Social Media and Healthcare
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Social Media and Healthcare
Articles and Discussions on the  intersection of Social Media and Healthcare. Relevant to Healthcare Practitioners, Pharma', Insurance, Clinicians, Labs, Health IT Vendors, Health Marketeers, Health Policy Makers, Hospital Administrators.
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25 things we learned by getting 25,000 Facebook fans

25 things we learned by getting 25,000 Facebook fans | Social Media and Healthcare |

Gina Czark, director of social media and Jessica Fillinger, community manager at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital share what they learned from building a robust Facebook page.

Getting to 25,000 Facebook fans seemed more like a far off feat than a realistic milestone we’d achieve within 15 months of joining NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, (NYP).

We were new to the organization and our challenge was developing a Facebook page for a hospital spanning six campuses, while at the same time, learning about its rich history.

We valued each new fan that liked NYP’s Facebook page and felt personally connected to each one. We took pride in building a community and searching for great stories and information that not only told NYP’s story, but also encouraged conversation and educated our community.

It was a lot like creating a family. While they might have come from anywhere across the world, they were routed in one commonality, their connection to our hospital. We sometimes have a difference in opinions, but all opinions are valued, positive or negative, and the conversations are plentiful. We rarely have a post with little interaction and in many cases our community begins one-off conversations with one another. We’re just the ones brokering the introduction.

We created the “25K Strong” image as a thank you to our community. After all, it couldn't have happened without them. If you look closely, you’ll see images from our Facebook page that includes our patients, doctors, nurses and staff. We hope you’ll find our 25 tips helpful as you build your own Facebook pages.

1. Content is king.

    2. A picture is worth 1,000 words. Don’t underestimate the need for visuals. 

    3. Be passionate and thoughtful. If you don’t believe in what you’re posting, it will show and your content will suffer. 

    4. Every fan and interaction counts. If a community member leaves a positive comment, thank them or like it. Respond to the negative, as well. 

    5. Be human. Your fans should think real people are responding to them because they are. 

    6. Shares are most important. Likes and comments are wonderful, but shares lead to organic growth. 

    7. Use calls-to-action.

    8. Don’t use medical jargon. 

    9. Use your cover image to convey the story of your brand. Change it often. 

    10. Find the best time during the day to post your content. 

    11. Tagging is important and builds community. 

    12. Get outside the office to find content. 

    13. Think like a reporter and always have your eyes and ears open to a great and compelling story. 

    14. View your Facebook page as a media outlet. It’s a way for you to tell your brand’s story and share exclusive news and announcements. 

    15. Build a team to help you, both internally and externally (this should include your legal team). Even if your social media team is small, find others within your organization to be your advocates and rely on your community for help. 

    16. Partnerships are crucial. Reach out to associations or groups with a connection to your brand and ask them to share your content and return the favor by sharing theirs. 

    17. Treat your brand’s page as you would your own. Interact with other brands by liking, sharing and commenting on their content and create more than just posts. We did this by creating an events calendar. 

    18. Incorporate your brand into larger trends (#tbt), awareness months or timely events. Sometimes a simple status update will do to tastefully get your page involved in the conversation. 

    19. You can make mistakes. It’s not the end of the world, especially if you build a community the right way. In most cases, the mistakes will be forgiven.

    20. Create content aligned with your mission. Ours is to inspire hope through patient stories. We feature many patient stories on a variety of health topics.

    21. Be open to new ideas based on what your community is asking for. At NYP, we receive so many wonderful comments about the patient experience that we created a “Share Your Story” app through Facebook so patients could easily share stories with us. 

    22. Set standards for your page. Not everything you receive should be posted. Create a strategy and be selective of what’s best for your community. No one knows them as well as you. 

    23. Don’t discount your internal audience. Sometimes telling stories about your employees is the way to authentically articulate your brand’s story. 

    24. Have fun. Not everything needs to be serious. Think about the people coming to your page every day during the commute home who are looking for inspiration, a good story or just interesting content to read. 

    25. If you’ve spent your time right, you’ve likely built a great community. Now enjoy watching the communities you’ve created connect with one another.

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    Facebook @ Clevland Clinic: How they went from getting it wrong to getting it RIGHT!

    Case Study: Facebook: Doing it wrong -- and getting it right 
    This case study will show how Cleveland Clinic, one of the largest health systems in the world, is leveraging custom content and flouting conventional wisdom on Facebook to engage healthcare consumers and grow its brand regionally and nationally. 

    Presented by: Scott Linabarger, Senior Director, Digital Marketing & Creative Services, Cleveland Clinic 

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    3 Ways To Increase Your Hospital’s Facebook Engagement

    3 Ways To Increase Your Hospital’s Facebook Engagement | Social Media and Healthcare |

    The healthcare industry is finally catching up with the rest of the business world in expanding their social media offerings. Many in our industry are worried about social media due to HIPPA and other regulatory concerns. Those fears are slowly subsiding as a recent study published by the Journal of Medical Internet Research said 58% of the physician respondents stated that social media enabled them to care for patients more effectively, and that 60% stated it improved the quality of patient care they delivered. Many physicians and hospitals want to know how they can increase engagement within their Facebook community.  Here are three simple proven tactics that will increase your EdgeRank and engagement on Facebook.

    People love photos, it’s human nature as we’re naturally visual beings. The proof really lies in the pudding of Pinterest which is a photo heavy platform and continues to explode in popularity. HubSpot confirmed this theory in late 2012 showing that Facebook posts with a photo generated 53% more engagement than posts without a photo.

    Fill-in-the-blank posts are a great way to build up your EdgeRank. These posts are easy to engage with and allow your community to show of their creativity. It doesn’t take much thought or context on part of your followers to comment therefore you should see much higher engagement and a higher EdgeRank score for your page. When using this tactic you’ll often see the comments outnumber the likes.

    This basic marketing principle isn’t lost in the social media world. People need clear instruction on what you expect them to do. It still takes great content and a cleverly written post for you to get a conversion, but a call to action has shown to a critical element in increasing post engagement. Below is an example of a great photo of a nurse interacting with a sick infant in a neonatal ICU in Colorado Springs, CO. The photo is cute and heart warming, plus it has a beautiful infant in it. Both are huge pluses when it comes to engaging content! With a clear call to action the post did extremely well.

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    Medical Group Practice Marketing: 5 Common Facebook Pitfalls

    Medical Group Practice Marketing: 5 Common Facebook Pitfalls | Social Media and Healthcare |

    With marketing efforts increasingly shifting to online activities like blogging and search optimization,
    marketers at medical group practices need to keep up and be able to communicate effectively with their large patient base and future prospective patients. One of the best ways to do this is through social media. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and others make it so much easier for you to communicate, connect, and nurture all of your patient leads. This can be especially effective in group practices who have the critical mass to enjoy greater engagment from social media activity. The biggest social media site is, of course, Facebook.

    However, you need to make sure that your Facebook marketing is tip top or you won't see the results you're trying so hard to achieve. There are major pitfalls that all group practices need to be wary of. When you avoid these pitfalls, your online marketing and social media will start to produce a real,measurable ROI.

    1. Not Being Interactive

    The biggest key of social media is going to be the first part of the word itself: social. If you're not making an effort to respond and interact with your Facebook fans, then you risk appearing like an organization that has poor service. This is especially true if patients are actively seeking and reaching out to your page with questions and concerns that go unanswered.

    Instead, establish a policy that includes prompt timing when it comes to responding to posts on Facebook. The most ideal time frame would be within just a few hours. It may seem obvious, but you should train employees to treat patients on Facebook just as you would if they were calling you, courteously and professionally. Otherwise, they are going to have a bad memory associated with your practice.

    • Word of bad experiences travels fast on social media. 

    2. No-Show Group Practices

    When you create a Facebook page, the next step in the process is posting frequently enough to give a little reminder to patients that you're active on their news feed. Ideally, you will want to post content (special promotions, original content, articles, and the like) at least once a day, even asking
     a simple question or mentioning an interesting article can be enough to touch base with your patients.

    Facebook allows you to schedule all of your posts for certain hours of the day, making the task of posting something that can be handled in small blocks of time.

    • Having a page on Facebook that looks like a ghost town leaves a bad impression of your organization.

    3. Not Considering Your Facebook Audience

    It is important to recognize what type of services your medical group practice provides and who your actual audience on Facebook is. Let's consider the example of an oral and maxillofacial surgery group. 

    Like many groups, their Facebook community is made up mostly of patients who have come into the office for a procedure and were compelled to "Like" the group on Facebook. So far everything is great, working just like it should. However, many of the patients at an oral surgery group practice are coming in for a procedure like dental implants or wisdom teeth removal. These patients hope to never have to come in again for these procedures. 

    Posting articles on Facebook about dental implants may fall on deaf ears, so to speak. Sure, your fans may hit "like" or even share the article with others. However, these are patients who have already come in for implants. You're presenting the wrong message to the wrong person at the wrong time. 

    A better approach may be to discuss the implant maintenance and cleaning program your office just developed. Or promote cosmetic services like Botox, something a Facebook fan may still have interest in. 

    • Are your Facebook messages aimed at the right audience? 

    4. Not Keeping It Somewhat Casual

    Facebook is all about connecting with others and, sometimes, posting some lighthearted stuff. When most people are following brands, including group practices, they may be seeking out deals or "incentives," or they may be searching for helpful information about their health situation.

    However, not lightening things up a bit from time to time will quickly make your business seem boring to your Facebook fans. While there needs to be a level of appropriateness, you can still keep it casual by discussing things that aren't directly related to work. Posting about how to eat healthy at a Fourth of July cookout while still enjoying yourself, for example. 

    • Is your Facebook page engaging and lighthearted enough to keep people's interest?

    5. Posting Too Often

    Yes, I just said to be careful and make sure you post often enough. However, there is a fine line and once it is crossed, your business actually starts to annoy people. A good rule of thumb is to post no more than 3-5 times per day. We know that Facebook does not show your posts to all of your fans. That said, people will get put off if your medical group practice is posting 2-3 times an hour with seemingly irrelevant information. 

    • Keep a close eye on the comments. If you start to read that people are getting annoyed it may be time to pull back on the throttle.

    Avoid these pitfalls and your group practices will go very far with their social media. In fact, it can make everything seem a lot more fun!

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    Physicians and Facebook: 7 Reasons to Get Social on Facebook

    Physicians and Facebook: 7 Reasons to Get Social on Facebook | Social Media and Healthcare |

    These days, it seems everyone is on Facebook. There are over 500 million users worldwide, and half of those people log on to Facebook on any given day.

    Physicians who create a Facebook page for their practice are able to leverage this huge user base as a way to stay connected to their patients and attract new customers.

    If your practice doesn’t have a page yet, here are a few reasons to seriously consider creating a Facebook page:

    1. Keep patients informed – Tell your patients any time there is news about your practice. Whether you’re going to be closed on a certain day, now offering a new service or opened a new location, you can keep your patients in the loop.

    2. Share verified information – The Internet is full of misinformation. When you read an article that would be valuable to your patients, the CDC releases a health warning or a groundbreaking study is released, post it on your page to keep patients armed with the best possible info to stay healthy.

    3. Interact with patients – You can stay top of mind with your patients by posting articles, tips and announcements. Patients may only see you for a matter of minutes each year, so keeping a conversation going online will help build a lasting relationship.

    4. Network with other physicians – You can discuss best practices, recruit physicians or learn new things in your online community by participating in Facebook discussions.

    5. Build an online presence – When potential new patients go online and search for a doctor in your area, you’ll want to show up. Facebook is great at getting you seen when people search, so take advantage of this.

    6. Create referral business – When someone searches for a doctor, mechanic or any other service provider, they tend to ask their friends for recommendations. If prospects are seeing your posts on a friend’s Facebook page, then that can start the conversation and lead to a referral for your practice.

    7. It’s free and easy! It won’t cost you any money to set up a page and you can do it in minutes. You can make managing it part of a trusted staff member’s job and they will probably be happy to get paid to use Facebook.

    There are so many benefits of putting your practice on Facebook, but many physicians are concerned, and rightly so, about patients posting private information. The best thing to do is to create a disclaimer about what is appropriate for Facebook and post it prominently on your page.

    If a patient does post private information, try to remove it as quickly as possible and send that patient a private message to contact the office directly.

    Bonus: Mobile Media Tip
    While Facebook is the 800-pound gorilla of social media, there are other ways to reach your audience. The location-based mobile platform Foursquare is also a rapidly growing social media player with 8.5 million users — adding an average of 27,000 new members per day.

    Using Foursquare can be a great way to get found when someone searches for a doctor on their smartphone. With 2 million check-ins per day, there’s no reason not to take advantage of all the potential customers found on this free service. Simply create a profile and let new patients find you.

    Of course, there are so many other social media paths to take, but these two are a great place to start. Marketing doesn’t have to be costly or time consuming in the social media age. Take advantage of technology and don’t get left behind!

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    More consumers turn to social media for health research

    More consumers turn to social media for health research | Social Media and Healthcare |

    During the past two years, social media use in healthcare has increased 21 percent, according to Kantar Media’s 2013 Online Behavior Study. Kantar Media’s MARS Online Behavior Study helps the industry make better decisions about how to incorporate online into pharmaceutical marketing strategies.

    The most significant jump was in health video, but health blogs also experienced substantial growth. Social media is a growing space for the healthcare industry with the number of adults using it as an information source escalating. Pharma companies will need to devise methods to reach their consumers within the social media space.

    “A driver for this increase in social media is the increase in mobile devices ownership,” says Kantar Media's Healthcare Research Team. “Between 2012 and 2013, the portion of adults owning a smartphone or tablet increased from 42 percent to 55 percent. Two thirds of smartphone or tablet owners report that social networking is a reason they access the Internet.” 

    As a major pharma player, Sanofi US “entered the social media space to foster an open dialogue with patients, industry leaders and peers, and to share health information and company news and perspectives through a readily accessible medium,” Stacy Burch, director, corporate reputation and digital communications, Sanofi US told Med Ad News Daily. “Our goal and strategy has been to actively listen, learn and appropriately engage with the online community: to listen, to learn, and to participate where we can. A growing share of consumers and our stakeholders are active in social media channels, so it was a logical step for us to establish a presence there in order to actively listen to the relevant conversations and engage when we believe we can add value.”

    According to Kantar Media's Healthcare Research Team, consumers who go online to research certain health conditions and use social media may be looking for different types of information based on the stage of the condition.  “Those recently diagnosed are more likely to visit or post comments to online message boards or forums,” the researchers told Med Ad News Daily. “Those experiencing symptoms or preparing for their first medical appointment are more likely to read blogs about a particular health topic or participate in in online support groups.  Those recovering, undergoing treatment, or have an ongoing condition are more likely to visit or join health support groups.”

    One of the major tenets at Sanofi US has been “be personal.”  

    When engaging in the social media space, there might be a tendency to hide behind a company name and revert to ‘corporate speak,’ but we realize consumers want to engage with real people, so that is the experience we provide,” says Burch.

    “Consumers are becoming more engaged in their own health, and social media has been a catalyst in driving that,” Burch told Med Ad News Daily. “In interactive environments such as Twitter, Facebook, communities and blogs, patients are able to share and discuss the realities of living with a disease, and build real relationships with people who can relate. This is happening in many therapeutic areas – of note, we see countless tips shared and friendships made within the Diabetes Online Community every day. In the case of rare diseases, social media is also an invaluable piece of the ‘awareness’ puzzle – patients lacking information about their condition are able to connect with others who have dealt with the same thing. Everyone should be an expert in their own health, and it’s wonderful to see people connecting the dots online.” 

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    Healthcare and Social Media Infographic

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

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

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


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


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

     See more at:

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    4 deft ways hospitals use social media

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

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

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

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

    41 percent of patients say social media affects hospital choice | Social Media and Healthcare |
    eMedToday's curator insight, September 4, 2013 8:15 PM

    interesting facts.


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

    nrip's comment, September 5, 2013 2:22 AM
    Yes...many hospitals fear regulations. The few that are using social media are using it very restrictively. Most of the hospitals which are using social networks do so as an extension of their website and bulletin board
    Danielle Swift's curator insight, January 10, 2014 8:36 AM

    Interesting stat andits implications about communication with patients.

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    Patients' Use of Social Media Spurs More Clinical Research

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

    Changing Clinical Research: Good and Bad


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


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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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

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


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

    Morgan Edward's curator insight, February 20, 7:42 AM



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    Social Media, Online Communities May Aid Clinical Care for Seniors

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

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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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


    Source: University of Luxembourg

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    Healthcare professionals in the digital age

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

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


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


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

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    How Facebook & DNA Technology Solved Outbreak Of Strep Throat In a Minnesota Dance Team

    How Facebook & DNA Technology Solved Outbreak Of Strep Throat In a Minnesota Dance Team | Social Media and Healthcare |

    With Facebook, you can track down buddies from high schools, ex-girlfriends/boyfriends (for better or worse), long lost cousins... and infectious diseases. Last year, public health officials in Minnesota capitalized on a tip from the social media platform to hunt down the source of a strep throat outbreak in a high school.

    The tip came from a parent whose daughter was a member of the high school's female dance team. After noticing that an alarming number of the dancers had posted to the team's Facebook page with complaints of strep throat, or Group A streptococcus (GAS) pharyngitis, the observant guardian contacted the Minnesota Department of Health.

    The health officials realized that posts to the Facebook page began to appear 24-48 hours after the team had thrown a banquet and about three days after a potluck with some male classmates.

    Although strep throat is normally passed via people coughing up infected respiratory droplets, food contamination does occur in rare cases. This route was more common before modern refrigeration and the advent of pasteurization, especially through the consumption of raw milk.

    The investigators started with classic detective work: 100 telephone interviews and nasal swabs from the attendees, associated family members, and male classmates. Leftover food was bagged, and all of the biological specimens were transported to the state's public health laboratory in St Paul.

    All of the boys who attended the potluck were negative for strep, so this event was eliminated.

    Individual leftover items from the banquet that were tested by 'DNA typing,' a form of genetic analysis that can decipher bacterial heritage. The health team found that only a pot of pasta contained GAS bacteria that matched the cultures collected from the dancers.

    A couple of false leads — people who had GAS but did not attend the banquet — could have thrown the investigators, but DNA typing allowed them to precisely track the gene fingerprints of the bacteria in the pasta to the infections in the dancers.

    Another set of interviews revealed that the parent who had made the pasta, along with their child, had caught the same variant of GAS over two weeks before the banquet. Furthermore one girl who hadn't attended the banquet, but eaten the leftover pasta, came down with this strain of strep. In other words, the food culprit was caught.

    "We suspect cooked food was contaminated by respiratory droplets from a person who carried the strep bacteria in the throat when the food was cooling or reheating," said lead investigator and epidemic specialist Dr. Sarah Kemble of the Minnesota Department of Health. "The food probably was not kept hot or cold enough to stop bacterial growth."

    To reduce the spread of foodborne illness, the authors recommended that large batches of prepared food be kept either hot or cold, as disease-causing bacteria love to roost at temperatures between 41°F to 140°F. People should also avoid cooking for groups if they have symptoms of a respiratory disease like strep and should always ask a doctor how long they should wait before prepping meals for others.

    This isn't the first mysterious outbreak to be cracked by Facebook. Flu flare-ups have been identified using the popular social media tool.

    Google Flu Trends and other websites like HealthMap have tried to harness the power of people conducting influenza-related searches when they are sick, but some have questioned whether these tactics are truly representative of an afflicted population, given not everyone is online. In addition flaws appeared in Google's system during America's severe bout of seasonal influenza this past spring, with search engine app dramatically overestimating the prevalence of the disease.

    Odds are these computer bugs will be worked out by intrepid software programmers, and disease surveillance, like so many aspects of public life, will be added to the list of items that social media has revolutionized.


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    Social Media: Rx for Patient Loneliness

    Social Media: Rx for Patient Loneliness | Social Media and Healthcare |

    Loneliness takes a toll on patients. Social media may be just the Rx for the loneliness that can arise during hospitall treatment -- a lifeline to support.

    So much is being made of the importance of social media in how hospitals interact with patients. The gist of many of these discussions is that hospitals should share information with patients via social media challenges. The patients are on social media so hospitals and physicians should join them there. I totally agree, of course, but I think that hospitals need to embrace social media for these far more human reasons. One of them is loneliness — especially in acute care settings.

    Lonelier patients:

    • Feel more pain.
    • Have immune system problems.
    • Have shorter lifespans in their older years.
    • Have shorter survival times when fighting at least one form of cancer.

    Now don’t get me wrong. I know that hospitals and cancer centers (etc) already “get this.” Many a hospital or cancer center volunteer has helped many a patient stave off loneliness. But healthcare  everywhere is trying to pull in its collective belt and money is tight. It would seem to me that embracing the patients’  existing involvement in social media and even encouraging it, may be a cost-effective way to engage patients and help them stave off loneliness and increase patient satisfaction.

    Ideally, healthcare facilities will figure out a way to encourage social network communication and be involved in that conversation. Patients and their families are using social media to talk prior to, during and after the period covered by HCAHPS surveys. By being involved in the social media conversation, the hospital can engage patients and their families throughout the care experience: preparing them priorto their stay, helping them in real-time during their stay and quickly addressing post-discharge questionsafter the stay.

    Unfortunately, the tools required to give hospitals this visibility (without taking away patients’ already familiar tools) are only now starting to be offered and adopted. There is still a hesitance to embrace social media in this real-world, care-giving paradigm (as opposed to just using it to distribute content one-way). But that hesitance won’t last. Transparency in healthcare communications is coming. I look forward to the offerings that will emerge to help hospitals leverage the tools used by patients and families today while also giving those same hospitals a way to be engaged.

    Loneliness is a horrible feeling that lots of patients have to deal with every day. By embracing social media communications — even encouraging it — between patients and their families, patients and other patients, etc.,  hospitals can help battle this problem and add another tool to their care-giving toolbox.

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    Facebook’s New Step Towards Revolutionizing Public Health Awareness

    Facebook’s New Step Towards Revolutionizing Public Health Awareness | Social Media and Healthcare |

    Facebook has evolved over time from a subtler site highlighting social connectivity to the social sharing giant that it is. It has revolutionized almost every niche including retail, advertising and has even influenced politics. However, with the addition of the various new elements to the “life events” section, Facebook is now attempting to evolve the niche of public health and science.

    So far, you could add fighting an illness, losing weight or even getting your braces under the “life events” section. Recently, the site also added registering as a donor a part of the same section.

    However, more expansively, Facebook is working on getting up a section where people can share even minute-to-minute medical information, including genetic details. With the rich focus group of various cross sections of users, Facebook could turn out to be the most influential data set for scientists and doctors to get background health information regarding patients.

    In the recent years, almost 400 research papers have been published on this upcoming trend and its eminent usability. Since political campaigns on twitter and Facebook did influence various different political agendas all over the world.

    The Data science group at Facebook is hopeful that a similar positive influence can be garnered with public health campaigns on Facebook’s massive platform. Also, people sharing health information and concerns on the site might lead to a faster discovery of diseases and benefiting from shared experiences.

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    3 Ways Dentists Can Use Facebook Advertising for New Patient Acquisition

    3 Ways Dentists Can Use Facebook Advertising for New Patient Acquisition | Social Media and Healthcare |

    Social media for the dental practice has come a long way in just a few short years.

    We hear reports every now and again that more traditional new patient acquisition efforts, like Yellow Pages & Direct Mail, are still useful in certain areas (targeting certain demographics), but without a complementary social media identity, dentists are not maximizing their new patient recruitment efforts.

    The emphasis has shifted from over-bloated underperforming dental marketing, to content creation and digital word-of-mouth amplification, which social networks such as Facebook, Google+, and Twitter facilitate.

    For the sake of this article we will concentrate on Facebook advertising for dentists.

    Dentists Advertising for New Patients on Facebook?

    Dentists advertising on Facebook can use these three forms of media in their new patient acquisition efforts — “owned,” “paid,” and “earned” — to increase potential and existing patient engagement, extend the reach of their offers, contests, or promotions, and turnLikes (just like in grade school, you can’t buy friends) into new patients happy to spread the social dental currency around to their friends.

    Let’s define what we mean by each term as it relates to dental practices advertising on Facebook, but first we’ll give credit where credit is most due – the inspiration of this post belongs to this Facebook Advertising article via Practical eCommerce.

    Owned media. Content created by dentists for use on Facebook Pages.
    Paid media. Ads such as Facebook Promoted Posts and Sponsored Stories.
    Earned media. Conversations about dental health brands and products shared among Facebook users.

    Dentists maximizing Facebook’s advertising options effectively enable each of these advertising formats to integrate with the others to increase their overall new patient acquisition impact.

    Owned Media: Create Engaging Content

    The first step is to create content that your dental Facebook connections want and will likely engage with. What types of content qualify as engaging to a potential or existing dental patient?

    Promotional: This includes practice product announcements, in addition to promotions only targeting your Facebook fans.

    Syncapse reported back in June of 2013 that the top three reasons why people decide to like a Facebook page are:

    • 49 percent: To support a brand I like
    • 42 percent: To get a coupon or discount
    • 41 percent: To receive regular updates from brands I like

    Informational: It makes sense that prospective & existing patients will respond to content focused on their needs and interests. Give your followers the beneficial information to empower their health care decisions and enlist them in their own dental health!

    A generally accepted rule of thumb for dental Facebook posts is to keep the promotional content at a ratio of 1:4 as compared to educational, local, or entertainment driven information.

    Here are some tips dentists can use to increase engagement with the content you create:

    • Use images. According to KissMetrics, an analytics and tracking firm, images and photos receive 39 percent higher interactions than average posts, and receive 53 percent more likes, 104 percent more comments, and 84 percent more clicks. Include an image in most, if not all, of your posts.
    • Keep posts short. Posts with less than 80 characters get 23 percent higher engagement.
    • Post often…but not TOO often. Among retail brands, posting 1 to 2 times per day gets 40 percent more engagement than posting 3 or more times per day. Don’t be that dentist that posts 6 useless pieces of content before 10am!
    • Schedule posts for optimal days and times. Facebook activity peaks around 3 p.m. Eastern Time each day. There are also spikes around 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. Wednesday seems to be most active day during the week. Schedule posts to take advantage of these peaks.
    • Pin and highlight posts. Pin important posts to the top of your page to increase exposure, as well as highlight such posts so they span the width of both columns in the Timeline.
    • Use Facebook Insights. Use Facebook Insights to analyze the types of content fans most respond to, as well as the effect post format, frequency and time of day has on engagement.


    Paid Media: Dentists Can Amplify Social Media Content with Facebook Ads

    Use Facebook Promoted Posts to extend reach and increase longevity of posts that receive higher engagement. In our experience, the most sharable posts for our member dentists happen to be contest results – even more so than the contest itself. Dentists using Facebook advertising in the form of Promoted Posts have the targeting capability to reach fans, friends of fans, and even a group of users based on age, gender, location and language.

    Your dental practice Promoted Posts will show up in the newsfeed of your fans – people connected to your page – if you post often enough, have an engaged following, a fully optimized Edgerank @$$ kicking presence, and maybe experiment with some hashtags…etc.

    When your most dental-centric fans engage with your posts, their friends may see the story in their news feed too, enabling you to extend your reach.

    That is Facebook Advertising for Dentists Force Multiplication!

    Another way for dentists to advertise beneficial content on Facebook is through aSponsored Story to further amplify the post. Sponsored Stories do not require any additional budget, but will share the cost with your current ad campaign.

    Earned Media: Dental Practices NEED to Interact with their Fans

    We know it sounds silly, but it’s really a make or break point. It’s unquestionably important to interact with fans…and friends of fans…who engage with your posts.

    • Respond to comments. This lets people know you’re interested in what they have to say and may increase the likelihood they will continue to pay attention to your posts over time.
    • Get fans involved. Ask people to create their own content and share it on your dental practice Facebook Page. Be sure to ask fans to take action on your posts. This could include asking them to like a post, vote in a contest, or share the post with their friends.
    • Asking questions helps, too. Posts that include questions garner 100 percent more comments than “non-question” posts.
      Feature fans. Feature a “fan of the week” and include testimonials from patients that are also fans of your dental practice Facebook Page.


    Dentists Can Actually Force Multiply New Patient Acquisition Efforts with Facebook Advertising

    Facebook makes it easy for any dental practice to integrate owned, paid and earned media to increase the effectiveness of your digital dental marketing. But dentists need to take advantage of this capability by creating engaging content, promoting content that receives the most engagement using ads, and interacting with fans and others to stimulate the digital dental health conversation centered around your practice.

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    Can Social Media Data Find a Place in EHRs?

    Can Social Media Data Find a Place in EHRs? | Social Media and Healthcare |

    There’s a wealth of information to be gleaned, but several hurdles need to be leapfrogged.

    Social media technologies and their popularity have exploded in the past decade, and it’s not just patients who are getting in on the action. Physicians and health care organizations alike are increasingly utilizing text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, and other social media technologies in an effort to explore their potential benefits.

    It’s a wise strategic move, according to the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) 2012 Health Research Institute report that found health care organizations that “ignore the virtual environment could find themselves losing customers to competitors that do use social media to listen to and engage with consumers.”

    Thus far, most of the research in this area has focused on social media technologies as marketing tools, a way to listen to what patients are saying about their experiences and engaging them. “[In the PwC research paper], we gave examples of how hospitals are using social media, and they are not limiting their imaginations to just marketing and listening to people’s feedback about the company; they are starting to think about how to use social media for services and other aspects of their business,” says John Edwards, a PwC spokesperson and director in the Healthcare Strategy & Healthcare Business Intelligence Practice.

    Edwards cites a 2012 research statistic from the Hospital Social Network List that shows more than 1,200 US hospitals now are using social media sites, a 30% increase from the previous year. “That is a pretty significant trend toward adopting social media, so it would suggest that hospitals are finding uses for social media as part of their strategies, and that it’s a growing trend,” he says.

    But what about taking social media one step further and using it as a health record tool? What benefits could be seen from including social media exchanges in the patient record, and would such benefits override the obvious—and not-so-obvious—obstacles that arise?

    A Place in the EHR?
    Social media and health care experts seem to agree that social media exchanges could add important and interesting information to the care process, but where exactly this information fits in—and how to go about incorporating it—is up for debate.

    Jared Rhoads, senior research specialist with CSC’s Global Institute for Emerging Healthcare Practices, says hospitals could benefit from exploring the possibility of including social media exchanges in the EHR, “but the key word here is ‘exploring’,” he says. “It stands to reason that there are tremendous opportunities for hospitals to tap into social media tools in order to get patients to become more engaged in their care. Information and data that are obtained or generated as a result of these interactions have a valid place in the patient record—as valid as nearly any other self-reported piece of information. But this is also relatively uncharted territory, and so best practices have not been widely established.”

    Rhoads says incorporating social media interactions into the patient record can enhance care management, patient adherence, and even patient safety. “For instance, caregivers could learn more about how a patient is feeling, how a patient is responding to a new medication, and whether a patient is adhering to a certain care plan,” he notes.

    Deborah Kohn, MPH, RHIA, FACHE, CPHIMS, principal of Dak Systems Consulting, who presented “The Impact of Social Media on the Integrity of Patient Record Information” at AHIMA’s November 2012 Data Integrity Summit, also likes the idea. “I truly believe that social media exchanges must be part of the patient’s record,” she says. “The next-generation computing platform will be—in many instances, already is—a social media-based platform. In other words, all Web-based applications will have the easy-to-learn look and feel of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter webpages with walls, timelines, etc.”

    Kohn notes that Practice Fusion already has incorporated social-media-style messaging for physician-to-physician communication into its EHR.

    According to Christina Thielst, FACHE, vice president of patient experience consulting group TOWER and an expert on social media in health care, whether these exchanges should eventually end up in the patient record depends on where the information in question currently resides and how it relates to the care continuum. “I do believe communications and conversations that take place on social technologies can be made part of the patient record if they are part of care and treatment processes,” she says. “But these technologies need to be an integrated part of the organization’s entire communication and patient engagement strategy. Keep in mind, the official patient record documents the information gathered during the treatment episode.”

    Thielst says that in addition to social technologies such as text messaging, blogging, social networking, and avatars being easy to use and familiar to consumers, they “are also convenient, engaging, and efficient for facilitating communication and scaling to accommodate population health needs.

    “This isn’t to say that a doctor should have some communication with a patient on Facebook and then download the exchange into the health system/hospital’s record,” she adds. “For certain conversations, it may be appropriate for physicians to reference what they learn from these conversations, just as they might if [a conversation was] conducted in the grocery store aisle or at a cocktail party—unless a provider [were to someday] extend their treatment episodes to social media channels like Twitter and Facebook.”

    Challenges Abound
    PwC strongly supports the idea of building a more complete patient record through social media data, according to Edwards. “I think that some aspects of social media, such as self-reported conditions and outcomes associated with being on certain treatment protocols, could be really useful and interesting to have available,” he says.

    While the idea may have promise, Edwards isn’t sure whether the EHR is the best place for that information. Many clinicians would likely balk at that possibility, at least given the lack of controls that can come with this type of information. “The idea of including social media content as part of the electronic health record would probably get some significant resistance internally from a hospital’s clinicians,” he says.

    “The EHRs that have been built have focused on gathering data that exist within the hospital and making that information accessible to the doctor that needs to care for that patient,” Edwards continues. “And they’ve created vehicles by which they could gather other trusted information, from other hospitals and other doctor offices, and have that information available electronically.”

    However, he notes patients in the Internet Age often come to office appointments armed with information—as well as misinformation—about their health care conditions. And unless there’s a clear way to distinguish highly controlled information from questionable data, Edwards says many clinicians likely will fight against its inclusion in the EHR.

    Rhoads also views the possibility of including inaccurate information as a roadblock, although he believes it’s manageable and worth the effort. “Certainly, there is a risk of false or inaccurate data finding their way into the patient record and presenting a skewed picture of what is going on with a patient’s health,” he says. “Data extracted from social media interactions need to be segregated and stored with that context in mind.”

    The information should be supplemental in nature and never viewed as replacing or overriding data obtained directly through inpatient visits and other face-to-face interactions. “This is the bare minimum needed for quality control,” Rhoads notes.

    Managing the inherent risks related to sharing social media information comes down to policy, Rhoads says. “Risks like privacy, security, and liability can be managed, but it means starting from scratch and designing policies that are suited specifically to your institution and then making sure that you’ve adequately trained everyone on them,” he says.

    Edwards believes privacy concerns aren’t onerous because social media exchanges are a form of public information. “I don’t believe that the use of social media is PHI [protected health information]; it’s not personal health information that only you have as the physician,” he says. “It’s information that people are freely disclosing online.”

    However, not everyone may be aware that is the case. “I don’t think that everyone who discloses and uses social media tools carefully reads all of the authorizations that they’re giving when they use a site,” Edwards says. “And I think it might cause concerns from a public that’s been informed but is not completely aware of thinking that way about their information and its use.”

    Bryan Vartabedian, MD, a pediatric gastroenterologist at Texas Children’s Hospital/Baylor College of Medicine who blogs at 33chart, says integration and workflow issues are even bigger obstacles to including social media data in EHRs. “One big challenge that we’re facing with the integration of these new technologies into our current workflows as physicians is the fact that many of our EHRs are really not amenable to building in these sorts of applications,” he says. “While patient-specific exchanges on public platforms are strongly discouraged, such encounters would be practically impossible to integrate into the EMR.”

    There also are legal ramifications to consider. “Similar to e-mail messages, every tweet, blog post, blog comment, text message, and wall entry you and/or your organization colleagues upload—and every one you and/or your organization colleagues receive—is a piece of content that, theoretically, should be reviewed and managed to ensure control, decorum and, perhaps, regulatory and records compliance,” Kohn says. “For example, an individual social network status update or a tweet might not rise to the level of a record, but a protracted discussion on a particular topic over a given period on someone’s wall or via Twitter might qualify.”

    Rhoads agrees: “One big legal ramification is that, as an industry norm, doctors are responsible for information to which they have ‘reasonable access.’ If patients start reporting emergency-type problems through inappropriate channels because they mistakenly believe that those channels are being monitored 24/7, then there could be some painful legal experiences, not to mention potentially tragic clinical outcomes. This is why it is important to move steadily but deliberately, with full knowledge and participation of the organization’s legal experts and with proper training all around.”

    How Would It Work?
    For the most part, speculation is the name of the game when looking at how social media exchanges may be incorporated into EHRs. However, there are a few possibilities to consider.

    Vartabedian envisions a future in which EHRs will have built-in social elements to allow for physician-patient communication in a HIPAA-compliant, private venue. “I can imagine five years from now coming out of an exam room and going to a screen, on my left having an EHR and on my right having a Twitter-type screen where, while I’m sitting there, a pediatrician I work with sends me a message about a patient in his office,” he says. “I quickly message back about what he should do, and that message is then tagged to the patient so that it goes directly to the EHR. Then the next time that patient is in the office with me, it’s part of the record.

    “I think that these public tools that we’re using right now such as Facebook and Twitter probably are not appropriate for doctor-patient interaction, but I think that tools similar to these will likely evolve into our EHR and are actually already under development,” Vartabedian adds. “I think that’s where we’re headed.”

    Rhoads sees hospitals first experimenting with specialized, specific situations to test the idea’s feasibility. “You don’t roll out a new initiative to allow every patient in your community to feed their medical record with Twitter updates, but maybe you’d like to develop a special mobile app for just a certain subset of oncology patients to enter in information remotely,” he says. “Or, to take a real-world example, the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital tapped into the popularity of Facebook to address a growing problem of medication adherence among teenage kidney transplant patients. They put out a mobile app that was populated with information from the EHR on patients’ medications and dosage instructions, and allowed patients to get reminders through a custom and private Facebook page.”

    According to Edwards, data analytics is central to the issue of how social media information can be utilized in patient records. “It’s not just about getting the raw data; it’s about figuring out how to interpret it and apply it to your business,” he explains. “By having the right algorithms in place, you could interpret signals from the raw data from social media sites that would be of value in an electronic health record, possibly something that said a person was activated and ready to take action in their health condition based upon the flags that we’re seeing about what they’re talking about—their activity of investigating a gym, for example. There could be signals that could be captured and turned into meaningful information for the clinician.”

    Moving Forward
    Judging by the 30% increase in the number of hospitals using social media and the fact that 50% of health care providers use social media, the technology definitely is making a dent in the industry, says Edwards, who’s unsure if the trend will extend into the EHR world. “Time will tell,” he says.

    “As with other types of data,” he continues, “maybe it’s baby steps. Maybe there are ways to think about select information harvested through a social media vehicle that would be useful. I think it would require prioritization and thinking carefully about what subsets make sense to enhance that business process. And I don’t think it would be every time a person chats about their condition online or their experience with a physician’s office. But I do believe that the idea of how social media could complement the patient experience—and the physician experience—is viable and will happen in the near future.”

    Thielst says the question of whether to include social media information in the EHR may be answered on a case-by-case basis, based on what is relevant to the patient’s care. “[Either way] we need to figure that out,” she says, “and now is a good time to start thinking it through because it is coming.”

    From a legal and eDiscovery perspective, Kohn advises organizations to ask themselves the following questions: Does the social media content document a transaction or a care decision? Could the content be subject to requests for disclosure, subpoena, and eDiscovery?

    No matter the challenges, Vartabedian says it would be wise to take advantage of social media’s winning attributes: “We have this amazing technology. We need to find ways to integrate it into the physician workflow, into the EHR. I think it’s going to have remarkable results.”

    Andrrey Yatsenko's curator insight, June 22, 2019 3:51 PM
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    24 Outstanding Statistics on How Social Media has Impacted Health Care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Facebook Group Raises Rate of HIV Testing - AIDS/HIV

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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

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

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

    AACS Atlanta's comment, October 18, 2019 2:20 AM
    If you have been charged with a DUI, or if the DUI charge was reduced to reckless driving, the state of Georgia will most likely require you to attend a 20-hour Risk Reduction Program. For detail for directions
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    Social Media Resources for Healthcare IT Job Seekers

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

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

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


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


    Social Networking for Career Success – great book – no matter what industry you’re in – by Miriam Salpeter of Keppie Careers. You can follow her on Twitter and learn more at her website,, which also includes a guide to Google+ in the books section.

  – a website devoted to Health IT Workforce Development in the Northwestern States, part of the Community College Consortia to Educate Health IT Professionals Program. It includes some great advice blogs by Health IT Talent Specialist Yvette Herrera-Greer, as well as a session from Matthew Youngquist of Career Horizons on using LinkedIn as an effective tool for job seekers in the Health IT sector. You can also join the organization’s group on LinkedIn – just search for NW Healthcare IT Workforce.


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


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


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

  – a website devoted to helping people use social media to get jobs. Blogger Joshua Waldman is also the author of Job Searching with Social Media for Dummies.

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    How Social Media Can Teach You About Prostate Cancer

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

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

    Facebook & Twitter

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

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

    Prostate Cancer Infolink

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


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

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

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

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

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    Medical conversations are happening on Twitter, not Facebook

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

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

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

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

    I think that’s a good thing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Morgan Edward's curator insight, February 20, 7:42 AM



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    Leveraging Social Media for the Imaging Enterprise

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

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


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


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


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


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



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


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

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



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


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



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


    Getting in the game

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


    Determine Your Objectives

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

    Know Your Target Market

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

    Follow Your Competition

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

    Craft Your Message

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

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


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

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    Do physician social media guidelines need updating?

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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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


    What should be stressed?


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


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


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

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