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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Social media monitoring in the health care field

Social media monitoring in the health care field | Social Media and Healthcare |

In an effort to build relationships with consumers of medical services and ensure they are well-educated about their care, many hospitals and other health services organizations have taken to social media. Through Facebook pages, YouTube channels and more, health care professionals attempt to disseminate important information and solicit feedback. This can drive brand loyalty and create informed consumers. The use of social media in health care has many possibilities in addition to public relations and marketing, as well.

Tracking progress in brand awareness and information reach
Social media monitoring solutions can be of great use to health care professionals. Those hospitals and other organizations undertaking a social media campaign to build brand awareness and loyalty can use such tools to determine how well their efforts are performing. Social media analysis can show how many users are discussing the hospital and its posts and give administrators a better idea of how much engagement a particular campaign generates.

Those social media activities that aim to educate consumers about health care and treatment options can also use social media listening tools in a variety of ways. A preliminary scan of relevant posts to see what users say when they discuss a certain condition or procedure can help establish a baseline of general knowledge. For example, if misconceptions or questions consistently appear in social media posts on the subject, it will be easy to construct a campaign to counter or answer them.


Once an informational campaign on social media has been in effect for some time, it's possible to use social media monitoring to see how well it has performed, just as with public relations campaigns. A notable increase in posts from the intended area that display a correct understanding of the facts can demonstrate the success of an informational campaign, perhaps driving investment in further efforts of the same kind.


Research opportunities
Many social media users are free with what they will post. There is some amount of health information to be gleaned from such activity. The most basic aspects of a healthy lifestyle, including diet and exercise, are often things people will make social media posts about. Photographing meals and checking into gyms are not uncommon activities on social media. Others living with chronic conditions may post updates or questions. Social media analytics can allow researchers to tap into this wealth of data. Demographic research on a variety of topics can be accomplished through social media or supplemented by it. Of course, this can be part of a reciprocal process within organizations, where research both precedes and follows education efforts.

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