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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Why Market Your Healthcare Organization Online?

Why Market Your Healthcare Organization Online? | Social Media and Healthcare |
In this infographic, find out out what medical information Internet users are searching for, why online medical marketing matters, and how it can benefit your practice or hospital.
Charles Williams's curator insight, October 13, 2013 4:00 AM

Very useful, thank you

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4 easy ways to manage all your hospital’s social media accounts

4 easy ways to manage all your hospital’s social media accounts | Social Media and Healthcare |

Are you overwhelmed with managing all your hospital’s social media accounts?Are you also worried that you’re not doing enough to keep up with latest social media trends?Hospital communicators, we feel your pain. 

I see organizations regularly that struggle to keep up with all of the social media channels that they’re using,” Dillon says. “While they sometimes express that frustration, more often, I see it present in underutilization of the channels: irregular posting and sharing with little or no interaction or engagement with their social media followers.”

Dillon shares four easy ways to keep a handle on everything:

Pick your platforms: There’s no need to be active participants on every social network known to man. Often being overwhelmed comes from overcommitting to the number of platforms without the staff time to actually make any of them work well for the organization. Determine which platforms provide your organization the most value, and focus on those. It’s better to rock one social media platform than to be mediocre on several.

Batch and schedule: Stop posting in real time. Set aside an hour once or twice a week to craft several days of posts. Manage your postings with tools like TweetDeck or HootSuite that enable you to schedule posts for a later date.

Organize your sources for easy access: Many organizations feel that they need to share only original thoughts. This speaks to your strategy and goals for the platform, but sharing relevant items from others is a great approach for creating value for your followers. Filter your go-to emails to a folder, use an RSS aggregator to pull new posts from your favorite blogs together, and create some Twitter groups for your most retweetable resources. This leaves you with only three places to look to quickly find some great content to supplement the items that you write yourself.

Set up monitoring and alerts: Finally, every organization needs a good social media monitoring program. There are many ways to be alerted when your organization is mentioned, so find the approach that melds best with your working style. For some, that may mean receiving an SMS or alert on your phone so that you have the opportunity to respond to every question or comment in a timely manner.

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The Healthcare Social Media Evolution

Whether it's Facebook, Twitter, or a favorite blog, a growing number of families are using social media as their primary source for health and wellness infor...
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The Empowered, Smartphone Patient: Is Mobile Health Marketing the Answer?

The Empowered, Smartphone Patient: Is Mobile Health Marketing the Answer? | Social Media and Healthcare |

This move from physicians and hospitals controlling and dictating health care to delivering the power to the individual patient is a huge shift. It’s a fundamental change is the role and responsibility of the patient and the health care provider.

Who and what will drive this sea change in the health care landscape? Will Mobile Health… and yes, Online Marketing… transform health care as we know it today? “Patient Engagement” buzz seems to indicate that this just might be the case.

Patient engagement.” What is “Patient Engagement?” It sounds like a season of “The Bachelor” where a doctor dates hot patients. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was. After all, patient engagement is hot; it’s the new buzz phrase 

And if mobile technology matters in impacting patient engagement, perhaps the power of marketing has an even greater influence in changing individuals’  health-related behaviors?

Do doctors and hospitals realize and understand the marketing dynamic? Are they willing to influence patient behavior to create healthier outcomes? Will they create the social networks online that act as a source of information that patients seek to answer their concerns and ease their fears?

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Social Media Policies of Major Hospitals in the USA

Social Media Policies of Major Hospitals in the USA | Social Media and Healthcare |

Healthcare Social Media Policies List

Here is a list of Social Media polices developed by hospitals and other health care related groups.  Please send links to publicly posted policies to or add them in the comments below.

Affinity Health System and Ministry Health Care
Social Media Policy and Employee Guidance (DRAFT, but one of the best and most comprehensive)

Boston Children’s Hospital
For Patients and Families 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
CDC Social Media Tools Guidelines & Best Practices

Childrens Hospital Los Angeles
Social Media Use

The Cleveland Clinic
Social Media Policy

Duke University Health System
Facebook Guidelines

Inland Northwest Health Services 
INHS Employee Social Media Policy

Inova Health System
Employee  Policy

Iowa Hospital Association
Blog Comments Policy

Kaiser Permanente
Employee Social Media Policy

LeBonheur Children’s Medical Center
Blog Comments Policy

Lehigh Valley Health Network
Social Media Guidelines

M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
Blog Policies and Guidelines for the Public

Medical University of South Carolina
Employee Guidelines

Mayo Clinic
Participation Guidelines for the Public

Comments Policy
Guidelines for Employees & Code of Ethics

Ohio State University Medical Center 
Social Media philosophy, policy and guidelines

Sutter Health 
Employee Social Networking Policy (includes video)
Comments Guidelines

University of Maryland Medical Center
Social Media Comments Policy

Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Social Media Toolkit – Policies, Education, Videos, etc. An excellent resource


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Readability, Social Media, and Healthcare

Readability, Social Media, and Healthcare | Social Media and Healthcare |

You're talking a lot. But you're not saying anything." –David Byrne

My parents were both doctors. They also were from Ireland, which means of course that they had a way with words. 

My dad could explain his day and what happened at the hospital with vivid imagery and a great sense of humor. But when he finally had to explain an actual medical condition, he switched from clear, entertaining, idiomatic English to what sounded like Greek-Latin gumbo. 

He'd have me, and then he'd lose me.

What exactly is an MI? It's a myocardial infarction. What's a myocardial infarction? A cardiac arrest. What's that? A heart attack. Oh.

The Healthcare Language Gap

The language of healthcare is specialized. We all get that. And in an industry like healthcare, jargon has its place—when members of a community speak in the community’s jargon, they save time, and they understand each other completely (think about football coaches or IT professionals). 

But when those same professionals try to speak to someone outside of the community, the words they use with each other have no meaning. When a speaker says words to a listener, and the listener doesn’t understand those words, communication is not taking place. At best, it’s pretending to communicate.

The language of insurance is equally obscure and difficult to understand. While everyone tries to read their insurance policy, most people have trouble understanding it.  Do you have coverage for rental cars as part of your auto policy? (I don’t know either.)

When these two forces collide with health insurance reform, they create, as you can imagine, a perfect storm of people pretending to communicate. 

I don’t know what healthcare terms mean, and I don’t know what insurance terms mean. That means that I completely tune out of conversations involving both of them, neither of which I have a very deep understanding of

It's similar to those classes in high school where you were unprepared and had no idea what the teacher was going on about. If you don’t get it, it’s extremely unlikely that you’re going to pay attention. The worst effect of this is that when the listener tunes out, he stops giving feedback to the speaker. So the speaker thinks everything’s fine, or at least that he doesn’t need to change the way he communicates.  

A Crisis of Communication

Everything I mentioned above about gaps in communication between those who understand jargon and those who don't is why we're currently at such a crisis point in U.S. health insurance communications.

The media hasn’t helped—by calling healthcare reform Obamacare, it has become a debate on whether you like the President or not, as opposed to a useful understanding of what the new law means to the average family. The legislature didn’t help, by openly making members of Congress vote on it before they had even read it. And insurance companies and health care providers are still communicating in the way they always have.

This all adds up to a communication crisis of epic proportions. Healthcare companies and insurance companies barely seem to understand each other as is, so you can imagine how much trouble members of Congress and members of the general public have understanding the conversation about the Affordable Care Act. 

Social Media: A New Bridge for Communications?

Social media doesn’t fix everything, but it does represent a discontinuity in the way that things were done before. Because of social media, there are more ways to communicate both broadly and narrowly to specialist audiences. 

Consider the audiences for a typical U.S. hospital, and how well-versed in industry jargon they are:

    • Patients: Read at a 7th-grade level, although the ones who need the most help may be illiterate, with little understanding of medical jargon. A subset of patients are actively managing their own health and understand specific medical jargon related to their condition
    • Doctors: Read at graduate school level, completely immersed in medical jargon
    • Nurses and PAsRead at high school/college level, good understanding of medical jargon
    • Non-medical staff: Read at 7th-grade level, some understanding of medical jargon
    • Business partners: Read at average-to-high level, with varying understanding of medical jargon (pharma reps vs. cafeteria suppliers)
    • Other hospitals: Read at average-to-high level, good understanding of medical jargon
    • Local stakeholders (neighbors, voters, et al.): Read at 7th-grade level, little understanding of medical jargon

That’s 7 segments with different needs and communication styles–not to mention different usages of media.

Segmentation is at the heart of any meaningful social media strategy, because strategy is about saying no. Trying to serve all of these audiences with one method of communication is foolish, and leads to the inept, watery branding exercises we see so often in healthcare, where hospitals assert that they care about the patient (not exactly distinctive).

Social media and healthcare, then, are a combination that can provide a new chance for hospitals and healthcare brands. Instead of one-size-fits-all messaging, audiences can be segmented into distinct groups with different needs, platform preferences, and comfort levels with medical jargon. 

A great example of this is the healthcare hashtag project, which allows people to self-select into groups who literally speak each other’s language. Turns out that social media and healthcare do mix after all.

Consumer brands have been thinking this way for a long time, and B2B brands are catching up. Healthcare has a huge opportunity to change the way that people think about it—from something forbidding and confusing, to something that is about help, and, dare I say it, love. 

If you have any questions about how your healthcare organization should be using social media, feel free to reach out to us in the comments or on Twitter. We know the language, and we're always here to help.

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Tweeting Do's & Dont’s For Small Medical Practices

Tweeting Do's & Dont’s For Small Medical Practices | Social Media and Healthcare |
Tweeting Information and Connecting to Your Community

According to statistics released by the Twitter CEO in the last quarter of 2012, there are more than 200 million people who use the social media website on a regular basis. If you’re trying to figure out how your small medical practice can better connect with patients, it makes sense why Twitter could be your answer. Read below to discover a few pointers that’ll help you succeed.

Do Utilize Twitter to Answer Patient Questions

During days when you’re short staffed and patient needs are high, it may seem difficult to set appointments, let alone answer generalized questions from curious patients. Twitter can be a great help, because it allows you to concisely respond to your entire audience at once. You can invite people to submit questions throughout the day and spend a few minutes addressing the most pressing ones after office hours, or during slow periods.

Don’t Give Access to Too Many Staff Members

Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters, so it’s essential to get your point across quickly and consistently. Because it’s so important for your online voice to match patient marketing goals, avoid having several people post on the Twitter account. Although that technique can offer variety, it can also dilute the strength of your message, and even distribute conflicting information.

Do Offer to Let Physicians Get Involved

You may be under the impression that doctors have enough to handle just by seeing patients, so Twitter engagement should be a task that’s limited to your administrative staff members. That may be true, but some healthcare providers are more than willing to take direct responsibility for posting tweets throughout the day.

To let all your physicians share in the activity, consider using a rotating schedule where one doctor takes his or her views to the online platform per week. Then, allow a secretary or physician’s assistant to quickly proofread each contribution to ensure accuracy and a cohesive voice.

Don’t Violate Patient Privacy

You may have developed an ironclad system to protect patient privacy in your medical office, but make sure it doesn’t get compromised once you reach out to people online. As mentioned in an article from Becker’s Medical Review, researchers looked at more than 200 Twitter accounts used by physicians and medical students and reviewed over 13,000 tweets. Results published in the British Medical Journal found that 15 users posted a total of 26 tweets that contained patient information that potentially violated privacy.

Keeping privacy in mind is especially important when you’re answering patient questions as detailed in this article’s first suggestion. When in doubt, always answer in a generalized way, even if you’re doing so for the benefit of a specific person.

Do Reach Out to Other Healthcare Practitioners

No list of Twitter tips for medical offices would be complete without a reminder to connect with other offices in your community or region. By re-tweeting each other’s posts you can more efficiently get the word out about drug recalls, easy ways to live better, and educational articles. As your relationship grows, you may also find it worthwhile to connect with nearby offices in person and hold health promotion events for potential patients as a way to boost awareness.

In closing, it’s important to remember that as valuable as Twitter can be, it might become very time-consuming, too. Make it work to your advantage by choosing to only post things that add value to your overall mission as a medical practice.

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Why Social Media in Healthcare is Good for Physicians

Why Social Media in Healthcare is Good for Physicians | Social Media and Healthcare |

The consumerization of healthcare isn’t a passing fad, according to PwC’s U.S. health industries leader, Kelly Barnes.

“Healthcare organizations are increasingly operating in a world in which the voice of the consumer impacts the bottom line, and where customer experience is now a matter of dollars and cents.”

“As consumerism in healthcare gains steam, customer feedback has become a determining factor in the success of health organizations. Ratings connect consumers’ experience to quality, and quality connects to financial performance, market share and reputation.”

And if that doesn’t impress you, then this might:

68% of people who’ve read healthcare reviews use that information to select their next physician, hospital, health plan, pharmacy, and drug or medical device, according to a recent survey from PwC’s Health Research Institute.

The writing is on the wall.

Patients can and will shop around when they have to use more of their own money to pay for healthcare, and there are better channels of communication and information available to make those decisions.

Which means the way you reach them, engage them, and retain them has to evolve as well.

But is Social Media in Healthcare Good for Physicians Too?

Last year, a study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research surveyed 485 oncologists and primary care physicians.

60% of those physicians surveyed reported that social media improves the quality of patient care they deliver on a daily basis. It helps with receive new information, and engage with colleagues or patients.

One of the authors on that paper, Brian McGowan, also does a great job summarizing a few other key studies on his blog, #SocialQI.

So if:

  • Technology and social media are playing a big role how patients choose new physicians
  • This trend is legitimate and growing according to industry experts, and
  • The majority of other physician’s surveyed rate social media as beneficial

Then… what are you waiting for?

There are a few common reasons (or excuses). And some are very real.

Take patient confidentiality for starters. A recent research paper from the American College of Physicians and the Federation of State Medical Boards identifies a few major points in regards to physicians using online media technology (that I’ve taken the liberty of summarizing for clarity below):

  1. Be mindful of ethical principles in regards to confidentiality, privacy, respect
  2. Try to keep professional and personal social spheres separate
  3. Document patient communication and stick to email (when there’s consent)
  4. “Self-audit” your own online presence to make sure the information is factual and accurate
  5. Be aware that these online postings will be around a long time (and could have future implications)

All of these points are important to keep in mind. But they’re also pretty straight-forward and obvious.

Which could mean a lot of physicians hold back on using social media because they’re not sure where to get started, they don’t have a mental framework for how it fits in their life, and they don’t understand the impact it has.

So here are three simple questions you can work through below, that will help you adopt new online media technologies into your daily routine and practices.

Question #1. Why Would You Use It?

Most lackluster social media results can be directly attributable to a disconnect between the (a) purpose and (b) execution.

If you can’t define success before you begin, then it will never make a positive dent in your daily routine (no matter how many times you update a Facebook page or send out a Tweet).

This simple decision affects everything else. For example, what platform should you choose to focus on? (Because in most cases, you can’t excel at all of them.)

So do you want to…

  • Stay informed and on top of the latest news? → Twitter
  • Keep up with colleagues, associates and opportunities? → LinkedIn
  • Engage with patients and provide support? → Facebook
  • Increase your organization’s “reach” and “awareness”? → Yelp

Start here, and then you’ll have a framework for guiding the next few decisions.

Question #2. How Are You Going to Manage It?

Now that you know why, let’s talk about how.

What’s your role in the process?

Are you going to be a hands-on patient advocate, or would you rather outsource and let someone else worry about it?

Doesn’t matter which one you choose — you just need to prepare accordingly.

If you want to be heavily involved, then pick up some “time hacks” to speed up your social media productivity.

And if you want someone else to manage it, then what’s the relationship (e.g. a resident, independent vendor, etc.), and what are the checks and balances?

A simple policy might help, but you’ll also need to think about your purpose (#1), and what are the concrete steps that will get you closer to achieving it.

Question #3. What’s the Feedback Loop?

If you (a) know the purpose behind an activity, and (b) can see who’s responsible, then you’ll know exactly how to measure the performance over time.

And you’ll be able to see how it contributes to your thought leadership, patient care, or the bottom line.

If your goal is thought leadership, then identify some simple simple actionable metrics, like articles published, interviews given, and colleagues contacted.

If you want to improve patient care, then how easily can they reach you, how often do you respond, which channels should you have a presence (like Yelp), and how many reviews per month can you incentivize?

And if you want to improve your bottom line, then you can even use an old copywriting framework — AIDA — which stands for:

  • Attention
  • Interest
  • Desire (or trust)
  • Action

Now plot a few simple metrics like so:

And link your activities to each of these stages, which will help you rationalize (or justify) the time, money and energy it takes.

But take caution with this approach, because unrealistic expectations can also be damaging to your progress.

A Caveat

Social media hasn’t changed communication or marketing — it’s just changed the delivery and distribution.

So if you want social media to build your practice and improve your bottom line, then like most brand-building marketing activities, you can’t sell directly with it (at least, not all the time). It’s hard to pinpoint a direct ROI like there is with direct mail or Google AdWords.

And correlation doesn’t always equal causation.

So… how are you supposed to use social media to improve the bottom line?

- See more at:

Allison Emma Schizkoske's curator insight, October 9, 2013 7:57 PM

Great information as people do lookl around online for reviews on doctors or anything that they may worried about. it is interesting to see that 66% of people look online. 

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Social Media and "Compassionate Use"

Social Media and "Compassionate Use" | Social Media and Healthcare |

Originally published on The white knight moment has come for a Texas lawyer who has spent the past two months amassing an “army” of virtual supporters in her quest for access to an experimental cancer drug. Only the turnout isn’t exactly as she had imagined.

Andrea Sloan, who has gathered nearly 210,000 signatures on a petition to BioMarin Pharmaceutical, posted a video on her Facebook page on Thursday expressing gratitude toward her supporters and an unnamed company who she said stepped in to provide her with access to an experimental cancer drug under “compassionate use.”

Sloan had originally reached out to BioMarin requesting access to BMN673, the company’s not-yet-FDA-approved cancer drug which it said shrunk the tumors of 11 out of 25 ovarian cancer patients by at least 30 percent in a recent Phase 1/2 trial. Her doctors had recommended the drug when her ovarian cancer reappeared after several rounds of chemotherapy, two rounds of radiation and five surgeries.

The FDA allows drug companies to give experimental drugs to patients outside of clinical trials if the patient meets certain requirements, which Sloan said she did. But BioMarin had turned down her request, saying in a letter it was “too early to know if the experimental therapy is safe or effective, or will even prolong life.” That was when the social media war began.

In her video, Sloan said a competing pharmaceutical company developing a drug of the same class, aPARP inhibitor, came to the rescue. She said she was now taking a medication that she was sure would help extend her life. The company providing it likely asked for anonymity to avoid being put under a microscope the same way BioMarin was as a result of the campaign.

In a separate video posted on her Facebook, Sloan tells BioMarin that the fight isn’t over. “I did want to let you know that we’re not dead,” she says. “This has always been about compassionate use reform for everyone.”

Day 3 of my new meds…can feel those cancer cells dying. #Grateful Want this for all.#CompassionateUseReform#BioMarinNeedsPolicy

— Andrea Sloan (@andi_sloan) October 6, 2013

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Spectrum Health ‘hangs out’ on Google+ to promote bone marrow program

Spectrum Health ‘hangs out’ on Google+ to promote bone marrow program | Social Media and Healthcare |

It’s a parallax that so many of life’s greatest causes often face the downfall of also having the least means of garnering awareness.

So was the case for Spectrum Health, where a Bone and Marrow Transplant (BMT) program faced the ambiguous task of getting attention without a budget to go on.

Thankfully, many of social media’s best tools and platforms don’t require any money—simply time and an idea.

And an idea, Spectrum had.

Taking advantage of just one of the many opportune features of Google+, Spectrum’s team organized its BMT Google+ Hangout, shown below:

You Tube Video:

Held on April 3 with patient Kevin VanZanten and participants who included Stephanie Williams, M.D., division chief, adult blood and marrow transplant program, the Hangout provided Spectrum with more than just a space befitting of a company deficient of a budget.

Due to Kevin’s compromised immune system, the marketing and communications team determined neither a traditional press conference nor live media interviews would be best for him. After exploring the unique characteristics of the Google+ feature, it was decided that Hangouts could and would accomplish all three of the effort’s goals:
Tell a compelling patient story.

Involve key audiences, including news media and the online community.
Raise awareness of the BMT program outside of West Michigan.
Furthermore, the platform provided a public forum whereby friends, families, loved ones, and experts on BMT could easily gather and share firsthand experiences, ask questions, and provide a better understanding of what is justifiably a daunting ordeal for anyone to go through alone.

Thanks to the Hangout, those in attendance didn’t have to.

Between that and the 46 viewers who took part, as well as the 575+ others who have since viewed playback of the Hangout—including partakers in six other countries—the effort can be marked a true success.

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Digital Health Marketing: How to Save Time with Social Media Automation Tools

Digital Health Marketing: How to Save Time with Social Media Automation Tools | Social Media and Healthcare |

“I can’t afford to waste time on social media. I don’t have any time now.”

Can you relate?

Yes, social media can turn into a huge inefficient and ineffective exercise if you’re not using the right tools.

Social media tools help you create and distribute content more efficiently to the various social media platforms. The tools also help you manage your social media accounts. Finally, tools provide you with the metrics you need to really hone in on the activities that provide you with the biggest payoffs.

Here’s your resource of social media tools to use in your digital health marketing.

Make the Tasks Easier- Use Tools

Regardless if you have in-house or outsourced staff handling your Social Media activity, you’ll want to arm them with the right tools to do the tasks efficiently and effectively, and also provide you with the metrics and information you’ll need to lead and manage the efforts.

Google Alerts- to track keywords, name, company name, product and services, mentions on blog posts, Facebook Pages, Linkedin, and Google+

Twitter Alerts and Twitter Search- To monitor mentions on Twitter and find relevant Followers and topics to engage.

Tweetdeck- Manage, monitor, and schedule Tweets

Hootsuite- Manage, monitor, and schedule posts to multiple social media platforms. a potential replacement for Google Alerts and Twitter Alerts in one place.

ManageFilter- Manage your Followers on Twitter

While these are the top Social Media Tools, you might want to check out these additional resources:

50 Top Tools for Social Media Monitoring, Analytics, and Management

10 Best Social Media Management Tools

The 39 Social Media Tools I’ll Use Today

The approach on the Tools is the same as the overall approach on Social Media: keep it simple and easy to operate. Use the tools that you understand and work in your business.

With the Right Time, the Right Team, and the Right Tools, you’ll be prepared to launch a cost effective Social Media Marketing campaign for your Digital health firm

ERSAOnline's curator insight, October 23, 2013 3:50 AM

Good advice, especially for small business. If you're going to do social media properly you will need to assign someone to it but as an interim measure there are some good pointers in here.

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Social Media in Healthcare

2013 Annual Healthcare IT Conference Social Media in Healthcare: Promoting Patient Empowerment and Engagement, Healthcare Value, and Patient Centered Care Mo...
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Site uses social media to track illness

Site uses social media to track illness | Social Media and Healthcare |

WASHINGTON — You might not consider Tweets such as "Missing the Redskins game because of the flu, ugh :( #worstday" as groundbreaking advancement in science, but Graham Dodge, founder and CEO of the disease-tracking site, thinks they are. uses social media updates to follow outbreaks of the flu, allergies and other illnesses around the country. Sickweather scans Facebook and Twitter for posts about sickness and gathers the data to form an interactive map showing the areas with the most statuses about infections.

The Baltimore-based company launched the site in 2011, but is still in beta mode.

Now, Sickweather is introducing a new smartphone app in six to eight weeks that will alert users every time they are in the vicinity of a sick person. The launch is just in time for the beginning of influenza season, a fact that Dodge said is a "just a happy coincidence."

The Sickweather app uses a unique feature called "geosensing" to notify people when they are entering a sick zone. Soon, before you enter a Starbucks or sit on a crowded city bus, you will be able to know if some people inside have had a fever in the past 24 hours, or a chickenpox-ridden child at home.

"The idea of data mining social media to identify sick people and outbreaks is really cool," said Phil Fogel, 27, a user from New York City.

About the upcoming app, he said: "It sounds really awesome as a novelty, but I'm not going to avoid a place simply because it's possible that someone with the flu was there."

Experts in the medical field say that information gathered via social media could be helpful, but should only be used in conjunction with traditional outbreak research.

"We are open to that kind of thing. At this point it can't replace tried and true techniques," said Dr. Lucy Wilson, of Maryland's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. "I think if it can be validated and shown to fit with surveillance trends then yes, it has that potential."

Data on illnesses that the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene collects from hospitals, nursing homes, jails or other institutions can take up to six months to validate before being put up on the web. While doctors react to outbreaks immediately, the case numbers aren't uploaded in real-time.

Wilson, chief of the department's Center For Surveillance, Infection Prevention, and Outbreak Response, also said the public health system already has various groups that use social media for markers of different health issues.

Although using data collected via Twitter and Facebook to follow medical trends might seem suspect to some, the team at Sickweather uses a patent-pending algorithm. The Sickweather team is also advised by Michael J. Paul and Mark Dredz of Johns Hopkins University, who created a model in their study "You Are What You Tweet" to track illness via Twitter.

Their equation collects certain keywords from Twitter like "flu," "sick," and "sneezing," to create a map of general locations where the most keywords appear. Although Paul and Dredz admit that Twitter doesn't always give the most scientifically accurate results, the information they do receive is valuable for getting a broad sense of where diseases are heading.

Using its system, Sickweather was able to predict last year's early flu season six weeks before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dodge said.

Sickweather's advantage, Dodge said, is that it works in real time. Google's Flu Trends, for example, is on a 48-hour lag and reports from CDC can be several weeks behind.

Recently, on Sickweather's blog, it was announced that Sickweather had been tracking reports of chickenpox on social media since October 2011.

Maryland was named the No. 1 best friend of chickenpox as the state is at the top of the "Chickenpoxensie" States list.

Don't worry too much. This could just mean that Marylanders are more vocal on Facebook when complaining about the disease.

"The bigger point of this is that anecdotal data has a place in this world of clinical data," said Dodge. "If people think their kid has something or think they have something and they're being told this isn't true, if they can't afford the lab to get concrete results, this offers data to help people make educated guesses."

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MedTech Online

MedTech Online | Social Media and Healthcare |
The field of digital health continues to explode. As a case in point, consider that so far $1.5 billion has been invested in the digital health segmen
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Advantages of Using Social Media in a Healthcare Practice

Advantages of Using Social Media in a Healthcare Practice | Social Media and Healthcare |

Did you know that the healthcare industries in the U.S. and Europe are actively pursuing social media outlets in promoting their business? While many doctors and dentists are somewhat cautious about joining the trend, it can’t be denied that social media is revolutionizing global healthcare marketing.


Patients have always met with their doctors face-to-face; that’s how the information exchange between both parties traditionally worked. The Internet initially emerged as a read-only information source.


But thanks to recent technological surges, online resources have evolved to become two-way, information-sharing media. This evolution has paved the way for a corresponding development in online patient-physician interactions. From real-time physical settings and in-office encounters, doctors can now confer with their patients virtually. Not only that, this interaction transformation also presents itself as an efficient medical practice marketing solution at much lower cost.

Social Media Use in Healthcare

Around 80 percent of Internet users turn to online resources for healthcare information, the 2011 Pew Research Center revealed. In addition, the same study revealed that 15 percent of adults now use their mobile phones for this information.


Online use in healthcare is also becoming more prevalent in developing economies. In a 2010 online research conducted by Max Bupa Health Insurance, 39 percent of Indian respondents also use the Internet to search for healthcare info.

Benefits of Social Media in Healthcare

Social media and similar online outlets offer several benefits for medical, dental and ancillary professionals engaged in the healthcare industry. These advantages include:


Lowered Costs: Social media websites can be used as medical marketing, promotional and communications platforms at considerably lowered costs compared to traditional forms of media. Case in point: the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA).


In 2010, the U.S.-based research group Healthcare Performance Management (HPM) reported that DVA was able to decrease its marketing costs by 30 percent, largely due to an online communication system utilized by the veterans benefit agency.


Improved Patient-Physician Interaction: With social media, doctors can share their ideas and experiences and work with each other with greater ease, along with greater access to medical journals and scholarly articles. In the end, this makes patient care more efficient.


No Geographic Boundaries: Physical and geographical limitations disappear for social media. This online outlet is very helpful at reaching people from distant locations, making medical marketing and healthcare advertising more targeted and more effective.


When the devastating natural disasters hit Japan in 2011, Twitter was extensively used by doctors to update ill patients. In 2009, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also utilized social media resources to educate the people about the H1N1 virus.


Undeniably social media is a great resource, which can be used to boost healthcare marketing and communications efforts and promote healthcare practices.


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How Social Networks Predict Epidemics [INFOGRAPHIC]

How Social Networks Predict Epidemics [INFOGRAPHIC] | Social Media and Healthcare |
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Word of Mouth Physician Referrals

Word of Mouth Physician Referrals | Social Media and Healthcare |

Consumers are increasingly turning to friends and family for recommendations of health care providers and facilities according to the Health System Change Research Brief 9 (published in 2008).  With the widespread use of social media, now, many of those conversations are happening online and this presents challenges for healthcare providers in terms of reputation management and regulatory compliance.

“Among the 17 million adults who found a new primary care physician in the past year, half relied on recommendations from friends and relatives, and more than one in four used such recommendations as their only information source (see below chart). This reliance on word of mouth is consistent with previous research, some of which suggests that consumers trust recommendations from friends and family more than other sources, such as provider report cards.

It is not surprising that consumers rely more on word of mouth when choosing primary care physicians than when choosing specialists or facilities for procedures. Since most people have a regular primary care physician, it is relatively easy to find friends and family who can recommend such a doctor.”

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Juan Miguel Galeas's curator insight, October 11, 2013 1:27 PM

El boca a boca también es una potente herramienta para elegir médicos. Esto nos muestra el potencial del Inbound Marketing en especial en aquellas profesiones donde la confianza es un factor determinante.

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Can healthcare companies learn about social media from consumer products?

Can healthcare companies learn about social media from consumer products? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Given that we live in a consumer savvy world, its logical that social media uptake is heaviest by consumer brands. However, despite my own consumer focus, I do have a background in healthcare and have often wondered how this regulated industry can navigate the social space by learning from its consumer counterpart. Having been published for this topic before, these are four things I hypothesize. 

Listen Carefully

In the world of social media “listening,” there is virtually no end to the ways you can slice, dice and cull social media content. This makes it easy to filter out valuable competitive insights by listening too narrowly, such as by ruling out content from rogue bloggers and advertisements that could prove useful. Healthcare brands can benefit from listening to patient and provider reviews of themselves and their competitors, perusing online ads, and monitoring the blogosphere for competitive intelligence. Social media is also a great way to keep up with the industry reaction to regulatory changes including interpretations and opinions.
Brands love to love themselves, and social media lets them do it on a grand scale. However, CPG brands have learned that the key to mutually fulfilling social media relationships is to give and take. By actively engaging stakeholders in a two-way dialogue through various platforms. Healthcare and pharmaceuticals are particularly segmented industries with complex decision-making ecosystems. Whereas in the “real world” this presents a marketing research challenge, social media is the perfect place to find self-segmented groups. Physician groups, disease-specific support groups and health care news aggregators are online right now, exchanging unedited, unfiltered insights. Those insights are an invaluable complement to traditional marketing and advertising. 

Develop Thought Leadership

Personal care CPG brands know the value of using Twitter to share a beauty tip, not just a coupon. Social media thought leadership content is all about enlightened self-interest. Healthcare brands have an opportunity to share highly relevant, altruistic content with highly segmented audiences that have “opted in” to what the brand has to say. And by sharing high value information, the notion of “benefits before brands” can really strengthen a brand’s credibility. In order to provide quality healthcare in our fast moving modern world, healthcare professionals have to stay on top of an almost overwhelming amount of information. Social media is already being used as a tool that filters, aggregates and delivers information that is specifically relevant to various practitioners. In return, they are contributing to the conversation. 
Discover Opportunities
Classical research usually delivers insights based on a brand in the absence of competition, or within a constructed, stagnant competitive environment. The insights are usually brand-specific, and a function of the questions asked. But social media lets marketers see the whole, dynamic competitive ecosystem, as everybody chats about everything. And since everyone in this ecosystem has access to the exact same information, the first to stake a claim wins. The healthcare industry still has lots of unclaimed territory on the social media space. While several studies have revealed that over two thirds of medical practitioners utilize social media weekly for professional purposes, the activity can be harnessed by patients or brands alike. 
Over time, I feel that healthcare will overcome many barriers that consumer has learned to conquer via practice. But the industry is perfectly poised to uptake social media in a stronger way. For at the end of the day, even a healthcare consumer is a consumer, after all.

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How to Use Social Media to Market Your Small Medical Practice

How to Use Social Media to Market Your Small Medical Practice | Social Media and Healthcare |

Until recently, the importance of social media marketing and participation has been frequently overlooked by medical practitioners and small practices in general and instead focused on by traditional businesses. While privacy laws exist that can make information sharing difficult, instead of the concern, social media marketing should be a priority.

It’s been proven that Internet users spend the majority of the online time on social networks. They’re involved in groups, sharing their daily happenings and looking for useful information. Most importantly though, especially to those involved in the medical field, is that these users are looking to connect. They want to build relationships online; in many cases this happens before a real-life meeting even takes place.

When it comes to patients and potential patients, this is truer than ever. Because of insurance options and changes, patients have more control and choices when it comes to selecting medical professionals to oversee their care. They want to find practitioners who show that they care, who take the time to get to know them on a personal level and who make an effort to be helpful. This is where a social media presence and strategy come into play.

Where do you start? Check out a few tips below.

Find the Right Network

Because of the rise in the popularity of social networks as a whole, networks have arisen that focus on a variety of media: video, photos, status updates and more. While an Instagram account may be beneficial for a fashion designer, it’s probably not going to help a medical professional connect with patients.

As a starting point, medical providers should focus on Facebook and YouTube. By taking the time to build a presence on Facebook, patients are able to view how-to’s, news items, to ask questions and to get to know the providers. It’s an excellent network to build a multi-faceted social media page.

YouTube has also proven beneficial for medical providers. By posting videos, patients can get a feel for the personality of the doctors and learn more about the services that they provide. Remember, these videos can also be shared on Facebook.

Focus on Content

Just as important as selecting the right network is sharing the right content. Medical providers should think about the questions they’re asked, the cases they see on a regular basis and news pertaining to issues related to their specialty.

Content should be created and shared on a regular basis. This allows the practice to become an information source and to focus on the fact that patient education is an important, integral part of their operations.

While content must be relevant, engaging and strong, it should also be regular. By taking the time to make social media content a priority, medical practices can see an increased online engagement level over time.

Give Patients a Reason to Participate

Whatever methods a small medical practice chooses when starting a social media initiative, allowing patients to participate gives them the opportunity to feel valued without even having an appointment. Feeling a sense of connection is an integral part of any business relationship, a doctor to patient relationship is no different.

Provide a forum that allows patients to ask questions about scheduling, areas of focus and more. Patients should be encouraged to share testimonials, providing an incentive like a contest could help in this area. When people have a reason to engage, they’re more likely to make the effort.

Social media is an important aspect of a successful medical practice and should be a priority in all specialty areas.

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GMC | Doctors’ use of social media (2013)

GMC | Doctors’ use of social media (2013) | Social Media and Healthcare |
Doctors’ use of social media (2013)
  1. 1. In Good medical practice* we say:
  • 36. You must treat colleagues fairly and with respect.
  • 65. You must make sure that your conduct justifies your patients’ trust in you and the public’s trust in the profession.
  • 69. When communicating publicly, including speaking to or writing in the media, you must maintain patient confidentiality. You should remember when using social media that communications intended for friends or family may become more widely available.
  • 70. When advertising your services, you must make sure the information you publish is factual and can be checked, and does not exploit patients’ vulnerability or lack of medical knowledge.
  1. 2. In Confidentiality we say:
  • 13. Many improper disclosures are unintentional. You should not share identifiable information about patients where you can be overheard, for example, in a public place or in an internet chat forum…
  1. 3. In this guidance, we explain how doctors can put these principles into practice. Serious or persistent failure to follow this guidance will put your registration at risk.
Social media
  1. 4. Social media describes web-based applications that allow people to create and exchange content. In this guidance we use the term to include blogs and microblogs (such as Twitter), internet forums (such as, content communities (such as YouTube and Flickr), and social networking sites (such as Facebook and LinkedIn).
  2. 5. The standards expected of doctors do not change because they are communicating through social media rather than face to face or through other traditional media. However, using social media creates new circumstances in which the established principles apply.
  3. 6. You must also follow our guidance on prescribing, which gives advice on using internet sites for the provision of medical services.
  4. 7. As well as this guidance, you should keep up to date with and follow your organisation’s policy on social media.
  1. 8. Using social media has blurred the boundaries between public and private life, and online information can be easily accessed by others. You should be aware of the limitations of privacy online and you should regularly review the privacy settings for each of your social media profiles.§ This is for the following reasons.
    1. a. Social media sites cannot guarantee confidentiality whatever privacy settings are in place.
    2. b. Patients, your employer and potential employers, or any other organisation that you have a relationship with, may be able to access your personal information.
    3. c. Information about your location may be embedded within photographs and other content and available for others to see.
    4. d. Once information is published online it can be difficult to remove as other users may distribute it further or comment on it.
The benefits and risks of using social media
  1. 9. Doctors’ use of social media can benefit patient care by:
    1. a. engaging people in public health and policy discussions
    2. b. establishing national and international professional networks
    3. c. facilitating patients’ access to information about health and services.
Maintaining boundaries
  1. 10. Using social media also creates risks, particularly where social and professional boundaries become unclear. You must follow the guidance inMaintaining a professional boundary between you and your patient.ıı
  2. 11. If a patient contacts you about their care or other professional matters through your private profile, you should indicate that you cannot mix social and professional relationships and, where appropriate, direct them to your professional profile.
Maintaining confidentiality
  1. 12. Many doctors use professional social media sites that are not accessible to the public. Such sites can be useful places to find advice about current practice in specific circumstances. However, you must still be careful not to share identifiable information about patients.
  2. 13. Although individual pieces of information may not breach confidentiality on their own, the sum of published information online could be enough to identify a patient or someone close to them.
  3. 14. You must not use publicly accessible social media to discuss individual patients or their care with those patients or anyone else.
Respect for colleagues
  1. 15. Good medical practice says that doctors must treat colleagues fairly and with respect.* This covers all situations and all forms of interaction and communication. You must not bully, harass or make gratuitous, unsubstantiated or unsustainable comments about individuals online.
  2. 16. When interacting with or commenting about individuals or organisations online, you should be aware that postings online are subject to the same laws of copyright and defamation as written or verbal communications, whether they are made in a personal or professional capacity.
  1. 17. If you identify yourself as a doctor in publicly accessible social media, you should also identify yourself by name. Any material written by authors who represent themselves as doctors is likely to be taken on trust and may reasonably be taken to represent the views of the profession more widely.§
  2. 18. You should also be aware that content uploaded anonymously can, in many cases, be traced back to its point of origin.
Conflicts of interest
  1. 19. When you post material online, you should be open about any conflict of interest and declare any financial or commercial interests in healthcare organisations or pharmaceutical and biomedical companies.ıı
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Optimizing Blogs for Doctors with Surgical Precision

Optimizing Blogs for Doctors with Surgical Precision | Social Media and Healthcare |
No matter what you are referencing, every person, business or thing in the universe only has a “first impression” and five-second window to convince someone of something. As such, in the game of marketing, online content and social media are critical. This undisputable fact is reflected in how much faith people put into the Internet and what it is, which is why optimizing blogs for doctors is an imperative procedure.

Blogging is overtaking the eyes and attention spans of Web users. Blogs are quick, personal, and easy to create — not to mention highly sharable. The end game of a blog is to have it read, thus converting a first time visitor into a lifelong reader. This strategy holds true for doctor’s offices, hospitals, urgent care centers, and every other healthcare-related business out there.

The idea of blogging is to increase your exposure as positively as possible— when considering this medium it is an achievable goal. For instance: When a new person comes to town and is shopping around for a physician, what makes the newcomer decide Office A over Office B? Is it location, the type of practice, or the insurance they accept? Possibly and it is quite likely that all of this information is found online. The doctor’s office with the widest-reaching, best online presence will win. Are you up for the challenge?

Bang-Up Blogging

The power of a well-written blog is huge. Not only does it increase your practice’s online presence, blogs can share personal experiences about the office. They are a platform, a vessel even, where information is reordered into interesting and entertaining paragraphs. If your practice just received a new X-Ray 9000, blog about how this machine helps patients and provide specific examples of how it is the next big thing in medical technology. Everything piece of content you write for a blog should have a specific purpose: Is it describing a new service? Reaching out to referrals? Talking about a recent office development?

Optimizing blogs for doctors is not the same as writing 500 words of promotional content. Add a personal twist to every piece and explore your writing style. You don’t want to bore site visitors with technical jargon about the medical industry. They are reading your blog because they want to know more about you and your practice.


How a blog looks is crucial. Today’s readers want sleek, easy to navigate, and eye-catching pages. You also need to find a catchy title for your blog. Think of blogs like a long-running public journal and find a phrase that matches the concept behind the blog. Find a theme and welcome your bloggers right off the bat to increase the chances they’ll return.

The Hook

You need a hook for your blog. The goal is to come off as a doctor with experience and expertise…is that the hook? Probably not. Most people assume MDs are good at their jobs. In terms of a medical blog, sometimes the hook is speaking frankly to potential clients without jeopardizing any medical experience. Is it flu season? Write a blog about symptoms and why flu shots are necessary. Is there a case of meningitis running rampant? Explain why getting checked up on is vital. Don’t be too promotional, just make sure to add a call to action at the end of the post.

A big component with optimizing blogs for doctors has to do with the content itself. You need to edit it, re-work it to clear up confusing medical terms, and make sure that it is intriguing enough to get through. Often, bad blogs are written because the writer isn’t enthusiastic about the content. Go on a content hunt if you’re having problems:

  • Check out Google Trends for hot topic ideas.
  • Research similar practices and what they’re blogging about.
  • Look into industry trends, new studies, and technological advances.
  • Don’t be afraid to get personal.

So you have your design, your content, your hook and your audience. When all of this is gathered together, always know that you can do better. A lot of readers are excited by blogs (and often share them social media) because they have infographics, pictures, and offer solutions to their problems. When optimizing blogs for doctors, consider adding imagery and video, or even host a guest blogger to increase exposure.

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Diagnosing content marketing in the healthcare world

Diagnosing content marketing in the healthcare world | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media and digital engagement are inherently tricky for the pharmaceutical industry, which lacks specific guidelines for social media—especially regarding how drugs should be marketed in the social space. The beauty of adopting a content-focused plan is that it allows Pharma to concentrate their messages on providing value and disseminating information to a highly defined target without getting hung up in engagement and communications loopholes.

How does Pharma engage without engaging?

By telling a story and providing resources you can become a valuable and welcome addition to your end users’ social media mix without the risk of engaging in touchy conversations. As a content creator, you start the conversation, and you own the message and the moderation. For many healthcare brands, the need to disable comments on social channels or steer clear of two-way conversations in open channels provides a challenge in engaging the right audience. Such brands often resort to proprietary communities or limit their social engagement to blogging.

If you create vibrant content and strategize the right distribution points, you can broaden your digital presence and achieve social scale without navigating the two-way conversation rapids. By thinking about the end user, the stories and resources that the user wants and needs, the brand can become a valuable asset no matter what entry point they take.

You’ve got the science, now get the sexy!

The good news is, you likely already have a ton of content: studies, research, data, insights and testimonials. The challenge is how do you package it so it catches your target audience’s attention? Once you’ve got your sexy on, where do you strut your stuff?

Great listening audits synched with your end user information as well as key terms associated with your drug category will not only tell you where the folks are, but what kind of content they are already consuming. With this knowledge comes power – the power to craft your content into stories, graphics and videos that will truly break through and drive engagement from the right people, in the right manner.

Consider working with digital creatives to leverage these insights to develop unique and sharable pieces of content (e.g., infographics, motion graphics, and patient stories in animations or interviews). You can then distribute this engaging content via Facebook and Twitter, as well as digital ad units, email, and blogs that will have legs beyond your own channels and will be shared with your users’ networks. Of course you’ll need to follow all necessary disclaimers within this content.

“Doctor Recommended” in 140 characters…

Going back to your listening audit you should have a good idea of where your target user is engaging. Whether you have a presence in that channel or not, you can still reach them and get the clicks you deserve. There are a few ways to do this. For Facebook, highly targeted paid ad units are an effective approach as is general sharing of the content from your blog and website. For Twitter, getting partner influencers or medical journals to distribute your content will reach your audience (always noting any relevant disclaimers). Leveraging paid media units like Google CPC and other iAd units that follow your targeting will give you additional scale. Remember to ensure the content is sharable to increase the potential for organic virality once you’ve captured users’ attention.

#Taketwo and tweet me in the morning.

Now that you’ve figured out how to convert that mass of information you have into viable, attractive content AND you’ve distributed it in a strategic way, it’s time to regulate and perfect. What is so amazing about social and digital is that, rather than performing a zillion trials to get the product right, you can immediately change the formula. With real-time insights you can immediately see how your campaign is doing, meaning you can optimize by quickly adjusting your strategy. If your infographic is doing really well on Tumblr but not on Pinterest, you can stop investing as much time in Pinterest and increase production for Tumblr.

The options for the right formula are endless, the prescription for the best results will change month over month, but the baseline diagnoses is that content is king, even for Pharma companies, no matter what your social footprint is. And with that I’ll spare you any more medical analogies and let you start combing your library for content thought starters!

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Relevance of Social Media Presence for Doctors

Relevance of Social Media Presence for Doctors | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media optimization should ideally be a part of any medical web promotion strategy ensuring active patient interaction and engagement. Today more and more medical practitioners realize the importance of embracing social media to provide helpful medical information and patient care. Providing patients with a digital communication option can help practices reach the billions of users on various social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google +, LinkedIn, Pinterest and others. Moreover, these are venues that help maintain a long term doctor-patient relationship, ensuring both physician and patient satisfaction.

A new report from Hewlett-Packard Social Media Solutions claims that by ignoring social media, hospitals put their patients and reputation at risk. The report stressed the importance of social media presence for hospitals and health systems in the present scenario, with more patients using the internet to discuss and manage healthcare. Misleading medical information online can even risk the life of patients. Doctors can use social media to reduce the harm by replacing wrong health information with the right details to educate patients and guide them to the right websites.

It is important that physicians are aware of what patients are saying about them. Dissatisfied patients may post negative comments on doctors’ rating sites such as, and others. Doctors can respond to such reviews and post informative blogs and the latest updates on their social networking sites and thereby build up positive reputation. With the use of social media platforms to increase practice exposure, physicians also need to comply with the general standards of patient privacy.

Social media marketing services provided by a reliable medical SEO company can help medical practices increase their brand awareness by enhancing online visibility and engaging more patients looking for particular services. Professional SEO service providers use the most established methods such as social networks, forums, blogs, and viral videos among others to ensure physicians and their practices a solid reputation in the industry.

hubWerks's curator insight, October 16, 2013 11:00 AM

This article is for medical doctors, dentists, chiropractic doctors--any of you who have a practice where you need to build patient trust, increase your practice/business, keep your patients informed and engage them in wellness, not just prevention.

The trend is to become relevant to your patients beyond just a check up, teeth cleaning or adustment!

Hey, I just had two out of three already this month...



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How Facebook Can Help Public Health

How Facebook Can Help Public Health | Social Media and Healthcare |

If you ever feel guilty about spending just a little bit too much time on social media, consider this: the time you spend interacting online may soon be used to better track, predict and monitor public health issues like disease outbreaks and vaccination pushes.

A set of commentaries coming out in Science today expose how influential other people’s views can be when it comes to how we accept and act on public health advice, and describes how researchers could start to harness the power of big data to reveal more about public opinion and response to health issues.

“Within the last five or six years, people have been interested in the idea of social networks and how they relate to disease,” said Bernard Fuemmeler, PhD, MPH, co-director of mHealth@Duke, an interdisciplinary health interest group at Duke University, who was not involved in the commentaries. “From their inception, there has been a lot of interest in using them to help us understand disease and health,” Fuemmeler said, noting that the work around social networks and biology is inherently interdisciplinary.

In their commentary, researchers Chris Bauch, a mathematician at University of Waterloo in Canada, and Alison Galvani, an epidemiologist at Yale University proposed that there are several ways to collect and analyze the data available through social media networks like Facebook and Twitter in order to better understand human behavior, particularly as it applies to health.

“We’re looking to use social media to better understand social behavior," Bauch said. "The problem with trying to understand human behavior is that we don’t have good data on it,” Bauch said. Surveys tend to fall short of capturing the true public opinion around health crises like a spreading disease or a new vaccination, he said, but social media may be a better place to mine these opinions, he said.

In their commentary, Bauch and Galvani pointed to how a health crisis playing out on social media often creates a larger beast. “When a social contagion is coupled to a biological contagion, the resulting disease-behavior system can exhibit dynamics that do not occur when the two subsystems are isolated from one another,” they wrote, noting that the sum is greater than the parts.

For example, a celebrity’s opinion on a vaccine may ripple through social media and have a greater impact on public opinion than originally thought. Or, when a public health crisis is playing out, social media can provide clues as to whether a culture will listen to health officials’ instructions. For example, in the SARS-coronavirus outbreak, it would be helpful to know what a population’s acceptance level of quarantine and isolation would be.

Another commentary, by Dan Kahan, a law and psychology professor at Yale, in Science details the problem with how the HPV vaccine was released. Kahan argues that the vaccine saw so much controversy because the major manufacturer of it, Merck, aimed to fast-track approval, and had a product that was targeted toward young girls.  “It was likely inevitable that people of opposing cultural orientations would react divergently to a high-profile campaign to enact legislation mandating vaccination of 11- to 12-year-old girls for a sexually transmitted disease,” Kahan writes in the commentary. “Yet there was nothing inevitable about the HPV vaccine being publicly introduced in a manner so likely to generate cultural conflict.”

The hope is that if more data collection and analysis was done, we could better predict responses like the one that hindered the HPV vaccine’s success, and come up with a better way of delivering the message, and as a result, hopefully a better way of delivering the healthcare.

“Maybe there’s a more optimal way to roll out these interventions,” Bauch said.

Fuemmeler agreed, noting that analysis of social networks could also show us which leaders in the field might be most effective at delivering messages. “We can direct our networking to centralized nodes,” he said. “It’s an interesting way to direct public health campaigns.”

One of the constant challenges of Twitter, of course, is that “misinformation can spread just as fast as good information, and the media doesn’t distinguish,” Fuemmeler noted. Determining a way to validate accurate information will be another challenge to conquer.

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How using Twitter can benefit researchers

How using Twitter can benefit researchers | Social Media and Healthcare |

For researchers still on the fence about using social media tools to engage with colleagues and the public, a recent post on Active Scientist offers a short primer on ways Twitter can prove useful in monitoring relevant content about developments in your field.

Among the guidance on using Twitter to filter science news, the piece offers tips on who to follow, topics to tweet and lists the following benefits for researchers:

  • Keep track of developments in your field and in touch with distant colleagues.
  • Alert the media when you are about to publish or have made significant progress toward a scientific goal.
  • Develop an online presence as someone who cares about scientific progress in your field.
  • Present your scientific ideas and interests to a general audience. Twitter is a great tool for public outreach.
  • Join campaigns to increase government funding of science, make scientific publishing open access, or whatever your interests are.

In a Q&A published this week on Scope, Stanford physician Leah Millheiser, MD, discussed her motivation for using social media to raise awareness and foster discussion about issues relating to women’s sexual health. Millheiser recently launched her own blog and Twitter feed.

Additionally, the School of Medicine  feed (@SUMedicine) currently maintains Twitter lists of organizations affiliated with the medical center and Stanford physicians and biomedical researchers.

Fathie Kundie's curator insight, October 8, 2013 11:18 AM

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