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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A guide to multichannel marketing in the pharma industry: From email to content marketing

A guide to multichannel marketing in the pharma industry: From email to content marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

When a concept such as “multichannel marketing” becomes an increasingly distinct part of a company’s everyday life, and affects many different departments, an increased digital awareness will be required of the employees. From email marketing to website content to social media, using the latest digital marketing tools is an essential part of every life science and pharma marketer's strategy. What does it take to optimize your multichannel marketing toolkit?

Email marketing remains an essential channel in the pharmaceutical and life science marketer's toolkit.

Essential digital marketing strategies

For decades, it has been obvious that in order to grow their businesses, companies need to offer their products or services in the forums where customers interact and search for information:  today that means online.  In the last decade, we have, as customers, been given the opportunity to access increasingly personalized services from internet companies such as Netflix, Amazon, and Google. As a result, customers expect, and even demand, more and better personalized services. These demands are also imposed on the pharmaceutical industry and life science businesses.

The first step that we, as an industry need to take, is to expand our range of information through more channels and integrate a multichannel perspective into the organization’s everyday work. 

The key to success here is general digital education with a clear answer to the question “Why do we do this?” 

The most important step after that is to follow up and analyze the initiatives. In this article, we will focus on the channel of email — considering all the different kinds of emails that make up this channel, and the key factors for a successful email strategy.

Email as a growth channel

Email marketing is alive and well as an essential element of multichannel and inbound marketing. There are three types of email used in marketing today: e-newsletters, campaign-related emails, and event-triggered emails. In most cases, the emails are sent from a centralized platform that manages subscriber status for email addresses as well as tracking metrics.

Today, it is more common to store consent for mailing outside of the platform, which will likely change in the future, as more email systems are integrating GDPR compliance and other consent tracking tools. How well does your email marketing and CRM system manage this?

E-newsletters consist of either an individual message or a mix of messages to a group of recipients (with either the company or the product as the sender).  They are typically sent out several times a year to update the recipient about product news, illnesses, treatments, or relevant trends.

Campaign-related mailings are often automated emails that follow some form of campaign or activity. It can be anything from a confirmation of registration, a series of predefined emails that support the campaign or lead nurturing, a thank you for participation, or a satisfaction survey after an event. Email campaigns are an essential element of lead nurturing to move prospects down the funnel.

Event-triggered mailings usually contain personal material that is sent out after some kind of interaction with the customer, either in person or remotely. The material is connected to a discussion that has taken place and is often based on templates, graphics, and texts that have been approved in advance, with the addition of free text written by the company’s employees.

Measuring success

After sending out a mailing, it’s important to measure the results to determine what works or doesn’t. One of the most indicative key factors behind successful email marketing is cost per interaction (CPI). CPI is primarily measured by counting the number of clicks on links in each mailing but is also measured by tracking several other key performance indicators (KPIs) such as: Exposure, Interaction, and Engagement.


Tracking the size of your email list is one metric that helps measure success. This includes looking at several metrics:

  • Number of new subscribers
  • Number of emails sent
  • Current size of list (new subscribers minus unsubscribes)

Number of subscribers shows how many new subscribers you gained over a selected period of time. A trend curve can give an indication of whether, for example, the size of your list is increasing or decreasing, or if the forms for signing up for emails on a website are not achieving the desired conversion rate. If you can see that your list growth isn’t meeting your goals, you can take appropriate measures to fix it.

Number of emails sent shows whether the target number of emails over a year has been reached. An appropriate target can be approximately 10-12 mailings of e-newsletters per year. It’s important, however, to keep in mind that everything you send out should be of value to the reader, otherwise, you risk causing the reader to unsubscribe. The type of offers, news or information you have to share, as well as the resources available to create compelling new content, will affect how often you should plan to distribute a newsletter.

Current list size complements the first and provides a second trend curve that indicates the “health” of the email list, and the possible market impact (the more emails sent to relevant recipients the greater the impact). It is one of the factors behind the CPI.

Need a template and workbook to help calculate results? Subscribe to our email series to receive one. Subscribe to series >

Counting new and total current subscribers provides a good metric for measuring the overall health of your list. Are your CRM and email system connected?


Interaction tracks how well your email list is performing.

  • Number of opened emails
  • Number of emails that “bounced”

Number of opened emails shows mainly two things – the customer’s trust in you as a sender and your ability to write an interesting subject line, which is one of the factors for calculating CPI.

Number of email bounces provides relevant information about the “health” of the mailing list. The goal is to have as few bounces as possible, that is, when the email does not end up in the recipient’s inbox. Here you differentiate between a “soft bounce”, for example an “Out of Office” reply, and a “hard bounce”, when the email recipient does not exist and you get an error message.

Tallying email sends, bounces and unsubscribes helps understand how engaged your audience is and whether your subscribers trust you.


Engagement provides information about the quality of your content or the appropriateness of what you’re sending to your lists.

  • Call to action (CTA)
  • Click through rate (CTR)
  • Number of opt-outs
  • Number of referrals

We should distinguish between the first and second metrics.

Call to action (CTA) refers to links, often in the form of a highly visible graphic button to click on, that takes readers to a specific offer or landing page. This button can be directly linked to the registration for an event, or download of content. 

Click through rate (CTR) refers to links of a more general type, for example a link to a website with in-depth information on the subject. These two points are often gathered under the concept of click frequency, which is the most important factor in the calculation of CPI.

Number of opt-outs is a clear indicator of whether what you send out is relevant and meets the expectations of the target group. A high opt-out is an important warning signal and actions must be taken, since it is difficult to regain trust for future mailings once it has been lost. In general, this figure increases somewhat with the total number of recipients on a list. In addition, people’s interest tends to decrease over time.

Number of referrals is very interesting and is an obvious success factor for the overall email strategy, since a forwarded message shows that what has been sent out is interesting enough for the recipient to support (advocacy). You may want to facilitate sharing but make the possibility to share relatively discreet in order not to breach the pharmaceutical industry’s ethical regulations and guidelines. And remember – it is the company that is responsible for the information at all levels and all the way to the final reader. One tip is to formulate this function as “Share with a colleague”.

Need a template and workbook to help calculate results? Subscribe to our email series to receive one. Subscribe to series >

Metrics on opens, views and clicks can help determine which content is working.


Key factors for success with email marketing

Email marketing is one of the must-have success factors for multichannel and inbound marketing

• E-newsletters and campaign-related mailings represent the brand or the company and should have one of these as the sender. Event-triggered mailings should be sent out with the employee as the sender, since the material is personal.  The opening frequency is often two to three times higher with employees as senders than the company name. However, be careful not to abuse this by using it as a strategy for all communication.

• Put a high focus on collecting consent for mailings with subscription collection forms on your website or other offers. A higher number of consents leads to an overall lower cost per interaction (CPI) and a more efficient means for increasing total Share of Voice.

• Emails are inherently a “push” tactic and should be used as such. Make sure that everything that is sent out is of value to the reader – quality before quantity. An email should not be sent out to everyone who has given their consent but should be sent to the relevant segments of the total list that have shown interest in the content. In addition, material should not be sent out solely because it is available, or based on internal, regional, or global directives, but only when it has been identified as valuable to the recipient.

Think about the customer experience. How does an individual recipient perceive your email?

• Emails provide a two-way communication. Use this opportunity to ask the reader about his or her interests (for segmentation) or what they want to read more of (contributing to the publication plan). You can set up a form on your website to collect answers or use a service such as SurveyMonkey to take polls.

• Generally, a short subject line results in a higher opening frequency, and a long subject line results in a higher click through rate among those who open the email. The content of the email should preferably be brief with a mix of images and text and one or more visible calls to action (CTA), depending on the purpose of the email.

• Create an effective approval process. To be relevant to the customer, material with news or educational value must be part of the mix. With a long approval process, which is typical for the pharmaceutical industry, a detailed publishing plan or content calendar is the foundation for success.

• Standardized templates are a must to create a unified customer experience in all communications from your company – in all channels, not just the digital ones. These templates should also include the opportunity to unsubscribe from mailings and possibly include links to legal texts.

Email is an essential element of marketing

With a large part of the customer base on the mailing list, a well thought-out strategy that involves several departments and employees with the right perspective, together with a long term publication plan, email marketing is the marketing method that gives the best result in both the short and long term. This goes for emails sent internally as well as externally.

The statistics from the mailings provide insights into what attracts the audience and can form the basis for other sales and marketing efforts. 

The internal cross-functional work in creating a the publication plan or content calendar provides synchronization between different departments in determining what is important now and in the future. 

When a sufficient mass of recipients has been accumulated, each mailing becomes extremely cost-effective and the CPI decreases.

Last but not least, emails fill to some extent the void that arises between personal visits by the sales force, with increased competitiveness as a result.

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How to Build a Community in the Healthcare Industry

How to Build a Community in the Healthcare Industry | Social Media and Healthcare |

When you think about how to build a community in the healthcare industry, and reduce the divide between medical and social circles, healthcare is the obvious connector.

Social engagement happens in medical circles of health care providers, researchers, and patients just as medical talks also happen in social circles.

This interplay happens because healthcare affects everyone.

Doctors don’t just talk among themselves in medical abstracts: they tweet, tag, and like or comment on each other’s posts.

Additionally, medical opinions and health perspectives are not confined to journals – they, too, are built around hashtag campaigns. Patient or public partnerships are now the way forward for medical research and cohort studies.

A study on “The Emerging World of Online Health Communities,” showed that:

…social outcomes sit alongside and sometimes above clinical ones. Where health care has a low tolerance of failure due to the consequences that can follow, online health communities thrive on stories of what went wrong and how people battled the system.

So how do you begin those conversations online, let alone build communities to converge in those conversations?

Here are 5 ways:

Listen and Engage with Your Audience

Health talk is everywhere, and the vast majority is online where they seek solutions and community support for health-related concerns:

  • online forums
  • health blogs
  • educational platforms
  • social media

To stay relevant and reach these audiences, the healthcare industry needs to meet consumers where they are: social media.

Use the communicative power on social networks to raise awareness and counter misinformation, provide patient support, for public health monitoring.

As you listen in, engage to understand your audience, what they are talking about, so you can use the insights in developing your strategy.

A good example of an online health community that made health-related feedback and shared stories the core of its existence is Care Opinion. Formerly Patient Opinion, it’s a UK-based online platform to share experiences of health and care services in the UK, good or bad.

It also bridges those shared experiences to the right people who can help. Health and care providers have used this channel to connect with patients, address their concerns and improve their services for a better patient experience.

Use Healthcare Influencers

Healthcare Influencers offer unique insights, led by their own experience, and lend credibility with their name.

They have the ability to reach your target audience, engage them for you, and spread your message.

Influencers have a community of followers to help you build your community from within. There is the macro-influencer with a huge social following. But there are also micro-influencers with a niche audience, not a fan base. Therefore, they are closest to the prospective customers and impact their decision-making process.

But there is a caveat – endorsements should adhere to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules on advertising and comply to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA).

Influencers are not exempt from rules even when they operate in the free-wheeling space of social media, especially on health information, and should pay particularly close attention to messaging for any drug advertising via social media.

This is a lesson Diclegis (Diclectin in Canada), an anti-nausea pregnancy (NVP) drug, learned when they used a celebrity macro-influencer to promote the medicine without communicating any risk information associated.

This resulted in an FDA warning to the maker of the drug, Duchesnay USA.

Celebrity and reality-star Kim Kardashian had to delete her original Instagram post endorsing the anti-morning sickness pill. The paid endorsement received 464,000 likes.

Kardashian had to post an updated message, including the side effects and links to the FDA website.

Source: Daily Mail

Building a Community Through Thought Leadership

One of the problems of the open-source web is the abundance of misleading and dangerous content.

Healthcare companies can rise above this noise by being a thought leader providing insights, sharing medical information, and answering patient questions.

By building trust with your target audience, you can raise awareness, counter misinformation, and clarify misconceptions.

Claiming to be the “Authentic Voice of Healthcare” is the founder of a primary care clinic in Downtown Las Vegas, Internist Dr. Zubin Damania, or ZDoggMD. He has a bolder take on thought leadership, but in a lighter way.

He takes strong positions on relevant medical and health-related issues in video commentaries, using medical humour, healthcare satire, parody music videos, and witty and amusing social media posts.

He has 1.4M followers on Facebook, 44.8K on Twitter, 147,981 YouTube subscribers, and 234K Instagram followers.

His music videos are always a hit. Taking on the opioid crisis issue, for example, he made a parody music video of Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself”, with his version, “Treat Yourself”, an ode to those who are suffering due to the opioid epidemic.

Create Useful Content

To patients, clinicians, researchers, academicians,  the internet is one of the first go-to information resource. Build your community around valuable, digestible content that educates your audience.

Well-timed informational posts, and patient stories through video or other creative formats, are easy magnets for followers. Multimedia content helps reach a wider audience.

Infographics, “how-tos,” interactive quizzes, health tips, and “did you know?”-type trivia are content styles that can attract a large audience.

Inspirational content also motivates and sparks much-needed hope, especially content related to malignant diseases. Success stories that inspire usually get shared most, increasing awareness of your brand and your name.

Cleveland Clinic knows how to attract followers, by pulling at heartstrings with inspiring stories about real patients on Instagram.

They also features posts with shocking facts about health, fat-freezing tips, motivation to exercise, posture, weight loss, and more.

Bridge and Connect Them to Resources

Referrals are very much part of the dynamics in the healthcare and medical industry. When you bridge your audience to resources of information or service, this will build your reputation as a go-to source of information.

But the work doesn’t end with a helpful recommendation – you need to engage your audience, make suggestions, initiate productive conversations between patients, doctors, industry leaders, health technologists, innovators, or policymakers.

Sensei client LifeWIRE, a health technology platform for patient engagement, shares curated content related to anesthesiology, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and the opioid crisis.

It uses and cites multiple scholarly articles, medical journals, and has quoted and featured doctors in its blog posts and white paper

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) thanked @LifeWIREGroup for sharing their infographic on the government’s efforts in combating the opioid crisis.

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Only one in five doctors aware of patient feedback about their care online, survey reveals

Only one in five doctors aware of patient feedback about their care online, survey reveals | Social Media and Healthcare |

Around one in five doctors are aware of patient feedback about themselves on review and ratings websites, according to a new survey of health professionals.

Their answers also reveal that GPs felt strongly that online feedback is negative, particularly on social media.

The new study led by the University of Warwick, published on  3 June in the Journal of Health Services Research & Policy, demonstrates that health service staff are cautious about using online feedback due to assumptions that it will be overwhelmingly negative, potentially missing opportunities to improve care.

Healthcare services use a number of methods to collect information on patient experiences, including surveys and Patient Participation Groups, and policymakers have pushed for greater use of online feedback in addition to traditional sources.

The research is based on a survey of 1001 registered doctors in primary and secondary care and 749 nurses and midwives in the UK. It examined their experience and attitude towards online sources of patient feedback, on sites such as I Want Great Care, NHS Choices (now the NHS website) and Care Opinion.

It found that just 27.7 per cent of doctors and 21 per cent of nurses were aware of feedback online about an episode of care that they had been involved in, while only 20.5 per cent of doctors and 11.1 per cent of nurses were aware of feedback about them as an individual specifically.

Dr Helen Atherton, from Warwick Medical School, said: “We saw a lack of awareness from healthcare professionals of when feedback had been left about the care they delivered, whether as an individual or team. Overall, awareness and use by doctors is low. But we are seeing that doctors are much more negative about online feedback than nurses, and more so with GPs.

“There’s a real need that if NHS organisations are collecting this data that they need to be communicating it to frontline staff, because it’s pointless for the patients if their message isn’t getting through.”

The majority of doctors did not encourage patients to leave feedback and only 38 per cent felt that it was useful in improving services. This is despite previous research showing that online feedback tends to be generally positive towards the health service. The survey also highlighted that healthcare staff were more wary of feedback on social media, with 65.4 per cent of doctors feeling that feedback on social media is generally negative.

Dr Atherton adds: “Previous research in this area by our team shows that it tends to be more positive than people think. Healthcare organisations should be putting protocols in place for this feedback and developing plans for what to do with it. If healthcare professionals are aware of it and take control of the process a little more by actively soliciting it then it’s more likely to be useful to them. There are positive examples of how commentary left by NHS patients on review sites have led to changes in the health service.

“Professionals were more wary of social media than they were of ratings and review websites so these are probably the easiest ways to source feedback in practice. You know where your patient is going and you can pick up comments and act on them, something that is more difficult with social media.”

The National Institute for Health Research-funded study forms part of the Improving NHS quality using internet ratings and experiences (INQUIRE) projects, led by the University of Oxford, which is investigating how the NHS should best interpret and act on online patient feedback to improve the quality of NHS services.

Reference: University of Warwick

Source: ‘Online patient feedback: a cross sectional survey of the attitudes and experiences of United Kingdom health care professionals’ published in Journal of Health Services Research & Policy, DOI: 10.1177/1355819619844540

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5 Modern Rules for Effective Hospital Marketing - 

5 Modern Rules for Effective Hospital Marketing -  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Hospital marketing is tricky, to say the least. You just cannot inspire patients to visit a hospital. However, it is important for you to increase your patient base in order to do justice to all the investments you have made in your hospital. The solution: marketing your hospital in a subtle but effective manner.

Today’s customers research and purchase medical services does not correspond with the marketing strategies designed to reach them. From the way they reach the target audience, to how they brand their products and services and which networks they utilize to connect with potential patients, hospital marketers need a fresh approach.

Considering the above facts, Hospaccx team participates in research to make hospital marketing effective. This is macroficial study of ‘5 Modern Rules for Effective Hospital Marketing’ you want to get into more detail you can contact

Hospital marketing should not be restricted to brand-building or sales support. It is about making a positive connection with patients, on their terms. If your hospital’s marketing program is focusing on any of the following areas, it is time to reconsider your branding strategies and how you want to portray yourself to patients:

Non-care focus: Hospitals that focus on luxuries misinterpret why patients choose medical facilities. Patients choose hospitals on the basis of specific treatment expertise and online error-free or minimum-error medical histories.

Overusing outbound strategies: While many hospitals still use electronic media such as TV and radio ads and direct emails to capture patients’ attention, the marketing world has shifted away from outbound strategies. Instead, according to HubSpot, almost 92 percent of companies using inbound techniques such as blogs, search engine optimization (SEO) and social media witnessed an increase in site traffic and lead generation.

Short-range focus: Medical marketing requires patience. Since most patients do not need care immediately, hospital marketing must focus on the long-term nature of the industry. One of your potential patients may view an advertisement for your hospital but not need medical service for months or even years. Persistence and patience are must-haves for hospital marketers trying to attract more patients.

New rules for hospital marketing

Hospital marketing has taken an unforeseen turn. Some medical facilities are using hotel-like comforts to attract and pamper potential patients. However, these luxuries do not lessen concerns about high healthcare costs. Here are some of the newfound marketing rules you should adhere to for attracting more patients while building a strong, health-first brand.

  1. Know your product

As a medical marketer, you spend most of your time thinking about your product. How to improve it, sell it, talk about it, whom to sell it to – this is what you are paid to dwell on. But here’s what you need to know: Customers rarely evaluate your product solely against other products in the same category. They have limited money to spend but have a lot of options. And if your products are deemed less important than others in the same category, beating out your competitors may not help you win the sale.

The solution

You must understand how your product category is perceived by your target audience in order to fully understand the environment in which you are operating. One of the easiest ways to start is by making some calls to current patients. Just ask them about the product options they have today and those they were considering when finalizing your product. Of course, a formal survey would be better. In addition, a survey would give you a reason to reach out to current and potential patients about things other than your product or service, which is a good thought.

  1. Listen

What part of your marketing budget do you spend on listening versus telling your story? Most marketers spend most of their budget on telling. However, recent research has uncovered some surprising insights about what customers value most while purchasing a product. So, if you understand what customers demand and the challenges they face, your chances of success can go way up. Listen to your patients and hear what they have to say.

The solution

It is about time you introduced some fresh elements into the marketing mix. To begin with, you can design a questionnaire. If you have tried almost every “telling” strategy under the sun, why not borrow a page from the political playbook and go on a listening tour? You can consider visiting current and potential patients, without any “promotional” agenda, and try to gather intelligence and build interpersonal relationships. However, if in-person visits do not sound like a good idea with your customer list or budget, you can plan a similar survey in a virtual environment.

  1. Focus on after-sales

Skilled marketers focus on making the sale, but great ones know that what happens after the sale is just as critical. This is an important lesson for marketers. In most organizations, marketers focus most of their energy on the lead-up to the sale. This is because, essentially, salespeople and marketers are judged on sales numbers and their sales pipeline. Identifying potential clients, contacting them with the right message through the right channel, closing the deal. That is a typical sales routine. However, what happens after the sale is just as important.

Imagine replicating this scenario on hospital marketing teams and patients. Why? Because most potential patients depend heavily on word-of-mouth. They call their family and friends and look up online reviews in order to learn more about your hospital. And in those environments, what you did before attracting the patient to your hospital is not important at all. They want to know what happened after a patient visits your hospital. The real story is about the patient’s experience and his or her overall journey. If you are unable to shape that story, you are likely to miss the boat.

The solution

It is critical to map your marketing strategies against each touch point in the patient’s journey. If you are not spending a significant part of your total effort on what happens after patients visit your hospital, you have a lot of work to do. Surveys are certainly an effective way to keep in touch with patients after the consultation, and they can provide valuable feedback. Regardless of what strategy you choose, your goal should be to equip current patients with the information they need to help sell your services to their family and friends. Convert your patients into brand ambassadors.

  1. Prioritize social media

As compared to other industries, hospitals have been slow to adopt social media. Most medical facilities have only a vague idea of what they would like to accomplish, but no defined goals, objectives or methods. They just “want to be on Facebook.” Many healthcare facilities understand the value of social media but are unsure of how to get the ball rolling or get their feet wet. Having a robust social media presence that supports all facets of your marketing strategies and engages your patients cannot be implemented overnight.

The solution

Consider the success of Mayo Clinic when crafting your social media strategy. The clinic’s Center for Social Media is the first of its kind. Mayo Clinic also has a YouTube channel that shows doctor interviews, treatment videos and stories about patients receiving outstanding care. New patients get eyewitness reports of the experience, right from check-in to follow-up care.

For healthcare marketers, social media is an opportunity to connect with potential and existing patients, discover partnership opportunities and seek professional advice. However, as medical professionals, you must keep in mind HIPAA guidelines when promoting your hospital and services on social media. Also, some social networks indulge in data-mining practices, which may turn off some of your patients. Having said that, most social media platforms provide benefits along with the much-needed security demanded by medical marketers. Design a social media strategy and start engaging with your patients. You can provide general healthcare advice and customer support and create brand awareness. Do not discount the power of hashtags and relevant images. With the right social media strategy, your marketing reach can get an incredible boost.

  1. Strengthen the content marketing

The biggest mistake in content marketing is to create content that your target audience may not connect to or that does not portray your hospital as planned. Most content writers focus on creating sales-related and promotional content. Such content offers only a little or no value to your patients. Do not forget, your target audience is smart enough to identify and classify promotional content from informative content. Consequently, it is an attempt to sell your services and glorify your hospital brand that may make the potential patient abandon your website.
How to overcome this problem?

The solution

Whether a hospital wants to increase its email marketing conversion rate or improve the click-through on its website, content is the key. All you need to do is to create unique, useful and engaging content for your target audience. When a valuable piece of content is created, your readership will grow. This will gradually increase your viewership. Effective content marketing programs take time to stabilize. Do not expect a new blog to drive 100 new patients the first day. However, rest assured, if you consistently create useful and informative content, you will notice an increase in your marketing ROI.

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Doctor-Patient Relationship Building: 4 New Technologies

Doctor-Patient Relationship Building: 4 New Technologies | Social Media and Healthcare |

Relationship building has always been an essential part of the doctor-patient dynamic. Today, however, patients hope the doctor-patient relationship will become increasingly digital.

Of course, it’s just as important to meet in person as it always was. But for patients (and potential patients) with busy lives, it’s a good idea to have multiple touchpoints. And what better way to do so than with the devices we use every day?

These 4 technologies will help patients feel more connected to your practice. You’ll stay top of mind with patients who haven’t yet picked your team as their healthcare providers—and remind current patients you’re here when they need you.

Technology’s Shifting Role in Doctor-Patient Relationship Building

Just a decade ago, most patients didn’t expect to hear from their doctors very often. And the experience could often be frustrating. Caring providers have always done all they can to see patients in need, but the doctor-patient relationship is strained when contact is limited to regular business hours through confusing phone trees and unclear scheduling policies.

Today, patients prefer—and often expect—to receive communications like appointment reminders digitally. Many would much rather schedule an appointment online than over the phone, and many more would love additional options for online communication and health information.

Changing the technology you use to communicate with patients—both current and prospective—can be a game-changer for your organization. Competing healthcare providers are already using these 4 methods to reach people outside of the office. Can you keep up?

#1: Text Messaging

Here’s an easy question: what do most patients do to fill time the moment they’re alone in an exam room? Check their phones! The modern healthcare consumer is an avid texter, and may be more likely to respond to a text than answer the phone. In fact, 97% of people in the U.S. use text messaging weekly, and most use it every day (Pew Research Center).

Here’s the challenge: standard SMS messaging may not be HIPAA compliant due to the lack of encryption (HIPAA Journal). However, SMS messaging is not the only way to “text” a patient.

To ensure all text communication is HIPAA compliant, you should look into options other doctor’s offices are already using, like Spruce. If a patient has a concern with a medication, needs a refill, or just has a quick question, they can contact their doctor via the app.

#2: A Healthcare CRM

Another way to reach patients on the devices they use every day is via email. We often recommend email marketing to touch base with those who have called or filled out a form on your website, but haven’t yet taken the next step to sign up for an appointment.

One of the best ways to do this is with a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system that allows you to streamline your marketing processes and keep in touch with those who aren’t quite ready for an appointment—but may be very soon.

As with texting, be careful with how you handle any PHI. In addition, always check that emails are mobile-friendly. More people now read email on their phones than on a desktop computer!

#3: Social Media

Granted, not many people find their healthcare provider through social media. But it’s worth allowing those that go above and beyond to research your facility and see what you’re all about.

Besides, taking ownership over your social media accounts has SEO value, helping you take control over what patients see when they search your name. It’s a great place to show off the relaxing (or energetic) atmosphere in your office and showcase your staff.

You can also use social media to advertise your services with highly targeted ads that find people in your desired demographic. For more information about paid social media strategies, see a previous article here: The Biggest Misconception about Social Media for Healthcare

#4: Voice Search “Skills”

Businesses have long been welcome to develop and submit “skills” to the Alexa platform—Amazon’s virtual assistant and voice search platform. However, only a select group of healthcare providers and companies were recently selected to develop skills as Amazon unveiled its HIPAA enablement.

This option may not be available to all organizations—yet. But it’s only a matter of time before your competitors have voice apps that help people find the closest location, schedule an appointment, or even access medical records. 

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How Has the Nature of Patient Support Changed?

How Has the Nature of Patient Support Changed? | Social Media and Healthcare |

From in-person support groups to online support groups to social media "groups" - vestibular patients are connecting with their peers in many ways.

Before the internet the only way for vestibular patients to connect with others was through in-person support groups. Support groups provide a unique and critical service: acceptance. This forum allows individuals to ask questions and to learn in a non-judgmental and safe environment. Participants know that everyone attending the support group meeting understands and has compassion for the functional difficulties of getting through each day. As a result, less frustration and energy are spent on proving or defining limitations. More energy is available for appreciating the character and companionship offered by others, and recognizing personal self-worth.

Unfortunately, there aren’t enough brick-and-mortar support groups to meet the needs of all vestibular patients. In addition, some patients cannot attend an in-person support group, either because they can’t leave their house due to the nature of their symptoms, or due to transportation limitations.

Recognizing this need, VeDA’s volunteer Patient Support Committee started organizing online support groups, which meet “live” via video conference or phone.

Social media has spurred other ways for vestibular patients to connect. There are several “closed groups” on Facebook facilitated by vestibular patients looking to give people a place to share their experiences and get feedback and support from their peers. The beauty of these groups is that people can access them whenever it is convenient for them. One such group called “Vestibular Disorders Support Group” has grown to over 8,700 members; with so many participants, there is a great deal of shared knowledge and experience.

Karen shared her experience of participating in this group:

"Last August I hit bottom on this vestibular journey. I had seen 7 doctors, all of whom looked at me like they wished I was in anyone else’s office besides theirs.  I had just quit my job teaching, which was the center of my world. Being divorced and having grown children living out of state, I was alone with this challenge. There was no one that really understood or even quite believed what I was going through. As I continued to search for answers and a diagnosis (vestibular migraine with cervicogenic features) I turned to the Internet for information. Luckily I found VeDA and the Vestibular Disorders Support Group on Facebook. I can remember the joy I felt discovering that other people had similar experiences. And best of all, they were sharing ideas, successes, frustrations and most of all, compassion. I was stunned that I was not alone with this disorder. The time I have spent talking with people on the Facebook support group has been a complete lifesaver. Many days they were the only conversations I had. As I’ve continued on this journey, finally finding a diagnosis, good physical therapy and making lifestyle changes, VeDA has been at the center of my support. The information VeDA provides is invaluable in learning about and coping with this disorder. Just knowing that anytime I check in with the Facebook support group there are people who understand makes me feel once again connected to the world. Thank you for the help, the information, the connections and the hope."

There are also ways to connect with other vestibular patients one-on-one. VeDA donors can join “V-Pals” – a pen pal network. Members of V-Pals receive a monthly email with a list of the names and email addresses of other patients that they can reach out to.

Whatever type of support network that works best for you, remember, you are not alone.

You can search for a support group in your area, or sign up for V-News, VeDA’s free monthly e-blast to receive a listing of upcoming support group meetings.

Online support groups are also available

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The role of the chief medical social media officer

The role of the chief medical social media officer | Social Media and Healthcare |

The antidote to fake health news? According to Austin Chiang, the first chief medical social media officer at a top hospital, it’s to drown out untrustworthy content with tweets, pics and posts from medical experts that the average American can relate to.

Chiang is a Harvard-trained gastroenterologist with a side passion for social media. On Instagram, where he refers to himself as a “GI Doctor,” he has 20,000 followers, making him one of the most influential docs aside from TV personalities, plastic surgeons and New York’s so-called “most eligible bachelor,” Dr. Mike.


Every few days, he’ll share a selfie or a photo of himself in scrubs along with captions about the latest research or insights from conferences he attends, or advice to patients trying to sort our real information from rumors. He’s also active on TwitterMicrosoft’s LinkedIn and Facebook (which owns Instagram).

One of Chiang’s social media campaigns
Austin Chiang

But Chiang recognizes that his following pales in comparison to accounts like “Medical Medium,” where two million people tune in to the musings of a psychic, who raves about vegetables that will cure diseases ranging from depression to diabetes. (Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop has written about the account’s creator glowingly.) Or on Pinterest and Facebook, where anti-vaccination content has been far more prominent than legitimate public health information. Meanwhile, on e-commerce sites like Amazon and eBay, vendors have hawked unproven and dangerous health “cures, ” including an industrial-strength bleach that is billed as eliminating autism in children.

“This is the biggest crisis we have right now in health care,” said Chiang. “Everyone should be out there, but I realize I’m one of the few.”

According to Chiang, doctors have historically been reluctant to build a following on social media for a variety of reasons. They view it as a waste of time, they don’t know how, or they fear they might say the wrong thing and get in trouble with an employer. Others prefer to spend their time communicating with their peers via academic journals.

But as Chiang points out, most consumers do not pore over the latest scientific literature. So health professionals need to take the time to start connecting with them where they do spend their time — and that’s on Facebook and Instagram.


So he’s working to recruit an army of physicians, nurses, patient advocates, and other health professionals to get online. He’s primarily starting on his home turf at Jefferson Health, and with other doctors in his specialty. He was appointed to his “new and unique role” in the summer of 2018, which he got after a series of conversations with the health system’s CEO Stephen Klasko.

Klasko is a physician and avid social media user himself, with both professional and personal accounts. He’s also a notorious straight-talker in the industry who openly discusses some of the more broken aspects of the heath-care system online and at conferences, including things like the inflated costs and the flaws of medical education.

Jefferson Health’s Steve Klasko walking through campus.
Jefferson Health

In his new role, Chiang has been thinking about guidelines for health professionals on how to use the new digital tools, including things like disclosing any conflicts of interest. He thinks that more transparency about ties to industry will help doctors garner trust with the public. To spread these ideas, he’s set up a new group for health professionals dubbed the Association for Healthcare Social Media.

He’s also attempted a few hashtag-driven public awareness campaigns, including one called #verifyhealthcare to promote these ideas about disclosures, and another called #dontgoviral to counter anti-vaxxer content.

Klasko, Chiang’s CEO, sees a direct business benefit to having Jefferson’s approximately 3,000 doctors participating on social media.

“Everyone under the age of 35 uses Facebook and Instagram as a vehicle, and I want them to see Jefferson as a partner in their health so they’ll think of us” he said.

More broadly, he shares Chiang’s concerns about the proliferation of health misinformation. Measles cases are climbing, with outbreaks across the country, which many health professionals chalk up to parents refusing to vaccinate their children. That’s one of the reasons that Klasko chooses to be so active online and with the media, so that people who want to access accurate information can find it.

“Imagine if it would be easier to access The National Enquirer than The Washington Post,” he said. “I fear that that’s what is happening in health care right now.”

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Viewpoint: Physicians' frustrated social media posts may lower patient confidence

Viewpoint: Physicians' frustrated social media posts may lower patient confidence | Social Media and Healthcare |

Though venting about colleagues, stress levels and lack of sleep on social media can serve to humanize physicians, that humanization can also undermine patients' "noble" perception of the medical profession, according to medical ethicist Daniel Sokol, PhD.

In a new article for STAT, Dr. Sokol discussed the recent trend of physicians openly sharing online their experiences crying at work, losing their temper with coworkers and even making clinical errors. Tweets and Facebook posts like this contribute to a drop in patient confidence in the entire profession.

"A loss of confidence in doctors brings a greater inclination for patients to challenge, complain, and sue," he wrote. "Moreover, it risks the loss of the placebo effect borne from seeing doctors, whose very presence can be reassuring."

Therefore, Dr. Sokol concluded, "Those tempted to share insights into the working life of doctors on social media must ask themselves whether the benefits of this candor outweigh the possible harms to their own reputation and to the image of the medical profession as a whole. This restraint forms part of medical professionalism."

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Doctors should use social media with restraint

Doctors should use social media with restraint | Social Media and Healthcare |

More than a century ago, Sir William Osler — probably the most celebrated doctor in modern history — gave a lecture to medical students in which he referred to doctors as belonging to “the great army of quiet workers”whose voices are not heard in the streets but who offer “consolation in sorrow, need, and sickness.” The best doctor, Osler noted, is often the one of whom the public hears the least.

Nowadays, doctors are heard loud and clear by all and sundry. Social media is brimming with doctors and medical students opening their hearts, sharing their frustrations, and venting their anger.

We can read tweets from doctors who describe how they cried at work, struggled with lack of sleep, lost their temper with incompetent colleagues, and even made mistakes. Are airplane pilots equally open, I wonder?


In a different address, this one to newly minted doctors at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, Osler said that “in the physician or surgeon no quality takes rank with imperturbability.” He described imperturbability as a physical quality — a steadiness of hand and coolness of nerve under pressure which reassures patients and colleagues.


For Osler, the mental equivalent of imperturbability was equanimity: serenity of mind. This mental composure could be ruffled by patients, overwork, and the uncertainty of medicine. Yet attaining equanimity would enable a doctor “to rise superior to the trials of life.”

Osler observed that these two qualities should be used judiciously and not harden the human heart by which we live.

Since Osler’s time, the public perception of doctors has changed. Their descent onto the bustling crowds of social media is likely to have played a part. With greater openness about physicians’ vulnerabilities and fallibilities, the mystique of the medical profession is fading. The Oslerian emphasis on imperturbability, equanimity, and quiet dignity has given way to the doctor as Everyman, prone to the same weaknesses as all of us.

Doctors, who hitherto got things off their chests in private, now bellow their discontent to the world. This may be therapeutic and may humanize doctors, but it risks undermining public confidence and damaging the nobility of the medical profession. A loss of confidence in doctors brings a greater inclination for patients to challenge, complain, and sue. Moreover, it risks the loss of the placebo effect borne from seeing doctors, whose very presence can be reassuring.



Younger doctors have grown up with social media. They tweeted as students and now do so as doctors. Some of their older colleagues have also embraced this newfound freedom to instantly share their views to the world, contributing to lifting the veil on the inner life of doctors.

Those tempted to share insights into the working life of doctors on social media must ask themselves whether the benefits of this candor outweigh the possible harms to their own reputation and to the image of the medical profession as a whole. This restraint forms part of medical professionalism.

I am surprised, for example, by how common it is for doctors to criticize colleagues on Twitter. The American Medical Association’s Code of Medical Ethics states that physicians who identify unprofessional content on social media “have a responsibility to bring that content to the attention of the individual” and may need to report the matter to “appropriate authorities.”

Doctors must assume that their patients, relatives, and colleagues — past, present and future — will read their posts. This knowledge should help triage appropriate posts from inappropriate ones.

Daniel Sokol, Ph.D., is a London-based bioethicist and lawyer specializing in medical law. He is the author of “Tough Choices: Stories from the Front Line of Medical Ethics” (Book Guild, 2018). An earlier version of this article was published by the Hippocratic Post.

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8 ways to generate great blog posts from doctors

8 ways to generate great blog posts from doctors | Social Media and Healthcare |

A couple of years back, I was asked to help my hometown, big city newspaper build a health and science section on its website—an ambitious project that included recruiting numerous health experts to blog. Researchers. Scientists. Professors. Lawyers. Patients. Doctors. Lots of doctors.

We were pretty excited when we managed to bring on board the team doctors from every major sports team in the city. But the excitement eased a bit when we slammed into a painful reality: Recruiting experts to blog is one challenge. Teaching them to produce readable—even compelling—blog entries is a whole different ballgame.

In the hope of saving you similar pain, here are some tips learned the hard way on how to coax strong content from doctors and other health providers:

Add patient stories.

I remember talking with an adolescent health specialist early on who wanted to write an entry about teen pregnancy. Her draft made good points, but it was only when she added a story about a confused 14-year-old patient that it came to life. Stories are how humans learn and connect. Doctors and nurses spend their days on the front lines and have great stories to share. They often shy away from them, though, to protect privacy. Yes, there are privacy concerns in naming names and providing recognizable details, and you need to take them seriously. But that shouldn’t prevent you from finding a way to use patient stories either by asking for permission or disguising specifics to protect identities.

Take the reader behind the scenes.

There’s a reason why there are so many medical shows on TV. Medicine is a fascinating world, and doctors perform miracles every day. It is routine to them. It isn’t to us. Let us in on it. Share the drama. Take us into the E.R., the surgical suite, the examining room. Talk about emotions. The patient’s family was crying. The nurse was smiling. Offer those little details that bring the scene to life. Give the reader some insight, a glimpse into that world.


Don’t limit the blog to words.

Blogs are wonderfully flexible tools for communicating. Video, audio, photos—especially photos—can all work in a blog. Use them all, when appropriate. Teach your experts to think about the various assets at their disposal. We spent several hours following a therapy dog on his rounds through a local rehabilitation facility. The resulting photo essay —complete with smiling faces and wagging tails—pulled in a huge audience and told the story much more effectively than text ever could.

Add personality, even humor.

Encourage your writers to provide personal details. One emergency department nurse would send dry entries about the administrative issues she dealt with. Over and over. You work in the ER, I would plead. Share that experience with me. Give me a window into that life as a way of explaining the administrative issues, which are certainly important. Tell me the kind of stories that start with “You would not believe what happened today.” Encourage your expert bloggers to use first person, to talk about themselves, their background, their family. It will strengthen the connection with the reader, which is a major part of the power of social media.

Teach them all the blogging tricks you know.

We wrote a brief email for each new recruit listing all of those lessons that most PR pros already know: Use lists and bullet points because people tend to scan, illustrate your points with examples, write in first person, actively invite comments, don’t lecture—invite conversation, etc. Those tips and more like them helped nudge our fledgling blog writers toward the sort of entries we were hoping to publish.

Share the numbers.

If a blog entry garners impressive traffic, make sure you let the expert bloggers know. It will energize them for next time and will keep them focused on topics that patients want to hear about. Gently let them know when an entry is a dud, as well, all in the interest of building a readership. No one wants to launch their blog entry into the silence of deep space.

Respond to comments.

Let your bloggers know upfront you expect them to respond to comments, when appropriate. Readers will be more engaged if they see the doctor is paying attention to thoughtful comments. Don’t expect the experts to track the comments. That is your job. But alert them when there is something they should respond to. Thoughtful comments are the holy grail of blogging and provide a great way to keep the conversation going. One blog entry we ran on breastfeeding ended by asking readers about the most unusual place they had nursed their child. That led to more blog entries and lots of energetic discussion. A whole series prompted by reader comments.

Know when to quit.

Some experts—a lot of doctors fall into this category—are either not strong writers or don’t have the time it takes to craft engaging blog copy. That’s OK. Their skill is medicine. That’s where we as patients want them focused. Make it easy for them. The best solution is often to interview them, especially if you have a tight deadline. Run it as a Q&A with an expert, a format that is often more readable and interesting than an entry written by an expert. One morning when a local baseball player was sidelined with a knee injury we tracked down our knee expert, interviewed him and had a blog entry up within an hour or two of the news, much quicker than had we waited for him to write a blog entry.

A couple of years into blogging, a patient safety expert took a chance and wrote an entry for us on a young patient who died after swallowing medication patches. It was a harrowing story and well out of the range of items he typically wrote, but it garnered the most traffic he ever received and a featured spot on the main newspaper homepage. Doctors, nurses, researchers can all provide great expert content like that. They just might need some gentle handholding to get there.

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Social media can help doctors stay up to date

Want to have influence on social media? Dr. Amber Yates advises physicians to be authentic. “People want to see that you’re a person and not strictly
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Dispelling Medical Myths with Social Media

Dispelling Medical Myths with Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

As a pediatric allergist, I meet families from all types of backgrounds who share concerns about common childhood conditions such as asthma, environmental allergies, food allergies and eczema. These topics generate quite a few questions from primary care colleagues and other specialists. One of the best parts of my job is explaining complicated matters of the immune system to people with various levels of medical knowledge.

After just a few years in practice, I recognized common questions and areas of misconception from both parents and medical providers. With my understanding of the evidence and research surrounding allergic conditions, I was initially dumbfounded at some of this incorrect information and was amazed at how often the same myths kept coming up repeatedly.

In 2013, I joined social media as a medical professional with the purpose of circulating evidence based information. This gave me even more insight into the pervasiveness of common myths. I learned that it was not just the folks in my own backyard holding onto false beliefs, but apparently, “fake news” was bombarding the whole world!

My online and personal interactions have taught me so much about communication, the importance of evidence-based information and the way in which people search for things. We all use common search engines to look for information online and the majority of people search online for health related information as well.

After repeatedly hearing the same myths and misconceptions, I did something that changed my approach forever. I started searching online from the perspective of a patient. In addition to using PubMed to look for peer-reviewed publications and research surrounding a topic, I entered the same topic in Google. You will not be shocked to learn that the results were drastically different.

Online searches for common allergic conditions returned sites filled with pseudoscience, promises of false cures and miracle treatments and a host of people deliberately peddling misinformation to profit from their products or services. I now have a deep appreciation for the deluge of inaccurate content that anyone faces when searching online for medical information. There are many reputable sites, but it is becoming increasingly difficult to tell those apart from the imposters.

My favorite allergy myths are:

  1. I have a ‘hypoallergenic’ cat or dog. These magical creatures don’t exist. All cats and dogs release dander, which causes allergy symptoms.
  2. My allergy test says I’m deathly allergic to ____. Allergy tests can only be used to indicate the likelihood of an allergy being present, not the severity of future reactions.
  3. People with shellfish allergy cannot receive contrast media. This is completely made up and there is zero reason to ask or avoid.
  4. Eating local honey can treat pollen allergies. I love honey as much as the next person, but it will not treat allergy symptoms. The pollen bees collect comes from different plants than what causes seasonal allergy symptoms. In addition, if someone with allergies ate what they were allergic towards, they would have an allergic reaction, not feel better.
  5. I want to be tested for hidden food allergies. Food allergy tests are not screening tests. They should only be used when there is a history of immediate onset and reproducible reactions after eating a food. The best ‘test’ is what happens with ingestion. If you are eating a food without problems, you are not allergic.

I  use my understanding to address myths during patient encounters, through my social media channels and to educate and inform medical providers as well. We could all benefit from thinking like our patients and be open to discussing misinformation found online. This has led us to develop a new conference at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, to be held on June 14, 2019. This conference is targeted towards any medical professionals, administrators or anyone who wishes to better understand how to improve our communication of health information through social media.

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Patterns of internet and social media use in colorectal surgery 

Patterns of internet and social media use in colorectal surgery  | Social Media and Healthcare |


Surgeons use the Internet and social media to provide health information, promote their clinical practice, network with clinicians and researchers, and engage with journal clubs and online campaigns. While surgical patients are increasingly Internet-literate, the prevalence and purpose of searching for online health information vary among patient populations. We aimed to characterise patient and colorectal surgeon (CRS) use of the Internet and social media to seek health information.


Members of the Colorectal Society of Australia and New Zealand and patients under the care of CRS at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, were surveyed. Questions pertained to the types of information sought from the Internet, the platforms used to seek it, and the perceived utility of this information.


Most CRS spent 2–6 h per week using the Internet for clinical purposes and an additional 2–6 h per week for research. 79% preferred literature databases as an information source. CRS most commonly directed patients to professional healthcare body websites. 59% of CRS use social media, mainly for socialising or networking. Nine percent of surgeons spent > 1 h per week on social media for clinical or research purposes. 72% of surgeons have a surgical practice website.

43% of patients searched the Internet for information on their doctor, and 75% of patients sought information on their symptoms or condition. However, 25% used health-specific websites, and 14% used professional healthcare body websites. Around 84% of patients found the information helpful, and 8% found it difficult to find information on the Internet. 12% of patients used social media to seek health information.


Colorectal surgery patients commonly find health information on the Internet but social media is not a prominent source of health information for patients or CRS.

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5 Examples of Successful Health Care Companies on Instagram

5 Examples of Successful Health Care Companies on Instagram | Social Media and Healthcare |

The healthcare industry has gone digital and it’s not going back. So it makes sense that healthcare marketing has gone digital as well, with hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and individual healthcare providers turning to social media to boost their brands. According to a Pew Research study, 80% of social media users are looking for health information, and nearly half are searching for information about a specific doctor or health professional.


To be successful, a social media marketing campaign must be personal, memorable, and relevant to the specific audience, so choosing your channel is important as choosing your campaign. If your social strategy doesn’t include Instagram, then you may be missing out.

Why IG is the place to be

  • Instagram is visual — a key component in reaching users who are scrolling through multiple posts and pages of content.
  • Instagram is engaging — with typically higher rates of audience engagement than Facebook or Twitter.
  • Instagram is personal — it’s the ideal platform to humanize your brand and to develop more personal relationships with your followers.
  • Instagram is young — if you want to reach the millennial market, then IG is definitely the place to be, with a much younger user demographic than Facebook or Twitter.

Insta inspiration

Not sure where to start? Get inspired by these five Instagram healthcare campaigns which set the standard for social media marketing success:

1. #MelanomaLikesMe

Melanoma is a serious risk in a sun-drenched, beach-loving country like Australia. In effort to raise awareness of the risks of sun exposure, the Australian Melanoma Patients’ Association developed a unique Instagram strategy. Rather than filling their feed with statistics, gruesome pics of tumours, or personal stories from patients, they created an IG user called @_melanoma, an account which interacted with other accounts just like a real person would, by liking, commenting and sharing. An algorithm helped them identify photos of fun in the sun, and they tracked hashtags like #sunshine, #beach, #pool, #etc. The @melanoma account liked and followed accounts identified this way, and posted personal comments from the deadly disease on their photos, such as “I love knowing you haven’t put on any sunscreen,” with the hashtag #melanomalikesme. A bio link led users to a page full of helpful information and tips on preventing skin cancers, including melanoma.

2. #ActuallySheCan

Created by pharma giant Allergan, the #ActuallySheCan campaign was designed to empower young women and encourage them to share information with one another about women’s healthcare issues. Powerful visual posts on their dedicated Instagram account are hashtagged #ActuallySheCan and paired with short, pithy messages that direct users to a bio link for detailed wellness tips and health information. This campaign succeeds precisely because it isn’t trying to sell a product; rather it’s promoting a sense of belonging to a community.

3. #HeroinesofHealth

When GE developed its 30-minute documentary Heroines of Health – the stories of three women in India, Africa, and Southeast Asia working to improve healthcare in their communities – it created a ground-breaking social strategy to promote the film’s release. Rather than hosting a traditional movie premiere, GE turned to Instagram, creating a dedicated account @heroinesofhealthfilm and releasing the video there in 1-minute segments over the course of 30 days.

4. #WeDareYou

United Healthcare came up with a daring social media campaign to promote its brand and encourage its audience to live more active, healthier lives. The campaigned dared people to make a specific small change to improve their health, such as committing to 30 minutes of daily activity or eating more fruits and vegetables. Participants were encouraged to post photos of themselves on IG completing the challenges, tag United Healthcare and hashtag their posts #WeDareYou to enter monthly contests — a great tactic to encourage return visits and boost engagement.

5. #BreatheBoldly

In honour of the iconic Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy, who died of COPD, the COPD Foundation and Philips Healthcare wanted to boldly go where no company had gone before, launching its #BreatheBoldly influencer marketing campaign in 2016. COPD makes even everyday activities difficult; sufferers often feel like they are breathing through a straw. The campaign challenged followers to post a selfie or a short video of themselves on social media performing one of their favorite activities while breathing through a straw to show their support for those living with COPD. Celebrity influencers including Whoopi Goldberg , Will Wheaton and Vince Vaughn took on the challenge, helping to promote the campaign and increase its reach.

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Medical ethics in the age of the social media influencers –

Medical ethics in the age of the social media influencers – | Social Media and Healthcare |

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Sonica Minhas, a second-year medical student in London interested in maternal and infant health, nutrition, climate change, human rights and healthcare policymaking. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

This millennium has witnessed the exponential growth of social media and over the last few years, increasing numbers of doctors and medical students are using it, both personally and professionally. In fact, we are now entering an era where the doctors qualifying are those that have grown up with the epoch of the digital age.

Debate is rife on the ethical standards to which doctors and medical students should be held to on social media but in general there is consensus that professional boundaries and patient confidentiality must be maintained. Organisations also state that personalised healthcare mustn’t be delivered over social media. However, there is far less guidance on the use of social media for public health promotion by medical professionals.

Indeed, social media is a powerful platform for spreading public health messages to the wider masses and a purpose that many doctors/students use it for. However, it is absolutely imperative that in such cases professionals are held to the same standards as they would be at say a conference, for example. I’m talking about ensuring that evidence-base standards are maintained.

This is becoming increasingly pertinent with the rise of so-called “influencers” who often blog about health (in particular nutrition) but end up spreading erroneous information. Under this umbrella unfortunately are also some doctors but we absolutely do not need them contributing to the noise, since that qualifier of doctor means that their message is perceived to be of greater credibility.

Earlier this year, a study by the University of Glasgow revealed that the majority of influencers are giving inaccurate dietary advice. Of the nine influencer’s blogs that were analysed against 12 criterions (based on national dietary guidelines etc.), only one- a registered nutritionist- passed. Amongst those that failed was a medical doctor, exemplifying that doctors must be held to the same scientifically and medically justified principles that they are in practice when handing out health-related advice.

A doctor is most certainly not limited by their level of education; if they have qualified, they have the competency to critically analyse scientific literature thus any information they present should be backed up with references where appropriate. This is something that must be instilled within medical students; the concept of adhering to science when posting about health.

One way to do this may be to scour platforms for examples of doctors who blog about health and get students to discuss in small groups who they would say is providing the most accurate, objective and scientifically-sound information and how those that aren’t could improve their content. In this way, students are exposed to examples of good and poor social media usage for health promotion.

As Aristotle put it, humans do not care for facts; they care for ethos, logos and pathos. Thus, how information is presented, i.e. the language that is used, is absolutely critical. This is why I believe medical schools must pave way to include development of scientific writing skills within their curricula.

To some this may seem entirely unnecessary but I would argue given that more and more of us are creating and sharing content online, it is needed. Medical professionals when spreading health messages online must adopt a sombre, professional tone that is as unbiased and objective as possible.

By learning how to write scientifically in medical school, students will learn the importance of avoiding emotive language and hyperboles because this introduces personal bias in the form of opinion which may be cloaked as fact, that ultimately can be misleading or flawed.

“Primum non nocere” (“first do no harm”)-the Hippocratic maxim matters as much in digital life as it does in real life and that is something we must not forget.

One of the core principles of the medical profession is integrity. Medical students must be taught that integrity is to be practiced on social media, the same way it is elsewhere. Often there is a fear to speak out against a point made by a fellow medical professional/student made on social media but this shouldn’t be the case.

If we think something said by a fellow student or doctor on social media to be incorrect (be it the actual information or the way in which it is fashioned), we shouldn’t shy away from perhaps contacting them directly to say so or by creating a space for discussion and debate; this is how science progresses after all.

Simply because they say or do something on social media out of good intentions does not mean we can let slip the fact that their content may be inaccurate; for that there is no defence, especially for a medically qualified doctor. Being in a position of public responsibility, doctors are, and rightfully so, subject to scrutiny which mustn’t change in the digital age.

When used responsibly, social media is an impeccably powerful tool for public health promotion. With many doctors using it for this purpose, medical institutions and governing bodies for the medical profession must convene to develop guidelines on the ethical usage of social media for public health purposes. It may seem impossible but we must continue to push for standards to which health professionals should conform to when they use their expertise on social media.

About the author

Sonica Minhas is a second-year medical student in London interested in maternal and infant health, nutrition, climate change, human rights and healthcare policymaking. Her interests in global health stem from doing a project on the extortionately high caesarean section rates in countries like China and Brazil. It was then that she realised that as well as practicing medicine, she wants to provide a voice to the vulnerable members of our population by advocating for changes to education and healthcare policies. She’s currently expanding her horizons and exploring her interests by being on the committee of her medical school’s Students for Global Health branch and the nutrition society. She believes that as doctors we have a responsibility to share our opinions on matters that concern health and that we must be leaders for the changes needed in our healthcare systems to tackle threats to public health and the issues establishing health inequities.

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Here’s How Social Media Helps the IBD Community

Here’s How Social Media Helps the IBD Community | Social Media and Healthcare |

When Laura Scaviola was 25 years old, she found herself unable to eat or drink without running to the bathroom and experiencing severe, bloody diarrhea. Dehydration landed her in the emergency room, which led to a colonoscopy that confirmed she had ulcerative colitis (UC).

After taking six different medications and enduring a roller coaster of remissions and flares, Scaviola is currently in remission for the longest span of time since her diagnosis in 2013.

To help her cope with the disease, she found support in online communities.

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"Social media allowed me to find a community of fighters with the same chronic illness I have," says Scaviola. "The diagnosis and symptoms can be very isolating and embarrassing. But seeing the number of fighters share their experiences made me feel like I could have a better life too."


Megan H. Koehler can relate. When she was diagnosed with Crohn's disease in 2017, she says social media allowed her to feel less alone.


"Before I was diagnosed, I'd heard of Crohn's disease and UC, and I knew a few girls in college who were diagnosed, but other than that, I really didn't know much. Once I had a diagnosis and started sharing more on Instagram, I was flooded with amazing comments and words of hope from others," Koehler says.


Natalie Suppes appreciates social media because she knows how living with UC was before online communities became mainstream.


"When I was diagnosed in 2007, the only thing available at the time was a forum with people who have IBD that I found on Google. Ever since I have found the IBD community online, I have felt very empowered and so much less alone," says Suppes. "We literally spend the majority of our day alone in the bathroom or alone in pain. Having a community of people online who are dealing with the exact same thing as you are is really life changing."

Apps bring comfort and hope

Technology that is geared towards those with a chronic illness, this includes apps, can offer a number of benefits, from connecting folks to individuals with shared experiences to shedding light on new clinical trials.

In fact, a 2018 reviewTrusted Source of 12 randomized controlled trials on mobile health applications (including apps) showed that, in 10 of the trials, the use of mobile health applications demonstrated significant improvements in some health outcomes.

Yet with so many apps to choose from, finding the right one for you can be challenging.

For Scaviola, finding an app like IBD Healthline helped narrow down her online resources.

"IBD Healthline is different than other online support communities because it's an all-in-one resource. You can connect with other patients, share information in group conversations, and there are helpful articles on IBD all in one app," she says. "The best part is you are matched with fellow members on the app, so you can connect with them and share your journey."


Designed for people living with Crohn’s or UC, the free IBD Healthline app includes features such as daily group discussions led by an IBD guide. The guide leads topics around treatment, lifestyle, career, relationships, new diagnoses, and emotional health.

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Koehler says IBD Healthline is different than other online resources because everyone using the app has IBD.

"There is more understanding and compassion. In the past, I've used Instagram to reach out and it's hard because people will share advice because it worked for their mom or best friend… not because they've been through it personally," says Koehler.

Keeping the IBD experience in one private place is what Suppes like most about IBD Healthline.

"It is a place where you can go when you are seeking advice, but you don't need to constantly see it on your newsfeed along with the other things you follow on social media, such as pictures of your niece and best friend," Suppes says. "It is a place where you don't have to worry [about] anyone ever seeing what you post, or that you belong to the group, because only others who have IBD are in the community."

Plus, the app's live chats personalize the experience, Suppes adds.

"It's awesome to connect with people in live time and chat about various IBD subjects," she notes.

Koehler agrees, and says her favorite feature of the app is private messaging.



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"I've really enjoyed chatting with other IBD sufferers in a more private setting. It allows us to chat a bit more about stuff we might not be open to sharing with everyone just yet," she says.

Access to trusted sources of information

In addition to connecting with others living with IBD, IBD Healthline offers handpicked wellness and news stories reviewed by Healthline’s team of medical professionals delivered to app users each week. Users can stay informed about new treatments, what’s trending, and the latest in clinical trials.

With that information and the app's ability to connect her to others living with IBD, Suppes says she feels empowered to take ownership of her own health.

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“[Social media] is a tool that helps us realize that we are in control of our own health," she says. "It is not possible for doctors to have touch points with hundreds of thousands of people who have IBD, but by using social media we are. Sometimes with new medications or new symptoms, just asking other people with IBD and getting feedback from people experiencing the same things is so helpful."

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Engage Your Patients to Improve Physician Online Reputation Management

Engage Your Patients to Improve Physician Online Reputation Management | Social Media and Healthcare |

When choosing a physician, word of mouth can play an important part for many people, and now it’s all available online. Physician reviews matter heavily to people deciding on what physician to see for their care. Managing your online reputation may seem like a daunting task since information can be found through so many outlets on the internet. To start, you can begin monitoring your reputation in three key areas that will make a big difference: review sites, social media and in the office.

Why Your Online Reputation Matters

People are talking about you and your practice online, whether you’re out there engaging or not. They share their experiences on social media, they search and submit their own reviews. As younger generations continue to rely more on online reviews than older patients, managing your online reputation will remain an important aspect of maintaining your business. 

The limitations of physician review sites are well-known to most of us, but not always to patients. Reviews often focus on inconveniences beyond your control - in some cases, patients leave a negative review when they come in expecting to receive a medication even when advised that it's not the best course. Negative reviews don’t equate to poorer outcomes or quality of care. 

Despite these limitations, your patients are online, so it is essential to be vigilant and monitor your online reputation. Start simple by managing your online reputation in these three key areas. If it becomes overwhelming, outsource some of the work to office staff or freelancers.

Key Area 1: Physician Review Sites 

What to do: Regularly check these sites for new reviews and respond accordingly.

Keep an eye on the major platforms, including HealthGrades, Yelp, RateMDs, Google and Vitals. The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) finds that 60 percent of patients think online reviews are important for finding a physician. Take a few steps to make these sites work for you:

  • Ensure your information is accurate on your online listings. Check your specialties, address, phone number and hours. Check any links to your website or social media feeds to make sure everything points in the right direction.

  • Respond to positive reviews. Thank them for their feedback. Tell them you’re happy to have them as a patient.

  • Respond to negative reviews. For negative reviews about issues beyond your control like rude staff or long wait times, assure them that you’re looking into what happened and always striving to improve the office environment. Avoid making excuses; stay positive and reassuring. For negative reviews about care, offer to contact them offline. Even if the patient shares protected health information, HIPAA laws do not permit you to continue the conversation with specifics. Ask them to call the office, so you can discuss their situation further, or, if you know the patient, ask if you can schedule a call.

  • If you manage to resolve an issue, ask the person to consider revising their rating online.

Zocdoc found that physicians who increased their overall rating by half a star saw an average increase of 37 percent in monthly appointments.

Key Area 2: Social Media

What to do: Share and engage.

Social media allows you to be proactive in putting out messages about you, your staff and your office. You have a way to share reputable health information, new technology in your office or exciting changes happening in your practice. 

Social media can be overwhelming for many of us, so it’s important to keep this limited to just one or two platforms. Facebook is still the most popular social network, with about 68 percent of U.S. adults with accounts. Other top social media choices to reach the younger generation are Twitter and Instagram.

Pro tip: Follow others practitioners who are using social media well, such as KevinMDDoctor Mike and Wendy Sue Swanson.

Key Area 3: The Office

What to do: Ask for reviews. (And provide a great office experience.)

A good review starts with a good experience. A patient's experience starts with the first time office staff picks up the phone. Many times, the actual care you provide isn’t part of the review. Bedside manner and wait times are two of the most common complaints patients have about seeing the doctor.

The first step to getting better reviews is to listen. Are there recurring issues that pop up in reviews of three stars or less that can be addressed through workflow or training? Do you understand what your patients want in terms of care and convenience?

When you’ve done what you can on the office side, begin asking patients if they’re satisfied with their care and if they’d be willing to leave a review. You can provide a tablet with Yelp or other review site and allow them to post a review before they leave, or ask if you could email them with a link to a ratings site or two that they can complete at home. 

By being aware of reviews and proactively managing your online reputation, you’ll be poised to attract new patients.

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6 Keys to a Strong Healthcare Digital Marketing Strategy

6 Keys to a Strong Healthcare Digital Marketing Strategy | Social Media and Healthcare |

The healthcare industry is continually pursuing the next technological advancement. Whether it’s a new, improved treatment, a groundbreaking facility or the expansion of physician specialties, healthcare organizations are always working to provide a higher level of care for patients. Unlike any other industry, healthcare serves a broad audience. And today’s consumers are becoming more dependent on apps and websites. In fact, patients are relying on websites at an increasing rate to make healthcare decisions.

This is why it’s important to stay on top of digital marketing and keep your organization at the forefront of change—even online. Use these six keys to a strong healthcare digital marketing strategy that will reach patients and generate leads in today’s patient-centered market.

An Easy-to-Navigate Website

Your website serves as the welcome mat to your organization. It typically is the first impression your company will make and plays a strong role in a patient’s decision to choose your facility or go elsewhere, so you want the user experience to be as easy as possible. Chances are if someone is on your website, they are looking for answers for themselves or a loved one and want to find what they’re looking for quickly so they can take action.

An Informational Blog

Your blog goes hand-in-hand with a strong, user-friendly website. With 1 percent of all Google searches related to medical symptoms and 3.5 billion Google searches, that’s 35 million online medical searches every day. Take advantage of all those searches with rich blog content that provides information on health conditions, answers to questions, quick tips and advice they can get without going to the doctor. Be sure to plan your editorial calendar around health months or other timely topics relevant to your organization.

And don’t forget, people take comfort in reading about other patients who have experienced a treatment, condition or surgery they are facing, so this can help boost your blog’s readership numbers. While you can feature testimonials in various places around your website, your blog is a great place for reading in-depth about another patient’s success. Rather than short clips, blogs are trending toward featuring in-depth patient stories on their journey from diagnosis to recovery.

Resourceful Emails

It’s true that patients go searching for information, but email is a way to be a step ahead. What if the information was in their inbox before they had to even look for it? By sending out an email newsletter at least once a month, you’ll continue to educate patients by providing them with fresh content they can apply to their own health.

The key is to provide your email database with a variety of information to best capture your audience’s interest. Use email personalization and segmentation based on a recipient’s interests and needs so they’re receiving information relevant to them. Send out a video, a current blog post or provide industry news that will give readers information on various topics. Be sure to plan these ahead of time so they are timely according to what’s going on at your organization or in the health industry.

Videos That Educate and Inspire

Audiences increasingly are leaning more toward visual content. According to Wordstream, one-third of online activity is spent watching video. If you can get your physicians on camera speaking about their area of expertise, it inevitably will add to their credibility and capture an audience that is out there looking for the expertise your physicians have.

Like the blog, another appropriate place for testimonials is in your video resources. The only thing better than reading about another patient’s experience is getting to see it in action through video, and hear the doctor, patient and family members describing the experience from beginning to end. Video is a powerful tool; the lighting, music and story structure work together to draw out emotion when telling the story in ways a blog post can’t. These elements can evoke feelings of passion, hope, courage, fear and many others that the written word alone can’t capture.

Strong SEO Attributes

You can have the best-looking, most informative website, blog posts, emails and videos, but what good are they if they’re not being found? Through the process of search engine optimization (SEO), you can increase the quality and quantity of organic traffic by centering your content on specific keywords your patients actually would use in their searches. If you’re a hospital with several service lines, you’ll want to do some keyword research with a tool like SEMrush or the HubSpot keyword tool to determine the best-ranking keywords to use on each page. You’ll want to look for what keywords are currently driving traffic to your website, as well as your competitors’.

When searching in SEMrush for healthcare, you’ll see the top keywords, their search volume, keyword difficulty score and cost per click (CPC). Using these results, choose a keyword that has a lower difficulty score (so it’s not as difficult to rank for) with a high search volume. Develop your content based on this keyword, and work it into your copy. To optimize a page around a particular service line, you need to include it in the page title, H1, meta description, URL, alt image tags and within the body copy of the page. You can create content around that same keyword and related subtopics and link back to that page. Say your keyword is “Cleveland urologist,” some subtopics might be when to see a urologist, incontinence symptoms or overactive bladder treatment.

Keywords are important, but they must sound natural within the rest of the copy. Avoid overuse of the keyword phrase on the page; Google will penalize you for “keyword stuffing” if your phrase appears too many times. While you want the words within the copy, quality content is still king.

Engaging Social Media Strategy

If your healthcare organization isn’t on social media, you’re missing a huge opportunity to connect with your audience. Social media is an excellent promotional tool when used right.

In fact, 60 percent of social media users are most likely to trust social media posts and activity by doctors over any other group, according to Infographics Archive. So plan your posts wisely—make sure they are written ahead of time and offer a variety of content on your page. A social media presence expands your reach to patients.

The hospital shares videos, blog posts highlighting its staff caring for patients, upcoming events and dozens of positive patient reviews. A great feature is a “Book Now” button that takes patients to the hospital’s physician page, so patients can easily locate a doctor for their needs.

Tying It All Together

A strong healthcare digital marketing strategy is most effective when it is managed in a streamlined way, where each component is in sync with one another, rather than siloed. In addition to regularly meeting with your team about your marketing strategy to discuss changes or updates, connect these elements through a content management platform. This enables you to track the performance of your efforts as a whole and identify areas for improvement. In fact, many healthcare organizations already are managing their digital marketing efforts on HubSpot or other similar platforms. Doing so helps them review previous efforts, and makes planning their future strategies easier. Platforms like HubSpot can support your marketing endeavors through their continual updates to help you better serve the healthcare industry and the users you are working to attract.

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 Adolescent Perspectives on the Use of Social Media to Support Type 1 Diabetes Management: Focus Group Study 

 Adolescent Perspectives on the Use of Social Media to Support Type 1 Diabetes Management: Focus Group Study  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Background: A majority of adolescents report the use of some form of social media, and many prefer to communicate via social networking sites. Social media may offer new opportunities in diabetes management, particularly in terms of how health care teams provide tailored support and treatment to adolescents with diabetes.

Objective: The aim of this study was to explore the experiences and perspectives of adolescents with type 1 diabetes on the feasibility of social media use as a tool to collaboratively manage their diabetes with their diabetes care team.

Methods: Focus groups of adolescents with type 1 diabetes were conducted in the Seattle metropolitan area in Washington State. Semistructured questions were used to elicit views around the preferred means of communication with the adolescents’ diabetes care team, how to best support diabetes self-management, and how social media could be used outside of the clinic setting by the diabetes care team to engage with adolescents with type 1 diabetes. Focus groups were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Qualitative content analysis was carried out, and emergent themes were subsequently mapped onto 4 domains of feasibility, which included acceptability, demand, implementation, and practicality.

Results: Participants included 45 adolescents with type 1 diabetes (mean age 15.9, SD 1.7 years; 58% male; diabetes duration mean 6.2, SD 3.6 years; 76% on insulin pumps; 49% wore continuous glucose monitors; 93% reported use of social media; 84% used smartphones as the primary means for social media access). A total of 7 major topics were identified and mapped onto areas consistent with our focus on feasibility. For acceptability and demand, participants expressed how communication over social media could help facilitate (1) improved communication outside of clinic visits to optimize diabetes management, (2) independence in diabetes self-management, (3) connection to other youth with diabetes for additional diabetes support, and (4) delivery of more timely and personalized care. Addressing implementation and practicality, participants shared the need to (1) ensure patient privacy, (2) maintain professional nature of provider-patient relationship, and (3) recognize that social media is not currently used for medical care by youth with diabetes.

Conclusions: Adolescents with type 1 diabetes expressed interest in the use of social media as a tool to support diabetes management and increase engagement with their diabetes care team. Specific implementation measures around privacy and professionalism should be considered when developing a social media intervention to facilitate communication between adolescents and care teams.

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ASCO’s top tips for social media patient advocacy

ASCO’s top tips for social media patient advocacy | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media offers a wealth of opportunities for patient advocacy groups to engage with the people they serve – especially at conference time – but sometimes it’s hard to know where to start.

“Social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others provide advocates with an abundance of useful resources and networking opportunities,” says the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO)’s patient information site, Cancer.Net, in its infographic Social Media 101 for Advocates. 

For those just getting started, the infographic shares some simple tips for online communication and highlights the importance of setting goals and having a clear profile.

“Define your motivation for using social media as an advocate. Keep these goals top-of-mind and stay consistent with what you discuss socially,” it notes.

“Tell people about yourself by filling out a profile description and adding your photo. Let people know who you represent, yourself or an organization, and that a retweet/follow is not an endorsement.”

Find your crowd

Once profiles have been established, it’s time to “find your crowd” and make connections, the graphic explains. Top tips include following established not-for-profit organizations and people who share relevant trusted information.

Searching for relevant hashtags and terms can help advocates find like-minded individuals to follow.

When it comes to rules of engagement, Cancer.Net offers four pieces of advice: less is more, start conversations, give credit and love #hashtags – though never use more than two.

Use your own voice

“When you are ready to start posting, use your own voice and share information that you feel comfortable with,” it adds, pointing out it’s wise to avoid over-posting, which can come across as “spamming”.

If relevant, spark discussions with people who share common interests by tagging them in your post, and if re-sharing information from another account, always give credit and ensure sources are credible.

To download the printable infographic, click here.

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How Social Media for Healthcare Marketing Can Engage, Educate Consumers

How Social Media for Healthcare Marketing Can Engage, Educate Consumers | Social Media and Healthcare |

If you’re dealing with healthcare industry clients, you may be understandably hesitant to employ a social media marketing strategy due to privacy and regulatory concerns. But social media for healthcare marketing offers these organizations a unique opportunity to build relationships and inspire trust with their audiences.

Because consumers, on the whole, are aware that they can’t really trust the medical information easily found on crowd-sourced sites or third-party platforms. But because these results are dominating SERPs, this often unreputable information tends to carry more weight than it should—especially as it gets shared on social and passed off as fact.

Healthcare marketers can, and absolutely should, leverage social for battling this misinformation, making sure their audiences are truly educated on the health issues they care about most. Hanging out in the background is no longer an option. By not utilizing this platform, hospitals and clinics may be missing out on terrific opportunities to boost brand awareness and, perhaps more importantly, solidify themselves as the true authorities in what should be their realm.

Here’s how social media marketing can benefit healthcare organizations, along with some smart strategies for social success.


How a Social Media Marketing Strategy Can Benefit Your Organization

Social media marketing offers healthcare organizations several compelling advantages. It’s excellent for raising brand awareness and developing the kind of trust with patients that’s necessary for forming meaningful relationships and long-term loyalty. Patients that engage with a healthcare organization online, and find value in these interactions, are more likely to turn to that same organization when they need medical services.

People are already actively searching for health information on social media channels, and healthcare organizations can proactively respond to this need by consistently delivering value to patients in this space. Hospitals and providers can through sharing high-quality content and posts intended to educate consumers—providing knowledge on subjects like how to pick the right treatment option, why preventative care is essential, or what to do before a major surgery, for example.

Healthcare organizations can also use this space to ensure that patients are equipped with the right information when they need to make important decisions about their own healthcare, from getting immunizations to scheduling a screening.

Social listening also allows healthcare organizations to receive timely feedback on products and services, sometimes even generating ideas on how to improve them or identifying timely opportunities to create new products and services that fill an urgent need in the market. Healthcare organizations can also use social monitoring tools to keep a finger on the pulse of trends in the field, while keeping up to date on how the competition is faring. All of these insights can help inform an organization’s content strategy on a continual basis.

A strong social media presence can also raise a healthcare organization’s profile within the industry. Healthcare experts and organizations can demonstrate their thought leadership and expertise through the posts they create and the conversations in which they engage, making valuable connections with industry peers. The relationships forged through these social interactions among industry colleagues can lead to promising business partnerships and open the door to exciting new opportunities.

Tips for an Effective Healthcare Social Media Marketing Strategy

So what is the best way to get started with social media for healthcare marketing? Here are a few strategies for engaging audiences online, along with some examples of how leading healthcare brands have set up their social media presences for success.

1. Position Yourself as a Trusted Source of Healthcare Information

Your audience has healthcare questions they may be afraid to ask, but are probably looking for answers using social media. In fact, eighty percent of adults in the U.S. look for health information online, according to the Pew Research Center. In some cases, they may be truly worried about what they’re experiencing and what it may mean for their lives. Through social media, you can give them the answers they need, providing a service while also establishing your credibility in a public setting. One way to do this is by sharing links to blog posts, video clips, and other helpful forms of content that inform and educate your audience, just as pharmaceutical firm Merck does here:


#HeadAndNeckCancer is a term to describe tumors that develop in or around the throat, larynx, nose, sinuses and mouth. Learn more about the disease and areas where symptoms most commonly occur: #OHANCAW


This tweet is notable because it incorporates several forms of information presentation at once: a brief text description of head and neck cancer, a video clip that visually illustrates areas within the head and neck that may be affected alongside concise bullet points about the condition, and then a link to a fuller story on Merck’s website that combines visually appealing statistics with key information about this form of cancer.


Social posts like these connect with audiences where they are, meeting their need for healthcare information in a variety of creative ways while also establishing the organization’s credibility. After encountering an accessible and engaging introduction to a healthcare issue in bite-size form, consumers may not only feel better informed about it but also motivated to seek further information. And, should they need healthcare services in the future, they are likely to have positive associations with this brand given their prior experience with it on social media.

2. Share Meaningful Patient Stories

Another powerful way to connect with your audience is by sharing patient stories. For example, in honor of LGBTQ Health Week, the NYU Langone hospital shared the story of Wendy Cole who underwent gender affirmation surgery at age 70 after decades spent battling feelings of isolation and attempting to “fix” what she thought was “wrong” with her. It was an incredibly consequential decision requiring a great deal of trust in her healthcare provider, but Cole successfully took this leap of faith and found that she was able to inspire others as a result.

Stories like Cole’s are meaningful because they evoke a sense of possibility and demonstrate that people do not have to suffer through their healthcare challenges alone. In sharing this story of patient success, NYU Langone was also able to communicate its values of inclusivity and community. By showing its commitment to LGBTQ healthcare equality, NYU Langone is making a strong statement that patients can bring their whole selves in for care and expect to be treated with dignity and humanity, whoever they are and whatever their experience might be.

3. Use a Light Touch and Have Some Fun

Particularly in light of the wellness boom, healthcare organizations don’t have to restrict themselves to delivering dry statistics about serious health conditions which people may find alarming. Healthcare marketers have a great opportunity to make their social media content marketing more human and approachable. This makes the experience of engaging with your brand more like a lighthearted conversation with a trusted friend, rather than an impersonal interaction with a faceless entity. With that in mind, don’t be afraid to have fun from time to time, as Anne Arundel Medical Center did with its #AAMCStachie contest on Facebook:

Each November, many organizations raise awareness about men’s health issues on social media using the hashtag #Movember. Anne Arundel took the opportunity to strike a playful tone, inviting people to take a stachie—a selfie of themselves with a real or fake mustache—and post it to the Anne Arundel Medical Center Facebook page along with the hashtag #AAMCStachie. Every week, keeping in line with the mustache theme, one lucky participant won a fifty dollar gift card to the Dollar Shave Club. Not only did the contest perfectly sync with the Movember movement, but it also drove increased traffic to the medical center’s website for men’s health content—further educating the public on common health issues like prostate cancer, testicular cancer, as well as mental health and suicide prevention.

4. Share Timely Information About Events Impacting Public Health

When an urgent event impacts the community you serve, social media can provide your organization with a great way to get the word out about how it’s responding. For example, when severe storms and flooding recently impacted local communities in Tennessee, United Healthcare shared timely information on how its members could make alternate arrangements to access the care that they needed and launched an emotional support line in the wake of the emergency.

UnitedHealth Group

To support those impacted by the recent flooding in Missouri, UHG, @UHC and @Optum are using the Health4Me app to assist members who may need to make alternate arrangements to access care. 

UnitedHealthcare and Optum Take Action to Support People Affected by Flooding in Missouri

UnitedHealthcare and Optum, the health benefits and services companies of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), are taking action to help people affected by recent flooding across parts of Missouri.
See UnitedHealth Group's other Tweets

Social media posts such as this one make it clear that the healthcare insurance company is actively responding to events affecting the community and that it takes measures when urgent situations may prevent people from obtaining services in the way that they normally would. This type of information sharing can position your organization as a trusted resource in which people can turn in moments of crisis as well as for their everyday preventive and ongoing care.

Navigating Social Media Privacy and Regulatory Issues

Even though social media marketing for healthcare offers many benefits, there are a few important things to keep in mind when it comes to privacy and compliance. As healthcare marketers know well, patient privacy is an issue of utmost concern—both from an ethical standpoint as a regulatory one—and healthcare organizations keeping an active presence on social channels should be careful about what they disclose in this very public setting.

For starters, when featuring a patient story on social channels, it’s wise to be absolutely sure that you adhere to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) guidelines and that you have the patient’s written consent to reveal the specific personal health information (PHI) that you anticipate sharing. Additionally, you’ll need their documented consent before using any images or videos that someone could use to identify them. Even posts that could be construed as verbal gossip about a patient could run afoul of HIPAA guidelines. As HIPAA Journal points out, your employees must be fully trained on HIPAA social media rules to avoid the possibility of accidental violations.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) guidelines may also govern the way you are required to describe risk information and limitations of use about certain drugs. Kim Kardashian found this out the hard way by catching the FDA’s ire for promoting drugs on Instagram not once, but twice. Brands need to be more proactive in

Gartner’s report, How Social Marketers Can Stay Ahead of Emergent Privacy and Trust Conversations (Nov 2018), notes that, “regulatory bodies including the FTC and the ASA are launching investigations into influencer marketing practices. They are updating their endorsement guidelines to ensure that influencer posts funded by brands are clearly cited as such.”

With these new standards in mind, it’s wise to stay on top of any regulatory frameworks such as the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) which may affect your social media marketing activities.


Rose de Fremery is a writer living at the intersection of digital culture and creativity. Originally a technologist by trade, she’s captivated by technology innovation and the promise it offers to spark our unique human capacity for creativity and imagination. Prior to becoming a freelance writer, Rose was the IT Director for an international human rights organization. She also served as Managing Editor for The Social Media Monthly, the world’s first print magazine devoted to the social media revolution. A native of Western Massachusetts, Rose works and lives in Astoria, Queens. Learn more about her at

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How to Use Bariatric Social Media Content

How to Use Bariatric Social Media Content | Social Media and Healthcare |

Looking for weight-loss surgery patients? Post bariatric content to social media!

St. Luke’s Des Peres Hospital in St. Louis, MO engages weight loss surgery patients by posting delicious and nutritious bariatric recipes on their website and social media channels. The hospital also shares articles about the emotional, physical and surgical aspects of bariatric surgery. Bariatric content is developed by Baldwin Publishing to support the MyNewSelf surgical weight loss program.

Each month, the bariatric marketing team at St. Luke’s Des Peres receives a Social Media Guide from Baldwin Publishing filled with bariatric content that aligns with health awareness events and food holidays. The content guide makes it easy for hospital marketers to keep their social media channels filled with content that generates “likes” and clicks. The monthly social media guide includes ready-to-post bariatric content – and a calendar showing just when to post it for the most engagement.

Using social media as a way to drive traffic to the St. Luke’s Des Peres website has really paid off!

Nearly 25% of traffic to the Weight Loss Toolbox – a section of the hospital’s website dedicated to weight loss surgery patient education – comes from Facebook and Pinterest.

The majority of content posted on social media makes good use of the bariatric recipe content licensed from Baldwin Publishing. Pinterest boards show recipes that appeal to weight loss surgery patients.  The MyNewSelf Facebook page also features bariatric recipes, as well as information about upcoming weight loss seminars.

Each recipe posted has been approved by registered dietitians for bariatric diets. Recipes include large mouth-watering photos, step-by-step instructions and nutrition information.  In addition to delicious recipes, site visitors can find information about weight loss surgery procedures, as well as fitness and nutrition information. So far, the most popular bariatric recipe this year is Buffalo Chicken Pizza.

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Only one in five doctors aware of patient feedback about their care online, survey reveals

Only one in five doctors aware of patient feedback about their care online, survey reveals | Social Media and Healthcare |

Around one in five doctors are aware of patient feedback about themselves on review and ratings websites, according to a new survey of health professionals.

Their answers also reveal that GPs felt strongly that online feedback is negative, particularly on social media.

The new study led by the University of Warwick, published today (3 June) in the Journal of Health Services Research & Policy, demonstrates that health service staff are cautious about using online feedback due to assumptions that it will be overwhelmingly negative, potentially missing opportunities to improve care.

Healthcare services use a number of methods to collect information on patient experiences, including surveys and Patient Participation Groups, and policymakers have pushed for greater use of online feedback in addition to traditional sources.

The research is based on a survey of 1001 registered doctors in primary and secondary care and 749 nurses and midwives in the UK. It examined their experience and attitude towards online sources of patient feedback, on sites such as I Want Great Care, NHS Choices (now the NHS website) and Care Opinion.

It found that just 27.7% of doctors and 21% of nurses were aware of feedback online about an episode of care that they had been involved in, while only 20.5% of doctors and 11.1% of nurses were aware of feedback about them as an individual specifically.

Dr. Helen Atherton, from Warwick Medical School, said: "We saw a lack of awareness from healthcare professionals of when feedback had been left about the care they delivered, whether as an individual or team. Overall, awareness and use by doctors is low. But we are seeing that doctors are much more negative about online feedback than nurses, and more so with GPs.

"There's a real need that if NHS organisations are collecting this data that they need to be communicating it to frontline staff, because it's pointless for the patients if their message isn't getting through."

The majority of doctors did not encourage patients to leave feedback and only 38% felt that it was useful in improving services. This is despite previous research showing that online feedback tends to be generally positive towards the health service. The survey also highlighted that healthcare staff were more wary of feedback on social media, with 65.4% of doctors feeling that feedback on social media is generally negative.

Dr. Atherton adds: "Previous research in this area by our team shows that it tends to be more positive than people think. Healthcare organisations should be putting protocols in place for this feedback and developing plans for what to do with it. If healthcare professionals are aware of it and take control of the process a little more by actively soliciting it then it's more likely to be useful to them. There are positive examples of how commentary left by NHS patients on review sites have led to changes in the health service.

"Professionals were more wary of social media than they were of ratings and review websites so these are probably the easiest ways to source feedback in practice. You know where your patient is going and you can pick up comments and act on them, something that is more difficult with social media."

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Social Media Etiquette for Nursing Professionals |

Social Media Etiquette for Nursing Professionals | | Social Media and Healthcare |

While the world of social media is sometimes viewed as the wild west of the internet, the social media posts you make can negatively affect you.

An ER nurse has a rough day at work. When she gets home she vents on Facebook about her exhausting shift, about the drug addict that staggered in, about the drunk that urinated on himself in the waiting area, and how irritable each of her patients were that day. 

Harmless, right? She didn’t mention any names. Didn’t post any pictures. And yet, a ‘friend’ of the nurse who was angry at her, decided to file a complaint with her state board of nursing alleging “unprofessional conduct.” 

Though this is a hypothetical situation, the end result is fairly common. If the nurse does not have her own professional liability insurance, she may not be able to afford a lawyer. And though she probably does not feel she did anything wrong, she could end up plea bargaining with the board and taking a year of probation. Probation appears on your record and can have adverse effects when you apply for a job.

What to Avoid When Posting
Many of us use social media daily to share our lives with friends, colleagues and family. Unfortunately, there are associated risks, particularly for nurses, who are held to a high standard by their state boards. Two areas of risk include: 

  • Unprofessional behavior. Examples include posting photos or comments about alcohol or drug use; profane, sexually explicit, or racially derogatory comments; negative comments about co-workers, and employers; or threatening or harassing comments.
  • Patient privacy and/or confidentiality. Breaches of patient privacy/confidentially can be intentional or inadvertent, with inappropriate postings including patient photos, negative comments about patients, or details that might identify patients.

A Simple Tweet or Text can Result in a Licensing Complaint
Violations of the above risks can result in a complaint being filed against your license with your state board of nursing. Complaints can be filed by virtually anyone, including friends, family, patients, patients’ family members, your employer, even your own spouse.

Licensing complaints are more common than you think. There are almost 30 times more licensing complaints filed against nurses than malpractice lawsuits. Between 2010 and 2014, there were 3,357 malpractice suits filed against nurses and 96,659 licensing complaints.*

Disciplinary actions by your state board can involve; no action, a simple reprimand, fine, continuing education, probation, suspension or permanent loss of licensure.

10 Simple Do’s and Don’ts When Posting, Tweeting, Texting or Blogging
By using caution, nurses can enjoy the benefits of social media without risking the loss of their license and their livelihood. The following tips can help keep your social media content in the clear: 

  • Always maintain patient privacy and confidentiality.
  • Do not post patient photos or videos of patients or identify patients by name.
  • Do not refer to patients in a disparaging manner, even if patients are not identified.
  • Use caution when connecting with patients or former patients via social media.
  • Do not post inappropriate photos, negative comments about colleagues or employers.
  • Never discuss drug and alcohol use.
  • Use social media to post positive comments about your workplace and its staff.
  • Share educational information that may benefit others, such as safety notices and medical news.
  • It is permissible to refer doctors, specialists and healthcare practices.
  • Use social media to enhance the role of nursing in the community, among friends and the public.
  • Remember posting, tweeting, texting and blogging are not private communications and can be used against you in an investigation by your Board of Nursing

Protect Yourself 
Social media is great way to connect with family and friends, but you need to be cautious. If a complaint is filed against your license for whatever reason, your state board of nursing will conduct its own investigation. That could include looking to see if you have a presence on social media. You might be investigated for one reason, and have your situation made worse by comments you made on Facebook, Twitter or in text message.

Nursing professionals need to be aware that online postings are permanent and can negatively affect their license and ability to practice. Think twice before you post content that could be judged as “unprofessional.” 
*National Practitioner Data Bank, Department of Health & Human Services,, October 2016.

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How Smart Dental Professionals Handle HIPAA on Social Media

How Smart Dental Professionals Handle HIPAA on Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Sharing authentic, engaging social media content that features patients while staying 100% HIPAA-compliant isn’t as complicated as you may think.

HIPAA. Even just reading the word may cause dental professionals to feel a little stressed, and understandably so. Its guidelines are strict, but HIPAA is one of the most important protections patients have in place today.

However, in the age of the connected, savvy consumer brought about by the internet and social media, potential patients want a transparent look into what really goes on inside your practice before they make a decision about whether or not to give you a call. They want to see the experiences that real patients are having with you, and how you treat them.

Because of HIPAA, many dental professionals are scared away from sharing anything at all that involves patients, and they miss valuable opportunities to build reach and relationships with patients and ideal potential patients.

HIPAA doesn’t have to be a stumbling block for your dental practice on social media. Remember that the rules are there to protect patients, not create barriers. By adhering to a few common-sense safeguards and making sure your entire team is trained, you can confidently and comfortably share photos, videos, and other posts involving patients as part of your social media efforts.


HIPAA Guidelines for Dental Professionals on Social Media

1. Don’t post protected patient information or circumstantial details. This may seem obvious, but it can happen if team members aren’t thinking about it. Even if you don’t include a patient’s name, assume that a patient’s information can still be traced if you post about the circumstances.

2. Don’t assume information is private. If something is online, chances are that it will stay online in one form or another. Deleting a tweet or removing a Facebook post doesn’t guarantee that information is gone, so it’s essential that dental professionals catch HIPAA violations before they ever make it to social media.

3. Create a practice social media policy. Having a written policy and training your team on it ensures that everyone in the practice is on the same page and familiar with your approach to social media.

4. Make your practice’s “social media champion” someone that understands HIPAA. The fewer people that post to social media on behalf of your office, the better. It’s generally a good idea to only have one or two people in charge of social media for your dental practice. Choose team members that understand HIPAA’s rules and have dedicated time to check social media activity on your pages.

5. Get signed consent from patients first. There may be times where you want to share a
patient testimonial or answer a question sent to you on social media. It’s important to have the patient’s signed consent before posting, and even after receiving consent, keep as much personal information private as possible.

Download our Printable HIPAA Authorization Form

Every time your practice shares any post that includes or refers to a patient, it’s necessary to obtain their signed consent. A good HIPAA release form will cover a few simple items:

1. What the patient is authorizing: permission for your practice to share a photo or video on your social media accounts.
2. The purpose of the authorization: social media and/or advertising.
3. The patient’s power to revoke the authorization and the expiration date of this power.
4. The option for the patient to receive a copy of the form.
5. Who the patient is authorizing: your practice name.
6. Space for the patient, or parent/guardian of a minor, to sign and date.

If you have questions regarding how to create a HIPAA release form for your specific circumstances, consult with your practice attorney.

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