Social Media and Healthcare
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Social Media and Healthcare
Articles and Discussions on the  intersection of Social Media and Healthcare. Relevant to Healthcare Practitioners, Pharma', Insurance, Clinicians, Labs, Health IT Vendors, Health Marketeers, Health Policy Makers, Hospital Administrators.
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Facebook Etiquette Rules for Doctors' Websites

Facebook Etiquette Rules for Doctors' Websites | Social Media and Healthcare |

For some doctors social media is very new. If you’ve never experienced Facebook with a personal page before it may be difficult to navigate a business page without that point of reference. Even if Facebook doesn’t interest you in the private realm, it is a necessary part of any doctor’s online presence.

The name of the game is engagement, but there are a set of rules that businesses and practice must adhere to, even if unspoken.

Here are some quick and easy tips to keep in mind when expanding your social media presence.

  • Be Relevant: patients will view, and like your Facebook page for information—and while all your posts don’t need to be “strictly business,” try to your limit fuzzy kitten meme shares. Instead share information related to your practice and industry. Specials, tips, even jokes relevant to your audience will reinforce your position as an authority.
  • Be Engaging: Communicate with your followers. Even if you choose not to respond to each individually, if there is an overwhelming sentiment among your network, address it.
  • Be Professional: If you’d like to voice personal opinions create a personal page. Your practice’s page is no place to air personal gripes, carry on political or religious debates or call out competitors.
  • Be Present: Creating a page and never looking back doesn’t help your brand, and can actually hurt it. Create a schedule and post interesting content at least once a week. Many will consider your Facebook page an extension of your practice—you wouldn’t ignore a patient for weeks on end…

A Doctor learns how to use Facebook to his advantage

Now that you’ve created a Facebook business page and you know what to do, here are a few things not to do. Just like in life, a bad online reputation can follow you, and possibly hurt your brand.

  • Don’t Over Post: While it is important to be present, there is a limit. Posting once an hour will dilute your followers’ interest, and eventually the attempt to be engaging and present will relegate you to blocked status.
  • Don’t Be a Salesperson: Even though a Facebook business page is there to reach out to existing and potential patients, don’t think of your status updates as ads. If everything you post is a thinly veiled sales pitch your followers will quickly diminish.
  • Don’t Be a Mass Messenger: If you’d like to reach a large part of your fan base do it via status updates, or create a group and invite those specific people. Mass messaging means every response will be sent to every person on the message—which becomes incredibly annoying very quickly.
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Putting Social Media to Work: Channels That Deliver

Putting Social Media to Work: Channels That Deliver | Social Media and Healthcare |

So many social media channels, so little time! Not only can the sheer number of options be overwhelming, but there are also plenty of pitfalls and rewards to consider. You want to respect privacy, avoid making inadvertent factual or grammatical errors (that become public), and of course reach the right audience. What to do? Where to go? Which channel is easier, faster, safer…better?

Here, I’ve compiled a list the social media channels I use and what benefits they bring me. Obviously, this represents my own, personal opinion, and reflects my individual experiences as a healthcare marketing manager. However, perhaps for some of you they can represent a launching point, help inform a decision, or – best of all – spark some discussion and note-comparing.

Twitter, Hootsuite, Vine, and Storify
Twitter is great for short bursts of information, and Vine – Twitter’s proprietary app for sharing photos and videos – has been a helpful recent addition (on that note, here’s an interesting post about a hospital using Vine in the OR for educational purposes). In all cases, hashtags can really help your tweets get the attention you want. You can see some great health ones here on symplur.

Twitter’s 140 character length limit means I try to shorten URLs when I can. For that – unless I’m tweeting from a site that has a ‘tweet this’ button – I usually use Hootsuite, which also helps me organize my content flow a bit better. Hootsuite is particularly well-constructed for following healthcare tweetchats and for live-tweeting at conventions, offering user-friendly message streams, and ways to search hashtags and twitter handles. The service also provides another convenience: It lets you have several Twitter accounts right on the same page (your practice and your personal one, for example). This can be a great time-saver, but a word of caution – use the correct account for the appropriate tweet.

 Storify is a great way of stringing tweets together to make a longer point or narrative. As such, it can be used for tweetchats or for summarizing a discussion or lecture at a health conference where a lot of people are live tweeting. Simply pull the tweets you want from a particular hashtag stream onto the app (an easy tutorial shows you how) and supplement with text, photos, links, and whatever else you want to create a story from the tweets. Then you can post the story, and all the people whose tweets you used to tell the story will be notified. Here’s an example of a Storify post taking from the #HIMSS12 Twitter stream: HIMSS12 Storified.

Facebook is the most social of the social channels, and I find it to be an excellent gathering place for casual conversation and engagement, especially about wellness news. I think the Cleveland Clinic uses Facebook really well for their Health Hub page.

Be careful of photos you post on Facebook, though. When I am at a convention or an event, I love to post pictures, especially if it is a group gathering. But make sure you have everyone’s OK with being on Facebook. Many people don’t want to have their photos shared on the Internet at all, so always ask.

I won’t go into the privacy concerns about healthcare professionals posting on Facebook, as there are innumerable articles written on that topic already. I think the best thing to do for anyone (and that includes me) is to keep your personal FB page personal and your business FB page business.

Pinterest is mainly a scrapbook; you just “pin” an article or post to your Pinterest page (note that there must be a photo on the page for the post to look like anything). I use Pinterest to post infographics, photos, and images of interesting gadgets. Nutrition and fitness content does well here, I’ve found. Also, keep in mind that it is currently visited mainly by a female audience, so it can be a great place for information relating to women’s health. Overall, Pinterest is a visual journey. You can browse through the site to see exactly what I mean.

It’s been said before, if Facebook is the casual healthcare venue, LinkedIn is the office (complete with job search features). I see it as the most “serious” of the social sites. Create a profile on LinkedIn and, these days, it often becomes your resume. On the site, you can network with any number of people, join groups with special interests, and participate in discussions with other members. Within these groups, posts and comments are moderated, and participants typically need permission to join. LinkedIn represents a great networking opportunity and is wonderful for researching companies and individuals, reaching out, and “getting to know people” virtually. My company, HealthWorks Collective, has just started a LinkedIn HealthWorks Collective Group - check it out and please join if you are interested.

Google+ has good features for posting articles and photos, and it also offers the G+ “Hangout,” a live video streaming feature where a group of participants can get together to discuss a topic, brainstorm, or conduct a meeting. Later, users can upload a hangout to YouTube and post it and share it. Here’s a hangout on Google Glass that was uploaded to YouTube and then put in a post: Google Glass in Surgery.

G+ started out with a smaller, more tech-centric audience but it is more mainstream now and is very easy to use, with large numbers of communities available to browse or easily join (unlike LinkedIn, moderator approval isn’t necessary). I post a lot on G+, basing my choice for which health community to share through mostly on the topic I’m sharing information about.

Skype and YouTube
Video is a great way to vary the delivery of your message. A video embedded in a post gives your audience the option of watching, reading, or both. I tend to rely on Skype for video interviews of health start-up CEOs, doctors, and other thought leaders. The process is easy: Skype offers a built-in recorder, and users can then edit the result in iMovie and upload to YouTube. The quality is not the best, but it is easy and the only costs is the price of downloading the Skype recorder, which is nominal.

If you choose to make your YouTube video “public,” it can be seen by anyone, and can be embedded in a post easily. Here is a sample of a Skype interview edited in iMovie, uploaded to YouTube, and then embedded in a post: Acquapura. is a news board of posts and articles written on a variety of topics. Here, you can choose a topic to curate, and can then “publish” related posts on your own board. I use primarily as a fast and easy way to monitor and share what’s happening in healthcare around the web. Always check the dates on the news articles; I have come across some rather dated posts on

There are many other social channels, certainly, but I have found the above to be the most useful for me. Try them out, see how you like them!

Nicolas Jacquet's curator insight, November 15, 2013 8:48 AM

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The Social Oncology Report 2013

A report analyzing trends in online communications about cancer. Features analysis from the proprietary MDigitalLife physician database.
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Can Healthcare and Social Media team up?

Can Healthcare and Social Media team up? | Social Media and Healthcare |

The healthcare industry has undoubtedly benefited a lot from patient-to-patient and patient-to-provider social media interactions. The ability of social media websites to effectively and transparently communicate information in real time presents a wide range of opportunities for the healthcare industry. Most of the healthcare providers use at least one of the social media websites and frequently share information about their products, innovations, updates and the like.

According to a study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, 60% of 485 physicians surveyed said that using social media helped them improve the quality of patient care.

On the other hand, patients are also using social media to interact with healthcare providers and educate themselves. A recent Pew Research Center study found that 1 in 3 American adults use the internet to figure out a medical issue. Patients also feel more comfortable and valued as a customer of the practice which is using digital health communications.

However, while social media has its benefits of spreading awareness amongst the public in real time, this can sometimes become a cause of huge concern. Recently, many patient data leaks have occurred through the social media, both willingly and unwillingly. Since information on these platforms spreads like wildfire, it can cause considerable damage in a very less amount of time.

A report published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine highlights that 79% of medical professionals are concerned about maintaining patient confidentiality on social networks.

Can healthcare and social media team up for the long run? Despite the risks, it seems that it is possible. However, practices need to make sure that they implement the following methods in order to socialize safely.

Identify what constitutes a legal record

Practices need to clearly establish what constitutes a legal record. Sometimes, social media experts or support staff can inadvertently share something which might contain sensitive information and become a security violation and a matter of interest for HIPAA.

Know regulatory responsibilities

Practices need to understand what their legal regulatory requirements are as far as patient records are concerned. Clear guidelines need to be established to ensure records are properly archived, retrieved and stored.

Create retention and destruction schedules

Research firm Gartner says the thumb rule for blog posts, tweets and other social media interaction is, “if it exists, it is discoverable”. Practices need to make sure that critical records and patient information is kept secure. Furthermore, they also need to address all records that have been distributed both physically and electronically.

Train and educate employees

Make sure regular training sessions for all staff members are conducted about their social media responsibilities. Have an expert address each one of the social media websites separately and the potential security risks it may pose. Employees also need to be trained what information about the company can be shared and what not.

Track your path

Recording social media interaction path is of crucial importance. If a practice has been spending time to promote the brand on various social media websites, make sure it is using a good metric tool to measure the effectiveness of the efforts. Generally, these websites havetheir in-built analysis tools which can help channel the efforts in the areas which are most beneficial to the business.

Social Media is changing the face of not only the healthcare industry in particular, but also of Information Technology in general. Practices, physicians and healthcare are reaping the benefits of their online presence but a lot of room for improvement still exists.

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Using Social Media To Increase Awareness Of Medical Specialties Among Physicians

Using Social Media To Increase Awareness Of Medical Specialties Among Physicians | Social Media and Healthcare |
As the use of social media to communicate has grown exponentially over the past several years, so has its use in areas of business, technology and essentially every aspect of our daily lives.

Physicians are no exception, as they have rapidly adopted social media as a platform to provide education and awareness of emerging technologies and new advances within a given specialty.

In fact, the growing trend of FOAM, or free open access meducation, has significantly transformed how medical information is shared and transferred among emergency medicine physicians. The progressive concept of a “flipped classroom” model along with the notion of “asynchronous learning” have changed the way some physicians now approach medical education. Dissemination of podcasts and online lectures via Twitter, Facebook FB +0.88%, along with other file sharing applications, now facilitate the rapid transfer and sharing of medical advances which can potentially save lives and improve medical care.

As an example, it has been noted that interest in the medical sub-specialty of nephrology has been declining among medical students and residents over the past decade or so.

So Dr. Kenar Jhaveri and Dr. Hitesh Shah, physicians at the North Shore-LIJ Health System, decided to explore the reasons for this decline in interest and explore ways to revive interest in the field of nephrology.

Drs. Jhaveri and Shah presented data at the American Society of Nephrology’s Kidney Week 2013 in Atlanta, GA to identify what exposure medical students and residents have in their training to nephrology, and if that exposure accurately represents what a nephrologists truly does on a daily basis. An additional goal was to identify creative ways to teach nephrology – one medium being social media.

When social media is used in an educational fashion, it can help to share knowledge and increase awareness, further creating interest in a specific field of medicine.

In a presentation November 9 at the American Society of Nephrology’s Kidney Week 2013 in Atlanta, GA, Jhaveri outlined the largest educational social media campaign to date performed in organized medicine, “NephMadness”. By developing a gaming model involving various blogs and Twitter, Jhaveri indicated that the initiative was successful in attracting people to interact and learn about nephrology. This comes at a time when interest in nephrology is declining, especially among medical students and residents.

In March to April 2013, Jhaveri created an online educational tournament referred to as NephMadness consisting of 64 nephrology achievements. The concept was to simulate the NCAA men’sDivision 1 Basketball Tournament. Jhaveri re-captured the language, structure, and traditions of the basketball tournament to generate interest in his tournament of nephrology.

Sixty-four nephrology achievements and concepts were organized in brackets on the initial day. Educational material and descriptions of all 64 achievements were divided across 8 blog posts and spanned 11,534 words. The achievements were divided into 8 groups: programs, drugs, research techniques, discoveries, learning tools, equations/lab values, diagnostics, and studies.

Over the next month, the field of 64 was narrowed until a winner was declared. While the first two rounds were scripted by the editors, subsequent narrowing was decided by the users through online voting. NephMadness generated 34 separate blog posts. Forty percent, (14/34) were posted from blogs other than eAJKD.

Twitter was the main source of interactivity in which 77 individuals tweeted about the initiative 473 times and generated 519,323 impressions using the hashtag, #NephMadness.

NephMadness represents the first educational social media campaign performed of this magnitude and breadth in organized medicine. Based on initial feedback, the campaign performed well in increasing awareness an interest in the specialty of nephrology. As evidence, online traffic to the original blog set a record.

Dr. Mitchell Fogel, a practicing nephrologist, and Chairman and Vice President, Department of Medicine at St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Bridgeport, CT, feels that such a social media campaign conducted by these researchers can change the way medical residents and students view the field of nephrology, especially during a period in which interest in nephrology is certainly declining.

“Residents and students often see nephrologists as working hard…harder than other physicians, and having more challenging clinical problems with higher stress levels, with the perception that compensation is not sufficiently attractive to overcome these barriers.”, said Fogel.

He feels that most residents may not understand exactly what a typical day may hold in store, with their view of nephrology often unbalanced or biased.

“Often medical residents and students see us taking care of the sickest patients in the hospital who have the highest number of co-morbidities, with a high level of complexity of care. What they do not see are the high number of patients leading full productive lives in outpatient dialysis units, along with an office practice where the primary focus is keeping patients off dialysis.”

“A significant amount of discouragement is related to the unbalanced educational experience and exposure that residents and students have in these[nephrology] rotations”, added Fogel.

Looking towards the future, Fogel sees exciting advances in both “early detection diagnosis of kidney disease–both acute and chronic- with the expectation that earlier identification will lead to more successful treatments. New therapeutic regimens are being developed and tested, with improved scientific quality of trials”.

“Ultimately this will lead to better patient care, with increased attention on quality of life issues for patients with end stage renal disease (ESRD) whom require dialysis, ‘ he added.

“Social media can be effective at increasing public awareness of kidney disease, and for young medical trainees may help to bring contemporary issues to light”, concluded Fogel.

The use of such interactive games and social media campaigns could increase interest in nephrology and potentially lead to a reversal in recently observed trends of declining interest. In a broader sense, utilizing such interactive online social media campaigns certainly has the potential to raise awareness, and may lead to increases in revival of interest in additional medical subspecialties.
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What Strategies Can a Pharma Marketer Use to Reach Doctors?

What Strategies Can a Pharma Marketer Use to Reach Doctors? | Social Media and Healthcare |

As the ones who write the scripts, physicians are the most important audience in pharmaceutical sales. Government regulations that place a heavy emphasis on disclosure and industry self-policing efforts, such as the PhRMA Code on Interactions with Healthcare Professionals, have required changes in how pharmaceutical companies market products to physicians. But those are not the only factors. Physician reliance on Internet technology for information and communicating is also forcing pharmaceutical companies to re-tool their marketing strategies.

Traditional Marketing

Physicians generally value free drug samples and are willing to meet with sales representatives to get them, unless their medical network bans free samples. The industry finds samples the most effective marketing tool and spends billions annually distributing free drug samples.

Critics of the practice say drug samples steer physicians to prescribe new, higher cost medications when generics or lower priced brand drugs are available. "Once therapy has been initiated, patients and their insurers are likely to continue to pay for the new, costly drugs," according to research by thePew Charitable Trust Prescription Project.

Gifting of things such as meals, travel expenses, books, and speaking fees is a traditional marketing tool under heavy fire. Some state governments have banned all gifts to physicians, which can be confusing to marketers wanting to provide something as basic as an ice cream cone at a national medical convention. That image certainly illustrates how complicated it has become, and sales representatives need to be familiar with the laws and regulations in each state.

Pharmaceutical company representative often develop working relationships with key opinion leaders or "thought leaders" who influence other physicians through their professional status.

Emerging Tactics

Physicians have been among the earliest of the early adopters of mobile technology, beginning with beepers and pagers, and then PDAs, smart phones, tablet PCs and other handhelds that make patient records and reference materials portable.

With so many physicians already married to their electronic devices, apps for the iPad and Smartphone seem a ripe niche for pharmaceutical companies. "Healthcare is a mobile profession and lends itself to these devices," stated Bruce Carlson, publisher of Kalorama Information, a market research company. The global healthcare sector invested $8.2 billion in handheld devices and related applications in 2009, according to Kalorama.

Social networks like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, and hundreds of smaller niche sites allow physicians to organize professional online communities for collaboration.

Physicians Interactive (PI), based in Marlborough, Mass., claims to have developed "the largest network of online and mobile healthcare professional relationships in the United States, reaching more than 875,000 physicians, nurses, and allied health professionals in all major specialties." PI serves its pharma clients through development of mobile and online clinical resources for healthcare professionals.

Sermo, a free online MD-only community, claims 115,000 members, or 20 percent of all U.S. physicians. Daniel Palestrant, MD, the site's founder and CEO, says 10 of the top 12 pharmaceutical companies are Sermo clients who "are engaging physicians through our social media offerings built specifically to increase brand awareness." Sponsoring companies are able to follow physician discussions such as their reactions to different components of the health reform law, promote their brand and engage with physician members, according to Sermo.

Marketing consultant Richard Meyer observes that the role of the traditional sales rep who constantly seeks face time with doctors is "fading." Meyer and other industry watchers say pharmas need to re-tool their marketing efforts and bring more "medical communication specialists" on staff to engage with physicians online. These medical communicators could provide value-added services that help physicians sort through information clutter while facilitating links with clinical trials, journals, and knowledge opinion leaders.

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Taking the Pulse of Social Media, Healthcare & Canadians

Taking the Pulse of Social Media, Healthcare & Canadians | Social Media and Healthcare |
(by Colleen Young)
malek's curator insight, November 15, 2013 8:57 AM

Internet empowered patients to discuss their medications, side effects and alternatives, usually based on a quality search. 

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Healthcare Social Media | Benefits and Challenges

Healthcare Social Media | Benefits and Challenges | Social Media and Healthcare |

ver the past several years the focus on social media within the health and pharmaceutical industries has largely been on the opportunities and benefits the array of channels provide to these organizations to deliver enhanced care. From strategic patient insights to competitive intelligence, many leading pharmaceutical companies are empowering their brands with a deeper understanding of patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals. However, with these opportunities for growth also come risks of damage to brands.

An increasing number of pharmaceutical and health organizations are also realizing, often through their own experiences of crisis, that a myriad of threats are emerging from social media, squarely targeting their brands. Immediate real-time detection of these growing risks and threats are quickly becoming a crucial component to protecting reputations and revenues of their brands.

Reviewing the Risks

While the spectrum of social risks and threats is enormous and growing at an incredible rate, several are becoming more common in the pharmaceutical and health industries. Here is a review of five threats health and pharmaceutical companies should be focused on detecting and mitigating:

Employee Misconduct: The risks in this realm can be enormous and vary from organizational, ethical and even criminal in nature. Among the issues threatening enterprises are Corporate Integrity Agreement/policy violations, falsifying records, partner issues, sexual misconduct, inappropriate promotion, product or payer functions, corporate abuse, HCP interaction issues and even sabotage, all of which can deliver massive damages to the organization. Many of these issues often present from all corners of the open social universe, and hence, can be detected for advanced warning.

IP Breaches: With the convenience and widespread access and reach of social media, cases of employees - from researchers to sales reps – intentionally or inadvertently revealing sensitive information is on the rise. These breaches can reveal strategic intelligence or even be regulatory violations, all of which can pose major threats to the welfare of the enterprise.

Legal Threats: An array of legal liabilities can emerge from all corners of the open social universe, particularly with patients and caregivers related to treatment use or abuse. Having line-of-sight to these threats is of paramount importance to address, diffuse or even mitigate the issues as quickly as possible.

Patient Perceptions: Understanding patient, caregiver and HCP perceptions related to a treatment’s cost, side effects and resulting quality of life level is becoming increasingly important to pharmaceutical companies. Regardless of accuracy, negative perceptions can quickly spread, greatly impacting the market positioning and value of a brand. Gaining accurate, ongoing analysis of these social perceptions is vital to preserving the brand’s market position and value.

Drug Counterfeiting: Pharmaceutical companies are facing a growing worldwide epidemic when it comes to counterfeiting drugs. Some brands are starting to use innovative social intelligence and threat detection solutions to help identify and track related instances to protect patients and preserve intellectual property.

Off-Label Usage: Some pharmaceutical companies are starting to track the open social universe for off-label usage of their brands with a focus on identifying potential regulatory or legal threats to the organization.

Brandjacking: The cases of incidents where the social or online accounts of brands are impersonated or taken over altogether are on the rise. These incidents can deliver immediate, significant damage since the perpetrators can disseminate false information or release damaging statements with massive reach and instant credibility given that the information appears to be coming from the brand itself.

Achieving Social Security

In today’s “Age of Social Media,” protecting the brand, and ultimately the reputation and revenue of the enterprise, has never been more critical or challenging. And as social media extends the reach and accelerates the exposure of these threats the resulting damages can been massive and difficult to diffuse without the ability to detect them in real-time.

However, the intelligence from social media can also be a major ally to health and pharmaceutical companies, delivering advance warning of threats, for immediate response. In many cases, real-time threat detection can provide the time needed to mitigate or even diffuse the issue, allowing for the strategic response to stop it from becoming an all-out crisis.

XM Consult Ltd.'s curator insight, November 16, 2014 5:03 PM

brand protection today is a cost factor. Companies tend to reduce their efforts in fighting piracy by cutting budgets. From a short term perspective this might be understandable the long term effects can be dramatic. Once the purchase and usage of a counterfeit brand becomes normal for a specific group of people it´s extremely difficult to change or even stop a trend. The involved costs will be a lot higher later to have some effects.

Some companies may also play the "marketshare" game and say "I prefer seeing my brand consumed even if its fake rather that the genuine version of the competition". This may work for some goods, for counterfeit drugs this is deadly. My advice would be to invest more in the first phase and conduct a very aggressive Anti-Piracy approach rather than doing the minimum and that for a long time.

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Google's Helpouts could be the company's secret weapon to take on healthcare

Google's Helpouts could be the company's secret weapon to take on healthcare | Social Media and Healthcare |
Are you in over your head with a home improvement project, or with a tricky recipe? Do you really need someone more knowledgeable to take a look, right now? Google hopes that you’ll turn to its new real-time advice platform dubbed Helpouts in these kinds of situations. Helpouts offer users the ability to search for and connect with experts via video chats — and one day, you may even use it to talk to your doctor.

Google first announced Helpouts in July, and will launch this week with 1,000 pre-screened experts from a variety of fields, including cooking, home improvement, technology and fashion and beauty. The service will launch in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Ireland, New Zealand and Australia, but a Google spokesperson told me that the company hopes to eventually make Helpouts available everywhere.

Helpouts is powered by Google’s Hangouts video chat platform, and as such uses the same technology also used for Hangouts, including Google’s VP8 video codec. However, the company decided to turn Helpouts into a stand-alone offering rather than a feature within Hangouts, and also launch a separate Android app. Representatives said Monday that they’d like to launch on as many devices and platforms as possible down the road, but Apple’s policy to take a cut out of e-commerce facilitated through apps running on iOS would make it difficult for Google to bring the service to iPhones and iPads in its current form.

Google is currently only admitting pre-screened providers, but may open the platform up further in the future. Providers can set their own price for these one-on-one chats and charge either by the minute, through a flat fee, or decide to make their services available for free. Google takes a 20 percent cut out of those fees, which are collected through Google Wallet, with one notable exception: Providers of health-related Helpouts initially don’t have to give Google a cut at all. Google representatives said during a press briefing Monday that the company was evaluating other pricing models for the health sector.

Speaking of healthcare, Helpouts are HIPAA compliant, meaning that the company adheres by privacy regulations in place to protect patient data. Google has already signed up the relatively small One Medical Group as a health care provider to offer advice through the system, but the real killer app could be to make Helpouts available to a large HMO. (Google Ventures led a $30 million funding round in One Medical back in March.) Health care providers like Kaiser already rely on phone-based remote consultations — adding video to that has the potential to prevent a lot of unnecessary emergency room visits, as well as catch symptoms that need in-person attention sooner.

Google VP of Engineering Udi Manber didn’t want to commit to any future features, but he did mention that Google intends to build APIs for Helpouts that could one day power a whole set of applications powered by Helpouts. And once those apps become available, I’d bet that we are going to hear a whole lot more about Google’s plans to take on healthcare.
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What do HCPs do online, and why?

What do HCPs do online, and why? | Social Media and Healthcare |

In an article on, Paul Grant outlined his model of the drivers for engagement in social media. Since the article was published, Creation Pinpoint studies  have highlighted a range of Healthcare Professional (HCP) behaviours on public social media. In this post, using the topic of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) as an example, I will outline some of the most commonly-seen behaviours, giving an insight into what may be important for HCPs online.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a term used to describe chronic lung conditions including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. According to the the European Respiratory Society, along with lung cancer, these diseases represent a leading cause of mortality in Europe, and incidence is predicted to rise. Respiratory health is therefore an important area of research and development for many pharmaceutical companies. 

Four drivers for HCP engagement on public social media

Four overlapping drivers for HCP engagement on public social media are proposed here:

  • Creating news – activities such as broadcasting information that may be of interest to others
  • Consuming news – staying in touch with new developments in the field
  • Caring for patients – learning new ways to help patients, beyond the latest drugs
  • Collaborating, building networks – being involved in an community free of boundaries

“Creating” news

The following word cloud demonstrates the most mentioned topics during the study period. ERS2013, the annual congress of the European Respiratory Society, is prominent, as the hashtag ERS2013 was tweeted and re-tweeted multiple times.

That conference hashtags exist, and that they are used shows that these offline events have an important mirror  image in the online world. The most common behaviour seen at conferences is the tweeting of nuggets of information, which is essentially the “creation” of content that is predicted to be of interest to others. Doctors may also use conferences to add the “in real life” dimension to networks they have created with colleagues online.

Caring for patients

The following tweet, from the Twitter account of the PROactiveCOPD project (which is looking at developing a patient-reported outcome for physical activity in COPD) was re-tweeted by 3 HCPs. PROactiveCOPD also appears in the topic cloud above, suggesting further discussion around the topic of physical activity in COPD.

Resources and tips that could help the patients a HCP cares for, as well as advice from colleagues, can be important online assets for HCPs. These resources and tips may go beyond the latest drug therapies.

Another aspect of caring for patients that was not seen in this study, but that has been observed in small measures elsewhere, is direct HCP-patient interaction online. This does not generally reach large volumes, since it can be a complex area for HCPs to navigate – a doctor needs to be clear about a patient’s medical history and the details of their complaint before suggesting a course of action, and examinations and tests may also be required. There is also scope for a patient to misinterpret information given online. Some HCPs state clearly on their social media profiles that they do not provide medical advice online.

Consuming news and staying ahead

HCPs make use of the instant nature of media such as Twitter to keep informed of the latest news and study results before it reaches journals and other professional publications. Below is an example of a link to a study that was re-tweeted 33 times, and ‘favourited’ 9 times, showing how important new clinical information is to HCPs online.

Collaborating and sharing

The online space is unique as it removes hierarchical and geographical boundaries. The Free Open Access Medical Education (FOAMMed) movement capitalises on this. As described on the FOAM web page,

“FOAM is the movement that has spontaneously emerged from the exploding collection of constantly evolving, collaborative and interactive open access medical education resources being distributed on the web with one objective — to make the world a better place. FOAM is independent of platform or media — it includes blogs, podcasts, tweets, Google hangouts, online videos, text documents, photographs, facebook groups, and a whole lot more.”

FOAM appears in the topic cloud above, as the hashtag was used to “label” tweets that were considered to be related to FOAM.

This behaviour shows that HCPs are interested in collaborating and sharing online – as demonstrated in the diagram above, this driver overlaps with others, in that collaboration and sharing activities are involved in learning to provide better care for patients, and in creating news. Collaboration also offers the added benefit of being part of a community.


This article has highlighted some potential drivers for HCP involvement in public social media, based on what we have observed in Creation Pinpoint studies. Being aware of what is important for online HCPs can help pharmaceutical companies to better tailor their engagement initiatives.

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Epic: Patient engagement is the “last mile” for EHRs

Epic: Patient engagement is the “last mile” for EHRs | Social Media and Healthcare |

Patient engagement was a major theme of the Partners Connected Health Symposium, and that theme came to a head Thursday with a talk from Epic President Carl Dvorak, who contends that for electronic health records like Epic, engagement with the patients is “the last mile,” the home stretch EHR vendors are currently embarking on.

Everything Epic does to innovate, Dvorak said, he assumes will soon become standard for EHR systems, just like car stereos were once a feature you had to purchase separately and now are just assumed to be part of a new car.

“Today’s leaves become tomorrow’s branches,” he said.

Dvorak talked about a number of patient engagement tools that are already available through Epic and its MyChart patient-facing app, but also previewed some new pieces the company is working on.

Scheduling appointments, for instance, is a key functionality for a patient-interfacing EHR. But beyond just allowing a patient to schedule a visit, Dvorak wants to use the power of mobile to offer wait-listed patients quicker appointments if one opens up, as a push notification on the patient’s app.

Another point Dvorak stressed was communicating with the patient in a variety of ways, whether that means offering multiple languages or offering multiple contact points. At Epic, he said, they are integrating the contact methods so patients can flow seamlessly from one into another.

“We can step up a text to an interactive chat, and if it seems significant we can move it into a phone call, or a video visit, or bring them in,” he said.

An early pilot of video visits via MyChart started a few weeks ago at Stanford, Dvorak said.

Dvorak talked about data analytics in the back end of the EHR, not just to help doctors with population management, but also to help patients with the choices they have to make about their own care.

In a system Dvorak demoed, a patient could track the outcomes from a treatment decision against historical results from other patients.

“So if I see I’m behind other people who made this choice, maybe I should have made a different choice,” he said.

One seldom-discussed avenue for interoperability is connecting patient EHRs to other patients’ EHRs in the system. Dvorak said that when patients are asked to complete a medical history, studies have shown they are 50 to 60 percent accurate about their parents’ health and only 20 to 30 percent accurate about their grandparents.

But as EHRs become more established, most patients’ parents and grandparents have medical records of their own. Epic is working on a system where families can opt in to share their medical history with one another in order to give children a more complete picture of their genetic disease background.

Finally, Dvorak spoke about the perennial hot topic with EHRs — integration. He said the company is working on new ways to make the EHR as open as possible while still being safe and secure.

As new payment models take hold, Dvorak said, accountable care won’t just mean holding doctors accountable for patient care, but also keeping patients accountable to their responsibilities in their own care. And that can be done by building as much engagement as possible into the EHR system.

“The biggest thing that needs to change is accountability for the patients,” he said. “We have to find a way to engage patients at a deeper level. And this is especially important when you’re at risk financially for that patient.”

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Infographic: How Healthcare Professionals Prefer to Communicate

Infographic: How Healthcare Professionals Prefer to Communicate | Social Media and Healthcare |
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Should pharma abandon social media?

Should pharma abandon social media? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Not only do I like Brand X, I LOVE it. I LOVE it so much that all I want to do is sing from the rooftops, shout from the mountains, and take out a full-page ad in the New York Times. I tell everyone on my Facebook page that they have to buy Brand X right now. I tweet that Brand X has changed my life, that it will change yours too, that my followers should follow Brand X's hashtag right away! But, most importantly, I set up a Pinterest page to share themes that remind me of Brand X, maybe other brands too.

Hey, Pharma—does this sound like your greatest dream or your worst nightmare? I bet it's the latter. While this kind of brand recognition is critical in the potato chip industry or the mobile phone world, our industry is simply not set up for this kind of promotion. After all, we deal in science, and science is serious business. Personal health is a serious matter, and while it's true that we want to sing from the rooftops when we are well, it's quite the opposite when we are sick. Illness is usually not something to be celebrated, or followed, or promoted.

What are the virtues of using a platform like Facebook (and trust me, Facebook has proven that it is no friend of Pharma) to promote your pharmaceutical brand? Can you really support the resources it will require to continuously provide value to your audience? Most marketers I know are focused on sales, not influence, and it's a pretty “soft” return on investment to turn a connection on Facebook into an Rx. Branded social media is full of pitfalls anyway—with our vague digital guidance (or lack thereof), it's quite a challenge to communicate responsibly in many digital venues (and when you get to mobile, the venue becomes even smaller). When it comes to direct-to-consumer, our overrepresentation of side effects, required for their knowledge and safety, makes consumers feel anxious to begin with.

So let's say you are going the non-branded route: you're the market leader and are willing to put some energy behind maintaining a living, breathing social-media channel. That the return for you is awareness about the condition, or building a community of patients because you know they are all using your product, and adherence is what keeps you up at night. Sounds reasonable to me. So what's the plan? What happens when a new product director takes over in 18 months and social media is not in her plan? This is not an ad in a journal that you can just stop running. This is a community that relies upon the commitment you have made to supporting them. Then what? Quietly disappearing in the middle of the night leads to feelings of overwhelming disappointment—in a matter of minutes, a company can undo all the good work they have done.

There are clear examples of success in using social media to communicate in our industry. For example, Sanofi has done an excellent job of creating a diabetes community. They have invested in building and maintaining that community, even creating a marketing role for a Director of Patient Insights, whose function is to build credibility by being a member instead of an outsider (from her LinkedIn page: “Digital Content Marketing & Community Engagement on behalf of the US Diabetes Patient Centered Unit”). Companies like Wego Health have done a great job of bringing Pharma and key digital influencers (who they call “patient activists”) together to guide the industry toward better communications. But the thinking behind both of these efforts is a long-term play, something few marketers in our industry can sustain.

For example, YouTube was an effective channel for Viagra to communicate to men about the dangers of buying counterfeit Viagra from non-accredited online pharmacies. The high-quality video Pfizer produced was engaging, and the supporting campaign was thorough and well-planned. However, last I checked, that channel was gone, likely falling victim to a new brand regime. A shame, really, that all the work to build trust was not sustainable.

And this is really my issue with social media and Pharma. Before jumping in, you need to truly understand the premise of social media: it's about building relationships. We all know that the industry may never have really deep relationships with its customers, but that doesn't mean there isn't an opportunity. Health is personal and emotional—excellent seeds for starting a relationship. The real problem is with Pharmasustaining any relationship it does create. My recommendation: plan carefully and realistically. Good relationships take time to cultivate, constant attention, and the resources to support them. And good relationships last longer than 18 months.

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Online Hospital Websites and Revenue - Converting Patients Online!

Online Hospital Websites and Revenue - Converting Patients Online! | Social Media and Healthcare |
Today, 8 out of 10 health consumers are visiting hospital websites. But up to 90% end up going somewhere else without making an appointment. Can your hospital afford this?

Public data shows that an increasing number of healthcare consumers have high expectations regarding the presence, timeliness, convenience and access to specialists. On the other side, hospitals are losing valuable revenue by failing to implement convenient usability features to optimize the online experience for an increasingly tech-savvy, internet-oriented patient.

Hospitals that have just 10 website visitors a day can lose up to $34,000 of annual patient revenue opportunity per day.

Patients are turning to online healthcare access but with poor results

Research from InQuicker found that 83% of consumers are visiting hospital websites before converting into patients, while 70% of Internet consumers routinely abandon brand name retail websites because they cannot find what they need.

A article published in the Journal of Healthcare Management states that hospital websites must be re-engineered to serve a changing audience with heightened expectations. Most hospital websites “read like brochures” by a bad marketing division rather than facilitating business goals.

Hospital sites, like Cleveland Clinic, highlight appointment access and online chat to prospective consumers.

Adoption of conversion functionality, online scheduling and ER wait times, have show the following ROI ::

200% increase in online patient conversionsBoost in patient revenue and profits for providers25-35% increase in net new commercial care payor mix90% patient satisfaction for better reimbursementsLower ER readmission, Left Without Being Seen, and length of stay rates

Isnt it worth the effort?
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3 Compelling Reasons Why You Can No Longer Afford to Ignore Google+

3 Compelling Reasons Why You Can No Longer Afford to Ignore Google+ | Social Media and Healthcare |

Why should you use Google+?There are lots of good reasons to pay attention to Google+, but for me it comes down to these three:

Search is becoming socialGoogle+ Authorship is becoming a filter for quality contentGoogle+ has the best user experience of any social network
Visit the link to find additional insights, resource links, and useful Google+ information.

Via Lauren Moss, malek
Marc Kneepkens's curator insight, November 14, 2013 5:00 PM

Protecting content and getting benefits of authorship become more important. Here's some good information.

Hanin Abu Al Rub's curator insight, November 18, 2013 2:56 AM

I believe so...

Jim Doyle's curator insight, December 6, 2013 1:13 AM
3 Compelling Reasons Why You Can No Longer Afford to Ignore Google+
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Alerts from Government Agencies using Twitter

Alerts from Government Agencies using Twitter | Social Media and Healthcare |

ust a few years ago, the general public relied on live television to provide emergency information from government agencies. Today, social media immediately delivers that information in real time, helping to save lives in emergency situations.

But with social media, everyone has a voice, and not all the information you read is factual and true. That has recently changed as Twitter recently announced the launch of Twitter Alerts, a new feature that gives users important and accurate information from select credible organizations during emergencies, natural disasters or moments when other communication services aren’t accessible.

The tweets, which publish during a crisis or emergency, contain up-to-date information relevant to an unfolding event, such as public safety warnings and evacuation instructions. Users receive emergency Twitter Alerts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the American Red Cross, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to Twitter, users who sign up for the alerts will receive a notification directly to their phone whenever that account marks a Tweet as an alert. Notifications are delivered via SMS, and if you use Twitter for iPhone 5.1 or higher or Twitter for Android 4.1.6, you’ll also receive a push notification. Alerts also appear differently on your home timeline from regular Tweets; they are indicated with an orange bell.

After disasters like Superstorm Sandy and the Boston Marathon bombing, this new potential lifeline can become critical during dangerous situations.

To subscribe to these notifications, go to the Alerts setup page for the organization you wish to receive alerts from (e.g., Additionally, if an organization is part of the program it will notify the user when visiting their Twitter page on the web.

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Competitive Collaboration: the Impact of Social Media on Medicine

The era of participatory medicine describes the shift from illness to wellness with patients at the centre, taking greater responsibility for management of thei
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Why I recommend LinkedIn to physicians

Why I recommend LinkedIn to physicians | Social Media and Healthcare |

When I talk to physicians about dipping their toes into the social media waters, I advise starting with LinkedIn.  Spend about 45 minutes or so and create a LinkedIn profile, which is essentially a digital translation of your CV.  LinkedIn profiles get ranked highestamong the social media platforms, and can push down the influence of negative news stories or physician rating sites.

Howard Luks is a social media thought leader, and whose opinion I respect tremendously.  He wrote an insightful piece explaining why LinkedIn may not be right for doctors:

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.

He goes on to suggest doctors spend their time on physician rating sites like Vitals or Healthgrades, Google+, or Yelp.

When it comes to establishing an online reputation, there are essentially two ways of doing it.

  1. “claiming” a profile on an existing physician rating site
  2. creating your own online presence, either with a website or through a social media platform

While I generally recommend the second approach of proactively defining yourself with social media, the first option of utilizing existing sites is viable.

First, much of the information in Vitals or Healthgrades is inaccurate, and can lead to the so-called Google Maps problem, where Google may use the information on these sites.

Second, physicians can leverage the high search engine visibility that these sites generally garner.

The downside of this approach is that these sites are for-profit and generally don’t have physicians’ best interests at heart.  Their physician profile pages are littered with ads, which can subtly imply a physician’s endorsement.

Also, consider the terms of service of one of these sites, which are heavily skewed against the doctor:

You acknowledge that your Physician-Provided Material may be used without restriction for any purpose whatsoever, commercial or otherwise, without any compensation or obligation to you.

Because of those reasons, I prefer doctors create social media profiles instead, where they have more control over how their online identity is controlled and presented.

Howard also recommends Google+ and Google Places for Business. However, there is more friction in taking this approach, namely the cumbersome way Google verifies your business address.  If this can be overcome, this does indeed have the highest search engine impact, as seen below:

But any friction whatsoever prevents the majority of physicians from defining themselves online. From talking to doctors across the country, many are petrified of taking even minimal steps to be visible online.

Which brings us back to LinkedIn.

While it isn’t perfect for the reasons Howard mentioned, LinkedIn is a low-threat, low-resource, high-yield action.

I acknowledge that there are tradeoffs involved, and after considering those, continue to recommend it as a reasonable first step to establish a physician’s online reputation.

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Providers wade warily into online patient groups, hope for benefits

Providers wade warily into online patient groups, hope for benefits | Social Media and Healthcare |
Online patient groups -- where, for example, people with diabetes meet to support each other's efforts to maintain their proper insulin levels and overall health, or patients with similar behavioral health diagnoses offer one other encouragement and share successful coping strategies -- come in many flavors, but they come at a price.

The current model of care just doesn't allow us to focus on what really seems to be changing the cost dynamic -- behavior change.

Jason Cunningham,medical director, West County Health Centers

Some are sponsored by pharmaceutical companies or other profit-motivated vendors, who may drop marketing materials into the feed. Some independent groups, such as PatientsLikeMe, offer social network-like user experiences, but they can be a little more public-facing than some patients wish. And sometimes they share data with pharmas, too, as per its user agreement and general mission to affect new clinical treatments via crowd-sourcing of symptom data more nimbly than traditional clinical trials.

Another problem is there aren't any outcomes research on the effectiveness of these online wellness communities, Jeff Benabio, M.D., Kaiser Permanente dermatologist and physician director of health innovation told SearchHealthIT. He argued against the online groups in a debate session during Partners HealthCare Connected Health Symposium 2012.

"There's significant harm that's harbored within these communities in misformation -- well-meaning, but misinformation, and conflicts of interest," Benabio said. "So there's no protection for the patients ... no one's watching the store; we can't endorse them."

New model: Provider-hosted online wellness groupsA new model of online patient groups is emerging, however; one that hopes to counter the patient protection argument. In this model, the group is hosted by an outside vendor and moderated by a patient's care provider, which can set the agenda, exclude advertising and sketchy health information, as well as lock down privacy and security for HIPAA compliance. Patients can appear as anonymous (or pseudonymous) to their group peers, but the provider knows who's who in the back end for treatment purposes, and for documenting education material a patient consumes and course completion.

These groups aren't free, however. The provider must pay for them, since commercial sponsors don't. Because they're in their infancy, the outcomes still aren't well-known. But one resource-strapped federally qualified health center (FQHC), the West County Health Centers network of Guerneville, Calif., is wagering some of its chips on online patient groups.

The idea is that the groups, hosted by vendor WellFX, will work as a de facto population health management tool by inspiring West County's patients with diabetes, substance abuse and obesity problems, and behavioral health diagnoses to check with each other. Greater communication and improved home care tactics might keep patients healthier between what the provider hopes ultimately will be less-frequent episodes of care. That could quickly translate to cost savings, considering 40% of the clinic group's 13,000 patients are either completely unfunded or underinsured.

"We are, like everybody else is, rethinking our care delivery model in a significant way," said Jason Cunningham, D.O., West County medical director, who is overseeing the rollout of the first WellFX groups. "The current model of reimbursement, the current model of care, just doesn't allow us to focus on what really seems to be changing the cost dynamic -- behavior change. In primary care, with diabetes and heart failure and addiction and depression and mental illness, the 15- or 20-minute visit where we're dictating the conversation ... it's just not the right model for patient care."

WellFX activity isn't yet connected to the provider's electronic health record (EHR) system, and Cunningham said it can't yet be directly used to document any particular accountable care organization (ACO) or meaningful use measure, yet. But he believes the investment will ultimately pay off in fewer unfunded visits and Medicaid claims by helping create an overall healthier patient base. The groups may also contribute to better outcomes in several Medicare and Medicaid medical home pilot projects in which West County is enrolled.

So far the health centers have created patient groups for diabetes, chronic pain, anxiety and overall wellness. They serve as online continuations of in-person groups at West County when those have concluded. For example, patients show up from 8 weeks to 10 weeks for addiction groups at the clinic in person, and continue it online afterwards in WellFX. Providers don't address patients within WellFX; West County so far has confined those communications to its online patient portal.

"A lot of groups where we recognize that the secret sauce is patients engaging with each other -- we do a little bit of educating, but the patients engage with each other very candidly about what they need to be doing and lessons learned," Cunningham said
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Health care and social media benefits: Improving patient engagement in 2013

Health care and social media benefits: Improving patient engagement in 2013 | Social Media and Healthcare |

Hospitals have historically been reluctant to engage in health care social media initiatives. Potential patient privacy risks, in some cases, turn organizations off from sharing information with their patients over social networks. But some IT professionals think hospitals need to overcome these concerns in 2013 to take advantage of social media benefits and opportunities.

Ed Bennett, director of Web and communications technology at the University of Maryland Medical System, said many hospitals today still block doctors and nurses from sites like Facebook and Twitter while on the hospital's network. They do this to prevent privacy breaches, but Bennett feels these concerns are overblown. Providers should improve access next year as they start to realize this.

"I think that's going to be the big area that needs the most attention over the next year," Bennett said. "The trends in other industries show that organizations are unblocking social media. My perception is that health care blocks [social media] more than [other industries]."

Kim Kardashian may have 17 million followers, but there are other folks that are a little bit more influential for the right reasons.

Charles Boicey, informatics solutions architect at the University of California, Irvine, Medical Center

He added that doctors and hospitals can use social media to protect their reputations on online review sites, get credible information out to patients and get involved in patient conversations. While these are things organizations have traditionally been reluctant to get involved in, it is possible to do them in a way that "protects your organization and protects privacy," Bennett said.

Patients continue to turn to the Internet for health information in increasing numbers. A 2012 survey conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, found that 88% of people who care for loved ones and have access to the Internet look for answers to their questions online. A study from Pricewaterhouse Coopers found that 24% of patients post information about their health experiences to social networking sites. Up to 60% of respondents said they would trust online information posted by physicians.

It's up to hospitals and physicians to meet this demand for social information sharing, said Charles Boicey, informatics solutions architect at the University of California Irvine Medical Center, and co-creator of MappyHealth, an online application that tracks posts to social media sites to predict and follow potential disease outbreaks.

Boicey said social networks offer an opportunity for providers to educate and engage with patients. There is a lot of health information on the Internet, but it isn't always vetted by qualified medical professionals. The quality of these sites increases when doctors become more active online. This can help patients learn more about their own health.

"As more and more credible people use social media, the data is becoming more credible," Boicey said. "Kim Kardashian may have 17 million followers, but there are other folks that are a little bit more influential for the right reasons."

Social media shouldn't be the only thing hospitals try in order to improve patient engagementin their own care, Boicey added. But when used alongside patient portals and follow-up contacts it can be an effective way to activate individuals and get them more interested in their health.

Just because there are potential benefits to engaging patients via social media platforms doesn't mean providers should delve headlong into the world of Facebook and Twitter. Both Boicey and Bennett said policies governing how doctors interact with patients online should be clearly spelled out to mitigate HIPAA violation risks, among other reasons. Every health care organization that starts social media initiatives should give thought to this policy before encouraging large-scale involvement.

Bennett said he believes the number of patients using social media for health purposes will continue to increase in 2013. This provides organizations with an opportunity to reach new patients and engage existing ones. What is less clear, Bennett said, is whether hospitals and doctors will take advantage of this opportunity.

Social Shweta's curator insight, November 13, 2013 3:56 AM

HCSM role in patient engagement #hcsm #patientengage


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Easing the pain of clinical trial recruitment: using social intelligence to find the patients you need

Easing the pain of clinical trial recruitment: using social intelligence to find the patients you need | Social Media and Healthcare |

Clinical trials will always be an essential part of medical research and new drug development. As competition for new medical interventions grows, so does the number of trials. There are currently some 150,000 studies taking place worldwide.

For pharmaceutical companies, the cost of clinical trials is significant. According to EFPIA, clinical studies represent approximately 60% of a product’s total development costs, with challenges around patient recruitment constituting a large proportion of this cost. Thousands of volunteers are required for each study and time taken to enrol is on the critical path of all trials. Enrolment is inevitably slower than planned and uptake low. Studies suggest that less than 5% of adults with cancer, for example, would participate in a study. In addition, the drop-out rate is high, with the British Medical Journal reporting non-completion rates up to 20%. Because of this, finding, targeting and keeping the required number of patients can delay a new product’s time-to-market by months, which represents revenue-loss running to tens of millions of dollars.

Social intelligence offers a fast and inexpensive way to increase patient participation in trials. 

Through sophisticated analysis of the online activity of billions of social media users, clinical study sponsors can find the patients they need to take part in trials – and at a much lower cost than traditional methods. Furthermore, by developing a better understanding of what motivates the patients, they can be influenced to participate without contravening ethical standards.

Finding the right patients

Recently we worked with the Medical Research Network, a specialist clinical consultancy, to help a global biopharmaceutical firm design an effective recruitment strategy. Recruitment was falling behind in the programme and for commercial reasons there was a real need to recruit patients fast – within five weeks.

Using PA’s social intelligence methodology, we analysed the vast quantity of social media data – over 170 billion online conversations linked to the study indication – and then filtered and segmented the information to get a picture of the potential patient base. To meet the exact protocol requirements, we also researched how the data linked the indication to multiple factors – such as pre-existing medical conditions, concomitant treatment, etc. We were able to provide a global estimate of 120 million potential patients, broken down by country.

Motivating patients to come forward

After identifying the patient hotspots, we needed to encourage patients to apply to take part in the trial. Since approaching the patients directly would be time-consuming, and would potentially make them uncomfortable, we sought instead to find out which sites influenced them, and ensured that the study details were visible on these channels.

Our analysis revealed that these 120 million patients were most strongly influenced by just 10 key influencers, who were most active on Twitter. It was therefore relatively straightforward to approach these influencers and publicise the clinical trials.

Enriching the trial

Due to its high accuracy, social intelligence can be used to define very specifically the health profile of potential trial patients. In turn, this can provide valuable insight into the efficacy of a study drug within the different patient profile groups. You can, for example, use social intelligence to determine whether potential patients suffer from concomitant diseases or other issues – such as HIV or drug addiction – and then use this information to understand when and how the approved drug should best be prescribed.

Maintaining ethical standards

Using only consented and publicly available data, social intelligence does not contravene the correct ethical approach to recruiting patients. It does not misuse confidential information and does not jeopardise the privacy of individual patients. After we developed the findings of our recent work, we then worked with the ethics committee to produce the recruitment document in the approved process.

The detailed and sophisticated searching that social intelligence offers allows clinical study sponsors to find a higher density of potential trial participants than by other means. And while effective recruitment of patients will always be an issue in the clinical research process, there is no reason why patients should remain unaware and unmotivated to take part when there are new ways to reach out to them. As more and more people use social media as part of their daily lives – especially as a key way to find and share information about their health – social intelligence will only grow in effectiveness.

Alexia Flores's curator insight, November 29, 2013 11:10 AM

Los ensayos clinicos suponen la importante cifra de 60% de los costes del desarrollo de un fármaco.En esta noticia se habla un método de análisis de la actividad social de billones de usuarios de internet que revolucionaría y facilitaría enormemente el proceso de ensayos clínicos, haciendo más sencillo el reclutamiento de pacientes interesados a participar en el estudio (claro está sin oponerse a ninguno de los principios éticos que rigen los ensayos).

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Internet is a force for change in pharma sales in Belgium

Internet is a force for change in pharma sales in Belgium | Social Media and Healthcare |

The Belgian pharma industry still boasts a large sales force compared to countries such as the Netherlands. However, as health authorities in Belgium put more pressure on cash strapped pharma companies, particularly in relation to generics, and doctors have less time for face to face meetings, this sales model is becoming increasingly unsustainable.

In tandem with this, there has been a marked change in the way that doctors consume news and other information in Belgium. Printed journals are in decline and more than 85 per cent of doctors now use the online doctor community, MediQuality, which is part of Networks in Health, as their key information source.

Pierre de Nayer, co-founder and managing director of Citobi, a CRM applications (software & services) company that acquired MediQuality in 2007, explained: “In recent years, doctors have radically changed the way they like to seek information. They don't want to spend time reading detailed articles anymore. They like to have quick snapshots, with a global perspective. They are now “2.0.” minded and digital is the new norm.

“Pharma companies are already beginning to capitalise on this change. As the sales rep model becomes increasingly unsustainable in Belgium, fewer pharma products are launched and sales and marketing budgets are cut, we predict that the internet will play a greater role in the way that the pharma industry engages with doctors in the future.

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The transformative power of digital partnerships

The transformative power of digital partnerships | Social Media and Healthcare |

I have lived with the long term chronic incurable conditionCrohn’s disease since I was 12. After more than 20 surgeries and intestinal failure, just two years ago at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford I became only the 11th person in the UK to undergo a small bowel transplant.

‘When Facebook mounted its organ donor campaign, there was a 21 per cent rise in 24 hours of people signing up for organ donation’

In the lead up to the transplant I turned to the world’s busiest doctor − Google − for information. But there was very little online and so, with no real plan other than to keep family and friends informed, I started a blog.

My blog was my first interaction with digital technology in healthcare. Two years on and it now has 85,000 followers due to the incredible partnership I have been able to form with my transplant team.

The team used the blog to track exactly what was happening to me. It was not just about what the machines and blood results said: it was more about how was I coping mentally. Was the pain really under control? Did I really understand what I was taking the medications for? What was the impact on my family?

The site was passed to medical students and then it started to be read by patients and their families globally. Four patients have now had successful bowel transplants as a result of it and associated articles, one within a month of making contact with me.

Tweet campaigns

On World IBD Day I conducted my first retweet campaign, which reached 2 million tweets. From there the first online community was built with a fellow Crohn’s patient, and within 24 hours we had over 500 patients join the Facebook group Bowel Disease One Global Family. This was the true power of peer to peer interaction. Aside from your doctor, the next best people to discuss your health issues with are undoubtedly fellow patients.

‘With patients coming from all parts of the country it makes complete sense to connect via Skype’

Twitter reported that tweets relating to healthcare have increased by 51 per cent in 2012 and health trends are now being able to be predicted on Twitter in the way Google predicted flu trends. When Facebook mounted its organ donor campaign, there was a 21 per cent rise in 24 hours of people signing up for organ donation.

However, the biggest benefit of tweets is to help deliver patient engagement. The first tweetchat that I established was the Sunday morning #IBDCHAT, aimed at bowel disease patients. I now have the privilege of being the patient lead on the chat #nhssm (Social Media in the NHS), which is now one of the largest healthcare chats in the UK.

What makes #nhssm so unique is that it regularly attracts a mix of healthcare professionals, patients and people from all aspects of the healthcare system, delivering on true interaction and engagement. If anyone was ever in doubt as to the growth and value of twitter in terms of true patient engagement, then you only have to look at the Symplur Healthcare Hashtag Project. There are over 3,000 Twitter chats − every one involving and often moderated or started by patients.

Power of texts

Before my transplant I engaged with healthcare professionals in a very traditional way. It was usually face to face, occasionally by phone and extremely occasionally by email. At Oxford it was directly via email. I then asked if I could text them and suddenly I was engaging in almost daily text messaging with the transplant nursing team, the dietician and the surgeon.

To this day we text regularly. I get test results sent to my phone and when I had an issue with my stoma I was able to take a picture on my mobile phone and send it to my surgeon for immediate feedback.

‘It takes brave clinicians and management to meet patient leaders halfway’

The way healthcare will be delivered has to change. With the courage and support of the transplant team we now interact using email, text, Twitter and new Skype clinics. With patients coming from all parts of the country it makes complete sense to connect via Skype. The patient can convey all their issues, show any problems with wounds or lines etc and the clinical team can assess what treatment, if any, is needed. This prevents patients having to make unnecessary trips to hospital and enables the medical team to complete a full round in an hour. It will undoubtedly reduce the number of patients who have to come in to hospitals or GP surgeries, saving time and money.

The number of health related mobile apps is also growing massively, with an estimated 40,000 released and a market value of $718m to $1.3bn between 2011 and 2012. The NHS has its own apps library. However, the biggest drop off in using health apps occurs when patients have to continually input data. No surprise there and I think that those who argue differently perhaps haven’t talked to patients.

Life changing app

On waking up from my transplant the first thing I remember was feeling my stomach and touching my stoma bag. I was quickly taught how to change the bag when full. However, what I wasn’t taught was how to stop the leaks, how to prevent the bag overflowing especially at night and how to cope with daily life having lost the sensation of knowing when I was going to have output.

Then there was the issue of my transplant team wanting to know the volume of my output and the timing of it. So there I was, emptying my own waste into a jug so that I could measure it, then noting down the reading on a self-made spreadsheet before cleaning up. There had to be a better way.

‘Patients are powerful people. We deserve a seat at the table where decisions are made’

I worked out that if I could measure the bag as it filled and send that information to another device, then I could create an alert alarm to let me know when the bag was filling. The product that started life in my hospital bed has turned in to a sensor, embracing Bluetooth technology and a free mobile app.

Now every patient can connect this to their bag, set alarms so that their mobile will go off when the bag hits the pre-determined levels and the time of output and volume is automatically captured. It is sent to a cloud-based system and the patient has the choice to let their clinician have access to that information. The patient enters their details once and that is it: Ostom-i Alert was born.

I truly believe that patients are powerful people. We deserve a seat at the table where decisions are made. If “no decision about me without me” is to truly be put in to practice, then healthcare has to be a true partnership, a true collaboration between healthcare professionals and patients. It means patients have to also take responsibility for their care.

In my opinion the biggest change in healthcare is that thepower has shifted towards the patient. We are ready to engage, form partnerships, assist on policy and make decisions. It takes brave clinicians and management to meet us halfway.

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6 Ways Physicians Can Leverage Social Media

6 Ways Physicians Can Leverage Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

A unique perspective emerged from last week’s Connecting Healthcare + Social Media Conference in New York when Mike Sevilla, MD, family physician and blogger at Family Medicine Rocks, took the stage to present his own social media story. He also had a lot to say about why physicians need to be on social media.

“I’m in a group of four family docs and a practitioner, and yes, I do social media,” said Sevilla. “What do I write about, and what’s my point? What I wanted to do was bring the reader into the exam room with me…I wanted to let the reader know how difficult it is to take care of patients in this broken healthcare system. It wasn’t the blogging – it was the interaction – and, eventually, it will be patients who drive physicians and providers to use social media.”

Sevilla talked through six areas in which physicians can utilize social media:

1. To tell your story.  Whatever specialty you’re in, said Sevilla, having a social media presence, and even a blog presence, is all about having a voice. “What you’ll hear today is, social media is about telling stories,” he said, adding that having an online outlet allows current and prospective patients to hear directly from you. “Not only can you tell your story, you can clarify other people’s story, which may be the wrong story,” he said. “I say all the time, we let people tell the story of family medicine and it’s the wrong story.”

2. To find a community. Providers and physicians have online communities, said Sevilla, and joining one of them is something he highly recommends. Sevilla referenced his own community of family   physicians as an example. “It’s a family medicine revolution, but we collaborate across the country and we find passionate people. We say, ‘What’s cool in your community that we can talk about? How can I share this with people in my community, and how does family medicine have some of the solutions to handle the broken healthcare system?’”

3. To express opinions and commentary. During the mid-2000s, said Sevilla, doctors were more open to discussing patients in their blogging and social media forums – something that didn’t bode well for a few in particular. One doctor, Sevilla said, even continued to blog during a malpractice suit. “So the lessons are easy: Don’t blog during your malpractice trial,” he joked. It was during that time period, however, that Sevilla “switched” his own blogging endeavors and began to talk about news events and his point of view as a family physician. “And then I started dabbling in other things like podcasts, YouTube videos,” he said. “Why? Because I’m geeky and I was interested. And of course, I failed at some points, and then, as the years went on, good things started to happen.”

4. To discover what you’re passionate about. About a year ago, Sevilla “rebranded” himself from Doctor Anonymous to the blogger behind Family Medicine Rocks. “And what do I talk about now? Things I’m passionate about, and how family medicine has the solutions to fix the broken healthcare system,” he said. Since his rebranding, Sevilla has ventured out into audio podcasts, videos and more, all while sticking to what he feels most strongly about. Wondering where to start, or how to discover your niche? “Whenever you see someone giving a presentation, or anything like that,” he said. “It could be about gardening, even. It’s whatever you’re passionate about.”

5. To conduct social media marketing. One perk of being on social media that’s seemingly a given? “Social media marketing,” said Sevilla. “So if you’re a hospital system, or whatever, this is free marketing.” Tweeting, Facebooking, blogging and more are some of the easiest ways to connect with people. “This is marketing,” he said. “Ten years ago, people asked how much does it cost for print, etc. This [costs] zero.”

6. To manage your online reputation and streamline your practice. Online reputation management, Sevilla said, is a key reason to at least consider creating an online/social media presence. “I say [to physicians and providers], go to the computer, turn it on, [search] your name, and what do you get? A lot are surprised their first link isn’t when whey were named physician of the year – it’s a physician-rating site called HealthGrades, and when they read it, they’re shocked that patients are talking about them and they didn’t know it.” Social media is a powerful tool, Sevilla added, and providers and physicians need know not only about how to use it, but also how to use it to their advantage. “Especially primary docs,” he said. “If there are things you talk about 15 times a day, take a flip cam, record it and say ‘Hey, here’s the short answer. For the long answer, go to the website.’ This is why physicians should do this.”

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