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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Social media in healthcare: Advantages and challenges perceived by patients at a teaching hospital in eastern province, Saudi Arabia

Social media in healthcare: Advantages and challenges perceived by patients at a teaching hospital in eastern province, Saudi Arabia | Social Media and Healthcare |

Aims: This study aimed to determine the types of, the frequency of, and reasons for social media usage by patients. In addition, this study attempts to explore patients' perceptions of the advantages and main challenges associated with using social media in healthcare. Subjects and Methods: This was a cross-sectional study. Questionnaires were distributed to a convenience sample of 400 patients at a teaching hospital in Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia. The data were analyzed by performing descriptive and inferential statistics. Results: Of the 400 patients, 377 patients used social media. Females were more frequent users (60.7%) of social media than males (39.3%). Young patients were more frequent users of social media than older patients. Most patients used social media daily. The patients reported that the main purpose of their usage of social media was to care for their own health. The main advantage was to enable patients to learn about the symptoms of their illness and the method of treatment. A small percentage of patients believed that using social media in healthcare might breach the confidentiality and security of their information, which was the main challenge associated with using social media in healthcare. Conclusion: Social media is revolutionizing healthcare delivery, and its benefits overcome its drawbacks.

Keywords: Healthcare, patients, social media


Al-Qahtani MF, Alsaffar AK, Alshammasi AR, Alsanni GS, Alyousef ZT, Alhussaini MF. Social media in healthcare: Advantages and challenges perceived by patients at a teaching hospital in eastern province, Saudi Arabia. Saudi J Health Sci 2018;7:116-20

Social media has been defined as “a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, which allows the creation and exchange of user-generated content.”[1] According to McCay-Peet and Quan-Haase,[2] social media are “web-based services that allow individuals, communities, and organizations to collaborate, connect, interact, and build community by enabling them to create, co-create, modifies, share, and engage with user-generated content that is easily accessible.” Different researchers have defined social media sites differently, but their definitions refer to the same meaningful function, i.e., social media refer to web-based or online applications based on the Internet used to create and share information, photos, and videos and to exchange ideas by users, enabling the users to interact with each other and establish online relationships.[3],[4] According to the International Medical Informatics Association's[5] classification, 13 different types of social media platforms exist: social networks, professional networks, thematic networks, microblogs, blogs, wikis, forums or listserv, social photo and video sharing tools, collaborative filtering tools, multiuser virtual environments, social applications and games, integration of social media with health information technologies, and other (e.g., FriendFeed). The most commonly used applications include Facebook, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter.[6]Social media can be used in various sectors, such as the marketing, business, governmental, and healthcare sectors.[4]

In the healthcare sector, social media help support patient-provider communication. Social media allow nurses to access information in real time; share research findings in research settings; share skills, knowledge, and education; and discuss medical issues.[7] The main motivations for using social media in healthcare settings by healthcare providers, hospitals, physicians, and other health staff are as follows: marketing, communicating with patients and coworkers, disseminating health education, raising awareness, obtaining information regarding the most current medical studies, reducing medical-care costs, and improving the quality of care.[1],[8],[9],[10] Several healthcare organizations use social media to deliver healthcare interventions to change patient behavior (e.g., help smokers change their lifestyle or decrease anxiety in women undergoing mammography).[11] In addition, social media are used as online “virtual communities” in which a group of individuals who share similar interests meet “virtually” to discuss their experiences, exchange advice, provide emotional support and offer self-help suggestions.[12] Moreover, social media are used to manage diseases and sustain health goals, such as losing weight, living with back pain, or coping with disease.[13],[14]

Previous studies have highlighted the main advantages of using social media in healthcare, such as increasing interactions among patients; expanding, sharing and tailoring information; enhancing communication between patients and physicians; increasing accessibility to health information; providing emotional and social support; enhancing professional development; potentially influencing health policy; and contributing to public health studies, services and surveillance.[9],[15],[16] Despite these advantages, several challenges could limit users from using social media in healthcare. These challenges are related to the privacy and confidentiality of patient health information, professionalism, lack of time, risks of spreading inaccurate health-related information, and cultural issues that could influence the extent to which physicians are willing to communicate with their patients.[15],[17],[18],[19],[20],[21],[22]

However, in Saudi Arabia, knowledge regarding the nature of social media usage by patients for health-related issues is limited. Therefore, the objectives of the current study are: (a) to determine the types of, the frequency of, and reasons for social media usage by patients and (b) to explore patients' perceptions of the advantages and main challenges associated with using social media in healthcare.

  Subjects and Methods  

A cross-sectional design was used in this study. A convenience sample of 400 patients was recruited from a teaching hospital in Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia. The study was conducted between March 2017 and May 2017. A paper-based questionnaire was developed based on a literature review to meet the objectives of the current study. The questionnaire was validated by two experts in the field. The questionnaire consists of 15 questions related to the type and frequency of social media usage, the purpose/reasons for using social media, the advantages of using social media, and the main challenges associated with using social media in healthcare. In addition, demographic data including gender, age, and level of education were assessed.

Ethical approval and consent to participate

This cross-sectional study was approved by the Institutional Review Board (IRB-2017-087-CPH) of Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University, Saudi Arabia. All the participants provided written informed consent after being assured that the study information was classified and that participation was anonymous and voluntary.

Statistical analysis

The statistical package for social science (SPSS version 21, IBM, Chicago, Illinois, USA) was used. The mean and standard deviation were computed for descriptive continuous data, whereas the frequency and percentage were computed for the categorical data analysis. Microsoft Excel was used for the graphical presentation of the data.


In total, 377 of the 400 patients (94%) indicated that they use social media. Of these 377 patients, 309 patients (82%) reported using social media for health-related issues. As shown in [Table 1], the percentage of female respondents was 61%, while male respondents constituted only 39% of the sample. In total, 37.1% of the patients were younger than 30 years, 33% of the patients were aged between 30 and 38 years, and 30.2% of the patients were older than 38 years. Nearly half the patients (49.3%) had a bachelor's degree, 33.4% of the patients had a high school degree, and only 7.2% of the patients had a higher education degree. Nearly all the participants (95%) used social media daily.

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Photo Elicitation on Social Media Can Provide Perspective to Patients With Chronic Pain

Photo Elicitation on Social Media Can Provide Perspective to Patients With Chronic Pain | Social Media and Healthcare |

For patients with chronic pain, photo elicitation on social networks may represent a novel way to get a better understanding of the lived experience of chronic pain, according to a study published in Pain Medicine. Facebook support groups in particular can provide an easily accessible platform for patients to share photos and experiences.

In this qualitative substudy of the intervention arm of a randomized trial, patients shared photos that exemplified their experience of living with chronic pain and discussed their experience. These photos and descriptions were shared in a “secret” Facebook, meaning that only invited participants could join. The group was co-facilitated by a moderator and a patient-investigator who has chronic pain. 


After joining the group, participants wrote an introductory post and were then asked to share photos that represented (1) their experience of living with chronic pain, (2) what mattered most to them in terms of health and functionality, (3) something their clinician had or had not done to address their needs, and (4) their goals in terms of functioning. The moderators guided participants in discussions about their photos. Dedoose, a qualitative analysis software, was used to analyze the Facebook discussions using thematic analysis.

The participants' discussions of photos centered around 3 major themes regarding living with chronic pain: (1) participant redefining pain identity, (2) how pain interfered with their enjoyment of life, and (3) participant inability to function.

“Images provide patients with a tangible object that could potentially break the verbal barrier that tends to exist between patients and clinicians when discussing how to treat chronic pain,” the researchers wrote. “These images help communicate a patient's pain identity, how their pain interferes with their daily life, and their functional goals more powerfully than numbers could do alone.”

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Pharma marketing trends 2019: what to expect and how to evolve

Pharma marketing trends 2019: what to expect and how to evolve | Social Media and Healthcare |

Pharma marketing trends 2019: what to expect and how to evolve

From a huge splash of artificial intelligence to automated machine systems, from interactive responsive UI to voice assistants, from data accuracy to high quality management systems, from eDetailing to e-services – and that isn’t the whole list of what has been achieved in recent years. So, time to move on! What is going to reshape pharmaceutical marketing and be on the radar in the upcoming year of 2019? As 2018 has almost gone by, new tech trends and breakthroughs lie further to embrace. Let’s unveil some upcoming trends pharma marketers should stay up-to-date with:

Smart multichannel mix – Time to keep a strategic mindset

Digital communications are rapidly moving further. Customers are becoming more and more in control of their digital experiences – technologies are expected to respond to their deepest concerns and provide options when they need them most. In fact, 59% of U.S. online shoppers expect their healthcare customer service to be as good as Amazon. Within a new digital reality, patients expect to not only receive quality information but also be educated through it.

Physicians have already made patient-centric approach their priority so pharma and healthcare are keeping up with them. Internet-savvy physicians are no longer an emerging group – nearly all physicians are online for professional purposes weekly or more often.

The trend of using online resources via multiple channels is going to increase significantly. Smart multichannel approach is gradually affecting HCPs-med rep relationships as well. Receiving any medical updates or products info might be easily done at any time via Internet. As a result, here come more relevant digital solutions pharma can offer – live videos, interactive detailing and e-sampling. It seems unlikely you’ll see a high-performing med rep with no interactive presentation on his/her tablet.

Step on Big tech – Mobile generation

Pharma made a significant shift towards using mobile technologies over the past few years. Throughout a day doctors have an ability to access any clinical information just using their smartphone. In order to get the latest sources or to find any info just a button click is required.  That grants physicians with an opportunity to be focused on more complicated tasks and leave their easy ones to be solved by smart technologies. Sounds promising? Huge transformations in healthcare and pharma industry continue to evolve through virtual and mobile experiences.

What lies ahead?  NextGen reality fully equipped with leading edge devices. Therefore, much superior pharma online services – greater customer experiences.

No way to miss AI and ML out

Artificial intelligence, Machine learning and Big data are deeply interconnected. Today, physicians are looking for more complex, advanced datasets in real time with added interactivities. In light of this, the way data is collected and represented has shifted to the point of how to make it authentic and up-to-date. This should become a prioritized task for pharma marketers in 2019 – how to effectively mix content with artificial intelligence.

There are multiple use cases how ML and automation tactics can influence pharma’s marketing future: from cost savings, remote control and tracking patients’ journey to adjusting and optimizing machine functions from any point in the world with no need of human touch.

The forecast is that AI and machine automation are going to unveil individual data preferences, making pharma marketers able to ensure every customer receives adequate information in time needed.  Even though automation is quickening and simplifying multiple tasks, marketers shouldn’t forget where their own value remains. Chatbots will never replace humanity and empathy. True emotions and understanding are what people expect most from life sciences and it’s certainly cannot be provided by technology itself.

All technological processes and automated algorithms require people at their core.  Artificial intelligence and machine learning cannot be simply plugged in and to solve whatever challenges may occur. The triangle of data, processes and technologies still requires humans’ strategic thinking and mindset. Personalized multichannel marketing and value-based care will matter more than ever.

“Technology alone, such as the smartphone, is not a silver bullet for healthcare. Instead, success lies in the convergence of digital health and human interaction. It also relies on developing partnerships which harness technology, while providing trust-based, patient-centred care; and balances person-to-person engagement with the efficiencies provided by technology.”

  – Sara Siegel, Deloitte Partner, Healthcare Strategy and Consulting

Trust and transparency are the key for sufficient collaboration between humans and technologies. Visualized data and up-to-date 24/7 virtual care will become the norm throughout the industry.

New perspective of social media networks 

Pharma companies should no longer consider content marketing and social media as add-ons. Social media networks might be a great enabler for pharma companies in terms of deepening relationships with potential customers. Thanks to their advantages, pharma can reach very specific types of audiences throughout the world and deliver them qualified content exactly when and where they most need it. Bear in mind that patients have a choice to do their personal medical research on whatever platform they prefer. Beyond question, people often trust what they read no matter whether it’s proven scientifically or not. Thus, digital and social media platforms are ideally to be highly regulated. According to the current FDA regulations and multiple restrictions, pharma isn’t allowed just simply join a conversation. As a result, a large amount of information can be both imprecise and adverse.

According to a recent study, since 2013, the average number of tweets by pharmaceutical companies has gone up by 530%. Top industry players have increased their Twitter followers by nearly 300%.

     – Dr. Kevin Campbell

Therefore, it’s interesting to observe how pharma companies are developing their brand and comply with regulatory requirements. Armed with the sufficient analytics, more and more companies will have an opportunity to supply value (including beyond-the-pill offers) specifically to any type of audience. Simply put, great customer service is impossible without highly regulated work of social platforms. If the company wants to remain relevant, no chance those networks could be neglected.

Going beyond the traditional scope – From Big Data to IoT and edge computing

According to GlobalData, IoT software and services in pharmaceutical industry are expected to grow from $420 in 2015 to $2,486 by 2020.  

IoT has a potential to completely transform and revolutionize pharma marketing sector. Now, data can often be processed not in the cloud, but inside an IoT device itself. Small, tiny gadgets will be able to process dozens of information in real-time all by themselves. The newest medical technologies have already shown what a huge difference it can make on the future of healthcare and life sciences. More and more analysts and stakeholders are talking about how edge computing will change the way healthcare and pharma industry works.

SaaS (software-as-service) grants pharma companies a quick solution, where all the required services might be used from any device at any location. According to Insights Pharma Reports, almost 50% of all pharma manufacturers are currently using a form of cloud-based infrastructure, or are about to consider it.

“To me, one of the most intriguing elements of edge computing will be how it will leverage the secure sharing of Internet of Things data between devices.” 

— Jacob Shepherd, Director, Product Development

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How digital marketing can help healthcare business grow rapidly

How digital marketing can help healthcare business grow rapidly | Social Media and Healthcare |

With the help and aid of Digital Marketing the healthcare business can grow rapidly. Digital marketers create a brand out of a company by using PPC and YouTube ads. Also they post articles on relevant websites and thus lead the customer to a brands website. Apart from this the digital marketing company also resorts to email marketing to keep the customer in loop. Also a positive image of the health care provider is created on social networking sites.


These are some ways in which digital marketers can help the health care business to grow rapidly:



Through digital marketing especially email marketing repeat patients can be informed about the new and latest services which are offered by the hospital or the healthcare business. Once the user subscribes for an email newsletter he can be updated about all the advances in the field of research of his disease.


By posting relevant content with keywords and backlinks on credible sites the healthcare brands website can get more business and visitors and this will lead to higher sales and word of mouth publicity. Posting on review blogs will also help the company make a name for itself and become reputed in the healthcare business.



By developing apps and also posting relevant information and blogs on it the digital marketing company can create a lot of convenience and goodwill for the healthcare company as most users are using apps to purchase medicines or lab tests. Moreover an app can also help the customer book a doctor’s appointment and save time and money for the hospital.



Today a lot of internet users are looking at social media sites for references of good doctors and hospitals and thus a digital marketing company helps the healthcare provider to have a presence on social media all the way highlighting the positive reviews and testimonials so that more and more patients in need for health care can get in touch with the hospital or health care company.


Thus the health care industry absolutely and certainly needs digital marketing as an aid so as to keep up with the times and competition because all business is happening online and thus digital marketing plays a key role in ORM and success of a healthcare brand.

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9 Critical Healthcare Marketing Trends that Matter in 2018 

9 Critical Healthcare Marketing Trends that Matter in 2018  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Healthcare marketing is an ever evolving and changing landscape. It can often time seem nearly impossible to keep up with all of the new strategies and tactics just to stay relevant.

By the time you have gotten on board with a “new thing” to reach patients that next hot strategy has arrived. It is very important to stay up to date on the latest healthcare marketing trends that are proving highly effective in practice growth.

Simply by paying close attention to what is working and what patients are deeming valuable can drastically increase the effectiveness of the marketing strategy for a practice. Which in turn, increases new patients for the office = new revenue.

Intrepy Healthcare Marketing has compiled a comprehensive list of the latest trends in healthcare marketing that dental and medical practice need to take into account in 2018 and beyond.

1. Reviews & Online Reputation Management Matter More Than Ever

Like it or not (which most practitioners are in the latter) reviews and what patients are saying about your practice have become a major deciding factor for potential patients researching a new local physician.

According to SearchEngineLand, “85 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.”

On top of that, it only takes 1-6 reviews for a potential patient to form an opinion of your practice before ever book an appointment.




It used to seem like a foreign concept even 10 years ago for a patient to go online and research and find a practitioner based off of reviews and schedule an appointment, especially for a specialty physician. However, we see it more an more every day with our clients that people are self-diagnosing or even if they do receive a referral they do not just take their primary care doctors word for it.

They turn to online resources to read reviews and research the overall reputation of the practice and providers. Therefore it is critical to put a major emphasis on gaining control of the reputation management and review generation of the practice.

This is one of the healthcare marketing trends that appear here to stay until some kind of really major Google algorithm update that says otherwise.

2. Video Marketing has Taken Over

Video marketing arrived several years ago but has seen a slower adoption rate across the board by physician and dental practices as a consistent part of their content marketing strategy.

A video is a powerful way of bringing potential patients “into the practice” and allowing them a peek behind the curtain to develop a know, like and trust relationship with the dentist before ever stepping foot in the practice.

Video is also a fantastic way to easily get the provider involved in the content marketing strategyconsistently.

Think about it? Which is easier for an insanely busy prover to pull off?

A. Writing a 1,500+ word long-form blog post. Estimated time: 2-4 hours

B. Film a 2-3 minute video on a smartphone. Estimated time: 10-15 minutes

If the process is streamlined it is B nearly every time. Get a doctor in front of the camera and let them give advice on how to’s, educational pieces, FAQs, etc. then utilize social media platformsto broadcast it to your followers.

3. Google’s Algorithm is turning more towards Local SEO




Google is becoming increasingly more focused on local SEO which is great news for practices that invest in proper medical SEO for their business.

In the past, if you did a query for a local doctor or dentist you would get a lot of nationally focused materials on the first page. However, in recent years, those search results are dominated by Google’s local “3 pack” right at the top and either practice listings or directory listings (Yelp, Healthgrades) after that.

This means that it is critical to creating a well-rounded local SEO strategy to dominate local search for your keywords and outperform the competition which drives new patients to your website and generates new calls.

Google focuses on a few components for local SEO that matter most: proximity, relevance, reviews & business listing unification.

4. Influencer Marketing is the New Wave

When it comes to social media marketing strategy it can be difficult to come up with a way to reach a new audience and drive high levels of engagement. Enter influencer marketing.

What is influencer marketing? Influencer marketing is the act of utilizing someone else’s sphere of influence to act as a brand ambassador to promote your products or services to their audience.

The key to successful influencer marketing it that the influencer’s audience you are utilizing lines up really well with your target demographic. It would be great to have Tony Robbins post a promotion for your new botox special because of his reach. However, that is not the right target market for aesthetics services.

His followers are engaged with him because of his self-help, entrepreneurial style things that he does. A botox special would fall on deaf ears and even goes as far as to confuse his audience.

However, finding a local influencer who followers align with your botox offer could garner thousands of new followers, inquiries and new visitors to your website.

Take the example here. A local facial plastic surgeon was able to reach out and score Kim Zolciak Biermann (Real Housewives of Atlanta) to come in an receive Ultherapy treatment. My guess would be in exchange for a complementary treatment the share her honest experience with her follows.




The result? 18,425 likes and hundreds of comments on her page. I can guarantee you local women (target marketing) came in droves to the doctor’s Instagram page to learn more. It immediately gives street cred to the practice because “if it is good enough for Kim Zolciak it’s good enough for me”.

Being to integrate an influencer strategy into your healthcare marketing.

5. Content Marketing is an Absolute Must Have

After a well-built medical website, the next most important thing when it comes to ongoing SEO and website traffic generation is probably a content marketing strategy.

Many think content marketing equals blog posts. While long-form blog posts are a highly effective form of content marketing that is far from the only effective form of content a practice can create. In fact, there are 40+ forms of content and having a good mixture is the most effective.




Each form has its own benefits and levels of engagements so while you may want to choose video or blog posts as a main focal point of content production make sure to mix it up frequently to keep people engaged.

You may be thinking, “wouldn’t paid advertising drive more people to my website”? It seems like such a long and uphill battle to drive traffic by producing content.

A recent study by Kapost found that, per dollar, content marketing generated 3X more leadsover PPC advertising.

Therefore, make the investment this year in a consistent and well-documented content marketing strategy.

The key here is to make sure you document your strategy so it becomes real life. In fact, only 32% of B2B content marketers have taken the time to sit down and actually document a strategy. Documentation has been proven to yield better results.


Image from

Remember, your social media platforms are only as good as the content that is distributed to them. So make it better than the rest then blast it out to the world via social media, email, newsletter, etc. This will greatly improve the outcomes of your healthcare marketing strategy.

6. Social media marketing is essential to connect with new patients

Social media is now a given when it comes to healthcare marketing for a medical or dental practice. Then why did I think it should make the list as a trend?

I think it has become not only a given but something that needs to be better utilized and made a more substantial focal point of healthcare marketing strategies. While it is rare nowadays to find a practice without a Facebook page. We find it rare still to find a practice getting the most out of the platform and often end up feeling like it’s a waste of time and resources.

However, this is just because the proper content, time and processes were not implemented to engage potential patients with the things they are looking for.

More than ever before patients are turning to social media to find recommendations to providers or do research prior to booking an appointment. With that said social media should be a gold mine to find new patients then. Right?

First, it starts with investing in the platforms that are the best fit for YOUR practice. You do not need to focus on everything. If you are going to be on the platform make sure it fits your target demographic and you can create the content that performs well for the social media platform.




Secondly, using the tips above for content marketing create the best of the best, better than the rest content that your readers cannot help but digest.

Thirdly, distribute that content consistently across social media and utilize research to know when the best times to post to reach your audience are.

7. Practice Branding Apps a becoming more common

Creating an iOS or Android marketplace app use to be an incredibly expensive endeavor marketing it unreasonable for individual practices to enter this market as another means of communication with their patients.

However, thanks to the emergence of software and app builders, similar to what has occurred on the website development side. Practices can now get an app commissioned for their practice for little to no money.


Allergy Partners Patient App

This has allowed practices to create another marketing avenue for patients to streamline appointment booking, notifications, and communication, push specials and promos and more.

The app can serve as a powerful way for retargeting marketing to patients because you can push appointment reminders, content and run promotions to get them back in the office consistently.

If you have not thought about it as a new addition to a healthcare marketing strategy this may be one of the healthcare marketing trends worth reconsidering.

8. Business Listings Directories are Dominating Local Search 

Doing a quick local based search result for “best internal medicine doctor in Atlanta” or “top orthopedic surgeons near me” is not going to return a set of local doctor’s offices. Instead, it will return a slew of listings and reviews websites.

Among them will more than likely be:, even Angie’s Listdepending on the search.




What does this mean? Sometimes depending on the long-tail search query listings directors can be more critical to claim, update and maintain than your actual website for driving traffic and local SEO.

I see this healthcare marketing trend continuing to become the norm as Google looks to return review based listings as a top priority because it is how consumers want to make purchasing decisions.

Listings are one of the trends that are closely associated with the reputation and reviews management because most of the reviews need to be on the platforms mentioned above.

This is how you ensure that when someone does search “best dentist near me”, clicks on Yelp and searches the list of options y0u are at the top of the list because of those stellar reviews! This will gain you visibility, clicks, and new patients.

9. Natural Language & Voice Search are set to Explode

With the rapid growth of items like the iPhone’s Siri, Amazon EchoGoogle Home and more the use of voice search is rapidly becoming one of the common search engine trends.

Voice search arrived years ago but has been mainly utilized on mobile devices. However, as in-home devices have exploded over the past 2 years it voice search has become a more integral part of how we interact with search engines.

According to ComScore, by 2020 nearly 50% of all searches will be voice search in nature. That is an insanely fast growth trajectory.

This means you need to start getting ready now for natural language style search SEO. Voice search tends to be much more conversational.

For example, someone searching for Indian cuisine using text may search “Indian food near me” but someone using voice search will probably say “where is the best Indian restaurant near me?”.

Voice queries have been found to be on average 2X as long as typed queries making long-tail queries that much longer when it comes to raking high in voice search.

How do you handle SEO for Voice Search?

  1. Dive into long-tail keyword research and more important how Google defines search intent
  2. Write conversational style pieces that answer questions that your target patient would commonly ask when searching for a practice like yours

Time to take a hard and predictive look at getting ready to integrate voice into your healthcare marketing strategy.


Healthcare marketing is an ever evolving and changing industry and staying up on the latest trends is critical to developing effective strategies to grow your medical and dental practice.

I hope you found these healthcare marketing trends insightful. Often times if you wait and react to a new trend it can be too little too late or you are left playing catch up to competitors.

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What will it take to get consumers to finally use patient portals?

The concept of the patient portal makes sense in theory: Give people a means of accessing their health information electronically, enabling them to stay on top of things like medications and appointments, health history and chart information. 

In practice, however, patient portals can be problematic, with some of the peskier issues revolving around privacy and usability.


Patient portals have evolved over time, transitioning from simple logins to a health system's data to mobile apps that provide access to those systems.

Several companies have tried to make a run at creating a portal that establishes an industry standard, a model for all others to follow. But those efforts, from giants like Google and Apple, have met with only varying levels of success.

According to Stephen Dart, senior director of product management at AdvancedMD, one of the issues is that there isn't a universal privacy standard. In some states, the default is that a patient's data is shareable and the patient has to actively opt out; in other states, that dynamic is reversed.

When it comes to certain online activities, like paying bills, there are standard ways of doing things. Not so in healthcare.

"Since there's no standard paradigm people are familiar with, every device, every technology handles this process very differently," said Dart.

One possible way to address this? Look to social media.

"If you think about social media, a Facebook or an Instagram, there are paradigms they use that are ubiquitous in society," said Dart. "Just because there's adoption of these platforms, they have become standards by their very nature. Those paradigms are something people are familiar with.

"So one of the things I think could really help is to almost take a social media platform type of approach to the user experience. You would manage your data in a way similar to those platforms."

That can't truly be achieved, though, without changes to the regulator picture. Due in part to Meaningful Use, vendors often spend inordinate amounts of money chasing and reporting data in the interest of value-based care. 

Because of that, when a firm has fixed budgetary resources, and a significant portion of it goes to something that has specious value, it causes what Dart calls a "brain drain" on the opportunities to improve care.


By empowering patients to become involved in their own care, it creates an untapped window into the nation's healthcare system that doesn't exist today. If 10,000 people are using a platform to talk about what works for them and what doesn't work for them, it creates a knowledge base that a family physician would never be able to tap into. And it wouldn't cost the healthcare system a nickel, said Dart.

The promise of the social media approach is that it leverages insight into the psychology of human behavior. Dart offered the following example: Let's say Sally picks up her smartphone in the morning and checks out her weather and news feed. At the bottom of the feed, integrated along with all of the other information, are three journal articles about diabetes in the aging population. Sally reads these items and says to herself, "Oh, if I work out 20 minutes a day I can better deal with these diabetes symptoms."

Because that information is streamlined into the data she tracks daily, that diabetes management strategy becomes a part of her daily routine. The technology has used information in a way that improves health and cuts down on unnecessary utilization, and does so in a way that harnesses the power of community.

That's something that's largely lacking among today's patient portals, said Dart. Portals today are often cumbersome and rife with friction.

"That friction that exists today is part of the problem," said Dart. "Say a patient goes to a portal, but they don't have an account yet. So they have to go through the registration process, log in, look at their lab results, then they don't go back in for six months or a year, or until something happens.

"Then they go in again, and they forgot their password, or the password has expired, so now you've got to answer the security question. They eventually give up and don't even look at their lab results."

It's a scenario that needs to change, he said, and a universal, social media modeled approach to patient portals has the potential to move the needle. What's more, Dart expects it's going to happen within the next 5 to 10 years -- but not within healthcare. He expects a company like Amazon or Apple, or perhaps even a startup, to figure out how to bring all of the pieces together.

"Ultimately it still always boils down to money in healthcare," said Dart, "but the revenue opportunities to engage hundreds of millions of people is going to be too rich to be ignored."

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Healthcare Marketing Disruption in the Modern Age

Healthcare Marketing Disruption in the Modern Age | Social Media and Healthcare |

As we all sail in the same boat named healthcare, doctors are the most important audience in our industry. We focus on niche markets and therapeutic areas, which makes us very difficult to connect to the perfect audience.

For more than a decade, the Indian healthcare industry is continually undergoing the transformation phase. There is widespread scepticism about the intent of the industry and concern for the vulnerability of doctors in the relationship. Unfortunately, the debate on how to move this relationship forward has become polarized: industry argues that collaboration with physicians is essential to scientific advancement, but at the same time many doctors are pledging to cut all their ties with the healthcare industry, which brings our business to a crossroad of sorts.

Traditionally, the healthcare companies used to connect with doctors through sales representatives. But, now there are so many new laws and regulations that are emerging in many states, and the sales representative needs to be familiar with the laws and regulations in each state. Hence, it is been observed that the traditional way of marketing through sales representatives is fading away and the time has come for the healthcare industry to re-tool their marketing efforts.

Online communication

Although, Social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter allow doctors to organize personal and professional online communities for collaboration. But, there is always a gap between the medical fraternity and these so-called Social networks, as they are not able to deliver on the needs of the doctors at the right time. And time, as you know, is indispensable for every doctor.

So, the hospitals and health care systems are trying to adopt a completely new model of healthcare marketing, so as to emulate other disruptive businesses. These new models are backed by technological advancements and are being professionally customized for doctors by innovative health tech start-ups. The technology is streamlining the healthcare processes and addressing the conventional challenges. From storing patients’ records on the cloud to bringing new applications to widen the reach to challenging communities, the healthcare sector is revolutionizing.

Characterised as ‘The third wave’ by Alvin Toffler, a writer, futurist, and businessman said, the internet technology has the potential to change the way of man and society beyond the wildest of imagination.

Technology and The Indian Healthcare System

Undoubtedly, technology is contributing immensely to transform the Indian healthcare sector. The rise in the rate of technology adoption is creating a huge opportunity in the sector to make health care needs affordable and accessible in Tier – II & III cities.  The new technologies have helped the healthcare industries to look beyond the metros of India and explore the untapped market, breaking the geographical bias.

According to the estimates, the Indian Healthcare market in India is expected to grow from USD 100 billion in 2016 to USD 280 billion by 2020. Today, the healthcare sector is not what it used to be in terms of reach and improved treatments. Additionally, the boost in the Indian startup ecosystem operating in the health-tech space is creating more opportunities and hence redefining how the healthcare industry works.

Simplifying Healthcare

With the surge in serious lifestyle diseases and rising population, the burden of simplifying healthcare processes is increasing on healthcare institutions, hospitals, organizations and government. Therefore, they are looking to adopt innovative ways to manage the Healthcare setting effectively. Technology is streamlining the healthcare processes and addressing conventional challenges. From storing patients’ records on the cloud to bringing new applications to widen the reach to challenging communities, the healthcare sector is slowly but sure facing the winds of change.

An increasing number of start-ups are using technology in different ways to create holistic platforms to the doctors and healthcare professionals which bridges the gap in the healthcare system by providing the medical fraternity with an equal footing. Whether it is about the improved care delivery or expansion of multi-specialities, these new technologies in healthcare are taking the industry higher.

A few stalwarts in the digital space which not only is providing a coordinated care to patients by keeping doctors abreast of the latest medical advancements,  but also provides them access to all the stakeholders in the healthcare industry. With a sudden push towards digital frameworks, the time is certainly right for the healthcare industry to undergo its long overdue digital revolution.

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Marketing for Doctors: How to Create an Effective Strategy

Marketing for Doctors: How to Create an Effective Strategy | Social Media and Healthcare |

You’re being watched, doctor. Or at any rate, you’re being Googled, which makes marketing for doctors critical. Especially if you’re providing elective procedures. Don’t you want to rank highly in the results? 

According to Tim Sawyer, president of Crystal Clear Digital Marketing, 80 percent of all patients considering an elective procedure will begin their search on the internet. In a previous post, Sawyer explained which doctors should be marketing their practices. If you’re one of them, here’s a four-step strategy on how to get your marketing up to speed.

Step 1

“Search engine optimization. It all starts with that,” Sawyer says. Begin by creating a blogging strategy on topics that are germane to your practice. All content should be unique and blog posts should be about 750 words, he says.

Start by identifying your top-five treatments and procedures. Once every five weeks, write a 750 word blog post about one of those treatments. After you’ve written 10 posts, you’ll see results, Sawyer says.

“You will absolutely rank for those procedures in your town on the first page of Google.” Caveat: It will take longer if you’re in a more competitive market trying to sell a more competitive procedure. Think, “botox Beverly Hills,” for example.

Step 2

Your plan should also incorporate an email marketing component, Sawyer says. You’ll want to reach out to your entire patient database monthly. Keep them updated about recent events at your practice, as well as specific treatments.

The key to being effective here, Sawyer says, is being consistent with your schedule and frequency because you are training your audience to expect your content. “If you stick with it for three to six months, you will absolutely see your open rates and click-through rates improve. But once you start, you cannot stop.”

Pro tip: Shoot a cute happy birthday video that you can send to patients on their birthdays. You can do the same for holidays.

Step 3

Social media should also feature heavily into your marketing plan. Sawyer delivered many pearls of wisdom on the topic here. In this interview, he underscored that your social media strategy should overlap with your other marketing strategies, covering the same topics and promoting the same services. “It’s not about one component of your plan. It’s about understanding that you need to have a fully integrative solution that incorporates best practices in each of those specific areas.”

Step 4

“You can’t ignore the importance of video,” Sawyer says. And many doctors, he adds, are reluctant to devote time to filming. Set aside 30 minutes monthly to shooting videos to promote the same procedures you’ve identified in your blogging strategies. In 30 minutes, you can develop 10 weeks of three-minute videos.

He adds that many doctors, especially surgeons, are beginning to successfully implement HIPAA-compliant live streaming video of their procedures and are reaping the benefits. Sawyer says this is a great lead generator. Potential patients can get familiar with you, while reducing fear of the unknown, especially for surgeries.

“Patients can visualize the practice. They can visualize the operating room. They can visualize the surgeon themself.”


There are four components of successful practice marketing:

  1. Blog: Write a 750 word blog post on one of your top procedures once every five weeks.
  2. Email marketing: Email your entire practice database monthly about new procedures and staff updates.
  3. Social media: Create a strategy that supports the rest of your marketing efforts. More details here.
  4. Video: Create three-minute videos that discuss your top procedures.
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Pharma Marketers Capitalize on Social Media Buzz 

Pharma Marketers Capitalize on Social Media Buzz  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Pharma companies targeting doctors and other healthcare professionals are opening up now, more than ever before, to the possibilities of social media groups in helping them spread their reach, brand and product among their target professionals including doctors and healthcare personnel.

Media, other than the online one can hardly make a dent in the pharmaceutical industry's earnings. Online marketing has opened new doors for the pharma industry to garner clients, nurture and retain them.

The usage of social media sites or user generated content (UGC), such as blogs, podcasts, tagging, ratings, videos and photos has grown exponentially according to Jupiter Research, a leading authority on the impact of the Internet and emerging consumer technologies on business . Social media like 'digg', 'facebook',, etc have become 'the' platform for community members to express their concerns, ask questions about drugs, diseases, diagnosis, interact with doctors online, rate the answers received or the efficiency of drugs, and so on.

Research indicates that more and more doctors are 'online with patients' and provide consistent support and advise from remote location of their residences or offices. Physicians and seekers of medical information are increasingly behaving internet-savvy and potentially spreading the company's profile by word-of-mouth and online in equal measure. Over 75% adult consumers surveyed online and 92% youth disclosed that they regularly use at least one kind of UGC information.

Since over 75% online community members regularly share online health information with others, it becomes even more imperative for pharma companies to tap into the huge potential to market and position itself among its demographic. The inherent craving for 'human' interaction drives most people who are online to seek-out others who share their passion, concerns or problems.

Numbers indicate that the spurt in popularity of social media sites and proper leveraging of their potential by the pharma industry can more than meet their business goals, rather create a benchmark for their future marketing approaches.

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A shifting axis – Social media in the healthcare industry –

A shifting axis – Social media in the healthcare industry – | Social Media and Healthcare |

Anyone would be hard-pressed to find an industry today that has not been impacted by the rise of social media. There have been a great many successful technological advancements and developments that have revolutionized the world in one way or another, but not many of them have impacted practically every aspect and industry of modern life. It takes a truly astounding feat of technology to work that kind of magic. And yet, social media has done it. Its initial use was to provide connectivity across vast oceans and time zones. Now, however, social media has evolved to branch out, maintaining its core value of connectivity and using that value to extend its reaches, becoming at once a network of connectivity platforms as well as being a marketing platform, an advice platform, and a virtual world-renowned system of consumption and travel. Healthcare companies (like Vital Nutrients) as well as healthcare professionals (like physicians, surgeons, and other medical professionals) are realizing the value of social media as a marketing tool for the industry.

For years, social media has steadily built a reputation around being the ultimate gateway for international communication. Gone are the days that individuals used to have to rely on handwritten letters and weeks – sometimes months – of waiting before the response arrived back in their hands. These days, all it takes is a message on a mobile phone, the click of a single button, and the person on the other end of the message stream gets an instantaneous message. It is a miraculous feat of technological advancement, and it is one that has been taking the world by storm ever since.

Every industry in current existence operates using social media in some form: businesses use it as the modern marketing giant to elevate their exposure, artists and musicians use it to connect with their fans and increase their audience on a potentially global scale, education uses it as a support system for students and educators, alike, and so on and so forth. Healthcare is one of the most significantly affected industries of them all. Social media is now largely hailed as the future of healthcare. There are a few reasons for that.

More than anything else, social media is important to the future of the healthcare sector because it is the most globally-renowned way for support and utilization for the youngest generations (and, consequently, future generations as well). Millennials are already proving that they rely on social media to take care of most aspects of their lives. For example, up to 93% of millennials, while decidedly focused on achieving a healthy lifestyle, also admit that they do not go out of their way to schedule appointments with healthcare professionals.

Instead, they take to social media to send private messages to their friends or even to post public status’ asking if any of their connections experience similar (or the exact same) symptoms, and what they did when it occurred. Millennials are just the first of a technologically-efficient batch of future generations, and they are the perfect example of why social media works for healthcare; if young people are going to take to social media platforms to take care of their ailments and symptoms, then the industry itself should embrace the system that is steadily moving into consistent (if not constant) play.

Thankfully, the industry itself is embracing social media. Healthcare providers now use social media as a research tool. As many as 88% of physicians and other healthcare professionals use social media to research medical devices, healthcare information, and biotech data. Medical professionals (not unlike the professionals of other fields) use social media as a mean of exploration not only of the latest in the medical field and patient base, but as a way to connect with their fellow practitioners.

The tides have turned, and the health industry has found itself in a position of transition, teetering awkwardly but certainly between the traditions of the past and the modernization of the future. Along with the rest of the world, the healthcare sector has been forced into a position of gradual realization. This realization means that the industry is openly embracing new concepts and methods of technological advancement – social media included – that can make the healthcare industry more convenient and easy to access for patients, and more wholesome and communicative for healthcare professionals. This is a truly unique time to be involved in healthcare, and it is one that is ripe with good intention and revolutionary ideas. The sole aim of the technology behind social media is to make all it disrupts more capable, more reliable, more efficient.

Since the dawn of its inception, social media has consistently proven its value as a tool for both social connection and industry realization and adaption. The healthcare industry in particular has not only taken note of the potential that social media holds to strengthen and expand the sector, but it has finally begun to embrace it and run with it. The healthcare industry is being revolutionized by social media, allowing it to take hold and bring the industry to new heights. Through social media, both patients and medical professionals can use social connectivity platforms to embolden their positions, to make things infinitely more convenient, and to allow a more solid foundation for the industry’s future.

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Facebook's Head of Health Wants Medical Researchers to Utilize Patient's Social Life Data

Facebook's Head of Health Wants Medical Researchers to Utilize Patient's Social Life Data | Social Media and Healthcare |

Facebook’s head of health research has argued that doctors need information patient’s social lives. In a conference on Wednesday, Dr. Freddy Abnousi spoke about the lack of data in this regard.

“The primary driver of health outcomes in the United States are social and behavioral variables,” he said at the Manoca Summit in Minneapolis. “Really understanding what these social determinants of health care should be our primary area of focus.”
Abnousi didn’t outright say it, but the implication is that hospitals could share data with it or vice versa. In fact, Abnousi led a secret research project with that exact goal earlier in the year. He sought anonymized patient data from hospitals to match with social media users via hashing.

However, the project was put on hold before any deals were signed. Facebook came under huge scrutiny after the Cambridge Analytica scandal and would have struggled to argue that it could keep such data safe.

An Unnecessary Solution?

Abnousi seems passionate about this despite the recent compromise of up to 50 million Facebook accounts. However, some professionals are skeptical about how much use the social media would be.

Facebook’s previous approach was to work with medical groups to share the data of their most vulnerable patients.


“There are more humanistic and reliable ways to acquire this information,” said Dan Gebremedhin, physician and a health investor at Flare Capital Partners, at the time.  “How about asking the patient, their healthcare proxy, or the primary care provider? Given the variability in user activity on Facebook, I’m not sure that this information would be correlated and accurate at the patient level.”

There are some concerns that the company wants to utilize such data to deliver things such as medical ads. However, even without that, it’s unclear how anonymous the data would be.

A previous study of ‘anonymous’ Washing State healthcare data found that it could be correlated with newspaper stories. This netted a correct identification 43% of the time. It’s not hard to imagine why users wouldn’t trust a company that has leaked their data several times.

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Texting Etiquette 101: Messaging Patients Without Ticking Them Off

Texting Etiquette 101: Messaging Patients Without Ticking Them Off | Social Media and Healthcare |
Texting is a wonderful way to communicate with patients, but despite the seemingly informal medium, it's important that you operate with some decorum.

People love texting. It's the most popular communication method in the United States. But that doesn't mean people are open to all kinds of texting.

It's a convenient way to message people, but you still need to be mindful. The goal of texting patients is to make their lives easier, not to frustrate them.

With that, here are a few ways you can message patients without ticking them off.
Get Consent
Tempting as it may be, you can't go texting patients whenever you feel like it. There are laws against this type of behavior.

No, seriously, there's a law to prevent unauthorized texting. You cannot text patients any marketing or billing messages without written consent.

Healthcare information, on the other hand, is quite okay — you do not, legally, need consent to send, say, an appointment reminder.

However, it's best to gain consent for all your messaging. Remember, the goal here is to communicate with patients in a way that won't tick them off. And, even if it's legal, some folks just don't to be texted.
Timing is Everything
Much like every other facet of life, when it comes to texting with patients, timing is everything.

Be mindful of when you send your text messages. Some patients may enjoy receiving a notification at 9 p.m., while others may wonder why on Earth their dentist, of all people, is chirping them after sundown.

A best practice for texting patients is to keep it within working hours. You wouldn't call a person late at night, after your practice was closed, so why text them?

One area where you can waver is day-of appointment reminders. There's often little harm in setting a text reminder for 7 or 8 a.m. on the day a patient needs to come in. They'll appreciate that little reminder before setting out on the busy day ahead.
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MGMA18: What every doctor needs to know about social media, according to ‘KevinMD’ 

MGMA18: What every doctor needs to know about social media, according to ‘KevinMD’  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Kevin Pho, M.D., is an internal medicine physician. But he’s probably best known as “KevinMD,” the doctor who is the founder and editor of the website that bills itself as “social media’s leading physician voice.”

His website,, provides a forum for thousands of physicians to write about topics that range from how to achieve financial success, to the lessons learned from dying patients to surviving a medical liability lawsuit.


“One reason why I became a doctor was to give patients a voice—a voice when they are at their most vulnerable. Clinicians also needed a voice and that’s one of the reasons why I started KevinMD. I wanted to be their voice," said Pho, who advised doctors and practice managers on how to harness social media to help transform healthcare at the Medical Group Management Association annual conference in Boston last week. 

Social media provides doctors with a way to connect with patients and to be heard, said Pho, who practices in Nashua, New Hampshire, and has over 140,000 people subscribed to his email alerts that direct them to the site’s latest content.

His social media journey began in 2004 when his brother-in-law commented that he had lots of opinions and told him he should start a blog. “I had no idea what a blog was,” Pho said. “Honestly, I wasn’t sure where this was going to go or how long this was going to share.”

It was when he wrote about the recall of the drug Vioxx over safety concerns and reassured patients there were other options that he said he realized the tremendous potential of social media to connect with patients. Yet lots of doctors are reluctant to jump into the social media pool, he said.

They are skeptical, say they don’t have the time and don’t see how it will make a difference. But today, not having an online presence isn’t an option, he said, citing three ways social media can benefit practices.

Among them:

Social media can strengthen the clinician-patient relationship. Seven out of 10 internet users use the web to look for healthcare information, Pho said. With 72% of people looking online for health information, the problem is “fake news” or unreliable information.

“Fake news is not only a problem in politics; misinformation online is a problem in healthcare,” he says. For instance, parents who look for information about infant sleep will find that fewer than half of the websites are accurate.


Doctors can be a filter for all that information for their patients and use social media to educate them, he said. For instance, California pediatrician Robert Hamilton, M.D., has a YouTube video on how to calm a crying baby that’s been viewed over 1.8 million times. An orthopedic surgeon in New York City, Howard Luks, M.D., answers patients’ common questions on his website.

Social media can define an online reputation. Social media is also a powerful way to define your online reputation, Pho said. 

More than 40% of people look online for information about physicians. Clinicians should Google themselves once a week and see what comes up because that is what patients are doing, he said.

RELATED: 5 influential ER docs on Twitter—A scientific approach

On third-party review sites, patients are rating doctors just as they rate books, movies, hotels and restaurants. By creating content online, through social media sites such as LinkedIn and Twitter, doctors can help control what patients will see. One-third of patients will click on the first result in a search, and fewer than 10% of people will read the second page of results.

Whenever he coaches clinicians, Pho said he advises them to be aware of their privacy settings on social media accounts and use the maximum settings.

Clinicians should create a bio and post a high-resolution photo that will come up in a search. Create a professional presence on a site such as LinkedIn or Doximity, the social media site for physicians. Take a few hours to do that and then stop. You can take an incremental and cautious approach as you start to use social media.

There is a return on investment with social media, he said. “Finding and connecting with new patients is by far the most powerful and direct one.”

RELATED: Hospital Impact—To improve patient engagement, leverage the power of digital content

Social media can make doctors’ voices heard. There are stories doctors and other clinicians need to share, Pho said. Those stories can make people realize that doctors are human, too. For instance, a doctor may write about the challenges of being a physician and raising a family. Clinicians may write about burnout and depression and let other healthcare professionals know they are not alone.

Humanizing healthcare professionals and making their voices heard “has emerged as my primary social media goal. KevinMD is now a prominent, public platform,” he said. “I’ve shared hundreds of these stories.”

“The biggest risk of social media is not using it all in healthcare,” he said. “It’s an opportunity we cannot miss.”

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Machine learning to support social media empowered patients in cancer care and cancer treatment decisions

Machine learning to support social media empowered patients in cancer care and cancer treatment decisions | Social Media and Healthcare |


A primary variant of social media, online support groups (OSG) extend beyond the standard definition to incorporate a dimension of advice, support and guidance for patients. OSG are complementary, yet significant adjunct to patient journeys. Machine learning and natural language processing techniques can be applied to these large volumes of unstructured text discussions accumulated in OSG for intelligent extraction of patient-reported demographics, behaviours, decisions, treatment, side effects and expressions of emotions. New insights from the fusion and synthesis of such diverse patient-reported information, as expressed throughout the patient journey from diagnosis to treatment and recovery, can contribute towards informed decision-making on personalized healthcare delivery and the development of healthcare policy guidelines.

Methods and findings

We have designed and developed an artificial intelligence based analytics framework using machine learning and natural language processing techniques for intelligent analysis and automated aggregation of patient information and interaction trajectories in online support groups. Alongside the social interactions aspect, patient behaviours, decisions, demographics, clinical factors, emotions, as subsequently expressed over time, are extracted and analysed. More specifically, we utilised this platform to investigate the impact of online social influences on the intimate decision scenario of selecting a treatment type, recovery after treatment, side effects and emotions expressed over time, using prostate cancer as a model. Results manifest the three major decision-making behaviours among patients, Paternalistic group, Autonomous group and Shared group. Furthermore, each group demonstrated diverse behaviours in post-decision discussions on clinical outcomes, advice and expressions of emotion during the twelve months following treatment. Over time, the transition of patients from information and emotional support seeking behaviours to providers of information and emotional support to other patients was also observed.


Findings from this study are a rigorous indication of the expectations of social media empowered patients, their potential for individualised decision-making, clinical and emotional needs. The increasing popularity of OSG further confirms that it is timely for clinicians to consider patient voices as expressed in OSG. We have successfully demonstrated that the proposed platform can be utilised to investigate, analyse and derive actionable insights from patient-reported information on prostate cancer, in support of patient focused healthcare delivery. The platform can be extended and applied just as effectively to any other medical condition.

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The Benefits of Social Media in Healthcare

The Benefits of Social Media in Healthcare | Social Media and Healthcare |

We’ve been talking a lot recently about how staying current with updates in technology is important for your practice (emailing and texting patients, using online scheduling, offering digital intake forms via IntakeQ, etc.), and that also rings true when it comes to social media.

Social media can be a little controversial when it comes to healthcare. Since medical care is inherently personal and sensitive in nature, some believe that it is not appropriate or secure content for public consumption on a digital platform.

However, in today’s age when patients are taking more control over their health and wellness, social media can be a beneficial platform—both for the patient and for practices.

Even in 2012, the social space was on the rise among patients. According to a Pricewaterhouse Cooper study of over a thousand U.S. adults, one-third was already using social media platforms to help conduct health discussions.

Using social media as a tool to connect with your current patients and acquire new ones, stay on top of trends, and market yourself or practice as a thought leader in your field can greatly affect your bottom line.


Patients & Social Media

Social media is a connection builder. It gives users a voice, and allows them to interact with others and share parts of their lives.

This is true for healthcare practices as well.

By using different social platforms to stay in front of and in touch with your clientele, you’re able to remain top of mind, relay information, and potentially grow your customer base.

Provide Comfort

By coming off as relatable and approachable, your practice’s staff has the opportunity to make an uneasy patient feel more comfortable leading up to an appointment.

Whether you use Instagram or Facebook to share photos of life events (maybe an employee recently got married or had a baby), extend holiday wishes, or show your team participating in a community event, it allows your patients to get to know your staff on a more personal level. Just be sure to have everyone’s permission before sharing!

Giving a new client an inside look at your office or the friendly faces they could be seeing might make them feel more welcome and relaxed.


You may be offering a new service, welcoming a new practitioner, or want to share a patient testimonial (with proper written consent, of course). Your social media accounts provide the perfect opportunity to share news with your patients.

Also, if your office is closed for a holiday, staff-wide training, or inclement weather, how can you let patients know? This can be particularly tricky if you take walk-ins—you don’t want them driving to your office and arriving to a locked door and no answer.

Even if your office is appointment-only, patients could be looking to contact your office with a question, or to schedule or change an appointment.

By encouraging your patients to follow you on social media and sharing a widespread message in these instances, you can reduce confusion and frustration by delivering real-time updates.

Answer Questions

Since social media platforms provide the opportunity for two-way communication, using your accounts to answer (appropriate) questions allows you to maintain engagement with your patients. Just keep in mind to take any personal or sensitive conversations offline.

It’s also a great way to display unsolicited, positive reviews in the comments section. If a patient has a good experience, they may be inclined to mention it on one of your posts, which then will be visible to your other followers.

But what should you do if someone leaves a less-than-stellar review on your social media account? Check out our previous article, When You Should Respond to Bad Online Reviews of Your Practice?, for helpful guidance.

Thought Leadership

In addition to staying in contact with your patients even when they aren’t in your office, through social media you can also position yourself as a thought leader in your area of expertise.

Maybe you have new tips for flu season, want to share a new article that outlines the do’s and don’ts for before and after a procedure, or are trailblazing a new treatment. Whatever the case, sharing fresh and valuable content can help give you credibility with your followers—and even attract new ones.


We all hear about things going “viral”—our co-worker sends us that funny dog video or a particularly time-sensitive meme seems to pop up everywhere—and it’s just a fancy word for something being shared over and over again on the internet.

Infographics tend to be popular because they are visual, informative, and easily shareable. This makes them great for distributing helpful information and guidelines—especially in the healthcare industry.



Not sure where to get started? There are many online tools available that can help you make a useful, visually pleasing infographic.

And, who knows? It may even go viral!


Aside from connecting with patients and posting your own content, social media offers the opportunity to follow other accounts that pertain to your industry.

Since social media provides the space for a more fluent, current narrative in comparison to typically stagnant websites and white papers, practitioners can gain quicker insight into new devices, clinical trials, and cutting-edge procedures and services.

As outlined in this Forbes article, “Eighty-eight percent of physicians and other healthcare providers use social media and the internet to research medical devices, pharmaceutical information, and biotech data. Just like professionals in other fields, doctors can use social media as a tool to reach out to other specialists. They can explore the social media pages of pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers. They can even follow the blogs of other practitioners to learn more about their experiences.”

That’s a pretty beneficial tool to have (literally) at your fingertips.


Remember earlier how we were talking about giving patients a taste of your office culture to help make them feel more comfortable? The same also works on potential employees.

Showing personality, welcoming faces, birthday celebrations, or events outside the office can relay that your practice embodies a fun, collaborative environment where someone would want to work.

On top of that, if you have a particular need to fill (maybe a front office assistant, bookkeeper, or technician) you can share a job description across your social media channels. Even if one of your followers isn’t the right fit for your opening, they might have a relative or friend who has the perfect background.

In this manner, you are literally using social media to grow your practice!


Taking on the responsibility of running a social media presence—whether your practice chooses to start an account on one platform or multiple—can be no small feat.

It’s important to have a strategy (how often to post, types of content, goals, etc.) so you can more effectively and efficiently use your participation to grow your practice.

You can make it a collaborative effort among your staff, or choose one employee who seems to have a knack for digital—just so long as everyone involved clearly understands the practice’s social media policy and the strict HIPAA regulations in place.

Need help when it comes to social media and HIPAA compliance? Check out our past article, 5 Ways to Stay HIPAA Compliant When Using Social Media.

You also want to closely monitor activity on your profile pages so you can properly handle any necessary edits or comments that may arise.


Final Thoughts

Taking on the project of building and maintaining consistent and thoughtful social media accounts for your practice can certainly feel cumbersome. After all, you’re busy doing your job.

However, recognizing the ways that social media can help benefit and grow your business—and working towards those goals—could potentially help increase your client base, staff, and standing within your healthcare community.

And, most importantly, don’t forget to have some fun with it!

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Why Your Hospital Needs SEO

Why Your Hospital Needs SEO | Social Media and Healthcare |

When was the last time you tried a new restaurant? Or needed to find a mechanic? Or booked a hotel in a city you’ve never visited before? How did you decide where to go? Did you just roll the dice and hope for the best? Probably not. Instead, you likely searched Google and compared options. 

The same is true for patients looking for a hospital. Whether the patient needs urgent care at an Emergency Room, or is researching some kind of longer-term treatment or surgery, patients need to be able to find information about your hospital online. 

This is why your hospital needs SEO as part of its marketing strategy.

Get Google’s Seal of Approval

Just like any brand or business, your online presence plays a huge role in how you are perceived by potential patients.  Statistically, a vast majority of  people click on the top few results of a Google search, with that number dropping off quickly on page one and almost nobody making it to page two of results. 

By not investing in your hospital’s SEO efforts, not only will your ranking in Google searches suffer, but so will your bottom line. If you are not utilizing SEO strategies to make sure potential new patients know about the services, specialties, and treatments offered by your hospital, then you are leaving money on the table for someone else to grab who does. 

In reality, it does not matter how great a specific service or area of care is at your hospital if someone researching that information cannot find it. People tend to see ranking well in Google as a seal of approval, and in order to attract patients to choose your hospital, you need to use SEO to get that seal of approval for yourself. 

See a Specialist

You are likely wondering how to actually do this, though. Fortunately, you don’t have to do this on your own. After all, you would seek out the expertise of a doctor for your medical needs, so why not go to an expert to diagnose and treat your SEO needs. 

Not only are we experts across a wide variety of marketing services, we also have specific experience in medical & healthcare marketing and know how to apply marketing and SEO strategies within your industry. Our team of SEO experts here at WebMarkets will devise and execute the right SEO strategies to help you meet and exceed goals for your hospital. 

SEO Services For Your Hospital

You don’t have to stay in the dark about SEO for your hospital any more! Here are some of the strategies and SEO services our experts here at WebMarkets can deliver your hospital: 

SEO Management & Strategy

Discover and implement an SEO strategy that brings ROI from your investment. We will conduct specialized and focused analysis of your company and website in order to find the right strategy to best grow your business and achieve your SEO goals while integrating with your overall digital strategy—from web design, social media, branding, online advertising, or anything in-between. 

Keyword Research

Identify profitable search terms for your hospital through in-depth keyword, competitor, and industry research. We will help you find the best keywords to target for your hospital in order to implement the best SEO strategy to reach your ideal audience. We’ll find what questions your potential patients are searching so you can be the one providing answers for them. 

On-Page Optimization

Conduct thorough on-page analysis of your website and make improvements to maximize on-page SEO optimization. We will conduct in-depth analysis of your website, both on overall and page-by-page levels, in order to diagnose any issues, make informed recommendations, and implement the most optimized improvements.

Mobile First Methodology

Utilize a mobile first methodology to ensure your hospital’s website works correctly on mobile phones, which not only impacts visibility in Google searches, but is also the highest volume source of Google traffic since 2014.

See more about our Mobile First Methodology and Mobile Marketing services!

Content Creation & Development

Create SEO optimized content for your website that drives important keyword traffic from Google searches while also delivering answers to potential patients’ questions in an engaging and informative way that builds trust with your audience.

See more about our Content Creation & Development services! 

Link Building

Boost the authority of your hospital’s website by building links to it from relevant, high quality websites—one of Google’s most important ranking factors. We can help you build these important links in order to boost the authority of your website in the eyes of Google. Our SEO experts utilize a variety of specialized tactics and strategies to build the best links for your website’s needs.

Local SEO

Maximize your reach to local potential patients through local SEO website optimization, Google compliant local listings, and placement in the most authoritative local directories. As a hospital, Local SEO is vital for you when looking to convince potential new patients to choose your healthcare provider services. We will help you make the most of your local reach and win these new patients.

See more about our Local SEO services!

Search Engine Marketing

Identify the best options for your hospital’s budget to get your message to your target audience through options such as pay-per-click, search engine marketing, search & display ads, and remarketing. 

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The Changing Digital Landscape: What Healthcare Marketers Need to Know

The Changing Digital Landscape: What Healthcare Marketers Need to Know | Social Media and Healthcare |

The healthcare industry is evolving. The shift toward value-based care has brought with it changing priorities for healthcare consumers and marketing professionals.

As the modern landscape evolves, it’s crucial that marketers align their efforts with these changes in order to engage their audiences, successfully acquire new customers, and retain existing patients.

One of the most notable areas of constant change is the evolving digital marketing landscape. As consumers begin taking more responsibility for their individual health, they now hold healthcare providers to a much higher standard – and digital is a big part of that.

In fact, a recent study found that 90 percent of those surveyed wouldn’t hesitate to leave a provider that isn’t offering satisfactory digital experiences. What’s more, 88 percent of respondents younger than 40 said they’ll choose their next provider based on how strong their online experience is.

Marketers must now look to their digital efforts as a core driver of value for consumers and patients. Given the frequent changes impacting the healthcare industry, it’s important marketers recognize the emerging changes impacting search, content, social media, and overall user experience.

In this post, we’ll explore four digital marketing trends that are shaping the success of modern healthcare marketing.


1. Integrate Digital Tools to Improve User Experience

Modern healthcare consumers expect their digital experiences to be seamless and integrated with the services they rely on—a reflection of the experiences modern retail brands like Amazon have provided for some time now. However, across the healthcare industry, only 30 percent of existing patients would give their providers an “A” in technology usage.

This is because the overwhelming majority of healthcare organizations still don’t take into account the impact their digital marketing, website, services, and resources have on overall customer experience. Moreover, many healthcare organizations still operate with cluttered, siloed channels.

Take, for example, the use of patient portals, which give consumers the ability to access their healthcare information from their preferred devices. If they can access their portals in a seamless and intuitive manner, consumers are more likely to leverage their portal for better health outcomes, while associating the brand with positive customer experience.

However, if a patient or potential customer has to navigate across a cluttered website, or worse, move to a new website altogether, the benefits of services like patient portals go unused. With one in three users abandoning a site because they can’t find what the need, the healthcare organizations that can integrate their various tools, resources, and marketing efforts into a cohesive user experience will be more likely to stand out from competition, acquire new customers, and retain existing patients.

Consider the following best practices for improved customer experience:

  • Make sure your website, content, tools, and resources are easy to navigate
  • Personalize marketing and customer interactions to help consumers and patients navigate their health system and boost engagement
  • Engage audiences with content that connects them to health and wellness opportunities
  • Ensure landing page design is easy to digest and engage with
  • Place vital information in the same area across content so users know where to look

2. Provide Relevant Content for Search Engines and Consumers

Since 2011 when Google first introduced its Panda update, the importance of relevant and quality in content has only grown. However, the definition of relevant content changes with the trends and preferences of modern healthcare consumers. With this in mind, healthcare content now needs to focus on the immediate gratification that consumers have come to expect when searching for healthcare content.

As the second highest searched service online, the demand for quality healthcare content is greater than ever before. However, a staggering two-thirds of healthcare systems report their content marketing efforts as being only “somewhat effective.” In order to provide the kind of high-quality content that both consumers and search engines alike demand, marketers need to understand what constitutes relevant and quality today.

When Panda was first introduced, its goal was to prioritize healthcare content that was original, trustworthy, appropriate to the given search query, and offered insightful information without “keyword stuffing,” excess advertisements, or duplicate content. This is still a benchmark for quality content; however, marketers must now focus on targeting their efforts toward “micro-moments” that digitally savvy consumers expect.

These micro-moments have been defined by Google as, “an intent-rich moment when a person turns to a device to act on a need—to know, go, do or buy.” With this in mind, content now needs to focus on providing:

  • Local convenience geared toward “where can I go?” queries
  • Content that helps consumers learn about specific signs, symptoms, and the actions needed to address “what’s wrong with me?” queries
  • Content that establishes authority and trustworthiness like physician reviews, awards, academic papers, etc. that help consumers make a decision when choosing a healthcare service
  • Seamless options that let patients book an appointment quickly and easily

3. Incorporate Video to Boost Social Media Engagement

In this survey, more than half (57 percent) of consumers indicated that their decision to receive treatment from a particular facility was strongly influenced by the provider’s social media presence. Given the role social media plays when engaging patients across their healthcare journey, it’s important to note the growing popularity of video in social media efforts.

According to Cisco, video traffic will make up 82 percent of all consumer internet traffic by 2020. Further emphasizing the importance of quality video content, social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram have begun to prioritize video content more than static content, healthcare marketers who haven’t incorporated video into their social efforts are missing out.

For healthcare marketers, this is an opportunity. Leveraging the live streaming capabilities of social media allows healthcare brands to engage potential customers and patients in real-time, while testimonials, provider reviews, symptom descriptions, and wellness tips and tricks help reach new audiences and establish brand authority. For example, healthcare marketers can share the stories of inspirational patients and providers or create a video series to highlight a high-value service line.

4. Voice Search: Understand How Customer Find You

Five years ago, the role of digital assistants was just beginning to make waves across the consumer landscape. In 2018, it’s commonplace: Voice search accounts for 20 percent of all searches and is projected to reach 200 billion searches a month by 2020.

The popularity of digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Cortana are now becoming a part of our daily lives as we use them to help navigate the healthcare landscape—from finding the nearest walk-in clinic, to educating themselves on specific symptoms.

For healthcare marketers, this trend provides an opportunity to drive new leads and expand upon their existing location-based marketing.

Similar to traditional SEO efforts, consumers want to be able to find quick, relevant solutions to their healthcare needs. However, the main difference here is that in order to optimize content for voice searches, healthcare marketers need to cater to the natural language we use when engaging with voice search. Where traditional search may focus on shorter, specific keywords, healthcare marketers need to consider long-tail, common language.

Think about it this way: if you’re looking for a nearby hospital you might type, “hospitals near me.” However, using voice search to find a location might look something more like, “Siri, where’s the closest walk-in clinic?”

In order to optimize content for the shifting role of voice search, consider the following tips:

  • Use conversational language that mirrors the speech of target audiences
  • Include long-tail keywords
  • Clearly define your locations, hours, services, providers, etc.
  • Give clear and direct answers across FAQ pages and other significant questions

Final Thoughts

In order to meet the high expectations of modern consumers, healthcare marketers need to recognize the shifts happening within the healthcare sector. In this effort, the role of digital marketing and its impact on consumers has seen dramatic shifts recently. For marketers, changes in SEO, social media, content, and user experience represent unique opportunities to stand out from competing organizations while optimizing their efforts for modern consumers and patients.

Indy Home Vault, LLC's comment, October 23, 11:26 AM
nice thoughts
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Top 8 Digital Transformation Trends in Healthcare Industry for 2018

Top 8 Digital Transformation Trends in Healthcare Industry for 2018 | Social Media and Healthcare |

Just like various other industries, driven by the need for better customer experience, digital healthcare trends are now commonplace. Nations across the world are relentlessly engaged in the process of propagating digital innovation in healthcare services in their respective countries to achieve greater life expectancy. Developing compulsive healthcare digital strategy, needless to say, has become the new mantra of the healthcare sector.

If we talk about digital technology in healthcare industry, we must first understand what it’s all about and how it is disrupting the healthcare scenario. What should primarily be understood is that digital healthcare is not only about adopting newer technologies but also involves revamping the processes for improving the deliverables as well as increasing the efficiency. The salvo of digital innovation in healthcare has triggered a tectonic shift even compelling insurance companies to change their approach from volumes to value of care by initiating out-of-the-box health insurance digital transformation projects.

Digital technology in healthcare industry is fast proving to be a game changer by extensive deployment of automation and AI. A fine example of that would be the introduction of chatbots to replace humans, thus cutting costs and removing the need for visiting a doctor in cases where only self-care is required.

However, having said that, despite the digital technology rapidly spreading its clout, even today healthcare lags far behind other industries like retail and travel in achieving customer-centricity. It may sound surprising to many, but the United States of America, a country which has the costliest healthcare system in the world, touching almost 20 per cent of the country’s GDP, was ranked the worst among industrialized nations in efficiency, equity and outcomes by the Commonwealth Fund Survey. The findings of the survey were based on data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the World Health Organization and interviews from physicians and patients. While the United Kingdom ranked best, Switzerland finished a close second. So, it can be easily ascertained that while there are limitless opportunities for implementation of digital technology in healthcare there is no dearth of bottlenecks either.

Although the healthcare sector has traditionally been a slow adopter of digital technology, significant changes are expected to take place in the digital healthcare industry over the next few years. It is estimated that the digital healthcare market will touch $206 billion by 2020. A recent study conducted by SAP and Oxford Economics concluded that while 70% healthcare companies are planning to digitalize operations, another 61% feel that digital transformation will increase patient satisfaction.

Let’s take a closer look at 8 Emerging Trends in Digital Healthcare Industry in 2018:

Trend #1: Telemedicine is Fast Becoming a Necessity Especially for Countries Having Large Populations

Perhaps the most apparent digital healthcare trend to have emerged in 2018 is the evolution of telemedicine which has brought about a radical change especially in the US healthcare system. When it comes to large countries like India or the United States where access to providers is limited, telemedicine plays a vital role. If we specifically take the example of the United States of America, according to the 2017 Survey of Physician Appointment Wait Times and Medicaid Acceptance Rates, even in urban areas, the patient wait times have increased from 18.5 to 24 days since 2014. In such a scenario, telemedicine is turning out to be an all important tool which ensures that even patients from rural areas get access to specialists. Availability of patients’ medical records in digital format for specialists to refer to, as and when required, is a major benefit offered by telemedicine. The opportunities for growth of telemedicine in digital healthcare have now become even more limitless with the introduction of wearable devices which enable real-time monitoring of patients without physically admitting them to the hospital. According to London-based global information provider, IHS Markit Ltd, the projected number of telehealth patients is expected to reach 7 million in 2018, up from 1.16 million in 2015.

Trend #2: Make way for the Internet of Medical Things (IoMT)

Digital healthcare industry is presently witnessing a new revolution with the arrival of Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) – a confluence of IoT, telemedicine and telehealth technologies. This digital healthcare technology takes a whole new approach by employing the use of wearable devices like ECG and EKG monitors. IoMT plays a critical role in preventing chronic illnesses by tracking vital medical stats through various connected devices and mobile apps. Another significant contribution of IoT to digital healthcare has been the introduction of wearable devices like wristbands that help take common medical measurements like heart rate, blood pressure, calorie count, etc. These IoT enabled wearable devices have now become highly popular both among the younger generation as well as old-timers owing to them being affordably priced. According to a research by business consulting firm Frost & Sullivan, almost 60% operations in the healthcare field had already adopted IoT or IoMT systems by 2017. The arrival of this digital innovation in healthcare has enhanced both customer experience and profitability. It is expected that by 2020, the number of deployed IoMT devices would be anywhere between 20 and 30 billion. Another research carried out by Allied Market Research has reported that the market for IoT devices in healthcare will touch $136 billion by 2021.

Trend #3: Chatbots Serving as Digital Assistants to Physicians

Just like any other industry, saving costs is a major concern for the healthcare industry as well. Chatbot technology is helping deal with routine medical queries using AI-backed messaging and voice systems in an affordable manner.  The chatbots of today are designed to learn from patient interactions and assume the role of a general practitioner. In fact, some chatbots like Woebot have now also acquired the capabilities of serving as digital therapists. Smart bots serve as digital assistants to physicians in keeping track of contacts and managing appointments with patients. On the other hand, chatbots also make life easier for patients by providing timely prescriptions, conducting lab tests and making the billing procedure uncomplicated. Although the chatbot technology is still in its early phase of development, market research firm Grand View Research has estimated that the global chatbot market will touch $1.23 billion by 2025, a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 24.3 per cent. In the current digital healthcare industry landscape, healthcare chatbots can be broadly bifurcated into two categories, the first, patient-only apps that help patients track health data; and second, patient-clinician applications which act as a bridge between the two groups to serve the purpose of diagnosis and treatment.    

Trend #4: Growing role of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in Healthcare

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is another nascent digital technology in healthcare which can replicate humans in processing information and decision making. AI has undoubtedly opened new horizons of digital innovation in healthcare by improving the speed and accuracy of diagnosis. Aided by data analytics, physicians can now explore different approaches of treatment. AI enabled body scans can spot chronic diseases like cancer early, thus saving lives and bringing down the mortality rate. Pharmaceutical companies are deploying machine learning algorithms for exploring chemical and biological interactions to develop new drugs, replacing the earlier process of conducting clinical trials, which used to cost billions of dollars and take more than a decade. During the recent Ebola virus outbreak, AI technology was used to scan existing medicines to explore the possibility of reformulating them to find an effective cure against the deadly virus. It has been projected that by 2020, the average spending on artificial intelligence (AI) projects by healthcare provider organizations and technology vendors to healthcare will touch $54 million.

Trend #5: Rapid Acceleration in Adoption of Cloud Services

The primary reason for the rapid adoption of cloud computing by the healthcare sector is that only cloud-based solutions give healthcare providers and patients the required access in compliance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which sets the standards for sensitive patient data protection. In fact, a recent CIF study established that 98% companies have never experienced a breach of security while using a cloud service. The global public cloud market is expected to touch $178 billion, up from $146 billion in 2017, growing at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 22 per cent. Experts have predicted that over 50% businesses of the healthcare industry that are on the road to digital transformation will rely on at least one public cloud platform. More than 83% of healthcare enterprises are currently using some form of cloud platform and the trend will continue throughout 2018 with more focus shifting on cloud optimization and ROI.

Trend #6: Big Data Analytics is Redefining the Dynamics of Digital Healthcare Industry

All thanks to the digital innovation in healthcare which has led to more and more healthcare organizations using data to provide tools for seamlessly delivering healthcare services, the big data industry has received a shot in the arm and is expected to reach $102 billion by 2019. Big data, when applied to healthcare can use health data to help prevent epidemics, reduce costs and cure diseases. A unique example of this is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) pilot big data program called BioMosaic which tracks epidemics by merging population data, health statistics and population migration in real time. Even health insurers aren’t too far behind in harnessing the potential of big data as an innovative digital healthcare technology. United Healthcare is already using big data analytics for detecting identity thefts and medical frauds. As the healthcare system expands with the growing population, the role of big data will assume even more significance in improving patient satisfaction by streamlining the workflow.

Trend #7: Focus on Content Marketing for Consumer Engagement

Adopting digital marketing strategies at voluminous scale is another noticeable trend to have made its presence felt in 2018 in the digital healthcare industry. But what forms the crux of any digital marketing strategy is the content. Without engaging content which is tailored to disseminate vital and relevant information to the consumer, it’s almost impossible for any healthcare provider to sustain in a highly competitive market. Content which provides answers rather than raising fresh questions increases engagement and helps convert visitors into existing patients.   

Trend #8: Healthcare Robotics

Last but not the least; robotics has been making steady inroads into the healthcare industry in recent times. Although robots have been part of the healthcare system for over three decades, ranging from small laboratory models to complex ones capable of either performing surgeries autonomously or assisting a human surgeon, the scope for their deployment in medicine has widened only recently. Robots are now also being used for providing aid to people with sensory, cognitive and motor impairments besides supporting caregivers. With almost 20% of the world’s population suffering from some form of impairment, robots are expected to play an even larger role in the years to come. End of life care is another aspect of healthcare which robots are all set to revolutionize. Increasing life expectancy has meant that we now live longer in comparison to the previous generations. Advancements in AI and adopting humanoid design is enabling modern robots to converse and socially interact with humans to rid them of lonliness at the fag end of their lives and helping them remain independent for longer.

Despite the Challenges, Digital Transformation is Here to Stay

Digital transformation is a complicated process especially if we consider a partially holistic and traditional industry like healthcare. While the future of digital technology in healthcare industry is undoubtedly bright, there are certain challenges which need to be overcome. A few key challenges that threaten to derail the process of digital transformation in healthcare include the industry’s resistance to change, apprehensiveness towards the unforeseeable along with meeting ROI and the cost factor which in most cases puts digital transformation projects on the backburner. However, all inhibitions must be shunned before switching over to new technology. A prerequisite to venturing on the path of digital transformation is to change the mindset. There is dire need to come out of the “Why fix it if it ain’t broken?” approach and embrace change with optimism. The need of the hour for the healthcare industry is to stop living in denial as digital transformation is here to stay, period.

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Practices Should Set Rules for Staff Social Media Use

Practices Should Set Rules for Staff Social Media Use | Social Media and Healthcare |

Medical practices can take steps to avoid problems related to use of social media by staff members, according to an article published in Medical Economics.

Some practices encourage staff members to keep their phones turned off during work hours. Others allow staff smartphones during breaks, but with some guidelines. For example, personal social media accounts must include no protected patient data or other office-related data. A more challenging issue is social media relationships between staff and patients. When these exist, all practice-related communications should flow through normal channels rather than social media.


It is more difficult to control staff members' social media behavior outside the office, but rules should still be established. Staff members should not talk about or post photos of patients, co-workers, or employees on social media. However, if a staff member is a friend or relative of a patient, it is acceptable to post pictures showing the patient in an out-of-office setting.

Patient care "is at the center of any medical practice," and anything that distracts from or interrupts that care, such as inappropriate use of social media, should be avoided, Nitin S. Damle, M.D., of South County Internal Medicine in Wakefield, R.I., said in the article.

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Doctors Look To Data To Increase Patient Engagement

Doctors Look To Data To Increase Patient Engagement | Social Media and Healthcare |

For many reasons, several of which we’ll discuss here, a patient’s full understanding of, and engagement with,their health care experiences are vital for a positive outcome. And today, we have more options than ever for achieving higher levels of interest, patient engagement, and “buy-in” from health care customers. These include data-rich wearables, telemedicine for housebound patients and electronic health records that follow us around as we switch providers or seek treatment from specialists.

We’re positively swimming in data. But all that noise stands a good chance of confusing or distracting patients from their ultimate goal of ongoing good health if doctors and patients don’t come to the table together with a plan and a common understanding of which data points are meaningful in context and which are not. 

There’s no doubt anymore: Big data is going to revolutionize the way we administer health care throughout the world and help us achieve financial savings. But as doctors look to leverage modern tools for interacting with and sharing patient health data, there are several factors to remember and several key advantages worth checking out. Here’s a rundown.

Data in Long-Term Treatment for Chronic Diseases

Regrettably, we still lack a cure for many chronic diseases. Therefore, doctors and their patients must instead “manage” these conditions. It’s possible to live a full and active life while undergoing treatment for severe diseases and conditions, but only with the right levels of vigilance and engagement. Patients with chronic illnesses must maintain their motivation, their attention to treatment and medication schedules and their general knowledgeability about their condition.

Chronic diseases are particularly well-suited to data-driven treatment because they come with unique challenges:

  • Maintaining a working knowledge of how the condition and treatments are progressing is vital for patients to keep good morale.
  • Lapses in treatment can add to the overall costs of treatment, which is why vigilant adherence to treatment plans, as laid out by doctors and specialists, is so important.
  • Not every chronic condition requires constant trips to the doctor’s office. In many cases, self-management of these cases is possible, and patients can independently administer medicine and engage with their health outcomes without regular trips to a doctor’s office or exam room.

Working together, doctors and patients can use real-time and historical health data to better understand the individual’s holistic health and draw up bespoke treatment plans for their unique circumstances. One part of the equation involves applying predictive models to anticipate future changes or unexpected turns their health condition might take.

How Big Data Can Play An Essential Role In Fintech Evolution

For instance, gathering and organizing data from a large number of insured people lets data-driven health care systems and insurers more accurately take into account social and geographical “determinants” for future patient health. This process can help break down a health care system’s roster of patients by risk type — such as proximity to environmental conditions with known connections to patient health.

Plus, not everybody has a history of responding the same way to known pharmaceutical treatments. And not every patient is equally likely to make the lifestyle changes recommended by their doctors. We’ve entered an era in health care where insurers and doctors will eventually begin requiring patients to wear health and fitness monitors as a matter of course. Doing so ensures everybody remains on the same page and that doctors can draw the most personalized conclusions possible from the reams of data such devices collectively produce.

Natural Language Processing, or “Once More in Plain English”

Health care is a product, like it or not. And whether we’re purchasing that product on some convoluted health care exchange, or we live someplace where health care is an understood right of being a citizen, we all buy into this product one way or another.

But even in countries where a single-payer system spreads out the liabilities and costs among patients and consumers and helps drive down prices for everybody, health “literacy” is still a real problem almost across the board.

We all know the jokes about doctors’ handwriting. But that’s not the kind of literacy we’re talking about. Often, the valued customers of the world’s health care systems lack even basic knowledge about human health or turn to poor sources of information, such as doctors who skate by on name recognition alone.

The situation only becomes worse when you consider the chorus of medical jargon patients must digest as they visit physicians and specialists for what ails them. Here’s why poor health literacy is detrimental to health outcomes:

  • Patients who don’t understand their situations in full are less likely to adhere to medication and treatment schedules consistently.
  • Lab results tend to include medical terms patients don’t necessarily readily understand. And the generally poor doctor-to-patient ratio in the U.S. and elsewhere means doctors don’t always have the time to make sure patients leave their practices feeling confident and informed. Misinterpreted lab results are common as a result.
How Data Monetization Can Add Value To Your Analytics

Natural language processing has had a long road to relevance as the technology has slowly come of age. But in 2017, researchers from Yale, the University of Massachusetts and the Veterans Administration applied natural language processing algorithms to the task of demystifying electronic health records, or EHRs, to make them more easily digestible for laypeople. They wanted to see whether a computer algorithm could promote better communication about health.

It did. Indeed, it worked so well it outperformed the researchers’ expectations, even with unsorted and unlabeled data from patient evaluations. Another 2018 study, now made public by e-health publisher JMIR, confirmed the original findings: When patients and health care providers use natural language algorithms, themselves powered by big data and machine learning, patients have a far and away more complete understanding of their health.

After a few tweaks to the systems, researchers even found patients’ ability to recall complex medical definitions later had improved further.

Lower Costs Are Just the Beginning

It’s true we frequently measure the quality of health care in dollars and cents. It’s also true that when deployed sensibly, emerging technologies can help bring down costs for everybody. But that’s just the start. Here are some of the other advantages of applying data to solving lackluster patient engagement:


  • Health care systems can pivot from reactionary to proactive treatment as health databases become richer with relevant patient data.
  • Algorithms are already making it much easier to match patients with relevant clinical trials that might deliver results. Using data encourages hesitant patients and ensures the most compatible matches.
  • Hospital readmissions might drop as a result of doctors and patients having more tools for anticipating setbacks in the recovery process.

When we empower people with knowledge about the condition of their bodies, they make better lifestyle choices. And when that happens, we enjoy a healthier population overall. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, but the effectiveness of our communication and the quality of our information are two of the keys we need in hand to build a health care system that works the way it’s supposed to.

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The Paradox of Choice & Digital Marketing: 3 Vital Takeaways for Healthcare

The Paradox of Choice & Digital Marketing: 3 Vital Takeaways for Healthcare | Social Media and Healthcare |

There are more choices in healthcare than ever before. Since the introduction of Obamacare, a lot more people have access to a wider range of insurance options than ever before.

From there, there are even more decisions for a patient to make: urgent care or primary care? Direct primary care or concierge medicine? Generic or prescription medicine?

Is this a good thing? In many ways, of course it is. There’s no one-size-fits-all care prescription for any one patient. However, when the average person is left alone to handle these decisions, it can cause a form of decision paralysis.

See also: 3 Simple Ways to Fail at Digital Marketing in Healthcare

The Paradox of Choice in Marketing

The idea of choice overload and the anxiety and paralysis it can produce has sparked conversation since the turn of the century—most notably in Barry Schwartz’s 2004 book The Paradox of Choice.

He cites a study by Sheena Iyengar and Mark Lepper that presented participants with varying quantities of gourmet jam in a supermarket setting (with a coupon offer). Participants presented with 24 varieties of jam were far less likely to ultimately purchase a jar than those presented with only 6 options.

Overwhelmed with their options and faced with a time-consuming decision, many people were unable or unwilling to make a choice and simply moved on.

But what does this paradox of choice have to do with your practice, your hospital, or your patients? More than you think.

Online information overload

As we all know, more and more patients are coming into their doctors’ offices with a self diagnosis or treatment plan. In some cases, it’s based on experience or family history. But more often than not, the internet is in play—for better or for worse.

There is certainly some useful health information online, but it’s a lot to sort through—especially for a patient anxious about their health concerns. But much worse is the misinformation patients receive.

All of this is enough to cause information paralysis—to stop patients from making the right choices for their health because they simply do not know what to do. They may put off seeing a doctor out of fear, or struggle to decide which doctor can help them through a serious condition (even before receiving a diagnosis).

New models and standards of care

It can be difficult to decide which treatment route to go down when the world of healthcare is difficult to navigate in the first place.

Take primary care for example. The differences between family medicine and internal medicine could be difficult enough to for a healthcare newcomer to understand. But then there are integrative medicine specialists. There are different models of care, too: direct primary care, concierge medicine, retail healthcare options. It can be a lot for a patient to sort through.

If a patient is also balancing conditions that require specialists’ care, all of which may have their own approach to treatment, how can a patient determine what’s right?

So what should healthcare take away from the paradox of choice?

Patients are walking into your office uncertain that they’ve made the right choice. They’re finding information on your website that may conflict with information they’ve seen elsewhere. And they’re struggling to understand the things you deal with every single day.

A large part of what you can do for your patients is simply understand the struggles they face when making choices for their own health. And this can guide your approach to patient care as well as the marketing that brings patients through your doors.

Examine the paradox of choice in your own marketing

Take a look at your website as well as your traditional marketing materials. Are there large blocks of text filled with medical terminology? Do you describe the gory details of several serious conditions?

This is especially confusing for a patient who has not yet received a diagnosis. And regardless, you might be describing complex procedures, or even small procedures a patient did not yet realize she needed. And this can be terrifying to someone without healthcare expertise.

You probably already know that a 20-page brochure detailing all the possible symptoms and diseases a person may have can be confusing and overwhelming. A website with hundreds of pages is difficult to navigate. But even just a few pages of clinical, sometimes scary information may make a patient reconsider.

What patients truly want to know from your marketing materials is the level of care you can provide. Of course, your website should include the basics of your services. For serious information, they turn to you—and the best place for this is in your office.

Related: 10 Healthcare Website Design Tips that Deliver Patients

Use targeted advertising across digital and traditional media

In recent years, I’ve sent out mailers advertising our medical marketing seminar to doctor’s offices and hospitals across the country. This year, I tried a different approach. I included a brochure about our agency marketing partnership as well.

It was a risk, but one I felt I needed to take. Sometimes, it’s okay to draw attention to a list of services you provide in your advertising. However, the details of these services may be better left for in-person conversation.

And when it comes to your website, remember that patients on your site might only be in the market for one particular product or service.

That’s why we recommend both targeted mailers along with highly targeted digital landing pages. A digital ad may link to a landing page that points patients only to the service they were looking for, with no additional distractions. With no information overload interfering, a patient may be more likely to call your team for information (rather than get caught up in all the conflicting information online). 

Help patients deal with the stress of information overload

Once they’re in your office, it’s a lot easier to help your patients to deal with the stress of information overload. Encourage regular patients or those looking for a consultation to bring in information they’ve found online—so you can discuss it together.

Whether they mention it or not, your patients may be very concerned about their symptoms or conditions. Check in on this, and open up the dialogue so you can help them understand options and their recommended paths for treatment.

What’s most important is that you don’t become another source of information overload. Explain things in terms patients can understand, avoiding tough medical jargon. Give patients all the information they need, but don’t provide extra information that may lead to another panicked online search. Quality information from an expert source (you or your team) can take away the paradox of choice and free patients up to make informed decisions.

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Anaesthesiologist and social media: Walking the fine line Kiran S, Sethi N 

Anaesthesiologist and social media: Walking the fine line Kiran S, Sethi N  | Social Media and Healthcare |

The digital world is now an integral part of medicine, and its presence is only likely to increase exponentially in the future. Social media use is pervasive in society and has been rapidly amalgamated into the lives of anaesthesiologists. Social media is any electronic forum that connects anaesthesiologists with other faculty, other health professionals, residents, patients, and public. Social media is intended to be social and that means engaging with others. Unlike journals or websites, where users are limited to passive viewing of content, social media facilitates knowledge sharing and social interaction on a real-time basis. Today, social media is fast becoming the first point of access of medical information for anaesthesiologists.

   Social Media in Anaesthesiology – From Evolution to Revolution  

Man as a social animal has always relied on communication to strengthen relationships at work and in personal life. With the advent of technology, the internet, and social media, there are a tremendous variety of social networking sites, available for use. Popular forums for social media include Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Wikipedia, and LinkedIn.

“Global Anesthesiology Server Network” or the “GasNet” is the precursor for the anaesthesia-related social networking sites and has been functional since 1994. Facebook, a personal social networking site, is used to connect to individual anaesthesiologists with a mutual interest in a particular field. Nowadays, Twitter is one of the most popular social media sites among anaesthesiologists. Twitter allows anaesthesiologists to obtain up-to-the-minute updates on clinical research and news. Medical conferences have conference-specific hashtags like #ANES2014 or #AAGBI14, to allow live “tweeting” to engage attendees, promote scientific discussion, and interact with a broader audience.

“Sermo,” one of the biggest social networks for doctors worldwide, is like a “virtual doctor lounge” and connects doctors who do not know each other. The goal of “Sermo” is medical crowd-sourcing, where real-life medical questions are answered by peers.”Doximity” is aimed at connecting you to doctors you already know, like colleagues and residents. “DailyRounds” is a service for doctors that combines elements of a social networking and a medical journal. “Medscape” and “QuantiaMD” are less of social networks and more of learning platforms for anaesthesiologists. Free Open Access Medical Education, using #FOAMed, is a movement dedicated to increased sharing of medical knowledge. WhatsApp™ application can facilitate communication within members of any surgical team and provides the anaesthesiologist with a constant update of activities performed by other team members.

Other resources for anaesthesiologists include YouTube, where numerous procedural videos and tutorials relating to anaesthesiology are available. SlideShare has diverse anaesthesiology topics uploaded as slideshows. Podcasts from American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) and Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) allow offline access to digitally prerecorded audio, video, or e-Pub files.[1] The SCCM has embraced social media and set up a “Social Media Task Force” to organize, moderate, and participate in an online journal club.

   Pros and Cons of Social Media  

Social media is a powerful tool in the hands of the anaesthesiologist. It can benefit many professionals when used appropriately, especially in the field of education. It can serve as a platform to provide an excellent educational resource to many anaesthesiologists across the globe. Forums discuss clinical problems, unusual scenarios, share educational videos, and images encountered in day-to-day practice for the benefit of all and familiarize anaesthesiologists to recent trends. YouTube and podcasts are quickly finding a niche in regional anaesthesiology for just-in-time training.[2]

Traditional paper-based model of scientific publishing has been complemented by online supplements containing content-rich materials such as videos and full data that cannot be published on paper. Since many scientific journals do not allow free access, social media aids “literature sharing.”

In spite of all the advantages social media offers to anaesthesiologists, it has definite shortcomings. The saying “do not believe everything you read” is very appropriate for social media users. Any anaesthesiologist with a social media account can become a publisher, and there are huge lacunae in editorial responsibility, peer review, and accountability on social media networks. Very often, the authenticity of available information is questionable and plagiarism is rampant. Studies that have evaluated health-related YouTube videos for their conformity to textbook information and their sufficiency as a source for patient information have shown that videos prepared by institutes or societies were lacking in completeness of information and should be viewed for informational purposes only. Many videos were even found to be harmful to patient care, if used for educational or skill development purposes.[3]

   Impact of Social Media in Anaesthesiology: Boon or Bane  

According to studies, nearly one-third of all patients scheduled for surgery and anaesthesia consult the internet regarding their upcoming procedure.[4] Social media also affects the choice of surgical team or hospital in a number of patients. Being active on social media, and establishing a good online reputation, has a significant positive influence on patients. Anaesthesiologists, especially pain physicians, benefit from the social networking sites, to showcase their expertise and launch new relationships.

Empowering patients through social media with anaesthesia-related information that they need to know, such as educational videos of anaesthesia techniques, prepares the patient better for the surgery and leads to more optimal outcomes. The ASA offers patients social media content, to stay up-to-date on patient information regarding anaesthesia. These include “Patient Lifeline” on Twitter, “ASA Vital Health” on Facebook, and the website “”

Medical publishers are also using social media aggressively, to promote knowledge, spread ideas, and create platforms among anaesthesiologists.[5] An active Twitter account of a medical journal directly correlated with higher journal impact factor and greater number of article citations, than journals not embracing social media.[6]

Social media use has become a ubiquitous component in the life of anaesthesiologists.[7] What is debatable is whether social media is beneficial in daily professional activities, or whether it is a mere distraction. Anaesthesiologists care for patients when they are most vulnerable, and a high sense of professionalism is expected of them while on social media. In a recent study on smartphone use of anaesthesia providers from Turkey, 35.3% of respondents used social media during the anaesthetized patient care. Though the respondents claimed no negative medical consequences of smartphone use during the anaesthetized patient care, 41% had witnessed their colleagues, at least once, in a situation where use of smartphone during the anaesthetized patient care could have led to negative medical consequences.[8] With the increasing trends of its use, social media has started to emerge as a significant distractor inside the operation theater, leading to monitoring lapses and precipitating critical events.

Use of social media by anaesthesiologists for case discussions or for publicity may compromise patient's confidentiality and privacy. Online contact with patients, which breach doctor–patient relationship, may be professionally inappropriate. A post or comment is linked for an indefinite period of time and professional reputation may suffer.

   Social Media Policy for Anaesthesiologists  

Anaesthesiologists need to decide on their social media goals, like interaction with colleagues, continuing medical education or educating patients, and then register for social media accounts accordingly. It is also important for anaesthesiologists to know their organization's social media policy and follow it. The American Medical Association's Ethics Opinion on “Professionalism in the Use of Social Media” recommends that physicians should manage privacy settings to safeguard personal information. They should routinely monitor their own internet presence to ensure that the personal and professional information on their own sites and, to the extent possible, content posted about them by others are accurate and appropriate.

A few key considerations have to be borne in mind by the anaesthesiologist while using social media. It is imperative to maintain a safe professional distance between patients and colleagues online. No medical advice should be offered to any patient online. Anaesthesiologists should not participate in arguments on social media or make derogatory statements. Posting photos of clinical encounters on social media is a breach of confidentiality and photographing a patient, for any purpose, requires clearly documented written consent from the patient. Anaesthesiologists should also not use social media as a tool to air their grievances and instead follow formal process for addressing such matters. In India, there is a strong necessity to have institutional and society guidelines for practitioners on use of social media, so as to ensure safe practice and also reap the maximum benefits.[9]

   Social Media: Time to Introspect  

Anaesthesiologists active on social media must ensure that words and behavior online do not diminish their professional standing or bring the profession as a whole into disrepute. It is important to follow etiquettes and adopt a code of conduct while posting on social media. The answer does not lie in keeping online professional and personal identities separate, but in ensuring that all potential social media content is appropriate for a public space.

Educational resources on social media need to be assessed for their impact and quality before their use. It is challenging for anaesthesiologists to identify appropriate resources on social media. The Social Media Index (SMi) has been developed to help address this issue. Data from social media platforms such as Google Pageranks, Facebook Likes, Twitter Followers, and Google + Followers for blogs and podcasts have been used to derive the SMi. The SMi's stability over time and its correlation with journal impact factors suggest that it may be a stable indicator of the impact of medical education websites.[10]

“Distracted doctoring” is the phenomenon of health-care providers using electronic devices for non medical purposes during procedures. An anaesthesiologist needs to introspect the need for such behavior and ensure that such conduct does not impair patient care.


Social media use is omnipresent in society and is an integral part of the lives of anaesthesiologists. Using social media as an educational resource and ensuring an appropriate online presence is essential for professional growth. However, the anaesthesiologist needs to be aware of its numerous shortcomings and use social media responsibly. The need of the hour is comprehensive social media guidelines for anaesthesiologists, endorsed by professional health-care associations in India.

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JMIR-Using Twitter to Examine Web-Based Patient Experience Sentiments in the United States: Longitudinal Study 

JMIR-Using Twitter to Examine Web-Based Patient Experience Sentiments in the United States: Longitudinal Study  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Background: There are documented differences in access to health care across the United States. Previous research indicates that Web-based data regarding patient experiences and opinions of health care are available from Twitter. Sentiment analyses of Twitter data can be used to examine differences in patient views of health care across the United States.

Objective: The objective of our study was to provide a characterization of patient experience sentiments across the United States on Twitter over a 4-year period.

Methods: Using data from Twitter, we developed a set of 4 software components to automatically label and examine a database of tweets discussing patient experience. The set includes a classifier to determine patient experience tweets, a geolocation inference engine for social data, a modified sentiment classifier, and an engine to determine if the tweet is from a metropolitan or nonmetropolitan area in the United States. Using the information retrieved, we conducted spatial and temporal examinations of tweet sentiments at national and regional levels. We examined trends in the time of the day and that of the week when tweets were posted. Statistical analyses were conducted to determine if any differences existed between the discussions of patient experience in metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas.

Results: We collected 27.3 million tweets between February 1, 2013 and February 28, 2017, using a set of patient experience-related keywords; the classifier was able to identify 2,759,257 tweets labeled as patient experience. We identified the approximate location of 31.76% (876,384/2,759,257) patient experience tweets using a geolocation classifier to conduct spatial analyses. At the national level, we observed 27.83% (243,903/876,384) positive patient experience tweets, 36.22% (317,445/876,384) neutral patient experience tweets, and 35.95% (315,036/876,384) negative patient experience tweets. There were slight differences in tweet sentiments across all regions of the United States during the 4-year study period. We found the average sentiment polarity shifted toward less negative over the study period across all the regions of the United States. We observed the sentiment of tweets to have a lower negative fraction during daytime hours, whereas the sentiment of tweets posted between 8 pm and 10 am had a higher negative fraction. Nationally, sentiment scores for tweets in metropolitan areas were found to be more extremely negative and mildly positive compared with tweets in nonmetropolitan areas. This result is statistically significant (P<.001). Tweets with extremely negative sentiments had a medium effect size (d=0.34) at the national level.

Conclusions: This study presents methodologies for a deeper understanding of Web-based discussion related to patient experience across space and time and demonstrates how Twitter can provide a unique and unsolicited perspective from users on the health care they receive in the United States.

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The value of online patient reviews

The value of online patient reviews | Social Media and Healthcare |

Online patient reviews on social media sites can be an effective tool in helping dermatology practices market and educate patients about minimally-invasive fat reduction procedures, a new study has found.


Body contouring is one of the fast growing areas of dermatology. According to the American Society of Dermatologic Surgery, body sculpting procedures are among the top four treatments patients request. Consequently, knowing what patients do and don’t like about them and how they rate their experiences can help clinicians influence patient choices, study authors say.

“Minimally-invasive and non-invasive fat reduction procedures are rated extensively online,” says study author Sreya Talasila, M.D., a dermatologist with Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Aesthetic providers should use this available information to guide decision-making around minimally-invasive technique selection and price setting within their own practices.”

The study, published in Dermatologic Surgery, analyzed 11,871 patient reviews on fat-reduction procedures from the website, a well-known aesthetics platform where patients share their experiences. The website’s reviews, extracted by researchers in 2017, divided patient satisfaction ratings into “worth it” (positive), “not worth it” (negative), and “not sure” (neutral).

For more accurate comparisons, Dr. Talasila says, the team grouped reviews of 13 unique minimally-invasive procedures into five body contouring modality categories: laser, cryolipolysis, injectables, radio frequency, and ultrasound. The ratings only included patient satisfaction feedback and did not offer information about patient demographics, including body mass index, age, or treatment goals.

Investigators also compared these reviews to patient responses on invasive body contouring (traditional liposuction).

The overall intent, Dr. Talasila says, was to determine which body contouring procedures are most popular and accepted among patients, especially newer ones that are used less-widely to date.

“With all the different procedures and the different number of treatments that need to be done, dermatologists should discuss treatment length and cost variability with patients upfront,” she says. “This is a growing field right now, and patients are interested. Clinicians need to be aware and be able to discuss it freely.”

Being knowledgable of online satisfaction assessments can help dermatologists manage patient expectations and set benchmarks for procedure length-of-treatment and outcomes, she says.

According to study results, researchers reviewed 7,170 patient reviews that encompassed all five minimally-invasive procedure categories. The overall satisfaction rating was 58 percent. But, despite being more expensive and more invasive, liposuction, which had 4,645 patient reviews, still had a higher satisfaction rating of 66 percent. The average cost for minimally-invasive procedures ranges from $1,350-$6,025. Liposuction’s price tag can be up to $7,000.

Conversations about cost can be important because minimally-invasive procedures are typically paid for out-of-pocket. Clinicians should be prepared to discuss the possibility that costs may vary for patients based on the individual number of treatments they will need to achieve the desired results, Dr. Talasila says.

In addition, researchers also analyzed and compared patient reviews of tumescent liposuction, a intermediately-invasive fat reduction technique. This procedure, which can be performed in one session, can address larger volume patient cases than minimally-invasive procedures, but it doesn’t require the operating room and anesthetist needed for traditional liposuction. In reviews, patients gave tumescent liposuction a 63-percent satisfaction rating.

Despite having a lower umbrella positive rating than more traditional, extensive techniques, the minimally-invasive procedures still had a median global rating of 81 percent satisfaction. Laser procedures received 3,565 reviews and a 61-percent satisfaction score. Patients completed 2,707 cryoplipolysis reviews, giving the technique a 55-percent satisfaction score. A total of 319 patients reviewed injectable treatments, resulting in a 49-percent satisfaction score. And, 314 patients reviewed radio frequency techniques, and 275 patients expressed opinions about ultrasound, giving these options satisfaction scores of 63 percent and 73 percent, respectively.

The researchers highlighted patient responses for some specific procedures, as well. Zerona, a laser procedure, received 43-percent satisfaction, and CoolSculpting, a cyrolipolysis technique scored a 55-percent satisfaction rating. Kybella (injectable), Liposonix (radio frequency), and UltraShape Power (ultrasound) received satisfaction scores of 49 percent, 43 percent, and 91 percent, respectively.

The study did not delve into the reasons why patients gave positive or negative reviews, however, Dr. Talasila says, noting further research would be necessary to pinpoint their reasons, such as procedural pain or disappointment in effectiveness and results.

“Patient choices are different, and we didn’t parse out the demographic data to further stratify their differences,” she says. “This information could be most helpful for clinical cost setting because cost data is available on RealSelf. It may encourage aesthetic and cosmetic providers to be aware of the website for benchmarking and even modality selection. They need to know what patients are aware of.”

This information could also help clinicians better understand how patients view the benefits and pitfalls of these minimally-invasive procedures from a real-world perspective. Based on data from other industries, Dr. Talasila says, online reviews have been shown to directly impact customer decisions, indicating popularity, consumer demand, and product awareness. Consequently, the more aesthetic providers can tell patients about how other individuals have responded to these body contouring techniques, the more informed the patient’s overall decision will be, she says.

Staying abreast of what patients say online about these medical procedures can also give clinicians the tools they need to correct any misperceptions or misinformation patients gather from searching about fat reduction techniques online. While patient reviews can include factual information about one individual’s experience, not all online resources provide accurate assessments of patient satisfaction or of a procedure’s efficacy and safety.

For example, in a recent study, published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, researchers from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School found the majority of YouTube videos on facial plastic surgery procedures were misleading marketing campaigns. Out of 240 videos with 160 million combined views, only 72 videos included a board-certified physician qualified to accurately assess the procedures and offer information to patients.

Consequently, aesthetic providers should familiarize themselves with online reviews, such as those on, so they will be better prepared to help patients make the right decisions that fall best in line with the patient’s medical history, Dr. Talasila says.

“Social media is one of the easiest ways for people to get reviews of other people’s experiences,” she says. “Clinicians should want to see what information is out there and what their patients are gleaning from it.”


Evers-Metlzer R, Talasila S, Xu S. Social Media Ratings of Minimally-Invasive Fat Reduction Procedure’s: Bench-marking Against Traditional Liposuction, Dermatologic Surgery (2018); doi:10.1097/DSS.0000000000001509

Alaeddin I, Nicheporuck BS, Paskhover B, Ward B, Ward M. Assessments of YouTube as an Informative Resources on Facial Plastic Surgery, JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery (2018); doi:10.1001/jamafacial.2018.0822

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The talk: Younger brain cancer patients provide a model for patient empowerment

The talk: Younger brain cancer patients provide a model for patient empowerment | Social Media and Healthcare |

In a 55-second video that is both playful and profound, patient advocates Liz Salmi and Charlie Blotnerasked Michael Fratkin, MD, a palliative care doctor they know through their advocacy work, to have “the talk” with them.

“We need to have the talk with you about end of life and brain tumors and steroids and swelling, especially related to other cancers and if this looks the same or not,” Blotner says at the beginning of the video, filmed while they were in the car.

Salmi jumped in: “Is dying from brain cancer different from other cancers? We just really want to know what it’s like. We need to have the talk. Like, sometimes ‘the talk’ means how are babies made but we want to know what dying is like... all of our friends are dying, we want to know what’s happening.”

“It was so millennial,” Fratkin told me in a conversation recently. “The way they asked. By text message video. From the car. But I think it is the future of medicine.”

I think he is right. In recent years, medicine has been awash in phrases like “empowering patients” and “patient centric,” intended to demonstrate how the health care system is including and deferring to patients to improve care and design research.

But it is through the day-to-day work of patients like of Salmi, Blotner, and Adam Hayden — and their work with doctors like Fratkin of Resolution Care, who practices palliative care via telemedicine in rural Northern California — that makes a real difference for patients.

Salmi, Blotner, and Hayden all have brain cancers. While Senator John McCain showed us how to live and die gracefully from brain cancer, these much younger patients are showing us that illness does not preclude action that can change the medical system in ways that benefit patients and caregivers.

Salmi, Blotner, and Hayden — using technology and their own initiative — have created networks that provide much needed support to brain cancer patients navigating similar challenges. For example, they organized monthly Twitter chats, Brain Tumor Social Media (#BTSM) for “all things brain tumor & social media.”

They are also contributing to substantive medical research.

Blotner, 23, was diagnosed with a grade II astrocytoma when he was 13. Now working towards a master’s degree in social work, he helps adolescents with chronic illnesses navigate the health care system and works to improve the care of future brain tumor patients as a member of the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program, and by providing recommendations for the National Brain Tumor Society and Alliance for Childhood Cancer to steer the National Institutes of Health in implementing a new system and standard of care for survivors.

Salmi, a 39-year-old communications specialist diagnosed with a grade II astrocytoma 10 years ago has made — and lost — many friends with brain cancer. She is a communications strategist for OpenNotes, a movement rooted in research advocating for patients to get access to their medical provider’s notes through existing online patient portals.

Hayden, 36, was diagnosed in 2016 with glioblastoma, is a working father of three young children. Along with Salmi, he is a leading member of the Brain Cancer Quality of Life Collaborative, a research collaborative funded by the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Initiative that is exploring better quality of life standards for people living with glioblastoma and other high-grade brain tumors.

After studying the medical literature, Salmi, Hayden and the collaborative recognized there was a gap in palliative care standards for people with brain cancer. They are now building a  team of neuro-oncologists and palliative care clinicians (including Fratkin) to pilot possible best practices.

When Fratkin had “the talk” online with Salmi, Blotner, and Hayden, he told them with humor and kindness — but also truth — that dying from brain cancer can involve weight gain and puffiness due to steroids (a common palliative treatment as reducing brain swelling can help with retention of cognitive function). He also told them about the retreating inward that comes naturally as a person slows down. And he said that the choice about how long to proceed with any form of treatment, cancer focused or palliative, will be entirely theirs.

“Whether it’s Hawaii or the NIH in Bethesda, whatever choice you make will be the right one for you,” Fratkin said.

Patient empowerment is likely the future but it is also the present. Salmi, Blotner, and Hayden give us a model how to do it in a way that truly benefits patients.

Renata Khoshroo Louwers' first husband Ahmad died from bladder cancer in 2014. She is a writer and patient advocate who co-founded of the literary journal Months to Years.

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