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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Does age affect doctors’ adoption of technology?

Does age affect doctors’ adoption of technology? | Social Media and Healthcare |

I love the dialogue happening today on Susannah Fox‘s blog, where a group of readers ponder whether there’s a generational divide in regards to physicians’ use of digital technology. The post is in part a response to a post from Jay Parkinson, MD, MPH, who argues that technology will lead to massive changes in health care only “when the under-40 generation takes control.”

One physician wrote to Fox that she felt “there was a divide, but it doesn’t seem to pattern itself on gender, or age, or comfort with technology.” She told a story of implementing a secure physician/ patient e-mail system and being surprised when some of the “young, online natives” – those she thought would full embrace the program – had issues with it.

Another reader agreed, saying he believed it’s “not just a technology and/or age issue but a mindset issue. I’ve encountered a number of MDs who are very authoritative in their interactions with patients. I believe new technologies – especially those with a significant social component – can be seen as a challenge to authority.”

And speaking of social, a pediatrician wondered about the connection between his patients and his social-media activities. He’s fairly active on Twitter, he said, but most of his followers are other doctors and those in health care. “The overwhelming majority of health-care is still done in a face-to-face setting and I feel it will continue to be so for a while to come,” he wrote. “So, how does what I do in the on-line world actually benefit my patients? Do they actually see what I do online as having benefit for them?”

A commenter named Erin expressed her desire for evidence on such patient benefits:

I believe that docs who engage with patients outside of the traditional clinical space are showing their willingness to collaborate and learn things together. If there was data to show some sort of relationship between [social media] doc usage and patient involvement/ adherence/compliance whatever, more clinicians might be willing to embrace the idea, regardless of age, seeing the value of its use.

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The Socio-Digital Doctor

The Socio-Digital Doctor | Social Media and Healthcare |

I come across many people using the terms social and digital interchangeably. Some doctors are digitally savvy. Yet that does not mean that they are practiced communications experts, or that they have the skills to make the most of today’s digital social tools. I thought this might be a good opportunity to open up this discussion.

As physicians, we were among the first professionals to adopt smartphones and iPads into our workflow – and healthcare leads the way in proliferating new, innovative apps. From diagnostics to practice management, healthcare technology is giving digital doctors the chance to make their workflow more productive and efficient.

However, while social media has become ubiquitous in countless professions, many digital doctors are only “social” when it comes to physician-to-physician social media. The real promise, in my opinion, is using digital technology to improve physician-to-patient communications.

Don’t get me wrong: Using social media to advance industry knowledge or to grow a professional network is very important. But the incredible scope of insights, knowledge, and understanding we can get from patients, patient support groups, and individuals who are seeking health information online is something we shouldn’t pass up.

There is also much more patients can learn from us, their trusted advisors. Being a social doctor means you are interested in collaborating, sharing information, and lending your expertise, be it clinical knowledge or your ability to facilitate patient-to-patient connections and even physician referrals. When we draw on not just social media but also other digital tools to do this, we start to translate what it means to be a doctor in the online world. We go socio-digital, if you will.

These are the challenges for the 21st century physician: Bringing what we do to where our patients increasingly are – online. How do you use digital tools for effective social communications with peers, and with patients?

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An Exploratory Infodemiology Study on Electronic Word of Mouth on #Twitter About Physical Activity in the US

An Exploratory Infodemiology Study on Electronic Word of Mouth on #Twitter About Physical Activity in the US | Social Media and Healthcare |

Twitter is a widely used social medium. However, its application in promoting health behaviors is understudied.

In order to provide insights into designing health marketing interventions to promote physical activity on Twitter, this exploratory infodemiology study applied both social cognitive theory and the path model of online word of mouth to examine the distribution of different electronic word of mouth (eWOM) characteristics among personal tweets about physical activity in the United States.

This study used 113 keywords to retrieve 1 million public tweets about physical activity in the United States posted between January 1 and March 31, 2011. A total of 30,000 tweets were randomly selected and sorted based on numbers generated by a random number generator. Two coders scanned the first 16,100 tweets and yielded 4672 (29.02%) tweets that they both agreed to be about physical activity and were from personal accounts. Finally, 1500 tweets were randomly selected from the 4672 tweets (32.11%) for further coding. After intercoder reliability scores reached satisfactory levels in the pilot coding (100 tweets separate from the final 1500 tweets), 2 coders coded 750 tweets each. Descriptive analyses, Mann-Whitney U tests, and Fisher exact tests were performed.

Results: Tweets about physical activity were dominated by neutral sentiments (1270/1500, 84.67%). Providing opinions or information regarding physical activity (1464/1500, 97.60%) and chatting about physical activity (1354/1500, 90.27%) were found to be popular on Twitter.

Approximately 60% (905/1500, 60.33%) of the tweets demonstrated users’ past or current participation in physical activity or intentions to participate in physical activity. However, social support about physical activity was provided in less than 10% of the tweets (135/1500, 9.00%). Users with fewer people following their tweets (followers) (P=.02) and with fewer accounts that they followed (followings) (P=.04) were more likely to talk positively about physical activity on Twitter.

People with more followers were more likely to post neutral tweets about physical activity (P=.04). People with more followings were more likely to forward tweets (P=.04). People with larger differences between number of followers and followings were more likely to mention companionship support for physical activity on Twitter (P=.04).

Conclusions: Future health marketing interventions promoting physical activity should segment Twitter users based on their number of followers, followings, and gaps between the number of followers and followings.

The innovative application of both marketing and public health theory to examine tweets about physical activity could be extended to other infodemiology or infoveillance studies on other health behaviors (eg, vaccinations).

more at

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Hospitals, late to social media, begin to connect with patients online

Hospitals, late to social media, begin to connect with patients online | Social Media and Healthcare |

Health care organizations are late adopters of social media; as recently as 2009, a Brooklyn-based physician told the magazine Health Affairs that the medical profession "is fundamentally flawed relative to how today's world communicates and functions. ... It needs to be Facebook-ed (and) wiki-ed."

But now providers have joined the hospitality, entertainment and retail industries in using Facebook, along with Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and more to connect with their customers.

The goal of social media efforts is "to engage our community members in meaningful, two-way conversations and in doing so build brand awareness and customer loyalty," said Jenn Dearborn, Web manager for Concord Hospital in New Hampshire. She handles the hospital's social media content and strategy and the hospital's internal and external websites.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, also in New Hampshire, has had a full-time social media coordinator for the past year.

"It's hard work. This person is supposed to gauge the landscape, taking in, monitoring, listening to the conversation and looking beyond what people are saying on our pages to what people are saying about other providers, and what are they saying in the wellness space about how they can stay out of the hospital," said Roddy Young, Dartmouth-Hitchcock's vice president for communications and marketing.

His department is committed to maintaining its presence on social media because that's where people are and it's what they expect, he said.

"The way people consume music, media and movies, how they shop, how they access higher learning, it's all changed in unbelievable ways ... Someone who is 28 and lives life in the digital space, they want their health care experience to conform to the way they interact with other companies. We're trying to do the right thing to serve the wants and needs of the consumer and the demands of the consumer to have it served up at home, in real time, on their time."

For example, just last week, a patient wrote a Facebook post saying her dermatologist is "far from thorough," and asked for a number to call for a second opinion. The page moderator posted back less than 20 minutes later with a phone number for the dermatology department in Lebanon.

Two minutes after that, the patient posted a note of thanks.

Social media interactions aren't always so rosy.

In June, a Facebook user posted about his disappointment that most of the beverage options at the cafeteria are diet products, claiming the diet ingredient aspartame causes cancer and migraines. The next afternoon, the moderator posted a reply from a staff dietician. She noted that the cafeteria stocks naturally sugar-free options, and that the jury's still out on aspartame.

The good news, socially-speaking? Two other posters chimed in and had a conversation about what does and doesn't trigger their migraines.

No organization is going to hear only praise once it connects to the social-media hive, and there's no point trying to sweep digital complaints under the rug, said Brian DeKoning, director of social strategy for digital agency Raka.

"Really, any organization is going to hear complaints, whether they're on social media or not," DeKoning said. "Social media gives an organization an opportunity to respond quickly and be part of the conversation, rather than not know there are negative comments happening. For any organization, it's a benefit to be part of the conversation sooner rather than later."

One of the biggest challenges for health care organizations is the patience it takes to build a following on networks like Twitter.

"We have a lot of savvy people here, but the aggregation, the numbers you'd get in a market like Boston, that just isn't here," said Young. "We post, but we haven't hit resonance, but we're not going to stop."

That's good, DeKoning said.

Twitter, with its 140-character limit on posts, is an especially good way for health care organizations to interact with people, he said.

"It breaks down the barriers their traditional communications have to adhere to. If you've ever read a press release from a hospital, it's very formal and concerned with legality. Usually it's been edited by five different people. Twitter breaks that down and allows people to one-to-one communications, if the organization allows it.

"And the audience is there. Or, the audience will be there sooner or later."

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What's News in Healthcare Social Media

A recent InCrowd survey reported that 59% of those surveyed did not have access to social sites inside their hospitals. Even more telling was how those "not ...
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Take Two Aspirin And Tweet Me In The Morning: How Twitter, Facebook, And Other Social Media Are Reshaping Health Care

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Ten DOs and DON’Ts of Healthcare Social Media Marketing

Ten DOs and DON’Ts of Healthcare Social Media Marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

When it comes to using social media to market to patients, healthcare organizations need to walk a fine line between being accessible and engaging while still retaining professionalism and credibility. With the abundance of available information on how to develop an effective social media marketing strategy, getting your bearings can feel a little overwhelming. That’s why we’re simplifying things today with a clear-cut Do and Do Not list. While each healthcare organization’s marketing strategy is individualized to their particular needs, these hard and fast rules will keep your social media habits in check.  

10 Healthcare Social Media Marketing DOs and DON'Ts
  1. DO take it slow. As tempting as it can be to jump headfirst into developing a presence on numerous social media sites, you want to make sure you take the necessary time to think about the information your healthcare organization is putting out there. It might feel like you’re behind the curve, but don’t worry—there’s time to catch up and you don’t want to rush it.
  2. DON’T be afraid to lurk. One of the best ways to get your feet wet when you’re learning to navigate a new social media site is to observe. Don’t hesitate to click around and see how other healthcare organizations and professionals are establishing their presence. Take notes on what seems to be working and consider how you can apply their social media marketing strategies to your company’s needs.
  3. DO show some personality. Yes, you want to maintain the professionalism of your organization, but you also want to allow your patients to get to know you. This might seem like a bigger challenge for larger healthcare organizations than individual practices, but that makes it even more important. Having a relatable personality that your patients and perspective patients can recognize works to establish trust and loyalty.
  4. DON’T shy away from negative feedback. Though critical comments on your social media pages certainly aren’t ideal, ignoring them—or worse, deleting them—will do more harm than good. Acknowledging and responding to negative feedback shows and commitment to growth and improved service to your patients. However, there’s always a line. If you’re facing an internet “troll” who isn’t bringing anything productive to the conversation, don’t indulge the debate further than a polite initial response.
  5. DO engage with patients and followers. If someone posts on your healthcare organization’s Facebook wall or Tweets a note, do your best to respond, even if it’s just a quick thank you. Obviously this depends on the volume of interactions and how realistic they may or may not be to keep up with, but the more engagement you can bring to your social media presence, the better.
  6. DON’T post personal patient information. Though this should almost go without being said, being mindful of patient privacy is always worth mentioning. Even if a patient initiates the contact and reveals personal information publically, you should direct the conversation away from social media. Provide a phone number or alternate contact means to address their issue. [Related: Develop aSmart Social Media Policy]
  7. DO vary your content. Rather than always just linking to your latest blog post, keep your content fresh and interesting by also posting videos, photographs, and articles of interest. Take care not to fall into the trap of only using social media to promote your own content. Rather than just using your social media marketing to increase traffic to your website, you’re also aiming to forge connections with patients and establish your healthcare organization as a resource. 
  8. DON’T over-post. Maintaining an active presence is important to your social media marketing strategy, but over-posting can be just as big of a turn off to your followers. The best rule of thumb is to post at a frequency that allows you to maintain your purpose. Don’t bombard your followers with unnecessary posts and risk losing their interest. 
  9. DO be flexible. The marketing needs of your healthcare organization will likely change over time, as will your social media marketing strategy. Adapting your strategy over time and learning from what works and what doesn’t is the key to effective marketing. While it’s great to begin your strategy with a clear plan, be flexible when things don’t work as well as you’d like. 
  10. DON’T forget to use social media marketing analytics. Take the guesswork out of it and rely on the numbers to inform the choices you make. Knowing which posts generate the most traffic to your website or lead to the acquisition of more followers is essential to evaluating your marketing process.
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4 Reasons Your Healthcare Brand Needs a Social Media Policy

4 Reasons Your Healthcare Brand Needs a Social Media Policy | Social Media and Healthcare |

Today 31% of healthcare organizations have specific social media guidelines in writing. Regulating and controlling the conversation on social media is an ever-growing responsibility as a brand. The potential for employees to publicly generate stories and conversation about your brand is far more likely, and you have a choice: to either be proactive or reactive. It is your corporate duty to legally set standards on social media.

Social media has led to an increased expectation of transparency in any industry. And for brands in the healthcare industry, it requires treading extremely lightly since the nature of your content is, in general, far more sensitive. Diving head-first into the social space as a health care brand is daunting. It is equally as daunting to consider the extent to which your employees have the ability to share.

Here are four reasons it is essential for your healthcare brand to build an internal social media policy:

1. Enforce Existing Policies: Utilize your social media policy to enforce your previously existing policies. Likely, all are able to cross-integrate. Violations across legal concerns such as privacy, confidentiality, and internet usage at work can all tie directly back to social media usage. Your social media policy can and should be enforced as a separate document, however it should also be aligned with all existing regulations.

2. Educate and Engage Your Employees: As Likeable Media Talent DirectorBrian Murray stated:  ”Society is shifting in its understanding of how to be professional on social media.” It should no longer be frowned upon for your employees to engage with you as a brand. It should be encouraged to join in the conversation, engage on your social networks, and grow social brand advocates. Social media policies do not have to strictly limit; they can also lay out ways in which employees can and should get involved as well! And if your employees are not as knowledgeable in networking, you can leverage your social media policy to educate your employees about your current social media strategy and vision.

3. Regulate Shared Content: Establishing a specific social media policy allows you to regulate the content that is shared. By establishing strict guidelines for anything that is shared regarding the brand, you are able to reprimand for malpractice and ensure that employees understand the consequences associated. Your brand’s credibility, reputation, and image can be drastically harmed by any misleading content shared. Guidelines can also help protect your brand in the future for content that could be stolen and shared later on. Confidentiality should be top of mind for all content regulations set in your social media policy. Not only should you regulate shared content from a brand perspective, you have a responsibility to protect patients and their confidentiality.

4. Consumers Expect Online Thought Leadership: There is a fine line to walk when it comes to building your social media strategy as a healthcare brand. One thing is guaranteed: Consumers today go to social media to gain information, and they expect your thought leadership. 60% of social media users are more likely to trust social media posts and activity by doctors over any other group. Your social media policy should outline requirements for users to specify their affiliation with your brand. In order to facilitate social media users associating your brand as a thought leader, it is important that there is consistency and uniformity. Social media policies can even tier expectations based on position within the company, for example: setting standards for verified doctors’ social media content.

The content and extent of social media policies vary across industry. As a healthcare brand, it is your responsibility to protect the sensitive nature of your company. These four points are just a handful of the many reasons why your brand needs to regulate via social media policies.

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Managing chronic pain through social media

Managing chronic pain through social media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Healthcare systems are facing a number of pressures including increased costs, service demands, chronic diseases, an ageing population and skills shortages. However, increasing use of information and communications technologies is transforming healthcare delivery by changing how information is stored, accessed and shared. This is impacting clinicians and patients alike.

One area of concern is chronic pain management, estimated to cost the Australian economy $34 billion annually. There is a lack of understanding and stigma associated with chronic pain that presents ample opportunity to explore new and unique methods supported by high-speed broadband. This project explores how peer-to-peer networking and social media can be optimised to improve healthcare by empowering chronic pain patients and enhancing self-management.

While the healthcare industry has cautiously begun to embrace social media, the technology has a strong potential to support patient management. A key focus of this research will examine how these platforms are utilised, what information is communicated and whether the information is meaningful in order to inform clinical use of social media for chronic pain management.

Survey: Social Media use by People with Chronic Pain

Mark Merolli's innovative research aims to bring increased rigor to the way in which evidence of improved health outcomes can be achieved using social media in chronic conditions. His literature review on social media use in chronic disease management has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Biomedical Informatics and he will be presenting findings at the Medicine 2.0 Conference in September in London.

As part of this project, he has developed an online survey to better understand how social media is used to manage chronic pain as a result of various chronic diseases. In particular, individual perceptions regarding 'how' different social media influence health outcomes. The survey is explained in the short video below.

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Sermo Poll: Mobile Technology and App Use by Physicians

Sermo Poll:  Mobile Technology and App Use by Physicians | Social Media and Healthcare |
Physicians and technology. A bias persists that doctors don’t use technology enough, particularly social media and apps. Here at Sermo, we see things a little bit differently. While some doctors are reluctant to enter the digital pool, we have found that once they adopt, they adopt enthusiastically.

Our recent polling backs that up. Doctors are open to adopting more technology to manage their practices and they embrace medical reference apps.

The most popular smart phone for physicians is the iPhone according to MedCrunch. A few top apps are listed below and of course, our Sermo physicians are big adopters of our free iConsult app.

Medscape. Used by over 3 million doctors, nurses and medical students worldwide, Medscape is big. You can use it for medical news, clinical reference to things like drugs, diseases, conditions and procedures, and even provides medical education.

EpocratesRx. This app is popular for drug interactions, research, Pill ID and medicine calculators. The lite version is free, but you can purchase the full version for $160.

NeuroMind is a great app for neurologists, neurosurgeons and med students. It provides basic safety checklist requirements via the World Health Organization, and has “interactive clinical decision support.” It is the number one neuro app with over 140,000 downloads.

As a physician, do you use medical reference or other medical apps to help improve patient care for your patients? If you’re an M.D. or a D.O. you can continue the conversation inside Sermo and try out the iConsult app too.
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Social Media and Healthcare - Interview With Dr. Gwenn

Social Media and Healthcare - Interview With Dr. Gwenn | Social Media and Healthcare |

With the emergence of social media as a significant cultural force, many healthcare organisations have tried to leverage this power to help the development of public health. The ways in which this should be implemented has become a contentious issue and one that has divided opinion amongst medical professionals.

To offer an expert insight into this world, we set up a one-off interview with Pediatrician and digital media specialist, Dr. Gwenn who is the CEO of health and communications company, Pediatrics Now. Find out what she had to say:

121doc: Modern life revolves around social media. Can you outline the general benefits of such a sweeping online movement?

Dr.Gwenn: Participation in social media channels like Facebook and Twitter can extend peoples view of self, community and, ultimately, the world. These benefits include:

  • Opportunities for community engagement through raising money for charity and volunteering for local events.
  • Enhancement of individual and collective creativity through sharing
  • Fostering of one’s individual identity and unique social skills
  • Expansion of ideas through collaboration on social media ‘out of class’
  • Wider access to health information

121doc: ...What about the negative effects of social media?

Dr.Gwenn: There are some risks associated with social media including:

  • CyberBullying and Online Harassment
  • Facebook depression
  • Privacy concerns
  • Influence of behavioral ads and demographic-based ads

As emphasized in the American Academy of Pediatrics Social Media Clinical Report. I co-authored in 2011, there are, indeed, positive and negative benefits of social media on our kids’ lives. However, the positives do outweigh the negatives. What parents have to recognize is that social media is a tool. It’s the use of the tool that makes it “positive” or “negative”.

121doc: We all know that visiting your local doctor isn’t a social act especially when compared to occasions like shopping or dining. Considering this, do you think a ‘social media meets health’ mentality might distract from the serious issues that healthcare professionals have to deal with?

Dr.Gwenn: Absolutely not. The impact of social media on a child’s health is significant and serious when issues arise such as cyberbullying and sexting that can lead to issues of depression and suicidality if not dealt with adequately. All of these issues impact a child’s health and need to involve a healthcare professional.

A pediatrician specializes in pediatrics, which is the field of medicine that cares for “children and their diseases” ( Social media may be a tool but it often is a vehicle for facilitating behaviors in others that trigger conditions in children impact their health and well being, such as cyberbullying or sexting causing depression leading to eating disorders or cutting or suicidality. As long as harm can occur to a child, health care professionals must be involved.

121doc: Recent studies have indicated that 60% of adults turned to the World Wide Web to learn about health. Do you have any advice to those people that search on Google to identify their symptoms?

Dr.Gwenn: If people are concerned about their health and symptoms, the best resource is always their healthcare provider. If they are going to go to “Dr. Google”, reading websites written by true experts are the best ways to avoid misleading information.

121doc: Many experts are saying that Google Glass may change the face of Medicine. Do you agree?

Dr.Gwenn: Google Glass is too new to evaluate at this point for any application, including medicine. As we learn more about it and test it in various settings, its uses will become more clear.

121doc: Do you see any problem with healthcare professionals using social media channels like Facebook and twitter?

Dr.Gwenn: There can be issues with healthcare professionals engaging on social media if they do not follow the privacy rules of their country and healthcare institutions. Before engaging on Facebook or Twitter, healthcare professionals should consult with their healthcare organizations to be clear on the rules and understand what is and isn’t allowed.

121doc: Many people here in the UK are not aware of the Web 2.0 movement. Can you briefly outline its goals and how it can help public health?

Today’s web experience is social and interactive. In a nutshell, that’s what “web 2.0” means. It’s the next generation of web experiences from the initial wave of websites we all remember that were very static and non-interactive. Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Pinterest, Google +, Instagram...all Web 2.0. Communities...web 2.0. Basically, all of your experiences today online are web 2.0.

Web 2.0’s usefulness in public health is constantly evolving. With these tools, experts can get information to huge amounts of people very quickly. From the flu season to unexpected health crisis to world events, this is a valuable way to inform the public of important ways to stay health and help each other out. More locally, web 2.0 helps patients reach doctors, doctors reach patients. Patients can have more control over their health records and obtain prescriptions and other important documents needed to care for themselves and their family members more efficiently.

The main areas I see web 2.0 assisting in our lives are with education, information and communication. Sometimes it’s on a massive scale and sometimes a more local scale. All are needed in today’s world but with web 2.0 tools we can be much more targeted and more efficient.

Some insightful answers from Dr. Gwenn here; her expert knowledge has clarified some important principles about how social media can be integrated into healthcare. Her responses have particular resonance with parents who may be a little skeptical about the affect social media is having on their children. Are you worried about your child’s activity on the web? If so, drop us a comment below and we will endeavor to get back to you.

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How Social Media is Changing Health Care?

How Social Media is Changing Health Care? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Online chatrooms and forums have always been a place where people are more open and speak more freely, often sharing intimate information that they’d have a hard time telling a close friend.  Now drug companies and doctors are using social media, blogs and online forums to gather information on patients that they may be reluctant to share with their doctor.

People tend to be more open on the internet because it’s just them and a machine, a sense on anonymity allows them to open up about things they may otherwise hide.  Things like side effects of medications, experiences in a particular doctors office or just talking honestly and openly about their illness.

So companies are now trying to mine this cloud of information to increase patient care and improve patient outcomes. From InformaionWeek:

One of the early market leaders is PatientsLikeMe, which offers an online data-sharing platform for patients with “life-changing” illnesses. About 80,000 people participate in 11 disease communities, including ALS, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression and other mood disorders, epilepsy, fibromyalgia, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, organ transplants, and Parkinson’s.

Obviously, online health forums aren’t new, people have been discussing their illnesses, symptoms and medical conditions since the days of dial-up.  What is new is the ability to track and analyze the information in the interest of patient care.

The future may be even more exciting.  It’s possible to imagine a world where we can track the spread of the flu by patients just posting when and what symptoms they have.  Or your doctor’s office using an electronic health record that uploads medications and side effects automatically.  This information can be quickly analyzed and can alert doctors to changes they may otherwise have missed.

We’re still in the infancy of social media with respect to health care, but the possibilities are endless.

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Social media “likes” healthcare

Social media “likes” healthcare | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media has invaded health care from at least three fronts: innovative startups, patient communities and medical centers. The Health 2.0 movement has nurtured dozens of startups with creative concepts to revolutionize health care: tools from vertical search and social networks to health content aggregators and wellness tools.

Patient communities are flourishing in an environment rich with social networks, both through mainline social communities and condition-specific communities. Meanwhile, hospitals and academic medical centers are diving into the social media mix with more than 300 YouTube channels and 500 Twitter accounts. Hospitals are moving from experimentation (Twittering from the OR to Flipcam videos) to strategic use of social media to enhance brand loyalty and recruit new patients. They are taking on monitoring and monetization of social media.

At the same time, health care organizations find challenges in adopting social media. Hospitals and medical practices are risk adverse and generally cautious about new technology trends without clear value. There are questions about whether social media use by hospital employees is a waste of time, or even worse, or leaking proprietary information. Hospital IT departments are concerned about security risks, such as the use of, which can mask malicious Web sites. Privacy concerns, particularly the vulnerability of social media accounts, are also cited as a reason to avoid social media.

Current Trends in Social Media

Current trends to watch in social media in health care include:

Managing a conversation;
Engaging e-patients;
Convergence with personal health records; and
Social media for providers.

An important distinction in this two-way conversation is between medical advice and medical information. Hospitals and providers need to walk a fine line between giving specific medical advice in the relatively public forums of social media and providing more generalized medical information.

At the same time, there are ways to create a conversation with health care consumers. Sites like have provided this kind of information using medical experts to answer patient-submitted questions in general terms. For instance, promoting wellness is a win-win; medical information relevant to many is provided without specific medical advice for a patient’s medical condition.

The rise of e-Patients creates many opportunities for engagement. E-Patients are defined as those “who are equipped, enabled, empowered and engaged in their health and health care decisions.” E-patients can provide feedback not only on improving hospital Web sites but also as participants in quality improvement within the health system.

PHRs and Online Communities

As the similarities between online patient communities  and PHRs begins to blur, will PHR information from providers be shared with online communities with the appropriate privacy settings so that the user can decide what to share?

Recording one’s medical condition online and abandoning privacy are part of the “Quantified Self” movement.  The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Project Health Design uses the concept of “Observations of Daily Living,” which extends the quantified self to behavioral self-observations. The next step in quantified self is self-monitoring, also known as home monitoring and telemedicine. Being quantified in terms of one’s weight, blood pressure or blood glucose provides another way of self-monitoring and participatory medicine.

Some are predicting that in the near future, multiple monitoring devices will be phased out to give way to connections with smart phones that will record and transmit medical monitoring data directly to a PHR. Innovators, such as Google Health and Microsoft Health Vault, as well as edgy startups, will provide the conduit from smart phones to the cloud.

Social Media for Providers

Finally, a relatively untapped resource is the use of social media among medical professionals. If anything, there have been negative stories about abuses and misuses of social media by health professionals and questions about the ethics of connecting with patients online.

Currently, few health care professionals see the value in social networking with other physicians, or they are not convinced that the benefits are worth the time. Although well over 90% of physicians use the Internet for continuing education, medical reference and e-mail with colleagues and a majority of doctors have a smart phone, taking the leap into online communities is less common.

Perhaps current business models dependent on financial incentives and industry sponsorship in exchange for private data have not engaged physicians. Could a different model that provides privacy and collaboration in the context of a community of similar interests demonstrate value and promote adoption?

Future Evolution of Social Media

Social media is here to stay in health care, but it will evolve quickly. Patient engagement will continue to characterize this change. Organizations will use social media tactically within their overall marketing and communications efforts — videos and mobile technology will likely dominate these approaches.

Online patient communities will expand and will become a rich source of information for others. Physicians and other health care providers will discover social media, which will have the potential of progressing medical research.

There may be regular news reports of privacy violations, dangerous misinformation and fraud promoted via social media, but these reports are not likely to stop a wave of innovation and conversation.

Tina M Carrington's curator insight, June 17, 2015 1:54 PM

I see the innovative startups, patient communities and medical centers are only the beginning of the media invasion of healthcare.  Privacy violations have been happening long before this invasion, so steps need to be taken to ensure patient protection.  

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Bringing Social Media to Medical Education

Bringing Social Media to Medical Education | Social Media and Healthcare |

Providing hard data about the extent of social media use regarding healthcare, Ms. Fox made a strong case for medical professionals to meet their patients where they are. Dr. Pho acknowledged that while there are legitimate professionalism concerns about social media use by physicians, they can be handled, and the benefits that can accrue to patients outweigh the risks. I went home, drafted this blog post and signed up to follow both speakers on Twitter. Then I reflected on my own social media trajectory.

A number of years ago, when my kids were still in high school, I asked if I could “friend” them on Facebook. They looked at me with disdain and didn’t bother to reply. Now mature twenty-somethings, they have allowed me in—admittedly using high-privacy settings so that I can view only certain posts they generate. I think they felt sorry for me, realizing that I was working on a project related to social media and I didn’t know much about it.

The project—“Social Media and Medical Professionalism: Perfect Match or Perfect Storm?”—is supported by a grant from the Institute of Medicine as a Profession and the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation. It developed from the recognition that the emergence of social media has altered every aspect of society, and medicine is no exception. Doctors tweet to get advice about challenging cases. Patients blog about their experiences with illnesses. And medical students…well, we weren’t entirely sure how medical students used social media, although they seemed constantly engaged. We hoped they used social media with appropriate caution.

Social media seemed foreign at first. But as with any complex project, if you break it down into pieces and assemble the right group of bright, hardworking people, you can make progress quickly. Our seasoned steering committee of medical educators and social media experts consists of Marti Grayson, Felise Milan, Patrick Herron, Dan Myers, Mimi McEvoy, Jacki Weingarten, Chris Coyle, Paul Moniz and David Flores.

The first task was to educate our faculty in order to bridge the “digital divide,” wherein the students knew more than their teachers. Building on a successful 2012 faculty event called Davidoff Education Day that featured social media experts Katherine Chretien and Kent Bottles, we held several more educational events.

In September 2012, we hosted David Stern, M.D., an expert in medical professionalism from Mount Sinai, and Allison H. Fine, an author, speaker and blogger on social media issues. They joined members of Einstein’s faculty to talk about professionalism in the connected age and how best to teach medical students about social media. A workshop focused on challenging patient scenarios involving social media followed the lectures. This workshop was presented at the International Conference on Communication in Healthcare on September 30 in Montreal.

After hearing concerns about how social media use could adversely affect a physician’s professional image, we wanted to learn how it could be used in positive ways. So on June 14 this year, Farris Timimi, M.D., medical director of the Mayo Center for Social Media, traveled to Einstein to talk about how healthcare providers can use social media to engage professionally and effectively with patients online in a session called “Health Care Social Media in the Digital Era.”

As our faculty members ramp up their social media expertise, we have begun to conduct some interesting research about how we—as well as our students—use social media at Einstein. We presented preliminary results at the Research in Medical Education (RIME) meeting in Philadelphia on November 4. We have also introduced social media into the curriculum of three of our preclinical courses. As we enter the second year of the grant, we look forward to engaging our third-year students in a project to determine how our own Bronx patient population uses social media.

The goal is to create additional channels for meaningful connections between doctor and patient and to develop and share content that will improve the patient’s health—a lofty aim, but one that we eagerly aspire to reach.

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Hospital CIOs Turn To Social Media

Hospital CIOs Turn To Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

The College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME), representing hospital CIOs, is trying to position its members as leaders in IT implementation and knowledge sharing at the state level by incorporating more social media into a redesigned website. At its annual Fall CIO Forum last week in San Antonio, CHIME unveiled an updated CHIME CIO State Network, StateNet, now with social networking as a focal point.

StateNet is intended to be a communications platform rather than just a repository of information, featuring integration with popular social media tools, including Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, according to Jeffery Smith, CHIME's assistant director of advocacy. "What I call it is an engagement platform," said Smith, who was hired in March to evaluate and improve the site.

"The tagline is, it's a network of networks," Smith told InformationWeek Healthcare. StateNet will now incorporate widgets from other social and professional networking sites and include blogs and discussion forums, convened and moderated by CHIME members serving as state coordinators.

State coordinators are acting as conveners for other stakeholders in health IT, including state hospital associations, government entities, and state chapters of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS).

Coordinators will have specific goals and objectives for disseminating best practices and advocating on behalf of health IT professionals. "This isn't meant to supplant anything that's going on [elsewhere], but to supplement it," Smith said. However, he added, "We're really making a push to make it a CIO-led effort."

CHIME tested the new site with a soft launch in August. New Jersey was one of the beta testers, led by Neal Ganguly, VP and CIO at Freehold, N.J.-based CentraState. Since then, a number of stakeholders within New Jersey have joined, including the state’s health IT coordinator, Colleen Woods, who was appointed by Gov. Chris Christie. Currently, 16 states have set up their own pages on the revamped StateNet, according to Smith.

The CIO organization created StateNet in 2009 to serve as a hub for health information exchange (HIE)-related activities in each state. Early this year, the organization published a set of guiding principles for HIE and for the federally funded regional extension centers (RECs) created to assist physician practices and small and rural hospitals with adoption of electronic health records.

CHIME has since seen more interest among its membership in influencing the pending rules for Stage 2 of the Meaningful Use electronic health record incentive program, training health information management professionals to alleviate a workforce shortage, and addressing various elements of healthcare reform. Much of the activities have moved from the national level to states and local markets, though.

"The expansion and refinement of health information exchange operations; rollouts of Regional Extension Center service utilization for stage 1 Meaningful Use; and the development of health IT workforce capacity are all areas where states can and should be engaging with 'boots on the ground,'" StateNet chair Russ Branzell, CIO and VP of Poudre Valley Health System in Fort Collins, Colo., wrote on a CHIME blog.

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Ten Reasons to Leverage Social Media to Grow Your Medical Practice

Ten Reasons to Leverage Social Media to Grow Your Medical Practice | Social Media and Healthcare |

1. Social media is here to stay. Studies show that 18 percent of all time spent online is spent on social media; some studies report one in five minutes a day! You need to be there, in front of people, as this is a huge opportunity and the medical field as a whole supports jumping on this form of marketing.

2. New patient acquisition is the biggest hurdle for most clinics. Social media is the most cost-effective and targeted way to reach your prospective patients.

3. Social media helps you build relationships. Whether with current patients and their families or prospective new patients, social media makes it easy to stay in the forefront of their minds, by lending yourself to becoming a resource. Having a large social media base can even help you to assess adding particular services or products.

4. Everyone loves Facebook. A number of reports state that Facebook is the most influential social network with the most diverse user base. Use a personal page to promote your clinic and healthcare providers. Personal pages are more prominent in news feeds and give more opportunity to interact with your fans, i.e. wishing them "Happy Birthday." (It is also important to have a business page (aka a "fan page") for the practice for SEO purposes.)

5. Images of office life are the most important pieces of the social media DISCUSSION. People buy from people, not nameless, faceless, soulless businesses. Posting images and pictures of day-to-day life even on a clinic page is key to building a sense of community around your brand.

6. Social media influences search engine rankings. And having great search engine rankings improves your chances of being found when Betty types into Google "family practice in XYZ city."

7. Social media is the new "search engine." Many people look to social media to find the places and services they are looking for.

8. Social media offers the most highly targeted marketing opportunities. Less than a decade ago, if you wanted customers you might have to advertise on the radio or send out mailers. Today, reaching the specific prospective patient you are looking for is simple. You can drill down and target people down to their age, gender, geography, and interests.

9. Social media gives you more insight into your patients. By seeing which social media outlets are garnering the most "likes" or discussion feedback on healthcare issues (for example, links to important articles on timely material such as the benefits of the flu vaccine) you can get insight into your patients' worlds. Also: You cannot do it all, so once you have this information, pick two to three social media outlets where your ideal patients hang out, and be great at utilizing those.

10. There are people out there to help. For example, our company has a "Teach You to Fish" Program and a "Fish for You" Program to help you develop you social media marketing strategies for your practice.

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Allison Emma Schizkoske's curator insight, December 5, 2013 3:49 PM

I 100% agree with the first point. Social media is here to stay. As well as social media is the new "search engine" People look up products and services on facebook to see what others are saying about them. 

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Getting Started with Social Media in Healthcare

Getting Started with Social Media in Healthcare | Social Media and Healthcare |

In today’s digital world, social media is having a profound effect on the way information is being conveyed and shared within the healthcare industry. More and more breaking news, clinical studies and new industry reports are being shared and tweeted through social media. 

Clinical nursing professionals are signing up, creating accounts, sharing information and increasing their presence across social sites. If you haven’t already joined in the movement, now is the time for you to get involved. Here are some simple tips from Medline on how to get started with social media and become a part of the social conversation.

Create Your Social Persona

If you’re not already using social media, get started by joining some of the more prominently used social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ and LinkedIn. Signing up for these sites is quick, free and requires minimal information. One rule of thumb to remember when creating your account and building your profile is that honesty is the best and most respectable policy. The more real you are with your profile information, bio, etc. the more likely people, brands and organizations will want to follow you.

To Follow or Not to Follow

After you have created your profile, you’ll want to decide who to follow. Think about your interests, websites you enjoy, writers you respect, thought leaders you admire, and seek out their social media accounts and profiles. Once you find those accounts, you can then follow and/or subscribe to their social media profile to receive their latest updates, tweets and posts. 

As you begin to follow more accounts, people and brands, you will eventually find more accounts of interest and slowly build up the number of sites adding information to your social feed.

Search and Research

Each day, every minute, and every second, there are millions of messages being sent out from various social media accounts. Those messages can range from breaking news from the @CDCgov regarding the latest information on influenza, to new blog posts from healthcare bloggers like @MarkGraban. 

You can search and research relevant information related to your interests by using hashtags. Hashtags are keywords that have the hash sign (#) in front of them. For example, if you wanted to see what’s happening in healthcare news, you would search #Healthcare. 

This can be done across almost all social media sites, including Twitter, Facebook and Google+, just to name a few. You can also get more detailed results by using a more specific hashtag such as #InfectionPrevention, which will pull up all specific posts, articles and messages related to infection prevention. Social search is a wonderful tool that can help you find people, businesses, and organizations that fall into your specific interest group.

Share and Retweet

One of the best ways to become more involved with social media is through sharing, retweeting and forwarding information. On Twitter, when you want to share a tweet that you found interesting, you retweet it, meaning you re-send that very same message. 

If you share a message on Facebook or on LinkedIn, you are sharing that post and update with all of those individuals that you are connected to. Most original authors love when you share their content and may even show appreciation for your efforts by thanking you via social media in a tweet or message. 

Also, through sharing and retweeting, those who follow you will appreciate your sharing relevant and useful content they may find interesting as well.

Join the Conversation

It’s important with social media not only to get active, but to be vocal. Consistency is the key to staying engaged. Check your social sites often to engage with other users, comment on interesting posts and share your thoughts on the latest news, updates or findings. 

The more engaged you are as a social media user, the more likely you are to attract and grow your following and increase your social influence. When attending healthcare-related events or tradeshows, find out the hashtag for the event and send out tweets, posts or photos using that hashtag. 

You’ll be amazed by the connections you will make!

These 5 tips are just a starting point. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, do your own research, and read other people’s posts before diving into the deep-end of social media. Everything takes time, and social media is constantly changing with new updates, sites and rollouts every day. 

Start slow, build up momentum and confidence and find what interests you most. The social world is out there just waiting to hear what you have to say.

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2013 Survey of Social Media and Mobile Usage by Healthcare Professionals

Today’s clinicians are taking charge of their careers by honing in on job search sources, increasing the use of social media for finding jobs and networked connections, and optimizing their online footprint. And why not,Social Media Infographic considering that healthcare organizations seeking to hire these professionals are getting savvy in extending their brand messaging and customer experience across a variety of channels, including social media. Social media recruiting initiatives continue to grow, and job seekers are wise to keep up with online networking and job opportunities that may not be available via more traditional methods.

AMN Healthcare’s 2013 Survey of Social Media and Mobile Usage by Healthcare Professionals: Job Search and Career Trends, is a follow-up to two prior surveys in 2010 and 2011. It provides hospitals and other healthcare organizations, along with leaders in the field, with an inside look at clinicians’ job search methods, career development activities and social media practices, as well as how their behaviors have changed over time.

Responses to the 2013 survey indicate that the use of social media for job searching among clinicians and physicians has increased dramatically from the 2010 benchmark levels, while job boards, direct contact with organizations online and referrals remain important. Among other notable trends, Facebook has been upstaged by LinkedIn this year as the main social networking site of choice for job searching among healthcare professionals.
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Understanding the meaningful use of social media by surgeons

This talk was originally delivered on October 1st at the American College of Surgeons annual conference - #ACSCC12 #ps114
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Social Media Ethics: What Private Practice Therapists Need to Know

Social Media Ethics: What Private Practice Therapists Need to Know | Social Media and Healthcare |
Familiarize yourself with social media ethics and use technology intentionally to educate your community and to build your private practice.

The Internet and social media offer social workers and mental health therapists unprecedented opportunities to educate communities, to advocate for disadvantaged populations, to raise awareness about their private practice and professional services, and to establish themselves as experts in their specialty areas. Because people search online for health-related information, developing a strong online presence is increasingly important for social workers in private practice.

One aspect of developing an online presence is through social media. Although social media sites were often originally seen as “kid’s stuff,” that is no longer the case. For the first time in history, more than half of adults in the United States—65 percent—report using social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and others. Even though these numbers are continuing to climb, many social workers seem reluctant to use and embrace social media as a valid professional activity. Fear regarding breaches of client confidentiality, potential dual relationships, and maintaining personal privacy are often cited as reasons for this reluctance.

Professional associations struggle to provide guidelines about how to ethically respond to specific technology issues because technology changes so quickly, says San Francisco psychologist Keely Kolmes, but that doesn’t mean the existing rules don’t apply in the digital realm. Without clear guidelines for social media use, social workers and other mental health professionals are encouraged to engage in ongoing discussions about policy guidelines and to use their own professional judgment in order to apply the current Code of Ethics in the digital world.

Social workers and mental health therapists who blog, post on Facebook, or use Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or any other social media should be deliberate in their behaviors—and mindful of the possible effects their online behavior may have on their clients and their careers. Engaging in meaningful and ethical social media activities can further the advancement of the core social work values: service to people in need, promotion of social justice, affirmation of the dignity and worth of each person, education on the importance of human relationships, demonstration of integrity and trustworthiness in our online behavior, and demonstration of a commitment to professional competence (NASW, 1999).

Here are suggested guidelines to mental health therapists engage in ethical social media use:1) There’s no such thing as absolute privacy or anonymity

Privacy breaches in large corporations or agencies are frequently reported in the news, and they show that no matter how vigilantly you safeguard digital information, leaks can happen. The only way to guarantee your online privacy is to refrain from posting anything online. Because opting out of the digital world is rarely an option, it’s important to be mindful that your online activities, including social media, have the potential to be seen by others.

2) Be intentional in social media use

There are many personal and professional uses for social media. Clarifying your purpose and your goals for engaging in each social networking activity is an important part of ethical social media usage. What is your goal in setting up this account? What kinds of information do you want to share? Who are you trying to reach with this account? Developing a clear rationale and specific goals for engaging in personal and professional social media activities will help guide your efforts. Separate personal and professional social media accounts.

3) Separate personal and professional social media accounts

After you’ve developed a clear intention for your social media usage, create separate personal and professional accounts and profiles. For example, on Facebook, once you set up a personal profile, you can set up a separate professional business page for your private practice. Separating accounts into personal and professional helps protect your personal information and helps establish and strengthen your professional online presence.

4) Stay informed about privacy settings

Familiarize yourself with the privacy settings for each social media account and check frequently for updates. Privacy settings are not static and may change over time. Use the highest level of privacy settings on your personal accounts in order to protect your personal information. For professional accounts, use privacy settings on the lowest level so that more people can find your private practice business information.

5) Be cautious when posting about work on social media

Every social worker has difficult days, but venting on social media is not the best venue for processing challenging work situations. In addition to being cautious about posting about your personal responses to work, never post information about clients, period. The well-being of clients and respect for the therapist–client relationship should guide your social media activities.

6) Develop a social media policy for your practice

Developing a social media policy for your private practice is an excellent way to clarify for yourself and for your clients if and how you will be engaging professionally in social media. Components of a social media policy may include information about friending, following, interaction, business review sites, location-based services, use of search engine, and preferred method of communication (Kolmes, 2010). Social workers need not be reluctant to engage in social media as professionals—as long as they are aware of how to protect their own and their clients’ privacy, to protect the client–therapist relationship, to be intentional in social media activities, and to develop a comprehensive social media policy.

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Survey Finds More Frequent & Sophisticated Use of Social Media in Job Searching by Healthcare Professionals

Survey Finds More Frequent & Sophisticated Use of Social Media in Job Searching by Healthcare Professionals | Social Media and Healthcare |

AMN Healthcare (NYSE: AHS), healthcare's innovator in workforce solutions and staffing services, announced today the results from its third survey of social media and mobile usage by healthcare professionals related to job search and career trends. The results showed that today's clinicians are becoming more discerning in the tools they use to manage their job search as they hone in on the most effective job search sources, increase their use of social media for finding jobs, and optimize their online footprint.

"As healthcare organizations continue to seek the highest quality and most qualified clinicians to meet their permanent or contingent needs, it becomes increasingly more critical to understand how these healthcare professionals are seeking career opportunities," stated Ralph Henderson, President of Healthcare Staffing at AMN Healthcare. "Our research clearly shows that online and social sources continue to grow in popularity, but even more importantly, that clinicians are using a myriad of social channels available to them more strategically than in the past. Innovative digital and social recruitment strategies are needed to reach high-demand healthcare professionals."

The use of social media for job searching has nearly doubled since first measured in 2010 with 42% actively engaged. Healthcare professionals are using social media to:

-- Look at job postings; -- Research companies; and -- Determine whether they know anyone that could assist in their job search.

Additionally, more than twice as many healthcare professionals now receive mobile (text) job alerts than in 2010 (20%), and those who do are reporting success getting interviews and job offers, especially those who have opted-in to receive alerts from recruiters. Healthcare professionals do differ widely in their use of social media and mobile devices though, with physicians ranking least likely to use social media in a job search and pharmacists ranking the most likely.

Overall, healthcare professionals appear to be using significantly fewer resources to look for a job than in prior years, with almost all sources decreasing in the 2013 survey. The most frequently cited sources for job searches were direct contact (62%), online job boards (60%) and referrals (51%). Meanwhile, the three most effective sources (resulted in a new job) were direct contact, referrals and "recruiter found me."

"Increasingly, clinicians are using social media to augment their job search, combining interactive digital sources with direct recruiting contact to change positions and further their careers. As AMN continues to cultivate the largest database of quality clinicians in the U.S., we are employing advanced technology and online recruitment efforts that meet the job search preferences of healthcare professionals today," concluded Mr. Henderson.

Other Key Findings:

-- Approximately 50% of clinicians enhanced their social profile information and about one-third say they have refrained from posting negative content. -- Healthcare professionals said that if they could choose only one general social media site for career purposes, that site would be LinkedIn (58%), Facebook (24%) and Google+ (10%). This represents a significant decline year over year for Facebook as the one site of choice, with an equally significant rise in choosing LinkedIn. -- Clinicians and physicians chose MedScape (39%) as their one favored healthcare-related social media site for career purposes, followed by (10%) and (8%). -- Approximately half of clinicians said they use social media to look for job postings; approximately 40% use it to research a company; one-third use it to see if they know someone that can help in their job search; less than 20% use it to reach a recruiter; and approximately 10% use it to reach out to the HR department.

The full report can be found on the Industry Research page of the AMN Healthcare website, Click here to access the survey directly.

About the AMN 2013 Survey of Social Media and Mobile Usage by Healthcare Professionals

AMN Healthcare's third Survey of Social Media and Mobile Usage provides insight into clinicians' job searching methods and their use of online resources for professional networking and career development. Employers and healthcare leaders can use the results of the survey to gauge the effectiveness of various social media networks and related applications as they develop future plans for recruiting.

The survey was conducted during the spring of 2013. Survey questionnaires were emailed to 87,201 clinicians and 1,902 completed the survey for a response rate of 2.18%. Respondents included registered nurses, allied professionals, physicians, pharmacists, advanced practice professionals, dentists and others.

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Using social media to make sense of health reform

Using social media to make sense of health reform | Social Media and Healthcare |

The Affordable Care Act has been quite a hot topic lately. When visitors hit a site that did not work, they took to social media to speak their minds.

Even with all of the social media and news media coverage, people are still confused! Check out the responses from the general public when Jimmy Kimmel took to the streets in his segment, Obamacare vs. the Affordable Care Act.

Whether it has been out of rage, disgust or confusion, Twitter has been filled with comments surrounding the Affordable Care Act. As the government works on, social media seems like the best place to get help and find health care options. A few days ago, I ran across an infograph with some pretty noteworthy statistics:

• 85 percent of health care companies already engage in some form of social media marketing or plan to do so within the next year.

• 1 out of every 7 physicians contribute content daily to a social media website.

• 41 percent of people said social media would affect their choice of health care provider.

Being that Nashville is on the forefront of the nation's health care and digital industries, I believe these statistics are probably even higher for Tennesseans. Whether you're a provider or a patient, here are a few ways to leverage social media in wake of the changes:

Social media tips for patients

• Make sure you're following the best information. Because there are a lot of people talking about the Affordable Care Act, it can be difficult to navigate through the noise.#GetCovered has become the official hashtag for the health care push, and there are other helpful hashtags to help you find the right information.

• Leverage social media to find a provider that's right for you. Whether it's looking at the reviews of other patients through social media sites or monitoring the response and engagement rate of potential health care providers, there are lots of things you can learn about the quality of a potential provider by doing a little research through social media.

Social media tips for providers

• Share useful information. There are a lot of things that people are still trying to figure out with the Affordable Care Act. The best way to leverage social media is to share helpful information with your existing and potential patients. Share what you know in a simple, straightforward way.

• View social media as a dialogue, not a monologue. Social media isn't just a broadcast tool; it's a place for conversation. If you want to really leverage it, use it to answer questions your patients have. Engage with them. Respond to their tweets or comments. The best way to set yourself apart as a thought-leader on the changes in health care is to proactively answer the questions people are asking.

As patients and providers look ahead to the future of health care, it's important to leverage the tools we have and work together to find the best health care solution for everyone.

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Social media - can it help patient communications

Social media - can it help patient communications | Social Media and Healthcare |

Over the last while, there is an increasing use of social media by healthcare organisations to communicate with patients and families.  I wanted to highlight three separate cases which demonstrate a wide variety of use with practical benefits. The other important trend is the inclusion of assessing the degree of online access a patient has to their information into Government schemes such as in the United States. More about that below.

Turning to our e-advisors

When reviewing different aspects of their services, why not involve your customers in giving feedback -  a recommended approach. With social media, there are more options in addition to the traditional face-to-face customer focus groups. One example is the use of the "virtual advisory council" by Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Children's Hospital in Delaware to provide advice on new patient procedures including appointments scheduling or simplifying patient information leaflets. 

One interesting aspect of this communication by Nemours Children's hospital is that the recruitment for the advisory council is managed by public social media sources such as Twitter, with the actual feedback is managed by a private social network. There are other examples where healthcare organisations use solely public social media - for example, University of Michigan Health System's online engagement with their patients and families comprises up to 35 online surveys a year and the use of a Facebook page to enable a teen council respond to questions.

Given the busy lifestyles of patients and families, using social media makes a lot of sense - a 24/7 service that enables healthcare organisations to widen their net for feedback and comment.  

Tracking what people say
The use of social media to engage directly with patients and families is one online option, but can we track what people are saying about a healthcare organisation in the social media sphere. That's what the 'Insights' - a beta service launched by the NHS - is seeking to achieve by tracking sentiment and online commentary about the NHS and its services. There is also a 'specific' page for Patients and staff which displays information on top complaints and the key customer service question - 'Would you recommend the NHS to others? 

This service is planned to formally launch in November 2013 and in a paper to the NHS England board, Tim Kelsey listed the key objectives behind the service was to provide "...a never before seen view of experiences and views about the NHS from patients, the public and NHS staff...
And what about patient information
Some hospitals and medical practices are starting to put patient information online; either in a view-only mode or to enable patients update their records with any relevant comments. This may not be regarded as traditional social media, but it is an important feature in any online patient engagement. 

One interesting case study in providing online medical information to patients involves Cleveland Clinic and their open medical records policy. For Cleveland Clinic, providing online medical record information to patients was part of a patient engagement strategy which started with services such as online scheduling and patient education. 

Their open medical records policy started with providing lab test results to patients since October 2012 and evolving since then to include viewing and updating doctor's notes. Currently, there are a number of pilots enabling patients to update their records with reported outcomes after the completion of a treatment. 

Measuring Patient Engagement
These three case studies show the evolution of online patient engagement and the role that social media services contribute to this engagement. As a measure of the evolution, healthcare organisations are now assessed on their online patient engagement. 

One example of this is the Patient Engagement Index, which is part of the Meaningful Use assessment in the US as part of the roll-out of Electronic Health Records. Part of the Meaningful Use assessment includes assessing that more than half of patients receive 'timely' summaries of their clinician visits. 

By including online patient information access in the assessments of healthcare organisations, it provides a tangible objective to achieve.

The above examples are just a sample of the progress being made with online medical information access, I would welcome hearing about other examples and online experiences.   
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