Social Media and Healthcare
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Social Media and Healthcare
Articles and Discussions on the intersection of Social Media and Healthcare.
Relevant to Healthcare Practitioners, Pharma', Insurance, Clinicians, Labs, Health IT Vendors, Health Marketeers, Health Policy Makers, Hospital Administrators.
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Social media opens new avenue to advocacy in rheumatology

Social media opens new avenue to advocacy in rheumatology | Social Media and Healthcare |

Political activism is more accessible than ever thanks to the amplification offered by social media, and rheumatologists can use social media — particularly Twitter — to advocate for the profession and their patients, according to Angus Worthing, MD, private practice rheumatologist and chair of the Government Affairs Committee for the American College of Rheumatology.

Worthing recently sat down with Healio Rheumatology to discuss his rheumatology advocacy campaign, called #ThingADay, in which he posted actions rheumatologists could take each day to advocate for the profession and to improve patient care.

 Stay Informed and Active

One of Worthing’s recommended tasks was to learn more about biosimilars, which as he stated in the Twitter post, are “the most medically acceptable [and] politically feasible way to lower rheum drug prices.”

Worthing said biosimilars can be thought of roughly as generic biologic drugs; the main difference between generics and biosimilars is that biosimilars can have slight differences from their brand name equivalences due to their size and complexity.

“The FDA did not have the authority to approve [the generic versions of] biologics until the Affordable Care Act included that authorization in 2010,” Worthing explained. “Now the FDA has a pathway for a biosimilar approval process and there are 18 biosimilars that have been FDA-approved — several in rheumatology — but unfortunately only two of those biosimilars are available for rheumatology patients in the marketplace.”

For biosimilars to become readily available in the U.S., Worthing said step therapy needs to be reformed and insurance companies and pharmacy benefits managers need to be more transparent. According to current step therapy protocols, Worthing said, biosimilars can only be used if the preferred drug is tried and shown to be ineffective.

“Even when I prescribe a biosimilar, which is about 20% less expensive than a bio-originator or brand name, it’s often not approved. Instead, the patient is supposed to take the more expensive drug,” Worthing said. “Step therapy and these kinds of legislation management tools are some of the most frustrating parts about being a doctor in the U.S. today and they are very frustrating for patients because they delay effective treatment.”

While Worthing wants to improve the availability of biosimilars and has been working with the ACR to connect with leaders in Congress on this issue, he noted that his goal for other rheumatologists is to educate themselves and come to their own conclusions about biosimilars.


“I think the main way that rheumatologists can get involved is simply to learn and become comfortable with what a biosimilar is and find out more about them,” he said. He suggested an ACR white paper, “The Science Behind Biosimilars,” (of which he is a coauthor) as a good starting point.

Promote Research and Preventive Measures


Another action item from #ThingADay was to email Congress in support of arthritis research, specifically a $20 million request to the Department of Defense’s (DOD) Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) to create an arthritis research program. Worthing noted that one in three military veterans have arthritis and it is the second most common cause of medical discharge.

“The DOD is an excellent place for arthritis and rheumatology research to happen, partly because they can design and implement ways to protect the joints of our service members; for example, to avoid injuries that would lead to osteoarthritis of the knee or other joints. They also have a serum bank, so blood samples are drawn from active service members that can be tested for evidence of autoimmune diseases later on. There are also excellent longitudinal medical records that can be researched to find out some potential causes and treatments for arthritis.”

Additionally, Worthing suggested rheumatologists support increasing access to DEXA scans, in particular by advocating for the Increasing Access to Osteoporosis Testing for Medicare Beneficiaries Act (S. 283). Worthing said since reimbursement for DEXA scans decreased to less than the cost to provide the service, far fewer scans have been provided. “Now unfortunately we are seeing an uptick in ... surprise hip fractures ... which is really a shame in the United States, that we are seeing worsening in a medical problem that is easy and inexpensive to prevent,” he said.

According to Worthing, S. 283 “raises the reimbursement for a DEXA scan service to a level that is sustainable and allows doctors to provide the service, and we hope that more people will be able to obtain this screening test so that we can prevent more fractures.”

Develop a Professional Voice

Worthing finds value in Twitter as a platform that gives everyone a voice. “It’s such an effective way to communicate with fellow advocates, people involved in health policy and also the actual leaders and their staff on Capitol Hill,” he said. “It’s instantaneous and free and can be leveraged really quickly. When influencers, or people in media or leaders — the people who are writing bills and legislation — see tweets and retweet things, ideas and issues can come up and suddenly get noticed.”


Worthing said he created the #ThingADay campaign to provide easy access to many ideas that anyone could implement in their typical day. He wanted to create a handy guide on “how to email Congress, how to read up on the issues, how to connect with other people, invite Congress into your office if you’re a physician — all the little things you can do, large or small, sort of as ‘one thing a day’ to be a political advocate.”

He said the ACR’s Legislative Action Center showed increased activity after the #ThingADay campaign, which is the exact response he had hoped for. In his volunteer leadership role with ACR, Worthing helps coordinate ACR’s response to federal decisions, and one of his goals is to increase the number of rheumatologists who use ACR’s online Legislative Action Center.


“Ultimately, I think my job as kind of a lead advocate for rheumatology is to get people using these tools on their own and making their own — either Twitter threads or using [the information] on their own in productive ways,” he said. “I usually try to encourage people to use social media, which is, I think, really effective on a professional level ... putting out a professional face as a physician advocate.”

Worthing added that RheumPAC, the ACR’s political action committee, is an additional way to pool a group of voices. “For a small specialty like rheumatology, with only 6,000 out of the million doctors in the country, RheumPAC is a very effective way for us to leverage our voice,” he said. He noted that RheumPAC is for ACR members only, and supports “candidates on both sides of the aisle who are champions of rheumatology reforms.”

He added, “I think in a representative democracy, our institutions require informed input, and I strongly support my fellow doctors and our patients to raise their voice[s] because we are the experts that Congress needs to hear from, and social media and Twitter are a great way to do it.” – by Amanda Alexander

Disclosure: Worthing reports no relevant financial disclosures.

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The Challenges of Social Media in Healthcare and How to Solve Them

The Challenges of Social Media in Healthcare and How to Solve Them | Social Media and Healthcare |

If you’re leading your healthcare marketing team, you know that social media marketing executed the right way — through the lens of today’s connected-consumer —  yields a number of organizational benefits:

  1. Immediate channel access and more exposure to prospective and current patients who are living mobile and digital lifestyles; and who use technology to manage their lives and help achieve their goals. Case in point, for the first time, Americans spent more time on their mobile devices in 2019 than they did watching TV; and 39% of adults 18-29 rarely disconnected from the internet in 2018;  according to Pew Research cited in Mary Meeker’s 2019 Internet Trends report.
  2. Assisting your organization in being more approachable and transparent; two very important traits to Generation Z and Millennials.  In fact, 93% of all marketers indicated their social media efforts have generated more exposure for their businesses, while 87% reported increased traffic. (2019 Social Media Marketing Industry Report; Social Media Examiner).
  3. Following above, helping to build or repair trust, which has plummeted across industries
  4. Next, social media can contribute to building preference, choice and loyalty

Perceived Challenges of Social Media

Despite these advantages, a significant percentage of healthcare organizations are still hesitant to use social media to engage with current and prospective patients. This is not only because of heavy regulation and copious amounts of scrutiny. Part of the reason, we believe, is because brands aren’t sure how and where they fit in the context of how consumers manage their social lives and use social connections to help:

  • feel connected to others
  • assert their self-image and self-esteem
  • make decisions
  • live their lives more efficiently and effectively
  • enhance the value they get from a brand

Said another way, today’s digitally-enabled connected and empowered consumer demands more value from social media beyond “social”. They’re looking for valuable content that educates and informs, helps them find support and make more objective healthcare decisions.

Other Challenges of Social Media


The Healthcare Insurance Portability and Accountability Act protects privacy for patients, and there are serious fines for releasing Protected Health Information (PHI). From, some of the most common HIPAA violations include:

  • Posting of images and videos of patients without written consent
  • Posting of gossip about patients
  • Posting of any information that could allow an individual to be identified
  • Sharing of photographs or images taken inside a healthcare facility in which patients or PHI are visible
  • Sharing of photos, videos, or text on social media platforms within a private group

Patient-related posts, like patient testimonials, will have to go through a costly and time-consuming de-identification process and get reviewed by HR and HIPAA regulators before being posted.

Organization Policies

Many healthcare organizations discourage and even block social media usage on company networks. Aside from productivity issues, it can cause security breaches. For perspective, in 2018, 15 million patient records were breached during 503 healthcare data breaches. In these cases, there are serious repercussions for these companies. In 2017, recovery costs for stolen medical records were $380 per stolen record.


Healthcare organizations need to safeguard their image given the high stakes nature of their services. In addition, with trust already a problem, it’s better to be safe than sorry as it relates to social media postings that might backfire on the organization. For these reasons, social media content needs to be monitored by a seasoned marketer to manage the healthcare organization’s reputation.

Unclear Benefits

Healthcare organizations find it to difficult to measure ROI for inbound marketing techniques like social media marketing. In a recent 2019 Social Media Marketing Industry Report from Social Media Examiner, only 44% of marketers agreed they were able to measure their organic social activities. In this same report, 86% of marketers agreed that they’d like to learn more about Facebook analytics, and 89% agreed that they’d like to learn more about Google Anaytics.

Solutions To Combat Healthcare Social Media Challenges

Here are some solutions to combat the challenges healthcare organizations have with social media:

Determine The Role Social Media Will Play

What’s the role social media will play in helping your organization help your prospective patients, e.g.

  • education
  • thought-leadership
  • research
  • building top-of-mind awareness of your organization/service lines
  • creating positive brand associations of your organization

Determine Your Social Media Approach

Questions you need to answer include:

  • type, e.g. articles, videos, white papers, podcasts
  • style, e.g. interactive, authoritative, more friendly
  • sources, e.g. inside your organization (e.g. CEO, marketing, cross-functional), third-party
  • keywords that you want to own
  • guardrails, e.g. frequency, legal implications

Keep Patient Name and Information Anonymous in Blog Posts

To negate potential breaches of patient privacy, consider using patient personas instead of patient names when posting success stories. Prospective patients understand about privacy issues and will not disregard the value of a patient success story if a real patient’s name isn’t used.

Formalize Social Media Listening Practices

Integral to successful social media marketing is listening to what is being said about:

  • Your name, your handle,
  • Your services and possible misinformation
  • Competitor’s names/handles
  • People in your organization (CEO, spokesperson, etc.) and in competitor’s organizations
  • Campaign names and keywords
  • Branded hashtags and competitor’s hashtags

Set Up an Efficient Social Media Monitoring Work Flow

Creating a consistent and effective work flow is important to avoid review by HIPAA compliance officers.

Update Company Policies

What policies are in place for employee participation, brand consistency, crisis situations, etc. Company policies should be up to date to ensure that social media use by physicians, staff and others meet your organization’s criteria. Integrate employee training into the process to ensure that social media practices are understood and being followed.

Strengthened IT Infrastructure to Stay Secure

IT Infrastructures should be strengthened as follows:

  • Ensure no firewall holes
  • Ensure all antivirus protection is up-to-date; consider changing to stronger antivirus protection software if data has been breached in the past
  • Employees trained to recognize phishing scams and suspicious hacking activities
  • All employees who leave the organization are revoked of social media rights


Since 1999, Trajectory has shaped and guided brands across the healthcare and wellness landscape – launching, rebranding and implementing integrated marketing and digital programs. Reach out if you’re looking to bolster your social media marketing program.

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Social media comments may hinder credibility of health professionals

Social media comments may hinder credibility of health professionals | Social Media and Healthcare |

For health professionals, posting a single negative comment on their Facebook profiles may hinder their credibility with current or potential clients, according to a study.

The findings, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, show that Facebook posts that may affect people's perceptions of professionalism.

Researchers found that only one subtle comment posted expressing workplace frustration was enough for people to view one as a less credible health professional.

"This study provides the first evidence of the impact a health professionals' personal online disclosures can have on his/her credibility," said Serge Desmarais, Professor at the University of Guelph in Canada.


"This finding is significant not only because health professionals use social media in their personal lives, but are also encouraged to use it to promote themselves and engage with the public," Desmarais said.

For the study, the research team involved more than 350 participants who viewed a mock Facebook profile and rated the profile owner's credibility and then rated their own willingness to become his client.

The researchers tested factors, including the identified gender of the Facebook profile owner, whether they listed their profession as a veterinarian or medical physician and whether their profile included a posting of an ambiguous work day comment or a comment expressing frustration.

The only factor that influenced viewers' perception of the profile owner's professionalism was a single work day frustration comment. 

On a scale from 0 to 100, the profile with the negative workday comment was rated 11 points lower (56.7) than the one with an ambiguous work day comment (67.9).

"That's a meaningful drop. This shows that it takes just one simple comment for people to view you as less professional and to decide they don't want to become a client of yours," said Desmarais. 

"Depending on who sees your posts, you may really hurt your reputation just by being up late one night, feeling frustrated and posting your thoughts online," Desmarais added. 

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 Incorporating social media into physician assistant education: opportunities to benefit patients

 Incorporating social media into physician assistant education: opportunities to benefit patients | Social Media and Healthcare |

We read the recent paper by Wanner and colleagues1 with interest. The authors surveyed physician assistant (PA) students about their experiences with social media and concluded that educators might formally incorporate the use of social media into curricula designed for PA students to augment more traditional modalities like textbooks and lectures. We agree with the authors’ conclusions but would emphasize an additional benefit of weaving social media into PA student education – the benefit to their future patients.

Social media use is widespread among patients,2 including children and adolescents.3 The American Academy of Physician Assistants has advised PAs about standards of professionalism in their personal use of social media, largely centered around patient privacy.4 Other professional organizations such as the American College of Physicians2 and American Academy of Pediatrics3 emphasize the important role that clinicians should play in counseling about safe and appropriate social media use. For adults, this might include guidance about reputable sources of medical information,2 whereas discussions with younger patients might also include counseling about cyberbullying, sexting, and permanence of the digital footprint.5

We conducted a survey of PA students in their final semester at Yale University to gauge their own engagement with social media, and their attitudes and behaviors regarding the clinician’s role in counseling about social media. The electronic survey was sent to all 37 final semester PA students in the fall of 2016, 24 of whom (65%) responded. Similar to Wanner and colleagues,1 social media utilization among students was high, with all 24 (100%) respondents having engaged in social networking to stay personally connected with family, friends, and other trainees. Social media use for professional purposes was far less common with 7 (29%) having used social media to share medical information; 1 (4%) student was connected with faculty via social networks and 0 with patients or patients’ families. Despite high social media utilization, and agreement that “clinicians have a role in counseling” about social media use (17/24, 71%), only 3 (13%) felt comfortable doing this counseling, and 1 (4%) felt that she had received adequate training in the area.

Wanner and colleagues1 argue that formal inclusion of social media into PA student education was well received because the modality is familiar and engaging for the learners. In Wanner’s study, despite their familiarity with social media, many students felt it should be “an optional adjunct” in their education because of time demands and lack of reliability of online sources.1 The pervasiveness of social media justifies its use as an adjunct in medical education. However, student acceptance of social media as a formal part of the curriculum, rather than “an optional adjunct”, might have been improved if teaching about social media had accompanied teaching with social media.

Educators and clinicians must not forget that the pervasiveness of social media also affects our patients and their families in clinically meaningful ways. This point should be discussed with a generation of learners who, despite high levels of personal usage, still are quite reticent to discuss the positive and negative health and developmental effects of social media with their patients. In addition to engaging students with course content, we posit that the use of social media by educators would present an occasion to address learning opportunities identified by our survey and emphasized by professional organizations. Specifically, as social media takes hold in PA student education, discussions about the clinician’s role in discussing social media with patients and standards of professionalism would naturally follow.

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A physician shares her positive experience with social media

A physician shares her positive experience with social media | Social Media and Healthcare |

An opinion article was recently published in Stat by Daniel Sokol, PhD, who is a London-based bioethicist and lawyer specializing in medical law. His article, entitled “Doctors should use social media with restraint,” discusses the role of doctors on social media. This was very interesting timing for me as I have only very recently embarked on a professional online presence. Mr. Sokal uses Sir William Osler as his example of how a physician should behave. Indeed Sir William Osler is a well-regarded forefather of modern medicine often referred to as the “Father of Modern Medicine.” He was one of the four founding professors of John Hopkins Hospital, and he created the first residency program for specialty training of physicians. He was also the first to bring medical students to the bedside for clinical training. He referred to doctors as “the great army of quiet workers.”

I had many thoughts while reading through the article. My first was how much medicine has changed since the time of Sir William Osler. Physicians are now subject to online reviews and patients who come in after a night spent on-line with “Dr. Google” and have their agenda and unrealistic expectations before they ever see a physician. We have insurance companies and administrators having more and more say over how we practice. Medicine and the practice of medicine would be unrecognizable to Sir William Osler. What may have been appropriate a century ago may not be appropriate now.

I got to thinking about my professional online presence. Are my posts harmful and degrading to my field? Am I perpetuating a lack of confidence in the medical profession? I recalled my reason for starting my professional accounts. It was for the patients. Time and time again, I saw misinformation online. I was dealing with patients who had received misinformation or who were unable to interpret the information they had been reading. I read scathing reviews of good medical institutions over unrealistic expectations and a basic lack of understanding of how the medical system works. It seemed to me there wasn’t enough real information from real doctors for these patients to grab onto and rely on. I wanted to help. I wanted to contribute to real information for patients. I felt I could do more than explain to each patient one at a time. Social media seems the perfect outlet as it is consumed for hours and hours a day by billions of people across the globe. Why not be part of it and create something useful? To me, it seems patients are more and more skeptical of the medical profession because we have been so quiet. Most don’t even understand what our education process is like and the sacrifices we made and continue to make to take care of others. There is strong data to support a doctor is less likely to be sued if they are well liked by their patient. What better way to be well-liked by your patient than to be a human being with them?

Dr. Sokol’s article certainly caused me to reflect on my social media presence. I scrolled through my Instagram account and noted each of my posts. They were all geared at education. Each one offering sound advice and knowledge. Each careful to remain professional. I also note I have received nothing but positive feedback. My followers know they can ask me questions. My followers have told me they find my posts useful, eye-opening, and entertaining. I have also made many connections with other like-minded physicians and have already found a home in SoMeDocs and the Association for Healthcare Social Media.


So far, my experience with social media has been very positive. I feel I can make a difference in the lives of people I have never met. I agree that we should use caution. We should maintain dignity and respect above reality TV and sensationalist news. We are better than that. We are educators and examples to those around us, and we must be aware of that. With great privilege comes great responsibility.


Claudine J. Aguilera is an internal medicine physician.

Image credit:

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The Value of Social Listening for Healthcare Organizations |

The Value of Social Listening for Healthcare Organizations | | Social Media and Healthcare |

Healthcare organizations, like many organizations, should take advantage of the insight at their disposal that customers are offering up on social media. Social listening can lead to better informed social media and content strategies, with the needs of the customer at the center.

Utilize social listening for your content strategy

With the advancement of technology and social media, the obstacles that patients have historically faced to receive healthcare guidance are being diminished. Today, patients are able to ubiquitously access physicians’ opinions and advice via social media more easily than ever before. What once required an appointment and pointed conversation can now be found in Twitter feeds, on Facebook pages, and in blogs and forums, where doctors and patients are willingly volunteering their thoughts.

Healthcare organizations contributing to these conversations have the opportunity to gain impressions, drive traffic to their site, and ultimately win new customers. In order to produce relevant content that captures the attention of physicians or patients, social listening is a crucial first step in the creation of a well-informed social media and content strategy.

Reach new customers

With the growth of healthcare related education on social media, large numbers of patients are turning to it with certainty when faced with medical questions. More than 40% of consumers say that information found on social media affects the way they deal with their health.

Given this large population influenced by social media when it comes to their health, engaging in social conversation is a beneficial way for healthcare professionals and organizations to reach new customers and influence their decisions. Social media is shifting from an outlet for meaningless chatter to a valuable platform that can provide credible perspectives on today’s challenges and issues, including those that are insightful for doctors.

From a recent study, 54% of patients are very comfortable with their providers seeking advice from online communities to better treat their conditions. Doctors can feel comfortable perusing social media for insight and opinions from other professionals, knowing patients are comfortable with them doing so.

Understand what topics are trending

Before brands craft posts and content to reach these patients and physicians, significant research on the front end is needed to understand what topics are trending and worth exploring. Social listening allows brands to get a pulse on the current conversation, where customers are freely offering their thoughts and opinions. It’s a valuable tool useful for any organization wondering what consumers are saying about their brand, their product, or the industry, in general. But healthcare organizations, specifically, have a unique opportunity to be on the forefront of the growing community of trusted authorities sharing accurate, relevant content that helps educate the public and grow the relationship between the brand and the consumer.

By understanding the topics that are leading the most patients and doctors to post their thoughts, questions or concerns on social media, content can be tailored to fill these gaps in information and brands can position themselves to receive maximum engagement. Blindly creating content without taking the time to conduct social listening can lead to wasted time and money and failure to take advantage of the large volume of patients and doctors looking to online communities to better treat their conditions.

If you are interested in taking your organization’s social listening and content strategy efforts to the next level, contact the experts here at Engage!


Image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay

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Your social media posts can be reveal your health condition. Here's how

Your social media posts can be reveal your health condition. Here's how | Social Media and Healthcare |

study has found that Facebook posts can help detect mental and physical health conditions like depression, anxiety, and diabetes. Researchers say that they can predict whether or not a Facebook user will have at least one of 21 medical conditions, simply by analysing their profiles and posts.

The study was “particularly effective at predicting diabetes and mental health conditions including anxiety, depression and psychoses”. 

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Stony Brook University said that they studied 999 patients’ social media presence on Facebook and could deduce whether or not that patient is likely to present with a medical condition.

Lead Author Dr Raina Merchant said, “… insights gleaned from these posts could be used to better inform patients and providers about their health” as what someone posts online is reflective of their state of mind, personality, and lifestyle.

Patients who volunteered for the study allowed automated data collection tools to scrub their profile for information and for their medical records to be linked to Facebook, as well. The researchers then studied the data in three verticals— only Facebook data, only demographics data, and a combination of the two.

How does this study work?

The researchers explain that they obtained Facebook statuses going back five years and restricted themselves to only those subjects who used a total of 500 words in all status updates combined as it is the threshold word count for language analysis. They also obtained demographics such as age, race, sex, and prior diagnoses. 

Instead of analysing words that were most commonly used, the study analysed words that were most significantly related to a certain medical condition. For example, “drunk” or “bottle” were linked to alcoholism. These phrases were then grouped together and viewed as word clouds to visually ascertain which ones stood out.

Also readSecond person to be HIV-free spells hope for the global AIDS fight: All you need to know

The study found that more expletive language was linked to substance abuse, while religious language was linked to diabetes.

Dr. Merchant said that healthcare professionals can use information from a patient’s social media profile to better understand their lifestyles and state of mind and more efficiently advise them medically.

However, the study does not directly address the performative aspect of social media. Scores of public figures and social media influencers may not necessarily be honest and transparent in their thoughts and feelings.

People also use social media for a variety of reasons–– while some use it as an outlet or medium of expression, others use it as business platforms or a source of creative discovery. Those who sell wellness products, for instance, might be more likely to use certain terminology related to physical or mental conditions. The study does not clarify whether or not such profiles will be a hinderance to prediction.

Additionally, social media platforms are often used facetiously and people make comments in jest, sarcasm or irony–– the study does not explicitly mention that it takes literary devices or tonality into account.

The study is also limited to Americans and not intersectional.

This is problematic because other cultures may have different norms of social media usage. Although other countries may also use Facebook in English, non-American phrasing carries different, deep-rooted cultural and socio-economic context that must be taken into consideration especially because the study is so heavily based on linguistic analysis.

Moreover, the study also brings up crucial questions about privacy and the dangers of sharing too much identifiable information online.

Google’s AI can accurately predict lung cancer

In May, Google announced that it was developing a new artificial intelligence (AI) tool that can help diagnosis lung cancer more accurately than currently available methods.

“Using advances in 3D volumetric modeling alongside datasets from our partners (including Northwestern University), we’ve made progress in modeling lung cancer prediction as well as laying the groundwork for future clinical testing,” said Google.

Using 3D modelling, researchers are Google use a patient’s current and previous CT scans to form a malignancy prediction. After testing 45,856 chest scans and corroborating its findings with six different US board-certified radiologists, Google says that its AI tool reduces false positives by more than 11% and already is 5% more accurate than radiologists.

The value of technology in all sectors—especially in healthcare—is swiftly increasing. Technological innovation is redefining the speed of healthcare development and vastly improving its quality. The one hurdle now is to make these state-of-the art technological tools affordable and accessible to the masses. 

Rhea Arora is a Staff Writer at Qrius

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Pharmaceutical Marketing: 3 Ways to Manage Patient Relations |

Pharmaceutical Marketing: 3 Ways to Manage Patient Relations | | Social Media and Healthcare |

As digital marketers, we look at a website and think about how it interacts with its stakeholders. For pharmaceutical companies, the stakeholders we most often think of include healthcare professionals, specialists/consultants, and physicians.

However, the patients—the consumers—of pharmaceutical products require equal attention and communication. In an industry that is especially business-to-business (B2B) oriented, pharmaceutical marketers can struggle to understand where the individual patients exist within a company’s digital space, so we often overlook their needs.

Our businesses’ success depends on addressing our patients’ needs within our website and effectively communicating with them. According to Physicians Practice, effective pharmaceutical marketing and communication with patients can reduce patient bills, mitigate risks of litigation, and increase referral rates.

In this post, we’ll discuss how managing your patients' expectations, providing them with educational information, and building relationships with them are ways you can improve your digital strategy and develop patient preference and trust.


The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) says that creating reasonable expectations with your patients results in trust and confidence. Think about all the ways you make a promise to your patients and double check that you’re delivering. Managing expectations is about helping patients know when to be satisfied.

The same holds true in the digital world. So if you promise them that you will respond to their email in one business day, make sure that’s what you’re doing. Otherwise, patients are right not to be satisfied.

Rational and Emotional Value

Managing expectations is about overseeing patients’ rational and emotional value. The following definitions come from AAOS:

Rational value: Created when actionable expectations are met. You can manage the rational value of your patients via appointments, phone calls, consultations, or even responding to an email as pointed out in the example above.

Emotional value: Created when you explain what you’re about to do before you do it. You can manage the emotional value of your patients by developing content that shows patients what to expect before they buy your drug or what to expect before they come in for a consultation.

Boston Digital Client Focuses on Patient Expectations


Many times companies want to manage expectations, but don’t know where to start. Setting up surveys or checking in with patients through emails is a great way to uncover expectation gaps.

Listen to your patients and get their feedback. Make sure that once you get this feedback that it doesn’t hit a dead end. Set up a course of action to rectify the situation.


According to Pew Research Center, 72% of patients get their health information online. To be an effective communicator, you need to convert your website’s information from an electronic brochure to an educational resource. Every patient goes through a buyer’s decision journey.

In the early stages of their buyer's journey, your site must have the resources necessary to inform patients about your product or service provides life-saving solutions to them. Once you offer the solution, you can then convince them why your approach is superior.

Some great ways to turn your information into easily digestible content for patients are:

1. Use clear illustrations and simple words to show users what life would be like with your product or service.

Boston Digital Client Genzyme Puts Its People Front and Center with Beautiful Photography

2. Create visual comparisons so patients can assess your product.

Boston Digital Client Kynamro Compares Its Syringe Size to a Penny

3. Simplify complex situations to lists to help guide patients through intricate procedures step-by-step.

 Boston Digital Client Kynamro Creates Simple-to-use Guides for Patients


The process of improving patient health is as much the pharmacist’s responsibility as it is the patient’s. Jeffrey Brenner, renowned physician and founder of Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, boasts that he loves getting to know his patients and talking with them because he believes the trick to healing and wellness is relationship building.

In fact, evidence supports that positive doctor-patient relationships are therapeutic for the patients and promote healing. You can emulate these relationships through your website strategy. In order for any good partnership to work, both parties need to have a role. You can give patients a role in their health decisions by:

  • Developing an intuitive navigation 
  • Creating prominent calls to action
  • Providing informational resources
  • Never leading patients to a dead-end

In the end, the tools and information you provide your patients show your care and consideration. When you manage expectations, develop the right educational resources, and build solid partnerships with your patients, you give your patients control over what ails them, and you build a trust that can never be broken.

Do you have advice about how to communicate with patients through a website? Share your experiences with us. Message us on FacebookTwitter, or LinkedIn

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7 Digital Marketing Strategies for Healthcare

7 Digital Marketing Strategies for Healthcare | Social Media and Healthcare |

Digital transformation has accelerated the game for healthcare. Patients now have more options and methods to monitor their health online or seek care. For healthcare brands, the clear path to success today is in establishing a solid online presence and effectively implementing mobile-first digital marketing strategies that get you front and centre to patients who are online.

Insight:  For many healthcare customers, the search for a health provider often begins online and on mobile.

Data: 90% of all healthcare journeys start online, and 60% of health-related searches start on a mobile device. In fact, consumers are now spending over 15 hours per week researching service providers from their smartphones. (Google Think Insights)

Key Action Point:  Mobile first is a different way of thinking. UX and channel choices are vastly different and should be considered independently in implementing the right digital marketing strategy that drives the best results for healthcare brands.

According to Consumer Barometer, 61% of people in Australia use local online and offline research to find local businesses and service providers. This means if you want your business to be found, you need to be online.

Today’s service directories are found on mobile; if your business is not getting traction on online channels yet, you may be only setting yourself to fail.

But it’s not too late to reverse this. Below are some of the best mobile-first digital marketing strategies that can make all the difference for healthcare brands today.

  1. Create Seamless Patient Portals
  2. Make Patient Booking and Scheduling Easy Online
  3. Build Mobile-First and Responsive Websites
  4. Develop Faster Site Speeds for a Better User Experience
  5. Use PPC and Display Ads Targeting Mobile
  6. Leverage Patient Feedback, Reviews, and Testimonials
  7. Win Your Patient’s Micro-Moments


1. Create Seamless Patient Portals

No one likes having to visit the doctor’s clinic or going to the hospital for a check-up, to renew old prescriptions, or to access important health records every single time. Giving your patients access to an online patient portal not only empowers your doctors and medical team, but you also give your patients exactly what they need — their time back.

In a survey by CDW Healthcare, 89% of patients want easy and seamless access to their personal health records, and a survey by Accenture shows as much as 78% of consumers are interested in receiving virtual healthcare.

According to Accenture’s 2018 Consumer Health Survey, 56% of consumers are already using websites to manage their health, 46% use their mobile phones and tablets to book doctor appointments, and 38% access their health records electronically.

As shown in the graph below, patient portals and virtual healthcare are preferable in offering patients timely care, reducing medical costs, and accommodating both patient and physician schedules.

Image credits: Accenture

For online patient portals to be effective, it needs to have access to the following:

  • Doctor or specialist look-up features
  • Online booking or self-scheduling features
  • Easy access to patient health data or records
  • Online bill payment options
  • Online prescription renewal
  • Patient-provider messaging and chat features
  • A knowledge-based portal containing patient health information and explainer videos
  • Patient access to virtual check-ups

Image credit: Petal MD

Patient portals serve both patients and doctors alike; they save time and promote efficiency. If you want to stand out to your patient-customer base, you need to strongly consider online portals and virtual health tools and apps to level up your online offering.


2. Make Patient Booking and Scheduling Online

Though the majority of the patients prefer to call for appointments, majority of the Millennials (71%) think taking time off to see a doctor is inconvenient and would rather book appointments online or through mobile apps; they would rather consult a doctor virtually rather than making a trip to the clinic.

Data from Accenture also points out that by the end of 2019, 66% of health systems will offer self-scheduling and 64% of all patients will use this feature.

Making online booking and self-scheduling available to your patients helps you save time, provides easy tracking and booking management, and minimises costs.


3. Build Mobile-First and Responsive Websites

Your practice will be judged by your website’s design and user experience. If your website’s performance is not up to par, it hurts your credibility and potential patients turn somewhere else.

According to research by Klein & Partners, 11% of visitors to a hospital or health system say poor website experience led to negative feelings about that brand.

Keep in mind that Google puts a prime on the user experience when ranking websites.  Mobility is fast becoming the new standard. In Australia, 60% of consumers use their smartphones and tablets to find local information, according to Consumer Barometer.

Website responsiveness and mobile optimisation are only some of Google’s key ranking factors. If your website is not responsive and fails to adapt to different devices, you lose out on visitor retention and user traffic, and time on site comes crashing down.


4. Develop Faster Site Speeds for a Better User Experience

Did you know that it only takes 5 seconds to lose a website visitor or a potential patient because of a slow website? Today’s online consumers hate slow loading times and can only wait so long before moving on to something else.

As of July 2018, Google has announced that page speed will be a ranking factor for Google searches.

To check that your website speed is up to par with today’s standards, head on over to Google’s Page Speed insights tool to check how well your page performs on the Chrome UX Report and get suggestions as to how you can optimise site performance.

Other useful tools that you can check out are the Chrome User Experience Report and Lighthouse, another chrome developer tool, which audits the performance and accessibility of web pages.


5. Use Pay Per Click and Display Ads Targeting Mobile

SEO may get you to the top of Google’s first page results, but notice the top recommendations belong to pay-per-click (PPC) and display ads. With PPC or paid search, you can create a budget for your PPC spend so your practice is listed on top of search engine results for specific keywords and terms.

Not only does this dramatically increase visibility, but you also have a better chance to track your return on investment for PPC and display ads that can be set to appear on the sidebar or triggered to “follow users around” on other websites based on their search behaviour and intent.

With 9 out of 10 searchers ending up buying after a mobile query, mobile search has a great impact on consumer’s purchasing decisions. Smartphone and tablets now account for 32% of paid search clicks and 25% of all PPC ad spend.

This means that setting up your ads and landing pages to match consumer intent can lead to a more successful mobile PPC campaign.


6. Leverage Patient Feedback, Reviews, and Testimonials

When looking for a health provider we can trust, we all turn to positive feedback from their former patients or check reviews online. Patient recommendations and feedback are frequently the driving force to new patient visits. In fact, 97% of people read reviews for local businesses, which drives the purchase decisions of 93% of consumers.

They are effective at creating social proof, increasing credibility and trust, and giving you a direct line to engage with your patients. Whether on your website or your social pages, these patient reviews and feedback should be highlighted front and centre.

Using video testimonials from your patients are a great way to share your brand story, build trust, and increase conversion.  

So ask for reviews from your patients as much as possible. Always follow-up on feedback, and use it as an opportunity to evaluate their healthcare experience and identify ways to improve your services. It goes a long way to build trust and credibility for your practice as well.

7. Win Your Patient’s Micro-Moments

Have you ever had those “I need to know” moments where you have a sudden need to learn about skin cancer or stem cell therapy? These micro-moments happen more frequently than we realise, and we turn to our smartphones or any device at hand to search for something, and we demand quick answers at a moment’s notice.

Your patient’s micro-moments are an opportunity to position your brand exactly where your patients are looking. Being able to answer these questions and showing up when these micro-moments happen drives conversion.

Google points out that consumers and patients are drawn to brands that can deliver their needs during these micro-moments. In healthcare, these are the four micro-moments you need to pay attention to so you can leverage your marketing strategy when they do happen:

  • What’s wrong with me? Be ready to answer random patient queries by optimising your web pages and creating content that addresses these questions such as explainer videos, blog posts, and infographics.
  • Where can I get treatment? This is why getting your business listed online and in Google is critical because “near me” searches matter, especially in health-related services. You need to make sure you’re visible in Google Maps where your practice is located so search engines can make online recommendations according to patient proximity.
  • Whom can I trust? After healthcare providers are determined according to proximity, online patient reviews, feedback, and trust-building content are what gets potential patients to call you.
  • How can I book an appointment? This final step is crucial to getting the first call and driving conversion. Make sure your booking and contact information is easy to find. Offer seamless options, and make the booking process as convenient as possible.

Explore further: 10 Healthcare Marketing Case Studies to Inspire Your Next Move


Tying It Together

With the increasing need to be mobile-first, healthcare practices today need to take the next step and embrace digital transformation. To stay relevant, adapt to mobile-first digital marketing methods that answer the changing needs of health consumers today.

Today’s digital marketing solutions hold the promise of timely and excellent care for patients, lower costs, and empower your brand and your patients throughout their customer journey.

Healthcare brands that turn a blind eye to these digital marketing strategies will not only limit themselves and what they can offer, but they also run the risk of alienating the huge percentage of healthcare seekers who turn to practices that are already mobile and online.

Get in touch with us today to explore how you can connect digital transformation to your customer strategy.

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A guide to multichannel marketing in the pharma industry: From email to content marketing

A guide to multichannel marketing in the pharma industry: From email to content marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

When a concept such as “multichannel marketing” becomes an increasingly distinct part of a company’s everyday life, and affects many different departments, an increased digital awareness will be required of the employees. From email marketing to website content to social media, using the latest digital marketing tools is an essential part of every life science and pharma marketer's strategy. What does it take to optimize your multichannel marketing toolkit?

Email marketing remains an essential channel in the pharmaceutical and life science marketer's toolkit.

Essential digital marketing strategies

For decades, it has been obvious that in order to grow their businesses, companies need to offer their products or services in the forums where customers interact and search for information:  today that means online.  In the last decade, we have, as customers, been given the opportunity to access increasingly personalized services from internet companies such as Netflix, Amazon, and Google. As a result, customers expect, and even demand, more and better personalized services. These demands are also imposed on the pharmaceutical industry and life science businesses.

The first step that we, as an industry need to take, is to expand our range of information through more channels and integrate a multichannel perspective into the organization’s everyday work. 

The key to success here is general digital education with a clear answer to the question “Why do we do this?” 

The most important step after that is to follow up and analyze the initiatives. In this article, we will focus on the channel of email — considering all the different kinds of emails that make up this channel, and the key factors for a successful email strategy.

Email as a growth channel

Email marketing is alive and well as an essential element of multichannel and inbound marketing. There are three types of email used in marketing today: e-newsletters, campaign-related emails, and event-triggered emails. In most cases, the emails are sent from a centralized platform that manages subscriber status for email addresses as well as tracking metrics.

Today, it is more common to store consent for mailing outside of the platform, which will likely change in the future, as more email systems are integrating GDPR compliance and other consent tracking tools. How well does your email marketing and CRM system manage this?

E-newsletters consist of either an individual message or a mix of messages to a group of recipients (with either the company or the product as the sender).  They are typically sent out several times a year to update the recipient about product news, illnesses, treatments, or relevant trends.

Campaign-related mailings are often automated emails that follow some form of campaign or activity. It can be anything from a confirmation of registration, a series of predefined emails that support the campaign or lead nurturing, a thank you for participation, or a satisfaction survey after an event. Email campaigns are an essential element of lead nurturing to move prospects down the funnel.

Event-triggered mailings usually contain personal material that is sent out after some kind of interaction with the customer, either in person or remotely. The material is connected to a discussion that has taken place and is often based on templates, graphics, and texts that have been approved in advance, with the addition of free text written by the company’s employees.

Measuring success

After sending out a mailing, it’s important to measure the results to determine what works or doesn’t. One of the most indicative key factors behind successful email marketing is cost per interaction (CPI). CPI is primarily measured by counting the number of clicks on links in each mailing but is also measured by tracking several other key performance indicators (KPIs) such as: Exposure, Interaction, and Engagement.


Tracking the size of your email list is one metric that helps measure success. This includes looking at several metrics:

  • Number of new subscribers
  • Number of emails sent
  • Current size of list (new subscribers minus unsubscribes)

Number of subscribers shows how many new subscribers you gained over a selected period of time. A trend curve can give an indication of whether, for example, the size of your list is increasing or decreasing, or if the forms for signing up for emails on a website are not achieving the desired conversion rate. If you can see that your list growth isn’t meeting your goals, you can take appropriate measures to fix it.

Number of emails sent shows whether the target number of emails over a year has been reached. An appropriate target can be approximately 10-12 mailings of e-newsletters per year. It’s important, however, to keep in mind that everything you send out should be of value to the reader, otherwise, you risk causing the reader to unsubscribe. The type of offers, news or information you have to share, as well as the resources available to create compelling new content, will affect how often you should plan to distribute a newsletter.

Current list size complements the first and provides a second trend curve that indicates the “health” of the email list, and the possible market impact (the more emails sent to relevant recipients the greater the impact). It is one of the factors behind the CPI.

Need a template and workbook to help calculate results? Subscribe to our email series to receive one. Subscribe to series >

Counting new and total current subscribers provides a good metric for measuring the overall health of your list. Are your CRM and email system connected?


Interaction tracks how well your email list is performing.

  • Number of opened emails
  • Number of emails that “bounced”

Number of opened emails shows mainly two things – the customer’s trust in you as a sender and your ability to write an interesting subject line, which is one of the factors for calculating CPI.

Number of email bounces provides relevant information about the “health” of the mailing list. The goal is to have as few bounces as possible, that is, when the email does not end up in the recipient’s inbox. Here you differentiate between a “soft bounce”, for example an “Out of Office” reply, and a “hard bounce”, when the email recipient does not exist and you get an error message.

Tallying email sends, bounces and unsubscribes helps understand how engaged your audience is and whether your subscribers trust you.


Engagement provides information about the quality of your content or the appropriateness of what you’re sending to your lists.

  • Call to action (CTA)
  • Click through rate (CTR)
  • Number of opt-outs
  • Number of referrals

We should distinguish between the first and second metrics.

Call to action (CTA) refers to links, often in the form of a highly visible graphic button to click on, that takes readers to a specific offer or landing page. This button can be directly linked to the registration for an event, or download of content. 

Click through rate (CTR) refers to links of a more general type, for example a link to a website with in-depth information on the subject. These two points are often gathered under the concept of click frequency, which is the most important factor in the calculation of CPI.

Number of opt-outs is a clear indicator of whether what you send out is relevant and meets the expectations of the target group. A high opt-out is an important warning signal and actions must be taken, since it is difficult to regain trust for future mailings once it has been lost. In general, this figure increases somewhat with the total number of recipients on a list. In addition, people’s interest tends to decrease over time.

Number of referrals is very interesting and is an obvious success factor for the overall email strategy, since a forwarded message shows that what has been sent out is interesting enough for the recipient to support (advocacy). You may want to facilitate sharing but make the possibility to share relatively discreet in order not to breach the pharmaceutical industry’s ethical regulations and guidelines. And remember – it is the company that is responsible for the information at all levels and all the way to the final reader. One tip is to formulate this function as “Share with a colleague”.

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Metrics on opens, views and clicks can help determine which content is working.


Key factors for success with email marketing

Email marketing is one of the must-have success factors for multichannel and inbound marketing

• E-newsletters and campaign-related mailings represent the brand or the company and should have one of these as the sender. Event-triggered mailings should be sent out with the employee as the sender, since the material is personal.  The opening frequency is often two to three times higher with employees as senders than the company name. However, be careful not to abuse this by using it as a strategy for all communication.

• Put a high focus on collecting consent for mailings with subscription collection forms on your website or other offers. A higher number of consents leads to an overall lower cost per interaction (CPI) and a more efficient means for increasing total Share of Voice.

• Emails are inherently a “push” tactic and should be used as such. Make sure that everything that is sent out is of value to the reader – quality before quantity. An email should not be sent out to everyone who has given their consent but should be sent to the relevant segments of the total list that have shown interest in the content. In addition, material should not be sent out solely because it is available, or based on internal, regional, or global directives, but only when it has been identified as valuable to the recipient.

Think about the customer experience. How does an individual recipient perceive your email?

• Emails provide a two-way communication. Use this opportunity to ask the reader about his or her interests (for segmentation) or what they want to read more of (contributing to the publication plan). You can set up a form on your website to collect answers or use a service such as SurveyMonkey to take polls.

• Generally, a short subject line results in a higher opening frequency, and a long subject line results in a higher click through rate among those who open the email. The content of the email should preferably be brief with a mix of images and text and one or more visible calls to action (CTA), depending on the purpose of the email.

• Create an effective approval process. To be relevant to the customer, material with news or educational value must be part of the mix. With a long approval process, which is typical for the pharmaceutical industry, a detailed publishing plan or content calendar is the foundation for success.

• Standardized templates are a must to create a unified customer experience in all communications from your company – in all channels, not just the digital ones. These templates should also include the opportunity to unsubscribe from mailings and possibly include links to legal texts.

Email is an essential element of marketing

With a large part of the customer base on the mailing list, a well thought-out strategy that involves several departments and employees with the right perspective, together with a long term publication plan, email marketing is the marketing method that gives the best result in both the short and long term. This goes for emails sent internally as well as externally.

The statistics from the mailings provide insights into what attracts the audience and can form the basis for other sales and marketing efforts. 

The internal cross-functional work in creating a the publication plan or content calendar provides synchronization between different departments in determining what is important now and in the future. 

When a sufficient mass of recipients has been accumulated, each mailing becomes extremely cost-effective and the CPI decreases.

Last but not least, emails fill to some extent the void that arises between personal visits by the sales force, with increased competitiveness as a result.

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How to Build a Community in the Healthcare Industry

How to Build a Community in the Healthcare Industry | Social Media and Healthcare |

When you think about how to build a community in the healthcare industry, and reduce the divide between medical and social circles, healthcare is the obvious connector.

Social engagement happens in medical circles of health care providers, researchers, and patients just as medical talks also happen in social circles.

This interplay happens because healthcare affects everyone.

Doctors don’t just talk among themselves in medical abstracts: they tweet, tag, and like or comment on each other’s posts.

Additionally, medical opinions and health perspectives are not confined to journals – they, too, are built around hashtag campaigns. Patient or public partnerships are now the way forward for medical research and cohort studies.

A study on “The Emerging World of Online Health Communities,” showed that:

…social outcomes sit alongside and sometimes above clinical ones. Where health care has a low tolerance of failure due to the consequences that can follow, online health communities thrive on stories of what went wrong and how people battled the system.

So how do you begin those conversations online, let alone build communities to converge in those conversations?

Here are 5 ways:

Listen and Engage with Your Audience

Health talk is everywhere, and the vast majority is online where they seek solutions and community support for health-related concerns:

  • online forums
  • health blogs
  • educational platforms
  • social media

To stay relevant and reach these audiences, the healthcare industry needs to meet consumers where they are: social media.

Use the communicative power on social networks to raise awareness and counter misinformation, provide patient support, for public health monitoring.

As you listen in, engage to understand your audience, what they are talking about, so you can use the insights in developing your strategy.

A good example of an online health community that made health-related feedback and shared stories the core of its existence is Care Opinion. Formerly Patient Opinion, it’s a UK-based online platform to share experiences of health and care services in the UK, good or bad.

It also bridges those shared experiences to the right people who can help. Health and care providers have used this channel to connect with patients, address their concerns and improve their services for a better patient experience.

Use Healthcare Influencers

Healthcare Influencers offer unique insights, led by their own experience, and lend credibility with their name.

They have the ability to reach your target audience, engage them for you, and spread your message.

Influencers have a community of followers to help you build your community from within. There is the macro-influencer with a huge social following. But there are also micro-influencers with a niche audience, not a fan base. Therefore, they are closest to the prospective customers and impact their decision-making process.

But there is a caveat – endorsements should adhere to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) rules on advertising and comply to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability (HIPAA).

Influencers are not exempt from rules even when they operate in the free-wheeling space of social media, especially on health information, and should pay particularly close attention to messaging for any drug advertising via social media.

This is a lesson Diclegis (Diclectin in Canada), an anti-nausea pregnancy (NVP) drug, learned when they used a celebrity macro-influencer to promote the medicine without communicating any risk information associated.

This resulted in an FDA warning to the maker of the drug, Duchesnay USA.

Celebrity and reality-star Kim Kardashian had to delete her original Instagram post endorsing the anti-morning sickness pill. The paid endorsement received 464,000 likes.

Kardashian had to post an updated message, including the side effects and links to the FDA website.

Source: Daily Mail

Building a Community Through Thought Leadership

One of the problems of the open-source web is the abundance of misleading and dangerous content.

Healthcare companies can rise above this noise by being a thought leader providing insights, sharing medical information, and answering patient questions.

By building trust with your target audience, you can raise awareness, counter misinformation, and clarify misconceptions.

Claiming to be the “Authentic Voice of Healthcare” is the founder of a primary care clinic in Downtown Las Vegas, Internist Dr. Zubin Damania, or ZDoggMD. He has a bolder take on thought leadership, but in a lighter way.

He takes strong positions on relevant medical and health-related issues in video commentaries, using medical humour, healthcare satire, parody music videos, and witty and amusing social media posts.

He has 1.4M followers on Facebook, 44.8K on Twitter, 147,981 YouTube subscribers, and 234K Instagram followers.

His music videos are always a hit. Taking on the opioid crisis issue, for example, he made a parody music video of Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself”, with his version, “Treat Yourself”, an ode to those who are suffering due to the opioid epidemic.

Create Useful Content

To patients, clinicians, researchers, academicians,  the internet is one of the first go-to information resource. Build your community around valuable, digestible content that educates your audience.

Well-timed informational posts, and patient stories through video or other creative formats, are easy magnets for followers. Multimedia content helps reach a wider audience.

Infographics, “how-tos,” interactive quizzes, health tips, and “did you know?”-type trivia are content styles that can attract a large audience.

Inspirational content also motivates and sparks much-needed hope, especially content related to malignant diseases. Success stories that inspire usually get shared most, increasing awareness of your brand and your name.

Cleveland Clinic knows how to attract followers, by pulling at heartstrings with inspiring stories about real patients on Instagram.

They also features posts with shocking facts about health, fat-freezing tips, motivation to exercise, posture, weight loss, and more.

Bridge and Connect Them to Resources

Referrals are very much part of the dynamics in the healthcare and medical industry. When you bridge your audience to resources of information or service, this will build your reputation as a go-to source of information.

But the work doesn’t end with a helpful recommendation – you need to engage your audience, make suggestions, initiate productive conversations between patients, doctors, industry leaders, health technologists, innovators, or policymakers.

Sensei client LifeWIRE, a health technology platform for patient engagement, shares curated content related to anesthesiology, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and the opioid crisis.

It uses and cites multiple scholarly articles, medical journals, and has quoted and featured doctors in its blog posts and white paper

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) thanked @LifeWIREGroup for sharing their infographic on the government’s efforts in combating the opioid crisis.

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Only one in five doctors aware of patient feedback about their care online, survey reveals

Only one in five doctors aware of patient feedback about their care online, survey reveals | Social Media and Healthcare |

Around one in five doctors are aware of patient feedback about themselves on review and ratings websites, according to a new survey of health professionals.

Their answers also reveal that GPs felt strongly that online feedback is negative, particularly on social media.

The new study led by the University of Warwick, published on  3 June in the Journal of Health Services Research & Policy, demonstrates that health service staff are cautious about using online feedback due to assumptions that it will be overwhelmingly negative, potentially missing opportunities to improve care.

Healthcare services use a number of methods to collect information on patient experiences, including surveys and Patient Participation Groups, and policymakers have pushed for greater use of online feedback in addition to traditional sources.

The research is based on a survey of 1001 registered doctors in primary and secondary care and 749 nurses and midwives in the UK. It examined their experience and attitude towards online sources of patient feedback, on sites such as I Want Great Care, NHS Choices (now the NHS website) and Care Opinion.

It found that just 27.7 per cent of doctors and 21 per cent of nurses were aware of feedback online about an episode of care that they had been involved in, while only 20.5 per cent of doctors and 11.1 per cent of nurses were aware of feedback about them as an individual specifically.

Dr Helen Atherton, from Warwick Medical School, said: “We saw a lack of awareness from healthcare professionals of when feedback had been left about the care they delivered, whether as an individual or team. Overall, awareness and use by doctors is low. But we are seeing that doctors are much more negative about online feedback than nurses, and more so with GPs.

“There’s a real need that if NHS organisations are collecting this data that they need to be communicating it to frontline staff, because it’s pointless for the patients if their message isn’t getting through.”

The majority of doctors did not encourage patients to leave feedback and only 38 per cent felt that it was useful in improving services. This is despite previous research showing that online feedback tends to be generally positive towards the health service. The survey also highlighted that healthcare staff were more wary of feedback on social media, with 65.4 per cent of doctors feeling that feedback on social media is generally negative.

Dr Atherton adds: “Previous research in this area by our team shows that it tends to be more positive than people think. Healthcare organisations should be putting protocols in place for this feedback and developing plans for what to do with it. If healthcare professionals are aware of it and take control of the process a little more by actively soliciting it then it’s more likely to be useful to them. There are positive examples of how commentary left by NHS patients on review sites have led to changes in the health service.

“Professionals were more wary of social media than they were of ratings and review websites so these are probably the easiest ways to source feedback in practice. You know where your patient is going and you can pick up comments and act on them, something that is more difficult with social media.”

The National Institute for Health Research-funded study forms part of the Improving NHS quality using internet ratings and experiences (INQUIRE) projects, led by the University of Oxford, which is investigating how the NHS should best interpret and act on online patient feedback to improve the quality of NHS services.

Reference: University of Warwick

Source: ‘Online patient feedback: a cross sectional survey of the attitudes and experiences of United Kingdom health care professionals’ published in Journal of Health Services Research & Policy, DOI: 10.1177/1355819619844540

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5 Modern Rules for Effective Hospital Marketing - 

5 Modern Rules for Effective Hospital Marketing -  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Hospital marketing is tricky, to say the least. You just cannot inspire patients to visit a hospital. However, it is important for you to increase your patient base in order to do justice to all the investments you have made in your hospital. The solution: marketing your hospital in a subtle but effective manner.

Today’s customers research and purchase medical services does not correspond with the marketing strategies designed to reach them. From the way they reach the target audience, to how they brand their products and services and which networks they utilize to connect with potential patients, hospital marketers need a fresh approach.

Considering the above facts, Hospaccx team participates in research to make hospital marketing effective. This is macroficial study of ‘5 Modern Rules for Effective Hospital Marketing’ you want to get into more detail you can contact

Hospital marketing should not be restricted to brand-building or sales support. It is about making a positive connection with patients, on their terms. If your hospital’s marketing program is focusing on any of the following areas, it is time to reconsider your branding strategies and how you want to portray yourself to patients:

Non-care focus: Hospitals that focus on luxuries misinterpret why patients choose medical facilities. Patients choose hospitals on the basis of specific treatment expertise and online error-free or minimum-error medical histories.

Overusing outbound strategies: While many hospitals still use electronic media such as TV and radio ads and direct emails to capture patients’ attention, the marketing world has shifted away from outbound strategies. Instead, according to HubSpot, almost 92 percent of companies using inbound techniques such as blogs, search engine optimization (SEO) and social media witnessed an increase in site traffic and lead generation.

Short-range focus: Medical marketing requires patience. Since most patients do not need care immediately, hospital marketing must focus on the long-term nature of the industry. One of your potential patients may view an advertisement for your hospital but not need medical service for months or even years. Persistence and patience are must-haves for hospital marketers trying to attract more patients.

New rules for hospital marketing

Hospital marketing has taken an unforeseen turn. Some medical facilities are using hotel-like comforts to attract and pamper potential patients. However, these luxuries do not lessen concerns about high healthcare costs. Here are some of the newfound marketing rules you should adhere to for attracting more patients while building a strong, health-first brand.

  1. Know your product

As a medical marketer, you spend most of your time thinking about your product. How to improve it, sell it, talk about it, whom to sell it to – this is what you are paid to dwell on. But here’s what you need to know: Customers rarely evaluate your product solely against other products in the same category. They have limited money to spend but have a lot of options. And if your products are deemed less important than others in the same category, beating out your competitors may not help you win the sale.

The solution

You must understand how your product category is perceived by your target audience in order to fully understand the environment in which you are operating. One of the easiest ways to start is by making some calls to current patients. Just ask them about the product options they have today and those they were considering when finalizing your product. Of course, a formal survey would be better. In addition, a survey would give you a reason to reach out to current and potential patients about things other than your product or service, which is a good thought.

  1. Listen

What part of your marketing budget do you spend on listening versus telling your story? Most marketers spend most of their budget on telling. However, recent research has uncovered some surprising insights about what customers value most while purchasing a product. So, if you understand what customers demand and the challenges they face, your chances of success can go way up. Listen to your patients and hear what they have to say.

The solution

It is about time you introduced some fresh elements into the marketing mix. To begin with, you can design a questionnaire. If you have tried almost every “telling” strategy under the sun, why not borrow a page from the political playbook and go on a listening tour? You can consider visiting current and potential patients, without any “promotional” agenda, and try to gather intelligence and build interpersonal relationships. However, if in-person visits do not sound like a good idea with your customer list or budget, you can plan a similar survey in a virtual environment.

  1. Focus on after-sales

Skilled marketers focus on making the sale, but great ones know that what happens after the sale is just as critical. This is an important lesson for marketers. In most organizations, marketers focus most of their energy on the lead-up to the sale. This is because, essentially, salespeople and marketers are judged on sales numbers and their sales pipeline. Identifying potential clients, contacting them with the right message through the right channel, closing the deal. That is a typical sales routine. However, what happens after the sale is just as important.

Imagine replicating this scenario on hospital marketing teams and patients. Why? Because most potential patients depend heavily on word-of-mouth. They call their family and friends and look up online reviews in order to learn more about your hospital. And in those environments, what you did before attracting the patient to your hospital is not important at all. They want to know what happened after a patient visits your hospital. The real story is about the patient’s experience and his or her overall journey. If you are unable to shape that story, you are likely to miss the boat.

The solution

It is critical to map your marketing strategies against each touch point in the patient’s journey. If you are not spending a significant part of your total effort on what happens after patients visit your hospital, you have a lot of work to do. Surveys are certainly an effective way to keep in touch with patients after the consultation, and they can provide valuable feedback. Regardless of what strategy you choose, your goal should be to equip current patients with the information they need to help sell your services to their family and friends. Convert your patients into brand ambassadors.

  1. Prioritize social media

As compared to other industries, hospitals have been slow to adopt social media. Most medical facilities have only a vague idea of what they would like to accomplish, but no defined goals, objectives or methods. They just “want to be on Facebook.” Many healthcare facilities understand the value of social media but are unsure of how to get the ball rolling or get their feet wet. Having a robust social media presence that supports all facets of your marketing strategies and engages your patients cannot be implemented overnight.

The solution

Consider the success of Mayo Clinic when crafting your social media strategy. The clinic’s Center for Social Media is the first of its kind. Mayo Clinic also has a YouTube channel that shows doctor interviews, treatment videos and stories about patients receiving outstanding care. New patients get eyewitness reports of the experience, right from check-in to follow-up care.

For healthcare marketers, social media is an opportunity to connect with potential and existing patients, discover partnership opportunities and seek professional advice. However, as medical professionals, you must keep in mind HIPAA guidelines when promoting your hospital and services on social media. Also, some social networks indulge in data-mining practices, which may turn off some of your patients. Having said that, most social media platforms provide benefits along with the much-needed security demanded by medical marketers. Design a social media strategy and start engaging with your patients. You can provide general healthcare advice and customer support and create brand awareness. Do not discount the power of hashtags and relevant images. With the right social media strategy, your marketing reach can get an incredible boost.

  1. Strengthen the content marketing

The biggest mistake in content marketing is to create content that your target audience may not connect to or that does not portray your hospital as planned. Most content writers focus on creating sales-related and promotional content. Such content offers only a little or no value to your patients. Do not forget, your target audience is smart enough to identify and classify promotional content from informative content. Consequently, it is an attempt to sell your services and glorify your hospital brand that may make the potential patient abandon your website.
How to overcome this problem?

The solution

Whether a hospital wants to increase its email marketing conversion rate or improve the click-through on its website, content is the key. All you need to do is to create unique, useful and engaging content for your target audience. When a valuable piece of content is created, your readership will grow. This will gradually increase your viewership. Effective content marketing programs take time to stabilize. Do not expect a new blog to drive 100 new patients the first day. However, rest assured, if you consistently create useful and informative content, you will notice an increase in your marketing ROI.

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Why health professionals need to be cautious on social media

For health professionals, posting a single negative comment to their Facebook profiles may hinder their credibility with current or potential clients, a new University of Guelph study reveals.

The findings have reimbursement implications, as the healthcare industry is becoming ever more consumer-centric, and prospective patients increasingly use the internet to screen health professionals before deciding where to get care.

As the line between personal and professional can easily be confused when professionals use social media to promote themselves, U of G researchers investigated Facebook factors that may affect people's perceptions of professionalism.

They found posting just one subtle comment expressing workplace frustration was enough for people to view someone as a less credible health professional.



Published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, the study involved more than 350 participants who viewed a mock Facebook profile and rated the profile owner's credibility, then rated their own willingness to become a client of that profile owner.

The researchers tested factors including the identified gender of the Facebook profile owner, whether they listed their profession as a veterinarian or medical physician and whether their profile included a posting of an ambiguous workday comment or a comment expressing frustration.

The ambiguous comment posted read: "Started with new electronic patient charts today...interesting experience for sure J."

The workday frustration comment read: "What is it with some people?? I know I only went through 9 years of university...but really, I know what I'm talking about...yeesh!!"

The only factor that influenced viewers' perception of the profile owner's professionalism was the single workday frustration comment. On a scale from 0 to 100, the profile with the negative workday comment was rated 11 points lower (56.7) than the one with the ambiguous workday comment (67.9).

Credibility ratings were determined based on participants' scoring of 16 personality adjectives under the categories of competence, caring and trustworthiness. Profile owners with lower credibility ratings were also deemed by participants as less professional.

Even if a health professional refrains from posting this type of negative comment on their promotional page, potential clients can easily find their personal page online, the authors said.



Facebook isn't the only corner of the internet that can potentially affect health consumers' care decisions. Yelp is proving to be a considerable factor in how patients choose their care, with many online reviewers taking to the site to praise -- or excoriate -- providers based on things like their communication and care quality.

"Consumer centricity," as it's been labeled, is required to win in today's era of active consumers. Consolidating health systems and commoditized plans and medicines means greater consumer engagement is required so that consumers select their system, their plan and their drug.

And funders of healthcare are demanding greater value of systems and drug manufacturers, requiring consumer centricity to get people to change their behavior and, in turn, drive down healthcare costs.

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The What, Why & How of Instagram Reposting for Doctors & Dentists

The What, Why & How of Instagram Reposting for Doctors & Dentists | Social Media and Healthcare |

When asked how frequently brands should post to Instagram, a celebrated social media expert recently asserted that “the best posting frequency for Instagram is the posting frequency that you can consistently maintain for the rest of your natural life.”

Your. Natural. Life. A lifetime of content is quite a quantity to produce.

Enter the Instagram best practice that supplies marketers with an endless supply of fresh content: reposting.

What’s reposting?

Reposting is a commonly practiced social media marketing strategy that entails publishing Instagram content from someone else’s account to your own.

To abide by Instagram’s Terms of Use and copyright laws, follow these steps to ensure reposting activities check all of the platform’s requirements:

  • Ask the person who published the post for permission to share their photo or video. This can be done by commenting on the post itself, sending the user a direct message, or a combination of both.
  • Once permission is granted, repost and credit the original publisher by tagging their Instagram handle in the repost caption and in the repost photo itself.

Why repost?

Keep your feed fresh. Reposting allows medical and dental practices to diversify their content with fresh, engagement-boosting posts despite limited time and resources for content creation.

Build trust. It’s reported that Instagram users find user-generated content (UGC) to be 76% more trustworthythan brand-created content. UGC shared from patient accounts—like reviews and stories about their experience (shared with the patients’ consent)—act as social media word-of-mouth, enticing users to learn more about your practice.

Spread awareness. By reposting content from accounts in your area, you’re grabbing the attention of a new, local audience while connecting with users in your community.

Increase your following. Loyal followers of accounts you repost from are likely to follow your account due to similar interests, thereby potentially increasing your follower count.

How can I repost?

While Instagram does not offer any in-app reposting features (for now), there are a host of ways to reshare content to your feed or Stories.

Repost manually:

  • Navigate to the image you want to repost
  • Take a screenshot of the post
  • Edit the screenshot to crop the post
  • Use the cropped post image to create a new Instagram post
  • Tag the post creator in the caption text and in the photo

Download the Repost for Instagram mobile app
on Google Play and iTunes

  • Navigate to the image you want to repost
  • Select the three dots at the upper right of the image > Copy Link
  • Open Repost and customize the attribution mark (a paid version of this app allows you to remove the attribution mark)
  • Send the reposted media to Instagram to create a new post
  • Tag the post creator in the caption text and in the photo

Who’s reposting?

Take a look at some accounts that utilize this strategy to expand their reach and connect with followers on Instagram.

Dental Instagram Accounts

Aesthetic Instagram Accounts

Reposting on Instagram can help marketers develop an impactful feed of aesthetically-pleasing, on-brand content that connects with users, encourages valuable engagement, and expands account reach.

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Digital Marketing and Doctors | 

Digital Marketing and Doctors |  | Social Media and Healthcare |

We are in a big digital bubble. In this bubble, we are connected via the herculean and ever-expansive internet. It can be said to be a paradise where we are provided innumerable choices of any services/products which we enjoy from the comfort of our homes. Gone are the days when we had to step out of our houses even for the smallest of activities. Business and personal relationships have been redefined in this era of social media and marketing. The possibilities have become endless. Just like individuals, businesses have also realized the potential of digitized marketing processes and their ability to cut across geographical boundaries and connect with people relevant to their market. Social media giants like Facebook have leveraged digital marketing on a gigantic scale which has made them one of the biggest promotional platforms for eminent brands. The healthcare industry, especially practising doctors are effectively using digital marketing to cater to an audience who via social media and hundreds of other digital channels have become more interconnected (with other people who are of the same audience category), informed, and have
innumerable options from where they can choose to get their medical care.
According to a 2016 survey conducted by Software Advice, a company which features objective researches and studies by industry experts, approximately 54% of potential patients do an online search for local doctors/physicians on a weekly and monthly time frame. The survey also said that the statistic would increase by 2020.
We have to understand that marketing, in general, has shifted from the conventional 4Ps theory (Product, Place, Price, and Promotion) to a 4Cs model (Culture, Creating, Curating, and Connecting). In a digital culture, the target audience, or in the case of doctors, probably patients, are logging into the vast information space of the internet to extensively search and review before making a choice. Therefore, it is vital for doctors to create an online presence which can attract potential patients. The digital sphere is immensely flexible, unlike its offline counterparts where doctors have to promote their practice in a “one-size-fits-all” marketing approach, a process
which often misses out on a large chunk of target audiences. Here doctors can not only promote their core practice but can build an online persona by formulating personalized content for a targeted group. The content can be in the form of blogs/articles (health tips, home medical care procedures, articles related to the doctor’s speciality practice), videos of medical procedures, their clinic, and its facilities, interviews and speeches, infographics, etc.
Medikabazaar as a part of its digital marketing strategy conducted interviews with distinguished doctors and published their personal stories online which was shared by the interviewees themselves and received a significant amount of responses and reactions from the social media sphere. Through this, we realized that if the content has a high degree of personalization, the more likely it is to get shared and garner greater reach. Medikabazaar via their digital marketing channels fosters the culture of knowledge sharing in a bid to increase awareness about new products in the healthcare industry. This way, we also give a digital platform for our partner vendors where we introduce their products on numerous online channels and in turn increase their reach. In traditional marketing, the service provider is unable to know whether the promotion is reaching to the right audience or not. In digital marketing, the provider gets the data of how many people engaged with each and every post on the page. This, in turn, allows doctors to understand the online behaviour the probable patients, better.
Dr. Harish Shetty, a psychiatrist at Dr. L.H. Hiranandani, Mumbai, extensively uses social media for his practice. “I post blogs and videos which help me to create awareness,” says Dr. Shetty. “Social media has the power of escalation to infinity. I can get in touch and respond to patients immediately, and through online support groups, people with depression, schizophrenia, and other mental problems can help each other get better,” he added. Regarding bettering his practice, Dr. Shetty said that through an online presence he could “connect with other practitioners and improve his knowledge.”
One of the most significant aspects of digital marketing is that it allows businesses to engage with their customers on online platforms directly. We have to remember that the one thing which the digital consumer isn’t, is being quiet. They have become vocal about their preferences, criticisms, and praises. A couple of positive comments on the social media page of a company can catapult its business to unforeseen heights while negative reviews can shoot it down to lows from where they might not recover.
Dr. Rohan Virani of TRISA Dental Solutions, Mumbai gave quite a vivid description of digital marketing and medical practice. Although he did signify the importance of digital marketing but implied that word-of-mouth reviews by patients still help in 50% growth of the practice. He attributed 40% growth to digital marketing. Dr. Virani added that social media is a platform where people can give “unrestricted criticism.” Interestingly, he had a somewhat positive take regarding negative comments on social media profiles.
Dr. Virani said, “Negative comments along with positive ones shows that the page is genuine.” “If all comments are positive then there are chances that the page might be fake,” he added. Dr. Virani’s clinic is active on Facebook with regards to promotions. At the end of the interview, he said that doctors should dedicate “20% of their income towards digital marketing.” Doctors who have adopted the digital approach must engage with their followers. If there are negative reviews about their practice, then they should address it immediately by interacting directly with the concerned party. Reviews and comments on digital platforms will also provide doctors’ with ideas about how they are conducting their practice, where they need to improve and if there are any changes required in their current practice. This is a lot more effective than traditional marketing which is one-sided and offers little or nil interaction between the customer and the service provider. Reports have shown that doctors can get a 59% increase in conversions, 49% increase loyalty from patients, 73% improvement in patient experience, and 52% increase in chances of retaining a patient.
Digital marketing is also a cost-effective method for promotion. This aspect is especially important for doctors who run small practices and have budget constraints when it comes to marketing. In traditional marketing (television, newspapers, and hoardings) only doctors with a significant marketing budget can afford to maximize their promotions. Digital marketing provides both parties with equal opportunities to connect with
their distinct target groups thus levelling the playing field. India has seen a momentous growth in the digital field in recent years. With more than 432 million internet users (IAMAI IMRB Report) and a growing number of users from rural areas, the country is on its way towards becoming a digital nation in the near future. According to a 2018 news report, an average Indian spends approximately 4.4 hours a day on the internet. The report also says that 42% of the companies operating in India are looking towards social media as their primary and central marketing platform. Doctors practising in India must be aware of such decisive numbers and adopt a digital marketing process to further their practice.
People in tier 2, 3 cities and rural areas don’t always get them desired medical diagnosis/treatment due to their geographical location. Couple this with the fact that there is a severe shortage of doctors as compared to the number of patients, it is critical that they take a digital approach and reach across to the patients in remote locations and provide quality patient care. This will make healthcare more accessible across the country which is the need of the hour.
The digital revolution which everyone was talking about in the 1990s has already happened. The healthcare industry is also seeing technological advancements as mechanisms like Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, and Robotics are gradually taking shape. Doctors need to take a similar step towards expanding and marketing their practice via digital channels so that they can create awareness among the people of a changing industry dynamic and ultimately provide efficient and value-based healthcare to their patients

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How to develop a patient-centric social media marketing campaign

How to develop a patient-centric social media marketing campaign | Social Media and Healthcare |

Patient behaviour is changing, and it’s changing in line with how habits are evolving in the wider consumer world. According to recent research, a third of the world’s population is expected to be active on social media by the year 2021. In the UK, we spend an average of 2.2 hours every day on social media networks, and this is having a trickle-down effect on the mindset of patients.

Many patients fully acknowledge the influence of social media – some 40 per cent of people quizzed said that social media affects the way they deal with their health. Furthermore, a survey found that 90 per cent of 18 to 24 year-olds trust the medical information which they see on social media.

These developments can be seen as part of how the wider online customer experience is changing. We now have an unprecedented number of ways to create personalised experiences via the net, and this is all feeding into the way marketing campaigns are developed and implemented. Products can be recommended to individuals based on buying habits, food apps can advise you on which restaurant’s dishes contain ingredients you may be allergic to, and almost every type of media that is served up to you, whether its news, music or tv, is personalised to your personal preferences and previous viewing habits.

Is social media marketing in healthcare effective?

This kind of marketing is working; in some cases spectacularly. Figures published by Amazon showed that a remarkable 35 per cent of purchases on the online shopping portal were generated directly from their personalised recommendation engine. In healthcare, this can teach us a lot. And so we come onto the question of “what is patient centricity?” Simply put, it is the process of designing a service or solution around the patient. To expand, being patient-centric means trying to find value points in a process – whether it’s writing a protocol or designing a marketing campaign – you get patient insights, inputs, and connections.

Where to start with healthcare marketing through social media

Before you can get going on the patient-centric pathway, you need to know where to find your patients. While 77 per cent of UK internet users had a social media account as of 2018, it helps to know which networks attract which demographics. For example, while Facebook is still the most popular network, it has been found that the number of 18 to 24-year-old users declined recently, while the number of over-54s actually increased.

Listen, define, deliver

One way of assessing what your patients want as you create your campaign is to employ social listening techniques. These are ways of tracking which health-related questions and concerns are most prevalent on social media networks. It will also help to define your patient personas. Which kind of social media users will you be targeting? You can specify a few pieces of information – from their demographics to their age and their hobbies. The further you drill down, the stronger the foundation you will have for creating targeted campaigns.

Once you have done the groundwork, you’ll be in a better position to construct the content of your campaigns. Seek to craft advertising messages which are tailored to the particular demographics which you have pinpointed in your patient personas, and then direct them through the right social media channels. This is where you will be able to bring the details of each person into play.

For example, a mother of three may need a new knee just as much as an avid jogger about to enter his golden years, but the imaging and messaging for each are quite different. One will care about getting back to her kids and not missing the moments they can share, and one will care more about how quickly they can return to the beach for their morning walks. Therefore, you can replace the messaging and image slightly to reflect the target audience – “You can’t replace the moments you miss,” vs “Get back to doing what you love.”

Hitting the target

Once you have your campaign content, there are several ways of directing it through paid advertising channels – including; custom audiences, based on existing email lists; lookalike audiences, based on your patient personas; website custom audiences, based on social media users who have visited your website; and Facebook exchange, which involves retargeting ads based on specific page visits. The second, but to a larger degree, the third and fourth methods, are the more personalised options here, allowing you to leverage patients’ previous onsite activity and behaviour to present them with more meaningful content.

You can also use sequential messaging, which ensures that ads are not repeated too much by varying the content which website visitors will see in their social media feeds after visiting your site. This can help to fight ad fatigue, nurture prospects and blend in better with organic content.

Ask for feedback

Finally, you shouldn’t be afraid of asking for feedback on your service, as this can be a great help in tweaking your future campaigns. It has been found that 90 per cent of consumers read online reviews before transacting with a business. Consumers aren’t shy to voice their opinions, and you can use this to your campaign’s advantage.

By following the cues of the wider consumer sphere, we can improve social media marketingwith patient-centricity.

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Understanding your patient's journey and How to market to them online |

Understanding your patient's journey and How to market to them online | | Social Media and Healthcare |

From the moment a patient seeks medical care for an injury or makes an appointment with their family doctor to determine the cause of their recent symptoms, the patient has begun a journey during which multiple people may be involved.

Hospitals, physicians, nurses, and other providers, may all be, at one point or another, involved in this patient journey.

When we start to think of the “Patient Journey” we need to think of these things:

  • What they are going through?
  • What are their pain points before they get to you?
  • What are they experiencing and struggling with?

By identifying these things this helps you as a business owner be able to provide the right resources they are looking for.

In today’s healthcare landscape, consumers have more options, choices, and resources when it comes to the direction of their own care. This ecosystem shift slab that the patient transportation is not a linear one, but rather a multi-stage clause with many different channels and touch points along with the media (much like a tree with dozens of different branches).

A few stages of the “Patient Journey” –

Awareness: Self-assessment of barrier and symptoms, leading to online research and education, consequence problem on social media, etc. This is the start id their journey, they have recognized that something is not right with their body, or how they feel. Most people will become aware of their issue and then start the research process. 

This is where they will spend hours online on different tools like Google, Pinterest, Facebook, WedMd, etc. to try to identify what they are going through.

Help: At this point, the patient understands they need help with their symptoms and are looking for the correct place to go. This is where your resource marketing comes into handy because you have been building a rapport with your patients, they trust you and know you are the right person to start with. 

Care: This piece is where the “know, like, trust” factor comes in. When a patient chooses you to be their caretaker and help them with their issues or symptoms this is a really big deal. most people just think I am a doctor and this is what I am supposed to do, but you are doing so much more. You are becoming a large resource mentally, physically, and emotionally. 

Treatment: You may be on the journey with these patients for a while, or just a couple visits. It’s important to take note of their treatment so you can use that data to help other patients like them. Treatment can be anything from home remedies, physical therapy, chemo, counseling, whether it be large or small treatment it will be a world of difference to your patient if they are no longer in pain. 

Behavioral/Lifestyle Change: Changes to reduce readmissions and promote proactive health. How has your care and treatment helped them to live a better life? This piece right here is the end goal, this is what people are looking for. 

  • Do they want to be able to walk with ease again?
  • Be able to live to see their family grow?
  • Be able to overcome their fears?

Whatever that lifestyle is for them that they will be able to achieve when they are doing work with you and your practice is the first step to your digital marketing. They are wanting something better in their life, they became aware of their problem, sought help, got treatment, and now ready to live their life again.

Ongoing Care/Proactive Health: What is the call-to-action? Do they need to come for follow-up appointments, exercises at home, home remedies, physical therapy, etc.? What do they need to do to continue their lifestyle and be proactive from here on out? 

It’s important for the patient to understand their journey and continue to improve. 


Patient route mapping in the healthcare industry is a data-driven, patient-centric approach to planning marketing activity, communications, and (to some degree) even delivery care. It’s a way to gather the facts, discover the anticipation of your patient, and then line-up that information to deliver an exemplary healthcare experience.

What testament a patient excerpt map do for you?

In short, patient section maps give you a clear guide for how to improve retention and acquisition through customer satisfaction. Exceeding patient expectation benefits your saps relation convenience twofold:

  1. It increases retention rates through patient satisfaction
  2. It increases new patient acquisition through evangelism

Word of mouth is still, and most likely always will be the best form of marketing, but if you can really connect with your patient’s on a much deeper level and be able to provide information, be a resource for them and their family. This allows you to take your digital marketing to the next level and reach more people. 


Active listening and putting systems in place is key! You will always want a steady flow of patient’s, and as their lives change maybe they move or find a different doctor or maybe your services are no longer needed, it’s important to keep that pipeline full with new and potential patient’s that need your services.

Digital marketing is a great way to connect with a potential patient’s in your community and be more than just a provider, but a resource. Once people feel they can trust your practice and get their questions answered, that’s when the magic happens. They start talking about you online and referring you more and more.

A few things to do when you get a new patient:

  1. Collect their email address – don’t just leave this in your system and not do anything with it, add it to your CRM like MailChimp, InfusionSoft, SalesForce, MyEmma, Constant Contact, etc. an email software so you can send them monthly newsletters with valuable information.
  2. Ask them to like you on Facebook or Instagram
  3. Invite them to leave a positive review on Google and/or Facebook once they are satisfied with their treatment
  4. Then have a strong social media presence to continue to stay top of mind

Remember, you are an important piece of your patient’s journey!

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Your Future Doctor Could Monitor Your Facebook Posts for Disease 

Your Future Doctor Could Monitor Your Facebook Posts for Disease  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Healthcare providers may soon seek help diagnosing and treating patients from an unlikely source: Facebook posts.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine have developed a system to mine social media posts for evidence of disease. In a new study published in PLOS ONE on Monday, social media data outperformed demographic data in predicting diseases such as diabetes, anxiety, depression, and psychosis. With access to social media data, researchers hope that doctors could better diagnose and treat many common diseases.


Facebook posts provide information about behavior, lifestyle, and mental state—information that your doctor might not have access to. Researchers treated words used in Facebook posts like symptoms, linking certain words to diseases.

“Before social media, there hasn’t been a really easy way to see how health affects our daily lives and how our daily lives affect our health,” co-author Andrew Schwartz said in a phone call. “This is another type of data that you can add to healthcare strategies.”

The researchers analyzed the entire Facebook post history of nearly 1,000 patients, with their consent. To build the predictive model based on Facebook posts, they correlated groups of words with diseases. They tested three models to predict diseases —one relying solely on language in Facebook posts, one using demographic data such as age and sex, and one relying on a mix of the two. Then, researchers used patient medical records to check predictions.

For some terms the researchers looked at, the connection with a particular health issue was obvious. Repeatedly saying “drink” reliably predicted alcohol abuse, for example. Others links were less direct. For example, patients who used more religious language like “God” and “pray” were 15 times more likely to have diabetes.

The team evaluated the 21 different conditions most often diagnosed in the study population, located in Philadelphia, ranging from lung disease to anxiety. All 21 were predictable using just Facebook data, the team found. When combined with demographic data, Facebook posts improved predictions for 18 of the 21 diseases. Facebook data alone outperformed demographic data in 10 cases, and was particularly effective at predicting diabetes and mental health conditions.


The study was performed on patients from one medical center, in which 76 percent of participants were female and 71 percent were Black. “This is just the first step towards this type of work,” Schwartz said. “We would expect the same type of analysis to be similarly powerful in other populations.”

Though social media language doesn’t pinpoint the cause of the disease, it can inform treatment and prevention. Schwartz emphasized that this type of research is still in the basic stages, but that social media intervention could be particularly helpful for mental health patients. Already, Facebook flags posts with suicidal language and provides the user resources.

Despite promising results, some are worried about the privacy risks of allowing doctors access to social media.

“Linking people’s social media posts to private, sensitive information, including their address and health records, creates an inherent privacy risk,” Amy Shepherd, legal officer at the digital rights non-profit Open Rights Group, said in an email.

Shepherd noted that this study protected data privacy well by obtaining explicit consent and making sure individuals can’t be identified within the results. Because the study had such success, however, there is a risk of an uncontrollable snowball effect.

“If health records and social media data start to become more routinely linked, the privacy risks could be far more significant,” Shepherd said.


Doctors still need to follow strict health data guidelines, meaning they would need to obtain informed consent from each patient before accessing and sharing their social media record. Even then, it may be difficult to export this kind of automated healthcare to other jurisdictions with stricter privacy laws, such as countries in the European Union.

If your social media posts suddenly become part of your health records, that means insurance companies might have access to it too. With that, your insurance could set premiums based on your lifestyle, determining how much you pay depending on what you post. In New York, insurance companies can use your social media to set premiums, as long as they show they aren’t unfairly discriminating against certain groups.

A question people may need to ask themselves in the future is: Do I want my doctor to read my Facebook posts? It’s unclear how many people would take healthcare providers up on this offer, especially considering growing concerns over data privacy.

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Can social media threaten medical experiments? |

Can social media threaten medical experiments? | | Social Media and Healthcare |

Testing new pharmaceutical treatments is a complicated process. Very often, participants have preferences or hopes, either about what the test should measure or about what the outcome should be. Patients often enrol in the trial seeking access to experimental drugs while physicians usually have guesses about which treatment will work better. The sponsor will only recover millions of investment in the drug development if the trial is successful.

Making sure that all these preferences do not shape the outcome of the test is crucial for its credibility. For that reason, treatments are often masked –“blinded” – so that neither physicians nor patients in the trial know who is receiving what treatments. In the age of the internet and social media, however, trial participants can easily find each other – through patient groups for example – to discuss and compare treatments and outcomes, potentially unblinding the trial. But how common is that and what impact could it have on medical research?

Since the 1960s, the randomised clinical trial (RCT) has been the standardised experimental template for assessing the safety and efficacy of new drugs. The experiment compares the outcomes of a group of patients who receive the new drug, with those of a group of like patients who do not. It is designed to neutralise or even out effects or forces that could shape outcomes through a number of features called “controls”. Blinding is one of the default controls for the preferences of participants in such trials.

If the trial compares a new drug and a placebo, for instance, both treatments should ideally look, taste and smell the same. This way, the participants can only guess what they are getting: some of those guesses will be correct, most will be not.

Clinical trials are getting increasingly complicated. Minerva Studio/Shutterstcck

If blinding fails and there is systematic correlation between patient or doctor preferences and the trial outcome, the test is regarded as biased. While there typically is no proof, it is then very likely that the allocation of treatments hasn’t been neutral: patients may have swapped treatments, or doctors may have assigned their favourite drug to one group of patients. And a biased outcome is not useful for making decisions about drugs. In order to authorise its use, pharmaceutical regulators require a faithful estimate of the treatment effects, and as neutral as possible regarding the conflicting interests of the stakeholders.

The warrants of isolation

The success of blinding so far has depended to great extent on the participants making their guesses alone. If patients could compare their own experiences and health data it would be a lot easier for them to guess one own’s treatment: if they are receiving different treatments, the effects could likely differ as well.

In the 1980s, the test of AZT, the first successful retroviral against AIDS, gave a hint of what could happen when patients coordinate. Many US-based AIDS patients had taken part in the gay rights campaigns of the 1970s. They entered the fight with AIDS as a community and when the AZT trial came up they acted together. Nobody wanted to take the placebo, so patients swapped pills, had them analysed by chemists and dropped out of the experiment if they could not access AZT. They broke the trial protocol in a way that made the US Food and Drug Administration reconsider its testing standards. The trial was also terminated early.

This degree of coordination between patients was until recently the exception. Digital networks might now transform the exception into the rule. Patient communities have grown greatly on the internet, ranging from simple mailing lists or Facebook groups to dedicated websites. PatientsLikeMe is one such digital platform: in 2011-2012 a group of ALS patients taking part in an early clinical trial used its message boards to share their experiences in the test, unblinding the treatment they were receiving and breaking the protocol.

Some also took a homebrew solution designed to mimic the experimental drug during the experiment. Despite that, the original trial and the parallel experiment were completed. Researchers from the platform PatientsLikeMe, however, warned about the risks of taking homebrew compounds and called for a debate on how patients and researchers could work together.

There have been similar cases with treatments for muscular dystrophy and common diseases like Hepatitis C on social media sites including Facebook. This goes to show that people can quickly come together for disparate causes – they don’t even need specific patient groups to do it.

Tech platforms might become key players in the reform of a standard. That said, as in the case of the AZT trial, some might actually welcome the end of blinding as a victory of patients over pharmaceutical interests. But the problem with physicians or patients having preferences about treatments – which was the reason behind the development of blinding in the first place – will still be there.

Unless statisticians find new ways to deal with unblinded data, decisions of patients and prescribing doctors who rely on evidence from clinical trials will be consequently affected.

Niccolò Tempini, Research Fellow in Data Studies, University of Exeter and David Teira, Associate Professor of the Philosophy of Science, UNED - Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article

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Making Gmail Ads Part of Your Medical Practice’s Digital Marketing Strategy

Making Gmail Ads Part of Your Medical Practice’s Digital Marketing Strategy | Social Media and Healthcare |

Highly targeted and customizable, Gmail ads are an effective way to reach the inboxes of potential patients.

On average, consumers spend 2.5 hours checking their email each day. Factor in Gmail’s 1.5 billion monthly active users, and Gmail advertising has the potential to reach vast numbers of potential patients as they browse through the day’s messages.

Gmail ads are popular among retail companies offering promotions, but they can also provide unique value for healthcare providers. As part of the Google Ads platform, Gmail ads offer advanced targeting capabilities that can help medical marketers drive clicks and conversions. Further, even though they help build valuable brand awareness, bidding for these ads tends to be less competitive than for typical search ads.

Here’s what you need to know about advertising your medical practice on Gmail — and how to create content that keeps users engaged.

How Gmail Ads Work

Gmail ads appear at the top of the Promotions tab in a user’s inbox. They look like a regular email, but are marked by a small box reading, “Ad.” Most include an image and a call to action, as well as a sidebar describing the ad content. Gmail ads are highly customizable, but most marketers decide to use an image combined with a compelling call to action.

To build a Gmail ad, first open the Google Ads platform, then follow these simple steps:

  1. Open Campaigns.
  2. Click the “+” button to add a new campaign.
  3. Choose your goal: sales, leads, or website traffic (or, select a campaign goal after you create your campaign).
  4. Select “Display” for “Campaign Type.”
  5. Choose “Gmail Campaign.”
  6. Build your ad.

Once you’ve created your ad, you’ll want to make sure it’s displayed to the right users. Google offers a few different strategies for effective audience targeting. They include:

Keyword Targeting

Keyword targeting allows you to show ads to users who express interest in relevant keywords or phrases. These might range from “orthopedic surgery” to “Phoenix, AZ.” Medical marketers may even want to target keywords related to their competitors, and then serve ads offering their services as an alternative.

Audience Targeting

You can target specific audiences by uploading lists of patients, subscribers, and more. Medical practices can also leverage this feature to target users who have engaged with their website or previous ad content. To expand your reach even further, Google Ads can create similar audiences based on existing email lists.

Demographic Targeting

As a medical practice, your ideal audience is anyone who is likely to visit your website and make an appointment. While you’re probably very familiar with your patient demographics, you might be surprised by who is actually visiting your website. For instance, while your practice may work primarily with elderly patients, their younger children may be the ones who tend to visit your site and book appointments.

To target these users, you can use Google Analytics to determine who is converting on your website. After identifying your key demographics, update your demographic targeting settings in Google Ads to serve ads to potential patients that meet these parameters.

Gmail Ads Best Practices for Medical Marketers

Once you’ve mastered the basics, you’ll want to follow a few best practices to create the most effective ads for your medical practice. First, keep in mind that the headline/subject line of your ad can only be 25 characters, so it’s important to convey your message in as few words as possible. In addition to being concise, the copy should read like a compelling email subject line and not a search ad headline.

To determine how well your Gmail ads are performing, there are a few key metrics to pay attention to: Gmail Forwards, Gmail Saves, and Gmail Clicks to Website. Gmail Clicks to Website is particularly useful because it only counts users who click on your ad and then visit your website — as opposed to those who open the ad and bounce.

As a strategic component of a comprehensive digital marketing plan, Gmail ads can help medical practices connect with — and ultimately convert — new patients. They reach users who are already in the Promotions tab, meaning they are likely looking to make a purchase or book a service. Plus, by utilizing the channel’s advanced targeting capabilities, you can attract audiences that are relevant, engaged, and more likely to schedule an appointment at your practice.


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Social Media Strategy for Clinical Trial Patient Recruitment 

Social Media Strategy for Clinical Trial Patient Recruitment  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media is one of the most popular, if not the most popular, modes of communication today. In 2019, it is estimated that roughly 2.77 billion people worldwide have active accounts across several social media platforms. This means that clinical trials need to have a presence in the social media spaces in order to have a competitive chance with patient recruitment. Let’s take a look at the different components that go into planning out a solid social media strategy for clinical trial patient recruitment:




There would be no clinical trials without the patients. They are the wheels that keep a trial moving. Unfortunately, patient recruitment can often be the most difficult part of the clinical trial process. When it comes down to it, successful patient recruitment heavily relies on strong marketing and outreach. Furthermore, the bedrock of good marketing is knowing the audience you want to reach. 


What is the demographic of the audience?

Defining the demographic details of your target audience establishes eligibility requirements and helps make it easier to find participants. Data points to consider include:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Ethnicity
  • Household income
  • Marital status

To avoid redundancy, you can develop a general “site persona” that defines the common demographics, pain points and information about your site’s ideal patient population. This persona can then be tailored to each individual study by including additions and deviations from the initial site persona.


Where does the audience spend time online?

If you want to reach someone, you need to know where to find them. Demographic information comes into play here because it helps give insight into where your audience is most like to spend their time online and get their information – and where you need to meet them.

Methods of promotion might include:

  • Social Media (ads and/or posts)
  • Newspapers/Magazines (ads and/or sponsored articles)
  • Medical Clinics/Hospitals
  • Clinical Research Websites (, etc.)
  • Google search ads






A great way to pique more interest in your clinical trial is to provide plenty of information about the condition you are studying. Give a little background of the condition, list the possible symptoms, and then a brief bit about the trial itself. This will be done on the website and on social media posts. If you want to take it to the next level, write a blog post centered around the particular condition and finish it by directing people to your study.



Why is it important that this study is happening now? Clinical studies that feel current or cutting edge will have more success in attracting potential participants. Find a way to tie a current aspect of life into your call for participants. It can be a connection such as a holiday, change of season, or recent news story. People who may be interested in the study will see how it directly relates to their lives and will be more likely to step forward.



Social media strategy doesn’t stop at planning. Don’t forget two of the most important steps: tracking and analyzing. Without proper tracking and analyzing, you essentially have no strategy or objective for your campaign. Careful tracking and analysis will show you what content is working, what is not, the channels in which you could improve, and those in which you are thriving. Take this information to heart and use it to make better-educated decisions with your patient-focused social media strategy.

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5 Examples of Successful Health Care Companies on Instagram

5 Examples of Successful Health Care Companies on Instagram | Social Media and Healthcare |

The healthcare industry has gone digital and it’s not going back. So it makes sense that healthcare marketing has gone digital as well, with hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and individual healthcare providers turning to social media to boost their brands. According to a Pew Research study, 80% of social media users are looking for health information, and nearly half are searching for information about a specific doctor or health professional.


To be successful, a social media marketing campaign must be personal, memorable, and relevant to the specific audience, so choosing your channel is important as choosing your campaign. If your social strategy doesn’t include Instagram, then you may be missing out.

Why IG is the place to be

  • Instagram is visual — a key component in reaching users who are scrolling through multiple posts and pages of content.
  • Instagram is engaging — with typically higher rates of audience engagement than Facebook or Twitter.
  • Instagram is personal — it’s the ideal platform to humanize your brand and to develop more personal relationships with your followers.
  • Instagram is young — if you want to reach the millennial market, then IG is definitely the place to be, with a much younger user demographic than Facebook or Twitter.

Insta inspiration

Not sure where to start? Get inspired by these five Instagram healthcare campaigns which set the standard for social media marketing success:

1. #MelanomaLikesMe

Melanoma is a serious risk in a sun-drenched, beach-loving country like Australia. In effort to raise awareness of the risks of sun exposure, the Australian Melanoma Patients’ Association developed a unique Instagram strategy. Rather than filling their feed with statistics, gruesome pics of tumours, or personal stories from patients, they created an IG user called @_melanoma, an account which interacted with other accounts just like a real person would, by liking, commenting and sharing. An algorithm helped them identify photos of fun in the sun, and they tracked hashtags like #sunshine, #beach, #pool, #etc. The @melanoma account liked and followed accounts identified this way, and posted personal comments from the deadly disease on their photos, such as “I love knowing you haven’t put on any sunscreen,” with the hashtag #melanomalikesme. A bio link led users to a page full of helpful information and tips on preventing skin cancers, including melanoma.

2. #ActuallySheCan

Created by pharma giant Allergan, the #ActuallySheCan campaign was designed to empower young women and encourage them to share information with one another about women’s healthcare issues. Powerful visual posts on their dedicated Instagram account are hashtagged #ActuallySheCan and paired with short, pithy messages that direct users to a bio link for detailed wellness tips and health information. This campaign succeeds precisely because it isn’t trying to sell a product; rather it’s promoting a sense of belonging to a community.

3. #HeroinesofHealth

When GE developed its 30-minute documentary Heroines of Health – the stories of three women in India, Africa, and Southeast Asia working to improve healthcare in their communities – it created a ground-breaking social strategy to promote the film’s release. Rather than hosting a traditional movie premiere, GE turned to Instagram, creating a dedicated account @heroinesofhealthfilm and releasing the video there in 1-minute segments over the course of 30 days.

4. #WeDareYou

United Healthcare came up with a daring social media campaign to promote its brand and encourage its audience to live more active, healthier lives. The campaigned dared people to make a specific small change to improve their health, such as committing to 30 minutes of daily activity or eating more fruits and vegetables. Participants were encouraged to post photos of themselves on IG completing the challenges, tag United Healthcare and hashtag their posts #WeDareYou to enter monthly contests — a great tactic to encourage return visits and boost engagement.

5. #BreatheBoldly

In honour of the iconic Star Trek actor Leonard Nimoy, who died of COPD, the COPD Foundation and Philips Healthcare wanted to boldly go where no company had gone before, launching its #BreatheBoldly influencer marketing campaign in 2016. COPD makes even everyday activities difficult; sufferers often feel like they are breathing through a straw. The campaign challenged followers to post a selfie or a short video of themselves on social media performing one of their favorite activities while breathing through a straw to show their support for those living with COPD. Celebrity influencers including Whoopi Goldberg , Will Wheaton and Vince Vaughn took on the challenge, helping to promote the campaign and increase its reach.

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Medical ethics in the age of the social media influencers –

Medical ethics in the age of the social media influencers – | Social Media and Healthcare |

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Sonica Minhas, a second-year medical student in London interested in maternal and infant health, nutrition, climate change, human rights and healthcare policymaking. She is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

This millennium has witnessed the exponential growth of social media and over the last few years, increasing numbers of doctors and medical students are using it, both personally and professionally. In fact, we are now entering an era where the doctors qualifying are those that have grown up with the epoch of the digital age.

Debate is rife on the ethical standards to which doctors and medical students should be held to on social media but in general there is consensus that professional boundaries and patient confidentiality must be maintained. Organisations also state that personalised healthcare mustn’t be delivered over social media. However, there is far less guidance on the use of social media for public health promotion by medical professionals.

Indeed, social media is a powerful platform for spreading public health messages to the wider masses and a purpose that many doctors/students use it for. However, it is absolutely imperative that in such cases professionals are held to the same standards as they would be at say a conference, for example. I’m talking about ensuring that evidence-base standards are maintained.

This is becoming increasingly pertinent with the rise of so-called “influencers” who often blog about health (in particular nutrition) but end up spreading erroneous information. Under this umbrella unfortunately are also some doctors but we absolutely do not need them contributing to the noise, since that qualifier of doctor means that their message is perceived to be of greater credibility.

Earlier this year, a study by the University of Glasgow revealed that the majority of influencers are giving inaccurate dietary advice. Of the nine influencer’s blogs that were analysed against 12 criterions (based on national dietary guidelines etc.), only one- a registered nutritionist- passed. Amongst those that failed was a medical doctor, exemplifying that doctors must be held to the same scientifically and medically justified principles that they are in practice when handing out health-related advice.

A doctor is most certainly not limited by their level of education; if they have qualified, they have the competency to critically analyse scientific literature thus any information they present should be backed up with references where appropriate. This is something that must be instilled within medical students; the concept of adhering to science when posting about health.

One way to do this may be to scour platforms for examples of doctors who blog about health and get students to discuss in small groups who they would say is providing the most accurate, objective and scientifically-sound information and how those that aren’t could improve their content. In this way, students are exposed to examples of good and poor social media usage for health promotion.

As Aristotle put it, humans do not care for facts; they care for ethos, logos and pathos. Thus, how information is presented, i.e. the language that is used, is absolutely critical. This is why I believe medical schools must pave way to include development of scientific writing skills within their curricula.

To some this may seem entirely unnecessary but I would argue given that more and more of us are creating and sharing content online, it is needed. Medical professionals when spreading health messages online must adopt a sombre, professional tone that is as unbiased and objective as possible.

By learning how to write scientifically in medical school, students will learn the importance of avoiding emotive language and hyperboles because this introduces personal bias in the form of opinion which may be cloaked as fact, that ultimately can be misleading or flawed.

“Primum non nocere” (“first do no harm”)-the Hippocratic maxim matters as much in digital life as it does in real life and that is something we must not forget.

One of the core principles of the medical profession is integrity. Medical students must be taught that integrity is to be practiced on social media, the same way it is elsewhere. Often there is a fear to speak out against a point made by a fellow medical professional/student made on social media but this shouldn’t be the case.

If we think something said by a fellow student or doctor on social media to be incorrect (be it the actual information or the way in which it is fashioned), we shouldn’t shy away from perhaps contacting them directly to say so or by creating a space for discussion and debate; this is how science progresses after all.

Simply because they say or do something on social media out of good intentions does not mean we can let slip the fact that their content may be inaccurate; for that there is no defence, especially for a medically qualified doctor. Being in a position of public responsibility, doctors are, and rightfully so, subject to scrutiny which mustn’t change in the digital age.

When used responsibly, social media is an impeccably powerful tool for public health promotion. With many doctors using it for this purpose, medical institutions and governing bodies for the medical profession must convene to develop guidelines on the ethical usage of social media for public health purposes. It may seem impossible but we must continue to push for standards to which health professionals should conform to when they use their expertise on social media.

About the author

Sonica Minhas is a second-year medical student in London interested in maternal and infant health, nutrition, climate change, human rights and healthcare policymaking. Her interests in global health stem from doing a project on the extortionately high caesarean section rates in countries like China and Brazil. It was then that she realised that as well as practicing medicine, she wants to provide a voice to the vulnerable members of our population by advocating for changes to education and healthcare policies. She’s currently expanding her horizons and exploring her interests by being on the committee of her medical school’s Students for Global Health branch and the nutrition society. She believes that as doctors we have a responsibility to share our opinions on matters that concern health and that we must be leaders for the changes needed in our healthcare systems to tackle threats to public health and the issues establishing health inequities.

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Here’s How Social Media Helps the IBD Community

Here’s How Social Media Helps the IBD Community | Social Media and Healthcare |

When Laura Scaviola was 25 years old, she found herself unable to eat or drink without running to the bathroom and experiencing severe, bloody diarrhea. Dehydration landed her in the emergency room, which led to a colonoscopy that confirmed she had ulcerative colitis (UC).

After taking six different medications and enduring a roller coaster of remissions and flares, Scaviola is currently in remission for the longest span of time since her diagnosis in 2013.

To help her cope with the disease, she found support in online communities.

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"Social media allowed me to find a community of fighters with the same chronic illness I have," says Scaviola. "The diagnosis and symptoms can be very isolating and embarrassing. But seeing the number of fighters share their experiences made me feel like I could have a better life too."


Megan H. Koehler can relate. When she was diagnosed with Crohn's disease in 2017, she says social media allowed her to feel less alone.


"Before I was diagnosed, I'd heard of Crohn's disease and UC, and I knew a few girls in college who were diagnosed, but other than that, I really didn't know much. Once I had a diagnosis and started sharing more on Instagram, I was flooded with amazing comments and words of hope from others," Koehler says.


Natalie Suppes appreciates social media because she knows how living with UC was before online communities became mainstream.


"When I was diagnosed in 2007, the only thing available at the time was a forum with people who have IBD that I found on Google. Ever since I have found the IBD community online, I have felt very empowered and so much less alone," says Suppes. "We literally spend the majority of our day alone in the bathroom or alone in pain. Having a community of people online who are dealing with the exact same thing as you are is really life changing."

Apps bring comfort and hope

Technology that is geared towards those with a chronic illness, this includes apps, can offer a number of benefits, from connecting folks to individuals with shared experiences to shedding light on new clinical trials.

In fact, a 2018 reviewTrusted Source of 12 randomized controlled trials on mobile health applications (including apps) showed that, in 10 of the trials, the use of mobile health applications demonstrated significant improvements in some health outcomes.

Yet with so many apps to choose from, finding the right one for you can be challenging.

For Scaviola, finding an app like IBD Healthline helped narrow down her online resources.

"IBD Healthline is different than other online support communities because it's an all-in-one resource. You can connect with other patients, share information in group conversations, and there are helpful articles on IBD all in one app," she says. "The best part is you are matched with fellow members on the app, so you can connect with them and share your journey."


Designed for people living with Crohn’s or UC, the free IBD Healthline app includes features such as daily group discussions led by an IBD guide. The guide leads topics around treatment, lifestyle, career, relationships, new diagnoses, and emotional health.

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Koehler says IBD Healthline is different than other online resources because everyone using the app has IBD.

"There is more understanding and compassion. In the past, I've used Instagram to reach out and it's hard because people will share advice because it worked for their mom or best friend… not because they've been through it personally," says Koehler.

Keeping the IBD experience in one private place is what Suppes like most about IBD Healthline.

"It is a place where you can go when you are seeking advice, but you don't need to constantly see it on your newsfeed along with the other things you follow on social media, such as pictures of your niece and best friend," Suppes says. "It is a place where you don't have to worry [about] anyone ever seeing what you post, or that you belong to the group, because only others who have IBD are in the community."

Plus, the app's live chats personalize the experience, Suppes adds.

"It's awesome to connect with people in live time and chat about various IBD subjects," she notes.

Koehler agrees, and says her favorite feature of the app is private messaging.



Get Answers from a Doctor in Minutes, Anytime

Have medical questions? Connect with a board-certified, experienced doctor online or by phone. Pediatricians and other specialists available 24/7.


"I've really enjoyed chatting with other IBD sufferers in a more private setting. It allows us to chat a bit more about stuff we might not be open to sharing with everyone just yet," she says.

Access to trusted sources of information

In addition to connecting with others living with IBD, IBD Healthline offers handpicked wellness and news stories reviewed by Healthline’s team of medical professionals delivered to app users each week. Users can stay informed about new treatments, what’s trending, and the latest in clinical trials.

With that information and the app's ability to connect her to others living with IBD, Suppes says she feels empowered to take ownership of her own health.

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“[Social media] is a tool that helps us realize that we are in control of our own health," she says. "It is not possible for doctors to have touch points with hundreds of thousands of people who have IBD, but by using social media we are. Sometimes with new medications or new symptoms, just asking other people with IBD and getting feedback from people experiencing the same things is so helpful."


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