Social Media and Healthcare
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Social Media and Healthcare
Articles and Discussions on the intersection of Social Media and Healthcare.
Relevant to Healthcare Practitioners, Pharma', Insurance, Clinicians, Labs, Health IT Vendors, Health Marketeers, Health Policy Makers, Hospital Administrators.
Curated by nrip
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Using Social Media in Oncology

Using Social Media in Oncology | Social Media and Healthcare |

The increasing popularity and use of social media in medicine offers great opportunities for healthcare professionals and their institutions to interact with patients and colleagues at a pace that has never before been possible. For oncologists, the variety of web-based and mobile technologies that make up social media allow for patient education and authoritative health messaging. Professional development and knowledge sharing, as well as increased direct patient interaction, are other attributes of these technologies. However, while social media offers great potential in healthcare, oncologists must be aware of the possible legal and privacy issues that come along with its use.

The Value of Social Media

According to Don S. Dizon, MD, FACP, the immediate past-chair and member of the Integrated Media and Technology Committee from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), social media lends itself specifically to oncology for the very reason that the field appears to be evolving quickly. “Determining the social media outlets that present the most benefit to oncologists depends on each practitioner’s needs,” he says (Table 1).

Twitter appears to hold significant value for oncologists, explains Dr. Dizon, who was also the lead author of an article published in the Journal of Oncology Practice that provides clinicians with guidance on using social media in oncology. “This is primarily because users have the ability to preselect individuals to follow to suit their own specific needs,” he says. “Users can also create lists to further streamline tweeted content. I have separate lists for people who tweet about their experiences with cancer, cancer centers, news disseminators, and colleagues.” Dr. Dizon adds that one of the best uses of Twitter is for following breaking news and plenary presentations from medical conferences by utilizing specialized Twitter feeds. These feeds consist of followers attending the conference who provide their own take on study abstracts.

Dr. Dizon says that blogging is another useful way to engage with colleagues. “The feedback provided from other professionals is useful in receiving another point of view on a given topic,” he says. “Those bloggers who write well or cover hard-hitting topics can also be picked up by wider-circulated platforms, providing them with great exposure and further feedback on certain topics.”

Issues of Concern When Using Social Media

When using social media, all healthcare providers should be cautious of HIPAA regulations, says Dr. Dizon. “It’s important to understand that once something is posted online, it can’t necessarily be taken back. Therefore, all posts should be kept as general as possible, especially if they involve clinical scenarios. In addition, anything posted to a social media site is potentially discoverable, even with the highest level privacy protection settings. Depending on the nature of the content, posts have the potential to hurt a provider’s professional reputation.”

After reviewing the social media policies and guidelines of 35 professional medical entities, including the American Medical Association, Dr. Dizon and colleagues from ASCO discovered several common, important concepts in the application of social media (Table 2). “Oncologists should be clear about who owns the activity seen in their social media posts,” Dr. Dizon explains. “For example, when posting to an institution’s blog, it’s important to note whether you’re speaking for the institution or expressing your own viewpoint.” To that point, he feels it is critical to not merge professional and personal social media accounts or blogs. “There’s a risk that the boundary between doctors and patients becomes blurry. Furthermore, it increases risks for encountering HIPAA compliance issues.”

Disclosing relationships and conflicts of interest is important for putting social media postings into context, especially when sharing study results. Dr. Dizon says providing a medical opinion should be done with caution, particularly if it involves engaging with out-of-state patients, which state and professional licensure requirements may not allow. Also, it is vital to know what the clinician’s institution is willing to cover in the event that he or she is accused of breaking patient confidentiality laws.

The Bottom Line: Sharing Medical Knowledge

“It is in our best interests as oncologists to be aware of, if not actively engage in, social media to improve how we care for patients,” says Dr. Dizon. “The technology can increase how medical knowledge is shared with the rest of the world. At the same time, it’s critical to be careful. Social media users must respect privacy laws, keep professional and personal activities separate, and be cognizant of their organization’s social media policies to protect what can be a great asset to us.”

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The enormous power of Social Media in health care.

The enormous power of Social Media in health care. | Social Media and Healthcare |

I recently gave a lecture on Social Media to medical student leaders at Indiana University. The experience energized me. It also promoted thought-provoking questions. Let’s consider two of the best questions. This one came by email.

I was wondering if you have any suggestions on how to write a twitter post to direct people to a blog you’ve written without it sounding self-serving. Is it enough to just say something to the extent of “I’ve written something new. Check it out.” Or is it better to give an excerpt or something to that effect? Is it even good form to self-publicize on Twitter.

The first thing to consider: Why does this younger think I have the answers? What are my social media qualifications?

Herein lies a novel aspect of social media. There are no courses, no certificates. Nary is there a template. That’s different than medicine, law, engineering, journalism, and many other fields, where becoming an expert requires doing basic coursework and passing structured instruction. In social media, you don’t need a certificate. In fact, those with purported credentials often seem less compelling.

How (or where) does one learn social media then?

Two places. Mostly, you learn on your own, gradually, through trial and error, and sometimes through ‘tough’ experiences. Mistakes always teach us the most. The other place of learning highlights the very core of the student’s questions: In social media, you learn from others who have shared their experiences along the way. I got my start on Twitter from this 2010 blog post written by Dr. Wes Fisher. Wes simply wrote down some of the lessons he learned along his path. There are now hundreds of blog posts out there that help in this way.

I don’t think I’m an expert in social media. I’m a learner. It’s just that when I learn something, I write it down, and sometimes that helps someone. My son said to me recently: “it is amazing that all you do is write down your thoughts and people follow you.” This surprises him because he knows how goofy I am, and, that I have no idea how to use the who/whom rule. Plus, he’s already heard a lifetime of Mandrola-isms. (Insert grin)

That is the big picture. What about the question of…“How to write a twitter post to direct people to a blog you’ve written without it sounding self-serving.”

My answer to the self-serving issue is don’t worry about it. Everyone on social media understands its inherent self-serving nature. But that’s no different than real-life communication. Somewhere I have a quote that says all unsolicited advice is self-serving. In fact, you could take it further: how often is anything we do completely and utterly selfless?

That doesn’t mean there aren’t limits to self-promotion. Pomposity and shallowness are easily ferreted out on social media, just like in real-life. If all you are interested in is making a buck through self-promotion, I’m not following you. If, on the other hand, you have something to say that interests me, educates me, maybe even entertains me, than I want you to promote your post. That way, I can see it or share it with others.

The second question addressed a similar issue:

I’m just a medical student, why would anyone care what I thought?

This one is easy. People care.

But even if they didn’t, it is still worth writing about that which intrigues you. For when you write, you think, you organize, you learn more thoroughly. This is good in and of itself. I have no data to support this thesis, but I strongly believe that blogging has made me a better, more aware, more informed doctor. And this: the more something intrigues you, the better will be the writing. If I wrote about lactate thresholds, I’d be awful.

People care about medical blogs because they provide useful information. The key word here being useful. The Internet overflows with medical information, yet there is a dearth of candid real-life voices. Only a fraction of doctors have a presence online. There are many examples. Take healthcare reform: yes, you want to read the Harvard PhD in the NEJM. But isn’t it more compelling to hear from the struggling rural doctor in middle America? Think about how much better the Affordable Care Act would have been if policy makers listened more attentively to voices from the real world.

At the same medical student leadership conference, Dr. Richard Gunderman, now a famous writer with The Atlantic, spoke of the importance of narrative. “If you can tell a story, you are a leader. Stories are powerful. Medicine is story-penic.” I agree. The practice of medicine is rich with important narratives. It is crazy not to write them down. Dr Gunderman reminded us that there are things in Medicine that need to be said. It takes courage to speak candidly. “If you are courageous, you are a leader.”

Social media makes me optimistic. It is a powerful tool that gives influence to those who toil in the real world. All you have to do is care enough to speak candidly and thoughtfully. Giving influence to passionate people–for whom healthcare matters–has to be a very good thing.

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Alex Butler: "The Healthcare revolution will not be televised"

Alex Butler is a guru of pharma and healthcare digital marketing. He was responsible for the first UK twitter account in pharmaceuticals and the world's firs...
Xavier SEDES's curator insight, April 28, 2014 10:46 AM

Great vision and great presentation !

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Trends in Healthcare Social Media

Leaders have a strong core of content marketing/education Cautious experimentation by provider organizations The Rise of e-Patients Social Media’s role in pat
Fannie Boisvert St-Louis's curator insight, November 6, 2013 6:14 PM

Quand santé et réseaux sociaux se rejoignent.

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Should Physicians Use Social Media?

Should Physicians Use Social Media? | Social Media and Healthcare |

The short answer to whether a physician should use social media in their medical practice is “yes absolutely!” – but most doctors need to understand specifically how social media can help the practice.

Opening a handful of social media accounts is not enough. Unless you utilize these accounts and set practical goals for a social media strategy, you are unlikely to be impressed by the response.

Successful marketing for physicians requires a solid social media strategy. This should not mean using every social media platform available and it certainly does not mean spending hours each day Tweeting or posting on Facebook. Your best bet is to organize a plan that is consistent and effective.

If you doubt the power of social media consider the following:

    1. Social media establishes your presence online. When potential patients begin their search for a doctor, the process most likely involves a search on the Internet. If you have not established a presence online, you might as well not exist to them. Social media allows you to expand your online presence beyond your website and attract even more attention from search engines.


    1. Social media makes it possible to share information with as many people as possible. An important part of your medical website design is the informative content. Unfortunately, the only people who will see this is those people specifically looking for your site. Social media makes it possible to reach a greater number of people. Not only are you getting them to notice your practice, you are also sharing valuable medical information.


  1. Social media helps you distinguish your brand from your competitors. The more solid the public’s image of you, the more you stand out. Think of the best brand accomplishments out there. All you need is to see a logo or hear a tagline or jingle and you know exactly what company you are dealing with. Social media allows you to further establish your brand in the minds of your current and potential patients.
So how do you create a strong social media strategy?

All successful offline and internet/website marketing for physicians should have a social media component. You can choose to speak directly with patients via social media or you can allow someone to post information for you.

Be sure anyone posting to your social media accounts understands the mission and goals of your practice. The last thing you need is a message being conveyed to the public that is not in line with your practice.

Determine how often you want to post to social media and what information you would like to share. Often, people use social media to share informative content and to put a human spin on their practice’s online presence. You can use a blend of personal tidbits about staff and the day-to-day operations of your practice, as well as links to blog posts and relevant articles about your field of practice.

Is social media necessary for doctors? You bet it is. It can put you at the forefront of our field. Now is the time to include a social media campaign in your marketing strategy for your medical practice.

Fannie Boisvert St-Louis's curator insight, November 6, 2013 6:15 PM

Est-ce que les docteurs devraient utiliser les réseaux sociaux?

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Infographics and Social Media make a solid combination for Your Hospital!

Infographics and Social Media make a solid combination for Your Hospital! | Social Media and Healthcare |

When a person is looking for a healthcare facility for themselves or their loved ones they are most likely going to do their homework. The first place they are going to look is online.

Your facility’s website, niche social media sites and other online health forums should be providing valuable information and data that can help prospective patients make a decision if your facility is right for them.

Along with having a user-friendly, resource-rich website and active social media channels, you should consider incorporating infographics to share your data and expertise. An infographic is a visual representation of data, information or knowledge. It means taking the data and making it visually digestible by converting it into graphs, charts, maps and visual stories. Without having to read large amounts of text, the viewer is able to process the information and explore a particular topic in a highly engaging way. If created effectively, infographics can drive traffic, build links and raise brand awareness.

If you’re a healthcare facility specializing in cancer treatment you may want to consider creating an infographic with stats on the advancements your facility has made and the number of patients that have had positive outcomes because of the research and treatment you are performing.

Infographics are very effective. With many of us having short attention spans, an attractive image can help absorb information faster and easier. A good infographic can spread quickly on the internet, giving bloggers and writers something to talk about, and you backlinks and exposure, which in turn translates to new patients.

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Local health groups use social media as new tactic against HIV

Local health groups use social media as new tactic against HIV | Social Media and Healthcare |

“I’m your friendly neighborhood counselor,” says the plain white print at the bottom of the screen. “If I’m online, it means you can get a free, rapid HIV test right away.”

The ad, which features two clean-cut, smiling men standing side-by-side, is one of a variety of similar placements on location-based apps geared to gay and bisexual men. Beneath the message are a local phone number and an invitation to the user to “drop me a line.”

Such is the new face of the long, ongoing campaign to prevent HIV: Direct, discreet, and digital.

“Back in the late ‘90s, it was about condom distribution, clean needles and education,” said Jon Vincent, director of prevention, education and screening for Fenway Health, the nonprofit behind four local clinics that provide HIV and AIDS testing, treatment and other services.

Today, Vincent said, advertisements on social media sites like Facebook and Craigslist, and on location-based apps like Grindr and SCRUFF, are becoming crucial ways to get through to high-risk individuals and groups.

The new approach is less all-purpose and more targeted, he said: The goal is to find people who are HIV-positive but don’t know it, and then urge them to get treatment.

“We want nothing more than to put ourselves out of business,” said Keith Orr, director of gay men’s prevention services for the AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts (AAC), which has partnered with Fenway Health to combat HIV.

The AAC, too, has turned to the Internet to reel-in people for testing and treatment, said Orr.

In addition to endorsing online ads as useful tools to spread the word, Orr credited the user review website, Yelp. He said that Yelp users are more inclined to get tested after they’ve read others’ positive experiences online.

He said that there are “absolutely” people who show up at the AAC’s clinic in the South End who say that they came because they saw good reviews online.

Vincent said that of the roughly 10,000 people a year who get tested through Fenway Health, about 60 percent say they heard about it through online referrals.

But despite growing success in reaching their communities, both Vincent and Orr acknowledge that the fight is far from over. A disproportionate number of persons living with HIV are young black or Latino men who have sex with men, and who live in less affluent neighborhoods, said Vincent. Because of the progress of the gay rights’ movement in the last decade, he said, these men have “integrated into the community.”

“It’s great -- we achieved our goal,” he said of integration. But, he added, gay men becoming part of the city’s landscape, instead of clustered in small communities, has made it more difficult to get the word out about testing and treatment.

Moreover, the disease is most common among young adults who were not yet born or are too young to remember when an HIV diagnosis meant a death sentence, and don’t realize how serious it is when left untreated, said Vincent.

Social media becomes a critical way of reaching out to these high-risk communities.

“Gay men (today) meet on the Internet,” he said.

Vincent said that Massachusetts has made significant progress in addressing HIV, reducing the rate of new infections by 50 percent in the last ten years. Still, the problem persists. Reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the number of people living with HIV in Massachusetts climbed to 17,502 in 2011, compared to 7,368 in 2001. The nationwide figure has similarly escalated -- from 161,976 to 870,096 in the same time period.

In addition, said Orr, an estimated 20 percent of people living with HIV in Massachusetts “are unaware of their status,” which makes them more likely to transmit the disease to others – and makes testing critical.

Both Fenway Health and the AIDS Action Committee are committed to following up their social media outreach with personal attention to those diagnosed or living with the disease. Orr said that AAC members take time to talk privately with walk-ins who respond to ads online. Many of those who come in, said Orr, feel uncertain and need the support of someone with “cultural compatibility.”

Vincent, meanwhile, described Fenway Health’s new “clinic-in-a-box,” which contains equipment for testing and treating everything from HIV to hepatitis. He said the organization intends to send counselors and nurses in pairs with these “go-boxes” out into the community, as a way of reaching those who can’t benefit from online advertisements.

Vincent, who has worked in HIV/AIDS services for 16 years, said his ultimate aim is to get as close as possible to eradicating the disease.

“If everyone who had HIV got treated,” he said, “the math says it’s possible that we could cripple (this) in Massachusetts. We could show (the world) what it’s like that HIV is rare in an urban community.”

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Reputation Management & Social Media Update for Physicians

This talk was given at the San Diego County Medical Society in September 2013. We went through what physicians need to know about protecting their online reputa
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Study Shows How Social Media Engages People with Chronic Diseases

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

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

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

The study, titled, “Utilizing Facebook Chats to Convey Health Information to Lupus Patients at the Lupus-Antiphospholipid Syndrome Center of Excellence at Hospital for Special Surgery,” will be presented at the American College of Rheumatology/Association of Rheumatology Health Professionals Annual Meeting on October 28 in San Diego.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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6 Reasons Why I Wish I Was a Medical Student Now

6 Reasons Why I Wish I Was a Medical Student Now | Social Media and Healthcare |

When I was a medical student between 2003 and 2009, I studied from mostly old books, I didn’t have access to much e-learning materials or lectures from other medical schools; it was particularly hard to collaborate with fellow medical students worldwide in the early days.
Now, we are living extraordinary times and when I realized I wish I was a medical student these days, I thought I would share my reasons for that.
1) Social Media:
The networks I’ve been creating in my fields of interest on Twitter, Google+, Facebook and the blogosphere are capable of filtering the most relevant news for me; helping me crowdsource complicated clinical/scientific questions; or provide me with updates and news every single day. Practically, I have access to a global community including the key people in my area and I can ask them questions and collaborate with them without borders. Moreover, I could learn about these pretty easily.

2) Studying Through Gamification:

I hated studying texts and data by heart without proper reasoning and logics behind that, but in many cases, that’s what the curriculum required from me. Instead, I prefer studying through serious diagnostic games such as the ones published by NerdCore Medical. I just received the Healing Blade card game that teaches infectious diseases; and the Occam’s Razor that is a real diagnostic card game.

3) Improving Cognitive Skills:

For the last 3 weeks, I’ve been using Lumosity to improve my cognitive skills in many areas from flexibility and problem solving to memory and speed. The change has been incredible. I found out I can learn things faster and do multi-tasking even more efficiently by learning new methods and solutions.

4) Gathering Information:

It has never been so easy to gather the information you need in an automatic way. I’m subscribed to over 400 medical RSS feeds and check news on Feedly, PeRSSonalized Medicine keeps my up-to-date, I have automatic Google Alerts for different search queries from my name to my field of interest; I get papers from Pubmed by e-mail; my citations are automatically sent to me by Google Scholar and I could go on for hours how much relevant information I receive every day without spending time and efforts on websites.

5) Organizing Tasks in the Cloud:

For the last 4 years, a detailed and color coded Google Document has been helping me organize my tasks, projects, papers, publications and presentations in a perfectly precise way. I don’t have to take notes on paper or on different smartphones, but everything related to my work is in one document stored in the cloud.

6) Using Gadgets:

I use a Shine to track my physical activities, I use AliveCor for measuring ECG and there are more and more medical gadgets on the way which will play a major role in the near future of healthcare. I would have a chance now to learn how to use them because by the time I should start practicing medicine and patients would bring their data through these, it would be late.

I hope today’s medical students realize these potentials and leverage their power.

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CDC looks to social media for disease trends

CDC looks to social media for disease trends | Social Media and Healthcare |

he Centers for Disease Control can envision a future where it uses social media as a data source for the early tracking of emerging diseases, but it's not without obstacles.

Nontraditional data sources are an increasing necessity caused by the great recent decline of public health staff at local governments, said Joanne Andreadis, senior advisor within the CDC Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response. She spoke on a panel Oct. 28 during the annual ACT-IAC Executive Leadership Conference.

There's a lot of "accurate and verifiable information that we can use, whether it's social media or crowd-sourcing," echoed James Tyson, CDC chief of situational awareness. The center would like to get to the point where the agency has not just awareness of current situations, but is able to get in front of brewing epidemics, he added.

But social media in particular isn't without risk. Self-identified location in social media is notoriously unreliable, and incidents can attract tweeting or re-tweeting from a geographically dispersed audience.

In addition, crowdsourced data is subject to distortion--the previously unassailable Google Flu Trends famously overstated the prevalence of flu in 2012.

But, there is research underway on how to use network analysis--looking at the geographic indicators of connected members of a social network--that could potentially filter out social media from people not actually in a location, said Catherine Havasi, an MIT research scientist. Google Flu Trends, she added, is based on search queries, meaning that search trends may be a reflection of worries rather than fact, she added.

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Social Media for Physicians: What's the value and how to get started

Dr. Ali Jalali, Professor of Anatomy and Teaching Chair of Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa, discusses why physicians should consider leveragi...
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Clicks That Count – An Infographic for Hospital Marketers

Clicks That Count – An Infographic for Hospital Marketers | Social Media and Healthcare |

Investing money in your hospital’s website can drive traffic online and to your door. Primacy analyzed the traffic and paid search activity of five hospitals during 2012 to see if any patterns emerged. It turns out some did. Take a look at the infographic below to see which clicks matter the most.

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Is LinkedIn Right for Doctors?

Is LinkedIn Right for Doctors? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Many physicians are being advised to initiate their new media journey by building out a presence on LinkedIn. 

For the average physician, I personally I believe this is a bad idea.

Physicians offer up a lack of time as one of the primary reasons why they do not have a new media or social media presence. Many more report that they do not see that there is an upside to having a social media presence.  As a physician on LinkedIn, not only do you have a virtual “please sell to me” sign on your forehead, most will perceive their presence on LinkedIn as a huge waste of time.  Unless you are an aspiring entrepreneur, etc you will find that the connections you make on LinkedIn are weak at best. In addition, while your patients are looking you up online, for the most part they are not looking at your LinkedIn profile.  They are looking on other health oriented sites.

My personal experience:

  •  80 percent of interactions over one year were virtual sales calls. A few meaningful business relationships have started on LinkedIn, but my presence on LI, has not resulted in one patient entering my practice.. at least to my knowledge (and I do query people often).
  •  I have not been in contact with another physician about a medical related question … ever.
  • Having a deep online presence will benefit you professionally.  No question. One of the main reasons to explore an online presence in the healthcare space is that your patients are looking for information about you and your practice.  Not only are they assessing your qualifications, they are looking for stories, they are looking for videos, they are looking for clues as to who you are and whether or not a visit to you is worth their time.  But guess what … Your patients are not looking for you on LinkedIn. Spend your valuable time elsewhere. –– Build out your presence on Doximity. Let other doctors reach you, and know who you are. –– Build out your presence, and areas of expertise on:
  1. HealthGrades
  2. Vitals
  3. ZocDoc ( subscription service)
  4. Yelp
  5. Google Places for Business

  There is plenty of information about you online.  Who do you want to be in control of that message?  Why not begin to control your message in an area that matters to you –– and many of your patients.

Howard Luks MD on Google Places for Business

If you Google your name, you will see that the aforementioned sites rank very high on the list. In fact, Google Places for Business will have the most dramatic affect on search results in Google – taking up most of the right hand column, and even more if you are also on GooglePlus. If you build out your presence on LinkedIn and do not build your profiles elsewhere because you want to see how your LI presence works… you will be sorely disappointed, and you will be answering many sales calls.  That being said … If you are a physician entrepreneur, inventor, investor, or are interested in communicating with groups of like-minded people, then LinkedIn might be for you. But it will not contribute to your ORM strategy for your practice or brand, and it will leave you with a bitter taste regarding your first foray into the online space.

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Plastic surgeon to use Google Glass for a live streaming

Today my brother in law, +Lorne Rosenfield M.D.   became the first plastic surgeon to use Google Glass for a live streaming of a plastic surgery. The procedure, an eyelid lift (blepharoplasty), was performed on October 29th in his Burlingame surgery center and streamed in real time to plastic surgical residents at both UCSF and Stanford.   

I watched the surgery in my car on my Motorola Maxx and shot this video. I did a quick search and there have only only been a couple of Google Glass recorded surgeries in the world, and this case became the first of its kind in plastic surgery. Although Google Glass may be in “beta” phase now, Dr. Rosenfield’s goal was to prove its far reaching potential in the operating rooms of the very near future! 

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Dr. Rosenfield at or

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7 social networking rules for doctors

7 social networking rules for doctors | Social Media and Healthcare |

Most doctors frequently use social media for both personal and professional purposes. That’s creating new risks for hospitals. 

Using social networking sites can have many benefits for healthcare providers. For example, many hospitals and doctors are using Facebook, Twitter and other sites to:

  • market their services and attract new patients
  • promote general health and wellness, and
  • recruit employees.

On top of those business uses, doctors, nurses and other healthcare employees do a lot of personal social networking, just like people in any other industry. But in healthcare, social media comes with a unique set of risks.

For instance, employees may post information online that violates patient privacy. Even doctors, who should know better, can be careless when it comes to social networking activity — 6% of Twitter posts made by physicians could constitute a breach of patient privacy, according to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal.

Guidelines for docs

To avoid those problems, it’s important that doctors and others know some guidelines for positive social networking. Apparently, issues are becoming common enough that state agencies are now creating rules on social media for doctors.

For example, Rhode Island’s medical licensing board recently approved a set of guidelines for theappropriate use of social media in medical practices.

The nuts and bolts of the rules: Doctors will be held accountable for what they post to social media sites.

These are some of the specific guidelines, which are good to follow for medical professionals in all states:

  1. Doctors should have separate personal and professional accounts.
  2. Doctors should avoid interacting with current or previous patients using a personal account, and those interactions should only directly relate to the person’s care.
  3. Photos of patients should never be posted.
  4. Medical professionals should never post any information about a specific patient that could in any way be traced back to the person.
  5. Information about the organization should be accurate and up to date.
  6. General medical information should be accurate and not ambigious or able to be taken out of context.
  7. Doctors should behave in a professional manner at all times, even when they aren’t discussing actual work.
Examples of social media mistakes

While appropriate social networking may seem like it should be common sense for doctors and other medical professionals, the report from the Rhode Island medical board points out some examples of mistakes clinicians might make:

  • As part of a marketing effort, a hospital posts a video including clips of real patients being treated. If any patients’ faces are visible, that would constitute a violation of privacy.
  • A doctor vents frustrations about patients who fail to take medication or take other steps, using disparaging language about one patient in particular. Even if the person isn’t identified, the patient could find the post and know who is being discussed.
  • A physician frequently discusses “partying” on a personal Facebook page. A patients sees the posts and becomes worried about whether the doctor will be sober during office visits.
What gets doctors in trouble

As social networking use becomes more frequent and the risks become more apparent, more states are cracking down on inappropriate social media use by healthcare providers, according a study from researchers at the University of California San Francisco published earlier this year.

Researchers surveyed members of 48 state medical boards and asked them about 10 hypothetical situations and whether they would be likely to warrant an investigation for unprofessional conduct.

This is how the board members ranked the potential social media mistakes:

  • Making misleading claims about treatment outcomes (81% said that would spark an investigation)
  • Inappropriately contacting patients or using their photos (79%)
  • Using an online dating site to interact with a patient (77%)
  • Posting photos or status updates depicting alcohol intoxication (73%)
  • Misrepresenting credentials (71%)
  • Violating patient confidentiality (65%)
  • Posting discriminatory speech (60%)
  • Posting derogatory speech about a patient (46%)
  • Depicting alcohol consumption without clear signs of intoxication (40%)
  • Discussing clinical work without violating patient confidentiality (16%)
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How do you use social media in a health crisis?

How do you use social media in a health crisis? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Here at the Department of Health, we always need to be ready in case of a health emergency. For example, last year we published our strategy for how we would communicate if there is another flu pandemic.

As a part of this planning work, I’ve been working on the digital aspects of getting prepared for health emergencies.

Lots of people have wise words to share on the topic of social media in a crisis, but I thought I would share my thinking to date.

Social media is totally invaluable when there is a crisis, you can quickly communicate to a wide number of people from wherever you are. People on the ground at the emerging crisis can also share first-hand experience and knowledge of emerging situations.

When a helicopter crashed into a building in a densely populated bit of London in Jan 2013, Twitter was first with the news.

People who witness an event or are affected by it can share video, images or audio that can help others understand a situation better.

Whether you plan for it or not, social media will be buzzing with opinions, fears and rumour. So you can’t put together a communication plan about crises without including social media.

Here are 9 things to think about:

  1. Make sure everyone who is involved in your emergency planning understands the need for as well as the benefits of social media.
  2. Know who can speak with authority. For health, the Chief Medical Officer is often an authoritative voice on a subject, but depending on the situation, there are other experts that can be used.
  3. Think about the kinds of crises that might occur and have a plan of action for each one. For us this means knowing how we will work with the other big players in the health system, such as NHS England and Public Health England.
  4. Make sure enough people know the plans and there is a way of contacting people if something breaks out of hours.
  5. Practice. Social media should be an integrated part of any simulations you do. There’s no better test of whether you’re ready than having a go, and it’s brilliant for seeing which bits could work more smoothly. @susyatDH shared her experience of taking part in the excellent @socialsimulator.
  6. When a situation actually breaks, keep calm and get holding messages out quickly. This can reassure people that you’re there and you’re dealing with the crisis – and it opens the channels of communication. Then give regular updates as and when you can. It’s incredibly important to establish all the facts and make sensible decisions about what actions to take, but going silent on social media (while you’re busy doing this behind the scenes), looks bad from the outside. People need to know now that you’re working on the situation.
  7. Establish where the reliable information is for your different audiences. For us this would usually mean directing the public to NHS Choices, and health and social care professionals to NHS England or GOV.UK. So we would tell people this and make sure all the places people might go looking for info and updates are directing people to the right source(s) of info.
  8. Sharing eye-witness comments or material can be very useful, but if it’s from the public or other sources you don’t know, try your best to check that it’s credible before you share it, and get permission where you need to.
  9. During the crisis, make sure you monitor social media to see what people are saying. That way you can interject when there’s misinformation flying around and you can point people to reliable sources. And by monitoring you’ll discover what other information people need, which might mean you need to provide some new content.

No one wants a crisis to happen, but if we’re prepared, then we should be able to make fixing it run as smoothly as possible. This means professionals getting the updates and information they need and the public getting practical advice and reassurance wherever possible.

If you have guidance or experience to share around planning for a crisis, then please do share it with us.

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Mapping Patient-Nurse Interactions on social networks Could Minimize Infections

Mapping Patient-Nurse Interactions  on social networks Could Minimize Infections | Social Media and Healthcare |
Research findings call on hospital leaders to take a deeper look at how staff—primarily nurses—interact with patients, to determine a way for patients at highest risk for infection to come into contact with fewer workers.

These days, the term 'social networking' is practically synonymous with 'social media,' calling to mind buzzing Twitter alerts and updating Facebook statuses. But by analyzing a hospital's social network, in the traditional sense of the phrase, researchers have discovered a new model that may help to minimize infections.

The study, developed by two researchers from the University of Maryland and one from American University, created computer models that simulated interactions between patients and healthcare workers to determine if the interactions were a source for spreading multi-drug resistant organisms.

To do this, the researchers manipulated and tracked the dynamics of the social network in a mid-Atlantic hospital's intensive care unit. They focused primarily on interactions between patients and healthcare workers, as well as on multiple competing factors—staff coverage for meetings, break, and sick leave—that can affect the transmission of infection.

Such transmissions strike one in 20 inpatients, causing tens of thousands of deaths and training billions of dollars from the national healthcare system annually, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

"Most people think of transmission as being primarily a contact-driven problem, but they are not likely to be familiar with social network analysis and how it could be leveraged to provide insight to this very significant problem," says Sean Barnes, Ph.D., Assistant Professor at University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. "By thinking about the structure of interactions between people in a hospital, you can start to devise alternative ways of preventing transmission."

And they did. Barnes and his fellow researchers found that there is a strong correlation of a "sparse, social network structure" with low infection transmission rates.

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These findings call on hospital leaders to take a deeper look at how their staff – primarily, nurses – are interacting with patients, and to determine a way for the highest risk patients to come into contact with fewer workers. Barnes has three staffing practices that hospitals might consider.

1. Hire more nurses.
This strategy is simplest in terms of complexity, if not in terms of feasibility, Barnes says. "By limiting the number of patients each nurse comes into contact with, transmission can be limited significantly."

2. Create a strategy for patient sharing. 
This practice tasks hospital leadership with deciding on a strategy for healthcare workers to cover one another's patients in a way that limits the connectivity of the contact network.

Barnes and his colleagues recommend two approaches for doing so: paired sharing (i.e. the buddy system) and revolving sharing (i.e. a circular sharing system).

3. Limit patient contact to only when medically necessary.
"Additional contact with patients only creates more opportunities for transmission," Barnes says.

Of course, it's up to hospitals to ensure that changing the way their workers interact with patients doesn't affect quality of care—something Barnes cites as the most significant issue related to minimizing interactions between patients and healthcare workers.

"We don't mean to promote the idea that having no interaction is ideal," he says. "Of course, each patient should receive an appropriate level of care to improve his or her health outcomes. The good news is that our approach supports the concept of care continuity, because seeing the same healthcare workers is the best strategy for minimizing transmission."

Barnes' team's approach is also in step with the recent study in Health Affairs that found bumping nurse staffing levels by three nurse hours per patient day provides a demonstrable and marked reduction in hospital readmissions.

"This approach actually supports a sparse social network structure, as long as the increased time is dedicated by the same nurse to the same assignment of patients," Barnes says. "If, for example, a new nurse was coming in and interacting with multiple patients across the unit, this could create new connections between patients and put previously protected patients at risk for acquisition."

While Barnes says he is not personally aware of hospitals that are using a social network analysis approach to limit contact, there are many hospitals using gloves and gowns to minimize direct contact with patients.

"There are also some studies looking at nurse-to-patient staffing ratios, but my impression is that they are inconclusive at this point," he says. "The challenge with these studies is data collection and integrity. Our advantage using simulation mitigates this challenge because we can experiment directly with these experimental factors and observe the effects."

Moving forward, it would be a helpful exercise for hospitals—particularly intensive care units—to start mapping the social networks within individual units, and potentially across multiple units that have a high degree of interaction, Barnes says.

"With this map, hospital administrators and infection control practitioners could analyze whether or not there are simple changes they can make to reduce the density of connections," he says.

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Hashtags in Cancer Care: Embedding Meaning in Digital Health

Hashtags in Cancer Care: Embedding Meaning in Digital Health | Social Media and Healthcare |

Tagging has been around a long time as a method of organizing content.  Twitter had given it more immediacy for real-time events – whether it’s a tweet chat, a natural disaster or a sports event.  Now many emerge spontaneously, and in a recent survey more than half use hashtags regularly, with a third using them to conduct searches online.

When these tags emerge spontaneously, they are part of a folksonomy – user-generated organization.   Spontaneous hashtags are fine to highlight a meeting, but when discussing a specific disease  there is value in an organized system for reliability and consistency. 

Symplur has now made the cancer ontology available to everyone... patients.  And caregivers.  And clinicians.  Researchers.  Marketers.  Software developers.  Journalists.  Everyone.

This structured system allows us to narrowcast to people interested in a certain disease on an open social network.  We can search for health information, share new research or products, and connect for advocacy.  It gives us a simple, effective way to organize disease-based content. 

A Current outline is shown in the figure above

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Effective Use of Social Media and Coordinated, Multi-Platform Outreach in Public Health

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Studying the impact of YouTube on health education: Can you help?

Studying the impact of YouTube on health education: Can you help? | Social Media and Healthcare |

The “Be Sweet to Babies” research team from the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (lead by Dr. Denise Harrison) is conducting a study using YouTube as a means to widely disseminate health information to parents and health care workers about effective ways to reduce pain during infant immunizations.

Can you help?

Research shows these techniques work, yet they are rarely used by health care providers and parents.

The goal of the study is to use YouTube as a means to disseminate health education to a wide audience, empower parents to advocate for the use of best practices for immunization and ultimately change the way babies are being immunized.

By studying the results of this project, the team hope to learn more about health education strategies.  What is learnt from this project has the potential to instruct how future health information is shared with the public.

But the video needs to be seen for the study to work.  You can support our research project in the following ways:

  • Watch the video
  • Share it with colleagues, staff, students
  • Post a link to the video on your website
  • Like or comment on the video

If you are interested in this topic and want to read more about YouTube’s role in health education, here are a few other references:


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Will connected Healthcare save the Medical Device industry

Will connected Healthcare save the Medical Device industry | Social Media and Healthcare |

he following infographic takes a look at the medical device industry and healthcare. The average American spends approximately $9,000 per year for medical. The top three fields for conditions are diabetes, obesity, and hypertension.

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Why Twitter is Leading the Way in Pharma Social Media

Why Twitter is Leading the Way in Pharma Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

In the very noisy world of social media, where Facebook and LinkedIn are slugging it out in the marketing ring to get big corporates on board, one channel is quietly forging a good niche in helping companies engage with their customers – Twitter.

For sure, Twitter is raising its profile significantly at the moment ahead of the planned IPO, but it would be fair to say that its commercial proposition is some way behind those aforementioned rivals and its potential as a business channel is underestimated for this very reason.

But savvy pharmaceutical companies are starting to recognise some of the unique aspects of Twitter that make it ideal for engaging with healthcare stakeholders, patients and the public. Way back in late 2011 (two years is a long time in social media!), Silja Chouquet, an external consultant to pharma on social engagement, recognised the potential for Twitter as a place to enhance corporate reputation and ‘humanise’ these global organisational behemoths. More recently, Daniel Ghinn, who blogs regularly on pharma use of digital channels, provided an update on how pharma use of Twitter was moving beyond broadcasting and into engagement.

Now, a new use of Twitter by pharma is being latched onto big time by the industry – the ‘tweetchat’.

For those not familiar with the concept, a tweetchat is a bit like a conference call on Twitter, with users convening at an agreed time to talk about a particular topic, which is denoted by a hashtag attached to every tweet. However, unlike an audio or live discussion, where only one voice can speak at a time, the written nature of Twitter means you end up with several overlapping conversations taking place at once, a process that has been likened to a cocktail party where you have multiple small groups engaged in separate conversations.

Some pharmaceutical companies have therefore embarked on running tweetchats to gain a better understanding of issues relating to particular disease areas and enhance their reputation within them. For example, Boehringer Ingelheim has run recent tweetchats within both the cardiovascular (#ChatAFib) and respiratory (#COPDChat) spaces (disclaimer: I was personally involved in moderating a recent #ChatAFib for them).

So why is pharma embracing Twitter conversation in this way when it has been so far reluctant to engage in multi-person online dialogue elsewhere?

I think there are a number of reasons including:

  • The immediacy of Twitter makes it a much more ideal platform for active discussion than platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn, where you end up waiting for responses and conversations are dragged out over time.
  • Pharmaceutical companies can commit to dialogue within a predefined time window as part of running a tweetchat, with all participants understanding this is when a response is likely to be procured, thus managing expectations.
  • Using hashtags allows them to engage with much broader audiences than just their followers and also align around specific events, such as disease congresses.
  • The written nature of the discussion makes it easier to follow and interpret, plus gives it a longer shelf-life due to downstream transcripts, which are easily produced and engaged with.
  • The theme and target audience can be specified in advance, plus written responses to inappropriate dialogue or issues such as adverse event reporting can be prepared in advance, as can downstream management processes, making it ‘compliance friendly’.

In addition, the visibility afforded by tweetchats, due to the ease of sharing and resultant social media amplification can be massive. With #ChatAFib, for example, analysis shows that the circa 400 tweets generated during the hour-long discussion garnered almost 2.5m impressions!

Ultimately, Twitter ticks all the boxes right now for pharma – it enables more ‘human’ interaction with people, boundaries can be set for both scope of discussion and timing and the written format makes it easier to control from a regulatory standpoint. Tweetchats are fast becoming the new form of advisory board discussion, in my view.

Potential investors in Twitter might, of course, ask how it can make money from this. I don’t know the answer to that one, but can pharma benefit from using it? That’s a definite yes.

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