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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Social Media Policies of Major Hospitals in the USA

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

Healthcare Social Media Policies List

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

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

Boston Children’s Hospital
For Patients and Families 

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

Childrens Hospital Los Angeles
Social Media Use

The Cleveland Clinic
Social Media Policy

Duke University Health System
Facebook Guidelines

Inland Northwest Health Services 
INHS Employee Social Media Policy

Inova Health System
Employee  Policy

Iowa Hospital Association
Blog Comments Policy

Kaiser Permanente
Employee Social Media Policy

LeBonheur Children’s Medical Center
Blog Comments Policy

Lehigh Valley Health Network
Social Media Guidelines

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

Medical University of South Carolina
Employee Guidelines

Mayo Clinic
Participation Guidelines for the Public

Comments Policy
Guidelines for Employees & Code of Ethics

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

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

University of Maryland Medical Center
Social Media Comments Policy

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


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Readability, Social Media, and Healthcare

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Healthcare Language Gap

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Crisis of Communication

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

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

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

Social Media: A New Bridge for Communications?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do Utilize Twitter to Answer Patient Questions

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

Don’t Give Access to Too Many Staff Members

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

Do Offer to Let Physicians Get Involved

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

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

Don’t Violate Patient Privacy

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

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

Do Reach Out to Other Healthcare Practitioners

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

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

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Why Social Media in Healthcare is Good for Physicians

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

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

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

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

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

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

The writing is on the wall.

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

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

But is Social Media in Healthcare Good for Physicians Too?

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

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

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

So if:

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

Then… what are you waiting for?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question #1. Why Would You Use It?

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

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

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

So do you want to…

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

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

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

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

What’s your role in the process?

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

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

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

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

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

Question #3. What’s the Feedback Loop?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now plot a few simple metrics like so:

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

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

A Caveat

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

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

And correlation doesn’t always equal causation.

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

- See more at:

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

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

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Social Media and "Compassionate Use"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Andrea Sloan (@andi_sloan) October 6, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

And an idea, Spectrum had.

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

You Tube Video:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can you relate?

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

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

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

Make the Tasks Easier- Use Tools

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

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

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

Tweetdeck- Manage, monitor, and schedule Tweets

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

ManageFilter- Manage your Followers on Twitter

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

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

10 Best Social Media Management Tools

The 39 Social Media Tools I’ll Use Today

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

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

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

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

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Social Media in Healthcare

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Social Media in mHealth Means More than Just Marketing

Social Media in mHealth Means More than Just Marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

Ask the tough questions

You’ll need to take a hard look at your company’s interactions with its customers and clients, says Philip, and determine if it’s inviting customers to share and engage in feedback. If not, you are merely playing at being a part of the social media conversation and not an active participant. Philip is on target when he says companies need to listen to the online community in order to understand what the customers are saying.

Focus on content
Content is another term that we’re seeing everywhere. And there is a reason for this saying; “Content is King.” These days, according to Philip, compelling and valuable content enables consumers to be spokespeople and promoters of your company’s brand in a way that traditional advertising cannot accomplish. He stresses the point that social media provides an immediate way to engage your audience, and they, in turn, can promote your content to even more potential customers.

Listen to, follow, and integrate feedback
This advice reiterates Philip’s first tip, which is to really listen to your customers’ feedback and use it to guide your company’s future plans. Using social media correctly can make your company’s brand stand out and help foster great customer relations in the process.

Today, every business should be using social media to listen to its customers, get feedback and re-evaluate traditional marketing campaigns. Your challenge, especially in the mHealth industry, is to shift your focus from an old school philosophy to a proactive, engaged, online corporate mentality … so you can stay on top of the wave, not behind it.

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Listening and Learning: 5 Best Twitter Practices for Hospital Executives

Listening and Learning: 5 Best Twitter Practices for Hospital Executives | Social Media and Healthcare |

When Paul Levy first heard about Twitter, he dismissed it as "silly."

"I ignored it," recalls Mr. Levy, former CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. "Why would anyone want to do this, and who would read it?"

His skepticism about the social media site didn't last long, however. Scott Hensley — a current NPR writer and editor who was then working for The Wall Street Journal  — persuaded Mr. Levy to give tweeting a try. Today, the former hospital executive has more than 9,000 followers and sends out healthcare-related tweets several times a day.

During and after his days as a hospital executive, he says Twitter has not only proved to be a fun and informative mode of communication but also a platform for improving Beth Israel's public image as an institution invested in transparency.

Mr. Levy isn't the only one who's used Twitter to revolutionize community connection and the healthcare conversation as a hospital executive. Industry leaders from all corners of the country have joined the social network to share healthcare news, trends and tips. 

"It's an opportunity to educate and offer thought leadership in a typically overwhelming space," says Stephanie Hollingsworth, one of Twitter's senior digital strategists specializing in healthcare. "It's a wide range of audience that allows for that open channel of influence."

Mr. Levy, Ms. Hollingsworth and other social media strategists seem to agree hospital leaders have a lot to gain by opening a Twitter account. Of course, it helps to have some guidance before diving into the network’s fast-paced exchange of bite-sized information. Strategists and executives already on the site have some advice to offer concerning best practices for healthcare leader tweeters.

1.       Consult with your public relations department — but not too much.

As high-profile people with access to plenty of sensitive information, it's important for hospital executives to watch what they say, especially on Twitter, says former hospital COO Christina Thielst, currently vice president at patient experience consulting group Tower and author of "Social Media in Healthcare: Connect, Communicate, and Collaborate."

"Think about what you're saying before you tweet it," Ms. Thielst says. "Really give some thought to what you say and how you're saying it."

Never use profanity or ad hominem attacks, and never break patient privacy rules, Mr. Levy says. On top of that, Twitter users must understand attempting humor is a risky business online. "It's like telling a joke in a foreign language," he says. "You really have to understand that it's a culturally different forum."

Generally, hospital executives already have a good feel for what to say and what not to say in a public forum like Twitter, says Barbara O'Connell, president of Enovasis, an Internet marketing, social media marketing and PR company. "Rely on your own common sense and trust that you are already trained to speak intelligently and carefully," she says.

However, if executives have concerns about privacy or sensitive information and want to double check their own common sense, Ms. O'Connell says they should run the potential tweet by the hospital's public relations or legal department.

Ms. Hollingsworth says consulting internally with the hospital's PR team is important. Executives need to make sure they know what their institution is comfortable sharing.

Still, Ms. Hollingsworth and Ms. O'Connell agree every tweet shouldn't get sent to the PR people. It will cause a lag in the process of sending tweets, a disadvantage when using a platform as instantaneous as Twitter. "You don't want to do that every day," Ms. O'Connell says. "Twitter is real time."

Mr. Levy advises against letting the PR or legal department ghostwrite Tweets. "Never let your PR department write it for you," he says. "It has to be in your own voice."

2.       Use Twitter as a learning and teaching tool.

By selectively following thought leaders in his field, Mr. Levy found a wealth of relevant, up-to-date information through Twitter. A considerable number of healthcare researchers and industry experts maintain feeds, and hospital executives can seek them out and turn Twitter into a channel for keeping up on the latest developments in the field. "Twitter actually made my day more efficient by acting, in essence, as a professional filter," Mr. Levy says about using the network to monitor healthcare news.

Executives can use the network to tune in to a variety of perspectives, Ms. O'Connell says. "They're learning from patients. They’re learning from peers," she says. "There are a lot of healthcare executives and policymakers on Twitter. To hear people's opinions as they're changing is a valuable learning tool."

In turn, executives should take advantage of Twitter's wide reach to share their hospital's discoveries and research, Ms. Hollingsworth says. "Hospitals can share the info they're discovering internally and continue to spread awareness and spread cures and research," she says. "It's something that's really important for institutions and executives to take part in."

Executives can also use Twitter to follow the discussion at conferences they aren't able to attend and to share tidbits of learning with others who aren't when they're attending. "Twitter has shortened the difference between those conferences by allowing that discovery in real time, anywhere across the country," Ms. Hollingsworth says. "Follow along to engage, to share your opinion, to share with your colleagues, to really influence and inform your community."

Mr. Levy regularly live-tweets conferences and says it helps him better absorb what he's hearing as well as inform his followers. "All the people who are following me can in essence participate in what's going on," he says. "People have told me they really appreciate that if they can't get to a conference."

3.       Be personable, but not too personal.

When calibrating the tone of tweets, executives should remember not to come off as too stiff or formal. The mandatory brevity of communication on Twitter means people have to loosen up a little, Mr. Levy reasons, saying, "I think it's really impossible to write 140 characters in anything other than an informal way."

Ms. O'Connell also advocates for lightening up a bit, with the audience in mind. "You're not talking to your board," she says. "You're talking to your neighbor. You're talking to your friends and your family."

Ms. Hollingsworth recommends being professional but relatable. "If you're talking to patients and caregivers and people in your community, speak in language that's simplified and understandable," she says.

While maintaining a casual tone, however, executives should avoid getting too casual with content, Ms. Thielst says. "I would definitely avoid mixing your personal and professional lives," she says. "You don't want to sort of gather this following of people from your community and then start tweeting out every time your son's basketball team wins a game. That's not why people are following you as the administrator of the hospital."

4.       Set your own goals and strategy.

Rather than venturing aimlessly out into the Twitterverse, healthcare leaders need to approach the communication channel with a concrete plan. "Create your own strategy," Ms. Thielst says. "What are you hoping to accomplish with Twitter? What are your expectations?"

Executives looking to set goals can use their hospital's annual objectives, Ms. O'Connell says. Goals pertaining to transparency, community outreach and PR could easily apply to Twitter. Executives could aim to increase traffic to their hospital's websites or to inspire more people to inquire online about appointments.

Achieving those objectives hinges on determining the target audience for tweets, Ms. Hollingsworth says. Depending on whether they target patients, peers or others, the language and content of their tweets could vary significantly. For example, an executive targeting patients might tweet tips for staying well during flu season, while someone talking to other industry leaders might send out links to whitepapers produced by hospital researchers.

5.       Listen carefully and respond to the conversation surrounding your hospital.

Consumers turn to Twitter more to share their experiences, Ms. Thielst says. "More and more people are turning to Twitter while they're sitting in your waiting room," she says. "They're sending out a tweet about what they like and don't like. Whether you like it or not, people are tweeting."

Hospital administrators and executives can improve the patient experience and the public perception of their hospital by engaging with that conversation and responding to tweets about their organizations, she says.

Executives who respond to concerns, complaints and praise on Twitter build up patients' trust and give the impression of transparency, openness and honesty, Ms. O'Connell says. "If you're not addressing questions or comments online, you're basically nonexistent to people," she says.

Conclusion: Twitter helps executives and hospital image 

By following these tips, hospital executives and the organizations they represent can benefit from being active on Twitter.  Mr. Levy feels his presence on Twitter — along with his blog — helped improve people's perception of Beth Israel when he was CEO. "Our hospital was known for being open, candid, transparent," he says. "The social media aspect was part of that."

Ms. Hollingsworth agrees paying attention to feedback from patients and community members is crucial for healthcare leaders. She points to the Cleveland Clinic as an example, saying that the institution's sharing healthcare tips and insight through social media helped change consumers' views of hospitals as "potentially an intimidating space."

"The most important part is just listening, being able to listen to the sentiment of what the conversation is surrounding your company," Ms. Hollingsworth says. "It's really important to care about what they say."

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Does Pharma get Social media?

Does Pharma get Social media? | Social Media and Healthcare |

It is the perennial question that bounces around those of us who work in the pharmaceutical industry. Can an industry as heavily regulated as pharma, and therefore inherently conservative in its external communication, ever really ‘get’ social media in the way that other sectors, like FMCG, do?

If you conduct a straw poll of those in pharma, you will get as many different answers as there are social media channels, ranging from the staunch opponents who cannot fathom how the industry can possibly engage in meaningful two-way conversation without significant risk of regulatory breach, through to the social media cheerleaders who see it as pivotal to its future.

But whilst the industry has certainly been slow to embrace social media, don’t write it off just yet – there are signs of progress. Recently, for example, German pharma giant Boehringer Ingelheim released a YouTube video to recognise and thank the 50,000 people who had liked its Facebook page.

Healthcare social business development expert, Andrew Spong, was dismissive in his analysis of the piece, seeing the presentation as clunky, the messaging overtly promotional and suggesting that recognising ‘likes’ fundamentally missed the point of social media, where success should  be measured on engagement.

US industry observer, John Mack, was a little warmer in his review, suggesting the volume of likes epitomised how far pharma has come with social media, even if the level of comment interaction is far lower, perhaps due to highly restrictive moderation rules.

The criticisms raised by both pieces cannot be dismissed. For sure, the video could have been a little slicker – it comes across as quite ‘corporate’ in its messaging, especially during the intro which is an advert for the Facebook page, and Allan Hillgrove, from Boehringer’s Board of Managing Directors, could be more settled in front of the camera.

However, for me there is a lot that is right about this piece too, in terms of what it says about Boehringer’s commitment to, and understanding of, social media:

  • Achieving 50,000 likes on Boehringer’s facebook page is noteworthy, particularly when you consider how it has been achieved. The company has been keen to step beyond corporate messaging and disease area communication, with initiatives such as photo competitions, which have seen considerable external engagement.
  • By commissioning this video, Boehringer is showing that it recognises that the success of social media depends on delivering value to these external users, not just pumping out corporate information. How many other pharma companies have taken the time to thank their followers in this way?
  • Involving senior management suggests that social media at Boehringer is not just the realm of the young innovators, but recognised as important at every level of the organisation.

There is also a much deeper aspect to this too; the notion that social media is still very much an experimental channel for many companies (even beyond pharma), where the only way to understand how to use it properly is by trying, failing, learning and trying again. Again, Boehringer seems unusually willing amongst its pharma counterparts to try more risky innovative digital approaches that may not deliver tangible results in the short-term, but will help develop its understanding of these channels. Take a look at its recent Facebook game, Syrum, for example.

For those of us with an interest in social media who sit outside big pharma corporations, it can be all too easy to criticise the industry for not being innovative enough, or moving with insufficient speed, in this space. But we must also remember the meaning of #failbetter – that imperfect initiatives still deliver valuable lessons and the only real failure is to try nothing new.

So Boehringer’s video may not have been perfect, but it shows the right intent and, more importantly, that at least some elements of the pharma industry do get the value of social media. Hopefully it will inspire other companies to focus more on recognising the value of those engaging with their channels.

After that, refining the presentation is the easy bit.

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Can healthcare companies learn about social media from consumer products?

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

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

Listen Carefully

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

Develop Thought Leadership

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

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How to Use Social Media to Market Your Small Medical Practice

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

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

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

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

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

Find the Right Network

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

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

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

Focus on Content

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

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

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

Give Patients a Reason to Participate

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

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

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

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GMC | Doctors’ use of social media (2013)

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

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

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

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

Bang-Up Blogging

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

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


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

The Hook

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

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

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

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

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Diagnosing content marketing in the healthcare world

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

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

How does Pharma engage without engaging?

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Doctor Recommended” in 140 characters…

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

#Taketwo and tweet me in the morning.

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

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

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Relevance of Social Media Presence for Doctors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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How Facebook Can Help Public Health

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How using Twitter can benefit researchers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 فوائد تويتر لطلبة الدكتوراة و الماجستير

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Social Media in Long-Term Care

Social Media in Long-Term Care | Social Media and Healthcare |

Everyone is abuzz about the social media. Yet its application for healthcare is not entirely clear. When you consider that 64 percent of word of mouth conversations happen face-to-face and not online, well the luster dims a bit. And when you consider that, unlike other industries that use coupons and other devices to drive immediate sales, healthcare services are something that people, by and large, do not want. We can’t issue a Groupon that says “Buy one nursing home day, get the second free. Act now.” So let’s simplify the social media equation for healthcare organizations.

Here is my take on how healthcare should use the social media.

Facebook - most people are looking for deals, coupons, etc from services and products that they use on an ongoing basis – think restaurants, retail. So it is not a perfect fit for healthcare. However, to the extent that you can build communities of people based on their affinity – caregiver community, Alzheimer’s community, weight loss community, diabetes community – that would help. And for everyone else, it is not about what you do as an organization but about what you share that can help him or her live a healthier life.

You Tube - picking up from the last line above, people will care less about viewing a procedure or process as they will care if your activity professional produces a video on activities elders can do at home to promote quality of life. Provide information people can use. Over time they will remember who provided it and think of you when they need what you offer. That also ties to your CRM efforts in which you collect data about prospects and clients so that you can give them what they want in both marketing and customer experience.

Twitter – the best use is to use one of the many Twitter tools out there and monitor mentions of your company. That is what Comcast does for their company and they identify customer service issues immediately. So using it in service recovery is becoming essential. A family caregiver leaves your facility and tweets about something that went wrong. You can deal with it immediately.

But you can also use these for breaking news that really has an impact and to create flash mobs at events or even in advocacy efforts. Take a cue from the following event.

A flash mob of dancers dressed as grey-haired senior citizens recently hit New York City’s Times Square to draw attention to long-term care insurance. Members danced a choreographed waltz in pairs, while a string quartet accompanied them. After the waltz, the dancers tore off their costumes and began a swing dance number. Following the dancers, an eldercare expert addressed a small crowd of spectators and spoke about the increased need for seniors to purchase long-term care insurance.

The mob was sponsored by non-profit group 3in4 Need More, which focuses on long-term care advocacy and the need for LTC insurance.

The Power of Four

Erik Qualman in a blog post “Social Media Made Simple: The 4 Steps” outlines four steps for success.

  1. Listen
  2. Interact: Join the conversation
  3. React: Adjust your product or service based on [2]
  4. Sell

Notice what is last? Companies often jump straight to step four, selling. Start with listening. Without listening the other three steps will not happen.

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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Pink ribbons go virtual

Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Pink ribbons go virtual | Social Media and Healthcare |

He stares at you seductively, flaunts his hot body — and reminds you to keep breast health a priority.

No, it’s not a cheesy pickup line. In fact, the object of your affection likely wants to keep things platonic.

That’s because he inhabits your smartphone.

Hot guys are a central feature of the Your Man Reminder App, available on iTunes and for Android devices.

The folks behind the app promise “you’ll love the attention our hot guys give you as they remind you to show your breasts some TLC.”

Still not sold on the tool? Don’t forget its potential to send “Man-O-Grams,” a personalized message in which a hot guy reminds one of your friends to stay on top of her breast health.

The app marks the collision of breast cancer and social technology.

An abundance of online breast cancer information isn’t new. But the popularity of smartphones, paired with the growing prominence of the social media world, has given breast cancer awareness efforts a digital presence that extends beyond medical terminology.

Consider smartphone apps that promote breast health. Facebook statuses devoted to awareness efforts. Twitter hashtags promoting digital unity among patients and survivors.

The digital world can potentially ease the uncertainty of a breast cancer diagnosis. Yet for activists, it has added new questions to a push for awareness.

Sources for online support

Your Man Reminder App comes from Rethink Breast Cancer, a group that aims “to continuously pioneer cutting-edge breast cancer education, support and research that speak fearlessly to the unique needs of young (or youngish) women,” according to its website.

You’ll likely find many other breast cancer-related resources available for your smartphone.

In addition to pre-diagnosis apps, other tools provide smartphone-accessible resources for patients.

The National Breast Cancer Foundation Inc. offers Beyond The Shock — a smartphone app featuring “a comprehensive online guide to understanding breast cancer.”

Also, there’s now a social media niche for those affected by breast cancer.

Occupying that niche? The BCSM Community, which fills “the intersection of breast cancer and social media,” according to its website. At the center of its efforts: a Twitter chat anchored by the group’s signature hashtag, “#BCSM.”

“Every Monday night we talk about breast cancer issues for an hour,” the community’s website explains.

Another online forum, MyBCTeam, has a similar appeal. Billed as “the social network for women facing breast cancer,” it provides “a social network to make it easier for women to connect with each other and exchange insights about providers,” according to its website.

There’s also P.INK, a portal on Pinterest that features photos of post-mastectomy tattoos, in addition to other images. “Please use these boards to investigate breast tattoos as a healing option,” the P.INK founders say.

For patients, relying on the forums might literally be therapeutic.

An August 2013 Reuters article cites study results suggesting “women with breast cancer who created a personal website about their health reported feeling less depressed, more positive and having a greater appreciation for life.”

The study was small, and focused on blogs rather than social media sites. But it reinforces the digital world’s possible benefits for breast cancer patients. Arguably, social media has also paved the way for a heightened openness toward discussing certain aspects of breast cancer.

Journalist Xeni Jardin live-tweeted her first mammogram and cancer diagnosis in 2011. Jardin, a founding partner and co-editor of Boing Boing, now tweets about breast cancer beside observations on topics ranging from a government shutdown to “Breaking Bad.”

Social media’s challenges

Discussions of medicine and social media inevitably raise questions about the credibility of information gained through personal technology.

Even the aforementioned BCSM Community cautions, “#BCSM is not a forum for medical advice. We strive to present evidence-based information about breast cancer. The experience of those participating on the chat are not endorsements.”

But on a deeper level, social media’s role in the breast cancer awareness movement has spurred some fears that activism might one day be confined to sitting in front of a computer.

Consider the rise of “slacktivism,” which describes “virtual activism with no real results,” according to an NPR reporter. The term entered conversations a few years ago when women posted their bra colors on Facebook in a supposed attempt to raise awareness for breast cancer.

“Despite apparent good intentions, the lighthearted tone of the message and the resulting ambiguity of the viral campaign rubbed some the wrong way,” according to an AOL News article.

It touches on a major issue surrounding social technology’s approach to breast cancer.

The virtual world might unite and comfort patients. But for the rest of us, it has potential to dangerously simplify complex health conversations. Are breast health lessons from a hot guy better than none at all? Is a pink ribbon profile photo on Facebook better than dismissing awareness efforts entirely?

The answer likely requires analysis deeper than an Internet message board.

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Facebook And Twitter May Yield Clues To Preventing The Spread Of Disease

Facebook And Twitter May Yield Clues To Preventing The Spread Of Disease | Social Media and Healthcare |

Facebook and Twitter could provide vital clues to control infectious diseases by using mathematical models to understand how we respond socially to biological contagions.

Cold and flu season prompts society to find ways to prevent the spread of disease though measures like vaccination all the way through to covering our mouths when we cough and staying in bed. These social responses are much more difficult to predict than the way biological contagion will evolve, but new methods are being developed to do just that.

Published this week in Science (Title: Contagion, Contagion, Manuscript Number: science.1244492), Chris Bauch, a Professor of Applied Mathematics at the University of Waterloo, and co-author Alison Galvani from Yale University, review social factors in epidemiology. They suggest that the biological spread of diseases is intertwined with how society responds to those contagions.

Social media and other data sources can be tapped for insights into how people will react when faced with a new disease control measure or the threat of infectious disease, said Professor Bauch. We can create models from this data that allows researchers to observe how social contagion networks interact with better-known biological contagion networks.

Researchers found that -- like disease -- ideas, sentiments and information can also be contagious. They looked at examples such as pediatric vaccine coverage, public health communications aimed at reducing the spread of infection and acceptance of quarantine during the SARS outbreak.

Predictive modelling isnt perfect, but it can help gauge how people will respond to disease control measures, said Professor Bauch, who works with epidemiologists and population health researchers. All sorts of variables can effect something as complex as the spread of disease. This is why its important to bring a variety of perspectives into play, not just the biological considerations.

Bauch will continue to study the intersection of theory and data in order to build better predictive models. Understanding how social contagion networks and biological contagion networks interact with one another can help public health officials prepare to save lives in the case of future disease outbreaks.

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Examples of Using Social Media for Medical Marketing

Examples of Using Social Media for Medical Marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

Most practices understand that in today’s world incorporating medical social media into their healthcare marketing plan is a must. The challenging part is not identifying this demand, it’s figuring out how practices can tap into medical social media to reach business goals.

Take a look at the list of possible applications below to determine how best the social media world can work for your practice.

1.      Twitter as a play by play for procedures

It may sound a little risky but social media channels are now being used to broadcast operating rooms and live procedures as a way to create excitement and raise public awareness. The buzz can work to attract new patients as well as recruit medical personnel.

2.      Enhanced training for medical personnel

Using medical social media channels to complement training efforts has proven extremely effective. It gives trainees a forum to ask questions, quickly receive answers and request additional training if needed. Beyond that, it provides a unique medical marketing opportunity if practices share training sessions on sites such as YouTube or Slide Share.

3.      Garner more mainstream media attention

Recent reports suggest 70% of journalists use social networks to assist their reporting. As part of a medical marketing strategy, practices can use their blogs, forums etc. to spread the word on success stories or unique operations and treatments.

 4.      Keep the public up-to-date in times of crisis

When emergencies happen, healthcare providers play an integral role. Providers can use social media to give real-time updates and communicate with the masses.

5.      Steer patients away from misinformation

The amount of medical information available on the web while incredible, can in some cases lead patients to inaccurate material regarding their health. However, by providing accurate and timely information concerning symptoms, diseases, medications and procedures, physician websites can ensure their patients aren’t misinformed.

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