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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Facebook to now help to beat Breast Cancer 

Facebook to now help to beat Breast Cancer  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media bombards users with memes, cat videos and political squabbles. 


For thousands of women facing an aggressive form of breast cancer, Facebook recently brought another, less common offering: hope


“We were having a really, really difficult time finding patients,” said Casey Bales, project manager for triple-negative breast cancer research at the IU School of Medicine. 


She coordinates clinical trials – studies in which patients receive drugs or other treatments to try to understand their effects on health outcomes.


The breast cancer trial, begun in 2014, wasn't going well. Three years into the study, less than 40% of the patients needed were enrolled. 


“The trial was in jeopardy,” Bales said last week.


It was saved in 2017 when Facebook posts from the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer and IU researchers about a trial using genomics – the study of genes and their functions – to find weaknesses in cancer tumors appeared.


Indiana University researchers and the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer used the popular networking website and Instagram to recruit participants for a clinical trial. The first-of-its-kind social media effort jump-started a once-moribund effort that led to a Dec. 13 announcement that doctors say could save the lives of patients with triple-negative breast cancer. 


Recruiting through social media has become an important tool for physicians and medical researchers, who can sometimes have difficulty finding patients with specific forms of diseases they are trying to study. 


“We are implementing social media efforts pretty much on every new trial,” Bales said.


“Social media gives us an opportunity to leverage communities and resources to interact with a much broader community than we've been able to reach before,” the report said. 


Lisa Hayes is a survivor. 


The 62-year-old Indianapolis woman was diagnosed 12 years ago with triple-negative breast cancer. 


“I didn't even know (at the time) there were different kinds of breast cancer,” she said in an interview last week. “I just thought breast cancer was breast cancer. That's a scary feeling, to know you had a very aggressive kind of breast cancer.”


Hayes endured surgery to remove cancer, eight rounds of chemotherapy and 33 rounds of radiation. She now leads R.E.D. Alliance, an advocacy group working to reduce late-stage diagnosis and death rates for black women with cancer. R.E.D. stands for Reaching to End Disparities.


Her cancer is gone, but Hayes has wondered whether it might come back. She did not participate in the recent clinical trial but said the research is important to her and other survivors. 


“It's great news to hear what they have done,” she said. “It gives hope and promise to everyone coming behind me. It's very personal to me, in that respect.”


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Should Hospitals be on Facebook?

Should Hospitals be on Facebook? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Across industries, sophisticated organizations are now committing both time and money to their social media marketingcampaigns. But the healthcare industry (including hospitals, B2B medical manufacturers, and health clubs) has hesitated to embrace social media.

A survey of 1,060 U.S. adults by the PwC Health Research Institute found that one-third of respondents considered social media platforms appropriate for the discussion of healthcare. The Journal of Internet Medical Research found that 60% of adults surveyed used the Internet to access medical information. This is a major opportunity – it’s time to get ahead of the curve.

Here's how healthcare institutions can engage on social in a relevant, useful, industry-appropriate way.

Use Images

In a study by Infinigraph, we measured the effectiveness of different posts made by healthcare companies, including hospitals, clinics, and health care foundations. We found that healthcare audiences engaged most with posts containing images.

Keep it Human, Keep it Useful

Some of the most engaged-with Facebook posts contain images, and all link to valuable content. These short posts link to larger articles which tell human interest stories, tapping into audience emotions, or provide useful health information.

A Few Best Practices for Healthcare Marketers

  • Make your data available. Allow your ratings and reviews, as well as error rates within your database (if applicable) to be made public.
  • Educate your employees on social media policies. Make the risk of violating the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) clear, and prohibit posting inappropriate information about doctors or patients.
  • Implement privacy settings. Be sure to safeguard personal information and content.
  • Avoid using social media channels to communicate with patients on sensitive issues. Advise them on a secure, personalized server.
  • Enlist at least one author, editor, or reviewer on every piece of content that you publish. Include references or links to the source of your content, and date it whenever possible.
  • Include an “About Us” or “History” section on your website. Present information about qualified staff, services, and facility as well as your purpose, goal, or mission.
  • Ask for audience feedback through surveys and questionnaires. Make your contact information easy to find, and encourage your audience to get in touch via email, Facebook, and Twitter. When they do reach out, respond promptly and thoughtfully.

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Facebook 'Likes' a good indicator of quality hospital care

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Boosting Facebook Engagement for your Medical Practice

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

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

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

Identify Your Facebook Target Demographic

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

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

Find Your Most Successful Post Types

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

Create Interesting Content That Fits Your Successful Post Types

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

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

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

The End Result

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

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

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Facebook’s New Step Towards Revolutionizing Public Health Awareness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Facebook for your health and more 

Facebook for your health and more  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Many of today’s leading health threats aren’t ones that science or medicine can solve alone.


Changing trends in communication and unequal access to care to mean we need new solutions and partnerships to overcome these global challenges.


Facebook is developing products and partnerships that can help people connect with resources to support their health.  


Take the issue of blood shortages. Every few seconds, someone in the world needs blood. But people often aren’t aware of shortages and don’t know where to donate. To address this, we launched a feature in the US, India, Brazil, Bangladesh, and Pakistan that makes it easy to sign up as a donor on Facebook and get notified when nearby blood banks are in need. So far, more than 50 million people have signed up to donate.


Another area we’re exploring is preventive health. Tens of millions of people in the US are missing out on recommended preventive care. Preventive measures have the potential to detect disease early when it’s most treatable and, in some cases, prevent it from developing. Yet factors such as awareness, access, and cost create barriers to testing for many people.


  • We’re working with US health organizations to offer a Preventive Health tool that connects people to health resources and checkup reminders. 
  • People can use the tool to find affordable places to receive care, set reminders to schedule tests, mark when tests are completed, and more.                                                                              

Our initial focus is on the top two leading causes of death in the US: heart disease and cancer. 


How Preventive Health Works


In the US, people can search for Preventive Health in the Facebook mobile app and find out which checkups, such as cholesterol tests or mammograms, are recommended by these health organizations based on the age and sex they provide. Reminders for flu shots will also appear at the appropriate time of year. 


The tool allows people to mark when tests are completed, set reminders to schedule future tests and tell loved ones about the tool to increase awareness of preventive care. People can also learn more about each checkup and find affordable places to receive care.


Privacy Matters


Health is particularly personal, so we took privacy and safety into account from the beginning.


For example, Preventive Health allows you to set reminders for your future checkups and mark them as done, but it doesn’t provide us, or the health organizations we’re working with, access to your actual test results. Personal information about your activity in Preventive Health is not shared with third parties, such as health organizations or insurance companies, so it can’t be used for purposes like insurance eligibility. 


We know there’s more we can do to help people, and we’ll continue to partner with organizations to provide access to resources and reach people in diverse communities.


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

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

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

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

Below, she shares a few thoughts:

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

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


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

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


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


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


Respond as quickly as possible. 

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

Fix it (if you can).  

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

Take it offline. 

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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25 things we learned by getting 25,000 Facebook fans

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Content is king.

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

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

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

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

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

    7. Use calls-to-action.

    8. Don’t use medical jargon. 

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

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

    11. Tagging is important and builds community. 

    12. Get outside the office to find content. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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    Physicians and Facebook: 7 Reasons to Get Social on Facebook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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