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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Facebook Launches New Privacy Features for Health Groups, Topics

Facebook Launches New Privacy Features for Health Groups, Topics | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media giant Facebook is attempting to right the ship when it comes to how it handles sensitive data with its launch of a new health support tool designed to help users find the right groups to address their health needs and concerns.

Unveiled at Facebook’s annual F8 conference, founder Mark Zuckerberg opened the event with a keynote centered around privacy and how the company intends to make a “fundamental shift in how we build products and run our company.”

“Different communities have different needs, so we’re introducing new features for different types of groups,” Fidji Simo, head of the Facebook app said during the conference. “Through new Health Support groups, members can post questions and share information without their name appearing on a post.”


Group members will be able to send questions and posts to the health group administrators, who’ll then be able to post those questions on their behalf to the group. The designation of “health group” is a new function and likely comes in response to recent reports that criticized how the app handles health data.

In a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, a group of health privacy experts accused Facebook of misleading users about its privacy policies – even in groups with a “closed” designation. Made public in February, the 43-page complaint alleged the social media platform ““deceptively solicited patients to use its 'Groups' product to share personal health information about their health issues.”

The group also accused the company of failing to protect the sensitive health data uploaded by its users, which was then exposed to the public. Meanwhile, a Wall Street Journal report found several apps share sensitive user data with Facebook, often without user consent.

In response, Facebook is currently under investigation by the New York Attorney General who called the practice “an outrageous abuse of privacy.”

While a recent report from WEGO Health found that 98 percent of the 400 surveyed users still use Facebook, the new privacy features may not be enough for privacy and security leaders.

In December, Carolyn Petersen, Mayo Clinic Global Business Solutions Senior Editor, and Christoph Mehmann, MD, Professor for Biomedical Informatics and Pediatrics at Vanderbilt University called for transparent privacy policies for healthcare data on social media platforms.

To Petersen and Mehmann, the revelations about Facebook’s handling of user data have left “individuals who use social media feeling betrayed, bereft, violated, and concerned about how to safely and appropriately use social media to support health-related goals and build community.”

Alongside privacy policies, a federal, comprehensive privacy protection system and data regulation and oversight is needed.

“Social media companies that use security practices to shield themselves from the exposure of their privacy-violating practices, are vigorously fighting these initiatives,” they said. “With the passage of legislation prohibiting deceptive practices and the establishment of patient/consumer education campaigns … patients will be in a position to use social media for their benefit, rather than primarily for the gain of profit-focused platforms.”

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Nova Scotia medical clinic posts data for ‘no show’ missed appointments on social media 

Nova Scotia medical clinic posts data for ‘no show’ missed appointments on social media  | Social Media and Healthcare |

A medical receptionist at a Halifax-area clinic has turned to social media to highlight the role “no-show” patients play in a health care system already struggling with a lack of family physicians.

On Wednesday, a receptionist from the Ravines Medical Family Practice and Walk In Clinic in Bedford, N.S. posted statistics she’d gathered during the months of March and April. It was intended to highlight the number of people who, instead of cancelling their appointments, simply didn’t show up.

Two signs at a Halifax-area medical clinic show how many missed appointments there were over a two-month period at the family practice part of the clinic. The signs were posted to Facebook this week by an employee with the comment “& this is not part of the health care crisis ?!”  (FACEBOOK PHOTO)

The post was captioned “& this is not part of the health care crisis?!” along with a photo of two pieces of paper on which she’d printed statistics that she posted on the clinic’s door. It noted that in March, there were 83 no-shows, amounting to a total of 26.41 missed hours of appointments. For the month of April, there were 108 no-shows, or 36 missed hours of appointments.

By Thursday afternoon, that post had been shared on Facebook more than 350 times. A receptionist who answered the phone at the Ravines clinic said although no one was available Thursday to publicly comment on the post, the data had been collected by an employee named Ashley. In her Facebook post, Ashley Dawn said the numbers were reflective of the family practice part of the clinic, not the walk-in.

Some Facebook users responded in disbelief that anyone would miss a hard-to-get doctor’s appointment. “You’d think people who have physicians would take every second they can get. If not, drop them and take on someone who really needs a family dr,” wrote Sarah Pye.


Others said the process of cancelling appointments was more trouble than it was worth since some doctor’s offices did not return calls or have answering machines.


It is bad enough that you have to call many times to get (an) appointment and I don’t know about you, but if I have to call 30 times to cancel ... I am not going to keep trying,” wrote Anne Barnes in response to the post.


The president of Doctors Nova Scotia said in an interview that missed appointments do tend to put “a fair amount of strain” on the medical system.

“It varies depending on what location or what type of practice, but we definitely see high rates of missed appointments in a variety of settings including family medicine and specialty services,” Dr. Tim Holland said in an interview. “These are missed opportunities for both the patient who missed the appointment and for a patient that could have taken the opportunity.”

According to the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s latest ‘Need A Family Practice Data’ report, as of April 1 there were still 51,802 Nova Scotians on its waiting list without a family doctor.

Holland said the statistics cited by the Ravines clinic left him “disappointed but not surprised.” While he also deals with missed appointments at his own family practice, he cautions it’s important to recognize there are sometimes extenuating circumstances.

“There are a lot of barriers sometimes for patients to make these appointments in terms of having to arrange child care or be able to get the transportation to that appointment or even just being able to have the organizational skills to be able to log that into an appropriate scheduler,” Holland said.

“There are factors that can often contribute to that and so it’s important for us in the medical field to try to do what we can to try and help break down a lot of those barriers.”

But Holland said patients also have a key role to play when it comes to dealing with these “gaps and challenges” in the health care system. He said patients need to be proactive when it comes to cancelling appointments.

“There’s a long waitlist of patients waiting for that cancelled appointment, so recognize that there is another person that could benefit from it. Set reminders for yourself whether it be on your smartphone or putting an appointment on your refrigerator,” he said.

“This can go a long way to help make the entire health care system more efficient in terms of making sure that we’re maximizing the resources that we do have available.

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‘It matters for everyone’: ACG’s social media push promotes diversity, inclusion

‘It matters for everyone’: ACG’s social media push promotes diversity, inclusion | Social Media and Healthcare |

Much like medicine in general, the field of gastroenterology is largely not representative of the patient population to which it provides care. That is why the American College of Gastroenterology is launching #DiversityinGI, a social media campaign designed to promote inclusion in gastroenterology and motivate more people with diverse backgrounds to pursue careers in the field.

The effort is being spearheaded by Sophie Balzora, MD, FACG, of the NYU School of Medicine and chair of the ACG’s Public Relations Committee, and Darrell Gray II, MD, MPH, FACG, of The Ohio State University College of Medicine and chair of the ACG’s Committee on Minority Affairs & Cultural Diversity. They started brainstorming the idea for the campaign at last year’s ACG Annual Meeting in Philadelphia.

“We had the idea of getting the entire college involved and to run this campaign on social media,” Balzora told Healio Gastroenterology and Liver Disease. “Social media has become a fantastic opportunity to grow an idea really quickly and have things disseminate at a fast pace.”

Gray told Healio Gastroenterology and Liver Disease that diversity helps drive excellence, as well as innovation in the field and even impacts patient outcomes. As the campaign brings diversity to the forefront for the ACG, Gray said they hope it also inspires other professional organizations.

“It matters not only for patients in underserved communities, but it matters for everyone,” he said. “As it pertains to quality of care that is delivered to diverse populations, it matters that the providers are also from diverse populations.”

It is not just about race either, Balzora said. It is also about everything from religion and socioeconomic status to diversity of thought, cultural competency and including people with different interests.

“What we know is that with a more diverse medical community, patients are benefited by that,” she said. “The more diverse the medical community, the better patients do, the more adherent they might be to medications, to visits and to being less reticent to tell doctors about things that are ailing them.”

One of the main objectives of the campaign is to enrich the pipeline of trainees and providers from underrepresented populations. Part of that is engaging with learners and showing them what is possible.

“If you can see it, you can be it,” Gray said.

“That doesn’t just start with residents and fellows. It really starts in childhood in our elementary, middle and high schools.”

Gray is part of a group that does yearly high school visits during the ACG Annual Meeting that help promote visibility among young people and show them there is a path to success. The ACG also has a summer scholars’ program to provide opportunities for underrepresented minorities to engage in research and clinical shadowing.

“We have to ensure that diversity and inclusion is a pillar of our professional organizations,” Gray said. “It has to be a priority in order for it to be acted upon. I commend the ACG for taking this stance.”

As the #DiversityinGI campaign gets underway, the ACG is encouraging doctors to use the hashtag to share their thoughts on how they envision diversity and inclusion. They also plan to promote articles from the literature and news stories that help raise visibility.

Even though the campaign started, Balzora and Gray said they have already seen the hashtag spread as far as Europe and the Middle East. Balzora knows it is just one step in the process, but she hopes to get more doctors to join social media and take part in the campaign so it can grow and reach even more of an audience.

“It’s about bringing awareness to the fact that patients come from all sorts of backgrounds, and people need to be seen as whole people and not just thrown into different buckets or groups,” she said. “Once we recognize that, that calls for a more culturally competent physician and more culturally competent care.” – by Alex Young


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Every doctor needs to monitor their online reviews

Every doctor needs to monitor their online reviews | Social Media and Healthcare |

We’ve had several articles from various sources over the years on grooming your social media. Most of them advise paying attention to your physician ratings, but not acting on anything specifically. “Don’t engage” is the mantra. Let’s take a fresh look at this.

Like probably everyone in medicine, I have my share of physician rating site reviews. Most are good, some are bad, but all of them I pay attention to. The good ones are tiny, tiny carrots in a world driven by ratings, social media recognition, and (yes, I will say it) the need for acceptance. Like it or not, this is the world we live in.

Bad reviews? Those are the ones that keep me up at night. If you care about your patients, you care about your reputation. Unlike a restaurant or another business, a bad physician review cannot be impersonal. When someone writes a hostile review, it’s directed at me by name. My children could read that. You can tell me to be more thick-skinned, but I honestly feel if it didn’t affect me, it would mean there was something wrong with me. We, too, are human. The last time I checked, that was a trait patients felt we should have more of.

Responding with facts is a HIPAA violation. This is the thing that really ties our hands. Any restaurant can post a rebuttal to a bad review, stating facts, calling witnesses, or detailing how the party was drunk or offensive. Sometimes, these fact-based rebuttals win the audience over if they are smartly written and equally scathing. People love drama, and this is the backbone of how things go viral on social media. But drama is not part of any good medical practice. Time and time again, articles from sites like KevinMD, our professional societies, and maybe even your malpractice carrier, advise you not to engage in a hostile back and forth. So, mostly these reviews go without response. We live in a world where we are innocent until proven guilty. But we also know that, practically speaking, silence is condemning.

Anonymous reviews allow people to post anything, without having the ability to check the facts of the case. What’s the goal in checking the facts, especially when you really can’t act on them? Maybe only to make yourself feel better. However, at the end of the day, that might be the best you can achieve. I had a review that I spent only five minutes with a patient, when my notes show four paragraphs of detailed handwritten summary and plan. I have a review that went up the day the patient called to the office and yelled about her bill. I had a review from an encounter ten years prior where literally every complaint posted was completely erroneous. I only know this because the reviews were not anonymous or I was able to identify the accuser. If they were completely anonymous, as most rating sites are, I’d be completely out of luck in even making myself feel better about it.

Any comment will get published, and it is up to someone to flag these. What if no one flags something completely offensive? Is that possible? Ask yourself how many times you have seen a video of someone getting beat up on the subway, while everyone stands around videotaping. Are these the same people we can count on to flag an offensive comment? Yes, the following rating was promptly removed after we flagged it. But the point is, it was actually published.

Is it time to change our approach? For years we have heard that we should not engage in dialogue or try to have even the most blatantly false reviews removed. Each article repeats what the prior one said. Is there any evidence for this approach? Or is it like all the old medical “truths” we have seen fall by the wayside over the years? One can see why not to engage — no one wants to go viral as the Goliath threatening poor David, the maligned patient. But is there a way to address this on a professional and respectful level?

What I would like to see:

1. Our professional societies should stand up to anonymous ratings sites. Someone should advocate for us here, as I can’t think of anywhere else this type of review is allowed. I’m not saying patients shouldn’t have a voice, but total anonymity is an extreme where doctors take all the abuse with no recourse.

2. Our hands being tied by HIPAA puts us at a disadvantage compared to any other type of service provider. We need a unique rating solution that takes this into account. Fair is fair, and the current setup is not it.

3. Pay-to-play review websites are acting beyond First Amendment rights when they say: “We can’t promise we can remove your bad rating, but sign up for our managed service, and we will see what we can do.” This is blackmail pure and simple. I won’t name names, whine or Yelp about it. But this should not be allowed.

4. If you are able to identify the reviewer, contact them and ask them to take your discussions offline. I have had success with two reviews completely out from left field (not counting the above; that one deserves no discussion). Both of these responded mostly because they felt they were posting anonymously. Both were shocked that I could figure out who they were, and a nicely worded letter or two got their reviews removed.

5. Look, we are doctors. We don’t run on vague impressions. It would be good to see some data on the accuracy of physician reviews, and the results on means for handling them. Don’t just tell us to ignore them. That’s not possible for most people, especially when we are told to pay attention in the first place.

Physician reviews help patients make informed decisions. However, the current system is too likely to allow disparaging and false reviews to get published. This, in turn, can hurt good doctors, and keep patients away who might otherwise benefit from their input. The system needs to change, and so does our ability to respond to inflammatory reviews.

Manoj K. Mehta is a gastroenterologist.

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Doctors use social media as a way to combat disinformation, stay in touch with patients

Doctors use social media as a way to combat disinformation, stay in touch with patients | Social Media and Healthcare |

Lori Inselman of Langhorne has struggled with weight her entire life. At 57, she recalls the torment of “being the heavy kid on the block and getting made fun of.”

For decades, Inselman tried every diet around, her weight bouncing up and down. But that changed two and a half years ago when she met Janine Kyrillos, director of Jefferson’s Comprehensive Weight Management Program at Bala Cynwyd, who put her on a ketogenic form of eating — low carbohydrate, high fat — and admitted her to her closed Facebook group of Kyrillos’ other patients.

In this virtual forum, Inselman met other people who were struggling with the same issues she was, and she began to feel less alone. Inselman lost 60 pounds during the first year with Kyrillos and has been able to keep most of it off. Plus, she has contact with Kyrillos after hours through the Facebook group.

“This Facebook group is her way of being supportive outside of her office,” Inselman said.

For Inselman, as for so many patients these days, using social media as a tool for seeking medical help has become a crucial part of her treatment and/or recovery. And Kyrillos is just one of a rising tide of doctors who are turning to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube as a way to combat disinformation, to stay in touch with their patients, and to bolster and educate them, while at the same time trying to navigate what boundaries are appropriate.

“I’m limited in how much support I can offer in the office,” Kyrillos said. “So [the Facebook group] is a way they feel like they’re more connected to me in a more global way.”

Austin Chiang, assistant professor and director of the endoscopic bariatric program at Jefferson Health, is also the hospital’s “Chief Medical Social Media Officer.” He earned the title in August after being hired onto the Jefferson faculty.

In addition to helping the hospital with its social media use, he is creating the Association for Healthcare Social Media, a group for doctors on social media that will launch later this month. The goal is to create a professional society that provides guidance on developing best practices for social media and to “legitimize what we’re doing here for those of us who are using [social media] actively as an educational tool.”


Chiang, like many other doctors, feels “there’s only so much people can retain from a clinic visit. There are always going to be unanswered questions.” He is active on both Twitter and Instagram.

Social media can help put issues in the proper context for patients. “And sometimes reading something is more helpful than hearing it,” Chiang said.

Plus, Chiang added, a lot of times patients “don’t know what’s accurate and what’s not” on social media. “They’re being bombarded with disinformation,” he said. By using social media effectively, doctors can provide evidence-based information to dispel the many health myths peddled by so-called “influencers” Chiang said.

“On social media it’s easy to package oneself to look legitimate and look like you are trained when you are not,” Chiang said.

“The issue of quackery on social media isn’t really a novel issue because we’ve had quacks on television and radio,” said University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Dominic Sisti, director of the Scattergood Program for Applied Ethics in Behavioral Health Care. “What social media does is amplifies it [quackery] and makes it viral in a way.”

Sisti said “fake medical news or content” on social media “draws on people’s desperation and exploits it.” It’s the “snake oil problem,” he said.


That’s why groups like Chiang’s Association for Healthcare Social Media are becoming so important, said Sisti, who recently co-authored a paper for The Hastings Center Report, “Social Media, e-Health, and Medical Ethics.”

Sisti and his colleagues suggest that “when posting online, practitioners ask themselves, ‘How comfortable would I be with my patients seeing this information?’ ”

This becomes a huge issue for psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists using social media since professional distance has been considered crucial to the relationship between mental health clinicians and patients.

“One has to be cognizant of how describing one’s own experiences with mental health might affect your relationship with your patient,” Sisti said. “If you’re a psychiatrist with mental illness, it might help you connect with a particular patient, but it also might make your other patients a little wary of you. The stigma doesn’t go away just because you’re a clinician. You’re expected to be healthy all the time. Clinicians should be really thoughtful about when or if to talk about their own health.”

Drew Ramsey, a psychiatrist at Columbia University, and author of several books, including Fifty Shades of Kale, said that “all mental health professionals who are on social media do a lot of hand-wringing around what our colleagues and patients think, and I think it forces us to make responsible choices.”

While he never reveals information related to his patients, Ramsey said he uses social media “to put out some positive vibes and information, and hopefully it reaches the right people.”

Drew Ramsey is a psychiatrist at Columbia University.

Ali Mattu, a clinical psychologist at Columbia University, said he started his YouTube channel, “The Psych Show,” after a patient showed him a video that she said had helped her but that “was not based in science or evidence and was in some ways giving harmful information.”

So Mattu went on a hunt to find something reputable that his patient could relate to. Ultimately, he ended up hosting his own YouTube channel on which he covers topics ranging from managing stress to how to talk to people about your mental illness. His show has about 38,000 subscribers.

But using social media as a tool in his practice has also been tricky, Mattu admitted.

“I have to have these conversations with my patients that if we encounter each other online, I’m not going to say anything to you or follow you,” Mattu said. “I don’t want to put you in a position where you would have to break confidentiality.”

Mattu never reveals anything about his patients, adding that if he speaks about a patient in his show, it is always a composite of many different people.


Kyrillos said she struggles with the idea of posting anything personal on the Facebook group she started.

“I found in the past that if I share too much about my personal experience, then the focus sometimes shifts to me, and I want to keep it about the patients,” Kyrillos said. “What works for me may not work for them. I think keeping the boundary is important — that it’s about them and not about me.”

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The 6 little-known ways Facebook is changing health care

The 6 little-known ways Facebook is changing health care | Social Media and Healthcare |

At this time last year, news leaked that Facebook had presented an ambitious plan to health care organizations aimed at connecting patients' health care data to their social media presences. Today, that's been put on pause. But is the company done in health care? Here's six reasons that may not be true.

Cheat sheets: The new and emerging technologies you should know 

Remember Facebook's patient data-matching plan?

In 2017, Facebook presented an aggressive plan to health care providers: Providers would provide anonymized patient data (on illnesses, prescriptions, etc…) to Facebook which the company would, in turn, match with the patient's social media data. The goal was to provide a greater picture of patients' lives outside of the hospital—informing decisions like, for example, who would benefit from extra outreach after surgery.


And, despite later backlash, the idea seemed to be gaining traction. According to CNBC, Facebook had spoken to many leading health care organizations, including "major U.S. hospitals," Stanford Medical School, and the American College of Cardiology, about the project.

But momentum on the project fizzled out shortly after the Cambridge Analytics scandal, when the world found out that 87 million users' data had been shared without their knowledge and used for targeting political ads.

Since the scandal, Facebook hasn't made any major health care announcements—but that doesn't mean the company is done with the industry altogether. Rather, they've been quietly pursuing several health care projects (though they aren't all without their controversies).

How Facebook is slowly moving into health care

Outside of online advertising—which the company has heavily pursued for pharmaceutical companies—Facebook's main entryway into the health care industry is its AI capabilities. Facebook in 2018 announced that it planned to double the size of its Artificial Intelligence Research (FAIR) group, which, according to the company is focusing "on open and foundational research that advances the state of AI." Here are six ways Facebook is leveraging AI to improve health care.

1. Improving the MRI. In August, the company launched a pilot project with the NYU School of Medicine aimed at using AI to make MRI scans up to 10 times faster. The project, called fastMRI, will test ways to generate an MRI image using less raw MRI data. Scans currently range from 15 minutes to over an hour in order to gather the necessary data in the proper order to create an image. But Facebook believes it can collect less data and train AI to fill in the blanks to accelerate the time it takes to generate a scan.

2. Enhancing facial recognition. Another area where Facebook seems to have an edge in AI is with facial recognition. The company has focused on tools that, for example, can reconstruct partially-hidden human faces, or generate fake eyes that can be edited into an image if the subject has blinked. Obviously, most of these efforts have been aimed at improving photo posting on the site, but the company is also potentially considering health care applications for this technology. For instance, facial recognition software has already been used to accurately predict physiological health, track patients through the hospital, measure their pain or even for hospital security. Facebook could use AI to offer even more. Still, it will have to overcome privacy hurdles, including a class-action lawsuit over its use of the technology on the site.


3. Connecting the brain and computer. In more futuristic plans, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a recent discussion at Harvard spoke about a brain-computer interface his company has been researching. According to Wired, the technology Zuckerberg described is a "shower-cap-looking device" that aims to identify connection between certain thoughts and brain activity. The end product would allow a person to "type" by thinking. In 2017, Facebook said they were working with scientists at UC San FranciscoUC BerkleyJohns Hopkins Medicine, and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis on the telepathic project, which could prove useful in health-related experiments, like connecting brain waves to move prosthetics.

4. Building its own Alexa. Facebook just last week confirmed it is working on its own AI-based digital voice assistant to compete with Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant. Facebook in 2013 acquired the technology company Oculus VR and will work to incorporate voice and AI assistants into Oculus' products. While it's not yet clear whether Facebook will seek to introduce its voice assistant into the health care industry, Amazon earlier this month announced its Alexa Skills Kit now allows certain HIPAA-covered entities to build Alexa skills that can share and receive protected health information. Six health care companies—including Atrium Health, Boston Children's Hospital, and Cigna—already are testing HIPAA-compliant Alexa skills, suggesting the industry is ripe for competition.

5. Expanding suicide prevention. Facebook also has deployed AI for suicide prevention efforts, aiming to build models to predict when someone may commit suicide (and especially to prevent suicides from being streamed on their live video platform). The company's AI mines users' posts and comments for language that may indicate possibly suicidality, and alerts law enforcement if they sense an imminent threat of self-harm. Within the first year of launching this tool, Facebook said they had contacted about 100 local law enforcement officials about users. In November, they said that number had increased to 3,500 over a year—marking about 10 contacts to emergency responders per day—and that they had at least 7,500 community operations staffers reviewing cases of potential suicide every day.

However, these efforts have been controversial. While some have praised the efforts, calling them "ahead of the pack," others have criticized the opacity of Facebook's AI system. John Torous, director of the digital psychiatry division at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centersaid, "It's hard to know what Facebook is actually picking up on, what they are actually acting on, and are they giving the appropriate response to the appropriate risk." Mason Marks, a research fellow at Yale Law School and NYU Law Schoolwondered if the model may cause people to "fear a visit from the police, so they may pull back and not engage in an open and honest dialogue."

6. Advancing global population health. Facebook also waded into global humanitarian projects by using AI to map population density in Africa. They say the initiative has already supported government and nonprofit organizations in their health efforts, including coordinating a measles vaccination campaign in Malawi. They also launched a blood donation tool on the site in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh—though critics argued the tool could launch a black market for blood.

Facebook must overcome troubled past to gain trust in health care

While these health care efforts suggest Facebook may have bigger plans for health care, the company first will have to build up more user trust in their data privacy and clearly define parameters for how the patient data they collect could be shared with advertisers.

One major concern is that, while the company gets users' permission to collect a broad range of data, that doesn't necessarily mean that users expect or consent for it to be used in medical research or projects. As Aneesh Chopra, president of health software company CareJourney and the former White House chief technology officer said after news of Facebook's hospital patient data matching plan leaked, even if patient data was anonymized, "Consumers wouldn't have assumed their data would be used in this way."

Plus, in addition to the Cambridge scandal, Facebook has faced a number of other privacy scandals related to health. For instance, it's faced growing backlash over its handling of patient support groups. Last April, Facebook was grilled by lawmakers over its handling of the private medical data generated from these groups. In February, congressional leaders sent a letter to Zuckerberg summoning him to speak about reports that Facebook sold data about users' health-related group memberships to advertisers. The letter charges that Facebook's group policies left users open to bullying, vulnerable to predatory advertisements, and could have even impacted their health insurance options. A complaint by the FTC alleged similar charges, saying, "Sharing of privately posted personal health information violates the law, but this serious problem with Facebook's privacy implementation also presents an ongoing risk of death or serious injury to Facebook users."

Other controversies have arisen based on health and wellness apps selling personal information to Facebook. The Wall Street Journal conducted an investigation of 70 leading apps, and found that at 11 sent potentially controversial information to Facebook (including users' heart rates and ovulation tracking—even if they didn't have a Facebook account). Facebook responded that "sharing information across apps on your iPhone or Android device is how mobile advertising works and is industry standard practice," but the issue is far from settled. The company is now being investigated in a federal criminal investigation for letting tech companies see user's friends, contact, and other data.

Zuckerberg has admitted publically in congressional testimony that Facebook does collect some medical data from users. In a recent editorial, he called for greater privacy regulation and suggested that there "should be a way to hold companies such as Facebook accountable by imposing sanctions when we make mistakes."

But, despite these moves to rebuild their reputation for data privacy, the company has almost certainly damaged its reputation, likely greatly impinging their ability to gain the trust of health care consumers any time soon. According to a Fortune poll from November 2018, only 22% of Americans trust Facebook with their personal data, half as many who said the same for Amazon (49%), Google (41%), Microsoft (40%), and Apple (39%).

And, as Advisory Board's Peter Killbridge and Andrew Rebhan note, if providers choose to partner with them, they'll have to ensure that privacy is paramount, collection is secure, and that data is stored with the "same rigor as other, more standard protected health information."

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The Importance of Online Reputation Management for Radiologists

The Importance of Online Reputation Management for Radiologists | Social Media and Healthcare |

There was a time when word-of-mouth from friends and family was enough to inform our decisions, but today advice from the internet has taken precedence over recommendations from those we know personally – and this is especially true in healthcare. Patients are turning to the internet to research physicians, practices, and procedures before they even call the office to make an appointment. Individuals seeking care are more likely to choose physicians with high ratings and positive reviews over physicians with a less-than-stellar online presence.  Physicians need to be serious about their online reputation and take the necessary steps to ensure it is positive.

There are several components to cultivating and maintaining a successful online presence:

Social Media Usage

With over ¾ of the American population actively engaged with social media, it is a communications medium that is here to stay. In a HAP poll, we found that our readership is indeed actively using social media to promote their practices. 


Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Instagram Other None 37% 37% 29% 18% 11% 11%


If your practice has several different social media sites, it is important that you maintain consistency across all sites, i.e., ensure that the messaging/branding is the same on each one. Consider creating a social media policy to empower members of your practice to use social media appropriately.  An example of such a policy is available from the Mayo Clinic.  Depending on the policy adopted by the practice, physicians can consider separating their social media into personal and professional accounts.

Monitoring Patient Reviews

Patients have several online outlets available to leave physician reviews, including sites like Facebook, Google Reviews, Yelp and Healthgrades just to name a few.  It is important to ask your patients about their experience, and encourage them to leave positive reviews.  Practices can do this by asking patients to rate their visit on a tablet in the waiting room before they leave or by following up with an email that includes a link to leave a review while the visit is still fresh in their minds. Make sure to thank patients for their positive feedback.


It is extremely important to respond appropriately to any negative reviews you might receive on any platform. Do not ignore a negative review and expect it to just fade away. Consider discussing who should respond to the review – it might not be the physician, but someone else in the practice. Be prompt with your response and make a concerted effort to understand the issue the person had a complaint about. Be mindful of the tone of your response and be careful you don’t violate HIPAA when addressing any of the patient’s case specifics online.

Unique Challenges for Radiologists

Since many radiologists do not see the patients themselves because of their physical location, it is easy for them to assume they do not have to worry about their online presence, but that is not the case. Negative feedback can come in the form of complaints about a bill, so you should work with your revenue cycle partner to ensure such problems don’t occur in the first place. One of our radiology clients noted that when a patient does get face time with a radiologist, reviews are generally positive. Therefore, it is important for radiologists to make the most of the time they spend with patients when the opportunity arises.


The internet is a powerful tool that physicians can use to boost their practice performance if they make the commitment to maintaining a positive online reputation. This is by no means an exhaustive list of steps to take to manage your online reputation, and you can find out more about the subject by watching our recent webinarSubscribe to this blog for more articles like this. 

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Facebook Remains Prime Destination for Patients Despite Privacy and Data Scandals 

Facebook Remains Prime Destination for Patients Despite Privacy and Data Scandals  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Even though Facebook has faced a few data privacy scandals over the past couple of years, it still remains the top destination for patients and patient influencers to discuss their health and medication. According to WEGO Health’s first Quarterly Landscape Survey for 2019 titled, “Patient Influencer Perspectives on Social Media,” more than 98% of patient influencers continue to use Facebook, 90% use it at least once daily, and less than 3% have reduced their use of Facebook or stopped using the platform altogether.

“We were curious to learn how patient influencers are changing the way they work and interact with social and with patient online communities for social challenges, particularly given some of the controversy surrounding Facebook and Instagram with their data sharing practices,” explains David Goldsmith, WEGO Health’s Chief Strategy Officer. “It was interesting to see that in the end patients are still deeply wedded to using Facebook because that’s where the patient communities are. That is where a critical mass of users are, and patients want platforms where they can connect with the largest audience possible.”

Social Media Usage by Channel – WEGO Health 2019

That is potentially one of the reasons why the 412 patient influencers across dozens of chronic, complex, and rare health conditions in the U.S. who were surveyed would gravitate to other large social platforms if for some reason Facebook was no longer an option. The top choice among respondents to replace Facebook was Instagram (34%) followed by Twitter (26%) and websites that host patient discussion groups or forums such as Health Union or MyHealthTeams (23%).

Patient Data and Social Media

Patients, for the most part, also continue to trust social media sites with their data. Of the social media sites asked about, Twitter and Instagram were the most trusted followed by Facebook. The least trusted were YouTube and Snapchat (which were also two of the least used by patients, with over 50% never having used Snapchat before for anything). Furthermore, 55% of patient influencers did not change any of their privacy settings following the data scandals, and only 37% made some kind of change to their privacy settings. And about 60% continue to share health information publicly, with about 40% sharing messages privately—though 49% say whether they share publicly or privately depends on the type of content.

“By and large I think patient influencers are very savvy about information that gets shared on Facebook and tend to be very mindful of what they are sharing, which tends to be centered around support and how they navigate various aspects of their care,” Goldsmith explains. “So day to day you don’t have a lot of patient influencers who are talking about very personal aspects of their own health, but if they choose to then they may opt to use private groups or direct messaging in order to share the kind of information that they really only want to be seen by a limited number of eyes.”

Patients’ Experiences with Brands

One type of information that patients are very willing to share is their experience with a medication. Nearly 7 in 10 respondents have shared both positive and negative experiences, while 13% were exclusively positive, compared to 5% that were exclusively negative. But despite their willingness to discuss medications, very few patients are engaging with pharma.

While 92% of respondents follow an advocacy organization on social and 48% follow a healthcare professional, only 20% to 30% follow a pharma company, with more following a brand if they are on that specific therapy. Additionally, while 66% of influencers subscribe to one or more channels on YouTube, less than 10% subscribe to a channel sponsored by a pharma brand.

“There’s absolutely an opportunity for brands to be working with those patients to both understand how they have benefited from those therapies and then to determine whether those individuals can be brand advocates,” Goldsmith says. “We know from our own experience that there are many patients out there who are grateful to pharma for the medications they’re taking, and those are often voices that are not visible or as visible as they need to be in patient communities. There is a need to bridge that gap so that pharma is collaborating with these patient leaders to help them get the word out to patient communities about how they have benefitted from these medications and why they should learn more about their options.”

Most Trusted Health-Related Content

Pharma also needs to do a better job with the resources that they are offering patients. Only 3% of respondents turn to pharma websites for health-related content and just over 20% even trust the content they find on there—making it the least trusted of the resources asked about. Instead, patients once again turn to patient groups on social media as their go-to resource (even though it ranks fourth in terms of the most trusted resources) followed by health-focused sites like Mayo Clinic and WebMD (which are their most trusted resources) and patient advocacy organization websites (third most trusted) and healthcare providers (second most trusted).

Most Trusted Sources for Health-Related Topics – WEGO Health 2019

Goldsmith says it is not trivial that pharma is low on that list of trusted resources when you consider that the top 10 conditions that the patients surveyed had were:

  1. Chronic Pain
  2. Autoimmune Diseases
  3. Mental Health
  4. Anxiety
  5. Fibromyalgia
  6. Cancer
  7. Multiple Sclerosis
  8. Rare Disease
  9. Rheumatoid Arthritis
  10. Depression

“These are not just chronic, but in many cases complex conditions, so people may be taking multiple medications,” Goldsmith explains. “In some cases, big molecule drugs are very expensive and have imposed challenges around medication management. And yet, despite that, patients are spending precious little time on pharma websites. So there is a big opportunity for pharma to better understand from patient leaders what would make their sites more valuable, because there’s just a very big disconnect there.”

In terms of what pharma could be doing differently, Goldsmith suggests providing support and guidance to patients and not being focused on selling them on a drug. In fact, he says some of the feedback WEGO Health has received consistently over the years is that people aren’t drawn to pharma websites because it feels to them like an extension of a TV ad. Instead, sites should do a better job of providing educational resources like doctor discussion guides, more in-depth information or links to resources that patients may find helpful, and information on copay assistance or managing the cost of treatment.

Influence of Online Communities

One way or another, it is important for pharma to find ways to better engage with patients when you consider 95% of those surveyed said they use social media to advocate on a specific health condition or topic. Furthermore, 94% of patient influencers say that online communities play at least a “somewhat important” role in their health decisions, with nearly half (48%) saying that online communities play a “very important” or “extremely important” role.

“One of the things that’s clear from this report is that given the connections that influencers have in patient communities and the fact that they are a trusted voice in those communities, pharma’s best bet is to work with those influencers as opposed to trying to go it alone,” Goldsmith suggests. “We see from the data that they just don’t have the followers and the connections with those communities that the influencers themselves do.”

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How Facebook and Instagram Ads Work for Your Practice

How Facebook and Instagram Ads Work for Your Practice | Social Media and Healthcare |

Put simply, you need to market your practice where patients are spending the most time. The unique features of social media advertising can connect patients directly to your practice—at a lower cost than other forms of digital advertising.  Patients are already spending hours on these platforms so let’s dive in more… 


Reach local patients.

Facebook and Instagram advertising makes it possible to target potential patients in your area. We can target by state, city, zip code or even a specific radius around your office.


Target demographically.

Smart marketing means reaching the right people. All we have to do is create a profile of your ideal patient, and Facebook will estimate the size of your audience (all those who exhibit the same types of behaviors as your profile). We then make adjustments to target a narrower niche or expand your audience.


Promote treatments and services.

The image and video component of Instagram and Facebook is what makes these platforms ideal for promoting your services, showcasing your specialty while inspiring people to make right choices for their family’s oral health. Don’t miss the opportunity to engage, connect, and build trust with followers.

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Social Media: A Necessity in Today’s Online World

Social Media: A Necessity in Today’s Online World | Social Media and Healthcare |

In today’s changing world, more and more dominated by millennials, social media for therapists is a necessity.  Word of mouth is one, but a limited way of attracting potential patients to your practice.  And, wait for it…. PsychologyToday is not the only site you need to be listed on. As therapists, it’s time to face the fact that more and more potential patients research their medical providers online and usually sign up for services that way.  I’m sure most of you reading this article now do the same thing.  So how come you are expecting your potential patients to do something different? 

The times of purely relying on referrals via networking at conferences, parties, and giving free talks is over.  And, when you take the time to think about it those older ways of attracting referrals, although still helpful, limit the scope of potential patients you could actually reach.

In an effort to increase the scope of your potential patient reach us therapists need to change what we include in our marketing arsenal.  Now you’re probably wondering how do you go about choosing which social media platform is best for you without feeling overwhelmed?

Choosing the Right Type of Social Media           

The easy answer is that you should be on all social media platforms, right?  No, simply put my advice to therapists is to choose a social media platform that best suits the population you are attempting to attract and your expertise.  The top four social media platforms are Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram.


Each social media platform has a lot of potential for therapists again depending on your population and expertise. For example, let’s take a closer look at Pinterest. Pinterest is a great platform. With over 200 million monthly users, mostly women, and over half of the users are millennials.  This is a great platform for those both in private and group practices. As well as those that work with children, parents, and families. And those mental health professionals with a more creative bent. So take some time amongst the multitude of tasks you have to accomplish and reflect on which social media platform would be best for you and the patient population you are aiming to obtain. 

The greatest thing of all you don’t have to do it all alone. There are so many sites out there where you can get folks to help you with social media content posting.  A great resource is to reach out to your local colleges and universities and hire a social media intern to do that work for you.  So, what’s stopping you now?  Go get started!

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Controlling your online reputation requires minimal time, effort

Controlling your online reputation requires minimal time, effort | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media is a powerful tool that connects physicians with patients and other providers and offers a space for important conversations about health care reform and education. But even those who want nothing to do with social media cannot ignore it completely, Kevin Pho, MD, founder of the blog, said at the AACE Annual Scientific and Clinical Congress.

“When it comes to being online in a professional context, a lot of us in health care feel like we’re walking a tightrope — one false step, we slip and fall off, and permanently damage our online reputation,” Pho, a primary care physician in Nashua, New Hampshire, said during a plenary presentation.

“Being visible online can be frightening, but if we don’t take the steps to proactively define our online reputations, someone else is going to do it for us ... and online reputation is just as important as reputation in the community,” Pho said.

Just a few hours are needed to create an online presence using free tools available from Google, LinkedIn and physician rating sites, Pho said. Using more platforms, such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs and YouTube, can expand your presence and further enhance your online reputation.

Google yourself

Pho recommends searching your name on Google at least once a week to see what patients are reading about you.

Kevin Pho, MD, discusses how physicians can cultivate a positive online reputation via social media.
Healio/Endocrine Today

Increasingly, patients find a new physician by searching online for “physicians near me” or a provider’s name. Most consumers look only at the first page of results, so the key to controlling your reputation online is to control what appears in those top listings, Pho said. The best way to do that, according to Pho, is to create content that ranks high on Google.

Create basic content

Start by writing a brief, accurate description of yourself and your practice that conveys “likeability, trustworthiness and competence,” Pho advised. This will be your introduction to anyone who finds you on the web. Then locate a high-resolution professional headshot photo of yourself. This should not be cropped from a larger image or an action shot.

Include these two elements on every platform you use online.

Claim your profile

Next, go to an existing physician rating site and find your name. Fill in your bio and photo and add any other personal information you want people to know about you professionally. These sites spend heavily on search engine optimization and typically appear among first search results, Pho said.


Then, create a professional social networking profile on a site such as LinkedIn or Doximity.

“Profiles on these sites are no more than a digital translation of your CV,” Pho said. 


Add your practice information to Google with its free Google My Business tool to make your contact information, address, website and specific information easy for patients to find.

All of these things should take no more than a few hours to do, and after doing them, stop,” Pho said. “Ask yourself, what are my goals on social media? Is it educating patients? Is it connecting with and learning from colleagues? Is it advocating for a cause or debating health care reform? And as you gradually get more comfortable being visible online, you can incrementally adopt social media platforms that fit those goals.”

Participate a little or a lot

Add a Twitter profile and follow whoever interests you. You can stop at reading tweets. “You don’t have to contribute a thing,” Pho said.

Minimal effort is required for sharing interesting information on Facebook. Beyond that, blogging and creating content for YouTube and other platforms can give you a powerful voice to influence policy and patient education, Pho said.

“The goal, remember, is to dominate the search engine rankings for your name so you’re in control of the information that comes up when patients Google you. If your online presence is big enough, you can use it to help patients find you,” Pho said.

“Connecting with patients online needs to be a health care imperative for the 21st century,” Pho said. “Social media gives us powerful tools not only to connect, but also to preserve and strengthen our relationships with patients.” – Jill Rollet


Pho K. Social media and the physician. Presented at: AACE Annual Scientific and Clinical Congress; April 24-28, 2019; Los Angeles.

DisclosurePho reports he is founder of

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Tomorrow's dentists seek guidance on social media use

Tomorrow's dentists seek guidance on social media use | Social Media and Healthcare |

Dental students and trainees have suggested they need guidance on use of social media, handling cultural and religious viewpoints, and dealing with complaints during meetings with dental regulator, the General Dental Council (GDC).

© Extreme Media/E+/Getty

Various suggestions were made during several meetings held recently by the GDC between September 2018 and January 2019 at different dental schools across the UK.

The GDC held 'interactive sessions' at seven dental schools across the four countries, meeting more than 700 first-years from predominantly dentistry, but also hygiene, therapy and nursing.

It said the meetings were an attempt to deal with the widely-held concern of there being a 'climate of fear' among future registrants of regulation and the GDC itself.

The meetings were a trial of a new way of engaging with dental students and trainees early in their training and received feedback from participants, of whom 87% said the visits were either 'excellent' or 'good'.

At the meetings, the GDC explained its role in regulation of dentistry, discussed what it means to be a student in a regulated profession, and explored their understanding of professionalism.

Scenarios were examined of dentists and dental care professionals (DCPs) on social media and in professional and personal life that could have a negative impact on them, patient care and on public confidence in the profession.

The students' views were then compared to those of patients, by showing them videos of patients discussing the same scenarios to demonstrate what professionalism means to patients.

One (unnamed) participating student said: 'I feel as though today has taught us a lot about professionalism. I feel as though there could be an added extra of 'appropriate language' to use as a dentist as it can be hard to phrase things in a diplomatic manner without causing offence'.

Further suggestions made for topics to cover in the future included:

  • Guidelines on social media use

  • Professionalism within the dental team

  • Handling cultural and religious differences and viewpoints

  • More detailed guidance on complaints handling.

A GDC spokesperson said: 'We were very encouraged by the comments and the feedback, and impressed by the students' critical ability, maturity and professional attitudes demonstrated when discussing scenarios and patient videos.

'In the coming years, we aim to speak to all dental students and develop similar appropriate engagement with trainees, DCPs and foundation dentists.'

Author information


  1. Consultant in Paediatric Dentistry at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust and media spokesperson for and past President of the British Society of Paediatric Dentistry, Manchester, UK

    • Claire Stevens CBE
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Building Your Brand and Interacting with Patients on Social Media

Building Your Brand and Interacting with Patients on Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Why your practice should be using social media?

  • It’s a popular place where patient’s spend their time. It’s the new word of mouth marketing or friends and family referral.
  • According to a PwC Health Research Institute survey, around 40 percent of people use social media when researching a health care provider.
  • What’s even more important is that among patients between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four, a full 90 percent turn to social media to find medical information.
  • How are patients using social media to find medical information and providers? Patients are going to social networks to ask their friends, family, and followers for recommendations on care providers.
  • Patients are also joining help groups comprised of hundreds, sometimes tens of thousands of other people who are afflicted with similar conditions and diseases.
  • In addition, social networks provide you and your practice with the ability to run very targeted demographic based advertising campaigns that can be very successful in reaching the right kinds of patients.

Pro-Tip #1

Over 40 percent of all people, and a staggering 90 percent of patients eighteen to twenty-four using social media when researching a health care provider, social networks have disrupted and is quickly replacing traditional friends and family referrals.

Segment #2 – How your practice can build awareness amongst patients using social media

  • To start the hardest part of social media for most practices is the social part. In order to be successful, you need to be willing to put yourself out there, to become the start, and peel back the curtain on your practice…and life.
  • If you’re comfortable with this, your next step is to make sure that each of your profiles is live, up to date, and reflective of you and your practice. This includes the avatar, cover image, images of you and the practice, plus all the required details to complete your profile.
  • Once you’re confident in your profile, you want to spend a bit of time thinking about what you want to share, and when. This is a more in-depth process than we can cover today, but understanding what to share (and when), is important to your success.
  • Now that you’ve got a base and a plan, it time to actually create social posts. When it comes to the creative, it’s important to determine whether you will do this yourself, or work with a consultant or agency.
  • Note that even if you are working with an agency, or consultant, you will likely need to participate! Remember, on social media, you are the star of the show and patients want to see you!

Pro-Tip #2

The hardest part of social media for most practices is the social part! In order to be successful, you need to be willing to put yourself out there, to become the start, and peel back the curtain on your practice…and life.

Segment #3 – What you need to do in order to be successful with social media

  • First, you need to be authentic and personal. Patients want to see you, and get to know you.
  • You should participate in conversations, and respond to comments left by patients.
  • You should be providing fun and interesting information. Clinical studies and journal articles are nice for your peers, but go over the head of patients.
  • Don’t just talk about yourself and your practice. Share news from your local community, trusted websites, and even other practices.
  • Post reviews that patients have left for you online, take pictures with them when their in the office, and even share before and afters of your great work. It’s okay to brag a little, but not all the time.
  • Lastly, don’t mix your personal and professional accounts. Keep them separate, if and whenever possible; your personal accounts often do not have the same tools and tracking as your professional ones.

Pro-Tip #3

Your practice can be successful with social media if you’re willing to be open, and put in the time to contribute, fun, interesting, and unique information. It won’t happen overnight, but over time, you can use social media to build awareness and grow your practice.

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Social Media Marketing for Plastic Surgeons: Why It’s a Necessity

Social Media Marketing for Plastic Surgeons: Why It’s a Necessity | Social Media and Healthcare |

What started out as a friendly digital medium for sharing days at the beach with the family or pictures of your dog has grown into an aggressive marketplace with competitors fighting over the eyeballs of potential patients. In the United States alone, 79% of all Americans have at least 1 social media profile. In a country with a population of 327.2 million people multiplied by that 79%, that comes out to a total of 258.5 million people that have at least 1 social media profile. According to a study done by, the average internet user has an average of 7.6 social media accounts. As if that information wasn’t powerful enough, the average time per person spent on social media per day is 116 minutes. If the average person works and sleeps both 8 hours per day, this means that internet users are spending nearly 25% of their free time each and every day on social media! So, to answer the question of whether or not you even need to market on social media… YES! Social media marketing for plastic surgeons is 100% necessary!

What Type of Content Should You Incorporate into Social Media Marketing for Plastic Surgeons?

Engaging Content

Engaging content is content produced by a practice to attempt to establish an emotional connection with its social media following and connect with potential patients on a human-to-human level. Given current trends in social media marketing for plastic surgery, when a doctor thinks about where to start building the foundation of their online presence, the answer is almost unanimously Instagram. Instagram is a social media platform on which users can share photos and videos and write captions about the content they are posting. Users can include hashtags (#), which will group their post with other posts sharing the same hashtag to allow other users to search for that specific type of content. Using hashtags is a great strategy for effective social media marketing for plastic surgeons. Some examples of highly searched hashtags on Instagram are #tummytuck, #plasticsurgery and #botox. Instagram is the most personal social platform available to the public today, and it is very important that practices are incorporating this powerful, personal medium into their social media marketing initiatives when it comes to plastic surgery or non-invasive aesthetics.

You Can’t Just Rely on Instagram for Social Media Marketing for Plastic Surgeons, Though…

As great as Instagram is, it is only one social media platform. It is easy to get caught up in Instagram because some consider it to be the most popular platform right now, but we cannot forget that the average person has 7.6 social media accounts. Practices need to be posting to other platforms as well in their social media marketing strategy as it relates to plastic surgery. For example, other proven platforms are Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest. Other engaging content in social media marketing for plastic surgeons could include pictures of the doctor doing charity work, raising money for a local cause or a warming welcome video that highlights your practice to potential patients.

It cannot be stressed enough how important social media marketing for plastic surgeons is, especially when it comes to creating those emotional connections and patient engagement. Engaging content is one of the two keys needed to unlock the full potential of social media marketing for plastic surgeons.

The Important Role of Conversion-Driven Content in Your Social Media Marketing Strategy

The second key is to blend this engaging and entertaining content with strategic conversion-driven content intended to drive revenue. While most practices can handle their engaging content on their own, a common practice is to outsource the duties of conversion-driven content to a company like Crystal Clear Digital Marketing. The most important reason for outsourcing this is the amount of time and effort it takes to post multiple times a day. Additionally, the technical aspects of creating landing pages and associated backlinks for these posts take even more time. Here at Crystal Clear, we recommend posting conversion-driven content in your social media marketing for plastic surgeons strategy twice per day across four platforms minimum. Remember, though — this is in addition to your engaging content. Each conversion-driven post should be focused on your top treatments and backlinked to a correlating landing page on your site. The ancillary benefit to the backlinking of social posts is that it provides a significant amount of SEO impact points towards the organic Google rankings of the practice.

When evaluating the actions and results of social media marketing for plastic surgeons, a lot of the same questions arise. “How many likes did we get? How many new followers did we earn this month? How many people watched our videos?” While these are all great questions and having the answers are extremely important, there is one more question that we need to ask ourselves: “Why am I marketing on social media?” The answer is the same for every plastic surgeon out there… to increase the quantity and quality of qualified patients! We always need to remember what our goal is when we first start posting to social media — to make money! So, the real questions we should be asking are, “How many patients saw a post and filled out a form or called my practice? How many of those patients scheduled and showed up to their consultation? How many of those consults booked a treatment?”, and ultimately, “What did we spend on social media to actually generate those patients?” A practice can have all the followers in the world, but if those followers aren’t converting into loyal, paying patients, then what’s the point?

What to Take Away as it Relates to Social Media Marketing for Plastic Surgeons

  1. Every plastic surgeon looking to drive revenue from social media needs to be posting daily with a specific goal associated with each post.
  2. The most effective way to attract a new patient from social media and into the practice is through a blended strategy of engaging and conversion-driven social media content.
  3. Backlink every conversion-driven post to a specific landing page on the practice’s website with clear calls to action available for the patient to provide their information.
  4. Remember why social media marketing for plastic surgeons is so important — to make money!

Crystal Clear Digital Marketing offers a fully-integrated digital marketing and social media platform. Please contact us today to learn more. We look forward to speaking with you and helping you find, serve and keep more patients profitably!

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HIV 'Social Networks' Could Be the Key to a Vaccine 

HIV 'Social Networks' Could Be the Key to a Vaccine  | Social Media and Healthcare |

In 1994, physician-researcher Bruce Walker was sure he’d stumbled upon the impossible.

Despite being HIV positive, the patient in his office was healthy—and had been for at least a decade, all without the help of drugs. But in a year when AIDS would kill 35,000 people in the United States alone, all Walker’s patient wanted to know was when he would die, too.

Walker had no answer for him. It was the first time he had seen someone subvert what he’d been certain was a death sentence. “I was stunned,” Walker recalls. “I just thought, ‘This is unbelievable. This means HIV doesn’t kill everyone.’”


In the years that followed, Walker, now a researcher at the Ragon Institute, would come to realize that this remarkable patient wasn’t a fluke. Thousands more like him existed, many of whom were completely unaware they harbored the virus in the first place—all because their immune systems had somehow kept the deadly virus in check.

This singular riddle has driven Walker’s research for the past 25 years. But at long last, he and his team think they’re close to an answer. In a study published today in the journal Science, they propose an explanation for why, despite being exposed to the same virus, some individuals control infection (“controllers”), while others progress to disease (“progressors”). [Disclosure: Walker is also a relative of NOVA’s Deputy Executive Producer, Julia Cort.]

According to the study, hitting HIV’s Achilles heel might require leveraging the “social network” that governs the virus’ structure. HIV, like all viruses, is made up of several interconnected pieces. Much like the pieces in a chess game, those parts aren’t equally influential—which means an effective immune response is likely to be one that pinpoints the most pivotal players on the board.

“This is a very elegant piece of science that could identify potential weak spots in HIV,” says Nilu Goonetilleke, an immunologist studying HIV at the University of North Carolina’s School of Medicine who was not involved in the study. “I look forward to seeing a design for a vaccine come out of this, and, hopefully, seeing it tested.”

A scanning electromicrograph of an HIV-infected cell. Image Credit: NIAID, flickr


HIV is particularly tricky for the immune system to deal with. Not only does the virus infect and incapacitate some of the very immune cells that might otherwise defend against it, but it also behaves a bit like a moving target.

When on the lookout for pathogens like viruses, the immune system scours the body for foreign molecules with incriminating features—the microscopic equivalent of passing a mugshot from cell to cell. But when the HIV virus invades cells to copy its genome, it does so sloppily, accumulating so many mutations it can change the way it appears to the immune system. The HIV of one cell might look completely different from the HIV of another—and any intel the immune system might have stored can quickly become obsolete, allowing the virus to slip by unnoticed.

As it passes from person to person, the virus shapeshifts further, generating many distinct subgroups within and across populations. And protection against one version of HIV doesn’t guarantee protection against another.

In the face of such staggering diversity, an effective HIV vaccine will have to accomplish what the typical immune system cannot—recognizing the virus in all its myriad forms, says Morgane Rolland, an HIV virologist and vaccinologist at the U.S. Military HIV Research Program who was not involved in the study.

But even across vastly different strains, certain features of HIV remain the same, and don’t mutate as easily as others. Researchers think these so-called “conserved” spots represent indispensable components of HIV anatomy—ones that help it break its way into cells, or manufacture more of itself once inside—that could cripple the virus if altered.

Several years ago, Walker’s group found that these immutable regions seemed to be the same ones targeted by the immune systems of many HIV controllers. But Walker was disappointed to find the relationship was imperfect: Some of the patients who were homing in on seemingly crucial pieces of the virus were still getting sick.

So his team decided to go deeper, and zoom in on some of the proteins that contained conserved regions. They quickly discovered that, while all conserved regions were slow to change, only some of them had something else in common: They wielded an enormous amount of influence on the rest of the protein.


Whether they’re mingling with coworkers or counting degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon, every human is a member of a social network: a complex constellation of interpersonal relationships. For better or worse, social networks tend to distribute power unequally, with certain members who are better connected, more well liked, or who simply hold more sway over others.

The same, Walker says, is true of proteins like the ones that make up HIV. Though each protein is first synthesized as a linear chain of subunits called amino acids, it eventually takes the form of a three-dimensional structure, transforming what’s essentially a string of molecular “beads” into a web of convoluted loops and whorls. Amino acids that are nowhere near each other in the chain can come close enough to touch, creating an intricate nexus of associations that can bridge enormous divides. In other words, a network.

But clout can be a double-edged sword: In any network, the same pieces that hold it together are the ones it can least afford to lose. Walker’s team found that the more partners an amino acid had, the more central it was to a protein’s structural integrity—which meant snipping at just one of these critical threads could be enough to unravel the entire viral tapestry. Using a computer algorithm, the researchers analyzed the sequence of several HIV proteins and assigned each amino acid a “score” denoting how networked it was. When the team then mutated the amino acids with the highest scores, the entire virus “basically fell apart,” Walker says.

“Networked amino acids are the ones that are touching everything else,” says Mohammed AlQuraishi, a structural biologist at Harvard University who was not involved in the study. “If you want to target a large number of strains, these are your best bets.”

An HIV protein’s 3D structure (left) is analyzed to produce a map of the connections between amino acids (center). At right, the larger circular nodes represent the more connected amino acids. Image Credit: Adapted from Gaiha et al., Science, 2019


In a final test, the team discovered that the immune cells of HIV controllers, but not progressors, consistently zeroed in on highly networked amino acids. It seemed the team had finally found what distinguished the patients who could fight off infection: their ability to root out the Kevin Bacons of the HIV protein grid.

Walker’s team is now working to design a vaccine based on these same principles. The hope is to develop something that can train just about any immune system to single out these highly networked amino acids, says study author Gaurav Gaiha, a physician at Massachusetts General Hospital. This would saddle HIV with a serious dilemma: Mutate into impotence, or stay the same and be caught red handed.

That’s still a long way off. Vaccine design involves a lot more than earmarking an immunological bulls-eye, Rolland says. In the coming years, the team will have to show that they can actually redirect a person’s immune response without compromising safety. What’s more, the best vaccines will ideally rouse multiple branches of the immune system, including those that produce antibodies, which were not tested in this study.

Additionally, there are person-to-person differences to consider. “Even if two people target the exact same things, the quality of the immune response can still be very different,” Goonetilleke says.

For now, though, Walker is optimistic. Vaccine or not, the end of a 25-year odyssey could finally be in sight. “After years of searching, we’re finally able to understand this remarkable outcome in some people who are HIV infected,” he says. “I feel like I finally understand what was going on in that patient I first met in 1994.”

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6 Digital Marketing Strategies To Grow Your Healthcare Practice In 2019

Healthcare industry serves a wider audience with their varying medical needs. Every now and then the medical sector transforms making way for to make way for further innovation and technological advancement. All the efforts within this industry, from inventing disease cure to manufacturing a new medical device, are directed towards improving patient care.

Keeping pace with the changing market trends, medical practices are also embracing new technologies and marketing tactics to stay up-to-date. Even the patients today are way more conscious and well-informed than they used to be a decade ago. This is because of the advent of digital media that has brought information at the comfort of a click. Today’s patients use mobile apps and websites to search for medical services and book appointment. Their important healthcare decisions are also greatly influenced by online reviews and social media posts. Hence, as their reliance on websites and other digital platforms increases, practices need to brush up their digital marketing strategies to optimize the evolving opportunities.

Here are six effective digital strategies for your healthcare business or practice that you must implement to improve your patient reach in 2019:

Build an Easy to Use Website

In today’s digital space, websites serve as a welcome mat for businesses. The first thing that an organization does to establish its online presence is to develop a website that will represent the brand before the internet users.

Most of the organizations today rely on digital marketing to promote their brand across various industries. Especially in the healthcare industry, the use of digital channels to search, compare and look for medical products and services has increased manifold in recent years. Most of the patients are searching online for health-related information. Moreover, they can now book appointments, chat with the doctor and keep track of their medical stats using health apps and various online tools. Hence, it is essential on the part of the medical practices to ensure that their platforms are user-friendly for the patients.

The first impression that a patient form on visiting your site lays the foundation of your future relationship. If the site is difficult to navigate and go through, then they are likely to leave and go to your competitor’s site. This is something that nobody would like, and so you need to develop an easy to navigate website that they can use without complications. Winning patient trust and showing your credibility is the key to your success. It is through an engaging, less complex, easy to use and informational website that you can establish a good online reputation.

Publish and Promote Informative Blogs

The importance of online content is never going to die especially when the internet searches pertaining to healthcare matters are increasing. According to statistics, there are 35 million medical searches online every day. This is because patients are looking for information about health conditions, tips for healthy being and answers to queries. Thanks to the internet, now patients need not go to doctors for minor issues as all kind of medical information is available across various online platforms.

Now, to take advantage of this growing demand for useful medical content, the best and effective strategy is to create and publish informative blogs. Apart from health tips, general query about medical conditions and symptoms, you can develop blogs based on customer testimonials. Sharing the satisfactory story of your existing patient will motivate and inspire new patients to trust your services. New visitors will love to read the experience of other patients and this in return will help to win their trust. Blogs have always been effective in terms of driving website traffic as well as boosting engagement. So, do include blogs in your digital marketing strategy if you want your medical business to have a wider reach. You must plan your content time table prior time and make sure to execute them in a way that will benefit your practice.

Run Email Campaigns that Delivers Value

Sending an email comprising relevant information to patients can keep you a step ahead in the competitive space. It’s true that patients are proactive in their search for healthcare information online. However, if you can deliver them what they are looking for even before they search, the outcomes are going to be in favor of your practice. According to Medicoreach quickbytes, 54% of the patients are very comfortable to get advice from online communications. This survey proves that delivering online message to patients adds better value for your business.

To stay in the patient’s mind and to keep them engaged, you can send a weekly or monthly email newsletter to educate them on the latest industry trends, medical innovations and more about your facility or practice. A personalized email sent to a targeted audience based on his/her interest or preferences will work. You just need an accurate and responsive email list of your niche audience to start optimizing your email marketing strategies.

Use Visual Content to Educate Patients

As per WordStream, one-third of the online users spent maximum time watching videos. The numbers are surprising and are likely to increase in the days to come as people are interested more in visual content. Instead of reading long texts, the audience prefers watching well-designed videos. That is why many organizations are investing in making videos to attract attention. From a company brochure to customer testimonials, brands are using video marketing tactics to spread their brand messages.

Even in the healthcare sector, visual content is consumed and preferred by patients, healthcare executives, and professionals. No matter who is your target, you can engage any prospect with your practice using video content. You can include videos in your digital strategy using the format for projecting various types of content. For instance, you can create an interview video of a doctor or can record a patient’s experience while receiving care at your hospital and post it on the site or social media channels. Videos showing a surgical procedure helps the new patient and their family get a glimpse of how the real-life experience will be and this, in turn, will increase their comfort.

Make Efficient Use of SEO Tactics

The competition in the medical field is fierce. Every day new practices and healthcare facility centers pop up, adding to the challenges of existing medical practices. Getting the right attention and bringing your medical website on top of the search results require to have a strong SEO strategy.

Search engine optimization is an integral aspect of a digital marketing strategy. With Google algorithms getting updated often, managing search engine rankings aren’t easy. It is highly recommended that you take help of SEO specialists who are best in their job. Although you can do the SEO of your medical website, however, the results may take a longer time to show as you may not have in-depth knowledge of the many SEO tactics. Hence, hiring SEO experts and targeting the right healthcare keyword relevant to your practice is essential for overall success. Also, you must build content based on a specific keyword that has high search volume in your field of work.

Remember the keyword is important in SEO. However, too much stuffing on keywords in your content may not help. So, do avoid such practices. Also, you must optimize your website pages well with the right tags, Meta descriptions, URL structure, page title, etc. All these elements are vital to successful SEO strategy implementation.

Engage in Social Media Marketing

If your practice isn’t on any social media platform, then you are likely missing a lot of opportunity to network, connect and bond with your audience. A large percentage of internet users are active on social media. Even patients check social media profiles of doctors, nurses, and hospitals to check their online reviews and reputation. Moreover, 31% of healthcare professionals use social media to network with other professionals in the industry.

A lot of patients and their family members express their health experience on social media platforms. According to PwC, 29% of patients on social media to go through the health experiences of other patients. Hence, every healthcare brand or business must make use of this opportunity and use it wisely. It can expand your practice reach and spread your word to a broader audience across the globe.

So, you need to have a dedicated social media team managing your social media marketing efforts. From sharing timely posts to responding to patient queries, addressing their concerns, and networking further, your social media activities can work wonders in keeping your practice top of your patient’s mind.

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Deadly measles outbreaks on the rise, social media called to account -

Deadly measles outbreaks on the rise, social media called to account - | Social Media and Healthcare |

Around 21 million children around the world are missing out on measles vaccinations every year, raising the risk of the disease killing or leaving children disabled for life.

These alarming new figures released by UNICEF show that the problem is growing in high income countries, with the US, France and the UK having the highest numbers of unvaccinated children in the most developed countries over the 2010-2017 period.

In the first three months of 2019, more than 110,000 measles cases were reported worldwide – a threefold rise from the same period last year. An estimated 110,000 people, most of them children, died from measles in 2017, a 22% increase from the year before.

In the 2010-2017 period, 2.59 million children in the US went without a measles vaccination, followed by 608,000 in France and 527,000 in the UK.

The rising numbers of unvaccinated children is attributed to the rise of a 'vaccine rejection' trend among some parents in developed countries, including a militant ‘anti-vax’ movement which spreads myths and untruths about vaccine safety.

One of the most notorious figures in the anti-vax movement is Andrew Wakefield, a former British doctor who first raised doubts about the combined measles mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine in the late 1990s.

His research was eventually found to be fraudulent, but public health campaigners have found it almost impossible to counter the myths spread since then.

The UK remains one of the worst hit among developed nations, with some well-meaning parents believing falsely that vaccinations can ‘overload’ the immune systems of young children.

Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: “Getting yourself and your children vaccinated against killer diseases is essential to staying healthy, and vaccine rejection is a serious and growing public health time bomb.”

He called on social media firms such as Facebook and Instagram to do more to block fake news stories and scaremongering about vaccines.

“With measles cases almost quadrupling in England in just one year, it is grossly irresponsible for anybody to spread scare stories about vaccines, and social media firms should have a zero tolerance approach towards this dangerous content.”

Faced with new legislation to compel it and other social media firms to fight fake news, Facebook last month vowed to block anti-vax adverts to stop the spread of medical misinformation.

Two doses of the measles vaccine are essential to protect all children, but UNICEF’s figures show that there is a considerable drop off in children receiving the second dose.

The global coverage of the first dose of the measles vaccine was reported at 85% in 2017, with coverage for the second dose at a much lower level of 67%. The World Health Organisation recommends a threshold of 95% immunisation coverage to achieve so-called ‘herd immunity’ - but many richer nations are also now dipping below this level.

Meanwhile, in low- and middle-income countries, the situation is critical. In 2017, for example, Nigeria had the highest number of children under one year of age who missed out on the first dose, at nearly 4m. It was followed by India (2.9m), Pakistan and Indonesia (1.2m each), and Ethiopia (1.1m).

“The ground for the global measles outbreaks we are witnessing today was laid years ago,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF executive director. “The measles virus will always find unvaccinated children. If we are serious about averting the spread of this dangerous but preventable disease, we need to vaccinate every child, in rich and poor countries alike.”

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Top Digital Marketing Strategies for Healthcare Practices

Top Digital Marketing Strategies for Healthcare Practices | Social Media and Healthcare |

A digital footprint is an essential part of marketing strategy in this age of omnipresent internet. The competition is tough, especially for doctors, battling to attract patients in tight geographical areas in this constantly changing high-tech era. In 2019, there could be a dramatic shift in the paradigm of digital marketing including content marketing, social media, and SEO among others.

It is critical to re-think the current marketing strategy for your practice. You need to consider the ever-changing advertising landscape and understand that what worked before might not work for you anymore. These 5 current digital marketing trends are going to shape how potential patients perceive your practice.

1. Authenticity is a Powerful Tool

Authenticity weighs heavily in the realm of digital marketing because you are dealing with real people looking for your services. There is a considerable shift in the way algorithms currently work, many search engines have begun to think like real humans. For example, if your search query is for “red apples”, the algorithm already knows that red apple is a round edible fruit that comes in a color known as red.   

This one valuable component is often overlooked in the hustle of other SEO tactics. It can be easy to lose sight and importance of your practice in the constant pressure to outperform and target patient goals. There are a lot of useful SEO strategies which can get quick results.

However, there is nothing quite as powerful or simple as sincerity and honest-to-goodness marketing. This can be the clinching factor that sets your medical digital marketing campaign apart from other dentists’ or doctors’ practice.

Like any other consumer, a patient will try to assess the authenticity of a medical website or practice while selecting a healthcare option. Honesty and sterling content are co-related and undisputed when it comes to keeping a patient loyal. Patients are on the lookout for transparency in healthcare. You can get ahead by being real, down to earth and honest in your claims.

2. Engage with Video Marketing

The forecast for 2019 is that a huge portion of your patient internet traffic is going to be through internet videos. As per a survey conducted by Wyzowl, there is a more than 15% increase in businesses using video as part of marketing strategies. Currently, 81% digital marketing strategies include video marketing as a poignant component to achieve goals. The same study concluded that most businesses observed video marketing to increase their ROI.

The same holds true for healthcare as well. You can give your medical practice a competitive edge by including internet video traffic in the statistics. There have been no signs of slowing down ever since videos made their way into inbound marketing. Live streams are especially preferred by patients while looking for a new healthcare service, as facebook and Instagram are major driving forces behind the desire for live content.

There have been multiple surveys conducted in determining the efficacy of live videos over pre-recorded ones and all the evidence points towards live videos resulting in a higher patient retention rate.

3. Optimize Work Output with Marketing Automation

You can squeeze greater results from your digital marketing toil by employing marketing automation at the core fundamentals of your digital strategy. As a medical practitioner, there are only so many hours available to you in a day.

You need to focus on creativity rather than wasting time on repetitive tasks. This can be easily performed by automation. In fact, one of the greatest benefits of automation is the ability to target multiple channels to acquire more patients simultaneously.

Prepare yourself to take advantage of the leaps in technology such as artificial intelligence that can lower your work stress and help you achieve pre-set marketing goals. Healthcare businesses across all platforms are facing a sense of urgency to reap complete benefits of their efforts. You need to capture the interest of your target ‘audience’ patients by using marketing automation techniques to their full potential. Such as scheduling social media posts days, even weeks, in advanced.

The field is level right now across all industries and spheres. However, soon the market will tilt towards those practices which can make the most of automated technologies. Recently, there have been increasing numbers of healthcare businesses leveraging some degree of marketing automation.

4. Adapt to Voice Search

The scramble to understand how SEO strategies and search engines are affected by voice integration has already begun. According to comScore, voice searches are increasing at an acclerated rate with the prediction claiming 50% online searches to be made this way by 2020. There is no avoiding SEO when it comes to keeping your medical or dental practice at the top. Local search implications are a major factor in acquiring new patients and retaining the old ones. It is critical to redesign with the changing waves and initiate an adaptation process.

You need to understand that voice queries are longer than their text counterparts. This affects search results as digital assistants evolve to understand user intent and assess the context of what they want to promote action from the users.

You need to adjust your content to fit the changing criteria driving search engine results. For instance, a digital assistant assesses a particular string of words to determine whether it is intent of action or a query for research purposes. While patients may type, “best gastroenterologists in NYC” in a search engine, they are more likely to say, “Hey Siri, I need an appointment at the best gastroenterologist in Midtown, NYC”. Thus, refining their search but changing some of your keywords.

5. Implement Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been slow in gathering steam. However, it is steadily rising in the spectrum of digital marketing where healthcare is concerned. AI begins where humans stop performing. One of the most widely implemented forms of AI right now in online medical practices is chatbots.

Patients find it easier to connect with a new practice online before making the decision to visit for an appointment. Chatbots are increasingly being used by medical practices to help patients find solutions to their problems regardless of the device they are on. These perfectly simulated human interactions can help book appointments, take care of minor queries and even help ease a patient’s anxious mind till you become available.

You could have ignored AI till now and quietly dismissed it as a concept that existed only in Hollywood. However, it is time that you take this goldmine of opportunity seriously now. A number of adaptations of Artificial Intelligence are available in the current chatbots designed specifically for healthcare practices.

Get Your Practice to Survive and Thrive

New media, opportunities and platforms are being embraced to create a digital transformation that is more responsive, analytical and authentic. The primary goal still remains constant for all healthcare businesses, to choose the best options for their patients as they transition through the various landscape changes.

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11 tips on social media and health care marketing

11 tips on social media and health care marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

ometimes we overlook the fundamentals of daily tasks.

Savvy PR and marketing leaders are learning how their work connects to business outcomes. Still, sharing content and common online courtesy are essential, too.

This infographic is a reminder for experienced professionals—and serves as a solid primer for newcomers to the industry. For example, effective communicators can:

  • Act as a resource for patients
  • Target content for audiences
  • Build relationships with patients online
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Should you accept a patient’s friend request on social media? - 

Should you accept a patient’s friend request on social media? -  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media use has moved far beyond being just a way to communicate with your friends. It’s now used regularly in most professional settings, including health care. As a result, nurses are facing increased requests from patients to connect on not only professional social media accounts, but on their personal ones as well. So, while trying to balance privacy and boundary requirements, how do you know what social media activity is acceptable and what’s not?

The answer is actually straightforward.

Never accept a patient’s friend request on your personal social media accounts

A nurse should not enter into a friendship or other personal relationship with a patient, their family members or their substitute decision-makers. Always keep your personal and professional lives separate.

By connecting on or corresponding over your personal social media account, you are crossing the boundary where the professional therapeutic nurse-client relationship changes to unprofessional and personal.

Use a professional account separate from your personal one if needed

Many health care organizations or nurses in independent practice have professional social media accounts. They use these accounts to build professional connections, educate the public, and communicate with members of the public, including patients or patients’ family members.

When using a professional social media account, you must ensure you are not violating patient privacy and confidentiality, or crossing the therapeutic nurse-client boundary. Understand what is needed for a patient and their family to consent to their image or information being used on a professional social media account. Leaving out a patient’s details when you post information or images does not protect patient confidentiality.

Know and follow your employer’s policies

If you communicate with patients via a professional social media account, follow your employer’s policies on using social media, photography, computers and mobile devices.

More information

The Code of Conduct states that nurses are accountable for maintaining professional boundaries with patients and that nurses should not share personal patient information on social media.

In addition, the International Nurse Regulator Collaborative, a group of seven nursing regulators that includes CNO, has released a position statement on the use of social media by nurses. Read these recommendations to learn about respecting boundaries, acting professionally and maintaining patient privacy (as well as your own) while blogging, sharing photos or posting on social media.

Our social media webcast, Social Media: Reflect Before You Post, shows you how to use CNO practice standards and reflective questions to assess situations before engaging in any social media activity.

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Can Patients Find Your Medical Practice Online?

Can Patients Find Your Medical Practice Online? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Ideally, healthcare marketers should have a hunter’s mentality. This means they must be quick and shrewd enough to attract and retain new patients in order to successfully compete in this challenging healthcare marketing landscape.

Medical practice owners spend hundreds and thousands of marketing dollars building strategies, writing content, attending local networking events – all with the primary aim of attracting new patients. They make reminder calls, send mailers and promote services on different platforms just to attract patients. These time-tested tools have been serving healthcare marketers pretty well. But now, the times are changing. Now, people are ready to research online, seek referrals from family and friends and even hop from one practitioner to another until they find what they were looking for.

Why Your Practice Needs a Strong Online Presence

Because having an online presence can make or break your medical practice, especially small local practices. Because if a potential patient is able to find your website and all the service information effortlessly, he or she will be happy to book an appointment with you. Having an online presence is not only beneficial for your practice – it is also one of the best things you can do for your target audience.

While it is true that many small practices do not have a ton of resources to spend building a robust online presence, having no time should not be one of those problems. A robust online presence includes a simple website that has original and relevant content, a few social media profiles to alert your patients about updates, a blog where you can write every week and an updated business listing on Google My Business. The time dedicated to building and maintaining an online presence for your practice is time well spent.


One of the biggest reasons for building an online presence is that your competitors are probably building one, too. If a potential patient is trying to Google your practice in your city or area and you are nowhere to be found, then he or she will have no way to contact you for an appointment or with an inquiry. Even worse, the searcher may come across your competitors’ websites and contact them instead.

While the online search might be a quick way out for your potential patients, being found online can be a challenge for healthcare marketers. This is because marketers have to compete with hundreds of similar local medical practices vying for a place on the first page of search engine results. Unfortunately, simply building an expensive website and waiting for patients to break down the door of your practice is not enough anymore. Your brand name must appear on the first page of search engine results. But how can you do it?

Make Your Practice Easy to Find Online

When potential patients are searching for a new healthcare practice online, you want to make sure you are at the top of that list.

Your online presence is comprised of three factors that determine how potential patients find you in a search:

1. The content you create, including social media posts, blogs and a website, and that gets displayed as links in search engine results.


2. User-generated content such as patient reviews and testimonials on third-party sites such as Healthgrades and Yelp.

3. Social mentions of your medical practice.

Here are four simple tips to help you ensure that your existing and potential patients can easily find your practice online.

1. Build (and Update) Your Website

Keep your website simple and to the point. Simplifying your healthcare website will make it easier and more efficient for searchers to find details about your practice, such as an address, business hours, contact details and services offered.

Your website is one of many tactics to help promote your practice. And if your practice does not offer online sales, there’s no point in making potential patients spend more time on your website than it takes to find out your contact information and the services you offer.


The next step to being found online by prospects is making sure your website is SEO-friendly. It is important to cast a wide net with a lot of informational content about who you are, what services you offer and why patients should come to you.

Having an FAQ or blog page is a great way of capturing a lot of keywords naturally. Often, potential patients will conduct a search using the same question as keywords that you might have on your FAQ page. That’s emotionally intelligent SEO – it is about creating content around situations that your target audience cares about.

Another crucial step that can make it easier for potential patients to find your practice is making sure your website is mobile-friendly.

2. Invest in Advanced SEO Activities

The majority of online searches start with entering a keyword in a search engine. Even if your services are of high quality and your prices are low, if potential patients cannot find your medical practice online, then you practically do not exist. You will never be able to grow your practice.


SEO is a selection of techniques that can be used to get your medical practice website ranking higher on search engine results. The majority of potential patients only consider the first two pages of search results when searching for a new healthcare provider. If they do not find what they are looking for on the first two pages, a sizeable section of your potential patients will try a different search term, or maybe they will find your competitors.

Effective SEO ensures that the right elements and relevant content are in the right places on your website, including titles and meta-descriptions. If a potential patient does not know your website URL or your practice at all, embracing effective SEO techniques will give you an edge over competitors. Investing time and effort to embrace SEO will reflect in your page views and, ultimately, your bottom line. The more eyes you can get on your practice website, the better.

3. Strengthen Social Media Presence

Based on your healthcare marketing strategy and the nature of your practice, decide which social networks you will use. When creating profiles on social networking sites, including in-depth information to make them effective, your social media marketing strategy will make your practice name easily recognizable with higher chances of turning followers into patients.

You can also strengthen your social media presence by providing patients more than necessary information about your practice and services. By posting on your social media profiles, you can give a taste of your core values, personality and wellness goals for patients. This will help turn website or social profile visitors into patients. In addition to social media networks, you can consider building a presence on online reputation management sites such as Yelp and Healthgrades. Your existing patients can post reviews of your services on these sites and help potential patients learn more about you.

4. Acquire Online Patient Reviews

Online reviews are one of the best ways to boost your online presence. Anything your existing patients are saying about your practice will carry more credibility than what you say about your own brand through paid media. Encouraging online reviews is an excellent way to promote your services and increase your credibility. Your practice may get less-than-positive online reviews from time to time, but you must regard reviews as valuable feedback and an opportunity to improve your services or the patient experience. There are sites such as Google My Business and Yelp where you can list your practice and acquire online patient reviews.



Many small medical practices were already established long before the search engines and thrived purely on word-of-mouth and referral business for decades. Why would they make an effort to establish an online presence?

Well, some practices may not have changed over the years, but patients – and the way they search for healthcare facilities – have changed drastically.

When a new patient finds you through a search engine, when potential patients see engagement on your Facebook page, when a prospect subscribes to your email list or when someone finds out about your practice through word-of-mouth, you know you are doing something right. Maintaining a strong online presence is worth the effort because it pays off in many attainable, measurable ways.

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The Rise of the Social Media Doctor

The Rise of the Social Media Doctor | Social Media and Healthcare |

Your doctor is probably using social media at some point in their day. Some people (many of my patients included) are often quite surprised when they hear me talk about being on Twitter, Instagram, or sometimes even just the Internet in general.

Granted, being online wasn’t always typical for me. I used to shy away from it completely. In fact, I was worried that there was no place on social media at all for health care professionals like me.

Until one day the light bulb clicked on inside my head. Or maybe it was more of a dimmer, but growing brighter over the course of several months. I started to see value in tapping into social media from both a health-care and personal wellness perspective. I could actually make a difference, I imagined, by bringing the connections I made with patients behind closed doors out into the public eyes

But that wasn’t solely what drew me in. I also felt like I had to be on it—like I had an obligation to science. It stemmed from what I was reading online, my reactions spanning a range from surprise, to confusion when I checked out my feed.

For instance, I’d feel an explosive mix of amusement and fear as I read medical falsehood after falsehood, all in the span of a single morning’s scroll. Worse, I’d be horrified when I would see what was actually trending in the health conversation (Coffee enemasRaw waterJade eggs!), what people believed and were talking about, as if they were Real Things. I’d stare at Twitter with pseudoscience laughing maniacally back at me, daring me to make my move.

At first, I didn’t do anything. Many of us didn’t; we remained quiet, laying low and uninvolved, while a few other physicians dipped their toes into the virtual water. For instance, in 2004, internal medicine physician Kevin Pho, M.D., founded the popular website KevinMD, taking the lead on existing as a physician in the virtual world. And by 2016, ob/gyn and pain medicine physician Jen Gunter, M.D., was dubbed “Twitter’s resident gynecologist” by the Cut for her work debunking nonsense on her blog and her Twitter feed in a no-holds barred way.

So I decided to jump right in and take a stab at things—even if it wasn’t necessarily a precise incision like we physicians are used to. I felt that I needed to—many of us did—as we found ourselves defending evidence-based medicine more and more. Even within the confines of our very own office spaces, it started to feel like doctor and patient were not on the same team.

I created my own brand (@drcorriel), purchased a domain, and started to write a blog. Other doctors did it too, and some of them started to reach out to each other, looking for a way to amplify their voice. That’s when I created a Facebook group, called Doctors on Social Media (or SoMeDocs for short) for which I recruited other physicians to join. If other professions did it with such ease, why couldn’t physicians do it too? The original goal was to learn the tools needed to build a strong presence of physicians on social media, and to conquer it together. But it has since evolved into so much more.

Today, we are over 3,300 physicians strong and growing in number each day. Every one of us SoMeDocs may have our individual pursuits, but we all work as a team—as many other nonmedical groups on social media do—to support one another and accomplish our goals. We have now expanded to other platforms (on Twitter, we communicate using the hashtag #SoMeDocs) and have a website where we share our work. We also have in-person meet-ups called SoMeDocs Engage, in order to network with one another and grow even more. The project, for me, has turned from a leisurely pastime into an international platform, garnering attention beyond what I could have ever imagined.

Here are a handful of responses from physicians within the SoMeDocs community—with followings both big and small—on why and how they use social media, the challenges of it, and why the merging of health care and social media is crucial for patients and their well-being.

1. “So many women use this space for health searches; I want them to have accurate information.”

“The thing I find most frustrating with social media is how products or stories that don't work or are false can spread like wildfire, but other things that are useful and helpful sit in cyberspace.”

—Dana Rice, M.D., urologist (@Dr_DanaRice)

2. “I hear many patients' perspectives on social media and find that many have had horrible [health-care] experiences. I try to learn from those and make myself a better doctor.”

“Doctors need to speak out on behalf of patients, and social media is an effective way to do that. I use it to get my message and the work I am doing out [there], and to network with people who have a similar mission.

“People are going to disagree with you, and not everyone is so nice about it. If you are speaking on a controversial topic, people may attack you. While debate is important, being attacked helps no one.”

—Linda Girgis, M.D., family medicine doctor (@DrLindaMD)

3. “Doctors belong on social media so that they may expand their influence and give a more realistic picture of the medical world.”

“I use social media to promote my new podcast episodes and to inform my groups of new ideas and relevant articles. I am on social media to help promote my brand…and [to help] patients navigate the world of pain management.

“Doctors belong on social media so that they may expand their influence and give a more realistic picture of the medical world—a picture that is not painted by the pharmaceutical companies or Hollywood over-dramatizations.

“Social media has taught me that doctors need to be flexible and capable of relating to the changing environment. If physicians do not adapt to new technology and ways of doing things, they will be surpassed by their younger and more flexible colleagues, who may know how to better utilize social media.”

—David Rosenblum, M.D., pain management specialist (@algosonic)

4. “I want to reach more than just the patients I see in the hospital or my office.”

“There is still significant stigma and lack of knowledge about mental illness; social media allows me to do my part in educating and reducing stigma with the ability to reach more people. Doctors belong on social media to provide evidence-based knowledge in the midst of trends and misinformation.

“The majority of people who follow me are not my actual patients, but I still feel obligated to provide the same quality of info I would provide to someone sitting in my office. I am not looking to gain new patients, but to help the general public feel comfortable seeing a psychiatrist—because this psychiatrist on Instagram or Facebook that they follow is ‘normal,’ knowledgeable, and approachable.”

—Danielle J. Johnson, M.D., F.A.P.A., psychiatrist (@drdanij)

5. “I am on social media because it is the future.”

“We can’t deny its increasing role as a forum for discussions and a medium for sharing of information and knowledge. I believe physicians need to have a strong voice so that the public can have access to hard facts rather than anecdotes. I also believe that by having a strong physician #SoMe presence, the public will get to know truly how much we care, and how much we want our patients to be well informed and to have the best outcomes possible, especially in this era of shrinking face-to-face time.

“I use social media for what I am passionate about, and that is sharing tips to help people learn to be fierce self-advocates on their medical journey. I also share my love of books, history, and nonfiction. Further, I write to highlight the experiences of the working mom.”

—Uchenna O. Njiaju, M.D., specialist in cancer and blood disorders (@drucheoncology)

6. “I'm on social media to broaden my audience and patient base, and to help dispel medical myths and false news.”

“It can be frustrating when you don't feel like your message is reaching your intended audience or getting the engagement you want.

“With my inclusion of telemedicine, I've learned to direct patients to these services more easily. I've also learned how to use social media to get more speaking jobs and clients for my outside businesses.”

—Nicole Swiner, M.D., family/general medicine (@docswiner)

7. “I am on social media to inspire underrepresented students to pursue a career in medicine.”

“I am on social media to inspire and motivate others to lead healthier lifestyles in order to prevent chronic disease. I am on social media to inspire underrepresented students to pursue a career in medicine. As a first-generation American whose parents were born in Ecuador, I want to show them it is possible to become a physician. I use it to educate, motivate, and inspire others. I provide health information as well as mentor students who want to be physicians. I also use it to coach people who want to lead healthy lifestyles by providing nutrition information, meal plans, and exercise routines.

“Doctors need to be on social media to make an impact in the lives of those who use it as a means of obtaining information, whether it be education on vaccines, illnesses, or nutrition. It is a way to reach a wider audience and have our voices heard. This is our future and we need to have enough representation to dispel false information.

“I have learned that, with so much information that is out there on social media, many patients believe much of what they read. They look to social media to educate themselves and obtain information on their conditions. That's why it is so imperative we have representation so we can continue to educate our patients not only in our offices but on social media as well. There are many on social media that say they are knowledgeable in a certain topic, [and] it is hard to discern who is telling the truth and actually providing safe and accurate information.”

—Veronica Contreras, M.D., family medicine and urgent care physician (@DrVeronicaContr)

8. “I believe doctors still have a powerful voice. We just need to practice harnessing it better for people, and social media does just that.”

“Whether we love or hate social media, we have to understand that it is here to stay and we need to leverage the advantages of it. ‘If we can't beat them, join them.’ Ring a bell? We can use it to convey positive or negative messages. I believe doctors still have a powerful voice. We just need to practice harnessing it better for people and social media does just that.

“I think what is frustrating about it is being a victim to the negativity that is pervasive on social media; that is the flip side of the coin. In general, I also believe social media disconnects people when we actually need more connection in our current era and society.”

—Colin Zhu, D.O., family doctor and chef (@thechefdoc)

9. “My presence on social media morphed into an outlet to share fitness, wellness, and healthy practices.”

“Today, I use social media to share pertinent information, medical education, encouragement, fitness, physician wellness, and entrepreneurial pursuits. My presence on social media morphed into an outlet to share fitness, wellness, and healthy practices.

“Focusing on positive content, uplifting others, exchanging ideas with colleagues, educating patients, and exploring gratitude have taught me a great deal about using social media for positive effect. Information shared and discussions had on social media with colleagues have definitely impacted my patient care.

“Developing content that is pertinent has also taught me to explore the impact of my own wellness on my patients. Patients benefit from being cared for physicians who are invested, happy, and well.”

—Charmaine Gregory, M.D., emergency medicine (@CharmsFitDoc)

10. “We have to take public health education back, and it starts by going where the masses learn.”

“Social media has become the gateway source of most public health information these days, whether it’s searching for answers to common health problems or just simply finding a new doctor. Physicians have unfortunately been slow to embrace social media, and because of this reluctance, this void has been filled by numerous health-care frauds peddling everything from essential oils to coffee enemas and countless alternative medicines—from untested cancer therapy to the spurring of tried-and-true basic treatments for easily preventable deadly diseases.

“We have to take public health education back, and it starts by going where the masses learn—and that is in the world of social media. I try to use social media to teach my readers about issues that will resonate with them and perhaps will help them, whether it’s drug abuse, end of life care, or aging veterans. That’s my mission—to use my writing and public speaking as an adjunct to my basic mission of being a doctor. To help people live a long, happy, healthy, and productive life.

“It’s not for everyone. You have to have a thick skin to wade into the cyber-sewer. But when your writing resonates and moves people for the better, it is amazing.”

—Louis Profeta, M.D., emergency physician (@louisprofeta)

11. “I use the information [on social media] to formulate ideas.”

“I’m on social media to connect with like-minded individuals who are struggling to provide good care for patients while keeping up with the increasing headaches in health care. I’m a family physician who's worked in multiple health care settings over the last two decades.

“I use the information [on social media] to formulate ideas. Last year, I started a webcomic called Doc-Related that provides a satirical view of practicing medicine within a typical U.S. health system. My comic strips resonate with clinicians, staff, administrators, and anyone else interested in the daily happenings of health care providers.”

—Peter Venezuela, M.D., family doctor (@doc_related)

12. “It has allowed me a platform from which to share my knowledge and expertise on my favorite topic: vaccinations.”

“My personal passion is for preventive medicine, specifically the way in which vaccination can improve life and health and help us to preserve our wonderful human potential. As a family physician, it has been extremely frustrating seeing patients who are very well-intentioned fall prey to the misinformation and ‘fake news’ that abounds on the Internet. I use social media as a means to amplify voices of science and reason.

“For someone [like me who has] a lot of ideas in her head about how to make things better (at least in my humble opinion), it has allowed me a platform from which to share my knowledge and expertise on my favorite topic: vaccinations. When someone searches up a vaccine question, I want physician and scientist voices to be the voices they are hearing. Social media is an unparalleled way for physicians to reach hundreds of thousands of people across the world. Without it, we are relegated to a one-on-one message in our exam rooms.

“Social media can be a blessing or a curse. It can be isolating but it can also bring connection. It is a tool like any other. We just have to know how to use it properly and it can be a wonderful thing.”

—Gretchen LaSalle, M.D., family medicine (@GretchenLesalle)

13. “Social media certainly helps me keep a finger on the pulse.”

“I’m on social media because I want to be part of the conversation! Doctors must be on social media to dispense information to fight (or hopefully at least balance) some of the dangerous misinformation about health issues, from vaccines and medications, diets and supplements, to the ever-evolving preventative care screening recommendations.

“Additionally, I use social media to start conversations and share health information with my patients and community. I have a particular passion for adolescent issues, and social media allows me to connect with other parents and tackle the awkward, scary, and intimidating issues that teens face today. I blog about the topics that I see over and over in the exam room, many that no one want to bring up but many want to hear about (like STDs, drugs, alcohol, vaping, ADD medication abuse, etc.).

“Social media certainly helps me keep a finger on the pulse of breaking medical news, from food poisoning outbreaks in my community to new national guidelines for hypertension. Knowing what health related news (both accurate and ‘fake’) that my patients are reading, hearing, and discussing offers me fresh, more engaging angles to bring up and to address health issues.”

—Jill Grimes, M.D., family doctor (@JillGrimesMD)

14. “With a physician social media presence, we are able to add valid, science-based information to the overall narrative.”

“I think it’s important for physicians to be on social media because there is a lot of bad medical information being shared out there. With a physician social media presence, we are able to add valid, science-based information to the overall narrative.

“I am on social media because [I was] a physician who became a patient negatively impacted by benzodiazepines. I use my personal Twitter account to share my experience in order to spread awareness about the difficulty of tapering. I’ve learned through my numerous social media interactions with patients undergoing benzodiazepine withdrawal to be more empathetic and caring. This is partially because I experienced it myself but I’ve also taken the time to truly listen to what they are going through.

“The most frustrating part about social media is running into people who disagree with your opinions and express themselves in a toxic manner. I am all about civil discourse and I have a natural urge to appease everyone, but I’ve found that’s not always possible.”

—Christy Huff, M.D., cardiologist (@christyhuffmd)

15. “If we can make complicated topics simpler to understand, we can help countless numbers of people across the globe.”

“I was frustrated with the amount of misinformation out there. My oncology patients would bring articles on unscientific, sometimes dangerous treatments. They would believe this information was true because it was published online, or stated by a celebrity. As physicians, a part of our job is to educate and engage with patients and the community. Social media provides a wonderful forum for this.

“We are able to reach a large group from around the world, share evidence-based science, and answer questions. We are able to help individuals become more informed patients or advocates. Doctors have always educated individuals in their communities, and now we have an international community that depends on us for facts, science, and education. If we can make complicated topics simpler to understand, we can help countless numbers of people across the globe. 

“Without the benefit of tone of voice or inflection [on social], statements can be taken out of context or misconstrued. There are also individuals who like to troll. Those interactions can be frustrating. I have also seen discussions devolve into arguments. As physicians, we must remain professional when engaging on social media.”

—Shikha Jain, M.D., hematology oncology physician (@ShikhaJainMD)

16. “Physicians are still the repositories of medical knowledge.”

“I use social media to disseminate information about celiac and other diseases, advocate for those with celiac, enhance professional connections, and advocate for our profession. I also use it to make connections within the writing community.

“Physicians belong on social media because we are uniquely able to disseminate accurate and timely medical information to the general public, improve the quality of medical dialogue and advocate for our profession. Although journalists and bloggers do this as well, physicians are still the repositories of medical knowledge. Together, we have the opportunity to change behaviors and policies.

“I've learned countless ER tips and tricks and read fascinating cases. Within social media groups, I've learned about creating a website and an online persona. Within the food allergy/celiac groups, I've found resources for my own child and for my patients.

“Information-sharing is one of the greatest benefits of social media. Medicine can be an isolated profession: We go into patient rooms alone, make decisions alone, and stew over clinical conundrums alone. Social media has changed that, enabling us to discuss cases and learn from each other.”

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Study Shows Patients Are Open to Clinical Trials, But Can't Find Them

Study Shows Patients Are Open to Clinical Trials, But Can't Find Them | Social Media and Healthcare |

In a recent study, 73% of people who had not participated in a clinical trial reported they would be open to doing so. Now it’s up to sponsors and CROs to engage this untapped audience.

With 75% of clinical trials failing to meet recruitment deadlines, sponsors and CROs are continuously searching for new ways to identify and engage potential patients. Despite the fact that 27% of clinical trial costs are dedicated to patient recruitment, many studies still fail to reach the right audience. In fact, between 2006 and 2010, over $2 billion was wasted on clinical trials that were cancelled due to lack of participation.

What is the cause of this disconnect? One study conducted by Civis Analytics suggests that the interest in clinical trials is there, but the awareness is severely lacking. While only 7% of study respondents had participated in at least one clinical trial, almost three quarters of those who had not reported they were open to doing so.

These figures have significant implications for clinical trial recruitment. While most people are not participating in research studies, many may be interested in enrolling should they encounter the right opportunity. This suggests that by fine-tuning ad messaging and expanding digital marketing initiatives, CROs and sponsors can meet their recruitment goals simply by boosting awareness within the right patient groups.

How Do Patients View Clinical Trials?

The small group of Civis Analytics respondents who had participated in clinical trials were unique in a few ways: they tended to be under 50 years old, Caucasian, and male. They were also more likely to have a high income and self-report that they were in excellent health.

These trends support what many researchers have found to be true: there is often a lack of diversity in clinical trial participants. Fortunately, of the respondents who were open to participating in clinical research, 56% were female, 21% were non-white, 36% were 50 and older, and 86% reported that they were in less than excellent health.

This interest doesn’t come without important considerations from the patients’ perspective, however. Among all respondents, 80% said it’s important to be compensated for participating in clinical trials. Those surveyed also revealed their general distrust of pharma companies, with 11% stating they do not believe pharma has the best intentions for patients. Surprisingly, participants tended to prefer being contacted about clinical trials via direct mail (44%), though a substantial number (33%) also reported they would like to be directed to a website.

While only 8% of all survey respondents had talked to their doctors about participating in clinical trials, a third said this would be their preferred method of contact. Results varied between trial participants and non-participants, however — more than half (56%) of participants had talked to their doctors about clinical research, compared to just 3% of non-participants. This indicates that involving healthcare providers in recruitment can be an important factor in improving patient trust.

Digital Marketing Can Help Reach Eligible Patients

Today, nearly every patient demographic is online, and they’re using the internet to research healthcare information. Digital marketing can therefore help sponsors and CROs engage patients on the platforms where they’re already searching for treatment.

Facebook, for example, has a user base of over two billion people, spanning nearly every demographic and region. In some cases, nearly 100% of a patient population for certain diseases or conditions is on Facebook. Consequently, trials can benefit significantly by using Facebook (or other social media platforms) to build targeted ads based on age, gender, location, and interests.

Similarly, pay-per-click advertising can help reach potential patients by targeting users based on search intent. These ads appear at the top of users’ Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), which are populated based on what was entered in the search bar. Using Google Ads features like keyword insights and geolocation, PPC can help clinical trials reach patients who are looking for treatment and open to participating in research. That said, sponsors and CROs should keep in mind that most patients don’t realize that enrolling in a study is an option, so targeted keywords should focus on conditions or treatments as opposed to clinical trials themselves.

Personalization Is Key

One of the most important benefits of digital marketing for patient recruitment is that it allows clinical trials to seamlessly target several different demographics at once. For example, as certain populations tend to distrust pharma — black (8%) and Hispanic (9%) respondents in particular are less likely to think that companies have the best intentions for participants — clinical trials can try tying messaging to a respected sponsor or healthcare provider when creating ads for these groups.

Effective patient recruitment strategies may initially require more resources and investment than CROs and sponsors expect, but the cost of failing to meet recruitment goals is far greater. By creating accessible and relevant content that speaks to patients’ unique needs, clinical trials can use PPC, social media, and more to bridge the gap in awareness and reach the right patients.

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Social media ratings of nursing homes associated with experience of care and “Nursing Home Compare” quality measures

Social media ratings of nursing homes associated with experience of care and “Nursing Home Compare” quality measures | Social Media and Healthcare |


Social media platforms offer unique opportunities for patients and families to provide real-time feedback on their healthcare experiences. Consumer-generated social media ratings of hospitals tend to reflect the more subjective aspects of inpatient care experiences; however, evidence on nursing home care is extremely limited.


We collected consumer-reported 5-star ratings of Maryland nursing homes posted from July 2015 to July 2017 on 4 popular social media or online review sites (Facebook, Yelp, Google Consumer Reviews, and We determined if the average score of social media ratings was associated with experience-of-care ratings derived from survey of family members or other responsible parties of nursing home residents, and with “Nursing Home Compare” (NHC) 5-star ratings and individual quality measures.


One hundred ninety-six out of 206 nursing homes in Maryland were reviewed on at least one site and thus had one or more star ratings posted. The overall ratings were 3.11 on average on these sites and 3.03 on the NHC website, with a Pearson correlation of 0.41 (p < 0.001) between the 2 sets of ratings. The correlations between the social media rating and survey-based experience-of-care ratings ranged from 0.40 to 0.60, and the correlations between the social media rating and individual NHC quality measures of citations, nurse staffing, and complaints were about 0.35 (in absolute values). The social media rating also predicted well NHC and experience-of-care measures after adjusting for nursing home covariates and market competition.


The 5-star ratings collected from 4 social networking sites was correlated with and predictive of the NHC and survey-based experience-of-care measures for Maryland nursing homes.

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Patient Engagement Strategies That Prevent Hospital Readmission

Patient Engagement Strategies That Prevent Hospital Readmission | Social Media and Healthcare |

Hospital readmission is a key metric in the value-based care landscape, with many programs looking for organizations to lower their readmission rates in an effort to cut healthcare costs. Using strong patient engagement strategies, organizations can move the needle on hospital readmission rates.

CMS has led the charge addressing hospital readmissions through the Hospital Readmission Reduction Program (HRRP), which since its 2010 inception as a part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has led to an 8 percent reduction in readmissions.

Reducing hospital readmissions can be difficult because it depends on numerous variables. In addition to delivering high-quality care, providers must motivate patients to engage in post-discharge care management and ensure the patient condition does not unpredictably worsen.

Healthcare professionals can work to reduce hospital readmissions using key patient engagement strategies, including identifying their high-risk patients, engaging them during the care planning process, and addressing the social determinants of health.


Healthcare professionals must first identify which patients are at most risk for succumbing to a medical issue during the recovery process. From there, clinicians can target their engagement efforts to the most high-needs patients.


Clinicians may look at which healthcare conditions yield the highest hospital readmission rates. Per data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), those conditions include the following:

  • Congestive heart failure, non-hypertensive, with 134,500 30-day readmissions
  • Septicemia, not including labor, with 92,900 readmissions
  • Pneumonia, not caused by STIs or tuberculosis, with 88,800 readmissions
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and bronchiectasis, with 77,900 readmissions
  • Cardiac dysrhythmias, with 69,400 readmissions

There are other flags clinicians should look for aside from medical conditions. Patients with limited English language proficiency, limited health literacy, who receive conflicting information from providers, and who are excluded from their post-discharge care planning may also be at higher risk for a readmission.

Patients experiencing certain social determinants of health, such as limited transportation access or precarious job security, may also be at-risk for hospital readmission because they cannot adhere to follow-up appointment schedules. Low-income patients may not be able to afford the at-home care or medications involved in post-discharge treatment.

Patients with low activation scores may also be less likely to adhere to follow-up treatment.

Healthcare organizations can build their post-discharge follow-up care plans around these considerations. By engaging patients and families during transitions of care and making considerations for the social determinants of health, organizations can improve their follow-up care procedures and reduce the risk of hospital readmissions.



Engaging and involving patients during the discharge process will be essential to ensuring the patient stays healthy during the recovery process. Engaging patients and their family caregivers during care transitions ensures care plans adhere to patient wishes and that patients and caregivers are knowledgeable about certain instructions.

“Patients or family/friend caregivers sometimes receive conflicting recommendations, confusing medication regimens, and unclear instructions about follow-up care,” the Joint Commission says on its website. “Patients and caregivers are sometimes excluded from the planning related to the transition process. Patients may lack a sufficient understanding of the medical condition or the plan or care. As a result, they do not buy into the importance of following the care plan, or lack the knowledge or skills to do so.”

Data indicates that patients who are more involved during the care planning and follow-up process are more engaged in their recovery. A 2017 study published in the journal Patient Experience revealed that patients who indicated on HCAHPS surveys that they were not engaged in their own care were 34 percent more likely to be readmitted to the hospital within 30 days of discharge.

Additionally, patients who did not report receiving written instructions during discharge were 24 percent more likely to see hospital readmission. Combined, these two factors drive a 54 percent increase in likelihood for a patient hospital readmission, the researchers found.

Patients who can take more ownership over their care and who have received adequate patient education about their post-discharge care plans are better equipped to avoid a hospital readmission.


Separate research has revealed that engaging family caregivers can also reduce the chances of a hospital readmission. A 2017 study from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found that when providers engaged a family caregiver – often a spouse in the case of this specific study – into the discharge process, the chance of 90-day hospital readmission shrank by 25 percent. The likelihood of 180-day readmission went down by 24 percent.

Clinicians engaged caregivers by connecting them to community healthcare resources, providing written care plans with medication instructions, and using patient teach-back and at-home procedure demonstrations.


Strong patient engagement in the discharge and care planning process may not be enough to keep patients healthy. Patients may not always adhere to post-discharge care guidelines or show up for follow-up appointments.

That does not always mean the patient is being non-compliant, some experts agree. Instead, it may indicate that the patient is experiencing one or more of the social determinants of health that is serving as a barrier to healthcare access.

A 2019 article in Health Services Research revealed that the SDOH can have a tremendous impact on hospital readmission rates. If the SDOH were taken into account in the HRRP, hospitals treating the most vulnerable patients would see an average 21.8 penalty reduction in the program.

That reduced penalty rate would result in $17 million in cost savings for safety-net hospitals, which treat a higher share of vulnerable patients who experience the social determinants of health.

“Failing to account for differences in the social complexity of patients hospitals care for has stripped significant resources away from our safety net,” said Mat Reidhead, vice president of research and analytics at the Missouri Hospital Association and a study co-author.

“These are resources that could have been directed toward clinical quality improvement or upstream community health interventions. And while the recent intercession of Congress is certainly a step in the right direction, our findings suggest more can be done to ensure equity in the readmissions reduction program.”

CMS does not currently take the SDOH into account in the HRRP. However, healthcare organizations can make considerations on their own during discharge. Patient questionnaires about lifestyle circumstances, flagging certain patient behaviors, flagging for homelessnessor low income, and leaning on an organizational infrastructure of addressing the SDOH could be helpful.

Reducing hospital readmission rates will continue to be a high priority as industry professionals look to cut costs and drive care quality. By using strong patient engagement strategies during the post-discharge process, clinicians can reduce the risk of a high-cost readmission.

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