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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Physician-to-Patient Marketing — Knowing What Works

Physician-to-Patient Marketing — Knowing What Works | Social Media and Healthcare |
For physicians and practice managers looking to increase their patient bases and referral sources, as well as differentiate their brands, a successful marketing strategy should include three targeted tools.

When the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate takes effect in 2014, a number of the nation’s 50 million uninsured Americans will become part of a valuable pool of patient customers that many physicians are hoping to tap into.

Achieving substantial new patient growth, no matter the source, requires physicians to view their clinics as equal parts medical practice and consumer-driven business. Building lasting relationships with prospective patients using strategic communications platforms, such as social media, community involvement and mail campaigns, can help physicians achieve measurable progress.

The Power of Now

“The No. 1 challenge of marketing a physician’s practice is getting him or her to develop a marketing plan or strategy — or have one professionally written — and then executing it,” says Lois K. Geller, President of Lois Geller Marketing Group in Hollywood, Calif. “The strategy should be realistic and based on sensible expectations. Strategy is always a function of objective. There should be only one main objective, and it should be quantified specifically, [for example], ‘I want to gain 50 new patients in three months.’”

According to Geller, physicians who attract a desirable patient base typically understand a new patient’s worth as it relates to their marketing budgets.

“Most practices may have several target audiences, and you should think about each of them carefully,” Geller says. “Understanding the community’s health composition is important, but knowing how much each new patient acquisition is worth and what it cost to reach him or her through your marketing campaign can help prevent wasting money and time on marketing tools that don’t work.”

Joining Forces

Involvement in local community events, such as health fairs, blood drives, seminars, free health screenings and fitness events, can draw large crowds, offering physicians invaluable exposure as well as increased market awareness. According to Geller, the key to success is in sponsoring events that best align with a physician practice’s care approach.

Partnering with grassroots organizations, such as religious and civic organizations, or donating promotional materials that include your practice’s information, logo and website URL can be effective ways to reach hundreds of potential patients and cultivate lasting referral sources.

Geller also encourages physicians to explore other, more inexpensive PR opportunities, such as volunteering to speak at regional events, writing a newspaper column or blog, and establishing relationships with local TV, radio and other media outlets as the local ‘go-to’ expert for medical news 
and advice.

She cautions, “It’s free exposure, but it can be time-consuming as well.”

You’ve Got Mail

Physician/patient communication via email is fast becoming the marketing tool of choice among medical practices targeting a younger, more mobile demographic because it allows physicians to place their marketing message directly in a patient’s inbox.

Email campaign software such as Constant Contact and MailChimp can distribute personalized e-newsletters, surveys, new-patient forms, seasonal health reminders, healthy lifestyle tips, preventive care information, coupons, and links to content on Facebook and Twitter, offering patients greater convenience to timely, personalized health information.

While many physicians capture a patient’s email address during their first visit, it is important for staff to verbally confirm a patient’s email address and obtain permission to use it to send medical and practice information electronically. Giving patients a ‘heads up’ about future emails can help ensure your message does not go unopened or worse — marked as spam.

In addition, Geller suggests physicians hand out or mail referral cards to existing patients. “Utilizing your current patients for referrals can be a very powerful marketing tool,” she says.

Going Social

According to a survey conducted by QuantiaMD, an online physician learning collaborative, nearly 90 percent of physicians have used a social media site. As social media use on sites such as Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn increases, uploaded photos, comments, and videos of patient testimonials, procedures and physician profiles have become effective educational and promotional tools for many practices.

A recent study published by the American Society of Plastic Surgeons found that 50 percent of plastic surgeons polled cited using Facebook, Twitter and other social media tools to help market their practices and educate patients.

 While maintaining a strong social networking presence through customized materials and customer feedback can expand a physician’s network of patients with virtually little to no cost, maintaining the privacy rights of patients, as well as the highest standards of medical professionalism, requires attention and constant monitoring by both the physician and his or her staff.

In the end, Geller believes the relationship between a physician and patients, whether new or established, requires a tried-and-true approach for doing business.

“Developing good, solid relationships always matters when you’re building your practice,” she says. “Just like any business, long-term relationships mean you’re not always prospecting for new patients. So, build them over time.”

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5 Benefits Of Online Reputation Management For Physicians

5 Benefits Of Online Reputation Management For Physicians | Social Media and Healthcare |

Let’s face it, existing and prospective patients use search engines for everything! Almost everyone performs extensive online research before making purchasing decisions. This makes online reputation management absolutely critical to physician practices. Some doctors believe there is a need to be active  on social media to engage patients and respond to patient feedback. While there are some conversations occurring on social media that physicians would benefit from being involved in, my observation is that a majority of physician feedback is on the numerous ratings and review sites- far more than anything happening on social media. Sites like,,, etc. are capturing the sentiments of patients more and more, and new sites are popping up every week. The growing number of rating sites and the strength of those sites in search engine rankings make it imperative to engage in reputation management.

Physicians can reap valuable benefits from managing their online reputation, including having a good understanding how they are perceived when someone searches their name online. Additional benefits include:

Obtaining New Patients – Either after searching for a new physician or researching options after they have selected the available physicians through their insurance plan, prospective patients are going to search online to see what patients are saying about that doctor.  If they find negative reviews on several sites with a similar theme, then it is likely the prospect will keep searching. The difficult and frustrating aspect of the prospect seeing those negative reviews and choosing another physician is that most doctors will never know about. It is tough to quantify, but there is absolutely a financial impact to a negative online reputation due potential patient loss and even patient attrition. Prospects are more likely to choose you as a physician if they read several positive comments online. This is social proof that others have had a good experience and they can reasonably expect the same.

Customer Retention – How often do you think current patients Google a physician’s name just to get directions or a phone number? A Lot! When they perform this search for contact information, they will also see all of the ratings and review sites that rank highly for the physician name. If the reviews are negative, some patients will choose to look for a new physician. This is especially true if their own experiences with that physician were average or disappointing. By managing a physician’s online reputation, rejection from prospective patients and skepticism in existing patients can be reduced.

Reduces Fabricated Problems – Is it possible that a patient could read a negative review online which causes them to develop hypersensitivity and over analyze aspects of their office visit? Absolutely! This includes wait time, administrative and support staff, physician interaction, insurance reimbursement, etc. An negative online reputation that is not managed can prompt patients to take to the internet to share their negative reality even if it is not accurate or true. Managing the physician’s existing online reputation reduces undue scrutiny physicians face when patients begin looking for previously reported issues where they may not exist.

Maintain Brand Perception – If asked, there are few things more important to a physician than their reputation and brand, and understandably so. After all of those years of education and the work put into establishing a practice, it is infuriating to think that a handful of patients can so easily and significantly impact a physician’s good reputation. Unfortunately, this is exactly what is happening every day. Patients that had negative experiences several years ago are leaving reviews on multiple sites which creates an unfavorable online reputation. By monitoring and managing online reputations, this can be prevented or at least minimized.

Increased Revenue – The real impact of prospects and existing patients choosing another physician is revenue. The lost revenue is not just one visit, but multiple visits over many years of service. It is likely that once a patient is lost, that patient has been lost for life. The benefits of the relative small cost of online reputation management far outweigh the negative financial impact of lost patients from a negative reputation.

Online reputation management will increase in importance as search engine usage and internet usage continues to increase.  The effects of not managing your online reputation are real and tangible. What are some of other benefits on online reputation management?

Noah Butler's curator insight, November 12, 2014 1:40 AM

This article is about digital reputation and how it can affect you in both good and bad ways. It explains what the benefits are by gaining a good digital reputation. It relates to what we have been talking about in class because we have discussed as a class how having a bad digital reputation can affect people that are seeking for a good job and how companies that are trying to hire you look at your digital reputation. We have also completed a worksheet in our booklets from last term relating to our digital reputation. In my opinion I believe that this is a good article for companies that are hiring people because the person they are hiring might seem fine in the interview but by viewing their digital reputation you may find out that the person is lazy, does stupid things and would certainly not fit the job.

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Social Media in Healthcare

Social Media in Healthcare | Social Media and Healthcare |

Within the pharma industry, and indeed all other industries, there is an abundance of talk about how social media should or could be used for business benefit. A quick Google search alone returns almost 200 million results for “social media” and over 6 million if you add the word “pharma” in there too.

Among all this feverish blogging, it is rare that anyone stops to explain exactly what they mean by social media. But surely it’s obvious and we all know what it is, right?

I’m not so sure.

You see, I would observe that there are many companies proclaiming to be avid social media users who are actually not, and even some who think they are not but actually are. Confused? Well , it all depends on exactly how you define social media.

My own view (representing a sample of one, and possibly just one) is that we get rather fixated on ‘channels’ when we talk about social media. For example, “our company has a Twitter account so we use social media”, or “our Facebook page has 1,000 followers so we use social media”.

However, these are just online media channels, which are enabled for social engagement, but it’s how you use them that makes them social.

So here is an alternative definition of social media (with apologies to anyone I am inadvertently ripping off as I promise this is just from my head):

“The term ‘social media’ refers to using digital media channel channels to engage in two-way or multi-way conversation with other individuals and therefore have online social interaction.”

OK, so it’s not the most punchy, but it does make you look at who is active in using social media in a different way.

For example, a big pharma company that has a Twitter channel with many thousands of followers, but only ever uses it to broadcast its own messages and never responds to questions or feedback, is not using social media, by this definition (and you know who you are…!).

Equally, there are pharma companies who are not very active on any of the ‘classic’ social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook etc. but do publish blogs where readers are allowed to comment – and the company responds to those comments. This is social media, by the above definition, even if it might be a bit Web 1.0.

So here are some important questions to ask about your own social media use:

  • Do you ever respond to questions from other users?
  • Do you ever ask questions of other users?
  • Are your followers mostly real people working outside your own company?
  • Are most of your posts about something other than you / your company?

If the answer to all of the above is no, I would suggest that you are not using social media, but just broadcasting via social media channels.

To put that into a more real world perspective, it’s a bit like turning up to a networking dinner and standing up in the middle of the room as the first course is being served, then shouting about yourself right through the meal until people have finished the after dinner chocolates and are making their way home.

I’m guessing you wouldn’t do that would you? So why do it online.

So my challenge to pharma is this – make 2014 the year of looking in the mirror and asking “am I really being social or just broadcasting via social media channels”.

And if you fall in the latter camp, try talking to people – it’s a business trick that’s worked for thousands of years.

Leo J. Bogee III's curator insight, January 15, 2014 3:50 PM

A big pharma company that has a Twitter channel with many thousands of followers, but only ever uses it to broadcast its own messages and never responds to questions or feedback, is not using social media, by this definition (and you know who you are…!)

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Chinese social media reaction to disease outbreaks

Chinese social media reaction to disease outbreaks | Social Media and Healthcare |

Studying the geographical distribution of diseases over the internet is a hot trending topic in digital epidemiology. Epidemiologists have begun to use online data (such as Twitter trends) to track the activity levels of infectious diseases, as social media is a good method of measuring public awareness to disease outbreaks.

A recently published article in Infectious Diseases of Poverty is the first to document the online Chinese community’s reaction to a SARS-like virus (MERS-CoV) in the Middle East and Europe in 2012, compared to their reaction to the bird flu (H7N9) outbreak in China in 2013. Data was collected via Weibo (a Chinese version of Twitter) by the University of Hong Kong’s Weiboscope project.

This article showed that the reaction on Weibo to the H7N9 outbreak within China was two orders of magnitude stronger than the reaction to the MERS-CoV disease outbreak in the Middle East and Europe. This data indicates that the online community’s reaction is more profound when the disease outbreak occurs within the same country, demonstrating the usefulness of social media in measuring public reactions to disease outbreak information released by health authorities (in this case official press releases of outbreak data by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Chinese government). This article also highlights the fact that social media can be used to measure psychological reactions to disease outbreak on a wider scale because social media provides a large dataset, which can be used to track activity levels of infectious diseases when there is an outbreak.

The Editor-in-Chief of Infectious Diseases of Poverty, Prof Xiao-Nong Zhou (Director of the National Institute of Parasitic Diseases at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention) commented: “The psychological reactions of local people to disease outbreak are difficult to record on a wide scale. This manuscript provides a unique method to track the Chinese peoples’ reactions to H7N9 influenza outbreak in 2013, and compare the MERS-CoV outbreak in the Middle East through the most popular internet media (Weibo) in China. This provides an avenue to guide local health authorities to improve their health education information to local people after disease outbreak as quickly and correctly as possible.

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5 Health IT Trends for 2014

5 Health IT Trends for 2014 | Social Media and Healthcare |
Infographic from CDW Healthcare illustrates 5 health IT trends that will have a big impact on healthcare's increasingly competitive and cost-conscious environment.
Sire Erik-Andreas Bernard's curator insight, March 27, 2015 6:06 AM

4th most important technology: IT in Healthcare

Although some medical experts still believe in the old ways of treatment, it is no lie that technology in the field of healthcare and drastically helped save lives. It would only be beneficial to us to keep finding ways to improve technology to help sick people or discover illness's before they even occur.

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Consumers vs. Creators of Social Media Health Content

Consumers vs. Creators of Social Media Health Content | Social Media and Healthcare |

I thought I’d kick off the New Year discussing an interesting online trend – that most people are consumers rather than creators of health-related social media content.

I believe this is a pertinent discussion because as more healthcare organizations pursue larger online audiences, it’ll be increasingly important for them to understand the content habits of these audiences e.g. who are the creators vs. the consumers of content; where do they hang out; and why do they behave the way they do.

This type of persona insight is incredibly useful in helping healthcare marketers to segment and target their audiences more precisely.

Has the social web turned people into mere consumers of content?

So let’s get started.

In the beginning…

Historically (i.e. before Web 2.0) online health information seekers went to organization-sponsored websites (which were largely static webpages) to find what they were looking for.

Of course online content wasn’t democratized to the extent that it is now, where virtually anyone with a computer and Internet access can easily create or share their personal thoughts and ideas on the social web.

In fact the Internet was not originally created as a communication tool for social interaction – this is a more recent development.

What changed?

As people’s activities and communications on the Internet increased, it seemed useful to have more information about their social relationships. Hence the web evolved into a more social space rather than a technical one – it is now designed to help people share ideas and work together.

For example according to Technorati, there are nearly 1.3 million blogs online, 13% of Internet users have a Twitter account (140 million), Facebook has over 1 billion users, and by next year (2015) it is estimated that the number of organizations and people who use social media will reach over 3 billion – 3 billion, that’s almost half the world’s population!

To put it simply there’s a staggering number of people (73% of U.S. adults) using social media.

What about health-related social content?

When it comes to health-related information or discussions, a study done by the Journal of Medical Internet Research showed that people are more comfortable consuming and sharing rather than creating content.

For example the study found that only 15% of respondents created online information while 30% to 40% reportedconsuming health-related social media content e.g. online rankings or reviews of doctors, hospitals and medical treatments. Take a closer look:

  • 41% of people consult (i.e. consume) online rankings and reviews of doctors, hospitals or medical treatments;
  • 31% consume social media content for health-related information;
  • 10% contribute (or create) content by posting reviews of doctors, hospitals, drugs and treatments;
  • 15% post a comment, question or information about health or medical issues on a blog, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, a website, or an online discussion forum.

The lack of active participation in health-related social media conversations is quite intriguing.

With so many people logging onto their social networks every day, how is it that most aren’t taking advantage of the inherent value of “social” media i.e. participating and contributing to online conversations. Instead they prefer to be passive listeners merely passing on information to their friends.

The study suggests a couple of reasons for this trend:

  • People have less encounters with doctors and medical professionals these days so they don’t have too many personal experiences to share;
  • People might feel incompetent about health-related discussions preferring to leave such discussions to the “experts”;
  • The third reason is my own – I think most people just don’t have the time to commit to content creation (even something as simple as leaving a comment) – it’s just one more thing they’d have to curve out time for from their busy schedules.

Among those who consume health-related social media content, women, young people and those suffering from chronic illnesses are at the top (no surprise there!).

However the latter group is more likely to contribute content since they have real-life experience living with a chronic illness, which makes them feel more knowledgeable and competent about expressing their opinions.

I have two things to say about this.

One, I think it’s great that those who suffer from chronic illnesses are willing to discuss their medical conditions and experiences, in the hope of helping someone else who is going through a similar situation.

What this tells me is that each patient is an expert, in the sense that he or she has a completely unique experience of living with a particular illness. Hence their contribution to online health-related content is equally valuable, to that of doctors, medical professionals and other ‘experts’.

Two, there are way too many people out there (90%) who aren’t contributing to the conversation. Is it that they are mere spectators, or are they waiting for the opportune moment to join the discussion. I’m not sure.

What I do know is that healthcare marketers must figure out a way to ‘draw out’ and engage these bystanders if they hope to segment and target audiences appropriately.

I think one way to do this is to invite willing content consumers (e.g. those women, young people and the chronically ill) to contribute user-generated content on organization-sponsored blogs. It seems to me that they’d be more likely to draw other users like themselves into the conversation.

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Beyond Communication: Social Media Can Help Pay Your Health Care Bills!

Beyond Communication: Social Media Can Help Pay Your Health Care Bills! | Social Media and Healthcare |

Just a few weeks ago, I recapped the "Top 3 Pop Health Trends in 2013".  Topping my list was the intersection between social media and public health.  I've written about using social media for everything in public health from advocacy to emergency response to surveillance.  So I was intrigued to see a recent story that highlighted another innovation:  allowing patients to use social media to pay for health care services.

The "Pay-With-A-Tweet" program was launched by Telecure as a way to market their telehealth services.  They link California residents with an urgent care provider within 15 minutes of their call.  Clinicians are made available to callers via phone or video as a way to reduce access to care barriers.

The "Pay-With-A-Tweet" program will waive the $25 consultation fee if patients share their experiences on Facebook or Twitter.  According to media reports on the program, the idea blossomed after Telecure officials noticed that patients were discussing their experiences on social media.  Creating a formal program allowed Telecure to (1) take advantage of social media marketing and (2) provide those short on cash with an alternate way to pay for care.

Telecure's CEO told mHealth News that the program's goals are currently to "stimulate awareness and growth". 

I'd be interested to see how Telecure is evaluating this program and hope to see some follow-up press or research that documents the strengths and challenges of this strategy.

Some thoughts that come to mind for me:

  • To tweet or not to tweet?  How do patient concerns about privacy contribute to their decision to participate in this program?  Many patients may not want to share with their social networks that they've been consulting with a physician (regardless of the diagnosis)- is that a barrier to taking advantage of this program?
  • Is social media heavily utilized among their target populations (patients in remote locations and under served patients)?  What do those user patterns look like?
  • How are tweets/facebook posts about negative experiences being handled?  Are negative posts still being promoted along with positive posts?  How are Telecure officials monitoring posts for customer service problems that may have occurred?
  • How are tweets/facebook posts being promoted to the public?  For example, I searched several hashtags on twitter after seeing the media coverage (e.g., #telecure, #paywithatweet) but was not able to find any results that included reviews of their services.  If they are using social media to market services, they will want the patient posts to be easy to find! 

What Do You Think?

  • Is using social media for payment an effective strategy to engage these and other target populations?
  • What other evaluation questions/considerations should be raised in addition to those I've listed above?
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Top 5 pharma marketing trends in 2014

Top 5 pharma marketing trends in 2014 | Social Media and Healthcare |

Approaching end of the year experts have two options to choose. The first and a safer one is to summarize past twelve months. The second, more dangerous but also more exciting is to predict what will happen next year. At K-message we find the latter option much more useful and interesting. Please enjoy our prediction of the Top 5 pharma marketing trends of 2014 below.

Top 5 pharma marketing trends for 2014

1. Integration of digital tactics within multi-channel marketing. Leveraging Closed Loop Marketing and Big Data advantages by more mature organizations.

CLM – Closed Loop Marketing

For years digital marketing was treated as a fifth wheel in pharma business. Whatever we say, the truth is that those organizations are made of sales force. And digital marketing for sales force was just another marketing gimmick that does not add value but a workload and cost.

However, during past few years this traditional sales force thinking was challenged. Payers pressure forced companies to reduce ranks of sales representatives. Regulatory decisions have limited possibility of sales reps to meet HCPs. The result is that sales rep cannot meet his Client often enough to detail the product and maintain relationship in the same time.

Digital came to help with e-detailing and web-based self-detail solutions.CRM software supports reps with data that allow reps to have a meaningful conversation with HCPs they barely know. Combining detailing during visits with digital tactics and good old direct marketing is our new buzz word: a Multi Channel Marketing (MCM).

This Multi Channel Marketing approach allows even better results with something Pharma marketers call Closed Loop Marketing (CLM). What does it mean? It is a feedback loop that feeds every next action with the information gathered in previous touch points.

For example: If doctor X has logged in to the website of the product or disease area and searched for particular information (be it safety data or Mode of Action), his activity is logged in the system. Sales who will prepare for the meeting will get his eDetailing story focused on the topics that were of interest of doctor X during his journey on the website. eDetailing application also logs data about activity of the doctor X. It will note which parts were opened longer, which multimedia were presented, what answers doctor X gave to the quizzes embedded in the story.

Those data combined may be used to shape the content of personalized newsletter send to the doctor X as the follow-up for the visit. When doctor X clicks on the link and goes to the self-detailing website his activities will feed any next action that company can offer (be it web conference or CME online course assignment proposal).

The concept is easy to describe, but very hard to achieve. Big Pharma usually has many different tools for each activity used by different business units at the same time. The data gathered across different channels are not only not standardized, but often they are not gathered at all.

Our prediction is that 2014 will be the year of integration of digital with other channels. Multi Channel Marketing campaigns, made better or worse will become a standard approach. Digital channels will become a core of those campaigns as they offer the most advanced and effortless data collection capabilities. When integration is done, more mature organization will start to play with Big Data, looking for the behavioral patterns, segmentation and optimized content.

2. Virtual conferences

Medical conferences are vital for pharma business. Unfortunately the cost of attending is too high for participants, and regulations are limiting possibilities of the industry to sponsor the attendance. The emerging trend is to compliment (if not replace) physical meetings with a digital, virtual presence.

Virtual conferences have many advantages that may not be obvious. They are cheap to organize, free to attend, accessible worldwide, and they do not have to be limited in time. Additionally virtual conference attendee can go to all the sessions one after another, pause and replay. While in real time of the event, there is possibility to network and perform Q and A sessions. If the event is replayed there is also possibility to maintain asynchronous communication via discussion boards or e-mail lists. Virtual event can be live for months and create a community around.


Webcasting Virtual Conference – Source: ON24

There are still some regulatory compliance objections (ie. no discussion on off-label, still researched use can be broadcasted and replayed outside of the physical event timeframe). There is still a group of attendees that strongly prefer physical meetings due to networking opportunities and informal chats. Technical solutions are not perfect and most of 3D meeting environments look like a joke in comparison with what consumer market offers for massive multiplayer online games.

Still, virtual conferences will become a common digital marketing tactic for pharma marketing in 2013. We recommend an exhaustive presentation on virtual conferences by Len Starnes below.

3. Embracing Social Media

It has to come some day: Pharma in Social Media. To be honest this trend is on the list since 2010 at least. Anyway, the time has come we believe. There are many factors that make 2014 a year when pharma should finally embrace social media.

20111230 NodeXL-Twitter-pfizer network graph (Photo credit: Marc_Smith)

The major one is coming from the unexpected corner. Industry was long hesitant to enter social media space due to the drug safety consideration. If you participate in Social Media it means you need to actively monitor it against any adverse events reports. The standard practice was however, to assume that if pharma is not listening it cannot be obliged to report. On the other hand such assumption may be wrong, so as soon as there is a tweet that meets all four conditions, pharma company will be probably considered obliged to find it and report. Thus, we believe that drug safety teams should push their organizations towards monitoring of social media.

Reminder: information needed for valid Adverse Event

  • An identifiable patient
  • An identifiable reporter

  •  A suspect drug or biological product

  •  An adverse experience or fatal outcome suspected to be due to the suspect drug or biological product.

Another change that may increase Social Media priority on digital pharma marketing tactics list is Google’s algorithm. Social signals are more important than backlinks and Google+ or YouTube presence is a shortcut to the first page on Google Search results. If pharma wants to have their web presence visible, especially on the US market where DTC marketing is allowed, Social Media is a must have.

Third factor to consider is, well, social. The generational change in attitude towards social media affects HCPs too. They are active in Social Media, and they will talk about industry in this space regardless of pharma marketing presence there. At K-message we believe that big platforms, and especially Google+ will continue to grow in 2014 at the cost of closed niche communities like Sermo or To be efficient Pharma marketing should listen to the conversation, and engage whenever appropriate. Influencers of 2014 are in the social web, not in the conference room.

4. Mobile apps decline, raise of the mobile web.

This trend is not limited to pharma marketing. Mobile applications are really dead end for marketers in 2014. Due to the war of ecosystems and difference in mobile usage habits between regions and countries it is just not viable to create mobile applications. To reach your target audience you need to prepare few versions customized per OS, data usage etc. Very often such costly effort is done only to find out that the content not compliant week after launch and cannot be updated.

QRcode –


Still, mobile is on the rise, and you will definitely see John Doerr’s abbreviation “SoLoMo” (Social, Local, Mobile) on some slides in 2014. The answer is not the app but the mobile web. The content pharma marketing has to create should work on the small screen from the beginning. Every new website should be designed starting from mobile and tablet experience or at least have a mobile version available. And “mobile” does not mean that it fits the small screen. It is about making the content fit for mobile experience.

5. More visual content marketing


Pretty Pinterest (Photo credit: mkhmarketing)

This fifth (although probably not the last trend you will see in pharma marketing 2014) trend is directly connected to Social and Mobile trends we discussed above. Content is the king for marketers in pharma for years, but in the age of social and mobile it cannot be text-only content.

On small screens and in social space image is worth more than thousands words. We will see videos, interactive infographics, images and animations. YouTube, Slideshare, Instagram, Pinterest. This is the content that is accessible on mobile, but also shared on social platforms. Of course pharma marketing cannot skip the text, but even for scientific, medical information there is a way to visualise it.

Andrea Angioloni's curator insight, January 13, 2014 1:58 AM

perfect! with the assumption the top managent trust 100% on this and is ready to implement it immediately.....

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Social Media as a Megaphone to Pressure the Food Industry

Social Media as a Megaphone to Pressure the Food Industry | Social Media and Healthcare |

Renee Shutters has long worried that food dyes — used in candy like blue M&M’s — were hurting her son, Trenton.

She testified before the Food and Drug Administration, but nothing happened. It wasn’t until she went online, using a petition with the help of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, that her pleas to remove artificial dyes from food seemed to be heard.

Mars, the candy’s maker, is now hinting that it may soon replace at least one of the dyes with an alternative derived from seaweed.

“I’ve really thought about calling them,” Ms. Shutters said about Mars. “I’m not trying to be this horrible person. What I’m really thinking is that this is an opportunity for their company to lead what would be an awesome publicity coup by taking these dyes out of their products.”

While the F.D.A. continues to allow certain dyes to be used in foods, deeming them safe, parents and advocacy groups have been using websites and social media as powerful megaphones to force titans of the food industry to reconsider the ingredients in their foods and the labeling and processing of their products. In several instances in the last year or so, major food companies and fast-food chains have shifted to coloring derived from spices or other plant-based sources, or changed or omitted certain labels from packaging.

Matthew Egol, a partner at Booz & Company, the consulting firm, said that while food companies had benefited from social media to gain rapid insight into trends, data on what products to introduce and which words to use in marketing, they also had been the target of complaints that sometimes become magnified in an online environment.

Mr. Egol said companies were approaching the negative feedback they get with new tools that help them assess the risks posed by consumer criticism. “Instead of relying on a P.R. firm, you have analytical tools to quantify how big an issue it is and how rapidly it’s spreading and how influential the people hollering are,” he said. “Then you can make a decision about how to respond. It happens much more quickly.”

From Cargill’s decision to label packages of its ground beef that contain “pink slime,” or what the industry prefers to call finely textured meat, to PepsiCo’s decision to replace brominated vegetable oil in Gatorade with a natural additive at the behest of a teenager, corporations are increasingly capitulating to consumer demands.

Companies are reluctant to admit a direct connection between the crusades of consumers like Ms. Shutters or Vani Hari, a blogger known as the Food Babe, and their decisions to tweak products, but the link seems clear. More than 140,000 people have signed Ms. Shutters’s petition on petroleum-based food dyes, and dozens have commented on Ms. Hari’s posts about some of the ingredients in items on Chick-fil-A’s menu.

“We’ve always tried to be a customer-focused organization,” said David B. Farmer, vice president for product strategy and development at Chick-fil-A. “What has clearly changed is some of the channels of communications, which wasn’t a factor in the past like it is today. We’ve had to adapt to that.”

Two years ago, Ms. Hari marveled in a blog post about the nearly 100 ingredients in a Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich and took issue with some of them, like MSG, artificial colors and TBHQ, or tertiary butylhydroquinone, which is used as a preservative in many foods.

“TBHQ is a derivative of butane,” she said in a telephone interview. “The F.D.A. says TBHQ cannot exceed 0.02 percent of fats and oils in a product, but consumers who are eating a sandwich that has it plus French fries and other things that also have it in a single meal may be getting more than that.” She followed that post with another, offering a recipe her readers could use to make a chicken sandwich that is a pretty fair imitation of Chick-fil-A’s — but with only 13 ingredients, none of them artificial.

Chick-fil-A eventually responded, inviting Ms. Hari in October 2012 to spend a day at its headquarters in Atlanta, where she discussed her concern about some ingredients as well as larger issues like the use of chicken from animals whose feed contains antibiotics and the potential for labeling products that have genetically engineered components.

“They went out of their way to make sure I got all the info I needed,” Ms. Hari said. “We sat down and put together a road map of my concerns and then laid out how they would start addressing them and what I would prioritize on a white board.”

Most important for her was where Chick-fil-A buys its chicken, and her second priority was removing artificial dyes from the company’s products. “That was one of the easiest things for them to get rid of, I thought,” she said.

This month the company told Ms. Hari that it had eliminated the dye Yellow No. 5 from its chicken soup, and reduced sodium in the soup. It is testing a peanut oil that does not contain TBHQ and will start testing sauces and dressings made without high-fructose corn syrup in the coming year.

The company said its decision to address some of Ms. Hari’s concerns was just a step in a long-term effort to improve and enhance its menu to give consumers what they want. “We’ve been working through the menu, starting with the removal of all trans fat between 2006 and 2008, taking high-fructose corn syrup out of bread, some dressings, some ice cream and milk shakes and reducing sodium across the board,” said Jodie Worrell, Chick-fil-A’s nutritionist.

Last year, the company added oatmeal to its yogurt fruit cups, and it offers fruit cups as an alternative to fries on its menu at no extra charge, “even though it’s more expensive,” Ms. Worrell said.

Kraft withstood Ms. Hari’s criticism for its use of petroleum-based dyes in its popular macaroni and cheese. But the company announced quietly last month that it would no longer use Yellow No. 5 and Yellow No. 6 dyes in its Shapes line of macaroni and cheese beginning in 2014.

Kraft is replacing the dyes with colorings derived from spices like turmeric and paprika. It is also adding more whole grain to the Shapes products, which are shaped like cartoon characters, and reducing the sodium and saturated fats they contain.

“Our Shapes products are popular with families,” Lynne Galia, a spokeswoman for Kraft, wrote in an email. “Parents have told us they would like fun mac and cheese varieties with the same great taste but improved nutrition.”

Asked whether the changes were made in response to Ms. Hari’s crusade, Ms. Galia wrote that they were made as part of the company’s continuing efforts to deliver better nutrition in its products. “We’re always listening to consumers,” she wrote. “In this particular case, we’ve been working on the relaunch for quite some time.”

She said that it took about a year and a half to reformulate the products, and that one of the challenges food companies face when confronted by consumers demanding change is getting them to understand how complicated that change can be.

Food companies must work with suppliers to determine what’s possible, then suppliers have to make the new ingredient in bulk. That ingredient is then tried in the recipe, and the recipe goes through tweaks to try to achieve the same viscosity, texture and other attributes contributed by the old ingredient.

“Then it goes to a validation stage, where we might have a sensory panel made up of folks who have trained capabilities and can apply science to determine if we’re matching the original flavor,” Mr. Farmer of Chick-fil-A said. “And then we test it with customers to get their feedback.”

Some changes come at little cost, others force a higher price. When Chick-fil-A changed its salads, for instance, replacing iceberg lettuce with leaf lettuce and adding options like fresh blueberries, it raised the price it charges for them to cover some of the additional costs. “It’s a more expensive product, but we’re selling significantly more salads because that’s what the customer wants,” Mr. Farmer said.

Similarly, Mars had to receive F.D.A. approval to replace FD&C Blue No.1, the petroleum-based dye it uses for blue M&M’s, with a blue dye derived from spirulina, an algae, that is often used in confectionary and chewing gum. “As a company, we continue to explore the use of naturally sourced colors,” Mars said in a statement. “While we do not currently use spirulina extract, its approval is a step toward providing us the option to produce confectionary products made with this naturally sourced color.”

Ms. Shutters said she was happy to hear about the potential new dye. She omitted all foods containing petroleum-based dyes from her son’s diet a few years ago, hoping it would help improve his focus, ease fidgetiness and make him more cooperative in his hockey practice.

“His schoolteacher just about passed out when he went back after the break,” she said. “I’m not kidding you, it was a miracle that we figured it out. I never realized until then how big an impact what you eat can have.”

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Pharmaceutical Industry Predictions for 2014

Pharmaceutical Industry Predictions for 2014 | Social Media and Healthcare |

FDA Draft Guidance on Social Media: Nope. I know the FDA is due to respond in July 2014, but I believe they will delay, again. And, I’m not sure if they will deliver on the Correction of Misinformation guidance either. But if they do, it will likely be a vague direction. Something to the effect: if the correction is a) relevant to your brand, b) focuses on current indications and adverse events, and c) puts consumer health at risk, you should make a statement IF it’s living on a property that you manage. If not, then the FDA will say we just need to be good citizens and take ownership for correcting misinformation where we see it. And so, we’re back to where we started… 

Pharma and the Affordable Care Act: Yep. Some company out there will figure out how to effectively integrate with Electronic Medical Records/Electronic Health Records (can we choose one acronym in 2014?!?) to provide physicians better patient materials and support formulary choice (improving health outcomes being one of the factors behind it). Will that company be yours? Check out what’s coming down the pike here.

Relationship with Payers Becomes Crucial: The ACA will have an impact once more. Formulary managers will have more control as consumers participate in Health Exchanges and they (FMs) will scrutinize products for the winning combination of lower price and higher efficacy. Where that line becomes very thin is when they can’t make the case on efficacy and focus on price, generating an industry bidding war. But perhaps publicly releasing clinical data will become more important than ever. Could this create more transparency for the public as a byproduct, which could lead to improving trust in the industry? Maybe.

Mobile will Dominate: Wait, didn’t we say this last year? And the year before? So why are so many desktop sites still not mobilized and why is mobile search still a novelty? I hope this does not appear in my predictions for 2015…

Wearable Sensors for Fitness/Health will Continue to Improve: Wearable technology will become more integrated and fashionable. This year we saw the FitBit Flex, Samsung Gear, and Google Glass launch. We expect to see more expansion of choices and features in the coming year as people figure out how best to use this increased technology integration in their lives to manage their health. What role will Pharma and Healthcare have in this? Innovation at your fingertips (literally).

Hope everyone has a safe, healthy, and happy holiday season.  See you in 2014!

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Social Media Can Help Patients Find 'Comfort Level' They Seek in Provider

Social Media Can Help Patients Find 'Comfort Level' They Seek in Provider | Social Media and Healthcare |

We all know any patient wants his or her medical provider to be skilled and qualified. But marketers of health care need to be aware that patients look beyond the diploma on the wall and the initials after the name. Patients want to know enough about their provider to feel that certain “comfort level” made up of rational confidence and emotional reassurance. Marketers in the health care field can help providers achieve that comfort level, especially when they use social media. After looking at the principles of the concept, we’ll check out examples, including a program by SKAR.

This report starts with the basics: Researchers at Vanderbilt found that patients were more satisfied with their hospital stay if they knew who their doctor was and a few facts about their caregiver. In the study 100 patients in the hospital’s orthopedic trauma division were given “biosketch” cards with physician information, while 112 patients did not receive the cards. The patients had similar kinds of injuries, insurance and levels of education, but the satisfaction scores of patients who got cards were 22 percent higher than those of patients who did not get cards. That’s a pretty inexpensive way to boost satisfaction scores, a Vanderbilt professor noted: “As health care reimbursement shifts to reward quality rather than quantity, it is important to identify ways to improve the patient experience.” That’s valuable advice for marketers of health care providers.

Social media offer great opportunities to accelerate a process like the “biosketch cards,” and this thoughtful essaydiscusses how health care marketers should take a long view in their social media strategy, because the ultimate benefit is building relationships. Although addressed to the pharmaceutical industry, the principle applies to hospitals and individual providers. A good social media program can demonstrate the provider’s expertise and offer a forum for many perspectives; it doesn’t have to make a sale with every posting. “Health is personal and emotional – excellent seeds for starting a relationship,” writes author Zoe Dunn of Hale Advisors. Social media like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter, along with sponsored blogs, can help patients get to know an individual physician or institution and help build that important comfort level.

Another thought-provoking blog suggests that hospitals might harness the power of social media to improve the patient experience through a form of crowdsourcing called Social-Customer Relationship Management. That’s using social media to solve nuts-and-bolts problems. “If you want to innovate and use social media to be transformative, create an app that allows the patient to schedule their appointment on their iPad,” wrote consultant Paul Roemer of Tower Strategies.

Storytelling is one of the most persuasive arts, and the field of health care offers plenty of opportunity for compelling narratives. The pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly and Co. partnered with Disney (a company that knows storytelling) to create, a website that helps parents of children with Type 1 diabetes. It’s filled with personal accounts of family members along with contributions from experts like dietitians, nurses and psychologists, and it’s a model that could be followed by many health care providers. Interestingly, few of’s stories are about treatments. As one expert commented, “Your brand is not the story, your brand is in the story.”

At SKAR we use this concept in our program of introducing physicians and other practitioners to the public for the East Texas Medical Center Regional Healthcare System, our largest health care client. We interview, photograph and craft a professional and personal profile of the provider, including a summary of the provider’s education, experience and achievements – all to help the prospective patient feel comfortable with the person being entrusted with his or her health care. These profiles are served to the audience through several platforms – the ETMC website, newspaper ads, full-color fliers in ETMC offices and links on various social media. In some cases we produce videos of the practitioners explaining a procedure or health condition; these are available through the website and on demand by a Texas cable TV provider. Our client finds the program is appreciated by patients, providers and everyone involved in marketing. Contact SKAR for more information or help on raising the comfort level for your patients.

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Why Unbranded Social Media Campaigns Work for Healthcare

Why Unbranded Social Media Campaigns Work for Healthcare | Social Media and Healthcare |

What is the value in not putting a healthcare brand’s name in front of online consumers?  You make it less about the brand and more about the consumers.  It allows brands to learn more about the target audience, how they feel, what it means to be sick in their situation, what they need, like and don’t like.


With several health conditions, disorders, diseases and over 6,800 rare diseases in existence (re: National Institutes of Health), social media provides a vehicle to educating a brand’s target audience about causes, history, symptoms, and different care options. Often times, social media pages are the first place where health consumers can learn about a health issue or a support community.  As people are being “social” they are naturally helping several brands by sharing content organically.

Unbranded social media campaigns for healthcare brands provide a time to listen, ask questions and provide a community in which the consumers feel they own.  Why does this work particularly for healthcare brands?  It works because the business of healthcare is about people and people only.  Get your target audience cozied up to a place where they feel secure, where they can meet other people with the same health issues and where helpful information is abundant and trustworthy.  Your brand then has the opportunity to influence opinions and behavior.


The most critical part about running an unbranded social media campaign  is the opportunity for conversion.  Unbranded social campaigns are used by some healthcare brands currently to direct consumers toward other digital assets like websites and landing pages with clear calls to action.  Such examples are: patient advocate programs, symptom trackers, awareness campaigns, discounts for prescriptions, questionnaires and  surveys.

So what are the goals of your pharmaceutical drug, medical device, hospital or clinic?  How will you be social in 2014 and build a concrete strategy around acquiring new patients?

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A Tweet a Day Keeps the Doctors Away: Patients and Healthcare Providers Using Social Media

A Tweet a Day Keeps the Doctors Away: Patients and Healthcare Providers Using Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

The influence of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media giants has spread across modern society faster than the Black Death swept across 14th century Europe. Speaking of pandemics, how does healthcare fit into the world of social media? Welcome to social health.

Social health is the mash-up of social media and healthcare, and it’s starting to gain traction. In fact, a third of all consumers use social media for matters regarding their health. Thanks to social networking sites and the increased availability of broadband and mobile technology, people are forming online patient support groups, becoming better educated on medical topics and diagnoses, and sharing doctor and product reviews – wherever and whenever they want.

However, people still tend to trust their doctors over peers and family when it comes to getting accurate medical advice, giving providers a great opportunity to jump into the social-health fray. And many have. In a 2012 study by the, 24 percent of doctors said they used social media at least once a day to look for medical information while almost two-thirds think social media enhances their ability to care for their patients.

There are many benefits for providers who take part in social health as well, such as giving doctors a way to connect with consumers in between visits and allowing healthcare organizations to receive immediate feedback on products and services.

Concerns about privacy and security have surfaced alongside the rising popularity of social health. Consumers are worried that their medical records will go public while health information technology specialists must try to protect patient privacy and act within the bounds of HIPAA and the FDA as they participate in the online social sphere.

This is just a peek into the vast realm of social health. Check out the infographic below for even more valuable insights about this incredible new online movement.

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Social Media for the Medical Practice

This is the PowerPoint deck from my presentation for the New Hampshire Medical Group Management Association meeting in January 2014. The subject was social medi
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Maximizing Social Media: Four Steps for Physicians

Maximizing Social Media: Four Steps for Physicians | Social Media and Healthcare |

Have you ever Googled yourself? By doing so you’ll find you already have an online presence, so why not play a part in developing a professional identity for yourself online? Interventional cardiologists report it can be difficult to find time to “do social media,” but by following the steps below, you can begin to manage your own online presence, impact patients’ lives beyond an office visit, and extend the reach of your practice.

1. Watch and Listen

Begin by doing a search on Twitter using key words (cardiologist, interventional cardiology) to find peers and organizations to follow. By creating these connections, you will begin to expand your online network exponentially. “Listen” by watching what others are tweeting, posting, and linking to give you a sense of what works, what doesn’t, and what you need to know before tweeting for yourself.

2. Mind Your W’S and H’S.

Before dipping your toe in the social media waters, know what you wish to accomplish; otherwise your goals could be diluted and you may feel overwhelmed.

  • Why? Why are you going to engage in social media…for ideas, research, collaboration?
  • Who? Who is your audience? Staff, new patients, existing patients, colleagues?
  • Where? Which social media platforms make the most sense for you? Twitter? LinkedIn?
  • When? Dedicate an allotted amount of time – at the same time – each day to devote to social media use. Guard this time and make it a habit.
  • What? Which outcomes will you measure for successful social media use?
  • How? Are you going to push out information, retweet, or have an actual dialogue? An example: “I am going to share evidence-based interventional cardiology messages and create a place of learning and respectful dialogue to current and new patients in my demographic area.”

3. Keep It Professional

Follow the advice from Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Farris Timimi: Don’t lie, don’t pry, don’t cheat, can’t delete, don’t steal, don’t reveal (embargo, patient information, etc.).

4. Develop a Content Sharing Plan

Follow the 70-20-10 percentage rule for content development.

  • 70 percent can be written from someone else and be content you link to or retweet. Set up RSS feeds to deliver content of interest to you, and then file that content in electronic folders by topic area. You can use it later to develop blog posts, tweets, Facebook updates, and so on. This content can also be a source to ask probing questions via your Twitter account. For example, with the recent cholesterol guidelines, you could tweet, “Confused about new #cholesterol guidelines? Review this Twitter chat.”
  • 20 percent can be original content you create, and can be used as an opportunity to fill gaps based on conversations you have with patients, or to answer questions patients often ask you. For example, you could tweet, “Got the flu? Know its impact on #heart health” and link to a post that provides further information on the topic.
  • 10 percent can be for fun – birthdays, at the office photos, a comment about your golf game. By showing a bit of your personal side, you’ll engage visitors and help build your profile.
Taeler's curator insight, January 16, 2014 12:20 PM

I found this article to be very interesting, because I never really thought about how much impact you can have in your career just by "doing social media". When I become an ultrasound technician, I want patients to be able to communicate with me in a way that feels as normal and comfortable for them as possible. It would also help to get my name out there, so that people can know more about me, the type of ultrasound technician I am, (will be), and it would also allow them to ask me questions before making an appointment with me. Not only that, but it would also help to promote the hospital or clinic that I am, (will be), employed at. Not only would I benefit from this, but my place of employment would too.

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26 Medical Social Media Innovations

26 Medical Social Media Innovations | Social Media and Healthcare |

These medical social media innovations are examples of how the medical community is being changed to make dialogues with patients and other doctors easier. 

Devices like the EasyPill and Pill Pad are cloud-connected so that whether patients do or do not take their daily medication, a doctor can go online and monitor a patient’s condition, dosage and daily regime. Another example of a secure way for patients and doctors to communicate is BlueStar, an FDA-approved mobile application for diabetics that is one of the first apps ever to require a prescription for download. 

One example of an application which helps medical professionals to connect is the ‘Figure 1’ app, which is essentially an Instagram-like, crowdsourced database of images submitted by and for doctors. 

If you prefer to take more of a preventative approach to your own health and wellness you could always try the SickWeather app, which notifies users of illnesses detected in their area.

Marianne Lalonde's curator insight, January 15, 2014 9:31 AM

How Social Media is Being Used by The Medical Community. 26 Innovations |

Rowan Norrie's curator insight, January 17, 2014 3:52 AM

Some cool (and some unusual!) new health innovations

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Social Media: A Patient’s Information Tool of Choice

Social Media: A Patient’s Information Tool of Choice | Social Media and Healthcare |

Most patients and healthcare consumers prefer using social media to look for information relating to their health and medical care. Take a peek at why social media is an emerging trend that you can utilize to boost your online medical and dental practice marketing efforts.

According to the digital marketing agency, around 40 percent of consumers comb through Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, Healthgrades and other social networking platforms to find healthcare reviews. When browsing for medical information, patients prefer websites such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. About 25 percent of these healthcare consumers have shared health-related information on these social media websites. Moreover, roughly 41 percent of people admitted social media plays a significant role in choosing their healthcare provider.

For medical, dental and other healthcare practitioners, social media is your friend; your ally. Use it to gain valuable access to the lives of people seeking care. Social media can also be used to increase your practice’s awareness, improve patient engagement, manage your online reputation and augment your practice’s marketing and advertising efforts.

Connecting Lives

Social media is a great platform for interacting with and educating healthcare consumers on matters relating to treatment and care. As a healthcare provider, you can also provide expert support through online conversations with your patients experiencing certain health conditions. But make sure you don’t discuss any private patient information.

Increase Practice Awareness and Patient Engagement

Do you want to spread the word about your practice? Do it through social media. According to, Facebook has about 1.15 billion users. On the other hand Twitter has around a half–billion users. With these websites’ massive reach, along with today’s prevalent use of mobile devices and smartphones, you are sure to engage your patients where they hang out.

Nurture Your Reputation

Since everything is accessible through the Internet, you, as a healthcare practitioner, should be mindful about how online healthcare consumers perceive you and your practice. You can use various social media platforms like Yelp, Healthgrades and Vitals to manage your online reputation and improve online users’ impression of you and your practice.

At a time when people turn to online resources like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to look for everything they need, concentrating your practice marketing efforts through social media is a smart, practical move.

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Wherefore app thou? Perspectives on digital and social media in health for 2014

Wherefore app thou? Perspectives on digital and social media in health for 2014 | Social Media and Healthcare |

How long before GPs prescribe you and I a mobile phone ‘app’ for our condition instead of a pill, a test or some other treatment?  Sounds farcical doesn’t it? Perhaps it is already happening?.

As a reviewer it amazes me the number of new ideas for helping patients that come before me in the guise of ‘social media’ which actually show no appreciation of what it is like to live with condition ‘x.’  Of the additional support patients might need from human beings - yes, human beings, remember them? – to ensure they are effective.  Maybe even to prevent considerable harm.  Not everything can be reduced to an app.  Not everything downloaded from the cloud has a silver lining.

In such a burgeoning market the ‘wisdom of crowds’ is going to be increasingly important to you and I as it is when making any other choice.  So I’m delighted that the inimitable PatientView have today published a list of the 23 favourite health apps nominated by patient groups around the world.

PatientView run the website directory of health apps (previously covered on this blog) as well as publishing regular reports from a consumer perspective on health issues.

The ‘favourites’ list is interesting in its variety – from apps that help people to monitor their condition or provide health information, to those that enable one to locate a service or provide feedback on one.  As ever, the list and the directory are as interesting for what is missing as for what appears.  But credit to PatientView for striving to improve our knowledge in this area and in such an open and accessible way.

One of the hopes I have for 2014 is that we see some of the hype and hyperbole ebb out of the discussion about digital and social media.  It is an intensely exciting area with immense power to deliver good.  But, from a patient and public perspective, it must also be a co-operative bedfellow able to co-exist and connect with the many different facets of one’s care and treatment.  If it does not then it has the potential to become as obsolete as those unwanted and rather wrinkled grapes at the end of the hospital bed.

In that context I am grateful to my friends at TrialReach for tweeting this excellent article (in which they are quoted),from US-based Forbes magazine a view days ago. Written by Jon Nosta it is part reality check on the failures of current approaches but also reads as helpful ‘developer’ notes for those intending to build initiatives in this field.

I know little about the technical aspects of these things but the opening premise of any social media/digital initiative should be a commitment to co-production with patients and the public to get it right.

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What can Social Media offer Public Health?

The National Immunisation Conference was held in Manchester on 5th December 2013 and featured a range of topics on public health and immunization.
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Health Care Professionals on Social Media

Health Care Professionals on Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

As a medical student, my free time was valuable, but now as an intern and mom to multiples, free time is like a bowl of caviar smothered in truffle sauce and dipped in pure gold with diamond sprinkles sitting inside an Aston Martin. Why then, do I spend a portion of that coveted delicacy that is free-time being involved in things related to health care and social media? The short answer is that I enjoy it and it’s something of an investment, but here are a few more specific reasons I think physician involvement is beneficial not only to us, but to our patients. 

  • Go where your patients are. It’s no secret that we are living in the time of internet information. Your patients are consulting Dr. Google – to answer health questions, to choose a provider, to manage medications – and we need to join them. With the wealth of bad information online, I truly feel that we have a responsibility to share what we know to be reliable health information in the place we know our patients are looking for it. 
  • Google yourself... or any other health care professional and see what comes up. Likely, you'll find a bunch of unreliable rate-a-doc sites filling up your first page of results. Now, google someone who's involved in health care social media and leaving a positive digital footprint. The marketing speaks for itself. 
  • The learning potential is endless. Though my online time is much more limited than it used to be, this is still a source of so much great information. Being able to interact with many of the most forward-thinking minds in health care is invaluable. “The Green Journal” tweets relevant literature, colleagues share interesting articles and tweets spark open-minded discussion, which often lead me to better understand practices, beliefs and actions of others.
  • Writing is a creative outlet. I wish I had time to blog as frequently as I used to, but even having the chance to sit down once a month with my cup of coffee and write is a welcomed break for me. I enjoy the opportunity to exercise the other side of my brain occasionally. 

Truly, the benefits of being involved in this community cannot be overstated. The interconnectedness social media offers to us as health care providers has the potential to fuel an era of forward-thinking, interconnected physicians and empowered, informed patients. 

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Online Patient Reviews: Power, Influence and Muscle to Grow Even Bigger

Online Patient Reviews: Power, Influence and Muscle to Grow Even Bigger | Social Media and Healthcare |

If you thought that online patient review sites were important, you’d be right. But new survey data reveals their muscle has tons of potential to grow.

Unlike a few years ago, the research power of the Internet has transformed many patients into informed and empowered consumers. Looking for online information is often the first step in researching (and ultimately selecting) a doctor—based on quality of care, experience and even wait times.

Marketing savvy physicians and healthcare communicators monitor this newfound “digital sway” and diligently put forward their own Internet marketing to inform the public, attract patients and protect and extend their reputation.

But what’s surprising is that only one in four patients use online reviews to research doctors, according to a recent survey of over 4,500 US patients by Software Advice. And, for as influential as patient reviews have become, this data suggests that they have a frightening amount of room to get even bigger.

The relatively younger age groups that currently use online reviews also suggests potential for growth. In this survey, patients age 25 to 34 (31%) and 35 to 44 (29%) account for the largest patient/user blocks. It seems reasonable to conclude that, as the population ages, younger and Internet reliant patients will continue to take a place in these ranks.

Most Popular is not the same as Most Trusted…

There are dozens of doctor review sites, but HealthGrades (43%) and Yelp (34%) were cited in this survey as being the first to be used. But as a matter of “most trusted” it was—perhaps surprisingly—Yelp (44%) ahead of HealthGrades (31%).

Reviews don’t pull patients away from their insurance network…

Even when doctor reviews are stellar, only one in four of insured patients are persuaded to visit a doctor outside of their insurance network. “That means good reviews may just help you attract patients even if they’re not in a network you’re partnered with,” observes Software Advice. “But in a face-off, insurance networks still beat out online reviews.”

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Medical Students and Social Media

Medical Students and Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

At the end of September, I had the opportunity to attend and present a poster at the 2013 Medicine 2.0 Conference. It was definitely a completely different kind of conference – instead of asking attendees to turn off their phones, we were encouraged to use them and discuss sessions through the Twitter hashtag, #med2. Our badges (see above) had QR codes that linked directly to our Med2.0 profiles and encouraged further discussion and collaboration even after the two-day event concluded. Another interesting aspect of the conference was being able to meet individuals in real life that I had interacted with only through social media sites.

All of this leads me to the main topic of this post: medical students and social media. While there isn’t a consensus on the percentage of medical students that use social media sites, I can confidently guess that at least 90% (if not closer to 100%) of medical students use at least one site. I must make a distinction at this point – although most of us use these sites, the number of us that use it for some sort of healthcare purpose definitely isn’t as high. I’d venture to say that all of us that use sites like Facebook and Twitter, originally made our accounts with the intent of using it to share information on our personal lives with friends and family. But the reality stands that someday we will be medical doctors and our patients will turn to Google to find out more about us; eventually, they’ll stumble upon one of our public social media accounts and discover our most recent musings. This, in combination with institutional policies, leads many medical students to change privacy settings, their account names or delete the accounts altogether. But, is that really necessary?

Since starting my personal blog the summer before my M1 year, I have learned a lot about how powerful social networking sites can be for education, discussion and networking. The Internet is a portal for all of us to connect with individuals we wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to. But engaging in online social networking can also be risky if one does not use their professional judgment before posting. For example, posting photos of a drunken post-exam party – while this does not violate laws like HIPAA, it may violate your institution’s policy and may also negatively impact your career in the future if a patient stumbles across the photo. When posting online, all of us need to really consider the ramifications of our words and photos since every single update adds to our digital footprint, which cannot be undone.

Our generation grew up with social sharing and most of us do it without a second thought. But sometimes, it isn’t worth sharing every single moment of your life – the most important thing is that you are aware that what you produce on the Internet may end up resurfacing at an inopportune time.

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Telehealth Program Allows Users To Pay With A Tweet

Telehealth Program Allows Users To Pay With A Tweet | Social Media and Healthcare |

A California-based telehealth program has begun waiving the $25 fee for patients who share their experiences on Twitter or Facebook, mHealth News reports.

The service, called Pay-With-A-Tweet, was launched by Telecure, a virtual branch of Action Urgent Care in California, to raise awareness for the telehealth program.
The telehealth program helps connect state residents with an urgent care provider who can offer health advice and write prescriptions within 15 minutes by phone or video.

The program sees about 500 patients monthly and charges patients a fixed $25 fee per consultation.
Telecure CEO Garick Hismatullin said that the telehealth program is intended to help patients in remote locations, as well as underserved patients, access medical treatment, but not to replace a patient's primary care physician.

Through the Pay-With-A-Tweet program, Hismatullin said the company is "trying to stimulate awareness and growth right now" (

Reshelle Johnson's curator insight, January 11, 2014 11:27 PM

Virtual appointments paid for with a Tweet instead of the $25 fee.  The $25 fee alone is newsworthy.  However, I am leery of virtual appointments although I would LOVE to have this available to me.

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City launches health initiative with social media campaign

City launches health initiative with social media campaign | Social Media and Healthcare |

The city’s Live Well Sioux Falls program is starting the new year with a social media campaign aimed at sharing how residents plan to live well in 2014.

The campaign, called Pic and a Pledge, will collect people’s healthy living pledges and photos illustrating the pledge and share them with Live Well Sioux Falls’ Facebook and Twitter followers, said Live Well program coordinator and Department of Health healthy community specialist Mary Michaels.

“We know New Year’s is a time when people make decisions to change their lives,” Michaels said. “We wanted to ask people how they plan to live well.”

The hope also is to increase the Live Well program’s reach, Michaels said. To that end, anyone who participates in Pic and a Pledge will be part of a pool to win a Live Well T-shirt or shopping bag once a week for about a month.

“It could be anything. It could even be a picture of them getting a blood pressure check,” Michaels said. “… The important thing to know is that you don’t have to make a lot changes right away — you want to set attainable goals.”

John Moreno's curator insight, January 10, 2014 5:56 PM

This is a terrific article on a city hopes to increase live well plans throuhgout the community.  

John Moreno's curator insight, January 10, 2014 6:02 PM

Great article on how a city launches a health initiative throughout the community

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20 Social Media Posts for Health Professionals

20 Social Media Posts for Health Professionals | Social Media and Healthcare |

ealthcare institutions can be a little slow when it comes to practicing online marketing; however, social media is a great way for health professionals to engage with their audience. Outlets like Facebook and Twitter are great tools to share meaningful content that matters. Encourage conversation and keep your audience informed by creating engaging content that’s relevant and timely.

Facebook and Twitter are essential, but have you thought about Pinterest? LinkedIn? Pinterest is a great resource for creating visual content. It’s not just for photos of kittens and Ryan Gosling. Here are a few social media ideas to get you started:

  • Write a blog post about staying healthy in the winter
  • Create a Pinterest board about healthy eating habits/simple recipes
  • Share live broadcasts of surgical procedures on Twitter
  • Create a virtual hospital tour and post it to YouTube
  • Remind patients to get a flu shot and post it to Facebook
  • Use LinkedIn to identify potential candidates for an open position
  • Create a Pinterest board featuring items you need to get over a cold (tissues, orange juice, blankets)
  • Tweet “did you know” snippets of health trivia, or quick newsworthy sneak peeks
  • Write a blog post about surprising health habits that promote longevity
  • Create a video on what to expect from a particular medical procedure
  • Write a few tips on how to exercise during the workday and post it on Facebook
  • Use LinkedIn to share research with relevant health care groups
  • Create a Pinterest board featuring new exercise routines
  • Create vivid, colorful cover photos (this includes Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)
  • Use Twitter to promote annual check-ups and eye examinations
  • Use Facebook to spotlight employees and company accomplishments
  • Create a Pinterest board showcasing stress-free activities
  • Use LinkedIn to network with health professionals from around the world
  • Use Facebook to promote national health weeks/months (National Handwashing Week, Breast Cancer Awareness Month)
  • Write a blog post about current health care changes

Have fun with your social media efforts. Don’t over think it. Concise, digestible information is what your audience wants. It’s what your audience needs.


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