truly done, according to Schwartz: “In reality, our biggest competition is always the latest consumer experience that someone has had. That changes the playing field, you’re never done.”


It’s not enough to simply “go digital”; you have to “go digital” effectively.



If digital disruption and transformation is the destination, experimentation is the emergency vehicle with its lights on and sirens blaring. Without it, at best, your digital sales and marketing strategy will be stagnant. At worst, you will be making important business decisions based on bias and subjective opinion.

What’s the most valuable thing experimentation brings to the table, and why?

“It’s helped us understand what’s most important to consumers. The site doesn’t exist for us, it exists for our consumers. Experimentation is one form of research that gives you insight into the mind of the consumer, which then allows us to drive action and results.

One of the questions you have to ask when an experiment wins is why. What makes it a winner? Same thing when it loses. Why did it lose? Were you out of touch with the consumer? Winners and losers, research—it’s all an opportunity to listen to the customer and improve relevancy. If you’re not helpful to consumers, if you’re not of value to consumers… why do you exist, why are you here?” — Marc Schwartz


How to Lay the Foundation for Experimentation

Before you launch your first experiment, you want to master the basics and lay the groundwork for an effective experimentation program that will grow with you through your digital expansion. That means:

  1. Setting meaningful goals and defining your metrics.
  2. Defining scalable, repeatable processes for identifying and prioritizing opportunities.
  3. Mapping your existing customer journeys, defining your ideal customer journeys, and identifying gaps and opportunities.

1. Setting Your Goals

The lack of a transaction makes setting goals and defining metrics more tricky in healthcare than in other industries. Often, it means there are more customer journeys to account for, which means more conversion points to optimize. Take Swedish Medical Center, for example. Here’s their current “Find a Doctor” page:


The Swedish Medical Center “Find a Doctor” funnel.


From here, a consumer might:

  1. Use the search function to find a doctor based on a number of different inputs.
  2. Find a doctor based on a single filter (e.g. “Specialty”) below.
  3. Call the 1-800 number to have a representative help you find a doctor over the phone.

Each of those three options leads the consumer down a separate customer journey to achieve the same result: finding the right doctor.

In e-commerce, on the other hand, you would have a more structured, linear funnel. The consumer visits the product page, they add the product to their cart, they enter their shipping and payment information, they review the order, they complete the purchase.

You need to get aligned on what’s important to you as an organization from the beginning. Is it as simple as the number of appointments booked? Is it how quickly visitors are able to book their appointment?


You need to get aligned on what’s important to you as an organization from the beginning before you start running any experiments.



Ask yourself a few questions before moving on to step two:

  1. What metric restrictions exist currently? What’s feasible and what’s not? What will be feasible in the future? What’s worth investing in now to make things easier and more reliable in the future? For example, only some doctors have online appointment booking enabled on Swedish and Swedish has no control over the availability of the doctors.
  2. How comfortable are you with directional metrics and data? What’s your risk tolerance?

2. Defining Your Processes

Amateurs rely on hacks and tactics. They throw opinion after opinion at the wall to see what sticks. And sure, occasionally, they might get a big win. But they won’t know why or how to replicate the success. Instead, they’ll simply continue to throw more ideas at the wall.

A better way to approach experimentation is through repeatable, scalable processes that prioritize insights and learning. Pros design experiments in a way that brings value, regardless of whether or not the experiment won.

At WiderFunnel, we use the Infinity Optimization Process to generate experiment ideas and lift revenue:

WiderFunnel’s Infinity Optimization Process™


On the green “Explore” side, we gather quantitative and qualitative data to generate informed experiment ideas. That means looking at old experiment results, diving into digital analytics, conducting user testing, interviewing consumers, etc. On the blue “Validate” side, we:

  • Prioritize experiment ideas from the “Explore” side.
  • Create hypotheses for our high priority experiment ideas.
  • Develop an experimentation plan and design the experiment.
  • Loop in UX/UI designers.
  • Conduct quality assurance for the experiment.
  • Run the experiment.
  • Analyze the results.

Note the infinity loop surrounding both sides! Experiment results feed back into the green “Explore” side.

Also, notice how the “Explore” side revolves around the airplane icon in the middle? That’s our LIFT Model®:

WiderFunnel’s LIFT Model details the 6 conversion factors.

By focusing on these six conversion factors when evaluating your website and conducting research, you will focus your efforts and avoid subjective opinion (as much as humanly possible, anyway).

We’re using this to drive smarter hypotheses that fuel experimentation. Research and experimentation go hand-in-hand. All of the data we collect… all of the website click data, all of the heatmap data, all of the feedback from visitors—we use every data source we can come up with to get to the heart and into the mind of the consumer. Then we drive experiments using that information.

— Marc Schwartz

The optimization and experimentation process looks a bit different at every company and you will undoubtedly end up tweaking it to suit your unique needs. What matters is that you’re relying on a process that you can run through repeatedly. Experimentation is the act of consistently, purposefully mining for minerals, not striking gold.

3. Mapping Your Existing Customer Journeys & Identifying the Opportunities

Now it’s time to map your existing customer journeys. What’s the current state of your website (or other digital asset)? Here are a few questions you should ask yourself at this stage:

  • Where are visitors arriving from?
  • What do visitors come here to do?
  • What am I asking them to do here?
  • How many steps stand between them and their end goal?
  • How many of them make it to step one, step two, step three, etc.?

This is where the LIFT Model comes in handy. You can evaluate the current state based on those six conversion factors as well: value proposition, relevance, clarity, urgency, distraction, and anxiety.

Using Behavioral Science to Gain a Deeper Understanding

Providence works with WiderFunnel’s behavioral science team to conduct in-depth research that illuminates the existing customer journey.

In one study, 10 participants were asked to complete four key tasks (find a doctor, find a location, schedule an appointment, and register for a class) on a Providence-owned website and on competitive websites.

The study had two parts:

  • Part 1: Task-based, unmoderated interview.
  • Part 2: Self-reflection questions. For example:
    • How easy or difficult was it to complete this task?
    • How would you rate your experience completing this task?

WiderFunnel’s team of behavioral scientists then examined all of the video recordings, and assigned ratings based on their observations of friction and ease. They also conducted a sentiment analysis based on what respondents were saying while attempting to complete each task.

Watching these 10 participants try to use their website has been invaluable to the Providence team. Seeing (and hearing) pain points, clarity gaps, distractions, etc. helped map their existing journeys and visualize their ideal journeys, effectively fuelling their experimentation pipeline.


Once you have a firm understanding of the current state, you can move on to mapping your ideal customer journeys. Your job now is to imagine how you can get your visitors to what they want as quickly as possible. In other words, your job is to improve the user experience and your customer journeys.


Your job as a marketer in healthcare is to imagine how you can get your visitors to what they want as quickly as possible.



An alternative to The Swedish Medical Center’s original “Find a Doctor” funnel gives consumers the chance to “Book an Appointment”.

What does your research tell you about what your visitors want and how effectively you currently deliver that value to them? Are there any technical limitations or gaps that you need to solve for to bring your ideal state to life? Essentially, what opportunities exist for you to close the gap between these two states? Those opportunities are the breeding ground for your data-informed experiment ideas.

What results have you seen because of experimentation?

“We’ve definitely seen an increase in consumers moving through our doctor funnel and our location funnel. We’ve seen that we’ve eased the way of the consumer, which has led to big learnings overall.

We’re always looking for opportunities to anticipate intent and then meet that intent. Experimentation has helped us understand where we’ve gotten intent wrong. It helps solidify our thinking and also inspire our thinking.” — Marc Schwartz


Maybe your findings indicate you should experiment with something as simple as fewer steps, a shorter customer journey. Or maybe they indicate you should experiment with Tealium to provide your phone representatives with live, anonymous consumer data. Whatever the case may be, you’re ready to turn your opportunities into hypotheses, your hypotheses into experiments, your experiments into insights, and your insights into revenue.

Examples of customer journey improvements

We’ve improved Providence’s mobile hospital pages to increase engagement with nearly every action a user can take on that page, from finding additional information, getting directions, or calling the hospital itself.

In another experiment on Providence’s location search funnel, improvements to the user interface (UI) dramatically improved engagement with all elements on the page. We were able to reduce frustrating back-and-forth visits to the second, third, fourth page of results, indicating a much better overall user experience.

Tackling Digital Disruption with Experimentation

Digital disruption isn’t coming, it has arrived. (It’s even had a few years to unpack and make itself at home.) Here’s what healthcare companies can do to tackle it head-on:

  1. Recognize experimentation as the crux.
  2. Use the Infinity Optimization Process as inspiration to define relevant internal experimentation processes ahead of time.
  3. Map all existing customer journeys.
  4. Map all ideal customer journeys.
  5. Plug the gaps between those two states (existing and ideal) into the experimentation processes defined in step three.

The great thing about experimentation is that it’s a positive feedback loop. The more experiments you run, the higher the quality of your future experiments. It’s simply a matter of getting started—before you’re left behind.

Are you a marketer in the healthcare space, facing digital disruption? We’d love to hear from you! Leave your thoughts, challenges, questions, and strategies in the comments section below.

Foogleseo's curator insight, July 1, 11:19 PM
Digital transformation is an opportunity to accelerate health care performance by lowering cost and improving quality of care. At an economic scale, business models can be strengthened and disruptive innovation models enabled. Corporations should look for collaborations with start-up companies to keep investment costs at bay and off the balance sheet. At the same time, the regulatory knowledge of established corporations might help [startups] to kick off digital disruption in the health care sector.'s curator insight, July 5, 2:53 AM

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How to share patient stories in your digital marketing strategy

It is so important to practice active listening with your patients, to understand their journey and what they have been through. Start documenting when the
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20 Instagram and Twitter Accounts for Nurses (Plus Hashtags!) -

20 Instagram and Twitter Accounts for Nurses (Plus Hashtags!) - | Social Media and Healthcare |

Nurses Use Social Media. Now more than ever nurses are using social media for fun, education and community. Are you wondering which nurses to follow on Instagram and Twitter? Here are a few of the best hashtags and accounts that offer a dose of fun and education for nurses:


The magic of Instagram is in the hashtags. Unlike Twitter, which has a 140 charter limit when posting, Instagram lets you use up to thirty hashtags per post. If you need to locate people in certain niches or be found yourself be sure to use pertinent hashtags. Some of the best hashtags for nurses on Instagram are:

  • #nurse
  • #nursing
  • #nurselife
  • #nursepractitioner
  • #instanursing
  • #nurseproblems
  • #nursingschoolproblems
  • #aprn
  • #nursesrock
  • #nurselife

Be sure to follow these accounts on Instagram:


1. @nursinglol


With over 13,000 followers, this account is full of lol worthy nursing memes that nurses and nursing students can relate to. @nursinglol points out funny and comical moments in nursing.


2. @nursesofinstagram


This account has over 22,000 followers with inspirational and funny posts for nurses. They occasionally feature cute fashionable scrubs, and build nursing community by highlighting other nurses. Use #nursesofinstagram.


3. @northeasternnursing


@northeasternnursing is the account of Northeastern University’s Bouve College of Health Sciences. They post inspirational quotes and blog articles from their school blog. One posting strategy that this account does, that is notably different from others, is that they feature famous nurses.


4. @thekatieduke


Real life nurse and TV figure Katie Duke, from show NY Med on ABC, has a following of 18,000 on Instagram. The signature #dealwithit on her posts offers a glimpse into this empowered nurse’s personality.


5. @instanursing


Nurse Richard Soto RN’s mission of his Instagram account is keep nurses sharp and educated. He features tips and humor on his account to that is interesting while being educational.




Despite Instagram’s rapid growth, Twitter has the large established community of nurses. Like Instagram, Twitter strength lies in the hashtags. Here are popular nurse hashtags on Twitter:

  • #healthcare
  • #nursecollab
  • #nurseproblems
  • #rnchat
  • #nurseentrepreneur
  • #hcr
  • #nurse
  • #nurseup
  • #ptsafety

6. @nursefriendly


Andrew Lopez, RN, is a nurse, social media consultant and founder of the #nurseup Facebook group. If it is happening online and in healthcare, Andrew has it covered. A prolific Tweeter, who knows the ins and outs of social media and healthcare.


7. @katykatztc


Katy has an MBA, and is a marketer and blogger. She blogs and curates healthcare related content across several social media platforms. Check out her feed to find some of her great blog articles.


8. @dbarrath


Debra Barrath, MN is an international coach and consultant with over two decades of healthcare experience whose clients includes governments, non-profits, and healthcare systems. Her Twitter feed is full of healthcare and leadership related goodness!


9. @AWhiteWilliams


Angelique W. Williams is a Child Care Health Consultant, nurse educator, and faith community nurse. Tweeting from New Orleans on matters of healthcare, her account is definitely worth following


10. @thenurseteacher


The Nurse Teacher strives to share her passion with the next generation. She is a consultant specializing in legal issues, critical care, and nursing education. She tweets about nurse education while keeping it fun.


11. @vmudgett


Vivien Mudgett RNC, CEO of Healthcare Leadership Coalition is a speaker and consultant. She Tweets about healthcare reform, policy, and leadership. This account is great for staying informed about serious issues in healthcare.


12. @NurseDailyblog


The Nursing Daily twitter account is connected to the blog. A daily post from a critical care RN about issues and humor in nursing. She is keeping it real in nursing without being crass.


13. @Ashleigh_RN


Ashleigh’s twitter feed is connected to her blog. As an oncology nurse she tweets about health can cancer related topics. Using her social media skills for health awareness, Ashleigh encourages others to do the same.


15. @CapraGarrisonRN


Capra is the CEO of Pedagogy Inc. an online continuing education sites for healthcare professionals. Her nurse education network is extensive and she tweets CE related content.


16. @Nursingstress


A nursing student Tweeting about her journey through nursing school. With an impressive 21k followers, she Tweets about nursing school issues that even a seasoned nurse can identity with.


17. @ScrubsandPearls


An anonymous nurse that offers #AdviceToBabyNursingStudents in the form of tweets. She dishes out advice about school and the real world of nursing. She also micro blogs advice to nursing students on Tumblr.


18. @Tiffany_Kelley


Tiffany is the founder of Nightingale Apps. As a Phd nurse, informaticist, innovator, educator, and writer, her Twitter feed is filled with a variety or nursing and business tweets.


19. @AJAndersonRN


Amanda Anderson, RN Twitter account is connected to her blog and her mission is I want nurses to start talking. Her blog This Nurse Wonders has commentary on different issues in nursing.


20. @theyoganurse


Founder of YogaNursing™ and a RN, author, and speaker that empowers nurses to become stress and pain relief experts. Follow her on Twitter for all things yoga and nursing. She offers a great program for nurses that would like to start their own nurse yoga business.


Would you like to network with more nurses? A quick and easy strategy to find other nurses on Instagram and Twitter is to follow nurses that the people on these lists are following and engaging with online. Or, if any of these people have public Twitter Lists, this would be the ultimate way to find other nurses to network with.


Do you wish that you would have been featured in the lists above? Go ahead, leave your Twitter and Instagam profile links in the comments below.

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Evaluating the predictability of medical conditions from social media posts

Evaluating the predictability of medical conditions from social media posts | Social Media and Healthcare |

Over two billion people regularly share information about their daily lives over social media, often revealing who they are, including their sentiments, personality, demographics, and population behavior. [14] Because such content is constantly being created outside the context of health care systems and clinical studies, it can reveal disease markers in patients’ daily lives that are otherwise invisible to clinicians and medical researchers.

Social media content has been shown to contain valuable health signals, though mostly at the population level. For example, Twitter has been used to surveil disease outbreaks[57], predict heart disease mortality rates[8], and to monitor public sentiment about health insurance [9]. However, studies that link social media activity and medical diagnoses at the individual level are rare [10] and limited to connections with self-reported mental health over limited samples[1112], not validated with health records.

We linked consenting patients’ electronic medical records (EMRs) with their social media data,[13] to ask two novel questions: 1) Can we predict individuals’ medical diagnoses from language posted on social media? and 2) Can we identify specific markers of disease from social media posts?

Fig 1 depicts our study design and Table 1 lists participant characteristics. We analyzed 949,530 Facebook status updates containing 20,248,122 words across 999 participants whose posts contained at least 500 words. Using natural language processing [14] each participant’s language was encoded as a 700 dimensional patient language encoding (i.e., we characterize each user’s social media language by 700 numbers). Diagnoses from participant’s electronic medical records were grouped into 21 categories according to the Elixhauser Comorbidity Index [15] and prevalence within our sample (all categories had at least 30 participants). Data selection procedures are detailed in the supplement (S1 Table).

Fig 1. General study design.

We extract a patient language encoding from the words and phrases within an individual’s Facebook status updates. The three word clouds shown represent the words most prevalent in three example dimensions of the encoding. We then learn predictive models and identify predictive markers for the medical condition categories in the medical records.

Table 1. Medical condition prevalence and participant characteristics.

Materials and methods

We evaluated whether consenting patients’ Facebook posts could be used to predict their diagnoses evident in their electronic medical record (EMR). This study was approved by the University of Pennsylvania Institutional Review Board.


Participants were drawn from the ongoing Social Mediome study which began recruitment in March 2014 [13]. Adult patients seeking care in an urban academic health system were invited to share their past social media activity and EMR data. Of all participants enrolled through October 2015 and agreeing to share their Facebook data (N = 1772), we retrieved status updates up to 5 years prior, ranging from March 2009 through October 2015. We then limited our analyses to those with at least 500 words across all of their Facebook status updates (N = 999) as it is found to be a reliable threshold for language analysis of user outcomes. [16]. All data collected from Facebook was from consenting patients and not from anyone in their network, and consistent with the terms of service of the platform.

From the health system’s EMRs, we retrieved demographics (age, sex, and race) and prior diagnoses (by International Classification of Diseases [ICD-9] codes). We grouped ICD-9 codes by Elixhauser Comorbidity Index categories [15],and added categories for medical condition codes not reflected in the index but prevalent in the sample (e.g., pregnancy-related diagnoses) for a total of 41 categories. We then filtered the list of medical condition categories to those attributed to at least 30 patients in the cohort, resulting in 21 categories which are listed in Table 1 along with their ICD-9 codes. Of 1143 patients who shared both social media and EMR data, 999 (87%) had an adequate number of status updates (at least 20).

Language analysis

We analyzed entire timelines (i.e. all prior posts) of messages posted on Facebook by participants who consented to participate in this study. The medical conditions were extracted from the electronic health records associated with each patient. For the analysis, we set a threshold of >500 words per user and each medical condition had to have at least 30 participants. Our approach was to find topics significantly related to medical conditions through statistical analysis instead of selecting specific posts based on search terms which have high noise. We looked at all posts and did not assign posts as health related or not to avoid this noise.

We extracted all words (unigrams) and word pairs (bigrams: two neighboring words—e.g. “sick of”) from each participant’s status updates. We then grouped similar words into 200 “topics” using Latent Dirichlet Allocation (LDA), a probabilistic technique which automatically clusters words by looking at other words with which they often co-occur [14]. Rather than selecting and grouping words manually, this automatic approach yields topics that may contain slang, misspellings, and variations on contractions which themselves are often predictive [3]. LDA gives us a posterior probability of a topic given a word, p(topic|word), which we use to give each user a topic probability score, p(topic|participant), by multiplying with their probability of mentioning the word:

We generated word clouds to visualize topics using Python (e.g., Fig 2). For each topic, we chose the top 15 words, according to the posterior probability of a word given a topic (p(word|topic)), and scaled the size of the word proportionate to its rank (largest implies most prevalent). The shade of the words is randomly jittered in order to improve readability but has no meaning.

Fig 2.

A. Diagnoses Prediction Strength of Demographics and Facebook. This figure represents overall accuracies of Facebook and demographic models at predicting diagnoses. Accuracies were measured using the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC), a measure of discrimination. The category “Facebook alone” represents predictions based only on Facebook language. “Demographics alone” represents predictions from age, sex, and race. “Demographics & Facebook” represents predictions based on a combination of demographics and Facebook posts. Diagnoses are ordered by the difference in AUC between Facebook alone and demographics alone. For the top 10 categories, Facebook predictions are significantly more accurate than those from demographics (p < .05), and for the top 17 plus iron deficiency anemia, Facebook & demographics are significantly more accurate than Facebook alone (p < .05). * Pregnancy analyses only included females. B. Markers (most predictive topics) per diagnosis. This figure illustrates top markers (clusters of similar words from social media language) most predictive of selected diagnoses categories. Word size within topic represents rank order prevalence in the topic. Expletives were edited and represented by stars (i.e. *). All topics shown, except for those with digestive abdominal symptoms, were individually predictive beyond the demographics (multi-test correct p < .05). (Full results in supplement [S2 Table]).

While topics provide a coarse-grained set of linguistic features, previous research work in human language analysis has found including individual unigrams and bigrams improves predictive model performance.[1] We included features for the most frequent 20,000 unigrams and bigrams. However, with so many features and only 999 observations, model overfit was a concern [17]. We reduced the word and word pairs to only the top 500 according to their family-wise error rate (alpha) with the given medical conditions using only the training portion within cross-validation (see 10-fold cross-validation below). These 500 word and word pair features with the 200 topics formed our 700 dimensional patient language encoding.

Predicting diagnoses

For each medical condition, we built three predictive models associating Facebook posts with EMR-based diagnoses: Model 1 used Facebook language (unigrams, bigrams, and topics). Model 2 used the demographics of age, sex, and race. Model 3 used both demographics and Facebook language. For each model, we used statistical learning techniques from the field of machine learning [17]. For model 1, which included hundreds of predictors, we used extremely random trees (ERT) [18], variant of random forests which are well suited to handle many predictors. Within each ERT, we used 1,000 estimators with a Gini coefficient as criteria for split points. For model 2, we fit an L2-penalized (ridge) logistic regression, an ideal model when there are relatively few predictors (to confirm, we also ran the ERT approach and found all accuracies were the same or lower). Model 3 was an ensemble of models 1 and 2 created by an average of the predicted probabilities from each model, weighted by the AUC of the model over the training setwhere AUC1 and AUC2 correspond respectively to the training set AUCs for models (1) and (2).

This approach compares the predictive ability of Facebook language (model 1) to that of demographics (model 2) as well as the incremental contribution of Facebook language to demographics (comparing model 3 to model 2). We measured predictive ability using the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC), a measure of discrimination. A value of 0.5 is expected due to chance; a value of 1 indicates perfect prediction. To evaluate controlling for model overfit, we measured AUC with 10-fold cross-validation [17]: we split our sample into 10 equal-sized, non-overlapping, and stratified partitions, fit models over 9 partitions (including the selection of the 500 unigram and bigram features), and tested the fit model on the remaining held-out partition. This process repeats ten iterations such that each partition is used as a the held-out test partition once. We then used a Monte Carlo permutation test [19]with 100,000 iterations to calculate significance of the difference between any two AUCs, correcting for multiple hypothesis testing using the Benjamini-Hochberg False-discovery rate procedure [20]. Testing out of sample as facilitated from 10-fold cross-validation and correcting for multiple tests was key to insuring a rigorous and fair evaluation of predictive accuracies.

Prediction accuracy was evaluated using the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC), a measure of discrimination in which a value of 0.5 is expected due to chance, 0.6 is considered moderate, and above 0.7 is considered a strong prediction from a behavior [1718]. Most variables associated with medical conditions tend to have AUCs which fall between .50 and .85 [19], but often include variables derived from invasive tests. As a reference [19], within our sample, body-mass index predicted diabetes with an AUC of .64. Holding to this standard, we consider an AUC of 0.65 and above as strong.

Identifying medical condition markers

Our approach to identifying medical condition markers was similar to that of predicting diagnoses but rather than including all language variables in a model, we considered only one topic at a time. We evaluated each individual topic’s predictive ability by comparing three AUCs: 1) from usage scores for the topic alone, 2) from a logistic regression model [20] over age, sex, and race, and 3) from a logistic regression model over age, sex, race, plus the topic. In this way, we focus simply on one topic at a time in order to illuminate its relationship with the medical condition categories. AUCs were determined out-of-sample when using multiple predictors (i.e. 2 and 3) and a permutation test was used to assess significance of individual topics. We used word clouds to display topics—visual depictions of the most prevalent words in each topic where each word’s size corresponds to its contribution.

We also tested whether we could empirically identify individual markers of diagnoses in the daily social media language of patients. To do this, we considered a portion of the 700 dimensional language encoding which includes 200 topics [14], or sets of similar words (e.g. pain, hospital, blood). We then followed a similar approach as our overall predictive analysis, except treating each individual topic as a potential marker and building models from: 1) usage scores for the topic alone, 2) demographics, and 3) both demographics and the topic. AUCs were determined out-of-sample [20] when using multiple predictors (i.e. cases 1 and 3) and a permutation test [21] was used to assess significance of individual topics along with the Benjamini-Hochberg procedure to control for false discoveries [22]. Further details are provided in the supplement (S1 Text).

In order to explain the predictive ability of a topic in other terms, we listed a couple examples of the increase in likelihood between participants in the top quartile of mentioning a topic and those in the bottom quartile of mentioning the same topic. For example, considering mental health conditions, patients in the top quartile of mentioning the want wanted give ask topic were 4.1 times (95% CI: [1.3, 26.6]) more likely to have been diagnosed with psychoses than those in the bottom quartile of mentioning that same topic. For these calculations, we used maximum likelihood estimates for the mean probability that one had the disease in both the top and bottom quartile and then divided the two probability estimates to get the multiple (e.g. 4.1 times). Finally, we used a bootstrap resampling procedure [20] with 10,000 iterations to calculate 95% confidence intervals for the differences in likelihoods.

All statistical analyses were performed in Python and the exact code used is available as part of the Differential Language Analysis ToolKit (

Results and discussion

We identified that: 1) all 21 medical condition categories were predictable from Facebook language beyond chance (multi-test corrected p < .05), 2) 18 categories were better predicted from a combination of demographics and Facebook language than by demographics alone (multi-test corrected p < .05), and 3) 10 categories were better predicted by Facebook language than by the standard demographic factors (age, sex, and race). These results are depicted in Fig 2 which shows the accuracies of the three predictive models across all 21 diagnoses categories.

The medical condition categories for which Facebook statuses show the largest prediction accuracy gains over demographics include diabetes (AUC = .74), pregnancy (AUC = .79; females only) and the mental health categories anxiety (AUC = .66), psychoses (AUC = .58) and depression (AUC = .64).

Fig 2 depicts the individual language markers of diagnoses for selected categories that showed the highest predictive power over and above demographics (p < .05). Many topic markers of diagnoses reveal characteristic behavior or symptoms. For example, alcohol abuse was marked by a topic mentioning drinkdrunkbottle. Topics expressing hostility (e.g. peopledumbbulls**tb**ches) were the predominant marker of drug abuse and also marked psychoses. Topics most associated with depression suggested somatization (e.g. stomachheadhurt) and emotional distress (e.g. paincryingtears). Other markers may suggest socio-environmental variables associated with disease risk; for example, diabetes was predicted by religious language (e.g. godfamilypray) even when controlling for demographic variables. This does not mean that everyone mentioning these topics has the condition, but just that those mentioning it are more likely to have it. For example, the top 25% of patients mentioning the (godfamilypray) topic were 15 times (95% CI: [3.16, inf]) more likely to have been diagnosed with diabetes than those in the bottom 25% of mentioning that same topic. This association may be specific to our patient cohort and suggests the potential to explore the role of religion in diabetes management or control.[2123].

Just as contemporary biobanking aims to collect biosamples that reflect the genome and to link individual genetic information to phenotypic manifestations of health, social media data can be conceived as a “social mediome” whose individual expression can also be banked in a registry and linked to more phenotypic markers of health and disease [10]. Similar to visualizations of gene expression, as depicted in Fig 3, patterns of language can be associated with diagnoses to reveal similarities and difference between diagnoses.

Fig 3. Differential expression of topics across medical conditions within the social mediome.

Analogous to studying the differential expression of a genome, topics of the social mediome can be explored differentially across diagnoses. The 21 rows represent all medical condition categories of the study ordered using hierarchical clustering while the 200 columns indicate the predictive strength[24] (measure by area under the ROC curve) of each potential language marker (topics). Blue topics were more likely to be used by patients with the given medical condition and orange topics were less likely to be mentioned. Medical condition categories each have unique patterns of markers. These encodings allow for the prediction of diagnoses and identification of diagnoses with similar patterns of markers.

Like genomic data banking, the power of social media language to predict diagnoses raises parallel questions about privacy, informed consent, and data ownership. Social media data banking has the advantage that physical biospecimens do not need to be collected—access and consent can occur electronically and remotely, for example by sharing a Twitter handle or one-click authorization of a Facebook application. The extra ease with which social media access can be obtained creates extra obligations to ensure that consent for this kind of use is understood and intended. Efforts are needed to ensure users are informed about how their data can be used, and how they can recall such data. At the same time, such privacy concerns should be understood in the context of existing health privacy risks. It is doubtful that social media users fully understand the extent to which their health is already revealed through activities captured digitally[25]. For example, applications to use social media data-derived risk profiles to price car insurance have already been tested [26].

We found that the language people use in Facebook is predictive of their health conditions reported in an EMR, often more so than typically available demographic data. Although some early research has linked social media language use with health [111227] this is the first study to the best of our understanding to do so at the level of the patient with EMR data.

Social media information has the advantage that it often has a built in communication channel back to patients. For example, Facebook now allows users to flag posts within their network that they think may suggest suicidal ideation. Facebook then anonymously provides resources for individuals at risk. A similar patient-centered approach could be applied to a broader set of conditions allowing individuals and their networks (for those who opt-in) to have early insights about their health-related digital footprints. These considerations reveal simultaneous promise and challenge in banking and mining the social mediome and echo similar debates that have arisen around use of the human genome, including logistical and ethical challenges with recontact and communicating risk to patients as predictive ability expands, often in unanticipated ways.

This study has several limitations. Constellations of predictive words often do not represent causal mechanisms and the findings are correlational. However, in revealing what people think, feel, and do, social media patterns capture emotional, cognitive, behavioral and environmental markers that have substantial predictive validity and are otherwise fairly elusive to researchers and clinicians. We equally weighted recent and remote posts in our analyses; adjustment for recency might reveal different or stronger associations. Also, predictive associations of language with disease may vary across populations, requiring rederivation of language markers in different sub-populations that may point to specific, ecologically-appropriate considerations. Further, we utilized logistic regression and extremely randomized trees as modeling algorithms for their interpretability and simplicity considering the number of samples in our study. Prior work has demonstrated, transfer learning from pre-trained text-based multi-layer neural network architectures could lead to higher predictive performance [28]. Also, the participants in this study represented a convenience sample (of primarily African American women) who were receiving care at an urban academic medical center, and not representative of the general population. Prior work has shown that users vary in the amount and diversity of self-representation across different online platforms[1629]. Future studies could compare difference in health related information disclosed by users of different demographic populations and on other social media platforms (e.g. Twitter).

Social media, like genomic information, offers enormous promise to personalize health care. This work is complementary to a growing body of literature using big data analytics for EMR data [3032] and provides new insights for applying machine learning to find signal about health in non-healthcare generated data (e.g. social media).

People’s personality, mental state, and health behaviors are all reflected in their social media and all have tremendous impact on health. This is the first study to show that language on Facebook can predict diagnoses within people’s health record, revealing new opportunities to personalize care and understand how patients’ ordinary daily lives relate to their health

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Why health professionals need to be cautious on social media

For health professionals, posting a single negative comment to their Facebook profiles may hinder their credibility with current or potential clients, a new University of Guelph study reveals.

The findings have reimbursement implications, as the healthcare industry is becoming ever more consumer-centric, and prospective patients increasingly use the internet to screen health professionals before deciding where to get care.

As the line between personal and professional can easily be confused when professionals use social media to promote themselves, U of G researchers investigated Facebook factors that may affect people's perceptions of professionalism.

They found posting just one subtle comment expressing workplace frustration was enough for people to view someone as a less credible health professional.



Published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, the study involved more than 350 participants who viewed a mock Facebook profile and rated the profile owner's credibility, then rated their own willingness to become a client of that profile owner.

The researchers tested factors including the identified gender of the Facebook profile owner, whether they listed their profession as a veterinarian or medical physician and whether their profile included a posting of an ambiguous workday comment or a comment expressing frustration.

The ambiguous comment posted read: "Started with new electronic patient charts today...interesting experience for sure J."

The workday frustration comment read: "What is it with some people?? I know I only went through 9 years of university...but really, I know what I'm talking about...yeesh!!"

The only factor that influenced viewers' perception of the profile owner's professionalism was the single workday frustration comment. On a scale from 0 to 100, the profile with the negative workday comment was rated 11 points lower (56.7) than the one with the ambiguous workday comment (67.9).

Credibility ratings were determined based on participants' scoring of 16 personality adjectives under the categories of competence, caring and trustworthiness. Profile owners with lower credibility ratings were also deemed by participants as less professional.

Even if a health professional refrains from posting this type of negative comment on their promotional page, potential clients can easily find their personal page online, the authors said.



Facebook isn't the only corner of the internet that can potentially affect health consumers' care decisions. Yelp is proving to be a considerable factor in how patients choose their care, with many online reviewers taking to the site to praise -- or excoriate -- providers based on things like their communication and care quality.

"Consumer centricity," as it's been labeled, is required to win in today's era of active consumers. Consolidating health systems and commoditized plans and medicines means greater consumer engagement is required so that consumers select their system, their plan and their drug.

And funders of healthcare are demanding greater value of systems and drug manufacturers, requiring consumer centricity to get people to change their behavior and, in turn, drive down healthcare costs.

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The What, Why & How of Instagram Reposting for Doctors & Dentists

The What, Why & How of Instagram Reposting for Doctors & Dentists | Social Media and Healthcare |

When asked how frequently brands should post to Instagram, a celebrated social media expert recently asserted that “the best posting frequency for Instagram is the posting frequency that you can consistently maintain for the rest of your natural life.”

Your. Natural. Life. A lifetime of content is quite a quantity to produce.

Enter the Instagram best practice that supplies marketers with an endless supply of fresh content: reposting.

What’s reposting?

Reposting is a commonly practiced social media marketing strategy that entails publishing Instagram content from someone else’s account to your own.

To abide by Instagram’s Terms of Use and copyright laws, follow these steps to ensure reposting activities check all of the platform’s requirements:

  • Ask the person who published the post for permission to share their photo or video. This can be done by commenting on the post itself, sending the user a direct message, or a combination of both.
  • Once permission is granted, repost and credit the original publisher by tagging their Instagram handle in the repost caption and in the repost photo itself.

Why repost?

Keep your feed fresh. Reposting allows medical and dental practices to diversify their content with fresh, engagement-boosting posts despite limited time and resources for content creation.

Build trust. It’s reported that Instagram users find user-generated content (UGC) to be 76% more trustworthythan brand-created content. UGC shared from patient accounts—like reviews and stories about their experience (shared with the patients’ consent)—act as social media word-of-mouth, enticing users to learn more about your practice.

Spread awareness. By reposting content from accounts in your area, you’re grabbing the attention of a new, local audience while connecting with users in your community.

Increase your following. Loyal followers of accounts you repost from are likely to follow your account due to similar interests, thereby potentially increasing your follower count.

How can I repost?

While Instagram does not offer any in-app reposting features (for now), there are a host of ways to reshare content to your feed or Stories.

Repost manually:

  • Navigate to the image you want to repost
  • Take a screenshot of the post
  • Edit the screenshot to crop the post
  • Use the cropped post image to create a new Instagram post
  • Tag the post creator in the caption text and in the photo

Download the Repost for Instagram mobile app
on Google Play and iTunes

  • Navigate to the image you want to repost
  • Select the three dots at the upper right of the image > Copy Link
  • Open Repost and customize the attribution mark (a paid version of this app allows you to remove the attribution mark)
  • Send the reposted media to Instagram to create a new post
  • Tag the post creator in the caption text and in the photo

Who’s reposting?

Take a look at some accounts that utilize this strategy to expand their reach and connect with followers on Instagram.

Dental Instagram Accounts

Aesthetic Instagram Accounts

Reposting on Instagram can help marketers develop an impactful feed of aesthetically-pleasing, on-brand content that connects with users, encourages valuable engagement, and expands account reach.

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Digital Marketing and Doctors | 

Digital Marketing and Doctors |  | Social Media and Healthcare |

We are in a big digital bubble. In this bubble, we are connected via the herculean and ever-expansive internet. It can be said to be a paradise where we are provided innumerable choices of any services/products which we enjoy from the comfort of our homes. Gone are the days when we had to step out of our houses even for the smallest of activities. Business and personal relationships have been redefined in this era of social media and marketing. The possibilities have become endless. Just like individuals, businesses have also realized the potential of digitized marketing processes and their ability to cut across geographical boundaries and connect with people relevant to their market. Social media giants like Facebook have leveraged digital marketing on a gigantic scale which has made them one of the biggest promotional platforms for eminent brands. The healthcare industry, especially practising doctors are effectively using digital marketing to cater to an audience who via social media and hundreds of other digital channels have become more interconnected (with other people who are of the same audience category), informed, and have
innumerable options from where they can choose to get their medical care.
According to a 2016 survey conducted by Software Advice, a company which features objective researches and studies by industry experts, approximately 54% of potential patients do an online search for local doctors/physicians on a weekly and monthly time frame. The survey also said that the statistic would increase by 2020.
We have to understand that marketing, in general, has shifted from the conventional 4Ps theory (Product, Place, Price, and Promotion) to a 4Cs model (Culture, Creating, Curating, and Connecting). In a digital culture, the target audience, or in the case of doctors, probably patients, are logging into the vast information space of the internet to extensively search and review before making a choice. Therefore, it is vital for doctors to create an online presence which can attract potential patients. The digital sphere is immensely flexible, unlike its offline counterparts where doctors have to promote their practice in a “one-size-fits-all” marketing approach, a process
which often misses out on a large chunk of target audiences. Here doctors can not only promote their core practice but can build an online persona by formulating personalized content for a targeted group. The content can be in the form of blogs/articles (health tips, home medical care procedures, articles related to the doctor’s speciality practice), videos of medical procedures, their clinic, and its facilities, interviews and speeches, infographics, etc.
Medikabazaar as a part of its digital marketing strategy conducted interviews with distinguished doctors and published their personal stories online which was shared by the interviewees themselves and received a significant amount of responses and reactions from the social media sphere. Through this, we realized that if the content has a high degree of personalization, the more likely it is to get shared and garner greater reach. Medikabazaar via their digital marketing channels fosters the culture of knowledge sharing in a bid to increase awareness about new products in the healthcare industry. This way, we also give a digital platform for our partner vendors where we introduce their products on numerous online channels and in turn increase their reach. In traditional marketing, the service provider is unable to know whether the promotion is reaching to the right audience or not. In digital marketing, the provider gets the data of how many people engaged with each and every post on the page. This, in turn, allows doctors to understand the online behaviour the probable patients, better.
Dr. Harish Shetty, a psychiatrist at Dr. L.H. Hiranandani, Mumbai, extensively uses social media for his practice. “I post blogs and videos which help me to create awareness,” says Dr. Shetty. “Social media has the power of escalation to infinity. I can get in touch and respond to patients immediately, and through online support groups, people with depression, schizophrenia, and other mental problems can help each other get better,” he added. Regarding bettering his practice, Dr. Shetty said that through an online presence he could “connect with other practitioners and improve his knowledge.”
One of the most significant aspects of digital marketing is that it allows businesses to engage with their customers on online platforms directly. We have to remember that the one thing which the digital consumer isn’t, is being quiet. They have become vocal about their preferences, criticisms, and praises. A couple of positive comments on the social media page of a company can catapult its business to unforeseen heights while negative reviews can shoot it down to lows from where they might not recover.
Dr. Rohan Virani of TRISA Dental Solutions, Mumbai gave quite a vivid description of digital marketing and medical practice. Although he did signify the importance of digital marketing but implied that word-of-mouth reviews by patients still help in 50% growth of the practice. He attributed 40% growth to digital marketing. Dr. Virani added that social media is a platform where people can give “unrestricted criticism.” Interestingly, he had a somewhat positive take regarding negative comments on social media profiles.
Dr. Virani said, “Negative comments along with positive ones shows that the page is genuine.” “If all comments are positive then there are chances that the page might be fake,” he added. Dr. Virani’s clinic is active on Facebook with regards to promotions. At the end of the interview, he said that doctors should dedicate “20% of their income towards digital marketing.” Doctors who have adopted the digital approach must engage with their followers. If there are negative reviews about their practice, then they should address it immediately by interacting directly with the concerned party. Reviews and comments on digital platforms will also provide doctors’ with ideas about how they are conducting their practice, where they need to improve and if there are any changes required in their current practice. This is a lot more effective than traditional marketing which is one-sided and offers little or nil interaction between the customer and the service provider. Reports have shown that doctors can get a 59% increase in conversions, 49% increase loyalty from patients, 73% improvement in patient experience, and 52% increase in chances of retaining a patient.
Digital marketing is also a cost-effective method for promotion. This aspect is especially important for doctors who run small practices and have budget constraints when it comes to marketing. In traditional marketing (television, newspapers, and hoardings) only doctors with a significant marketing budget can afford to maximize their promotions. Digital marketing provides both parties with equal opportunities to connect with
their distinct target groups thus levelling the playing field. India has seen a momentous growth in the digital field in recent years. With more than 432 million internet users (IAMAI IMRB Report) and a growing number of users from rural areas, the country is on its way towards becoming a digital nation in the near future. According to a 2018 news report, an average Indian spends approximately 4.4 hours a day on the internet. The report also says that 42% of the companies operating in India are looking towards social media as their primary and central marketing platform. Doctors practising in India must be aware of such decisive numbers and adopt a digital marketing process to further their practice.
People in tier 2, 3 cities and rural areas don’t always get them desired medical diagnosis/treatment due to their geographical location. Couple this with the fact that there is a severe shortage of doctors as compared to the number of patients, it is critical that they take a digital approach and reach across to the patients in remote locations and provide quality patient care. This will make healthcare more accessible across the country which is the need of the hour.
The digital revolution which everyone was talking about in the 1990s has already happened. The healthcare industry is also seeing technological advancements as mechanisms like Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, and Robotics are gradually taking shape. Doctors need to take a similar step towards expanding and marketing their practice via digital channels so that they can create awareness among the people of a changing industry dynamic and ultimately provide efficient and value-based healthcare to their patients

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How to develop a patient-centric social media marketing campaign

How to develop a patient-centric social media marketing campaign | Social Media and Healthcare |

Patient behaviour is changing, and it’s changing in line with how habits are evolving in the wider consumer world. According to recent research, a third of the world’s population is expected to be active on social media by the year 2021. In the UK, we spend an average of 2.2 hours every day on social media networks, and this is having a trickle-down effect on the mindset of patients.

Many patients fully acknowledge the influence of social media – some 40 per cent of people quizzed said that social media affects the way they deal with their health. Furthermore, a survey found that 90 per cent of 18 to 24 year-olds trust the medical information which they see on social media.

These developments can be seen as part of how the wider online customer experience is changing. We now have an unprecedented number of ways to create personalised experiences via the net, and this is all feeding into the way marketing campaigns are developed and implemented. Products can be recommended to individuals based on buying habits, food apps can advise you on which restaurant’s dishes contain ingredients you may be allergic to, and almost every type of media that is served up to you, whether its news, music or tv, is personalised to your personal preferences and previous viewing habits.

Is social media marketing in healthcare effective?

This kind of marketing is working; in some cases spectacularly. Figures published by Amazon showed that a remarkable 35 per cent of purchases on the online shopping portal were generated directly from their personalised recommendation engine. In healthcare, this can teach us a lot. And so we come onto the question of “what is patient centricity?” Simply put, it is the process of designing a service or solution around the patient. To expand, being patient-centric means trying to find value points in a process – whether it’s writing a protocol or designing a marketing campaign – you get patient insights, inputs, and connections.

Where to start with healthcare marketing through social media

Before you can get going on the patient-centric pathway, you need to know where to find your patients. While 77 per cent of UK internet users had a social media account as of 2018, it helps to know which networks attract which demographics. For example, while Facebook is still the most popular network, it has been found that the number of 18 to 24-year-old users declined recently, while the number of over-54s actually increased.

Listen, define, deliver

One way of assessing what your patients want as you create your campaign is to employ social listening techniques. These are ways of tracking which health-related questions and concerns are most prevalent on social media networks. It will also help to define your patient personas. Which kind of social media users will you be targeting? You can specify a few pieces of information – from their demographics to their age and their hobbies. The further you drill down, the stronger the foundation you will have for creating targeted campaigns.

Once you have done the groundwork, you’ll be in a better position to construct the content of your campaigns. Seek to craft advertising messages which are tailored to the particular demographics which you have pinpointed in your patient personas, and then direct them through the right social media channels. This is where you will be able to bring the details of each person into play.

For example, a mother of three may need a new knee just as much as an avid jogger about to enter his golden years, but the imaging and messaging for each are quite different. One will care about getting back to her kids and not missing the moments they can share, and one will care more about how quickly they can return to the beach for their morning walks. Therefore, you can replace the messaging and image slightly to reflect the target audience – “You can’t replace the moments you miss,” vs “Get back to doing what you love.”

Hitting the target

Once you have your campaign content, there are several ways of directing it through paid advertising channels – including; custom audiences, based on existing email lists; lookalike audiences, based on your patient personas; website custom audiences, based on social media users who have visited your website; and Facebook exchange, which involves retargeting ads based on specific page visits. The second, but to a larger degree, the third and fourth methods, are the more personalised options here, allowing you to leverage patients’ previous onsite activity and behaviour to present them with more meaningful content.

You can also use sequential messaging, which ensures that ads are not repeated too much by varying the content which website visitors will see in their social media feeds after visiting your site. This can help to fight ad fatigue, nurture prospects and blend in better with organic content.

Ask for feedback

Finally, you shouldn’t be afraid of asking for feedback on your service, as this can be a great help in tweaking your future campaigns. It has been found that 90 per cent of consumers read online reviews before transacting with a business. Consumers aren’t shy to voice their opinions, and you can use this to your campaign’s advantage.

By following the cues of the wider consumer sphere, we can improve social media marketingwith patient-centricity.

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Understanding your patient's journey and How to market to them online |

Understanding your patient's journey and How to market to them online | | Social Media and Healthcare |

From the moment a patient seeks medical care for an injury or makes an appointment with their family doctor to determine the cause of their recent symptoms, the patient has begun a journey during which multiple people may be involved.

Hospitals, physicians, nurses, and other providers, may all be, at one point or another, involved in this patient journey.

When we start to think of the “Patient Journey” we need to think of these things:

  • What they are going through?
  • What are their pain points before they get to you?
  • What are they experiencing and struggling with?

By identifying these things this helps you as a business owner be able to provide the right resources they are looking for.

In today’s healthcare landscape, consumers have more options, choices, and resources when it comes to the direction of their own care. This ecosystem shift slab that the patient transportation is not a linear one, but rather a multi-stage clause with many different channels and touch points along with the media (much like a tree with dozens of different branches).

A few stages of the “Patient Journey” –

Awareness: Self-assessment of barrier and symptoms, leading to online research and education, consequence problem on social media, etc. This is the start id their journey, they have recognized that something is not right with their body, or how they feel. Most people will become aware of their issue and then start the research process. 

This is where they will spend hours online on different tools like Google, Pinterest, Facebook, WedMd, etc. to try to identify what they are going through.

Help: At this point, the patient understands they need help with their symptoms and are looking for the correct place to go. This is where your resource marketing comes into handy because you have been building a rapport with your patients, they trust you and know you are the right person to start with. 

Care: This piece is where the “know, like, trust” factor comes in. When a patient chooses you to be their caretaker and help them with their issues or symptoms this is a really big deal. most people just think I am a doctor and this is what I am supposed to do, but you are doing so much more. You are becoming a large resource mentally, physically, and emotionally. 

Treatment: You may be on the journey with these patients for a while, or just a couple visits. It’s important to take note of their treatment so you can use that data to help other patients like them. Treatment can be anything from home remedies, physical therapy, chemo, counseling, whether it be large or small treatment it will be a world of difference to your patient if they are no longer in pain. 

Behavioral/Lifestyle Change: Changes to reduce readmissions and promote proactive health. How has your care and treatment helped them to live a better life? This piece right here is the end goal, this is what people are looking for. 

  • Do they want to be able to walk with ease again?
  • Be able to live to see their family grow?
  • Be able to overcome their fears?

Whatever that lifestyle is for them that they will be able to achieve when they are doing work with you and your practice is the first step to your digital marketing. They are wanting something better in their life, they became aware of their problem, sought help, got treatment, and now ready to live their life again.

Ongoing Care/Proactive Health: What is the call-to-action? Do they need to come for follow-up appointments, exercises at home, home remedies, physical therapy, etc.? What do they need to do to continue their lifestyle and be proactive from here on out? 

It’s important for the patient to understand their journey and continue to improve. 


Patient route mapping in the healthcare industry is a data-driven, patient-centric approach to planning marketing activity, communications, and (to some degree) even delivery care. It’s a way to gather the facts, discover the anticipation of your patient, and then line-up that information to deliver an exemplary healthcare experience.

What testament a patient excerpt map do for you?

In short, patient section maps give you a clear guide for how to improve retention and acquisition through customer satisfaction. Exceeding patient expectation benefits your saps relation convenience twofold:

  1. It increases retention rates through patient satisfaction
  2. It increases new patient acquisition through evangelism

Word of mouth is still, and most likely always will be the best form of marketing, but if you can really connect with your patient’s on a much deeper level and be able to provide information, be a resource for them and their family. This allows you to take your digital marketing to the next level and reach more people. 


Active listening and putting systems in place is key! You will always want a steady flow of patient’s, and as their lives change maybe they move or find a different doctor or maybe your services are no longer needed, it’s important to keep that pipeline full with new and potential patient’s that need your services.

Digital marketing is a great way to connect with a potential patient’s in your community and be more than just a provider, but a resource. Once people feel they can trust your practice and get their questions answered, that’s when the magic happens. They start talking about you online and referring you more and more.

A few things to do when you get a new patient:

  1. Collect their email address – don’t just leave this in your system and not do anything with it, add it to your CRM like MailChimp, InfusionSoft, SalesForce, MyEmma, Constant Contact, etc. an email software so you can send them monthly newsletters with valuable information.
  2. Ask them to like you on Facebook or Instagram
  3. Invite them to leave a positive review on Google and/or Facebook once they are satisfied with their treatment
  4. Then have a strong social media presence to continue to stay top of mind

Remember, you are an important piece of your patient’s journey!

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Your Future Doctor Could Monitor Your Facebook Posts for Disease 

Your Future Doctor Could Monitor Your Facebook Posts for Disease  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Healthcare providers may soon seek help diagnosing and treating patients from an unlikely source: Facebook posts.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have developed a system to mine social media posts for evidence of disease. In a new study published in PLOS ONE on Monday, social media data outperformed demographic data in predicting diseases such as diabetes, anxiety, depression, and psychosis. With access to social media data, researchers hope that doctors could better diagnose and treat many common diseases.


Facebook posts provide information about behavior, lifestyle, and mental state—information that your doctor might not have access to. Researchers treated words used in Facebook posts like symptoms, linking certain words to diseases.

“Before social media, there hasn’t been a really easy way to see how health affects our daily lives and how our daily lives affect our health,” co-author Andrew Schwartz said in a phone call. “This is another type of data that you can add to healthcare strategies.”

The researchers analyzed the entire Facebook post history of nearly 1,000 patients, with their consent. To build the predictive model based on Facebook posts, they correlated groups of words with diseases. They tested three models to predict diseases —one relying solely on language in Facebook posts, one using demographic data such as age and sex, and one relying on a mix of the two. Then, researchers used patient medical records to check predictions.

For some terms the researchers looked at, the connection with a particular health issue was obvious. Repeatedly saying “drink” reliably predicted alcohol abuse, for example. Others links were less direct. For example, patients who used more religious language like “God” and “pray” were 15 times more likely to have diabetes.

The team evaluated the 21 different conditions most often diagnosed in the study population, located in Philadelphia, ranging from lung disease to anxiety. All 21 were predictable using just Facebook data, the team found. When combined with demographic data, Facebook posts improved predictions for 18 of the 21 diseases. Facebook data alone outperformed demographic data in 10 cases, and was particularly effective at predicting diabetes and mental health conditions.


The study was performed on patients from one medical center, in which 76 percent of participants were female and 71 percent were Black. “This is just the first step towards this type of work,” Schwartz said. “We would expect the same type of analysis to be similarly powerful in other populations.”

Though social media language doesn’t pinpoint the cause of the disease, it can inform treatment and prevention. Schwartz emphasized that this type of research is still in the basic stages, but that social media intervention could be particularly helpful for mental health patients. Already, Facebook flags posts with suicidal language and provides the user resources.

Despite promising results, some are worried about the privacy risks of allowing doctors access to social media.

“Linking people’s social media posts to private, sensitive information, including their address and health records, creates an inherent privacy risk,” Amy Shepherd, legal officer at the digital rights non-profit Open Rights Group, said in an email.

Shepherd noted that this study protected data privacy well by obtaining explicit consent and making sure individuals can’t be identified within the results. Because the study had such success, however, there is a risk of an uncontrollable snowball effect.

“If health records and social media data start to become more routinely linked, the privacy risks could be far more significant,” Shepherd said.


Doctors still need to follow strict health data guidelines, meaning they would need to obtain informed consent from each patient before accessing and sharing their social media record. Even then, it may be difficult to export this kind of automated healthcare to other jurisdictions with stricter privacy laws, such as countries in the European Union.

If your social media posts suddenly become part of your health records, that means insurance companies might have access to it too. With that, your insurance could set premiums based on your lifestyle, determining how much you pay depending on what you post. In New York, insurance companies can use your social media to set premiums, as long as they show they aren’t unfairly discriminating against certain groups.

A question people may need to ask themselves in the future is: Do I want my doctor to read my Facebook posts? It’s unclear how many people would take healthcare providers up on this offer, especially considering growing concerns over data privacy.

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Can social media threaten medical experiments? |

Can social media threaten medical experiments? | | Social Media and Healthcare |

Testing new pharmaceutical treatments is a complicated process. Very often, participants have preferences or hopes, either about what the test should measure or about what the outcome should be. Patients often enrol in the trial seeking access to experimental drugs while physicians usually have guesses about which treatment will work better. The sponsor will only recover millions of investment in the drug development if the trial is successful.

Making sure that all these preferences do not shape the outcome of the test is crucial for its credibility. For that reason, treatments are often masked –“blinded” – so that neither physicians nor patients in the trial know who is receiving what treatments. In the age of the internet and social media, however, trial participants can easily find each other – through patient groups for example – to discuss and compare treatments and outcomes, potentially unblinding the trial. But how common is that and what impact could it have on medical research?

Since the 1960s, the randomised clinical trial (RCT) has been the standardised experimental template for assessing the safety and efficacy of new drugs. The experiment compares the outcomes of a group of patients who receive the new drug, with those of a group of like patients who do not. It is designed to neutralise or even out effects or forces that could shape outcomes through a number of features called “controls”. Blinding is one of the default controls for the preferences of participants in such trials.

If the trial compares a new drug and a placebo, for instance, both treatments should ideally look, taste and smell the same. This way, the participants can only guess what they are getting: some of those guesses will be correct, most will be not.

Clinical trials are getting increasingly complicated. Minerva Studio/Shutterstcck

If blinding fails and there is systematic correlation between patient or doctor preferences and the trial outcome, the test is regarded as biased. While there typically is no proof, it is then very likely that the allocation of treatments hasn’t been neutral: patients may have swapped treatments, or doctors may have assigned their favourite drug to one group of patients. And a biased outcome is not useful for making decisions about drugs. In order to authorise its use, pharmaceutical regulators require a faithful estimate of the treatment effects, and as neutral as possible regarding the conflicting interests of the stakeholders.

The warrants of isolation

The success of blinding so far has depended to great extent on the participants making their guesses alone. If patients could compare their own experiences and health data it would be a lot easier for them to guess one own’s treatment: if they are receiving different treatments, the effects could likely differ as well.

In the 1980s, the test of AZT, the first successful retroviral against AIDS, gave a hint of what could happen when patients coordinate. Many US-based AIDS patients had taken part in the gay rights campaigns of the 1970s. They entered the fight with AIDS as a community and when the AZT trial came up they acted together. Nobody wanted to take the placebo, so patients swapped pills, had them analysed by chemists and dropped out of the experiment if they could not access AZT. They broke the trial protocol in a way that made the US Food and Drug Administration reconsider its testing standards. The trial was also terminated early.

This degree of coordination between patients was until recently the exception. Digital networks might now transform the exception into the rule. Patient communities have grown greatly on the internet, ranging from simple mailing lists or Facebook groups to dedicated websites. PatientsLikeMe is one such digital platform: in 2011-2012 a group of ALS patients taking part in an early clinical trial used its message boards to share their experiences in the test, unblinding the treatment they were receiving and breaking the protocol.

Some also took a homebrew solution designed to mimic the experimental drug during the experiment. Despite that, the original trial and the parallel experiment were completed. Researchers from the platform PatientsLikeMe, however, warned about the risks of taking homebrew compounds and called for a debate on how patients and researchers could work together.

There have been similar cases with treatments for muscular dystrophy and common diseases like Hepatitis C on social media sites including Facebook. This goes to show that people can quickly come together for disparate causes – they don’t even need specific patient groups to do it.

Tech platforms might become key players in the reform of a standard. That said, as in the case of the AZT trial, some might actually welcome the end of blinding as a victory of patients over pharmaceutical interests. But the problem with physicians or patients having preferences about treatments – which was the reason behind the development of blinding in the first place – will still be there.

Unless statisticians find new ways to deal with unblinded data, decisions of patients and prescribing doctors who rely on evidence from clinical trials will be consequently affected.

Niccolò Tempini, Research Fellow in Data Studies, University of Exeter and David Teira, Associate Professor of the Philosophy of Science, UNED - Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article

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Making Gmail Ads Part of Your Medical Practice’s Digital Marketing Strategy

Making Gmail Ads Part of Your Medical Practice’s Digital Marketing Strategy | Social Media and Healthcare |

Highly targeted and customizable, Gmail ads are an effective way to reach the inboxes of potential patients.

On average, consumers spend 2.5 hours checking their email each day. Factor in Gmail’s 1.5 billion monthly active users, and Gmail advertising has the potential to reach vast numbers of potential patients as they browse through the day’s messages.

Gmail ads are popular among retail companies offering promotions, but they can also provide unique value for healthcare providers. As part of the Google Ads platform, Gmail ads offer advanced targeting capabilities that can help medical marketers drive clicks and conversions. Further, even though they help build valuable brand awareness, bidding for these ads tends to be less competitive than for typical search ads.

Here’s what you need to know about advertising your medical practice on Gmail — and how to create content that keeps users engaged.

How Gmail Ads Work

Gmail ads appear at the top of the Promotions tab in a user’s inbox. They look like a regular email, but are marked by a small box reading, “Ad.” Most include an image and a call to action, as well as a sidebar describing the ad content. Gmail ads are highly customizable, but most marketers decide to use an image combined with a compelling call to action.

To build a Gmail ad, first open the Google Ads platform, then follow these simple steps:

  1. Open Campaigns.
  2. Click the “+” button to add a new campaign.
  3. Choose your goal: sales, leads, or website traffic (or, select a campaign goal after you create your campaign).
  4. Select “Display” for “Campaign Type.”
  5. Choose “Gmail Campaign.”
  6. Build your ad.

Once you’ve created your ad, you’ll want to make sure it’s displayed to the right users. Google offers a few different strategies for effective audience targeting. They include:

Keyword Targeting

Keyword targeting allows you to show ads to users who express interest in relevant keywords or phrases. These might range from “orthopedic surgery” to “Phoenix, AZ.” Medical marketers may even want to target keywords related to their competitors, and then serve ads offering their services as an alternative.

Audience Targeting

You can target specific audiences by uploading lists of patients, subscribers, and more. Medical practices can also leverage this feature to target users who have engaged with their website or previous ad content. To expand your reach even further, Google Ads can create similar audiences based on existing email lists.

Demographic Targeting

As a medical practice, your ideal audience is anyone who is likely to visit your website and make an appointment. While you’re probably very familiar with your patient demographics, you might be surprised by who is actually visiting your website. For instance, while your practice may work primarily with elderly patients, their younger children may be the ones who tend to visit your site and book appointments.

To target these users, you can use Google Analytics to determine who is converting on your website. After identifying your key demographics, update your demographic targeting settings in Google Ads to serve ads to potential patients that meet these parameters.

Gmail Ads Best Practices for Medical Marketers

Once you’ve mastered the basics, you’ll want to follow a few best practices to create the most effective ads for your medical practice. First, keep in mind that the headline/subject line of your ad can only be 25 characters, so it’s important to convey your message in as few words as possible. In addition to being concise, the copy should read like a compelling email subject line and not a search ad headline.

To determine how well your Gmail ads are performing, there are a few key metrics to pay attention to: Gmail Forwards, Gmail Saves, and Gmail Clicks to Website. Gmail Clicks to Website is particularly useful because it only counts users who click on your ad and then visit your website — as opposed to those who open the ad and bounce.

As a strategic component of a comprehensive digital marketing plan, Gmail ads can help medical practices connect with — and ultimately convert — new patients. They reach users who are already in the Promotions tab, meaning they are likely looking to make a purchase or book a service. Plus, by utilizing the channel’s advanced targeting capabilities, you can attract audiences that are relevant, engaged, and more likely to schedule an appointment at your practice.


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Social Media Strategy for Clinical Trial Patient Recruitment 

Social Media Strategy for Clinical Trial Patient Recruitment  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media is one of the most popular, if not the most popular, modes of communication today. In 2019, it is estimated that roughly 2.77 billion people worldwide have active accounts across several social media platforms. This means that clinical trials need to have a presence in the social media spaces in order to have a competitive chance with patient recruitment. Let’s take a look at the different components that go into planning out a solid social media strategy for clinical trial patient recruitment:




There would be no clinical trials without the patients. They are the wheels that keep a trial moving. Unfortunately, patient recruitment can often be the most difficult part of the clinical trial process. When it comes down to it, successful patient recruitment heavily relies on strong marketing and outreach. Furthermore, the bedrock of good marketing is knowing the audience you want to reach. 


What is the demographic of the audience?

Defining the demographic details of your target audience establishes eligibility requirements and helps make it easier to find participants. Data points to consider include:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Household income
  • Marital status

To avoid redundancy, you can develop a general “site persona” that defines the common demographics, pain points and information about your site’s ideal patient population. This persona can then be tailored to each individual study by including additions and deviations from the initial site persona.


Where does the audience spend time online?

If you want to reach someone, you need to know where to find them. Demographic information comes into play here because it helps give insight into where your audience is most like to spend their time online and get their information – and where you need to meet them.

Methods of promotion might include:

  • Social Media (ads and/or posts)
  • Newspapers/Magazines (ads and/or sponsored articles)
  • Medical Clinics/Hospitals
  • Clinical Research Websites (, etc.)
  • Google search ads






A great way to pique more interest in your clinical trial is to provide plenty of information about the condition you are studying. Give a little background of the condition, list the possible symptoms, and then a brief bit about the trial itself. This will be done on the website and on social media posts. If you want to take it to the next level, write a blog post centered around the particular condition and finish it by directing people to your study.



Why is it important that this study is happening now? Clinical studies that feel current or cutting edge will have more success in attracting potential participants. Find a way to tie a current aspect of life into your call for participants. It can be a connection such as a holiday, change of season, or recent news story. People who may be interested in the study will see how it directly relates to their lives and will be more likely to step forward.



Social media strategy doesn’t stop at planning. Don’t forget two of the most important steps: tracking and analyzing. Without proper tracking and analyzing, you essentially have no strategy or objective for your campaign. Careful tracking and analysis will show you what content is working, what is not, the channels in which you could improve, and those in which you are thriving. Take this information to heart and use it to make better-educated decisions with your patient-focused social media strategy.


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