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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Should doctors use social media? - A Patients perspective

Should doctors use social media? - A Patients perspective | Social Media and Healthcare |

Fall season is here and I relate that to being in the doctor’s office to treat some form of cold season illness for my 4 year old son. As working professionals, both my wife and I struggle to make the time to take our son and go visit the doctor. So, I started researching on alternate means of communications with doctors. I wondered why doctors don’t use social media to communicate with their patients.

Three reasons why doctors should not use social media

As I started researching, I found Dr. Drummond’s opinion on why social media may not be worth their while for doctors. His three primary reasons:

  1. Doctors are very busy and they don’t have the time to actively participate in Facebook or twitter
  2. There is no return on investment as a Facebook post or login may not translate to additional revenue
  3. Social media being a fad.

That was very discouraging for me. Undeterred, I continued searching and found David Shaywitz’s article in the Forbes magazine about how senior physicians were concerned with information exchange between physicians and patients using social media. The physicians reasoned that the information could be interpreted incorrectly either by the physician or the patient leading to wrong diagnosis. As David pointed out in the same article, social media and the culture of medicine can coexist and can be a very powerful tool in the current world. Senior physicians, perhaps, are not able to envision a world of communication that empowers patients with greater information redefining doctor patient relationships.

Three reasons why doctors should use social media

Sal Khan, founder of Khan Academy, has pioneered “flipping the classroom” concept in education. With the help of the Khan Academy videos, students are learning mathematical concepts at home and doing their homework in school with the teacher. This helps the teacher spend more one-on-one time addressing very specific questions or re-explaining a specific concept to a student. Students, on the other hand, benefit from watching the video at home at their own pace without having to worry about the teacher going too fast or too slow in class. This enables the teacher to better track the progress of individual students in class and focus on students who need more help than others.  

The same concept, if used in medicine, could become equally powerful. Dr. Howard Luks explains in his videothe problem of an Achilles tendon tear and the available treatment options.  If the patient views the video at home and then goes into the doctor’s office, then the doctor can help the patient decide on the treatment options. The video makes the patient more knowledgeable about a specific ailment and makes the visit to the doctor’s office more consultative. As Dave Chase explains in his article, the Khan Academy philosophy can forge a real partnership between doctor and the patient. The doctor is able to provide valuable service by helping the patient in the decision making progress.

A great example of a doctor using social media is Dr. Natasha Burgert in her Kansas City, KS practice. By using social media, as Dr. Burgert explains in her blog, she was able to

  1. Increase patient traffic
  2. Increase her search ability on search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo.
  3. Improve her knowledge base by following leaders in pediatrics

I would love for my pediatrician to use the social media platform to provide information on wellness and treatment options for common illnesses. Some of the questions we ask during our visit are rote and I think both us as parents and the doctor would benefit if this information were available online. We would also gain from the pediatrician’s office being on social media to push out information about flu shots, seasonal illness and recommendations on general well being. This would provide the doctor’s office a new medium to connect with their patients.

Stronger online presence, as seen in Dr. Burgert’s case, helps the practice grow and also form a stronger connection with their patients.  So the next time my son is sick, I would like to read what my pediatrician is recommending on her blogs, Facebook posts, twitter tweets and then go into her office with questions on treatment options. Now is that a good model for fee for service?

Deborah Verran's comment, October 19, 2013 11:18 PM
Interesting post. For busy doctors there are a number of barriers to spending substantial amounts of time online. Also with the plethora of information available via the internet it is often more useful to direct patients to the reliable online sources of info rather than attempt to duplicate same.
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How Google Hummingbird Affects Medical Marketing

How Google Hummingbird Affects Medical Marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

Google Hummingbird affects medical marketing in a huge way, and if you’ve been using underhanded ‘black-hat’ techniques or dealing with a disreputable company, you may been in for a rude awakening.

When you search for something on Google, results vary based on location, individual, time of day, and social site interaction – multiple factors are taken into account in the search results displayed by Google’s ever-changing algorithms.

We’ve talked about social cues and semantic search before, but Google’s latest algorithm change, known as Hummingbird due to ‘fast and precise’ results, is set to take what we already know about SEO and amplify it.  Long gone are the days of trying to trick search engines into establishing a higher rank- with the launch of Hummingbird, those tricks will fail rapidly.

So what exactly do you need to know about Hummingbird and its impact on your SEO efforts? As stated in thisForbes article: ‘The key to making the right decisions about SEO is to understand where Google is going. Google’s goal is that when someone creates a new search, what Google shows that person is exactly what the person wants or needs. ‘ The algorithm update focuses on two main points:

  • As more people speak into their phones to search (ala Siri on the iPhone), Google had to adapt their formulas to allow for more complex, natural searches.  Think of the difference between searching for “fast food” when typing into the search engine, versus “where can I find a quick, good meal in Houston?”
  • Google is relying much more heavily on the social cues the individual user sends to them. For example, if you’re signed into your Google+ account and have previously liked a certain restaurant, links to their website will more reliably show up in your search results.  Likewise, those individuals you interact with the most on social networks will start impacting your results- the thought process here is that if you trust them, then you’ll likely agree with the things they like.  When your friend ‘likes’ that cute little bistro in your town, the next time you search for a bistro, their ‘recommendation’ will come up reliably.

Sound like a complex, nearly impossible thing to manage?  It should, because it’s designed that way.  Google has been fighting spammy marketers and black-hat SEO hacks for years, and this latest iteration of their algorithm is designed to virtually eliminate the possibility of scamming search results.

As you develop your marketing & SEO plan, it’s crucial to keep this personalization of searches in mind.  A solid long-tail keyword strategy is absolutely necessary, and one of your primary objectives should be relationship marketing that establishing rapport & loyalty, as well as engagement.  Those patients you have who love what you’ve done for them?  Urge them to leave you a review on Google+, Yelp, or anywhere else.  New patients?  Make it a priority for them to follow & interact with you on social media.

Think you’ll be able to avoid adapting to changes in SEO due to a strong Adwords campaign? Think again. You likely already know that your PPC rates are affected by the relevancy of the website being advertised, i.e. your Google Quality Score; without adapting your SEO & marketing strategy to include social interaction and natural keyword search terms, you’ll be priced out of the game as your Quality Score plummets.

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How is Social Media Revolutionising Healthcare?

How is Social Media Revolutionising Healthcare? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Ten to fifteen years ago, most Internet users experienced a one-way relationship with the sites they visited; the information required would be extracted with little interaction or exchange between user and provider. The introduction of social media, however, revolutionised the way we communicate by facilitating quick and easy distribution of text, images and videos between friends.

In a field such as healthcare, at once highly complex, constantly evolving and relevant to our day-to-day lives, an effective means of communication is vital.  It’s no wonder then that our first point of call for information on medical issues has extended beyond friends and practitioners in our immediate vicinity to large online communities. The more images and information uploaded to the web, the easier self diagnosis becomes through the comparison and identification of symptoms.

According to a KPMG report, out of a survey of 3,001 US adults, 80% used the Internet to access information relating to health. The use of social media for health issues, however, is far from restricted to peer-to-peer experience sharing, as an increasing number of patients receive individual services from trained physicians through social-networks or other service providers such as Skype. But could social media relations ever provide the same standard of care and attention as face-to-face visits?

Benefits for Patients

  • Connecting with others with in similar positions – patients diagnosed with unusual conditions can now reach out to the people across the world who can best relate to their situation, offering advice and support in a way which was previously unheard of. Several charities such as Ben’s Friends for rare diseases and Unique for chromosome disorders have been established in order to connect sufferers and let them know they are not alone. A more general network is PatientsLikeMe, where users can share information on doctors and treatments. According to a 2011 survey conducted by the site for those with epilepsy, 55% reported ‘better understanding of seizures and improved adherence to treatment’ as key results of using the site. 

  • Helping with diagnoses – local GPs might easily fail to spot the symptoms for a rare disorder they have not encountered before. The people most familiar with a particular set of symptoms are, of course, those who already suffer from the condition. Last year, a baby was identified as suffering from a rare condition called trigonocephaly after a random stranger saw the baby’s photo on Facebook. The stranger had a son with the same condition, which, if left untreated, could result in brain damage or even death. Each doctor that examined the baby before this time had failed to reach a diagnosis.
  • Greater anonymity – for those suffering from an embarrassing illness or one with a degree of stigma attached, such as HIV, herpes or other STIs, speaking anonymously could be easier than with a personal connection. Online communities might also encourage users to seek treatment rather than suffer in silence.


  • Reduced cost and more convenience – some medical problems may be dealt with through online communication if the patient presents no physical symptoms. This is particularly applicable to mental health or follow-up patients where a relationship has already been established between patient and doctor. Virtual conversation saves both parties time and money, and may improve the quality of care due to the increased availability of healthcare professionals.
  • Advice on the best type of care – sites such as Amazon and Tripadvisor have demonstrated the power of reviews. Apart from shopping and travel, an increasing number of reviews posted relate to healthcare services, including treatment types, practices and medical practitioners as individuals. Although not wholly reliable, online customer reviews and comments can have a dramatic impact on the decisions made in the healthcare industry by providing details from first hand experience. Studies also show that in some cases, reviews of healthcare institutions have a direct correlation with actual patient outcomes.

Benefits for Healthcare Professionals

  • Connecting healthcare professionals – social media provides a useful support group for doctors to share news, ideas and experience and keep updated with the latest technologies. Healthcare networks provides opportunities to broaden practitioners knowledge and expertise, as well as material which will help doctors make informed decisions about referrals to specialists or seek advice to correctly diagnose patients.


  • Healthcare institutions – more and more hospitals are connecting with their patients through social media. Hospitals may post updates on services, changes in administration, healthy living campaigns, news articles about advances in healthcare or information about charitable donations. It is hoped this approach will help build stronger relationships between healthcare providers and patients.
  • The National Health Service – NHS Choices provides a wealth of clear and concise information on a wide range of heath conditions and how to access NHS services. The service has garnered 55,000 Facebook ‘likes’ and almost 100,000 Twitter followers, allowing the NHS to disseminate information quickly and efficiently as well as receive useful feedback. This months quit smoking campaign, Stoptober, has also gained significant exposure thanks to social media activity, with 19,000 Twitter followers. 

  • Data collection – social media updates have been used to track cholera or influenza in attempts to analyse how outbreaks spread and predict where they will travel to next. There is seemingly no end to the potential for social media to improve the data we have on medical conditions. The KPMG report on social media in healthcare states ‘as more users start sharing their healthcare experiences online, social media websites and the internet are expected to emerge as an important resource for making critical healthcare decisions.’
  • Emergency situations – victims and rescue teams following natural disasters very quickly recognised the advantages of sharing information on social media. To give just one recent example, after a 7.0 earthquake hit the Ya’an region of Sichuan Province, influential microbloggers harnessed the power of China’s extensive social media network to direct rescue operations to where they were most needed. Google China implemented a people search engine to connect missing friends and relatives as quickly as possible and users were also warned to avoid main roads to allow better access for rescue vehicles.
Lola Howle's curator insight, October 17, 2013 5:43 PM

"According to a KPMG report, out of a survey of 3,001 US adults, 80% used the Internet to access information relating to health." AND to check out the authority/reputation of their doctors

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How health care consumers connect online

How health care consumers connect online | Social Media and Healthcare |
See how your patients get to know each other.
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Social media as an agent for change in healthcare information

Social media as an agent for change in healthcare information | Social Media and Healthcare |

I am going up to Indianapolis this Saturday to talk with a group of medical student leaders. I was asked to present on the role of social media.

Along these lines, I have to show you something that I found this morning. I was studying the FDA review panel’s evaluation of the Block-HF trial, when I came across these pictures. (Block-HF is a pacing trial that evaluates an expanded role of biV pacing. For the purposes of this post, the subject of the science is not important; it could be any sort of scientific inquiry.)

Upon Googling the worlds “block hf nejm,’ look what pops up.

Check out the second entry. That’s regular-working-stiff-doctor Wes Fisher writing an analysis on his blog. This is remarkable, and I think quite a disruptive concept. To read Wes’ useful analysis, one needs only an Internet connection. No subscription is required.

But it gets better with this next jpeg:

Wes’ first comment comes from Dr. Anne Curtis, the lead investigator of the Block-HF trial. Dr. Curtis, a famous academic leader in the heart rhythm world, thought enough about a blog post to make a clarifying comment. That means she toggled through Wes’ captcha code and left her email. Remarkable.

Here is an another example, again using electrophysiology. I’m sitting in the press room at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Amsterdam this summer. I’m reporting/writing about a just-presented trial on using echocardiography to predict response to biV pacing. ECHO-CRT is an important trial, which I especially liked because it shut down a prevailing dogma. So where did I look for help sorting this out? My friend, another regular-working-stiff-doctor (RWSD), Jay Schloss had this incredibly clear analysis of the ECHO-CRT trial on his blog, Left to My Own Devices.

Final example. You are a middle-age executive. Your company is promoting triathlon as a means to whip people in to shape. You’ve heard stories, though. You have seen videos of racers collapsing at the finish line. You wonder whether Ironman triathlons are healthy and so you type, “is an Ironman healthy” into Google:

All I did to get on the top of the list is write my analysis of the data. I’m nobody in the sports cardiology world, a RWSD with an interest and an Internet connection.

I will use examples like these to persuade the medical students that social media has changed the landscape of influence. They can have a voice. They should have a voice.

One thing about medical peeps is that they usually carry a passion for their vocation–medical training does that for you. Writing that is candid and useful and born from a passion is always useful, and never more so in this new world of healthcare, where informed-shared decision-making will be king. Patients and medical colleagues alike benefit when passionate people write about which they know best.

These examples only scratch the surface of what’s out there in the vast world of social media and healthcare. I’ve said this before: it’s a great time to be a doctor. Surely this is also true: It’s a great time to be a doctor-writer-blawger.

Read more:

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Using Healthcare Social Media to Create Word-of-Mouth Buzz

Using Healthcare Social Media to Create Word-of-Mouth Buzz | Social Media and Healthcare |

Creating buzz about a new product or service in healthcare or any sector is hard.  You can have a gazillion Twitter followers or Facebook likes, but if no one is listening, does your following or like count really matter.   As the digital tools we have available to us become more refined and abundant, one might think creating Word-of-Mouth (WOM) would become easier, but does it?

In the healthcare community, the social media adoption rate hovers around 25% depending on what journal article or survey you read.  That means 75% of individuals in the healthcare community have little to no contact with social media for a variety of reasons.  Maybe it’s a generational gap or perhaps a physician or patient who doesn’t see the value in using social media, but depending solely on social media to create WOM about a service or product is absurd.  With that said, how can you get the most out of social media and make it part of your WOM campaign?

Identify your evangelists

Find the members of your community that really believe in your product or service.  While a retweet from Justin Bieber to his 33.5 million followers may sound lovely, do you think his teen fan base really cares about your medical service or product?  Odds are they have no interest whatsoever.   This means hitting the pavement and making real connections.  This can be done either in person or via social media.  Each time you connect with another person or user, you are nurturing a relationship.  The more you nurture, the more of an actual relationship you form.

Leverage your loyal members

Now that you’ve identified your evangelists it’s time to put them to work.  Now, I don’t mean paying them for their voice, but I do think you should be able to ask for some support.  Your loyal users are the members you have built a relationship with.  They have a vested interest in the work you do, and odds are, they will be more than willing to lead a hand in getting the word out.  Just remember to ask!

Get out and engage

This is an important idea.  A great deal of social media users tweet or post information, but don’t actually engage.  Engaging is not creating word vomit, it’s connecting with others and adding value to a conversation.  If you feel you have something to offer to a tweet or post, break or even shatter that invisible wall and engage.  Odds are the person or clinic you are replying to is looking to connect too!

Use your physical space

One of the great things about having a physical space is the ability to create and nurture triggers.  Using hashtags as triggers not only raises awareness of a product or service, but can really help drive and create WOM.  Are you going create a new brochure or flyer about your new service?  Add a specific hashtag to it and encourage clients and patients to tag their tweets with that hashtag.  Not only does using a hashtag create a community around your new service or product, but it can also lead you to some insightful and useful feedback about it.

How do you create social buzz or word of mouth about a service or product? Did you find these tips useful? Leave a comment below.

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Why you need to respond to online reviews

Why you need to respond to online reviews | Social Media and Healthcare |

For most physicians, the notion of consumers posting online reviews may seem all right for restaurants and booksellers, and perhaps even for plumbers and dog groomers—but surely not doctors.

While many physicians disdained the idea, and despite some rather dramatic news stories of some negative online comments, they should be pleased to know that a 2010 report in the Journal of Internal Medicine found that 90 percent of online health care reviews were positive. What’s more, use of the online forums is becoming commonplace. A recent Pew Internet Research study showed 72 percent of Internet users looked online for health information last year, and 30 percent have consulted online reviews or rankings of health care services or treatments.

Among the most common online complaints were issues with long wait times or other inconvenience regarding the appointment, rather than the actual medical treatment itself. This is important information for any practitioner to know—and online reviews may be the only way that kind of patient dissatisfaction ever reaches a busy doctor who is focused on patient care. Smart physicians are using this feedback to gauge how every element of their practice is doing, and making changes as appropriate.

How can you use the reviews?

The first thing to try is to simply Google the name of your practice. Some reviews are openly posted on various general websites. In the case of Angie’s List, reviews are only seen by members. Medical providers who are reviewed on Angie’s List are encouraged to register with the site—free-of-charge—to monitor and even respond to reviews as they come in. This is a task that can be assigned to a trusted office staffer who would handle complaints and issues in person. Just be sure that person keeps you apprised. As you begin this process, you may want to be given regular updates so you can develop a system for how to respond or react.

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Merging Social Media with Healthcare

Social media is making its way into just about every industry, and the healthcare industry is no exception. Healthcare is a very regulated industry, but it i...
Socially Engaged's curator insight, October 15, 2013 6:53 PM

Interesting video about Social Media on the Healh care industry.

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Health Insurers Tune In To Twitter For Customer Service

Health Insurers Tune In To Twitter For Customer Service | Social Media and Healthcare |

On June 18, Houston-based Sharon Roberts, who had been diagnosed with endometrial cancer a year before, put this message out into the Twitterverse:

@teachdance11: the BRCA gene test is 2 parts. Aetna paid $300 part. Not the $7000 part. Gotta be rich to be in the know

The 55-year-old teacher was surprised when @aetnahelp, the customer service Twitter feed for the insurance company Aetna, quickly responded. Through Twitter and phone calls, the insurance company clarified that she didn't need to take the more expensive test and then identified that she had been charged double by her hospital for other treatments.

"If I hadn't put out that snarky tweet about the BRCA test back in July, I would have probably just set up a payment plan to the hospital and paid out that bill," she said.

The @aetnahelp Twitter feed is an example of how insurance companies are increasing their social media presence in an effort to amp up their customer service and capitalize on a platform that can serve to mediate, inform and advertise. The accounts also help companies manage their brands and do quick damage control on complaints aired in this public sphere.

The accounts, which include @askanthem, @cignaquestions and several accounts for various Blue Cross Blue Shield companies around the country, are often separate from company accounts that focus on marketing and sharing relevant health care news

"Social media gives us a tremendous opportunity to learn what the community needs," said Carissa O’Brien, social media director at Aetna.

She works with six people to address the approximately 250 people who seek help through social media with claims or other services each month. O'Brien said the team tries to respond within an hour to users, who tend to be between 35 and 54 years old.

But the messages to company Twitter feeds can be as complex and diverse as the customers. The Tweets include anything from financial woes and specific questions about health plan coverage, to complaints:

@LadyBrik: Got my insurance/crazy charge worked out, but sadly it was with no help from @askanthem. Bummed I never got my promised call.

@ganne_hanrahan How can @AetnaHelp be the most widely accepted health insurance and still not be in network me (sic) any of my doctors?!

In both cases, the companies responded to these queries with resources or further contact information to resolve the issues.

Though companies are accustomed to fielding feedback and questions from their customers, the public nature of a platform like Twitter or Facebook can also be a call for accountability, said Ini Augustine, a social media strategist and head of SocialWise Media Group.

"Social media acts as a public documentation of how you resolve the situation," she said. "It's more than a marketing tool."

Augustine predicted that the implementation of the health law in the coming months would probably spur the companies to use their platforms further, from organizing Twitter chats to engage customers, to answering questions about Obamacare for a new demographic.

While insurance companies are hoping to connect with their customers through social networks, they have not yet made enough headway to replace the telephone systems that can be a common source of frustration for patients looking to understand their health plans. Resolving an issue via Twitter is often just a gateway to a phone call or private message, since many personal questions can't be answered through a public forum.

Nevertheless, O'Brien said the company learns more about their customers through this medium, allowing them to respond more efficiently, whether it is through the phone or interview.

She said there is an added benefit of using the platform to educate and inform their community about health and wellness, especially during a time of many changes in the health care system. Even so, O'Brien said it's just the beginning.

"If we're looking to focus a 100-plus-year-old company on social media, that's massive cultural change," she said. 

elke de turck's curator insight, December 31, 2013 8:50 AM

Company: Aetna

Segment: Insurance

ICT-solution: Twitter - social media


Summary: Twitter is used here to answer the questions that are asked by clients. A fast response is provided and things like clients paying a bill to a hospital that is way too high are avoided.


Business objectives: Because of the fast customer service, clients are kept happy, which results in more profits on a long term basis (no client loss, word-of-mouth advertising, ... )

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We’re pretty keen on optimal timing for social media here at Buffer, and I figured it was high time I collected all the information we have about online communication into one place. I’ve collected research and stats on Twitter, Facebook, email and blogging to help you find the best time to communicate with others in each format.

The tricky thing I’ve come across is that since the Web is still so new, a lot of the research available to us is conflicting. We really need more time and more studies to get definitive answers about what works best, and the fact that our audience members are constantly changing their own activity patterns makes it even harder to work out for sure. Looking at the latest social media stats seems to only confirm that.

So my suggestion would be to use this guide as just that–a guide to help you work out what to test for in your own audience, so that you can see what actually works best in your specific case.

Let’s get into the stats then.


When I posted about Facebook’s News Feed algorithm, one of the factors I talked about was time decay. This is simply the age of your post: How long has it been since you posted it? With the recent introduction of Story Bumping, time decay matters a lot less than how relevant your story is to the user in terms of getting into their News Feed (i.e., does it get in from a user or a page they interact with often, or have interacted with recently). Still, it’s good to keep time decay in mind, since it does make some difference: You won’t see posts from three months ago in your News Feed today.

In terms of specific days and times to post on Facebook, here are some of the stats I found:

Engagement rates are 18% higher on Thursdays and Fridays.

I love the way this was explained in Buddy Media’s study: As they put it, “the less people want to be at work, the more they are on Facebook!”

Specific industries varied slightly according to which days of the week garnered the most engagement, but most of them update around the end of the week, from Wednesday to Friday.

Another study found that engagement was 32% higher on weekends, so the end of the week is definitely a good rough guide to start experimenting with.

The best time of day to post on Facebook is debatable, with times ranging from 1 p.m. to get the most shares to 3 p.m to get more clicks to the broader suggestion of anytime between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. It seems that this generally points to early afternoon being a solid time to post, with anytime after dinner and before work being a long shot.

For more Facebook stats and Facebook statistics, we’ve written a complete guide for you to check out.


Twitter is such a popular network for mobile users that it can be a bit tricky to lock down exactly when the best time to post is. Here are some suggestions from the research I’ve found:

Twitter engagement for brands is 17% higher on weekends.

If you’re tweeting from your company account, you might want to keep this in mind, especially if engagement is what you’re looking for. Buffer can help you spread out your tweets to post at the optimal times, so you don’t even have to work weekends to take advantage of this! Click-through rates are generally highest on weekends, as well as midweek, on Wednesdays.

On the other hand, an Argyle Social study showed that weekdays provide 14% more engagement than weekends, so this is definitely one you’ll want to test on your audience.

When we look at the time of day, retweets have been shown to be highest around 5 p.m.

For click-throughs, the best times seem to be around noon and 6 p.m.

This could be due to lunch breaks and people looking for something to keep them occupied on the commute home after work.

There are lots of Twitter users who primarily use a mobile device—rarely loading up Twitter on their desktops. Twitter did an interesting study of these users and found that they are 181% more likely to be on Twitter during their commute.

They’re also 119% more likely to use Twitter during school or work hours.

For more details on the latest Twitter stats and Twitter statistics, check out this guide.


There’s been lots of research done on the best time to send emails, particularly in the case of email marketing. Some research done by Dan Zarrella from Hubspot broke down each time of day and worked out which type of emails work best for each period. Here’s what he found:

10 p.m.-6 a.m.: This is the dead zone, when hardly any emails get opened.

6 a.m.–10 a.m.: Consumer-based marketing emails are best sent early in the morning.

10 a.m.-noon: Most people are working, and probably won’t open your email.

Noon–2 p.m.: News and magazine updates are popular during lunch breaks.

2–3 p.m.: After lunch, lots of people buckle down and ignore their inbox.

3–5 p.m.: Property and financial-related offers are best sent in the early afternoon.

5–7 p.m.: Holiday promotions and B2B promotions get opened mostly in the early evening.

7–10 p.m.: Consumer promotions are popular again after dinner.

What I thought was really interesting about this breakdown is why each type of email is more popular at certain times. From 3–5 p.m., for instance, the reason people open financial and property-related emails is that they’re more likely to be thinking about their life situation and how to improve it. Understanding how these time blocks work can be a good start to sending your emails at just the right time.

And since 23.63% of emails are opened within an hour of being received, this is something we definitely want to get right.

For more general emails, open rates, click-through rates, and abuse reports were all found to be highest during early mornings and on weekends.

This probably means that most of us have more time to dedicate to our inbox during these periods, rather than during the day when we’re trying to get work done.

In a different study by MailChimp open rates were shown to be noticeably lower on weekends.

They also found that open rates increased after 12 p.m. and were highest between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.

A GetResponse study backed this up by showing that open rates drop off slightly andclick-through rates drop significantly on weekends.

GetResponse found that Thursday is the best day for both open rates and click-throughs.

Mark Suster offers some great advice when it comes to sending emails:

Often I’ll write emails on the weekend and then send them first thing Monday morning. I want to be on top of the stack, not at the bottom of the pile. Most people process email first thing in the morning (although productivity experts say not to!).

BTW, when I write blog posts on Sundays, I always tweet again Monday morning for exactly this reason.



So let’s take a look at when to publish blog posts.

Dan Zarrella has some more great stats on this topic, but he makes a good point about the pros and cons of the timing you choose. One thing Dan suggests is that if we post during a higher-traffic period, we’re more likely to have higher bounce rates and get lost among the noise of other content being published.

On the other hand, posting at times when fewer people are online will garner less traffic and engagement, but this will also give our posts more prominence and less competition against other content.

Here are some useful stats from Dan’s research into blog timing:


  • 70% of users say they read blogs in the morning.
  • More men read blogs at night than women.
  • Mondays are the highest traffic days for an average blog.
  • 11 a.m. is usually the highest traffic hour for an average blog.
  • Comments are usually highest on Saturdays and around 9 a.m. on most days.
  • Blogs that post more than once a day have a higher chance of inbound links and more unique views.


Knowing your audience is obviously important for working out the best time to publish on your blog. If your audience is women, for instance, mornings are probably a better bet than nights.

While Mondays are the best days to publish for traffic, Social Fresh suggests posting on a Thursday for more social shares across the web. Here are more ideas to find the best time to publish blog posts.

This study also found that most content sharing happens in the morning, which backs up Dan’s stats that mornings are the most popular time to read blogs.

With Buffer’s new custom scheduling feature, you can now publish your post whenever it suits you, and you can schedule it to be promoted on social networks at a more optimal time. Plus, you can now send and schedule posts to Google+ from Buffer!


Timing is difficult to get exactly right, and a big part of this is because we all have different schedules and routines for checking email or using social media. An experiment by online retailer eBags showed this point perfectly. Looking at the latestsocial media statistics, the range of different schedules seems to only increase.

The company thought that when users were signing up to an email list, that was probably a good time of day for them to be online, so sending emails to them at that same time of day would work best. By analyzing the behavior of each user, eBags sent out emails to users at the same time of day they had signed up for the email list.

This actually worked incredibly well: Click-through rates rose by 20% and conversion rates rose by 65%.

Unfortunately, this is such a complicated and time-consuming process that it wasn’t sustainable. Hopefully these kind of features can be built into social media and email management tools in the future so we can all take advantage of these insights.

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Online Social Networking as an Alternative Information Source for Clinical Research

Online Social Networking as an Alternative Information Source for Clinical Research | Social Media and Healthcare |

Clinical trials and patient records have been the main information sources for clinical research. While well-designed clinical trials can produce high quality data, they are generally very expensive and time consuming. Further, patients enrolled in clinical trials are not necessarily representative of the intended patient population. Chart reviews avoid some of the drawbacks of the clinical trial approach. However, studies that use chart reviews are limited by the accuracy and completeness of the data in the patient records. In the past decade, online social networks have grown exponentially. We hypothesized that information from online social networks has the potential to serve a new and complementary information source for clinical research. To test this hypothesis, we conducted two separate studies. In the first study, we compared the prevalence of fatigue and depression for patients of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), multiple sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson’s disease (PD), as reported on the online social network PatientsLikeMe and a large medical record data repository. In the second study, we compared clinicians’ and patients’ perspectives on the symptomatic treatment of ALS by comparing data from a traditional survey study of clinicians with data from a patient social network.


In the first study, multivariable logistic regression was performed on the probability of reporting fatigue or depression as predicted by age, gender, data source, type of neurological disease and the interaction of data source and type of neurological disease. We report on the effects of the interaction of data source and type of neurological disease on the probability of reporting fatigue or depression. Our analysis addresses whether the association of reporting fatigue and depression with disease type differs between the two data sources, and, equivalently, whether the association of reporting fatigue and depression with data source varies between disease types. These results are controlled for the effects of age and gender. In the second study, we first extracted the 14 symptoms and associated top four treatments and then selected twenty symptom-treatment pairs to compare the clinicians’ and patients’ perceptions of treatment prevalence and efficacy.


In the first study, overall, both fatigue and depression were more likely to be reported if the data source was PatientsLikeMe regardless of disease. The odds for reporting fatigue and depression were greater from the PLM source across all diseases (i.e. PLM users are more likely to report fatigue and depression). The odds ratio for reporting fatigue was 33.9 for ALS, 36.3 for MS, and 18.7 for PD. The odds of reporting depression were 6.1 for ALS, 9.7 for MS, and 4.91 for PD. In the second study, similarities and discrepancies were found between clinicians’ and patients’ perceptions of treatment prevalence and efficacy. In 10 out of the 20 pairs, the symptom-treatment differences between the two groups were above 10%. In three pairs the differences were above 20%.


Online social network data, reflecting patients’ perspectives, do provide somewhat different information regarding symptoms and symptomatic treatment from the traditional research data sources like survey results and medical records.

Jackie Carter's curator insight, August 21, 2014 1:20 AM

20. This article from the University of Utah shows a study where social media was used as an advantage to conduct research for clinical trials and patient records.
The results proved that social networking provided somewhat different information regarding symptoms and symptomatic treatment from the traditional research data sources like survey results and medical records.
I wanted to add this article in to my list as it links in a unique way with Online Social and Professional Networks and demonstrates the different ways social networking can be an advantage. The source is highly reliable as it is a scholarly resource. I have located this post at the bottom of my curated list; although it is interesting, there are other posts that prove to be more informative than this post.

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Which social media tools are physician practices in love with?

Which social media tools are physician practices in love with? | Social Media and Healthcare |

As physician practices become more comfortable in the social media sphere, their go-to preference

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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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Social proof in your healthcare marketing

Social proof in your healthcare marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social proof is a powerful signal to prospective purchasers, it works to validate the purchase in quite a strong way. Put at it’s simplest it is the concept that “they have purchased or used this product or service with good result. Therefore I should purchase or use this product or service with good result”. In all healthcare fields, prospective patients and the people responsible for their care tend to be guided by researching what others have decided or are doing when faced with questions in relation to their disease. We all have seen the effect of this through Patient referrals, the word of mouth customers that we are all happy to see. 

The concept was exceptionally well explored in a recent article “The Secret Power Behind Why We Pick Crowded Restaurants Over Empty Ones”.As I have said before that word of mouth phenomenon is now firmly online, this in fact amplifies the power of that phenomenon. More people receive that word of mouth referral because it is online and free to view to anybody who searches for it.

As per the article “Healthcare Marketing, Pew Research” over 70% of Internet users say that they had searched online for health information in 2011, with the most commonly researched topics being specific diseases or conditions; treatments or procedures; and doctors or other health professionals.  [Pew Internet: Health]

Healthcare marketing and social proof

So how will you use social proof in your online activities and more importantly what counts as social proof. Testimonials are the first thing that pop to mind, they are the premium of social proof. But there is more than just testimonials that count as social proof in the online world. Among the many ways to harness social proof online is first to be mindful that the core concept is to harness and display the validation of others. If you consider this simple concept, it opens up many ways that you can apply validation to your online presence. Some of the following ideas can be applied to your website, blog and social channels.


Everyone of us has a list of positive Patients who are more than happy with the outcome of their treatment at our hands. The positive comments of satisfied customers are a very powerful form of social proof, probably the most powerful. You should ask for them, ask for permission to use them and at the very least digitize them and place them on every on of your online channels. You should also at the very least place a picture of each Patient beside the testimonial. It is more powerful if you can collect them in video format, video on a website drives more engagement and reduces bounce rate. It is also much more powerful and personal than a written quote. You should ensure that they are posted on your website, blog and any social media channel you are using, video comments should also be used on your waiting room television.

Social activity counters

You can see above and below this post several different types of social activity counters. They actively display the amount of times a page, post or in deed the website have been shared or liked. Again it is a simple validation process, someone has liked or shared this content therefore it probably has worth. That validation of worth by extension is shared with the website. Website pages, blog sites, individual blog posts and any other public-facing pages can and should display activity counters.

The use of visuals

Consider the use of visuals of real people and activities that are involved with your Practice or using your products/services. They can be informal photos taken around the Practice or more formal photos taken at events. 

Talk about your qualifications awards and recognitions

Don’t go nuts here, that award for the safe cross code in primary school doesn’t count! Having said that these things are important so without turning it into a festival of self love. Talk about professional recognitions, community and civic awards including any media quotes or spotlights.

Your history is powerful

The longevity and the background to your business holds power, explain it clearly, talk about your background, business history and your links to the community.  This is a strong indication of your business stability. Something that is very important  particularly with our demographic. I have seen other industries use things like the number of people served, products sold, or family generations participating. I think these can be powerful for our industry as well.

Social proof is an amazingly powerful phenomenon, we are faced with and influenced by it every day. Up to now, it has not really been used within healthcare marketing, it is important that you use it to your best advantage in your Practice.  Our demographic are traditionally conservative, traditionally careful about making purchase decisions. Social proof is exceptionally important to our demographic particularly in difficult economic times,  so shouldn’t you be using it? Below is a little infographic I came across, interesting reading.

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How To Create Perfect Posts On Social Platforms

How To Create Perfect Posts On Social Platforms | Social Media and Healthcare |
If you have ever wanted to know how to create the perfect post on social media sites, here is an infographic that tells you how.
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Social media isn't something for doctors to take lightly

Social media isn't something for doctors to take lightly | Social Media and Healthcare |

Doctors may have their bedside manner perfected, but when it comes to social media, some may need a check-up.

Physicians may not be the most eager bunch to get on social media, but Dr. Bryan Vartabedian has an argument that usually convinces docs to get active online.

Vartabedian is a self-proclaimed dispatcher “from the frontline of social media and medicine,” the pediatric gastroenterologist at Texas Children’s Hospital also considers himself a “doctor of the wild,” hunting and gathering the best sources of viral medical information.

"Some doctors say they don't have the time or they don't see the value (and) they can't see any reason why they should have a public presence," Vartabedian said. "One thing that reaches out and grabs them is that it is very likely there are conversations happening around them in the public space."

Reputation management is a big deal for docs, he said, and while it's impossible to control the public conversation, physicians can create content that allows Google searchers to understand who they are.

"The only way you combat reviews you don't like is creating content people will see about you," he said. "The best way to do that is a basic LinkedIn profile."

A decent LinkedIn profile — complete with a biography and good photo — can begin to show up on the first page of a Google search within a couple of weeks, he said.

For the more ambitious, Vartabedian recommends creating or contributing to reputable blogs.

Staff members who don't want to set up their own blog can reach out to the marketing team at their hospital or health system and pitch blogs that they'd like to write about, he said.

"You don't have to completely launch your own platform to have a presence," he said.

Small steps like this allow doctors to control the first page of a Google search, he said.

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Should Doctors ‘Google’ Their Patients?

Should Doctors ‘Google’ Their Patients? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Beware of what you share. Employers now routinely utilize internet search engines or social network searches to obtain information about job applicants. A survey of 2,184 hiring managers and human resource professionals conducted by the online employment website revealed that 39% use social networking sites to research job candidates. Of the group who used social networks to evaluate job applicants, 43% found content on a social networking site that caused them to not hire a candidate, whereas only 19% found information that that has caused them to hire a candidate. The top reasons for rejecting a candidate based on information gleaned from social networking sites were provocative or inappropriate photos/information, including information about the job applicants' history of substance abuse.

This should not come as a surprise to job applicants in the US. After all, it is not uncommon for employers to invade the privacy of job applicants by conducting extensive background searches, ranging from the applicant's employment history and credit rating to checking up on any history of lawsuits or run-ins with law enforcement agencies. Some employers also require drug testing of job applicants. The internet and social networking websites merely offer employers an additional array of tools to scrutinize their applicants. But how do we feel about digital sleuthing when it comes to relationship that is very different than the employer-applicant relationship – one which is characterized by profound trust, intimacy and respect, such as the relationship between healthcare providers and their patients?

The Hastings Center Report is a peer-reviewed academic bioethics journal which discusses the ethics of "Googling a Patient" in its most recent issue. It first describes a specific case of a twenty-six year old patient who sees a surgeon and requests a prophylactic mastectomy of both breasts. She says that she does not have breast cancer yet, but that her family is at very high risk for cancer. Her mother, sister, aunts, and a cousin have all had breast cancer; a teenage cousin had ovarian cancer at the age of nineteen; and that her brother was treated for esophageal cancer at the age of fifteen. She also says that she herself has suffered from a form of skin cancer (melanoma) at the age of twenty-five and that she wants to undergo the removal of her breasts without further workup because she wants to avoid developing breast cancer. She says that her prior mammogram had already shown abnormalities and she had been told by another surgeon that she needed the mastectomy.

Such prophylactic mastectomies, i.e. removal of both breasts, are indeed performed if young women are considered to be at very high risk for breast cancer based on their genetic profile and family history. The patient's family history – her mother, sister and aunts being diagnosed with breast cancer – are indicative of a very high risk, but other aspects of the history such as her brother developing esophageal cancer at the age of fifteen are rather unusual. The surgeon confers with the patient's primary care physician prior to performing the mastectomy and is puzzled by the fact that the primary care physician cannot confirm many of the claims made by the patient regarding her prior medical history or her family history. The physicians find no evidence of the patient ever having been diagnosed with a melanoma and they also cannot find documentation of the prior workup. The surgeon then asks a genetic counselor to meet with the patient and help resolve the discrepancies. During the evaluation process, the genetic counselor decides to ‘google' the patient.

The genetic counselor finds two Facebook pages that are linked to the patient. One page appears to be a personal profile of the patient, stating that in addition to battling stage four melanoma (a very advanced stage of skin cancer with very low survival rates), she has recently been diagnosed with breast cancer. She also provides a link to a website soliciting donations to attend a summit for young cancer patients. The other Facebook page shows multiple pictures of the patient with a bald head, suggesting that she is undergoing chemotherapy, which is obviously not true according to what the genetic counselor and the surgeon have observed. Once this information is forwarded to the surgeon, he decides to cancel the planned surgery. It is not clear why the patient was intent on having the mastectomy and what she would gain from it, but the obtained information from the Facebook pages and the previously noted discrepancies are reason enough for the surgeon to rebuff the patient's request for the surgery.


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Doctors and Social Media: The Opportunities and the Risks

Doctors and Social Media: The Opportunities and the Risks | Social Media and Healthcare |

There’s no end to the ways that social media has impacted not just our personal lives, but entire industries. Social sites like Twitter and Facebook have become a resource not just for businesses to reach out to new and existing customers, but for customers to provide feedback about their favorite products, artists, and services.

Now it seems that the medical community will be one of the next groups to start leveraging social media in a big way. How to use it – and what constitutes “best practices” for social media-savvy doctors – will likely be a continuing debate. For now, let’s take a look at some emerging trends, and at some possible implications.

According to Australia’s University of Adelaide, more medical doctors are using social media every day, creating both opportunities and potential risks. Here are the most common applications of social media for social media in the medical community.

A growing number of doctors are using social media just as anybody would: to create online communities of people with similar interests. Quite simply, doctors are using social media as a way to communicate with other doctors: to gather contacts, build an online reputation, swap stories, and compare notes.

Health Promotion
A number of doctors are also using their voice in social circles to promote good health practices, as well as raise awareness for common (or perhaps not so common) health concerns. Of all the industries making use of social media, the implications of a worldwide network of Internet-savvy doctors is perhaps one of the most exciting; it would be a great way to stay up-to-date on emerging medical breakthroughs or concerns.

Marketing Purposes
Of course, social media is also a terrific tool for marketing, and so many doctors are using social media to promote their services and to reach out to new potential patients.

As you can see, there are a great many opportunities that doctors can make use of when it comes to social media. Of course, as with anything related to the Internet, there are a number of caveats and point of concern.

To begin with, it’s going to be absolutely imperative that doctors maintain the same sort of doctor-patient confidentiality on the Internet as they would in person. It seems like everyday that some celebrity, politician, or other public figure makes some gaffe on Twitter that they later need to apologize for. It would be all too easy for a doctor, to whom we entrust a great deal of our sensitive and personal issues, to let something slip with an ill-advised Tweet.

It goes without saying that social media is as frequently used for the dissemination of misinformation as it is for quality information. Doctors are already expressing an enthusiasm with the prospect of sharing research-related news with the general public, though the risk of spreading information too soon, or before a breakthrough is fully understood, is also a very real risk. As a result, accuracy will be as important moving forward as timeliness.

That said, social media is in the process of creating a worldwide dialogue between doctors, researchers, and other innovators in the medical community, and the ordinary citizens who will eventually reap the benefits of breakthroughs and general awareness of health issues. Social media is going to be a tremendous engine of change moving forward; we just have to make sure we’re all good stewards of the responsibility that implies.

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How the Top 100 Hospitals Engage in Social Media

How the Top 100 Hospitals Engage in Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

In a recent study done with the International Council for Quality Care, we took a look at how the top hospitals in the nation are engaging in social media. It came as no surprise that 83% of those hospitals actively engage in either Facebook, Twitter and YouTube (so far there has been little engagement in Google+). 

Delia's curator insight, October 16, 2013 7:03 AM

Sorprende ver que el 83%  de los  100 mejores hospitales  está activamente involucrado en redes sociales como twitter, facebook y Youtube. #mhealth 

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The value of twitter for a Medical Researcher

The value of twitter for a Medical Researcher | Social Media and Healthcare |

(ED NOTE:  Eric Topol MD, the Dean of Digital, as Forbes John Nosta journalist calls him, is a big believer in the power of Twitter as a source of Medical information, and looks like Dr. Wu  is also.  Never met Ann, only online a bit, but can really see how she leverages the net to aid her asthmatic patients, with her excellent Blog,,  as well as her Twitter account.  She is an asthmatic mom, researcher at Harvard, and specializes in treatment of pediatric asthma in the Boston area)

This weekend, my friend’s 9 year old asked what a hashtag was. My friend replied, “ it one of those Twitter things?” He turned to me and told me that he didn’t do Twitter, Facebook, or other things like that.

I was a little embarrassed to say that I knew what a hashtag was.

There are Twitter addicts, and people who look down on people who tweet, and many in between. I think I’m somewhere in between—or am I in both camps?  It was only a year ago that I mistakenly called a tweet a twit.

On this Sunday morning, I had this interchange between myself and a Twitter follower, Matthew Katz (@subatomicdoc), whom I may have never met if it were not for Twitter.  (For actual exchange on Twitter go HERE)   In interchanges that were 140 characters or less, we educated each other on:

1. Possible mechanisms that explain why statins could be linked to fewer asthma-related ED visits.
2. A possible role for statins in cancer.
3. Whether lipoxygenase inhibitors are still used for asthma.
4. The importance of clinical trials to determine causality.
5. He even suggested a research collaborator for me.

And we did all of this in a public forum. I must admit that it felt like a back and forth between two people until Joyce Lee (@joyclee, my Twitter role model) broke in and commented about how great our scientific discussion was. That was a wakeup call.  Not only were Matthew Katz and I educating each other, we were educating thousands more.

So I’ll just got out and say it. I’m on Twitter and proud of it.

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Pharma marketing to Physicians using Digital Media

Pharma marketing to Physicians using Digital Media | Social Media and Healthcare |
Richard Baxter's curator insight, October 15, 2013 9:40 AM

Interesting to watch the numbers grow

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Doctor-patient social media relationships

Doctor-patient social media relationships | Social Media and Healthcare |

Patients have gone online, digital natives are entering medical schools and regulatory bodies, like the General Medical Council in the UK, are scrambling to respond to the impact these changes are having on medical professionalism.

The possibilities for enhanced learning, better communication and higher quality care are vast. Social media, which has been described as the greatest revolution since the Gutenberg printing press, can provide patients with faster and easier access to doctors and it can help health care professionals disseminate important public health messages effectively and efficiently. Social media also allows physicians to observe and counsel patients about their risk taking behaviour and it lets psychiatrists digitally track “high risk” patients in order to intervene in an emergency. Heath care professionals can also use online social networks to crowdsource answers to complex clinical questions.

But the potential pitfalls associated with social media are equally vast and a number of doctors and medical students have already come a cropper as a result of their unwise use of Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media.

Confidentiality is one major area of concern. Hippocrates taught us that privacy matters to the doctor-patient relationship, but even that wise sage could not have imagined the complex blurring of boundaries between public and private life that has occurred as a consequence of the digital revolution in healthcare.

One point to bear in mind here is the extent to which users of social media are now connected to other people. This is best illustrated by the concept of “degrees of separation”. Frigyes Karinthy, a Hungarian author and playwright, introduced the concept of six degrees of separation in 1929. In essence his idea was that everyone on planet earth was no more than six acquaintance links apart. Whether this was true in 1929 is unclear, but astudy carried out in 2011 suggests that the degree of separation, at least for users of Facebook, is now about half what Karinthy thought it was.

This matters because a comment about a patient posted by a health care professional on their Facebook page may quickly lose its anonymity because of the size of their friend networks. This is especially true if “friends of friends” can access the posts.

A similar problem with confidentiality arises when health care professionals refer to patients on “open access” medical blogs or Twitter accounts. Remarkably, a recent study found that 17% of medical blogs include sufficient information for patients to identify themselves or their physicians and the same study found that a small number of these blogs included recognisable photographic images of patients.

Another major area of concern relates to the maintenance of proper boundaries between professionals and patients. Patients often disclose a great deal of non-clinical information to health care professionals and it is not uncommon for professionals to partially reciprocate. But patients can now find out far more about their doctors' personal lives, including information about their sexuality, their drinking habits and their political views, by simply searching for this information online. This is not necessarily problematic, but access to this kind of information could undermine the doctor-patient relationship.

Health care professionals also increasingly use the internet to search for information about their patients. There are often very legitimate and ethically unproblematic reasons for doing this. For example, doctors might be able to identify unconscious patients by conducting a simple online search. However, it is less clear whether it is ethically acceptable for health care professionals to use the internet to check whether patients are driving against medical advice or using recreational drugs. Obviously, searching for information about patients out of sheer curiosity or sending Facebook friend requests to patients for voyeuristic reasons is beyond the pale. But there is a lot of grey area here and further research is needed to discover what patients think about some of the more controversial forms of “digital medical snooping”.

Health care professionals also use social media to vent their frustrations about their patients, colleagues and working environment. Some of this venting provides a window into the reality of medicine in the 21st century and it may be argued that this serves an important public interest. However, if the posts include unjustified statements that harm reputations then charges of defamation may follow. Likewise, if the comments constitute “vulgar abuse”, negative professional and contractual repercussions may occur – as a junior medical officer who used “scatological” language to describe a senior colleague on a social network forum quickly found out when he was temporarily suspended from work.

Thankfully, many medical organisations have now published useful guidance to help doctors navigate the kind of professional and ethical pitfalls described above. But these are early days in the digital health revolution and, as new technologies come online, physicians will have to exercise a considerable amount of their own professional judgement to determine what is, and what it not, acceptable digital behaviour.

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How doctors in public social media talk about cardiovascular disease

How doctors in public social media talk about cardiovascular disease | Social Media and Healthcare |
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Healthcare Social Media: The Power of Cross Collaboration to Improve Outcomes

As physicians work to improve healthcare for their patients, social media is increasingly recognized as a tool for bridging communication gaps between medica...
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Physician perspectives on Social Media: Matthew Katz

Physician perspectives on Social Media: Matthew Katz | Social Media and Healthcare |

This month's physician perspective interview is with Lowell General Hospital's Matthew Katz, who shares with us his views on the rise of social media becoming a necessity in healthcare emergencies and his thoughts on how social media can improve cancer care.

Interview summary

HB: Hello Matthew, thank you for taking part in this interview. To start, please can you tell us about your background as a physician?

MK: I come from a medical family. Both my father and grandfather were doctors, so I grew up with a deep respect for the profession. I went to University of Massachusetts Medical School then did my residency in radiation oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. After a year on staff at Massachusetts General Hospital, I chose to pursue a career in community cancer care. I've been fortunate enough to serve in different volunteer roles for the American Society for Radiation Oncology in advocacy and communications, which has given me a deeper appreciation for the commitment of my colleagues and many others in cancer care.

HB: One of your current roles is External Advisor, Center for Social Media at the Mayo Clinic. How did this role come about and what does it entail?

MK: I've been tinkering with social media for years. After getting involved on Twitter in discussing healthcare issues, I applied and fortunately have had a chance to get involved with Mayo. I've blogged for them, helped develop the first social media residency course and gave a presentation at the first course in 2011 in Rochester. I have proposed some research-oriented ideas to the Center currently under consideration, but mostly it's been blogging and feedback.

"...communications tools can facilitate a better doctor-patient relationship..."


HB: How can social media improve cancer care, in your opinion?

MK: Done well, these communications tools can facilitate a better doctor-patient relationship and permit better health education and empowerment for both patients and clinicians. I'm hopeful but cautious, because we also need to learn how to best use social media wisely. I found I learned so much by listening to others, and then seeing how it fits into what I can offer in my scope of practice.

HB: Are there any companies or charities which you believe are using social media well to raise awareness of cancer?

MK: There are a lot of successful uses of social media, but I have not been attuned to how for-profit companies are using social media. Many hospitals, such as Mayo Clinic and M.D. Anderson, are very good at sharing their expertise in cancer care. There are many examples of cancer charities that have become engaged in using social media for advocacy and fundraising. The caveat with raising awareness is to be sensitive to the risk of overcommercialization, which seems to be the case with the 'pinkification' of breast cancer.

HB: What are the main challenges for physicians in using social media channels? How best can they overcome these challenges?

MK: The primary challenge for doctors is to accept that they are public figures in a digital world. Some advocate separating professional from private but that's not possible. In my opinion, all the ethical, scientific and legal wisdom that apply face to face also are relevant digitally in the practice of medicine. Social media are communications tools, so proper use means the challenge of understanding best practices. Guidelines and evidence are still evolving, which makes it difficult.

The best way to become more involved is to start slowly with listening online. Learning by doing and 'proceed with caution' are also helpful bits of advice. As more evidence-based best practices emerge, education in digital communications will be an important part of being a doctor.

"The primary challenge for doctors is to accept that they are public figures in a digital world."


HB: How important is social media today with regards to healthcare emergencies?

MK: Twitter and other platforms have the potential to be excellent rapid-response systems for healthcare emergencies. For pandemics, accidents, natural or man-made catastrophes, social media can improve preparedness, coordinate available emergency relief teams, and update the public. Because some emergencies may eliminate power or electronic access, though, it likely has to be a complementary system rather than replace existing communications. This use of social media has been of interest enough to be highlighted in the New England Journal of Medicine a couple of years ago.

HB: How do you think pharma can better engage with physicians?

MK: All stakeholders are frustrated with healthcare. Pharma can help doctors and patients in two ways: robust customer feedback systems and education. First, if pharma shows interest in addressing complaints rapidly it may be able to harness doctors to becoming collaborators in product improvements. While it has the potential to promote brand loyalty, more important is cost savings for pharma and doctors. Second, pharma offers great educational resources but I'd love to see it collaborate with government agencies, advocacy groups, insurance companies, hospitals, doctors, other clinicians, caregivers and patients to crowdsource better learning and educational tools. I'm not sure how you crowdsource it, but a disease-based, patient-centered learning portal to direct cancer patients to would be invaluable. There just isn't enough time in office visits to do it all face to face, and it will only get worse for doctors and cancer patients should the projected physician shortages in oncology become reality.

HB: Where do you see the interaction between pharma, physicians and social media heading in the future?

MK: I'm an optimist at heart. The more pharma and doctors embrace transparency and a genuine commitment to better care, the better that future will be. The goal should be health empowerment not only for patients but also for genuinely committed clinicians and healthcare companies. My hope is that ethical use of digital communications and openness to new solutions will get us there.


About the interviewee:

Matthew S. Katz, MD, is the Medical Director of Radiation Oncology at Lowell General Hospital and a partner in Radiation Oncology Associates, PA. He is an Instructor at Harvard Medical School and former Chair of Communications Committee for the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO). He serves on the Communications Committee for Massachusetts Medical Society and external advisory board for Mayo Clinic's Center for Social Media. His areas of prime interest are patient education and health empowerment. Connect with Matt via Twitter at @subatomicdoc.

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