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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A national kidney provider experiments with instagraphics

A national kidney provider experiments with instagraphics | Social Media and Healthcare |

Continuing to work while living with a chronic illness is a daily challenge for many people. Dialysis patients, those with kidney failure who must undergo regular treatments to filter their blood, are no exception. In fact, half of all dialysis patients in the U.S. are of working age, yet only one in five works.

Even more surprising, two-thirds of dialysis patients quit their jobs within four months of starting dialysis treatments. Yet, research has shown that patients who continue to work are happier, healthier, more likely to get a kidney transplant, and generally describe themselves as more financially secure.

DaVita, a national kidney care provider, held a week-long social media campaign to raise awareness of the benefits for maintaining employment and to let its community know they aren’t alone in this challenge. One of the tactics DaVita employed was sharing infographics specifically designed for Instagram—dubbed “instagraphics.” Each day, DaVita released one new instagraphic on Instagramto share a statistic in a visual and engaging way. Together, the five instagraphics tell a story about managing work and dialysis.

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5 Ways Pinterest Can Be Used for Patient Education In Healthcare

5 Ways Pinterest Can Be Used for Patient Education In Healthcare | Social Media and Healthcare |
Pinterest is an image-driven social network that has rocketed in popularity in the last couple of years. Pinterest works as a way to visually organize things on the Internet via “Boards,” which act kind of like folders, to organize thoughts into certain categories or interests. As more and more people use the Internet to search about healthcare, Pinterest is a way to organize the information they find, also allowing for them to share content easily with others. The other potential benefit from Pinterest is to reach people when they’re in various Internet “mindsets.” It can be a way to reach the patient when they’re not necessarily concerned with a particular problem at the moment (i.e. searching for specific health information for an issue they have right now). Pinterest can provide a medium for reaching patients to remind people of the many aspects of their life in which health plays an important role.

Pinterest is a good medium for patient education because many people learn best visually. Images can help convey information that would be much harder to digest in words. It can also serve as a good reference, and is more shareable.What can Healthcare marketers do? Use Pinterest to inform patients about:1. How the body worksGiving patients a better understanding of how the body works will help them understand problems they may have and the treatments that are available. It also helps patients better identify issues to communicate with their doctor when they know where things are, how they work, and what they’re called.Pinterest for Patient Education

2. How medical procedures workWhen a patient understands how a medical procedure works they may feel more comfortable getting it done. A patient who understands the procedure is also probably less likely to be as anxious about the procedure if they know what is going to happen. Patients can also be informed of procedures or treatment options that they may not have been familiar with before.Pinterest for Patient Education

3. How medical devices workGiving people illustrations about how a medical device works can not only help patients who are currently using the device, but can also help to bring awareness to other patients who may not have known about the device. Patients who are using the device can become more familiar with how the device is actually working.Pinterest for Patient Education

4. General wellness and maintaining good healthPinterest for Patient EducationPinterest is a good way to give patients reminders about how to take care of their health in general. Visuals can serve as reference points that can be digested easily. Imagery can also be an effective tool for conveying information in a way that resonates with patients more effectively.

5. Diseases, medical conditions, and illness preventionPinterest can be used to generate awareness for diseases and how they are identified and managed. Images can be used to illustrate the way a disease affects the body and what kinds of symptoms can be present. Infographics and other images serve as powerful vehicles for educating patients.
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How social media can combat chronic disease

How social media can combat chronic disease | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media can help combat chronic illness, according to a new eHealth Initiative report.

The report states social media and online communities can enhance health education by promoting healthy eating, active living and wellness--addressing many of the preventable problems that lead to chronic disease, which plagues more than 133 million Americans and contributes to about 75 percent of the country's healthcare spending. 

Social media--including message boards, blogs, microblogs and social networking sites--breaks down the walls of patient-provider communication, improves access to health information and provides a new channel for peer-to-peer communication among healthcare providers, consumers and family members, according to the report. It also helps providers develop meaningful relationships that provide emotional support for patients with chronic conditions, establish communities among caregivers, patients and families, and empowers patients to achieve their objectives with online peer support.

In this webinar, we will examine this trend and discuss options for providers who are entering this market. We will review technology, systems and delivery models. What are the risks/rewards of such a model, and how does it differ from the provider models of the past? What are the factors that will drive an organization to success? Register Now!

The report identified best practices recommendations for implementing wide-spread use of social media within the healthcare industry, including the need to:

  • Develop multiple functionalities to allow users to exchange nformation at the same time; 

  • Establish online roles for trained health providers and caregivers to give accurate information;

  • Provide dynamic privacy controls and use requirements;

  • Incorporate user-centered designs with relevant, helpful features;

  • Provide an open, safe environment where users can comfortably share information;

  • Apply evidence-based behavioral theory to use social networks for peer support and motivation;

  • Redefine the patients' roles by empowering them with information; and

  • Leverage long-lasting community ties to sustain user engagement.

However, with little precedence regarding social media in the medical community, the report acknowledges there are challenges to adapting social media as a major tool for information dissemination. Privacy laws and sharing personal information online are a major concern, as well as the quality and validity regarding healthcare information. There's also a digital divide among the elderly and minority populations, the report states.

Many healthcare organizations are taking advantage of social media already.Hospitals across the country are turning to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest to recruit patients and their families to serve as advisors, asking for their opinions via questionnaires and surveys on planned improvements in care, new services and even facility names

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Social Media is Changing How Doctors & Patients Interact

Social Media is Changing How Doctors & Patients Interact | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media has expanded the communication opportunities between consumers and brands all over the world. Professionals that rely on client communications are also leveraging social communications both as means of engaging with existing clients and patients as well as to create awareness and engagement with new “customers”.

The power of the Internet is the power of the patient, who can now research treatments, compare physicians, and collaborate with doctors, who may not always—in fact, don’t typically, according to Timimi—have the time or budget to conduct the kind of in-depth research their patients can and will because, frankly, they’re damn motivated. There’s nothing like learning the horizon of your life has been foreshortened to push you into the Internet rabbit hole of research.

And while physicians may still caution their patients to take what they find on the Internet with a grain of salt, this is increasingly suspect advice, as good sources of information proliferate as widely as the bad.

In the end, discerning which sources are trustworthy and which aren’t comes down to critical faculties independent of the medium—in other words, it’s on you as much as it is on the physician to ensure you’re looking at accurate information. Indeed, it may weigh more heavily on doctors.

Their sacrosanct role weakens each day as participatory medicine, which recognizes patients as empowered collaborators in their own care, as well as consumers with choices, grows in popularity.

The human bandwidth, immense and formidable

Timimi gets it, and this is why, when asked by a conference attendee whether Mayo staff could be on Facebook during work hours, he replied:

I want our human bandwidth to be part of this conversation. Our advantage is our human bandwidth, not our online bandwidth.

How, then, to maximize that bandwidth, according to Timimi?

  1. If your organization doesn’t already have social media guidelines, develop them and make sure your staff receives training and orientation. Too few healthcare entities have social media policies, says Timimi, making it difficult for staff to adequately identify social media opportunities for their organizations.
  2. Spend time lurking. Many physicians are leery of social media because they fear legal threats; maybe they’ll be sued by a patient who misconstrues a Twitter comment and takes the wrong medication. But, says Timimi to the risk-adverse, it’s the same risk cocktail that’s been served for the last 30 years.When physicians are dinged, it’s for the same old reasons —an inappropriate relationship with a patient, say, or they’ve misrepresented who they are as a physician.

    So, for the pioneering doctor who braves the social media ether, it’s useful to first listen in on the communities you want to join. “Just like a good marriage, you’re judged more on how well you listen than on what you say,” said Timimi.

  3. Always surmise that HIPAA, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, applies. Concern about HIPPA gives many a healthcare practitioner pause when they’re considering joining the social media fray, so just assume it applies and venture forth.
  4. Define your goals. Remember that you represent yourself as well as your organization. It’s not just Team Hospital; it’s also Player Physician.
  5. Mistakes will be made. Continuing the baseball analogy, Timimi reminded the audience that it’s a long season; you don’t call it quits because of a fielding error in one game. On the flip side, “social media doesn’t make people misbehave. It just makes your mistakes very public,” he said.

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So can biopharma leverage social media health?

So can biopharma leverage social media health? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Over the last couple of days I’ve shared some information and data on how patients use social media for health.   Today I would like to share some examples of possible social media interactions with patients.

First, it’s important to understand that at its heart social media is a conversation between groups of people.  It is therefore essential to listen first and not use social media to broadcast. Consumers find that highly annoying.  You want to be part of the conversation in a meaningful way.

According to the 2011Rodale DTC Study consumers say social media is all about medical conditions and treatments.


As far as acceptable posts from pharma companies, the Rodale Study says the following

However, I have been mining social media posts on Twitter for some clients around MS and find that there are more questions/comments in which biopharma could join the conversation.  Here are some examples..

Twitter User (Mary): I have MS but MS does not have me.  I am making one of my favorite recipes. It’s a lot of work, but I won’t give in.

MS _Brand: That’ a great attitude Mary and we’ll share it within our company as we continue to try and learn more about MS. Can we share your recipe?


Twitter User (Peter): Do people at drug companies really understand what it’s like to have MS ?  Some of the drug side effects are worse than the disease ?

MS_Brand: Peter, we hear you and in fact spend a great deal of time listening to patients through research and HCP’s.  We are working on new treatments and remember not everyone experiences the side effects listed here HTTP://bit.987


Twitter User (Dan): My wife was just diagnosed with MS.  Where can I get some information on what to expect ?

MS_Brand: Dan, we are sorry to hear that.  For a list of some resources on living with MS there is some great information here..


Twitter_User (Pam) My MS medication is so expensive. I’m not sure I can afford it.

MS_Brand: Pam. We would be happy to offer you some assistance with the cost of your medication.  Please let us know how to contact you or go here

Now these are just basic examples but in order to use social media effectively you need to listen and be empathetic around users needs and wants.  Is there some risk? Of course there is but isn’t helping patients worth it ?

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Social media healthcare: Insights and Findings

The use of social media by biopharma companies including data, insights and recommendations.
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So what do patients want from social media?

So what do patients want from social media? | Social Media and Healthcare |

So we have a ton of data on the number of people using social media for health, but what DTC marketers really need is an understanding of why they are using it and what they want.  Here are some of those of those questions answered from my years worth of research.

A disclaimer: First, it’s very important to understand that each health condition and audience has its own set of social media usage.   People with MS, for example, use Twitter in different ways than women with breast cancer.  It is therefore essential to get out and conduct research while listening to patients on social media so you have an in depth understanding of their health information needs.

Need 1: Empathy

A lot of patients want to share their experiences so they can be assured that they are not alone.  By sharing and exchanging information it can help them better understand how to live with chronic health problems while trying to live a better quality of life. A lot of people on social media also like to share their experiences to help others.  We often found influencers within communities who reached out with information & recommendations.

Need 2: Search for best treatment option

Mostly newly diagnosed, these people want help cutting through all the clutter of health information on the web because they just don’t have the time to spend hours reading all of it.  I believe this is a major opportunity for biopharma companies via content marketing, but the information has to be refreshed regularly.

What was most important to most patients was treatment options vs. side effects vs. cost.  We heard quality of life issues coming out again and again.

Need 3: Caregivers support

This was, at times, difficult to listen to because participants spoke with so much emotion.  They often find themselves stuck between wanting to have a life and caring for someone.  They especially want to share their concerns & fears as well as learn from others.

Do they want biopharma as part of the conversation?

We didn’t hear that people who use social media don’t want pharma as part of the conversation.  Rather what we heard was “it depends on what they have to say (Value)”.   If pharma can add meaningful insights into the conversation than I believe they would be welcome but make no mistake it takes a talented individual to be a community manager and put users needs first.

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Pharma missing Big Data opportunity by ignoring social media

Pharma missing Big Data opportunity by ignoring social media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Inherent conservatism and a lack of regulatory guidance have caused pharma to edge slowly onto social media platforms. While such reticence is understandable, patients still talk about their health online. The question is, should drugmakers be listening?

Many companies have closed their eyes to social media, in part to avoid potentially having to report any adverse events they see discussed online. IMS Health has picked apart the flaws of this strategy of willful ignorance in a new report that details how and why companies should tap into the social media data stream. By ignoring the information shared by patients, companies are failing to exploit a source of qualitative real-world data on their drugs and unmet medical needs.

If companies can establish the technical capabilities to collate and mine the data, it could prove a useful addition to other sources of information on the efficacy and side effects of their products. Technology vendors--including IMS--are lining up to help with this work. IMS expanded into social media listening last year through the acquisition of Semantelli but faces competition from the likes of Treato, Liquid Grids and Radian6.

Each promises to automate aspects of social media monitoring and analysis to cut the burden on pharma companies. The IMS report suggests the industry needs the help. Johnson & Johnson ($JNJ) tops the IMS social media engagement index with a score of 70. After J&J there is a huge gap back to GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) in second place. GSK scored just 25 but still outranked the rest of the industry.

Ramez Clinical Pharmacist's curator insight, January 31, 2014 10:47 PM

add your insight...

Richard Baxter's curator insight, February 1, 2014 5:02 AM

Listening is good but understanding and interpretation of what is being said is critical otherwise it is meaningless 

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How Sydney's Top Plastic Surgeons Use Social Media To Get New Customers

How Sydney's Top Plastic Surgeons Use Social Media To Get New Customers | Social Media and Healthcare |

After spending many years in school learning the skills of plastic and cosmetic surgery, it is no surprise that graduating surgeons are ready to start earning money by practicing their skills.

This is easier said than done though as most surgeons don't come out of university with business skills (who ever heard of a surgeon having time to do a double degree of medicineand business). 

Even with no marketing degree - it's hard to ignore the effect social media has had on the way businesses interact and advertise to consumers. Along with search marketing this is certainly one of the best ways to gain new customers.

Luckily surgeons are smart and motivated people - so they often pick it up fast.


Dr. Miroshnik - 102, 000 Facebook Fans 

Dr. Tavakoli - 20,626 Facebook Fans 

Dr. Tim - 19,757 Facebook Fans 


All of the surgeons mentioned have worked out that their key demographic is female and this can be seen reflected in their content. 

The important thing to remember here is that there isn't a right or wrong type of content - but that you should keep in mind how social media can have an influential role in all areas of a patients journey to surgery.

1. Awareness - By having a social page you allow potential customers to share content and help others become aware of the great results that can be achieved from plastic surgery.

2. Consideration - A patient may evaluate and talk to a few surgeons before choosing who to perform the operation. You can help patients decide to call by interacting with your fan base. This builds trust and helps show off your personality, making the decision to call easier.

3. Evaluation - A strong fan base can act as form of social validation. By showing pictures of successful operations and the community liking them you prove your results in the eyes of a future customer.

4. Purchase - As a communication channel patients can contact you directly through the messaging function of Facebook - you can also provide relevant contact details for them to get in touch easily.

  • By interacting with a community you can learn what their likes and dislikes are - helping you provide a better service on a day to day basis.

  • You can also quickly field any complaints or issues.

  • It's a quicker and easier way to build an online presence than waiting weeks to get a website up and running.

It may take a while to build up a dedicated fan base - but to get started simply register a Facebook page (make sure it's not a personal one - but instead a business page)and get your friends and workers to like and share the page.

You can also think about making a content plan of the sorts of things you would like to post and aim to post at least twice a week initially.

Whilst some surgeons may decide to hire a dedicated web marketing or social agency and others may choose a staff member in house to help out - there is no denying that this form of marketing is not going away any time soon.

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MDs avoiding social media in droves in Canada

MDs avoiding social media in droves in Canada | Social Media and Healthcare |

The majority of Canadian physicians are avoiding the use of social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook for professional purposes because they anticipate too many pitfalls and too few benefits, a new CMA poll shows.

The results, from a recent survey involving the CMA’s ePanel, offer a detailed assessment of MDs’ use of social media. They also paint a discouraging picture for those who feel physicians should use these tools to improve their own knowledge of patient care.

The results are based on responses from 885 (24%) of practising or retired physicians, medical residents and students belonging to the ePanel, which was created to provide a rapid response when the CMA needs member input on issues or policy.

The findings, which mirror those from an ePanel survey conducted three years ago, show that almost 90% of respondents believe the use of social media tools in medicine poses professional and legal risks, and almost 40% think social media tools are of little or no use in day-to-day medical practice.

The opinions run counter to social media guidelines published by the CMA in 2011, as well as more recent guidance from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. Although both organizations acknowledged the risks related to social media use, they also pointed to the potential benefits, such as improved communication.

The survey revealed that Canadian doctors’ use of social media for professional reasons remains very low, with only 14% of respondents using LinkedIn and 4% using Twitter. (Use of these tools for personal reasons is much higher except for LinkedIn.)

Physicians’ online involvement for professional reasons tells a far different story. Almost 40% of respondents said they had joined an MD-oriented online community, 45% had participated in an online discussion forum on a medical topic, and 96% had used Google when seeking medical information. As well, almost one-third of respondents had recommended a medical app to a patient, reflecting the burgeoning growth of these mobile tools.

There are clear demographic trends in the responses — medical students were not only more aware of the risks inherent in social media but also recognized the potential benefits.

Dozens of individual comments provided with the survey results painted an illuminating picture of current attitudes within the profession.

“At this point, I don’t believe any of these social media are safe enough to protect patient confidentiality and physician privacy,” one doctor wrote.

Another stated emphatically: “I see no value in social media for any purpose whatsoever, but especially not in medicine.”

Another critic responded: “Social media is just another distraction from real patient care. Do not waste our time.”

However, a counterpoint was offered by this respondent: “I think social media is a very powerful tool that cannot be ignored in today’s society. While anything powerful comes with inherent risks, I believe that wise and professional use can mitigate them.”

Another doctor took the middle ground: “I would not feel comfortable using social media to communicate with individual patients, but it may be useful for group communication or educational activities.

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Social media use in medical education: a systematic review

Social media use in medical education: a systematic review | Social Media and Healthcare |

The authors conducted a systematic review of the published literature on social media use in medical education to answer two questions: (1) How have interventions using social media tools affected outcomes of satisfaction, knowledge, attitudes, and skills for physicians and physicians-in-training? and (2) What challenges and opportunities specific to social media have educators encountered in implementing these interventions?


The authors searched the MEDLINE, CINAHL, ERIC, Embase, PsycINFO, ProQuest, Cochrane Library, Web of Science, and Scopus databases (from the start of each through September 12, 2011) using keywords related to social media and medical education. Two authors independently reviewed the search results to select peer-reviewed, English-language articles discussing social media use in educational interventions at any level of physician training. They assessed study quality using the Medical Education Research Study Quality Instrument.


Fourteen studies met inclusion criteria. Interventions using social media tools were associated with improved knowledge (e.g., exam scores), attitudes (e.g., empathy), and skills (e.g., reflective writing). The most commonly reported opportunities related to incorporating social media tools were promoting learner engagement (71% of studies), feedback (57%), and collaboration and professional development (both 36%). The most commonly cited challenges were technical issues (43%), variable learner participation (43%), and privacy/security concerns (29%). Studies were generally of low to moderate quality; there was only one randomized controlled trial.


Social media use in medical education is an emerging field of scholarship that merits further investigation. Educators face challenges in adapting new technologies, but they also have opportunities for innovation.

Nuria Parra Macías's curator insight, January 30, 2014 12:39 PM

¿Utilizamos los social media en la educación médica? Parece ser que estamos empezando y que queda mucho por hacer.

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Physicians' Online Reputations

Physicians' Online Reputations | Social Media and Healthcare |

Besides medical education credentials, specialty experience, and a pleasant bedside manner, the next most important thing a doctor can have is a good — or preferably great — reputation. It can be a deciding factor between a new patient choosing your practice instead of another. And today, having a healthy online reputation as a physician and medical practice is more important than ever.

Just take a look at these convincing statistics:

  • According to a recent report published on the Journal of Medical Internet Research, not only did 88 percent of adults in the United States search the internet for health-related information, but 47 percent of adults Americans looked up information about their providers online, 37 percent reviewed physician-rating sites, and seven percent who consulted online information about their provided posted a review online themselves. Thirty percent compared physician’s online before making their choice as well.
  • A further study reported as part of the Pew Internet and American Life Project revealed that 43 percent of people with a chronic disease looked online for information about doctors.
  • A survey by Software Advice of 4,515 patients in the United States indicated that patients used online review sites as a tool to research doctors. As a first step to find a new physician, the majority (62 percent) of uses online reviews as their initial go-to method.
  • In 2011, 28 percent said they searched online for information about the quality of care provided by a primary care physician or medical specialist as compared to 24 percent in 2010, according to the 2011 Survey of Health Care Consumers in the United States published by Deloitte.

Statistics aside, it just makes pure common sense in today’s digital age for physicians to manage their online reputation. Negative comments, whether its a misleading mainstream media article or defamatory online review from a disgruntled patient, can paint a physician and his practice in an unflattering, and possibly incorrect light, causing the medical practice doorbell to ring less often.

Online reviews can have a major influence on the success of a medical practice, but that shouldn’t frighten medical practitioner owners. While a negative online review can drive patients away, good online reviews can serve as a powerful physician marketing tool.

With that in mind, physicians should have a keen awareness of the areas for which they and their practice are being evaluated by patients.

What’s Being Rated and Reviewed?

While there are many areas of physician qualities, care, and services that are being discussed, reviewed, and rated by patients online, the majority fall into these categories:

  • Communication skills - This includes an explanation of medical conditions and treatments, listening skills, attentiveness to patient, follow-up, and bedside manner. How rushed the physician seemed is a frequently-cited comment that physicians should pay particular attention to.
  • Availability - Includes ease of scheduling, appointment availability, and wait time for scheduled appointments.
  • Facilities - Waiting room comfortability and amenities, cleanliness, on-premises services (like lab services).
  • Staff - How professional, helpful, and courtesy is the staff?

With the increased transparency in the healthcare system overall, it is essential for physician practices to pay attention — and close attention — to these patient rating categories.

Tips for a Healthy Online Reputation

On the web, information, whether good or bad, can spread like a wildfire. Follow these general tips to make sure your practice’s online reputation works for you, rather than against you.

  • Update directory listings. Create, optimize, and manage listings on HealthGrades, Yelp, Google+, ZocDoc,, and Vitals, in addition to Facebook and LinkedIn.
  • Respond to comments, especially negative comments. For instance, patient comments such as “The doctor seemed rushed during my time with him” can be softened by responding “We take great pride in helping as many patients as possible since we are one of the few practices offering this specialty in the local area.”
  • Improve your bedside manner. Patients refer to a physician’s bedside manner in online discussions more frequently than most other factor, says, so doctors can do a lot to improve their online reputation simply by making patients feel that they are truly concerned about their wellbeing. To this end, physicians should work on presenting a less “rushed” appointment, and even work on lengthening patient appointment times if possible. Building trust by continually following up with patients also helps.
  • Engage an online reputation management service. There’s no doubt about it; online reputation management (ORM) is a time consuming process. Employing a professional ORM service saves you time and money — and more importantly helps to keep your online reputation healthy.
  • Create a large body of positive and patient-valued content. Providing relevant content in the form of blog postings and articles not only provides an additional source of information for patients and engage patients, but it can make detrimental articles in newspapers become deeply buried into the back pages of search engines. In other words, creating a large body of positive content can outweigh negative material. Post engaging content and industry relevant content at least weekly on your website’s blog and Facebook pages.
Physcian Marketing Online Reputation Management Takeaway

Patients are increasing becoming healthcare consumers, and the impact of patients reviews and rankings on physician practices can no longer be overlooked or ignored. It is imperative that physicians become proactive in managing their online reputation through physician marketing in order to attract and retain patients and increase their bottom line financial metrics.

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New Study Ranks Johnson & Johnson #1 In Pharma For Social Media Engagement

New Study Ranks Johnson & Johnson #1 In Pharma For Social Media Engagement | Social Media and Healthcare |

The use of social media within healthcare has definitely been slower than other industries, but it is making progress. Many healthcare professionals and institutions have been active online for years and at one of the major healthcare industry events – HIMSS – Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone gave the opening keynote address in 2012 to an audience of about 8,000 (here).

Later next month, the Chairman, CEO and President of Aetna AET -1.49%, Mark Bertolini is scheduled to deliver the opening keynote at this year’s HIMSS in Orlando. Mr. Bertolini is personally active on Twitter and made national news in 2012 when he used the service to chat with an ASU student suffering from stage 4 cancer. During the 2-day chat, Mr. Bertolini committed to covering all of the students medical expenses (which had eclipsed their lifetime cap of $300,000). The student has since succumbed to the cancer, and (under Obamcare) the lifetime caps are history, but Mr. Bertolini did what he felt was right at the time – in a very public and social media way.

Social media on the part of the pharmaceutical industry, however, has been much slower and more tentative largely due to regulatory risk.

“When you look across the healthcare landscape – most of the core leadership at large healthcare institutions are embracing the power of social – the power of pull. Pharma has been the lone and notable exception. But it’s inevitable so it’s encouraging to see the public and very visible indications that it’s changing.” Howard J. Luks, M.D. – Orthopedic Surgeon and Advisory Board Member of Mayo Clinic ’s Center for Social Media (here)

That change is reflected in a new report today by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics (IMS Health). It’s an encouraging first look into actual metrics around the social media activities of some of the largest pharmaceutical brands.

Among the top 50 pharmaceutical companies, half do not engage with consumers or patients on healthcare-related topics through social media, and only 10 companies utilized all three assessed channels. Twitter is utilized by 22 of the 50 companies studied, followed by YouTube which is used by 17 companies, and Facebook is used as a channel by 15 companies. Engaging Patients Through Social Media – IMS Health Report (January, 2014 – 47 pages – free but registration required here)

Using the top 3 social media channels – Facebook, Twitter and YouTube – IMS Health ranked the 10 pharmaceutical companies by a Reach Index, a Relevance Index and a Relationship Index (each of which used likes, shares and re-tweets). Of the ten pharmaceutical companies that were active across all 3 channels, Johnson & Johnson JNJ -2.3% came out on top – by a wide margin.

As suggested earlier, much of the hesitation can be attributed to the lack of regulatory guidance, but that also changed last week when the FDA announced draft social media guidelines for the industry (here).

Noticeably absent from the IMS Health assessment are some of the other consumer and business oriented social media channels like Google GOOG -3.1%, Pinterest or LinkedIn (to name a few of the larger ones), and that’s also what’s makes FDA guidelines so difficult to bake. They have to be broad enough to encompass all the different channels each of which have their own distinct nuances and methods of communications. The interest to move quickly into social media (at least by some) was also clearly evident in the report.

Companies are starting to deal with the lack of regulatory transparency by publishing their own guidelines (e.g. Roche and AstraZeneca AZN -2.45%). AstraZeneca’s guideline summary revolves around a set of principles with suitably broad definitions of what social media is and what behavior they expect from employees to cover most scenarios. However, even with these safeguards in place AstraZeneca was forced to pull a Twitter campaign in August 2013 from the Associated Press’ Twitter feed. This was because it was pointed out that they had included a reference to Nexium in the attached link of the tweet, which is accessed by pressing “View Summary.” This product name was included without the required safety information, putting it in breach of regulations. Engaging Patients Through Social Media – IMS Health Report

 The report also cited several outside sources for key social media statistics as a way to frame the importance of their findings.

* Use of social networking sites has grown from 8% of all adults online in 2005, to 67% in late 2012 and up to 72% of U.S. adults online in May 2013.

* In 2009, 70% of Canadians turned to the internet for health-related information, and 92% of those used the search engine Google, rather than a health portal to gather this information.

* Facebook is reported as the fourth most popular source of health information in the U.K.

* Physicians on average spend three hours per week watching online videos for professional purposes and cite Medscape and YouTube followed by pharmaceutical company websites as the most important sources of video.

* In the U.S., interest in specific diseases receives the greatest amount of attention in social media relating to healthcare, followed by lifestyle changes, health insurance details and safety information.

Another section of the report went into substantial detail around the prevalent use of Wikipedia which the authors suggest “is the leading single source of healthcare information for patients and healthcare professionals.” They researched the top 100 pages by disease topic and presented this chart relative to the top 25 (“English” language page – globally).

For healthcare in particular, patients are concerned about the validity and neutrality of the information they seek out, and Wikipedia increasingly meets this need, providing supplemental information to that which they receive from clinicians. IMS Report

It may not be an Oscar, a Grammy or a Golden Globe, but it’s clearly a sizable lead and visible win for JNJ in the globally important social media category for healthcare.

“We see that pharmaceutical companies recognize that patients increasingly are using some form of social media to obtain information, exchange views and seek advice regarding their healthcare. They therefore need to be present, active and engaged in these channels to be patient-centered.” Murray Aitken – Executive Director, IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics

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5 Tips for Success in Healthcare Social Media Marketing

5 Tips for Success in Healthcare Social Media Marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

Drafting and implementing a social media marketing plan in the healthcare industry can be very tricky. In our social media savvy society, it is becoming more and more critical for companies to have a strong social media presence. Social media is a great way to serve as a news resource for your audience and also a fun way for your healthcare organization to interact with your audience.

Appealing to your target audience and providing beneficial, timely information will ensure they keep coming back for more. In order for your audience to actively engage with your social media pages, it is important to have an effective strategy. Here are a few tips to ensure your social media marketing is the best it can be:

    Identify your audience
    Who are you trying to reach with your social media content? Keeping the demographics of your target audience in mind is crucial. A clear understanding of how they use various social media outlets and what they hope to get out of them will benefit your organization in the long run. This will lead to increased engagement, more followers, and a stronger social media presence overall.
    Stay up-to-date
    Social media can serve as a news resource to your audience. For instance, you can keep your followers in-the-know about relevant issues such as changes to healthcare laws. It is extremely important to stay up-to-date on the latest industry trends and news to effectively communicate with your audience. This way, your audience will rely on your social media channels to stay informed.
    Keep an eye out on the competition
    Knowing who your competitors are and keeping an eye on what they are doing via their social media outlets is essential. If you consistently find your content to be very similar to your competitors, switch it up a bit. Dare to be creative and show the unique attributes of your healthcare organization – i.e. company culture, thought leadership, involvement in the community, etc.
    Promote health-related observances
    If you’re looking for a way to relate to your target audience on a more personal level, think about discussing health related observances. Many of these observances are related to nonprofit organizations, events or causes. For example, February is American Heart Month. Start a conversation about the importance of heart-health and consider posting a series of heart-healthy tips throughout the month.
    Encourage engagement
    The best way to increase followers and overall social reach is to encourage engagement with your audience. It is important to ask your audience questions, encouraging responses and interaction. Another way to promote engagement is to conduct contests. For example, you could hold a “like” contest, where new followers who like your page will be entered in a drawing for a gift card. Engagement opportunities will catch your followers’ attention and keep them coming back to your social pages!

Which social media tactics have you found most successful for your healthcare organization? Let us know in the comments below!

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Can Social Media Prevent Chronic Disease?

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

According to a recent report from eHealth Initiative (eHI), social media has the potential to reduce chronic disease and correct high-risk behavior. The report examines the impact of social media and role of online communities in enhancing health education and behavior change efforts to promote wellness, healthy eating, and active living to prevent chronic disease.

Recent studies have shown the burden of chronic disease on the healthcare system is staggering with more than 133 million Americans with one or more chronic conditions accounting for 75 percent of all healthcare spending. With most of chronic diseases being preventable through behavioral and lifestyle modifications, social media can serve as an invaluable form of communication.

Over the past few years millions of consumers are turning to social media to connect with other patients, caregivers, and medical professionals through social media platforms such as message boards, blogs, microblogs, or social networking sites to discuss how to cope with the demands of a chronic disease, share strategies to achieve a healthier lifestyle, or share their experience with a condition or treatment (SacBee,1/30/14).

Key Challenges/Barriers

Despite social media’s huge opportunity, the report identifies key challenges that must be addressed if social media is going to evolve into a key form of health communication in the U.S., including:

  • Digital divide among elderly and minority populations;
  • Balancing transparency and anonymity;
  • Concerns about privacy and HIPAA compliance;
  • Quality, validity, and authenticity of information online.

Best Practices/Strategies for Promoting Health and Wellness through Social Media

In order to successfully leverage social media to combat chronic disease, the following successful best practices and strategies should be considered:

  • Develop multiple synchronous and asynchronous functionalities to allow flexible 24/7 communication among users.
  • Include online roles for trained health providers and caregivers to mitigate concerns about misinformation without breaking users’ trust.
  • Provide dynamic privacy controls and use requirements that encourage users to share as much or as little information as they prefer.
  • Incorporate user-centered design to ensure not only that the platform is developed appropriately for the intended user audience with relevant features.


The report is the result of a qualitative research project which was informed by a literature review and environmental scan of the field, including case studies and informant interviews with key organizations and experts. Support for this report was provided by the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF).

Praveen Thadani's curator insight, June 25, 2014 7:09 PM

InterestIng observations around use of social media with chronic disease. 

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5 tactics for more effective direct-to-patient marketing campaigns

5 tactics for more effective direct-to-patient marketing campaigns | Social Media and Healthcare |
Medical device companies must cope with changes to the regulatory environment that require new marketing strategies that go beyond the longtime favorites: physicians and providers. Companies are dealing with more pressure than ever, with demands for increased transparency, more clinical data, lower costs, reimbursement strategies, and more. But the pressure is already on companies to focus on a new stakeholder: the patient. To be successful in today’s new health care economy, you have to do more than sell to the healthcare provider. The product’s value is now dependent on the happiness of the patient.Here’s how you can do it:

1. Create personasCreating a campaign without solid personas is like setting sail without a rudder. If you have specific goals you’re trying to accomplish with a direct-to-patient marketing campaign, then you’ll want to get to accomplish them in the most efficient way possible. Personas ensure the right messages are delivered at the right place, at the right time, and to the right people.

2. Master the languageHow do patients refer to your product? How do they refer to the product category? How do they describe their symptoms or condition, and what are their attitudes and feelings about it?

In order to resonate with patients, you need to be able to speak their language. For example, during our research for Kimberly-Clark Health Care’s I-FLOW* product, a medical device for non-narcotic post-op pain relief, we found that the company was calling it a “Post-Op Pain Relief System” on their website. However, social listening data shined light on other words patients use to describe the product, such as, “pain pump,” “pain ball,” and “pain buster.” If messaging only referred to the product as a pain pump, it might miss a key group of patients who call it a pain ball.

3. Account for comfort levelAn important thing for health care marketers to think about for direct-to-patient marketing campaigns is how the patient may feel about the condition(s) they have and the required treatment(s).

Trying to encourage users to join a Facebook community of men who also have erectile dysfunction? Asking for people to share their stories about the inability to control bowel movements? Think again. If a topic is particularly sensitive, then patients are unlikely to be willing to share personal stories and may even be hesitant to interact with your content out of fear that they will be associated with the product at all.

Does this mean direct to patient marketing campaigns are out? No. It just means that you need to understand the context in which someone would be interested in receiving information, and deliver the right content in a way that can be discreetly consumed. It’s also important to be empathetic when discussing these issues.

4. Map out the decision-making processIt’s important to understand how the patient goes about choosing a medical device and what factors influence their choice.

In the beginning of a health care decision-making process, the patient is likely to initially turn to the internet. Pew research shows that 72 percent of Internet users say they looked online for health information of one kind or another within the past year.

At this stage, there’s an opportunity for medical device companies to provide basic patient education to provide helpful information for the patient. With 8 in 10 online health inquiries starting at a search engine (Pew), companies need to provide content that can be easily found online. This ensures the company is involved in the process from the very beginning.

As the patient decision-making process continues, the context may demand different types of content, packaged and delivered in different forms. The key for direct-to-patient marketing campaigns is to understand what the patient needs and how to deliver it to them.

5. Scope competitionCompetitive analysis should take place specifically within the context of where patient conversations, decision-making, and learning take place. You need to understand which brands are effectively speaking to patients and who the influencers are.
seanhoneycombe's curator insight, October 1, 2014 6:58 PM

These 5 tactics helping businesses plan their direct-to-patient marketing campaigns are very helpful. In my opinion this article is very detailed and has covered every aspect of what it takes to successfully create a direct-to-patient marketing campaign. 

Rick Levy's curator insight, February 26, 7:32 AM

The world of doctor and patient marketing are converging.  It's important to learn about the end user of the product and to speak directly to the patient as well as the HCP.  Read on for more info. 

Rick Levy's curator insight, February 26, 7:56 AM

The world of doctor and patient marketing are converging.  It's important to learn about the end user of the product and to speak directly to the patient as well as the HCP.  Read on for more info.

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5 ways mobile is improving health care outcomes

5 ways mobile is improving health care outcomes | Social Media and Healthcare |

Here is a statistic every health care communicator should know: 99 percent of text messages are read.

Translation: If you don’t have a mobile strategy for 2014, you’re missing out. A text message won’t get lost in the sea of posts, tweets, or emails you send to patients.

“Every phone has SMS on it,” says Sam McKelvie, Head of Mobile Strategy at Mobile Commons. “Texting goes across all demographics, age, race, and socio-economic statuses.”

A mobile strategy can help you gather more data about your patients.

“As a health care communicator, you can get so much data from the people participating in mobile campaigns,” McKelvie says. “Gone are the days of long-term follow-up interviews and phone surveys. People are willing to respond back and forth by text.”

Mobile Commons shares five examples of how mobile is changing health care:

Helping smokers quit

Mobile Commons teamed up with The National Cancer Institute to help teens stop smoking. So far, with SmokefreeTXT, the quitting rate averages around 6 percent for teens who opted-in to receive text message support—double the quit rate of teens that do not receive text message reminders.

SmokeFree TXT, under the umbrella of, is available for both English and Spanish speakers.

“The overall goal of is to make smoking cessation readily available to people no matter where they are in the mobile health space,” says Erik Auguston of The National Cancer Institute. “SmokeFree TXT allows us to deliver behavioral intervention and treatment to users.”

With a texting campaign, it’s easier to gather data and measure its effectiveness.

“When a person opts in, we ask them their gender, age, and how many cigarettes they smoke each day,” McKelvie explains. “We ask people about once a week, ‘Are you still smoke-free?’ This has helped us see if the campaign is more effective for teens or adults.” will create similar smoking cessation texting programs for the Veteran’s Administration and The Department of Defense.

“The backend technology and platform is very sophisticated and it allows us to think about these texts like conversations,” Auguston says. “Plus, I have found the Mobile Commons team to be responsive and great to work with.”

To opt-in to SmokeFreeTXT, a person can text QUIT to IQUIT (47848). They can also sign up online at

Chatting with a counselor

Remember what it felt like being a teenager and having a lot of questions about sex—and not knowing whom to ask?

Mobile Commons works with Planned Parenthood to help get these questions answered. Over the past three years, more than 250,000 teens have opted into this service.

A new study from the Journal of Medical Internet Research shows that the program has helped relieve teenage anxiety and confusion about sex. The program allows a live health educator to respond to a teenager’s questions by SMS or online chat, quickly and privately.

By using their mobile phone, teens don’t have to worry about using a public or family computer to talk about personal issues or health problems. Questions are answered through the integration tool, Live Person, making it easy for users to have a one-on-one conversation with an expert.

The campaign has been promoted at Planned Parenthood offices, on the Planned Parenthood website and on TV shows such as Teen Mom and 16 and Pregnant.

Directing people to the right information

If you’re in New York City, you’ll see ads all over buses, encouraging people to get flu shots. The calls-to-action on the ads tell people to text “FLU” to 877877.

When people text in, they are prompted to enter their address. In return, they will receive a message with the location of the nearest flu shot center.

Related: Download 5 Ways Mobile is Improving Healthcare Outcomes.

Mobile Commons helped the New York City Health Department create the campaign. The flu shot locator is a completely automated system. To set it up, all the department had to do was upload a spreadsheet of all the locations at which someone could get a flu vaccination.

This information and locator look-up tool can also be used for vaccines, clinic locators, and health fairs.

Helping people eat more healthily

The University of Maryland’s Food Supplement Nutrition Education program uses the Mobile Commons platform to send out tips to parents about how to help their children live healthier lifestyles.

The text messages include recipe ideas, fitness tips, school activities, and more. More than 1,000 parents have opted in to the program. Following a one-semester pilot, a survey showed that “73 percent of parents take the actions in the text messages always or most of the time.”

“We’re reaching out to parents and giving them tips on what to buy near them,” says Gloria Fong, Director of Client Experience at Mobile Commons. “For example, instead of just saying, ‘go to a store and buy fruit,’ we say, ‘Bananas are on sale at Food Lion for 20 cents a pound.”

Sending medication reminders

New York Presbyterian, Columbia University, and the Harlem Health Promotion Center createdProject STAY (Services to Assist Youth), a program that sends text message alerts to remind young people with HIV/AIDS to take their medication. Mobile Commons helped set up the text messaging service for the project.

“All the alert says is ‘remember,’” Fong says about the text reminders. “It still keeps the patient’s privacy in mind. It doesn’t say, ‘Remember to take your HIV medicine.”

Patients can also get text message reminders for eye exams, doctor’s appointments, or birth control. The messages also include the contact information for the clinic, in case a patient has to reschedule or cancel the appointment.

Mobile campaigns are improving health care outcomes across the country by reaching people on the device they use the most—their mobile phones. The ability to send personalized messages in a cost-effective manner has become increasingly important for health care institutions in a time where resources are limited. Text messaging can be a powerful and valuable tool for organizations to use to make an impact in their communities, from promoting healthy behaviors to raising awareness on important issues.

David Mattioli's curator insight, November 6, 2014 4:17 AM

Using mobile apps to promote a healthier lifestyle and collect data.   I think that this is a great way to reach and communicate with people today, especially the younger generation.


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Launch of healthcare social media guidelines

Launch of healthcare social media guidelines | Social Media and Healthcare |

A cross-collaborative team of the Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI) and the Weber Shandwick Healthcare and Digital practices, has led to the development and launch of the first non-prescription medicines industry guidelines for social media use.

Those of us who work in the healthcare industry will be all too familiar with the challenge that social media presents. There is no doubt that we have well and truly entered the digital era, but while most have embraced it, the healthcare industry has traditionally been quite hesitant.

One of the main concerns with social media integrating into the healthcare industry is the complexity of regulations surrounding health communication. There are codes that determine the way in which therapeutic goods are marketed and promoted, and responsibilities of both healthcare professionals and healthcare companies that need to be considered.

The opportunity and need for healthcare organisations to actively engage in social media has become more apparent. Patients and health professionals are participating in online media at an increasing rate, making the availability of credible content from health organisations more vital than ever.

Social media has changed communications and it is critical that the healthcare sector is responsive to this change. The demand for information is high, with almost 80 per cent of people searching for health information online, and patients sharing experiences and asking questions more than ever before.

The healthcare industry needs to drive comprehensive health education and audience engagement in an online arena. Marketers need to feel confident and secure in providing the right information to audiences.

So how could the healthcare industry enter this digital space and make a meaningful contribution to social media in health?

A solution was recently offered at the annual Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI) conference held in Sydney in November.

Weber Shandwick, helped ASMI launch a new set of industry guidelines to assist non-prescription healthcare marketers to continue to engage with online audiences in a compliant and responsible manner.

ASMI recognised that with the growing presence of social media in Australia, it was important to prepare healthcare organisations to engage with consumers in this new space. Weber Shandwick provided its expertise in healthcare and digital media to create a set of practical guidelines based on real-world experience of working across both disciplines.

The new guidelines essentially represent the evolution of the Australian consumer healthcare industry, recognising the increasing importance of responsible behaviour and sharing of information in the social media and digital content era.

The industry needs an agreed framework to help build confidence in connecting brands and information with social media audiences. Having these guidelines will hopefully give healthcare organisations, and their agencies, a platform to openly discuss social media and content strategies in the healthcare space.

Gareth Finch is Vice President – Head of Healthcare at Weber Shandwick Australia.

Javier Hernández's curator insight, February 4, 2014 7:28 AM

La actualización en el manejo de redes sociales, es una necesidad básica para las organizaciones de salud en nuestros días. 


La Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI) y Weber Shandwick Healthcare and Digital practices, han desarrollado esta guía para que las instituciones de salud puedan darse una idea de la necesidad de tener una buena administración de sus redes sociales.

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Want to Get a Hold of a Doctor: Use Digital Technology

Want to Get a Hold of a Doctor: Use Digital Technology | Social Media and Healthcare |

Doctors are not easy people to get a hold of. Their hectic schedules and patient care have always made it difficult for patients, vendors and colleagues to get in touch with them. However, an infographic by OBizMedia the “Rise of the Digital Doctor” shows that 90 percent of doctors, compared to 65 percent of the general population, use digital communication such as email, texting and social media.

Since relationships are enhanced by communication and relationships are essential in the medical community, this infographic shows new opportunities for vendors, pharmaceutical companies, medical professionals and others in the medical community to communicate with physicians.

How Doctors are Communicating

Many doctors find digital communication fits into their lives better because they can communicate on their time schedule instead of dealing with schedule conflicts. A doctor who is working the overnight shift may have a break at 2 a.m. and digital communication allows them to communicate even though most everyone else is asleep. The use of mobile devices provides additional opportunities during breaks and downtime as well. Additionally, as more doctors are communicating digitally, they are able to see the benefits to the entire medical community.

According to the infographic, the top method of digital communication for physicians is physician online communities, such as professional societies, forums and email groups. If you are a member of one of these communities, this will most likely be your best opportunity for connecting with a physician. LinkedInand Facebook are the next most popular tools. Google+, blogs andYouTube are used almost equally and are next in line in terms of usage.

Less Time Required for Medical Advancement

When asked what type of information they communicate about in physician communities, 92 percent responded that their goal is to learn from experts and peers followed by discussing clinical issues (90%), discussing practical matters (87%) and sharing expertise (84%). This shift towards digital communication has the ability to make a dramatic impact on medicine and patient care due to this willingness to share information that previously was only accomplished through print publication and conferences. The infographic shows that previously it took 17 years from discovery to widespread adoption, but that digital communication could dramatically shorten the cycle to a mere 17 days.

Doctor to Patient Online Communication Lags Behind Peer-to-Peer

However, the willingness to communicate online does not necessarily translate to doctor to patient communication. The infographic found that 33 percent of U.S. doctors have received social media requests from patients, and 75% of those are declined. While many physicians are wary of communicating via open access social media networks, such as Facebook, there has been some definite movement towards patient communication through email or online secure web portals.

Expanding Digital Communication

Since getting in touch with physicians can be a major challenge for all in the medical community, including vendors, pharmaceutical companies, training companies and even other physicians, understanding the digital trend is valuable. Take the time to find the best way to get in touch with physicians in your network by first determining where they communicate most often.
Look at their online accounts to determine their social media presence and then note which accounts they are most active on. If a doctor you are working with tweets regularly, then consider sending a direct mail on Twitter or sending a tweet.

By using tailoring your communication method to the specific doctor’s style and using digital technology when appropriate, you will most likely find yourself getting more responses and developing a better relationship. And you just might wake up to find that the doctor you have been trying to track down for weeks sent you a message from a hospital break room at 2 a.m.

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Who uses social media? What are some health-related examples?

The Pew Research Center has collected demographic data for users of Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram. Susannah Fox crowdsourced examples of
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Do patients want biopharma part of the social media conversation?

Do patients want biopharma part of the social media conversation? | Social Media and Healthcare |

According to the Journal of Medical Internet Research “Results suggest that blogging about chronic pain and illness may decrease a sense of isolation through the establishment of online connections with others and increases a sense of purpose to help others in similar situations.”  However, do they really want or need biopharma to be part of the conversation?

If you do a Twitter search for various Rx medications or health conditions you’re likely to find people who are there to share their experiences as well as others who want answers to questions about medication side effects and quality of life issues.  But with trust in pharma companies at an all time low (10%) do patients really want Biopharma company’s part of the conversation?

There is no one answer.  Recent research that I sat in on, for example, indicated that there was higher trust in some company’s like Biogen, Vertex, and Millennium than big named pharma companies like GSK and Pfizer.  Interesting was the fact that patients who had a positive customer service experience with a pharma company were more likely to change their mind regarding the level of “trust”.

Can biopharma use social media as a stepping stone to build trust ?  My belief is yes, they can but they first have to listen to the conversation and then they have to add value without trying to “sell” patients.  An example might be to provide links to questions posed on social media or sponsor a social media chat with a KOL.

One thing is for certain, it takes new capabilities to use social media at a time when most pharma budgets are being cut back.  What are the key deliverables?  How are these people rated on their reviews? Those questions are going to be asked and they need to be answered as more people turn to the Internet and social media for support and answers.

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Improve Your Social Media Voice

Improve Your Social Media Voice | Social Media and Healthcare |

Today, just about every business or medical practice has some sort of social media plan, including an active Facebook and Twitter. However, the problem faced by most social media pages is that they don't stand out from the crowd. In today's world, it is extremely important to give your practice its own clear voice.

So how can you spice up your social mediapresence? Let's take a closer look at some tips that will help you own your social media voice.

  1. Get to know your audience. Your practice has tons of Facebook friends and Twitter followers. However, if you are not engaging or connecting with your audience in some way, social media will not do very much for your practice. Give your social media pages a personality - post informative articles, medical news,  as well as happenings within your practice. Doctors can get to know their patients better through social media, by asking them for feedback on any current promotions, procedures, or even about current medical news.
  2. Embrace the power of video. Most internet users respond to visual, interactive content. Video is a great example of content that will catch a patient's eye. Additionally,video content is a powerful storytelling tool that will help a doctor educate patients, and share valuable  information about their practice. Consider putting yourself on video, so that your patients can get to know you better through video.  Millions of people visit videosharing websites each day, so why not implement the power of viral video into your practice's social media plan?
  3. Engage with your competition. You're probably already keeping an eye on what your  medical competition is doing on their own social media pages. So why not take it a step further and actually interact with them? Follow them on Twitter, applaud them for any of their accomplishments, take note of any industry-related news they post, and interact with them in a healthy, friendly manner. You never know how the connections you make over social media may benefit you in the future.
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The Diagnosis Difference: Online and Offline

The Diagnosis Difference: Online and Offline | Social Media and Healthcare |

45% of U.S. adults report that they live with one or more chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, but also less common conditions like lupus and cancer. They are more likely than other adults to be older, to have faced a medical emergency in the past year, and, as other studies have shown, to contribute to the explosion of health care costs in the U.S.

A new national survey by the Pew Research Center, supported by the California HealthCare Foundation, explores how adults with chronic conditions gather, share, and create health information, both online and offline.

The Pew Research Center’s analysis indicates a “diagnosis difference” that is tied to several aspects of health care and technology use. For example, holding other variables constant (including age, income, education, ethnicity, and overall health status), the fact that someone has a chronic condition is independently associated with being offline.

The diagnosis difference cuts another way, too. This study provides evidence that many people with serious health concerns take their health decisions seriously—and are seriously social about gathering and sharing information, both online and offline.

Internet users living with one or more conditions are more likely than other online adults to:

  • Gather information online about medical problems, treatments, and drugs.
  • Consult online reviews about drugs and other treatments.
  • Read or watch something online about someone else’s personal health experience.

“Our research makes it clear that when the chips are down, people are most likely to get advice from a clinician, but online resources are a significant supplement,” says Susannah Fox, lead author of the study and an associate director at the Pew Research Center. “Just as significantly, once people begin learning from others online about how to cope with their illnesses, they join the conversation and also share what they know.”


The results reported here come from a nationwide survey of 3,014 adults living in the United States. Telephone interviews were conducted by landline (1,808) and cell phone (1,206, including 624 without a landline phone). The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International. Interviews were done in English and Spanish by Princeton Data Source from August 7 to September 6, 2012. Statistical results are weighted to correct known demographic discrepancies. The margin of sampling error for the complete set of weighted data is ±2.4 percentage points. In this survey there are 1,498 respondents who are living with one or more chronic health conditions. Margin of error for results based on that group is ±3 percentage points.

Support for this study was provided by the California HealthCare Foundation, an independent philanthropy committed to improving the way health care is delivered and financed in California. Additional analysis and editorial guidance was provided by Kristen Purcell and Lee Rainie. An extensive appendix contains stand-alone analysis of each group included in the survey: the general population, adults living with high blood pressure, adults living with lung conditions, adults living with diabetes, adults living with heart conditions, adults living with cancer, and adults living with other chronic health conditions. Since one in five U.S. adults is living with two or more conditions, we cannot compare the groups.

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What Social Media Websites a Private Practice Doctor Should Use

What Social Media Websites a Private Practice Doctor Should Use | Social Media and Healthcare |

As the world has rapidly become more and more technology-dependent, the Internet has taken precedent over almost every other form of PR. Of course, there are very few advertising methods that are better than the spread of a good reputation via word-to-mouth. However, when running a small business, this is often very difficult, whether or not you are just starting up or have been around a long time. In both small towns and large cities alike, the means of advertising a private practice facility have changed.

This requires some adjustment in order to keep up with your competitors. Rather than getting out the Yellow Pages, it is far more likely for your clients to get online and try to search for clinics in the area. They are also likely to take to social media in order to ask their friends what doctors they would recommend or advise against.

In this computer-savvy society, consider social media to be the new-and-improved form of word-of-mouth. Most private practice doctors are not well-versed in social media, and haven’t yet adjusted to using it for advertising. If you are a private practice doctor and you are reading this, there’s a very good chance that you are in the same boat.


Here’s the good news – there are certain social media websites that are far more beneficial than others, for reasons that will be elaborated on in this article. For those sites, you can hire a social media expert who knows exactly how to utilize these sites in order to benefit a small business. At this point in time, there are very few private practices that are on social media, and even fewer that know how to use it effectively. What this means for you is that there is an untouched frontier for your usage, and if you are able to use that to your advantage, it will put you light-years ahead of your competition. By the time that everyone else catches up, you will already be an established authority on social media, and your future potential clients will definitely take notice of that.

But before we get into that, let’s first elaborate on which social media websites are worth your time, and the potential benefits that exist on each one. While each social network has its advantages and disadvantages, some clearly outshine the rest in regards to attracting clients and publicizing your business.

Facebook: Worth it or not?

As I’m sure you know, Facebook is an incredibly popular social network, and has been for several years. As of March 2013, Facebook has over 1.11 billion users ( It is the behemoth of social media, and therefore, most businesses focus the majority of their attention and efforts on creating a successful and popular Facebook fan page or profile.

A Facebook fan page can be created for organizations, businesses, and celebrities, and it enables any Facebook user to “Like” that page. This allows those users to see updates posted by the business, and also lets them comment and post thoughts on the company and its promotions.

While at first this may sound admirable and effective, there are several pitfalls that lie in the Facebook business model, as well as in how easy it is for Facebook users to access and respond to content. In recent years, Facebook has altered its algorithm several times, making changes primarily to the way that content is portrayed within a user’s news feed. What this means is that certain posts are “ranked” higher than others, which causes those posts to be seen by more users. However, on the flip side of this, it means that other posts by businesses may not be seen by Facebook users at all – meaning that even if you have several potential clients who have liked your page, they may or may not see the Facebook posts that you make.

How does Facebook determine who sees your posts, and how to make them more widespread? They are heavily pushing the option to “promote” your posts, meaning that you pay a price (and not a cheap one) to push your posts to the top of a user’s news feed. This still doesn’t guarantee that every person who likes your page will see your posts.

While this may even seem beneficial to a large corporation, for a small business, it is often wasted money. Many businesses falsely think it is wise to pay for Facebook likes on their page, a service that is offered by several online websites (many of which are scams). These likes can be bought for cheap and with minimal effort. However, what’s the point? They aren’t organic, which means that even if you are able to boost your amount of likes by 1,000, they are often fake accounts that will hold absolutely no benefit for your practice. In all honesty, Facebook likes are wholly worthless.

There is another primary flaw in investing a large amount of time and money in Facebook promotion. Whenever a post is made on Facebook, it does not rank in Google search. What this means is that if you post something telling about an offer at your practice, a new update to your services, your hours of service or office location, or anything of that sort, it will not be indexed in search. Therefore, if someone searches for “Dr. Smith of Kenly” in Google (as people are very likely to do), it will not pull up any of Dr. Smith’s Facebook posts as results.

I am not discouraging you from running a Facebook page, and a successful page can obviously benefit your business. However, I do not recommend putting an immense amount of resources into it. There are other social networks that have a larger amount of benefits for a private practice or any other small business.

How to use Twitter to a small business’s advantage

The next popular social network to be discussed is Twitter. Twitter is a social network where users can choose other users to follow. This enables the user to read the “tweets” of those whom he or she has followed, as they appear in his or her timeline. A tweet is a post that is limited to 140 characters. As a result, each thought must be whittled down into a quick and concise post.

I have seen several small businesses become very successful on Twitter. In order to do so, it is often to a small business’s advantage to write tweets that stand out in a crowd. Most users follow at least 200 other Twitter accounts, and most accounts tweet several times a day (or several times an hour, depending on the user). As a result, tweets are constantly flooding a person’s timeline at a very quick pace. Therefore, in order to be memorable, it is best for a company to advertise its products and services in a smart, witty way. If you are merely tweeting generic posts once or twice a day, you are not going to build up a following.

Many companies find it to be beneficial to hire a social media consultant to run their Twitter accounts, as most private practice doctors don’t have the time to send out several tweets a day. In fact, there aren’t many private practice doctors on Twitter at all.

What are the benefits of having an active and successful Twitter account? To begin with, if someone follows you on Twitter, you are not required to follow him or her back. This means that you can keep your following relatively small if you would like and still acquire a large amount of followers. Twitter also makes it very easy to broadcast to a rather large audience. The act of tweeting itself is extremely simple – after all, you only have 140 characters to say something, and that’s it. It is a basic software that doesn’t require overcoming a steep learning curve. Also, with the use of hashtags, your tweets can be categorized so that many thousands of users may be able to access them. Every single tweet can be made public for anyone to see, thereby bypassing the algorithm headaches that Facebook induces. As of June 2013, Twitter has over 210 million users, ranging all over the world. ( Therefore, due to a culmination of features and benefits, Twitter is a great way to reach a broad audience.

However, the main problem with Twitter for a small business’s advertising plans is that tweets are also not indexed in search. Therefore, no matter how clever your tweets are or how large your following is, your tweets will not pop up when someone searches for your practice or for doctor offices in the area. While your profile may be found in search, it is still not very effective.

Google+: Is anyone even on it?

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’ve been harping a lot on the importance of search rankings and SEO. The truth is that being ranked high in search for relevant keywords is the absolute best marketing that a private practice can invest in. More people are going to search for your business in a search engine such as Google than to look for it on social media. If you are ranked on the first page of Google for keywords or phrases such as “Optometrist in Los Angeles area”, you are going to receive an influx of new client interest.

So, how does one improve his or her search ranking? You may be tempted to hire an SEO agency or company, as there are many who offer “improved search rankings” in a very short amount of time, for a steep price. I would definitely advise you against that. These SEO agencies are often offering these false expectations and raising hopes for no reason. Most SEO companies do so through purchasing false linkbacks and producing reused and recycled content. With Google’s new and improved algorithms, these practices are highly frowned upon and lead to very severe repercussions. Therefore, by hiring an SEO agency, it will likely hurt your search rankings due to the outdated resources and tactics used.

The best way to improve your search rankings is to also use social media. Logically, Google+ benefits its users by giving them several resources that can help your ranking in search. It provides incentive for Google+ users to be active and post often, as it will inevitably help small business users to become strides ahead of its competitors in terms of search.

Google+ offers numerous ways to create content that will rank in search. These include Google+ communities, Hangouts on Air, and Google+ posts. Google+ communities can be thought of as online groups that are focused around a specific topic or interest. Small businesses can therefore create a community for users to join in support of their business. The moderator of the community can create several sub-topics or “message boards” where he or she can foster engagement. For example, your private practice could have a section for questions and concerns, one for reviews and patient testimonies, one for promotions, and so on. In these categories, both the moderator and community members can post and engage with each other. Communities are also ranked in search for their respective keywords.

The next resource that Google+ has to offer is the Hangout on Air (hereby referred to as HOAs). HOAs are video chat calls between up to eight people that can be made public, so that it can be shared and viewed by a large audience. HOAs also have special features, such as the ability to take questions from viewers. After the video call is complete, HOAs are converted into YouTube videos. YouTube videos are yet another form of content that can rank well in search.

The last option is the simple Google+ post. Google+ posts differ from Facebook posts and tweets because they do rank in search, often much better than other results. A private practice could post about anything and everything, including new scientific research, up-and-coming technology, or even about an event or restaurant in your local area. The possibilities are endless and these posts can help your small business become indexed in search for a variety of keywords.

There are social media experts who know Google+ inside and out and would be happy to help you get started at beating out the rest of your competition. If you are interested or have any questions or concerns, please contact

Not all social networks are created equal

As you can see, some social media websites hold a lot more value than others. While it is surely advantageous to have a presence on as many websites as possible, your time and efforts are better spent on websites such as Google+ than on Facebook.

By taking the initiative to start exploring social media and its potential benefits for your private practice, you will be among the first to do so. As a result, by the time the rest of your competition catches onto the prosperous results, you will have already established your stake in search and social media.

Also, by maintaining a strong Google+ profile, you will establish yourself as an expert in your field. By doing so, your private practice will attract attention from even the largest Google+ power users, providing an authority that is priceless.

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Doctors and social media - Legal perspectives from UK

Doctors and social media - Legal perspectives from UK | Social Media and Healthcare |

We take a number of telephone calls and other enquiries each year from doctors and other clinical professionals who call our claims advice line with reports of damaging information being published about them or inadvertent publication by them of potentially prejudicial comments about others. Discussions arise on the subjects of defamation, breach of confidence, professional conduct and harassment. The callers are often upset, concerned, occasionally angry and looking for advice (if not retribution) about their legal position and any remedies available to combat what has usually become a distracting, sometimes a highly distracting, episode. So we thought we would cover this subject in this article, having regard not only to pitfalls but also the insurance policy issues that might arise.

In her article for the British Medical Journal, Margaret McCartney, a GP in Glasgow, looked at the difficulties of maintaining professionalism within social media. She reported that in the police force, freedom of information data revealed that over a four year period two officers had been sacked, seven had resigned, and over 150 had been disciplined for placing “inappropriate” photographs or comments online. In the clinical professions she reported nurses had been sacked after making comments about patients and colleagues or posting revealing photographs of themselves in uniform, or of patients, online. Disciplinary steps being taken against doctors who posted derogatory comments about colleagues. 

The ease of access to, and common use of social media is well known. Networking, feedback, regulation, and revalidation are all reasons provided to us as to why doctors have used social media. A healthy caution should always attend medical professionals contributing to social media. We also urge a re-reading of the doctor’s insurance to review what is and is not covered by their insurance.

Many insurance policies cover claims made against doctors who are accused of having made defamatory comments. Some insurance policies may provide that indemnity insurance cover is conditional on the allegedly defamatory remarks having been made in the context of the doctor/patient relationship (for example in a medical record) or perhaps within a supervisory or regulatory context. Consider for example whether an interview of a doctor by a media organisation about a news item, perhaps involving another doctor or group of doctors under the media spotlight. Is an arguably defamatory remark made by the doctor interviewed covered? It might not be. Many doctors sit on regulatory, professional or validation organisations and comments made by them in their role as a member of those bodies might not be covered by their personal indemnity insurance. If they were speaking in a personal capacity about their personal views, as distinct from the “corporate” views of the body they otherwise represent, then the insurance the organisation carries (if any) might also not cover them.

Blogging on feedback sites or on mainstream social media hubs such as Facebook and Twitter has become commonplace with many patients or other professionals willing to share their experiences, sometimes in a variety of derogatory ways, about others. While an off the wall remark can often be seen for what it is, sometimes these remarks are defamatory and can amount to harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. That essentially defines as harassment any conduct that would be deemed by a reasonable person to amount to harassment. While the police are given powers to deal with such conduct as a criminal offence under the Act, we usually find it more effective (and controllable) to rely on the civil law. Using the civil remedies, where the conduct justifies it, we can seek an injunction, which will usually stop the conduct complained of, or lead to draconian sanctions including imprisonment. 

Content placed outside the jurisdiction of the UK, especially feedback about doctors from patients and former patients, can be more troublesome to deal with. The managers of the content, often a website or search engine provider, can be called upon the close down a site or remove the offending content.

In some cases though the best option is to ignore it and limit the oxygen such postings need to remain current.

Aside from defamation and harassment there is the difficulty of breaching confidences by inadvertently providing personal information that ought not to be disclosed. No surprise then that insurers and defence organisations are reminding doctors to take care in the aftermath of a number of reports of confidential patient information being shared by doctors on social media. There is some excellent guidance available from the GMC with a warning that doctors should be careful about sharing information online. Click here for the relevant guidance.

The guidance is simple and common sense. It reminds doctors of their professional duties and urges them not to publish confidential information using media that is widely available to the public. While it may be tempting to think that content so provided will be limited to a closed group, it does not take much to tick the wrong box or enter the wrong details and suddenly a wider group, including the subject of the posted content perhaps, will be able to see and share the information. 
Our advice is much the same as we offer doctors when advising on the content of medical records. Imagine a court is reading this material: would you be happy to have the judge read what you have said? Let me end with a warning of the type offered by the duty sergeant to his police officers in Hill Street Blues: “Let’s be careful out there.”

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