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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How To Create a Pinteresting Healthcare Social Media Strategy

How To Create a Pinteresting Healthcare Social Media Strategy | Social Media and Healthcare |

A recent study revealed that Pinterest, the latest social networking site to take the social media world by storm, is now driving more traffic to websites and blogs than YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn combined.

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a social networking site with a visually-pleasing “virtual pinboard” interface. Users collect photos and link to products they love, creating their own pinboards and following the pinboards of other people whom they find interesting. The site is currently invite-only, and it has experienced rapid growth in recent months (CrunchBase)

Launched in March 2010, Pinterest’s dramatic rise to become one of the top 10 social networking sites has been driven by an exponential growth in users, (a recent Techcrunch report cites 10 million U.S. monthly uniques – faster than any standalone site ever), seamless integration into existing social networking sites  (Facebook and Twitter) and an elegant and attractive user interface.

When images are uploaded to Pinterest, links are embedded that users can click to drive traffic directly to a website’s page. Furthermore, by sharing these images via Twitter or Facebook or embedding them on their own website or blog, images can be shared with a wider audience. What started out as an online scrapbooking site for a demographic – most users are female between the ages of 25 and 44 - to collect and share recipe, fashion and home decor ideas, has now evolved into a prime marketing tool for businesses.

So far, so pinteresting, but the question is how can you leverage the potential of this rapidly growing site for health care social media – particularly given that success on the site is predicated on pinning visually interesting content and blatant marketing is discouraged?  The answer lies in creating a strategy to promote your healthcare brand creatively so that it fits with the network’s user base and vision. Here are 9 ways to leverage the potential of Pinterest for healthcare social media.  

1. Think Visually

Pinterest fits most naturally when a brand has a visually interesting story to tell. Users may stumble upon your images and share them with friends, giving your image (or video) the opportunity to go viral. So, your first strategy is to collect the best images which represent your healthcare brand. If your budget allows, you may like to consider hiring a professional photographer or graphic designer to help you.

#Pinterest Tip: For healthcare, images related to exercise, nutrition and other health care promotion resources work well, as you can see in this example from the Facing Cancer Together pinboard, which highlights healthy living tips for wellness and cancer prevention.

2. Create Infographics
With so many online messages competing for our attention, interesting graphics can help cut through the social media clutter. Infographics – graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge – present complex information quickly and have grown in popularity on the web. (Check out this recent article on Social Media Today to learn how infographic design can get more readers to click on your content). See how ecaring uses this infographic on the anatomy of walking to good effect.

 3. Optimise your website 

Populate your website with visual content that people will want to share. Make it easy for visitors to share your images on Pinterest by adding a Pin-It button to your site. You can also incorporate aPinterest follow button on your website to encourage users to connect with you on Pinterest.

4. Optimize your Pinterest profile 
You can optimise your Pinterest Profile in the “settings” option of your account.  Insert your company name as username, fill out your profile information, add your logo and include links to your website. Check that the option to ‘Hide your Pinterest profile from search engines’ is checked to ‘Off’ so your profile can get indexed in search. Lastly, check the boxes that link to your Twitter and Facebook accounts are highlighted so that your pins will be automatically linked to these accounts.

5. Optimise your boards for SEO 
Default Pinterest boards are already categorised for you, but you can easily edit those names to best describe your pinboard. Categorising will help others find you and increase your chances of having your images repinned. Unfortunately there is no healthcare or health and wellness category (but this will hopefully change as more health related accounts are formed). What you can do is give your boards titles with SEO in mind. This is just the same as choosing key words for optimising your website or blog, so think about what words people will use to search for your brand. Pinterest is an effective SEO strategy because pins work as a link back to your site, and Google recognising the link, rewards your website with more SEO juice.

#Pinterest Tip: Add #hashtags to tag your pins and make your content more search-friendly (also useful for an integrated campaign across multiple social networking sites).

6. Showcase your brand’s personality
Study after study reveals that people prefer to buy from and engage with people rather than businesses. Pinterest gives you the opportunity to humanize your brand – so why not introduce your team and give your followers a behind the scenes look at the lives of those who work or volunteer for you. Pinboard ideas can range from images of daily life around the office, volunteering, award ceremonies, awareness raising activities to boards featuring “food we love” or “books we are reading”.

7. Build up followers
Start by following influencers and early adopters in your industry – there’s a good chance they will follow you back. Repin relevant content from other users and interact with them by commenting on their boards. Above all, you need to provide your followers with regularly updated content of interest and value to keep them engaged. The key to building a strong following on Pinterest, as with other social media sites, is to become a leading expert on a subject related to your industry. Become the go-to authority on Pinterest and you followers will flock to you.

8. Involve your supporters

The best marketing on any social media platform happens when your followers share their passion and enthusiasm for what you do. On Pinterest, you can invite other users to contribute their own images to your account by creating a user-generated pinboard. Don’t worry – this isn’t a free-for-all for everyone. You create a specific board for this purpose, then go to edit and choose “Me + Contributors” under who can pin, thereby allowing you to choose who can contribute.  This is a great opportunity to foster community, engage with your followers, and inspire, encourage and acknowledge volunteers.

9. Have Fun!

The images most likely to be repined are aesthetically pleasing, with humorous images coming a close second. So remember not to take the site too seriously and pin with positivity.

 Pinterest is growing and changes are being incorporated as it evolves. Marketers are still finding their way around the site and while it has already proven its marketing worth to businesses, the potential to leverage the site for health care marketing is clearly evident.  If you haven’t yet dipped your toe into Pinterest waters, take some time to explore the creative ways it is currently used by NGOs,  hospitals, healthcare professionals and pharma. Determine if it fits with your marketing plan, then incorporating the tips outlined in this article, devise a Pinterest marketing strategy that will best leverage its potential for your purposes.

Happy Pinning!

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How Social Media Is Guiding Pharma's Market Intelligence

How Social Media Is Guiding Pharma's Market Intelligence | Social Media and Healthcare |

With the rise of social media and mobile technology worldwide, it was only a matter of time until industries turned to social intelligence for market insight.  Big Pharma is typically a latecomer to the social arena, lagging behind other industries that face less-restrictive requirements.  However, the promise of Big Data and the prospect of reality mining and social analytics have more and more companies looking to the web.

It’s no secret that social analytics and patient engagement strategies are great for sales.  But without regulations in place, companies are wary about outbound social media programs.  Since Pharma is still waiting for the FDA’s social media guidances, which are set to release in July 2014, only a few leading pharmaceutical companies have jumped into the social arena with both feet.  Johnson & Johnson, one of the pharmas to pioneer the social spaces, has used social networks for crisis management, apologizing to consumers after the FDA discovered irregularities in one manufacturing plant.  Also, Novartis has begun using YouTube and Facebook to bolster sales for several of its OTC drugs.  While some companies are wary of outbound efforts, pharmas are leveraging inbound social media software and analytics to improve market intelligence efforts.

While they might not be actively engaging patients (yet), pharmas are able to employ listening techniques to gain a clearer picture of their target markets.  Forward listening allows analysts to gather information from social conversations in real-time, keeping the company up-to-date on the latest issues or accolades.  Backward listening allows analysts to create a historical baseline of social sentiment toward a brand.  These conversations further a company’s understanding of its targeted physicians’ and patients’ feelings about a particular brand and help to identify unmet needs.  Going a step further, as companies better understand patient questions, the information gathered from social listening can also help to create brand packaging and patient education materials and to guide physician-sales rep interactions.

Of course, social intelligence doesn’t stop at understanding a single company’s products.  Pharmas can also leverage social listening techniques to gain competitive intelligence.  With the large amounts of conversations available via social networks and patient and physician communities, pharmas can also understand their consumers’ experiences with – and sentiments toward – competing products.  In fact, with enough data, comparative analysis can reveal the decisions that lead patients to switch from one brand to another.

With the rise of Big Data, social listening is just one of many intelligence-gathering methods opening up to the pharma industry.  As pharmaceutical companies are able to implement more outbound social initiatives, the amount of available analytics and social intelligence will only grow.

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Incorporating HIPAA into Your Practice’s Social Media Marketing

Incorporating HIPAA into Your Practice’s Social Media Marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

It’s clear that social media is here to stay and that ALL businesses, including healthcare organizations, are currently using and will continue to increase their use of social media to connect with their targeted audience—patients, peers, influencers—all with the goal of creating a wonderful community where you impart your knowledge, support your peers, and increase your status within that community as an expert—thereby driving business to your door.

However, the issue of patient privacy, HIPAA, and offering advice is still of concern. Many have said; “My business did fine before social media…I don’t need it!” However, our client base and the Baby Boomers (incidentally the fastest growing segment of social media users) are turning to the web and social media to get answers, research providers, and give their opinions. Their fingers are still “doing the walking,” but on their keyboards instead of in a phonebook.

Physicians are being asked to deal with more and more lately. With the increase in the cost of doing business, insurance, managed care, reimbursement issues, litigation, the advent and transition to EMR’s, HIPAA concerns, and now social media integration, it’s understandable that physicians are slower to adopt this means of communication. However, physicians are such a wealth of information, those that do get involved in social media and blogging reap huge benefits and quickly develop a reputation as an expert in their field, often leading to an increase in new patients, requests to speak at events, invitations to write for industry journals, and more!

Often, clients expect that if you are on the cutting edge of your medical specialty, that the other aspects of your practice—your office, your staff, advertising pieces, personal appearance, and even your business cards, website, and social media presence—should reflect that level of professionalism and technological savvy. How can you be a part of this 24/7 online networking event while keeping current and ahead of the curve with the ever powerful and beneficial results of a successful social media campaign?

In a previous Doctor’s Life Magazine column ( I discussed how social media is an extension of your practice specialty, personality, current marketing plan, office atmosphere, and website – all rolled into one.

Here are 10 suggestions on ways to have a successful social media campaign, and continue to communicate online with patients (current and future) and market your services, while adhering to HIPAA guidelines. Note that these tips can apply to texting, emailing, voicemails, and other forms of communication as well!

1. How you act on social media is transparent, and you should act no differently online than you do in person, or how your sales and marketing staff would at a networking event, or how any of us would in an elevator. SO as social media is truly a “conversation,” just like face-to-face interactions, you need to maintain your own personality and tone, you also need to refrain from posting anything that might identify a patient, even if you don’t mention their name. You wouldn’t want to post any combination of things such as locations, times or events that may allow someone to draw a conclusion or disclose personal information. Although a picture is worth a thousand words, be sure to get authorization before posting pictures of employees, vendors, or patients.

2. Maintain professional boundaries and don’t combine your personal and professional online accounts. Have a separate account for your friends and family and a business page for your practice. Refrain from “friending” your patients on your personal account. Occasionally a patient may find your personal account and send you a friend request. If that happens, be sure to private message them to let them know that your practice’s social media policy prohibits you from connecting with them on your personal page, but offer the links so they can follow your business page.

3. Social media is a transparent platform for sharing information, not hiding it. With that in mind, be sure that whatever you post, whether it’s an original post or one that you share, re-tweet, or mention is one that you’d be proud of, and wouldn’t mind if it were printed in a newspaper. Many times, once things are out there in cyberspace, they’re out there, which brings us to our next tip…

4. Before you push send, count to three and ask yourself if the post is true, helpful, respectful, does it apply to a mixed audience, and could it be misconstrued as offensive by anyone. Remember, once you push send it becomes immediate, and although you can sometimes delete a post, people can print it or save it before you do. This applies to responses to comments, especially when you might not agree. Again, be sure to act the same way you would in person.

5. Review your privacy settings at least monthly, as they can change. Be sure that you have control over the comments posted and that you can approve or deny what you want. Don’t be afraid to block anyone that posts anything that is inappropriate.

6. Google yourself frequently. Or better yet, set up Google Alerts, ( so that you will get an email whenever a search term (your name, the name of your practice, or any subject you want an alert on) comes up in Google. Another great idea is to have a separate account for your social media accounts only. You can set your contact emails to your business account, but all of your notifications should be sent to this private Gmail account, so that you will see EVERYTHING that’s going on on your social media channels. This email address would be different from your contact email, and is kept private on the sites, just be sure to adjust your notification settings in each channel appropriately.

7. Know the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) and its amendments, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH ACT), along with state laws, all of which provide privacy and security protections of personal healthcare information (PHI), along with the repercussions if the law is violated. Be sure to take reasonable and appropriate measures to protect your patients privacy. The Mayo Clinic has a wonderful 12-word social media policy: “Don’t Lie, Don’t Pry, Don’t Cheat, Can’t Delete, Don’t Steal, Don’t Reveal.” Obviously, each of these rules can be expanded upon. Read more at

8. Set up a social media policy within your office and provide education on it as well as regular HIPAA education and how social media is included in this. Review it frequently with those that have access to and/or manage your social media channels, and update it as rules and regulations change. Some guidelines you might want to consider including in your social media policy should touch on; respect of time and property, use of confidential and PHI information, respectful communications, right to monitor, and enforcement measures, and that each employee utilizing your social media is responsible for knowing, understanding, and upholding HIPAA regulations, as well as your social media policy. Remember even if you don’t have social media channels for your practice, your employees most likely have personal accounts. Be sure that they understand the implications of revealing PHI on those accounts.

9. What if a patient comments on your social media channel, if their name shows up, is the physician breaching patient privacy and opening themselves up for trouble? The answer is: Probably not. However, you should take any precautions you can such as, setting up a disclaimer on your ‘about page’ stating that opinions and views are your own, and reminding them that by commenting on your site, they are revealing their identity. However, since they are doing it by their own volition, it would be no different from them having a conversation with someone in your waiting room. However, with monitoring you can stay on top of the conversation.

10. “What if I get on social media, and someone complains or says something negative?” We hear this one quite a bit, and the truth is; if you didn’t have your own outlet for them to write these things, they would simply do it on their own channels. Having your own social media presence allows you to monitor what’s going on, react to comments and ideas, and if and when something negative does come your way, don’t immediately delete it—show the rest of your followers that you are truly concerned and document an apology, correction, or whatever it takes to recognize that client’s issue, and your willingness to make it right. Bear in mind, use caution in what you say, perhaps requesting the client call you directly. Oftentimes, it’s the fact that you respond, and the speed of doing so that shows you are a cut above!

In conclusion, there is no doubt that social media is here to stay. The benefits of this online version of communication far outweigh the potential risks, with just a few common sense tips. Remember too, when outsourcing your social media to a online marketing firm such as The Go! Agency, they are bound by the same rules and regulations as you are. Be sure to ask them very pointed questions about how they will maintain your patient’s privacy, and ensure that your social media campaign is one that truly creates a wonderful community for your practice, educates your current and future clients, and pushes you to the top as an expert in your field!

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3 Audiences on Social Media You Are Marketing To as a Health Research Co.

3 Audiences on Social Media You Are Marketing To as a Health Research Co. | Social Media and Healthcare |

What audiences on social media are you targeting with your marketing? We are all familiar with demographics when it comes to social media. We might be looking to target middle-aged women, or college-aged men, but these criteria are pretty superficial. We need to ask ourselves what audiences on social media we are really looking to target when it comes to social marketing.

There are three very specific types of audiences that we aim to engage with on social networks. Each of these groups engage with brands in very different ways, and our marketing efforts need to reflect that. In order to simplify the explanation of these audiences, we’ll stick to one, easy example: a health research institute.

Direct Affect

When it comes to health, wellness and research, there is a small group that consistently has one aspect of the field or another on their mind.
These are people who have been directly affected by the illness or condition that the research is looking to cure. For the health research institute, the goal in using social media is to keep this highly and inherently engaged audience up-to-date with the work that is being done and breakthroughs in the field. While sharing content every second of every day is not necessarily going to be the best course of action for most brands, there should be an attempt to keep this audience active on social channels by sharing content relatively consistently.

First-Degree Separation

Now a much larger population when it comes to this health research institute is going to be the one made up primarily of people who have not experienced the condition that the research is hoping to cure, but who can relate personally to it due to the fact that someone they know or are related to someone who has.

This is a group that does not consistently think of this ailment, but when it is brought to their attention, it certainly resonates. For the health research institute, there needs to be an effort every so often to remind this second audience on social media as to why they exist. This audience does not follow the activity of the health research brand as closely as the first group, but calls to action will certainly resonate, often profoundly.

Societal Connection

The third and final audience on social networks is the one least aware or affected by the brand. This group is not thinking about the activity of a brand consistently, if ever, and will likely not pay attention to the content unless it is relevant within society. One example of this is the month of October for breast cancer awareness. During this month, the cause is seen almost everywhere, from community fundraisers to the NFL.

It is during this period that research institutes can generate new awareness within this third audience. From there, during the rest of the year, the content shared to the first degree audience may seem a little more relevant to this somewhat removed group, and calls to action may generate more success. Of course, there are other audiences we may find on social networks. But these three categories need to be front of mind when creating content. Understand what types of audiences will be looking at your content, and diversify your content strategy in order to appeal to every one of those audiences.

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Physicians can use Social Media to Connect with Patients - Why should they?

Physicians can use Social Media to Connect with Patients - Why should they? | Social Media and Healthcare |


According to Pew Internet, 72% of internet users say they looked online for health information within the past year.  While this shows a positive trend in consumers taking an interest in their health, this percentage can also bring issues as those seeking information online begin to “self-diagnose” while viewing incorrect or fictitious medical advice. Social media gives physicians and practices the ability to provide relative, factual information to their patients and guide them to correct advice.  By establishing a reputation for disseminating relevant educational information, patients will tend to refer to your advice before searching randomly for outside information


Often times, patients are looking to connect with others that may be experiencing similar circumstances.  Numerous examples of patients undergoing treatment for serious diseases such as cancer have been referenced when it comes to emotional support garnered from social media.  Allowing patients to discuss and confide with one another can bring additional inspiration and well-being to those in a difficult position.


Social media provides a space for practices and physicians to welcome new and current patients to the organization.  Posting pictures of staff members and in office events let patients know those working in the office are much more than healthcare providers, but rather people just like them!  Be sure to get your physicians involved and share information about what they like to do outside of the office and give patients the chance to see further into their provider’s personality.

Many organizations report much higher engagement in non-medical postings than information relating directly to healthcare.  The more you create a brand personality, the more your patients will feel like they are a part of the group!


Those that have taken the time to like your page or follow you on Twitter rarely want to simply sit back and take in information; they want to get involved!  Feature contests with fun giveaways, trivia, or ask questions about their opinions.  Again, the more you involve and form relationships with those engaged in your social media presence the more they will feel included.


Social media is a great way to get the word out about accomplishments, awards or upcoming events.  Use these outlets as a way to share information about your practice with customers.  When you are promoting specials, contests or events, it would be impossible to pick up the phone and call all your patients to alert them; however, social media allows you to do just that… spread the word!

Be creative, post a picture or video to promote an event or interview a physician about a recent accomplishment.  Use these platforms to promote your business by sharing what you do best and getting others involved in your practice!Social media offers many valuable attributes. 

As more patients continue to include themselves in the conversation and enter the social media space, be sure your practice is available to them.  Go it alone, or invest in some assistance; either way, now is the time to get involved!

shelbylaneMD's curator insight, September 28, 2013 10:54 AM

And Beware of HIPAA

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How Social Media Is Changing Organ Donation

How Social Media Is Changing Organ Donation | Social Media and Healthcare |

In the age of social media, doctors, patients, and ethicists face new dilemmas over organ transplants.

Many of us have seen the pictures of Sarah Murnaghan, a little girl with brown hair named sitting in a hospital bed with a machine strapped to her nose, forcing oxygen in and out of her lungs. She needed a lung transplant, but medical rules typically prevent children under twelve from receiving adult lungs—and pediatric lungs are rarely available.

In May, 2013, Murnaghan’s family started a petition on the Web site, asking the organ-allocation rule makers to reverse their policy. It led to a lawsuit in which a federal judge ruled in early June that Murnaghan should be eligible to join the adult transplant list. She received a pair of adult lungs a week later. The lungs failed, and she received another pair three days after that. Today, she’s alive and recovering.

Patient stories have always driven change in medicine.

But in the realm of organ-transplant allocation and social media, which suddenly makes it possible to find donors, promote exceptions to organ-allocation rules, and even force a hospital to reverse its medical judgment, the implications have some bioethicists and physicians squirming.

How do we keep organ distribution from morphing into a popularity contest, where those with the most sympathetic stories win, or are allowed to change the rules?

“The obvious potential problem is that someone who’s smart or connected can make the system work for them in ways that other people without those advantages can’t,” Dan O’Connor, a Johns Hopkins researcher who studies the ethics of the exchange of medical information in online social networks, told me. “Whenever you’re using platforms like Facebook, the question is, what kind of person, what demographic profile has the time and energy and communication skills to make this work?”

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Useful Social Media Suggestions for Hospitals to Market Themselves

Useful Social Media Suggestions for Hospitals to Market Themselves | Social Media and Healthcare |

Here are 5 excellent suggestions offered by Marianne Aiello in an article for HealthcareLeaders Media.  It’s republished in its entirety.

In 2013 the new millennium officially became a teenager. And like all teenagers, it is seriously addicted to social media. Really, mom and dad should consider limiting its data plan.

Hospitals, however, are still playing catch up in the social media space. There are plenty of excuses, from staffing problems to technical ditziness.  But none is acceptable anymore. MySpace, the granddaddy of social media, was created ten years ago. It’s time the healthcare industry got with it.

 An infographic by Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group highlights just where hospitals stand in the social space. Only 26% use social media. No, that is not a typo—just one-quarter of hospitals in the US use any type of social media. Of those,

  • 84% are on Facebook
  • 64% are on Twitter
  • 46% are on YouTube
  • 12% blog

So that’s where we stand. Now let’s look at healthcare consumers.

About one-third of consumers use social sites for health-related matters. And these patients are sharing their experiences, with 44% of respondents saying they were likely or very likely to share a positive experience they had with a hospital.

More notably, 40% said they were likely or very likely to share a negative experience they had with a hospital.

So like it or not, patients are talking about your organization on social media sites. It’s a hospital marketer’s duty to be there to listen, share successes, and respond to complaints. Let’s take a tip from the newly pimple-faced millennium and get social.

Here are five resolutions all hospital marketers should make for the coming year.

1.    Tell powerful patient stories.

Perhaps the greatest value of social media is the ability to quickly and easily connect with patients. From there, it’s up to the marketer to make this connection meaningful.

Often, the best way to accomplish this is by telling meaningful, powerful patient stories. Luckily for us, these stories already exist out there. We just have to find them. 

To do this, track any keyword or hashtag that relates to your organization. A third party platform such as HootSuite can facilitate this. If you don’t find much, start soliciting  patient stories.

From there, you can share them on Facebook, re-tweet them on Twitter, or write up a blog post, which you can then link to on Facebook and Twitter. In some cases, YouTube may be the best storytelling medium. 

There are countless ways to share positive patient experiences through social media. And the more often you do it, the easier the process will become.

2.    Do something innovative.

Another benefit of social media campaigns versus traditional marketing campaigns is that you can afford to take more risks. 

If a marketing campaign bombs, you’ve wasted money on print materials and advertising space. But, in most cases, if a social media campaign misses the mark you’re only real cost is the time it took to execute it. 

Besides, in social media taking a risk can pay off big.

Here are some ideas to get your gears turning:

  • Live-tweet a surgery to highlight a service line
  • Experiment with fundraising through Facebook
  • Set up a weekly doc Q&A time on Twitter
  • Use social media to attract new physicians and staff
  • Ask a patient to live-tweet a “day in the life” at your organization

Get creative and see what sticks. As a bonus, local press love to cover innovative hospital social marketing efforts.

3.    Take a hard look at risk management. 

Of course, using social media to promote your organization has its risks. As much as people enjoy sharing positive feedback online, they seem to enjoy sharing negative feedback even more. It’s the nature of the beast. But this is absolutely not a reason to avoid social media altogether.

Like I said before, social media is about 10 years old. Most people using social media aren’t new. Therefore, most people using social media know that the anonymity users have on some sites turn people into hate-filled harping conspiracy theorists. 

You can just tell when a commenter has taken a couple crazy pills. Most internet users put everything they read online through a filter and, for marketers, this acts as a barrier of sorts. 

That said, there are some steps you should take to mitigate your social media risk. Make sure that you have a comprehensive social media policy for employees and that the policy is up to date.

Employees should sign a document stating that they understand they are not to post any patient information or any negative comments about the organization. 

I’m amazed at how often I see a high school classmate post on Facebook about how much they hate their nursing job and mentioning the hospital by name. 

It’s also important to make sure all providers understand where the boundary lies when communicating with patients on social media. While you’re at it, ask physicians if they have a public Twitter account or blog where they postulate about anything healthcare related. 

Doctors  represent your organization, so it’s critical to know what they’re putting out there. Social media savvy docs can also be great allies when formulating a new campaign

4.    Keep an eye on your peers.

The healthcare industry as a whole is behind the curve, but many hospitals are true social media standouts. Keep an eye on these organizations to see how they launch campaigns, respond to criticism, and deal with employees. 

The Mayo Clinic tops the list of social media trailblazers and provides helpful information to other organizations through its Center for Social Media.

 UPMC is also a top organization to go to for social media tips, especially it’s well maintained Facebook page.

And if you’re looking for Twitter inspiration, check out Brigham and Women’s account. They tweet a variety of posts on anything from health topics to hospital rankings to volunteer opportunities.

5.    Track everything.

None of this counts if you can’t view the statistics that tell you which efforts are working, which fell flat, which are tapering off, and which have found a second life. Keep count of your followers and likes, of how many people clicked your links, of how long visitors stayed on that blog post. 

This information will help you better tailor future social campaigns and give you solid numbers to report to your superiors.

With these five resolutions, hospital marketers should be able to commit to having a strong presence in the social media world now and for years to come—or at least until the millennium gets its braces off.

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Healthcare Marketing Innovation: What's missing?

Healthcare Marketing Innovation: What's missing? | Social Media and Healthcare |
When was the last time you got a tweet from your doctor? Does your specialist have a Facebook page? Can you find out what is going on at your physician's practice from her blog? The answer to these questions is probably “no.” The healthcare industry has been lagging behind in their marketing efforts. This is unfortunate because many potential patients are looking for health information online. Institutions and practices that can provide valuable online content about health issues will have an advantage for attracting and retaining patients.

The healthcare industry has struggled with this for a wide variety of reasons. First, there are many concerns about privacy. The personal nature of social media and blogs makes healthcare professionals reluctant to share information on these platforms. They do not want to compromise privacy. Second, healthcare professionals are not used to relating in a peer-to-peer setting with their clients. Doctors are often protected by a wide array of gatekeepers and are used to relating as authority figures. The open connectivity of social media is not the way that healthcare professionals are accustomed to relating to patients, even if they have recently completed a health care degree. Finally, staffing shortages and increased demand for services make it difficult to devote the necessary time to this form of marketing.

Despite the challenges, healthcare professionals should look more seriously at their marketing process. This includes content and social media marketing. More or less, this would mean that healthcare institutions and practices would have to maintain active blogs and social media accounts in order to engage with potential and current patients. They would have to create valuable content, answer questions, reply to complaints and be proactive in creating an online brand. There are many ways that healthcare institutions might do this. Here are just a few that can be effective.

One option is for doc tors to create introductory videos for their websites. These videos will allow a potential patient to get a sense of who that doctor is before the first appointment. If they also contain information about what patients will experience at their first office visit and what information they will need to bring, videos like these can also create positive experiences at the office that will help with patient retention.

Blogs need to share accurate and timely information. There is often a lot of misinformation on the internet. If a physician's office can provide accurate information, patients will pay attention. For example, if the doctor can provide information about the flu season and when flu shots are available, people will start to follow the doctor on their social media accounts. They will then be able to receive other information from the doctor and they may even share this information with their friends. By sharing timely and accurate information, the practice can attract new patients and help their regular patients stay connected.

Another strategy is to use blogs and social media to attract the attention of more traditional mainstream media. Journalists are always looking for human interest stories. If the practice has a real success story that is posted on their blog (with permission of the patient), they can inform the mainstream media about this. If journalists pick up the story, it is free public relations for the practice.

There are many other ways that healthcare professionals can benefit from the use of new online marketing methods. Effectively using these techniques can provide valuable information for patients as well as attracting and retaining patients for the practice. It is import for the healthcare industry to start adopting these methods so they can analyze and track their progress more efficiently.

About the Author: Blake completed his undergraduate degree in Justice Studies from Arizona State University. Blake has also recently worked in higher education and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Business.
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Google+ for Physicians: A Free Tool for Reputation Management

Google+ for Physicians: A Free Tool for Reputation Management | Social Media and Healthcare |

With the expansion of rich information found on social media and review websites, the modern patient is empowered like never before. Researching physicians is as simple as browsing for a car or laptop: search engines and rating websites provide current or former patients a platform for sharing their experiences.

Reputation management is a global process that begins and ends with networking sites like Google+. Social media is changing the healthcare game into something much more interactive. That is an exciting concept for professionals looking to amp up their referral systems.

Why Online Reputation Matters in Healthcare

People are increasingly referring to mobile devices to perform research online. A study by the Pew Research Center suggests that one in five people who use the internet to find a doctor rely on physician ratings.

The flip side of an internet presence is the potential for damaging feedback – that is the basis of reputation management. Any brand or physician should habitually search its name on Google to look for negative reviews or comments. In the medical world, this is how doctors keep up on what their patients are saying about them and what future patients see.

How does Social Media Fit into Healthcare?

A social media page on Google+ adds a way for doctors to better connect with the public. It’s an upbeat way to manage professional reputation and improve patient care. Patients see the bond with their physician as a very personal one. They appreciate the opportunity to vocalize their satisfaction or frustration with a specific physician or experience.

Social media creates an e-patient scenario that allows the physician to promote healthy living, generate trust, and market the healthcare brand. For a doctor, time is in short supply, but fostering a positive reputation online allows you to stay ahead of the curve.

Building a Social Media Voice

The process of developing a “voice” will differ among physicians and service lines. A doctor with a full practice might spend only one hour a week on Google managing his online reputation, while a new cosmetic surgeon will need to commit much more time to creating a brand. Other doctors use their online voice to educate and promote wellness as a way to further their patient’s quality of care. Most businesses, medical or otherwise, realize the power of a professional website. Social media is just another tool to amplify that voice.

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Social Media Marketing for Doctors Offices in 3 Easy Steps

Social Media Marketing for Doctors Offices in 3 Easy Steps | Social Media and Healthcare |

Many physicians not only understand but use social media to improve relationships with patients and find new ones. Social media marketing for your medical practice is an efficient way to enhance marketing and bring in new patients.

It can be a little challenging to connect with patients outside your clinic or hospital. Many doctors use Medical blogs, Facebook and Twitter accounts to make this connection. Below are a few tips on using social media marketing for doctors offices.

1. Build Relationships 

You can develop loyalty and trust with both your prospective and current patients through social media. Add patient staff interviews and patient testimonials on YouTube and upload these to social media sites for more coverage. Creating a professional profile for networking on LinkedIn can better your practice as well and help you to network and build relationships with potential patients.

2. Read & Respond to Reviews

People tend to leave reviews on social media sites about other businesses and practitioners. Make sure you are not just reading reviews of your practice but also leaving feedback and making positive responses to them. You can really influence your reputation by staying active on these sites and interacting rather than having reactions or doing nothing at all.

3. Test the waters

You will want to dive into many different social media sites, however, be careful not to spread yourself out too thin. Facebook is a popular place to be, and so is Tumblr and Twitter. To effectively develop an online reputation, you will need to embrace diversity and get involved in a few social sites, just start off slowly. This will enable you to test out your audience.

Other things you can do include:

  • Offer in-depth knowledge and healthcare tips
  • Make suggestions on new healthcare services and products
  • Interact and engage with your followers and community

By staying active on social media sites and offering things like healthcare tips, products and more, you can stay active and avoid conduct that is unprofessional. You can stay social by making new product recommendations to help your social following stay healthy. Community interaction will encourage more people to participate and keep them around. If you receive feedback from a patient, make sure you go back and respond or share feedback as well. Being active online through social media will really benefit your medical practice and let people know you are available more than just in the office.

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Healthcare Marketing to Caregivers - A new Focus for Practices online

Healthcare Marketing to Caregivers - A new Focus for Practices online | Social Media and Healthcare |

According to a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center, almost 40% of adults in the U.S. are currently caring for an adult or child with significant health issues. These unpaid “caregivers” may come from a wide range of cultural and socio-economic backgrounds, but they face similar challenges when it comes to making decisions that can significantly affect the health and wellbeing of their patients as well as their own lives. 

While traditional healthcare marketing efforts have been focused primarily on educating and influencing patients, new research shows that family caregivers are often just as influential (if not more so) than patients when it comes to making choices about health providers, products and services. With a rapidly aging population contributing to an increase in caregivers, it’s vitally important for healthcare marketers to understand the behaviors, needs and interests of this audience.

Understanding how caregivers research, evaluate and make decisions for both their patients and themselves can lead to more effective ways of getting our messages out and improving brand recognition within this influential but underserved audience.

Caregivers Search for Health Information Online

One of the most interesting findings of the Pew study is that caregivers are more likely than the general population to search for health information online. Eighty-four percent of caregivers with internet access say they went online within the past year to research health topics such as medical procedures, health insurance and drug safety. And of those caregivers, 80% used a search engine.

Although the importance of maintaining a robust web presence is not new for marketers, regardless of industry, the Pew data underscores the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) when it comes to increasing exposure and driving qualified traffic. Organizations that rank highly in organic search have a greater chance of attracting information seeking users and then converting them into prospects, leads and then customers.

Juggernauts like WebMD and Wikipedia may get the lion’s share of these health-related queries, but there are many opportunities for smart organizations to improve their visibility in search engine results pages (SERPs) that relate directly to the products and services they offer. Through proper keyword research, active link-building, and the creation of useful, useable, authoritative content using their subject matter expertise, healthcare organizations can improve brand exposure and increase qualified upper-funnel traffic to their websites.

Caregivers Use Social Media

Caregivers often look to search engines to help them find medical information, but they’re also relying on social media, online groups and discussion forums to connect with other caregivers, get and give support, and exchange recommendations and tips on common challenges. In fact, social media use among adults ages 50-64 (the prime caregiving years) increased more than 400% from 2008 to 2012 (source).

And while Twitter and Facebook may be appropriate for sharing and getting support and recommendations from friends and family, caregivers may not always feel comfortable sharing personal health information on these semi-public platforms. A number of sites such as CareZone have recently launched that merge the community aspects of social media with tools for helping caregivers communicate in private groups and manage the care of a loved one.

Healthcare organizations have multiple opportunities to connect with caregivers through these social channels. Whether it’s advertising on social media or communities geared towards caregivers, creating and distributing relevant, engaging content through these same channels, or even building their own in-house tools and support networks for caregivers, the power of social sharing and engagement to build trust and generate interest can’t be ignored.

Caregivers Perform Complicated Medical/Nursing Tasks

In addition to normal day-to-day care, a 2012 study by the AARP Public Policy Institute found that almost half of all caregivers are also in charge of performing complex medical or nursing tasks, such as managing multiple medications, providing wound care, dealing with special diets, and even operating specialized medical equipment. Unfortunately, those caregivers also reported that they’ve received little support or training from health professionals on how to perform these tasks, causing them added stress and worry about making a mistake.

Because of this unmet need, healthcare organizations have a great opportunity to target caregivers with additional training resources and content to help them learn how to manage these tasks effectively and reduce their stress. Whether it’s an application to help caregivers manage multiple medications, a detailed how-to guide for operating a complex piece of medical equipment, or sponsored real-world training classes aimed specifically at in-home caregivers, any way that you as an organization can make life easier for them and help them provide better care is an opportunity to create a positive association with your brand and products.

Caregivers Need Help Caring for Themselves

One of the biggest challenges facing caregivers is that they often spend so much time taking care of their patients that they have little time to take care of themselves. In addition to the stress associated with caring for (and worrying about) a loved one, they also often end up neglecting their own health and wellbeing due to the demands of caregiving. Things like getting enough exercise and sleep, maintaining a healthy diet, and giving themselves time to re-charge end up taking a back seat to the day-to-day care of their patient. Add onto that the financial worries and time constraints of caregivers who also need to work full- or-part time jobs and you have a recipe for severe stress and burnout.

While caregivers may be reluctant to actively seek out personal help and respite, that doesn’t mean that health organizations can’t offer these types of services and information in order to address their needs. This might take the form of counseling programs aimed at helping caregivers navigate their own care, respite services that run in parallel with patient care or even pamphlets and online resources that show caregivers how to provide better care for their patients by proactively taking care of their own health and wellbeing. The idea that a healthcare organization cares about their health as well as their patient’s health is a powerful message and one that can help build trust and credibility.


When it comes to marketing to the growing caregiver population, the most important thing is to have empathy for their situation and to understand the significant role they play in their patient’s ongoing care and success. By understanding the daily challenges and decisions that affect the lives of caregivers (and their patients), you’ll start to identify how your organization can address those needs in ways that strengthen your brand and increase your exposure among this influential audience.

And since there’s a good chance that you might be called on to provide caregiving services to a friend or loved one at some point in your life, keep in mind how you would want to be treated and marketed to if you were in a similar situation. Ditch the pushy sales pitches. Forget the self-promotional marketing fluff. Be authentic. Be helpful. Because making life easier for caregivers is just good business. 

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Create a good infographic: Slash the words

Create a good infographic: Slash the words | Social Media and Healthcare |

Here are some rules I think communicators should follow to create a good infographic:

  • KISS: Yep, that old “Keep it simple, silly” mantra is just as important in infographics as it is in anything else you write, perhaps even more so. As we’ve become an increasingly digital society, we have retrained our brains to skip, scan and retrieve. It’s what your infographics readers are used to—and it’s what is going to grab their attention and hold it.
  • Use sentences sparingly, paragraphs never. Short phrases are best.
  • Keep bulleted lists short. Five to seven bullets are good for web copy. Even fewer are best for an infographic.
  • Watch the color contrast, please. Don’t strain your readers’ eyes.
  • Don’t go nuts with fonts. Large enough and legible are good rules to follow.
  • Restrain from doing too much. You don’t need to put a whole white paper’s worth of content into an image 600 pixels wide. If you have that much information to share, break in into several graphics and use them as a series spread out over time.


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10 Ways Doctors Can Make the Most of Social Media

10 Ways Doctors Can Make the Most of Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

With the right strategy in place, doctors have the most to gain by properly using social media to market their practice, share their years of experience and chime in on discussions with colleagues in the industry.

Many doctors are afraid of the unknown and choose to remain silent across social media due to liability and privacy concerns. It is possible to strike a good balance of transparent communication, while conforming to the necessary limitations of the industry.

Today, 24% of doctors use social media at least once a day to post or seek medical information according to Allied Health World.

The use of social media by doctors is still in its infancy, which presents a huge opportunity to take advantage of these digital platforms and build scalable credibility for your career as a doctor. The medical industry is far less saturated online as other industries, due to the many legal restrictions and fears most health care professionals and organizations have since they wish to avoid liability issues associated with social media and other digital platforms.

As a doctor it is entirely possible to create an effective, scalable and profitable social media strategy to market your career and practice. It will take time, effort and a lot of hustle, but the results could have far reaching effects for your long-term success online.

If you’re a doctor, here are ten ways to stand out amongst the chatter and effectively reach the right people in your extended network on social media:

1. Setup a Personal Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook Account

This seems like a no brainer, but it is an important first step for building a presence online. Fill out each section of your profile on these three networks to optimize them to the fullest.

Start with these three platforms in the beginning and then expand to use others in the future. Focusing your efforts at first is an important way to ensure you’re gaining momentum from the time spent using social media.

Begin with Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn today to start filling out your profiles and sharing content with your network.

2. Use Visuals When Sharing Content

Visuals resonate more with people than just text, therefore incorporate more images with your social updates on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. This is the most important to implement on Facebook, followed by Twitter and then LinkedIn.

When sharing content, use original content, free stock footage or non-copyrighted photography to boost how engaging your posts are. Another option is to use the photos used in the blog post, article or video you’re posting about on these networks.

3. Teach Others, Share the Knowledge

No matter what platform you’re sharing content on, be sure that what you’re saying to connections, friends and followers is educational and actionable. Pull from your unique expertise and share timely and relevant information about what you know best.

In addition to joining existing Twitter chats, LinkedIn groups and other relevant discussions online about your expertise and industry, start your own knowledge-sharing hub on social media to bring a new perspective and depth of knowledge to your professional interests.

Whether this “knowledge hub” is a Facebook Group, LinkedIn group, Twitter chat or some other form of niche community, it is an important method of sharing what you know and building your credibility as you educate others.

As a doctor it is important to follow this rule of thumb to ensure that you’re providing the most value to others and making use of your time spent using social networks. A doctor’s job is to share their expertise and help execute their advice. Social media merely helps to scale the spread of knowledge between physicians, their patients and the larger medical community.

4. Post Frequently on LinkedIn

As the largest network of professionals online, LinkedIn’s profiles allow a doctor to highlight each aspect of their career path with text and visuals. LinkedIn has the most benefits to offer doctors due to its professional nature and vast network of like-minded experts interested in connecting with others. Begin by making the most of your profile by sharing content from your account that reflects your expertise and interests as a healthcare professional.

Content shared on LinkedIn should be of a professional nature and a little more reserved than content typically shared on Twitter or Facebook. Share links to articles and other relevant information that could be of value to your connections, while making sure to add your own perspective to each piece of content by adding a comment to the post.

5. Follow Other Doctors on Twitter, LinkedIn & Facebook

Start by reaching out to your existing network of contacts that you already know by searching for colleagues, friends and peers in the medical field on all three networks. Follow, connect and friend these individuals to foster a following that you can continue to build from.

Now start searching using each network’s search feature for individuals in a similar role, industry or expertise. By building a large network on each platform you’ll have other like-minded people to interact with, rely on for support and an active feed on engaging information to read, share and discuss.

6. Participate in Existing Conversations on Twitter

Twitter is the best social platform for public one-to-one conversations at scale. Start discussions with other doctors and medical professionals to address current trends, recent industry news or interesting findings or studies.

Find these conversations from other’s you’ve followed in your field or by searching Twitter hashtags or keywords related to your interests or focus as a physician. Twitter users often communicate in a more conversational tone when speaking with others, which allows a doctor to better incorporate their personality and build the trust of others in their extended network.

7. Join Relevant Twitter Chats

Twitter chats are weekly, monthly or quarterly conversations centered on a particular topic and hashtag. Discover what Twitter chats are available for doctors and medical professionals, then join in on theses conversations with other chat participants, to learn something new and share your expertise.

Some health care related Twitter chats are #FOAMed, #abcDrBchat, #hcsm, #MDChat and #SocPharm.

When participating in a Twitter chat, answer some of the questions posed by the moderator by adding your opinion and insights to the larger discussions. Follow the moderator and other participants in the chat, while making sure to consistently include the appropriate hashtag in all of your tweets about the chat.

8. Join LinkedIn Groups That Match Your Expertise

Search for groups using LinkedIn’s search feature or browse what groups your connections are a part of to find communities that match your expertise and interests as a professional.

Groups on LinkedIn offer a unique opportunity for similar professionals to discuss, post and share content about a particular subject. Some of the most popular LinkedIn groups for physicians on LinkedIn are: American Medical Association, Medical Doctor (MD) Network, Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), Physicians Practice and the America’s Leading Practice Management Resource.

Once you have become a member of a few relevant groups on LinkedIn, search through the existing discussions, learn what other group members are talking about, post engaging content for the group to discuss and connect with other group members. LinkedIn groups are only as valuable as the time and effort you put in to them.

9. Strive For Accuracy

There is a high amount of misinformation online when it comes to the medical field, confusing consumers and diluting the effectiveness of accurate medical insights found online.

As a doctor, it is important to act as a voice of reason when sharing information about health care online. Strive for accurate coverage and discussion when it comes to the information you decide to share on social media. Avoid interacting with illegitimate accounts and connections on social media that could affect your credibility for the long-term.

Limit the time spent on social media to a certain part of the day or a few times a week to help focus your efforts to be more accurate. Again, it should always be quality over quantity when it comes to the content being shared and the discussions you are having online.

10. Ask Questions

One of the most beneficial aspects of social media is the ability to have actual conversations online with peers, friends, family and other connections in your network. As a doctor it is also important to ask questions of your audience to get their feedback on a decision or perspective on industry news.

By asking questions you’re able to learn from the collective insights of your network and help share your human side. No one person knows everything, but everyone has something to share with others. Poll your network on social media to gain new insights and further establish your credibility as a well-respected doctor.

Billingparadise-medical-billing-services's curator insight, September 17, 2014 9:00 AM

With social media becoming more popular, most of the medical practices have used it as a marketing practice. Check out the 10 ways doctors can make most out of social media to revamp their practice.

betterhealthstorepharmacy's curator insight, November 22, 4:16 AM

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How social media impacts health information technology and EHR software

How social media impacts health information technology and EHR software | Social Media and Healthcare |

What role does Facebook play – if any – in health information technology? Currently, the healthcare community is working toward greater platform interoperability, which in turn can lead to health information exchange on a larger scale. This kind of data sharing has precedents already in the world, partly in the form of social networks.

As EHRIntelligence reported, physicians, lawmakers, vendors and EHR software developers are all looking for ways to improve software while keeping patients engaged. And a lot of the discussion happens to be taking place in social media environments. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and especially blogs all facilitate the most important conversations going on today about health IT. In fact, a recent study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research indicated that 24 percent of physicians use some form of social media to share or research medical information each day. Just over 14 percent of responding doctors contribute actively, while 61 percent keep up-to-date via news feeds and discussion groups on a weekly basis.

That being said, it is unlikely that doctors will start tweeting the results of blood tests or Facebook messaging prescription information any time soon. And social media sites specially designed for healthcare industry workers do exist – tibbr being one example, according to the news source – but even with their familiar interfaces, these sites have yet to really take off.

HIPAA and social media
As EHRIntelligence observed, the primary issue is patient privacy. What does the Health Information Privacy and Accountability Act (HIPAA) have to say about social media?

OpenSesame, an elearning center, spelled out that HIPAA violations on social media breach both Privacy and Security rules. However, because of the nature of social media, some employees might not realize their actions have violated HIPAA. To provide clarity, an OpenSesame blog highlighted three common mistakes regarding HIPAA and social media.

The first reminded healthcare providers that discussing patients in any context on social media is a violation, even if personal or identifying information is not a part of the discussion. The second warned against workers taking photos at work. Even if the picture is not of a patient, unintended information could potentially be revealed in the photograph. Third, the blog reminded providers that public figures are protected under HIPAA as well – an easy mistake for some workers to make. The blog provided stories for each example in which ignoring each basic HIPAA rule led to violation.

In health IT, social media remains untapped for the most part. But utilizing this tool for healthcare platforms will take time and careful experimentation, as well as a likely addendum to HIPAA in the coming years.

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Social media marketing: Effective strategies to accelerate dental practice growth

Social media marketing: Effective strategies to accelerate dental practice growth | Social Media and Healthcare |
Your essential social media platforms

Think of social media platforms as your online marketing toolbox. The questions are which tools in that toolbox are necessary, and what is the best way to use them?

In order to determine which social media outlets and content will reach and resonate with patients, you must first understand the delivery mediums.

  • Possible marketing objectives include:
  • Search engine optimization so new patients can find my practice
  • Provide educational materials to help facilitate treatment plan adherence
  • Provide helpful advice to improve patient retention
  • Drive more cosmetic treatment opportunities from existing patients
  • Improve potential referral business from existing clients

Setting a clear marketing objective will act as a guide to ensure you derive value from your social media marketing efforts. Patients have different expectations for each social platform and it's imperative that your objectives align with those expectations.

Vital networking tools

The blog -- Adding a blog to your website gives your practice a simple way to share information, whether it's office news, photos, videos, or other information. A regularly updated blog educates patients, promotes your dental brand, differentiates your practice from the one down the street, and keeps your patients up-to-date on exciting developments in dentistry and your dental practice. A blog can be used as an extremely effective channel to promote new dental technology and cutting-edge products and services sold in your office, share in-depth information about specific treatments performed, or promote community events.

Fifty-seven percent of companies have acquired a customer from their company blog. A blog has the ability to provide expansive information in each posting, giving readers a more thorough understanding of the featured topic as well as an inside look at who you are as a person, who your team is, and what your practice philosophy is. Who will manage the blog? A blog needs to be updated regularly if it is to be successful. Designate a staff member to update the blog at least once a week or make time on your schedule to do so, even if it's just to remind patients about a contest. Alternatively, hire a company with dental-specific social media expertise to manage the postings on your behalf.

Facebook -- Facebook has become an integral platform for all individuals to connect, and an effective platform for businesses to reach new and existing clients. Sharing photos, events, and information through specially designed Facebook Business Pages is easy and enormously productive. The additional benefit is that this channel introduces your practice to prospective new patients through information delivered to them from a member of their own trusted network.

Twitter -- Twitter is widely regarded as a powerful marketing tool, used to share quick and focused updates, connect with patients, learn from customers' past experiences, and connect with professional peers. Maintaining a Twitter presence is fairly easy. It is much more convenient to tweet a message in seconds than to use a time-consuming media platform. Your dental office can reach out to millions of potential patients in a matter of a few clicks. How it works: Twitter is an interactive stream of messages that are limited to a maximum of 140 characters each.

In order to optimize the benefits of Twitter, it is important to:

  • Post often with relevant information to patients.
  • Monitor your newsfeeds for interesting stories that relate to the field of dentistry.
  • Even if it is not related to your dental practice, if it's interesting and relevant to patients, tweet it!
  • Don't forget to link back to your own website and/or Facebook page often.
  • Remember, keywords, site links, and intriguing content are the key ingredients of a great tweet.
  • Follow as many dentistry-related accounts as you can find. That includes other dentist offices, dental associations, dental bloggers, dental specialty fields, and dental product manufacturers.

Google+ -- Google+ is Google's answer to Facebook. Their services are a powerful social media resource that dentists cannot ignore. Its primary benefit is the way it positively influences Google search results. Google's social sharing feature is proven to drive traffic to your website, increasing your visibility in the networks' integrated search results. One of the key features of Google+ is "Circles," which are simply groups that contain your contacts. Set up a profile for your dental practice and then start adding your patients (if they agree to it), local businesses, and other dental-related professionals to your public circles.

YouTube -- Despite being known as a video network first, YouTube is also the second largest search engine in the world, with 100 hours of video uploaded every minute and 4 billion videos viewed on a daily basis. There are many different ways you can utilize the power of video. Whether filming patient testimonials, a demonstration of a treatment, or just a simple office tour, dental practices are harnessing the marketing power of YouTube. When patients enjoy your content, they share it with their friends and families on their own personal social networks.

Pinterest -- Pinterest is a pin-board, or bookmark style, photo-sharing site. Users create theme-based image collections that include favorite events, hobbies, interests, and more. It is interactive; users can browse other boards, repin images to their board, or "like" images. For example, your dental practice may pin items such as "Top 5 Ways To Keep Teeth Healthy," "Teeth Whitening Techniques," or "Foods You Can Eat While in Braces." If they agree, using your patients' before-and-after dental photos can create valuable content on Pinterest. Pinterest drives more referral traffic on the web than Google+, YouTube, Reddit, and LinkedIn -- combined.

Sweepstakes and contests -- No matter which form of social media you use, contests and sweepstakes are an excellent and quick way to expand your social media footprint, while serving as a proven way to market your dental office, increase your contacts, and energize your patient base. Contest platforms that integrate with social networks, particularly Facebook, allow your practice to run anything from a simple enter-to-win sweepstakes to a more involved "Share Your Smile" photo contest, while offering appealing prizes to patients like electronics, gift cards, and more.

While sweepstakes and contests can be a powerful addition to your social marketing efforts, it is important to pay attention to the finer details and rules surrounding online contests. Work with a provider who monitors and keeps your promotions within Facebook guidelines and government regulations, while assisting in driving activity through promotional email blasts and newsletters to patients. Furthermore, ensure the contest platform you choose allows you to capture entrant contact details for later marketing efforts.

The benefits of online contests and sweepstakes for a dental practice are documented in a 2012 study by Sesame Communications looking at 48 dental and orthodontic practices and 64 distinct contests and sweepstake campaigns. The results showed that, on average, these patient engagement campaigns drove 194 new "Likes" per practice, per campaign, as well as four appointment requests that originated with filling out an entry form. Just as significant, for each sweepstakes and contest, participating practices received an average of 17 recommendations on Facebook -- testimonials that will exist on their page and benefit them indefinitely.

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5 Ways to Engage Women in Social Media & Public Health

5 Ways to Engage Women in Social Media & Public Health | Social Media and Healthcare |

#1. Women want credible online health information

When women look for health information online, they do so as caregivers to their children, spouses and other family members. This is a very personal thing. It’s important to them that the information they find is credible and accurate.

Blogs written by non-medical professionals won’t do. In fact even writers who are paid by health organizations are not necessarily believable either. What women want is trustworthy information that is backed up by credible sources and professional medical perspectives.

#2.  Health campaigns using social media must approach women and men differently

Women and men use social media differently. Women like to talk and share things that are more personal in nature. Men don’t. Women also don’t mind being vulnerable and leaning on each other for support, as long as privacy and trust are emphasized.

What this means for healthcare communicators is that while women are open to having discussions that promote healthy lifestyles, they will only do so in a group of friends and trusted peers. Your challenge is to figure out how to enter those conversations or facilitate new conversations that include women and their trusted networks.

#3. Healthcare communicators stand out by helping not selling

With so much content competing for our attention online, healthcare communicators who want to stand out above the noise must offer simple, relevant, interesting and useful information that helps to solve the problems that women face.

The idea of pushing marketing messages must be resisted at all costs – those types of messages will only be ignored.  Websites such as WebMD and MayoClinic understand that to attract huge female audiences, their content must help not sell.

#4. Vanity metrics are less important than engagement metrics for health campaigns

This was an interesting point of discussion. Generally we agreed that it’s more important to have 100 Facebook fans or Twitter followers who are genuinely interested and engaged with your content, than 10,000 fans who never interact with your social media posts.

The goal of most healthcare campaigns is to influence healthy decision-making and positive life-style choices, so it’s important that audiences respond and give feedback about their own experiences. When looking at Facebook or Twitter metrics for your healthcare campaign, it’s extremely important to look at Likes, comments, re-tweets, mentions and shares, as a measure of a successful campaign.

#5. Women use mobile differently from men…even for health information!

Did you know that 33% of female cell-phone owners use their phones to search for health information compared to 29% of male cell-phone owners? Did you also know that even though men text more than women, women are more likely to sign up for health text alerts? (Pew Research).


Women are primary care givers in the family. They’re also more likely to seek online support when they become pregnant, try to quit smoking, struggle with their weight or go through a significant life change. In the U.S. healthcare communicators should leverage mobile apps to reach these women, while keeping in mind that women will check to verify the credibility of the company behind those apps. However, text messages being more globally ubiquitous than smart-phone apps are likely to have wider reach especially in countries where smart-phone penetration is not far-reaching due to economic or financial reasons.

For the full-length panel discussion, check out the YouTube video here.

kleenbottom's comment, September 28, 2013 6:45 AM
Over 90% of the people in North America clean with toilet paper after a stool session. The problem with toilet paper is that leaves behind fecal film and debris. Fecal matter is full of pathogens such as bacteria, virus, yeast, and fungus. In combination with natural warmth and moisture of the area, the pathogens explode in quantities which cause infections around anal area. With just a push of a button The WaterKlean™ directs a stream of water to clean you and leave you refreshed. It is the best cleaning experience on earth! "
betterhealthstorepharmacy's curator insight, November 22, 4:14 AM

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State of Healthcare Searches Online - Infographic

State of Healthcare Searches Online - Infographic | Social Media and Healthcare |

48% of the searches are happening on Social Websites.

Low social engagement by Pharma companies, more still being spent on conventional mechanisms.

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11 Ways to Use Multimedia to Engage New Patients

11 Ways to Use Multimedia to Engage New Patients | Social Media and Healthcare |

Acquiring new patients is vital for every medical practice to survive and prosper. With the current trend in inbound marketing, multimedia has shown itself to be remarkably successful. The range of options available makes it possible to reach almost every conceivable type of prospective patient, and physicians are discovering easy to produce, cost-effective ways to use multimedia in their medical practice marketing activities.

#1: Video Clips

A single minute of video has the same impact as 1.8 million words, according to a report by Forrester Research’s Dr. James McQuivey, and it’s been predicted that by 2014, 90% of all internet traffic will be video. As a physician, you can use video in your medical practice marketing in several ways. Use it to educate your patients on everything from the signs and symptoms of various medical conditions through providing advice on maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

#2: Pictures

Humans process visual information more easily from pictures than from words. Research shows that people remember up to 65% of information that includes images, compared with 10% from text only. Add images to your digital content that are meaningful and use SEO best practices such as naming conventions and alt tags to increase their searchability.

#3: Podcasts

Audio is almost as powerful as video, and there’s little as reassuring to the prospective patient than the doctor’s voice providing information in a confident, authoritative tone. Publish podcasts of discussions between the physician and a patient (with permission, of course!), or of the doctor delivering a public address. Short podcasts of satisfied patients giving anonymous testimonials also help the physician to create online reviews to encourage new patients.

#4: Slide Presentations

Good, old-fashioned slide presentations have gained a new lease on life since the invention of SlideShare and Prezi. Create a slide deck showing the progression of a disease, treatment stages for a medical condition or the steps to follow to achieve health and wellness. Post the deck online using one of these tools and share it on your social media.

#5: Infographics

Infographics are currently riding a wave of popularity in the medical practice marketing world. Aninfographic is a simple, visual way of learning about a complex topic without having to do lots of heavy reading. Use this method to pass on statistical information, or to educate patients about topics such as following a healthy diet and exercising regularly.

#6: Instagram

Instagram is a social networking platform that enables users to take photographs, edit and share them. Aetna Health Insurance uses Instagram very effectively in Passage, a mobile fitness app that enables users to turn every activity into a journey to a new destination, complete with photos and distances. Develop your own app using Instagram to encourage patients to share tips and experiences.

#7: Vine / Instagram Video

Vine is Twitter’s mobile app that allows users to create 6-second videos that can be shared by tweeting. Instagram’s videos are longer, allowing for 15 seconds of airtime. Both are great ways to post video clips of anything of interest to your prospective patients.

#8: Downloadable Documents

White papers and eBooks are perfect for sharing lengthier information. Create a resources section on your medical practice marketing website and encourage patients to download the material they need in exchange for their email address. Then sign them up to your email database for future communications.

#9: Webinars

Webinars combine video, audio, slide decks, images, downloadable materials and other media in a unique way to engage your patients in real-time, informative healthcare sessions. Deliver public seminars virtually and expand your target market by offering regular webinars.

#10 Instant Chat

This medium offers an immediacy that’s previously only been available using telephone calls or personal consultations, but it’s more convenient than a visit and more private than a call. Use options such as Skype and Facebook chat with video, audio or text to answer questions about your services, accounts and billing and other administrative issues.

#11 Discussion Forums

Forums typically make use of secure logins for users, who can remain anonymous if they choose to do so. This offers an option for people to ask real health-related questions that they may be embarrassed to raise during a consultation. Set up a support forum where patients can discuss symptoms and challenges with one another or ask questions of the physician that others can also view.

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The Growing Importance of Social Media for Cosmetic Surgeons

The Growing Importance of Social Media for Cosmetic Surgeons | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and LinkedIn can provide cosmetic surgery practices with an extraordinary opportunity to reach out to a greater number of potential patients. As the social media revolution sweeps across all demographics, age has ceased to be a criterion, and cosmetic surgeons are uniquely placed to leverage the robust marketing options that social media platforms offer. Forward-thinking cosmetic surgeons need to keep abreast of ongoing changes if they are to stay on top of things.

The Numbers Say It All

According to A.C. Nielsen, more than 80 percent of all American adults use an online social network. In fact, a large majority of potential patients are active on social media sites. Given the fluid exchange of information over these sites, cosmetic surgery practices simply cannot afford to ignore their growing importance.

According to the latest statistics in social media trends:

  • Facebook continues to be the most widely used social media platform across the globe and Americans spend more time on Facebook than on any other website.
  • As of March 31, the number of people using the site was 1.11 billion while the number of active users each day sits at a staggering 665 million.
  • Additionally, each month the number of active users using Facebook from a mobile device is 751 million.
  • 1 million websites across the globe have integrated with Facebook.
  • 34 percent of marketers have generated leads using Twitter and till date 163 billion tweets have been generated.
  • Instagram has more than 40 million users worldwide and 40 percent of brands use Instagram for marketing their business
  • Each month Pinterest gets 10 million US unique visitors and 80 percent of the visitors are women
  • 40 percent of marketers use Google+ and websites using the +1 button generate 3.5x the Google+ visits than sites without the button

One look at these numbers is more than enough to establish the extensive reach and the immense power that social media commands when it comes to reaching out to potential patients.

Advantage for Cosmetic surgeons

Independent cosmetic practitioners stand to gain distinctive marketing advantages if they include social media within marketing strategies. In a study of 1,180 small and medium businesses (SMBs) and 500 customers conducted by Zoomerang, a leading online survey firm, key reasons were identified as the main drivers behind the increasing adoption of social media among SMBs and independently practicing professionals.1 These include:

  • High visibility to a large number of people
  • Personalized connectivity with potential patients
  • Personal image enhancement, self-promotion, and building credibility
  • Faster results with very little spending
Building Relationships with Potential Patients and Fans

Cosmetic practitioners need to understand that social media, in addition to being a powerful marketing tool for expanding the scope of operations for their practice, is also a great and cost-effective way of building relationships with potential patients. Because it offers easy and instant interactions, social media is an active medium for building trust with new patients.

Based on survey results of a recent study published in the May 2013 issue of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the following trends were observed:2

  • Half of the plastic surgeons currently use social media regularly to connect with their patients.
  • Surgeons who responded to the survey said Facebook was their primary social media tool followed by LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube.
  • A majority of responding surgeons said that social media use was a professional necessity and was important for marketing to new patients.
  • Top reasons cited for use of social media included patient education about various plastic surgery procedures, followed by patient referrals and feedback.
  • One-third of responding surgeons were convinced that social media positively impacted their practice.

Social media marketing is a veritable goldmine and is quickly becoming the most effective way to build relationships with potential patients. The changing marketing landscape is bound to affect cosmetic surgery practices as much as it affects other businesses and professional establishments. By investing requisite time and resources in creating a top-notch social presence, cosmetic surgery practices can reach out to a greater number of potential patients and establish their credibility within their area of expertise.

malek's comment, October 22, 2013 11:59 AM
Eye opening: plastic surgeons must jump the wagon of social media
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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.

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Rules of social media: Let your patients tell their stories

Rules of social media: Let your patients tell their stories | Social Media and Healthcare |

One of the most compelling reasons for hospitals to use social media is because it allows organizations—of all sizes—to establish a personal relationship with patients. One of the best ways to do this is by telling meaningful, powerful patient stories.

And hospitals don't have to look too far when seeking patients to celebrate. Social media and marketing experts tell the Daily Briefing that at the average organization, there's no shortage of inspiring stories to draw from.

Case study: Mount Sinai Hospital

For example, Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City recently highlighted the story of patient Ron Gardner on Facebook as Gardner underwent Deep Brain Simulation surgery for Parkinson's disease. The hospital shared pictures from of Gardner before, during, and after his surgery.

The photos evoked a huge outpouring of support. Gardner continued to interact with the site throughout his treatment, posting updates on his surgery and thanking all those involved in his care—surgeons, nurses, anesthesiologists, radiologists, and even the receptionist—for their "compassion and professionalism.

During the campaign, Mt. Sinai also continued to interact with Gardner, "liking" and responding to his posts—an engagement strategy that the hospital emulates across each of its media channels, according to social media director John Ambrose. "Using patient stories, we try and connect with as many people as we can," Ambrose says, adding, "We put a human face on health care in this way."

Case study: MD Anderson

Similarly, one of MD Anderson Cancer Center's most successful media campaigns was a music video called "Hold On," a song written by Greg Lizee, an associate professor of oncology. The video received "hundreds of comments, shares, likes, views—you name it," says MD Anderson's Laura Nathan-Garner, adding that the video was "unlike anything we've done before."

"What we often hear is that when patients receive a diagnosis, they go online to find people with stories similar to theirs," Nathan-Garner says, adding that "a lot of times if they see that person has received treatment at MD Anderson, then, they will want to follow through and do the same thing."

Dr Martin Wale's curator insight, September 27, 2013 6:37 AM

If anyone is interested  in doing this on Vancouver Island, please get in touch.

betterhealthstorepharmacy's curator insight, November 22, 4:15 AM

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The 2 Touchpoints That Will Make or Break Your Online Marketing - Cosmetic Medicine

The 2 Touchpoints That Will Make or Break Your Online Marketing - Cosmetic Medicine | Social Media and Healthcare |

A funny thing happened on the way to the grocery story yesterday. I was sitting at a traffic light and looked up at a billboard promising a good deal on a new smartphone. The ad had occupied the sign for several months and I’d probably driven by it without a thought a hundred times or more.

And yet, yesterday, it seemed brand new and it grabbed my eye for one simple reason. My old phone contract was expiring soon and I realized it was time to start thinking about making a change. Just like that, I was a potential buyer of that maker’s phone.

Aesthetic consumers approach their medibeauty decisions in much the same way (although generally without the billboard): One day, they’re immune to marketing messages because they’re not seriously considering a procedure; the next, they’ve decided to go for it and are suddenly attuned to everything that might help them make sure they’re making the right decision.

Marketers call that moment POME, or Point of Market Entry, and it represents the first step in the continuing transformation of any aesthetic consumer’s purchase journey.

At POME, customers will suddenly express interest in your market, ask questions, look for information, says Nicolas Chabot of They might have been aware of your brand, but now they are interested! It’s the #1 most critical moment to establish a positive relationship and influence future behavior.

Obviously, deciding to have cosmetic surgery is a bit more complex than buying a new phone. The POME trigger can be almost anything — a job hunt, a life-changing event, reaching a financial goal that makes it possible — but you can tell aesthetic consumers have entered the market in exactly the same way.

They go online, they read reviews and they ask questions, hoping to glean insights both from other consumers and from professionals who provide the services they’re considering. Doctors who are there to share their expertise have already accomplished the goal of creating brand awareness for their practice.

In the old days, those consumers would be said to have entered the sales funnel, which, in turn, would steer them toward the so-called “moment of truth” when they feel ready to make a decision. For aesthetic consumers that would likely be during or after a consult when they decide to book their procedure.

But social media has changed all that, leading to what the folks at Google refer to as ZMOT, or the Zero Moment of Truth.

[ZMOT] occurs after the consumer sees an ad for a product, but before a purchase is made. More precisely, it’s the moment when a shopper goes online to research a product and decides whether to make a purchase.

In other words, if you wait to engage with consumers only when they’ve made the decision to move forward, you may be already be too late. Smart doctors, on the other hand, recognize the points at which consumers enter the aesthetic market (hint: it’s not on Facebook) and design their marketing plans accordingly.

Doctor Takeaway

If you want to see aesthetic consumers in person, engage with them online

According to Google, the average shopper uses 10.7 sources of information before buying. It’s highly unlikely that your practice website will be the first one they go to but if you maintain a presence on the sites they do visit and give them the information they’re looking for without selling yourself, you can increase the odds that your website will be the one they end up on.

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Healthcare Marketing to Generation Y is challenging: Try Social Media

Healthcare Marketing to Generation Y is challenging: Try Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Known by many other names including the Nintendo Generation, Generation Next, Echo Boomers and most notably Generation Y, the newest group to the healthcare consumer market includes over 75 million adults born since 1982. These millennial members constitute one of the most challenging groups to market to.  

Why? In a nutshell, these younger patients grew up with computers, smart phones, Wii's and Playstations.   These “digital natives,” are multi-taskers who skim and scan so much information on a daily basis making it challenging for healthcare marketers to attract and engage this elusive group.  They are much less accepting of traditional marketing methods, proving more skeptical and difficult to reach than their predecessors.

On the bright side, these members show similar characteristics to their Generation X predecessors when they begin to shop for healthcare services leaving marketers not completely in the dark. For example, we know that they use several sources of information including online search, reviews and ratings sites and social sites for initial research.

Unique to this generation is their independence from physician referrals and reliance on self-directed care decisions when ultimately choosing a service or provider, which makes it tricky for marketers to target and track.

In response to this, healthcare marketers need to find creative ways to communicate and connect with constant personalized content, most notably through social and online platforms, to effectively reach this digital generation.  Additionally, physicians need to provide a total care experience to keep this group from switching doctors or hospitals if they have a negative experience, which is a common trait of this generation.

According to The Advisory Board Company “Millennials show a greater interest in wellness and preventative treatment, but prefer to access health information through the Internet or a fitness center rather than through hospital services.”  They still believe Doctor’s are the most reliable source of information; however, this generation will consult everyone from their friends, family, to the networks they have built around social media.  

So what works with healthcare marketing to Generation Y?

  • Marketing Campaigns free of a lot of jargon - they like it clean and simple,
  • Interactive campaigns that allows them to engage someone in conversation,
  • Blogs that educate them on new medical technologies, or medical breakthroughs, or healthy ways to improve their lives,
  • Medical Social Media Marketing to peak their interest and draw them in, particularly, You Tube Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

Thus, even though these millennials at first appearance can be a tough sell, there’s a huge opportunity to connect with these consumers more deeply and help win their trust. For they value patient-centered relationships and quality connections through various channels making them a loyal bunch of healthcare consumers for years to come.

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The True Definition of ROI: Metrics for Profitable Hospital Marketing

The True Definition of ROI: Metrics for Profitable Hospital Marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

David Marlowe is the founder of Strategic Marketing Concepts and a past president and board member of SHSMD, the Society for Healthcare Strategy and Market Development of the American Hospital Association. And in our podcast conversation with Lonnie Hirsch, David provides expert insight about tracking and metrics for effective and profitable hospital marketing.

Return-on-Investment is often a primary method of measurement in applying conference ideas, strategies and tactics in marketing.

It’s important to understand what metrics are most important, and that the true definition of Return-on-Investment is a financial return.

“The problem with a lot of the ROI terminology that’s thrown around is that it doesn’t quite get to the point of measuring financial return,” David told us. “So, if you measure how many people attended…that’s great, but that’s not ROI. If you count how many phone calls came in…that’s great, but that’s not ROI. Unless you can show a logical connection in that “x” effort generated “y” revenue, it’s not ROI.

“A better term for ROI, might be Return-on-Marketing-Investment…it is ‘what did you get for a specific marketing activity?’ But by any label, the hallmark of ROI is that there is a measurable revenue and net margin return.”

In today’s interview, David Marlow listed three categories of metrics for Lonnie Hirsch. “The lines blur a little bit between them,” he explained. But in ascending order of importance and complexity, the three categories are:

Production Outcomes: This is measuring the physical production of a marketing and communications function. It might be how many events did you hold, how many brochures did you produce…literally, how much work was done? This is a basic category.

Marketing Outcomes Metrics: Then you move up to [determining] what was the direct result of a particular marketing activity. So if you did ten events during the year (a production outcome), how many people attended? That would be a marketing outcome. This would be the next step up in the metrics process.

And then you get to the third category…

Strategic Outcomes Metrics: These are the metrics that are tied to the strategic direction of the organization, and by the name, you can tell these are the most important. These are things that would range from awareness, preference, image ratings, market share, volume, and Return-on-Investment is probably the “holy grail” of strategic outcomes metrics. Others are enrollment, re-enrollment, number of referrals, number of active referral sources…it’s a long list.

“A healthy marketing function has all three metrics. But it’s important to understand that the leadership of the organization probably cares a lot more about the strategic than the production. So if you’ve only got metrics in the first two categories, then you’re going to have a problem. They are going to want to see the third.

“And to make this work, you need to plan ahead to know what you want to measure and to have the tracking systems in place to capture the data. If you wait until after the fact, you’re going to have to try to recreate the process and that’s very hard to do.”

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Can social media help prevent the spread of HIV?

Can social media help prevent the spread of HIV? | Social Media and Healthcare |

HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including syphilis and gonorrhea, continue to spread in high-income countries such as Canada, Australia, the U.S. and in Western Europe, particularly among men who have sex with men (MSM).

A key part of prevention efforts is to offer HIV testing so that people can know their status and take steps to protect themselves and others. If they are negative, they can be counselled about safer sex and the need for regular screening for HIV and other STIs. If positive, they can receive counselling and swift referral for medical monitoring and discussion about the benefits of starting treatment for their personal health. Another benefit of treatment is that it reduces the amount of HIV in a person’s blood and genital fluids, thus reducing their sexual infectiousness.

Social networking

The popularity of electronic social networking sites and so-called smartphones has resulted in the growth of virtual communities that are ripe for communicating messages about healthier living, including HIV prevention. Such sites and technologies are used by some people to find sexual partners, therefore they are of growing importance for the encouragement of healthy behaviours.

Researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) conducted a study called HOPE—harnessing online peer education. They trained participants to deliver HIV prevention messages and related issues via the social networking site Facebook. The researchers found that participants who received such messages were more likely to request home-based HIV testing kits and get tested. Also, reductions in unsafe sexual behaviour occurred among some participants.

These results, which need to be confirmed in a larger, longer study, suggest that more researchers need to consider and evaluate engagement with electronic social networks and associated technologies (such as smartphones) to help people lead healthier lives.


Engagement was generally good in all groups throughout the 12 weeks of the study.

More participants who received messages about HIV prevention and testing (44%) requested an HIV home-testing kit than participants who received general health messages (20%).

Researchers found that participants who received HIV prevention messages had fewer sexual partners over time than other participants.

Points to consider

  • The HOPE study shows that it is possible to engage relatively young MSM about HIV prevention via social networking.
  • Some participants were willing to accept the offer of HIV testing.
  • 93% of participants remained in the study until its end.
  • Changes in unsafe sexual behaviour were seen among one ethno-racial group.

New social networking technologies could also be used to help create healthier communities and reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Jeliber Klk's curator insight, September 25, 2013 12:18 PM

i think social media can help by spreading the word to people that dont like to watch news or read news paper.

Kristen Schaffer's curator insight, October 22, 2013 1:43 PM

The treatment of this disease needs to stay up to date with the chaning times.

betterhealthstorepharmacy's curator insight, November 22, 4:16 AM

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