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, Digital Marketing Key to Building Medical Practices

Social Media, Digital Marketing Key to Building Medical Practices | Social Media and Healthcare |

Patient engagement via social media and digital marketing are vital for growing medical practices, says health care marketing consultant Jennifer Dally, of Attune Marketing Group in Powell, Ohio.

Speaking at the 2018 annual meeting of the Large Urology Group Practice Association, Dally said the physician-patient relationship is about more than diagnosis and treatment. What patients want most is connection, which “brings peace of mind.” Transparency, active listening, trust, convenience, customer service, and good communication are among the attributes that patients say establish connection, Dally says.


“We expect a certain level of experience in general as a consumer, and that has translated into the health care world as well,” she says.

Attempts to improve the patient experience can be simple. For example, Dally says, when physicians wrap up a patient visit, they can say to a patient, “Is there anything else I can do for you today?”

Physicians need to understand that patients already have been on a medical journey before a medical encounter. “I'm trying to give them context of the journey patients take before they arrive at their practice and what could they do to influence that journey.”

She emphasizes 4 essentials for every medical practice: a website; search business listings; social media engagement; and review management. A website must consider patients' needs, not those of the practice. All websites should enable patients to pay bills online and to schedule appointments, as well as provide a link to a patient portal, she says. Website content should be produced with search engine optimization (SEO) in mind. The goal is to have a website rank high on search engine results pages. This determines how patients or physicians find a practice “in the digital landscape,” Dally says. High Google rankings matter a lot, she says.



She advises practices to identify keywords that matter most to a practice. An important tenet of health care SEO is understanding how patients search and use a website and the terms with which they are familiar.

The benefits of investing in SEO include a better online-user experience; measurable return on investment for the website; improved practice reputation; and targeted patient traffic.

A social media presence provides a way to build relationships and a sense of community with existing patients. It also improves SEO. Patients expect to find their physicians in the “social ecosphere.”

Physicians should give priority to Facebook, the leading social media platform. She recommends that physicians maintain separate profiles for their personal and professional personas. Patients should be able to view and engage with physicians' professional page, but they should discourage or refuse to accept personal requests via their personal page, Dally advises.

Dally also urges physicians to embrace online reviews. Ratings are important. She offers tips for how physicians can deal with negative reviews. Physicians should not take the negative review personally and thank the reviewer for his or her feedback. They also could respond by noting that their practice might not be a good fit for the patient.

Dally advises physicians not to ignore negative reviews. Physicians should provide a brief response that is polite and does not blame the patient. In the response, physicians should validate the patient's feelings and genuinely try to resolve the patient's concern.

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One doctor’s social media mission to discuss vaccination with parents

One doctor’s social media mission to discuss vaccination with parents | Social Media and Healthcare |

As Romania fights a measles epidemic, Dr Mihai Craiu is using Facebook to turn the tide. His work has earned him a huge following – and 1st place in the 2018 Vaccines Today Communication Challenge’

In January 2017, Dr Mihai Craiu, a paediatrician in Bucharest, received some basic training in social media. It gave him the skills and confidence to do something he felt was sorely needed: join the online vaccine conversation to help parents understand the need for immunisation.

Romania has recorded thousands of measles cases this year and many blame the spread of misinformation online for declining vaccine uptake. 

‘Parents are using virtual media a lot – current data reveal that 74% of Romanians with a smartphone or desktop computer are going online first if they experience a health issue,’ Dr Craiu said.

‘I was concerned by the extremely low number of pro-immunization voices online. If anybody was searching online for information [in Romania] about a vaccine-related topic in 2016 or 2017 the first page they would find was full of anti-vaccination opinion. I realised that a Facebook page can reach more people than I could see in our clinic.’

That was the inspiration for his Facebook page (Spitalul Virtual de Copii) – a hub of information and a forum for conversations about vaccines and other child health topics. More than 100,000 people now follow the page and some of Dr Craiu’s videos have been viewed half a million times.

‘I spent at least three to four hours per day, but it has been a huge real-life experience,’ he said. The main challenge is responding to questions from parents – many of whom Dr Craiu believes decide to vaccinate their children after having their concerns addressed.

He said he has learned a great deal through using social media and has been sharing his experience with paediatricians, GPs and other health professionals – most recently at the 3rd Balkan Paediatric Meeting. 

Dr Craiu won first prize in this year’s Vaccines Today Communication Challenge. The contest set out to find Europe’s vaccine champions – those who actively advocate vaccination. He will present his work at the Excellent in Paediatrics conference in Prague at a roundtable event hosted by the Coalition for Life-Course Immunisation.


Read a full transcript of the interview below

What is the situation today in Romania regarding vaccine uptake? 

Unfortunately, it is slowly but constantly decreasing since 2010. According to the National Institute for Public Health (CNSCBT) we are now below the herd-immunity cut-off. The latest annual report shows a constant downward trend for measles-mumps-rubella vaccine uptake. Only 74.5% of children have had two doses of vaccine. So, the current epidemic could have been prevented because there have been serious warnings since May 2016.
Using three doses of DTP as a surrogate-marker for immunization, we also see a decrease, according to UNICEF data which puts the current level at 84% nationally. However, in some counties in Romania, it is as low as 50%. 

Is there widespread public concern about measles cases?

Yes, there has been constant coverage by media and official weekly reports from the CNSCBT on total number of confirmed cases and number of deaths. But the loudest voices are those of the anti-vaccine movement claiming that these numbers are incorrect and over-report measles cases and deaths.

Are you concerned by the level of anti-vaccine commentary in the media and online?

Yes, I am concerned because these rumours have grown into a structured movement with political implications. Clergy members, religious groups, artists and lawyers are joining forces.

There is a broad group of parliament members (more than 80 people) that have been able to block the Immunization Law. The Health Ministry appointed a group of experts two years ago when the first cases of measles were confirmed. I was appointed as a paediatrician, but there have been GPs, microbiologists, infectious diseases experts, epidemiologists, lawyers, and specialist representing the child-protection authorities among others.

The Immunization Law was evaluated by Health Ministry experts and then presented for a public debate. I was terrified by the verbal violence of opponents. Finally, after six hours of parallel dialogues, no basic consensus could be reached. The Senate had a relative short debate on this project and generated a positive vote. But the lower chamber of Parliament has the deciding vote. For more than a year there has been no progress.

Where does that leave the public debate?

Today there are no consequences for providing any fake-news regarding immunisation in Romania. The anti-vaccine people went so far as to distribute flyers by mail with UNICEF,WHO and Health Ministry logos stating that vaccines are harming children and are producing the measles epidemic. Dr Pintea, our Health Minister, has said that legal prosecution will follow. 

Do you also hear these concerns from parents in your clinic? How do you respond?

Parents are extremely vocal in social media, both pro and against vaccination. In the clinic most of the people that approach physicians are hesitant people. Some of them are not opponents of all vaccines. MMR uptake is still affected by the bad Wakefield story and we are still debating with many parents on autism causality issues. There are also a large group of parents who are hesitant because their GP is hesitant.

With my colleagues from the National GP Society we produced short online cases or scenarios related to vaccine-preventable diseases. We also posted, on the Society portal, a structured catch-up schedule for those children whose parents can be convinced. This portal is open also for lay people.

When did you begin using Facebook to communicate about paediatrics and vaccination?

More than four years ago we started to provide online education for parents of children with asthma through our Institute’s online portal. The Virtual Asthma Hospital has proven that people are reading these posts. And children that were instructed to use this portal were less likely to have unscheduled medical visits to the Emergency Department. We were able to present a paper at an international conference on the Virtual Asthma Hospital impact on quality of life.

Parents are using virtual media a lot. Current data reveal that 74% of Romanians with a smartphone or PC are going online first if they experience a health issue. Only 26% are asking their GP. So, I realised that a Facebook page can reach more people than I could see in our clinic.

I attended a training session in Bruxelles in January 2017. I was concerned by the extremely low number of pro-immunization voices online. If anybody was searching online for information about a vaccine-related topic in 2016 or 2017 the first page they would find was full of anti-vaccination opinion.  

There are some isolated voices of physicians like Irina Costache, mother of two and paediatrician. Her blog, Mamica Pediatru, is a nice and positive voice. Prof Maria Livia Ognean, neonatologist and one of the most active physicians on-line, has a page called Baby Care Sibiu. And Dr Otilia Tiganas, a GP in a small rural area of western part of Romania writes a blog with a simple and sometimes humorous approach to medial issues – Blogul Otiliei.

Has your social media work been a success? 

I think so – last year at the COPAC Gala my Facebook page (Spitalul Virtual de Copii) was awarded a special prize in a communication contest. It was the first time that a paediatric pro-immunization page was nominated for such a competition in Romania.

More than 97,000 people are reading this page and a lot of children have been immunized after their parents had an online pro-con debate on this page. Positive open dialogues on vaccine related-issues are common on my page. It is not entirely dedicated to vaccines but covers a rather large area of childhood diseases or health-related issues like growth and development, emergencies, diet etc.

Have you had any negative experiences?

Yes, several. But during my 20 months experience I found the right approach – I hope! Some unexpected negative experiences were related to other physicians that were not very happy – unfortunately we have some doctors in Romania that are organizing, along with religious groups or notorious anti-vaccine champions, public events where fake science is promoted.

How do you respond to anti-vaccine comments on Facebook?

If they are aggressive or deliberating misleading I warn them in a polite manner. Some fake-news are useful because I can answer in a scientific way and I am able to provide data and documentation sources for hesitant parents. A lot of hesitant people sent me private messages seeking guidance or even asking me to immunize their child.

Some vulgar or aberrant posts are deleted. But more than 90% of my Facebook followers are rather polite.

Would you encourage other health professionals to use social media in this way? 

Yes, I have presented my work at several local or regional meetings. This month I was an invited speaker at the 3rd Balkan Paediatric Meeting where I presented my online activities. Next month I will attend a national joint meeting of paediatricians, GPs and media people and I will present also a SWOT analysis of my Facebook page.

What skills or training do you need, if any?

I need better skills for video editing – short videos are the most commented posts on my Facebook page. One of them had more than 500,000 views. 

A lot of trouble-shooting issues are also needed – how to respond to a special type of approach? Tailored "treatment" in a rising rather aggressive Romanian Social Media environment is needed.

Does it take a lot of your time? 

Yes. At least 3-4 hours a day. But it has been a huge real-life experience. During a one-to-one dialogue in hospital I am rather protected. I am in a comfortable position of being a senior physician and patients are rather compliant. But online I have met the real patients. There are no limited on sincere and uncensored dialogue.

One parent has said: "If I am not in the GP’s office I can ask about my fears or dilemmas. You are listening. Or at least you cannot interrupt my questions…".

Do you believe your social media work is having an impact on public attitudes? 

Yes. Or I hope so! Many of my residents and students in medical school have changed. And our hospital is now the leading paediatric hospital in parental perspective. Because dialogue style changed. 

The future is now. Social media tools will impact more and more medical issues – not only vaccination. 

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Using Social Media to Meet Healthcare Business Objectives

Slides for my October 17, 2018 webinar for the Indiana Society of Physician Recruiters
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An “ikigai” Model For Healthcare Social Media | Mayo Clinic Social Media Network

An “ikigai” Model For Healthcare Social Media | Mayo Clinic Social Media Network | Social Media and Healthcare |

The word ikigai (pronounced "icky-guy") is an ancient Japanese term which roughly translates into “the reason for which you wake up in the morning.”

This term was popularized in the West at a 2009 TED Talk by author and explorer Dan Buettner (How To Live to Be 100+). In this talk, he discussed the regions of the world he called The Blue Zones, small pockets of people where there is a disproportionately high percentage of older individuals living healthy, active lives well into their late 90s and 100s.

Mr. Buettner suggests, with reasonable supporting evidence, that one of the things many of these centenarians have in common is they still have a deep purpose in life—an ikigai.

Since that time, through the personal development and business community, a westernized version of ikigai developed describing Ikigai as the confluence of four elements, illustrated by the Venn Diagram.

  1. What you love to do
  2. What you have the ability to do
  3. What the world (however your world is defined) needs
  4. What the world will pay you for

These four questions can be applied to a health care organization’s ikigai to help evaluate and drive a health care organization’s social media.

So what's the value of doing this? 

Built into this system of questions are two topics that should always be top of mind for marketing.  First,  what are the fundamental evidence-based medical concerns contained in the "what your world needs" question? Second, what is the specific business model (the "how will you get paid?" question) surrounding a specific social media effort.

Consider the simple example of a health care clinic improving a tweet about getting the flu vaccine.

No doubt a tweet about flu vaccination will be part of most health care organization's mission, and certainly, assuming supply is available, most will have the ability to deliver it.

But do you, as a social media gatekeeper, really understand your world's need for it?

  • Are you aware that, according to the CDC, during the 2017-2018 season, the percentage of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza was at or above the epidemic threshold for 16 consecutive weeks?
  • Are you aware of the number of deaths in your county?
  • Are you aware of the efficacy of the flu vaccine?
  • Regarding your vaccine business model, are you aware of the published costs of the influenza vaccine or its price at your local pharmacy?
  • Are you aware of any contractual bonuses your organization may have if a certain percentage of your Medicare patients are immunized?
  • Are you aware of the cost of absenteeism to your organization during last year's flu epidemic? Do you understand efficacy is based on vaccine rates where your employees work and reside?

Understanding that your social media efforts to improve the immunization rate in your community may save five lives in your county, or may result in tens of thousands of dollars of contractual bonuses, or perhaps save a hundred thousand dollars in lost productivity will put an entirely different spin on your annual social media flu vaccine immunization efforts.


Because it goes to the heart of what your organization’s ikigai is: to improve and save lives, using evidence-based medical principles, all contained within a sustainable financial model.

By using a four-question ikigai social media model tactical concerns about your content like Facebook post frequency and Twitter brand dilution take on a whole new meaning, because answering these questions will help you better understand the true health and financial cost of your subject matter.

Dr. Matthew Rehrl is a double-board certified physician with over 100,000 patient visits of experience. He has spent more than eight years advising on both Social Media and Advanced Technology to the C-Suite leadership of The Everett Clinic, a 600+ provider healthcare organization.

Dr. Rehrl is currently pursuing advanced certification in Management, Innovation & Technology through MIT, with a focus on Artificial Intelligence Applications within the Social Media and Healthcare domains.

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Observations from Social Media Regarding the Symptomatology of Adult Hydrocephalus Patients

Observations from Social Media Regarding the Symptomatology of Adult Hydrocephalus Patients | Social Media and Healthcare |


Hydrocephalus patients experience symptoms related to hydrocephalus in an age-dependent manner. However, prevalence estimates of hydrocephalus symptoms in young and middle-aged (YMA) adult patients are rare and variable. Highlighting the importance of hydrocephalus symptom management, the persistence and intensity of headache or gait disturbance have been associated with signs of brain white matter integrity loss, including in treated YMA adult patients. Thus, it is important to ascertain which symptoms adult hydrocephalus patients report most to confirm their relative importance.


Observations of symptom complaints were made from publicly viewable online responses to an inquiry posted by the Hydrocephalus Association to two Facebook webpages.


Within seven days of inquiry posting, 381 complaints of signs and symptoms were identified in 82 online responses. Headache, cognitive deficits (cognition and memory), and mobility issues (dizziness, balance, or gait problems) were most commonly reported by 63%, 45%, and 40% of respondents, respectively. Results were highly similar for the subgroup of 53 patients reported as treated. For self-identified YMA patients (< 60 years old), results were similar, but with fewer mobility complaints. Not previously reported, hypersensitivity to external stimuli was reported by half of the patients that reported headache.


The current results provide further quantitative support for the prioritization of study of headache, cognitive deficits, and mobility issues in YMA adult hydrocephalus patients. Warranting further study, cranial hypersensitivity to external stimuli may represent a novel outcome measure, and treated YMA adult hydrocephalus patients continue to report symptoms associated with signs of brain damage.

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Contact between patients on social media improves the relationship with healthcare professionals

Contact between patients on social media improves the relationship with healthcare professionals | Social Media and Healthcare |

People with chronic illnesses benefit from online medical advice from other patients, for example via Facebook groups. It appears that contact between patients on social media can have a positive effect on the relationship between patients and healthcare professionals. If online interaction between chronically ill people focuses on providing mutual emotional support, the patient's relationship with their doctor can improve. Surprisingly, it is givingemotional support to fellow sufferers (rather than receiving it) that seems to strengthen the ties with care providers.

Edin Smailhodzic

These are the conclusions of Edin Smailhodzic in his thesis entitled Transformative effects of social media: How patients’ use of social media affects roles and relationships in healthcare. He will be awarded a PhD by the University of Groningen on 18 October. His research was supervised by Prof. Albert Boonstra and Prof. David Langley.

Patient forums and online communitiefs

Smailhodzic studied the influence of social media on the relationship between patients and healthcare professionals. He analysed messages on patient forums and online communities for people with diabetes and brain injuries, and interviewed patients and doctors. If patients exchange knowledge about their conditions with each other online, it makes them more aware and knowledgeable in their dealings with medical professionals, says Smailhodzic.


Smailhodzic explained the change in the relationship between patients and their healthcare professionals from a psychological perspective. He concluded that mutual emotional online support is more important to patients than support through information. ‘Patients often start looking for information on social media. But it's the emotional support that they find online that has a positive effect on the relationship with their healthcare professional. Relationship between patients enhances their sense of self-determination and strengthens their position in relation to the medical profession. Apparently, this more equal position increases the patients’ trust in their doctor and helps them to come to joint decisions on treatment. It is striking that giving emotional support to fellow sufferers seems to heighten patients’ sense of self-determination, rather than receiving it.’

Supplementing regular healthcare

The use of social media is changing the roles of both patients and healthcare professionals, partly because it enables patients to learn from the experiences of others. In addition, exchanging information via social media can encourage patients to replace or supplement the traditional, off-line healthcare options. ‘During my research, I saw a new form of online collaboration with doctors emerging. A doctor answering FAQs on a patient forum, for example, so that patients don't have to make a separate appointment’, says Smailhodzic.

GP as coach

After conducting 19 interviews, Smailhodzic concluded that patient contact on social media is changing the way GPs work. Instead of ‘instructing’ their patients from a position of authority, GPs now coach their patients and encourage them to play an active role in the treatment process. ‘Some patients become unsettled by all the information that they find on social media. This allows GPs to focus more on providing social-emotional support and less on the technical side of treatment. Furthermore, today's patients arrive at the GP practice with a higher level of knowledge. GPs can sometimes learn from patients, particularly in the case of rare conditions.

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Social media guidance for physicians taps timeless principles —

Social media guidance for physicians taps timeless principles — | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media has come a long way since Friendster, permeating every facet of American life—and medicine is no exception. If the decade and a half since Facebook was launched seems like an eternity on the social media timeline, it is but a blip for a guide to physician conduct that debuted more than 150 years ago.

Yet that guide, the AMA Code of Medical Ethics, has quite a bit to say about how physicians should navigate Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and more. Learn how to apply the enduring principles of medical ethics to the quickly moving world of social media.

 The Code recognizes both the attraction of social media and the special need for caution when physicians use it.

 “Participating in social networking and other similar opportunities can support physicians' personal expression, enable individual physicians to have a professional presence online, foster collegiality and camaraderie within the profession, provide opportunities to widely disseminate public health messages and other health communication,” notes the preamble to Opinion, 2.3.2, “Professionalism in the Use of Social Media.”

 “Social networks, blogs and other forms of communication online also create new challenges to the patient-physician relationship,” the Code of Medical Ethics says.

 Physicians widely—and, most often, wisely—use social media. It has also been misused, including shared images and other violations of patient privacy, as well as emails and texts that never should have been sent. 

CEJA cited three of the nine Principles of Medical Ethics in rendering its opinion on physician use of social media. Those principles include respect for human dignity and rights, honesty and upholding the standards of professionalism, and the duty to safeguard patient confidences and privacy.

 The opinion states:

 Physicians should weigh a number of considerations when maintaining a presence online:

(a) Physicians should be cognizant of standards of patient privacy and confidentiality that must be maintained in all environments, including online, and must refrain from posting identifiable patient information online.

(b) When using social media for educational purposes or to exchange information professionally with other physicians, follow ethics guidance regarding confidentiality, privacy and informed consent.

(c) When using the internet for social networking, physicians should use privacy settings to safeguard personal information and content to the extent possible, but should realize that privacy settings are not absolute and that once on the internet, content is likely there permanently.

Thus, physicians should routinely monitor their own internet presence to ensure that the personal and professional information on their own sites and, to the extent possible, content posted about them by others, is accurate and appropriate.

(d) If they interact with patients on the internet, physicians must maintain appropriate boundaries of the patient-physician relationship in accordance with professional ethics guidance just as they would in any other context.

(e) To maintain appropriate professional boundaries physicians should consider separating personal and professional content online.

(f) When physicians see content posted by colleagues that appears unprofessional they have a responsibility to bring that content to the attention of the individual, so that he or she can remove it and/or take other appropriate actions.

If the behavior significantly violates professional norms and the individual does not take appropriate action to resolve the situation, the physician should report the matter to appropriate authorities.

(g) Physicians must recognize that actions online and content posted may negatively affect their reputations among patients and colleagues, may have consequences for their medical careers (particularly for physicians-in-training and medical students) and can undermine public trust in the medical profession.


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Breast Cancer Patients Use Twitter as a Non-Medical Forum to Share their Experiences

Breast Cancer Patients Use Twitter as a Non-Medical Forum to Share their Experiences | Social Media and Healthcare |
Twitter is a place where many cancer patients go to share and discuss their experiences of the disease. This is the main finding of a recent exploratory study, to be presented at the ESMO 2018 Congress in Munich, which analysed the contents of over 6,000 tweets and retweets about breast cancer.

Social media today have become an echo chamber in which every societal issue is reverberated many times over - including cancer. Study author Dr. Rodrigo Sanchez-Bayona of Clinica Universidad de Navarra in Pamplona, Spain, said: "Many of the patients we see in daily practice use social media to search for information about their disease, so, as care providers, we wanted to know what kind of content they find there. At the same time, the sheer volume of posts on Twitter represents a rich pool of data we can use to assess attitudes and discourses surrounding cancer."

For this analysis, all tweets posted with the hashtag #BreastCancer over a seven-day period were collected and categorised according to their content, aim, user information and whether they displayed a stigmatising attitude towards breast cancer. The tweets were also grouped into four subthemes: diagnosis, treatment, prognosis and prevention. "This study was part of a larger, multidisciplinary project to observe the presence of different diseases on social media. In 2014, we found that cancer was the most mentioned pathology on Twitter globally. We decided to look more closely at breast cancer first, because it is one of the three most common tumours worldwide and the primary cause of cancer deaths in women."

The data collected included 3,703 original tweets and 2,638 retweets. "When examining the original tweets, we found that only one in three had medical content," said Sanchez-Bayona. "However, 90% of this medical information was appropriate, which is likely owed to the fact that 40% of tweets came from institutions and public accounts." The categorisation of tweets by aim showed that the most frequent motive was patients sharing their experiences, followed closely by patient advocacy. The most common subtheme by far was prevention (44.5% of tweets).

Out of the 2,559 non-medical tweets analysed, less than 15% contained stigmatising statements about the disease. "The numerous breast cancer awareness campaigns over the years have certainly contributed to reducing the stigma associated with this illness," said Sanchez-Bayona. "For many other tumours, there is still an unmet need. Going forward we would also like to explore and compare the social media presence of different tumours types."

"Although it would be interesting to do further research into the profiles of social media users who are the most active in the discussion about cancer, these initial findings may prove useful in themselves," he continued. "In particular, advocacy organisations can draw on them to create relevant medical content and counselling about cancer that will be more accessible to users. Social media can be used as a new way of providing information on cancer prevention and health education - not just to patients, but to a much broader audience."

Dr. Marina Garassino of Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori in Milan, Italy, commented for ESMO: "Twitter is a high-level platform that is much more credible than other social networks like Facebook, so I was not surprised to see that the majority of the news published there are accurate," she said. "This analysis also illustrates the presence of patients in large numbers on Twitter. We should take that as corroboration of a new reality: patients now use the web to find information, and social media must be an integral part of our communication with them. Academic institutions and key opinion leaders need to be even more active in spreading their findings through these channels to counteract the many 'fake news' circulating online."

Dr. Evandro de Azambuja, ESMO Executive Board member, further commented: "I agree that the volume of reliable medical content published on Twitter should increase. Healthcare professionals and organisations really need to use appropriate social media as a way of sharing relevant information - both between them and with patients - because that is where it has the potential to be picked up fastest and most broadly."

"Personally, I check Twitter daily for announcements of the latest publications of leading academic journals and fellow oncologists. I can then go and read the articles I'm interested in, knowing exactly where to find them. It's an efficient way of obtaining medical information as it is published," de Azambuja added. "When it comes to bringing the best evidence available in cancer research to the attention of as many people as possible, this platform is as powerful a tool as it gets."

Abstract 360P_PR 'Breast cancer in Twitter: A real-world data exploratory study' will be presented by Rodrigo Sanchez-Bayona during Poster Display Session on Monday, 22 October 2018, 12:45-13:45 (CEST) in the Poster Area Networking Hub - Hall A3. Annals of Oncology, Volume 29 Supplement 8 October 2018


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10 Simple Strategies for New Patient Acquisition

10 Simple Strategies for New Patient Acquisition | Social Media and Healthcare |

Remember the old shampoo commercial that started with one girl who tells two friends about the product, “ . . . and they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on . . .”? Word-of-mouth marketing is still very much alive and well, even in this digital age. Imagine what would happen to your practice if each of your patients told two people about you! Referrals should be a part of any healthcare provider’s growth plan, so knowing how to ask for them is critically important. Let’s take a look a ten excellent strategies for building your business from referrals and how you can begin implementing these in your practice today.

1 - Talk to Your Patients.
 It’s easy to assume that patients know you want referrals, but the chances are good they really haven’t thought about it. At the close of each procedure or visit, make sure you’re clear that if your patient is happy, you’d love for them to spread the word to their family, friends, and acquaintances. Not only should you tell patients you’d like their referrals, but reinforce the message with signs at both your check-in and check-out stations. Don’t leave it to chance, step up and ask.

2 - Talk to Your Staff.
  Make sure that your staff is professional, caring, personable, and inviting. They are the first impression new patients get, and part of what determines whether patients will refer someone to your practice. Be sure, too, that you encourage your staff to remind patients that you are looking for referrals. This is why it’s important your staff is likable and friendly. If they are going to talk to your patients about encouraging friends and family to come in, the message needs to be sincere and come from someone your patient feels comfortable recommending.

3 - Think Strategic. Design a strategic plan for creating referrals. Include your staff, and invest the time, energy, and money to help make it successful. Don’t tape up paper signs from your copier, invest in quality signs that speak to how important referrals are to you. Look at all the areas that impact potential referrals and identify those things which are a priority, then follow through on them.

4 - Include Your Patient Newsletter. Regular communication through a patient newsletter can have a far-reaching impact. Highlight your staff, talk about your outside interests, and provide meaningful information on new trends or technology in your area of practice. A newsletter allows you to build a relationship with your patients beyond their regular visits and serves as an additional opportunity to share the message of how much you appreciate their business, and the referral of their friends and family.

5 - Messaging and Notices. The advent of automated messaging has revolutionized office communications with patients and made it easier than ever to reach out to them throughout the year. From birthday messages to special reminders, reaching out to your patients is easier and less expensive now that it ever has been. Even if you’re not reminding them that you love referrals, you are building solid reasons for them to provide referrals anyway. Those seemingly simple communication moments demonstrate the care and concern you have for your patients, and this adds to their desire to share their experience with those they know.

6 - Online Visibility and Access. Do your web page and Facebook page have a “Schedule Now” option? How about a referral button? Social media is an excellent means of simplifying access for your patients as well as encouraging referrals. Integrating patient acquisition tools with your social media and online presence is a quick and easy way to encourage existing patients to share their experience with others.

7 - Be a Great Host.
 Hosting an event at your office is a great way to get your existing, active clients to bring family and friends to meet you. Consider holiday parties, or showing off a new or redecorated office as ways to encourage visitors. Back to School Night, community fairs, or other community events also encourage your patients to bring friends or family to meet you and your staff. Creativity is key here, as is a genuine interest in meeting new people who may become patients.

8 - Volunteer. Even if it doesn’t include promoting your practice, volunteering in your community is a great way to build a favorable impression of you, your staff, and your practice. It can also be an excellent team building opportunity for you and your staff, and it sets a wonderful example to others in your field.

9 - Provide an Incentive. To encourage patients to offer referrals, consider holding a drawing that gives them a chance to win something valuable. You can offer a monthly drawing for movie passes or gift cards to local hot spots for each referral provided, of hold a quarterly drawing for an even bigger prize such as a weekend get-away or a sporting event. You set the prize, the number of referrals needed for a patient to be entered to win, and how frequently you hold the drawing. And make sure you announce it in your patient newsletter!

10 - Recognize Referrers and Referrals. Use your monthly patient newsletter or email to recognize those people who have given you a referral as well as the name of your new patients. Everyone likes to feel appreciated, and acknowledging those who do you the favor of referring new patients. A simple thank you can go a long way to making people feel good and want to help you with your quest to find new patients.

Making a connection with your patients requires an investment of your time, your energy, and sometimes your money. But the return on investment for these things can be exponential and can mean an exceptional growth in your business and your reputation. Reward your patients for their loyalty, thank them publicly for their help in growing your business, and in a very short time you should be reaping the benefits of your efforts.

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5 Social Media Marketing Ideas That Act as Patient Magnets

5 Social Media Marketing Ideas That Act as Patient Magnets | Social Media and Healthcare |

Any change in the season gives you an opportunity to do some innovative and engaging marketing — especially on social networks where you can be effective with quick social media marketing campaigns. In order to get your creative juices flowing, here are five social media marketing ideas for individual medical practices.

In the past decade, social networks have evolved from an idea to a necessity for healthcare marketers. Of all the latest marketing platforms, social networks have turned the traditional marketing techniques on their head. With outdated marketing strategies, messages were sent to the target audience, and communication was one-way. However, on social networks, target audiences and brands can directly interact and work on strengthening relationships. According to a survey by DreamGrow, nearly 95 percent of online adults are most likely to follow a brand via social networking sites.

However, just like target audiences vary from one practice to another, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to social media marketing for medical practices. The strategies and techniques are as varied and diverse as the types of target patient groups to whom you can market your services. While getting started with social media marketing is relatively easy, knowing how to launch, manage and optimize your campaigns is critical. Getting started with social media healthcare marketing can be intimidating for some marketers, so here are a few effective social media marketing ideas for effectively promoting your practice.

Go live

Facebook is one of the first few believers in video being the future of social media marketing, and the launch of features like live video and stories is an indication of the same. Live videos are an excellent way to increase your organic reach and drive patient engagement. According to Facebook, visitors spend three times more time watching a live video compared to a video that is not live. Live video is likely to see continued growth and engagement in 2018 and beyond. However, now that more brands are using live video to increase engagement rate, the content will need to evolve to become more creative and less gimmicky. In addition, with Facebook ranking live videos higher on the News Feed, going live can also increase the reach of your non-live Facebook Page content.

Run a contest

It is usually difficult for people to resist the power of “free.” Running a contest is one of the most impactful social media ideas when it comes to increasing engagement rate. According to a survey by Tailwind, almost 91 percent of Instagram posts that attracted more than 1,000 likes or comments were related to a contest. In addition, brands that run contests on a regular basis grow 70 percent faster than those that don’t. According to experts, when you are running a contest, the prize must be related to your practice or specialty. This is because show tickets and other unrelated items tend to attract freebie-seekers that will not translate into long-term followers or an increase in patient volume.

Host a Q&A session

You can plan an ‘Ask the Doctor’ series to educate and engage with your followers. Such series can help you share your knowledge and experiences. From sharing success stories to general health tips, such interactive sessions can be compelling for patients and physicians alike. Through such interactive sessions, you can not only show off your personal side but also showcase the face behind your practice as well as raise awareness for your brand without being salesy. In addition, if you have a large team, you can encourage each member to conduct their own Q&A sessions to give a big-picture view of your practice.

Share ‘behind the scenes’ pictures

Essentially, brands represent people. Do not let that personal element of your practice fall by the wayside. It is important to give your followers a ‘behind the scenes’ look at your practice as this will signal authenticity. In addition, taking random pictures or video at your practice does not have to be rocket science. For instance, if you are hosting a wellness camp at your practice, it won’t do any harm to let your followers see what you do and how you do it.

Share a milestone

 Healthcare marketers should consider celebrating their success stories and victories with their followers. For example, if you have appeared in a major publication or relocated to a bigger and fancier location, let your followers know. Sharing these milestones with your existing and potential patients will show your human side while strengthening your brand’s growth. Social media is not just about products and service. Telling your story and showing your accomplishments can solidify your reputation.

End of the day, the most effective way to market your practice on social media is by providing value to your followers. It is important to create and share content that your audience will find useful. A piece of information that enlightens and educates them is what will eventually attract the right patients to your practice. Master this trick, and you will be a step closer to a successful social media marketing campaign.

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How to attract quality patients using online medical marketing

How to attract quality patients using online medical marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

The United States population is 328.7 million, as of Sept. 27, 2018, according the U.S. Census Bureau — and each of these people need healthcare. The sheer volume of individuals at your fingertips is exciting, but not all patients are the right fit for your practice.

Digital marketing tactics can help you reach your target market, allowing you to connect with the right people. Read on to learn how to use online medical marketing strategies to build a base of quality patients.

3 steps to target quality patients with online medical marketing

Step 1: Define the audiences you want to reach

If you’re not sure what a quality patient is to your practice, don’t panic. Some deep thinking about your personal preferences and the goals you’ve set for your practice will help you define your target audience.

One thing to consider is who you want to treat. Think about the healthcare issues you’re most passionate about, because this should match the type of patient you’re serving.

When it comes to your practice, consider the type of services you currently offer or even those you would like to perform more often — e.g. out-of-pocket procedures requiring patients with a higher income. Likewise, you might also be in the midst of a push to increase the longevity of your relationship with patients, which could mean targeting younger people more likely to stay with your practice longer.

There’s no need to worry if you have trouble narrowing it down to just one target audience. It’s possible your definition of a quality patient is multifaceted, which is great, because it creates more business opportunities. For example, a dermatologist might want to target teenagers and college-aged students for acne services, while simultaneously marketing wrinkle reduction procedures to a more mature audience.

Chances are, your online medical marketing strategy will ultimately focus on patient factors like age, income bracket, geographical area, gender, and lifestyle habits — or a combination of these. When you’re able to narrow it down to the most important characteristics, you’re better equipped to attract quality patients who will turn your practice into the business you’ve always envisioned.

Check out: Outdated healthcare practice marketing ideas providers should stop

Step 2: Determine the topics that matter to targeted audiences

After deciding what a quality patient means to your practice, find out what’s important to them. When you know what interests your target market, you can craft an online medical marketing campaign designed to engage and inform.

Interviewing current patients is an effective way to determine what’s keeping your ideal audience up at night. Choose those who best fit the niche you’re trying to attract, then speak with them in person or ask them to complete a patient satisfaction survey. Gathering firsthand information will provide the telling insights needed to effectively serve your target patient base.

After your topics are defined, create a keyword strategy. If you’re not familiar with keywords, they’re the words and phrases prospective patients type into search engines when looking for a doctor. Essentially, keywords sum up what your practice is about in a few targeted words and phrases.

Speaking with patients will give you a solid idea of the kind of keywords to use, but further refine your strategy by using a keyword research tool, such as Google AdWords. This will show you which words and phrases have the highest search volume, allowing you to maximize your reach.

Step 3: Research the best digital online medical marketing tactics to reach targeted audiences

After you’ve determined your target patient base and the topics most important to them, it’s time to focus on the best ways to connect with them. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to a successful online medical marketing campaign, so build yours from the ground up by focusing on the wants and needs of your audience.

Here are a few common digital marketing tactics to consider:

Paid advertising
Generate new leads and increase traffic to your website with paid advertising. Purchase placements on a third-party site or app to highlight your practice. Strategies can be customized to fit your budget, and if you’re willing to invest the time, you can even manage your paid search medical marketing campaign on your own.

Social media
Roughly 2.8 billion people have a social media presence, making popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram a great place to connect with potential patients. Choose the sites that best align with your business goals, share relevant content on a regular basis, and engage with your target audience.

Explore: How to reach new patients using social media

Adding a blog to your practice website can effectively promote your services, boost search rankings, and attract new patients. For best results, craft posts around specific services offered at your practice, answer patients’ frequently asked questions, and consistently share new content to keep readers coming back for more.

Over the past couple of years, the majority of Google searches have been conducted on mobile devices — including patients looking for a new doctor. If your practice doesn’t have a mobile-friendly website, Google’s mobile-first strategy will likely push it down in the rankings. Not only that, reading the content will be a struggle for patients searching on a mobile device, so it’s possible they’ll give up and move on to another provider.

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Orthodontic marketing: a patient's perspective

Orthodontic marketing: a patient's perspective | Social Media and Healthcare |

One of the key themes emerging from the Practice Development Sessions at the British Orthodontic Conference in London was the increasing number of challenges faced by many specialists in attracting new private patients. The choice of treatment provider, and orthodontic options available to the patient are increasing every month and there has never been a more pertinent time to review your patient engagement activities. But where do you start and how should you do this? In this article I will share, from a patient’s perspective, some simple ways you can start to develop your digital marketing.

Before I am able to enquire about your services or purchase treatment from you, I need to know you exist. Patients are now more likely to do their research before making an enquiry, so you need to ensure the topics they are researching link back to your practice. Try a simple market research activity by taking your phone and searching for ‘Invisalign near me’. Does your practice appear towards the top of the search results? If not, who does? These are your competitors in that area.

Pick some other search terms such as ‘braces for adults in [your area]’ or ‘how much do braces cost’ to get a feel for what search results are returned, and how you might wish to improve the effectiveness of your website to reach new patients. This type of work is known as ‘search engine optimisation’ (SEO). You won’t see results immediately, it takes a while, but with the right strategy, you should see your practice appearing higher in the search results for the terms patients are using to try to find you.

Raising awareness of your practice isn’t confined to your website; social media plays an important role too, and it has been interesting seeing how some practices have embraced social media to the point it has become their primary tool for marketing and patient engagement activities. The level of awareness you can achieve through social media is huge and – if managed well – your existing patients will also support your efforts in attracting new patients. There are some innovative uses of social media in orthodontics so take some time to look at the different approaches others are using and decide what is likely to work best for you.

Once you have gained the attention of someone thinking about orthodontic treatment, you need to gain their interest. Imagine it is Sunday evening and in five minutes time, season two of ‘Bodyguard’ is about to start. Take your phone, call up your website, and take just a few seconds to look at what is in front of you. Would this grab your interest or would you quickly move on? Do the same for your social media channels. Are you engaged by the content, and what message does this convey to you about the experience of undergoing treatment at your practice? Ask your team, friends and family to also do this for you. You might be surprised by what they have to say.

From a patient perspective, what I am interested in might not be what you are promoting. Your marketing might not be aligned to what I am initially looking for, in which case I am unlikely to explore further. This is where a good understanding of your patients, and what motivates them to seek treatment, is essential. Making effective use of social media and having a website which contains well written content helps to engage the interest of the reader while also supporting SEO activities too.

Once you have gained the interest of the visitor to your site, you need to promote the experience and services you provide to make your offering desirable. This could be through explaining the benefits of a wide range of treatment options, facilities, competitive pricing, and exclusivity. You could also highlight some of the great results you have achieved for other satisfied patients.

You might be wondering how to make orthodontics desirable and to do this, you need to really understand patients motivations for starting treatment. They may present to you talking about how unhappy they are with the spacing or alignment of their teeth but behind this, there is nearly always a more powerful motivating factor. If you can produce content on your site or on social media which aligns to these motivational factors, you are more likely to properly engage with the reader and describe the benefits of undergoing treatment at your practice in a way that makes your offering more desirable to them.

By this stage, you will now have someone who is looking to validate their decision to proceed through the enquiry process. And you need to make this as easy as possible! Directing a potential patient to call your practice during office hours does not facilitate the next stage; instead it places a barrier to progress during which time they may find another treatment provider. Think about alternative methods a patient could use to contact you, for example an enquiry form, or through a social media message. Make sure there are plenty of ‘calls to action’ on your website or social media posts to encourage them to the next stage and to make that enquiry.

This simple marketing model has been used for many years and what makes it so useful is that it is easy to follow, and straightforward to implement. Make people aware of your practice, gain their interest so that they will want to spend some time exploring further, and make your services look and sound desirable. Finally, make it easy for them to take action, so they can start their patient journey.


Starting your search from a patient’s perspective will help you to better understand how well you are ranked by search engines and where improvements to your SEO activities can be made.



How we can help you

If you are looking to increase the number of private patients undertaking treatment, we can help you to develop a new marketing strategy that will achieve the results you are looking for. We will start by researching your website and use of social media and will identify areas where these can be improved to better engage with patients. Working with you and your team, we will review all aspects of the new patient process and support you as you implement the changes necessary.

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How social networks improve the world of medicine for cancer patients 

How social networks improve the world of medicine for cancer patients  | Social Media and Healthcare |

A cancer patient’s journey is complex, intricate and sometimes confusing. This is especially true as cancer is considered to be a life-altering condition that impacts the physical, emotional, social and economic aspects of patients and their families.

When it comes to diagnosis and treatment, Electronic Health Records (EHRs) serve an important purpose – providing up-to-date information about patients and streamlining coordination between different hospitals and clinic departments, with the goal of improving diagnosis and care. However, while EHRs are a crucial step toward value-based healthcare, they are intrinsically limited, because they only capture half of the patient’s picture: the physician’s perspect,


Cancer patients – from early diagnosis through treatment and beyond – often have many medical experiences that don’t find their way into the EHR. 

Why are many patients not forthcoming when discussing complex and personal topics with their doctors? The reasons for withholding information varies from person to person, but it is not uncommon to hold back due to discomfort and embarrassment. 
Controversial or highly personal topics can be particularly difficult to discuss openly. In fact, many patients feel much more comfortable sharing and discussing this information anonymously with other patients who are in the same situation, rather than with their own doctors. That being said, the question that arises is, how can healthcare systems gain better insight into how cancer patients navigate the complex facets of their diagnosis and treatments to enable physicians to help them further? 

The answer lies in the powerful combination of EHRs with the patient’s own recorded experiences. It is obvious that social media plays a major role in today’s society and there are many social platforms that have changed the way that we form communities. What makes social networking so special is the ability to communicate with people who share similar journeys. This creates a larger worldwide community that can help them to find others to talk to and lean on in a time of need. 

For cancer patients, this aspect of community interaction is essentially crucial.

With the Belong app, access to a cancer-focused social network provides a full range of personal experiences, leveraging data and insights provided by more than 130,000 global cancer patients. Because social media offers patients the ability to speak freely and anonymously, nothing is off-limits – creating a truly open and honest dialogue.  


Being able to ask questions, voice concerns and speak without fear of judgment is liberating for the patient, and has the added benefit of providing treating doctors with a better understanding of what cancer patients are thinking and doing in the real world 

Access to this information can also help health providers and payers identify patterns for correct drug usage, schedules and related side effects. Equipped with this added insight, physicians become more knowledgeable when advising patients, which eventually leads to better treatments and outcomes.

Social applications hold the key to significant, previously unreported patient data. As more physicians and providers tap into large cancer-specific social communities, this added value positively impacts the entire cancer treatment process. 

We can use social app tools to educate patients and their caregivers about what steps to be taking, including diverse treatment protocols and possible side effects and outcomes. At the same time, we can increase their adherence by keeping them informed with regular reminders, reports, measurements and surveys.

Together, the combination of EHRs and social insights will provide an invaluable tool for patients, physicians and the whole health system through the cancer patient’s entire journey.

The writer, the medical director of Belong.Life, is a renowned oncologist with 40 years of experience. He previously served as executive board member of the International Committee of the American Society of Clinical Oncology and was the founder and medical oncology director of the Sandton Oncology Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa.


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5 Top Reasons Physicians Should Take on Social Media (#SoMeDocs)

5 Top Reasons Physicians Should Take on Social Media (#SoMeDocs) | Social Media and Healthcare |

Taking on social media and the SoMeDocs platform are two separate things. But I’ve taken on the two, as someone who has a lot of experience with both, to make things simpler for those of you who need the primer (and the boost). So below, a little doctors on social media 101 covering first what #SoMeDocs is, and then, how social media is changing the state of medicine.


The word SoMeDocs stands for Doctors on Social Media.


The hashtag was created shortly after the inception of the original SoMeDocs group, because SoMe stands for Social Media (I didn’t make that one up!) and because the word is short, and easy to use.

It may seem confusing, but it’s not. It’s pretty simple and, in fact, when said correctly (So-Mee-Docs), rolls off the tongue rather nicely. It doesn’t take up a lot of characters, so on Twitter, it can be added to your tweet without taking much space. More on specific platforms later.

The #SoMeDocs are a motivated group of physicians that have taken on social media (or at least considered learning about it) in order to make a difference in healthcare, their careers, and/or their lives.

If you are a physician (we accept residents in training but at this time, no medical students. This may change as we move forward.) and want to be in the closed FB group, join us (make sure to provide your NPI as I work hard to vet group members).

We are public on Twitter and Pinterest.


SoMeDocs look to accomplish one (or more) of the following:


We can do this (we ARE doing this) through commentaries, discussions, and behind the scene collaborations.

I am working on creating an appropriate in-front-of-the-scenes forum currently, so please be patient or get in touch with me if you do not qualify as a part of the group but are interested in possible involvement.

In the meantime, I have tentatively created Medicine Connect.


We can’t speak on everything, even if we wanted to. But we each have our own area of expertise.

The various background and training that makes up our platform’s members is what makes us unique. We are internists, neurologists, surgeons, pediatricians, orthopedists, dermatologists, and otolaryngologists, and.. you get the point. We are your physicians, and we’re looking to make an impact outside of the exam room.

Other than specialization, each of us also differs in our skills and achievements, with various positions in our personal careers and growth. Professors and heads of departments intermix on social media with residents – those still training – because on SoMe, we’re all the same. This is one of the reasons why the SoMeDocs platform is so unique and is a great representation of medicine as a whole: we put aside any differences we may have and work together, to grow.


Let’s face it, we can’t end it.

As long as social media is free and accessible, there will always be people on it, making claims. That doesn’t mean that they’re right. Of course, that also doesn’t mean that they’re wrong (*gasp!*). Innovation starts in forums like social media virtual-venues because exactly because of this concept – that freedom to post/create is often the necessary ingredient for achieving progress.

But as long as we’re scientists – and we all inherently are – we also need evidence. (We’re the Jerry McGuire‘s of the medicine world: Show us the Evidence!).

Physicians, and SoMeDocs believe in making claims that are based on valid study findings. We therefore support what we call ‘evidence-based’ medicine and advice. (However, we can’t take the responsibility for all member activities and claims, see disclaimer below).


Promoting your hospital, organization, or private entity business is now in the palm of your hand. And it’s free!

Big medical names in medicine are increasingly recognizing the need for physician presence on these platforms. It is the wave of future communication and interaction, and therefore becoming more popular in medicine. Finding ways to best promote medical practices differs depending on platform used, but can be specifically tweaked to target desired audience.

Your next reader, follower, and patient could be one click away.


This one’s a biggie.

Docs have many talents outside of the exam room. Yours truly couldn’t decide which of her talents to pursue. Ultimately, I felt that I could make a difference in the face of healthcare in this country simply by mixing my creativity with medicine, and I could not have done it without social media as my medium.

Beating burnout comes in so many forms these days. We have cooks, photographers, writers, scarf-makers, coaches, world travelers, bakers, and so much more. Everyone is trying to find their own niche, and that’s ok. It’s all abut finding your side #passion, & experimenting with what you can do. The world, after all, is our oyster. Just watch for vibriosis! (sorry, medical humor..)

For the different platforms available to physicians, on social media, stay tuned for a post I am creating shortly.. to pin on Pinterest, scroll below the disclaimer.

Disclaimer: I am not able at this time to endorse any specific physician or claims that physicians in this platform make. We number too many. I try my hardest to vet all physicians in the FB group, and ensure they have a medical degree. But I cannot guarantee no mistakes were made and no one slipped through the cracks. It is up to the discretion of the readers, including physicians themselves, to use their own judgement and research on heeding advice and forming connections. In general, any medical advice dispensed on the internet should be brought to the attention of your personal physician.  This is because you are unique and may have medical issues that warrant careful consideration. Please take notice of the disclaimer on my page for more.

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#VerifyHealthcare Adds Integrity to Medical Social Media Posts

#VerifyHealthcare Adds Integrity to Medical Social Media Posts | Social Media and Healthcare |

Just like fake news, untrustworthy health information problematically circulates across social media platforms, often posted by people who lie about their medical credentials online. One social-media-savvy doctor noticed this dangerous issue and decided to do something about it. Austin Chiang, MD, MPH, Director of the Endoscopic Bariatric Program at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Pennsylvania, launched the #VerifyHealthcare social media campaign to encourage the integrity of medical information online.

Dr. Chiang’s involvement and research on using social media for gastrointestinal health education and outreach led to his appointment as Chief Medical Social Media Officer of Jefferson Health/Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals. He spoke with CareDash about his #VerifyHealthcare mission.

You started #VerifyHealthcare, an Instagram and Twitter hashtag. Tell us what it is and what your inspiration/motivation was.

My idea behind the #VerifyHealthcare movement was to encourage anyone online who regularly disseminates health information or knowledge to disclose their qualifications and to encourage followers to research who they trust for this kind of information online. There is no clear entity regulating the integrity of health information on social media, and in this day and age when social media is so pervasive, this could have serious public health consequences. Through my own experience witnessing a boom in health influencers especially on Instagram over the past year, I have noticed not only accounts that are openly distributing unsubstantiated health claims, but also professional misrepresentation.

What are common types of misinformation you are seeing? Are there any especially egregious examples you’ve seen?

Aside from non-evidence based health claims of various fad diets and unproven treatments, I also noticed professionals such as pre-medical students and medical students posing as physicians and distributing health tips or promoting certain supplements or products that claimed health benefit. Furthermore, some allied professionals such as chiropractors and naturopathic medicine professionals were claiming to be physicians who had gone to "medical school." While the purpose of this campaign is not to serve as the "social media police," I sought to highlight the strengths of health professionals who were qualified to speak on various topics.

Tell us about your practice and expertise.

I am a triple board certified hospital-based gastroenterologist focused on advanced endoscopic procedures and weight loss endoscopy. I serve as the Director of Endoscopic Bariatric Program at Jefferson Health in Philadelphia, PA.

I’ve never heard of a hospital with a Chief Medical Social Media Officer. What does that entail? Should we follow our hospitals and providers on social media?

This title reflects Jefferson's dedication to innovation, a spirit spearheaded by our CEO, Dr. Stephen Klasko. The role includes encouraging health professionals to be active on social media, to revise our social media policies, and to assist in online campaigns.

What do doctors do if they see another physician who may be spreading incorrect or unsafe information on social media?

Often, there is not much we can do to control what others are posting. We do, however, have control over what we post. Therefore, we can contribute our own post promoting accurate health information that cites results from peer-reviewed publications. Individuals are entitled to express their personal beliefs, and everyone has a different way of approaching such a situation. Part of the beauty of social media is that it is meant to be "social." Therefore, an open discussion may allow the posting physician to clarify miscommunications and encourage others to weigh in. Similarly, an offline discussion is also one way of communicating with the physician to better understand their rationale. Of course, these exchanges must remain professional and respectful.

If you had one piece of advice for CareDash readers regarding health information on social media, what would it be?

Social media is only one source of information, and it is best to double and triple check both the presented knowledge itself and the professionals who are posting through other sources (including official avenues like board certification and licensure websites) before trusting medical information.

Social media is here to stay, and given how pervasive it is and how widely it is already being used as a marketing and advertising tool in other industries, I expect its impact on public health to only become more substantial as time goes on.

About the Expert: 

Dr. Austin Chiang, MD, MPH, is one of the few bariatric endoscopy and advanced endoscopy dual-trained gastroenterologists in the world. Dr. Chiang is the Director of the Endoscopic Bariatric Program at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, where he offers unique endoscopic weight loss solutions for those seeking a less invasive method of losing weight and improving metabolic conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes. Customized treatments to enhance weight loss in those who previously underwent bariatric surgery are also available and effective.  

You can also tweet us questions and comments @caredash.

About the Author

Ted Chan

Ted is the Founder, CEO, and Senior Editor of CareDash.

Ted created CareDash after noticing two troubling trends on healthcare review sites: healthcare providers serving certain segments of the U.S. population were underrepresented and many existing sites accepted financial compensation in exchange for removal of negative provider feedback. transparency and improve the quality of healthcare information available for all Americans.

In addition to his career as a technology executive, Ted is an accomplished writer and editor, with writing credits that include the Boston Globe, ESPN, and the Middlesex News.  A sought after healthcare industry expert, Ted has been quoted in publications such as MedCity News, Becker’s Hospital Review, and VentureBeat.

Ted received his Bachelor of Arts in History and Psychology with High Honors from Swarthmore College, and MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management.  Ted also studied Value-Based Healthcare at Harvard Business School.

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Social Media’s Eroding Trust Hits Healthcare Companies - 

Social Media’s Eroding Trust Hits Healthcare Companies -  | Social Media and Healthcare |

It’s not exactly a well-kept secret that the pharmaceutical and biotech industry isn’t among the world’s most trusted. This runs in stark contrast to their seemingly noble intentions: to bring new therapies to market that improve people’s health.

With such an important mission, why do public trust issues seem to persist for healthcare companies? There are a lot of contributing factors that likely play a role, including perceptions regarding price hikes to access to medicines, but there’s no questioning that the pharmaceutical and biotech industry has a reputation issue on its hands.

O'Dwyer's Oct. '18 Healthcare & Medical PR Magazine

This is a real business problem. You won’t find “reputation” on any balance sheet but it’s most certainly something that impacts overall business performance. Look no further than the string of reputation harm that faced United Airlines in 2017. In two separate incidents, one where three passengers were denied boarding due to their attire, and one where a passenger was dragged off the plane after refusing to exit voluntarily, United failed to apologize or even respond in a timely manner. During this period of silence, United’s market valuation dropped to the tune of $1.8 billion. In a matter of days, United had done serious harm to its reputation, its relationship with customers and ultimately, its business.

Pharmaceutical and biotech companies are taking notice and evaluating how to change the discourse and engender trust with their stakeholders. One area where there’s opportunity to develop a different type of relationship is through digital and social media. It offers a more direct line to external stakeholders, an ability to demonstrate empathy and put forward a more human voice for a company. These benefits are well understood but adoption of digital and social media as more than a push marketing channel and a customer service vehicle in pharma remains low.

There are the usual hurdles that slow adoption in this industry. Regulatory and medical guidelines place significant restrictions on what can and cannot be communicated. A risk-averse culture often prevents pushing the envelope to embrace a customer-service mindset on social media. But those hurdles are nothing new. For years, we’ve dealt with the same restrictions and found ways to effectively communicate through digital and social channels. So, what’s changed? Trust. Trust in the companies and trust in the channels themselves.

Over the past 18 months, we’ve seen the trust in information communicated on social media called into question. What was once seen as a possible ready-made solution to form a more direct relationship with the customer is now facing its own scrutiny and all information is being placed under an intense microscope.

This was driven by a series of high-profile issues that garnered national attention. The first was the widely-held belief that foreign entities used social media to disseminate misinformation during the 2016 Presidential election. This was the first time that the use of social media for nefarious intentions rose to the level of being squarely placed in the national discourse. It caused people to question the legitimacy of content on social media channels and specific scrutiny was placed on content produced by companies as opposed to individuals. Just as this conversation was beginning to shift to the back burner, the Cambridge Analytica scandal broke. This caused more angst amongst pharmaceutical and biotech companies because it involved sensitive data, which in the world of healthcare, is always a hot topic. Put these two issues together, and the very thing pharma hoped would be a tool in repairing its trust issues ended up becoming a trust issue of its own.

This leaves pharmaceutical marketers in a predicament. Do they abandon the use of social media channels as a customer service mechanism that can help to build and repair public trust? Are the channels themselves a strong headwind against that effort?

Like most things, the answer is murky. What is clear is that social and digital channels can be used to unlock a more direct connection with the audience. A well-thought-out response plan and an escalation procedure that pinpoints who can make decisions quickly allows pharmaceutical and biotech companies to respond on social media in near real-time. This is a far cry from the seemingly impassable chasm that previously existed between healthcare companies and their stakeholders. With the advent of enterprise-ready chat bots and machine learning, we are also now able to take this response protocol beyond simply manual responses based on pre-approved response matrices. These tools allow us to apply the same business process but enable true real-time engagement.

As these tools reach maturity, in order to tap into their true potential, we need to address the thorny question of what does the audience really trust on these channels. There are so many factors that go into trust that it is important to uncover what and why a piece of content is more trusted versus another. It could be the channel itself that is more trustworthy; perhaps users prefer one channel over another as a source of information. It could be that the copy has the greatest impact on effectiveness or the creative that accompanies the content. It could also be the publisher itself and not the channel or content that has the greatest impact on trust. All of these are important variables to understand how to serve content across social media and how public trust plays a role in the efficacy of that content.

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Has Social Media Wellness Created Self Care Problems?

Has Social Media Wellness Created Self Care Problems? | Social Media and Healthcare |

I sometimes feel like a parody of a therapist,” says Annie, a therapist of four years, who works mainly with patients who struggle with chemical dependency. She began to notice this insecurity in the past year or two, after she’d started running group therapy sessions with greater frequency. She found herself pausing before using certain key terms in her profession, like “self-care” and “mindfulness.” “It feels like I’m in a movie, like I’m saying what a therapist is supposed to say, if that make sense.”

She suspects social media might be to blame. As she continues to introduce and teach these topics in her practice, she’s observed a dulling in both her patients and herself. “It’s started to feel like the social media version of mindfulness and self-care is watering down the kinds of discussions I’m trying to facilitate with my patients. The overuse of these terms seems to be causing a bit of tuning out, because it’s just not interesting to talk about anymore.”

She hasn’t always felt this way about the internet’s influence on therapy. When she first started seeing self-care bandied about on social media, she thought, Oh this is great! The acceptance of mental healthcare and the democratization of its terminology seemed like a boon to an industry that’s traditionally been heavily stigmatized.

But given her recent realization, she feels there’s reason for pause, too. On one hand, she “loves that these important therapeutic techniques are being brought to light, [and that] people feel comfortable talking about something that’s usually brought up in therapy,” but on the other, there is an issue around misuse of terminology and the effects that may have on her patients’ care and impression of therapy. Who needs to pay for therapy when you’ve got your pick of wellness influencers for free online?

While the terms self-care and mindfulness are in no way “owned” by the psychology field, they are cornerstones in the practice. Self-care was originally employed by physicians, then shifted to a treatment for the those who held deep trauma, finally becoming co-opted by those in the activist community as a way to manage the difficulties associated with the vocation. Mindfulness sprang into popular consciousness in the late 1800s from the Buddhist tradition, then was eventually parlayed into modern therapy techniques.

When placed within the context of social media, the most recent iterations of these terms have begun to take on a different focus than their clinical counterparts. Even with her training, Annie has observed a shift in her own thinking. The term self-care conjures an image for her of “a girl on Instagram in a bubble bath with a glass of wine.” When playing association with the term myself, I almost always pair it with some kind of indulgence, like chocolate or expensive skincare products, which Annie reminds me “is obviously not healthy for many of my clients.”

This terminology has historically been a prescription for patients to take ownership over their health and recovery, whether that be learning to properly dress a healing wound or, in the case of many of Annie’s clients, activities like “following through on your commitments, pulling yourself off the couch and showering even if you don’t want to, or setting boundaries with family members.” When Annie’s list of self-care action items is contrasted with the social media version, it’s easy to spot the difference. One is centered on setting goals and boundaries for one’s self improvement, while the other is rooted in self-indulgence, often the kind the costs money. Self-care 2.0: Capitalism take the wheel.

This is not to say that people shouldn’t indulge when appropriate. Rather, there may be value in drawing a distinction between the two. The act of taking a term like self-care and manipulating it to prop up bad habits or over-indulgences will only serve to relabel those as good or healthy. This shouldn’t only be a concern for individuals with addiction issues: Using consumerism as a way to escape stress or sorrow is something we all do.

Self-care, within the context that Annie teaches it, is tailored to the individual. “That’s the frustrating thing about social media. That’s not the message that’s being put out there. I think there’s a tendency to turn our personal experience into expert advice when what might be helpful for one person could actually be harmful for another. There’s no personalized care.” Annie often wonders if the veneer of social media, particularly Instagram, is difficult for her clients to reconcile with the therapy they receive. “It’s not sexy for them to post about going to AA. Their self-care is not an aesthetic. It’s hard work.”

There are plenty of IG accounts that subscribe to the “good vibes only” philosophy. These kinds of influencers might encourage their followers to practice the same style of self-care that works for them (and, in some cases, their colorway), when in fact it may not be sound advice. If taken at their word, these people are working to make the world a positive and, dare I say it, more glowy place. But their messages can negate the reality that a more difficult kind of self-care may actually be needed. One devoid of mushroom teas and CBD chocolates.

Understanding what self-care should or could mean is valuable for everyone, especially when framed as a worthy challenge rather than an easy indulgence. For example, if I’m feeling stressed, maybe I should buck up and go for a run instead of pairing a glass of wine with mindless scrolling. Better yet, maybe self-care could be confronting the source of that stress. If my financial situationis causing me anxiety, then maybe self-care looks like finally tackling my budget or brainstorming free or less expensive ways to live my life. If the news is making me feel hopeless, then maybe self-care looks like volunteering for candidates whose platforms I want to see reflected in my government.

The democratization of therapy through social media may have its pitfalls, but Annie points out that it can be helpful, too. “There are a lot of IG accounts where people can discuss their struggles openly. I’ve seen miscarriage accounts and different mental health accounts and it’s not people who are trying to be trendy or cool, it’s people who are laying bare their raw emotions in order to help others. I know that for me, when someone shares a struggle that they went through that is similar to my own, it has helped me feel like I’m not alone.”

While social media has itself succumbed to capitalism, this sentiment brings us back to the root mission of many of these platforms: helping people feel less alone. Fortunately, those little corners of Instagram and other social media sites still exist. It may just be a journey through triteness to find what we’re searching for — whether that be connection, commiseration or a real human through the wires.

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I Don’t Want to Share What I Ate on Social Media” – Dispelling Common Healthcare IT Myths

I Don’t Want to Share What I Ate on Social Media” – Dispelling Common Healthcare IT Myths | Social Media and Healthcare |

Today I wanted to start a new series of posts I’m calling the Dispelling Common Healthcare IT Myths series. There are a lot of these to cover. In many ways, this series of blog posts is going to cover some of the most common questions I get asked by healthcare providers, CIOs, nurses, practice managers, HIM professionals, etc as I travel all over the country talking to hundreds of people.

The first common myth I want to dispel is that Social Media is for sharing everything you do. This is often illustrated when I talk with someone about social media and then they reply, “I Don’t Want to Share What I Ate on Social Media.” *shakes head*

Social media is SOOOOOO much more than just sharing everything you do throughout the day including what you ate. This is particularly true in the healthcare social media community. Just so I’m clear. Social media can be used to share every meal you ever eat and a few people do in fact share every meal. That said, the majority of people don’t use social media in this way.

It’s easy to see why this perception came about. Many of the initial social media platforms like Facebook said things like “What did you do today?” In fact, I just checked Facebook now and it still says “What’s on your mind, John?” Many initially interpreted it to mean that they needed to share everything they do (including every meal). This idea has shifted and now people are sharing everything imaginable on social media (and even some unimaginable things).

The point being, social media is not really about what you did or what you’ve done or what other people have done. It is more about learning something new, connecting with people, and sharing your unique perspectives and insights on a topic. And you can have some fun on there too.

These ideas are particularly true for social media platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn which have a lot of professionals involved. Sure, those same professionals are on Facebook as well and there are some fantastic Facebook groups where this can happen, but more people use Facebook for personal things and Twitter and LinkedIn for professional things.

Here is some of the value people find from taking part in healthcare social media:

Learning – If you’re following the right people, your Twitter feed can be an incredible source of the latest news, research, and learnings for your industry. The key here is making sure you follow the right people. To see this value, you probably need to follow about 25 extremely active Twitter accounts or 50-100 less active Twitter accounts. Once you do this, your feed will be full of amazing content that stretches your mind and gets you access to information that will help you in your job.

Connecting – One of the powers of Twitter is that you can connect and message with almost anyone on the platform. If you’ve never tried it, you’ll be surprised how accessible and interactive people will be on Twitter. Want a conversation with a CIO on Twitter? That’s easy. Want to interact with someone at CMS? Not a problem. Those are specific use cases, but some of the best connections happen serendipitously. To see what I mean, take part in a Twitter chat. We’re partial to the #HITsm chat we host each week, but there are hundreds of others you can choose from to find your proverbial “tribe” on Twitter. Find your tribe and start engaging with the people tweeting with that hashtag. This is particularly true at many healthcare IT conferences which have a well used Twitter hashtag. You’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll connect with amazing people that can help you and your career. Plus, you’ll benefit from the joy of helping other people as well.

Sharing – While you don’t need to share everything about your life, social media can be a great way for you to share your knowledge and insights with peers. We all have experiences and insights that others will find useful. If you’re not sure what to share, that’s fine. However, as you see other people sharing, engage them in a conversation and you’ll be surprised how you likely have many experiences and insights you can share with others. It’s an amazing feeling when you share something that makes another person’s life better. Don’t think it’s possible? Well, then you probably haven’t shared much on social media. I’ve experienced it hundreds of times and it never gets old.

I could go on and on about this topic, but these are 3 high-level benefits of social media that everyone can enjoy. If you’re involved in social media, please hop in the comments and share other benefits you’ve seen from social media. Of course, if you’re new to Twitter, you can start by following @techguy and @healthcarescene on Twitter and a few hundred others here.

Of course, if you do love food, you can find that on social media like Twitter as well. There’s nothing wrong with mixing work and play if you’re thoughtful about it. In fact, there’s something amazing about reading some healthcare IT tweets, some food tweets, some inspirational tweets, some sports tweets, and then some health policy tweets. That’s the beauty of Twitter. You can follow and customize your feed to the things that interest you.

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How to Transform Health Care in the Social Media Age

How to Transform Health Care in the Social Media Age | Social Media and Healthcare |
Former Stanford hospitalist Zubin Damania, MD, is a man on a mission. Millions have seen his alter ego, ZDoggMD, in humorous music videos thanking nurses or criticizing EHRs, but he’s also using his substantial social media presence to highlight serious health care issues and innovations. In the following interview, he describes why communication is the key to galvanizing support for a new health care paradigm he calls “Health 3.0.” Dr. Damania will be a keynote presenter at the 2018 IHI National Forum on Quality Improvement in Health Care.

How would you describe your work to change health care?

I leverage both the baggage and the credibility that comes with working for years as a physician in today’s broken health care system. My goal is to use the platform we’ve created over almost eight years on Facebook, YouTube, and across social media, and the ZDoggMD “character” to shift people’s perspective about how to fix health care. First, I make the case that health care can be fixed, must be fixed, and it’s happening now. Second, I point out where in the world things are going in a direction we call Health 3.0.

The Health 1.0 of the 20th century was more art than science, and deeply paternalistic. The Health 2.0 of managed care, quality measures, and the EMR turned all of us — doctors, patients, and the whole health care team — into commodities in the assembly-line of “Medicine-As-Machine.” Health 3.0 transcends and includes the best of 1.0 and 2.0 while restoring connections and the primacy of human relationships. This new health care paradigm is long overdue.

I spend most of my time working on a massive social media platform of nearly two million health care people and invested patients who want to be a voice for health care transformation. I also see patients at a county hospital as a hospitalist and assistant professor of medicine at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

Why do you switch back and forth between the comedic and serious ways you present your message?

In the early days, the ZDoggMD persona was a way to speak out when I felt I had no voice. I did it through satire and through a bit of clownery because that’s how you get people’s attention online.

It evolved to me building our clinic in Las Vegas and running a model that I consider a signpost for where health care can go. Even though we didn’t get it perfectly right [with Turntable Health, a direct primary care program] and we had to close, that experience opened my mind to what great care could be. I realized that we need to do more than just satirize and complain about a broken system.

While it’s important to make something patient-directed like a rap parody about stroke symptoms, it might be even more important to catalyze change among health care people because of the thousands of people they touch every day.

But, if I’m serious all the time, I’m like every other talking head. It’ll put people to sleep and it’ll put me to sleep. I have an oppositional defiant personality. I think you need that in health care to trigger the next wave of change. There are very smart people doing a lot of great things, but they’re often terrible communicators. I understand medicine through experience and I can help with the communication, so that’s the role I want to play. Hopefully people come for the comedy and stay for the message and the movement.

You engage with millions of people on Facebook and Facebook Live. Why use a social media platform to share your message?

You can have what I call the “measurement industrial complex.” You can have people who are doing PQRS. You can have Press Ganey and the Joint Commission. If you talk one-on-one to any of the passionate individuals who work in these organizations, they will make you feel something about why these measurements matter, why safety and quality and the patient experience are crucial to providing good care.

However, the way these organizations communicate comes off as condescending, disconnected, and mechanical. It makes frontline practitioners feel like commodities. They are not motivating our hearts. Humans are intuitive, emotional creatures that need to feel something.

That’s my job. That’s why I can make a video making fun of Press Ganey, but I can also give a talk and say, “Here’s what the people from Press Ganey told me. It’s not about, ‘Did you get your turkey sandwich on time and your warm blanket?’ It’s about what we do with a mother who just lost a pregnancy in the hospital. What’s your process for talking to her? How do you help her grieve in the hospital? What do you say? How does the staff behave?” Now that makes you feel something. That is the important and the crucial nature of what we’re trying to measure and quantify. If we can improve on that, then we have done a beautiful service.

Communicating is key and we don’t do it well in health care. I think that’s the central reason we lost so much autonomy over the years, especially in this position as caregivers. We haven’t communicated with a good clear voice. It’s time to connect in a way that will be visceral, but also intellectually honest.

What’s missing from most of the discussion about burnout in health care?

Resiliency training, mindfulness programs, yoga, meditation, and taking more vacations are bandages. They’re all important things, but they are not addressing the root cause. In the quality movement, people talk about root cause analysis. If they could do that for “burnout,” they would see that the root cause is moral injury in our caregivers. They are having to do things and behave in ways that are contrary to their moral instincts, the reasons they went into health care. They are serving multiple masters. They’re serving the business. They’re serving themselves. They’re serving patients. They’re serving the government and serving the measurement industrial complex. It creates internal conflict that drives people crazy.

People are feeling miserable and disconnected emotionally. They’re not connecting to their patients. Their self-esteem, self-worth, and feelings of accomplishment are low.

To get at the root cause requires deep system change, deep culture change, and payment reform. How we structure everything in medicine doesn’t just have to be tweaked. You need to blow it up and rethink it entirely.

You helped found Turntable Health, a groundbreaking direct primary care practice in Las Vegas five years ago. What worked, what didn’t, and how would you describe the future of direct primary care?

Turntable was a grand experiment. We wondered if we could take a direct primary care approach where patients pay us directly and combine it with a direct primary care approach where we’re partnered with big businesses — who pay for their self-fund employees — and insurance companies — who pay to give their members access to unlimited, team-based, no co-pay, “all you can treat” family medicine.

We combined that approach with a team that included health coaches from the community, physicians, nurses, and social workers to provide mental health care. We had a studio on the campus where we could teach meditation, mindfulness, and resiliency. We had a teaching kitchen to show patients how to cook quick meals in a food desert on a budget.

Our front hall had a community space where people would gather and form social connections, because social isolation is such a problem. We were trying to address the social determinants of health while practicing evidence-based medicine empowered by technology designed to do its job and get out of the way.

What worked? Our patients were incredibly happy. We had great outcomes. We lowered hospital admissions by 50 percent, to use one example.

What did we do wrong? We were one clinic in downtown Las Vegas without an ecosystem aligned with our goals. The rest of the ecosystem is fee-for-service medicine, which means they want to do stuff to your patient. People behave according to their incentives and in Las Vegas, in particular, without a big academic medical presence, that’s how it works.

The second problem is we tried to do everything for everyone. We should have picked a demographic and a population and optimized to them so that it would’ve been easier for our staff to coordinate care. It was very hard to manage multiple insurance plans even though you don’t technically take insurance. You still have to refer patients. You have to be “in network” or you can’t order any lab tests, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Finally, we had too much overhead. We tried to make it a very good experience for patients, but we didn’t need 7,000 square feet. We could’ve done it on a much smaller scale and the experience would’ve been the human relationship, not so much the facility.

There was a lot of learning on my end. But the main thing is the soil was not fertilized yet for Health 3.0. We were just one little sprout. You need a forest around you to support and align with the incentives that you have.

Despite the challenges, how would you describe the continued interest in direct primary care?

It’s reaching a tipping point. When you’re a pioneer, and you’re one of the first out of the gate, you’re going to get a bunch of arrows in you. We knew that would happen. But now look at what people are doing: Three percent of the American Academy of Family Physicians is doing direct primary care. Groups are springing up all around the country where companies like Hint Health are helping them manage patients well. You also have companies like Iora Health who partnered with us on Turntable, who are growing. They focus on Medicare Advantage and their goal is to take care of senior citizens effectively in a cost-effective way that’s about relationships, not transactions.

[Direct primary care] is working and we’re seeing it show up everywhere. My goal is to share it with the world because even the doctors who are in it sometimes have a hard time explaining what they’re doing. Is this concierge medicine? Is this medicine only for the rich? No, this is a transformative model, and a lot of people can afford it. And, for the people who can’t afford it, we should have a government program subsidize good primary care. If we did that, we would watch the spending pie start to shrink because great primary care prevents diseases, unnecessary admissions, referrals, testing, and duplication. Relationship-based primary care allows you to develop connections with the patient and you have time to practice sound, high-quality, evidence-based medicine.

Why do you still make seeing patients a priority?

Because being a doctor is who I am. When I was dependent on seeing patients for my livelihood it created distress because I realized I was in a broken system, and if I can’t practice the way I want to practice, then I was potentially doing harm. I had no choice because to get paid I had to click certain boxes in the EHR and stop looking the patient in the eye. I had to satisfy quality measures that don’t measure quality for this particular patient who is nothing like the patients in the randomized control trial upon which these so-called quality measures were based. I was slave to both algorithm and the superstition of old school “we’ve always done it this way” medicine.

Now, because I love medicine, and I love patient care, I still see patients. They don’t pay me. This is a purely voluntary thing. I get to spend time the patients and they remind me every step of the way about the importance of quality and safety. I teach the health staff about understanding and addressing the social determinants of health because we experience the consequences for our patients every single day.

What troubles you the most about the future of health care? What gives you the most hope?

What troubles me the most is that we don’t have the political will at the government level or in big industry to undertake the truly disruptive change that will save not only health care, but the country as a whole. Health care is almost 20 percent of our GDP and an anchor around our ankles. We need truly brave disruptive leadership to fix medical errors, poor-quality care, geographic variation in care, unnecessary testing and overtreatment, and undertreatment in certain populations.

What excites me is that we don’t need [government or business leadership]. In the vacuum left by the failures of our cowardly leaders, there are two million people — in my tribe alone — who share the desire to transform health care. They’re all different people. Nurses, CNAs, doctors, and health system CEOs. This movement will catalyze change in conjunction with our patients who are going to demand it and vote with their feet. That gives me hope.

Medical students ask me all the time, “Should I go into medicine?” They tell me, “All my mentors are telling me no.” I say yes. I tell them, “By the time you finish medical school, you’re going to help us build this amazing new system where you will not suffer moral distress because you’ll be practicing the way your ideals tell you. By doing good for your patients, you’ll be helping your colleagues, and helping yourself. And helping the country.”

We know bright spots are emerging. We know there are organizations like IHI that are on the right track. We just need a catalytic vehicle and a platform to communicate it to as many people as possible and then activate them in a grassroots, bottom-up way. We know in medicine top-down edicts and regulations and management leads to disaster every single time. But if we start from the people touching patients every single day and their patient colleagues, we can transform health care in a way that no other country has been able to do. If we improve quality, reduce cost, improve outcomes, stop moral injury, and improve caregiver satisfaction, it could be a beacon for the rest of the world. And I think it’s our moral obligation to do this.

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The Med in Social Media: The Role Twitter Can Play in the Medical Student Toolkit

The Med in Social Media: The Role Twitter Can Play in the Medical Student Toolkit | Social Media and Healthcare |

Medical school is a melting pot of passions and intellect. Therefore, I was surprised when it was here that I felt, for the first time, alone in my interests. I had fallen in love with the idea of using social media as a health care tool for both patients and providers. However, this concept is still in its infancy. With colleagues dedicated to so many different projects, it was difficult to convince them to join a movement that is still finding its place in medicine. Additionally, many of us are wary of putting our professional reputations at risk before they even have a chance to form. Statements made on social media in the heat of the moment can come back years later in haunting ways. A poorly thought out or timed tweet can become viral in minutes.

While I found this discouraging, the very platform I was trying to promote provided me with relief. On Twitter, I could find the conversations I craved with a simple #hashtag filter. Even when I didn’t know what I was looking for, I asked questions, and a simple like reminded me that I was not alone in my questioning. I followed mentors I admired, shaping my newsfeed into a flow of articles I cared about. Through them I learned of other hashtags and “mentors” I could follow. The quotations only indicate that most of these mentors probably are unaware of how they are influencing my personal career decisions and growth.

I happily grew into my lurker position and reached out of it occasionally. I learned about conference hashtags and was instantaneously given highlights from sessions occurring across the nation. It was easy asking clarification questions on Twitter knowing that people could respond in their own time. I enjoyed the false sense of security an online platform gives sometimes shy people like me. A few months ago, I participated in a tweetchat: #hcsm (healthcare social media). The interactions inspired me to break out of my comfort zone and directly message social media guru @DanamLewis, who founded the open source artificial pancreas system movement #OpenAPS. She agreed to speak for our Healthcare Innovations and Technology Student Interest Group, which is devoted to sharing news about improved patient care through the use of technology. It was the most attended event all year.

I currently hover in my personal bubble as a medical student on Twitter. I turn to it for information from trusted sources and am often pleasantly surprised by the interactions I have. While I tend to overthink social interactions with those above me on the medical hierarchy, the constant flow of tweets coming in from around the world allows me to let go of the expectations that I should get a response. Additionally, there is no obligation to post. I can use Twitter for as much or as little as I want, and it has been this versatility in usage that has convinced me of its invaluableness as a tool for the modern medical student.

I wrote this post with the guidance of both mentors and “mentors.” I look forward to the day when all medical students feel comfortable enough to add Twitter to their medical school toolkit. For all those who agree or disagree, I am putting out a call to action. A few peers and I who turn to social media for different reasons are coming together to formulate Twitter Guidelines, written by and for medical students. Guidelines for using Twitter as a medical educator, for example, already exist. If you have any experiences that would help us in our efforts, we would love to hear from you. You can email us at or find me on Twitter @lamvivianw!

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Find, Serve, and Keep More Patients with Digital Marketing for Surgeons

Find, Serve, and Keep More Patients with Digital Marketing for Surgeons | Social Media and Healthcare |

Today, the way to find patients is to have them find you! Digital marketing is an incredibly effective tool for connecting with prospective patients. If you want to be truly successful in business, you must have an effective digital marketing strategy. Otherwise, you aren’t taking advantage of what’s easily available to you. If the reality of online marketing for surgeons is daunting or confusing for you, then have no fear! Here at Crystal Clear Digital Marketing, we aim to help you find, serve, and keep more patients profitably with our top-of-the-line digital marketing services.

What is Digital Marketing?

The process of growing your business using the internet is at the crux of digital marketing. You hear so much about it because it’s one of the best ways to get new patients through online marketing. Social media, content marketing, and local SEO (Search Engine Optimization) are some of the most used strategies when it comes to online marketing for surgeons. You don’t want to underestimate the importance of building a viable online marketing strategy if you want to have a thriving practice.

It’s imperative that you have a strong online presence. In order to do that, you need to assess where you are and what you need to do. In many cases, when someone needs surgery, they need to find the surgeon quickly since they rarely have much time to wait. When they begin their search, you want to be the surgeon that they see and contact first. As of right now, do you think they’d be able to find you in their search?

Ask yourself which digital marketing techniques you are currently using. What can you do to update your online marketing strategy? You can get more patients through internet searches and increase your market share. You want to consider how to incorporate these effective, easy-to-follow ideas for marketing for surgeons.

How Does Digital Marketing for Surgeons Work?

Budding entrepreneurs and professional web marketers have been using digital marketing for years. We’ve received much feedback about what does and doesn’t work regarding how to get noticed and how to receive contacts from prospective patents. You want to use this helpful information to your advantage in your marketing efforts. Whether you are leading your marketing team or someone else, it’s all about sharing your messages clearly and accurately about the services provided.

This sounds basic enough, but there’s more to it. Let’s get into the details of what digital marketing can look like for you. Marketing for surgeons has a great upside in that it has detailed components that can be captured and transferred in your messaging. This will make it easier for you to be clear and concise about what you offer and what the patient will be getting.

Your strategy must include a well-designed website that is easy to see in any format and provides all the answers for the patient. When you successfully optimize your online presence to attract visitors, it ensures that you are a trusted choice for your patients and their families. You’ll want to carefully consider how to create and disperse online ads while formulating effective SEO strategies.

Get Into the Mindset of the Patient

What do your prospective patients need? What is their online behavior like when searching for concerns about their healthcare? It comes down to the fact that marketing is a form of applied psychology, so you want to get into the mindset of your customer. When they have a concern about their health, what will their behavior be to meet their needs? Tapping into this mindset will prepare you to use the language and images that your patients will find most attractive and relevant to them.

HealthWorks Collective reports that 72% of adults looked online for health information in the past year. This is a substantial number of people searching for ways in which to get their healthcare needs met. Pew Research Center revealed that 8 out of 10 health queries begin with an online search engine like Google. These sources are confirming what we already know — that an online search is typically the first step for a consumer to make.

These are substantial findings as they help determine how to choose proficient tactics when marketing for surgeons. Strategically, you want your business and your services to be seen on the path the patient is naturally taking already. Since the behavior is predictable, you can make an informed decision about how to connect to it. These sources clarify that the top priority for you is to develop a digital marketing plan that places your practice in a prominent position amongst search engines.

Getting into the mindset of the patient is a great first step as it helps you define your target audience. This definition entails not just who they are, but what they will do as well.

Use Effective SEO

Having a great SEO strategy allows people to find you online over your competitors. SEO is a form of inbound marketing that draws prospective clients to your business by aligning with their interests. The internet is tailor-made for this as people are already searching multiple times nearly every day. Since they are already searching, you want your marketing strategy to play into their already-established behavior.

You want to show up by using relevant, quality keywords that are the most used search terms by those inquiring about your services. You must research the relevant keywords related to your audience’s intentions and search habits. Then, whoever does the writing for your marketing content can follow the SEO best practices and incorporate them into the content you share. You can also take advantage of long tail keywords, which are made up of three and four keyword phrases specific to what you’re selling.

As your well-planned SEO efforts get you more visitors to your website, what happens next? You don’t want to assume that just because more people visit your website, they will automatically become patients. SEO is only the initial part of this successful equation. To turn those searches into viable leads, the next step is for you to use targeted landing pages.

Use Practical Marketing Strategies

Along with providing search results, search engines like Google can also display in-depth information on illnesses like symptoms, graphs, treatment options, and related links to medical websites. This will make it easier for prospective patients to find out more information about their condition. They’ll have increased accuracy since the information is from a reputable source like your office. Think about what additional messages and images you want to use online to market your services.

Once you have various strategies in place and flowing, you can then check your analytics. This will be a factor in maintaining long-term success. Website analytics will give you referral statistics so that you know where your traffic is coming from and what keywords are being used the most.

Stand Out While Accurately Marketing Your Services

It’s important to communicate exactly what you offer and highlight the benefits of taking advantage of your services. Be upfront about why they should use your services. What are the unique benefits they’ll receive by choosing you? Highlighting prominent staff members and sharing accolades and patient testimonials are just a few practical ways to do this.

A lot of the surgery business is not necessarily driven by referrals; rather, it’s driven by reviews. HealthWorks Collective shared data that 26% of patients who booked appointments had used a consumer-generated review when making their decision. This is a significant amount of people that take this approach, so you want to be sure you’re supplying them with this kind of information that will allow them to base their decision off of your shared reviews.

You can also consider ways to stand out on social media; just make sure you frame your content to the platform. For example, you can share compelling, thought-provoking articles on Facebook or post unique product or brand pictures on Twitter. Whichever social media platform you’re using, always make sure to use clear and consistent messaging that is aligned with your services and brand.

We’re Here to Help!

It’s important to be mindful of these basic elements of digital marketing for surgeons. Remember, your prospective patients need your services, and you must act deliberately in your digital marketing plan to achieve the best outcome. Let our team of professionals at Crystal Clear Digital Marketing help you in this process. It is our goal for you to find, serve, and keep more patients profitably, and we are excited to help you increase your online presence. Contact us today to get started!

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How to grow your practice with social media

How to grow your practice with social media | Social Media and Healthcare |

No practice marketing strategy can neglect social media.

The number of potential patients connected to each other through social media rises every day. If your practice isn’t connected to your community with social media, you can be sure that your competition is.

Social media is one of the most powerful and cost-effective ways of increasing your brand awareness. But the way users engage with social media platforms is an ever-evolving process. Notably, the social media landscape has significantly changed with the rise of social media “influencers,” the increase of Twitter’s character limit from 140 to 280, and drastic shifts in Facebook’s algorithm. This means that the approach your practice takes to social media must change as well.

So how can your practice leverage the power of social media? The following tactics should form the foundation of your digital marketing strategy.

Tell great stories

You’ll find that posting generic content is far from effective, and consumers disengage when they are bombarded with impersonal messages and spam. What resonates with people most on social media is storytelling. Story-based posts that don’t have a “call to action” or link included can foster a conversation. They are a great way to get people interested in your practice, and will generate lots of action in the comment section.

Storytelling content is popular because it has a much better chance of appearing in your followers’ newsfeeds. Social media algorithms are demoting promotions packed with links. People also relate to stories and view them as messages that carry meaning and not as marketing spam.

Express your personality

Aim to be genuine on social media. Consumers are savvy to constructed stories and are drawn to authenticity. Study the brands that you follow. Most likely, they have a personality that relates what is special or unique about them. Most successful practices have defined their mission and core beliefs. Be sure that your social media content connects with those values. It’s not simply about showing off the services and products you offer to patients.

The brands with the best social media presence are focused on communicating a common point of view with their customers. As more people are seeking alternatives to pharmaceutical-based health care, the time is right to share the message of natural health and wellness provided by chiropractic.

Tag influencers in social media posts

A great tactic to capture more exposure for your social media posts is to tag other people. Just like posts with hashtags, tagged posts are a bulletproof tactic on every major social media network. With tactical tagging, you tap in to someone else’s audience without effort.

Tagging influencers in your community and in health care is an easy way to increase your visibility. If you are not sure who to tag, is an influencer marketing tool that can help you identify potential tagging targets and relevant hashtags.

Include live video

Without a doubt, video is the most popular type of content in terms of user engagement. The advent of live video has helped push its effectiveness to the highest level. That’s why Facebook advises brands to makes use of their Facebook Live feature.

Due to a change in Facebook’s algorithm, live videos get six times the number of interactions as traditional videos. Instagram Live and Instagram Stories are also growing in popularity with hundreds of millions of users. This phenomenon results from consumers’ desire to be addressed directly.

Live video can be more cost-effective than regular video as viewers have decreased expectations of a polished production. Live videos are especially compelling as they are viewed as they are presented and can’t be stored for later watching.

Use geotags and check-ins

Geotagging your practice location is a sure way to increase your local following. When you tag your location, it signals that you are part of your local community. This engenders greater affection from local consumers, who prefer to engage with businesses and brands in their own backyard.

Asking your patients and practice team members to check-in or tag your practice when they are there also provides social proof. When potential new patients see photos of their friends who have visited your practice, they’ll know that you are the real deal.

Commit to building your tribe

You have to be active in your efforts to build a strong social media following—it won’t happen by accident. When you follow other people on social media, a percentage of them will follow you back. Make a habit of following people and interacting with them on a regular basis. Like and share their posts and they will do the same with yours.

This process takes time, but once it picks up momentum, the results are steady and solid. Look for active users in your community, check the hashtags they use and follow those who use them.

If you attend a local event, following the people you meet in person on social media can offer more opportunities to develop an ongoing relationship than asking for their business card. Initiate conversations and be approachable and sociable.

Trends in social media are constantly changing and these strategies will help you and your team stay on top of the latest. Review these tips and use them to master social media for your practice.

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Why dentists should use social media less and Google more

Why dentists should use social media less and Google more | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media. When I say these words, I assume that alarms immediately go off in your head. “Woop, woop! Social media will save my practice and bring me lots of new patients!”


Truthfully, probably not. It’s time to realize that social media—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and others—for all their glitz, glamour, and media-fueled promises, are not the magic bullet for new patients that many consulting gurus make them out to be. There’s a very good reason for that.

By its very nature, social media is just that, a social medium. It’s designed to help people talk and interact, almost like they’re at a party or coffee shop. Picture this: you walk into a party. Most people are talking about the weather, showing off pictures of their kids’ T-ball games, or, if we’re drawing a true parallel to social media, watching goofy cat videos on their phones.


Branding: Best Practices and Pitfalls

Building a brand is hard work for many private practice dentists, but Smile Source offers a solution.
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When you start yapping about what a great dentist you are or how clean and modern your office is, anyone listening is immediately turned off. People are there to have fun and interact with one another, not listen to a hard sales pitch.

It’s a swing and a miss. So, you decide to lighten your approach. Perhaps you talk about your hygienist’s new baby boy, or how you can’t stay away from the new frozen yogurt shop that opened next door to your office. These are fun and relatable topics, but not exactly a convincing or motivating hard sell.

That is precisely why social media is not your ideal platform for lead generation. It’s a place that helps round out the picture of you, your team, and your practice, not establish a strong first impression. That should be done elsewhere. There’s no better place to do this than with Google reviews.


I’ve worked with Google reviews for more than a decade, and I can unequivocally say that no single source is nearly as powerful as Google’s review platform. I’m not talking about Yelp, Foursquare, or Healthgrades, but Google. There’s just simply nothing like Google reviews.

Why is this? When you know how to correctly manage your Google presence (not your website), you have an unlimited source of potential new patients with an honest and transparent method of reaching them, even if you’re located in a small town.

I’ve worked with thousands of dentists all over the world, and I’ve seen way too many of them take the wrong approach. They put their emphasis on social media first and put Google, including reviews, on the back burner. They have things backwards, and their practices are suffering big-time as a result.


There’s another reason dentists should look at social media as simply a secondary marketing effort—Facebook, the supposed king of social media, is bleeding. Due to data leaks, privacy concerns, the harvesting and abuse of users’ personal information, and Mark Zuckerberg’s televised crucifixion during his congressional testimony, this platform is losing users left and right, and they’re not being replaced.1 People no longer trust Facebook, despite its too-little-too-late declaration that it’s putting users’ privacy above profits.2

If we look back to the mid-2000s, we see a cautionary tale called MySpace. Everyone thought this revolutionary platform was going to be around forever. Even without Facebook’s data breaches and negative publicity, MySpace quickly faded from everyone’s memory. Facebook is not so subtly going in the same direction.

So, are you going to waste your and your staff’s time, money, and effort on a possible sinking ship? Or are you going to spend that time on Google, the most solid and trusted media outlet there is?3

Investing your time in social media, without putting time and effort into a platform such as Google and its reviews, is like building a house without a foundation. It’s an approach that, quite bluntly, will not work.

Yes, social media has its place, and you should be spending some time and very little money on it. It should be a fraction of the time that you spend marketing your practice elsewhere. Get your Google house (not your website) in order. You’ll be surprised just how well this channel works in your ongoing quest for new patients.

Author’s note: Don’t play games with your practice. Learn how to build a consistent, predictable income in the new video series, Beyond the Chair. We put three of the top dental marketing thought leaders together, discussed some of the most pressing issues facing the industry, and recorded it. It’s full of content designed to help independent dental practice owners in today’s competitive market. Visit


1. Wager K, Molla R. Facebook lost around 2.8 million US users under 25 last year. 2018 won’t be much better. Recode website. Published February 12, 2018. Accessed August 29, 2018.

2. Oremus W. Americans are losing trust in Facebook—and here’s why they’ll keep using it anyway. Business Insider website. Published March 31, 2018. Accessed August 29, 2018.

3. Sterling G. Google overtakes traditional media to become most trusted news source. Search Engine Land website. Published January 20, 2015. Accessed August 29, 2018.



Graig Presti is an award-winning marketing expert, founder, and CEO of Local Search For Dentists™ (LSFD). LSFD has ranked on the national Inc. Magazine Top 500/5000 Fastest Growing Companies list for the fourth year in a row, and only 10% of businesses have achieved this. This means LSFD has been recognized four times as one of the most reputable, fastest growing, and most successful companies in the country. The main reason for their success is the direct success of their clients. 

LSFD’s proprietary dental marketing systems have helped thousands of dentists achieve more freedom, greater new patient numbers, and the ability to reach their income goals. Visit for a free copy of LSFD’s Google reviews cheat sheet.

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Paging Dr. Facebook: How the social network could help doctors screen patients for depression

Paging Dr. Facebook: How the social network could help doctors screen patients for depression | Social Media and Healthcare |

More than half of Americans who suffer from depression never get any treatment, and in many cases that’s because their symptoms are never diagnosed. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advises primary care physicians to screen all of their patients for depression and make sure proper care gets to those who need it, but this is a big job and doctors could use some help.

Paging Dr. Facebook, stat!

new study argues that doctors could gain valuable insight into their patients’ mental health by monitoring the statements they post on Facebook. In tests, researchers found certain patterns in Facebook posts that preceded a clinical diagnosis of depression.

“One day, the analysis of social media language could serve as a scalable front-line tool for the identification of depressed individuals,” the study authors wrote Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


If that prospect seems unsettling, consider what may come next: algorithms that interpret the facial expressions in Facebook users’ photos and videos, or software that tracks the physical location of a patient’s phone and how often it is used.

The idea is not to turn doctors into full-time snoops, but to make it easier to flag patients who may be at risk so that they can get the help they need.

“Detection and treatment of mental illness may soon meet individuals in the digital spaces they already inhabit,” wrote the team led by Johannes Eichstaedt, a computational social scientist in psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Eichstaedt and his colleagues invited patients seeking treatment in the emergency room of a large, urban hospital to participate in the study. Over 26 months, 1,175 patients gave the researchers access to their Facebook accounts and their electronic medical records.

Among this group, 176 patients had been diagnosed with major depression or another type of depressive disorder, and 114 of them had posted at least 500 words in their Facebook status updates before their diagnosis was made. The majority of these patients were African American (74%) and women (87%), with an average age of 31.

For each of these 114 patients, the researchers randomly selected five other patients who had not been diagnosed with depression to serve as controls. That way, the prevalence of diagnosed depression in the study would mirror that in the real world, the study authors wrote. Most of the patients in the control group were also African American (69%) and women (75%), with an average age of 30.

The most notable difference between the two groups was the number of words they had posted on Facebook. The average word count for patients who were depressed was 19,784, and the median word count (the number at which half of patients wrote more and half wrote less) was 10,655. In the other group, the average word count was 14,802 and the median word count was 6,861.

Altogether, the 684 patients posted 524,292 Facebook status updates that were used in the analysis. The researchers used a software program to identify 200 topics discussed by each patient, which served as a marker for their overall language use. They also determined that the patients’ posts contained 5,381 words or short phrases that were used by at least 20% of these study participants.

The researchers’ goal was to create a mathematical model that could predict which patients would go on to be diagnosed with depression and which ones would not. The statistical method they used would consider their model a success if it achieved at least a 0.70 on a metric called the “area under the curve,” or AUC. Theirs fell just short, at 0.69.

The team tried to improve the AUC by including factors such as the length, frequency and timing of patients’ Facebook posts, as well as basic demographic information. None of this information improved the predictive power of their model.

Next, the researchers wondered how far in advance a patient’s Facebook activity could predict a depression diagnosis. The answer: The closer in time, the better. When they limited their analysis to status updates posted in the six months before diagnosis, the AUC rose to 0.72. When they pushed the window back and considered status updates made three to nine months before the diagnosis, the AUC dropped to 0.62.

Eichstaedt and his colleagues identified 10 topics that were most likely to be linked with a depression diagnosis.

Four of these topics conveyed “depressed mood and feeling,” the researchers wrote. They were characterized by words like “better” and “feel”; “tears,” “cry” and “pain”; “ugh,” “sick” and “hate”; and “feel,” “how” and “hurt.”

Two more topics expressed hostility. One topic was marked by words like “hate” and “f***in” and the other by words like “now” and “right.”

Another two topics expressed physical discomfort. One was clustered around the words “sick,” “feel” and “ugh,” and the other included “hurt” and “head.”

One of the remaining topics involved references that were overtly medical, with words like “hospital,” “pain” and “surgery.”

The last one centered on loneliness, including words like “miss” and “much.”

The researchers said the predictive power of their model is comparable to that of screening surveys, even though it requires less effort for both patients and their doctors.

“Although this prediction accuracy is relatively modest, it suggests that, perhaps in conjunction with other forms of unobtrusive digital screening, the potential exists to develop burdenless indicators of mental illness,” they wrote.

But before physicians start tapping into Facebook accounts, they should give careful thought to protecting their patients’ privacy, and the privacy of their data, the researchers warned. Doctors should also keep in mind that patients may learn to adjust the way they express themselves online to avoid being flagged by depression-screening algorithms.

Still, the need for better screening tools is clear, and this could be one of them, Eichstaedt and his colleagues wrote.

If so, it could do more than improve mental health, since people with depression experience worse health overall.

“Identifying patients at an earlier stage in their mental illness through novel means of detection creates opportunities for patients to be connected more readily with appropriate care,” the researchers concluded.

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Social POV: Facebook for Patient Engagement –

Since its launch in 2004, Facebook has quickly become the most ubiquitous social media platform. From its early days of connecting students on college campuses, Facebook honed its connection-making skills to become one of the easiest ways for people to connect online. In the past few years, it has become apparent that Facebook offers particular value for patient communities. But can pharma be successful in using Facebook for patient engagement?

 What is Facebook Used For?

Facebook’s unique appeal might be that it offers a mix of what other social media platforms offer. For example, you can share text, but without Twitter’s character limits. You can share images and videos as you would with Instagram and YouTube. Unlike the other social platforms, however, you can do all of these things in one place. Just like the average Facebook user, patients and caregivers are using the platform to share updates with friends and family, using text, images, and video.

But patients also turn to Facebook for more important purposes. Foremost is the ability to connect to others who understand. Facebook serves as a kind of virtual support group for people who may feel lonely and isolated as they deal with a health condition. Patients use Facebook to learn from patient leaders who have been through what they are going through. Many look to their patient peers for a real, unfiltered look at what a particular medical procedure is really like, or to get an idea of what kind of side effects to expect from a new medication.

Of course, it’s not ideal that patients are seeking medical advice from other patients rather than from their doctor. In many cases, the patient perspective simply serves to augment what they are hearing from healthcare providers. As appointment times continue to shrink, many patients leave the doctor’s office with questions unanswered. Some might not feel comfortable asking their doctors certain questions.

Patient influencers who are active on Facebook groups can fill that gap. This is a responsibility that patient leaders take seriously. They seek to educate and inform whenever possible. This includes being careful to weed out fake newsand to manage the overall tone of the group. Kristal Kent, who leads a group for people with fibromyalgia, points out the vital role of group administrators. “The admins of the groups set the tone, whether positive or negative,” Kent says. “Admins have a lot of control over which way a group goes.”

Ultimately, patient communities on Facebook are less about medical advice and more about fostering a safe space for patients to process their experiences together. Whether they are struggling to get a diagnosis, dealing with the ramifications of a new diagnosis, or just handling the daily ups and downs of life with a health condition, Facebook groups let them work through their feelings. It’s a place for patients to feel understood and supported — something they may not feel very often in “real life.” Illness affects every area of a person’s life, from dealing with loved ones to handling new financial stressors. Peers can offer insight and support.

Patients use Facebook to share and discuss health information. They may make public posts from their personal pages, either something personal or sharing a link to an external resource. The private message feature is well-used by patients communicating with one another. Some patient influencers have Facebook pages where they share relevant info and foster engagement.

A WEGO Health behavioral intent study found that Facebook can even impact health decisions.

The group functionality may well be Facebook’s most important feature for patients. As Mark Zuckerberg described in 2017, for some users, groups are particularly meaningful. These are “groups that upon joining, quickly become the most important part of our social network experience.”

Who Uses Facebook?

Both men and women are active on the platform, and there are users across all age ranges from 13 to 65+ years. The 25–34 age group remains the largest group using Facebook, but the demographics are tending to skew a bit older each year.

As Facebook grows, the overall demographic spread is changing. — source

It’s hard to quantify the number of patients and caregivers using Facebook, but there are over six million health-related groups on Facebook, totaling more than 70 million members. There are groups for specific illnesses, groups that cater to the newly-diagnosed, groups for caregivers or loved ones of patients, and groups for patients using a particular therapy. A group for patients taking methotrexate, for example, has nearly 10,000 members. Patients frequently unite over their shared therapy, almost like an exclusive club.

In most industries, there’s an expectation that every business has at least some kind of presence on Facebook, and healthcare is no exception. For pharma, there will often be both a corporate presence and an additional presence for individual therapies. In most cases, patients expect to see pharma and other healthcare organizations show up on their Facebook feeds and may even be eager to engage. For some patients, though, the presence of pharma can feel like an intrusion. This may be one reason why many patients choose to spend most of their Facebook time in closed groups and using private messages.

What About #DeleteFacebook?

It’s been hard to miss the uproar over some of Facebook’s data security scandals. There were trending hashtags and think pieces across the web, urging people to quit the platform altogether. Recent data shows that Facebook’s seemingly unstoppable growth has stalled, at least in the North American and European markets. Many users did indeed cut Facebook from their lives or have made a conscious effort to use it less. Others who chose to stay have made adjustments to their privacy settings.

Some Facebook users are changing their relationship with the platform. — source

For most patients, it’s not that simple. Like a lot of people who chose to stick with Facebook, many patients have taken steps to shore up their privacy settings. Even before these latest security concerns, many patient influencers stepped up to make sure their group members are aware of privacy controls and how to use them. This is especially relevant for health conditions that might be more sensitive in nature.

Hyperhidrosis patient leader Maria Thomas urges those in her community to “practice due diligence and don’t assume that anything you say in a private group or on a page will remain private.” Despite these privacy concerns and potential risks, Thomas stresses that “the use of Facebook to bring awareness and support to those who need a voice can’t be understated.”

Patient leader thoughts on using Facebook for patient engagement

While some patients are understandably frustrated with Facebook, the overall landscape of patient users on the network remains active and engaged. This may be largely because there is currently no viable alternative offering the same functionality and flexibility.

According to group admin Melissa Adams VanHouten, a gastroparesis Facebook group considered trying to create a similar community off the platform, but the idea wasn’t well-received. After explaining that many of the group members weren’t particularly concerned about privacy, she concluded, “I think it caused our members to think about the value of Facebook and how they would hate to lose access to it or try to ‘rebuild’ on another site.”


While VanHouten’s group is thriving and continues to grow, her story isn’t necessarily a universal one. Casey Quinlan describes a once active BRCA breast cancer group as being a “ghost town” now. She goes on to say that she would never start a group on Facebook today given the company’s business model, which thrives on user data.

Dave deBronkart points out that Facebook’s “only advantage is that everyone is already there.” While this is keeping a lot of patients on the platform, it might also be a big vulnerability for Facebook and a big opportunity for someone else. If a viable alternative existed that offered patients everything Facebook does, plus more reason to trust their data security practices, the exodus many expected back in March may yet come. The current reality, however, is that Facebook is still the best game in town for many patients. They remain active and continue to find a great deal of value in engaging on the platform.

Facebook: Best Practices for Pharma Brands

To meaningfully engage with patients on Facebook, consider the following:

  • Are you adding value to the patient’s life? You can do this through education or entertainment. The goal is for the content to inspire engagement. Since you now know that many patients are using Facebook to seek information about health topics, can you help patient leaders in their quest to ensure their communities have the best information?
  • Whenever possible, be transparent. Many patients are on high alert after data breaches on Facebook and elsewhere. Transparency about how you use and protect patient data can be a good way to build patient trust.
  • Show off your authenticity. A good way to showcase your authenticity is to offer a look at the human side of your brand. Consider highlighting your employees or your efforts to help a charitable cause. Are you striving to be patient-centric? This is a case where show works better than tell. If patient centricity is a core value, let patients see this in action.
  • Show off your empathy skills. To show empathy, consider inviting patient influencers to work with you. Feature real patients whenever possible. Invite and then showcase user-generated content. There are case studies showing that patient leader social media ad creative for brands outperforms traditional creative by a significant margin.
  • Be careful with regulatory restrictions. Social media engagement for pharma is something that should never be entered into without careful thought. It can sometimes be a tall order to stay within regulations while also being transparent, authentic, and empathetic.
  • Interact meaningfully. When patients start to engage with you, it’s important to engage with them. Standard social media practices apply. While you should try to respond quickly, it’s vital to use the same thoughtfulness here. You don’t want to risk being tone deaf or insensitive.

Facebook is still where the patients are.

Time will tell what the future of online patient communities will look like. But for now, Facebook remains king. Patients are active and engaged and think of their Facebook experiences as quite meaningful, especially through participation in patient groups.

One of the keys to success on Facebook for pharma brands and other healthcare organizations is to foster authentic relationships with patients. A great way to do this is to ask for help from patients who already have the trust of their patient communities.

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