Social Media and Healthcare
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Social Media and Healthcare
Articles and Discussions on the intersection of Social Media and Healthcare.
Relevant to Healthcare Practitioners, Pharma', Insurance, Clinicians, Labs, Health IT Vendors, Health Marketeers, Health Policy Makers, Hospital Administrators.
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Social Media for Residency Programs – #ABIM, #FOAMed, #MedEd

Social Media for Residency Programs – #ABIM, #FOAMed, #MedEd | Social Media and Healthcare |

There has been a lot of discussion lately around the use of social media in medical education. The topic has been researched, discussed and analyzed. Our favorite social media tool for ABIM exam review / medical education is twitter. The platform provides a convenient way to teach, learn from, and connect with others interested in medical education. Our belief is that it can be a powerful tool for residency programs to enhance medical education for their residents. Below is our list of the top internal medicine residency programs using twitter as an education tool:

East Carolina University (@ecuimchiefs) – Internal medicine pearls, trivia, and ABIM exam style clinical vignette questions

University of Chicago (@MedChiefs) – Great internal medicine pearls and information to stay current on what’s happening

University of Texas Health and Science Center in San Antonio (@UTHSCSAIMres) – Great use of twitter for internal medicine board exam prep

New Hanover Regional Medical Center (@NHRMC_IM) – Sharing pearls useful for ABIM board exam review

Thomas Jefferson University Hospital (@JeffIMchiefs) – Sharing pearls and valuable medical education articles

University of Nebraska Medical Center (@UNMCIMResidency) – Use of twitter to update residents on conferences and seminars

University of Florida (@UFGenIM) – Sharing important medical education articles

West Virginia University (@WVUim) - Occassional board pearls and RTs of important NEJM articles

There are a few other residency programs on twitter but the posts are few and far in-between. Here’s hoping other IM residency programs follow the lead of the programs above and begin using twitter to provide medical education to their residents! Fortunately, there are some top notch educators have joined twitter to provide #FOAMed (Free Open Access Medical Education). Below is our attempt to list some of the best educators for medical education and internal medicine (ABIM) exam prep.

This is by no means a complete list – In fact, there are a lot more educators and #FOAMed enthusiasts that are on twitter. This is simply a small list of people to follow for Internal Medicine Board exam prep. Even then – we are certain we have missed some really great handles! We’ll keep updating it.

We are also counting on our twitter followers to help make this the best list possible:

Knowmedge (@knowmedge) Salim Rezaie (@srrezaie)UTHSCSA Pearls (@UTHSCSAPearls)Internal Medicine (@IMMemorandum)Medicinemia (@Medicinemia)Joel Topf (@kidney_boy)Edgar V. Lerma (@edgarvlermamd)Haney Mallemat (@Criticalcarenow)Nikita Joshi (@njoshi8)Matt Astin (@mastinmd)Conrad Fischer (@SeeFisch)David Marcus (@EMIMDoc)FOAM Highlights (@FOAM_Highlights)Javier Benetiz (@jvrbntz)Natalie May (@_NMay)

While this post is focused on use of twitter for internal medicine education / ABIM, we would be remiss if we didn’t point out a couple of great #FOAMed lists – GoogleFOAM and Dave Townsend’s “Internet Resources for Medical Students”. Twitter is a fantastic tool for education – there is already a strong and growing #FOAMed and #MedEd community that exists.

If you or your medical residency program are not already on twitter, we highly recommend joining in the conversation! Happy tweeting! #ABIM #MedEd #FOAMed

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Medical Schools Using Social Media for Faculty Development

Medical Schools Using Social Media for Faculty Development | Social Media and Healthcare |

Physicians and scientists at academic medical centers face many competing demands for their time. Efforts to help them improve their teaching or scholarship traditionally have taken place in face-to-face lunchtime workshops. As clinical volume and the difficulty of obtaining external funding increases, faculty members have less opportunities to devote to their own professional development.

Researchers from BUSM and BUSPH surveyed the websites of all 154 accredited medical schools in the U.S. and Canada to locate examples where medical schools have used social media to engage with faculty in a virtual environment. Their findings were recently reported in Medical Education Online.

The researchers found 22 medical schools (14.3 percent) employed at least one social media technology tool in support of faculty development. In total, 40 instances of social media tools were identified — the most popular platforms being Facebook (nine institutions), Twitter (eight institutions) and blogs (eight institutions). Four medical schools have developed integrated strategies to engage faculty in online communities. “Our results show that only a few medical schools, including BUSM, are experimenting with online tools to boost faculty productivity and effectiveness,” said senior author Christopher Shanahan, MD, assistant professor of medicine at BUSM.

According to the researchers, although relatively few medical schools have embraced social media to promote faculty development, the present range of such uses demonstrates the flexibility and affordability of the tools. “The most popular tools incorporate well into faculty members’ existing use of technology and require minimal additional effort,” added Shanahan. The researchers believe more research into the benefits of engaging faculty through social media may help overcome hesitation to invest in new technologies.

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3 ways to get docs to use hospital social media

3 ways to get docs to use hospital social media | Social Media and Healthcare |
Doctors are crucial to hospitals' marketing and social media strategies but organizations across the country struggle to get their physicians to use social media.

To help get physicians on board with your social media plans, look at the following 3 suggestions

1. Create educational content: Doctors spend a huge chunk of their day educating patients so developing useful, informative content that patients can access online has the potential to save physicians time,  Ask your physicians for the instructions they repeat throughout the day to patients and suggest they work on an instructional video or article on the subject that the hospital can post online.

2. Do the legwork: Make it easier on doctors by assigning marketing department staff to create accounts and upload physician bios and photos. By making this a marketing function, physicians can make better use of their time developing content for your site.

3. Share results with physicians: Reward doctors who share their expertise by showing them how their photos, videos or articles led to an increase in traffic to your hospital website or rise in clinic registrations, the article states.

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Social Media in Medical Education: The Debate

This debate took place between Dr Damian Roland and Dr Rakesh Patel at the University of Leicester Medical School on 26 June 2013.
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Programs for Physicians Should include Online Options

Programs for Physicians Should include Online Options | Social Media and Healthcare |

A recent survey from Medical Marketing Service Inc. (MMS) stated that "the key to successful medical direct marketing is listening to physicians, not only by analyzing results of client direct mail and email campaigns, but also by conducting annual surveys." Early in 2013, MMS conducted surveys to physicians regarding three aspects of medical marketing:

  1. CME,
  2. pharmaceutical marketing, and
  3. physician recruitment.

The surveys were emailed to random samples from the AMA Physicians List, generating 516 responses. The results are as follows:


  • Physicians want and read email and direct mail, and are reading email on mobile devices. Therefore, email and direct mail should be part of every medical marketer's multichannel mix.
  • Physicians read email during evenings and weekends/days off.
  • Physicians check multiple email addresses.
  • A majority of physicians prefer email at their professional/office address.
  • They are almost unanimously interested in honoraria, which should be offered to qualified professionals whenever legal, ethical, and practical.
  • Online CME is on the ascendant, so CME providers should offer and promote online options.
  • Physicians prefer to receive pharmaceutical information via email instead of from sales reps.
  • Pharmaceutical marketers should offer samples in their email marketing.
  • Recruiters should emphasize location and compensation in direct marketing, and make it easy to respond by email and phone.

In addition to this survey, researchers recently looked at the use of social media in medical education to answer two questions: (1) How have interventions using social media tools affected outcomes of satisfaction, knowledge, attitudes, and skills for physicians and physicians-in-training? and (2) What challenges and opportunities specific to social media have educators encountered in implementing these interventions?

The authors searched the MEDLINE, CINAHL, ERIC, Embase, PsycINFO, ProQuest, Cochrane Library, Web of Science, and Scopus databases (from the start of each through September 12, 2011) using keywords related to social media and medical education. Two authors independently reviewed the search results to select peer-reviewed, English-language articles discussing social media use in educational interventions at any level of physician training. They assessed study quality using the Medical Education Research Study Quality Instrument.

Fourteen studies met inclusion criteria. Interventions using social media tools were associated with improve

  • knowledge (e.g., exam scores),
  • attitudes (e.g., empathy), and
  • skills (e.g., reflective writing).

The most commonly reported opportunities related to incorporating social media tools were

  • promoting learner engagement (71% of studies),
  • feedback (57%), and
  • collaboration and professional development (both 36%).

The most commonly cited challenges were

  • technical issues (43%),
  • variable learner participation (43%), and
  • privacy/security concerns (29%).

Based on these findings, the authors concluded that social media use in medical education is an emerging field of scholarship that merits further investigation. The authors also noted that "educators face challenges in adapting new technologies, but they also have opportunities for innovation."

New CME Tool

In other CME news, a toolkit has been developed based on a recently-completed performance improvement CME activity to help clinicians manage neuropathic pain of residents in long-term care facilities. The PI CME activity was co-sponsored by The Academy for Continued Healthcare Learning (ACHL) and the University of Michigan Medical School, and supported by an educational grant from Pfizer, Inc.


This toolkit provides resources, templates, and strategies to help long-term care facilities and clinicians develop their own quality improvement project. The goal of this project is to help clinicians accurately and appropriately manage residents with neuropathic or persistent pain.

This toolkit is available on the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) Innovations Exchange siteThe toolkit is designed based on the following model of performance or quality improvement:

Stage A: Learning from current practice performance assessment

Stage B: Learning from the application of performance improvement to patient care

Stage C: Learning from the evaluation of the performance improvement effort

- See more at:

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Social Media Connections: The Rise of Virtual Courses for CMEs

Social Media Connections: The Rise of Virtual Courses for CMEs | Social Media and Healthcare |

In this column, I’d like to explore what our world might look like in the near future and answer the question, “What impact will new social learning technologies have on the future of medical meetings and medical education?”  


So here are my predictions for the next three to five years:

1. The number of medical meetings will decrease by up to 50 percent.

2. The amount of online medical education will increase by up to 300 percent.

3. The vast majority of emerging online medical education will be received through “virtual course” models.


Here is why I think these things will happen:

For the past few years I have been looking for trends in how learners access medical education, and one is that live meetings are falling out of favor with learners due to the high costs and inconveniences they entail. This trend has been confirmed in data we have recently gathered across hundreds of clinicians—the future will include fewer live meetings and more online learning.


Online learning has evolved, and now the integration of new social learning technologies is accelerating this evolution. There is an clear opportunity to use online channels to offer more convenient, more interactive, and less expensive education.


Clinicians are increasingly comfortable engaging in online learning communities. And, perhaps even more critical, we are learning (through published research) how to structure these learning communities to increase their “perceived usefulness” for clinicians. We can apply this research in practice by designing competency-based curricula delivered within smaller, safer, closed virtual classrooms. When you leverage social learning technologies in the design of virtual courses, you enable learners to sustainably engage with faculty, interact with “classmates,” and absorb content efficiently.


As for the timeframe—three to five years—the reality is that this evolution is unlikely to be linear. The evidence we have already gathered, coupled with trends we can see in other disciplines, suggest that changes will more likely be exponential. As more learners experience these new models, and as they see the benefits of learning and sharing together, then we may very well see changes happening even more quickly. The question is whether the expectations of learners will soon outpace the capacity of the medical education community. So my question for you is: Will you be ready to lead this change?


Brian S. McGowan, PhD, has dedicated the past 12 years to medical education as a faculty member, mentor, accredited provider, and commercial supporter. The opinions expressed are McGowan’s and do not represent the views of past, current, or future employers. Contact him via Twitter: @BrianSMcGowan.

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Can Social Media Expand the Audience For Medical Research Articles

Can Social Media Expand the Audience For Medical Research Articles | Social Media and Healthcare |
The use of social media tools, for the purpose of releasing an article in the clinical pain sciences, increases the number of views and downloads

The use of social media tools – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and – for the purpose of releasing an article in the clinical pain sciences increases the number of people who view the article and download it. Social media tools also have implications for the dissemination of medical research articles in other fields.


Generally, anyone interested in accessing research articles either utilizes a research database such as Pubmed or simply follows a few specific journals. As a result, many articles go unnoticed because end users who could benefit from them lack the time to find them. In addition, those who have time to search these databases may be overwhelmed with lots of articles that are not relevant to their needs.

Approach to Address Problem

The researchers selected 16 PLOS ONE articles using four inclusion criteria relevant to the clinical pain sciences, first published online between 2006 and 2011, of interest to readers of a research group blog (, and not previously mentioned in a blog post on The articles were assigned randomly to four researchers who wrote blog posts on them, comprised of approximately 500 words and a link to the online version of the article. These blog posts were randomly assigned two dates: one date for a social media release and one date as a control. The control is not well explained by the researchers and appears to represent a period where nothing is being done to promote the article.


The key innovation in this research project was the use of social media to push research information to end users instead of waiting on the end users to “pull” the information from a database.

Key Results

The key result was a statistically significant increase in HTML views and PDF downloads one week after the blog posts when comparing the control date and the social media release date  (p < .05). However, none of the measures of social media reach, engagement, or virality related to the outcome variable. Hence, some other unknown factors are affecting HTML views and PDF downloads.

Implications for clinicians/health care system

Better dissemination of research can save clinicians time by improving the efficiency of information uptake by them. This is useful for health care systems because this is one of the many ways that a health system can improve its quality. One of the challenges is making sure that the information coming from social media is well catered to the needs of clinicians.

Implications for public health

Improved dissemination of research could also provide benefits to the public. In the case of patients or lay individuals, social media can be used to send not only research articles, but lay translations of the information in order to increase the probability of more people understanding the information. This can contribute to increasing health literacy of individuals.
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The changing face(book) of medical research

The changing face(book) of medical research | Social Media and Healthcare |

Is it time for the medical research community to friend Facebook? One research group’s experience with the social media tool suggested yes, but an accompanying editorial urged caution. 


Shannon W. Stephens, EMT-P, of the emergency medicine department at the University of Alabama School of Medicine in Birmingham, and colleagues described their experience using Facebook to facilitate two Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium (ROC) trials in the July 16 issue of Circulation. Trauma and emergency research such as theirs falls under an Exception From Informed Consent federal regulation, which includes a community consultation and public disclosure (CC/PD) process.


Traditionally, researchers turn to community town hall meetings and random-digit telephone dialing in an effort to address CC/PD, but these are costly and inefficient, Stephens et al pointed out. They instead chose Facebook as a way to reach the public for two trials, one on cardiac arrest and the other on major trauma. For each, they posted Facebook ads targeted by age and location.


The cardiac study ad, posted between Dec. 14, 2011 and Jan. 12, 2012, had 27 displays per target population, with 437 people being redirected to the study website for a cost of $2.29 per visitor. The trauma study ad was posted between Feb. 1 and April 30, 2012. It had 28 displays per target population, with 743 people being redirected to the study website for a cost of $1.35 per visitor.  By contrast, a previous study using traditional CC/PD methods cost $17.24 per person.


The majority of visitors for both the cardiac and trauma trials were women between the ages of 40 to 54 years old. Only 16 percent of the cardiac study viewers and 12 percent of the trauma trial viewers spent a minute or more on the site.


Stephens et al wrote that social media offers an efficient mechanism to reach a large audience, but acknowledged Facebook use was demographically spotty and needed to be augmented with strategies to fill those gaps.


In an editorial, Katherine C. Chretien, MD, of the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington, D.C., noted that the emerging role of social media in research raised concerns and challenges. About 20 percent of the population in the U.S. does not have access to the Internet and of those who do, only half access social media sites.


“Full CC/PD simply cannot occur when certain subpopulations, vulnerable populations who are more likely to require emergency medical services, are not invited to the discussion,” she wrote.


Chretien viewed social media as complementary to traditional CC/PD methods but emphasized ethical and logistical challenges such as privacy, data ownership, informed consent and access. Regulatory agencies have failed to keep pace and provide adequate guidance, she argued.


“[W]e also have a duty as investigators, as IRBs [Institutional Review Boards], as members of the medical profession, to fully inform, even if consent is not the goal. The methods by which we do this need to stand up not only to published regulations, but also to an even higher standard of what is right.”

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Positive Vibes Going Viral for Physicians on Facebook

Positive Vibes Going Viral for Physicians on Facebook | Social Media and Healthcare |

I’m sure you’ve seen them – those Facebook posts from happy customers explaining a recent amazing experience at a local restaurant or grocery store. I came across one today that was posted by a restaurant-goer on the Facebook Wall of a Chili’s. It was adorable, emotional and inspiring, and it garnered nearly 130,000 Likes, 30,000 Shares, and hundreds of Comments. Stories like this touch people, and do far more for your healthcare marketing campaign than any paid advertisement ever could.


So, how do you make this happen for your practice? Follow these easy steps:

1. Provide The Best Service At All Times – You need to be the best family physician! But, here in lies the rub. It’s not about being the most knowledgeable, quickest or most efficient doctor, it’s about truly connecting with your patients. It’s about doing those little things that make a difference. When a Facebook Fan writes a touching story about a lunch at Chili’s, or a shopping trip to Target, it’s not because they received typical service; it’s because they were surprised by the little things that were done to make them feel special. Which brings us to tip number two in healthcare marketing on Facebook…


2. Make Them Feel Special —  Your patients need to feel special. In fact, they need to feel that every one of them is special to you and your staff.


3. When it Rains – These positive comment stories are Facebook are like a waterfall. Once you get one or two, you’ll notice that all of a sudden you’re seeing more and more roll in. People like the positive vibes, they like the inspirational stories. If you do end up getting one of these positive comments on your Wall, share it!


4. Make it Public – One of the big mistakes that many physicians make on Facebook is to ignore comments and Wall posts. If a Fan posts something on your Wall, read it, even if it’s invisible to everyone else. If you get one of these positive comments, make absolutely sure to highlight it on your Wall and Share it with your Fans. They will comment and share it with their friends and family, and you will have a viral post. This will do wonders for your Facebook page.


Example of one of these positive Facebook Posts attached as image

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7 ideas for physician content marketing on facebook

7 ideas for physician content marketing on facebook | Social Media and Healthcare |

Not many physicians have heard of content marketing. But it’s a new way to keep current patients engaged and to attract new patients.


Content marketing involves the creation and sharing of content for the purpose of acquiring customers. It is the art of communicating with customers and prospects without selling.

“Instead of pitching your products or services, you are delivering information that makes your buyer more intelligent. The essence of this content strategy is the belief that if we, as businesses, deliver consistent, ongoing valuable information to buyers, they ultimately reward us with their business and loyalty.”

According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing works. Companies like Proctor and Gamble, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, and John Deere have embraced this new way to attract customers. Small businesses and independent entrepreneurs are also using it.


“Consumers have simply shut off the traditional world of marketing. They own a DVR to skip television advertising, often ignore magazine advertising, and now have become so adept at online “surfing” that they can take in online information without a care for banners or buttons (making them irrelevant).”

So, how can physicians use content marketing? It starts with creating content that is valuable and relevant to your patients and adding that to your web site, blog, or patient newsletters. Here are seven ideas for content to help get you started.


Practice changes: keep your patients updated on any practice changes, such as adding a new physician, change in office hours, new practice services added, etc.


What you do: if you are a family physician and you offer sport physicals for students, explain what you look for during a sports physical. If you offer travel medicine exams and immunizations, explain why these are important.


FAQs: keep track of the questions your patients ask and answer those in-depth.


Video: people read less and watch more. YouTube is now the number two search engine, after Google. And patients are searching for videos to answer specific questions, such as “What can I expect after my colonoscopy” or “Should I have a PSA screening?” 
Adding video to you site is not complicated. Use a flip camera to create a video introduction of yourself and your practice. Is there a health topic you feel strongly about? Create a video explaining why the topic is important and what steps you want your patients to take. 
Health in the news: Let’s say a new study has been published on colon cancer screening, and the study has been misconstrued by the media. Set the record straight for your patients by posting the correct information about the study on your web site and encouraging your patients to see you if they have any concerns about colon cancer.


Health topics relevant to your patient base: Think about your patients and what most concerns them. What top 10 patient conditions do you treat? Write a short blog post about each of them and encourage patients to seek treatment for these conditions from you.


Importance of immunizations: there is a lot misinformation out there about vaccinations. Explain to your patients why vaccines are important and how they should discuss their concerns with you. Provide links to reputable web sites and credible information about immunizations.


A version of this article appeared on Affynity Web Solution s blog. 

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3 ways to deal with a patient’s online rampage on Facebook

3 ways to deal with a patient’s online rampage on Facebook | Social Media and Healthcare |

Each time you log on to your hospital’s Facebook page, you’re never quite sure what you might see.

Facebook is a great way for you to express what your hospital is doing, but it’s also a great way for patients to express how they are doing. And sometimes, it gets weird.

Below, she shares a few thoughts:

What do people want when they’re upset and post negative things on Facebook?

Generally speaking, people want to be heard. They need acknowledgement (although you shouldn’t openly admit to any wrongdoing, for legal reasons). In most cases I’ve encountered, people are reasonable and willing to work toward a solution. For a small minority, nothing short of a miracle is going to shift them from angry to even mildly understanding. We’ll review actual instances where I’ve dealt with both varieties of negative feedback, pulling directly from my hospital’s Twitter and Facebook accounts.


Give us a quick example of something weird that’s happened on your Facebook wall.

I had a woman post on my hospital’s Facebook page as if she was writing to a former classmate. I thought she had just posted it to the wrong wall, so I reached out and let her know she had posted it to the hospital’s wall. Well, that’s what she meant to do. She was trying to reconnect with her classmate, and all she knew was that her classmate (an employee) drew blood at the hospital.


With a little detective work, I was able to find the employee and give her the message. I’m not sure whether she attended the reunion.


What are three things a hospital communicator should do when someone is upset on social media?


Respond as quickly as possible. 

In many cases, you’ll be getting a tiny bit of information about the problem and a lot of anger. Let the person know you’re listening and interested in finding out what’s going on.

Fix it (if you can).  

Some issues will be easy to fix. I’ve sent a patient with Celiac disease a gluten free meal after the wrong tray was delivered to her room. I’m sorry she got the wrong meal to begin with, but glad she reached out so we could make it right. Other issues will be much more complex, like a patient’s family who posted complaints we were killing their father (true story, made even more difficult because the father was here under confidential status). Fix what you can as fast as you can.

Take it offline. 

Be sure you show the social media world you’re responding to the person who’s expressed a problem, but particularly in health care, it’s best to move the discussion offline (or at least to a private message) at some point. I have a great relationship with our service excellence department, and they’re happy to follow up on any complaints that reach us through social media. If I can’t solve the problem myself, I know I can get the person in touch with our service excellence team, and they’ll do their best to make things right. My strength may be in social media management, but they’re the experts in customer service; it’s a great collaborative effort.

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10 essentials of Facebook etiquette for Medical Practices

10 essentials of Facebook etiquette for Medical Practices | Social Media and Healthcare |

Some brands have mastered the art of Facebook marketing; others, not so much. As with any social media platform, there are rules by which we should abide. 

Over the last few weeks, we’ve offered etiquette advice for LinkedInTwitter, and Pinterest. It’s Facebook’s turn. 

On this platform, there’s one protocol for brands and another for individuals. The tips below land somewhere in between and apply to both groups: 

1. Stop asking people to “like” your updates. A few years ago, it was common to see posts that started with “Like this post if…” Sadly, it’s still common. Create remarkable content. and people will like it—and “like” it. 

If you think about it, a “like” is an empty action—the simplest form of engagement. Asking for people to like your status is cheap and adds no value to your fans’ news feeds. 

2. Don’t overpost. Quite simply, if you clog up news feeds, people are going to hide, unsubscribe, and even “unlike” your brand’s page. 

The same goes for your personal page. Obviously, we’re all free to give our friends as many updates about our lives as we want, but you should beware of the consequences. 

3. Keep those hashtags to a minimum. We’re not exactly sure how hashtags are affecting brand engagement on Facebook, given that they were introduced just this summer. But the same advice we gave for Twitter holds true for Facebook: Make sure your hashtags are relevant and not excessive. 

4. When tragedy strikes, just shut up. We’ve dedicated entire posts to this, but there’s no reason brands should post when national/global tragedy strikes. Sending “thoughts and prayers” to the people in the affected area also feels a little thin—garnering engagement that way smacks of desperation. A better technique would be to offer your audience a way to help in the form of donations, etc. 

5. Don’t be patronizing. Condescending Corporate Brand Page has become my favorite destination on Facebook. It offers so many examples of what not to do. It’s also clear by looking at all the posts they call out that we seem to be running out of new ideas on how to engage on Facebook. 

6. There’s a fine line between real-time marketing and “brandjacking.” For brand pages, Oreo’s foray into real-time marketing during the Super Bowl power outage was great—but it was also a bit destructive overall. It inspired a ton of imitators, and their attempts at real-time marketing aren’t always relevant; they can be downright spammy. Not sure what we’re talking about? Check out this story about real-time marketing during the Oscars. 

7. Keep it positive. This one goes for the personal and the brand side. As much as you want to rant on your page, consider your audience and whether they’re really interested in hearing you. 

Ask yourself: Are we sharing this content because it serves us or our audience? 

8. No one wants to visit your brand’s mobile unfriendly Facebook tab. No one. 

9. When there’s a PR issue on your page, the worst thing to do is stay silent. So often, brands will shut down all Facebook communication when they’re facing any kind of backlash. You’re only going to exacerbate the problem by staying silent. Respond, even if it’s just along these lines: “We hear you. We’re working on it.” 

10. Personalize your reply to people who take the time to contact you. Whether it’s a direct message or a comment, the response should never be rote. Seldom does a “Thanks!” suffice. Every person who comments on your page represents an opportunity for a personal connection. Make that connection special, and you’ve got a fan for life. 

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Social Media: Enhancing Medical Outreach and Quality of Healthcare

Social Media: Enhancing Medical Outreach and Quality of Healthcare | Social Media and Healthcare |

In this era of digital science and globalization, medical profession seems to be a charm for many people. Throughout the world, each year, many students appear for this noble profession with the dream to explore something new with their keen interest in humanity or to flourish in education. The world is moving so fast with new discoveries, inventions and growth in technologies which connect each and every individual in a manner without which life seems to be impossible. In the same way, the top most preferred profession of this world, the Medical Profession is indulging more in connecting with the digital world through different communication media.


Social Media is a Platform that involves internet based activities through which individuals get and share knowledge, communicate and collaborate. It is totally different from other broadcast media because social media is online way through which people discuss, communicate research, earn and discover new things individually or in collaboration. In this age of rapidly growing technologies, different professions use blogging, personal websites like twitter, Facebook, wiki, slides share and videos share sites, collaborative projects, research tools and contents, online communities, photo sharing sites and educational information sharing and news sites. According to “Facebook statistics, 9th September 2011”, Published in white paper 2012; Facebook emerged as largest social media network in use worldwide and represents the enormous growth of social media usage among the general public, Facebook allows internet users to interact with community pages, events and personal post.


Social Media presents several opportunities in positive or negative way to medical community, so that physicians, medical students, patients, nurses, health organizations and their representatives seize those opportunities and improve health literacy, issues and quality of life. Social media is a dynamic way through which people can raise health awareness about issues, can communicate, discuss to improve health related activities and behavior. This is also a powerful way to provide better quality of life. According to one survey, over sixty five percent physicians in the world are using social media, and in U.S. more than thousand hospitals are using social media and several organizations are taking part in it for different purposes. Different Health organization in public and private sector using social media like, ‘Mayo Clinic social media’ was created in January to educate health care professionals, and public health agencies like World Health Organization (WHO) are reshaping medical world with great advancement.


Throughout the world Physicians, Surgeons, Medical students and Nurses all are using different blogging sites and social networking communities to enhance and seize opportunities and to tackle all the challenges which come on their way of professionalism. Dr.Lissa Rankin, a gynecologist in San Diego said in her interview that: “I was trained that doctors are supposed to be up on this pedestal and we’re supposed to put on our white coats and play this role. That’s not necessary who we are. We’re humans. I personally use social media as a way to communicate to people my humanity, that I have flaws, that I make mistakes, that I have doubts, insecurities and fears”.


Social Media is playing its role for medical community through different categories like students, doctors, nurses and different industries are using several blogging sites, social networking communities, Facebook, flickers, twitter, slides share, videos share, YouTube, online journals, e-books, online researches and last but not the least different video courses and lectures provided by health care teachers in several ways. But matter of concern is that, social media can have negative impact and can harm medical profession, personal dignity, identity, employment, patient’s integrity, self respect, can demoralize individuals life and can disturb relationships, future admission, careers and opportunities, if people have inappropriate online activities and social behaviors. It can affect patient’s morale, self respect, privacy and their beliefs.


One survey shows that social networking sites are affecting medical school acceptance, in U.S. Social network activities and profiles are negatively affecting doctor’s reputation, personal integrity, public trust and their careers and can destroy their fame and employment. In twitter accounts, doctors using and sharing medical information and patient’s problems can be fruitful but they are against ethics and destroy personal dignity and morale by crossing boundaries. In a nutshell, in spite of negative influence of Social Media individually or collectively, it is playing a powerful role in medical community by reshaping the ways of thinking, ways of living, ways to receive and share, and the ways to explore and generate better health. By providing routes to overcome challenges and grab new opportunities it can create better relations that enable persons individually and professionally to grow and live in a ‘healthy literate world’. 

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Professional use of social media in medical education

Lecture to first year uOttawa medical students by Pat Rich and Ann Fuller
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Social Media Education Should be Tailored to the User

Social Media Education Should be Tailored to the User | Social Media and Healthcare |

When we think about the boundaries of communication technology and social media, we tend to put students, residents, and faculty into the same bucket. Policies for one are the policies for the others. But these are all very different people with respect to their ability to understand and handle their public presence.


The latitude given a publicly seasoned attending should be different than that of third-year medical student. For example, I encourage students to avoid online discussion about the hospitals they are rotating in. This is because:


  • They don’t yet know what represents the normal workings of a hospital. There are things that seem strange or unjust to a trained eye but happen for a good reason. Perhaps more important, the viewing public doesn’t understand what students don’t know.
  • Students are sorting out what represents the thoughts and ideas for their close personal network versus those for global publication. They’re learning which conversations belong where.
  • They’re figuring out their public presence

Students come to medicine with a relatively self-focused view of their networked world, and don’t yet understand how they fit into the broader networked world. As they mature professionally, they recognize that they are part of a broader community, which brings accountability. This progression has real importance when we expose ourselves to the great wide open.


The way we handle ourselves must be driven by the context of where we are. Discussions, guidelines, and educational programs need to be designed around the specific differences that exist at various levels of experience and clinical maturity. Not all policies fit these different levels.


While the principles of privacy and professionalism in the public space shouldn’t differ at any level, the way we approach and discuss those principles necessarily must.

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10 tips for hospital bloggers

10 tips for hospital bloggers | Social Media and Healthcare |

Statistics show 80 percent of people look for health care information online. Blogs can help them find it.

10 tips for hospital bloggers 

1. Make it personal: The blog shouldn’t be a cut-and-paste job from your hospital’s marketing/media relations press release site. This is your chance to show off your human side and emotionally connect with patients. Urge doctors to explore topics, such as why they love their work and what they learn from patients. 

2. Monitor the buzz: Pay attention to current events and hot topics. When flu season arrives, a family practice may blog about prevention tips and vaccination schedules. What’s the latest research on disease causes and links, and do you have an expert who can weigh in? Is a new treatment that your center offers getting wider media attention? Find a way to talk about it. You can always set up aGoogle alert for subjects you know your audience cares about. 

3. Check your jargon: Be cautious about so-called “doctor speak.” You’re writing to connect with patients, not medical colleagues, so keep it casual and easy to understand. Remember that patients don’t refer to their chests as “thoracic cavities.” See this study that showed that most people find thelanguage on hospital websites way too elevated. 

4. Keep it brief: The best part about blogging is that shorter is better. Aim for 200 to 500 words. 

5. Don’t ignore it: Post regularly. Make a plan – one entry a day, two a week – and adhere to it. Consistency is key for readers to see it as a serious effort.

6. Know your audience: Keep in mind who’s reading to guide its content and tone. If you’re a children’s hospital or pediatric practice, your readers are parents, mostly moms. But a cancer center can expect a much wider, varied audience, as both patients of all ages, as well as their family members, may tune in. 

7. Be social: Blogging is, after all, a form of social media marketing, so create plenty of opportunities for readers to join the discussion. Allow them to leave comments on the blog, and enable widgets so they can share your post on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Interact with the commenters. 

8. Use multimedia: Think outside the text box. Post photos, videos, photo slideshows and hyperlink generously. 

9. Branding: Your blog, though more casual, is still an extension of your hospital and represents your brand. Seize the opportunity to brand the blog and fully integrate it into your overall digital marketing plan. 

10. Share the work: The content doesn’t have to be fruit of one person’s labor. Allowing several members from your medical team to contribute adds a good variety of ideas and perspectives, and makes the blog easier to maintain.

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"Social Media Residency": Essential for Tomorrow's Physicians

"Social Media Residency": Essential for Tomorrow's Physicians | Social Media and Healthcare |

Should doctors undergo a formal social media training program? The answer from Mayo Clinic is “yes.”

The healthcare system’s social media training program, “Social Media Residency," will for the first time will be offered at another hospital. The program will be held at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City this June.

Although there have been many doctor advocates for social media, there are still limited social media training resources for doctors, especially for young doctors.


One can argue that doctors should use their common sense to guide their online presence. But as social media and digital technologies progress, the implications of these emerging channels are beyond their functions as communication platforms–innovators in healthcare have been exploring social media for other functions such as clinical recruitment, mobile medicine, hospital re-admission reduction and patient adherence. Some of these explorations have shown promising results and physicians may be able to utilize these new tools in a clinical setting soon.


Thus, training physicians on the use of social media is more than about telling them how to maintain a professional online profile when patients search their names; more important, the training should be about the future trends of the online world, and how physicians can bridge the knowledge in medicine and digital techniques to ultimately advance medicine and enhance healthcare delivery.


There are three reasons why a social media training program like “Social Media Residency” is essential for tomorrow’s physicians.


Physicians will be a driving force in medical innovation  

Physicians are the stakeholders in healthcare who directly engage patients and touch different segments of the healthcare system—from ordering tests, prescribing medications, checking medical record, coordinating with other specialists and even handling billing. Therefore, insights from physicians are unique and valuable for healthcare innovation.


As the healthcare system is shifting to a patient-centered model, non-medication intervention will play a more important role in patient management. Prevention, early diagnosis, better integration and improved patient communication can all contribute to driving outcomes. Many of these improvements can be driven by social media and digital technologies. As physicians work together to deliver cost-effective healthcare for patients, they not only need to understand how these emerging tools work but also use insights to identify opportunities to improve them.


Social media has redefined the relationship between physicians and patients


With free and easy access to medical information, patients are much more educated today. According to a study published on the Journal of Health Communication, 70 percent of surveyed patients planned to ask their doctor questions about the information they found, and 40 percent had printed the information to take to the appointment.  Meanwhile, patients are also using online channels and mobile tools to counsel peers, share experience, track progression of their condition and log side effects of treatments. In some disease state with extremely active patient advocates (e.g., diabetes, cancer, rare diseases), patients are powerful enough to influence policy making and business decisions made by pharmaceutical companies.


Physicians who play a leading role in healthcare delivery cannot react to the trend by ignoring it. To manage the new physician-patient relationship properly requires knowledge in social media and digital—where patients are discussing the condition, what websites contain the most reputable medical content, what mobile apps might add value to disease management for patients and what a proper way would be to convince patients about diagnosis or treatment when it is different from what they found online.


The bottom line is about adding value in healthcare delivery

The essence of patient-centered healthcare is about adding value. As Michael Porter discussed in his famous paper What Is Value in Health Care back in 2010, achieving high value for patients must become the overarching goal of healthcare delivery and value should define the framework for performance improvement in healthcare. Thus, the reason why we need to train physicians on social media should also be about adding value.


Although researchers and the industry are still figuring out ways to measure the value of social media in a clinical setting, some indirect or qualitative findings illustrate social media can enhance value in healthcare.


For example, many studies have shown social connections can be beneficial for mental health. Peer counseling and support groups—things patients do in social media each day—foster such connections and help patients to better cope with their conditions. When I was doing research for a client in ALS drug development, I encountered this comment: “I desperately needed to adjust my ‘new life’ to this ‘new reality.’ Social media has helped with that adjustment by empowering me and other patients.”  This is just one of many revealing patient comments that I have seen in the last couple of years.

Efforts to drive the value of social media in healthcare have also been made by businesses. Forbes reported a company called Healtheo360 has recently launched a patient study designed to measure the advantages of Virtual Social Therapy, a social media-based service developed by the company, in patients with diabetes.


Mayo Clinic’s “Social Media Residency” program indicates leading healthcare organizations have realized the necessity to incorporate social media into the formal training channel and started to experiment emerging tools in a clinical setting. It is a great starting point, but more still need to be explored from multiple perspectives before physicians can ultimately utilize social media to deliver measurable, meaningful and consistent outcomes.

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Infectious Disease Research Gets a Boost from Websites, Blogs, and Social Media

Infectious Disease Research Gets a Boost from Websites, Blogs, and Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

While public health officials around the world are on alert about the pandemic potential of new disease threats, a team that includes Penn State University biologist Marcel Salathé is developing innovative new systems and techniques to track the spread of infectious diseases, with the help of news websites, blogs, and social media. An article by Salathé and colleagues from the Harvard Medical School, published in the early online issue of the New England Journal of Medicine on 3 July 2013, describes the advantages and challenges of "digital epidemiology" -- a new field of increasing importance for tracking infectious disease outbreaks and epidemics by leveraging the widespread use of the Internet and mobile phones.


"In the past year, the world has seen an emerging outbreak of two viruses with considerable pandemic potential: Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus and Avian Influenza A H7N9," Salathé said. He explained that the former is similar to the virus responsible for the SARS outbreak in 2002 and 2003 and has, since 2012, infected 64 people, 38 of them fatally. Influenza A H7N9 is a virus that normally circulates in birds but has, since the beginning of 2013, infected 137 people, 32 of them fatally.


"Digital epidemiology played a crucial role in the surveillance of both Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus and Avian Influenza A H7N9 by enhancing transparency and helping public health officials to understand outbreaks more fully. It is clear that the importance of digital epidemiology will only increase in the future as more people get mobile access to broadband around the globe," said Salathé, who uses data from social media in his research to study how sentiments about vaccination spread in populations. "With 6.8 billion mobile-phones and 2.9 billion people online, it's getting increasingly hard for any micro-organism to spread undetected for long."


Salathé also said he predicts that digital epidemiology will not be limited to just infectious diseases for long. "Mining these novel, big-data streams is of enormous interest to practically anyone interested in health and disease," he said. "For example, researchers and public health officials could use data-mining techniques to detect adverse drug reactions, assess mental disorders, or track health behaviors much faster than they do with traditional methods."


Salathé added that he is honored to have the opportunity to reach such a wide audience through the New England Journal of Medicine. "We're hoping to put digital epidemiology on the agenda of every public health agency to complement their traditional efforts to track diseases and assess and mitigate the spread of infectious diseases," he said.

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Doctors Have a ‘Heart’ for Social Media

Doctors Have a ‘Heart’ for Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |
Earlier this month at the Doctors 2.0 & You conference in Paris, Creation Healthcare publicly released findings of a long-term study exploring how doctors

Via Aditya Patkar
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Making a Case for Social Media

Making a Case for Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Twitter can help scientists build networks, develop ideas, and spread their work

Twitter’s not just for the birds, argues a group of marine scientists in an Ideas in Ecology and Evolution report. The paper presents a case for more scientists to engage with one another and the public through social media like Twitter—a micro-blogging platform that allows users to send short messages and engage in two-way information flows—using examples drawn from the researchers’ own online networks.

“Many scientists may think they don't have time for Twitter,” lead author Emily Darling, a Smith Conservation Research Fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told the University of Miami. “But a little effort can provide enormous value for communication and outreach. The solution is to just give it a try.”

The researchers highlighted Twitter’s ability to help scientists build scholarly connections, refine ideas through pre-review, and amplify discussions of science to a broad audience. Twitter, they pointed out, provides an informal and low-investment way to reach a large virtual following, which can increase exponentially through retweets. Scientists can benefit from using Twitter to share their work at various stages of completion with potential collaborators and students, government officials, science journalists, and the public, the authors noted.

“We hope our experiences with social media, and Twitter in particular, will encourage hesitant scientists to give it a spin—we believe there can be great and unexpected value to including social media into the life cycle of a scientific paper,” the authors wrote.

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Should Physicians be Utilizing Facebook?

Should Physicians be Utilizing Facebook? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social Media tools (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc) are synonymous with big brands such Coca Cola, Starbucks, Ford, Red Bull and even Disney, but are also making waves for medical organizations such as Cleveland Clinic and WebMD. And as social media tools have become a pivotal piece of the entire healthcare marketing puzzle, it’s our job at Quaintise to quell any fears that our physicians and specialists might have.


Personal vs Professional Page

An aspect of social media that many physicians and specialists often overlook is the line between professional and personal. While Facebook does have guidelines for setting up multiple accounts under the same name, it does allow you to set up a professional presence as well as a personal one. Our healthcare marketing experts do not touch your personal profile and highly suggest that you do not respond to personal friend requests from patients or personal messages. All questions, concerns and friend requests need to be dealt with on a professional level, directly from your professional page.


This is where things can get dicey, and the line between patient and friend can easily get crossed. It’s in this grey area that HIPAA guidelines can easily be forfeited, penalties accrued, and patient privacy put at risk.


If you have a personal Facebook page, all Privacy settings should be set to Friends Only. IN reality, there should be no way for anyone on Facebook to run a search for you as a physician and find you. Many physicians under Quaintise use a nickname or shortened spelling of their names to avoid this issue and confusion with their professional Facebook accounts.


Physician vs Office Page

A decision that every physician needs to make is whether to create social media accounts for each physician on staff at a professional level, or whether to create one office page where everyone has access. At Quaintise, it is our suggestion that physicians create one office page to be maintained and managed by healthcare marketing experts who can engage patients and Fans, as well as relay any questions, concerns and advice between office staff, physicians and Facebook Fans.


One of the pertinent reasons we advise this strategy is so that all HIPAA guidelines are followed at all times, no patient privacy is put at risk, and Fans receive the highest engagement levels possible while adhering to all privacy rules and guidelines.


Facebook Increases Patient Engagement

There is no question that Facebook increases patient engagement, making them more aware of lifestyle choices and healthy options. For example, during flu season Quaintise ran many posts, blogs, and informational discussions regarding flu symptoms and flu vaccines. Within one month of increased Facebook engagement on a subject that was relevant to every patient and non-patient of Family Practice Physicians (client), we were able to increase web traffic via Facebook referrals by 146%, and overall web traffic by 48.39%.

Allison Emma Schizkoske's curator insight, November 26, 2013 7:45 PM

As the article says, there is a grey area when it comes to professional facebook and personal. You have to be careful when posting and who to add. Yes you can gain alot of audience engagment but you must remember to keep your facebook page professional and not to add your paitents to your own personal facebook account. Know where to draw the line to keep things working the best for you practice. 

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Is Social Media Effective for Pharma Marketing?

Is Social Media Effective for Pharma Marketing? | Social Media and Healthcare |

In the U.S., a major KPI of any digital program is to drive traffic to the website. Since about 40% of pharma's digital budget goes to search marketing, I presume that is effective in driving traffic to sites. But is social media effective in doing this and should traffic referrals be a KPI of social media campaigns?

We may never see real data from any pharma company that tells us how effective social media is in driving traffic to pharma websites, but we do have survey data indicating that ads placed on social media sites are not very effective.

A national consumer survey conducted by Makovsky Health and Kelton (see here), for example, asked consumers about what motivated them to visit a pharma company’s disease-state or drug website for information. According to this survey, the key influencers were a physician recommendation (42%) and news articles (33%). Other drivers of pharma-sponsored website traffic included:

  • Recommendation from a family member, friend or colleague (30%)
  • TV ad (25%) • Drug discount (14%)
  • Magazine ad (13%)
  • Web, digital, radio or newspaper ad (11%, 11%, 9% and 9%, respectively) 
  • Social media ad (6%)

Find more data from this survey in this infographic.

I assume a "social media ad" is an ad placed on Facebook or maybe Twitter. I'll have to get more details about this survey to find out for sure.

But the survey raises a question that it probably did not explore: Aside from ads, is engagement with consumers via social media effective in driving consumers to pharma websites? I think the jury is still out on that. Social media may help drive awareness of news articles, for example, which then drive traffic to websites. So there's an indirect KPI associated with social media.

nrip's insight:

Social Media(SocMed) is by far the most effective digital lead generation technique after Email marketing today. The issue is that too many marketeers take short cuts when it comes to SocMed. Profiling at both ends of the funnel and identifying the best prospect touch points socially are difficult on SocMed. But if these are done right, the results are terrific.

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Facebook, a legitimate source of data for medical research?

Facebook, a legitimate source of data for medical research? | Social Media and Healthcare |

A recent study highlights the opportunities which online social networks may provide to analyze the impact of social behavior on health outcomes such as the prevalence of obesity.


For several years researchers have been trying to find the causes of obesity, aside from any genetic predisposition. Our social environment is regarded as one of the decisive factors overall. For example, families living in deprived circumstances are often prone to obesity because, it is argued, cheaper food is often more fatty and sugary –although this supposed causal link still remains controversial. Such studies have their limitations, since there is relatively little reliable information available on people’s physical activities and dietary habits. However, there is today one source, though rather unconventional as regards public health studies, which can provide a wealth of data: Facebook. Recently four researchers from Harvard Medical School, working together with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance– an ongoing telephone health survey system – and NYC EpiQuery systems, a web-based system designed to provide health data from a variety of sources, set out to examine the relationship between Facebook users’ ‘likes’ and their weight*.


Studying populations through the lens of social networks

This is one of the first attempts to study the health of a population by extracting data from online social networks. Recently, another online study, carried out via social networks among 61 million people, which looked at the influence of messages on voting patterns, has already demonstrated the potential of social networks for this type of study. Such networks provide a new source of usable data and Facebook is one of the most useful tools since users tend to volunteer information on their surroundings, origins, background and personal interests.  Moreover, the sheer size of the network in terms of its user base is an argument in itself for using this data source. In the United States, half the population is active on Facebook, as is one person in eight worldwide. The study on obesity analyzed Facebook users’ ‘likes’, broadly categorizing them under "health and fitness" and "outdoor physical activities" as an indication of being physically active, and "television" as a marker for a sedentary lifestyle. The study reveals that in the US as a whole there is one clear link between Facebook users’ ‘likes’ and obesity: in any given area of the country, a greater proportion of people with activity-related Facebook interests and a smaller proportion who like television appears to be correlated with a lower prevalence of obesity.


Gathering data on public health

The major increase in obesity on a global scale suggests that a person’s social environment says a lot about his/her health. Many studies have already examined the relationship between people being overweight and their immediate environment. For example, in places where there is less opportunity for people to walk, we find higher rates of obesity. Beyond the physical environment, this study now shows that people’s social environment may also be linked to obesity. There are many variables – among them common interests, whether active or sedentary – which make it easier to pinpoint populations at risk. Up to now, obtaining data relating to the social environment of these populations has been costly and slow, and the process difficult to carry out across a large population. The availability of online social network data for this type of study therefore seems to have come at the right moment.  Further research is now needed to better understand how the online social environment actually relates to health outcomes and how it can be used to identify when action is needed or target specific interventions.


*‘Assessing the Online Social Environment for Surveillance of Obesity Prevalence’ by Rumi Chunara, Lindsay Bouton, John W. Ayers and John S. Brownstein

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Facebook and Your Medical Practice: Making ‘Friends’ with Social Media

Facebook and Your Medical Practice: Making ‘Friends’ with Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Though the medical community has been slow to adopt social media as part of its business model—and possibly for good reason—social media is here to stay as the new medium of communication. While there are certainly pitfalls associated with healthcare providers’ use of social media, the fact remains that Facebook, Twitter, and other outlets can be effective tools to promote your practice, disseminate information, and share ideas.


Social media should not, however, be used by healthcare providers to communicate directly with patients, provide medical advice, promote products, or warrant outcomes. Further, physicians and other healthcare providers need to be cognizant of the potential permanency of a social media post. While social media account managers can delete or remove posts and other information shared online, subscribers and “friends” can take screen shots or print errant posts before they are deleted. These potentially damaging posts can live forever.


Social Media and Patient Privacy

Patient privacy is probably the most significant consideration when mixing medicine with social media. The lines of the physician-patient relationship often can become blurred in the social media context if appropriate precautions are not taken. Further, because of the potential for anonymity among bloggers and other social media commenters, there is no guarantee that “patients” actually are who they say they are, and vice versa. That’s why healthcare providers need to follow a few simple rules when establishing a social media presence in order to ensure they maintain appropriate boundaries, respect patient confidentiality, and best promote their practice:


(1) NEVER post about patients. When using social media, it’s not enough to simply eliminate patient-specific data such as name, date of birth, or social security numbers. Physicians have been disciplined for blogging or commenting about patients or the care provided, even when the post seemed completely devoid of personal information. If there is any way for a third party to identify the patient through the information contained within your post, it should not be posted. When in doubt, don’t post.


(2) Keep personal accounts separate from business accounts. Business pages can be set up to provide practice information only, such as business hours, holiday closings, new additions to the practice, upcoming events, etc. These business pages do not include “friends” or allow “comments” by non-approved administrators.


(3) If you maintain a personal Facebook, Twitter, or other social media account, always decline friend requests from patients. A professional boundary must always be present between patients and physicians. This boundary can be blurred or even dissolved when social media communication is allowed.


(4) Maintain the highest levels of security for your personal account(s) and business page. Routinely check your account settings to ensure that the privacy and security settings are constantly updated since many social media sites, particularly Facebook, change their security settings on a fairly regular basis. If you have a business Facebook page or Google+ page, then disable outsiders’ ability to comment, post or tag photos in order to make sure that the communication is one-way (from you) only.


(5) Do not provide medical advice, whether solicited or not, on blogs or social media posts. Even innocent comments on others’ pages can be deemed “advice” and should be avoided. For example, a friend of a friend might post a comment about post-appendectomy incisional pain, to which you respond “Don’t worry, that’s normal.” Such a post is technically a comment on the patient’s medical status and could potentially impact that individual’s treatment decisions. It also raises the question of whether a physician-patient relationship exists as a result of the communication.


(6) Implement a social media policy for your practice, and ensure your office staff is familiar with the policy. In fact, it’s a good idea to have your employees sign a social media agreement and maintain that in their personnel file. Your policy should be clear that staff members are never to post about patients, period. Staff also should be prohibited from “friending” patients or communicating with patients through social media sites. Likewise, instruct your staff to maintain proper privacy/security measures, and make sure only allow responsible, trained staff members are allowed to administer your practice’s social media page(s) or blogs.


(7) If a patient somehow contacts you or a staff member about her care using social media, then immediately respond that you will call to discuss the issue. During your phone conversation, let your patient know that social media is not a suitable method of communication, and suggest that the patient call the office for future needs.


(8)  Do not blog anonymously (see rule 5).


Final ‘Comments’

The number of social media outlets is growing every day, so it can be time consuming to monitor and ensure patient confidentiality, adequate security and proper boundaries. However, if properly managed, these sites can be a fun social outlet for communication with family and friends, and an effective tool to help promote your practice. Though social media has enormous potential, it is important for healthcare providers to ensure their online involvement is ethical, with a clear divide between personal and business uses.


The Texas Medical Association provides a social media guide on its website, which can also be a helpful tool when navigating the wide world of social media.

One final word of advice, whether it’s a professional blog, your practice’s Facebook page, or your personal Twitter account: Take a moment to reflect before posting. (Note: public Tweets are archived by the Library of Congress!)

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