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.
Curated by nrip
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How to Use Twitter for Healthcare Effectively (4 Tips)

How to Use Twitter for Healthcare Effectively (4 Tips) | Social Media and Healthcare |

With Twitter going public this year, it has over 100 million daily active users and 231.7 million monthly active users worldwide to date. There are lots of opportunities for conversation on the platform about almost every topic known to man, but where does healthcare fit in on Twitter as an industry?

The very nature of healthcare requires many regulations, which is often a barrier for medical professionals looking to utilize the platform, but it certainly doesn’t merit not using the social media channel to communicate with others. As of today, 31% of health care professionals use social media for professional networking which is only going to grow as one of the many effective uses of Twitter for medical practitioners.

Using Twitter and other social channels is also important to patients, since 41% of people say social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital or medical facility and 30% of adults say they are likely to share information about their health on social media sites with other patients.

Continuing ongoing communication with your audience on Twitter can have long-term benefits for you as a professional and for your healthcare organization, as well as a tangible impact on your patients. This positive impact can occur when the platform is used correctly to develop relationships and spread worthwhile information to your audience of colleagues, experts, patients and industry leaders.

Here’s how you and your organization should be using Twitter for healthcare effectively:


Spread Quality Health Related Information: Both Curated & Original

Twitter allows its users to become a source of knowledge and expertise about certain topics and in this case, you should be tweeting about your healthcare related information. The goals of a medical professional on Twitter are to build a following of other people and organizations that care about your messaging and associate your expertise with your account.

It isn’t the overall number of followers that matter, but the number of your followers who actually care about what you’re tweeting. If you’re a dentist, then tweet content about how to maintain your smile in between visits or if you’re a nutritionist, tweet tips about shopping for and cooking healthy meals. Tweet the expertise that you know well, to give your audience of like-minded individuals the information they’ve come to expect from your account.

54% patients experience 1 or more errors in medication reconciliation at the hospital via @medpagetoday

— Dave Walker (@drwalker_rph) December 13, 2013

The content you’re sharing on Twitter should be both original, as well as the curated content from others. Share your own quick tips, links to your blog posts, news about your industry and more original content that you’ve created based on your expertise. The other content you’re sharing on Twitter should be the relevant content from others in your industry, friends, partners and followers.

Tweeting a healthy balance of your content and the content of others is the best approach to Twitter because no one wants to hear you talk only about yourself in real life and the same goes for your conduct on Twitter. The content you’re sharing from others should always be relevant to the topics you’re typically covering in healthcare professionally on Twitter and occasionally your personal interests as well.

Share the articles of others, retweet the tweets of others in the healthcare industry that you find valuable, comment on the tweets and article links of others in your network and aim to share the quality content you discover on Twitter. This approach helps vary the content you’re sharing with your audience, as well as build a rapport with others in your industry on Twitter.


Use the Right Hashtags for Healthcare

Hashtags on Twitter are often misunderstood by many, resulting in a common misuse of this helpful tool for content discovery. Twitter hashtags for healthcare can be used to help categorize your content on a consistent basis, extend the reach of your tweets with others looking for the type of content you’re tweeting and help expand your audience with like-minded individuals all with the use of # symbol for a word or phrase.

A3 I effusively thank friends who host parties w/ lots of fruits & veggies on the menu. I do the same so people have choices. #HealthTalk

— Lisa Oldson MD (@LisaOldson) December 9, 2013

As a Twitter user, it’s important to use no more than three hashtags per tweet to avoid overusing this helpful technique. The hashtags you’re using should be a combination of hashtags used in your industry by others, as well as a few hashtags created by you specifically to categorize your content.

Some widely used healthcare related hashtags are:


These hashtags should be added to relevant tweets about that subject area, so they appear with other tweets using the hashtags pulled together under one consistent topic. For example, if you wrote a blog post about how you think the healthcare industry can look to improve a patient’s experience in 2014; tweet a link to that blog post using the hashtag #patientexperience to best categorize the post.

When creating original hashtags of your own, keep them very simple and easy to understand. Avoid stringing too many words together, while focusing on the creation oF hashtags that you’ll look to use again in the future as opposed to one-offs that you won’t have use for again.

Negative Consequences of work hour rules? via @nytimes Are Today’s New Surgeons Unprepared? #meded #ptsafety

— Carol DeFilippis (@CarolADeF) December 13, 2013

When it comes to Twitter hashtags in general, stick to using the same 10-15 hashtags overtime to create a consistent flow and organization to all your healthcare content shared on Twitter. After consistently tweeting using certain hashtags, your audience will begin to expect their use from your account and be on the lookout for certain series of content you regularly tweet.

Hashtags used by others can help you find engaging content from others on the topics you’re most interested about, which makes the process of content curation on Twitter much more effective.

For information on the proper usage of Twitter hashtags, view this infographic for more insights on the subject.


Communicate with Others Frequently

By sharing the content of others in your industry on a regular basis you’re communicating with them and building a long lasting rapport. Sharing the content of others on Twitter is one of the most valuable things you can do when interacting on the network, but it doesn’t have to stop there.

When other voices in the healthcare industry are tweeting, it’s important to interact with their tweets by leaving a comment, thanking them for sharing the resources, asking a question, refuting their position constructively and more to drive a more in-depth one on one conversation. It is easier for another medical professional to ignore the fact you’re tweeting their content or retweeting their tweets, but more difficult to ignore a direct mention which is a call for one-to-one conversation.

@SamServ10 Thanks for watching. Agree that change is hard. That’s why we must start now, with patients help @TEDx

— Leana S. Wen MD (@DrLeanaWen) December 12, 2013

Interact with their tweets and ask questions to build an ongoing dialogue with other members of your industry within healthcare. Most importantly, try to take some of these relationships you’re building on Twitter offline into the real world. Invite some of the medical professionals you’re tweeting with the most to meet with you for coffee, have lunch, grab a drink at a bar or even attend a networking event together.

Meeting one of your connections face-to-face helps establish a long-term relationship that may not of been as strong without the in-person meeting. You can continue to maintain your professional relationship overtime with new and existing contacts through Twitter.

Unfortunately, it isn’t possible to meet with all of your followers on Twitter since it’s likely you don’t live in the same physical location. Using Twitter chats is another alternative way to connect with healthcare professionals interested in discussing the industry and other important professional developments.

FDA pays $182,814 for social media monitoring #hcsm #socpharm

— Glen Gilmore #SocBiz (@GlenGilmore) September 30, 2013

A Twitter chat is a live discussion that occurs for a half-hour to an hour at the same time every week, moderated by a host on Twitter and centered on a particular topic in the form of a hashtag allowing anyone that is interested in participating to follow. Twitter chats are wonderful networking opportunities for your specific medical focus since each chat is centered on a specific subject area.

Therefore, when you’re participating in the chat, you’re more likely to be seen by and interact with individuals that share an interest with you as a medical professional. These connections will hopefully lead to more opportunities to connect with others, build thought leadership and build greater visibility for your practice.

Of the thousands of Twitter chats happening on Twitter everyday, here are some healthcare chats to consider checking out:

1) #MDChat — Tuesday 9 p.m. ET

Moderator: Phil Baumann via @MD_Chat

2) #meddevice — Wednesday, 4 p.m. ET

Moderator: Joe Hage via @MedicalMarcom

3) #HITsm — Friday, noon ET

Health Information Technology Social Media

Moderator: Chad Johnson via @HealthStandards

4) #SocPharm — first Wednesday of each month, 8 p.m. ET

Biopharmaceutical Marketing and Social Media

Moderator: Eileen O’Brien via @eileenobrien

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Doctors Need to Be Where Their Patients Are: Online

Doctors Need to Be Where Their Patients Are: Online | Social Media and Healthcare |

If knowledge is power, then content (in proper context) is king. Why am I online blogging, pushing content through my website and even interacting on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and many other sites?  Because my patients are there. Increasingly, they are utilizing the Internet to self-diagnose; to look for “second opinions” from peers and friends; to research a physician, recommended treatment, or hospital; or to find the latest information on their disease.

Studies suggests that patients forget more than 50 percent of what they are told in the doctor’s office. Add to that misremembering or misinterpretation, and the information holes grow even larger. What happens to the holes when these individuals get home? Research shows that consumers trust the recommendations of peers or friends far above those of any advertisement. And where are people interacting with those friends? Where are they searching? In many instances, online. They are sharing useful information, and this includes health concerns, treatment protocols, and medications. When patients feel they can’t turn to their doctor for answers, pulling information from the Internet is an easy, efficient, and logical choice.

Medicine and healthcare are undergoing massive changes; more and more regulations and obligations eat into physicians’ clinic time. Reimbursements have dropped, and as a result many doctors have felt they needed to increase their appointment load and decrease the time they spend on each. For patients, that translates to less time with their physician, less learning, more questions, more doubt, and sadly, more fear. Their antidote is Google.

The root word for doctor is “docere,” or “to teach,” and our patients are making decisions based on what they read online. We as physicians have a moral obligation to be sure that the information they are receiving is accurate. If we do not have the time to teach our patients while they are in the clinic, we need to be present where they are to address their residual questions, hesitancy, and fears (often due to lack of knowledge), and also to aid them through their medical decision-making process. In short, we need to be active in producing or curating online medical content to aid our patients. 

Doctors often believe that they need to spend hours upon hours coming up with content; they believe there is too much risk involved in “tweeting” or putting a post on Facebook. Yet most studies show that physician content and social media interactions are perfectly appropriate. You know the rules – follow them. You do not need to be an active writer; you already answer the same questions day in and day out. Why not just sit and dictate the answer to those questions and post them online? Don’t want to hire a professional? Don’t. Tumblr, Posterous, and other such sites make it simple to set up a site for content in minutes. Still don’t want to create content? Fine – then share links to accurate, actionable, and useful information on Twitter or Facebook.

We are physicians; our job is to lead patients toward health. We owe it to them to be sure that the information they are reading is of the same quality as we would give in our office, or want to get if (or, rather, when) we looked in the mirror and saw a patient staring back.

Nuria Parra Macías's curator insight, February 10, 2014 2:19 AM

In short, we need to be active in producing or curating online medical content to aid our patients. 

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Making Radiologists More Visible Through Social Media

Making Radiologists More Visible Through Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

During a presentation about patient-centered radiology at the recent meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, attendees heard that radiology as a profession must start acknowledging the power of social media.

I applaud this pronouncement, and in the Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging at UCSF we have been using social media for several years.  Our experience attests to its power.

Our foray into social media began with a blog post in late 2010.  Prior to that, our market research told us that referring doctors can feel intimidated when they enter a Radiology Reading Room and that they don’t always understand the role of the radiologist.  We learned that patients often think that radiology involves only a technologist and that no doctor is involved.

This research data led us to think about how we could educate patients so they would better understand that radiologists are doctors and what their role is in providing excellent medical care.

Simultaneously, some important clinical trials were about to start at UCSF, and members of our Musculoskeletal Section were publishing some significant research results that were relevant to the lay public.  A desire to get the word out about both of those announcements was the impetus we needed to start a blog—with the news of the clinical trials and the musculoskeletal research results as our first two posts.

What followed was an enthusiastic response by our younger faculty, who were already engaged in social media in their personal lives.  They showed great interest in writing articles for our blog.  To date there have been nearly 160 blog posts written by more than 40 different faculty members.

As our faculty continued to post more entries, we decided to use Twitter and Facebook to drive more traffic to our blog.  Statistics bear out the success of that strategy.

As of October 2013:
–        During the prior year and compared to the year before, we increased total visits to the blog from 8,841 to 28,145 visits (an increase of 218 percent).
–        During the prior year and compared to the year before, we increased total blog article views from 13,250 to 35,716 visits (an increase of 170 percent).
–        We had 2,028 followers on Twitter.
–        On average: 18 Tweets were Retweeted each month; eight Tweets per month were bookmarked as Favorites; and nine Tweets per month included mentions from
–        Blog posts generated 329 “Likes” on Facebook.

Our experience has shown that doing a little bit of social networking leads to the consideration of other avenues of social media.  We have since created a YouTube channel to expand our video presence, and we began sharing our blog via Google+ in an effort to let patients and health care providers know that radiologists are highly-trained physicians who perform groundbreaking activities every day.  You can find out more about our world-class radiologists here.

- See more at:

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Social Media for Health PIOs

Full day training provided to health and health care PIOs, sponsored by Maryland Emergency Management Agency, January 2014.
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Medical Crowdfunding: Tips from Successful Campaigns

Medical Crowdfunding: Tips from Successful Campaigns | Social Media and Healthcare |

Amelia from Australia was badly burned in an accident in 2011 at age five. The following year, after many skin graphs, an operation on her trachea failed and a second one would cost more than $90,000.

Thanks to 632 contributions through FundRazr, Amelia’s family raised $95,145 last summer and Amelia was able to travel to Switzerland for her procedure.

Healthcare is expensive, plain and simple. Medical costs are the leading reason for personal bankruptcy in the U.S., but getting a little help can keep people from having to choose between health and financial ruin.

Use These 11 Tips to Keep Your Healthcare Spending Down »

Sites like FundRazr help patients raise money for major medical procedures when insurance falls short. From each campaign, FundRazr collects a 5 percent fee, plus a “payment provider” fee of 2.9 percent and 30 cents per transaction.

Last week, Healthline teamed up with FundRazr and other social media experts in a Twitter chat to explain how crowdfunding for medical procedures works, as well as how to make a crowdfunding campaign successful.

In 2013, crowdfunding raised $6 billion globally, according to Bret Conkin, vice president of marketing for FundRazr. And medical crowdfunding is the most popular topic on FundRazr, followed by animals and non-profit organizations.

“Crowdfunding is a way to reach out to an extended community for online donations for a cause. Crowdfunding is popular for medical expenses because of the story and emotion behind the campaign,” FundRazr tweeted. “Seeing the face of someone you can help, or a medical issue you can relate to, encourages you to donate.”

See More People Using FundRazr for Their Medical Expenses »

Who Donates to Crowdfunded Medical Campaigns?

Katie Stiles, a YouTuber with more than 65,000 subscribers, used FundRazr to raise nearly $9,000 from 70 donors to help a friend’s son after he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia at age 11. He underwent a bone marrow transplant in November.

Stiles used her YouTube expertise to create a video to show the true impact of donations. Spreading the message through social media sites like Twitter and Facebook also helped get the word out.

She said that people act from the heart, not the head when deciding to fund a cause. Unlike other forms of giving, crowdfunding is immediate.

“It may be karma for some people to give. They feel fortunate for their health and want to give back,” Stiles tweeted. “It is people who know the patient and strangers. It creates a community of people who care about a shared cause.”

To make for a more successful campaign, FundRazr suggests planning to raise 20 percent of your money from people you know, which will help legitimize the cause for others looking to donate.

On Medicare? Here Are 10 Tips to Save Money »

Tips for a Successful FundRazr Campaign

For those looking to raise funds for a medical procedure, FundRazr and Stiles offer the following suggestions:

  •       Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
  •       Tell people your story.
  •       Be transparent: tell people exactly where their donations will go.
  •       Provide pictures and video: video campaigns, according to FundRazr, raise twice as much as campaigns without them. 
  •       Spread your message through social media: start with your family and closest friends and work outward from there.
  •       Reach out to traditional media: contact your local newspaper or television station, as well as bloggers who cover topics similar to your campaign.
  •       Update donors to show them that their money has made an impact.
  •       Interact with your donors: say thanks for all donations.
  •       Add offline donations to your campaign: asking for donations face-to-face can show that you're committed to reaching your goal.
  •       Be good on your word: fulfill the perks for your campaign, if you promised any, when you meet your goal.

For more tips, see FundRazr’s guide to a successful campaign.

The Science of Successful Crowdfunding

Researchers at Georgia Tech recently examined 45,000 campaigns on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter by performing a statistical analysis to see how campaigns that were successfully funded differed from those that were not. They showed that successful online campaigns include elements of:

  •       Reciprocity: people who offered additional rewards to their donors tended to be more successful.
  •       Scarcity: showing that a condition or treatment is rare or unique drives people to donate.
  •       Social Proof: talking about what others have given with phrases like “has pledged” helps those who depend on others for social cues know how to act.
  •       Social Identity: helping people be part of a specific social group—such as those who've helped save a child—can make campaigns more successful.
  •       Liking: people are more likely to support people or products that appeal to them, plain and simple.
  •       Authority: providing authoritative, expert opinions on the health issues you present make people more comfortable with offering a donation.

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Tips to improve your medical marketing campaign with social media

Tips to improve your medical marketing campaign with social media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media marketing has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years with several companies jumping on the social media bandwagon to promote their businesses, brand names, products and services. The same goes for several medical practices that have joined the system in order to promote their services. If you decide to do the same, then here are some useful pointers that would help you get started.

Know the purpose

If your medical practice has a good reputation among patients, then joining the social media marketing campaign would help you amplify the positive responses in order to gain more clients. However, if you have a not so satisfactory reputation among clients and employees, then you would need to resolve these issues beforehand (bad word travels fast on the WWW). So make sure you know the exact purpose of your decision to join the social medial campaign to market your medical practice.

Start with Free Sites

Start small and simple with free sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube etc. to promote your medical practice online. Join relevant communities on these sites so that more interested users get to know about you. Take the time to develop a plan wherein your medical marketing campaign on these sites starts garnering attention with time. Opt for low cost experimentation techniques so that you do not end up losing too much money in the process. With time, you would get the hang of it and can possibly move onto other more relevant communities and sites.

Set a Clear ROI

Return on Investment is what you get back after investing in something. When it comes to social media marketing though, the returns are always high considering the fact that most online communities and sites offer free marketing services.

Set a clear ROI factor that you would want to achieve when you start a medical marketing campaign on a social media site (for ex: gaining a number of new customers within a month). Set a realistic time limit for the goal as well. If you reach the goal within the stipulated period, then you are headed in the right direction. If not, you would need to formulate alternate plans to make your medical marketing campaign more effective.

Be Creative 

Before starting a medical marketing campaign in a social media network, do some research on different social media networks to find out what works for them and what not? This would enable you to come up with different tactics to handle different kinds of users on these sites. For instance, a social media site dedicated to medical practices may require you to be more formal with your medical marketing campaign while sites like Facebook let you be at ease when designing your campaign. As such, you can incorporate fun elements in these sites in order to attract more visitors.

Hire a Consultant

If everything seems a bit overwhelming for you, consider hiring a consultant to help you in the initial stages. This way, you can make sure you do not go wrong when you start the campaign on the social media networks.


Social media is an important tool of medical marketing campaign for any business looking to reach potential customer across the world. Here are some of the tips you would need to follow when introducing social media into your medical marketing campaign. These tips would help you set up and handle your medical marketing campaigns on the social media efficiently.

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ePatients and Trends Changing Health Care

ePatients and Trends Changing Health Care | Social Media and Healthcare |

The concept of the ePatient - someone who is equipped, enabled and empowered by digital technology and social networks to make better decisions about their health care (and that of their loved ones) - is no longer a novelty. We have become increasingly familiar with the term and its leading proponents over the past few years.  What is perhaps more novel is the idea that the ePatient of the future will be the norm rather than the exception.

New technologies will enable all of us to monitor our health and gather sophisticated data which in turn will empower us to interact with our healthcare providers in a partnership.  Forced to increasingly take responsibility for our own care in a complex system, digitally savvy health consumers will combine information from doctors, the Web, electronic medical records and other sources to “hack” the health system to educate ourselves, navigate loopholes and ultimately get better, lower cost and faster care.

How this will come about is the subject of a new book by Rohit Bhargava (author of Likeonomics: The Unexpected Truth Behind Earning Trust, Influencing Behavior, and Inspiring Action) and healthcare futurist Fard Johnmar.  Featuring original research and stories of healthcare innovators from across the world, ePatient 2015: 15 Surprising Trends Changing Health Care acts as a guide to the rapid changes taking place in health. It shares 15 trends that are poised to fundamentally change the way health and medical care is delivered and received in the near future.

I recently interviewed Fard Johnmar on the main themes presented in the book. I started by asking him what he thinks is the biggest challenge facing health care today? 

F.J. This is a tough question.  Especially because there are so many issues facing healthcare globally. Many people would point to rising health costs — especially in the United States — and lack of access to high-quality care as being significant problems.  I agree with this assessment.  Yet, there are two under-reported, but equally as important issues in healthcare: a lack of personalization and the profound isolation that people who fall ill face — whether they have mental or physical illnesses.  In many parts of the world, particularly in Western countries, individuality and autonomy is highly prized.  Yet, people entering health systems are often transformed from individual actors to cogs in the medical machine.  Sometimes this is necessary, as standards of care allow doctors to treat patients based on sound science and medical practice.  But it also has negative consequences, especially in cases where personalizing therapy is highly beneficial. In terms of social isolation, this is an even more significant problem.  As familial and cultural support structures have eroded and the cultural stigma associated with being sick in public continues, people facing illness sometime find themselves with few allies. Fortunately, people in the global health industry recognize these issues and are developing — and using — a range of innovations designed to drive greater personalization and help patients forge connections with others facing illness and those seeking to support them. 

Q.  In your book you identify 15 trends that you observe in health care today. These are propelled by three overarching themes – can you tell us a little more about these themes?

The themes you referred to are Health HyperEfficency, the Personalized Health Movement and Digital Peer-to-Peer Healthcare.  As we mapped out the trends described in the book, we found they naturally aligned with three reactions to problems facing health care, which I noted above:  

  • Ever-increasing health costs
  • Limited social support
  • Generic, or non-personalized medicine  

Health HyperEfficency refers to a range of technologies and techniques which promise — via greater computing power, better human-machine interfaces and other innovations — to help us reduce health spending.  Of particular interest is our growing ability to predict whether and how people will get sick in the future.  If we can work with people to stave off illness, this will reduce costs significantly while improving health and wellbeing.   

The Personalized Health Movement refers to the use of innovations in the analog and digital realm, from genomics to food advocacy, that will help people do everything from receive medications tailored to their genetic profile to taking more control of the food they put into their bodies every day.  It’s all about providing people with tools that enable them to receive high-quality, but individualized care. 

Digital Peer-to-Peer Healthcare is inspired by a concept promoted by my friend Susannah Fox of the Pew Research Center: that we are living in an era where we have the ability to forge human to human connections in ways that were not possible in the past. 

Q. Can you explain to us what you mean by the term "carehacking"?

As we looked at how people were using technologies and tools available to them to better understand their bodies, we realized that a great term to describe this activity would be carehacking.  Traditionally, health systems have been like impenetrable black boxes, where people had little understanding of their treatments, the data collected from their bodies and more.  In some respects, you could almost describe the situation as akin to modern computer programs, where most people have no understanding about what’s behind the magic taking place on the screen. Decades past, many using personal computers had to understand how to manipulate, or hack them, them at code level, to make things happen. We’re now seeing people learn a lot more about the “programs,” data and interactions that make health systems tick.  They are using this knowledge to hack the system to do everything from navigate the evolving health insurance landscape to help doctors manage their cancer care. 

Q. As we collect more health data it is raising many new privacy and security concerns. Are patients sufficiently aware of the issues surrounding the ethics and privacy of their health data being collected and analysed by app developers, websites and insurers? How can they protect themselves?  

No, people are not aware of the scope of health data being collected about them, how vulnerable it is to attack and the consequences of health data breeches. At this stage, knowledge is the best protection — especially as it relates to sharing health data via the social Web and mobile devices.  

Q. As more of us turn to wearable computers to monitor our health, and the data becomes more sophisticated, are we in danger of becoming overwhelmed or immobilized by all the information we gather?

Absolutely.  In fact, the issue of health data overload is certainly not a new one.  Just ask anyone who has turned to Dr. Google to learn about their symptoms or a new diagnosis. Sifting through millions of irrelevant search results is no picnic.  What’s changing is that innovators are producing a range of tools and technologies that provide people with much more access to highly sophisticated health data.  While the flood of information is increasing exponentially, we’re not seeing enough serious efforts to help people not only make sense of this data, but turn it into action.  Non-actionable health data is worse than useless.  

Q How will all of this affect doctor/patient relationships? Are health care providers ready for the patient of the future?

During the dawn of the Internet age, physicians were caught off guard by the rise of the patient Googler.  Today, some doctors are still not comfortable with the fact that patients research their health conditions online and ask many questions based on what they have learned. Today, innovators, entrepreneurs and others are busy introducing innovations that have the potential to upend doctor-patient relations in ways we could only imagine during the Internet era.  As I discussed in this recent essay published on KevinMD, many doctors are simply not prepared for the next generation of technology-empowered patients.  

Q While the digital future is an exciting one, it is not without pitfalls. What potential problems lie ahead for us if we don’t pay heed to them now?  

If I could pick one issue we need to address it would be this: The need to move from health knowledge to health wisdom.  As humans, it’s in our nature to race ahead with little heed to the consequences associated with the innovations we develop.  For example, we can see this happening in the area of genetics.  We’re gathering more data about the link (or lack thereof) between our genetic code and disease.  We’re providing this information to the public, but paying less attention to helping people make sense of this information and — more importantly — make better decisions based on genetic data.  Engaging in paternalistic efforts to prevent people from accessing medical knowledge is certainly a bad idea.  But, providing people with information is only the first step. We need to help people become wiser health data consumers and do more to ensure they make sound decisions based on information they access and receive.

Ginny Dillon's curator insight, September 19, 2014 11:27 PM

Educated, Engaged, Empowered patients!

Ginny Dillon's curator insight, November 11, 2014 4:57 PM

Great information re epatient movement! I see a potential hurdle / challenge in the area of HIPPA, Privacy and Online Security. We're not there yet ... better solutions needed.

ryan ceynar's curator insight, December 13, 2014 8:09 PM

Does having electronic technology hinder professional ethics?

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Cancer in the Age of Social Media

Cancer in the Age of Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

nas Younes, MD, is the Chief of Memorial Sloan-Kettering's Lymphoma Service in the Division of Hematologic Oncology, Department of Medicine. He is also very active on social media (@DrAnasYounes). In this post, he explores the issues raised by the recent debate over columns published in in The New York Times and The Guardian with the assistance of other cancer doctors on social media.

I will tell you in two words,
who I am, what I do, and how I live. May I?
Who am I? I am a poet.
What do I do? I write.
And how do I live? I live.
In my carefree poverty
I squander rhymes and love songs
When it comes to dreams and visions and castles in the air,
I have the soul of a millionaire.

Che Gelida Manina
From Puccini's La Bohème 


On a recent morning, I received a tweet from a man in the United Kingdom who told me that he just mentioned me on a live BBC program. Not knowing who the man was, I hesitated clicking on the link that he provided. But after I looked him up and found out that he was a real person, I opened the link. The title of the program was “Is There an Honorable Way to Deal with Terminal Illness?” That made me more curious, as I did not know why someone would mention my name in such a program.   

But then I got some clues from the introduction to the program, which stated:

We discuss the lively debate currently in the media and online about an American woman tweeting regular detailed updates of her daily life with breast cancer. Journalist Bill Keller wrote in The New York Times that Lisa Adams' Twitter feed gave "false hope" and portrays those who chose palliative care instead of fighting cancer as "failures." His wife, Emma Gilbey Keller, also wrote "what are the ethics of tweeting a terminal illness? Is this educational or too much?" In spite of this, Lisa Adams has vowed to continue sharing her story. She tweeted that it is "better (to) be honorable (as it) reflects on (my) family." What is your reaction to this story?

Here is the link, if you would like to listen to it:

According to the news, Lisa has a stage IV breast cancer and recently received experimental therapy at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). I have never met Lisa, but I have seen her tweets. In addition to tweeting details of her struggle with cancer, she is a strong advocate for the empowerment of patients, for cancer research, and for participation in clinical trials.

Over the past few days, it seems that everyone has had an opinion about this issue. So before I tell you my opinion, let me first give my disclosure: I am pro patients, pro cancer research, pro clinical trials, and pro MSKCC. Because you may correctly think that my opinion is biased, I decided to reach out to some of my friends and colleagues—some have a personal experience with cancer, and all are active on social media. I made it clear that I was more interested in the debate over the issues raised in The New York Times and The Guardian columns, and the reaction they evoked. I also secured their permission to use their names and opinions in this blog.

All believed that while doctors should have boundaries and follow certain professional rules when engaging the public on social media platforms, they felt that patients should “set their own boundaries.” Dr. Michael Fisch (@fischmd), Chairman of the Department of General Oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center (MDACC), added that “generally speaking, the ‘better’ viewpoints tend to get amplified relative to those that are more extreme or inaccurate or off base.” Similarly, Dr. Naoto Ueno (@teamoncology), Executive Director of Morgan Welch Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Program and Clinic at MDACC, did not feel that patients’ use of social media should have boundaries, as long as they are truthful about what they share online. Dr. Ueno, who has been treated for cancer, said that he sometimes struggles with his roles as a cancer survivor and a physician: “I sometime want to say things as a patient, but I cannot say it because I am a doctor.”

Most felt that the columns did address an important social and humanistic issue. However they all agreed that the columns could have avoided unnecessary distractions from an important topic if they had avoided reducing the issue to a single individual. Dr. Robert Miller (@rsm2800), a breast cancer expert at Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins and the Editor-in-Chief of Cancer.Net, thought both columns “seemed to be unprovoked ad hominem attacks against a single individual who was suffering greatly from metastatic disease but who had chosen for herself to share it publicly to educate others.” He added that the columns were full of “baffling inaccuracies,” but agreed that it was unfortunate that the articles’ focus on one individual’s story detracted from the larger conversation about the role of social media as a form of expression for patients with advanced cancer.

Dr. Ueno felt that coping online could be helpful to some patients. Dr. Mike Thompson (@mtmdphd), Medical Director of the Aurora Research Institute Early Phase Cancer Research Program, agreed. He also felt that patients’ participation in social media can help by “creating awareness of psychosocial issues, subtleties of diagnosis, treatment, and availability of clinical trials.”

In fact, doctors’ participation in social media can also provide similar educational opportunities to the public. That is why my name was mentioned in the BBC program. Many oncologists now have a presence on Twitter. They share valuable and credible information on cancer news and clinical trials. They also make themselves available to answer questions and provide general guidance to the public. Many participate in discussion forums that include patients and advocates that attract millions of impressions. Doctors are also teaming up with professional foundations to moderate Twitter “chats” to answer questions from the public.

Dr. Miller pointed out that “if you follow the #bcsm hashtag you will find many other patients who blog or share their clinical stories on Twitter.” Other patients derive great benefit from hearing their stories and feel vindicated when they experience similar treatment side effects, coping issues, lack of attention to psychosocial care by their physicians.” Dr. Thompson added, “As more patients do it—with or without everyone agreeing it’s a good idea—figuring out whom to follow may be an issue.”


Lisa may have told her story in 140 characters, rather than two words. 
She told us who she is, what she does, and how she lives.
When it comes to dreams, visions, and castles in the air,
No doubt, Lisa has a soul of a millionaire

And that is my opinion!

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Hospital Marketing and the Physician Quality Reporting System

Hospital Marketing and the Physician Quality Reporting System | Social Media and Healthcare |

One element of hospital reimbursement that looms large in 2014 is the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS). According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “the measures in 2014 PQRS address various aspects of care, such as prevention, chronic- and acute-care management, procedure-related care, resource utilization, and care coordination.” Reports will have to cover at least 3 National Quality Strategy (NQS) domains for incentive purposes. These domains include Patient Safety, Person and Caregiver-Centered Experience and Outcomes, Communication and Care Coordination, Effective Clinical Care, Community/Population Health, and Efficiency and Cost Reduction.

In addition to giving hospitals a financial incentive to report the quality of their inpatient and outpatient services, the hospital reporting program provides data that can be used to help consumers make more informed decisions about their health care. While much of this is involved with care, speed and quality of patient care, hospitals can also take a proactive approach to communication, community health and cost reduction. A well-developed marketing plan that includes an interactive website and dynamic social media program can be of immense value in communicating with the local patient and prospective patient population.

Because emphasis will be placed as much on prevention as on the quality of acute care, educating the local community will be of crucial importance in supporting a positive view of care at the individual hospital facility. Blogs, Facebook pages and Twitter feeds can be used to provide general medical information that will help to paint the hospital in a positive light and keep it top-of-mind when considering healthcare choices. Videos that are included on a website or dedicated YouTube channel can also be an important method of interacting or engaging with prospective patients. Industry research has shown that video increases retention because of its ability to use sight, sound and emotion to tell a story, educate, and provide a demonstration of a desired activity.

If hospitals are going to be graded on the clarity and effectiveness of after care, videos may prove especially helpful in detailing discharge instructions. In many cases during a hospital visit or surgical procedure, a patient may be confused or not properly understand what needs to be done at home. In addition to the in-person instructions, the patient can also be directed to a video which can provide a visual demonstration of steps that need to be taken.

This is not the traditional hospital-patient relationship that has been followed over the years. There are now many more options available for surgical and emergent care. As consumers are told that they have more choices in selecting where to receive medical care, and they learn more about their role in quality reporting measures, more power is put into their hands. Hospitals that set the foundation for new relationships today by building ongoing communication and marketing programs that reach out and engage the community will be that much more ahead when it comes to attracting patients and achieving higher quality ratings.

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Introduction vs Adoption of #mHealth Technology

Introduction vs Adoption of  #mHealth Technology | Social Media and Healthcare |

Before the adoption of new technologies which will undoubtedly improve healthcare (as it has the retail and finance sectors), it must be introduced in ways which are digestible, scalable, and subject to rapid iteration. Is mobile technology different from the adoption of any other change in healthcare delivery? I think not. The culture of care certainly requires change as care models are changing. The point of care is shifting to the home, professionals other than physicians are delivering most of the care, and digital technology is becoming a fact of daily life.  With this care shift is the shift of daily tasks to mobile technology. Most mobile tools utilized today by physicians is related to reference or other resources geared towards them, not the patient or care. I suggest a few ways in which the introduction of mobile healthcare tools to physicians will itself lead to adoption. Baby steps are needed in this process contrary to what I see as industry’s ‘Build it and they will come’ philosophy, with its predictable disappointment.  The following suggestions are predicated on good medical app development practices.

1.    Involve physicians in clinical pilots.  This accomplishes three things: It introduces physicians to mobile health tools and processes involved in using them. It serves an avenue for user experience feedback from both clinicians and patients, and might provide some outcomes data.

2.    Establish a network of key opinion leaders. Peer to peer education has a successful track record in both the Pharma and medical device sectors. The ‘in the trenches’ experience provided by these KOLs is invaluable in conveying information and addressing concerns of physicians.  It speaks to pain points, benefit to patients, and healthcare and business models.  These KOLs using digital tools themselves via closed professional social networks is a model I would look forward to being useful.  KOLs have impact via presenting data at professional society meetings, discussing new technologies via traditional media outlets as well as social media.

3.    Payers incentivizing physicians to use good tools (portal, diabetes tools). The use of mobile health apps and other tools (communications, delivery of educational content, and interoperability of data with EHR) might promote or even necessitate the use of robust patient portals. This therefore accomplishes two things which will benefit patients. Payers are in the unique position to incentivize both patients and providers to take advantage of these mobile tools. In what way can payers incentivize physicians? How about having a physician directory which spotlights those who utilize mobile health technologies?  Like-minded patients who desire to become more participatory in their care will gravitate towards these providers, thereby potentially fostering good relationships even before they meet.

4.    Patients introducing technology. Changing behavior in the doctor-patient relationship can be a bidirectional process. Just as physicians can change patient behavior,patients can exert influence as consumers on physicians by asking questions about the use of digital technologies by their physicians. These inquiries might get physicians thinking. Patients who suggest medications based on DTC marketing ads often receive them. Patients who are proactive are better patients.

5.    Medical school courses for students. Digital natives (or close to them) are now medical students. There is much enthusiasm by students for the use of mobile technologies in healthcare.  Many are designing apps or anxious for others to do so. There are many reasons why medical schools are at the forefront of mobile medical apps. A ‘bottom up’ approach seems logical  in this arena because of the slow pace of the change in healthcare culture by the establishment. Mentors in medical school might not be champions of mobile health tools for many reasons. As often is the case in politics of many sectors of society, the new generation is the source of execution of the dreams of others.

Though none of these points are revolutionary, they should provide sources of consideration for starting points of those interested in this sector. There needs to be a distinction made between introduction and adoption of technology, as I believe they are considerably different. Thinking about the process this way might result in less frustration by the industry, investors, and create a different model for implementation and sales.

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Online Trends for Doctors in 2014

Online Trends for Doctors in 2014 | Social Media and Healthcare |

 This past year, we saw major changes in how patients research and engage with their healthcare professionals online. 

It was a year when using online reviews to research doctors, or engaging with them on social media sites like Facebook, became the norm for patients. It’s a trend that’s been building for the last few years, particularly since the major hospitals began adopting the use of social media. This made it acceptable for doctors and their practices to be on social media, and set an expectation among patients that they could connect with their healthcare provides across a number of platforms. 

Over 60% of patients now research health treatments, procedures, and services online – making it critical that a practice have a successful online and social media presence – and that its coordinated with any offline media such as radio, print or cable television.  And among households with over $75,000 incomes, that figure jumps to 83% researching healthcare information. 

A number of our physician clients tell us that patients now come into the office with a printout of the office’s website, the doctor’s online reviews, or other related information. Patients today see themselves as consumers of healthcare, and this means they regularly seek to arm themselves with information about medical professionals, treatments and procedures, and the perspective other patients. 

For 2014, there are three interesting trends taking shape for medical professionals in the online and social media space. The most obvious trend is the growth in mobile use, which is rapid and exponential. About two thirds of the engagement we see on our client Facebook pages now come from mobile devices. 

The highest users of mobile devices among adults are women 25 – 55 years of age. If they have kids, the amount of time on mobile devices increases. This makes sense, since busy mothers use their smart phones to stay in touch with their kids, manage their day, check in with their work, and more. 

The second trend is visual communication. We’ve seen this developing over the last several years as smart phone adoption became ubiquitous. Photos and video drive much higher attention and engagement than text. This is for two reasons: 1) smart phones lend themselves better to photos or video than text (it’s easier to see on a small screen), and 2) we’re all so busy that we have less time to read. 

For physicians and practices to be successful online, they should focus on having high quality photos and videos on their website and social media pages. Video in particular is incredibly important to helping prospective patients feel comfortable with a doctor, procedure, or practice. We know someone is much more likely to pick up the phone or e-mail the office if they’ve been able to watch a video.

The third trend is something we call “pulse”. We’re communicating much more now by shorts bursts of information. Twitter has been an obvious driver of this, as has mobile, since no one wants to read long paragraphs on a smart phone. 

But now the trend is across all online forms – websites, blogs, and newsletters should all be shorter and much more to the point. For example, we no longer write long newsletters once a month for our clients, but normally send out two short news bursts each focused around a specific topic. 

One thing we can plan for 2014 is that the digital environment will become increasingly complex. It will grow more difficult to manage internally, as patient’ expectations rise, platforms become more sophisticated, and staff are required to manage multiple tasks throughout the day. 

Patients are making judgments about a doctor or practice based on what they see online and will look for other options – even in the case of a referral.  Our goal at Truventis is to make it easy for the practice or medical center to succeed online and have presence that’s engaging, sophisticated, and effective in educating the patient about the services provided. 

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The impact of FDA’s social media guidance for pharmaceutical companies

The impact of FDA’s social media guidance for pharmaceutical companies | Social Media and Healthcare |

The Food and Drug Administration took a significant step forward in clarifying the responsibilities pharmaceutical companies have concerning social media activity in the recent release of a draft guidance document. But, as uncertainties still remain, the impact this guidance will have on pharmaceutical companies embracing this new venue of communication is unclear.

The guidance gives pharmaceutical companies reassurance that they would not be held responsible for comments left by third parties on social media sites, even those owned and maintained by the companies themselves. But, as one expert points out, this should not be considered by pharmaceutical companies to be a reason to ignore the opportunities social media presents to engage with patients.

The guidance was released just one week after the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, a Danbury, Conn.-based healthcare data analytics firm, finished drafting its survey on pharmaceutical social media activity. IMS found that half of the top 50 pharmaceutical companies do not engage on social media.

But, the report concluded, these companies have an opportunity, if not obligation, to do so since social media is the place where both patients and healthcare professionals are congregating. By ignoring this opportunity to engage, companies are sending the message that they are not patient-centric, said Murray Aitken, executive director of the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics and author of the report.

Given the significance social media plays in allowing companies to get real-time feedback from consumers using these companies' products, "Companies should not use uncertainty as a reason to do nothing," Aitken said.

The IMS report highlighted the growing significance of social media as a method of communication. It cited data from Manhattan Research showing use of social networking sites has grown from 8 percent of all adults online in 2005 to 72 percent of U.S. adults online in May 2013.

Many pharmaceutical companies entered the social media realm a few years ago by launching Facebook pages. Many of those pages went offline in August 2011 after Facebook stopped giving them the option to turn off comments.

The companies were concerned comments made through social media channels could be considered reports of adverse drug reactions, which they are obligated to report to the FDA. They were also concerned that some user-generated posts could promote off-label uses of certain drugs.

According to Aitken, social media is an important avenue "not only from a reporting perspective, but just in understanding how patients are interpreting the consequences of taking medicines."

The FDA guidance document refers to online comments in the context of user-generated comments made in response to online promotional material. According to the FDA document, "A firm generally is not responsible for [user-generated content] that is truly independent of the firm."

This applies even to forums that are owned and operated by the pharmaceutical company. The document said the companies had to submit the actual sites to the FDA, but not specific comments.

Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America said it was still reviewing the guidance and plans to submit comments on the draft guidance during the 90-day public comment period.

But the organization hopes "that FDA rules will allow for a full spectrum of online communication about medicines to benefit patient care," said PhRMA Vice President and Senior Counsel Jeffrey K. Francer, in an emailed statement to MultiBriefs. PhRMA is a trade organization representing biopharmaceutical companies and researchers.

Even though the FDA may not require certain online comments be passed along to the FDA, that doesn't mean companies couldn't choose to send those reports voluntarily. And the thought that lack of regulatory guidance of user-generated content gives companies the OK to ignore such content is "misguided," Aitken said.

"What we are looking for is a reasonable balance in terms of obligations of companies to be monitoring what is being posted on their sites, which certainly has a regulatory aspect to it," Aitken said. "But there's a more important aspect of it, which is knowing what patients are saying and thinking and the views they are exchanging about your company, your drugs, their health issues through the social media forums."

The FDA is accepting comments on the draft guidance through April 14.

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A Physicians Guide to Online Medical Communities

This guide helps you navigate tips and best practices for using online medical communities for everything from tumor boards to ecurbsides. When doctors share a
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Doctors, Are you aware the effects Social Media has on your career

Doctors, Are you aware the effects Social Media has on your career | Social Media and Healthcare |

As the use of social media continues to grow, how does this affect doctors? As a general rule of thumb, doctors should always proceed with caution when using social media.

Doctors should always be conscious about what they and others are posting on social networks, blogs, and other websites. This includes images, comments, and friendship requests on social media. Common concerns of doctors include complaints and allegations made about doctors by patients on social networking sites, friendship requests from patients, and doctors who had found themselves in difficulties after posting comments and images online.

Social media can help doctors to network more effectively and give patients more access to healthcare information. But there are risks too, particularly when it comes to confidentiality. Doctors should be aware that social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook are informal environments, so it is easy for doctors to let their guard down and not follow the same rules as they would offline. However, the rules of confidentiality apply as much when posting online as they do to when you are chatting to a friend on a night out. Not only do the same rules apply online, but it is also important that doctors remember that when something is shared through social media, it may not just be their friends and family who see it, and could potentially be shared with strangers too.

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How does population health management meet social media?

How does population health management meet social media? | Social Media and Healthcare |
he internet has made population health management a breeze in so many ways.  Texting appointment reminders, emailing health information, and keeping patients engaged through online portals have become facts of live for the technologically-savvy healthcare provider, and such tactics have resulted in a greater rate of medication adherence, better chronic disease management, and lower overall costs.  But with such a wealth of information at hand, there is also a huge potential for misinformation as patients are let loose into an endless maze of disreputable, confusing, and just plain inaccurate information strewn across hundreds of thousands of websites.
Research from the IMS Institute forHealthcare Informatics shows just how widespread the use of social media and internet research is becoming among patients, and poses some thorny questions for providers who want to encourage engagement and proactivity among patients, but also promote strong health literacy and competent decision making for those who may have multiple conditions to manage.  This new pool ofbig data is becoming unavoidable as patients move online in a massive way.
The bane of teachers everywhere, Wikipedia has emerged as one of the top resources for health information.  About three quarters of patients regularly search for health information online, and 77% of them start their quest with a search engine like Google or Bing, which often return Wikipedia results first.
Despite the availability of wide-ranging content and a general reputation for impartiality, 28% of patients feel frustrated by the experience of browsing the online encyclopedia, and 40% are concerned about the trustworthiness and quality of the information they’re getting.  With articles about rarer diseases viewed more often than those about common conditions, patients need to be sure that these specialized topics have attracted competent editors to write and maintain them.
Younger patients also turn to entirely unregulated outlets like Facebook and Twitter for information, especially on specific conditions.  Forty-two percent of patients have used some sort of social media platform to discuss or research their health.  A quarter has voluntarily discussed their health online with members of support groups or friends.  In the United Kingdom, Facebook is the fourth most popular source of health information.

Providers are not eschewing online networks, either.  Many turn to YouTube for video instructions on medical issues, while others use the video sharing site to help inform patients on diagnoses or conditions.  Increasingly, pharmaceutical companies, hospital systems, and individual providers are creating and sharing their own resources to tackle operational issues such as online marketing or to create reputable literature for patients who may be seeking answers in unhelpful places.
“Over half of pharmaceutical executives list mastering multichannel marketing and improving digital effectiveness within their top strategic priorities,” the report says.  Despite lower investment than many other industries and regulatory hurdles governing what information can be shared, drug companies are among the first to recognize the engagement potential of producing and disseminating their own digital media.  “With an increasing ability to listen to patients, pharma companies will be able to have safer products, identify unmet needs and better understand the patients themselves. However, to get to these results they must overcome the hurdle of balancing big data and manual research. This data is of interest for regulators and healthcare payers as well.”
Providers may find themselves caught between the potential for reaching a large number of patients through an online posting or mass email and the dark side of internet communication: the viral post.  “A Facebook comment that is damaging can turn viral in a matter of days, even hours, and a conventional customer relations approach to the digital landscape is unlikely to be able to keep up,” the study warns. “The growing volume of digital interaction, both through mobile devices and social networks, is creating an ever greater stream of data for companies to access.”
Having so much nebulous data to harness and control is both a blessing and a curse.  Patients may tweet about significant health events when they happen, but forget to tell their physician when they come in for a visit.  They may say something nasty about the way a nurse took their blood pressure, and sap the enthusiasm of potential patients that represent necessary revenue.  But online interactions also represent an opportunity for providers to reach out to patients in an innovative and effective way.
“Social media is a good opportunity for clinicians to provide some of the ‘pastoral support’ associated with the profession, and answer questions for a large number of people online. Hospitals and provider organizations are an important online stakeholder, with a more structured, better resourced and commercial approach to social media,” the report explains. “For example, the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media is a leading contributor and advocate of social media in healthcare with a presence on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and various blogs. In investing in these channels the group is benefiting patients while growing its brand and better understanding the needs of its clients.”
“The entire healthcare information infrastructure is currently in flux, and we will see further changes to the usage of computers, the internet and ways of cooperation between different stakeholders,” IMS predicts. “Additional channels and usages will emerge over the next years, with platforms such as Pinterest, Instagram and Tumblr gaining importance and influence. All of these future trends will bring healthcare stakeholders closer together and need to be utilized to their fullest potential in order to ensure the best possible outcomes for patients.”

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How Can a Hashtag Help Brand My Medical Practice?

How Can a Hashtag Help Brand My Medical Practice? | Social Media and Healthcare |

A recent article, History of Hashtags, reveals that “more than 70 percent of mobile users use hashtags, and a tweet is [55] percent more likely to be re-tweeted if it contains a hashtag.” Fifty-five

percent re-tweet incidence—that is social media gold! And while the hashtag has made a comfortable home in pop culture, it can be useful for all types of marketing, including building your medical practice’s brand.

For instance, if you’re a dentist you can use the hashtag when posting about cosmetic procedures including #teethwhiteningtips or if you’re a bariatric surgeon it can be useful to post information with the popular hashtag #weightlosstips. These more general hashtags can help you to join the conversation. If, however, you are interested in directing a more focused campaign then tagging your practice name, or actual procedures can help.

Your social media post could look something like this: “Five avenues you should explores before considering bariatric surgery. #weightlosstips #weightlosssurgery #yourpracticename”

With this post you’ve effectively joined the general conversation about weight loss, as well as introduced your practice as a resource in the realm of bariatric surgery—all of this done by adding hashtags to a post that was  relevant and informational to begin with.

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Online Patient Recruitment for Clinical Trials

Online Patient Recruitment for Clinical Trials | Social Media and Healthcare |

Finding patients to take part in clinical trials is more difficult than other clinical trial tasks. While drug companies are discovering new and promising cures to disease across the spectrum, the population provides a dwindling number of people who volunteer to take part in clinical trials.

At present, 85 percent of drugs in clinical trials undergo delays as recruiting and retaining participants is a difficult challenge. Since 2000, the number of participants has fallen by 20 percent to just 2 million volunteer subjects.

According to the website Eye For Pharma, of the 50,000 clinical trials that took place in the US in 2009, 80 percent had delays of at least a month due to low enrollment.

Clearly, patient recruitment has to improve so that it takes less time and costs less money. One avenue is the use of Local Search Marketing strategies that have proven so successful for merchants, service businesses, and restaurants.

Advantages of Local Search and Online Marketing for Clinical TrialsHighly Targeted

Television, radio and newspaper advertisement reach thousands to hundreds of thousands of people. Yet, only a very small percentage respond and fewer enroll. So, if your advertising reaches 100,000 people and only 50 respond, you spent precious funds to reach 99,550 people who are not interested.

Using another option such as direct mail is just as ineffective. Direct mail campaigns cost between two and four dollars. The industry considers a 0.05 percent response a successful campaign. But, as well as being costly, it is slow and patients responding may not qualify

Local search, using tools such as Google+ or Bing Local are free. They appear in the early pages of a search so patients can find you, they are local, and patients responding have interest – they found you.


Some aspects of local search marketing are actually free as mentioned earlier. A well-designed web site, optimized for local search and optimized for mobile search is a cost-effective way of recruiting on the Internet.

Local Search Facts
  • Many studies want older volunteers to take part. Many of today’s older population, nearly 20 percent owns a Smartphone, which is seven percentage points higher than one year ago. Among all adults, 56 percent own a Smartphone.
  • This is important because 95 percent of Smartphone owners use them for local searching. The facts that make mobile local search a great tool for clinical research recruitment are,
  • Seventy-five percent of mobile searches trigger a follow-up action – 18 percent shared the information, 17 percent visited a store and 17 percent made a buy.
  • The preferred method of obtaining information on local businesses is an online search
  • There is greater potential for success in recruitment as local searches have a higher likelihood of follow-up than mass advertising.
Challenges to Online Clinical Trial Recruitment

Pharmaceutical companies have avoided online recruitment efforts to a large degree, as all online statements must have approval from regulatory bodies such as Institutional Review Boards. So far, guidelines are gray and until there is clarification, the big pharmacy companies shy away.

But groups that advocate for disease patients and families have tried online recruiting with some success. The national Alzheimer’s Association introduced an online clinical trial, patient recruitment tool in 2010. Since then they have 32,500 people have completed profiles and more than 5,000 matched to a trial in their locale.

Surely, online marketing and local search strategies is not the only tool for clinical trial recruitment. But, the Internet as a source of local information is growing in influence and is a conduit that small clinical studies can use to quickly recruit and screen clinical trial participant.

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How Healthcare Marketing Needs to Evolve

How Healthcare Marketing Needs to Evolve | Social Media and Healthcare |

After interviewing many healthcare managers and executives over recent months, I found that they are all very concerned about how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), or “Obama care,” will affect their organizations.

They face many challenges. For example:

  • All want to differentiate their unique hospital products and services to better appeal to consumers (primarily patients) and stand out from other hospitals and hospital systems.
  • Most of them agree that their businesses need to move to a more retail or consumer-oriented model to really engage, grow, and retain patients and attract quality medical professionals. In other words, they need to connect better to their audiences.
  • They recognize that there is increased competition between the major providers of healthcare.
  • At the same time, there is a strong focus to reduce costs with a greater emphasis on preventative health and a push for more economical procedures.

So, how can health systems, providers and marketers stay ahead of the curve and address the US health care evolution? Healthcare organizations can directly address all these challenges and connect better with patients, doctors, health pros, internal teams, and others by pursuing more advanced and proven marketing strategies, practices, and methods. This is just the beginning of a big and complex discussion, but here are a few suggestions.

Content Marketing: 
If a hospital explains its “latest and greatest technology,” in corporate-speak, that may appeal to doctors doing leading-edge surgeries, but this won’t mean much to a potential patient. For example, there is a growing movement for using surgical robotics technology in operating rooms. But patients may be fearful of being operated upon by a “machine”. They need a more personal, warm and friendly explanation (in a testimonial, case study approach, in video or photo story formats) in their language to show them how the technology can help their doctors get better results for them.

Social Media Marketing: 
Many healthcare companies do try to have some presence on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn for their brands. Some do a better job than others. However, none of them are consistently taking advantage of optimizing all these incredible ways to engage patients (or consumers) or even medical professionals. They can also track results through social media metrics and have conversations that resonant better.

Healthcare organizations also need to expand and adapt with Google+, blogging, contextual advertising, and integrate more with appropriate audience receptive media (photo, video, infographics, podcasts, and more.) Google+ is often underestimated when it comes to most marketing efforts, not just in healthcare marketing. Google has the biggest and most powerful influence on usage and search; it has evolved a new model of search optimization (Hummingbird) that has catapulted using the volume of meaningful and engaging content as a key determining factor in deciding search results, not just keywords. So getting onboard with Google in many ways, helps organizations be found and be profoundly engaging.

The new healthcare marketing evolution adventure is coming. Overall, the time has come for Healthcare organizations to evolve their marketing and move forward to reach all their audiences. Healthcare organizations can use help from eager and concerned marketing and technology experts from high-tech and other industries. This is just the beginning of an exciting adventure that will reap huge benefits to patients, doctors, medical pros, and organizations.

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Using Social Media for HIV/AIDS Work: A Golden Opportunity

Using Social Media for HIV/AIDS Work: A Golden Opportunity | Social Media and Healthcare |

We live in a social age, breathe the same air as savvy influentials across the country, and speak the language of many women across the world who desire to have their voices heard. Each day young women are actively engaged in their communities through discussions at neighborhood block clubs, student activities on campus, in-class, at church and other youth programs to create change for the future.

Here, the dynamic power that rests within each of these young women reveals the influence of content and how open dialogue about issues people care about, receives exposure.

Social media, which took flight nearly 50 years ago, is by far the most advanced and strategic method of communication in the 21st Century. We have the ability to connect with millions of influentials within seconds, and the capacity to spread a message for change instantly. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 70 percent of African Americans, 72 percent of Hispanics and 65 percent of whites are social media users (Pew Internet & American Life Project).

Like many other mission-driven nonprofits, the Red Pump Project has garnered a significant trail of active listeners, thought leaders and consumers interested in education surrounding sexual and reproductive health, which is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1. The Red Pump Project Social Media Sites Usage (As of January 27, 2014).


Facebook9, 806 likes


Twitter7, 251 followers


Instagram1,376 followers


Flickr957 photos shared


YouTube310 video views


Tumblr2,000+ for one post


Now, you may be thinking “Why Is this Important?” Here’s a few reasons I’ll leave you with: 

  1. Technology, now and more than ever has taken a leading role in the lives of those young and old. Healthcare organizations, nonprofits and many other organizations can take flight with their mission to attract the audience they wish to communicate with. This is a golden opportunity we’ve all been waiting for.
  2. Nearly 72% of adults use social media in some way or another.
  3. Whether a discussion about prevention, education or female empowerment, social media has the potential to bring forth awareness and value to your mission.
  4. The Pew Internet & American Life Project found nearly 15% of users receive health information via social networking sites.
  5. Power lies within every message about HIV/AIDS, so continue tweeting, posting and uploading. The power will grow stronger and the message will propel.

Sources: Pew Internet & American Life Project, “Social Networking Sites,” Accessed August, 10, 2013; Pew Internet & American Life Project, “The Social Life of Health Information: Accessed August 23, 2013.

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Social media and chronic disease: 5 lingering challenges to widespread use

Social media and chronic disease: 5 lingering challenges to widespread use | Social Media and Healthcare |

Message boards, blogs and social networks could empower more people to change their unhealthy behaviors and better manage chronic conditions like diabetes and obesity if they overcome a few key barriers, a new report claims.

“Social support can augment information to encourage self-reflection, strengthen accountability to achieve goals and ameliorate adverse psychosocial health effects of living with a chronic condition,” the eHealth Initiative writes in a new social media report, funded by the California HealthCare Foundation.

Although the Baby Boomer generation was initially slow to adopt social media, it’s begun to catch up. According to Pew Internet Project’s data, two-thirds of Americans age 50-65, and nearly half of the 65+ population, are using social networking sites.

The report outlines five specific challenges keeping social media from its full potential in preventing and managing chronic diseases:

Because social content is often user-generated, its quality, validity and authenticity can be questionable. Efforts to mine social data to produce public health information, then, can lead to inaccurate conclusions. The report calls for professionals to “be better trained with multi-disciplinary skills to bridge the gap between data science and healthcare.”

  • Because it’s still relatively new, the models and metrics for social media in healthcare are limited. “Once people reach their goals – for example, losing a certain amount of weight – it can be difficult to achieve sustainable results without a long-term game plan and support community in place,” says Mike Panas, founder of Healthwise Champions, in the report. “Unfortunately, a lot of tools with social components are not built with a multi-faceted vision in mind, and only target individual use for specific purposes on a short-term basis.”
  • A digital divide still remains among elderly and minority populations, although smartphone usage is growing. As the divide closes, a new challenge emerges: Misinformation can be spread quickly and easily. “Without appropriate eHealth literacy regarding issues of the veracity and reliability of information found online, social media may encourage users to diagnose and medicate themselves without seeking professional medical input,” the report says.
  • Finding a balance between transparency and anonymity is a challenge, as it’s becoming increasingly difficult to navigate privacy and trust online. “What we need to do […] is manage expectations and increase education and transparency about privacy – or lack thereof – on social networks,” said Alice Leiter, policy counsel at Center for Democracy and Technology’s Health Privacy Project, in the report.
  • Some healthcare organizations have avoided social media use because of privacy and HIPAA compliance concerns, especially in patient-provider communications. “Because digitized healthcare information is increasingly being used by entities that fall beyond the traditional jurisdiction of HIPAA,” the authors write, “it will behoove newcomers to healthcare from the tech community to identify practical solutions that mitigate potential threats and provide safeguards for dynamic control of information and confidentiality.”

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Wikipedia The Top Source Of Health Care Info For Doctors, Patients

Wikipedia The Top Source Of Health Care Info For Doctors, Patients | Social Media and Healthcare |

Wikipedia is the single leading source of health care information for both providers and patients, with 50 percent of physicians reporting that they’ve consulted the community-edited, online encyclopedia for information on health conditions.

A report from IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, a medical technology company that draws on data from more than 100,000 suppliers and 45 billion healthcare transactions each year, finds that Wikipedia is the single leading source of medical information for patients and healthcare professionals. Serious illnesses, especially less common ones, are among the most frequently searched topics by English-language users.

Launched in 2001, Wikipedia is the world’s largest general reference work available on the Internet, with more than 30 million articles in 287 languages that can be edited and posted without cost by any person with access to the Internet. However, the online encyclopedia’s more than 71,000 active editors have no credential checks, and there are numerous instances of deliberate vandalism and fabricated posts.

Despite the issues with accuracy, the IMS Health report revealed that people trust Wikipedia enough to seek a wide-ranging cache of information about their personal health and medicine.

The top 100 English Wikipedia pages for health care topics were accessed an average 1.9 million times over the course of the past year. And analysis of prescription drug sales found a correlation between page views and medicine use.

“Increasingly, patients are turning to social media as an essential forum for obtaining and sharing information related to their health,” Murray Aitken, executive director of the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, writes in the report.

Tuberculosis, Crohn’s disease, pneumonia and multiple sclerosis were the top health-related Wikipedia articles in 2013, all of them hovering around 4 million page views. Less common conditions were among the pages with the most page views.

Wikipedia as a whole is ranked sixth globally and in the United States for heaviest web traffic. The U.S. alone accounts for over 20 percent of Wikipedia’s annual visitors according to the web traffic tracker, Alexa.

“This trend only heightens the need for relevant, accurate content that can be accessed and used throughout the patient journey. Health care professionals, regulators and pharmaceutical manufacturers all need to overcome their reticence and acknowledge the vital role that they can and should play as participants in the healthcare conversation.”

The IMS Health report revealed that pharmaceutical companies and other health care providers are actively expanding their role in social media channels. Nearly half of the top 50 pharmaceutical manufacturers surveyed are using social media to engage patients on healthcare topics.

Younger patients under the age of 39 were more likely to research illnesses and drug treatments on Wikipedia before they started their course of treatment. Older patients above the age of 54 were more likely to search Wikipedia for health care information after they had received professional medical attention.

A report this week from Quartz revealed that a University of California, San Francisco Medical School professor has a class for fourth-year medical students dedicated solely to the editing and posting of health care-related Wikipedia pages.

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Why are physicians accessing the web? |

Why are physicians accessing the web? | | Social Media and Healthcare |

As a digital marketer I really don’t care what device physicians are using to read medical journals.  What I really want to know is where are they accessing the Internet and why.  With these insights I can better ensure that my digital marketing is relevant to their needs.

I’m a big fan of Manhattan Research because it provides me with insights as starting point for further research.  However, I’m not a big fan of Kantar’s research because they tell me what I pretty much know and don’t separate health from wellness data.

Yesterday I read a press release from Kantar that said physicians are using tablets to read medical journals.  Ya think?  Everyone under the sun has been saying that more and more physicians are using tablets in greater numbers, but as a digital marketer that doesn’t help me at all.

Why are physicians going online ?

Physicians are in constant need of information to do their jobs well. There are three primary reasons that they are using the internet to access such information:

1.  Immediacy – At he point of care with a patient to get more information about new medications and dosing instructions.

2. Interactions with Drug Companies -Physicians are also going online because they have less time to meet with drug company sales reps.

3. Insurer requirements – Today not every treatment is covered by every insurer so physicians sometimes have to access insurance company information to ensure Rx’s they write are covered.

Epocrates recently stated By 2014 9 in 10 healthcare providers will use smartphones, and nearly as many will have adopted tablets. Almost half of all respondents are “digital omnivores,” defined as clinicians who utilize a tablet, smartphone and laptop/desktop computer routinely in a professional capacity.

However, their report also said that 100% of physicians access the Internet with PC’s.  In other words, while tablet usage is increasing the PC still plays an important role in accessing medical information.

Mobile has become the primary screen for proactive information seeking and exchange across clinician segments. Smartphones and tablets are outstripping personal computers among clinicians when it comes to search traffic, accessing professional reference resources, and communication among colleagues. Administrative tasks and clinical note taking remain popular computer-based tasks with some traction gaining among tablet users. This is important to understand.

What does this mean for healthcare marketers ?

(1) We need to think where physicians are going to access medical information and more importantly, why and ensure that information is optimized for the device they use.

(2) Don’t necessarily think apps; rather, think of integrating your content into the top apps that are used by physicians (Epocrates, Medscape).

(3) Think of delivering your B2B content via multiple devices if your research supports that physicians are going to use multiple devices to access your data.  Let’s face it, sometimes it’s easier to digest content on PC’s than mobile devices, especially when there are a lot of data tables.

Don’t use data reports as the final rationale to spend lots of money developing mobile solutions.  Use them as a starting point and ask “why?” .

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Healthcare Blogging Tips

Healthcare Blogging Tips | Social Media and Healthcare |

When it comes to online marketing, blogs are a great way to reach out to your community with news and information to get people talking about and interacting with your business. To get the most out of your blog, it should be frequently updated and well maintained. If you do it right, you will be able to gain a following, increase traffic to your website and rank higher in Google. Below, I have outlined a few strategies for successful medical blogging that engage your audience and encourage natural links back to your site, ultimately improving your search rankings in Google.


If you don’t already have a company blog, create one. Determine who your audience is and what you want your readers to get from your content. Your general posts can include recent news, interesting stories, new discoveries, etc. Update it regularly and make sure your posts are easily shareable so you get more traffic and links. Promote the content on social media to give it more attention and a wider reach.


Guest blogging is a process in which a blogger writes a post that is published on another blog that is not their own. What’s great about this practice is that it benefits both the host blog and the guest blogger. The host blog gets fresh content from a variety of expert viewpoints, without spending as much time creating it. The guest blogger gets recognition in a new audience as well as links back to their own blog or website. These links can be included within the blog content as references or supplements to what you’re writing about. To stay within best practices, these links should be highly relevant to your content and beneficial to the reader. Don’t overdo it! 1 to 3 links is enough. More than that and it will begin to look spammy.

When writing your guest post, understand the audience of the website you want to post on and make sure the content is relevant and beneficial to those readers. It helps to develop a relationship with the writers/editors of the blog before submitting a request as well. Follow them on social networks, share their content, comment on their posts, etc.  In that way, you’re helping them out first and developing more of a relationship instead of simply requesting they post your work without knowing who you are.  


Conversely, another strategy is to allow others to guest blog on your site. Typically, when you post others’ work, they are more likely to share that post and promote it because they’re proud of it. They might link to the post from their own blog, website or various social media outlets. This gives you more backlinks and boosts traffic for your site. Be selective with who you allow to publish to keep the content of utmost quality.

Now that we’ve covered general blogging tactics, let’s talk more specifically about different kinds of blog posts that can generate activity and links for your site.


Create a complete guide for specific areas of your industry. By developing a resource with information that people can reference on a regular basis, you can become the go-to source and obtain links.


Stories that are heartwarming, shocking or funny often get a lot of shares. If you have a particularly interesting story to share, post it on your blog or website and promote it on social media. Use enticing titles to attract more interest. People love a good story and if it connects with them, they’re more likely to talk about it and share it with people they know.


People love lists! Write posts with titles like “10 Ways to Improve Your Heart Health” or “5 Foods You Should Never Eat Again.” Top 10 lists and titles with numbers in them typically get higher click-through rates, so whenever possible it’s always good to think about structuring your post with that in mind.  


There are countless myths and old wives tales in the healthcare industry that the general public believes. Use this to your advantage and set the record straight. Write posts that debunk these myths and explain the truth. The more shocking or surprising the facts are, the more likely it is to be shared and linked to. Use a catchy title to promote interest. This post about exercising myths is a great example of taking common myths and explaining the truth clearly and effectively (and they also use my list recommendation from above!).


This last one is a quick win for easy links. Make sure any Facebook, Twitter or Google+ profile associated with your company or your employees contains the company’s website within the profile. Link authority isn’t usually passed through social media links (they are no-follow) but it’s still a great way to get more traffic to your site and increase brand awareness.

These are just a few of the many ways healthcare bloggers can increase traffic and earn backlinks with strategic blog posts. What are some of the blog strategies that have worked for you?

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Social Media Patient Rants: Defense Lessons from Big Biz

Social Media Patient Rants: Defense Lessons from Big Biz | Social Media and Healthcare |

Maybe it was just a coincidence, but two insightful marketing object lessons popped up this week.

The subject matter in common was customer service via social media, but in these two stories the outcomes were different. Both illustrations—one good and one not—are pages from big business, and they hold excellent take-away lessons for hospital and healthcare marketing.

The first mini-drama is a British Airways blunder last Fall, recounted in a Wall Street Journal blog post by Ryan Holmes. He wrote:

“Several pieces of luggage were lost on a Chicago-Paris flight, hardly an unusual occurrence. But when reaching out for help via formal customer service channels got no results, disgruntled businessman Hasan Syed turned to Twitter.

“Syed paid an estimated $1,000 to send a promoted tweet. His message was brutally direct: “Don’t fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous.” As a promoted tweet, his warning was blasted out not only to his followers but to thousands of other users on the network—an audience that can be strategically targeted by geography, keywords, interests and even gender.

“Incredibly, it took British Airways more than 10 hours to notice and address the complaint. By that time, it had been retweeted thousands of times and picked up by popular tech news websites. After just a few days, several thousand Twitter users saw Syed’s rant and stories on it ran everywhere from the BBC to Fox News.” [See Business Insider.]

And (just by coincidence), KLM Royal Dutch Airlines published a notice reminding previous passengers of their “24/7 Social Media Servicing.” Their broadcast email read in part:

“A very Happy New Year or ‘Gelukkig Nieuwjaar’ as the Dutch say!

 “Did you know that for any service related question you can reach us 24/7 in 10 languages on Facebook, Twitter and soon on Google+ as well? If you ask your question via Facebook or Twitter, our goal is to respond within one hour. On the customer support page, you can now see a live response time to know exactly when to expect your answer.”

 Useful take-aways from the corporate world…

Most healthcare and hospital marketing doesn’t operate on the grand scale of global airlines, but it’s not a stretch to transfer some valuable service concepts from big biz. After all, there is a constant ebb and flow of patients, often at all hours of the day and night.

And, regardless of the scale, (a) customer service (patient experience and satisfaction) is no less important, and (b) US consumers use social media as a potentially wide-reaching “word-of-mouth” channel for questions, complaints…and even angry rants.

As the Journal article observes: “Rather than having to obediently wait on help lines or for email support, consumers can now shout on social channels and be heard by a mass audience, instantly.” With a tip of the hat to British Airways, KLM and Ryan Holmes, consider these useful tips:

  • Recognize the complaint channel of choice. A majority of US consumers use social media for service questions and complaints, according to a recent Nielson study.
  • Tomorrow is too late. The immediacy of social media has trained the consumer to expect a quick response. Eight out of 10 Twitter users look for a same-day answer, according to a report form Oracle.
  • Cast a wide and inclusive net. “Customer service in the age of social media,” Ryan Holmes advises, “needs to be everyone’s job, [and] customer service in the social media era needs to be radically decentralized…it’s essential that all employees become the eyes and ears of an organization on social media.”

The downside is well understood, and it’s primarily lost revenue. For physicians, medical facilities and providers it also threatens (sometimes damages) professional reputation. On the other hand, surveys tell us that online comments and reviews of doctors by patients are largely positive.

Nevertheless, social media has become a large—and potentially loud—megaphone for consumers in general, and patients in particular, to shout about their questions and concerns. As such, it’s more important than ever to monitor social media vigilantly and to respond quickly.

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