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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Why Medical Education Should Embrace Social Media

Why Medical Education Should Embrace Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

I have never been very computer or tech savvy.  I’m not up-to-date on the latest technology, but I do have a smart phone and a laptop which I use for their very basic purposes; and I do admit I have a Facebook account, mostly for keeping in touch with friends and family and, you know, the daily grind.  Up until recently, I had no idea how to “Tweet” or what Twitter was really all about.  A physician mentor of mine suggested that I start a Twitter account and take advantage of the vast amount of knowledge floating around in Twitter world. 


I was hesitant at first since my free time is limited and I didn’t really need any additional distractions from my fellowship.  Plus, I definitely didn’t need to join another social media network to share pictures and read about everyone’s daily happenings.  But, I trust my mentor and appreciate his guidance, so I signed up.  And WOW!  Information overload at my fingertips!!  Within a few minutes, I became a “follower” of JAMA, Chest, Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, New England Journal of Medicine, the Annals of Internal Medicine and numerous other large medical journals and institutions.  Granted, I may have also become a “follower” of a couple fitness magazines and my beloved Kansas Jayhawks, but the majority of my Twitter thread consists of these professional organizations. 


I had immediate access to hundreds of tweets from these prestigious institutions across the world.  These world-renowned entities were “tweeting” about medical information, both past and present.  They were sharing everything from major review articles to personal reflections and comic strips.  Not only were the major institutions sharing these, but other physicians were sharing their professional opinions and other articles that they found important and interesting.  By signing up for Twitter, I had opened my eyes to a whole new world of medical education.


At first, I mostly just browsed articles and topics that were posted.  But the more I read, the more I wanted to share.  I felt like others were helping me, so why not share the knowledge.   One afternoon, I sat down in the fellow call room on a break.  I had been browsing my Twitter feed on my phone and there were a couple of interesting articles and commentaries I wanted to read.  But low and behold, when signing in, a big red box comes across the screen stating “Access Denied.”  Ok, so I know Twitter is technically considered social media, but why can’t social media be used as an educational tool?  Large renowned institutions and organizations are tweeting valuable information pertaining to my livelihood and I can’t access it “on the job” where I’m supposed to be gaining an education.


I completely understand the philosophy of “internet censoring”.  I mean, who wants to see Johnny Five post 15 pictures a day from his iPhone about what he had for lunch while he’s supposed to be getting paid to do his job.  There is a time and a place for social media.  But why not allow some social media in the workplace as an educational tool? Why not allow residents and fellows the opportunity to access this information in their downtime?  Twitter, and/or other social media networks, could be viewed as a great opportunity for medical professionals to share information with one another. 


Why not start a “Pulmonary and Critical Care fellow’s page” and fill it with all the landmark articles, recent advancements, personal stories, financial advice, and multiple other topics important for fellows to become well-rounded physicians?  Not only do you have access to scientific information, but also personal stories and advice that humanize medicine.  Other healthcare professionals’ comments encourage you to think about topics in a way you might not have done so previously.  This allows you to grow, not only professionally, but personally.  Wouldn’t it be great if residents, fellows and physicians started tweeting about their experiences, and sharing information they found useful for their practice? After all, medicine is an art.  The beauty of the network is that you have the power to choose who you follow and what you read based upon your professional needs.  It’s a way to stay up-to-date on current medical events, to network with other professionals, and to follow what other medical professionals are reading; things that you should probably be reading, but just didn’t really know existed.


In this age of technology, healthcare social media is becoming an all new important and emerging part of medicine.  One that until recently, I didn’t even realize existed.  Training programs all across the country, at least in my neck of the woods, are censoring how their residents and fellows are using their resources.  What do you think about unlocking their social media access while at the workplace and opening this up as an avenue for education and growth?  In this new generation of healthcare social media networking, maybe “access denied” isn’t just prohibiting trainees from posting their favorite Harlem shake video on hospital time.  Maybe it is actually prohibiting the the expansion of educational opportunities in the modern age. It’s time that medical education answer the call of this tremendous opportunity.

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Social Media Marketing: How Big Data is Changing Everything

Social Media Marketing: How Big Data is Changing Everything | Social Media and Healthcare |

Every second of every day, Big Data gets bigger. Social media alone generates endless streams of data, flowing in from Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and other social sites like never before.

Fortunately, sophisticated analytics platforms have arrived on the scene to help social media marketers manage, analyze and leverage large social data sets to gain actionable insights and a clear competitive advantage. Here’s a look at how Big Data is changing social media marketing in some pretty big ways.

Leveraging structured and unstructured data

According to industry experts, 90 percent of the world’s data was created within the past two years. Of this data, only 20 percent is structured — meaning that it can be readily stored in rows and columns and analyzed via the same tools that have been used for over four decades. The remaining 80 percent of this newly created data is “unstructured” content stemming from sources such as Instagram photos, YouTube videos and social media posts.

Creating more targeted and personalized campaigns

Social media marketers are always looking to communicate with customers in ways that are more relevant, personalized and targeted. And analysis of large social data sets can reveal important trends, which marketers can utilize to customize communications and content to better reflect what people are actually sharing, liking and talking about. 

A classic example of using Big Data to craft targeted and personalized offers is Amazon, which reaches out to customers by name — with specific product suggestions — to turn an otherwise anonymous transaction into an intimate long-term relationship.

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Social Media Release Increases Dissemination of Original Articles in the Clinical Pain Sciences

Social Media Release Increases Dissemination of Original Articles in the Clinical Pain Sciences | Social Media and Healthcare |

A barrier to dissemination of research is that it depends on the end-user searching for or ‘pulling’ relevant knowledge from the literature base. Social media instead ‘pushes’ relevant knowledge straight to the end-user, via blogs and sites such as Facebook and Twitter. That social media is very effective at improving dissemination seems well accepted, but, remarkably, there is no evidence to support this claim. We aimed to quantify the impact of social media release on views and downloads of articles in the clinical pain sciences.


Sixteen PLOS ONE articles were blogged and released via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and on one of two randomly selected dates. The other date served as a control. The primary outcomes were the rate of HTML views and PDF downloads of the article, over a seven-day period. The critical result was an increase in both outcome variables in the week after the blog post and social media release. The mean ± SD rate of HTML views in the week after the social media release was 18±18 per day, whereas the rate during the other three weeks was no more than 6±3 per day. The mean ± SD rate of PDF downloads in the week after the social media release was 4±4 per day, whereas the rate during the other three weeks was less than 1±1 per day (p<0.05 for all comparisons).


However, none of the recognized measures of social media reach, engagement or virality related to either outcome variable, nor to citation count one year later (p>0.3 for all). We conclude that social media release of a research article in the clinical pain sciences increases the number of people who view or download that article, but conventional social media metrics are unrelated to the effect.

We hypothesised that social media release of an original research article in the clinical pain sciences increases viewing and downloads of the article. The results support our hypothesis. In the week after the social media release, there were about 12 extra views of the HTML of the research article per day, and 3 extra downloads of the article itself per day, that we can attribute to the social media release. The effects were variable between articles, showing that multiple factors mediate the effect of a social media release on our chosen outcome variables. Although the absolute magnitude of the effect might be considered small (about 0.01% of people we reached were sufficiently interested to download the PDF), the effect size of the intervention was large (Cohen’s d >0.9 for both outcomes). The effect of social media release was probably smaller for our site, which is small, young and specialised, than it would be for sites with greater gravitas, for example NEJM or BMJ or indeed, PLOS.

Relationship between Reach and Impact

The idea of social media reach is fairly straightforward - it can be considered as the number of people in a network, for example the number of Facebook friends or Twitter followers. A blog may have 2,000 Facebook ‘likes’, 700 Twitter followers and 300 subscribers - a reach of three thousand people. Impact is less straightforward. The various definitions of social media each reflects a substantially larger population than our most proximal measure of impact – HTML views and PDF downloads of the original article. One might suggest that impact should reflect some sense of engagement with the material, for example the number of people within a network who make a comment on a post. From a clinical pain sciences perspective, change in clinical practice or clinician knowledge would be clear signs of impact, but such metrics are very difficult to obtain. Perhaps this is part of the reason that researchers are using, we believe erroneously, social media reach as a measure of social media impact.


There are now several social media options that researchers integrate into their overall ‘impact strategy’, for example listing their research on open non-subscription sites such as Mendeley, and joining discussions about research on social media sites such as Twitter and on blogs. Certainly, current measures of dissemination, most notably citations of articles or the impact factor of the journals in which they are published, do not take into account the social media impact of the article. New measurements, such as altmetrics and article-level metrics such as those provided by PLOS, aim to take into account the views, citations, social network conversations, blog posts and media coverage in an attempt to analyse the influence of research across a global community. There is merit in this pursuit, but, although our study relates to clinical pain sciences research, our results strongly suggest that we need to be careful in equating such measures with impact or influence, or using them as a surrogate for dissemination. Indeed, not even virality, which estimates the propensity of an item to ‘go viral’, was related with HTML views or PDF downloads.


This is very important because our results actually suggest that we may be measuring the wrong thing when it comes to determining the social media impact of research. That is, we showed a very clear effect of the social media release on both HTML views and PDF downloads of the target article. However, we did not detect any relationship between either outcome and the social media metrics we used. The only variable that related to either outcome was the number of HTML views, of the original blog post, in the week after social media release. It seems clear then, that it is not the total number of people you tell about your study, nor the number of people they tell, nor the number of people who follow you or who re-tweet your tweets. In fact, it appears that we are missing more of how the release improves dissemination than we are capturing.


The final result, that citation count did not relate to any social media measures, casts doubt over the intuitively sensible idea that social media impact reflects future citation-related impact. We used the Scopus citation count, taken almost 9 months after the completion of the experimental period, and 1–2 years after the publication date of the target articles, as a conventional measure of impact. There was no relationship between citation count and our measures of social media reach or virality. One must be cautious when interpreting this result because citation count so soon (1–2 years) after publication might be unlikely to capture new research that was triggered by the original article – although, importantly, journal impact factors are calculated on the basis of citations in the two years after publication. Suffice here to observe that the apparent popularity of an article on social media does not necessarily predict its short-term citation count.


Although this is the first empirical evaluation of social media impact in the clinical pain sciences and we have employed a conservative and robust design, we acknowledge several limitations. Social media dissemination in the clinical sciences relies on clinicians having access to, and using, social media. It will have no effect for those who do not use the web and who rely on more traditional means of dissemination - ‘pulling’ the evidence. Although there was an increase in HTML views and PDF downloads as a result of social media dissemination, we do not know if people read the article or whether it changed their practice. We presumed that a portion of those who viewed the HTML version of the article would then go onto download it, however our data suggest that a different pattern of access is occurring. Unfortunately, our data do not allow us to determine whether the same people both viewed the HTML and downloaded the article PDF or whether different people viewed the HTML and downloaded the article PDF. Downloading a PDF version of a paper does not necessarily imply that they would later read it, but it does increase the probability of such.


Citations and impact factors measure the impact within the scientific community whereas views by social media will also include interested clinicians and laypeople and, as such, measure uptake by different audiences. Although we used a variety of different social media platforms to disseminate to as wide an audience as possible, we do not know who the audience is - we can only surmise that they are a mixture of researchers, clinicians, people in pain and interested laypeople. Further, each social media strategy comes with inherent limitations in regards to data collection of usage statistics related to a blog post. Gathering Facebook and Twitter statistics for each article is still cumbersome and is probably not always accurate. The risk in using search engines to gather data is that there is no way of knowing whether all the data have been identified. For Twitter there is no way to retrospectively calculate the number of re-tweets accurately over a longer period retrospectively for each post.


As a result, our Twitter data is a best estimate and my have underestimated the true values but, critically, we would expect this effect to be unrelated to our blog post and therefore not impact on our findings. Regarding Facebook, shares, likes and comments are grouped as one statistic but in reality only shares and comments show engagement with the post and indicate that people are more likely to have read it. Regarding LinkedIn, the only available data was the number of members of the BodyInMind group and as such, we have no way of knowing how many viewed the actual blog post.


The blog,, through which the original blog posts of PLoS ONE articles were released, experienced a technical interruption half-way through the experiment. In spite of an attempt by PLOS to retrieve the statistics, approximately five days of data were lost on several of the blog posts. This also meant that additional data on traffic, such as percentage of traffic for each blog post from external sources such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and ResearchBlogging could not be measured during this period. Critically and fortuitously, this period did not coincide with data collection weeks. PLOS indicated that this technical problem has now been fixed, but similar problems may arise in the future and present an ongoing risk to studies such as ours. Although disconcerting for those keenly following social media data, this problem would be very unlikely to have affected our primary outcomes because none of our dates fell within the period that was affected.


Social influence can produce an effect whereby something that is popular becomes more popular and something that is unpopular becomes even less popular. It seems possible that articles on were shared because the site is popular among a discrete community and not because the article itself merited circulation. This possibility does not confound our main result but it adds a possible argument to the common objective of making a blog more popular as a device to boost social media impact of individual posts. Finally, our study relied on the target articles being freely available to the public. Many journals are not open access, particularly those in the clinical pain sciences. Therefore, we must be cautious extrapolating our results to subscription only access journals.


In conclusion, our results clearly support the hypothesis that social media can increase the number of people who view or download an original research article in the clinical pain sciences. However, the size of the effect is not related to conventional social media metrics, such as reach, engagement and virality. Our results highlight the difference between social media reach and social media impact and suggest that the latter is not a simple function of the former.

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Social Media Monitoring: Innovation for Public & Veteran Health

Social Media Monitoring: Innovation for Public & Veteran Health | Social Media and Healthcare |

Day-to-day personal interactions that don’t include social media are becoming harder and harder to find. US consumers spent 20-30 percent of their time online or 121 billion total minutes in July 2012 on social networking, up 37 percent from 2011. In other words, Americans alone spend upwards of 24 billion hours each year divulging minute-to-minute personal details online… or lurking…  with no indication of stopping.

This week, Ombud has taken a look at some innovative ways organizations are leveraging that magnitude of data for potentially life-saving innovations in Social Media Monitoring technologies.


Pharma + Consumer Surveillance = Pharmacovigilance

Social media trends present an opportunity for the pharmaceutical industry to gain medical insights and provide immediate medical alerts to consumers. This translates into a significant opportunity to revolutionize pharmacovigilance.

Pharmacovigilance is the science and activities related to detecting, assessing, understanding and preventing adverse event (any undesirable experience) or any other drug-related problem.

A partnership between the EU and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations, known as the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), is bringing Social Media Monitoring to pharmacovigilance. IMI is currently seeking social media innovation to establish a policy and regulatory framework for pharmacovigilance surveillance.

The IMI has two overall methods of gathering crucial self-reported data:

  1. Reporting: Patients suffering suspected adverse effects from medications could directly report to appropriate authorities through a mobile app integrated with established workflows and tools. Such reports can come from patients or physicians and becomes the basis of a two-way communication between reporter and authority.
  1. Data Mining: Social media will be scanned for emerging, self-reported medical insights. Content gathered from several web sources into a social media monitoring solution will allow for analysis and identification of adverse events in real-time.

This will allow for real-time reporting, identification and alerting on adverse events.

Leveraging Social Media Monitoring for healthcare is also taking hold in the US.


US Veteran Support

Social Media Monitoring technologies also allow for a new effort to save American veterans. Military suicide experts are collaborating with software companies to identify signs of despondency in military veterans through social media.

On average, 22 US military veterans are lost to suicide each day. These men and women may not explicitly announce their intentions in their Facebook statuses. However, military suicide experts believe social media postings can be analyzed for instant help before it’s too late.

These experts are currently researching their theory to find out how to monitor social media postings to predict and prevent military and veteran suicides.

Phase one of the project has already been completed. Based on doctors’ notes from veteran patients, experts identified key words and phrases to create a language-driven suicide prediction model.

Up to 100,000 service members and veterans in addition to their support network will be volunteering in phase two of the project to test the model’s predictive quality.

The results of this study will become the basis of identifying at-risk service members and veterans. Once identified, they will be automatically linked to resources. Their support network will also be notified in hopes of initiating intervention in time for prevention.


Key Takeaway

Innovating new uses for Social Media Monitoring technologies, organizations are demonstrating the value of social media far beyond networking and marketing.

After identifying a Social Media Monitoring initiative, the second step is finding the best tool to accomplish your goal. Dozens of options exist ranging from comprehensive social business tools to listening tools to publishing tools. Each is equipped with a very different set of capabilities and total cost of ownership.

Ombud has included Social Media Monitoring tools within our Social Media 

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What if Dr House used Twitter?

Bertalan Meskò: social media health Bertalan (Berci) is a geek. He is a medical futurist who started out being a project leader of 'personalised medicine thr...
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Click: The Doctor Will See You Now - Spreading Health Information Online

Click: The Doctor Will See You Now - Spreading Health Information Online | Social Media and Healthcare |

For more than 80 years, Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies have worked alongside local physicians and hospitals across America to help improve access to healthcare.  And today the traditional avenues of access to healthcare are expanding as quickly as the online networking capabilities of both doctors and healthcare consumers. 

A recent survey by Parks Associates revealed that “1 in 5 broadband households want live chats with health experts.” This is the new access. In an on-demand and online world where consumers expect to get what they want how they want it, healthcare consumers are no different. Healthcare consumers now expect to get access to doctors and medical information online because they know the technology and communication techniques exist. It’s just a matter of expanding and re-defining the setting of the doctor-patient relationship.


Dr. Peter Salgo, host of PBS television’s Second Opinion, agrees. In its 10th season, this award-winning television program, dedicated to health literacy and improving communication between doctors and patients, has expanded its format to include live Twitter chats during production.


“I think this [social media] is the answer that medicine has been searching for since the dawn of time,” said Dr. Salgo. “How do you stay in touch with people? You know the answers to the questions they’re asking, you know how to help them but you can’t reach out to them. They’re not in your office, you can’t call everybody every day, but you can reach out to them with social media.”

Salgo believes that social media can indeed improve health literacy. “There’s nothing more powerful in medicine than information. And access to that information is where the key is. This is the future of the human race: sharing information.”


The Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association saw this communications trend emerging in healthcare over a year ago. As the sponsor of Second Opinion since its inception in 2003, we collaborated with the show producers to include live Twitter chats with the show’s doctors about concussions, food allergies and diabetes in season 10, which premieres in October 2013 on PBS stations across America. We’re also developing interactive online video features hosted by physicians from the show, and a new web site that provides healthcare consumers with a searchable video database to access information about health and wellness and medical information from trusted physicians.


Doctors and consumers are on social media. Access to information is on social media too and Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies see this as a new, dynamic opportunity to help improve access to healthcare in America.

Nicoline Maes's curator insight, September 17, 2013 9:25 AM

De patient is online! Nou de doktoren en ziekenhuizen nog...#Health #Gezondheidszorg

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Social media is improving health literacy in Australia's indigenous population

Social media is improving health literacy in Australia's indigenous population | Social Media and Healthcare |

Around the world, social media is a disrupting and transforming force, bringing new opportunities for innovation and participation.1 In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have developed resources to provide guidance on using social media in health communication.2 In the United Kingdom, the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement encouraged its staff to explore the potential of using social media to transform care and staff engagement.


In Australia, the Indigenous health sector has been at the forefront of innovative use of social media for advocacy, public health promotion and community development. Two striking examples are the Lowitja Institute’s nuanced explanation of knowledge exchange from Indigenous perspectives4and the Healing Foundation’s engaging explanation of the impact of colonisation on Indigenous health.


The National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) was an early adopter of social media, and finds it a valuable advocacy tool, according to its Chair, Justin Mohamed. It distributes daily Aboriginal health news alerts via social media. Mohamed says downloads of NACCHO’s policy submissions have increased since they have been promoted on Twitter and other online channels.


The popularity of user-generated content — a hallmark of social media — is being harnessed in new tobacco control programs. These include the No Smokes campaign from the Menzies School of Health Research and the Rewrite Your Story initiative by Nunkuwarrin Yunti (a community-controlled service). In New South Wales, the Aboriginal Health and Medical Research Council uses Facebook to promote sexual health and smoking cessation.

While the digital divide is thought to be an issue relevant to remote and hard-to-reach communities, social media has been successfully used in the Torres Strait Islands to connect young people with a public health initiative in sexual health — the Kasa Por Yarn (“just for a chat”) campaign, funded by Queensland Health. Unpublished data show that Facebook, YouTube and text messaging were effective in reaching the target audience of 15–24-year-olds (Heather Robertson, Senior Network Project Officer, Cairns Public Health Unit, Queensland Health, personal communication). Patricia Fagan, a public health physician who oversaw the campaign, says that social media helped increase its reach. The campaign was using tools with appeal to young people, and, importantly, “it didn’t feel like health, it felt like socialising”. Heather Robertson, the project leader, says engaging local writers, musicians and actors in developing campaign messages and social media content was also important.


Social media has also been used to increase engagement with the Heuristic Interactive Technology network (HITnet), which provides touch-screen kiosks in Indigenous communities and in prisons. The kiosks embed health messages in culturally based digital storytelling. Helen Travers, Director of Creative Production and Marketing for HITnet, says this has brought wider health benefits, by developing the content-creation skills of communities. “The exciting thing for health promotion is that this kind of work is increasing digital literacy and digital inclusion”, she says.


Social media’s facilitation of citizen-generated movements is exemplified by the @IndigenousX Twitter account, where a different Indigenous person tweets every week, enabling many health-related discussions.


Innovation in service development is also being informed by the anti-hierarchical, decentralised nature of social media. The Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre is developing virtual mental health resources for Indigenous youth in remote communities. The centre’s Chief Executive Officer, Jane Burns, envisages that these will resemble a social network more than a health care intervention, and will link young people and their health care providers with online collection of data about sleep, weight, physical activity and related measures. Burns says, “It really is . . . creating a new mental health service, a new way of doing things that empowers the individual, rather than being that top-down service delivery approach”.


However, barriers to wider use of social media exist. Burns says that upskilling health professionals is critical. Kishan Kariippanon, a former paediatric physician studying social media and mobile phone use among youth in the Yirrkala community in Arnhem Land, says health professionals need support and encouragement to engage more creatively with technological innovations. He would like to see regular “hackathons” to bring together programmers, health professionals, innovators and community members to encourage “out of the box” thinking

KaitlynandSydney's curator insight, October 3, 2013 1:19 PM

This article fits into the social category because it talks about how social media is helping promote health issues

Kiann and Kenneth's curator insight, October 3, 2013 1:27 PM

This article relates to the socal interaction in Australia.


Social Media in Australia is popular. Social websites like twitter, Facebook, YouTube and more. Social media is changing our health in the way you sleep, your weight, and physical activity.

Geography Jordan & Danielle's curator insight, October 4, 2013 1:22 PM

Social media ia disrupting a big in AustraliaAustralia

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Study suggests that social media can be used to successfully improve medical practice

Study suggests that social media can be used to successfully improve medical practice | Social Media and Healthcare |

A doctor from the UK has shown how an innovative music video can help increase awareness of how to treat asthma.

Dr Tapas Mukherjee, from Glenfield Hospital in the UK, produced and starred in a music video to draw attention to new guidelines showing a better way of managing asthma.

A study presented at the European Respiratory Society (ERS) Annual Congress in Barcelona today (10 September 2013), has demonstrated the success of this video and suggests that social media can be used to successfully improve medical practice.

In April 2012, an audit at Dr Mukherjee's hospital highlighted a lack of knowledge in acute severe asthma management. Only 45% of healthcare professionals had used hospital guidelines on the management of asthma and only 62% were aware of them.

The guidelines were translated into memorable lyrics, with Dr Mukherjee singing the advice on how to treat acute asthma. The video was posted on the social media sites, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

A repeat audit was carried out in June 2012. When comparing the results to the previous audit in April, the study found that 100% of healthcare professionals were aware of the guidelines. All aspects of asthma management and knowledge had improved, with the most significant improvements seen for chest radiograph indication and target oxygen saturation.

Dr Mukherjee said: "Our study has shown that social media can help to change clinical practice, with 100% awareness of the new guidelines in the post-analysis. As doctors are often working in busy environments, we have to think of creative ways of reaching them with important clinical information. Our study has shown that social media is a free and effective way of doing this. The method could be adapted to different scenarios and the possibilities are not limited by resources of money, but only by imagination."

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Social media monitoring in the health care field

Social media monitoring in the health care field | Social Media and Healthcare |

In an effort to build relationships with consumers of medical services and ensure they are well-educated about their care, many hospitals and other health services organizations have taken to social media. Through Facebook pages, YouTube channels and more, health care professionals attempt to disseminate important information and solicit feedback. This can drive brand loyalty and create informed consumers. The use of social media in health care has many possibilities in addition to public relations and marketing, as well.

Tracking progress in brand awareness and information reach
Social media monitoring solutions can be of great use to health care professionals. Those hospitals and other organizations undertaking a social media campaign to build brand awareness and loyalty can use such tools to determine how well their efforts are performing. Social media analysis can show how many users are discussing the hospital and its posts and give administrators a better idea of how much engagement a particular campaign generates.

Those social media activities that aim to educate consumers about health care and treatment options can also use social media listening tools in a variety of ways. A preliminary scan of relevant posts to see what users say when they discuss a certain condition or procedure can help establish a baseline of general knowledge. For example, if misconceptions or questions consistently appear in social media posts on the subject, it will be easy to construct a campaign to counter or answer them.


Once an informational campaign on social media has been in effect for some time, it's possible to use social media monitoring to see how well it has performed, just as with public relations campaigns. A notable increase in posts from the intended area that display a correct understanding of the facts can demonstrate the success of an informational campaign, perhaps driving investment in further efforts of the same kind.


Research opportunities
Many social media users are free with what they will post. There is some amount of health information to be gleaned from such activity. The most basic aspects of a healthy lifestyle, including diet and exercise, are often things people will make social media posts about. Photographing meals and checking into gyms are not uncommon activities on social media. Others living with chronic conditions may post updates or questions. Social media analytics can allow researchers to tap into this wealth of data. Demographic research on a variety of topics can be accomplished through social media or supplemented by it. Of course, this can be part of a reciprocal process within organizations, where research both precedes and follows education efforts.

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Exploring the use of a facebook page in anatomy education

Exploring the use of a facebook page in anatomy education | Social Media and Healthcare |

Facebook is the most popular social media site visited by university students on a daily basis. Consequently, Facebook is the logical place to start with for integrating social media technologies into education. This study explores how a faculty-administered Facebook Page can be used to supplement anatomy education beyond the traditional classroom. Observations were made on students perceptions and effectiveness of using the Page, potential benefits and challenges of such use, and which Insights metrics best reflect users engagement.


The Human Anatomy Education Page was launched on Facebook and incorporated into anatomy resources for 157 medical students during two academic years. Students use of Facebook and their perceptions of the Page were surveyed. Facebooks “Insights” tool was also used to evaluate Page performance during a period of 600 days. The majority of in-class students had a Facebook account which they adopted in education. Most students perceived Human Anatomy Education Page as effective in contributing to learning and favored “self-assessment” posts. The majority of students agreed that Facebook could be a suitable learning environment.


The “Insights” tool revealed globally distributed fans with considerable Page interactions. The use of a faculty-administered Facebook Page provided a venue to enhance classroom teaching without intruding into students social life. A wider educational use of Facebook should be adopted not only because students are embracing its use, but for its inherent potentials in boosting learning. The “Insights” metrics analyzed in this study might be helpful when establishing and evaluating the performance of education-oriented Facebook Pages.

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Healthcare companies using Facebook to promote health products and their branding

Healthcare companies using Facebook to promote health products and their branding | Social Media and Healthcare |

When Parth Patel started his online pharmacy store in Ahmedabad, the venture threatened to be a non-starter. Though there was a fairly large product mix, the young entrepreneur was unable to reach his target audience who would buy medicines and health supplements on the internet.

Patel would often see social media posts by Indianhealthcare companies like Zydus Cadila, SunPharmaceuticals, Lupin, and Ranbaxy, and one day decided to try with Facebook. The strategy worked and online orders started coming in from all over the world.

Facebook has over 1 billion users worldwide with more than 50% active users. India has the second highest number of users on Facebook at 61 million.

Among big pharma companies, Ranbaxy has an active fan base of more than 1,00,000 users across the brand pages of Revital and Volini that can reach to over 27 million users on Facebook through status updates. Revital was the first page on Facebook launched in 2011 and has a reach of 16 million. Last year, Ranbaxy launched the Facebook page for Volini with a weekly reach of over 830,956 consumers.

Brijesh Kapil, vice-president, Ranbaxy Global Consumer Healthcare said "Ranbaxy has recognised the importance of being where the consumer is looking for information i.e. facebook and has created brand pages to provide information and encourage active engagement. We make regular updates on fitness tips and recommendations to avoid pain."

Ranbaxy also uses other social networks to build holistic connectivity between products, brand ambassadors and users via viral videos. "Last week, we uploaded a Revital video on YouTube and has been viewed by 50,000 users," says Mr Kapil.

Last year Revital launched the 15-year campaign where brand ambassador Salman Khan testified that he has been using Revital for the last 15 years. Ranbaxy came up with a Facebook application developing a contest around the theme and was able to reach out to 8,00,000 users.

"Apart from general public, one of the main target audiences is doctors and they are definitely viewing this," says Vivek Hattangadi, CEO, The Enablers, a pharma brand consultation firm. According to him, this works best in metro and semi-metro cities as doctors have less time and it's not possible to meet each and every medical representative from the 25,000 registered healthcare companies. "Brand activity for non-prescription medicine and dissemination of scientific knowledge of prescription drugs help in long term corporate brand identity creation" he adds.

Lupin has created and built a small social media presence over the last two years and a Sun Pharmaceuticals spokesperson said it was building its presence in the social media.

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Online CME Participation Increasing

Online CME Participation Increasing | Social Media and Healthcare |

The number of physicians and non-physicians participating in continuing medical education (CME)has increased, especially in online activities, according to a report published by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME).


Researchers from the ACCME reviewed state and national data to provide information about the CME accreditation system, including trends in CME revenue and expenses, the number of educational activities, and participation in activities from 2005 through 2012.


Almost 2,000 accredited CME providers offered more than 130,000 educational activities, comprising nearly one million hours of instruction in 2012. More than 24 million physicians and other health care professionals were educated. Although there has been a decrease in the number of CME providers, a steady increase has been seen in the number of physician and non-physician participants in overall CME activities. Participation in online CME has increased, as well as activity types such as Internet searching and learning. In 2012, 58 percent of the total income for CME providers came from income from sources other than commercial support, advertising, and exhibits. Eighty-two percent of CME activities produced by ACCME-accredited providers did not receive commercial support. These activities accounted for 81 and 78 percent of physician and non-physician participants, respectively. Commercial support was received by 18 percent of CME activities.


"Although the number of CME providers has declined, this has not necessarily represented a reduction in physicians' and other health care professionals' access to accredited CME within the ACCME system," according to the report.

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Incorporating Social Media into Medical Education

Slides from Social Media workshop for medical educators at Academic Internal Medicine Week 2010. Presenters represent 3 different universities and different rol
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11 Tips for How Hospitals Can Use Social Media for Patient Education

11 Tips for How Hospitals Can Use Social Media for Patient Education | Social Media and Healthcare |
One of our first clients was a hospital. They wanted to find a way to keep their patients more engaged and better informed about their own health. Every family practice doctor had a similar story: patients would come in, mention an article they read in a paper like the New York Times, and ask if it was true.

Health education is one of the most effective ways to keep patients healthy, so the hospital saw an opportunity: what if the clinic could recommend important health news directly to patients via social media?


Would they read it? Would doctors participate? And would the hospital support them?

We were brought in to  develop a strategy and implement a social media health education program. In this blog post I’m going to explain the principles behind a social media health education strategy, how the strategy

works, and how to implement it successfully. These same principles apply to any large service organization that employs highly educated, highly independent professionals (law firms, accounting firms, consulting firms, etc). 

What Patients Want: Personal Relationships, Leveraging the News, Creating ROI

We learned some important principles about what patients want when it comes to health news. 

  1. People want health tips from the doctors and nurses they know. Whether it’s a friend or family member or their own doctor or nurse, patients and their families trust them for health advice. “So I saw this on Dr. Oz…” are seven words every health professional has heard before. 
  2. Patients are influential too. Patients also share news and health advice with their friends and family. 
  3. Sharing news is just as good as creating new content. People are as likely to read health news from a major publisher as they are press releases or content created by their doctor’s hospital. Unless it’s important to create new content, you can save time and cost by sharing news articles. 
  4. Email gets the most engagement, followed by Facebook, then Twitter. Patients were most likely to read posts shared via email, but sharing to Facebook was how to reach the most people. The best approach was to combine email + facebook sharing 

What Hospitals Need to Know: Doctors are Individuals, Risk Needs to be Managed, and Personal Profiles are Critical

In addition to the principles of what patients wanted, hospitals are large organizations with complex risk profiles. There are some critical considerations for how to make a social media health education program work for them: 

  1. Communications teams need to be the quarterbacks: Communications teams are aware of the risks and need to be at the centre. They need to either train the doctors carefully about brand risks or they need to be involved in selecting content (more on how to do that shortly). 
  2. Total control is not an option: Communications teams can’t control what doctors and employees share to their personal profiles without antagonizing them, so it’s important to make it easier for them to share approved content than to find their own content. 
  3. Doctor and employee presences often drive more traffic than brand presences: Via personal presences on Facebook and Twitter accounts, many individuals have presences that have higher levels of engagement than brand presences (like the hospital’s official presence). It is especially true if you have any doctors who are frequently quoted by the media. Very large health organizations like Mayo Clinic are exceptions. 
  4. Email is the most effective channel: The most effective way to engage employees and doctors to share hospital-approved content is by emailing them content they can retweet or like. Relying on them to navigate to the hospital’s approved Twitter account to find what they can retweet is significantly less effective and users won’t do it consistently. 

The Playbook: How These Principles Turn into a Strategy

Now that we’ve looked at the principles, here’s the best way to actually run a program that maximizes patient education and engagement while minimizing risk. 

  1. Find all of your doctor’s and official hospital Twitter accounts. There are usually a few doctors or departments sharing hospital or health related news. These are great sources for health news to share. 
  2. The communications team should select relevant health news. Working with the doctors to establish criteria, communications professionals should select appropriate news. 
  3. Share it to Twitter and Facebook. Official presences should be managed by a communications professional to control brand risk. 
  4. Email out your best Tweets and Facebook posts to your staff and patients. Your staff were probably working when you were tweeting, or maybe they just missed the update. So email them the most important health news so it’s easy for them to share to their own networks.
  5. Measure and Repeat. There are two important things to measure: which content is most popular and whose sharing is getting the most engagement. This will will help you identify which topics and sources are working best and who among your staff and patients have the most critical networks. Plus, sometimes it’s nice to thank people for sharing!

So those are the lessons and that’s the strategy. Hospitals and health organizations can use social media as an effective health education channel by using a coordinated strategy that keeps their brands safe, their employees engaged, and their patients healthy. 

Charlotte Serres's curator insight, September 18, 2013 3:06 PM

Hospitales y organizaciones de salud deben de usar redes sociales como medio efectivo de educación sanitaria para sus pacientes para mejorar su salud cuotidiada

Walter Adamson's curator insight, September 20, 2013 1:31 AM

Goo playbook

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Using social media to empower people with arthritis

Using social media to empower people with arthritis | Social Media and Healthcare |
Online social networking sites such as Facebook are used for individuals and organizations to connect with others, share photos and videos, as well as provide status updates by posting to a profile page. Can they also be used as a tool to implement a health care education program?

A group of researchers, including Dr. Lucie Brosseau, School of Rehabilitation Sciences, University of Ottawa, and Dr. Sydney Brooks, Director of Research, The Arthritis Society, Ontario Division, completed a study to answer this very question.

The study, entitled: People getting a grip on arthritis II: An innovative strategy to implement clinical practice guidelines for rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis patients through Facebook, set out to determine if an updated online evidence-based educational program delivered through Facebook was effective in improving the knowledge, skills, and self-efficacy of patients with arthritis (osteoarthritis – OA – and rheumatoid arthritis – RA) in relation to evidence-based self-management rehabilitation strategies.

The study included 110 participants over 18 with self-reported OA or RA. Eleven participants were part of a focus group that would choose effective self-management strategies for OA and RA for posting on Facebook. The other 99 were part of the online Facebook study, which featured case-based video clips on the self-management strategies and how to apply them.

“Since this was a new approach to patient education, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was hopeful we might reach a new group of people who were comfortable using technology to participate in arthritis research and education,” says Dr. Brooks.It turns out many arthritis sufferers were interested in participating in the study.

“Our biggest surprise was the ease in recruitment,” adds Dr. Brooks. “Once the study was advertised on The Arthritis Society website, we reached our required sample size quickly.”

Over a three-month period, all participants were asked to complete three online questionnaires regarding their previous knowledge, intention to actually use the self-management strategies and confidence level in the self-management of their arthritis. Ultimately, a goal of the research team was to discover after the study that using Facebook would be an effective, low-cost solution to providing people with arthritis across the country with information about self-management strategies.

The first focus group’s watched a two-hour presentation describing the self-management strategies. The group then engaged in discussions and ranked each strategy according to the relevance and practicality.

The online study participants received a brief tutorial on how to use the Facebook page to complete the online questionnaires.They logged in to the Facebook group pages to view the uploaded YouTube videos describing the arthritis self-management strategies. The videos were only posted after participants had completed the first questionnaire regarding previous knowledge. Once the videos were viewed, participants could communicate with one another via the ‘wall’ and ‘comment’ tools available and complete the other two online questionnaires (intention to use strategies and confidence level).

In the end, the research team was happy with the results. Immediately after the online study, 41 participants with OA had improved knowledge on the topic of arthritis self-management strategies, while 22 participants with RA had improved knowledge. Eighty-three per cent of participants with OA and 74 per cent of participants with RA intended to use at least one of the arthritis self-management strategies following the study. Some of these strategies included aquatic therapy, strengthening exercises of the hand and weight management.

“Our positive results support the use of social media as a knowledge transfer and education tool, even among an older population,” says Dr. Brooks. “Facebook was a successful tool for recruiting research participants and disseminating evidence-based self-management strategies to people living with arthritis. This low-cost intervention allowed people with arthritis from across Canada to learn about evidence-based self-management strategies in the privacy and comfort of their own home,” she adds.

Not only can the participants continue to use the videos on Facebook as a learning tool, they can share this information with others who suffer from arthritis.For more information about The Arthritis Society’s research activities, visit
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Enable, Engage,Comfort, Educate ... and Thrive

Enable, Engage,Comfort, Educate ... and Thrive | Social Media and Healthcare |
Raise your hands if you would like to know more about your doctor before you enter their office … and be able to further educate yourself after you have left.

You’re not alone !

Ok… who’s paying attention? Doctors are human beings… so are patients. Some people trust and get along with one another … some, not so much.That’s fine…

It would be nice if you were able to get to know more about your doctor before you entered the four walls of their office (and perhaps waited an hour to see them).

A typical “parking spot” style physicians’ website with purchased pictures, limited content, and their address and telephone number isn’t going to cut it anymore.

Physicians have a moral obligation to educate their patients. Patients are looking for information online. Some are being misled by nonsense information posted by disreputable sources! Physicians should therefore endeavor to create content and enter the digital and social space to educate patients. Think of it as extending your relevance and pushing out your shareable knowledge base beyond the four walls of your practice.A deep digital presence can also go a very long way in terms of “humanizing your presence”, and enabling your patients to determine if they think you are a proper fit. After all… we’re in this together as a team. If one member of the team doesn’t trust the other… game over.

As Sarah-Jayne Gratton describes in this interview:"… patients don’t want to talk to a faceless, nameless entity; they want to sense the person behind it — the personal. They want to like and get to know you, not just interact with your business. Remember that emotions are everything — they always have been and they always will be. Without them we cease to be human and we cease to invest in the human race."

While the numbers of physicians who are developing a deep online presence is growing… very few physicians (and healthcare organizations) understand the complexities and dynamics which accompany a web presence rich enough to enable, engage, comfort and educate patients.You are your brand. You can not separate your own voice from that of your brand. Powerful branding comes as a natural extension of a purposeful (perhaps altruistic) inbound initiative because of your presence.. and is simply icing on the cake.

Sarah goes on …

… it’s so important to acknowledge the fact that today’s patients, consumers and clients have the ability to communicate online all day, every day, sharing, tweeting and blogging about how they feel. Sentiment is oozing out of every post they make, and we should not fear it, but instead, embrace it as the new lifeblood of branding. The ability to listen and understand how our patients feel (whether good or bad), what is important to them and what their expectations are, provides huge opportunities for forming the emotional allegiances needed for enduring personal brand loyalty.

So what’s the dilemma? Adopting a new media presence to push your digital content and to enable patients to ‘meet” you on their terms represents a change… and change is painful and evokes a fear response in many. But change is necessary, and social media is not going away.

We need to be the change we wish to see… or in this case, the change our patients want to see.
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Patient Understanding and Health Comprehension In the Age of Social Media

Patient Understanding and Health Comprehension In the Age of Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |
Your patient can be your friend and advocate

Sales of medical devices and pharmaceuticals are influenced by patients. Patients can help promote a brand by letting physicians know about it and talking about it with their friends on- or off-line. Patients can even agree to receive a certain treatment or participate in a clinical study based on their understanding of the way a product could advance their health.

Just look at the following statistics:

  • 40% of consumers say that information they have found on social media sites affects the way that they manage their health
  • 42% of consumers use the internet to look up reviews for treatments and products
  • 34% of patients use the internet to discover new brands
  • 32% of patients use the internet to evaluate specific features of a product

What needs to be taken into account is the patient’s experience and this means promoting the patient understanding of your product.

Patient understanding and literacy is not as high as you may think

The average patient that reads health information is not as literate as you m
ay have come to believe. Patient understanding and comprehension is in fact extremely low.


New research published in JAMA Internal Medicine assesses readability of patient education resources found online. The research determined that such materials often are too complex for their intended audience. The main reason is that the average American adult reads at approximately a seventh- to- eighth-grade level.


An average patient would get completely lost in the endless jargon a medical marketer puts in his communications materials. Information that medical devices companies promote is highly technical and feature based. We often see that doctors cannot comprehend these densely written, jargon-filled brochures and one-pagers. So what about patients?


Some words that seem extremely clear for a medical marketer may not be understood by patients. “Simple” words such as benignterminal, or hypertension may not be as clear as you believe, according to the Agency of HealthCare Research and Quality (AHRQ).


As it turns out, some disciplines perform worse than others. Of the 16 medical disciplines researched, the quality of writing in obstetrics and gynecology materials was especially full of clichés and grammar mistakes.

Want positive feedback on your product? Promote patient understanding and experience.

Do the following:

  • Write content especially designed for patients – If you do not have a patient section in your medical site, build one now. Having such a section will increase your products’ appeal, promote patient understanding and create a positive patient experience, which is what you want.
  • Explain your product in plain English – Start by removing buzzwords and writing in language that isn’t technical but rather appealing to the readers. Explain your devices’ benefits and the drawbacks of the solutions offered by your competitors in the simplest terms.
  • Give the patient collateral to a 15 year old. Before you print or publish on your website, give the material to a 15 year old to read. Did he understand it? If he did, chances are your patient will understand it too. Industry sources claim that the level of materials should be aimed to the comprehension levels of a sixth grader!
  • Use a lot of pictures – Do not stuff your materials with a lot of text. Use pictures if you can, even hiring a professional photographer if you can afford one. There is actually quite a lot to learn from the medical aesthetics industry, which uses before and after pictures extensively.
  • Use videos – 25% of U.S. adults watch videos and product information related to healthcare . Watching is so much easier than reading. Create patient videos to optimize the patient experience and accommodate to patient needs. Share these on your website and on YouTube.
  • Keep them engaged – Motivate patients to share the information about your device to pique physicians’ curiosity. There are several ways this can be done, which we will cover in a future post.

For now, remember that your patient is interested – he or she just might not have the background to understand complicated medical marketing communications materials. Write it well, without jargon or unnecessary complicated language, and you’ll have satisfied and better informed patients—and advocates.

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A conversation about digital literacy in medical education

A conversation about digital literacy in medical education | Social Media and Healthcare |

A strong advocate for including digital literacy in medical education, self-described “geek medical futurist” Bertalan Meskó, MD, PhD, believes that online communication tools, such as social media, can improve the way medicine is practiced and health care is delivered. His interest in technology and health care led him to create a university course focusing on bringing the web into medical practice and to launch Webicina, which offers curated social media resources in 140 topics and 20 languages for patients and medical professionals for free.


In September, Meskó will lead a Master Class on how to teach social media in the context of health sciences as part of the Stanford Medicine X conference. Interested to know more about the class, I contacted him to discuss his approach for incorporating digital literacy into medical school curriculum. Below he discusses, among other things, top trends in social media and health care and why medical professionals should take an evidence-based approach to social media.


Why do you believe that medical students and professionals should engage in social media?

Being a medical professional means we constantly have to communicate with patients, our peers and even with information. Since social media is now an integrated part of communication, medical professionals must deal with this as well. [It's] the responsibility of doctors to deal with e-patients properly and use the Internet in a meaningful and efficient way.

It is getting more complicated to keep ourselves up-to-date and get medical answers when we have really hard questions, but social media can be useful if used with strategy and design. This is why we have to teach how to properly use these tools.


During a 2011 keynote speech at Doctors 2.0 & You, you advocated for health-care providers to take an evidence-based approach to social media. Can you explain why this strategy is important and how you use it in your own practice?

Including social media solutions in any industry can be a fast and efficient process, but medicine works in a different way. I was trained to embrace evidence-based medicine and I use that approach when teaching social media. There are platforms and solutions that might be fantastic and useful in health care, although sometimes when these are tested in practice, they fail compared to traditional methods.

By using the evidence-based approach, I mean that we should not include something immediately in medicine just because it is about social media… We have to test everything to make sure it’s truly useful.


What are some of the top trends you’re seeing in social media and health care?

Platforms come and go. I’m glad to see that trends are now more about meaningful use. There are fewer medical mobile apps downloaded, and people spending their precious time online seem to use the web in a more efficient way. If I have to mention certain trends, I would say Twitter seems to be the top platform for communication; gamification seems to be the best way to motivate students (the Septris app is a good example); people tend to realize they need to know their communities if they want to crowdsource medical questions; and curation of social media is key; while wearable technologies such as Google Glass will definitely add new practices to using social media.

But the practice of medicine must still take place in real life, and these digital technologies can only be useful after an established relationship between the patient and the doctor.

In 2008, you introduced the Social Media in Medicine course at the University of Debrecen, Medical and Health Science Center in Hungary. In creating the course, what was your process for selecting which topics and platforms to cover?

I was lucky from two perspectives. First, I tried and evaluated all the social-media platforms myself – from Wikipedia to medical blogging to crowdsourcing a diagnosis on Twitter. Second, the university committee gave me a chance [for this pilot class] to make decisions about the content. Since every student filled in online surveys before and after each semester, I’ve got a lot of data based on which changes I made to the curriculum. Due to the basic nature of social media, I must constantly change some parts of the content to meet today’s expectations.

I wanted to show the medical use of a range of social platforms and also wanted to transmit concepts to the students. This is why I launched the course with a series of 13 lectures [on topics ranging] from using e-mails to the future of web.

How has the Social Media in Medicine curriculum evolved over the past five years?

Last year, I moved the course to Semmelweis University, a medical school with over 240 years of history. Now it runs with full house every semester in English and Hungarian. The curriculum represents today’s social media trends (in 2008, I mentioned Twitter in a lecture, now a whole week is dedicated to microblogging) and I also implemented some new approaches.

As all the students in the course are on Facebook, this semester they worked for bonus points on the Facebook page of the course by answering questions about digital literacy every single day. The winner did not have to take the exam last week.

The course has a website where all the lectures, hand-outs and notes are available and students can take tests.

Moreover, using my large social network I try to get a prototype of every important development in medical technology, such as AliveCor ECG and other devices. Students can use these in practice; I really try to train them for the world of technological advances by the time they graduate from medical school.

How would you advise medical schools to encourage students and educators to proactively use social media?

The only way to fill health care with technology-savvy medical professionals is to train them like that. Therefore I don’t think that encouragement is the best solution - but first digital literacy should be included in the medical curriculum as well as in post-graduate education.

Maintaining an exemplary social-media presence is certainly a good start for medical schools. But to persuade students and educators to proactively use social media, good practical examples have to be demonstrated to them. In my experience, this is the best strategy.

What specific tips can you share for medical educators who want to leverage the power of social media by incorporating interactive content into existing curriculum?

For this, educators should first check the digital landscape of the topics they teach by searching for relevant content, resources and even mobile apps. They should listen to other educators who are already active online.

The most important thing here is a quote I’ve been using for years: “If you want to teach me, you first have to reach me.” Therefore I love going to the platforms that my students are already using. This semester it was Facebook, and I managed to teach them and test their knowledge on that platform. It was a real win-win situation.

All medical educators should design a new approach in transmitting the knowledge to students by analyzing what they do online. We do the same thing in the offline world by coming up with new textbooks and creating engaging presentations - why would we not do that online as well?

- See more at:

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Social Media Implementation Checklist

Social Media Implementation Checklist | Social Media and Healthcare |

Set goals first. If traffic, leads and sales are part of the goal, then gotta have the next focus be on content creation. Then, using social to share. Can't get much value out of social unless you're actively creating, publishing and sharing content. 

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What the Khan Academy Teaches Us About What Medical Education Will Look Like Ten Years

What the Khan Academy Teaches Us About What Medical Education Will Look Like Ten Years | Social Media and Healthcare |

From SFO, I carefully followed my Droid Navigator’s directions off Highway 101 into a warren of non-descript low-slung office buildings—non-descript except for the telltale proliferation of Google signs and young adults riding colorful Google bikes.  I drove around to the back of several of those complexes and finally found the correct numbered grouping.  It really could have been any office or doctors’ office complex in the U.S.  The Khan suite is on the second floor. 


There’s a simple brass plate saying “Khan Academy” on what looked like oak double doors. I let myself in and immediately encountered a large, central open space—with long dining tables, food, an ample sitting area with couches conducive for group discussions—and a friendly greeting by programmers and staff.  Oh, and computers—there were lots of computers.  As far as I could tell, nobody had their own office—though maybe Sal does.  Everyone was also open, friendly and passionate about the great work happening there.


After some trial and error, Rishi and I found an unused office and huddled around his Mac for a Google Hangout interview with a Bay Area reporter about the Khan/RWJF health care education project.  Later, I met with Shantanu, the Khan COO and former “math jock” high school friend of Sal, as well as Charlotte, external relations, and Matt, software engineer. They’re all long termers at Khan—that means they’ve been there for about two years.  Overall, the energy was pretty electric.  One other small thing—do not be fooled—these incredible people are, how should I put it—ferociously—intense and focused.


Pioneers in flipping the med school classroom

The next morning, Rishi and I met at Stanford Medical School—in the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning and Knowledge—an enormous and beautiful building off Campus Drive near the hospital that did not exist back in my days as an earnest Stanford law student.   We were there to observe some pioneers in medical education attempt to use Khan-like videos to flip the medical school classroom.  This work at Stanford is part of the currentKhan Academy and RWJF collaboration. We’re trying to understand what happens when a medical school attempts to use the Khan-style videos to change the classroom interaction.


The class we observed was an ECG Cardiology course.  The professor, Dr. Paul Wang, was everything you’d want from a teacher—smart, informed, compassionate, patient—and popular with his students.  The students were great—also smart—and empowered.  Several noted that they liked viewing the video before class.  In fact, at one point, a number of female students grouped around Rishi—once they discovered he was the man behind the Khan medical school curriculum videos—and gushed.  I momentarily flashed to black and white footage of Beatle-mania.


This Stanford class-flipping experience is new—in fact, it’s just a week old—so I got to see it at its beginning.  In the first hour, Dr. Wang essentially gave the video lecture again.  In the subsequent two- hour small group sessions, the students worked with teachers on ECG problem-solving and games.  They engaged well with the teachers and each other—and seemed to be using new vocabulary and identifying ECG patterns pretty adeptly by the end.


The dean, Dr. Charles Prober—a Stanford Medical School champion of moving medical education content into YouTube format and onto the Khan platform— was there.  Another local champion of this work, Dr. Drew Patterson, associate professor of anesthesiology, was there as well.  These leaders, Drs. Prober, Patterson and Wang, are creative and brave people.  They are trying to bring the first ripples of widening care transformation to fortress academia, and no doubt the status quo will not adjust quietly.  Both Drs. Prober and Patterson spoke passionately about the enormous potential of this technology along with changing attitudes about medical education.  They are trying hard to get their medical school to embrace that change and help lead it.


Facing massive changes and challenges

This new work is not without problems, of course.  In fact, it’s pretty challenging.  Rishi and I witnessed early baby steps.  Drs. Prober and Patterson readily admit that they would like to rely more on videos, better empower students to teach themselves based on those videos and more quickly change the role of teachers to be more like coaches.   Rishi and I also, though, wondered about waves of transformation hitting health care now—around, for example, patient empowerment and professional accountability for results and decreased cost.  Those massive changes include efforts to alter the dynamic both between the professional and the patients and among various health care professionals.  Those challenges are enormous and could swamp fledgling incremental efforts to help a few medical students learn well and efficiently.  Right now—in this interesting experiment—these teachers are not yet training for that new day.  I say, though, give them time.


Rishi and I also talked about an even more worrisome point.  What if in the near future much of this learning becomes anachronistically analog?  Imagine the coming proliferation of Watson-like artificial intelligence in health care.  On our visit we observed bright minds learning how to “read ECGs.”  That’s what medical students have done since ECGs came to medicine—that’s part of what medical students must learn.  What about when things change, though?  It’s not too much of a leap to imagine that a device will simply inform teams—including the patient, by the way—of the definitive ECG reading.  All this learning about how to read ECGs would then be superfluous—an “FYI.”  What then?  My guess is that we’ll need professionals who are very adept at taking that knowledge and working together with patients do the actual healing—you know like Bones on Star Trek.


We have a lot of work to do.

Michael W. Painter, JD, MD is the senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. This post originally appeared on the RWJF Pioneer Blog.

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How Hospitals are Using Social Media For Patient Education

How Hospitals are Using Social Media For Patient Education | Social Media and Healthcare |
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Social Media Made Easy: Guiding Patients to Credible Online Health Information and Engagement Resources

Social Media Made Easy: Guiding Patients to Credible Online Health Information and Engagement Resources | Social Media and Healthcare |

Within the changing dynamic of health care, health care professionals (HCPs) are no longer the sole sources of health information. Recent estimates suggest that 83% of Internet users with chronic conditions such as diabetes go online to look for health information.1 People with diabetes seek online information about the condition, treatment options, practical strategies and tools for managing diabetes in their daily lives, scientific breakthroughs, and advocacy efforts.2 


Yet, a Google search for “diabetes” returns 290 million results. A search for “diabetes online support” yields close to 36 million results. This can be overwhelming for anyone.

Some HCPs assist with this information overload by filtering and narrowing down online resources and search results for their patients. SurroundHealth, an online learning community for nonphysician HCPs, recently surveyed its members about the use of educational technology in health care. Many respondents reported that they used time during patient interactions to refer patients to online resources. Eighty-two percent of HCPs in private practice reported having referred patients to specific online resources, compared to 60% of HCPs in outpatient clinics and 52% of HCPs in hospital settings.


The HCPs who made referrals intended to help patients overcome common online obstacles such as difficulty distinguishing between high-quality information and material that is out of date, inaccurate, or overly promotional.3 Connecting patients to credible online health information during office visits can facilitate more appropriate use of health care resources, shorter clinical encounters, more patient-centered decision-making, and, in some cases, reduced barriers to treatment adherence.4,5


This article explains how online health information and engagement resources are integrated into patients' overall health care experiences. In addition, it addresses common HCP concerns about patients accessing online resources and will outline steps that busy professionals can take to help connect patients to appropriate online resources.

Online Health Information Resources Versus Online Health Engagement Resources

Online health information resources push information out to the patient, whereas online health engagement resources promote the sharing of information, as well as support and interaction among patients.

Within an online health information resource, the information flows in one direction—from the content author to people with diabetes. The content reflects the perspectives and priorities of the author or author's organization. The author determines what information to share and when and how to share it. Typically conveyed in an objective manner, the information is usually vetted for factual accuracy before publication.


Examples of online health information resources for people with diabetes include Web sites of the American Diabetes Association (ADA;, the National Diabetes Education Program (, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Diabetes Public Health Resource ( In addition, people with diabetes can find credible health information resources via online learning centers affiliated with medical centers such as the Joslin Diabetes Center (


In contrast, online health engagement resources are social-networking tools and platforms (e.g., blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and other online community sites) that allow active, two-way sharing of information (Table 1). Created by participants or community members, content often focuses on the real-life challenges of living with a particular disease or condition and offers emotional support, encouragement, coping, and problem-solving. People with diabetes often determine for themselves which specific health engagement resources are most useful and credible based on their life situation and learning needs. The information in health engagement resources is not guaranteed to be vetted for factual accuracy and may reflect an individual's opinion or experiences.

View this table:
Table 1.

Comparison of Social Networking Tools and Platforms

Examples of online health engagement resources for people with diabetes (, Diabetes Social Media Advocacy (DSMA) (, Children With Diabetes (, and You Can Do This Project ( In general, the goal of health engagement resources is not to undermine the professional-patient therapeutic alliance or replace medical recommendations, but rather to serve as a source of inspiration, offer motivation and encouragement, and provide a sense of community.

Table 2.

Comparison of Health Information and Health Engagement Resources

Limited formal evidence exists of the effect of patients' involvement in social media on their overall health. However, research is underway to determine whether participation in a controlled social network of HCPs, patients, friends, and family members has a positive effect on knowledge, attitudes, and diabetes self-care management.6 Although providers seek evidence to support the use of social media in improving diabetes care, people with diabetes view social media as tools to facilitate connecting with others, not as an intervention or a treatment approach.


Well-known blogger Kerri Sparling, who has type 1 diabetes, commented in a recent column titled “Proof Is in the People,”7 on HCPs' interest in evidence: “Through connecting online, and in person, people living with diabetes have concrete proof that they are not alone, and that there is health worth fighting for, even after a diabetes diagnosis. Social media … shows people that there isn't such a thing as a ‘perfect diabetic,’ but there can be an educated and determined one. It lets people know they aren't alone in the ebb and flow of their diabetes management. It doesn't encourage people to wallow in their troubles, but serves to inspire them to do the best they can, and to seek out the best healthcare they can find, both at home and in their doctor's offices.”


Although the characteristics of health information resources differ from those of health engagement resources (Table 2), many people with diabetes consider both to be part of their overall online experience (Figure 1). In combination, online health information and health engagement resources represent informal learning and support that can complement the more formal information and education that people with diabetes receive from their HCPs.


Online health information and health engagement resources represent informal education and support that can complement the more formal education people with diabetes receive from their health care team during office visits.

These resources are also there for HCPs' use. By going online and becoming acquainted with the different resources, HCPs may gain a better perspective on how their patients experience and learn from such sites. However, even with a deeper understanding of the value of online resources for patients, HCPs may struggle with concerns about protection of patient privacy, their professional responsibility, and the time constraints involved in staying up to date on available resources.

Overcoming Concerns About Privacy and Time

HCPs may hesitate to learn about or participate in social media because of concerns related to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and uncertainty about how much to engage with people (possibly patients) online. HIPAA protects patients' privacy by limiting the ways in which their information is shared with others. Patients can choose to share or engage online and provide personal health information, whether about their care and treatment, health care decisions, or details of their patient-professional interactions. HCPs' reading of content that patients chose to share online does not violate HIPAA. However, commenting in a public setting to an individual patient without the patient's signed consent may be considered a HIPAA violation or cause concern that the patient's privacy is not being protected or respected.8 

Even if an HCP has a signed patient consent form, when commenting within a public viewable health engagement resource, the professional should provide only general health information and avoid specific, individualized medical advice. Privacy-protected e-mail is the best tool for direct online communication about medical care with individual patients.

Lack of time is another deterrent to embracing social media for busy HCPs. In addition to more traditional avenues of continuing education (e.g., medical meetings, symposia, and peer-reviewed journals), HCPs may benefit from supplementing their education with social learning and curation. Curation is the process of evaluating a range of available resources and identifying specific ones that are most appropriate for patients' needs. Like a museum curator selecting pieces of art to include in a display, HPCs can identify and select online resources to share with their patients. Ultimately, the curated resources that professionals share with their patients can be an effective strategy to both enhance direct-to-patient education and save time during in-office education. In addition, posted patient experiences within the resources can help HCPs themselves learn about patients' challenges and insights related to new treatments and technologies.

Patients' Perceptions of HCPs' Involvement in Social Media

Because of the availability of social media tools, people with diabetes can now congregate and interact with each other online without restrictions of geographical location. Thus, online networking and engagement by people with diabetes is collectively referred to as “the diabetes online community.” This online community also includes friends, family, and HCPs who work with people with diabetes.


DSMA holds weekly Twitter chats, known as #DSMA, for people with diabetes. During the 20 June 2012 chat, participants were asked to comment about whether having HCPs using social media was valuable. Responses included, “Yes, it will help them learn more about the 24/7 aspects to living with diabetes,” “Yes, but I worry about ‘big brother medical care’,” and “Yes, to connect on a more human level, but no lecturing/knowing what's best.” Overall, the #DSMA community consensus appeared to be that participation by HCPs in social media would be valuable and could help HCPs further their understanding of the complex issues that people with diabetes must deal with daily.9


Building the Bridge From Office Visit to Online Interaction: Time-Saving Approaches

Helping patients access online health engagement resources does not have to be a time-consuming endeavor, and professionals do not have to actively use all social media platforms and tools. Professionals can use the steps to curate credible resource suggestions for their patients.

1. Solicit and review recommendations.

Ask staff members and patients to share their favorite online health information and engagement resources for diabetes. A listing of many health engagement resources can also be found at the Diabetes Advocates Web site (; click on the tab for Members and Resources). Diabetes Advocates identifies a number of health engagement resources specifically for people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, for parents of children with diabetes, and for Spanish-speaking people with diabetes.

Seeking input from patients regarding health engagement resources is crucial because HCPs may not have the necessary objectivity to identify the most useful engagement resources. People with diabetes of varying ages and life situations are sharing their experiences through health engagement resources. Relying on patients to help identify the most useful health engagement resources ensures a synergy between patients' needs and the recommended resources. Remember that self-policing among individuals within online diabetes communities also helps to ensure that the most credible and useful resources gain validation and trust.

HCPs should ask their staff members and patients the reasons the resources they recommend are highly preferred and use that rationale to inform their own recommendations. Seeking input positions HCPs as curators and navigators on behalf of patients and decreases the appearance of bias or of “endorsement” by professionals.

2. Create a list of credible online resources to proactively share with patients during office visits.

Before sharing the list, HCPs should first access and review the recommended online resources to become familiar with what they offer patients. HCPs or health care organizations that have their own Web sites can also share resource links via their sites.

HCPs should use the opportunity to emphasize to patients that a diabetes care plan is based on individual needs. If patients want to make changes to their plan based on online information or conversations, they should first discuss the proposed changes with their HCP.

HCPs should emphasize characteristics that indicate that a resource may not be credible. These include sites that:

Sell a specific product or service

  • Display numerous advertisements, which may indicate potential for editorial bias

  • Tout a quick fix or cure

  • Use sensationalized stories and testimonials to persuade patients to take a specific action

Likewise, HCPs should teach patients how to recognize credible resources. These include sites that:

  • Clearly identify the backgrounds and experience of the content author and the reason for sharing the information

  • Offer a balanced perspective or information that is vetted and backed by a trusted organization such as the ADA

  • Provide current and frequently updated content

  • Seek input from credentialed medical advisors for any clinical content about diagnosis and treatment

3. Assess patients' use of online resources and level of health literacy.

Identify the health information and engagement resources patients are using, and gauge their level of understanding of such health information. Ask patients how the resources are helping them, and offer to address specific questions related to the information. Ask patients what tips and advice they would give other patients who want to reach out to online communities. Integrate this advice into ongoing discussions with other patients.

The number of patients who look online for diabetes-related information and resources is expanding. HCPs who proactively encourage patients to investigate reputable online health information and engagement resources may help improve their patients' problem-solving skills in managing diabetes day to day while also potentially strengthening the HCP-patient relationship.

Nevermore Sithole's curator insight, November 4, 2013 5:53 AM

Health Information Literacy

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The use of social-networking sites in medical education - research paper

The use of social-networking sites in medical education - research paper | Social Media and Healthcare |
Background: A social-network site is a dedicated website or application which enables users to communicate with each other and share information, comments, messages, videos and images.

Aims: This review aimed to ascertain if “social-networking sites have been used successfully in medical education to deliver educational material”, and whether “healthcare professionals, and students, are engaging with social-networking sites for educational purposes”.


Method: A systematic-review was undertaken using the PRISMA (Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses) guidelines. Eight databases were searched with pre-defined search terms, limits and inclusion criteria. Data was extracted into a piloted data-table prior to the narrative-synthesis of the Quality, Utility, Extent, Strength, Target and Setting of the evidence.


Results: 1047 articles were identified. Nine articles were reviewed with the majority assessing learner satisfaction. Higher outcome measures were rarely investigated. Educators used Facebook, Twitter, and a custom-made website, MedicineAfrica to achieve their objectives.


Conclusions: Social-networking sites have been employed without problems of professionalism, and received positive feedback from learners. However, there is no solid evidence base within the literature that social-networking is equally or more effective than other media available for educational purposes.

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Social Media Spots a Strep Outbreak

Social Media Spots a Strep Outbreak | Social Media and Healthcare |

An alert parent who noticed postings about multiple cases of severe sore throat on Facebook helped the Minnesota public health authorities identify a foodborne outbreak of group A Streptococcuspharyngitis, according to a new report.


Within days of a banquet given for an all-female high school dance team attended by 63 people, a parent notified the public health department of a cluster of cases of strep throat described on the team's Facebook page, Sarah K. Kemble, MD, of the Minnesota Department of Health, and colleagues reported.


A total of 18 primary cases ultimately were confirmed, for an attack rate of 29%, the researchers reported online in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Foodborne illness associated with group AStreptococcus today isn't widely reported, but may be more common than usually recognized because patients and contacts may assume the infection is spread by the respiratory route.

The Minnesota outbreak occurred in March 2012, when teenage girls and their family members who had attended the banquet began posting comments about having sore throats and fever.


The public health authorities suspected a possible foodborne cause because, when cases have been identified in the past, the usual source was infected food service workers.


They therefore conducted telephone interviews with 100 people who had attended the banquet and their classmates and household contacts, obtaining detailed information about food and beverage preparation and consumption.

The banquet menu included pasta, various sauces, breadsticks, salad, and cake, and drinks included water, soda, lemonade, and coffee.

Cases were confirmed by rapid strep tests and/or cultures, individual isolates were analyzed using pulsed-field gel electrophoresis, and the CDC provided sequencing of the emm gene that encodes an M protein on the pathogen's cell surface.


In addition to the 18 primary cases, there were three secondary cases and two cases of colonization.


Among the primary cases, median age was 16.5 years, and 89% were female.

Seven parents or coaches also were among the primary cases.

The incubation period was about 1.5 days, and disease duration was 2.5 days.

Aside from the sore throat, the majority of patients also had swollen lymph nodes and fever. All had received medical care at an emergency department, urgent care center, or physician's office.


None of the patients developed sequelae.


A definite food source for the infection wasn't found, but pasta appeared to be the most likely culprit, with a relative risk of 3.56 (95% CI 0.25 to 50.6, P=0.29).

The pasta had been prepared by a team member's parent, who had been ill with pharyngitis 3 weeks earlier. The parent cooked the pasta 2 days in advance of the event, wearing gloves, and stored it in plastic bags in the refrigerator.

Four hours before the event, the pasta was reheated in roasting pans to 160 degrees.


The infectious inoculation most likely occurred during the reheating process, according to the investigators.


"Reheating a substantial volume of pasta could have provided an excellent growth environment for [group A Streptococcus], because heating likely occurred unevenly and [group A Streptococcus] is known to grow rapidly in this type of medium at temperatures of ... 68 to 98 degrees F," they explained.

The streptococcal strain identified in this outbreak was emm type 1, which is common in North America and Europe and has been linked with disease recurrences.


"Potential causes of recurrence include antibiotic resistance (to macrolide antibiotics), deficient adherence to the prescribed antibiotic regimen, copathogenicity with beta-lactamase-producing bacteria, eradication of protective normal pharyngeal flora, or host-dependent factors," the researchers observed.


They noted that social media "played a critical role" in identifying the outbreak.

"More formalized use of social media for disease surveillance and outbreak investigation has the potential to benefit public health in appropriately selected circumstances," they noted.


In addition, clinicians need to remain on the alert for clusters of symptoms, according to study co-author Edward Kaplan, MD, of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.


"When one sees this happening as a physician in the community, then there is an opportunity -- in fact perhaps an obligation -- to follow up and see if there's a common source," Kaplan told MedPage Today.


Limitations of the study included the possibility of recall bias and the lack of a definitive link to the index household because the initial cases were tested only by rapid antigen detection.

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