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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Engaging Your Patients on Social Media NOW

Engaging Your Patients on Social Media NOW | Social Media and Healthcare |

We’ve been spending a lot of time on the subject of doctor-patient communication and social media, and for good reason. In 2014, social media for healthcare marketing will rise to the next level, where physicians will literally have no choice but to engage in social media conversations in order to education, inform and simply communicate with their patients. This morning I came across two very interesting healthcare infographics that I couldn’t pass up sharing.

“A hospital without an engaging social media presence soon may be viewed with the same suspicion as a business that has no website,” according to the Healthcare Association of New York State, the Times Union reported. According to a white paper from the association, 81 percent of consumers say if a hospital has a strong social media presence, it is likely to be more cutting edge.

Read more: Only 16% of hospitals actively use social media – FierceHealthcare

Back in 2012, only 16% of all U.S. hospitals were using social media. More recent research puts that number closer to 23%. The good news is that more hospitals are utilizing the power of social media to communicate with their patients. The bad news is that number is not nearly high enough when you consider the potential health benefits that social media communication can offer.

Interestingly, many physicians are on social media for personal use (61% of respondents in the first infographic), only a small percentage of them are willing to use social media for professional use.

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Research Indicates that Physicians Prefer Digital Media

Research Indicates that Physicians Prefer Digital Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Capgemini Consulting, the global strategy and transformation consulting arm of the Capgemini Group, in collaboration with leading physician relationship management provider Quantia, today announced findings from a new joint study that shows pharmaceutical companies’ shrinking access to physicians through traditional sales representatives is putting their in-office engagement strategy in flux. The study of nearly 3,000 primary care physicians and specialists from the QuantiaMD U.S. community, found that 67 percent of physicians now rate digital media as their preferred source for accessing information, compared to just 20 percent who prefer pharmaceutical representatives. This shift is compelling pharmaceutical companies to place more emphasis on their digital strategies to maintain their role as a trusted information resource.

We are seeing a growing trend towards utilizing digital methods of communication. Increasing usage of a digital communication strategy can help pharmaceutical representatives increase engagement with the physicians they want to reach,” said Hala Qanadilo, Principal, Life Sciences, Capgemini Consulting. “While the more traditional face-to-face, in-office visits might decrease, the role of these representatives is projected to be as important as ever. Moving forward, they will need them to be the directors of multiple information sources, customizing their outreach so it is more personalized and physician-centric.”

The study analyzed how physicians currently interact with pharmaceutical companies and what role pharmaceutical company sales representatives are projected to play in the future. The study’s findings show that many physicians (40 percent) believe digital media offers the more relevant and personalized content they seek. As a result, 52 percent of physicians believe the role of the sales representative needs to evolve into a coordinator or director of multichannel information sources to stay on their radar.

Now more than ever, pharmaceutical companies have an opportunity to increase their impact on physicians’ decision making by bolstering their digital engagement and leveraging their sales force as part of a robust integrated multi-channel strategy. The study finds that companies can be successful in these efforts if they can incorporate sales representative feedback with cross-channel data analytics to tailor the appropriate mix of channels and content to each individual physician. Physicians are amenable to utilizing the new digital services that pharmaceutical companies can provide to access information. For example, 85 percent said they would consider using a virtual service to access sales representatives, including outside of standard working hours.

Physicians today are in a time crunch, juggling more commitments than ever before and no longer have the time to dedicate to in-person meetings with pharmaceutical representatives. So the reliance on more digital channels comes as no surprise,” said Dan Malloy, Senior Vice President, Quantia, Inc. “This study supports what we’re already seeing from our 200,000 members--that a physician-centric, digital communication model is the most effective way for reaching and engaging doctors.” 

Seventy three percent of physicians said the primary factor for their utilizing a digital channel was due to its ease-of-use and their own limited time and availability. Only 14 percent of physicians are letting more than one pharmaceutical representative come through their office doors every day, making the face-to-face meeting that much more scarce and at the same time, that much more valuable. 

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The Evolving Role of Social Media in Healthcare

The Evolving Role of Social Media in Healthcare | Social Media and Healthcare |
Healthcare is a breeding ground for disruption. Countless processes from patient relations to management of health records can be augmented. Surgeons wearing Google Glass, patients with NFC embedded identification bands, and nurses equipped with iPads are already a reality.

Yet one area of innovation may stem from an unlikely source. Social media for healthcare can contribute to increased communication, provider efficiency, treatment efficacy and organizational transparency.

A significant amount of doctors, patients, family members, and specialists use social media to bring about more impactful care and treatment. PwC released a report on social and healthcare detailing how, "a third of consumers surveyed use social to find and share information about medical treatments, doctors, and health plans."Given the impact of social for consumers, healthcare is set to experience similar disruption to that of mobile in the retail space. In the spirit of WebMD and existing health sites, social media is transforming how doctors and patients operate and interact with each other.

Despite issues related to misinformation, security concerns, and confidentiality, social media and similar technologies can alter the healthcare experience for all parties involved.Patients That Share Freely

Social media users are growing increasingly accustomed to sharing personal information online. Users comment on everything from a status update about their cold to a recent article on diabetes. Patients today are actively engaging online with other patients and family members regarding treatment, ailments, and prescriptions.In certain cases, patients end up receiving basic advice from medical professionals that happen to be in their network. This phenomenon can be harnessed to an extensive level for gaining qualitative feedback about treatment and services. Services like Bazaarvoice are used to scan user generated content online to measure brand sentiment. The same tools can be used by providers.Niche social networks have even been developed directly by patients and their families. Such websites focus on specific patient communities and diseases. PatientsLikeMe is a niche social network founded by the brothers of a man suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease.

The site allows family members and patients alike to access forums, reports, testimonials and other information. PatientsLikeMe utilizes data and content from their site to sell to clinics, drug manufacturers and healthcare organizations in the form of reports. As exhibited by PatientsLikeMe, patients are actively engaging with technology to empower themselves in unprecedented fashion.

Doctors Who Engage ProactivelyMashable reported that a quarter of hospitals have a social media presence. And 60 percent of doctors surveyed said social improves quality of care. With notoriety prior to an encounter, doctors can attract more patients while providing patients with a means to better assess healthcare professionals.

It takes relatively little time to set up a blog that integrates with social accounts. For larger practices, a content management system can empower members to post content to websites or blogs. Consistently publishing blogs and interesting articles serves as material to update Facebook and Twitter.

In addition, hosting Google Hangouts with past patients is another innovative yet economical way for doctors to use technology to connect with patients.

Through social media, doctors can contribute to a more transparent and patient-centric model of healthcare. And as policy progresses to catch up with technological innovation, social strategies in healthcare should become more widespread.

Doctors and hospitals that maintain a proactive social media presence, can capture and resolve patient issues to increase loyalty and satisfaction. Patients who have transparent access to information on providers could benefit from better health outcomes.Communication, feedback, and superior service in healthcare can be significantly revamped through incorporation of a social strategy.
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Why Should Physicians Want “Likes” | Quaintise

Why Should Physicians Want “Likes” | Quaintise | Social Media and Healthcare |

Everyone knows the key to successful healthcare marketing on Facebook is getting “Likes,” right? Not exactly. The Huffington Post ran an interesting commentary today titled The Like War, offering 9 steps for “using social media strategy for long term business strategy.” The focus of the commentary was essentially how to get “Likes.” Ultimately, your goal in healthcare social media marketing should not be to get “Likes” but rather to engage your audience, driving them to your brand service or product. Here’s Quaintise’s 3 top reasons why physicians need “Likes.”


1. Targeted Website Traffic: If you’re not utilizing social media to specifically send targeted traffic to your website, you’re wasting your time. Facebook advertising allows you to target an exact demographic, right down to their zip code, income, interests, hobbies, even medical conditions, to an extent, all of which you, as the physician, should be using to send targeted traffic to your website. While many SEO’s will tell you that getting conversions is a numbers game – the more traffic you drive the higher conversions you will have – in reality it’s all about driving the right traffic. In essence, you can drive all the traffic you want from Houston, Texas, but if your business is in Los Angeles, California that won’t do you much good.


2. Increased Engagement: Besides driving targeted traffic to your physician’s website, your second goal should be to increase engagement with those targeted Fans. I had a client ask me the other day, “We have X amount of Facebook Advertising budget. Shouldn’t we be sending all of that traffic to the website?” Yes and no. Sending targeted traffic to the website is tip number one, but let’s say, for example, that targeted traffic does not need your healthcare services at that moment, so they bounce from the website and in a month when they do need your services they’ve forgotten all about you. no, let’s say you’ve targeted that Facebook user for increased engagement and “Likes” on your Facebook page. In a month or two, when they do need your services, they will be a Fan of your page, engaged with your posts, and know exactly where to go to schedule an appointment at your physician offices. Increasing engagement will keep your medical practice in plain sight.


3. New Fans: A side effect of increasing engagement is getting your Friends of Friends engaged with your website. Each time a Fan or patient of yours engages with a post, photo or update that you’ve made on your Facebook page, there’s a pretty good chance that their Facebook network will see that engagement, thus increasing the amount of eyes you are reaching. Each engagement on your Facebook page increases the Views on that specific post, which increases the likelihood that you’ll end up with new Fans. And while these Fans aren’t as targeted as the ones you get in step one and two, this side-bar Fan, or Friends of Fans, are probably located in the same area, perhaps even same zip code, as your Fan, thus they could be potential patients.


Getting yoru brand out there for the world to see is great, but targeting your world to those who will truly be interested in your services or product is even better. Let the team at Quaintise turn up the heat on your Facebook Page, increasing it’s EdgeRank, increasing engagement, and ultimately driving traffic to your website.

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3 Reasons You Need to Rethink your Medical or Dental Marketing Strategy

3 Reasons You Need to Rethink your Medical or Dental Marketing Strategy | Social Media and Healthcare |

You know that the internet has revolutionized our lives. It answers our questions, connects us to our friends, and allows us to go shopping without leaving our living room. With all of these changes it is not surprising that the internet has also changed the way that we market businesses. Medical and dental marketing has really changed with the introduction of Google. Instead of looking up dentists in their yellow book or asking a neighbor people will use Google to find doctors in their area. This doesn’t mean that word-of-mouth isn’t important, it just means that the internet has now become an important component. Here are three reason you should rethink you medical or dental marketing strategy:

1) 55- 64 is the fastest growing age group on social media

If you think that social media is only for young people think again. In recent years the older age groups have quickly become the fastest growing demographic on social media. This means that you need to think about this demographic when you are posting on your social accounts. You also need to keep them in mind when creating your online marketing strategy.

2) Over half of the 91% of cell phone users have smart phones

The amount of people that access the internet from their mobile devices continues to grow. Facebook alone as over 100 million regular mobile users. This means that your marketing strategy needs to optimized for the mobile audience. If you are sharing your website with your followers make sure that it is adaptive for mobile use. Also you need to optimize your medical practice’s location so that it can b found online.

3) YouTube reaches more people than cable

Bilboards and cable advertisements aren’t the only way to reach your target audience. Other tactics, such as inbound marketing are proving to be much more effective for medical and dental marketing. If you want to learn more about inbound marketing check out my post: What is Inbound Marketing.

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Social Media for Healthcare Professionals

Learn how social media can effectively connect with your target audience and qualify prospects, lower your costs and provide long-term benefits.
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Using Social Media for Research: Tips, Strategies and Opportunities

On November 15, 2013, my colleague Jackie Bender and I examined how social media can be effectively used at all stages of research, including integrated knowled
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Social Media and Social Determinants of Health

Social Media and Social Determinants of Health | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social determinants of health (SDoH), much discussed among practitioners and academics in the field of Public Health, refer to the those things outside of the health care system, that affect people’s health. These determinants – things like povery, education, gender, ethnicity, employment, and the communities we live in – affect our health a lot more than the healthcare system does. In fact, they are estimated to account for about ~75% of our health, whereas healthcare only accounts for about ~25%. So it makes sense that if we want to have a better understanding of what’s affecting people’s lives, we have to understand what their lives are like. And given that so many people are on social media, it makes sense to use these tools to reach people where they are at. This can be in terms of both reaching out to people to provide information and resources that might help them (broadcasting, but in a targeted way), but also to *listen* to what people are talking about – what’s important to them and what’s affecting them. And, to not only talk and to not only listen, but to engage in meaningful conversation with people.

A lot of the things that were discussed on the webinar resonated with what we’ve been discussing in class (the full set of notes that I took are after the jump). Here are my key takeaways (many of which are things we talked about in class, but it was interesting to see them in the context of social marketing for health) from this webinar:

We often spend a lot of time “preaching to the choir”. Social media gives us a chance to listen to the conversations of groups who we don’t traditionally talk to – we can learn from them and engage in dialogue to better understand their side of things and perhaps to find where we have common ground.

Think about *why* you want to engage – what do you hope to achieve – and based on the objective, ask *what* are the best tools to achieve those objectives.

How can you add value (e.g., interpretation, analysis, and/or context), rather than just being part of the echo chamber?

Think about what your target audience is looking forward – what words would they search for when they are looking for what you have to offer. They probably won’t search for “locations of Public Health unit”, but they might search for things like “what vaccines should my kids get?” or “need help with breastfeeding”. You need to make sure that you make yourself findable in the ways that people will search for the things you have to offer.

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Reaching out to patients via social media - for Pharmacies

Reaching out to patients via social media - for Pharmacies | Social Media and Healthcare |

Chances are that you are using social media. Social media accounts for almost 25% of time spent online—more than any other Internet destination. A Pew survey found that 72% of online adults use social media, with 67% using Facebook, the most popular site. 

Your patients are using social media, too. The same Pew survey also revealed that 72% of Internet users say they have looked online for health information in the past year. Fifty-two percent of smartphone owners have used their devices to look up health information (see the article on medical mobile apps on page 58). Young people especially are embracing this form of communication and increasingly will be getting their information from social media sites in the future.

Types of social media

New social media platforms are being developed by the minute, but currently, the most popular are Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest. APhA and Pharmacy Today are represented on all of these sites—see article on page 24 for links. 

Facebook allows users to connect with “friends,” post updates, follow groups, and start group pages, which can be for a business, a support group, or any other type of group.

Twitter is best for short, newsy posts (limited to 140 characters), as well as for posting pictures or links to articles. You “follow” people you are interested in but don’t have to mutually “friend” each other as with Facebook.

LinkedIn is most appropriate for professional networking. It hosts what amounts to an online CV and allows you to “link” with colleagues and people you’ve worked with in the past, as well as join professional groups. APhA has a LinkedIn discussion group, and other groups focus specifically on medication therapy management and other issues of interest to pharmacists.

Pinterest, a graphics-based social media site, allows members to “pin” pictures from other websites onto a collection of bulletin boards that the member can classify. For example, someone might have a “recipes” bulletin board or a “health tips” bulletin board.

Other social media sites include Instagram, YouTube, Vine, Four Square, and many more. 

Reaching out to patients

If your pharmacy is using social media, posting tips, short facts, graphics, and links is the best way to convey useful information. Use graphics to explain things such as how to use blood glucose meters, measure children’s liquid medications, or use an inhaler. Reminders about the necessity for influenza vaccinations are excellent for social media, as are reminders to get common health screenings such as blood glucose, cholesterol, and osteoporosis. 

Tips relating to disease awareness are another great way to reach out to patients—for example, for American Heart Month in February, consider posting tips about cardiovascular health. And of course, the fastest way to share information about drug recalls or withdrawals is via social media. 

Patients with chronic diseases may find comfort from online support groups. Facebook’s Managing Diabetes page, for example, has more than 217,000 “likes” and allows visitors to interact, get advice, and share tips and stories. Referring your patients to online resources that allow them to interact with others may help them feel less alone in their fight against their disease. Consider having a printout of several social media groups—such as the diabetes group—to hand out to newly diagnosed patients who may be looking for others in the same boat. 

The National Council on Patient Information and Education has many tips and resources that pharmacists can use for social media outreach. For example, provides medication use safety tips for seniors. The page includes seven PDFs that can be posted on Facebook or tweeted via Twitter. The Be Medwise site also provides a wealth of safe medication use tips that you can share via social media.

A word of caution

Social media can be one of the most effective ways to reach out to patients and provide resources, but it’s essential to remember that HIPAA rules do still apply. Be careful about what you post. Make sure that a patient’s information can never be personally identifiable. Avoid answering patients’ specific questions publicly; rather, use social media as a platform to provide general information that most patients may find helpful.

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Social Media Can Boost Disease Outbreak Monitoring, Study Finds

Social Media Can Boost Disease Outbreak Monitoring, Study Finds | Social Media and Healthcare |

Monitoring social media websites like Twitter could help health officials and providers identify in real time severe medical outbreaks, allowing them to more efficiently direct resources and curb the spread of disease, according to a San Diego State University studypublished last month in the Journal of Medical Internet Research,Medical News Today reports.

Study Details

For the study, lead researcher and San Diego State University geography professor Ming-Hsiang Tsou and his team used a program to monitor tweets that originated within a 17-mile radius of 11 cities. The program recorded details of tweets containing the words "flu" or "influenza," including:

  • Origin;
  • Username;
  • Whether the tweet was an original or a retweet; and
  • Any links to websites in the tweet.

Researchers then compared their findings with regional data based on CDC's definition of influenza-like illness.

The program recorded data on 161,821 tweets that included the word "flu" and 6,174 tweets that included the word "influenza" between June 2012 and the beginning of December 2012.

According to the study, nine of the 11 cities exhibited a statistically significant correlation between an uptick in the number of tweets mentioning the keywords and regional outbreak reports. In five of the cities -- Denver, Fort Worth, Jacksonville, San Diego and Seattle -- the algorithm noted the outbreaks sooner than regional reports.

John Mark Bwanika's curator insight, December 7, 2013 5:13 AM

Research on social media......

Drew Hodges's curator insight, February 19, 2015 5:50 PM

This is a cool article to show the real life change that social media is creating. Before it was stated that it would take up to two weeks to detect an outbreak of a disease but now with social media it can be done in a day. 

This article really shows how social media is becoming a part of our everyday life and is taking on roles that we probably didn't expect it to. 

However with the number of users increasing it is important to have tools that help us monitor the large amount of data that is present. 

Its no good having all this information if we cannot harness it's true potential, like the one illustrated in this article for disease break out.

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Patient Reviews for Improving Care:Imagine Yelp for Your Hospital

Patient Reviews for Improving Care:Imagine Yelp for Your Hospital | Social Media and Healthcare |

Hospitals may have been slow to jump on the social media bandwagon, but it turns out these platforms may actually help to improve patient care. Hospitals across the country are turning to Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and even Pinterest to solicit the advice of patients and their loved ones. These patients and family members, referred to by many hospitals as “patient advisors”, are often asked for their opinions and advice via online questionnaires and surveys. This way, medical facilities can assess patient satisfaction, plan improvements in care and consider new services. 

A new hospital patient engagement guide released by HHS’s Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality offers “patient advisors” as one of four strategies to eliminate the communication gap between patients, families and healthcare providers. In order for these online advisory councils to work effectively, the AHRC suggests that hospitals “recruit and train patients and family members to serve as advisors and train clinicians and hospital staff to work effectively with them.”

Two New Hampshire hospitals have started down this path, ramping up their social media presence and connections to patients throughout the past year, according to the Concord Monitor. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center has hired a full-time social media coordinator to reach out to patients and their loved ones. And Concord Hospital is using social media to develop meaningful, two-way conversations with patients. The hospital hopes that social media will also help to build brand awareness and customer loyalty.

The University of Michigan Health System, which includes three hospitals, 40 outpatient locations and more than 120 clinics throughout Michigan and northern Ohio, now turns to a group of "e-advisors" to answer approximately 35 online surveys a year. And the Health System’s teen council provides feedback by responding to questions via a Facebook page dedicated specifically to them.

But patient feedback is not always positive. Imagine Yelp reviews for your doctor or hospital.

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

Patient feedback can contribute to the success and improvement of any hospital, but recent research published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggests that understanding the patient perspective is imperative to evaluating the effectiveness of some treatments as well- specifically, cancer treatments.

"There is no way to adequately assess a treatment's impact on the patient without including their point of view, gleaned directly from asking about their experience in a consistent and scientifically validated manner," lead researcher Ethan Basch, M.D., director of the Cancer Outcomes Research Program at UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in a statement.

Recent numbers suggest that just over one fourth of U.S. hospitals use social media channels to interact with patients. Seeing as social media gives hospitals the opportunity to hear patient opinions and complaints and react quicker than ever before, that number is likely to grow exponentially in the near future.

Leigh's curator insight, August 12, 2014 1:40 AM

This article was a great read because it encourages healthcare providers to get out there and embrace social media with patients.  Patients can be ill-informed when it comes to diagnosis, treatments, prognosis, and overall health.  If healthcare providers, namely doctors, were to reach out through social media, people may start listening.  If a person has the desire to research healthcare to possibly better themselves, this may be a call for help or at least a step in the right direction for prevention.  Doctors should play off of this cue and take the opportunity to make a difference in as many lives as possible.

“As a result of advancements in technology, patients today have greater access to information on health issues and expect more dedicated communication from their doctors” (Neo, 2011).


Neo, L. F. (2011). Working toward the best doctor-patient communication. Singapore medical journal, 52(10), 720-725.  Retieved from

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Everything Physicians Ought to Know About Using Facebook

Everything Physicians Ought to Know About Using Facebook | Social Media and Healthcare |

How should doctors approach their privacy settings on Facebook?

  • Look at your “about” profile. Do you list your phone number and email, and who can see them?
  • The little flower-like icon at the top right corner of your newsfeed? When clicking on it, you’ll see a number of options, including advertising, account settings and privacy settings.
  • In your privacy settings, you’ll see options such as ‘who can see my stuff?’ ,‘Limit past posts.’, ‘Who can contact me?’ and start considering what you want the public to see and what you want your friends to see.
  • Under Timeline and tagging, review who can post on your timeline, and perhaps allow the ability to review anything you’re tagged in before it’s published on your profile.
  • A good profile test is clicking on “Who can see things on my timeline?” and where it says “view as” choose someone you’re not close with. Then you can view your profile as that person would. That can help you decide how to adjust your settings.
  • Look at your photos – albums’ privacy has to be adjusted individually, or automatically they show up public. Know that your cover photo will always be public.
  • Watch what things you “like” and groups you join. It’s not private, and when you post or like something, likely it will show up in the fast-moving activity list on the far right of your page.

Need more help? The Canadian Medical Association has a social media rules of engagement you should know about.

more at

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Can charitable incentives boost social media marketing? AstraZeneca tests that theory with breast cancer website

Can charitable incentives boost social media marketing? AstraZeneca tests that theory with breast cancer website | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media has become an important tool for pharmaceutical companies to raise brand awareness and assess the public’s appetite for its products. Some groups are also studying the effect of financial and charitable incentives to influence behavior. Now AstraZeneca (NYSE: AZN) has combined these in one website promoting national breast cancer awareness month.

AstraZeneca division MedImmune specialty Care runs the metastatic breast cancer website, It’s designed to provide information about the condition. AstraZeneca said in an emailed statement that it will make donations each time visitors to the site share content from the website on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social media venues. AstraZeneca said it will make the donations to patient support groups Living Beyond Breast Cancer and Metastatic Breast Cancer Network.Donations will be made up to $28,000, which corresponds with the 28 years since the start of National Breast Cancer Awareness month.

It also started the My+Story online resource center. The website calls attention to the needs of women living with metastatic breast cancer.

AstraZeneca estimates that 30 percent of breast cancers become metastatic or spread to other parts of the body beyond the original tumor.

As the pharmaceutical industry makes progress using genome mapping to develop more personalized and effective treatments for different cancers, metastatic cancer patients are set to benefit too. Some companies are developing ways to combine genomic analysis with proteomics. A pilot study by the Side Out Foundation is pairing a novel protein activation mapping technology with genomics to develop more effective treatments.

Read more:

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Why does a twittering doctor tweet? - 10 reasons for a social media...

Why does a Twittering Doctor Tweet? 10 reasons to have a social media presence Dr Anne Marie Cunningham GP and Academic Lead for eLearning, Institute of Medical
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Social Media in Medicine: The Doctor’s Duty

Social Media in Medicine: The Doctor’s Duty | Social Media and Healthcare |

Digital health care is about using technology to shift, massage, lubricate and tweak the rusty ol’ health care system. As the world populations grow older, worry and anxiety over how to support aging has turned to innovation and action; technology is quickly becoming the answer to outpatient care, to invaluable insights into healthier living, prevention, adherence and patient engagement. How exciting!

At this point, it seems silly to differentiate a doctor as a “digital doctor” since use of technology to supplement and advance one’s practice is fairly ubiquitous in the medical world. Though the use of EMRs and computers and other online tools are common, being social online, either amongst peers or patient communities is less so. ZocDoc, a digital referring home to tens of thousands of physicians, recently released some interesting facts and figures on the doctor’s use of social media.

The survey illustrates 360 physician’s use of social media:


  • 87% of physicians ages 26-55 use social media
  • 65% of physicians ages 56-75 use social media


  • 21% are onTwitter
  • 28% are on LinkedIn
  • 34% are on Google+
  • 53% are on Facebook
  • 30% have no social media account

Being social and knowing how to engage and tell stories to disseminate awesome information to your patient demographic doesn’t come naturally to us all. Yet being social is weighted more and more for so many reasons. Connecting with your colleagues is critical. Mentioned before, engaging through Twitter, Facebook, or another social platform with other physicians, scientists, or thought leaders will keep you ahead of the curve, inspired, and connected. As the data above show, young doctors especially get this.

But also, there is the patient side of the coin. Ben Heuble and Nick Saalfeld wrote an excellent article on MedCrunch talking about the wisdom of the crowd. Patient communities are quickly becoming an essential part of a patient’s journey to gaining better health and deeper understanding about his or her condition. As Ben and Nick write, “The platforms that seem to succeed create hubs offering patients the opportunity to ask questions in a supportive environment.”

Though an old fashioned Google search is still pretty common, condition-specific communities enable a sense of belonging, support, more accurate information, and personalized stories. Anecdotal data mixed with peer-reviewed, physician-provided information create dense data banks that can be fed back into a personalized care approach to health. Applications like fertility app Ovuline syndicate data with common patient community platforms or trackers like PatientsLikeMe or FitBit, bring personalized treatment plans to thousands by synthesizing, analyzing and artfully illustrating a particular patient’s information back to them. The better the conglomerate data, the better the treatment. Physician’s expertise is invaluable here for cutting all that unwieldy (and uninformed) medical advice online.

Redefining a Doctor’s Call

Dr. Howard Luks, New York-based, Chief of Sports Medicine and Anthroscopy, and an Associate Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at New York Medical College wrote on ZocDoc recently that, “while social media has become ubiquitous in countless professions, many digital doctors are only ‘social’ when it comes to physician-to-physician social media. The real promise, in my opinion, is using digital technology to improve physician-to-patient communications.” Being part of the growing patient community trend is just one area where such communication can happen.

In addition to being an all-round superstar entrepreneur-ortho surgeon-professor-Tweeter extraordinaire (he has over 13,000 followers and co-founded Symplur, a great resource for anyone in health care and social media ), Dr. Luks practices what he preaches. His blog provides information to his patients and his colleagues, equally. He talks about social media and ACL surgery, web design and best practices in health care. He sees the definition of a physician being redefined beyond the surgery room and hospital swinging doors, to a highly interactive, highly impactful platform: social media. Dr. Luks goes to the patient, rather than waits for the patient to find him.

Dr. Nina Shapiro is Professor and Clinical Director of Pediatric Ear, Nose, and Throat at UCLA. About three years ago, Dr. Shapiro began her social media adventures to establish a broader and more accessible platform for Take A Deep Breath: Clear the air for the health of your child, a book for parents about choking and asthma. Since, Dr. Shapiro regularly shares information relevant to her practice through her blog, Twitter, and Facebook (of which she holds two accounts – one for her book, the other for her practice).

Engaging with social media has become routine in Dr. Shapiro’s world. Though her clinical work takes priority, she sees information sharing through social media as part of her job. “The medical community must continue to provide realistic, peer-reviewed information to tease out a lot of the nonsense that exists out there,” Dr. Shapiro says.

There are of course sensitivity issues. Many of her colleagues deal with throat and neck cancer in children; doctor’s sharing stories about their encounters should be practical, but take care to not neglect the critical lessons of sympathy and sensitivity inherent in bedside manner.

Emotional stories that are informative, real, but empathetic to the audience can be challenging, and therefore, might dissuade some clinicians from wanting to share online. Yet these same stories, where the doctor reveals a part of her underbelly can prove extremely important. Dr. Shapiro’s most read and widely disseminated articles are those in which she shares personal insights, opinions – her voice. Her LA Times article on vaccinations, for example, created an awesome stir – awesome because it informed, it challenged certain views, and it got people thinking and talking about important issues.

Digital health is driving patients to seek information, physician referrals, and treatment options online. The quantified self movement further enables this trend by redefining our attitude and expectation about interacting with our health in digital details – in data, graphs, trends, and prompts.  Additionally, hierarchical hospital to patient health care structures are being inverted so that the patient holds increasing power over his health, and indeed, is told more and more that he is being held accountable. It becomes the doctor’s duty, therefore, to have a presence online. With a built online platform comes more exposure, more recognition. As Dr. Shapiro says, “If you build it, and it’s recognized, more people will listen, and you’ll be able to express what you need to say on a larger scale.” Whether the social platform is established through a referral on a diabetes website, or an active blog or Twitter feed, being online – and being social online – is crucial to listening, to engaging, to informing, and to treating patients today.

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Navigating Social Media in the Healthcare Industry

Navigating Social Media in the Healthcare Industry | Social Media and Healthcare |
here is no doubt about the power of social media. In simple terms, it allows companies to talk directly with their stakeholders. Those companies that do it well are those that are willing to listen, engage and act.
Social media are the platforms for consumer interaction and relationship building. It’s not complicated to implement a social media strategy, but it will take resources both in the time spent and as part of the overall marketing budget.
Here are some tips on how healthcare companies can execute a social media campaign:
• Plan: Develop a strategic social media plan. The plan should answer: Who are your audiences? Are you talking to consumers, other businesses or both? What are your messages? What do you have to offer your target markets through social media? How will you measure success? Without a realistic plan you will be ineffective and disappointed in your social media outreach.
• Investigate: Not all social media properties fit all brands. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, a company blog or any number of other platforms are available. If you are a hospital, for example, you might want to establish a YouTube account to post videos of procedures, surgeries or lectures. If you are a growing heathcare company, you might want to start with LinkedIn as a way to promote job openings. One simple way to start is with a corporate blog that can be used to aggregate all published content to your other digital assets. The blog will also increase your search engine optimization (SEO) when you use key words and helps build inbound links and search engine trust. There’s flexibility with a blog; it can be used as a vehicle for corporate news and milestones, friendly reminders, customer Q&A and as a traffic driver for all social media assets or it can be an opinion piece on a timely healthcare topic.
• Content is still king: In real estate it’s all about location, location, location. Online, it’s all about content, content, content. Google recognizes new content which also builds your SEO. The best way to achieve content is to develop a content calendar that targets and engages your audience. Sometimes it’s as simple as providing content for Facebook that can also be adapted at the same time for Twitter. New content is the key to keeping fans. Without it, they will move on to another brand.
• Listen: This is probably one of the most important messages for the healthcare industry. It’s important to monitor social media properties for mentions of your brand and develop a tactical plan to document and take action when applicable, whether the online comments are positive or negative. Listening encourages engagement, builds trust and allows companies to cultivate a relationship with their customers.
• Budget: What type of resources do you want to devote to a social media campaign and what are your budget considerations? Multinational and global companies have a numerous social media staff members devoted to their outreach. You can consider hiring someone in-house to handle social media initiatives or you can hire an outside consultant. In many cases, we have found that if the social media function ends up on the “to do” list of someone internally, be realistic. Social media may end up dropping to the bottom of their list which means it will not get done in the timely manner that it should.
 Be patient: In the healthcare industry in particular, you likely will not experience social media success overnight. For any company starting out, this is a marathon, not a sprint. In time, you will build a following, grow your fan base and ultimately see a positive impact on business. With social media, you will only get out of it what you put in to it.
Leo J. Bogee III's curator insight, December 10, 2013 4:12 PM

With the Affordable Heath Care Act, it will be suprising to see how 2014 will be the year Health Insurance Companies quickly figure out Facebook Ads to speed up their social media results.

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Innovation in Healthcare Social Media

Innovation in Healthcare Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

ICF is doing a lot of great work around innovation in healthcare IT, as well as exploring how social media can help push the healthcare industry forward. Here are some awesome free resources for you to check out:

“The healthcare industry is in flux. Payers and providers are working frantically to implement the regulations of  Healthcare Reform. At the same time, rampant chronic disease and an aging population contribute to rising healthcare costs in the United States. The entire industry is scrambling to improve care, serve savvier consumers, evolve new revenue streams, and boost brand image. Amidst the challenges and opportunities, innovation is not an option for survival —it’s a requirement.”

“Meeting your doctor on YouTube—then receiving a video text from her when you miss an appointment. Sharing marathon milestones with friends around the world—while you run. Halting a nicotine craving with an instant “reward” of encouragement, delivered straight to your smartphone.

Social media platforms have transformed engagement in all areas of life, including healthcare. We use them to learn, connect, compete, entertain, and improve our lives. Channels, apps, and games once considered novel are now commonplace, and users—particularly younger ones—have grown accustomed to accessing them at any time, from any place.

These aren’t passing trends—they’re strategies healthcare organizations absolutely must adopt if they want to be successful in the current environment of healthcare reform and consumer engagement. Today, people have more freedom than ever to “shop” for providers, plans, and services, just as they do for airline tickets, clothing, dining or entertainment options. If a hospital’s YouTube channel hasn’t been updated since 2009 or a blog post’s comments are flooded with unanswered criticism, skeptical consumers will post their opinions and take their business elsewhere—using social media platforms and mobile apps to do so.

Concurrently, as healthcare reimbursement moves from its current volume-based, fee-for-service structure to a value-based model, population health ascends as a priority—and social media as a tool for managing it. When attributed patients aren’t showing improvements in key metrics like blood pressure and body mass index (BMI), insurers and providers will be held accountable. Using an online game or contest to move the needle in a positive direction could result in millions saved and an invaluable competitive edge.”

ICF International invited expert panelists from the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Cancer Institute (NCI) to discuss their organizations’ scientific priorities related to social media and behavioral informatics. Download the on demand webinar to hear how NCI employed a scientific approach to understanding social media usage and its application to health communication research and practice. With the rapid evolution of technology platforms and data science, NCI also encourages innovation in evidence-based digital health technologies in order to improve health outcomes at the individual and community levels.

In this webinar, the speakers illustrated how information gathered via social media and other online platforms help build the evidence base for health communication research and help inform practitioners about how they can support behavior change. They also explored how health IT can be applied to support patient-centered communication and care coordination for cancer prevention andcontrol.This webinar provides a better understanding of:

  • Health communication research and practice in cancer control efforts—Cancer is a condition for which many patients, their families, and caregivers are highly engaged and motivated to act. Examine the processes and effects of communicating information related to cancer and other diseases. Discuss different modalities, including interpersonal, mass media, print communication, and new informatics platforms to drive toward patient-centered communication and better inform care communication.
  • Big data and innovation—Enabling cancer patients to access their health data is a potentially empowering step for improving outcomes. There is also a need for decision support tools that can help patients, families, and caregivers utilize data for improved health outcomes. The HHS Open Government Plan, public-private partnerships, and funding opportunities that support the translation of evidence-based digital health technologies will also be discussed.
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Has pharma finally figured out social media?

Has pharma finally figured out social media? | Social Media and Healthcare |

This post takes another look at healthcare social media for pharmaceutical marketers and looks at “beyond the pill” strategies.

The answer? Forget the drug. It’s about education, stupid. And, pharma marketers believe the timing couldn’t be better given the onset of Obamacare and the immediate need of consumers for information and guidance when it comes to their personal healthcare.

Two examples given:

  • A game called Fantasy Diabetes (like fantasy baseball) and developed by Disney and Eli Lilly help younger people manage their Type 1 Diabetes
  •, a website in the same vein as , and, offer diet planners, exercise tips, lifestyle choices, calorie trackers, blood sugar monitors and so forth

Since the launch of MerckEngage in 2010, it has attracted 8.2 million visitors. Since April of this year, the mobile site has been visited 102,000 times.

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Social Media in Healthcare and Local Government

Social Media in Healthcare and Local Government | Social Media and Healthcare |
Social Media in Healthcare and Local GovernmentSharing the latest article I wrote for my Master’s in Public Administration course work at Bellevue University. Check out the Healthcare Hashtag Project (link in references below).

This post offers a brief summary of an article found using the Elton B. Stephens Company (EBSCO) database on the use of electronic communications to serve clients of the healthcare industry.

Today’s technology allows many opportunities for patient-centered care. Email, text messaging, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter offer today’s nurses a chance to modernize healthcare practitioner methods of patient interaction. The article cites a Pew Research Center study reporting 85% of American’s are online, and 55% of these people are using mobile devices (Weaver, Lindsay, Gitelman, 2012). These statistics suggest a public ready for new methods of interacting with healthcare providers.

Using modern communication technologies, nurses can educate the public about four changeable behaviors, identified by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), as negatively affecting the health of Americans:

Lack of ExercisePoor NutritionTobacco UseExcessive Alcohol Consumption

Nurses are in the best position to use technology to improve the health and communications practices between healthcare providers and patients. “Experience suggests that nursing leaders–and those who discover they can lead in this way–will seek the opportunities and efficiencies that electronic connections afford both their patients and them (Weaver, Lindsay, Gitelman, 2012).” If nurses are in the best position to use technology in modernizing healthcare service delivery, could these same practices be applied to public administration?

City governments have access to the same no-cost solutions as other for-profit organizations. YouTube and other social media offers free platforms for broadcasting and disseminating local government activities. A quick search for local municipalities’ use of technology proves there is still a lot of room for improvement by our local governments. The City of Papillion is a great example of a local government instituting best practices using electronic communication.
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24 Twitter hashtags the healthcare industry needs to follow

24 Twitter hashtags the healthcare industry needs to follow | Social Media and Healthcare |

If you're not on Twitter too often, you might think it's mostly a cluttered universe of self-promoting tweets and inane conversations about celebrities.

But that's not the case. In fact, if you follow the right hashtags (e.g. words with a # symbol in front of them), you'll learn from some of the sharpest minds in heallthcare, and get to follow issues as they emerge among industry pioneers. These are a few of the healthcare hashtags you should consider following.


One class of tags are the key to participating in intriguing conversations on Twitter. Not only are the tags used to identify relevant content, they're also used as a means to set up discussions. (People get together by following the tags at the appointed hour.) Here's some useful tweetchat hashtags:

1. #HCLDR—Healthcare leaders

2. #HCSM—Healthcare social media

3. #HITsm—Health IT social media

4. #QualityChat—Patient safety, quality improvement

5. #MHChat—Digital mental health, counseling

6. #MDChat—Discussion for MDs


These tags are used to categorize the tweets you write, so others searching for similar information can find you.. Obviously, there can be as many hashtags as there are Twitter users, in theory, but some are more widely used than others. Some examples include:

7. #ACA—Affordable Care Act

8. #HIX — Health insurance exchange

9. #PrimaryCare—About primary care practice

10. #FMRevolution—Family medicine revolution

11. #MedEd—Medical education

12. & 13. #HIT (or #HealthIT)—Health information technology

14. #EMR—Electronic medical record

15. & 16. #DPC (or #directprimarycare)—  Direct primary care

17. #mHealth—Mobile health

18. #health20—Next-generation healthcare

19. #sm4ph—Social media for public health

Often, a good way to be the first to get information from your trade association is to follow their Twitter hashtag. Here's a small sample of trade groups that work with hashtags:

20. #AmericanMedicalAssociation—Hashtag for the AMA

21. #AAFP— American Academy of Family Physicians

22. #AHAnewsnow—American Hospital Association

23. #MGMA—Medical Group Management Association

24. #HIMSS—Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society



After checking out a few of these hashtags, you might find out that you have topics to discuss which don't turn up in a search.  By all means, go to the next level and create your own hashtag for what interests you. There's no rules as to who uses what hashtag, so don't be afraid to create. You're just adding to the richness of healthcare thought to be found on Twitter.

Giovanna Marsico's comment, December 9, 2013 6:12 AM
I suggest also #PPE (parole de patient expert, expert patients' opinion)
Pere Florensa's comment, December 9, 2013 6:15 AM
Thanks Giovanna, I will follow #PPE !
Giovanna Marsico's comment, December 9, 2013 6:17 AM
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Social media Healthcare: Why .... and how

The Regina Lectures - Nov 28 2. Lecture to Regina child psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers
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Social Media can help contain illness

Social Media can help contain illness | Social Media and Healthcare |

In 1998, I had a start-up called that provided an online platform for home videos.  At that time, online video was the size of a matchbook and very few people had a broadband connection capable of uploading video (let alone watching it), so users sent us their VHS tapes and DVDs via snail mail for us to digitize/encode it in glorious Quicktime, RealPlayer and Windows Media Player formats. 

This was obviously a barrier to entry, and the start-up failed along with numerous others during that early dot-com era.  It wasn't until broadband was more widely adopted that a little website called YouTube was then able to succeed at what we had attempted seven years prior.  Broadband has since enabled the success of many streaming video sites and apps.  Its importance cannot be overstated, but today broadband is mostly taken for granted, and may seem less obvious to some in its enabling of other technologies.

Twitter recently made headlines with a massive public offering that surprised even devoted followers of the company. Behind the headlines, though, social media is doing more than lifting the stock market — it's making advances on major problems in our society and even helping contain the spread of contagious diseases. 

Social media platforms have a wealth of data on the state of their users' health thanks to regular updates on Facebook and Twitter. By aggregating this information, social media can be used to identify outbreaks and help inform the public of hazards in their area. 

Much like weather forecasters using rain clouds to predict thunderstorms, my current company, Sickweather, uses social media to track and forecast illness outbreaks. No longer do you have to wait for reports from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention about the spread of a serious infection; now anyone can access the most up-to-date information online or via the Sickweather iPhone app. 


Social media is not the only broadband-enabled technology helping people stay healthy. Telemedicine is revolutionizing access to health care and driving down its costs. As former Surgeon General Richard Carmona pointed out recently, a Department of Veterans Affairs telemedicine program produced an annual savings of $2,000 per patient. 

Using voice and video technology, patients can now consult with doctors who are hundreds of miles away. Emergency medical responders can also view their patients' history remotely in order to make instantaneous and lifesaving decisions.


In Maryland, we are especially well equipped to adopt these new and potentially lifesaving technologies.


Maryland has one of the fastest broadband connection speeds in America. According to Akamai, a tech company that publishes a State of the Internet report, if individual states were compared to countries with the fastest average broadband speeds in the world, Maryland would place 10th worldwide. According to the National Broadband Map, 85.5 percent of the regional population has access to three or more wired broadband providers, and 96.5 percent of the regional population has access to four or more wireless providers.

But there's a catch. Platforms like Sickweather and other telemedicine advances rely not only on high-speed connectivity, but also engagement. The more people broadcast how well they feel on social media, the more accurate our algorithm is to detect a sudden outbreak. Like most of the 97,000 mobile health apps currently available, ours becomes more effective as more people get online.

Unfortunately, 30 percent of Americans still haven't adopted broadband at home; however that will change as access and cost are no longer barriers to entry. Today nearly every American can access either wired or wireless broadband, and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development noted that the U.S. has the second lowest entry-level price for broadband.

Now we just need to overcome issues like digital literacy and, most importantly, understanding the importance of broadband in our lives. While non-adopters may not flock to the Internet for the sake of a tweet, they may just be convinced if their health is on the line.
Joanna Griffin's curator insight, August 18, 2015 3:05 PM

society, health, social media, digital divide, tele medicine, 

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Patient-Centered Research and Social Media

Patient-Centered Research and Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

At ICHI 2013, a panel of four experts discussed the challenges and opportunities of patient-centered research by harnessing social media. They presented examples illustrating how social media data can be mined to benefit both the patient and clinical communities.

The healthcare system is currently in the process of transforming from reactive care to proactive and preventive care. Patients are taking an active role in seeking health information to get a better understanding of their health conditions and the treatments or medications they are receiving. They also want to be alerted to the latest developments in global health issues such as flu outbreaks or new vaccines. Patients often go online to search for authoritative information or to communicate with peers who have similar health conditions. Social media plays an important role in empowering patients to acquire healthcare knowledge.

The latest sensor and mobile technologies also enable patients to track their health conditions ubiquitously. In the IEEE International Conference on Healthcare Informatics 2013, four panel speakers from Drexel University, MedHelp, Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation, and Pennsylvania State University have discussed the challenges and opportunities of patient-centered research by harnessing social media. Among many popular social media sites and healthcare-specific social media sites as shown in Figure 1,MedHelp ( is one of the leading social media sites in consumer health engagement (Figure 2). Healthcare requires privacy and anonymity, making traditional social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter inadequate in sharing health data or personal health experiences. On the other hand, MedHelp has powered social media discussions and data sharing for health conditions in a private and protected manner since 1994. MedHelp has 13 million active monthly users, over 200 active condition-specific communities, and 6 million mobile app downloads. MedHelp also provides expert forums for the health professionals to answer the questions from health consumers directly.

The content in MedHelp covers healthcare articles, newsletters, slideshows, quizzes, community forums and expert blogs. In addition, MedHelp provides a data platform for consumers to gather data from mobile apps, web apps, and health devices (Figure 3). Such enormous volume of content and data not only enable patients in acquiring knowledge beyond what they can obtain through traditional channels but also generate valuable and timely resources for patient-centered research. Early signals can be discovered by mining social media data, both in structured form (e.g., mobile apps and devices) as well as unstructured form (e.g., community discussions). Patients can compare their data with other patients as well as aggregated benchmark data to gain insights. MedHelp is currently deploying the social and mobile platform for its partners so that these healthcare partners can collect patient data, personalize their communication and services, and reward healthy behaviors.

Patient-centered outcome research using social media data lies at the intersection of big data and social media (Figure 4) as Dion Hinchcliffe pointed out in his blog in 2011. The Biomedical Informatics Research Center at Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation is currently developing the text analytics techniques which combine statistics, natural language processing, and visualization to analyze a large volume of healthcare social media data. Actonnect (Figure 5), a collaborative effort among Marshfield, Drexel, and a few other institutions, is a web-based search engine and interface that aims to enable patients, clinicians, researchers, and others to conduct searches of health information gleaned from dozens of patient forums and social media sites and share their results graphically. Actonnect's conceptual model has recently won the first place award in the Patient-Research Matching Challenge organized by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

There are many related efforts in supporting users in accessing healthcare forums through context-specific approach or recommending other health consumers based on their influence. Kumar and Zhao [4] have recently developed keyword and user navigation graphs as techniques to assist health consumers to identify most viewed posts and navigate from symptoms to diagnoses, and from diagnoses to treatments. Tang and Yang [5] developed a ranking algorithm to rank the user influence by combing content-based and network-based approaches.

Recent work on analyzing social support exchange in healthcare social media platforms has identified that informational and nurturant support are two major kinds of social support provided by social media. Health consumers offer informational support mainly by sharing their personal experiences with each other [2] They also exchange advice and opinions, and make referrals to other information sources. To provide nurturant support, health consumers encourage their support recipients to express their feelings and emotions, and empathize with them [1]. Patients also use social media to connect to other patients who have similar health conditions and maintain a network with them. It is also shown that user interaction patterns vary depending on whether health consumers interact through a public page (e.g. forum) or by private messages [6].

Healthcare social media sites provide a large and timely resource for mining knowledge that may not be available in traditional platforms such as spontaneous reporting systems, electronic health databases and pharmaceutical databases. Recently, Yang et al. [7] harnessed social media data for detecting drug safety signals. They found that association mining techniques can effectively identify adverse drug reactions and the temporal analysis shows that the signals can be detected years before the FDA alerts are announced.

However, understanding the expressions of health consumers is a great challenge in employing social media data. Unlike health professionals, most health consumers are not medically trained, and therefore, they use their own language to express their symptoms and health conditions. In addition, social media messages are usually composed of short and incomplete sentences. They may contain many grammatical errors as well. As a result, simply applying natural language processing and professional health ontologies will not achieve good performance. Yang et al. [7] have applied the Consumer Health Vocabulary (CHV) and developed techniques to expand CHV by employing co-occurrence analysis [3]. Yang and Yang [8] have also recently extended the association mining techniques to detect drug-drug interactions.

Social media captures the collective voice of patients. A huge volume of timely information from patients is aggregated in social media platforms. If we can harness this information using social media analytics and big data analytics, it will benefit both the patient and clinical communities. Such patient-centered research can help transform healthcare by shifting its focuses towards more proactive and preventive care.

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Mobile Medical Applications and the Affordable Care Act

Mobile Medical Applications and the Affordable Care Act | Social Media and Healthcare |

Returning from the American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) annual symposium in ‎Washington, DC, at the end of November, I reflected on what issues seemed to be hot given health reform, what was the buzz in the halls, and at the breaks. Given that a large portion of the attendees ‎were not from the United States, I also tried to ascertain what my colleagues across the globe in the ‎Clinical Informatics space were thinking.

Much of the discussions centered around ‎telemedicine/telehealth, the use of social media in healthcare, and mobile health or mHealth and ‎mobile medical applications. The latter may be defined as a mobile application that meets the Food ‎and Drug Administration (FDA) definition of a medical device and is intended to be used as an ‎accessary to a regulated device, or to transform a platform into a regulated medical device.‎

Quality and cost-effectiveness in the context of the delivery of healthcare was important, along with ‎its increasingly patient-centered nature. There were discussions about the seemingly antiquated laws ‎that make it difficult for telemedicine to keep up with the technology. For example, some wondered ‎why a patient in New York had to have his or her x-ray read by a physician licensed in New York, when ‎the film was being read in Bangalore.

Some were concerned about the privacy and security issues ‎associated with patients being on social media for a chronic condition, and whether the information ‎they had was credible. Others, however, thought that such social media sites made it possible for ‎patients to have information much sooner than waiting for the results of research studies to be ‎published in journals that they may or may not be able to access.‎

It seemed to be a common consensus that the use of mobile devices in the delivery of healthcare and ‎in obtaining healthcare knowledge was becoming ubiquitous. Physicians and other caregivers wanted ‎to use their devices for a variety of purposes, and many prefer their own devices to a laptop or work‎ station with which they were provided. The BYOD (bring your own device) concept was certainly on ‎the minds of attendees and its anticipated and unanticipated consequences. Patients also now BYOD ‎for their care, e.g., whether it is in the context of locating additional information about what malady ‎they might have or accessing the results of their lab test.‎

The recent FDA Guidance for Mobile Medical Applications was on the minds of many. Particularly, ‎some individuals, including entrepreneurs were wondering whether the guidance would facilitate the ‎development of such devices under health reform, or stymie it. Unfortunately, as I have penned in ‎another venue, the guidance is not clear.

The FDA provides some idea of the types of mobile medical ‎apps that it believes are subject to regulatory oversight, and those that it will exercise enforcement ‎discretion and not seek to regulate at this time. We know that a mobile medical app that is an extension ‎of a medical device by connecting to one will be considered a regulated device if it displays, stores, ‎analyzes or transmits patient-specific data.

We know a mobile medical app will not be considered a ‎device over which the FDA will exercise jurisdiction, if it helps patients self-manage their disease or ‎conditions without providing specific treatment or treatment suggestion. We know mobile medical ‎apps which perform patient-specific analyses and provide patient-specific diagnoses or treatment ‎recommendations will be regulated. However, ones that enable patients or providers to interact with ‎Personal Health Records or Electronic Health Record systems will not be considered a medical device ‎over which the FDA will exercise jurisdiction.‎

Under health reform, facilitated by the Affordable Care Act, (ACA) many can envision that mobile ‎medical apps will become increasingly important in this new patient-centered care environment. We ‎know that entrepreneurs and others will seek to develop applications which will help to implement ‎advancements in science, including evidence-based medicine and biomedical informatics before much ‎of the results are published in the scientific literature.

We know that if patients are demanding that ‎they be able to e-mail their clinicians, and that many clinicians are demanding that someone pay them ‎for their being accessible via e-mail to better provide care for their patients, the ACA will only result in ‎more mobile medical applications being developed and more technology being employed in the ‎delivery of healthcare.‎

Returning from the AMIA meetings, I consulted with one of my colleagues at the Schwabe firm, Bruce ‎Howell, who is in my opinion one of the leading ACA experts in the country, about mobile medical apps ‎and health reform. In fact, Mr. Howell was asked to teach the inaugural course on the ACA at the ‎Willamette Law School this winter.

Mr. Howell not only agreed with the consensus that I saw at the ‎AMIA meetings regarding mobile medical apps, he also noted that telemedicine/telehealth and social ‎media were key. Citing his background in genetics, he noted that these are only first steps, and that ‎the advances we will see in the delivery of healthcare information and technology will transcend the ‎landscape and hopefully result in better quality care which will be most cost-effective.‎

I was wondering whether Mr. Howell’s course was open to the public, and then my assistant reminded ‎me that in addition to practicing healthcare law in the winter, as I have done for the last 34 years, I am ‎also taking two courses at OHSU and co-teaching one on Health Information Privacy and Security. I can ‎only imagine how much work it will take to update the latter. Maybe I can “borrow” some of Bruce’s ‎materials

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Tweets for Credit: Social Media’s Role in CME

Tweets for Credit: Social Media’s Role in CME | Social Media and Healthcare |

his spring, the Einstein office of faculty development ran an event for 100 medical educators. Among the topics we explored: using social media in medical education. The all-day session featuring social media mavens Dr. Kent Bottles and Dr. Katherine Chretien drew faculty in droves.

As a result of the strong interest in this topic, I started thinking about how social media could (and should) help promote and enhance the careers of doctors.

Since our office already runs workshops for CME credit, I figured organizing a session devoted to better learning how to use social media professionally was worth a try.

From a breakout session we had that day with Dr. Chretien, it was clear that many faculty members had a keen interest in learning how to better use Twitter. They seemed attracted to Twitter’s quick pace, easy learning opportunities and ability to help them control more carefully what they share publicly in social media.

Working with social media manager David Flores and Paul Moniz, managing director of communications and marketing at Einstein, we developed a two-hour workshop to introduce doctors to Twitter—the basics of strategy and use—for CME credit.

Within an hour of sending the e-invitations, the session was fully booked—with a waiting list. Was it that faculty members could earn CME credit without leaving campus or was it a sincere interest in becoming more “social”? We think it was the latter! Faculty members are already asking about the next session.

Check out the presentation so you can see exactly what was covered. You can also read comments from outsiders who tried to guide our group in real time during the session by using the hashtag #einsteinnewbies. If you’re reading this and are one of those folks . . . many thanks!

Obviously, there’s strong curiosity about why social media matters in medical education, and how to use them. Helping arrange this CME event has stoked my enthusiasm for social media. That’s why my department started its own Twitter feed: @EinsteinFacDev.

Like any social media newbies, we’ve had some ups and downs, fits and starts. And to be quite honest, we haven’t been quite so disciplined about tweeting as regularly as I would like. But I’ve already discovered how useful information from Twitter can be.

On July 7, Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson—@SeattleMamaDoc—tweeted a link to her blog about a provocative Atlantic cover story on whether women can “have it all.” While some of you may wonder whether I live under a rock, I honestly can say I hadn’t seen the story or the resulting flurry of comments it brought due to an especially busy week in the clinic. Were it not for @SeattleMamasDoc’s tweet, I might have completely missed the article in my offline reading. And the tweets in response to that post revealed a fascinating conversation I’m glad I experienced.

One area I’m still struggling with is how best to tweet. Since we started the feed for the office of faculty development, I’m often torn between what I find personally interesting (yoga, ballet, parasitology . . . not necessarily in that order) and what I think our faculty members might find interesting for professional development. What is clear is that it takes time to navigate the so-called “firehose” of Twitter information. You need to put in your time—no question.

Then there are questions of using social media ethically and legally: Should I friend a student or patient on Facebook? How much do I really want to reveal about myself? What if I goof? Fortunately, we have detailed social media guidelines that Paul, David and their team has put together on behalf of the college, as well as a slew of Twitter resources they presented during the session.

But, as with anything else new, the only way to improve is to jump in. Guidelines can take you only so far.

I recognize that some faculty members remain skeptical or even ambivalent about social media. “Where’s the value?” they ask. I think it’s fair to say we’re moving past the question of why doctors should use social media and on to how doctors can use it effectively.

Faculty development is the perfect arena to address these important questions. The first CME session was a hit; we’re planning another. Just what role social media will play in the long term in CME remains unclear. But I think we can all agree that as educators we need to be more open-minded about delving into what sometimes feels like the “discomfort” zone in order to better communicate with our students, patients and tech-savvy peers. Now if only I could figure out how to schedule all those tweets rolling around inside my head!

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