Social Media and Healthcare
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Social Media and Healthcare
Articles and Discussions on the intersection of Social Media and Healthcare.
Relevant to Healthcare Practitioners, Pharma', Insurance, Clinicians, Labs, Health IT Vendors, Health Marketeers, Health Policy Makers, Hospital Administrators.
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I'm Your Doctor, May I please have your email address for communications? #hcsm

I'm Your Doctor, May I please have your email address for communications? #hcsm | Social Media and Healthcare |

Getting the most out of any and all connections with our patients has proved somewhat problematic. Figuring out how to bring ourselves, and our patients, into the 21st-century world of electronics telecommunications and medical informatics has been a daunting challenge.

Something as simple as "May we please have your email address for communications?" has stirred up a beehive of controversy we never thought would exist in building the patient-centered medical home.

There is clearly a longstanding, and possibly well deserved mistrust when it comes to having your healthcare information fly over the electronic airwaves.

You would be amazed by the array of reactions we get when we ask patients if we can add their email to our electronic health record, or enroll them in our electronic patient portal.

There's clearly a sense that they fear that someone with nefarious motivation is going to get hold of their cholesterol levels, and do misdeeds with it.

People seem perfectly comfortable putting their major credit card numbers online, banking online, and putting their home address and when they're away on vacation on their Facebook page, but I think people fear that someone is going to see some of their health information and somehow discriminate against them, get them fired, raise their life insurance rates, or otherwise do them harm.

I think we shouldn't be so naive as to think that if someone really wanted to see some of our protected health information they wouldn't be able to.

This data streams across multiple sources of data, from the lab to the servers in the hospital, the insurance companies, and claims data carry our diagnoses. If the NSA can get our phone numbers and Target cannot keep our credit cards safe, then certainly getting your latest creatinine level should not be that big a challenge.

These additional sources of contact with patients improve communication, unburden our phones, and allow the front desk staff to more efficiently take care of patients who are right there in front of them. It allows them to do today's work today. There are fewer phone calls saying the doctor never called me with my blood test results, I have a question for the doctor, I want an appointment with the doctor.

It's not that adding yet another source of communication is not fraught with complications. We have already seen this with our post-visit calls, where one of our medical technicians calls patients after their visit to see if they have any unanswered questions for their practitioner. This has, understandably, led to an enormous number of follow-up calls needing to be made. It is amazing how many patients get home and realize they had a whole other agenda they wanted to go over with their provider but forgot (or did not have time) to mention.

Most of us have figured out a system where we find that half hour or 45 minutes to go over the week's labs, make those phone calls. Some I know will be brief, everything looks fine, see you in a year. Some I know will be a long, drawn out conversation, where I have to explain to them that an elevated percentage of eosinophils on their white blood cell count differential is nothing to worry about.

It is great to be able to do this electronically with a few clicks of the mouse, and a few brief lines of text. Even knowing there's going to be a follow-up email, it ends up being much more efficient. The loop gets closed on following up results much more effectively, doctors inboxes get cleared, and patients find out what their doctor found and planned for them after the end of the visit, instead of the old "well, I never heard from the doctor so I assumed everything was okay."

Now we just need to make sure that everyone gets on board, and we can safely bring them in to this new, more efficient world. Some will never relent, fears will not be overcome, but this brave new world is coming at us.

Via Parag Vora
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Study Shows How Social Media Engages People with Chronic Diseases

Study Shows How Social Media Engages People with Chronic Diseases | Social Media and Healthcare |

Using Facebook chats to convey health information is becoming more common. A study at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York City set out to find the best way to boost participation in the chats to raise awareness of lupus, an autoimmune disease.

Specifically, investigators at HSS wanted to see if collaboration with a community-based lupus organization would increase patient awareness and participation. They found that the number of people participating in the chat tripled when the hospital joined forces with the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation to publicize the chat.

The study, titled, “Utilizing Facebook Chats to Convey Health Information to Lupus Patients at the Lupus-Antiphospholipid Syndrome Center of Excellence at Hospital for Special Surgery,” was be presented at the American College of Rheumatology/Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals Annual Meeting.

The Lupus Center of Excellence at Special Surgery uses Facebook chats to raise awareness, reach a wider audience, allow for interaction between patients and health care providers, and answer patients’ questions about lupus. The chats help to educate patients about their disease and the importance of maintaining relationships with their rheumatologists.

“The Facebook chats provide a new venue to get information from rheumatologists and other health professionals who understand this complex disease. Lupus patients are hungry for information, and with social media, we can address their specific concerns in real time,” said Jane Salmon, M.D., director of the Lupus Center of Excellence and senior author of the study.

Three chats have taken place to date. “The first two were promoted through advertising and promotion on HSS’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, targeted pitching of lupus bloggers and awareness groups, word of mouth, and by flyers. For the third chat, HSS collaborated with the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation, using similar advertising strategies,” said Elyse Bernstein, assistant director of Public Relations and Social Media at Hospital for Special Surgery.

Participants were instructed to “like” the HSS Facebook page and post their questions. A panel of HSS rheumatologists, an obstetrician-gynecologist, social workers, physical therapists, nutritionists, and a rheumatology nurse practitioner responded to as many questions as possible over one hour. Remaining questions were distributed to the experts for answers and turned into a blog series on “HSS on the Move” (

The first chat in May 2012 focused on lupus and medications. A total of 2,280 users saw the chat post, with 60 questions and comments from 20 users. Promotional Facebook posts before the chat were shared 247 times. The HSS Facebook page received 30 new likes on the day of the chat, and 21 users liked the chat post.

The second chat in October 2012 discussed lupus, pregnancy and reproductive health. This time, 2,203 people saw the chat, with 25 questions and comments from 12 users. The promotional Facebook posts were shared 81 times. The HSS Facebook page received 34 new likes on the day of the chat.

In May 2013, HSS collaborated with the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation to publicize the third chat on lupus and general health. This time, a total of 6,624 people saw the chat. The HSS Facebook page received 332 new likes on the day of the chat, compared with the daily average for the month of 34 likes. The chat post drew 78 likes.

For this chat, 123 participants representing six countries and 28 states posted 162 questions and comments. The promotional Facebook posts before the chat (from HSS and the S.L.E. Foundation) were shared 288 times.

In conclusion, when the hospital’s Lupus Center joined forces with the S.L.E. Lupus Foundation, awareness of the chat and participation soared by about 200 percent. Participation was also higher when the topics were more general. Lower participation in the second chat may be related to the private nature of the topic and privacy concerns.

“The findings suggest that collaboration between health care providers and disease-specific community organizations can enhance patient participation and increase our ability to educate patients about staying healthy,” said Dr. Salmon.

About Hospital for Special Surgery
Founded in 1863, Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) is a world leader in orthopedics, rheumatology and rehabilitation. HSS is nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics, No. 4 in rheumatology, and No. 5 in geriatrics by U.S.News & World Report (2013-14), and is the first hospital in New York State to receive Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center three consecutive times. HSS has one of the lowest infection rates in the country. From 2007 to 2012, HSS has been a recipient of the HealthGrades Joint Replacement Excellence Award. HSS is a member of the NewYork-Presbyterian Healthcare System and an affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College and as such all Hospital for Special Surgery medical staff are faculty of Weill Cornell. The hospital’s research division is internationally recognized as a leader in the investigation of musculoskeletal and autoimmune diseases. Hospital for Special Surgery is located in New York City and online at

Vincent Picton's curator insight, August 18, 2014 10:23 AM

This would link to how people would normally react to common diseases in the waiting room versus the fact that my characters break out into song.

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Medical Defence Union UK reports 40pc increase in enquiries about social media

Medical Defence Union UK reports 40pc increase in enquiries about social media | Social Media and Healthcare |

The organisation which represents more than half of the UK's doctors has seen an increase of 40% of calls from members in relation to the internet and social media, and warns that doctors must be cautious about the information they chose to share and should consider the GMC's social media guidance when posting online.


In less than a week, two news articles have appeared highlighting information about patients that doctors have shared on social media .

MDU adviser, Dr Richenda Tisdale, says:


"Social media can be a force for good in medicine, for example, by helping doctors to network more effectively and giving patients access to more healthcare information. But there are risks too, particularly when it comes to confidentiality. Social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook are informal environments and so it is easy for doctors to let their guard down and not follow the same rules as they would offline. However, the rules of confidentiality apply as much when posting online as they do to when you are chatting to a friend on a night out.

"Not only do the same rules apply online, but it is also important that doctors remember that when something is shared through social media, it may not just be their friends and family who see it but could potentially be shared with strangers too."


The MDU receives around five calls each month from doctors with concerns about Facebook, blogs and other websites. Common concerns include complaints and allegations made about doctors by patients on social networking sites; friendship requests from patients; and doctors who had found themselves in difficulties after posting comments and images online.


In its explanatory guidance, Doctors' Use of Social Media, the GMC states that doctors must not discuss individual patients or their care via publicly accessible social media; "must not bully, harass or make gratuitous, unsubstantiated or unsustainable comments about individuals online"; and "if you identify yourself as a doctor in publicly accessible social media, you should also identify yourself by name".


Doctors using social networking sites are advised by the MDU to:

  • Keep your profile private - limit access to friends only and don't accept requests from patients to become a friend.
  • Be professional in your comments, especially about patients or colleagues.
  • Be cautious about posting anything that may bring the profession into disrepute.
  • Be aware that anything you upload on to a social networking site may be distributed further than you intended. 

- See more at:

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5 Goals for Healthcare Providers Using Social Media

5 Goals for Healthcare Providers Using Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

1. Listen to patients and learn what they want/need.
You can gain insight by watching tweetchats and paying attention to disease-specific conversations. Do you know what is important to patients and what misinformation they are exposed to?

2. Learn from your peers.
Not everything can be learned through a CME course. Pay attention to what your peers are talking about so you know the latest techniques, how reimbursement is changing, what technology is working, and how you can negotiate with local hospitals or practice partners.  

3. Build credibility and trust through information sharing.
Start by building a library of informative videos you can send patients to, and other people can find through searches. This will save you office time repeating the same information over and over. it will also act as a first step in building trust, even before a patient enters your office. You don't have to make all your videos public, either. You can list some videos as unlisted so they are not searchable by the general public.

4. Develop a network of peers and happy patients.
A strong network is important in building your online reputation. It is a building block for spreading your content, receiving positive online reviews, and reaching beyond your own contact list. Build your Linkedin profile and connect with your peers. Reshare good content by others, and give patients url links where they can post reviews and words of appreciation.

5. Stay familiar with social platforms.
Don't wait until you're ready to use a new social tool, to start learning about it. Spend a little time learning about how social tools work and how others are using them so when you're ready to use them, you're not behind the curve.

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Why Doctors Should Participate In Twitter Chats

Why Doctors Should Participate In Twitter Chats | Social Media and Healthcare |
Dr Matthew Katz, a community-based doctor dedicated to improving cancer care and health empowerment, was the guest on the latest #HCHLITSS Twitter chat. For those who may be unfamiliar with the phenomenon of a tweet chat – it is a pre-arranged chat that happens on Twitter through the use of updates called tweets.

It includes a predefined #hashtag which links the tweets together in a virtual conversation. The #HCHLITSS acronym stands for Health Communication Health Literacy & Social Science, Of particular interest to me during the stimulating chat was Dr Katz’s view of what physicians and other healthcare providers can learn from participating in Twitter chats. According to Dr Katz, it is a way to listen in on patient concerns.

Participating in #bcsm* gives me insight into some of the fears and concerns my patients may have but don’t voice #hchlitss

#bcsm and other Tweet chats have made me a better listener #hchlitss

— Matthew Katz (@subatomicdoc) December 13, 2013

(*#BCSM stands for Breast Cancer Social Media – a weekly chat in which those with an interest in breast cancer discuss issues relevant to their community).

In fact so passionate is Dr Katz on the topic of healthcare social media that he believes it is a doctor’s moral obligation to add their voices and expertise to the discussions happening online.

In my opinion, it is also an ethical and professional obligation to evolve. That’s why it’s called medical ‘practice’. #hchlitss

In this Dr Katz echoes the words of Farris Timimi, M.D., medical director for the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media.

These [social media] tools help us reach so many more people; we can bring shared interactions into our practice and that is powerful … This isn’t an addition to your job. This is part of your job. This is a conversation, and that is what we are trained to do … This is where our patients are these days and this is where we need to reach them. We can engage learners, patients and peers, and we are not limited by geography or time –

Social media is a radical shift in the way we communicate. The healthcare conversation is no longer a one-way narrative but is evolving into a global, participatory discussion. One of the most powerful ways I see this happening is in the modality of the tweet chat. The role Twitter plays in breaking down patient/provider barriers, disseminating and expanding the reach of healthcare information, widening social networks and co-creating a collaborative model of shared health information is for me one of the most exciting developments in social media. In the words of chat participant Elin Silveous, it represents:

The best of social media: Health professionals, patients and healthcare consumers all learning from each other. #hchlitss

— Elin Silveous (@ElinSilveous) December 13, 2013
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Take advantage of Pinterest to market your practice

Take advantage of Pinterest to market your practice | Social Media and Healthcare |
My daughter absolutely loves her Pinterest ( account and, through it, has launched an online “cheer bows” business. To my amazement, within the first month she was shipping her “exquisite hand-crafted Texan cheer bows” to states like California and Maine.

Pinterest has been hot and is getting hotter with the young woman demographic and perhaps will be the next big thing in social media.

Recently, at a local society meeting, a few people asked me whether Pinterest is right for their practices and how they can use it. I used my three-question rule for social media: What is it for? Who is using it? How can I take advantage of the objectives of the medium to help my practice?

I must confess that other than registering my office name on Pinterest I have not done a thing with this social medium. However, let us consider what we might be able to do with it.

Pinterest is unique in that it is primarily a visually driven medium. It is an online board where pictures are placed and organized in such a way that you can share and search for pictures on just about any topic. Most pictures have comments associated with them, so my daughter just takes a picture of her hand-made, Texas-sized cheer bows, attaches a description with an email address for requesting more information and posts it on her Pinterest account.

Of all social media, Pinterest has attracted a growing audience of young females and young mothers who primarily use the board as a community to share recipes, crafts, hobbies and decorating ideas. This is a demographic that I like to engage, but use of this website is less informative and more visual/social. Compared to other social media, I do not feel that prospective patients will go to Pinterest first as a place to look at their new optometrists’ credentials or practice information. I think that in this area, LinkedIn is second only to Facebook, even with its low share price.

With that said, there is no downside to having a Pinterest presence. So the questions are: How can we combine an optical coherence tomography (OCT) image with a cheer bow? Or how can I have my expertise “pinned”? Is Pinterest a place where people would come to get recommendations from friends? What could I post that would showcase my office?

Some offices have successfully used Pinterest to showcase their opticals, with photos of new frames and sunglass lines. Another typical use is placing office photos with brief descriptions of different areas, describing various instruments and their use. You could also consider staff events such as birthdays, weddings or birth announcements or you could engage in sharing recipes among staff and patients.

1. Pin patients and smiles. Photos of happy patients with new glasses or first-time contact lens wearers with their big smiles belong on your Pinterest board. As a cautious note, make sure to get permission from the patient before pinning their pictures.

2. Pin testimonials. You can pin photos of patients using your services. If you have a dry eye clinic or corneal refractive therapy (CRT) clinic, you could show how patients with dry eye have experienced remarkable benefits with plugs or therapies or how the myopia has been controlled over time. In other words, show the therapies that you routinely prescribe.

3. Show practical use of services and technology. You can also pin videos of certain procedures or photos such as OCT images showing age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, CRT technology, new contact lenses or new frame lines. These pins can be used as educational resources as well as to showcase your office technology.

4. Pin what you do and what you know. If you have previously been published in articles, books, magazines, or journals, pin it. You can pin public service announcements of children swimming in pools or safety with firecrackers. Use a brief description and discuss the article. Remember to link those pins to your website and blog.

5. Show your organization’s culture. There is plenty of chatter on “humanizing services.” Pinterest is an important enough social media platform to promote pictures of your staff at work or at play. You can even show pictures of your staff interacting with patients in work-up or exam rooms. People enjoy getting a “look behind the curtain,” and you can present your personality and that of your organization.

6. Create a conversation. When pinning, the goal is to drive traffic to your website with the idea of converting your followers into paying patients. If you pin images that create opportunities to ask questions and encourage dialog, you take the opportunity to become the expert. Do not forget to link those Pins to your website or blog posts.

7. Pin workshops, conferences and seminars. You want to be recognized as the go-to resource in glaucoma, dry eye or whatever service or device you want to market. Posting photos of you attending seminars or presenting at conferences validates the image you want to drive. You can create a discussion through comments in your blog or website or you can send the pins to those people who subscribe to your account.

As with any social media, the idea is to categorize the information and control the message. You can also follow other providers, practices and hospitals or organizations. Before you know it, you could be driving traffic to your website, and more people can find out about the services you offer.
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Now Hear This: Informed Patients Seek Doctors Who Listen

Now Hear This: Informed Patients Seek Doctors Who Listen | Social Media and Healthcare |

Are you a good listener?

These days, you better be for one simple reason. Given the amount of information aesthetic consumers now have access to, doctors who don’t listen to what patients have to say about their care may find their surgical schedules a lot quieter than they’d like.

As this infographic suggests, patients are not only bringing their own research into their meetings with their doctors, they’re actively seeking out providers who are willing and interested in discussing what they’ve found.

As healthcare advocate Katherine Hoffman, who created the infographic notes, the results came from a small sample of online respondents so they’re best considered a snapshot rather than a statistically significant study. Nevertheless, the following pair of respondent comments put the picture into exceedingly clear focus:

My physician is utterly dismissive of anything I say to them. I am now changing doctors.

I gather [information], doctor and I review together, doctor interprets, doctor makes recommendation. Serves a healthy doctor-patient relationship.

That dichotomy takes on even more significance when you consider that more and more people are chronicling their aesthetic journeys from start to finish. At RealSelf, we see it all the time as patients extol doctors who listen to them, reject ones who don’t, and share the details with millions of other potential patients.

As the say in the movie theater: The audience is listening. Are you?

Ray Beauchamp's curator insight, September 29, 2014 6:11 PM

Today patients are  better informed and have far more access to educating themselves - With the new healthcare system in place - What do you think?

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Sniffley tweeters help researchers locate flu outbreaks

Sniffley tweeters help researchers locate flu outbreaks | Social Media and Healthcare |

Twitter has become the latest online tool to be used to monitor the spread of disease.

Researchers are looking at whether health providers can identify the locale of a disease outbreak by monitoring the social media network for complaints of illness.

Google is already working to gather data about illness through its flu trends project, by noting when users search for terms related to being unwell, although questions have been raised about how effective it can be.

Now Ming-Hsiang Tsou, a geography professor at San Diego State University, is exploring the use of Twitter to predict the spread of infection, such as influenza, by checking tweets across 11 US cities for signs of an outbreak.

Tweets mentioning keywords such as “flu” or “influenza” were logged when sent from within a 17-mile radius of the cities, which included San Diego, Denver, Jacksonville, Seattle and Fort Worth.

“There is the potential to use social media to really improve the way we monitor the flu and other public health concerns,” said Tsou. At the moment, outbreaks are monitored by hospitals and traditional health services but that leaves a long delay between reporting and issuing a public health warning.

If flu sufferers can be located through their social media use, the authorities could, in theory, issue warnings more quickly and channel resources into the areas that need them more efficiently.

Having identified tweets featuring keywords, Tsou’s programme records specific data, such as username; GPS location; and whether the tweet was sent via a mobile phone or a computer.

To test how effective this method was, his team compared the data against original reports on flu outbreaks that were produced by city and county health agencies. Of the 11 cities, nine showed a statistically significant correlation between locally reported outbreaks and the outbreaks identified on Twitter. Among these, five were detected more quickly by Twitter than the local reports.

Traditional procedures take at least two weeks to detect an outbreak,” said Tsou. “With our method, we’re detecting daily.” This digital “infoveillance, as Tsou terms it, could be applied across a range of public health issues, such as mapping local incidences of heart attack or diabetes.

“Mining data from online social media to gain useful knowledge is both a challenge and an exciting opportunity for health researchers and public health practitioners,” said John Powell, a senior clinical researcher from the Department of Primary Health Care Sciences at the University of Oxford.

Vasileios Lampos, a research associate at the Department of Computer Sciences, University College London, agrees that machine learning techniques like these produce high levels of predictive accuracy. However, he warns that we shouldn’t get carried away with hopes for its potential. “We are not there yet,“ he said. "Occasionally those models produce mistakes by being prone to hype or by not being able to adjust to a change in a seasonal pattern.”

One difficulty is separating out messages by a flu sufferer from those posted by users just talking about flu. It is difficult to differentiate between and “I’ve got the flu” tweet and a tweet about a friend who has the flu, possibly in a different city or even country. Nevertheless, researchers are making progress towards being able to do this, adds Lampos.

As a next step, Tsou plans to look into monitoring tweets that might be less obvious indicators of illness, such as those containing words like “cough” and “sneeze”.

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Blog Ideas for Patient Engagement

Blog Ideas for Patient Engagement | Social Media and Healthcare |

Successful health care organizations understand how a blog can act as a driving force in their health care marketing strategy. Blogs allow medical professionals to produce fresh content, boost the site’s visibility in searches, provide meaningful, relevant answers, and to position physicians, facility or practice as an authority.

More than likely, you’re not going to acquire patients because you published an article that lists which vegetables have the most fiber. However, there are several benefits to continually updating your blog with fresh content:

  • Keep current patients informed and in a health-centric state-of-mind
  • Develop a reputation as a trustworthy, proactive health care brand
  • Involve physicians to share their expertise and build awareness
  • Promote events, brand achievements, and staff additions
  • Share patient stories and spread support

Content Ideas for Engagement

It’s important to first create an editorial plan that includes blog content ideas. We recommend varying the type of post to avoid being overly self-promotional or lacking brand-specific information.

Informational posts – Informational posts should inform patients of key details about procedures, medical conditions, and innovations. Make your blog the go-to place for patients seeking cosmetic procedures, solutions to fertility problems, and support for chronic disease. This is an excellent opportunity to feature posts written by your hospital’s physicians. If patients can find knowledgeable, authoritative, easy-to-digest information on your blog, they’ll be encouraged to seek you out as the solution. Incorporate case studies, videos, and lists to vary the content and appeal to a wide audience.

Narrative posts ­­– One of the most obvious reasons people enjoy perusing hospital blogs is the less-intimidating nature of the posts. Blogs serve as an exceptional platform for sharing stories that take place within the walls of the organization. For instance, a patient willing to share her experience through a heart valve replacement surgery can not only validate the capabilities of the doctors, but can also provide support to others in need of a a similar procedure.

Trust-building posts – While a steady stream of blog content raises your authority level in the eyes of patients, a robust healthcare marketing strategy should include posts that detail your expertise, as patients looking for medical services must place their trust in providers. Include posts that feature cutting-edge equipment used to diagnose and treat conditions, physicians’ commitment to health, and brand recognition.

Day-to-day details – Use blog (and website) content to inform potential patients about the more frustrating aspects of getting good care. Include articles that show patients how to make an appointment, fill out paperwork ahead of time, and ensure a smooth, quick appointment. Talk to patients about insurance reimbursements, and put their minds at ease when describing your practice’s emphasis on ensuring coverage.

General health tips – Regardless of the brand, the posts I most enjoy and take time to share are usually focused on general health. These can also be the most fun to write. Articles like “10 Ways to Sneak Veggies into Your Toddler’s Dinner” or “Tips for Avoiding Seasonal Affective Disorder” are able to resonate with a wide audience and potentially go viral. I’m a fan of the infographics from Cleveland Clinic.

Finding Specific Topics

With broad categories sketched out, you’re ready to delve into specific blog ideas. We generally advise organizations to flesh out a at least six months’ worth of blog ideas.

Look at the influencers. Review their blogs and make a list of the services, stories, and general information covered. As yourself, “How can my hospital follow these examples? What stories can we share? How can we explain this information more effectively?”

Use Google Adwords. While you’re now required to log in to an AdWords account, you can still use the Keyword Planner tool without purchasing a campaign to determine the success rate of various search terms. Simply enter search terms based on research that shows what patients look for, and the program will gather commonly used search terms that relate to your query terms.

Employ standard SEO practices. Once you’ve decided on keywords, use them sparingly. By most standards, experts agree that overstuffing a post with keywords alerts Google’s bots, who will mark your post as spam and downgrade your search standings. Make sure yourinfographics are SEO-friendly and URLs are structured properly.

For healthcare systems, hospitals, and specialized physicians, a blog is an essential component of a dynamic healthcare marketing strategy. Blogs provide fresh content for your site and help to position your practice as the leading source of medical services in the area.

Witmer Group's curator insight, December 27, 2013 9:28 AM

Doctors and hospitals can blog too!  Good tips for blog content. 

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The Fundamentals Of Medical Online Marketing

The Fundamentals Of Medical Online Marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

There have been a great many developments in the health care industry over the last few years. One of these developments is the increasing use of IT technology and the introduction of medical online marketing. More and more medical practitioners are realizing the potential and harnessing the power of the internet, through a well created website and medical online marketing techniques. However, before contemplating marketing your medical services in this way, you must be familiar with the fundamentals.

Key Website Development Issues:

Many people make the mistake of assuming that the internet and online marketing benefits from quantity of information. This is not the case, and in fact many medical online marketing techniques rely on a good structure and quality of content rather than excessive amounts of information. Your medical website may require numerous pages, so it is important that all of the information is correctly linked to the home page and organized to provide great ease of use for your website visitors. Your web pages should be correctly optimized to ensure that they load quickly and reduce the risk of potential clients becoming frustrated before clicking away. The content should be written with your patients or any other parties in mind. This could be other medical practitioners, representatives from drug companies or potential clients. The tone should be focused on the practice credibility and why your practice differs from others. You will need to be prepared to maintain the website and keep the content updated and relevant to ensure the website grows organically.

Understanding Social Media:

Social media has become an integral element of marketing internet businesses. However, it is still of great value in medical online marketing. There are a number of social media platforms which are applicable to the medical industry. Simple components such as social media pages can be essential to allow a forum for patients and prospective patients to converse. This can provide an excellent way to showcase reviews and testimonials for your medical practice and increase your credibility. Social media provides a platform which will allow your patients to see the results you are producing and how they are being achieved. It can also allow any patients, potential patients and any other visitors to gain an understanding of you and your medical practice. This will increase visitor traffic to your main website and increase the number of referrals.

Utilize Your Geographical Location:

Many online marketing techniques focus on widespread approaches including mass directories. However, since your medical practice has the advantage of a local location, your medical online marketing methods should use localized and targeted techniques to ensure that your referrals are from the targeted desired area. Local directories and the correct use of keywords for search engines can ensure that your medical practice stands out on the internet for providing local services for your area.

If you have a medical practice and are considering developing an online presence, you should be familiar with medical online marketing techniques. This will help you to correctly promote your services and ensure that all of your efforts are optimized to maximize referrals and increase the reputation of your practice.

peoriaorthodontist's curator insight, December 26, 2013 11:57 PM

We proudly provide quality orthodontic care to the community of Peoria, AZ and surrounding areas such as Glendale, Phoenix, Surprise, and El Mirage. Our office specializes in the prevention and correction of misaligned teeth and jaws as well as treatment of TMJ disorder.

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FDA Hires Consultants to Analyze Social Media Presence

FDA Hires Consultants to Analyze Social Media Presence | Social Media and Healthcare |

The FDA has been overwhelmed by technological advances over the course of the past few years, but not all of these high tech innovations have been directly tied to medical devices. One of the FDA’s sticking points has been its social media policy, or rather, the lack of attention that it has paid to this increasingly important modern business practice. This issue has not been limited strictly to the regulatory agency – in the past, we have covered the overall slow response of the medical device industry to the social media call.

A new initiative undertaken by the FDA aims to at least gather the data required for the creation of an informed social media policy. A new contract has been signed between the Agency and IB5K, a consultancy that will investigate the impact that the FDA’s Internet actions have when it comes to engaging both the public and the industry. IB5K will be taking a hard look at a long list of important facets of the government’s social media presence, including blogs, Facebook, Wikipedia, Twitter, LinkedIn, and even seemingly tangential sites such as Flickr. reports that the FDA currently has a mere 35,000 Twitter followers, which is unusual for such a powerful government body.

IB5K won’t be involved in any policy decisions concerning an official social media plan of attack. Rather, the organization will assist in the analysis of the FDA’s current online presence across as many platforms and demographics as are deemed important. The cost of the effort is roughly $180,000. The decision to go outside the Agency in an effort to understand its relationship with the unfamiliar world of social media is a positive sign, given that in the past the FDA has had difficulty bringing to bear resources familiar with emerging technologies in a timely manner.

This has most notably affected medical device 510(k) submission approval times, but it is symptomatic of the difficult faced by the regulator with regards to the accelerated pace of technological development within the industry.

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Twitter in the Healthcare Industry

Twitter in the Healthcare Industry | Social Media and Healthcare |

In the space of a few short years, Twitter has grown from several strands of inconsequential drivel to an information powerhouse. Originally conceived as a way to keep up to date with a small network of friends and family, the micro-blogging model, which sees the rapid exchange of quick-fire information, was soon recognised as an invaluable resource for professional organizations.


An area that has benefited in particular from this format is the healthcare industry, where the output of short bursts of relevant news and developments can mean the difference between life and death. Social media sites such as Twitter now represent the largest source of healthcare discussion in the world. Just as celebrities have found Twitter a useful platform for communicating directly with fans, Tweets cut out the media coverage middleman when it comes to providing accurate news in real time from healthcare professionals. Read on to find out how medical authorities and industry experts are using twitter accounts to change the way healthcare is delivered.


Reaching out to a wider audience

From Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, to NHS organisations, hospitals and individual GPs, twitter offers an effective and efficient means of communication. With only 140 characters to work with, even the heavyweights in healthcare still have time to Tweet. Unlike Facebook, where privacy settings dictate the visibility of the status updates, Twitter works on a more open and accessible system. As the length of Tweets are limited, the information is also more likely to be regularly updated. So when a hospital needs to alert staff and patients about problems with a service, there’s a good chance the Tweet will have saved a lot of time and hassle all round.


Norwich and Norfolk Hospital has the most followers out of any NHS hospital on Twitter


Direct communication with followers

The Internet has changed the landscape of public opinion and freedom of speech forever. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the stream of Twitter feeds where anyone with an interesting or controversial opinion can suddenly be propelled to Twitter stardom. The healthcare industry can only thrive if the relationship between patient/consumer and provider is nurtured. By receiving direct communication from the people who use their services everyday in the form of criticism, comments and suggestions, the healthcare industry can better understand what areas require improvement.

The power of the hashtag

Twitter takes some aspects of traditional forms of media and combines them with the best practices in social media that encourage cross-network conversation between users. Hashtags help to collect information about a topic and present them for anyone wishing to find opinions about that topic or contribute to the discussion. For users wishing to get involved in conversations about social media in healthcare, a useful hashtag is #HCSM where you can find all the latest news from healthcare innovators such as ‘medical futurist’ Bertalan Mesko.


Twitter chats are usually hour-long conversations that focus on a number of topics related to the main hashtag. For example, in thetranscript from the last #HCSM Tweetchat on the 15th December participants were asked what they had learned from HCSM over the past year.


You can choose to join in on the conversation or ‘lurkers’ can take a step back and observe. Whether you’re simply curious about the latest news circulating or want your voice to be heard loud and clear, Twitter is one of the best places around for finding like-minded individuals. This sense of community is extremely relevant for people with rare or chronic conditions who want to interact directly with healthcare professionals or seek support and reassurance from other sufferers.


Campaigns and Charitable Causes


The speedy dissemination of information makes Twitter an ideal tool for organising large gatherings, protests or even riots. Fortunately, this feature also helps to provide awareness of health campaigns and worthy causes.  The NHS Stoptobercampaign, reached almost 20,000 followers and this Christmas’ Winter Friends Pledge, which urges people to check in on an elderly neighbour this winter, has been actively endorsed on Twitter by Mumsnet, Stephen Fry, and actress Joanna Lumley.


Small charities, not-for-profit organisations and even individuals looking to fund their healthcare needs have turned to Twitter as a powerful, free platform for generating donations. Since the cost of advertising on Twitter is zero, employees can exert more energy forging connections and gaining followers. With the right social media skills, many of these followers can then be converted into regular donators.


Charities have even made money from investing in Twitter. It was recently reported that the Wellcome Trust, a charity for medical research, profited considerably from “the post-year end IPO of Twitter’s, where our stake of more than 1% was marked up by more than $100 million.”


Twitter is also a great place to connect people who want to be generous with those who need it most. After being touched by a huge display of support from Twitter users following a recent injury, footballer Micah Richards has raised the amount he is donating to charity from £20,000 to £25,000. One of the lucky beneficiaries is Ruby Leigh Jackson, a six-year-old sufferer of cerebral palsy in need of an operation.


Emergency Situations

Twitter has been in invaluable resource in emergency situations around the world, such as during the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. A study by the Red Cross show that people are increasingly using social media as a vital resource for organising relief, helping families and friends find each other and discovering the scale of damage caused.


On the 25th September Twitter announced the launch of a new alert system to help organisations ‘enhance the visibility of critical Tweets.’ Services using the alert system, including the London Fire Brigade, Foreign Office and Environment Agency, can mark an important Tweet with an orange bell. Followers will then receive a text alert in the event of an emergency situation. It is hoped that these Tweets will act as warnings of imminent danger, provide evacuation instructions and information about resources.


Twitter analytics

The scope for reaching meaningful conclusions through analysis of Twitter feeds is immense. Researchers have already learned a lot about the way healthcare information travels through social media and how to successfully track epidemics.Symplur is a company that aims to ‘connect the dots in healthcare social media’. So far Symplur’s big data includes 170 million healthcare Tweets, 3.4 million healthcare Twitter profiles and 1,500 health communities. These analytics may benefit ‘public health organizations, governmental agencies, communication agencies, pharmaceutical companies, healthcare researches and academia.’ One of Symplur’s major undertakings is The Healthcare Hashtag Project, which aims to make finding relevant hashtags easier for the healthcare community and providers.


The most astonishing benefit for healthcare providers is in Twitter’s proven capacity to accurately track and predict outbreaks of disease and epidemics. In the same way that Google has been tracking the spread of influenza through related search terms since 2008, Twitter analysis has shown the same principle can be applied to Tweets. One good example of this is the cholera outbreak that effected Haiti in 2010. Researchers found thatanalysis of real-time Tweets could have led to early detection of the outbreak, as this information was available up to two weeks earlier than reports from official sources.


In a study conducted at John Hopkins University it was discovered that many people put very revealing health information on their Twitter feeds, such as their symptoms, self-diagnosis, the medication they are using to treat the problem and the effects it is having. The researchers supposed that much of this information is not recorded in any official health record and could provide insights into common health misconceptions that need to be addressed, such as when to use antibiotics.

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5 Tips for Successfully Engaging with Patients through Social Media

5 Tips for Successfully Engaging with Patients through Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

In the ever-changing era of healthcare, social media offers even more opportunities for patient engagement.  Yet, many struggle with figuring out the best approaches. We recently hosted a webinar where experts from the Mayo Clinic and Swedish Medical Center shared their lessons and practical tips. We extracted some of the key lessons learned:

1.       It’s not about channels, it’s about helping people (patients). You don’t need to participate in EVERY type of social media, but you should engage where patients need it. Make sure to find out what works best for your patients and the content you are producing.

 2.       Find ways to provide content. Package your content and get it online in different ways. This can be in the form of journal articles, presentations, etc. This will grow your online presence and drive traffic.

 3.       Use social media as a listening tool. Learn from patients. Use social media to learn what questions and misconceptions they have and correct them with online information. This is a great way to fix problems that arise and become more open and engaged with your patients.

 4.       Don’t be scared to engage online- Be prepared. Eliminate any hesitation/concern by having internal and external policies in place. An example is to have a privacy policy that covers privacy and participation guidelines for people wishing to interact on social sites.

 5.       Think of social media as a PART of your job, not just extra task. Realize that social media is a way to better engage with your patients. It is not a task. But another way to help patients seek and receive education, information, and resources.

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5 Ways Your Hospital Can Leverage Social Media Engagement

5 Ways Your Hospital Can Leverage Social Media Engagement | Social Media and Healthcare |

By now you’ve read the often-quoted statistics from YouGov; 57 % of consumers have noted a social media connection with a hospital was likely to have a strong impact on their decision to seek out treatment at that facility. And a whopping 81% saw a social media presence as indicative of being “cutting edge.”

You’ve also no doubt read that 80% of internet users have looked up health information online.  From these well-circulated numbers we know that patients are online and they expect, nay, they want your hospital to be online as well.
In response to these numbers, you’ve established your Facebook page, set up your Twitter account, rolled out a YouTube channel and joined the increasing number ofhospitals jumping into Google Plus.  You’ve bought into the theory, now it’s time to focus on the practice.

Let’s look at five ways your hospital can begin making effective use of social media engagement.

1.  Prevention

Make use of your Google Plus/Facebook/Twitter feeds to share general health and wellness information with your local community.  Many hospitals are now sharing timely health & safety tips regarding staying safe during the holidays.  Here are three examples of the types of content being shared just in the past few days on Google Plus from some of the official Hospital accounts I follow .  National Library of Medicine   The CDC  Botsford Hospital

2. Reducing Patient Anxiety

Let’s face it, not many of us become awash with anticipation over our next trip to the hospital.  Social media channels give your facility an opportunity to help put patients more at ease before they set foot between your walls.  Dr. Howard Luks mentions in this interview  that patients who’ve stopped by his website are more comfortable when they arrive at his office, having gotten a feel for their doctor via his YouTube posts.   Your hospital’s YouTube Channel and/or hospital blog could give your patients a chance to see some of your own health professionals, putting a (hopefully welcoming) face to your facility and offering a preview of what to expect when they arrive in person.

3. Communicate Wait Times

Though not a widespread practice at the moment, some healthcare facilities have begun using social media platforms such as Twitter to keep their community updated on wait times.  They find it helpful to inform the public of what to expect before they get to the hospital and see this practice as a means of showing the community they take communication with their patients seriously.

4.  Emergency Response

We’ve already written about this topic in the past, so feel free to check out our platform blog post for a handful of tips on using social media to help respond to and prepare for emergencies.  Though Social channels could not replace current emergency response approaches, it could be used to help bolster current emergency response strategies.  For supplemental reading on this subject, have a look at the role social media played during the H1N1 situation from 2009.

5. Educating and Informing

This is a broad topic so let’s focus on one  of the newer aspects of patient and community education.  One of the hotter trends in hospital engagement is bringing your social media channels into the Operating Room.  Seeking to attract buzz as well as educate their patients by offering them a peek behind the curtain so to speak, hospitals are using Twitter in the OR and educating their community by answering questions during the procedures .

C. Todd Livengood's curator insight, December 31, 2013 6:55 AM

"Social media channels give your facility an opportunity to help put patients more at ease before they set foot between your walls."

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Top Hospital Marketing Priorities for 2014

Top Hospital Marketing Priorities for 2014 | Social Media and Healthcare |

Hospital marketing executives and administrators ranked marketing for various service lines as “extremely important” (65.5%) or “very important (24.1%), among respondents to the recent Healthcare Success Strategies (HSS) survey.

Although service lines have generally commanded an important position in the marketing mix, Heart & Vascular Services ranked as the clear leader. It’s likely that the promotional emphasis during coming months will shakeout with the following priority, according to survey takers:

Having High Priority:

  • Heart & Vascular Services (65.5%)
  • Orthopedics (51.7%)
  • Cancer Care (50.0%)
  • Women’s Health (46.3%)

Having Low Priority:

  • Sleep Disorders (53.5%)
  • Geriatrics (48.1%)
  • Digestive Disorders (32.1%)
  • Children’s Health (29.6%)
Rate your most successful marketing channels for service lines.

When it comes to getting the message out, hospital marketing efforts routinely employ a wide range of communications tools. When asked to rank those that are among the “most successful,” respondents told us:

  • Physician Liaison marketing (43.3%)
  • Publicity (32.2%)
  • Community Events (29.0%)
  • Print advertising (19.3%)
  • TV advertising (16.1%)
  • Organic online ranking via SEO (12.9%)
  • Radio advertising (12.9%)
  • Internet paid search advertising/remarketing (12.9%)
  • Direct mail (9.6%)
  • Social Media (6.4%)
  • Online directory sites (3.2%)
  • Online display advertising on other sites (3.2%)
  • Outdoor advertising (0%)
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What's News in Healthcare Social Media - December 18 2013

What's News in Healthcare Social Media - December 18 2013
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Social Media Dangers -- The Doctors - YouTube

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Should pharma be social Patients respond

Should pharma be social Patients respond | Social Media and Healthcare |

Zoe Dunn's recent article, “Should pharma abandon social media?” raised some compelling points that called into question pharma's approach to patient engagement through social media. Can social media provide a demonstrable ROI? Is pharma willing to commit to a long-term relationship, a critical underpinning of social media engagements?

Rather than leaving these questions to hang over our heads like precariously strung ornaments over the holidays, we decided to fire up Truvio, the influencer-powered insight platform recently launched by Wego Health, and ask a panel of influential patients to share their thoughts on this topic.

Getting patient influencers to weigh in

We started by selecting a diverse group of Health Activists from Wego Health's network, including patients who have experience in conditions where pharma social media efforts have been robust (e.g., diabetes and multiple sclerosis) as well as conditions where pharma hasn't been as social (e.g., HIV and advanced cancer).

We shared a range of pharma social media examples, both owned and sponsored, through the Truvio mobile research platform, and asked participants to provide their insights regarding these initiatives.  We wanted to know if they felt that pharma's efforts created value. 

In other words, despite some of the real limitations that Zoe articulated, did people feel that the experience they create and the information portrayed would have an impact on their behavior?  Specifically, we used a well-accepted industry metric for measuring success—“Likelihood to discuss a condition or product with a doctor as a result of the information consumed.”

Social media motivates doctor conversations

Overwhelmingly, the patient influencers surveyed said that interacting with social media resources would motivate them and members of their community to discuss conditions and products with others, especially a healthcare professional; 72% felt that social media resources would motivate these discussions.

In addition to asking the panel to rank the effectiveness of various pharma social media approaches, we also asked them to share any advice they might have for the pharmaceutical industry regarding how to deliver social media programs that are engaging, effective and relevant.

The Truvio platform captured their voice-responses and provided us with tips that were shared among many of the respondents.  We have taken the top 10 recommendations and synthesized them in to the list below for your convenience.

Patient influencer's top 10 tips for pharma social media

1) Actively collaborate with patients: Even pharma-sponsored communities should have patients moderating, managing, and actively contributing content.

2) Avoid hip & trendy: Health is serious business—being hip or trendy with your communication can send the wrong message about a company's understanding of the impact a disease has on a patient's life.

3) Embody transparency: Transparency doesn't mean including your logo in a 6-point font at the bottom of the “About” section of your website.

4) Find balance between public and private sharing: If you want to encourage meaningful interactions among members of the community, then offer the opportunity for people to share information privately.

5) Shape strategy around patient needs: Active and influential patients should be involved in the planning and strategy of communities because they have an intimate understanding of the community's needs.

6) Allow anonymity: Some people just aren't comfortable broadcasting their health status to the world (especially in delicate conditions like HIV or diabetes). Allowing anonymity removes barriers for engagement.

7) Target your audience: Are the people you are communicating with technology savvy? Where are they in their disease journey? What is their level of health literacy? With syndicated studies from Pew Internet and Manhattan Research, or platforms like Verilogue and Truvio, there is no longer an excuse for not knowing your audience.

8) Appoint experienced owners: While pharma's social media “rock stars” may know how to effectively use the best tech tools available, those involved in the development and management of disease-related communities should also have a deep understanding of the disease and products.

9) Enable content discovery: Quality health content is already hard enough to find, and while social media can be good for engagement and sharing, it tends to fall short in the area of “discovery” and “search.”  Create ways that make it easy for people to find content you have posted.

10) Reference information: Although the practice of referencing content sources is a requirement for almost all pharma communications, it appears that it's a less common practice when it comes to pharma's social media initiatives.

Could patient-powered collaboration solve pharma's long-term commitment issues?

Having patients play a key role in the community came across as the single most important piece of advice that the influencers had for pharma. Specifically, community opinion leaders felt that pharma should consult with patients prior to developing healthcare communities, and that patients should play a more meaningful role in the management and moderation of those communities.  If these two things are done well, then the patients will also become the community's biggest ambassadors, ensuring that people are aware of its existence and trust its intentions.

A win-win for patients and pharma

Creating a more formal alliance with the patient community could help address one of Zoe's biggest criticisms of pharma's social media efforts—their lack of long-term commitment.  If the patient community has some stake in the social media effort, even if in limited capacity during the time a client is sponsoring it, then when the time comes—inevitably—that the pharma company no longer allocates resources to support the community (for completely rational and understandable reasons), they can hand the keys and control over to the community for whom they built it. Wouldn't that be the right thing to do anyway?

We shared our findings with Zoe, and she responded: “Love the patient connection—what an opportunity for the industry to start building real relationships. I look forward to hearing about which companies embrace this in 2014.”

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Educational quality of YouTube videos on knee arthrocentesis

Educational quality of YouTube videos on knee arthrocentesis | Social Media and Healthcare |

Knee arthrocentesis is a commonly performed diagnostic and therapeutic procedure in rheumatology and orthopedic surgery. Classic teaching of arthrocentesis skills relies on hands-on practice under supervision. Video-based online teaching is an increasingly utilized educational tool in higher and clinical education. YouTube is a popular video-sharing Web site that can be accessed as a teaching source.


The objective of this study was to assess the educational value of YouTube videos on knee arthrocentesis posted by health professionals and institutions during the period from 2008 to 2012.


The YouTube video database was systematically searched using 5 search terms related to knee arthrocentesis. Two independent clinical reviewers assessed videos for procedural technique and educational value using a 5-point global score, ranging from 1 = poor quality to 5 = excellent educational quality. As validated international guidelines are lacking, we used the guidelines of the Swiss Society of Rheumatology as criterion standard for the procedure.


Of more than thousand findings, 13 videos met the inclusion criteria. Of those, 2 contained additional animated video material: one was purely animated, and one was a check list. The average length was 3.31 ± 2.28 minutes. The most popular video had 1388 hits per month. Our mean global score for educational value was 3.1 ± 1.0. Eight videos (62 %) were considered useful for teaching purposes. Use of a "no-touch" procedure, meaning that once disinfected the skin remains untouched before needle penetration, was present in all videos. Six videos (46%) demonstrated full sterile conditions. There was no clear preference of a medial (n = 8) versus lateral (n = 5) approach.


A discreet number of YouTube videos on knee arthrocentesis appeared to be suitable for application in a Web-based format for medical students, fellows, and residents. The low-average mean global score for overall educational value suggests an improvement of future video-based instructional materials on YouTube would be necessary before regular use for teaching could be recommended.

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Do You Know the Four Benefits of Google+ for Healthcare?

Do You Know the Four Benefits of Google+ for Healthcare? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Google+ is a social media network many people and businesses have avoided investing much time in. While Google proudly reports 300 million active users, the reality is thatGoogle’s perception of an “active” user is rather generous. Still, there are four main benefits for brands, particularly health care organizations, that invest in setting up and monitoring a Google+ page.

Google+ Local vs. Google+ Business

Shortly after Google created its social network, Google Places (the pages that showed reviews, maps, and addresses) was replaced with Google+ Local. Just like with Google Places, business managers can “claim” locations to manage the facility information and respond to reviews. If you enter an address or name in the search bar, yet your business does not show, you are able to create a page.

The number of physical locations for a brand will dictate how many Google+ Local pages exist. However, just one Google+ Business page should exist for each brand. The main benefit of a Google+ Business page is the ability to engage with customers through posting content, videos, and links back to your site. We have a headache-free post about setting up a Google+ page, so be sure to check that out before diving in.

Though you may be overwhelmed and confused, please remember that you can merge the Google+ Business page with Google+ Local listings (as long as they feature physical locations). Our State of Search pal, Greg Gifford, wrote a phenomenal run-down of how you can merge these pages.

Benefit 1: Local Reach

Arguably the most profound benefit of investing time in your organization’s Google+ page is the increased presence in Local results. Most patients are searching for organizations within a reasonable proximity – we call that Local Search – and these solutions are often pursued from a mobile device. Local search is incredibly important because it enables brands that wouldn’t normally rank on the first page to receive optimal positioning due to its location – and thus, its likelihood of providing visitors with a satisfying solution to their query.

Benefit 2: Innovative Ways to Engage

Google+ allows people and brands to interact with followers in ways Facebook and Twitter can’t. For example, a Hangout is essentially a video chat session, but unlike Skype, it can be accessed within Google+. No downloads are necessary.

Helpouts, an extension of Hangouts, is a pretty cool feature that recently launched. It allows individuals or brands to help people in real-time. While most Helpouts are available at a cost, some brands are making representatives available to help an audience for free. Banfield, for example, offers real-time pet wellness information, covering a wide variety of topics. Not only does this educate an audience, it also strengthens the brand perception and public relations. I’m sure there are already human healthcare brands taking advantage of this new level of commitment and transparency. It will be exciting to see how Helpouts continues to unfold and affect the way we seek solutions.

Auto Awesome is a new way Google can spruce up the photos and video you share. If you haven’t checked out the specific features, I urge you to do so.

To show an example: Google is showing off its holiday spirit by adding special effects to photos uploaded to Google+. In this case, it overlaid falling snow to the foreground of the picture I added. (This is more of a novelty feature than one that can provide much value for healthcare brands, but I wanted to show Auto Awesome in action.) It’s important to note that the Auto Awesome features aren’t automatically generated. Once I uploaded the photo, nothing happened. About 15 minutes later, I received a notification with the new and improved photo! Auto Awesome is automatically enabled, but can easily be disabled through settings.

Benefit 3: Patient Advocacy

As more people turn to search engines when seeking health care, organization and physician reviews have increased in value and in quantity. Google takes many factors into consideration when serving results, so while a portfolio of pristine reviews doesn’t guarantee you a top-ranking position, it certainly helps the cause. Among the many ways your organization can manage its reputation through Google+, we recommend asking patients to contribute their feedback.

Not only does it give patients a chance to voice their experiences and overall level of satisfaction with the brand, it enables the organization to understand its strengths and weaknesses. And the social proof of quality care will most likely drive a higher volume of traffic to the website.

Benefit 4: Community Interaction

What separated Google from other social networks from the start was the ability to group people into categories, or circles, and thus filter what you share with specific groups. Similar to that mindset are Google+ Communities, groups of users that share a similar interest or profession. Healthcare brands and professionals are carving out new areas of interest, while simultaneously spreading innovation and connecting with other brands and patients.

The “Healthcare Glass Explorers” community, for example, discusses and shares the many ways Google Glass is changing the world of healthcare.


As more interesting Google+ features and benefits roll out, it has become apparent how influential this social network website can be for brands. While we understand that exploring Communities or joining Hangouts can be time consuming, we suggest starting with the tactics that will most impact your brand’s reach in search – such as asking for reviews, claiming your local listing, and creating a Google+ Business page with a custom URL.

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4 Topics a Physician Shouldn’t Discuss on Social Media

4 Topics a Physician Shouldn’t Discuss on Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Obviously, transparency links itself to creating a better social media profile.  However, when using any sort of media in a professional capacity, guidelines or rules can be very important.  Here are 5 things to avoid when writing for Twitter, Facebook or any other forms of social media:

  1. Alcohol consumption – You may just be meeting up for a beer with some colleagues after work; however, leave the booze out of your social media.  Drinking pictures, statuses or Tweets don’t add to your professional image.
  2. Patients – The specifics of a patients case are their property and to use that without their expressed permission is a violation of the doctor/patient relationship, even if HIPAA compliant.
  3. Complaints about work – We all may have some work related grievances; however, talking about these on social media can come back to you from a coworker and doesn’t increase your credibility amongst peers.
  4. Travel plans – As a locum tenens physician, you may be tempted to write something like, “Headed to New York for the week on a new locums assignment #needawintercoat #locums #travelingphysician.”  But, I urge you not to do this.  Why?  Anyone can access your public social media profile, including robbers.  Knowing that you have an empty house can set your home up for disaster.  Instead, keep your destination to yourself and share with only close friends.  If you still feel the need to broadcast on social media, create some privacy settings to keep that information near.
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2014 is a Landmark Year in Medicine: More Digital Natives Practicing

2014 is a Landmark Year in Medicine: More Digital Natives Practicing | Social Media and Healthcare |

In addition to 2014 being a tipping point for digital natives in medicine, almost half of medical students are now women. A recent study found that women outperform men on certain metrics of patient care.

It’s not the technology that will change the practice of medicine, it’s the doctors who use the technology who will end up changing it, according to Jay Parkinson MD:

My generation simply doesn’t know how to live without the Internet. However, we’re not yet leaders and technological decision-makers in our health-care system. Our parents are heads of hospitals, chairwomen of departments, and CTOs of health-care delivery networks. When this generation of boomers retires this decade, we’ll see massive change.

The age of networked intelligence will spawn a new kind of leader, according to Bryan Vartabedian MD:

Expect to see regular doctors emerge as influential not based on lists of publications but on the strength and novelty of their ideas.  Leadership will be determined in part by the capacity to leverage new tools to build, communicate and influence.

Dr. Vartabedian sees this new group of digital doctors as ePatient-centric – doctors who recognize the sovereignty of the patient and their access to information as a critical asset to care.

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5 Truths about Social Media in Healthcare Marketing

5 Truths about Social Media in Healthcare Marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

People are talking about your brand. They could be telling each other glowing stories about their experiences, or complaining about the substandard service that they received. Your audience is building a brand narrative, with or without you—so if you want to help shape the story arc, you must participate in the dialogue.

Do you know where they’re chatting about you? What they’re saying? Are you involved in the conversation? Don’t feel bad if you can’t answer the questions; many of your peers in the healthcare industry are in the same place. Consider this sobering number: Only 26 percent of hospitals have an active social media program, although 41 percent of consumers say social media affects their choice of healthcare provider. 

Don’t be left behind. A brand that builds strong online connections is a resilient brand—one that is able to shrug off the occasional bad word and capitalize on the good ones. Here are five very good reasons to build a robust multichannel online engagement program as soon as possible.

  1. 77 percent of patients use search engines to research hospitals.
    Online search has become indispensable to the consumer research process. Do you know what pops up when someone searches for your hospital name? Search engines hold no bias; good reviews and bad reviews will be served from multiple sources, including blog postings, message boards, sites like Yelp, and public Twitter conversations. Actively managing your online presence can positively influence the conversation.
  2. 59 percent of adults have looked online for health information in the past year.
    This is a golden opportunity to get in at the ground floor with potential prospects. By building multiple healthcare conversations with your audience, you have a much better chance of being relevant to their online searches—thus making your brand top of mind when they make a final decision about a provider.
  3. 83 percent of patients rely on hospital sites to make a decision.
    Have you looked at your site recently? Does it look like a throwback to 1999 or is it sleek, modern and easy to use? For a lot of people, your hospital’s website is the first time they’ll interact with your brand—and as the old adage goes, you only have one chance to make a first impression. Make it count by ensuring that your site is up to date with modern web standards, technologies and design philosophies.
  4. 57 percent said that a hospital’s social media connections would strongly affect their choice of providers.
    More than 50 percent of the nation has a social media account of some kind, with Facebook leading the charge. If you aren’t out there engaging with your audience, you’re already losing market and mindshare to your competitors. Talking to your audience online can help cement a solid, long-lasting relationship—and they’ll share these experiences with their friends on their networks, exponentially increasing your brand’s online reach.
  5. 24 percent of patients post about their health experiences.
    We live in an increasingly connected world. Many of your patients are posting about your hospital before they step in, and immediately giving feedback after they step out. By involving yourself in this conversation, you can make sure that your brand has a solid online footing, mitigating bad experiences and reinforcing good ones.

People want to hear from you. They want to talk to you. Most importantly, they want to feel like they have some measure of control over their brand experiences. But you can’t just put up a Facebook page and call it a day. A strong brand actively tries to cultivate conversations. For example, when consumers raise issues on Twitter or Facebook, over 80 percent report “liking or loving” hearing from the organization —but far too many hospitals use these platforms as nothing but a PR feed, updated two or three times a month.

You have to enthusiastically and consistently engage people wherever they are in order to build a real rapport with them. It’s hard and time-consuming work, but the returns are worth it. Leverage your online presence—including mobile opportunities—to become the first name that comes to mind whenever anyone thinks of a pressing health issue.

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Will 2014 be the Year Patient Stories Come to More Healthcare Conferences?

Will 2014 be the Year Patient Stories Come to More Healthcare Conferences? | Social Media and Healthcare |

The Stanford Medicine X 2013 Conference was one of the most successful healthcare conferences on social media according to Symplur who runs the “Healthcare Hashtag Project”. Symplur has archived more than 360 million tweets on Twitter for more than 3,482 different hashtags, 2,000 of which are medical, healthcare technology, and pharmaceutical conferences. Apple recently bought Topsy to uncover business intelligence from tweets, but healthcare has its own data goldmine in Symplur.

In a #MedX Google hangout this week, Symplur shared data that showed 25% of the tweets from the #MedX conference included the word “patient.” According to Symplur, this is significant. Medicine X had only 500 physical attendees over 3 days, but attracted almost the same social reach of HIMSS13 with over 14,000 attendees over 5 days.

Although only 500 people attended Stanford Medicine X physically, the conference attracted 3, 564 participants on Twitter, showing the powerful engagement of its virtual audience.
Stanford Medicine X 2013


Bringing All the Stakeholders Together
According to organizer Dr. Larry Chu, the philosophy of Medicine X is to think beyond numbers,
It is more important to talk about bringing all the stakeholders together to innovate healthcare. I look forward to the day when people aren’t surprised that 25% of the discussion has the word patient in it when you are talking about a healthcare conference.

Stanford Medicine X has a unique ePatient Scholarship program, and includes patients as speakers. Some conferences allow patients to attend for free, but according to Medicine X ePatient Advisor Sarah Kucharski, “We have aimed to take it a step further. Depending on whether an ePatient is awarded a full or partial scholarship, MedX covers admission, transportation, lodging, and even meals. We want to keep our ePatients healthy!” Sarah hopes other conferences will think about building similar initiatives into their budget or seek out sponsors, so it is not a burden for patients to participate.

I interviewed Sarah Kucharski, a member of the Medicine X ePatient advisory board who oversees ePatient applications, to learn more about the program and the MedX experience.

Why are patient stories important?

We look so much at data, but data doesn’t have a face. Data is much more compelling when it is partnered with a patient story.

What is the role of patient stories online?

Patients are really filling a need of observational research. Being able to share experiences with other patients forms a community – a bond – and it really helps people feel that they are less alone. I am a rare disease patient, and it took me 31 years to get a diagnosis. For 31 years, I was absolutely completely alone. It took social media to actually connect with one other patient.

What is your advice for patients considering sharing their story but are not sure it is worthy of an ePatient scholarship?

I did not think my story was. It’s really interesting to me how many times, just in daily life, there will be someone who mentions something about their healthcare, their health story, and I end up sharing mine. We have this conversation, and it’s that “connection.” These are not great big, heady conversations, they’re just person-to-person conversations. And that is really what sharing your ePatient story is about, it’s not at all anything to be intimidated by.

I understand that some people have real concerns about sharing their story, about being public, about their work, their health insurance. That’s something only the individual can decide. For me, sharing my story has only been a positive.

Never, never doubt the power of your story. – Sarah Kucharski

One thing that I’ve really enjoyed is that across the patient community, there are more common threads than we necessarily realize. I may be a fibromuscular dysplasia patient, but that does not mean that I don’t have something in common with a Crohn’s disease patient or a brain tumor patient. We are all still patients. We still have the frustrations of illness. We still have caregiver issues. We still have health insurance and billing issues. We have all these shared experiences, even though the actual disease narrative may not be exactly the same.”

Applications are now open for the ePatient Scholarship program and close on January 10th for the 2014 Conference, taking place September 5th through 7th.

Archiving Patient Stories

While Symplur is archiving tweets, 23-year old Matisse VerDuyn hopes patients will start archiving their stories. Matisse was able to find a correct diagnosis through social media and a Mayo Clinic Twitter chat. When Matisse was 19, he had one of the fastest bat speeds in the U.S., but an injury interrupted his dream for a baseball career. After his wrist did not improve, Matisse discovered Dr. Berger who had solved the puzzle of the UT ligament tear in the wrist, and helped MLB player Jason Werth turn his career around.

While recovering, Matisse now had time on his hands for the first time in a busy student-athlete life. He decided to teach himself to code. This changed everything. Matisse builtPermamarks, and was recently invited to present at the Ideagoras Innovation Conferencein Madrid.

Photo Veronica Botet

Matisse explains that valuable content disappears from the web every day leaving dead links because hosting is abandoned, websites are changed, and people die.

But patient stories shouldn’t have to die. They can be preserved to help other patients, says Matisse. He wanted to give individuals the power to archive, something only large institutions or organizations previously had the ability to do.

“Everyone has at least one piece of digital content they wouldn’t want to lose. If you don’t save it, who will?” – Matisse VerDuyn

Patient Stories Proven to Change Health Behavior

The challenge to healthcare technologists in 2014 is how to use patient stories to drive behavior change. According to Dr. Thomas K. Houston from the University of Massachusetts Medical Center, when patients tell their stories, health may improve. As reported in the New York Times, Dr. Houston conducted research showing the potential of personal narratives to alter behavior and improve health. In a study of people with hypertension, Dr. Houston found:

All the patients who viewed patient stories had better blood pressure control, but those who started out with uncontrolled hypertension were able to achieve and maintain a drop as significant as it had been for patients in previous trials testing drug regimens.

Invite Patients to Drive Innovation at Healthcare Conferences
It’s clear the voice of the patient is growing. There is much knowledge to be gained. Healthcare conferences are where new ideas are presented and exchanged. Will 2014 see more healthcare conferences inviting patients to tell their story and co-create new solutions?
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