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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Twitter explains how Boehringer is winning on social media

Twitter explains how Boehringer is winning on social media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Biopharma has encountered more critics than cheerleaders as it has cautiously edged into social media, but Boehringer Ingelheim has recently won a high-profile supporter--Twitter ($TWTR). In a case study, the social network praised Boehringer's use of its platform.

PMLiVE spotted the case study on Twitter's business-focused website. On the site, Twitter describes the social media tactics that have helped companies involved in publishing, entertainment and other consumer-focused industries, but there are noticeably fewer healthcare success stories. Boehringer is the first biopharma company to be picked out by Twitter. In its Boehringer case study, Twitter focuses in on the German biopharma's chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) tweet chats.

Boehringer's Twitter header

Boehringer used the #COPDChat hashtag and paid for promotional tweets to raise its profile around last year's European Respiratory Society Congress (ERSC). Twitter reports the strategy resulted in Boehringer's account being the most mentioned username during the congress, contributing to a 7% jump in the number of people following the company. Over the course of the ERSC campaign tweet chat impressions totaled 1.7 million.

Twitter claims the campaign helped Boehringer become recognized as an industry leader in the use of digital platforms, but its effect on the business of developing and selling drugs is less tangible. The case study nonetheless provides some pointers for any drugmakers planning to ramp up their social media activities. Twitter cites Boehringer's strategy of getting tweets preapproved by "key stakeholders" as central to making the campaign work in the highly regulated biopharma industry.

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2 pharma LinkedIn company pages that rock

2 pharma LinkedIn company pages that rock | Social Media and Healthcare |

Good LinkedIn company pages are few and far between. In fact, bad ones are few and far between as well! Most companies simply don’t seem to bother completing the basic information on them, let alone updating them frequently.

It’s a big mistake. LinkedIn has by far the biggest visitor-to-conversion rate of any of the major social media platforms, and a good company page is a terrific way to showcase everything your company is good at. If you don’t have a company page, your business doesn’t exist on LinkedIn (and it doesn’t matter if every employee has their own profile; these are personal pages, highlighting personal achievements, and not about the company). 

Take the pharmaceutical industry in the UK. I set out to write a post highlighting three examples of great company pages – but couldn’t find enough to write it!

There are two possible reasons. One is that pharma is generally behind the curve when it comes to social media. But LinkedIn is the one platform where its executives generally do have a strong presence, so one might have expected them to develop their company pages.

The second is that there is one aspect of company pages that is particularly intimidating to pharma due to industry regulations, and that is the ‘products and services’ tab. But even if you cannot advertise your products directly, there are other ways to use that tab which will not get you into trouble with ABPI – and will do a great amount for your business.

To show you how that can be done, I’m going to look at three examples: one from a British pharmaceutical company that has done a good job developing an all-round company page, one from a Dublin-based pharmaceutical company that uses the careers tab particularly effectively, and one from outside the industry, to show how pharma companies could be using ‘products and services’ creatively - and safely.

I hope that it will give you some inspiration for your own LinkedIn company pages as well as lots of do’s and don’ts!

And if you know of a British pharma company page that is particularly outstanding but that we missed, please let us know in the comments.

1. IDEA Pharma

IDEA, which helps pharma products come to market, has really done a great job on every front.

The basics. Their page looks attractive, with a custom-made banner that explains who they are and how they benefit their customers. It follows the colours of the IDEA website, reinforcing its branding.

The description of their company under the banner is clear and professionally written (not always a given!) – this is important because while the company has 22 employees on LinkedIn, their personal profiles will be about them and not about the company.

Status updates. 

A great way to make your page worth subscribing to, and then to drive engagement with potential clients you want to cultivate, is to post frequent status updates. IDEA updates their status almost every day.

These posts are good because they’re varied, alternating between links to thoughtful pieces on their own blog (driving traffic to their website – which is where ultimately you want prospective clients to go, isn’t it?), inspirational quotes, questions to provoke discussion, and even some humorous posts.

It’s mostly all pharma-related which is clearly right for their target market, although they talk about themselves a little too often. In general, no more than one post in 6 should be self-referential (potential clients prefer reading about themselves….).

IDEA particularly stands out for its heavy use of visuals, which on every social media platform makes posts more likely to be seen and shared.


Just filling out this section puts IDEA at a massive advantage, so the bar is rather low! But IDEA has again done a great job, listing 11 services so that visitors can see the full range of their offering (and they are more likely to come up in searches), and even earning several recommendations.

One terrific feature is that they have included a short video clip of a staff member (presumably - why are they not identified?) speaking about strategy at phase II – which is their speciality.

Videos are an increasingly popular way to reach out to potential clients online, who may prefer to hear and see a company rather than read about them. Study after study has shown that potential clients are more likely to trust a company they have seen and heard in action, and therefore more likely continue down the buying process.

The clip would have been even more effective had it been shot specifically to welcome people to the company’s LinkedIn page and provide an introduction to the company – perhaps with a client also speaking in recommendation?

Other possible tweaks: On this page, too, IDEA could have included a banner. In fact, LinkedIn allows you to add three banners on each page, which rotate and are hyperlinked to a page of your choice. It’s a great opportunity to direct traffic and to issue powerful calls-to-action.

Additionally, if each service had its own picture or icon, it would help to define it visually; they could also ask clients for more recommendations, building their credibility.

All in all a fine effort.

2. Icon Plc.

Icon is a global provider of outsourced development services to the pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device industries, headquartered in Dublin. It does many of the same things well as IDEA – such as a powerful banner, frequent updates (although again, way too many about them!), and a good range of products, services and recommendations.

So let’s concentrate on an additional tab it has developed: careers.

This option is not open to everyone – it is an upgrade for which you have to pay, and it doesn’t come cheap, so it is used almost exclusively by large companies.

But if that’s not you, don’t stop reading! We’ll review what Icon does and then suggest how you can learn from them even if you can’t afford the upgrade.

As one might expect, Icon lists over 80 positions it is currently seeking to fill across the world, linking to a detailed job description and button to apply. LinkedIn is a great place to find talent.

But Icon does so much more with the page, using it to demonstrate why it is a great place to work in order to attract the best.

It covers the basics, providing links to information about its culture, values and diversity, but more importantly it allows its employees to speak for themselves. It has posted two quotes from team members explaining why they work at Icon, as well as a 4-minute, professionally produced video interviewing various staff members about why they chose Icon and why they are still there.

This is powerful testimony: Prospective employees are more likely to believe it’s a good place to work if it is their peers saying so, and not just more text on a company website. It also gives prospective workers the chance to see what kind of people work there.

Crucially, Icon has interviewed a good cross-section of people, of both sexes, different roles and based in different countries.


On the same page, job seekers can also access a list of all Icon employees on LinkedIn (over 7,000), making it easy for job seekers to check their backgrounds and job titles.

The page could have been even more powerful if its video had employees taking LinkedIn visitors through a typical day at work or talking about their jobs in more detail. At the moment, the emphasis is on testifying that Icon is a good place to work. Nothing would demonstrate that more clearly than showing that the work itself is interesting and rewarding!

Can’t afford a careers tab? If you still want to advertise positions, check out LinkedIn Jobs, which then appear on your company page. It’s not free, but it’s reasonable. You can also post jobs on your main company news feed, which doesn’t cost.

Want to make your company look attractive to prospective employees? You can still create videos of your employees and interview them about their jobs. Instead of putting them on the careers tab, post them on your blog and then promote them across social media – as well as on your company page. Profiling employees who do interesting things is always great material!

Make sure, as well, that all your employees are properly linked to your company page so that their names are listed. When they note their current employer on their personal page, they need to pick your company’s name from a list that appears as they begin typing and not just complete it themselves.

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Clinical Trial Recruitment: Online Strategies

Clinical Trial Recruitment: Online Strategies | Social Media and Healthcare |

Attracting and enrolling qualified candidates is the key to conducting successful clinical trials. Having a significant base of candidates increases the opportunity for statistically significant results. The initial pool must be large enough to allow for rejection and drop-outs, while still assuring ample participants for the trial. Unfortunately, difficulty in recruiting sufficient potential participants is often cited as a primary reason for the failure of clinical trials.

Competition for candidates to participate in trials can be intense, particularly in the case of pharmaceutical products which could result in billions of dollars of revenue to the company which can first verify the accuracy of its product claims. Some of the obstacles to enrolling candidates include limited awareness of clinical trials, failure to win over the primary care provider, concerns about deviating from standard care protocols, suspicions regarding the research process, and practical or personal obstacles.

A two-pronged marketing and communication plan to physicians and patients must be in place to attract recruits, resolve these concerns, motivate them to enroll, and encourage them to stay with the trial until its conclusion. With the advancement of ever-sophisticated communication opportunities, today’s online marketing techniques can help clinical trial recruiters achieve their goals.

Today’s patient is more involved in the decision-making process regarding his or her care choices. Instead of relying solely on a physician’s advice and direction, patients and their care givers are searching online for solutions to their problems. Maintaining a strong online presence through the use of paid advertising and search engine optimization that includes use of targeted keywords in advertisements, websites, blogs and social media communications will increase the likelihood of the target demographic learning about a potential study which may be of value. Once this attention is garnered, the potential participant must be directed to a website that is full of information and reasons to participate. Those that do not choose to participate immediately should be enrolled in a process that sends a steady stream of reminders and participation benefits.

On the other hand, an ongoing stream of information will also need to be presented to the primary physicians. Once participants are interested, they may go to their primary physician for input and approval. If physicians are not aware of the clinical trial or its benefits, the patient may be advised against participation. Doctors need to have access to reliable, unbiased information about the clinical trial so they will be more likely to grant approval. Educational microsites about the trial, online videos, and interactive blogs may all help to provide the necessary comfort level.

Once sufficient volunteers are enrolled and the trial has begun, it is important to continue the communications process so participants remain motivated to continue to the end of the study. This increases the potential for usable data. These volunteers can participate in blogs, or receive social media updates reminding them of important trial deadlines. The new age of communication can be a harbinger of success for a new age of clinical trial recruitment.

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How to Generate Content for Healthcare Marketing

How to Generate Content for Healthcare Marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

Your healthcare marketing is in a state of transition – from yesterday’s “outbound” methods (direct mail, display ads, Yellow Pages) to today’s inbound marketing strategies designed to align with the web-surfing habits of your current and prospective patients.

At the heart of inbound marketing is content: those blogs, white papers, videos and articles that attract attention and build credibility.Producing that great content (and avoiding the pitfalls) is a process that demands attention and detail. But that same content is now what people expect, and search for, online.

First things first

Before you craft your first blog or roll the camera on your first video, discover who your audience is and what they want to know.

Creating customer (or, in this case, patient) personas is the recognized tactic for inbound marketing. Personas are carefully compiled profiles of your target audience. They’re based on research, not guesswork, and doing it right can be a challenge. Start by getting all of these details recorded into documents that you will likely fine tune, add to and adjust according to the changes taking place in your business over time.  Understanding exactly who you want your marketing content to resonate with, "speak to", with your online content is an absolute necessity but taking the time to develop rock solid persona information is the most often skipped step of businesses when they set out to create their online presence.  In turn, this is often why they aren't seeing any notable, measurable results from their online efforts.

Each completed persona (and you can have more than one; in fact, as a medical or dental practice, you may have many) will look like a mini-biography of a typical patient: age, income, habits, health concerns, even what social networks they frequent.

Armed with this background information, you can begin to design healthcare marketing content that appeals specifically to this target audience.

Let the content generation begin!

Healthcare marketing is a short description with a large meaning – anything from “building your brand” to providing ongoing support for patients and your community. But ultimately, this online strategy works to get you discovered online – no small claim, considering the many other healthcare providers competing for the same audience. And to get there, you need great content that builds your credibility and earns you better page ranks from Google.

Ask your patients

Who better to direct your content creation than those who will benefit from it?  Talk to patients (and vendors, associates and peers) about what health topics resonate with them. Chances are you’ll find a pattern – if your target audience is Baby Boomers, for example, you’ll likely find more interest in helpful content for their age group. If your targets work in small businesses or are entrepreneurs, they may want advice on the Affordable Care Act. And don’t underestimate the audience for self-help. “As healthcare shifts to a prevention model,” notes Franklin Street’s 2013 Healthcare Marketing Trends Report, “marketers have an opportunity to use social media to empower patients by helping them help themselves.”

Tap into high-quality vendors

Don't sweat the technical stuff. Content creation is more than just writing a blog. You’ll need an editorial calendar; talented writers, graphic artists and videographers; what search engine optimization (SEO) works best for your needs; a Facebook presence and a clear direction in what kind of content is best suited to drive your target audience to your website’s landing pages which is where visitors can become converted into qualified leads ready for further nurtruing and follow-up toward becoming patients.

Most companies don’t have the time or manpower to commit to the dozens of smaller tasks involved in running an effective online marketing system and turn to inbound marketing professionals who makes it their business to orchestrate the generation of content, understand the big-picture strategy that's crucial to actually having results and are equipped to measure the effectiveness of a comprehensive online presence. By tapping your in-house expertise to provide the actual "voice" of your practice, the mechanics of getting it all out there online can be efficiently managed by an outsource partner working with your in-house staff. The people who work all around you on a day to day basis are often the best source of your healthcare marketing content and best able to contribute the personal touch needed to speak directly to the people most likely to want to become your patients. From nurse practitioners to billing specialists, each one has an area of expertise that can make for a high-value blog or video. The mechanics of preparing and delivering the content online can then be managed by outsource partners of your choosing if you aren't equipped to take care of it with internal resources.

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Doctors should text. Here's how.

Doctors should text. Here's how. | Social Media and Healthcare |

The media noted a trend of doctors connecting with patients through social media and texting as early as 2012. Doctors can respond to simple questions their patients send via email or text, and even analyze images of a surgical site in the healing process that a patient sends.

Connecting with patients virtually has lots of benefits: less travel time for patients, reduced costs, a more consistent relationship with a primary care provider even at considerable distance.

But even though we are now well into 2014, there are still no official guidelines or rules from a medical communications institution detailing how doctors should go about texting with patients. As with many other areas of medicine, a lack of guidelines leads to confusion and underuse of texting, especially among older doctors who earned their degrees before so many technological options were available.

The American Medical Association acknowledges benefits in using social media, but also warns doctors to protect patient privacy and “maintain appropriate boundaries” with patients. Doctors report being unsure how to phrase their messages and how to modulate their tones.

Texting well requires technique

Texting has its own language and style, and length restrictions come into play as well, which can add to the confusion. What might have been a five-minute conversation in the office needs to be distilled down into a line or two via text.

This is a new phenomenon and there’s no roadmap, but a few best practices have emerged. Patient surveys have helped. A new online survey designed to gauge patient preferences has yet to be published but was presented at the mHealth Summit in Washington D.C. in December.

Frederick Muench, a clinical psychologist at Columbia University Medical Center, designed the survey and directed another study in a similar vein earlier this year.

Both batches of results indicated that 98 percent of patients were potentially interested in using text messaging as a part of their continuing care strategy.

Saving everyone time

This type of “telemedicine” is increasingly popular, and could not only help patients connect to doctors quicker, but could save the healthcare system money in the long run by preventing unnecessary doctor’s visits; if a question can be answered in a one line text without a face to face meeting, so much the better.

“These tools are embedded in my work day,” said Natasha Burgert, a pediatrician in Kansas City. “This is something I do in between checkups. It’s much easier for me to shoot you an email and show you a blog post than it is to phone you back. That’s what old-school physicians are going to be doing, spending an hour at the end of the day” returning patients’ phone calls, she said.

As for best practices, here’s what else Muench found:

1. Patients prefer statements, not questions.

2. Complete sentences are best.

3. They generally don’t like for doctors to use “text-ese,” like “LOL” or “wat.”

4. Surprisingly, they do like positive emoticons.

5. Also, make sure grammar is correct.

Some of these may seem counterintuitive, like no to texting lingo but yes to emotes, but one central message does emerge. Texting is a casual form of communication, but the patient-provider relationship is still professional. Condensing but preserving what you would tell them in a face-to-face meeting should honor the subject matter.

Hope's curator insight, July 8, 2014 10:33 PM

Hope Williams Insight:

Clunn, Nick. "Doctors should text. Here's how." (2014).page. Print

In this article it explains that having to conversation through a text instead of coming to the doctors would be more convenient for people. Survey proved that patients would like to text about questions that may concern them instead of coming in- wasting gas or the doctors time. This method would save so much time for the doctors as well as the patients. This method haven't been in use, but is soon to be in effect real soon. Doctors also agreed that texting instead of setting up appointments that's only at least 5 to 10 minutes would save huge time. This method was also presented to Washington D.C. in December. Texting questions or sending pictures would save the hassle and confusion. Also connecting with patients virtually is wonderful with all the benefits that comes along with it.

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Now is the Time for Pharma to Get on Board the Social Media Bandwagon

Now is the Time for Pharma to Get on Board the Social Media Bandwagon | Social Media and Healthcare |

In today’s digital world, social media has become an important part of an integrated communications strategy. When utilized to its full potential, this powerful communications channel fosters meaningful two-way discussion between a company and its stakeholders. Most industries have climbed on board the social media bandwagon, however the pharmaceutical industry has been slower to make the investment in this area.

According to a new report from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, just half of the world’s top 50 pharmaceutical companies participate in social media and the vast majority of those use it primarily as a one-way channel to reach patients, with limited interaction or fostering of discussion.

One of the factors commonly cited as a deterrent to pharma more fully embracing social media is a lack of regulatory guidance. Indeed, the industry had been waiting for the FDA to set the tone for several years. However, that wait is now over. In January, the FDA released draft guidance that provides direction on the promotional usage of social media.

Although these guidelines are not overly surprising – for instance, a company is responsible for content on their own digital platforms as well as any third-party site where they exercise editorial influence – they do serve as ground rules for marketers who have been sitting on the social media sidelines.

When properly utilized, social media can drive patient engagement, adherence and, hopefully, enhance care. It can also help pharmaceutical manufacturers introduce an interactive, transparent channel for patient assistance and shape the way they position their products in the market. Companies that are not fully participating in social media are missing an opportunity to engage with their patients, better understand their journey, and ultimately develop stronger relationships.

Final guidance from the FDA is expected this summer and will likely extend to the medical device and diagnostic industries. With more patients turning to social media as a forum for procuring health-related information, the pharmaceutical industry must recognize the potential and importance of contributing to the healthcare conversation.

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Social Media and Cancer Patients

Social Media and Cancer Patients | Social Media and Healthcare |

New research and treatment has made many cancers that were previously terminal now chronic. Patients live with the condition and daily go about their lives. But often, they do have to manage their cancer and often they worry about reoccurrence, side effects from medication and progression of the disease.

The chronic patient is often “forgotten”.  They are under treatment, doing (fairly) well, and doctors and the media are focusing on the more urgent issue of treating the acute or advanced cancer patient.

Chronic cancer patients want to know and understand their disease.  They would like a cure and they seek out the newest and latest information online looking for answers on treatment options, and how to best live with their disease.

Where can chronic cancer patients go for help online?

There are numerous sites for help with living with chronic cancer.  Many are disease-specific, offering news about new treatments or research.  There are several good video channels that offer interviews with cancer specialists about treatments, clinical trials or other information on specific cancers.  There are patient support networks and numerous Facebook pages that offer patients the opportunity to connect with other patients and post discussions about all aspects of their disease.  

There is an overwhelming amount of information online and often, it is difficult to sift through all of it.  

I have listed a few of these sites below.  In no way is this a comprehensive list, but I have asked several cancer patients and opinion leaders for their input and have added their thoughts to the list.

Resources for Chronic Cancer Patients

CLL Global

Patient Power


Oncology Tube

National CML Society

Patients Against Lymphoma

CLL Topics

Institute for Myeloma and Bone Cancer Research

The Myeloma Crowd 

International Myeloma Foundation

Facebook groups

Essential Thrombocythemia

Myeloproliferative Neoplasms

Polycythemia Vera & Budd-chiari Syndrome Awareness

 MPN Forum

Myeloproliferative Neoplasms     


Patient Opinion Leaders and Advocates

Another great way to obtain information on chronic cancers is to follow patient opinion leaders (POLs) on social media channels.  These patients have been living with their specific cancer (or cancers) for some time and have spoken about their experience (often publically), written books and articles about it, formed groups or even organizations or companies around chronic cancer.  They have Facebook pages, tweetchats, blogs, video programs and websites.  They organize patient meetings, interviews with physician specialists and events around their illness.  They have the experience and know-how to conduct excellent informational programs for other patients; they are a wonderful source of information.

Andrew Schorr, @Andrew Schorr, founder of PatientPower and author of the Web Savvy Patient has been in remission from Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia since 2001.  In 2012, he was diagnosed with a second cancer, myelofibrosis.  Andrew now leads a normal life, thanks to a new targeted oral therapy.  He has been a leader in patient education since 1984 and is considered to be one of the most respected and reputable Patient Opinion Leaders.

When I asked Andrew why he did what he did, he responded,

“I feel a responsibility to try to help other patients do better because of something I’ve learned through my experience. While others might wish to protect their privacy I “go public” with the hope to ease the journey of other cancer patients like myself. It helps me feel I am doing something significant and helps all of us know we are not alone, but rather a real community."

Patient Advocates also help other patients by coaching them through living well and coping with their disease.  They use social media to spread the word about their illness and educate patients around the world. 


I also spoke with Cindy Chmielewski, @MyelomaTeacher, a former elementary school teacher and a multiple myeloma patient that is now a patient advocate for the disease.  Cindy is on the Board of Directors of the Philadelphia Multiple Myeloma Support where she is in charge of the Patient Education Library and Patient Advocacy. – She speaks at support groups, tweets about myeloma, and participates in several online support communities.

When asked why she did what she did, Cindy answered, 

“Everyone needs a purpose in life.  Being a teacher for 28 years before my medical retirement I knew my purpose in life was to be a facilitator of information. When I regained my strength after my Stem Cell Transplant opportunities began to fall into my lap. I had some very good mentors when I was newly diagnosed. I am very grateful that I able to pay it forward. Sharing what I learn gives my cancer experience a purpose. Using social media allows me to reach a larger audience.  I am still a teacher, but now I teach a new subject with different students. We are all in this together and we can gain strength from one another. My life once again has meaning”. 

The Power of Social Media

Social media has drastically changed the idea of patient empowerment. Patients all over the world can connect, educate themselves and their family members, network, and instruct and educate others. And they are doing just that. The day of the passive patient is over: Welcome, empowered patient!

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Can Social Media Help Prevent and Manage Chronic Disease?

Can Social Media Help Prevent and Manage Chronic Disease? | Social Media and Healthcare |

A new eHealth Initiative (eHI) report makes a pretty amazing claim: social media can help prevent and manage chronic disease. How? By promoting healthy habits, says a Fierce Healthcare article about combating chronic disease with social media.

The eHI report (“A Report on the Use of Social Media to Prevent Behavioral Risk Factors Associated with Chronic Disease”) finds that “social media can reduce the burden of chronic disease on the U.S. health system by providing real-time access to care, information and support that empowers patients to achieve personal health goals, correct high-risk behavior and better manage chronic conditions.” That sounds like win-win: a benefit for payers/providers, as well as patients.

So how does it work? In addition to providing a means for targeting health information to specific populations, eHI says social media can

“make information about a chronic condition or treatment more personable and timely;”
“provide a new channel for peer-to-peer communication among health care consumers, caregivers and family members;”
facilitate “meaningful relationships that can provide support and motivation to cope with chronic conditions;”
“establish communities … with shared experiences to combat isolation, fear and stigma;” and
“engage and empower people to be accountable and achieve their goals.”
Among the types of social tools identified by eHI as having specific utility in managing health were message boards, Internet support groups, blogs and social games/challenges. In addition to the major social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, eHI also noted online patient communities with social networking components (like HealingWell and SmartPatients).

However, it’s not only the social in social media that makes it effective: the content itself (the media), as shared online, is also critical to communication trends in the health care industry. As stated in the report, “The amount of information that is available for health consumers is growing exponentially at a time when direct face-to-face communication with providers is decreasing due to financial pressures. Social media can increase the reach of information in a scalable, low-cost fashion.”

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How To Make Healthcare Social | Likeable Media

How To Make Healthcare Social | Likeable Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

The Final Frontier

It was inevitable.

Since the birth of social media, healthcare CMOs have known that they would eventually have to leave the comfort and safety of their rigid, regulated channels and enter the “Wild West” of public networks.

Social networks are the primary way we communicate today. Consumer brands learned long ago the value of building social communities and providing custom, shareable content with fans. Some brands got there early, others later in the game, but all now realize the power of conversation and direct communication with consumers.

A few years ago, healthcare and big pharmaceutical brands wouldn’t dare dream of joining the social conversation. Mired in regulatory mandates, fearful of litigation—not to mention the omnipresence of the FDA—healthcare brands playing in social media was a no-go. But all that is changing, much to the benefit of the brands, as well as consumers.

Times They Are A-Changin’

Facebook is ten years old. It has grown from its humble beginnings to become a culture-shifting powerhouse. It has continued to evolve, along with its users, and has proven itself a legitimate media channel to initially compete with—and eventually overtake—traditional channels like broadcast and print. Brands saw its potential, and now it’s impossible to imagine a brand without a Facebook presence and social media strategy. That’s a lot of change to absorb in under ten years, especially for traditional marketers in healthcare.

Being swept along by this crushing wave of change, the FDA recently posted guidelines for pharma brands in their use of social media. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it is enough for even the most conservative healthcare CMOs to consider dipping their toes into social.

Guiding the Conversation

For all the bad press and image issues that Big Pharma faces, there are countless men and women at these companies who genuinely care about their consumers and take pride in making products that can save lives. Social provides an opportunity to reveal the stories behind the folks who are doing the heavy lifting.

On the flipside, we know that whether healthcare companies like it or not, there are already thousands of conversations about them happening on social networks. Many healthcare professionals have aggressively adopted social platforms and are talking about their brand right now. This is all the more reason to jump in and help preserve the integrity of these brands by shepherding those conversations back to approved dialog and building a culture of approachability.

The best marketers have learned that by being responsive to–and engaging with–fans, they are more likely to create loyal defenders of the brand, who will in turn be more likely to influence their networks.

Lifestyle Support > Customer Support

Consumers follow brands in social because they are fans of the products and love using them. Pharma is a different animal in that most consumers are not using the products by choice, but out of prescribed need. It’s important to understand the difference and how it affects social strategy.

Many healthcare brands make the mistake of treating social platforms as an extension of their customer support policy. While there will always be a need for a customer support protocol online, another approach is to create a “lifestyle support” policy. Consumers don’t want constant reminders of their health condition. Creating an environment that supports lifestyle instead of disease progress can be very effective in building a strong relationship with consumers, while veering away from brand-specific topics that can get marketers in hot water with the FDA.

Timely Content and Regulatory Review

How does a healthcare brand keep its messaging relevant in the “here today, gone today” world of social networking? Preparation.

Establish a rhythm with regulatory to approve content well in advance. Create approved, evergreen content that can be available to populate your social feed while simultaneously awaiting approval on timely content. A combination of cleverly planned content and strong community management can keep your brand fresh and relevant in the ever-changing world of social communication.

Create Social Media Guidelines and Training

Just like any other channel of healthcare communication, social requires guidelines for answering customer queries, establishing a tone of voice, and building protocols for customer support. It also protects your brand from potential internal security and privacy issues. Once rules are established, training should be provided to Community Managers to ensure that they understand how to react and respond appropriately to consumers.

Find The Right Team

Of course, none of this works without finding the right people to execute your plan.

At Likeable, we’ve recently established Likeable Health, a division of healthcare experts who understand how to successfully manage and grow regulated communities. Identifying professionals who can empathize with your consumers and navigate your brand’s regulatory process is key to making the transition to social networks a smooth and successful process.

Start Small, Think BIG

Once you’ve decided to start communicating with consumers, you don’t have to do everything at once. Start with small content plays and consumer interactions, with an eye on your brand’s future goals. As you build a rhythm with your fans and your approval process, you can test out more valuable media opportunities that can benefit both parties. Get the small stuff right and build on your success.

With the right guidelines, preparation, and support team, healthcare brands can build and manage more effective–and more likeable–social communities.

What healthcare brands are executing social well?  Share with us in the comments!

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Getting More Mileage from Your MedTech Marketing Event with Twitter

Getting More Mileage from Your MedTech Marketing Event with Twitter | Social Media and Healthcare |

Live events are a great way to garner attention for your company and to build your credibility and demonstrate your expertise to your target market. That’s true whether you’re hosting the event or contributing an expert speaker to an outside event or simply exhibiting. The audience at a live event is by nature limited, but strategic use of social media channels before, during and after the event can expand your reach and extend the value of the event in terms of showcasing the expertise of your company leadership. While there are a variety of ways to promote your events and speakers through social media, creating Twitter buzz during the event is one of the simplest and most effective. 

Make sure you monitor your Twitter account and the hashtag you’ve created for your event from the time you announce the event, so that you can promptly answer questions, respond to related Tweets and keep your prospective attendees, speakers and influencers engaged. And, don’t limit the buzz to your corporate account: encourage employees, organizers and speakers to talk about the event in social media, as well.

Priming Twitter Before Your MedTech Marketing Conference

If you’re hosting the event, attach a hashtag to it early. Make it short but distinctive; you want the hashtag to bring your event to mind, but you also don’t want to eat into the available characters any more than is necessary to effectively tag your event.

Use Twitter to promote attendance at your event, talk up your speakers and build interest. Whenever you Tweet about the event, use both your event hashtag and hashtags relevant to your subject matter. In these pre-event Tweets, offer date, time and location information and make it easy to find additional information about the event. 

Check out this example from The American College of Cardiology. Not only have they created a Twitter profile just for their annual meeting, they've been promoting this meeting since before the 2013 meeting. Brands would do well to incorporate a few takaways from the ACC Twitter account. 

MedTech Social Media On the Day of the Event 

On the day of the event, use Twitter to welcome attendees and remind those out in the larger world that the event is taking place. Ask those discussing the event to use the hashtag and let them know what’s ahead. 

During the event, it’s important to have a dedicated person monitoring Tweets. This person, using the company Twitter account, should:

  • Answer questions from attendees and interested parties not at the event;
  • Retweet selected Tweets from attendees and influencers;
  • Engage those participating in the event via Twitter with thanks, comments and other activity;
  • Keep followers up to date with Tweets like, “Five minutes until John Jones’s presentation on the State of Nanotechnology in Medicine”
  • Build excitement with quotes, interesting stats and general tone. 

Depending on the investment you’re willing to make, you can increase the effectiveness of event-related Tweets by creating a Custom Timeline to showcase the Tweets you find most relevant, most engaging or most supportive of the message you want to send.

Here's a Tweet from ACC on the day of their 2013 event. 


MedTech Social Networking: Twitter Engagement Doesn’t End with Your Event

When a live event ends, your teams typically shift into follow-up mode, reaching out to prospects and potential partners they connected with during the event. Don’t forget about your new Twitter contacts when you begin that process. Attendees who didn’t talk with you personally during the event may well have engaged with you on Twitter, and your Twitter feed will also include a number of people who didn’t attend the event, but who engaged with you in some way. These new Twitter contacts may include prospects, past customers you may be able to win back, influencers and potential referral sources. In the life sciences industry, this might mean physicians, medical administrators, researchers, medical journalists and others. 

Don’t neglect them just because you didn’t connect in the flesh. An added bonus: following up with a Twitter contact is quick and easy, as is touching base again in the coming days and weeks.

Effective use of your company’s Twitter account and your social media connections can significantly expand the reach of your life event, in terms of both prospects reached and duration of the impact. Don’t short-change your efforts by cutting corners on this simple boost. Charge someone on your marketing or public relations team with creating a buzz on Twitter before the event and sustaining it right through the follow-up phase.

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Social Media Helps Patients Find a Community

Social Media Helps Patients Find a Community | Social Media and Healthcare |

The popularity of social sites offering support for people with medical conditions has exploded in recent years, especially as more people seek health information on their mobile phones.

For years, the chatty among us have relished the chance to swap stories in doctor's office waiting rooms. Hearing about the experiences of those with similar ailments has always offered affirmation and valuable information.

Now, virtual waiting rooms have sprung up all over the internet. For millions of Americans with health issues, feelings of isolation have gone the way of the mercury thermometer. Social media pages hosted by patient advocacy groups, medical facilities, and health sites like offer information on everything from a mysterious rash to multiple sclerosis.

Ariana Medina of Peekskill, N.Y. studies psychology and also suffers from mental illness. She embraces social media and participates on Healthline's Help For Depression page on Facebook.

For Medina, such online communities are much more rewarding than simply coming home from a doctor's visit with a pamphlet. “Now, we have choices—read the article or watch the video or check out the pictograph,” she said. “Not only are [patients] able to get health information, they are also able to gain support due to social media and not feel so isolated in their illness, which is an amazing stride, especially for people who have mental illnesses, an invisible illness with so much stigma wrapped around it.”

Medina is one of 250,000 fans of Healthline's 11 Facebook pages. Healthline's most popular condition-specific pages are for multiple sclerosisCrohn's diseasebipolar disorderosteoarthritisrheumatoid arthritis, and HIV/AIDS.

Slideshow: Depression Medications and Side Effects »

Facebook Is Not a Doctor Substitute

Medina cautions that patients should always check with a doctor when seeking health advice. She said the Help For Depression page, like many other online forums, is “often loaded with horror stories of side effects” from visitors who are not medical professionals.

Kevin Vicker, who handles social media for the National Stroke Association (NSA), told Healthline that the importance of drawing a line between medical advice and non-clinical information and support is an issue on their Facebook page as well.

“Sometimes we have people that ask, either openly or directed at our page through a private message, that they're experiencing such and such symptoms, and they ask if it's a stroke,” he said. “We don't give medical advice, but we drop a link to stroke warning signs that tells them if they're experiencing stroke symptoms to call 911 immediately.”

One symptom of stroke is a sudden severe headache with no known cause, he said. “But how often do we get headaches? How do we distinguish between a migraine and a stroke? We're not in the business of diagnosing, but we can get people connected with doctors,” Vicker said.

Saving a Friend's Life

Susan Grupe Wahlmann is one of the NSA page's 43,000 fans. The Illinois woman suffered a stroke two years ago, and she had her husband share the terrifying experience on Facebook from the moment it happened.

She told Healthline that she learned from a blood test that her stroke had been caused by taking a form of birth control that led to excess blood clotting. She shared that information on Facebook as soon as she learned it.

After Wahlmann's post, a friend of hers taking the same contraceptive got checked by a doctor and learned that she also had a blood clot, Wahlmann said. “We all can get help through social media, I love it. I am so grateful for the Facebook pages. Things would be so different had this happened 20 years ago,” she said.

Fans of Healthline's Facebook pages say the medium offers them validation and hope for a cure. Hearing about the suffering of others often puts their own illnesses into perspective. Plus, news about medical breakthroughs and new research keeps them at the forefront of managing their conditions.

Slideshow: What are the Warning Signs of Stroke? »

The Numbers Tell the Story

The impact of social media on healthcare is staggering, especially among young patients ages 18 to 24. Ninety percent of them say they trust the health information they receive through social media, according to Search Engine Watch.

More than 40 percent of people also said they would consider information obtained on social media when choosing a doctor, hospital, or other medical facility, according to Demi & Cooper Advertising DC Interactive Group.

One out of five smartphone owners has a health app on their device, and almost half of the unique visitors to access the site via their mobile phones.

As for sharing, 30 percent of adults said they would post information about their health on social media for other patients to view, Fluency Media reports. Almost half said they would share it with a doctor.

Opening Doors For the Isolated

Lenora Houseworth manages social media pages for the Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America (CCFA). She told Healthline that social media engagement for her organization has grown 200 percent in the past three years. 

Houseworth said people who suffer from gastrointestinal illnesses not only face embarrassment, but often isolation and skepticism.

“They don't necessarily look sick, but inside, they feel awful. Often times social media has become the only touch point that patients have for medical information. A lot of these people live in boondocks USA, or they're overseas, and don't have access to premier GI doctors.”

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Social Media Healing

Social Media Healing | Social Media and Healthcare |

As I’m about to blog on Social Media Healing, it’s ironic that my recent medical thriller, SECRET THOUGHTS, deals with abuses of digital medicine. But an amazing transformation has overtaken modern medicine, a social media revolution so profound it affects everyone’s physical and spiritual wellbeing. The first revolution is the “Media” part. Online health zines, podcasts, forums, interactive medical databases, music, movies, Youtube, Facebook, twitter, instagram, and like media are being utilized by medical providers and patients to spread interest, information, and treatment options. Doctor and patient communication via email and text messages is increasing exponentially. The Internet, once a repository of medical misinformation, is now the go-to place for answers to health questions.

As a physician, social media has become a place for sharing information between specialties, following medical research, and discovering new treatments. There are few procedures for which I cannot pull up multiple instructional videos on my ipad from reputable institutions for rapid learning or review. RSS feeds and email alerts bring the latest breakthroughs or warnings almost instantly. If I’m seeking a second opinion or coordinating care with another specialist, I’ll often do it by text or email.

But the most astounding advance in social media healing has been the “social” part in areas like virtual support groups, public health drives, disaster relief efforts, and spiritual enhancement. Check out the recent music video produced in my own neighborhood by Seattle’s Children’s Hospital, where pediatric cancer patients and staff sing Kelly Clarkson’s hit song “Stronger.” Also watch as Deb and crew dance to the Beyoncé hit “Get Me Bodied” before Deb’s double mastectomy. The uplifting message of hope, life, and tireless determination is palpable in these videos. They are a prime example of the power of social media healing.

- See more at:

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Healthcare Content Marketing The Right Way

Healthcare Content Marketing The Right Way | Social Media and Healthcare |

‘Tis the season for stuffy noses, scratchy throats and aching heads. Every time I feel the slightest bit off, I panic—what if it’s the flu? —and turn to my personal healthcare professional: Google. Though my favorite search engine can’t prescribe antibiotics, it can open my eyes to what might be the problem, how it can be treated and where I should go. But a sick patient isn’t the only one in search of information.

Members of the healthcare industry who have taken advantage of content marketing know there are numerous topics to tackle besides a fever, such as illness prevention and medical research. As it shows in this article from 2013, your content efforts also provide an opportunity to reach out to your community and increase brand awareness. recently posted the “Top 50 Most Social Media Friendly Hospitals in 2013,” and I wanted to highlight a few of the top, in my opinion, content creators in the healthcare industry that made the list:

1. Mayo Clinic -

Search for an illness and you’re likely to see the Mayo Clinic in your results. This organization has done a fantastic job utilizing the expert advice and information from its doctors and researchers and creating an online resource for medicine. This content not only informs readers but also solidifies the Mayo Clinic as a leader in medical research.

2. Greenville Hospital System -

GHS goes beyond the basics one expects to find—locations, department listings, contact information—to provide visitors a peek inside the hospital’s inner workings. Each department provides detailed information about services and procedures, helping fill patients with trust in their doctors as they learn more about the services they need. The hospital’s blog also features profiles and articles that are relevant to the community, providing the GHS brand a face and a voice.

3. Spectrum Health -

I landed on this health system while researching corporate social responsibility programs and was impressed by their YouTube channel. The hospital offers a variety of videos from every department containing patient testimonies, staff interviews, discussions of medical research and informational shorts. This visual content effort does a fantastic job of inspiring conversation about the hospital’s efforts and building brand identity.

Content marketing for the healthcare industry is a fantastic way of reaching the general public before illness brings them to your doorstep. Are you a healthcare professional? If so, how is your organization using content marketing?

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How To Prevent Social Media Complaints: The Customer-Centric Solution

How To Prevent Social Media Complaints: The Customer-Centric Solution | Social Media and Healthcare |

What’s the best way to make sure your customers never trash you on Yelp, Tripadvisor, or any other review site?

The answer’s simple, of course:

Never make a mistake.

Well, good luck with that one.  I’d say the more realistic way to avoid ever being torched online is more like the following:



Being there.

Be there when the customer needs you.

Be there when the customer first starts to feel misunderstood–before things get out of hand and onto the social media airwaves

Eliminating the need for nasty social feedback

One of the first secrets in dealing with social media feedback, in other words, is to reduce the need for it by making sure your customers know how–as directly as possible–to reach you,

Customers needs every possible opportunity to tell you to your face (or on the phone, or to your direct email inbox) how they’re feeling. And they need to be able to see that you care, are listening, will consider their opinion.

Make sure they have these opportunities to reach you, and your customers won’t –by and large–take their gripes and furies to Yelp for the world to see.  (Or if they do, they’ll do it in a more moderated, considered–and considerate–way.)

The approach that works — for surgeons and for food truckers

This, of course, is only a general rule. It doesn’t come with a money-back guarantee of perfect results. But it does, by and large work — whether you’re a surgeon or operate a food truck.

Sure, doing the surgery right is, at least to my mind, much more important. Yet studies show that malpractice charges can be more reliably tracked back to doctors acting schmucky than to doctors whose medical skills are sucky.

The parable of the unzipped fly

All of this is what I’ve luridly termed “the parable of the unzipped fly”:

Think about it this way:

© Micah Solomon – micah@micahsolomon

If your friend saw you had your fly undone, or spinach between your front teeth, would he tweet about it?

Of course not. He’d quietly tell you. (And if nobody tells you all day when you’re fly’s unzipped, it’s proof positive that you have no friends!)

Use the same principle to your advantage here. Why should customers address issues to you indirectly via Twitter or their blogs when they can use email, the phone, or a feedback form on your website and know that it will be answered—immediately? (Have ‘‘chime in’’ forms everywhere; it’s like building escape valves for steam into your machinery.)

With their round-the-clock access to the ‘‘airwaves,’’ make sure that the first impulse of customers is to reach you—day or night.

And when they do, listen. And make sure they know you’re listening

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Data analysis allows researchers to predict disease outbreaks

Data analysis allows researchers to predict disease outbreaks | Social Media and Healthcare |

Researchers tracking social media and Web searches have detected outbreaks of the flu and rare diseases in Latin America by up to two weeks before they were reported by local news media or government health agencies, a U.S. intelligence official told USA TODAY.

Working at a series of universities and companies around the country, the researchers are part of a program led by the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Agency (IARPA) that is aimed at anticipating critical societal events, such as disease outbreaks, violent uprisings or economic crises before they appear in the news.

"The goal is to use publicly available information to predict events, such as political violence, disease outbreaks and economic crises," said Jason Matheny, program manager of IARPA's Open Source Indicators program. "We're using leading indicators like social media, Web search trends, Wikipedia in order to identify the events. We're looking at flu outbreaks or other signs of unrest in a population."

IARPA's goal, Matheny said, is to inform U.S. policymakers about major events early enough to make more of a difference. Too often, he said, public announcements of disease outbreaks come too late. Intelligence analysts with access to a system able to eliminate the clutter that's common in open source data may be able to get a jump on disease outbreaks or other problems.

For example, analysts monitoring Web searches for information in a given country about the symptoms of a disease such as cholera might determine that residents of that country are experiencing an outbreak. Taken alone, that may not mean much, but when combined with data such as canceled restaurant reservations on sites like Open Table, the data may signal a larger health emergency.

"The early information is critical in detecting the problem and getting people treatment," Matheny said. "One of the goals of this is provide that kind of early warning system. It can protect U.S. citizens abroad or enable the government to issue travel advisories about certain places."

While Matheny would not disclose the cost of the program, officials at Virginia Tech, which is part of the research team, said it was part of a three-year, $13.36 million program. Matheny said the research has another year left. Other participants, IARPA documents show, are the University of Maryland, Cornell University, Harvard Medical School, San Diego State University and CACI and Basis Technology, two military contractors.

Last week, IARPA issued a request for information looking for potential researchers to help code the torrent of societal events they collect as part of the open source indicators program.

All of the information analyzed by the IARPA researchers is open source, which means it is publicly available and not classified. Although the intelligence community's image is of clandestine operatives working in dangerous locations, open source information is a growing part of what analysts use to paint a more accurate picture of what is happening around the world.

IARPA is the intelligence community's version of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which performs much of the military's research into technology to make better weapons or improve medical treatments. The agency says it "invests in high-risk, high-payoff research programs that have the potential to provide the United States with an overwhelming intelligence advantage over future adversaries" and reports to the director of National Intelligence.

Despite its early success in anticipating events, Matheny said, IARPA is concerned about what it calls "model drift," in which a system designed to track data in one location might provide incorrect information about another country. In late January, IARPA issued a request for research proposals to stop model drift.

"The model drift is to protect us from having a program become outdated," Matheny said. "Say you had a model that allowed you to track disease outbreaks that was designed and used in 2014. But now it's 2016. How confident can you be that it works as it was designed to? That's a problem with model drift."

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Crowdsourcing as the next health care solution

Crowdsourcing as the next health care solution | Social Media and Healthcare |

It seems that health care is always changing. In addition to a new health care platform in America, many people are also shifting the way they obtain medical advice.

Thanks to technology, crowdsourcing is now a popular option. Crowdsourcing means outsourcing an inquiry to an online community — in the case of health care, an inquiry would go to medical professionals.

"Groups hold far more knowledge collectively than any individual member, no matter how brilliant. With hundreds of minds working in parallel, groups can process information much faster," said Jared Heyman, CEO of CrowdMed. The website's Medical Detectives are physicians, medical students, health care professionals and regular people with expertise on a particular condition.

The service lets people who have typically spent thousands of dollars and seen numerous physicians who have yet to find a diagnosis get second opinions and information.

CrowdMed says it's not designed to replace doctors, however. It's merely a platform for people to get a second opinion or confirm their doctor's diagnosis. Patients don't pay doctors or other Medical Detectives on the website to resolve their matter, but many do reward the person who solve their cases — it's an incentive those who provide guidance. Users pay for each case that they post on CrowdMed if they offer a cash reward.

"Crowdsourcing health care cannot substitute doctors, but it can provide a valuable alternative source of information for those struggling with their health," Heyman said.

How crowdsourcing your health care works

After several dozen Medical Detectives offer feedback on a case, CrowdMed aggregates that information into a final report for the patient. Next, the patient can bring that report to their physician. Once that consultation is complete, the patient can report back on the website with the best answers they received. Medical Detectives who supported the best diagnostic and solution suggestions then split 90 percent of the Cash Reward that the patient offered, and the website takes a 10 percent commission., another crowdsourcing website, offers another model — this one isn't for providing a diagnosis but instead gathers data using social networks. Users can track conditions, compare symptoms and look at viruses in a specific region. It's commonly used for more than 25 common conditions such as allergies and strep throat.Google Flu Trends is similar, monitoring flu activity based on user input.

PatientsLikeMe is another website that lets patients with particular diseases and conditions share and compare data. It pulls in revenue by selling user-reported data to partners such as drug companies. The platform also has its Open Research Exchange, which lets researchers conduct surveys based on data from community members. Webicina integrates social media for physicians to communicate, and it also lets patients find information on specific conditions via social networks such as Twitter along with podcasts. Other crowdsourcing innovations collect data from patient devices, so it goes beyond listing symptoms and providing real-life data.

The crowdsourcing idea is trickling down to medical schools as many are integrating it into their curriculum. The platform lets students solve challenges with real information instead of textbook cases, offering a new way to learn and collaborate with colleagues.

The privacy issue

Privacy regulations such as HIPAA don't apply to CrowdMed because the data is all patient-provided and patients consent to putting their information into the public domain.

"Everything that a patient submits online is made anonymous with an alias, and that patient only provides as much information about their case as they want to," Heyman said.

As for other crowdsourcing hubs, privacy is probably on the minds of everyone, which is why certain policies and practices are in place. Other initiatives are underway to explore ways to keep patient data protected.

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5 Easy SEO Tips: Local Means Right Now and Right Here

5 Easy SEO Tips: Local Means Right Now and Right Here | Social Media and Healthcare |

he Internet has injected contemporary culture with a sense of immediacy. We’ve been spoiled—or at least trained to expect—instant online answers. Search for “dentist” and Google coughs up over 37-million results in less than half a second.

The online search for healthcare—be it a hospital, dental office, medical group, or specialty care—must, for most individuals, also include proximity. We all want to find a solution quickly, and for our greater convenience, we want it to be an immediately available local provider.

There are a few exceptions, but the vast majority of prospective patients are searching online for healthcare resources that are close to where they live or work. Yet many excellent practice websites overlook the power tuning into local Search Engine Optimization (SEO). And without a strong local web listing, you might as well not exist. Patient and provider never meet.

Here are five easy and effective ways to assure that your website is highly visible to the local audience that is most likely to need your services.

List with the locals: Each of the major search engines has a local platform for business. Easily done, but often neglected. It takes only a few minutes to claim your local profile with the big guys; Google + Business, Bing PlacesYahoo! Local and Yelp. There’s a verification process to assure the listing is truly local, but the price is right…these services are free.

Keywords that localize: Drill down on the terms that define your service area. In addition to the name of the city, include the name of the suburb, the neighborhood, important local landmarks, and even commonly used colloquial reference points.

Spice up your ABOUT US or CONTACT US pages: Individual names, locations, descriptions are thought to be important with search algorithms. Have a separate page for individual providers or key individuals and, where appropriate, describe their local interests, activities and civic involvement.

Spell out directions and location details: Check your website for frequent and prominent use local phone numbers in HTML text. Include map locations, directions and hours of operation. A local phone number (vs. an 800 number) helps localize. Include your address and phone number on all site pages. Include localized pictures and captions when appropriate.

Update, refresh and refine regularly: Search Engines that find an unchanging website consider it to be static or stale, and thus less important (and lower ranking) than others. From time to time, add new, high quality content such as articles or blog posts. When appropriate, present a local angle or relationship to the material.

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How Social Media Can Make Healthcare Better

How Social Media Can Make Healthcare Better | Social Media and Healthcare |

Do you want your practice or hospital to grow? Are you, as a physician, eager to improve the care you provide to your patients? Are you a medical researcher who wants to share what you’ve learned, while at the same time learn from others like you? Social media is a big answer to all of these questions.

As social media plays a bigger role for people in all walks of life, the medical community has slowly started leveraging its power. Even though social media’s use in healthcare is in its beginning stages, several success stories have risen from these early efforts to significantly influence the way medicine is practiced around the world.

The weekly #HCLDR Twitter chat moderated by Lisa Fields and Colin Hung is a clear example. #HCLDR brings together healthcare leaders from across the globe every week to discuss topics that impact every facet of healthcare, from the patient experience to public health education. The chats frequently draw participants who offer their experiences in what is a truly transformative attempt to push forward the way medical professionals do what they do.

Similarly, the #FOAMed movement aims to grant researchers, students, and physicians more free and open access to medical education resources. Participants and supporters worldwide share their research findings and resources in a social “library” of medical information. The movement’s goal is to leverage the power of social media in sharing medical knowledge and improving the way healthcare is practiced.

Social media isn’t just used in educational efforts, though. Hospitals, practices and physicians are also using social platforms to reach out to current and future patients, share information, respond to concerns and present themselves in a more relatable manner. By using social media, medical professionals have been empowered to move toward more patient-centric models of treatment by simultaneously making themselves available to patients and gaining insight into patients’ needs. Social media has, in effect, enabled doctors and patients to communicate outside of the clinic setting.

The rise of social media in the healthcare industry has created a space to share educational resources, have support groups and give feedback unlike any communication channels that have existed before. At Social Factor, we understand the power of social media in healthcare and work closely with our clients to leverage it to meet their goals.

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Social media should be embraced by health care

Social media should be embraced by health care | Social Media and Healthcare |

The intersection of social media and privacy has made an older generation, and even some of my own generation, incredibly uncomfortable. There is talk of present and future consequences. Lost jobs, lost income, civil judgments, loss of respect/embarrassment, even criminal penalties for all that you put online. There is an idea that the blurring of intimate boundaries will come back and bite a whole generation.

Being online has responsibilities and consequences, no doubt. But Facebook isn’t going to cost most people a future job or a future election. The social rules are, as we speak, changing in terms of how we judge people for their private lives that they make public. The whole world is using social media and putting themselves out there. Tough to judge someone for your same acts.

That said, if there’s one place there is legitimate consternation over social media it is in health care.

Because those involved in health care and social media have the often near unique opportunities to not only dismiss their own privacy online but to do so for others. Horrific stories are rife. Take this one for example,

William Wells arrived at the emergency room at St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach on April 9 mortally wounded. The 60-year-old had been stabbed more than a dozen times by a fellow nursing home resident, his throat slashed so savagely he was almost decapitated.

Instead of focusing on treating him, an employee said, St. Mary nurses and other hospital staff did the unthinkable: They snapped photos of the dying man and posted them on Facebook.

It is unfortunate if such scares providers and health systems away from social media like blogs, Facebook and Twitter.

As Ed Bennett comments,

“We already have guidelines; social media is simply another form of communication. It’s no different from e-mail or talking to someone in an elevator,” Bennett said. “The safe advice is to assume anything you put out on a social media site has the potential to be public.”

It’s a form of communication with the potential, as all others, to be abused. But more importantly, it has great potential to further provider-patient discourse and aid in health.

No patient privacy protections will ever be perfect. No patient-provider communication rules will ever absolutely guarantee professionalism and accurate information at all times. But guidelines and rules can limit such problems while furthering patient’s access. That holds no matter the medium.

The proliferation of easy mass communication tools should be embraced by health care, not cowered from. As always there are appropriate and inappropriate uses which health care providers should be counseled on and which should carry rewards and penalties. But just because social media is new shouldn’t make it scary.

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What's News in Healthcare Social Media - Feb 12 2014 - YouTube

This week we're doing something a little different. Todd is out of town and so I invited +Kathleen Poulos  to join me and offer her marketing perspective. I'...
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A draft FDA Guidance for Social Media in Medical Marketing

A draft FDA Guidance for Social Media in Medical Marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

The FDA has finally released its draft “Guidance for Industry Fulfilling Regulatory Requirements for Postmarketing Submissions of Interactive Promotional Media for Prescription Human and Animal Drugs and Biologics.”

It describes the FDA’s current thinking about how manufacturers, packers, and distributors should act – for their FDA-approved products – with regards to the use of modern social media tools and technologies that often allow for real-time communications and interactions (e.g., blogs, microblogs, social networking sites, online communities, and live podcasts).

It only covers drugs and biologics at this stage; medical devices firms need to stay attentive to the pulse of the industry, implementing whatever is appropriate.

To date, pharmaceutical companies were hesitant to engage in social media because of the undefined boundaries of responsibility and accountability. The good news is that this guidance only holds them responsible for the content that they create or influence. This is however not limited to the material prepared and promoted by the pharma company on its own, but extends to companies operating on its behalf. Accountability is determined according to the level of influence or control over the promotional activity or communication.

All materials used for promoting a product on sites that the medical company owns or influences are to be submitted to the FDA, even in instances in which the influence is limited in scope, such as in cases where it collaborates with publishers on editorials, previews, …

If a company only provides financial support and has no influence on the site, then it has no obligation to submit the contents of the site. Additionally, if it is merely providing promotional materials to a third-party site but does not direct the placement of the promotion within the site and has no other control or influence, the firm is responsible only for the content it places there and, thus, for submitting only the latter to the FDA.

A company is responsible for the content generated or provided by its employees or any agent acting on its behalf. This includes a medical science liaison or paid speaker (e.g. a key opinion leader), as well as their comments on a third-party site about the firm’s product, and for the content on a blogger’s site if the blogger is acting on behalf of the firm.

This guidance extends offline regulations to the interactive healthcare social media environment. While in the past, it was the marketing communications department that had the monopoly over the company’s marketing materials, now, each employee – or individual even partially sponsored by the company – is potentially a creator and distributor of promotional content. This is obviously more difficult for the medical firm to control.

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How to boost your practice through social media

How to boost your practice through social media | Social Media and Healthcare |

For ODs who run their own practices, investing a little time and effort on social media can boost business.

In addition to using social media as a marketing tool, doctors can use these networks to connect with patients when appropriate, reach out to the local community and build relationships with other professionals in the field.

Social media in practice

"While not everyone is active on social media, it appears to be turning into the best and most inexpensive way to advertise and reach patients and potential patients," says Barbara L. Horn, O.D., member of the AOA Board of Trustees.

The numbers back up Dr. Horn's advice. A Pew Research Center study found that 73 percent of adults who use the Internet are using social networking sites, with 71 percent using Facebook and 18 percent using Twitter.

In addition, a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers' Health Research Institute found that patients—and consumers—are interested in using social media for health-related communications.

According to PwC's research, 41 percent of respondents would choose a specific health facility or doctor based on information they found via social media. And 69 percent would value discounts or coupons for service offered through social media.

Dr. Horn, who currently focuses on Facebook, uses her practice's page to promote upcoming events and specials, highlight awards and community efforts, and showcase employees.

Guidance for practicing ODs

Mediabistro, a leader in media industry research, found that 82 percent of small businesses use Facebook, 73 percent use YouTube and 47 percent use Twitter and LinkedIn.

With this rise in popularity, many medical associations have created social media guidelines and policies. The AOA's Ethics & Values Committee (EVC) has done so for practicing optometrists.

Morris Berman, O.D., M.S., Chair of the EVC, is well aware of the benefits of social media.

"Utilizing and embracing social media is no less critical than our past experiences with incorporating computers in the office," Dr. Berman says. "Social media offers important marketing opportunities for our practices and facilitates communication with the public and our patients."

The EVC's recommendations, outlined in "Guidelines for the Appropriate Use of Social Media Networking (SNS) and Internet-based Capabilities (IBC) in Optometric Practice," call attention to the importance of the doctor-patient relationship and patient privacy.

"While social media provide many benefits, professionals must recognize that limitations exist, including legal and ethical violations that can occur through these open-exchange mechanisms," Dr. Berman says.

Dr. Berman believes social media will continue to expand and affect every part of our lives. Doctors hoping to be a part of that trend should seek out experienced and knowledgeable individuals to help them.

"Ask all the right questions regarding goals and objectives, implementation, best practices, costs, as well as avoiding some of the risks involved with the utilization of various forms of social media," Dr. Berman says.

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Social Media: A Review and Tutorial of Applications in Medicine and Health Care

Social Media: A Review and Tutorial of Applications in Medicine and Health Care | Social Media and Healthcare |

Background: Social media are dynamic and interactive computer-mediated communication tools that have high penetration rates in the general population in high-income and middle-income countries. However, in medicine and health care, a large number of stakeholders (eg, clinicians, administrators, professional colleges, academic institutions, ministries of health, among others) are unaware of social media’s relevance, potential applications in their day-to-day activities, as well as the inherent risks and how these may be attenuated and mitigated.

Objective: We conducted a narrative review with the aim to present case studies that illustrate how, where, and why social media are being used in the medical and health care sectors.
Methods: Using a critical-interpretivist framework, we used qualitative methods to synthesize the impact and illustrate, explain, and provide contextual knowledge of the applications and potential implementations of social media in medicine and health care. Both traditional (eg, peer-reviewed) and nontraditional (eg, policies, case studies, and social media content) sources were used, in addition to an environmental scan (using Google and Bing Web searches) of resources.

Results: We reviewed, evaluated, and synthesized 76 articles, 44 websites, and 11 policies/reports. Results and case studies are presented according to 10 different categories of social media: (1) blogs (eg, WordPress), (2) microblogs (eg, Twitter), (3) social networking sites (eg, Facebook), (4) professional networking sites (eg, LinkedIn, Sermo), (5) thematic networking sites (eg, 23andMe), (6) wikis (eg, Wikipedia), (7) mashups (eg, HealthMap), (8) collaborative filtering sites (eg, Digg), (9) media sharing sites (eg, YouTube, Slideshare), and others (eg, SecondLife). Four recommendations are provided and explained for stakeholders wishing to engage with social media while attenuating risk: (1) maintain professionalism at all times, (2) be authentic, have fun, and do not be afraid, (3) ask for help, and (4) focus, grab attention, and engage.
Conclusions: The role of social media in the medical and health care sectors is far reaching, and many questions in terms of governance, ethics, professionalism, privacy, confidentiality, and information quality remain unanswered. By following the guidelines presented, professionals have a starting point to engage with social media in a safe and ethical manner. Future research will be required to understand the synergies between social media and evidence-based practice, as well as develop institutional policies that benefit patients, clinicians, public health practitioners, and industry alike.

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Using Search Marketing to Protect Your Online Reputation

Using Search Marketing to Protect Your Online Reputation | Social Media and Healthcare |

With more and more people accessing the internet, online reputation management is becoming increasingly crucial. Many businesses may not be aware that you can use your SEO marketing efforts to control youronline reputation and ensure positive search results around your individual as well as company name.

Here are some effective ways you can combine your SEO and ORM efforts to protect and preserve your online reputation.

As a first step, you will have to improve your rankings in search results of all major search engines.

One of the assured ways to better your search results is to create links back to what is already enjoying high ranking. When you search for your individual or company name you will see a bunch of articles ranked high. It should be your endeavor to start building more links to these articles.

You must use social media networks to dominate main page rankings. Most of the social network platforms are extremely powerful and they generally rank very well in the search results. Make sure you set up a social media account for your company or brand. Also be sure to connect all of the pages with your other social networking pages.

Create a blog and Web site for your brand. This is a fabulous way to create and spread awareness of your brand and to improve your online reputation. Make sure you have a full web site and blog for your company regardless of its size. By having both of these you will be able to rank much higher in the search results.

Besides, with your own web site and blog you will be able to keep your existing and prospective customers updated about your company development.

While it is true that you may not be able to delete damaging content from the Internet, there is every chance that you can minimize its impact using simple SEO techniques.

Type your names in all major search engines to know how you fare in search results.  You should set up search alerts for your name.

Make it a practice to periodically post positive content. This way, you can try to minimize the visibility of negative comments in search results. You should proactively publish useful, positive information about yourself or your business.

It is not widely known that many SEO companies offer ORM services. You can certainly hire their expertservices to safeguard your online reputation which is one of your company’s greatest assets.

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