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.
Curated by nrip
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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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Facebook 'Likes' a good indicator of quality hospital care

Facebook 'Likes' a good indicator of quality hospital care | Social Media and Healthcare |

While those active on social media aren't shy about expressing opinions on their Facebook pages, how much do their "Likes" really reflect the quality of an organization? American Journal of Medical Quality (a SAGE journal) recently published a study that found that Facebook "Likes" were indeed an indicator of hospital quality and patient satisfaction.

"Findings suggest that Facebook offers an additional resource, beyond surveys, to gauge the attitudes of patient populations," wrote study authors Alex Timian

Researchers compared the 30-day mortality rates and hospital patron recommendations to the number of "Likes" on the hospitals' Facebook pages from 40 hospitals near New York, NY. They found that Facebook "Likes" were positively associated with patient recommendations and that a one percentage point decrease in the 30-day mortality rate corresponded with almost 93 more Facebook "Likes."

In addition to these findings, the researchers also found that teaching hospitals had a lower number of Facebook "Likes" than traditional hospitals, despite the fact that the staff at teaching hospitals is younger and predicted to be more active on Facebook. The researchers noted that this negative association of "Likes" and teaching hospitals may be a reflection of quality issues at those hospitals.

"Any hospital can start a Facebook page, but those with higher levels of quality and patient satisfaction are more likely to attract "Likes" to their page" wrote the authors. "Public health researchers and hospitals can use facebook "Likes" as a proxy for hospital quality and patient satisfaction

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Facebook Page Apps Every Medical Practice Should Use

Facebook Page Apps Every Medical Practice Should Use | Social Media and Healthcare |

Ever doctor who is “in” is now using facebook pages to improve communication with patients. Though the number of facebook apps available to do this is in the well over 100,000, too many for physician to look through.

Start here to build out the tools for your medical practice. The goal of every doctor using facebook pages is to give information to new and existing patients, also get patients to engage with the physician in a social supportive way.

Below are five essential Facebook apps.

1. Twitter Tab — Display Your Twitter Feed

Twitter Tab, which has 1+ million monthly active users, will create a tab on your Facebook Page that displays a timeline of your medical practices most recent tweets. This is a great feature for providing additional, real-time information to Facebook patients and medical staff who don’t have a Twitter account and for avoiding the annoyance your fans would feel if you were to constantly stream your tweets to Facebook as wall updates. The app is very easy to set up.

2. Static HTML: iframe Tabs — Create a Custom Landing Page

Static HTML: iframe tabs, which has 61+ million monthly users, will simplify the process of making a custom landing page by automating many of the steps. Forget about creating a developer account and your own application — this app provides copy and paste textboxes for your custom HTML, CSS and JavaScript. It also offers checkboxes to remove the scrollbars. If you want to incentivize Likes on your Page, the application enables you to “like-gate,” and show different content to those who have and haven’t “liked” your page.

It’s worth noting that you will still need to host your own files, and designs over 520 pixels wide and 800 pixels tall will have the scrollbars.

3. EHR online facebook scheduling — Place you free appointment schedule on Facebook

Let patients schedule appointments in a HIPAA compliant way!  Use the Static HTML iframe Tabs to get this done.

Step by step instructions on how to do this can be found here:

4. ContactMe — Add a Contact Form

ContactMe, with 180,000 monthly active users, adds a tab on your organization’s Facebook Page with a contact form. This allows anyone visiting your Facebook page to easily get in touch with you at the very moment when they’re most interested.

The biggest advantage of this app is its customization options. You can choose whether you’d prefer to show your company’s contact information or social media icons for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Skype. This is very customizable.

5. RSS Graffiti – Automatically Post Updates

RSS Graffiti, with 1.5 million monthly users, allows you to automatically post wall updates any time there’s a new item in one of your specified feeds. For example, if you publish to a medical blog every day, RSS Graffiti can automatically post an excerpt of the article with a direct link onto your Facebook page’s wall. That saves you the time and effort of creating a new wall update every day to distribute your company’s content.

It has customization options making it stand out. You can automatically post more than one RSS feed, adjust how the post looks when published, schedule how often the feed is checked, and specify how many posts should be published per check. And most importantly, with all these options and more, the configuration interface is still easy to use and intuitive.

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Facebook as a Platform for Health Information and Communication: A Case Study of a Diabetes Group

Facebook as a Platform for Health Information and Communication: A Case Study of a Diabetes Group | Social Media and Healthcare |



As one of the largest social networking sites in the world, Facebook holds a great potential for promoting health.In this exploratory study, we analyzed 1352 messages posted to an active Facebook diabetes group to identify the characteristics of the group. The results revealed that the group was international in nature. Users overcame language barriers to communicate with people with similar conditions. Users interactions were structured around information, emotion, andcommunity building.
They exchanged medical and lifestyleinformation, and highly valued their peers personal experi-ences, opinions, and advice. They also demonstrated a posi-tive attitude toward the reality of living with diabetes andgenerously provided encouragements and affirmations to one another. Great efforts were made to maintain the proper operation of the community by the administrator and a group of cormembers. As a result, the group was shaped as a social network where peer users share social support, cultivate com- panionship, and exert social influence. Based on the results,we discussed future directions for research of health communities in a highly connected world.
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Facebook is Not Evil Proves People with Diabetes

Facebook is Not Evil Proves People with Diabetes | Social Media and Healthcare |

Facebook has been demonized tremendously throughout media, with claims that it causes depression, impairs social skills, creates isolation, feeds addictive behaviors, lowers self-esteem, and last but not least, one report claims it can cause eating disorders. The list goes on and on, further supporting the variety of accusations and reports that say Facebook does far more harm than good. People living with diabetes, Facebook is anything but evil, as those living with the two most common forms of the disease will argue that Facebook has become an immense source of support and much-needed connection in their daily lives.


But more, first, on the evils of Facebook: studies have actually documented that seeing posts about the lives of your friends can actually cause a person to feel worse about their own lives. Those most prone to this type of depression are teens, reports the American Academy of Pediatrics: “Researchers have proposed a new phenomenon called ‘Facebook depression’ that develops when preteens and teens spend a great deal of time on social media sites, such as Facebook, and then begin to exhibit classic symptoms of depression.”


While it can’t be denied that having friendships which revolve primarily through the internet could absolutely be detrimental to a person’s social skills for real-life interactions, and the reality that people are far more likely to be criticized and harassed for what they post and say on Facebook when abusers can hide behind a computer screen, Facebook is not all evil.


For people with diabetes, Facebook can be the source of immense comfort, support, kindness, generosity, and empowerment.


Due to the privacy laws of HIPAA, people with diabetes cannot rely on healthcare professionals to inform them of others in their community living with the disease. In the diabetes online community, Facebook has become a source of connection for thousands of people across the globe. Thousands. Some of these connections start through adults or teens living with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, others start through the parents of children with type 1 diabetes connecting with other parents. In general, however, the groups appear to have mixed themselves together, with a larger group of thousands that consists of type 1s, type 2s, teenagers and adults, and parents of children with type 1 diabetes.


Literally, thousands of people with diabetes are connected to each other personally, have met in real life thanks to their relationship on Facebook, and work together to increase the amount of support and advocacy available to those living with diabetes across the globe with events such as#DSMA Twitter Chat (which stands for Diabetes Social Media Advocacy) every Wednesday night at 9 p.m. EST, or DiabetesAdvocates–both of which were born largely due to relationships that evolved through Facebook.


Why is this online social community such a profoundly positive resource for a disease like diabetes? While each type of diabetes has its differences, the varieties of the disease have enough similarities and challenges to bring them together, but the community doesn’t exist just in specified diabetes “groups” or “pages,” they exist through straightforward friendships on Facebook.

Understanding the basics of diabetes is also important:


Type 1 diabetes, for instance, is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system will, at any age between birth and as high as age 50, attack the cells of the pancreas responsible for producing insulin. Insulin is a hormone essential to life in all mammals, as it is the only way glucose from the food we eat can be taken into the cells throughout the body that need that glucose for energy. Without insulin, any human being would eventually die.


Type 2 diabetes, albeit distorted greatly throughout greater mainstream media as pertaining primarily to obesity and eating “too much sugar,” is characterized most commonly in science by a dysfunction in the body’s ability to either produce or utilize insulin; however, it can also be the result of the liver’s overproduction of glycogen, too. In other words, while there is absolutely a correlation with excess body fat and insulin resistance which can lead to higher blood sugars and diabetes, the cause of type 2 diabetes is not simply about sugar and obesity. (If it were that simple, everyone who is overweight or obese would have diabetes and this is not the case.) Some forms of type 2 diabetes can be managed through changes in diet and exercise, while others require oral medications or insulin injections.


Today, there is no cure for either type of diabetes–and no, losing weight will not “cure” diabetes, it simply causes the symptoms of that person’s diabetes to subside, therefore making weight-loss one form of successful treatment for diabetes for some, not all.


One of the largest benefits of Facebook for those with diabetes are the lifestyle lessons and simple support that is shared around actual management of the disease. Gene Bertram, living with diabetes explains, “It’s put me in communication with other diabetics to find out how they are controlling their disease and improving their health.”


Richard Vaughn, who was diagnosed with diabetes in 1945 and continues to thrive today, says, “I did not know about diabetes online until 2006, so that was 61 years before my online experience. After consulting with other type 1 diabetics in the diabetes website support groups, I realized that I had much more to learn. At least 75% of my current knowledge about type 1 diabetes has been learned in the diabetes online community.”


As for the accusations that Facebook actually induces depression, those in the diabetes community have a different perspective:

Lauren Walsh, living with diabetes, explains, “I was diagnosed just over 2 years ago, I was 43 years with 3 kids and a granddaughter. This came out of nowhere, totally unexpected. I have truly found a wonderful community of others with diabetes that I can actually connect with and have even learned from! I love the diabetes online community!”


Michael Kenney, living with diabetes, explains that through Facebook he has been, “encouraged by others and been able to help others get answers to the same questions I had early on in my diagnosis.”

Donna Shuford, married to a man living with diabetes, explains, “It has made me realize I’m not alone. It has allowed me to reach out to other parents with diabetes with multiple children. I would be more depressed about my life without Facebook.”


According to clinical psychologist Dr. Jen Nash of PositiveDiabetes who specializes in treating people with diabetes, depression has proven to be two to three times more prevalent in people with diabetes. If having access to a free, simple resource like Facebook can alleviate some or a great deal of that depression, that’s a very good thing.


Sue Lebarron, living with diabetes, adds, “It helps me keep in touch with people that truly understand the frustrations of diabetes because they have those frustrations, too!.”


Shana Hammer, a mom of children with diabetes, says, “I was able to connect and contact other moms of multiple kids with type 1 diabetes–there are none in my area.”


Todd Williamson, living with diabetes, explains, “Through Facebook, I’ve been able to connect with other people with type 1 diabetes, which is a good thing. As many people as there are with diabetes, I’ve literally yet to meet another person with type 1 in my city. Nobody.”


Jess Buchanan, living with diabetes, adds, “It gives me a place to vent about diabetes and this is dually beneficial: First, friends who also have diabetes comment with things that make me feel better. Secondly, my friends without diabetes often follow up with questions. So basically it’s a chance to both empathize and educate. A win-win!”


In the end, though, both type 1 and type 2 forms of diabetes are constantly ostracized, mocked, and lectured by the general community. Accused of eating too much, being too lazy, being too fat, having given it to themselves or to their children for “eating too much sugar.” And of course, the constant lectures and inaccurate statements about diabetes in the media only adds to the lectures and scolding people with diabetes receive from the world around them.

While people with diabetes find themselves constantly being told by strangers and overly policing friends and family that they need to “eat less sugar, lose weight, and take better care of themselves,” through Facebook these people with diabetes can surround themselves with a community who understands the lesser known aspects of life that make this disease so challenging.


Common phrases and questions those in the Facebook community of diabetes hear include: “Why did you feed your child so much candy? You gave them diabetes!” or “My grandmother had diabetes…she lost both legs, and then she died” or “You have diabetes? You don’t look that fat!” or “Why don’t you just cure it by exercising more?” or Oh, you have diabetes? That sucks!” or “Well, it’s your fault for eating too much candy.”

None of the above statements are actually scientifically accurate observations about life with diabetes or how to treat it. Instead, they are merely misconceptions about diabetes perpetuated by mainstream media.

In reality, there is no one-size-fits all treatment for diabetes. Everyone’s insulin needs and oral medication needs vary and can change easily throughout their entire lives. The constant order to “exercise more often” comes with the overwhelming challenge of actually balancing one’s blood sugar levels during exercise, because exercise can easily cause dangerous drops in blood sugar if not carefully monitored, making exercise one of the hardest things to do more of safely.

Through Facebook, the people in this community have found allies in the daily challenge of balancing their blood sugars around insulin injections, exercise, nutrition, and the daily stressors of life. In life with diabetes, even an adrenaline-rushing ride on a roller coaster or white-water rafting can cause a significant spike in blood sugar.

Even Charlie Kimball, diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 2007 and recently won the IZOD IndyCar series in Ohio in early August, said about the growing diabetes community online, “I was blown away by the amount of support and outreach. I know there are many people out there with diabetes, and I have met so many, but it still caught me by surprise how impressive and how significant the response was. It meant so much to me to hear from them.”

Kimball continues, “The coolest thing about the diabetes community is that you are now part of this tight-knit community that inspires, shares, and helps one another. If you can help someone with their diabetes, then you help them with their whole life.”


The best part about this online community? Facebook doesn’t require appointments or any 8 to 5 limitations–it’s always there. Thanks to Facebook, says Jennifer Davis, who lives with diabetes, “I know that I am not alone in my struggles with diabetes. I can go online at any time of day and get support.”

Lisa Stoler may have encompassed every benefit of Facebook for people with diabetes in her story, explaining that, “Before I found the diabetes online community in Facebook, I had been completely alone in my diabetes. I never knew anyone else that was like me and felt misunderstood all the time. Now I know there is always someone just a tap away that know what I’m going through.”


Stoler adds, “In the middle of the darkest nights when I’m dragging myself to the kitchen with a low blood sugar, using all my strength to get food, sit in a chair, and stay alive while waiting for my blood sugar to come up, I know I am not alone because of the community on Facebook. There are always at least 10 type 1 diabetes right at my fingertips. And after 42 years as a type 1 diabetic, I thought I know everything but realized I didn’t–I have learned so much from my online friends in the diabetes community, enabling me to take better care of myself and live a healthier, fuller life.”


While emotional “support” gained through chatting back and forth on Facebook may not seem like a vital ingredient to one’s health for most people, for those living with diabetes who know that every day comes with a variety of challenges impacting every aspect of life from breakfast to work to school to relationships to Christmas parties, it is beyond valuable. For this community, Facebook serves as an endless source of support, education, and empowerment in their lives that are impacted 24/7 by life with diabetes.

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How one CCG is using Facebook to improve communication

How one CCG is using Facebook to improve communication | Social Media and Healthcare |

GPs traditionally have a habit of working very separately from one another, each locked away in their own consultation room. But as we prepare to take on a host of new management responsibilities under the health reforms, we have suddenly found the need to do a lot more talking.

As well as modernising services, a number of forward-thinking clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) are also bringing their methods of communication up to date. As part of this, I have been tasked by Esydoc, my East Surrey CCG, to develop its use of social media.

These online platforms are already transforming the way we operate by allowing an instantaneous flow of information and suggestions on how best to manage local healthcare services.

At the heart of our social media activity is a Facebook group that board members can use to speak to one another.

Thanks to social media, we no longer need to rely on face-to-face meetings or long chains of emails to share ideas and hold discussions. It is like an online meeting with real-time minutes that can be easily accessed and updated at any time.

The group also allows the CCG to communicate with the 'rank and file' GPs in the area. Take a recent example of one of our GPs who posted about a joint clinic and uploaded the referral form. Within seconds, members could download and print the form, refer patients and provide valuable feedback about the new service.

The Facebook page is a huge, multifunctional electronic noticeboard for members. Commissioners can publicise the latest services and guidelines and doctors then use the group to provide feedback and make suggestions about what improvements can be made.

As well as the obvious benefit of being able to discuss CCG matters from the comfort of our homes or surgeries, these conversations provide a cost-effective substitute for lengthy consultations or one-way feedback.

Creating, publicising and (to some extent) running educational events is another key way in which we use social media. Events fliers are uploaded to the Esydoc group and members can discuss the topics and share resources in advance. Facebook's calendar and event functions can also be used to create online invitation and booking systems.

The ease with which local information like this can be accessed is proving beneficial for all kinds of doctors. While there are still a number of GPs who do not use social media, newly qualified doctors have found our group particularly useful when familiarising themselves with services in the area.

Of course, as one of the first CCGs to create an active social media strategy, there are some potential pitfalls to consider.

Concerns will always exist around internet security and privacy for instance, though we have mitigated these with meticulous moderation and full use of Facebook's multitude of security settings. All of the group's conversations are "closed" and only visible to group members. Instead, we use our Twitter feed to keep the public up-to-date on our work.

Doctors' online conduct is also a concern. Most health professionals are sensible in their social media etiquette. But there is always the risk that GPs will share inappropriate material or identifiable information about patients.

The recommendations provided by the Royal College of GPs (RCGP), the General Medical Council (GMC) and the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) are helping to clarify how we go about communicating online.

The development of these guidelines demonstrates that the medical profession accepts and largely welcomes the growth of social media use among healthcare professionals.

I am fortunate to work within an innovative CCG that is keen to embrace change and new ways of communicating. Hopefully, it will not be long until others follow our example.

Dr Hamed Khan is a principal GP in Oxted, a member of Esydoc CCG's communications subgroup and GP advisor for Network Locum

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How Many Likes Can Your Hospital Get?

How Many Likes Can Your Hospital Get? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Does Our Hospital Need a Facebook Fan Page?

It seems as if everyone and every company has a Facebook page.

While regular websites still play an important role in branding, Facebook allows a personal level of interaction. There are many reasons that you should sign up and use a Facebook page for your hospital.

Let's take a look at the best parts of having an account.

Community Outreach

A page on Facebook is the perfect place to reach out to your local community. Especially if you are trying to brand your hospital as a community based health center.

People have a choice of which hospitals to use, allow your social media presence to brand your hospital as the place to go. Post updates on new services, little known programs, and events.

The page can also be used to inform locals of job openings, classes, and health care events (such as flu shot clinics).

Facebook has a function where users can post questions and people can choose the answers. If you prefer, you can ask a question in a status update and allow comments instead of the traditional question format provided by the site.


You can also start groups for people in your community.

Health support forums fill the internet, but it can be hard to find a local support group. Since Facebook has permeated so many lives, finding a local, hospital based support group for a particular illness can create a great environment for your hospital.

Other groups can include those for employees, doctors, nurses, and trustees.

Health Surveys

An important function your page can be used for is collecting data.

Polls and surveys can be answered by community members. The more people participating can give you a better idea of the general health in your community. Health initiatives can be created based on the information gathered.


Uploading videos to Facebook or even linking to your YouTube channel can generate far more exposure for your hospital. These videos can showcase new procedures, new staff, and health topics.

Educational content is easily spread among users. Many shares occur when the information is a new take on old information or a new discovery that people aren't familiar with. Share videos on how to treat the flu at home, how to keep foods safe to eat, and how to identify common illness.

Community health education is the most important part of reaching out.

A Facebook page can allow you to interact on a more personal level with the people using your facilities than a regular website. Social networks bring a familiarity that can never be reached by forums and websites alone.

Yes, your hospital could certainly use a Facebook page if it is currently lacking one.

It can help brand your facility, reach out, and serve the community. Reputation management is easier when you are able to interact with the community and learn exactly what it is they are looking for in a health provider.

Find out what works, what doesn't, and how you can implement ideas the people using your facility want or need.


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Study: Hospitals With More Facebook 'Likes' Have Lower Mortality Rates

Study: Hospitals With More Facebook 'Likes' Have Lower Mortality Rates | Social Media and Healthcare |

One of the biggest complaints against the current health care system is that you can never be sure, when you walk into a hospital, exactly what you're going to get. Certain metrics, like patient satisfaction and mortality rates, are thought to be more or less reliable indicators of general quality, but neither are exactly easy to obtain. Patient review sites, in the style of Yelp, are vulnerable to slander and reporting bias, and stats for specific hospitals, when collected, often aren't publically available.

Instead of finding new ways of collecting and reporting quality, why not use something that we already know to be powerfully effective: the social force that is Facebook. As a study on friendship similarly showed, Facebook is not best seen as a purely virtual space, but rather as a tool that augments our lived-in reality.

This reality, as a study in The American Journal of Medical Quality found, extends to the patient experience. When its authors compared the number of "likes" acquired by 40 hospitals in the New York City area, they found that online popularity was positively corresponded with how many people responded, "Yes, they would definitely recommend the hospital," in patient satisfaction surveys.  


An even stronger relationship was found for mortality. Each percentage point of a decrease in a hospital's 30-day mortality rate corresponded with that hospital's page having an average of 93 more Facebook likes.

With a few very large outliers, most of the hospitals included in the study had only a few hundred likes -- paltry showings by the social media giant's standards. But the numbers turned out to be a better indicator of quality, in terms of mortality rates, than were the satisfaction survey results. After all, every patient who passed through the hospitals was given the survey and asked to choose whether or not they'd recommend it to others. But it takes a special kind of satisfaction for a patient to log on to Facebook, seek out their hospital, and make their recommendation public.

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Image sharing using Facebook: Fact or fiction?

Image sharing using Facebook: Fact or fiction? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Healthcare practitioners can share medical images using a number of mechanisms and methods. Some of these applications have been in use for at least 20 years, some are still being developed, and some might not make sense today but could very well change how we share images in the near future.

Some applications might seem far-fetched, particularly regarding image exchange using social media. However, one should remember that the most common critique when Twitter was still in its infancy was that "it did not have a purpose" -- until the Arab Spring occurred, in which social media played a major role.

Therefore, I would not reject image sharing via social media as being far-fetched, but rather take it as a valid option. Before we consider image sharing on Facebook, I want to describe image sharing use-case scenarios and then look at how we can accomplish this with different architectures. I'll also list the communication options and discuss the maturity of these solutions.

Use cases

While radiology studies are the most commonly exchanged images for review and evaluation, practitioners in pathology, ophthalmology, dermatology, and many other specialties also require image sharing. The most popular use cases are described below.

Emergency medicine scenario: Often during off-hours, a study has to be reviewed and reported, causing a preliminary report to be generated and sent back to the requester within a very limited time frame, e.g., 15 to 30 minutes. A more detailed report is often created when a radiologist or other specialty practitioner is available, such as during regular working hours.

Primary radiology coverage: This is when a radiologist is not present onsite, as is often the case in rural areas, or when a radiologist covers clinics in the suburbs or provides coverage for disaster or war zones. In this case, exchanging images with the onsite clinicians is essential. Instead of the "preliminary" read as used in the emergency scenario, the practitioner creates a final report.

Second opinion: When a specialist is looking for an opinion from a peer who might have more experience with a certain imaging modality or particular disease pattern, an image exchange is needed. This is common when new modalities or acquisition techniques are implemented, such as PET/CT or PET/MR. A sick patient may also present after returning to the U.S. following travel to a tropical country, and physicians might need a second opinion for a disease, such as malaria, that's uncommon in their particular region. Social media might also play a role in this scenario.

Comparison or referral: This occurs when the primary reason for the image exchange is not to make a diagnosis from the original study, as that already has taken place, but to have the previous studies available. For example, a patient is treated in another location, and previous exams have to be viewed for either comparison to a new study or, what is more often the case, to assess the patient's condition without having to repeat that procedure again. This scenario "reuses" the studies and reports as input to diagnosis and further treatment.


Each image-sharing application does not necessarily have a single implementation. A certain use case can be implemented using different methods, although some of the architectures are more suitable to specific use cases than others. Let's look at the mechanisms to exchange the studies.

Point-to-point modality to viewer: A technologist can push certain studies directly from a modality, such as a CT in an emergency room, to a doctor's home for review at his or her DICOM viewer. There is a direct connection from the CT to the physician.

PACS to viewer: A PACS could be set up to route all stat studies arriving from a modality directly to a physician's workstation. This is similar to the point-to-point modality to viewer push approach, but it offers the advantage of having a copy available at the PACS to be used as an intermediary. If there are multiple modalities that have to share images, the sending can be centralized from a single source, i.e., the PACS router. If a PACS does not support sophisticated routing using rules determined by information in the image header in order to determine what information goes where, one could use an add-on image router that can be provided by several manufacturers.

PACS worklist: Images are sent to the PACS, and the radiologist has access to the PACS worklist using the PACS workstation. The workflow management features of the PACS can be used to indicate which studies are stat, which ones are being read, etc. This works well if a radiologist only reads from one hospital or multiple institutions that all have the same PACS. The same workflow is used whether the radiologist reads the images locally or accesses the PACS from a remote location.

Aggregate PACS: If the radiologists have to read from multiple, different PACS, it makes sense for them to use their own mini-PACS servers and worklist management. This is typically how nighthawk or emergency medicine works, as these radiologists support many different hospitals, each with their own PACS from different vendors. The images are therefore routed from either the modality or the PACS to a teleradiology PACS server, which aggregates the multiple worklists into a new "combined" worklist. The radiologist then retrieves the image from the teleradiology server and does the reporting.

PACS Web server: Several PACS provide a Web server, or one can purchase a Web server from a different vendor. The Web server can be embedded in the PACS core software or implemented as a separate hardware box that will have a copy of the images from the PACS. Images are typically retrieved over the Web and if one uses a true zero-footprint viewer, there is no trace left on the viewer after the user logs off, which satisfies privacy and security regulations. The worklist capabilities are often not present or are less sophisticated than when using the aggregate PACS worklist. However, the advantage of a separate versus an integrated Web server is that images are available even if the PACS might be down, and therefore this access type can also serve as a backup. One could also use a mini-Web server which gets the information directly from the acquisition modality, but this only makes sense for a small clinic with only one or two modalities and no PACS to speak of.

EMR: Instead of using a PACS, one can also use an electronic medical record (EMR) to view the images. The advantage is that there is much more contextual information available, including lab results, previous reports, patient history, etc. Image enabling of an EMR differs from vendor to vendor. One can use a PACS plug-in, which basically launches a viewer inside the EMR window after exchanging the appropriate context information such as an accession number, or do a query and retrieval from the EMR viewer to the PACS database or from an enterprise image manager and archive solution such as a vendor-neutral archive (VNA).

Image sharing using the cloud: Images can be exchanged using an external image-sharing service, which functions as a broker and forwards the images to the recipient. There are two versions: either the cloud service provider uses only a store-and-forward mechanism, or the cloud functions as a repository and keeps the images for a certain time period. Institutions need to subscribe to the cloud service provider for a fee. This solution makes sense for institutions that regularly exchange information but not often enough to warrant a dedicated link to each other. A good example would be an academic or specialty hospital with relationships with several other institutions in a geographic area that refer patients on a regular basis and want to exchange images. Note that the institution is tied into one particular cloud provider that exchanges the information, which is typically in a proprietary method.

Image sharing using a health information exchange (HIE): This implementation method employs the same architecture used by the commercial cloud provider, but it follows open standards. The HIE can be private, such as within a provider network with several hospitals and/or clinics, or it can be public, such as those being established as part of the incentives by the U.S. federal government to improve healthcare.

Image sharing using a personal health record (PHR): The main applications of the many PHRs that are being rolled out include scheduling appointments, reordering prescriptions, accessing physician notes, and maintaining a communication channel between the patient and provider. The ultimate PHR would also allow the maintenance of certain healthcare information, and it could be used for patients to upload their images to have them available whenever needed. A patient would simply authorize the provider access to the information, which can then be exchanged in a standard manner.

CD exchange: For comparison or referral purposes, images are often hand carried by the patient, a method that comes with its own logistics and interoperability challenges. A chronically sick patient might have literally dozens of CDs that need to be exchanged at each appointment with a different specialist. Also, there are still institutions that do not create these CDs in a standards-compliant manner, making them impossible to read and/or import to a workstation for comparison. The American Medical Association has complained about the wide variety of embedded image viewers, but, unfortunately, the resulting Integrating the Healthcare Enterprise (IHE) profile definition to standardize viewer features and icons does not seem to have gotten much traction. CDs are still the most common method of exchanging images for referral, which one hopes will be replaced in the not-too-distant future with other image-sharing options described here.

Image sharing using social media: It is not uncommon for patients to post their images publicly on the Internet, sometimes just to share them, but also to ask for advice, in particular if it concerns a rare disease or something that is hard to diagnose. It is similar to radiology portals posting their "case of the day" or of the week, but with the difference that the diagnosis is not (yet) known. There are also physicians who use their own Facebook account or other social network to ask for advice. This is still an exception, and it seems to contradict the increasing emphasis on patient privacy. However, I would argue that this might be a valid option if a patient has no interest in keeping his or her information private, but rather would like to get as much exposure as possible for these images to get as many opinions as possible.


Network connectivity between the sending and receiving sides can be implemented in different ways; some are more common for certain applications than others. The most common implementations are as follows.

SNKR -- Sneakernet: In the CD exchange scenario, the information is exchanged in person or by mail, commonly referred to as the "sneakernet."

PPDCM -- Point-to-point DICOM: Images are typically exchanged between modalities or a PACS and pushed to a remote viewing station or to a teleradiology PACS server using the DICOM format and protocol. If one is using the public Internet, a virtual private network (VPN) is set up to guarantee confidentiality of the information to be exchanged. The DICOM protocol relies on the reliable delivery by the underlying TCP/IP communication layers. If the bandwidth of the connection is limited and/or the study sizes are large, standard DICOM compression is used such as JPEG or wavelet (aka JPEG2000).

GTWAY -- DICOM to edge server/gateway: If the connection to the Internet is unreliable or not available, one might need to use alternative communication channels such as the phone network or dedicated satellite links. In that case, an edge server or gateway is used that converts the DICOM protocol in a proprietary protocol, which in most cases uses a high compression ratio and very robust communication protocol. The gateway functions as a store-and-forward box, ensuring delivery. This edge server talks to a server or a destination that has the reverse gateway, i.e., it makes sure the images are received without any corruption and preferably then uses DICOM to pass them on. This solution is common for teleradiology applications in rural areas or disaster and military zones.

PPP -- Point-to-point proprietary: This is commonly used by workstations that access the PACS server of the same vendor. They use the radiology worklist provided by the PACS, and, if they use a public network, a VPN is needed to encrypt the information being exchanged.

WEB -- Web-based protocol: The Web-server clients typically use a secure HTTPS protocol to access the images. Some PACS vendors also use HTTPS for regular in-house image access, but this is uncommon.

EML -- Email: Emailing an image poses quite a few issues because the images are quite large even if they are compressed, and there is no context information. This assumes that one uses secure email to start with and that the receiver can recognize the .dcm file extensions that are created for that purpose. DICOM has addressed this, but the DICOM email has never taken off in the U.S., although it has been implemented in Germany and is somewhat common there.

XPHR -- Personal Health Record Exchange: This is an HL7 version 3 document exchange definition using the Clinical Document Architecture (CDA), which can exchange all relevant information between the PHR and EMR.

XDS-I -- Cross-Enterprise Document Sharing for Imaging: The IHE organization has defined a series of profiles, including how to exchange documents and images. The XDS-I profile uses a series of transactions that allow an image producer and consumer to exchange both registry and repository information with an HIE. The image exchange uses the Web version of the DICOM protocol, aka WADO, or Web Access to DICOM Objects. The XDS-I protocol is widely implemented by PACS vendors, especially those who claim to offer a VNA. However, the number of institutions that actually use this protocol, especially in the U.S., is still relatively sparse. Note that there are also different variants of this mechanism defined by IHE, i.e., the Cross Community Access for Imaging (XCA-I) and the Cross-Enterprise Document Reliable Interchange of Images (XDR-I). These don't use a registry but provide a direct query/retrieve and push mechanism for image exchange. These implementations are also still in their infancy.

RSTF -- Restful Services: A new version of the DICOM protocol is being defined that expands beyond the WADO protocol and has greater functionality. The "traditional" DICOM protocol that includes a negotiation step to set up the association between two devices and uses the DICOM-specific set of commands is not that suitable for accessing information over the Web. This new DICOM extension is still very much in its early phases, but it might become popular as the need for Web-based access, especially from embedded viewers in an EMR, becomes common.

INT -- Internet: Uploading images on a server via a proprietary protocol is typically used by social media, such as Facebook or other image-sharing services. The image would have to be converted to a Web-friendly image type such as JPEG or TIFF, which almost certainly affects the image quality. Therefore, one can typically only see gross anatomy; small findings are almost certainly not visible.

Use cases with typical architectures and communication options Emergency medicinePrimary readingSecond opinionReferralModality to viewerPPDCM, GTWAYPPDCM, GTWAYEMLEMLPACS to viewerPPDCM, GTWAYPPDCM, GTWAYEMLEMLPACS worklistPPPPPP  Multiple PACSPPPPPP  PACS Web serverWEB, GTWAYWEB, GTWAY  EMR accessWEB, GTWAY WEB, GTWAY, RSTFWEB, GTWAY, RSTFCloud sharing  GTWAY, EML, RSTFGTWAY, EML, RSTFHIE sharing  XDS-I, RSTFXDS-I, RSTFPHR sharing  XPHRXPHRCD exchange SNKRSNKRSNKRSocial media  INT 

Some of the architectures and connections as described above are very mature, while others are very young. Teleradiology was implemented widely during the 1990s, but some of these methods such as cloud services, the XDS protocol, and Restful Services are still very much in their infancy.

There are many reasons for image exchange and several different architectures and implementations with different communication mechanisms. Both the industry and provider community are trying to figure out how and what to do, knowing that many of the solutions are still in the early phases of the technology hype cycle. Time will tell which method and protocol will prevail, but, as with any technology, there will always be other technologies pushing the curve. That makes this field so interesting and never boring.

Herman Oosterwijk is president of OTech, a healthcare imaging and IT company specializing in EMR, PACS, DICOM, and HL7 training.

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How Facebook Is Transforming Science and Public Health

How Facebook Is Transforming Science and Public Health | Social Media and Healthcare |

Facebook has encompassed many things in its nine-year run. From a subtler version of a dating site to a gaming platform and a messaging hub. We’ve seen Facebook and its billion-plus users play a part in influencing politics, the form advertising takes, and how retail happens. Now we’re starting to see Facebook begin to impact science and public health, and it could be Facebook’s biggest industry-changing opportunity yet.

The logic is a simple one: Everyone on Facebook, all 1 billion-plus people, will have an illness at some point in their lives. And, as Facebook’s social creatures are in the habit of doing, that mass of people will share their experience battling disease, ask questions of their friends, and field advice from outsiders. Through the bullhorn of Facebook, healthcare professionals can deliver information 24-7 about flu vaccines, the path of epidemics, and essential preventive care. The social network can influence how and when people respond to disease, and how we manage death and dying. “Facebook has this massive and powerful platform [that] can be deployed for health care,” says Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Translational Science Institute.

In his book about digital health care, Topol writes about the story of a mother who posted pictures of her sick child on Facebook. People in her network started commenting on those photos. Three, including a cousin who was a pediatric cardiologist, called to tell her her son might have Kawasaki’s disease, a rare genetic disorder. She called her doctor and told her she was on her way to the hospital because she had a “sense” her kid was really sick.

“What [else] was I going to say? Three of my Facebook friends think my kid has an extremely rare childhood auto-immune disorder which I just read about on Wikipedia, and since they all contacted me after I posted a photo of him on my wall, I’m going? It seemed … wrong!” Deborah Kogan wrote on Slate. Once she got to the hospital, she writes, she told the doctor about her Facebook-prompted visit. She claims the doc said, “You know what? I was just thinking it could be Kawasaki disease. Makes total sense. Bravo, Facebook.”

This is only one story, but it does highlight the potential power of the Facebook network effect.

Last May, for example, Facebook made registering as an organ donor an official “Life Event.” Theoretically, users always had the option to tell their friends they wanted someone else to benefit from their body after they died. But publicizing that information was likely not high on the list of things people thought of sharing when they logged in. Facebook changed that, at least for a time.

About 6,000 people in 22 states registered as organ donors on the first day after the announcement was made, up from an average of about 360. That spike in registrations may have trailed off because users were not continuously reminded of this option, but the social experiment showed the influence Facebook could have on public health, say experts studying the collision between digital tools and health care.

Facebookers can already add overcoming an illness, losing weight, breaking bones or having their braces removed to their Life Events under the category “health and wellness,” but those updates provide very limited information about health.

Physicians, Topol says, don’t even know what normal, minute-by-minute blood pressure should be. That’s a problem because millions of Americans suffer from high blood pressure. But what if researchers could reach even a fraction of Facebook users who have this condition and prompt them to participate in a research study that tracked their blood pressure, along with other metrics like activity levels and heart rate through digital sensors? What if at some point in the future, there was even an option to share genetic information on your Facebook profile? With its growing cross-section of users, Facebook “could really get us an enriched data set,” Topol says.

That assumes, of course, that the data will be reliable, that Facebook will work with scientists to do research as it currently does, and that people will be willing to share personal health information given concerns about how Facebook or third parties might use their data. If you post that you have insomnia for example, would sleep medication ads suddenly pop up?

Those kinds of questions, and the cautious nature of the health care industry, have tended to keep the flow of health related data on Facebook fairly unsophisticated. Until now, Facebook has mostly served as a platform to disseminate information on the cheap. “More hospitals are on Facebook than any other social platform,” said Lee Aase, director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media. Organizations use it, Aase says, to raise awareness about local blood drives, mental health services, free vaccinations, STD/HIV testing, or prenatal care.

Physicians, who you might think would love to use Facebook as a natural hub to communicate with their patients, have mostly shied away from it and other social media platforms to interact with patients because of concerns over professionalism and legal liabilities due to patient confidentiality laws.

But there are signs that the healthcare crowd is warming up to Facebook, in particular research scientists are increasingly using Facebook as a tool. Currently, there have been roughly 400 academic papers published in the last four years that mention the social network, according to a search for the word ‘Facebook’ on PubMed, a public database of biomedical and life sciences research. That’s not many, but the number of such articles published each year seems to be growing. Some of these studies are trying to tease out whether Facebook could be a valid teaching tool for dentistry, histology and continuing education, which suggests the field might be getting more comfortable with the idea of using social media more widely.

In September, researchers from the University of California, San Diego, in collaboration with Facebook’s Data Science group, published a study of 61 million Facebook users in the journal Naturethat suggested political messaging on Facebook influenced real-word voting of millions in the 2010 congressional elections. When users were told that their friends had voted, they were slightly more likely to vote themselves. Although the effect was small, “they translate into a significant numbers of votes” if extrapolated into a real-world scenario, according to an editorial published with the report. Imagine if the same could be shown for public health campaigns on Facebook? Scripps’ Topol asks.

“The leading digital doctors are really pushing the envelope on this,” says Topol. “But it’s just getting started.”

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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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Facebook Isn’t Dead Yet—It’s a Tool for HIV Prevention

Facebook Isn’t Dead Yet—It’s a Tool for HIV Prevention | Social Media and Healthcare |

Facebook takes a lot of cuss these days for having too many moms, babies, and ads. But for all the gripes and rumblings of the social network’s perceived decline, Old Blue still has a few tricks up her sleeve—like preventing the spread of HIV in at-risk populations of men.


That’s right, a new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine shows that targeted interventions launched via Facebook group are an effective way to communicate health information, particularly in relation to HIV testing and safe sex practices. 


Researchers at the David Geffen School at UCLA started by recruiting African-American and Latino men 18 years or older who had a Facebook account, lived in Los Angeles, and reported having sex with a man in the last 12 months. (According to the study, these populations have increased risk of HIV transmission in L.A. and higher than normal levels of social media use when compared with other adults.)


After some base-line screening, the men were randomly separated into four closed Facebook groups, some that would receive “intervention” communications from their peer leaders and some that would receive only information about general health from their peer leaders. In other words, some peer leaders would be looking to start conversations about HIV prevention and testing, while others would focus on exercise, diet, and how to reduce stress. In all groups, communication occurred through Facebook wall posts, messaging, and chat—though participants were not required to respond to the messages or engage with their peer leaders.

This sounds awful to me. I already have a plenty of people in my Facebook feed telling me how to eat, think, and vote, so the idea of receiving personalized messages discussing my sexual habits and/or exercise routine is positively off-putting.


And yet … the messages worked. When presented with the option to get an at-home HIV test, 44 percent of the intervention group opted-in, as opposed to just 20 percent of the control group. Furthermore, a higher percentage of the intervention group actually followed up to obtain the test results.


“There is a lot of excitement about the possibility of using technologies, big data, and mHealth to improve health outcomes and change behavior,” lead author Sean Young told me in an email. However, he says surprisingly little research has gone into actually testing such ideas. (Though, one remembers the enormously successful Facebook campaign to boost organ donor registration.) “We validated that our approach combining behavioral science and social media can create sustainable health behavior change.”


All in all, the study shows serious potential for Facebook and other social networks as venues for targeted public health information—the added bonus being that participants can always leave the group the minute things get too annoying. But the rest of the world is considerably less curmudgeon-y than I am: The study had 12-week retention rates of more than 93 percent. (Think about the last time you participated in anything for 12 straight weeks that wasn’t court-ordered.)


Or maybe I’m looking at this all wrong. Perhaps this study shows that the public has accepted Facebook as a place to be poked and prodded, and now that we’re transitioning away from phone calls and paper mail, Facebook inboxes are open game for solicitation. At least, until the next medium comes along to provide us with refuge.

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CQC to search for patient feedback on GPs using Facebook and Other Sites in UK

CQC to search for patient feedback on GPs using Facebook and Other Sites in UK | Social Media and Healthcare |

The CQC will search for positive and negative comments about GP services on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, in order to discover the ‘reality’ of the care that patients are receiving, said the regulator today.

Launching a document which lays out their strategy and purpose for the next three years in response to the report into the failings identified in the Francis Inquiry in Mid Staffordshire Foundation NHS Trust, the regulator said it wanted to ensure they were responding to patient concerns more effectively.

The report also said it would introduce a ‘more robust’ test for new primary care providers applying for registration, although a CQC spokesperson confirmed that GP practices that have already registered would not be affected by the new process.


It also said that a proposed chief inspector of primary and integrated care will look at patients’ experiences as they move between different services. Jeremy Hunt announced in February that he was considering plans for a chief inspector to provide an ‘expert view’ of primary care to mirror the appointment of chief inspectors for hospitals, to uphold standards and make the final call when a practice is failing.


As Pulse revealed last week, the report also said when inspecting providers, practices will be judged on five domains, with inspectors asking whether practices are safe, effective, caring, well-led and responsive to people’s needs.

The CQC said it will develop new fundamental standards focusing on these five areas, although a ‘judgement’ element will be introduced to avoid ticking the box, but missing other factors.


They confirmed that the frequency of inspections will increase as the perceived risk of harm to patients increases. The regulator said it will also develop a series of ‘triggers’ which will allow it to predict future problems with services, and allow it make better decision about when, where and what to inspect.


The report also re-iterated a commitment to a better use of information, meaning information sources such as the ‘Friends and Family Test’  and reviews carried out by others will be used to inform their regulatory work.

The CQC strategy said: ‘We will make it easier for people to tell us about the reality of the care they receive and we will improve how we respond to and report on how their views and experiences have informed our work. We will focus on gathering the views of people in the most vulnerable circumstances.

‘We will search for both positive and negative comments on what is being said about services, including social media (for example, Facebook and Twitter) and other digital media such as or website. We will make sure that the full potential of the results of the ‘Friends and Family Test’ and other similar information is used in our work.’


It added that they will consider working with other agencies to carry out inspections, and will work with NICE to make sure they are clear about the measures used in assessments.


David Behan, CQC chief executive, said: ‘People have a right to expect safe, effective, compassionate, high quality care. CQC plays a vital role in making sure that care services meet those expectations.


‘We recognise that quality care cannot be achieved by inspection and regulation alone – that lies with care professionals, clinical staff, providers and those who arrange and fund local services – but we will set a bar below which no provider must fall and a rating which will encourage and drive improvement.


In developing our plans for the next three years we have looked closely at what we do and listened to what others have told us, to make sure we focus on what matters to them. The plans also take account of Robert Francis’s report into the failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust and the response by the Secretary of State for Health.’

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When Doctors and Patients Are Facebook Friends

When Doctors and Patients Are Facebook Friends | Social Media and Healthcare |

When Kenda Ross's husband, Robert, has an excruciating arthritis flare-up or other urgent health issue, she typically calls the office of his doctor, Jen Brull. If she can't get Dr. Brull by phone, she sometimes tries another way—Facebook

Dr. Brull gets the messages on her smartphone and usually calls back quickly with advice. Once, when Mr. Ross's knee was red and swollen after a shot and Dr. Brull was traveling, she urged a visit to an urgent-care clinic to check for infection. "I know she's available, no matter where she is," says Ms. Ross, a 64-year-old retiree in Plainville, Kan.

As social-media tools become ubiquitous, doctors are finding a role for them in their medical practices. But Facebook, Twitter and other social media bring challenges and worries, as well as opportunities. Among the concerns: protecting patient privacy and maintaining appropriate boundaries between professional and social relationships.

Gerry Tolbert, a family physician in Florence, Ky., uses Twitter to communicate health messages, and occasionally some personal interests—like "Star Wars"—will surface. He likes relaying useful information broadly to patients and others, he says. But he never tweets about individual patients, not even anonymously, he says. "It's not my place to decide who gets to hear their personal story."

According to a survey published in 2011 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, 94% of medical students, 79% of residents and 42% of practicing physicians reported some use of online social networks, nearly all for personal reasons. Among the practicing physicians, 35% said they had received a "friend" request from a patient or family member—and 58% of those who had received those "friend" requests said they always rejected them.

A survey of physicians last May by Epocrates inc., which develops medical reference apps for physicians, found that 82% were using social networks to engage with other physicians, while just 8% were doing so with patients.

Saroj Misra, a Warren, Mich., family physician, saw a patient with a fracture last year and used Doximity, an online professional physician network, to send a question to a medical-school classmate who is an orthopedic surgeon. His friend suggested a certain type of splint and urged that the patient follow up with a local orthopedic surgeon. It took just "a few minutes" to get the advice via his smartphone, Dr. Misra says. "That is awesome."

Jake Varghese, a Cumming, Ga., family physician, communicates with patients digitally, using a portal and other tools provided by his employer, the Kaiser Permanente system. But he said he wouldn't feel comfortable "friending" a patient through his personal Facebook page. "It crosses a line" from a professional to a personal relationship, he says. "If I'm talking to them about their blood pressure, and they say, 'You went out to eat at so-and-so last week, should you be doing that, Doc?'—it takes a bit from that objectivity.

Dr. Brull, the Kansas family physician, says in her small-town practice she inevitably has social contact with many patients, and she's comfortable with having those who are her friends offline also becoming Facebook friends and seeing updates about her family and professional life. Plus, it's an easy way for certain patients to reach her, she says. "It fits the way I like to practice," she says. Like other doctors, though, she says she won't send answers to health questions via social media for privacy reasons.

Mark Ryan, a Richmond, Va., family physician, doesn't mind if patients follow his Twitter feed, which sometimes reflects his views on political issues related to health care. He wouldn't spontaneously bring up his policy opinions in the exam room, he says, but if patients choose to seek him out on Twitter, it is their choice. "They may or may not agree with it, but at the end of the day, I don't think they could point to anything and say it was unprofessional," he says. "Physicians need to be actively involved in our communities."

Patients can reach Jen Brull, a Plainville, Kan., physician, by Facebook message.

The American Medical Association's Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs published guidelines in 2011 suggesting doctors need to "maintain appropriate boundaries of the patient-physician relationship" online and to consider separating professional and personal content online.

Some doctors say they connect with patients in ways that are completely separate from their own personal lives, and they sometimes see benefits. Pamila Brar, who practices in La Jolla, Calif., focuses on health advice and information in her tweets and on her Facebook page. Sometimes she learns something useful about her patients. One patient mentioned in a Facebook post that he was waking up a lot at night to use the bathroom, which he hadn't shared with Dr. Brar at his physical exam. Dr. Brar followed up by phone and eventually prescribed treatment.

Wanda Filer, a York, Pa., family doctor, connects with some patients via LinkedIn, and she tweets to followers who include many fellow doctors. Her Facebook page is dedicated to health topics, and she doesn't post personal information. Still, she once learned via a LinkedIn update that a patient had been in the hospital. "I gave her a call and said, 'Maybe we should make an appointment,' " Dr. Filer says. "It was fortuitous."

Social-media issues are getting more attention from medical schools, which are starting to teach about social-media standards and regulators. A survey of state medical board officials published last month in the Annals of Internal Medicine highlighted several hypothetical situations they might target. Of most concern were physicians who posted misleading information about clinical outcomes, misrepresented credentials, used patient images without consent or contacted patients inappropriately—the same kinds of behavior that typically draw scrutiny offline, said S. Ryan Greysen, lead author of the study and assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco. The article said several scenarios were based at least partly on actual incidents.

The Rhode Island Board of Medical Licensure and Discipline in 2011 reprimanded an emergency-room physician who posted about her clinical experiences on Facebook. Though she didn't identify patients by name, readers were able to identify one of them because of the nature of the injury. "There's no business for protected patient information on Facebook, period, the end," said James McDonald, chief administrative officer for the Rhode Island board. "Social media isn't meant to be the exam room." The physician didn't return a call seeking comment.

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Pharma Interest in Pinterest

Pharma Interest in Pinterest | Social Media and Healthcare |

There is a good deal of activity in social media by pharma, at least on the face of it, which many people still think is not the case.  I am tracking over 230 Twitter feeds, 121 Facebook pages, 172 YouTube channels, and over 80 Google+ pages (more on that in an upcoming posting).  

As always, it is important to note that this is the activity of which I am aware and there is likely activity beyond what I know – so this is only a partial look at pharma social media activity, though I believe we have captured a very large chunk of it.

In addition to the above platforms, also included in the tracking efforts is pharma activity related to Pinterest – the social media platform that allows you to take images and pin them to various categories of boards for others to see and share.  Here are a few highlights of the Pharma Pintrest Profile:

  • Number of Pharma Pinterest Pages. While there are 39 Pharma Pinterest pages, not all of them are active.  In fact over one-third (16) are dormant pages where there has been no activity for at least the past year;
  • Geography. Of the remaining active 23 or so that are active, slightly less than half of them are from the U.S. while the balance are out of Europe;
  • Purpose. The overwhelming majority of pages are corporate or general pages with only about 4 being product-specific and 2 aimed at recruitment;
  • Regularity of Activity. Only 3 provide daily updates, but 9 (25%) provide either weekly or daily updates;
  • Volume. The highest number of pins was over 4000 and the highest number of followers is 460.

While it does not represent a great deal of activity, for many Pinterest is a platform that many may be surprised as any pharma activity at all, much less two job recruitment efforts.  And while the volume of activity may not be significant, what is perhaps significant is how far pharma has been willing to explore emerging social media platforms even without the long-awaited guidance from FDA.  (BTW, I did not find an FDA presence on Pintrest.)

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Should You Friend Your Patient On Facebook?

Should You Friend Your Patient On Facebook? | Social Media and Healthcare |

In the age of Social Media, the relationships between physicians and patients are changing. While there are no guidelines or laws on how to communicate with your patients online, the American College of Physicians (ACP) and Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) have recently come up with a framework. Their policy paper “Online Medical Professionalism: Patient and Public Relationships.” was released this week and delivers recommendations on when to observe social media profiles and when it’s better to pause before posting.

The guidelines point out that “it is paramount to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of patient information, demonstrate respect for patients, ensure trust in physicians and in the medical profession, and establish appropriate boundaries.” Online communications may come with risks, but there are also a lot of good use cases for using those new outlets. Here are some detailed recommendations the ACP and FSMB give in their new publication:

  • Physicians should keep their professional and personal personas separate. Physicians should not “friend” or contact patients through personal social media.
  • Physicians should not use text messaging for medical interactions even with an established patient except with extreme caution and consent by the patient.
  • E-mail or other electronic communications should only be used by physicians within an established patient-physician relationship and with patient consent.
  • Situations in which a physician is approached through electronic means for clinical advice in the absence of a patient-physician relationship should be handled with judgment and usually should be addressed with encouragement that the individual schedule an office visit or, in the case of an urgent matter, go to the nearest emergency department.
  • Establishing a professional profile so that it “appears” first during a search, instead of a physician ranking site, can provide some measure of control that the information read by patients prior to the initial encounter or thereafter is accurate.
  • Many trainees may inadvertently harm their future careers by not responsibly posting material or actively policing their online content. Educational programs stressing a pro-active approach to digital image (online reputation) are good forums to introduce these potential repercussions.

While digital communication is encouraged, the study suggests to always do face-to-face follow-ups after you have checked in with your patient via email. Studies have shown that online conversations are often initiated by the patients sending friend requests to their doctors. The FSMB advises to refrain from adding patients on Facebook or other private networks. In terms of Googling patients, the report emphasizes that online research might bring up helpful insight about an individual, but the physician should always keep the intent of their Google search in mind.

With the rise of blogs and forums, doctors further have the opportunity on contributing to public health. Regarding physician-produced blogs, the framework suggests to avoid ranting and venting about the industry. Authors are advised to “pause before posting” controversial or negative content.

The full position paper has been published online by Annals of Internal Medicine. 

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Using Facebook Ads and Power Editor for Hospital Recruitment

Using Facebook Ads and Power Editor for Hospital Recruitment | Social Media and Healthcare |

Looking for good help in healthcare can be challenging. Many hospitals use recruiters and other online employment sources to find good talent. Another option is Facebook. With over a billion users, it is one powerful social network and it may just help you find the perfect candidate.

In addition to building your social fan base and get more likes, you can use Facebook to create paid cost-per-click ads for recruitment. You can target who sees your ad by utilizing specific categories and interests. For example, if your hospital is located in Miami and is looking for nurses, you can specify that your ad is only seen by nurses in the South Florida area. The ad can include a call to action such as a landing page URL with more information on the position and a way to apply.

To take it one step further, by utilizing Facebook’s Power Editor Tool, (a free plugin for Chrome browsers) your targeted viewers will see your ads not only on the right sidebar, but within their news feed as a sponsored post. More important, this tool lets you advertise not just on but on mobile devices as well – including smartphones and tablets using the Facebook app.

With more people accessing the web on mobile devices and Facebook, you want to be one of the top destinations they’re looking at and spending the most time on.

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Boosting Facebook Engagement for your Medical Practice

Boosting Facebook Engagement for your Medical Practice | Social Media and Healthcare |

When it comes to social media, the name of the game is engagement. After all, what good are all of those fans and followers if they don’t care about or pay attention to what you’re doing?  Just last month, my team and I guided one of our orthopaedic clients into the top ten national “medium-sized” companies competing to win the Social Madness Competition presented by The Business Journals.

Below are some of the strategies we employed to become the “little orthopedic practice that could.”

Identify Your Facebook Target Demographic

Be sure to determine your Facebook page’s demographics before attempting to craft your messaging.

When your office utilizes social media, whom exactly are you trying to reach? If you just say, “Patients,” you haven’t looked into your page insights deep enough. By clicking on the “People” tab you’ll get a top-level overview of who your followers are – gender, age and even location. This information is key when crafting your messaging, as you wouldn’t have the same message for an 18 year-old-male that you would for a 64-year-old female. For this client, we target 35-44 year old females using key imagery and posts that appeal to the mom demographic.

Find Your Most Successful Post Types

Facebook is great for communicating with patients in part because it’s so versatile. You can post a myriad of topics and ideas that appeal to your specific fanbase and Facebook will keep track of how successful each post is for you. For free. Photos, status updates, links, videos – post some of each to find out which ones resonate with your fans. We’ve found that photos generally work best from an engagement standpoint – both in terms of clicks and interactions (“likes”, “comments” and “shares”).  After photos, our most successful results have come with status updates, followed by links and then videos.

Create Interesting Content That Fits Your Successful Post Types

A snapshot of the Facebook reach and engagement levels for one of our clients.

Sounds easy, right? For the most part it is (though it gets a little more difficult when competing against the top companies in the country for months on end, but I digress). If photos work well, be sure to plan ahead and have some fun, creative ones scheduled for the month. Remember, Facebook – and social media as a whole – is supposed to be personal, so not everything has to just be an office photo with a doctor. Those are great and they shouldn’t be ignored; however, don’t feel like you can’t put up a crazy themed photo or a popular meme, too. When updating your status, let people know what’s going on in your office. Having a staff appreciation day? Show your fans your office has some personality. Happy it’s Friday? Tell the world. Odds are, they are, too.

We’ve also found that our followers really enjoy posts that relate to charitable giving and those that ask them questions while presenting facts. For example, come up with a statistic that relates to your practice and have your followers fill in the blank. Or, ask them to answer a true or false question about something you treat in your office. It may sound silly, but simple exercises like this will get people engaged, and it will get them to share the content with their friends and family (i.e. potential new patients).

The End Result

Ultimately, engagement should be your goal with social media, not click through rates to your website. Social media is your way to become more than just a medical practice to your patients. It’s your way to become a part of their lives outside of the office.

As an added benefit, when done correctly, you’ll see benefits within your practice walls as well. For example, just within the contest period alone, we had several patients tell us they scheduled an appointment with the practice because they found them on Facebook or saw a post their friend “Liked”. We were also able to schedule at least one surgery, thanks to someone finding the practice on, you guessed it, Facebook. Thanks to an increase of more than 800 page likes, we were also able to exponentially grow the practice’s organic reach to thousands of potential patients in just a few short months without spending a dollar. It’s all about engagement.

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To Promote Wellness, Public Health Departments Are Launching Apps. Will They Work?

To Promote Wellness, Public Health Departments Are Launching Apps. Will They Work? | Social Media and Healthcare |
The Alabama Department of Public Health is venturing into the mobile universe as the first state with a health app for residents.

“As more and more Americans use their smartphones to gather health information, I think we’ll see a greater number of health departments rolling out their own apps,” says Alexandra Hughes, an account director at Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, who wrote an analysis on social media effects entitlted “Using Social Media Platforms to Amplify Public Health Messaging” [PDF]. “Consumers are already flocking to apps to do things like count calories, prepare healthier meals, and track their workouts. As a result, federal and state public health agencies have started moving beyond just a presence on Facebook or Twitter — they recognize that mobile technology is the next big thing in helping people live healthier lives,” she says in an email to TIME.

While Alabama is the first state to develop a public health app, the health department in New York City has been a pioneer in using them to reach specific populations. This month, the department released CalCutter, an app for restaurant chefs and people cooking at home. It allows users to enter in recipes and the number of servings they need to get an estimated calorie count. Users can also ask the app to convert the dish to a lower-calorie version, with ingredients that are lighter, or make it more nutritious. Originally built for independent restaurant cooks as a way to include them in the city’s effort to get more restaurants to list calorie counts, health officials saw an opportunity to help home cooks dish up healthier meals as well.

“We are doing an awful lot on obesity, and some people are trying to use the [calorie count] boards either as a way to lose weight or not gain weight. We thought, how can we make calorie counts more available in other settings?” says Dr. Thomas Farley, New York City Health Commissioner, referring to the requirement launched in 2008, that mandated all chain restaurants in the city list the calories of their offerings on their menus. “It’s very difficult for people, at least initially, to identify the number of calories in a given food item. Likewise, it’s very difficult for a restaurant that’s preparing food to know how many calories are in the items they prepare. We thought it would be nice if we made it easy for independent restaurant to calculate how many calories that are in the food they prepare so they can actually lower their calories or maybe post the calorie counts voluntarily.”

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