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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24 Outstanding Statistics on How Social Media has Impacted Health Care

24 Outstanding Statistics on How Social Media has Impacted Health Care | Social Media and Healthcare |
Communication has been disrupted through social media but how has the health care industry faired? Dive into an analysis of 24 statistics on the subject.

1. More than 40% of consumers say that information found via social media affects the way they deal with their health. (source: Mediabistro)

Why this matters: Health care professionals have an obligation to create educational content to be shared across social media that will help accurately inform consumers about health related issues and out shine misleading information. The opinions of others on social media are often trusted but aren’t always accurate sources of insights, especially when it comes to a subject as sensitive as health.

2. 18 to 24 year olds are more than 2x as likely than 45 to 54 year olds to use social media for health-related discussions. (source: Mediabistro)

Why this matters: 18 to 24 year olds are early adopters of social media and new forms of communication which makes it important for health care professionals to join in on these conversations where and when they are happening. Don’t move too slow or you risk losing the attention of this generation overtime.

3. 90% of respondents from 18 to 24 years of age said they would trust medical information shared by others on their social media networks. (source: Search Engine Watch)

Why this matters: A millennial’s network on social media is a group of people that is well trusted online, which again, presents an opportunity to connect with them as health care professional in a new and authentic way.

4. 31% of health care organizations have specific social media guidelines in writing. (source: Institute for Health)

Why this matters: It is crucial to have social media guidelines in place for your health care facility to ensure everyone is on the same page, your staff is aware of limitations to their actions on social media and that a systematic strategy is in place for how social media should be run across your organization.

5. 19% of smartphone owners have at least one health app on their phone. Exercise, diet, and weight apps are the most popular types. (source: Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group)

Why this matters: This drives home the need for your health care organization to look into possibly launching a health related app focused on your specialty. This statistic doesn’t mean every health care facility should have their own app, but they should have a strong mobile focus across their marketing no matter their size.

6. From a recent study, 54% of patients are very comfortable with their providers seeking advice from online communities to better treat their conditions. (source: Mediabistro)

Why this matters: If the context of a group or community online is high quality and curated, then many trust that crowd sourcing of information from other like mind individuals is reliable. This shows how people perceive the Internet to be beneficial for the exchange of relevant information, even about their health.

7. 31% of health care professionals use social media for professional networking. (source: MedTechMedia)

Why this matters: This helps shine a stronger emphasis on the many applications and benefits of social media, one of which being professional development for health care workers from networks like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

8. 41% of people said social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital, or medical facility. (source: Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group)

Why this matters: This statistic shows that social media can be a vehicle to help scale both positive and negative word of mouth, which makes it an important channel for an individual or organization in the health care industry to focus on in order to attract and retain patients. Consumers are using social media to discuss everything in their lives including health and it is up to your organization to choose whether it’s time to tune in.

9. 30% of adults are likely to share information about their health on social media sites with other patients, 47% with doctors, 43% with hospitals, 38% with a health insurance company and 32% with a drug company. (source: Fluency Media)

Why this matters: Social media is slowly helping improve the way people feel about transparency and authenticity, which will hopefully lead to more productive discussions and innovations regarding an individual’s health.

10. 26% of all hospitals in the US participate in social media. (source: Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group)

Why this matters: If your hospital isn’t using social media, then you’re way behind the learning curve. Social media is really important for hospitals to communicate with past, present and future patients, despite the many regulations to what can and can’t be said on behalf of the hospital.

11. The most accessed online resources for health related information are: 56% searched WebMD, 31% on Wikipedia, 29% on health magazine websites, 17% used Facebook, 15% used YouTube, 13% used a blog or multiple blogs, 12% used patient communities, 6% used Twitter and 27% used none of the above. (source: Mashable)

Why this matters: Understanding where a majority of consumer health information comes from is important way of knowing of its value, credibility and reliability. It is important to differentiate sources of quality content from other less desirable sources of info.

12. Parents are more likely to seek medical answers online, 22% use Facebook and 20% use YouTube. Of non-parents, 14% use Facebook and 12% use YouTube to search for health care related topics. (source: Mashable)

Why this matters: Parents are more concerned about the well-being of their children then they were before having children, therefore they often source more information about a loved one’s health on social media and online more then ever before.

13. 60% of doctors say social media improves the quality of care delivered to patients. (source: Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group)

Why this matters: This statistic is important because it shows that many doctors believe that the transparency and authenticity that social media helps spur is actually improving the quality of care provided to patients. Lets hope this is a continuing trend among the industry for patients at all levels.

14. 2/3 of doctors are use social media for professional purposes, often preferring an open forum as opposed to a physician-only online community. (source: EMR Thoughts)

Why this matters: It is interesting that a majority of doctors chose a more open forum as opposed to discussion in a health care specific community online. It is a fascinating statistic because it feeds into the same premise that a certain level of transparency spurred by social media is taking ahold of the entire industry.

15. YouTube traffic to hospital sites has increased 119% year-over-year. (source: Google’s Think Insights)

Why this matters: Video marketing converts to traffic and leads much more easily than other forms of content because it more effectively gets across the point, shares a human element and is able to highlight the value of the facilities more quickly. Other hospital facilities should look to create video content based around interviews, patient stories and more.

16. International Telecommunications Union estimates that global penetration of mobile devices has reached 87% as of 2011. (source: mHealth Watch)

Why this matters: Once again, it’s time to think mobile first, second and third for your healthcare facility. With mobile penetration reaching an all time high, an age of connected devices is on the horizon for many healthcare facilities and it is time to develop a plan.

17. 28% of health-related conversations on Facebook are supporting health-related causes, followed by 27% of people commenting about health experiences or updates. (source: Infographics Archive)

Why this matters: This statistic supports and highlights two common uses of Facebook related to your health like sharing your favorite cause or interacting with others recovering. Social media has penetrated our society very deeply to the point where it has become a place where we share our interests and give support to others. This could be one of the many factors affecting why many trust the information found on social media about healthcare. The masses are continually accepting social media as a part of their everyday life, it is time your healthcare facility incorporated this marketing medium as part of your culture as well.

18. 60% of social media users are the most likely to trust social media posts and activity by doctors over any other group. (source: Infographics Archive)

Why this matters: Doctors as respected members of society are also highly revered for their opinions when they are shared on social media, which is even more reason to help boost your reach as a healthcare professional and actively use social media to discuss the industry.

19. 23% of drug companies have not addressed security and privacy in terms of social media. (source: Mediabistro)

Why this matters: This is an unsettling statistic about privacy concerns with drug companies that drastically needs to be addressed in order to guarantee that sensitive data is not accidentally released to the public on social media. It shows how many companies in health care still don’t know the first thing about the use of social media. This can be corrected by creating clear and concise guidelines on how social media should be used by the organization and its staff.

20. The Mayo Clinc’s podcast listeners rose by 76,000 after the clinic started using social media. (source: Infographics Archive)

Why this matters: This is a clear cut example of how to successfully bolster the reach of your organization’s messaging by echoing it appropriately on social media. Mayo Clinic already had a regular podcast that they helped grow by effectively using social media to share content and chat with their audience. Don’t get left behind in the digital age, take this example and run with it.

21. 60% of physicians most popular activities on social are following what colleagues are sharing and discussing. (source: Health Care Communication)

Why this matters: Many people on social media are passive participants since they aren’t creating or commenting on content, but instead reading and observing the content and conversations of others in their network. This is also true for many doctors that find value using social media to exchange information but don’t always choose to join the conversation. Many doctors are seeing the value of social media, regardless if they are a participant or an observer.

22. 49% of those polled expect to hear from their doctor when requesting an appointment or follow-up discussion via social media within a few hours. (source: HealthCare Finance News)

Why this matters: This is a surprising statistic because of how many people are comfortable with connecting with their doctor on social media, as well as how quickly they expect their doctor to personally respond to their outreach. This is a telling sign that the way in which we typically book appointments and handle follow-up conversations after an appointment, will continue to be disrupted by the use of social media in the process.

23. 40% of people polled said information found on social media affects how someone coped with a chronic condition, their view of diet and exercise and their selection of a physician. (source: HealthCare Finance News)

Why this matters: The opinion and viewpoints of the people in our social circles online are continuously influencing our decision making even it when it comes to our opinion on healthcare options. Health care professionals should take note of this fact by using social media in an impactful way to ensure they become a part of the process of forming an opinion of a person’s health care options.

24. Of more than 1,500 hospitals nationwide who have an online presence, Facebook is most popular. (source: WHPRMS)

Why this matters: The fact that most hospitals use Facebook over other social media channels is important to note because time, staff and budget are always limited and your efforts with social media should be targeted and focused to where your organization can make the most impact.

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Facebook Group Raises Rate of HIV Testing - AIDS/HIV

Facebook Group Raises Rate of HIV Testing - AIDS/HIV | Social Media and Healthcare |

A social networking group intervention was effective at increasing home-based HIV testing among men who have sex with men, researchers found.

Compared with participants who received general health information through a Facebook group, more men who received information about HIV through a Facebook group requested home-based HIV testing (44% versus 20%, a difference of 24 percentage points, 95% CI 8-41 for difference), according to Sean Young, PhD, of the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California Los Angeles, and colleagues.

Of those who requested home-based HIV tests, 36% of those in the HIV Facebook group versus 18% of those in the control group mailed their sample for testing, they wrote online in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

The authors noted that social networking may be a cost-effective approach to HIV prevention through a peer-leader model, particularly among minority populations and men who have sex with men. In 2011, the CDC noted that annual testing for HIV among men who have sex with men may not be frequent enough.

In 2012, the FDA approved the first home-based, over-the-counter test for HIV, the OraQuick test.

In the current study involving 112 participants, the authors evaluated whether participation in a social networking community would increase HIV testing among black and Latino adult men who have sex with men.


Participants were recruited through online venues, community venues with mostly black and Latino men, and through other participants to join one of two closed Facebook groups operated by peer leaders. Those chosen as peer leaders were screened as friendly, well-respected black and Latino men who had sex with men ages 18 and older, who had had sex with another man in the past 12 months, and who were interested in educating others about health.


Participants were randomized to 12 weeks of communication through one of the two groups: a group for discussing HIV prevention and testing, and another control group that emphasized the importance of exercising, healthy eating, and maintaining a low-stress lifestyle. Participation was voluntary and monitored.


The study population was comprised of 60% Latinos, 28% blacks, 11% whites, and 2% Asians. Participants filled out questionnaires at baseline and after 12 weeks of participation and were informed that they could request a home-based HIV test for free.


Researchers measured acceptance of group membership, engagement in the group, rate of home HIV testing, and sexual risk behaviors.

Requests for free HIV testing were more common among those in the HIV information group than in the control group.


“Because of the sparse data on returned tests and follow-up for test results, statistical analyses of these outcomes are not presented,” the authors explained, though they did find that nine of 25 participants in the HIV group returned their tests and 2 of 11 in the control group returned theirs.

“The active participation of African Americans and Latino men having sex with men suggests that social networking is growing among minority groups and is an acceptable and engaging platform for HIV prevention among at-risk populations,” they concluded.


They also noted that the study was limited by inclusion of two Facebook communities, self-report of location, lack of difference between offline and online risk behavior reductions through peer leader-led groups, use of one social networking site, and lack of a prior “best practice” for online interventions.

The study was supported by the University of California Los Angeles Center for HIV Intervention, Prevention, and Treatment Services; the University of California Los Angeles AIDS Institute; and the National Institute of Mental Health.

Read more:Facebook Group Raises Rate of HIV Testing - AIDS/HIV -Public Health -

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Social Media Resources for Healthcare IT Job Seekers

Social Media Resources for Healthcare IT Job Seekers | Social Media and Healthcare |

n my attempts to prepare for a panel discussion during last week’s TAG Health-sponsored HIT Job Fair, I corresponded with a number of you, dear readers, on how you and your colleagues have or are currently using social media in your job hunt. Thanks to everyone who shared their experiences, tips and tricks with me. I was able to relay some of it to the eager job seekers in the audience – many of whom were only vaguely aware of the potential social media can play in helping candidates: manage their personal brand and digital footprint; educate themselves on a particular niche as they transition from one industry into another; and of course, find job openings.

McKesson and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta were just a few of the employers at TAG Health's recent job fair.


The following is a list of resources that I didn’t have time to share during the job fair. Many of them come directly from the fingertips of readers.


Social Networking for Career Success – great book – no matter what industry you’re in – by Miriam Salpeter of Keppie Careers. You can follow her on Twitter and learn more at her website,, which also includes a guide to Google+ in the books section. – a website devoted to Health IT Workforce Development in the Northwestern States, part of the Community College Consortia to Educate Health IT Professionals Program. It includes some great advice blogs by Health IT Talent Specialist Yvette Herrera-Greer, as well as a session from Matthew Youngquist of Career Horizons on using LinkedIn as an effective tool for job seekers in the Health IT sector. You can also join the organization’s group on LinkedIn – just search for NW Healthcare IT Workforce.


* the @HIMSSJobMine Twitter account is a great national resource, as is the @TAG_Health account if you’re in Georgia.


* Twitter hashtags you may want to consider paying attention to include #HealthIT, #Jobs, or the name of the company, technology or position you’re interested in, such as #CIO, #Allscripts, #Epic, #EHR, etc.


* Pinterest – yep, you read that right. I’d say it’s a little too early to tell whether it will be a valuable resource for folks in healthcare IT, but the recent Forbes article I came across on the subject is worth a look, especially if you’re already a fan of the new social media sight. (Side Note: You can Find Healthcare Scene and EHR Screenshots on Pinterest also) – a website devoted to helping people use social media to get jobs. Blogger Joshua Waldman is also the author of Job Searching with Social Media for Dummies.

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How Social Media Can Teach You About Prostate Cancer

How Social Media Can Teach You About Prostate Cancer | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media serves as an online marketing and distribution channel for small-to-midsize companies and large brands. Its proven success in business has also prompted many nonprofits to make use of its ability to spread the word at faster rates than traditional marketing.
Men who suffer from prostate cancer or who would simply like to learn more about what’s current in treatment and medical procedures related to this disease have options available to them via social media.

Facebook & Twitter

A number of fan pages on Facebook are dedicated to the topic of prostate cancer. All one has to do to locate these URLs is to conduct a search with those keywords to see a couple dozen pop up. The same can be done on Twitter by using the hashtag #ProstateCancer.
Blue Cure

“Blue Cure” can be found on one of those dedicated fan pages on Facebook. Titled “Beat Prostate Cancer,” it was created by Gabe Canales. At the time of this writing, the page has more than 12K followers.
A social media marketing expert, Canales was diagnosed with prostate cancer at 35. He was familiar with the power of social media and decided to leverage Facebook the way he had successfully done for his company. It was his goal to build a community of similar-minded men. The success of that single effort grew into a full-blown nonprofit organization called “Blue Cure.”

Prostate Cancer Infolink

A few social networks have evolved specifically for men who have questions and concerns about the prostate. ProstateCancerInfolink is one that welcomes patients, family members, physicians, researchers, and anyone else who seeks updated information on this form of cancer.
Users can register like any other social network, and then communicate on issues in a live stream a la Twitter. The site will even allow you to remain anonymous if you prefer.


During November each year, the term “Movember” was coined to motivate men to sprout moustaches or “Mo’s.” The idea is to raise awareness and funds for men’s health issues — specifically those related to prostate and testicular cancer initiatives.

Once registered at, men start the “stache-growing” process on November 1. For the rest of the month, these selfless and generous men, known as Mo Bros, groom, trim, and wax their way into the annals of historic moustachery. Supported by the women in their lives, called Mo Sistas, Movember Mo Bros raise funds by seeking out sponsorships for their ongoing Mo-growing efforts.

Since its humble beginnings in Melbourne, Australia, Movember is now a global movement that inspires roughly 3.05 million Mo Bros and Mo Sistas.
The examples above are just the tip of the iceberg with regard to how social media can be utilized to learn more about this form of cancer. They serve as a starting point to help obtain online community support.

Insight into surgical treatments for prostate cancer can be found at The miVIP Surgery Centers employ the advanced robotic da Vinci® Surgery System to provide patients with exceptional and highly successful outpatient procedures that treat a variety of urologic conditions.

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Medical conversations are happening on Twitter, not Facebook

Medical conversations are happening on Twitter, not Facebook | Social Media and Healthcare |

When Twitter initially launched I was largely skeptical on how it could be utilized in medicine.  Initially I thought Facebook was a better option due to the ability to use more than 140 characters. Over time though, it has become clear the medical conversations are happening on Twitter, not Facebook.

An example of this is when we highlighted the #FOAMed movement — Free Open Access to Medicine Education.

We highlighted how physicians around the country are using twitter and social media to teach and learn in a dynamic way. In particular, we referenced 11 critical FOAMed resources for emergency medicine.  Nowhere was Facebook mentioned.

I think that’s a good thing.

Mainly because Facebook’s privacy settings are so nebulous.  Over time I’ve come to realize Facebook is starting to turn into the old Internet Explorer — bloated. Twitter is simple, straightforward, and you’re not worried about messing around with various profile settings due to updated policies every few months. Even though I was an early adopter of Facebook, getting an account during my college years months after it’s launch, I stopped using it a few months ago and haven’t looked back.

On my news feed in Twitter, not only can I keep up to date on the latest medical literature, but I can see debates between my fellow physicians about the various literature as well in real time.

I would argue there is a higher level of peer review that happens on Twitter at times than by some of the largest medical journals.  You don’t see this high level of medical conversation on Facebook.  Instead you get status updates about peoples miscellaneous thoughts or another invite to some random event you don’t plan on attending.

Further, Facebook doesn’t carry the medical conversation forward — it’s too declarative.  Twitter is not.

Grown up medical conversations are happening on Twitter, not Facebook.

Iltifat Husain is founder and editor,, where this article originallyappeared.  He can be reached on Twitter @IltifatMD.

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Leveraging Social Media for the Imaging Enterprise

Leveraging Social Media for the Imaging Enterprise | Social Media and Healthcare |
By: Safwan Halabi, MD @radhelper

The imaging enterprise has a huge public relations problem. Since the advent of PACS and real-time speech transcription, radiologists have sequestered themselves in reading rooms and thrown away the key. The days of radiology rounds and daily interactions with referring providers are gone. 


To make matters worse, patients are not aware that physicians with specialized training are responsible for the acquisition and interpretation of imaging exams.


To help counteract this trend, the American College of Radiology launched the “Face of Radiology” campaign in 2008 to educate the public about what radiologists do.


In comes another disrupting technology: social media. It is almost impossible to view a print ad or website without being directed to a social media site. When the lights went out during the Super Bowl, the Twitter community was set ablaze with activity stealing thunder from the game.


How do radiologists use the social media playbook to develop digital trust with the healthcare community? Ironically, the ingredients to a successful social media presence are similar to the successful medical practice: availability, affability and ability.



An exponentially growing number of patient consumers are living, breathing and interacting 24/7 on social media platforms. In a recent poll from the Health Research Institute and PricewaterhouseCoopers, one-third of patient consumers reported using social media sites for health-related matters, including seeking medical information, tracking and sharing symptoms and broadcasting how they feel about doctors.


Clinicians and patients want same-day imaging results and access to imaging and reports on the digital device of their choice. 

It is essential that healthcare providers develop a social media apparatus that can communicate to and with their constituency. These platforms provide around the clock ‘availability’—which helps retain current, and recruit new, patient consumers.



Many providers have written off social media because of its novelty (inability to understand the technology), lack of security (fear of the HIPAA police) and transparency (fear of revealing skeletons in the closet). However, the affability and transparency of one’s practice rarely goes unnoticed by the patient consumer. 


Newer generations of patient consumers will demand full disclosure and transparency demonstrated by their willingness to share their most personal thoughts on social media. Will the radiologist be willing to reciprocate this level of transparency? Are we comfortable to engage patients on their terms?



The ability of a healthcare provider was traditionally the benchmark that distinguished practices. Ability has taken a back seat to availability and affability. However, practices can highlight and amplify their abilities through social media. We have seen providers jump into the social media maelstrom by Tweeting surgeries with video. My contention is making healthcare digitally accessible will inflate the perception of ability in patients’ eyes.


Getting in the game

What steps should a radiology practice take to plug into the social media machine? Success or failure will depend on: a willingness to connect to the patient consumer in non-traditional ways; a strategic plan; and dedicated personnel. 


Determine Your Objectives

  • Identify the customers you want to engage (e.g. physicians, patients, employees)
  • Offer transparent customer service
  • Build upon and enhance your brand recognition
  • Increase local, regional and national exposure

Know Your Target Market

  • Make a list of 5-10 target markets
  • Continue to reassess your targets and adjust accordingly
  • Offer various platforms for different markets and various campaigns for different users

Follow Your Competition

  • Develop a competitive analysis profile
  • Go to competitors’ websites and follow their links
  • Login to sites like Facebook and LinkedIn and search for competitors’ profiles

Craft Your Message

  • Deliver content that is timely, engaging, entertaining, thought-provoking and educational
  • Think outside the box
  • Understand social media etiquette

We owe it to our patient consumers to adopt social media. This will undoubtedly help them feel more informed about their health and redefine the “Face of Radiology.”


Safwan Halabi, MD, is director of imaging informatics at Henry Ford Hospital. He is an active member of the Society for Imaging Informatics in Medicine (SIIM).

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Do physician social media guidelines need updating?

Do physician social media guidelines need updating? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Three physicians are calling on organized medicine to change the standard industry guidelines on social media use that call on doctors to separate their personal and professional online personas.


Instead, they argue, guidelines should focus on what is appropriate to post.

Matthew DeCamp, MD, PhD, Thomas Koenig, MD, and Margaret Chisolm, MD, wrote a “Viewpoint” on the subject in the Aug. 14 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (link). They argue that it would be impossible from a technical standpoint to abide by current social media guidelines. In addition, they said, the guidelines are potentially harmful to physicians and patients. The physicians are ethics and psychiatry experts affiliated with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. They held a live Twitter chat, with the hashtag #IDcrisis, on Aug. 16 to discuss their piece.

“In ethics, ‘ought’ implies ‘can,’ meaning that an ethical claim is binding only if a person is actually able to carry out the required actions. Separation of identities online is operationally impossible,” the authors wrote. They argue that an online search for a social media page would connect both personal and professional pages. “Despite the increasing availability of paid services to monitor and control a person’s Web presence, no current technology exists to overcome fully this particular barrier.”


The separation of personal and professional personae was a recommendation first made by the American Medical Association in 2010. Other physician organizations followed suit with their own guidelines, each promoting the same personal-professional separation advice. In April, the American College of Physicians and the Federation of State Medical Boards released similar guidelines (link).


The authors of the JAMA article say the draw to social media for many physicians was the intentional blurring of boundaries between professional and personal identities.


“Professional identity constitutes and is constituted by personal identity, perhaps as one of the many ‘subidentities’ or roles individuals might have, such as a spouse, parent and so on. Separation therefore verges on nonsensical,” the doctors wrote. They also make the argument that separation may be harmful. Depersonalized online interactions could lead patients to believe the doctor is hiding something. They also could lead to a physician’s inability to normalize a difficult situation or express empathy.


What should be stressed?


Instead of focusing on professional and personal boundaries, physicians should zero in on the boundary between what is appropriate and what is not, the authors wrote.


“When a physician asks, ‘Should I post this on social media?’ the answer does not depend on whether the content is professional or personal but instead depends on whether it is appropriate for a physician in a public space,” the article said.


Social media should be incorporated into medical education and professionalism curriculum, they argued. “Absent this approach, the professional transgressions motivating guidelines will persist, and the potential benefits of social media will remain unrealized,” the authors concluded.

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Practicing Medicine and Practicing Social Media

Practicing Medicine and Practicing Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

While attending the 2nd ExL Digital Pharma Conference in Berlin in 2010, I listened to a dynamic presentation by a young physician from Hungary who talked about the ways that social media could – and would – make an impact on the practice of medicine.  His talk was the hit of the conference and he really excited everyone in the room about the potential for social media and medicine.  Afterwards, I caught him for a quick video interview and wrote a posting about it here on Eye on FDA – “The Places That Medicine Can Go – Fascinating Presentation by Dr. Berci Mesko“.

Bertaln Mesko, M.D., PhD. is a “medical futurist” and has aMedical Futurist website to prove it.  , He is a medical doctor, a lecturer and a visionary and founder and managing director of the robust site Webicina – which curates social media resources in medicine for both health care professionals and patients (I am on the Webicina International Advisory Board) and founder of The Social MEDia Course.  He blogs at In other words, he does a real lot….


This includes writing a new book called Social Media in Clinical Practice. It is a very practical guide for a medical practitioner who wants to learn about how to use social media platforms in various ways to support communications with patients and other medical professionals.  It takes you through the how and the why.


Because social media and medicine has evolved so much since our 2010 meeting, I sent Dr. Mesko a few questions about the topic – questions that I thought might be posed from medical professionals who might be curious, but have not yet embraced social media in their practice.  Here is what he had to say:


While social media use among those in medical practice is growing, there are a lot of concerns on the part of practitioners that range from potential lapses of privacy to concerns about the return on investment.  How would you characterize the “risk-benefit” ratio of social media use by physicians?


I think there aren’t many essential differences between real-life and online communication.  I teach my students they should behave online just like they do in the offline world.  Therefore, social media can only make processes faster and more interactive, although if your offline communication as a doctor is bad, it’s going to be the same on any social media platforms as well.

There are risks, obviously, but if you know the limitations and potential problems related to the active use of social media, you know what you can do and what you should never do online.  That was the basic concept behind writing this handbook so then medical professionals worldwide would get a clear picture about the online channels and ways of communication.

Teaching tricks and rules about the Internet should get a huge emphasis in medical school, but it doesn’t get that kind of attention.  This is why I thought there is a niche for such a handbook which includes step-by-step instructions and tutorials focusing on all the major social media channels.


What do you see as the most important benefits to physicians and to patients respecting social media and medicine?


Communication between doctors and patients; or even among doctors; and patients could be more efficient, faster, more interactive and archivable.  As we tend to use such social media channels more and more in different areas of our lives from banking to shopping to making friends, it is quite inevitable that at some point it takes its place in practicing medicine and delivering healthcare.  In order to take its place in medical communication, we have to make sure all the stakeholders of medicine know how to use it properly and securely.  From my perspective, medical professionals should become guides for their patients online and as plenty of patients are quite web-savvy being up-to-date in their own conditions or therapies, it’s time for medical professionals to step up and educate themselves.  For this, they need to be even better at using digital channels than their own patients.  This is the area where I try to help them make their first steps.


There are many physicians who have embraced social media and are using it regularly in their practice, while there are still many others are not even using email.  Are we becoming a system of “haves” and “have nots” in medical practice and what are the consequences of that?


It was quite an expected phenomenon and it happens all the time when anything new is introduced as a new member of the range of technologies doctors should be able to use.  It took time to embrace e-mails – now it takes time to embrace social media.  But I must observe these processes from a neutral point of view.  I tell my medical students that my aim with the course is not to transform them into bloggers and Twitter stars, but to show them solutions so when they meet e-patients or will be challenged with digital-related problems, they will know where to find a solution.


While the practice of medicine is always human-based, some patients do want to use social media channels to keep in touch instead of many phone calls or unnecessary personal visits.  If new channels provide us with better methods in medical communication, why not use them?


How do you see the development of medical apps – both for patients and physicians – impacting the use of social media and the practice of medicine?


Medical apps are now on a different level and have the potential to play a crucial role in practicing medicine.  Patients will soon be able to measure almost any health parameters about their conditions at home from blodo sugar level to even genomic data; but physicians will have to be able to deal with the additional data patients will bring to the visits.


Although the number of health apps is skyrocketing, we should not forget the basics of evidence-based medicine and stick to this approach when implementing medical smartphone apps into medicine and healthcare.  There are more and more studies dedicated to this issue, but their number is still not enough.  The potential is clear, but as long as we cannot put evidence behind using these, this is just potential and nothing more.


Social Media in Clinical Practice is available from the publisher and on Amazon.

Jim's curator insight, September 3, 2013 7:10 PM

Early on it seemed many physicians were hesitant to embrace social media in conjunction with patients and their practice. But as we are seeing the barriers to "patient engagement" becoming less each day the opportunity for an expanded level of trust between all parties is only going to increase especially as we layer in a mix of video and mobile access 24/7.

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How Medical Professionals Are Using Social Media (Infographic)

How Medical Professionals Are Using Social Media (Infographic) | Social Media and Healthcare |
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Health Insurers Can Build Links to Customers With Social, Mobile Tools

Health Insurers Can Build Links to Customers With Social, Mobile Tools | Social Media and Healthcare |

Rankings by EveryMove, a marketing and incentives company, suggest progress in health insurers' technology adoption, but further online community development is needed.


Health insurers have further to go in using mobile tools and social media to develop a community with consumers, according to EveryMove, a health rewards-based marketing and incentives company. It has released its EveryMove 100 Health Insurance Index, which ranked the top 100 health insurance companies in the United States on how they engage with consumers to manage their own health.

As more individuals will be shopping for health plans in health insurance exchanges (HIXes) as a result of the mandate in the Affordable Care Act to have insurance, more transparency will be needed in how insurers meet consumers' needs and interact with them, according to EveryMove, which released its rankings Aug. 27.

EveryMove listed both regional and national plans based on whether they offer mobile Websites and apps, how well they use social media and whether incentive programs help motivate patients to adopt healthier habits. The company also examined how insurers use SMS and live chat to provide customer service.

"I wouldn't say anybody is knocking it out of the park on an absolute basis relative to other industries," Russell Benaroya, EveryMove's CEO, told eWEEK.


Scores were based on 50 metrics that measure how well insurers meet consumer needs for accessibility, motivation, community activism and overall satisfaction. Topping the rankings was New York-based Capital District Physicians' Health Plan, with a score of 73.8. The health plan, which has 385,000 members, is running a photo sweepstakes to reward healthy activity, Benaroya said.


In second place was Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ) with a score of 73. BCBSAZ uses social feeds to engage its community and also uses a Spotify account to allow members to share songs, Benaroya noted.

Independence Blue Cross (IBC) in the Philadelphia area took third place with a score of 71.9. IBC is working with Penn Medicine to see if Vitality's electronic GlowCap for pill bottles increases medication adherence. In fifth place, with a 71.6 mark was Humana, which uses Hewlett-Packard's Exstream communications management software and SundaySky SmartVideo technology to offer personalized video health plan statements.

Of the health plans ranked, 97 used both Twitter and LinkedIn, while 87 were on Facebook and 81 had a presence on YouTube.

The goal of the rankings was to create transparency and trigger a conversation between consumers and health insurers on how they're using technology, according to Benaroya.

"We believe that by creating some transparency around who is doing what and who is doing things well, we can start to push the conversation and hopefully be a catalyst for action," Benaroya said.

Health plans have more work to do to create this transparency using technology. They have a "long way to go around using these technologies to actively engage that population," he said.

Although any company can set up a social media account and say they have a Facebook page, insurance companies need to use these tools for "active dialogue as an important part of their business," Benaroya said.  "That's not happening right now. You would expect that to be the case at some level."

This would include actively monitoring social channels and promptly responding to comments, he said, while noting that active engagement using social media will allow insurers to build trust with consumers.

Many health plans offer mobile apps, but only 22 percent of health plans allow consumers to access their data on the mobile Web, according to Benaroya.

Although health plans need to encourage additional use of technology, consumers' adoption of these tech tools is not uncommon, according to Matthew Holt, co-chairman of Health 2.0, a conference organizer, and a member of EveryMove's advisory board.

"It's no longer rare for health care consumers or plan members to want to use social media and online tools on any device to improve their health care experience," Holt said in a statement.

"We're well into the medium adopter phase, and it's going to accelerate," Holt said.

Businesses in health care need to take the lead from those in retail, finance and travel, he said. "I think that the EveryMove 100 Index is going to help identify the insurers that are supporting this new consumer and will show the rest how to catch up," Holt said. "And it can't come too soon." - See more at:

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9 Ways Social Media is Impacting Business of Healthcare

9 Ways Social Media is Impacting Business of Healthcare | Social Media and Healthcare |

Hospitals that understand this impact and leverage them within their organizations will be better positioned to meet the needs of today’s consumers

Michelle McNickle, writing forHealthcare Finance News, referenced a report by the Health Research Institute atPwC US in outlining the impact of social media on the healthcare industry.  The information contained it the article is very useful for healthcare marketers.  The article is reprinted here:

According to a recent report by the Health Research Institute at PwC US, nine distinct uses of social media are helping companies to have an impact on the healthcare business, and to take a more active and engaged role in managing individuals’ health.


“Organizations should coordinate internally to effectively integrate information from the social media space and connect with their customers in more meaningful ways that provide value and increase trust,” the report read. “Insights from social media also offer instant feedback on products or services, along with new ideas for innovation. Organizations that can incorporate this information into their operations will be better positioned to meet the needs of today’s consumers.”


The report outlined nine additional ways social media is impacting the business side of healthcare.


1. Communication is shifting to public, more open forums. Which means less money spent on mailings, websites, and other marketing initiatives. According to the report, four characteristics of social media have altered the nature of interactions among people and organizations: user-generated content, community, rapid distribution, and open, two-way dialogue. “In the past, a company would connect with its customers via mail or a website, but today’s dialogue has shifted to open, public forums that reach many more individuals,” read the report. “Early adopters of social media in the health sector are not waiting for customers to come to them.” Ed Bennett, who oversees social media efforts at the University of Maryland Medical Center, agreed. “If you want to connect with people and be part of their community, you need to go where the community is,” he said. “You need to be connecting before you are actually needed.”


2. Patients (or consumers) are taking a more active role in their healthcare. Social media presents new opportunities for how individuals manage their health, the report noted, whether researching a certain illness or joining a support group. “The virtual aspect of social media enhances communications by creating a comfortable, often anonymous, environment for engaging and exchanging information.” In addition, patients are using tools like Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube to better educate themselves. When faced with an important health decision, the report read, social media can provide a new avenue of information and dialogue. “Some may share a health goal to generate support or engage in a patient community to interact with other patients,” it read.


3. Increased access to information means patients are demanding more transparency.  Laura Clapper, MD, CMO of the online community OneRecovery, compared healthcare’s use of social media with that of a bank’s. “As more people go online to interact with their banks and make purchases, they want to do this with their doctors, health plans, and condition and disease management as well,” she said. According to the report, many industry insiders referenced social media site PatientsLikeMe, an eight-year-old health data-sharing platform, as an example of how more than 140,000 patients are connecting with each other. “Social networks will peel back every corner of the health system and drive transparency on cost, value, and outcomes,” said Jamie Heywood, co-founder and chairman of PatientsLikeMe. “The information asymmetry that patients experience will be leveled, allowing the average patient to evaluate and improve his or her conditions, as well as the system’s performance.”


4. More instant feedback can help both consumers and organizations. With patients more actively taking to social media to express opinions, grievances, and experiences, they expect faster response times from organizations, the report read. “Truly social brands will listen to what customers are saying and feeling and use that insight to adapt and create products and services,” said Kelly Colbert, director of strategic advertising at insurer WellPoint. In addition to improving services and creating products to better meet the needs of patients, social media has taken on a more practical approach to basic, day-to-day operations within an organization. For example, according to the report, 49 percent of those polled expect to hear from their doctor when requesting an appointment or follow-up via social media within a few hours. 


5. Social information is impacting how and when patients select treatment and providers. It’s no secret consumers are increasingly turning toward social media to make healthcare-related decisions, like what physician to see and when to seek a second opinion. For example, according to the report, 40 percent of those polled said information found in social media would affect the way they coped with a chronic condition, their approach to diet and exercise, and their selection of a specific doctor. “Across the health industry, consumers seem to value information and services that will help them make their healthcare easier to manage,” the report read.


6. Social media allows for higher levels of trust. According to the report, consumer survey respondents said they would be most likely to trust information posted via social media (from doctors, hospitals, etc.) and, they’d be most likely to share information with providers via social media. The reason individuals trust their doctors the most? Human relationships, the report detailed. “You want to trust and connect with the people providing you the care,” said Kathryn Armstrong, senior producer of web communications at Lehigh Valley Health Network. “It’s easier to trust a person than an organization.” Healthcare providers have the ability to form human relationships and connect with their patients, the report added, which ultimately leads to increased trust.


7. Social media is evolving from a marketing tool into a business strategy. Although 82 percent of respondents said their social media efforts are managed by their marketing department, the report showcased how social media’s use is extending into customer service, innovation, and service/product development. “As people go through life events and their health journey, they have changing interests in health,” said Ann Sherry, senior director of Kaiser Permanente’s Internet services. “They want and need different tools and different interactions.” Having a social media strategy isn’t’ enough, she added. “It’s about social strategy.”


8. Providers can use social media as an outcomes-based measurement. The industry is shifting toward outcomes-based measurement, due in part to provisions in the Affordable Care Act, like Medicare’s Value-Based Purchasing and accountable care, read the report. “Social media can offer a unique mechanism for collaborating with other organizations/partners to coordinate care,” it read. The report advised using social media to support meaningful use efforts, all while defining a digital strategy and clear usage guidelines. “A hospital’s or physician’s first encounter with a patient is often through its online presence,” it read. “Providers should take advantage of the trust consumers have for them over other health companies.”


9. Health insurers can use social media to help focus on population health. According to the report, health insurers understand that focusing on the individual population will be key, as more partnerships in population health are formed and insurance exchanges bring in 12 million newly insured individuals in 2014, and up to 28 million by 2019. By casting your company as a “patient advocate,” it continued, you’ll get a jump start on understanding the needs of potential members and determining which needs can be met through social media. Additionally, it noted, organizations should begin to determine an approach to data aggregation and understanding the direct and indirect benefits of social media.

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Six Smart Doctors to Follow on Social Media

Six Smart Doctors to Follow on Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Several years ago I wrote a white paper called The Social Physician. Back then, it was relatively easy to keep track of the socially engaged doctors because there were so few. Today all that has changed as more and more physicians flock to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, blogs, and beyond. Here are six doctors I follow in social media, all of them practicing and all worthy of your attention. I focused on practicing doctors because they choose to engage on top of all their clinical responsibilities. For them, social media is an important way to stay connected with patients, peers, and the world outside their office.


Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson
Twitter: @SeattleMamaDoc

Known to her legion of fans (of which I am one) as SeattleMamaDoc, Dr. Swanson is one of the most eloquent medical writers in the social sphere. A pediatrician, she is an avid blogger for Seattle Children’s Hospital where she covers everything from swimming safety to measles outbreaks. Her recent post on the hiring of Jenny McCarthy on The View is indicative of her passion and willingness to take a stand on important, even controversial, issues. She also uses video effectively to educate, such as teaching parents about bike helmets. Dr. Swanson is pretty amazing.


Dr. Zubin Damania
Twitter:  @zdoggmd

Known by his alter ego ZDoggMD, this Las Vegas-based internist and hospitalist is a wannabe rapper/comedian/reality show star in scrubs. He is funny, sometimes hilarious, as he sings about everything from insurance paperwork to prostate cancer. My favorite video is one in which he gets his psychiatrist mother ZMommMD to “lay down the smack” on his internist father ZDaddMD. Seriously, though, I think that ZDogg makes medicine more accessible and relevant to the public and that’s a good thing.


Dr. Nina Shapiro
Twitter: @drninashapiro

Parenting young children is hard enough, and when they start with the constant coughing, noses that ooze, and ear maladies it’s time for a visit to Dr. Nina Shapiro’s website. While the Internet is never a replacement for a visit to the doctor, as director of pediatric otolaryngology at UCLA, Dr. Shapiro blogs, tweets, and updates Facebook with practical, trustworthy content for parents struggling with snot, boogers, and beyond. One of my favorite posts was Am I a Mean Mom? which challenges parents to let their kids experience the world – even if hurts a little – instead of constantly shielding them from it. Most recently, Dr. Shapiro joined the vaccine conversation with an op-ed in the L.A Times called With fewer vaccinations, is your child’s school safe? Can you tell I follow strong, smart women?


Dr. Mike Sevilla

This early adopter has gone from being Dr. Anonymous to being…Dr. Mike Sevilla. In between he used Family Medicine Rocks as his home base, where he tirelessly advocated for his specialty – and primary care in general. Recently, he took a break from social media to regroup (many of us were sad), but came back stronger than ever (which made us happy). Dr. Sevilla uses every form of social media: blog, podcasts, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Instagram – name it, he’ll try it. Wherever he is, he’s one to follow for his honest, funny, human musings about family medicine and life in general.


Dr. James Salwitz

He is a recent addition to my list based on a poignant piece he wrote for KevinMD. It is a story of his angst about a patient who died a terrible cancer-stricken death after enduring a tragic life of untold abuse from her husband. The patient’s children wouldn’t let her go even though an earlier departure would have been – in a sad twist – more humane. “There was no happy ending. I failed to appease their pain during Ellen’s life, so she died terribly,” wrote Dr. Salwitz. I read more of his posts on KevinMD and discovered what a compassionate and steadfast advocate for patients he is. Dr. Salwitz seems to be everything you would want in an oncologist (and I’ve met some who were everything you wouldn’t want).


Dr. Leslie Saxon
Twitter: @DrLeslieSaxon

Dr. Saxon is a health tech rock star on a coast full of them, yet most are male. She is both chief of cardiovascular medicine at USC Keck School of Medicine and executive director of USC’s Center for Body Computing. Known as the Digital Heart Doc, she is a pioneer in the evolving world of wireless and digital health. Her research using a smartphone-based ECG recorder for inexpensive, continuous heart rate monitoring helped the AliveCor device gain FDA clearance, one of the first mobile applications to do so. Dr. Saxon’s social media posts are generally on major news outlets like CNN – Leading the Charge in Wireless Health was fabulous. She tweets, too, so if you’re interested in where digital is going, she is one to follow.


Bunny Ellerin (Twitter: @BunnyEllerin) is Senior Vice President at Intouch Solutions, a privately held marketing agency specializing in digital and mobile solutions for the pharmaceutical and health care industries. She is also co-founder and president of NYC Health Business Leaders, a cross-sector network of senior executives that showcases NYC’s position as a thriving center of health, medical and life sciences innovation.

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Social Media Guidelines Force Physician Identity Crisis

Social Media Guidelines Force Physician Identity Crisis | Social Media and Healthcare |

Newswise — From the small-town doctor to the Freud—Ferenczi debate over sharing personal anecdotes, controversy over physicians’ professional identity is nothing new. The question of physician conduct on social media is simply a new context for an old debate, but ethics and psychiatry experts at Johns Hopkins say current guidelines are misframing the issue of physician professionalism online, missing the opportunity to shed new light on the evergreen issue of physicians’ role in society.


In a JAMA Viewpoint opinion published August 14, the experts say that current guidelines, including the recentlyreleased by American College of Physicians and Federation of State Medical Boards, are asking the wrong question about medical professionalism online; it’s not a question of whether content is professional or personal, but whether it is appropriate of a physician in public.

“Resolving the online identity crisis requires recognizing that social media exist in primarily public or potentially public spaces, not exclusively professional or exclusively personal ones,” write authors Matthew DeCamp, MD, PhD, Thomas Koenig, MD, and Margaret Chisolm, MD.


The authors assert that it is “operationally impossible” and therefore “nonsensical” to separate personal and professional identities, as many guidelines suggest. They will underscore their point by participating in a live Twitter chat scheduled for 2:00 PM on Friday, August 16, with the hashtag #IDcrisis, hosted by the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics(@bermaninstitute).


“Professional identity is a component of personal identity, much as a person can identify both as a colleague and parent in different contexts,” says Chisolm, a professor in the department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

“The internet is a reimagined small-town square for the digital age, where a comment made casually to a friend can suddenly spread like wildfire,” says DeCamp, a practicing general internist at Hopkins and faculty member at the Berman Institute. “Social media presents an opportunity for physicians to connect with their community, and they can maintain an appropriate professional identity while doing so by keeping in mind they are speaking in a public forum. So rather than something completely novel, social media is simply a new forum for professional conduct in public, which physicians negotiate all the time,” DeCamp says.


The authors warn that attempts to adhere to existing guidelines and “depersonalize” their identity online may backfire, reducing trust of physicians who are attempting to hide something, and increasing patient stress in response to a physician perceived to be impersonal and unsympathetic.


About the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics

One of the largest bioethics centers in the world, the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics is the home for collaborative scholarship and teaching on the ethics of clinical practice, public health and biomedical science at Johns Hopkins University. Since 1995, the Institute has worked with governmental agencies, nongovernmental organizations and private sector organizations to address and resolve ethical issues. Institute faculty members represent such disciplines as medicine, nursing, law, philosophy, public health and the social sciences. More information is available at

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Healthcare and Social Media Infographic

Healthcare and Social Media Infographic | Social Media and Healthcare |
The folks at have put together on how patients, hospitals, and health related organizations have been using social media. Image compliments of Master of Health A...
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Leveraging social media for preventive care-A gamification system.

Leveraging social media for preventive care-A gamification system. | Social Media and Healthcare |

Patient compliance is a significant factor in improving health outcomes. However, because of deferred benefits of treatment or lifestyle recommendations, patients frequently fail to comply with their medication, therapy or simply exercise or diet advice given by care providers until their health conditions deteriorate. As poor adherence remains a significant yet insufficiently addressed health issue, it is critical to create effective interventions as part of the solutions.


Previous studies indicate that peer supporting and social gaming can be useful for improving compliance. To understand how different motivation factors affect user behavior through social media, the authors constructed a healthcare compliance website with built-in behavior analyses so that they might conduct experiments. Users’ health compliance levels can be reported to the website and shared among consenting social members for discussion or competition.


Their theoretic models for behavior analyses include Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and psychological game theory. The authors’ preliminary analysis showed that people applying social media for healthcare compliance could be motivated differently and act strategically during their social exchanges. -

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4 deft ways hospitals use social media

4 deft ways hospitals use social media | Social Media and Healthcare |

The Mayo Clinic ranks No. 1 for Twitter, with more than half a million followers. Cleveland Clinic is third on YouTube, with nearly 3 million views. And the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston, Texas, ranks 30th on Flickr, with 115 Flickr photos.

Where do the paths of these three organizations cross?  Well, they’re ranked 1st, 2nd, and 3rd, respectively, in a recent Top 50 Most Social Media Friendly Hospitals for 2013 listing developed by a group called

According to Bethanny Parker, editor of and the social media list’s author, there’s no shortage of reasons why healthcare organizations should have a solid, ever-evolving social media strategy in place.
Awareness - According to Parker, one of the most important uses of social media is as a multi-faceted means of getting new, and perhaps critical, healthcare information out to the public.  “Perhaps a new test has been developed that can catch a certain cancer earlier,” she said.  The viral nature, so to speak, of social media can be a very effective means of disseminating information quickly, particularly when that information comes from a highly regarded medical source and can be of immediate use to patients.
Connecting with customers -  Any business needs to maintain its reputation, and hospitals and other providers are no different. A recent study published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that “approximately 60 percent of Internet users report using the Internet to look for health information.” Put those two facts together and it becomes clear that hospitals that want to serve the public need to meet the public where they are, which increasingly means on the Internet.
“Neutral” information - For Parker, one of the subtly valuable uses of social media involves “the way it can provide a way to connect with a healthcare provider without committing to an appointment.”  That is, it’s widely understood that some patients are reluctant, depending on the condition with which they’re struggling, to speak directly to a healthcare provider as the first step toward receiving treatment. With Facebook, for example, providers can offer information and guidance in “non-threatening” ways, with the ultimate goal of making prospective patients more comfortable when it comes to reaching out directly.
Flash mobs - OK, the actual category for this use of social media might be dubbed “Unorthodox Outreach.” And while the chances are slim that flash mobs and other “new communications” are going to become a regular option in, say, the Mayo Clinic’s communication strategy, Parker pointed to a group called Tobacco Control Nigeria that recently used a flash mob to educate passers-by about the dangers of smoking. The point is, as everyone knows, social media options keep evolving, so you really never know how it might come in handy.
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41 percent of patients say social media affects hospital choice

41 percent of patients say social media affects hospital choice | Social Media and Healthcare |
eMedToday's curator insight, September 5, 2013 1:15 AM

interesting facts.


One conclusion is that hospitals still do not use social media much

nrip's comment, September 5, 2013 7:22 AM
Yes...many hospitals fear regulations. The few that are using social media are using it very restrictively. Most of the hospitals which are using social networks do so as an extension of their website and bulletin board
Danielle Swift's curator insight, January 10, 2014 1:36 PM

Interesting stat andits implications about communication with patients.

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Patients' Use of Social Media Spurs More Clinical Research

Patients' Use of Social Media Spurs More Clinical Research | Social Media and Healthcare |

At 38 years old and in generally good health, Katherine Leon was an unlikely candidate for a heart attack.


Yet, on April 30, 2003, just six weeks after giving birth to her second child, she experienced classic heart attack symptoms and was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. After a number of tests, doctors told her there was nothing wrong with her and sent her home.


"I cried to my husband when leaving the [emergency department]. I knew it was my heart. You just know when it's not right," Leon said.


Experiencing similar physical symptoms, Leon returned to the hospital just three days later. But this time, doctors conducted an angiogram that revealed a serious block that required immediate double bypass surgery. 


What Leon had was a rare condition called spontaneous coronary artery dissection, or SCAD. Potentially fatal, SCAD involves a suddenly developed split or separation between the layers of the wall of an artery that provides blood flow to the heart. The condition seems to predominantly affect young women, with about one-third experiencing their first episode either during or soon following pregnancy. According to the literature, SCAD could account for one out of 10 episodes of acute coronary syndrome in women younger than 50.


Yet, the condition is poorly understood; the exact number of those who suffer from SCAD is also unknown, though researchers now believe -- thanks in large part to Leon's efforts -- it affects many more than previously thought.


At the time of her diagnosis, Leon was told that getting SCAD was a "fluke." Still, she had expected to receive information about her condition and how to prevent another event. Her doctor told her that there is no research and offered very little in the way of advice.


"It really set me off," she said. Despite her doctor's insistence that she'd never again meet another person with SCAD because it was so rare, she believed otherwise. "All I could think about is I wasn't the only person in the world with this," she said.


Leon took to the Internet to find others with the condition. It took her until 2007 to find another SCAD patient, which she did by joining an online community for women with heart disease through the National Coalition of Heart Disease's website. Today, the community is the InspireWomenHeart Support Community.


Determined to push for research on SCAD, Leon began collecting clinical details shared online by participants on the message board and logging them in a Word file that included the age, general health history, artery affected, treatment, locale and concerns of each participant.


The board became more focused and active in 2009 after a fellow SCAD patient, Laura Haywood-Cory, encouraged a SCAD-specific  message board separate from that of general heart disease with a post requesting: "All the SCAD Ladies Put Your Hands Up", a play on Beyonce's "All the Single Ladies." The women in the group began calling themselves the "SCAD Ladies."

Soon after, Leon and Haywood-Cory met in person at the Women-Heart Science and Leadership Symposium at the Mayo Clinic, a workshop on women and heart disease led by Mayo Clinic cardiologist Sharonne Hayes.


Leon attended the symposium with the goal of persuading Hayes to investigate SCAD. Her efforts paid off; Hayes agreed to take on the research, impressed by the information Leon had collected on 70 SCAD patients -- more than most experts, including Hayes, knew existed -- and a well thought-out research agenda. The end result was a pilot study published in the September 2011 issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings. The study, which had room for 12 patients, had 18 volunteers within a week of approval.

"This is truly patient-initiated research. It's not what I [as a researcher] want to study but what patients want to know about. Perhaps because I've spent the past 20 years doing patient advocacy work and active clinical practice, this resonated with me," Hayes said.

This pilot study has led to other SCAD-related research. "Once we finished [the pilot] but before it was published, we tried to scale up and get an IRB (Institutional Review Board) approval for a study with 200 patients," Hayes said.

In addition, the Mayo Clinic has created a database of SCAD patients aimed at identifying patterns that could guide future research. According to Hayes, she and her colleagues have been contacted by more than 300 individuals and have confirmed nearly 100 SCAD cases. They've also created a bio bank of DNA samples from people with SCAD and their families in an effort to uncover genetic factors contributing to the condition.


"We've had an amazing response. I no longer use the term rare, I use uncommon and under-diagnosed," Hayes said referring to SCAD.

Changing Clinical Research: Good and Bad


Health-related social media sites like Inspire, and have become trusted spaces where patients connect with, support and learn from one another about treatments and managing illness. And, increasingly, researchers have flocked to these and other social media sites as a way of expediting recruitment efforts for their research trials, in some cases with great success.


"If you look at the statistics, research in rare disease is so slowed and delayed by recruitment. How do you find people with rare diseases? It turns out that online communities are really good for that because geography disappears and people want to connect with each other," Inspire CEO Brian Loew said.

While eliminating geographical barriers is helping to create connections that prior to the advent of online social networks would have been impossible, it's also shed light on potential challenges that the research community must address going forward, particularly as it relates to blinded and randomized scientific studies, the industry gold-standard.


"We get excited when patients are engaged but when they are chatting online about the study, the research community needs to understand and adapt for that. It's a new space," Craig Lipset -- head of clinical innovation and worldwide research and development at Pfizer -- said.


According to Lipset, patients may coach each other online about eligibility for a study and how to qualify. In some cases, patients share information that exposes one treatment group or another, such as a rash that could suggest they're all in the same treatment arm.


These dynamics are not yet disruptive to studies today, Lipset said. But their effect likely will grow in significance. "Now is the time to understand it before it becomes a big issue," he said.


And when it comes to patients initiating research as in the case of the SCAD studies, Hayes suggests caution before rushing in.

"I think it's one thing for [patients] to approach the Mayo Clinic or [the University of California-Los Angeles] or Johns Hopkins -- institutions that will hopefully protect them. But some people with rare conditions are desperate. Desperate individuals could be exploited in a way that wouldn't be helpful to them or the disease," she said.


Still, there's no denying that Leon has managed to put a life-threatening condition that no one was paying attention to on the map. And her ability to persuade a leading research institution to study SCAD will likely be the difference between life and death for someone in the future.

"Our early findings already have generated new hypotheses that will be the source of future scientific inquiry for this condition," Hayes said.

The success of the SCAD Ladies points to real opportunity going forward, Loew said.


Hayes agrees. "It is evident that social networking tools can catalyze community action and that the energy and commitment of affected patients can overcome inertia and ignite excitement and commitment to new research."

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Social Media, Online Communities May Aid Clinical Care for Seniors

Social Media, Online Communities May Aid Clinical Care for Seniors | Social Media and Healthcare |

Health reform will involve a blend of old and new as researchers suggest social media can improve clinical care for elderly patients.


Researchers from the University of Luxembourg believe the use of social media and online communities by older people can offer valuable additional support in cases of sickness and diseases.


In a new publication, investigators conclude that possibilities for a systematic application in clinical practice seem promising.


The findings come with Web-related caveats related to monitoring, policing and updating personal health information.


The emergence of mobile-health and user-friendly devices ranging from tablets to other web-enabled devices, interrelated with social media — such as online social networks, discussion boards, and online forums — provide older adults with a wealth of resources.


In the study, psychologist Dr. Anja Leist and colleagues reviewed existing studies to document the wide range of options available to older adults.

They discovered a welter of intervention possibilities, such as designing websites to provide information on hip fracture prevention where older adults can also discuss their experiences.


With the successful use of a computer or web-enabled device, older adults report enhanced feelings of control and self-efficacy, but social media provides even more benefits for older adults.


“For me, it was interesting to learn that there is evidence for a large potential of social media in clinical practice. Older adults can use social media to access health-related information and engage in patient-to-patient or patient-doctor conversations,” Leist said.


“There are many online forums where people in difficult life situations, such as informal caregivers of a spouse with dementia or individuals with depression, can exchange thoughts as well as receive and provide social support. Other positive consequences are that lonely older adults can overcome loneliness through contact to family and friends and other users with similar interests.”

But social media has its drawbacks, such as access to harmful or incorrect information and misuse of personal data. Besides the potential for clinical practice and other positive consequences in everyday use of social media, the researchers also addressed these possible negative consequences of social media use.


Other negative effects include unfavorable social comparisons due to overly positive self-representations of others displayed in online social networks.

In the study, researchers discuss posthumous management of online web content, i.e. ,when the user has passed away. Another crucial unresolved issue is data handling when a user develops an illness such as dementia which leads to compromised decision-making ability.


Unless the user has agreed beforehand to transfer decision-making, inappropriate behavior or displayed web content could pose a danger to others, but also harm the dignity of the user.


Source: University of Luxembourg

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Healthcare professionals in the digital age

Healthcare professionals in the digital age | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media has long been a digital trend and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future, although new guises are popping up around the old faces of Facebook and Twitter. Instagram is used for sharing photos with friends (or strangers) and has been taken in a new direction with an app for doctors called Figure 1. Figure 1 allows doctors to share case studies with doctors around the world by sharing their own documented photos. The obvious question is immediately around protecting patient privacy but the free app automatically blocks faces to ensure no identities are accidentally revealed. Users can decide who to share their images with and even start discussions around them. It appears to be a digital forum of the ‘best bits’ i.e. the stuff doctors actually find useful in their daily job.


Figure 1 seems like a sensible and useful tool for medical professionals, perhaps more so for students who have not been exposed to many patients yet. Created by Movable Science (‘designed by doctors’) the app has meant doctors are able to access case study images wherever they are, which for a profession known for its time pressure, seems like a common sense move. It just shows that apps about health don’t just have to be calorie trackers or symptom sorters; they can be of use to professionals who have a constant thirst and need for sharing information, but don’t necessarily have the time or place to do so.


Instead of an infographic this week, here’s the link for the introduction video to Figure 1:

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Hospitals turn to social media for 'virtual' patient advice

Hospitals turn to social media for 'virtual' patient advice | Social Media and Healthcare |

Hospitals may have been slow to use social media platforms but many are finally taking advantage of all they have to offer and seeking input from patients on how they can improve care and services, reported the Wall Street Journal.

The article cites examples of hospitals across the country turning to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Pinterest to recruit patients and their families to serve as advisors, asking for their opinions via questionnaires and surveys on planned improvements in care, new services and even facility names.


Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del., for example, has set up a "virtual advisory council" on a private social network, so it can ask parents to voice opinions and advice regarding appointment scheduling, doctors' bedside manners and other hospital concerns, according to WSJ.


Similarly, the University of Michigan Health System, which encompasses three hospitals, 40 outpatient locations and more than 120 clinics throughout Michigan and northern Ohio, relies on "e-advisors" to answer approximately 35 online surveys a year, and a teen council communicates by responding to questions via its own Facebook page.

Concord (N.H.) Hospital, which includes 295 licensed beds and 238 staffed beds, is using social media to develop meaningful, two-way conversations and, in turn, build brand awareness and customer loyalty, according to the Concord Monitor. And Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, an academic medical center also located in New Hampshire, has hired a full-time social media coordinator to reach out to patients and their families.

These endeavors, while helpful on a local level, are part of a larger movement from the federal Medicare program to use patient satisfaction surveys, including questions on the hospital's responsiveness to concerns, to determine hospital payments.

According to a guide recently released by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ), patient engagement, including the incorporation of the patient's perspective into the planning, delivery and evaluation of healthcare services, is essential to eliminate communication gaps. Furthermore, AHRQ instructs hospitals to form patient-family advisory councils. The idea behind this recommendation is that getting to know patients facilitates focusing on the aspects of the hospital experience that mean the most to the patients.


Instead of having to recruit patients and family members to advise on services and facilities at the institutions, through social media, hospitals can obtain input from patients and families more efficiently. "The avenues through which patient voices can be captured and heard are expanding in rapid and creative ways," said Jason Wolf, president of the Beryl Institute, a membership organization providing grants and resources to help hospitals improve patient satisfaction, to the WSJ.


But Roddy Young, Dartmouth-Hitchcock's vice president for communications and marketing, said not all social media interactions are positive, reported Concord Monitor. Patients sometimes change their opinions from one day to the next, and often use the platform to voice complaints.

Read more: Hospitals turn to social media for 'virtual' patient advice - FierceHealthcare 
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10 Things Every Health Care Professional Should Know About Social Media

10 Things Every Health Care Professional Should Know About Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Perhaps no term captures the 21st-century zeitgeist quite like “social media.” Facebook, Twitter, Yelp, LinkedIn, Instagram—the ability to share across broad networks instantly, unfettered by geographic distance, has changed how we do business and transformed our interpersonal relationships. Now, online reviews and ubiquitous mobile communications change the way people connect with their doctors. Rating sites such as Healthgrades, ZocDoc, and Vitals increasingly affect the reputation of health care professionals and the success of their work.


Last week, ColumbiaDoctors and the CUMC Office of Communications presented “Social Media for Health Care Professionals.” The event featured presentations and panel discussions with social media experts: Columbia University Chief Digital Officer Sree Sreenivasan; the editorial director of MedPage Today, Ivan Oransky, MD; the former surgeon and anonymous writer who blogs under the name Skeptical Scalpel; P&S professor, oncologist, and popular blogger Azra Raza, MD; Tamar Schiller, DDS, MBA, of the College of Dental Medicine; Gina Czark, director of social media for NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital; and, from the CUMC Office of Communications, Chief Communications Officer Doug Levy and digital strategist Michele Hoos.


Presentations focused on the basics of social media, how the modern medical professional can and should be involved in social media, and how to avoid embarrassing social media interactions that can affect the reputation of both the professional and the institution.


Top 10 tips offered at the event:


1. Consider social media a dialogue, not a monologue. Many mistakenly think of social media as a broadcasting platform, yet it is most useful for promoting conversation. For example, responding to Tweets and mentioning people in your posts via their Twitter handle draws them—as well as their followers—into the conversation.


2. Understand that the impact of social media is not in who follows you but who follows who follows you. Though you may have only a few followers, the reach of your posts increases exponentially with each person who shares your material. Focus also on the quality of followers, not just numbers.


3. Share useful information. Our primary goal in social media is to educate, which means you should share information that people beyond CUMC may find useful. This could be a new scientific finding, health advice, commentary on a medical or science story in the news—and much more.


4. Accept that the line between professional and private is eroding. Even if your social media bio does not identify you as a Columbia University affiliate, anything you say or post online can damage both your reputation and Columbia’s. Do not rely on disclaimers to protect you or Columbia. Remember that patients and research subjects count on us to keep their information private.


5. Be an early tester of technology but not an early adopter. It’s nearly impossible to stay abreast of the ever-changing world of apps and websites. Find a medium that suits your needs—be it a blog, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.—and develop it. Each platform does different work; find what works for you.


7. Get noticed by standing out. We are bombarded with things to read and watch and listen to; the average person gives a blog post or Tweet only a glance. Make your material engaging and brief, with a dash of humor if appropriate.


8. Follow people you know who are already experienced in social media. Facebook and Twitter have an etiquette and lexicon that could easily confuse the neophyte. By following someone who is more experienced, you can familiarize yourself with the terrain and processes.


8. Work collectively. One of the benefits of being part of CUMC is that we are a large community with many people already active and successful on social media. Interested in blogging or setting up a Facebook page? Start with the CUMC Office of Communications. Trying to promote your clinical practice? ColumbiaDoctors has a marketing/communications expert who can help.


9. Doctors should expect online reviews. Not yet as universal as restaurant or hotel reviews, physician and dentist reviews are a fast-growing part of online media. Generally, patient experience influences online reviews more than the quality of the patient care. The best way to prevent negative online posts is to make sure that patients feel good about their experience. The last person to interact with patients has a disproportionate influence on their overall satisfaction. If a negative review is posted, consult the CUMC Office of Communications before responding publicly.


10. Use common sense online just as you do offline. There is no way to predict how your message will be read, or by whom. Be careful about posting content that might be offensive, just as you would use caution when speaking in person. Let your intuition be your guide; if it seems like a bad idea, it probably is.

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To tweet or not to tweet? : Exploring the use of Social Media for public health

This slide deck presents how social media may be used for public health practice.
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The role of social media in end-of-life conversations

The role of social media in end-of-life conversations | Social Media and Healthcare |

We often turn to social-media forums such as Facebook, Twitter, and blogs to share the important milestones in our lives with family and friends. So, it may come as no surprise that an increasing number of people are now using these venues to reach out to others for support, comfort and insights as they confront the passing of a loved one, or even their own death.

Today, a story from The Atlantic discusses some of the ways that our social-media lives are changing our perceptions about, and approaches to, death. From the piece:

Social media support networks tend to enable more frequent and lower-stakes conversations about dying than traditional hospital support groups, which helps stave off the sense of isolation that usually accompanies life-threatening conditions, says Alicia Staley, a three-time cancer survivor and co-founder of the weekly tweetchat Breast Cancer Social Media (#BCSM). During Staley’s most recent treatment, she found herself alone in a hospital bed at 3 a.m., in pain and scared. “Any of my west coast friends up?” she tweeted, and spent the next hour and a half talking through her worries with her followers. In the morning, a nurse told Staley she looked a lot better than the night before.

“It’s hard to explain that kind of comfort,” says Staley. “When you create this virtual community, it’s great because you get a glimpse into people’s everyday lives. You see the good, you see the bad, you see the ups and downs. It’s a great reminder of what life is really all about, how things keep moving, no matter how you’re doing.”

Holly MacCormick is a writing intern in the medical school’s Office of Communication & Public Affairs. She is a graduate student in ecology and evolutionary biology at University of California-Santa Cruz.

Previously: A conversation guide for doctors to help facilitate discussions about end-of-life careHow a Stanford physician became a leading advocate for palliative careThe importance of patient/doctor end-of-life discussionsA Stanford nurse shares her experience in talking to her aging mother about end-of-life decisions and Grieving on Facebook: A personal story

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The Power of Social Media in Medicine: Using Facebook to Save Lives

The Power of Social Media in Medicine:  Using Facebook to Save Lives | Social Media and Healthcare |

Recently, there has been a great deal in the press surrounding organ transplantation.  Sara Murnhagan, the courageous little girl with end stage cystic fibrosis, captured the nation’s attention as she waited for a life saving lung transplant.  The organ transplantation and procurement system in the US today is not without flaws.  Organs are at a premium and finding the best way to allocate them to matched patients who need them the most is a daunting task.


Today, nearly 120,000 people (men, women and children) are actively waiting for organ transplantations and are listed on the UNOS.  However, only 29,000 organ transplants were performed in 2012.  Obviously the demand far exceeds the supply for suitable organs for patients who need transplantation for survival.  Paradoxically, 90% of Americans say that they support organ donation but only 20% have taken the necessary steps to be a donor.  The rate of registered donors has remained static over the last twenty years while the numbers of those waiting for transplantation has increased 20 fold over the same time period.


Researchers are actively engaged in clinical investigations designed to identify better ways to recruit potential organ donors.  In order to improve the availability of organs for those in need we must find a better way to successfully register potential donors and allocate organs.  In particular, certain groups such as minorities and children are poorly represented as registered donors.


Our society today is more connected than ever.  Social media outlets including Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube are easily accessible and widely utilized.  In particular, Facebook is one of the most commonly visited websites in the world–second only to google.  Facebook is often the first stop for those who begin their exploration of the world of social media.  Facebook has become a great place to connect and to share ideas and news.  In addition, Facebook has been a place to inform others of an important cause or event.


Researchers at Johns Hopkins reported on a demonstrated effect of Facebook on organ donor registration rates.  In the report, the rate of increase was nearly 21-fold in one day–this was a day in May 2012 when Facebook allowed users to make their organ donor status public on the site (and also provided easy links to DMV sites so that users could make their status official).  On the first day that the new service was available on Facebook there were over 13,000 new DMV organ donor registrations–as compared to an average day where there are only 600 new registrations in a day.  This enormous bump in organ donor registration demonstrates the power of social media to move people towards action in ways that can benefit others.  Social media outlets such as Facebook are not only a great place to share pictures and reconnect with friends–they can be a new way to effect social change.


In medicine, we have only begun to scratch the surface of the full potential of social media.  It is imperative that physicians begin to interact virtually and engage fully in social media in order to effect change.  As we have seen with the New York Stock Exchange, social media outlet such as twitter can move markets (reference the largest 3 minute drop in the Dow in history when the AP twitter account was hacked).  WE must ALL work together to realize the untapped potential of social media in medicine–it can save lives–improve health–and even provide a large number of new registered organ donors.

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