Social Media and Healthcare
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When Doctors and Patients Are Facebook Friends

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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 Implementation Checklist

Social Media Implementation Checklist | Social Media and Healthcare |

Set goals first. If traffic, leads and sales are part of the goal, then gotta have the next focus be on content creation. Then, using social to share. Can't get much value out of social unless you're actively creating, publishing and sharing content. 

MARGARITA's curator insight, December 31, 2015 5:15 PM

Support our people

United Home Healthcare's curator insight, June 12, 2017 12:29 PM
Being active on Social media can really help your company.
rob halkes's curator insight, September 15, 2017 6:04 AM

You might think that after 10+ years, social media for healthcare is a self evident activity,! Nothing is less true, however ;-) But here's a checklist you need if you still need to sign up ;-) 


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Study: Facebook support group increases patient engagement, satisfaction. Who knew?? (Patients.) 

Study: Facebook support group increases patient engagement, satisfaction. Who knew?? (Patients.)  | Social Media and Healthcare |

No surprise to e-patients: a new study in the journal Surgery found that when patients facing a liver transplant connected with each other, they liked it. Read the article about it in MobiHealthNews or the original paper, if you can get it. Here’s an extract from the abstract:

Despite the potential benefits of social media, health care providers are often hesitant to engage patients through these sites. Our aim was to explore how implementation of social media may affect patient engagement and satisfaction.

95% of survey respondents reported that joining the group had a positive impact on their care; and 97% reported that their main motivation for joining was to provide or receive support from other patients.

This pilot study indicates that the integration of social media into clinical practice can empower surgeons to synthesize effectively a patient support community that augments patient engagement and satisfaction.

I don’t have access to the full article text but one thing in that last sentence gives me an eyeroll: it talks about how social media can empower the surgeon!  WTH?  How about empowering the person who has the problem?  Perhaps in the full text they discuss that, too.

e-Patient takeaway:

As I said in Let Patients Help, “Patients know what patients want to know.” One of the first things I discovered when I connected to my patient community online was that they knew how I felt. And that sure made a difference to me.

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Social media may help chronically ill connect to doctors, fellow patients

Social media may help chronically ill connect to doctors, fellow patients | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media groups that bring together patients, family, friends and healthcare providers can improve patients’ outlook and reduce their anxiety and depression, a recent U.S. study suggests. 

In a nine-month experiment with liver-transplant patients, researchers found that participants came to rely heavily on a closed Facebook group, both for information about their condition and help in coping. 

“Ninety percent of Americans are on the internet and 80 percent are using platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to find healthcare information from a supportive online community,” said Dr. Sean Langenfeld, of the Department of Surgery at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, who wasn’t involved in the study. 

“It’s a very powerful tool and offers a great way to facilitate communication among those suffering from abdominal pain or migraines to individuals diagnosed with cancer.” 

For the current study, Dr. Vikrom Dhar of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine in Ohio and his colleagues created a closed Facebook group that ultimately had a total of 350 members, about half of whom were liver transplant patients, 36 percent were family and friends and 14 percent were healthcare providers. 

Of the 78 healthcare providers who were part of the hospital’s liver transplant team, 49 were active members of the group, including 7 out of the 16 physicians. 

The researchers monitored the group’s interactions and surveyed a subset of participants after nine months. 

Dhar’s team found that engagement with the group was high, and 83 percent of participants posted or reacted to others’ posts at least once per month. While patients tended to post supportive messages or inspirational content, the healthcare providers mainly posted educational information. 

After nine months, 95 percent of the survey participants said that joining the group had a positive impact on their care, and 97 percent said their main motivation for joining was to get support from other patients and to provide it. 

Social media also allows for patient-practitioner interaction between visits to the hospital or clinic, the study team notes in the journal Surgery. 

This is especially important for those suffering from alcohol-related end-stage liver disease, Dhar said. “Previous reports in literature have suggested that patients who have appropriate social support have lower rates of alcohol relapse following transplantation,” he told Reuters Health in an email. “Thus, by using social media platforms, physicians may offer social support resources to patients who otherwise may suffer from disparities in accessing such care.” 

Still, healthcare providers remain hesitant to engage patients through social media, the study team writes. 

A 140-character tweet can result in misinterpretation of medical advice. Without a disclaimer, doctors risk being liable, Langenfeld noted. What’s more, the line between personal and professional engagement is, at best, blurred. 

“Never assume there is privacy on the internet,” Langenfeld said in a telephone interview. “Statistics are vague, but in recent years over 50 percent of medical boards have inflicted serious punishment as a result of irresponsible online behavior.” This includes irresponsible behavior unrelated to one’s medical specialty.

It makes sense that the number of teaching hospitals offering social media responsibility courses is on the rise, Dhar said. 

“Our study shows that in appropriate settings, physicians can utilize social media platforms including Facebook to create content that patients find positively impacts their healthcare.” 

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The Dentists Guide to Digital Marketing Success in 2018

The Dentists Guide to Digital Marketing Success in 2018 | Social Media and Healthcare |

2017 has come and gone, and digital marketers have been eagerly awaiting some big changes expected to drop in 2018 – many of which will effect how dental practices connect to local patients. Here are essential tips for dentists to use the internet to bring in new patients in 2018. 

Learn to Love Video

Video continues to be the most popular type of content on the Internet, and dental practices that can produce and share more videos will find local search success long after 2018 is done. In fact, 85% of the US Internet audience watches videos online, and one-third of online activity is spent watching videos. 

Dentists can supercharge their video strategy by shooting more videos and sharing them on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. You can create videos about popular topics in dentistry, silly videos around birthdays or holidays or even host a live Q&A session on your practice Facebook page – the possibilities are truly endless. Just keep the content relevant to dentistry, and make sure that you tag the videos with good keywords (such as your city and state) so that search engines can find them for relevant searches.  

Interested in shooting a professional office tour video?  Check out our video services 

Prepare for Voice Search

According to Google, nearly 1 in 5 searches performed are voice searches. Most of these searches are done from mobile devices, and results are delivered based upon the location of the searcher, the number of positive reviews, and the type of content on the dental practice’s website. 

To better optimize your website content for voice search, be sure that you write in a conversation tone, which matches the searcher’s language and score better with search engines delivering voice-based search results. You also want to make certain to customize your content as much as possible – keeping it specific to your practice and location. 

A key way to prepare for voice search in 2018 is by ensuring that your practice’s location data is accurate in important listing sites like Yelp, Google My Business, and Dentists4Kids. A service like Smile Savvy’s Local Search & Reviews is important for claiming, correcting and optimizing the hundreds of directories and map sites your dental practice can appear on. 

Work Toward a Featured Snippet

Featured snippets are one of the most valuable spaces on search result pages, and are becoming increasingly popular on search engines. In fact, nearly 30% of all Google search queries show featured snippets, they have an incredibly high click-through-rate, at just over 32%. 

Featured snippets quickly answer a popular, relevant question, and sit at “position 0” – that is, one spot higher than the first result. Your dental practice can shoot for “position 0” by producing the right kind of content. For example, Q&A’s are popular structures that succeed in capturing a featured snippet, and your website’s blog is the perfect place to create and share your snippet-worthy-post.  

Learn more about Smile Savvy’s blog setup and writing services. 

Focus on Generating More Positive Reviews Than Your Competition

Patients are increasingly reliant upon online reviews to help them choose a dentist. In fact, 90% of online consumers read reviews before visiting a local business, and 84% of people use online reviews to help them make a purchase decision. So, it’s important that dentists focus on generating positive reviews for their dental practice. You can do this by going above and beyond in customer service, and creating the best in-office experience possible – but you will also need a system in place (like Smile Savvy’s Review Pro) to guide patients to leave reviews where you need them most.  

Prepare for Google’s Mobile-First Index

Google has announced their dedication to make a mobile-first index – a move that would provide a mobile-first approach when delivering search engine results. Essentially, websites that are optimized for mobile devices will show up more prominently than those that are not. This means that you must get a responsive website to be competitive in a local market. As more people use mobile devices, dental practices without mobile-friendly sites will see far less internet traffic, and potentially fewer patients.  

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Facebook to fight “Engagement Bait” – is your pharma brand doing it? 

Facebook to fight “Engagement Bait” – is your pharma brand doing it?  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Since the beginning of social media times, page administrators have looked for ways to lure audiences to engage with their content in hopes of making it “go viral”. Facebook will soon begin cracking down on what it calls “engagement bait” in an attempt to foster more authentic engagement.

Just like you, Facebook really doesn’t like spammy posts. Their latest newsroom statement is making this clear: “engagement bait” posts are going down. Facebook defines “engagement bait” as spammy posts that actively try to drum up likes, clicks, and shares. These posts include vote baiting, react baiting, share baiting, tag baiting, and comment baiting.

Facebook engagement bait examples


If your brand has a significant presence on Facebook, now might be a good time to do an audit of your content strategy. Engagement bait posts have been commonly used for a while so chances are that the use of these now frowned about tactics may have already been brought to your attention. Or, you may have a post or two using these tactics currently in circulation. If you do, there’s still time to act.

“We will roll out this Page-level demotion over the course of several weeks to give publishers time to adapt and avoid inadvertently using engagement bait in their posts.” – Facebook rep

Vote Baiting:

Surveying your carefully crafted social audience can uncover everything from new content creation opportunities to informing upcoming digital strategies. Unfortunately, this is often done via vote baiting.

Vote baiting often involves the usage of reactions, also known as likes, as an informal poll. These informal polls do not generate statistically significant answers and can easily be biased by a number of backend platform/targeting features.

  • Solution: Your brand may be better off driving people to 3rd party survey platforms to help generate actionable insights from a poll or survey. The disease awareness campaign Lighter Blue did this for an impact study recently:

Share baiting:

Many branded pharma pages prefer to have comments and reactions turned off (this feature is thankfully dying down) which severely limits social engagement campaigns. Share baiting allows brands to take advantage of the only feature left and use it to artificially boost reach through posts like this one: “Share with 10 friends for a chance to win a new convertible!”.

  • Solution: The share feature works very much like an endorsement, with users letting their extended network know that they find this particular post interesting. Identify the purpose of a share as part of your larger content strategy. Facebook shares are one of the hardest engagements to achieve.

React, Tag, Comment Baiting:

“LIKE if you’re an Aries or LOVE this if you’re a Leo to find TRUE LOVE!!!”… you can see why Facebook is moving to downgrade these types of posts. Similar to vote baiting, these posts want to ignite an impulsive reaction that artificially boosts reach. Oftentimes, the post has nothing to do with the brand purpose.

  • Solution: Just don’t do it. Re-evaluate your content strategy and make sure each action on your page ladders up to a specific brand goal.


Facebook declared that posts asking for advice or recommendations, circulations of missing child reports, or money raising efforts won’t be subject to demotion.

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Pharma Social Media Ranking - Global Twitter Edition 2018 -

This 2018 pharma social media ranking from healthcare agency Owen Health provides a snapshot of the performance of 22 of the largest pharma companies on Twitte…
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Can Snapchat’s rumored 3-second unskippable ads work for pharma? 

Can Snapchat’s rumored 3-second unskippable ads work for pharma?  | Social Media and Healthcare |

The door to Snapchat may be opening a bit wider for pharma marketers. That’s because Snapchat is reportedly exploring unskippable three-second video ads that could serve as a gateway for more pharma to reach the elusive millennial and Gen Z audience on that social media, experts say.


There are caveats—most importantly, will Snapchat go through with the plan? Advertising Age, which first reported the potential change, says it’s under “serious consideration.”

And if Snapchat does implement these three-second video ads, the next big question for pharma is this: What kind of advertising can be done in just three seconds? Pharma would be limited to unbranded ads, no question. There's just not enough time for the required lists of risks and benefits of a particular drug. Reminder ads could be an option, but those would only work for the small number of drug brands with big-time name recognition.

“If Snapchat does this and it’s agreeable from a cost perspective, I do see some aggressive pharma companies going after this, more than likely with unbranded ads,” said Doug Weinbrenner, VP of engagement strategy at FCB Health agency Area 23.

RELATED: Top 10 pharma companies in social media

"The demographic that’s on Snapchat has been a very desired demographic for pharma and will continue to be in 2018," Weinbrenner said in an interview. "Pharma companies have had a harder time figuring out how to engage with them, and by them, I mean older millennials, Gen X and maybe younger millennials as well.”


Unbranded ads for conditions that affect those younger age groups—such as hemophilia, multiple sclerosis and HIV—could see success on Snapchat, he said. Over-the-counter drugs and cosmeceutical brands, including those in Big Pharma’s consumer divisions, might also resonate with Snapchatters.

To evaluate whether the rumored ads might work, Brad Einarsen, Klick Health senior director, social media, said pharma should start investigating.

“First, pharma companies should ask, 'Is my target market appropriate for Snapchat?'—and some pharma companies are looking at that now," Einarsen said in an interview. "If yes, should I do a test and see if I get ROI? Then inside that test is this three-second rule which might change the results."

RELATED: Pharma's social media activity is up, but there's still work to be done

"The material has got to be compelling enough, and that is absolutely critical," he went on to say. "Pharma as an industry, in general, needs to get with the program so to speak and get material in front of these younger millennials or Gen Z that will resonate.”

Weinbrenner agreed any pharma Snapchat advertising style, tone, messaging and presentation has got to be on point for the younger audience.

“The pull-through has to be very intentional and somewhat match the experience of Snapchat. It would be a huge miss to do that and think they will love to go to your website and click on stuff,” he said.

As far as pharma companies already using Snapchat, there aren’t many easily identifiable examples, although Gilead seems to be an early proponent for its HIV drug Truvada. In an investor call early last year, Gilead said it planned to use Snapchat, along with other social media and dating sites, to advertise Truvada as a pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, in targeted advertising to help “get at populations that don’t engage in healthcare,” according to a Seeking Alpha transcript.

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Social interactions can influence how physicians recommend breast cancer screenings

Social interactions can influence how physicians recommend breast cancer screenings | Social Media and Healthcare |

Perhaps rules are meant to be broken. But guidelines, according to recent research, are not always followed when physicians recommend breast cancer screening to patients.

A research letter published Dec. 4 in JAMA: Internal Medicine,explores how social interactions with friends, family and colleagues who have been diagnosed with breast cancer may affect a physician’s recommendations to patients.

Led by Craig Evan Pollack, MD, MHS, with Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, a group of researchers surveyed 848 physicians who had a social network member diagnosed with breast cancer. Some 44.7 percent were general practitioners or specialized in family medicine, with 29 percent in internal medicine and 26.3 in gynecology. These physicians reported 1,631 social network members receiving breast cancer diagnoses, including 771 patients and 381 family members.

Physicians familiar with someone with a poor prognosis who was not diagnosed via screening were much more likely to recommend routine checks for women between 40 and 44 years old and those over 75.

“Describing a woman whose breast cancer was not diagnosed by screening mammogram and who had a poor prognosis was associated with increased odds of recommending routine screening to patients within the designated younger and older age groups for which guidelines no longer support routine, universal screening,” Pollack et al. wrote. “Our results suggest that helping clinicians reflect on how their experiences influence their current screening patterns may be an important approach to improve adherence to revised breast cancer screening guidelines.”

The researchers noted how bad experiences are recalled more frequently than positive ones, which can lead physicians to perceive a greater risk than those not familiar with dreaded outcomes.

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Social Media Impact of the Food and Drug Administration's Drug Safety Communication Messaging About Zolpidem: Mixed-Methods Analysis

Social Media Impact of the Food and Drug Administration's Drug Safety Communication Messaging About Zolpidem: Mixed-Methods Analysis | Social Media and Healthcare |

Background: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issues drug safety communications (DSCs) to health care professionals, patients, and the public when safety issues emerge related to FDA-approved drug products. These safety messages are disseminated through social media to ensure broad uptake.

Objective: The objective of this study was to assess the social media dissemination of 2 DSCs released in 2013 for the sleep aid zolpidem.

Methods: We used the MedWatcher Social program and the DataSift historic query tool to aggregate Twitter and Facebook posts from October 1, 2012 through August 31, 2013, a period beginning approximately 3 months before the first DSC and ending 3 months after the second. Posts were categorized as (1) junk, (2) mention, and (3) adverse event (AE) based on a score between –0.2 (completely unrelated) to 1 (perfectly related). We also looked at Google Trends data and Wikipedia edits for the same time period. Google Trends search volume is scaled on a range of 0 to 100 and includes “Related queries” during the relevant time periods. An interrupted time series (ITS) analysis assessed the impact of DSCs on the counts of posts with specific mention of zolpidem-containing products. Chow tests for known structural breaks were conducted on data from Twitter, Facebook, and Google Trends. Finally, Wikipedia edits were pulled from the website’s editorial history, which lists all revisions to a given page and the editor’s identity.

Results: In total, 174,286 Twitter posts and 59,641 Facebook posts met entry criteria. Of those, 16.63% (28,989/174,286) of Twitter posts and 25.91% (15,453/59,641) of Facebook posts were labeled as junk and excluded. AEs and mentions represented 9.21% (16,051/174,286) and 74.16% (129,246/174,286) of Twitter posts and 5.11% (3,050/59,641) and 68.98% (41,138/59,641) of Facebook posts, respectively. Total daily counts of posts about zolpidem-containing products increased on Twitter and Facebook on the day of the first DSC; Google searches increased on the week of the first DSC. ITS analyses demonstrated variability but pointed to an increase in interest around the first DSC. Chow tests were significant (P<.0001) for both DSCs on Facebook and Twitter, but only the first DSC on Google Trends. Wikipedia edits occurred soon after each DSC release, citing news articles rather than the DSC itself and presenting content that needed subsequent revisions for accuracy.

Conclusions: Social media offers challenges and opportunities for dissemination of the DSC messages. The FDA could consider strategies for more actively disseminating DSC safety information through social media platforms, particularly when announcements require updating. The FDA may also benefit from directly contributing content to websites like Wikipedia that are frequently accessed for drug-related information.

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Rare Cancers and Social Media: Analysis of Twitter Metrics in the First 2 Years of a Rare-Disease Community for Myeloproliferative Neoplasms 

Rare Cancers and Social Media: Analysis of Twitter Metrics in the First 2 Years of a Rare-Disease Community for Myeloproliferative Neoplasms  | Social Media and Healthcare |


The use of social media has now become a standard means of communication for many individuals worldwide. The use of one specific form of social media, Twitter, has increased among healthcare providers, both as a means of information gathering and as a conduit for original content creation. Recently, major efforts by users have been put forward to help streamline the unprecedented amount of information that can be found on Twitter. These efforts have led to the creation of diseasespecific hashtag (#) medical communities and have greatly enhanced the ability to understand and better categorize the available data on Twitter. Specifically, for those involved in rare cancer fields, adhering to organically designed and consistently used hashtags has led to the rapid, reliable dissemination of information and the ability to efficiently discuss and debate topics of interest in the field. For the field of myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPNs), the creation of #MPNSM (myeloproliferative neoplasms on social media) in 2015 has facilitated interactions among healthcare stakeholders from all over the world in the MPN field.


In order to better understand the trends and topics of interest to Twitter users of this novel medical community, we conducted the present analysis which focuses on Twitter analytics from the first two years of #MPNSM. In this analysis, we observed a sustained increase in the number of Twitter users, number of tweets, number of impressions, and number of retweets over time, demonstrating the feasibility of creating and maintaining a disease-specific hashtag for a rare cancer over time.

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Think before you Tweet: Social media guidelines for surgeons aim to prevent Internet regret

Think before you Tweet: Social media guidelines for surgeons aim to prevent Internet regret | Social Media and Healthcare |


Think before you tweet. That’s what surgeons should remember before they express themselves on social media.

Anger and frustration can prompt ill-advised social media postings that have a big potential for blowback, Heather J. Logghe, MD, FACS, and her colleagues wrote in the Journal of the American College of Surgeons. But so can enthusiasm about posting about a new device or procedure, a fascination with a difficult case, the sense of relief that a patient made it though a harrowing period, or even just the simple joy of tossing back a beer or two with pals at the local watering hole (J Am Coll Surg. 2017. doi: 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2017.11.022).

Dr. Heather Logghe
The effects of an unguarded post can be profound and long-lasting, wrote Dr. Logghe and her colleagues from the Resident and Associate Society of the American College of Surgeons.

“In a survey of 48 state medical boards, 44 (92%) reported online-related misbehavior with serious disciplinary consequences leading to license restriction, suspension, or revocation. A 2011 study of ‘Physicians on Twitter’ revealed that 10% of the physicians sampled had tweeted potential patient privacy violations. A 2014 study of publicly available Facebook profiles of 319 Midwest residents found 14% had ‘potentially unprofessional content’ and 12.2% had ‘clearly unprofessional’ content, the latter including references to binge drinking, sexually suggestive photos, and HIPAA violations.”


Dr. Logghe, of Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia, is a member of the American College of Surgeons’ (ACS’s) social media committee tasked with creating practice recommendations for clinicians’ use of social media. Conducting a literature review was the first step to creating a surgeon-specific document, and the team found seven online behavior guidelines directed at physicians. Groups authoring these papers included the American Medical Association, the Federation of State Medical Boards, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and several international groups.

Dr. Logghe and her colleagues reviewed each one, synthesized the information, and created a practice recommendation statement specific to the ACS. While not encoded in any professional ethics requirements, “Best Practices for Surgeons’ Social Media Use: Statement of the Resident and Associate Society of the American College of Surgeons” does lay out some common, potentially problematic scenarios and offers some suggestions about how to avoid Internet regret.


Everything discussed in the paper revolves around maintaining a decorous public persona. Professionalism on and off the clock is a key tenet of the recommendations. Definitions of key terms like “professionalism” are an important basis for any practice guideline, but sometimes concepts are not easy to define, the team wrote. “Perhaps the limitation most difficult to address in any formalized guideline is the necessary subjectivity in interpreting what is ‘appropriate’ or ‘professional’ online – or in any other setting,” the authors wrote. The ACS Code of Professional Conduct does not explicitly define either of those terms or discuss the appearance of unprofessional behavior.

In the absence of a plain-and-simple definition, the authors attempted to couch the social media recommendations in terms of ACS’s commitment to maintaining the patient trust. It urges surgeons to “avoid even the appearance of impropriety.”

The practice recommendations touch on a number of areas that are potentially problematic for surgeons, including confidentiality, financial conflicts, collegial support, and general social responsibility.


Maintaining privacy is more than a courtesy to patients: It’s a federally mandated law with serious punitive repercussions if violated. Blogs, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook offer a vast potential for sharing information with and educating the public, but postings can also easily violate HIPPA standards, the team wrote.

“In general, most social media platforms are not HIPPA-compliant,” no matter how the privacy settings are adjusted. These modes of communication are never appropriate for patient-physician communication: They can’t be archived in an electronic health record, and it is ill advised to give any medical advice by using these channels.

Discussing a particular case online, even with the usual defining details omitted, can be a bad idea.“Simply de-identifying patient information may not be sufficient. When posting information online, one must be cognizant of the context of other information available online. Such information includes the poster’s place of employment, news media, and publicly available vital statistics. Therefore even when posting general comments about hospital events, surgical cases, or patients under one’s care, it is essential to consider the sum of information available to the reader, rather than simply the information shared in the isolated post.”


Most employers have social media guidelines and don’t take kindly to violations – which can affect both current and future job postings. “A strong social media presence can be of benefit to one’s employer, [but] content that portrays a surgeon in an unprofessional or controversial light can be detrimental and even career-damaging.”


This reaches beyond professional communications online and deep into a surgeon’s personal life, the team noted, so exercise caution when “friending.”

“While this practice is inevitable, surgeons should be aware of potential conflicts. Connecting with or accepting friend requests from some but not all coworkers or coresidents could be interpreted as favoritism and may create a problematic work relationship. … Surgeons should consider primarily connecting with coworkers on professional websites if they have little contact with them outside the workplace.”

As for friending patients – just don’t, for both your sake and theirs. “Accepting a patient’s Facebook friend request may allow them access to events, details, and commentary not traditionally appropriate for the patient-physician relationship. Accepting such requests is strongly discouraged. If concerned about appearing rude or rejecting a patient’s request to be Facebook friends, the patient can be referred to society guidelines or best practices such as these.” One helpful alternative to such a request may be to invite patients to follow a practice website or other professional page.

Conflicts of interest


Online friends might not require disclosures when a surgeon posts about an exciting procedure or piece of equipment, such as whether there is a financial interest in doing so, but it’s important to be proactive. “As always, it is the physician’s responsibility to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. If it is not feasible to include a relevant conflict of interest within a post, the post should not be made.”


Irritated about a colleague? Keep it to yourself – especially if you’ve had a beer. “It is never appropriate to post derogatory comments about patients or colleagues. Surgeons should be careful not to post in anger or under the influence of any substance. Statements about a colleague’s abilities, experience, or outcomes intended in jest may be appropriate for the surgeon’s lounge, yet entirely inappropriate for public consumption. Again, the ‘pause-before-posting’ practice is likely to prevent regretful posts in this vein.”


Privacy and Permanence

The Internet goes everywhere and lasts forever. A snappy quote that’s funny at 2 a.m. might not seem so hilarious in the light of day – or even in the light of a day 5 years yet to come.

The delete key is a false friend, and that clever pseudonym you dreamed up is probably as crackable as the classic “Pa55word” password. “One should presume that all content posted online will remain there forever and may be seen by anyone. Again, ‘pause-before-posting’ is a recommended practice.”

Privacy settings should be viewed as an illusion, the team noted. In this era of face recognition and tagging, images carry just as much risk as words.

Collegial support

Maybe your mother was right when she said, “This is for your own good.” If a colleague’s postings are getting out of hand, a tactful heart-to-heart might be the best course of action. “As coined by Dr. Sarah Mansfield, ‘Looking after colleagues is an integral element of professional conduct.’ Surgeons who notice colleagues posting unprofessional content that could be damaging to both the colleague and the public’s trust in the profession should discreetly express their concern to the individual, who should then take any appropriate corrective actions. … If the action is in violation of the law or medical board regulations, it should be reported to the appropriate governing bodies.”

Physician, Google Thyself

The team acknowledged that an online presence is virtually a must for professional development. And even if you don’t create a web page, chances are your university or hospital has done it for you. The media is interested in your life, too, and may make mention of your activities – both positive or negative.

“To better understand and control this publicly accessible information, surgeons are encouraged to periodically self-audit themselves online and taking measures to ensure that the information present is accurate and professional.” Some professional service websites are more trustworthy than others. The team encouraged physicians to participate in the ACS professional pages, LinkedIn, Doximity, and ResearchGate.

Not rules – just recommendations

The team stressed that their recommendations aren’t meant to stifle personal expression. Instead, their aim is to prompt a more conscious use of what can be a very powerful tool for both self-expression and professional development.

“The authors recommend no punitive action based on a perceived ‘violation’ of these recommendations alone. While they refer to other guidelines, including laws such as HIPAA, that must be appropriately enforced, these best practices are intended to guide the practicing surgeon in the use of social media rather than act as regulations or encourage reprimand. Rather than encouraging a social media landscape as sterile as the operating theater, the authors hope these recommendations lead to conscious consideration of online behavior, to avoidance of preventable harm, and to recognition of others’ views of their posts.”

None of the authors reported any financial disclosures.

SOURCE: Logghe HJ et al. J Am Coll Surg. 2017. doi: 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2017.11.022.

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Use Social Media Platforms for Patient Engagement

Use Social Media Platforms for Patient Engagement | Social Media and Healthcare |

Why should you have an automated marketing platform and strategy for patient engagement?

According to Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) statistics from 2009 to 2016,1there has been a mass exodus of physicians from private practice to hospital- and system-based settings. For example:

  • Internal medicine went from 50 percent hospital and system employed to nearly 70 percent
  • Orthopedic surgeons from mid-20 percent to mid-40 percent
  • Pediatricians from just about 30 percent to more than 50 percent

It is common knowledge that in a growing number of markets physician referrals to private practices and access to marketing opportunities with physicians have dropped substantially. Practices that once had a lengthy list of loyal referring physicians are seeing their stream of new MD-referred patients dwindling. The question is not only how to find new patients but also how to nurture your current clientele to ensure that your prior patients return to your practice for additional care or refer their family and friends as well!

The answer is to develop a consistent, ongoing patient engagement tool and strategy!

Many practices are utilizing social media platforms to stay in touch with their client base and to reach other consumers. However, we are also seeing practices all across the country looking for opportunities to create ways to better engage individually with past, present, and potential patients, nurturing them through the entire physical therapy experience from intake to discharge. Practices are working on educating patients, and even engaging their family caregivers, to improve the overall quality of their experience. These practices are exploring marketing automation and engagement technologies. When employed strategically, this action yields a wide range of benefits, including a more efficient, consumer-friendly intake process, better carryover compliance, increased attendance and completion of care, as well as long-term connections and word-of-mouth referrals!

In a recent discussion with Carol Vance, a patient engagement platform developer, Vance described important factors in patient engagement.

  • Provide relevant content and messaging. Identify and deliver to your individual customer. Profiling your customers at intake and using their demographic data to target your messaging is vital!
  • Build loyalty and advocacy over time, because happy customers drive referrals. This is true of any business model—business-to-business or business-to-consumer. Your customers are your prospects, too. In fact, research from Teradata shows that 61 percent of people say they would tell their friends and family about their good experiences and that 27 percent would sign up for a company’s loyalty program.2
  • Engage customers continuously over time—with messages and content relevant to their situation that drives them toward a desired action or outcome. Being mindful of who your audience is and what resonates with them the most will help push them further along in the customer lifecycle.

With increasing copays and deductibles and busy schedules, patients’ attendance and completion of care has also become a challenge. Keep in mind that patients who fail to come to scheduled medical appointments (no-shows) create a cascade of issues for the health care system, the provider, and themselves. No-shows can affect productivity, cost and quality of care, and treatment outcomes.


1. Accessed November 2017.

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 Social media for doctors: keeping it professional

 Social media for doctors: keeping it professional | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media platforms can be a fantastic mechanism to develop your professional presence, share information and network with your colleagues. Bearing in mind some important considerations will ensure you can make the most of social media and also comply with your legal and professional obligations.

General considerations when using social media

Getting engaged in social media now involves choosing from hundreds of different platforms, from professional networking sites such as LinkedIn, social networking platforms like Facebook, blogs, microblogs such as Twitter, and content-sharing platforms such as YouTube and Instagram. Referral tools such as WOMO and True Local, discussion forums and message boards and messaging platforms such as WhatsApp also fall within the broad category of social media.

The key issues to consider are:

  1. The different privacy settings and defaults of each platform you use.
  2. How your professional and legal obligations affect your use of social media.
  3. How posts, even those you think are private, could reflect on your professional reputation if seen by a patient, colleague or potential employer.
  4. Your rights and obligations in relation to comments made about you online.
  5. Your obligations to comply with policies covering your employment.

Privacy settings

It is vital to understand your security settings and review them regularly for each different site or platform you use, particularly as the default settings change periodically and new functions are added.

Some platforms are completely public and should be used cautiously. Even on those platforms with privacy settings, certain parts of your profile, such as your name, profile photo, list of friends or connections, gender, geographic location and pages or networks to which you belong may be considered ‘publicly available’ and cannot be protected by privacy settings on all sites.

Be aware that even if you remove content from some platforms, copies of that information may remain viewable elsewhere if it has been shared with others. Assume that if you post something online it could become public and you may be unable to delete it. If ever in doubt, don’t post it.

It is becoming increasingly common to be able to use your details for one platform to log in to other platforms, applications or websites. This means that information held by the one platform may be shared between platforms and may become more widely available. It would be wise to create individual profiles for each different platform or application so you do not unwittingly give access to your information.

Professional and legal obligations

Doctors are required to meet particular standards of professional behaviour, which are primarily contained in the Medical Board of Australia’s “Good Medical Practice: a code of conduct for doctors in Australia”.The Social Media Policy released by AHPRA and the National Boards in March 2014 confirms that the professional obligations in the Code of Conduct apply when using social media.

Privacy and confidentiality

Confidentiality remains a fundamental requirement of the doctor-patient relationship. In addition, privacy legislation imposes further obligations on practitioners and practices in relation to health information.

Sharing information, particularly with international colleagues, can be helpful in allowing a ‘virtual corridor consultation’ with an expert or as a second opinion to aid in diagnosis.

All patient information should be de-identified unless you have the specific consent of the patient. If you do have consent, make sure this is clearly documented. With images, it is best to always seek and document permission, even if you believe the image has been de-identified.

If you are planning to post de-identified information, you should carefully consider whether it can be sufficiently de-identified. For example, if it concerned a particularly rare condition, the image itself, or basic demographic information may enable the patient to be identified. There have been instances of patients identifying themselves, or being identified by friends or family, from the information or image posted about them. If re-identification does occur, and appropriate consent had not been obtained, de-identification does not cure the breach.

Inadvertent breaches of privacy and confidentiality can also occur if personal information about a patient, or staff, is accidentally disclosed, for example, in the background of a photograph. Some real life examples include patient records being open on a computer screen, a patient’s name being shown on imaging and a patient’s face being seen in the background of an employee’s selfie.

Professional behaviour

Your social media profile will often connect your professional and private personas. Your private actions may be seen as a reflection on your public persona. It is therefore safest to assume that at some stage a patient or colleague may be able to see your social media activity - consider whether you are comfortable with that before posting.

Consider who you ‘friend’ or share information with on social channels. Always be sure of the identity of people whose friend requests you accept. Do not accept friend requests from patients and do not seek to ‘friend’ patients.

Bear in mind that the code of conduct also includes professional obligations such as your responsibility to promote the health of the community through health education, disease prevention and health promotion (clause 5.4). Arguably, posting images or comments that could be seen to endorse activities and behaviour as excessive alcohol consumption, drug use, violence or anti-social behaviours, could not only damage your professional reputation, but could be in breach of your professional obligations.

Advertising and online content

AHPRA’s Guidelines for advertising regulated health services (the Guidelines) includes social media in the definition of advertising. When using social media to promote your practice, you need to be particularly aware of restrictions on patient testimonials, use of images including photographs, and discounts and incentives.

The Guidelines prohibit testimonials in advertising regulated health services including on doctors’ own social media pages. Doctors are not responsible for controlling the content on pages outside their control, and patients can still share views through consumer and patient information sharing websites that invite public feedback or reviews about experience of a practitioner or practice.

Importantly, you should not re-post any testimonials from third party websites on your own social media pages and if someone posts an inappropriate comment or image you are responsible for removing it from your page. It is generally advisable to disable the comments function on pages you control and you should regularly review the content on your accounts to ensure it is all appropriate.

Employment obligations

Many workplaces, such as hospitals, have policies in place regarding use of social media. It is important you familiarise yourself with and follow any such policies, particularly in relation to the use of patient information. Policies will generally prohibit using social media in a way that would breach any law (for example privacy, defamation, confidentiality, discrimination or harassment, intellectual property, competition and consumer laws), or that would bring your employer into disrepute, and may prevent you commenting on workplace matters.

If you are intending to use any patient information, even de-identified, you should be aware that such patient information may be the property of the practice or hospital where you work and should not be used without the entity’s consent, as well as any relevant patient consent.

If you own the practice where you work, consider your online presence in the context of what you would be willing to accept from any employed or contracted doctors working in your practice.

Contact arising from any online presence

You may be contacted by people who wish to seek further information or advice from you in response to your social media presence. Develop a strategy for responding to this - for example, referring them to their own treating doctor for any clinical advice in the first instance. If they wish to commence seeing you as their treating doctor, you should ensure that a formal doctor/patient relationship is established in the normal course.

Key tips


  • Understand the privacy settings of all your social media accounts and review these regularly
  • Obtain and document patient consent to use any patient information, even if apparently de-identified
  • Be aware of your professional, legal and employment obligations when using social media
  • If in doubt, don’t post.
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Social Media Use Profile, Social Skills, and Nurse-Patient Interaction among Registered Nurses in Tertiary Hospitals


Social media has become increasingly important over the past decades and has been integrated in various environments, including the healthcare setting. Yet, the influence of social media use on the social skills and nurse-patient interaction of nurses is an area in nursing that requires further studies. This study determined the interrelationships among social media use profile, social skills, and nurse-patient interaction of Registered Nurses in tertiary hospitals.


Employing structural equation modeling, a descriptive-correlational study was conducted among 212 consecutively-selected nurses from two tertiary hospitals. Consenting respondents completed a two-part survey composed of the respondent profile sheet and the Social Skills Inventory. The respondent profile sheet assessed demographic profile and social media use profile in terms of the mode, frequency, and duration of utilization. Three trained team members observed each nurse-patient dyad and completed the Nurse-Patient Bonding Instrument.


A good fit model illustrated the negative effects of frequent social media use to patient openness (β = −0.18, p < 0.05) and engagement (β = −0.11, p < 0.05). Longer use of social media on a daily basis, however, positively affected both dimensions of social skills. Accessing social media platforms using non-handheld devices showed the most influential positive effects to social skills and nurse-patient interaction. Additionally, although verbal social skills positively affected most dimensions of nurse-patient interaction, non-verbal social skillsnegatively influenced patient engagement (β = −0.19, p = 0.019) and nurse openness (β = −0.38, p < 0.05).


The structural model illustrates the effects of using social media on the social skills and nurse-patient interaction of nurses and emphasizes the need for implementing institutional policies on the judicious use and application of social media in the workplace. Further, social skills development programs geared toward having a balanced social skill must be implemented.

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Patient Engagement Survey: Social Networks to Improve Patient Health

Patient Engagement Survey: Social Networks to Improve Patient Health | Social Media and Healthcare |

In our most recent NEJM Catalyst Insights Council Patient Engagement Survey, “Social Networks to Improve Patient Health,” 99% of respondents acknowledge that social networks are potentially useful in health care delivery, especially for chronic disease management (named by 85% of respondents) and promotion of healthy behaviors such as weight loss, physical activity, and healthy eating (78%).

The NEJM Catalyst Insights Council members surveyed — composed of health care executives, clinical leaders, and clinicians — see significant opportunity to improve health by either building or leveraging existing social networks. The seminal research by the medical sociologist Nicholas Christakis shows the strong linkage of behaviors leading to obesity, smoking, and alcohol use within social networks.

Approximately three-fourths of Insights Council member respondents report their organization uses some type of social network as part of their care delivery initiatives, but 90% say these are not yet mature or only slightly mature.”

Facebook and other social media sites illustrate in everyday life the power of social connectedness and the influences individuals have on one another’s behavior. Historically, care delivery has focused exclusively on individual patients. Awareness is growing that social networks in health care, such as PatientsLikeMe and Connected Living, can help people improve health behaviors. Peer networks can provide information and community to patients who otherwise might struggle alone with a new or existing disease.

From the Patient Engagement Insights Report: Social Networks to Incent Better Health. Click To Enlarge.


Approximately three-fourths of Insights Council member respondents report their organization uses some type of social network as part of their care delivery platforms, but 90% report that these approaches are not yet mature or only slightly mature. However, more than 60% of respondents believe that when social networks do mature, the impact on patient engagement, quality of care, and provider engagement will be major to moderate — a significant endorsement of the potential of social networks in support of patient health.

Why are clinicians and health care leaders interested in tapping into social networks? The most obvious reason is that health systems have begun to take on financial risk for populations of patients. When health systems assume risk, they are no longer focused solely on treating disease and are incented to consider an array of options for keeping people healthy. Social networks provide the opportunity for innovative care at a relatively low cost (respondents score cost investment lowest among challenges to scaling these tools). Insights Council members single out disease-specific patient support groups and caregiver support groups as the social network approaches with the most potential (chosen by 75% and 66% of respondents, respectively).

Patients, physicians, and nurses — voted the top three parties who should be involved in developing social networks — will have to give careful thought how to make best use of these platforms. They will have to consider which tools they should use, whether to build or buy, how to integrate into workflows, and how to engage providers and patients successfully and sustainably. ”

Face-to-face communication (whether through group sessions or trainings) is named as the most useful mode of communication for social networks (by 69% of respondents). However, it seems inevitable that technology developments and an effort to more meaningfully engage younger patients will push virtual connections, such as social media sites, higher on the list. Social media platforms are a potentially more stable channel for connections with and among patients. For example, people switch cell phone numbers more frequently (largely due to cost issues) than they do Facebook user names.

In verbatim comments, some survey respondents express concern about HIPAA and other privacy regulations in the use of social media sites. It must be acknowledged, though, that for many years patients have been tapping into social networks such as Alcoholics Anonymous, without concerns about privacy being a barrier. What has been missing is the formal involvement and endorsement by health systems. Insights Council respondents also say they are worried patients will receive flawed information about their diagnosis and treatment on social networks. Council members also are looking for reimbursement models that justify the time necessary to develop, implement, and measure the impact of social networks.

Patients, physicians, and nurses — voted the top three parties who should be involved in developing social networks — will have to give careful thought how to make best use of these platforms. They will have to consider which tools they should use, whether to build or buy, how to integrate into workflows, and how to engage providers and patients successfully and sustainably. We are in the initial stages of this work and look forward to supporting maturation of social networks to improve outcomes.


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Direct To Patient Digital Marketing Market Estimated to Expand at a Robust CAGR During 2017 - 2025

Direct To Patient Digital Marketing Market Estimated to Expand at a Robust CAGR During 2017 - 2025 | Social Media and Healthcare |

The 21st century can aptly be described as the ‘social network era’. The rapid evolution of telecommunications technology, improving Internet infrastructure across the developing world and booming demand for smartphones has made us live in an interconnected and interdependent age. The world has never seemed smaller and technology has impacted every aspect of our daily lives. For a very long time, the medical, healthcare and pharmaceutical industries had avoided using Social Media platforms for a number of reasons. It was largely adopted by corporate houses but not by the pharmacy companies for fear of it being too much of a legal liability. In spite of this, some pioneering healthcare companies have led the way forward in the Direct-to-Patient Digital Marketing Market. They have shown that it is not only possible but imperative in today’s rapidly changing healthcare economy.

Today, healthcare patients are bombarded with thousands of branding exercises every day. More than half of these have absolutely no relevance to them. The Direct-to-Patient Digital Marketing Market understands the needs of a particular target audience and tailors its message to address their requirements directly. This allows healthcare providers to target the right audience at the right time with the right content. And what better way to reach patients than through popular Social Media platforms which they use regularly and are far more likely to respond positively to?


Direct-to-Patient Digital Marketing Market Drivers

The first Direct-to-Patient Digital Marketing Market driver is the growing importance of social media and also the patient. Whether healthcare companies like it or not, patients are playing a greater role in taking their own medical decisions. Web sites such as Healthline, Everyday Health and WebMD have made it very easy for patients to self-diagnose their problem. They frequently arrive at a hospital or doctor’s clinic already informed and with a list of possible ailments troubling them. People have also begun to expect assistance to their problems at any time of the day or week. Effective care in the Direct-to-Patient Digital Marketing market is provided 24/7 by leveraging both online and offline marketing tools to educate, sustain and engage patients at every stage of their decision making process. Pharmaceutical and medical companies must adopt Social Media to survive in the digital age and those that refuse to take part in it are only accelerating their own decline.

The second driver for the Direct-to-Patient Digital Marketing Market is risk management. A company’s brand can be tarnished online almost instantaneously through the spread of misinformation by disgruntled patients or ex-employees. If the medical organisation is inactive online, the brand can be steered in any direction the public wishes to take it. Thus, healthcare companies need to manage their own PR and company’s reputation as the alternate scenario is far too risky. It is vital for all organisations to meet customers where they are and that includes being active on Social Media platforms. Using traditional media channels might often be ineffective and a wasteful expenditure since customers would be far less likely to read it or respond.



 Direct-to-Patient Digital Marketing Market Restraints

While Social Media has benefited our lives in countless ways, it has also lead to a host of issues which were never even considered a decade or two ago. In the case of the Direct-to-Patient Digital Marketing Market, there are a few challenges which must be handled with the utmost care. The first is the legal regulations concerned with both the medical industry and the Internet. Medical institutions and healthcare professionals must be very careful with their patient’s private and personal health information as it is eagerly sought after by hackers. They can never disclose it online even inadvertently as the organisation can be involved in expensive legal lawsuits which cause both financial and reputational damage. There can also be privacy concerns from the patient’s side. Older people, in general, are mistrustful of technology and the number of hacks or data leaks do little to reassure their fears. They may be hesitant to use Social Media platforms to discuss their health problems which could make it challenging for medical companies to reach them online.

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2,000 Facebook pages issue unlicensed prescriptions to likers

2,000 Facebook pages issue unlicensed prescriptions to likers | Social Media and Healthcare |

There has been an upsurge in Facebook pages in Egypt providing medical consultations and prescriptions to their likers. The phenomenon is alarming as these pages are unlicensed to assume such work and tend to promote counterfeit medications. 

Telecommunications and Information Technology Committee at the Egyptian Parliament unveiled that the number of pages that fit this description reached 2,000 pages and that they enjoy high engagement, meaning that many citizens trust these “electronic clinics.” 
Committee Member Ahmed Badawy stated that a woman lost her life in Menoufeya after consuming diet pills prescribed by one of these pages, as reported by her family. 

Member of Health Committee at the Parliament, Samy el-Mashad, said that expired and counterfeit medications are often sold online, suggesting that this should be monitored by the Ministry of Health. 

Parliament passed a law in August incriminating broadcasting any advertisements on medications or medical services without receiving a license from the ministry. Otherwise, the penalties for advertisers would be paying a fine or prison. 

Member of Parliament Ahmed Zidan added that such law made many of those who used to advertize such fake drugs on television resort to social media to promote their products. He stressed that there should be awareness campaigns to inform citizens on the risks of following prescriptions and accepting diagnosis by such pages. 

Furthermore, the Ministry of Health issued a Tuesday warning against text messages promoting medications, and indicating the dosage and instructions for use. 

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Patient–Physician Interaction on Social Media: The Physician's Point of View

Patient–Physician Interaction on Social Media: The Physician's Point of View | Social Media and Healthcare |

The use of social media (SM) in healthcare has provided a novel means of communication in line with a more modernised approach to care. For physicians, SM provides opportunities for enhancing professional development, networking, public health, and organisational promotion, among others. For patients, SM provides potential for taking a more active role in health, sharing information, and building virtual communities, especially in the case of chronic and/or rare diseases. SM has the potential to bring patients and physicians closer together, beyond the walls of clinics; however, the interaction between physicians and patients on SM has received mixed feelings, especially from the physicians’ perspective. On the one hand, the potential for a more enhanced, albeit remote, communication has been viewed positively, especially in an era where digital technologies are fast expanding. Conversely, concerns around breaches in professional boundaries and ethical conduct, such as mishandling of patient-sensitive information on these platforms, have fuelled heavy criticism around its use. From this viewpoint, issues arising from the use of SM in healthcare, with a focus on the patient–physician interaction, discussing the potential benefits and pitfalls are covered in this article.

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Inappropriate Use of Social Media in Healthcare

Inappropriate Use of Social Media in Healthcare | Social Media and Healthcare |

Disclaimer: This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK Essays.



The rapid growth and widespread use of social media has changed the way many people communicate and share information. Social media include various websites such as Facebook and Twitter which are the two most popular social networking providers, video sharing websites like YouTube, a variety of blogs which enable users to post their own articles and allow visitors to leave feedback, discussion forums and other social networking platforms of communication that people can use for educational or other purposes.

In recent years a huge number of people around the world have become active users of social media. Network of Global Agenda Councils Reports (2011-2012) showed that worldwide more than 1.2 billion of people use social media, a number that accounts for 82% of all internet users around the world (Councils, 2012). Many of these users explore internet in order to access medical information and other to share their concerns about health related issues or to seek out medical treatment. Furthermore many healthcare professionals such as physicians, pharmacists and nurses use social media as a platform of communication to promote patient health and safety as well as an education tool (Frances Griffiths, 2012).

However irresponsible and misuse use of social media can result to a number of unpleasant situations. Both healthcare providers and patients should be aware of the risks of using social platforms of communication. Potential risks among others include the breach of personal data, the publication of poor quality medical information and the underestimation concerning the seriousness of a situation from a healthcare professional either due to lack of adequate information or due to provision of incorrect or inaccurate data provided by a patient during an online consultation (Harlow, 2012).

In UK there is not any specific guidance provided from the Health and Care Professions Council, but it has been made clear that social media should be used within the relevant standards of conduct, performance and ethics. It recognises that social networking is a valuable way to communicate and share information but also points out that the healthcare professionals who will decide to use it as part of their work must make sure that will behave with honesty and integrity for the best interest of the public protecting patient confidentiality and exhibiting their professionalism at all times (Health Professions Council Newsletter: Issue 34 - April 2011).

Nevertheless in the past have been reported many incidents of inappropriate use of social media and unprofessional behaviour where patient's personal data disclosed on the internet without their consent or cases where patients offended because of comments made from other users related to their health status. Guardian reported that between 2008 and 2011, were carried out 72 separate actions by 16 trusts against staff for inappropriate use of social media. Some of these cases were related to the breach of personal data and some other were associated either with posting of racists or sex comments or with sharing of inappropriate pictures and videos through public internet forums. These incidences encouraged British Medical Association to provide guidance to its members about how to use social media in an appropriate way. (Laja, 2011).

The use of social media allows patients to interact with healthcare professionals in a rapid and cost-effective way. Also gives them the ability to participate on their own care in order to manage their health and monitor their treatment by having quick access to medical journals and having view of different treatment options before and during consultation from their doctor and by using health related online applications. Likewise social media used from healthcare professionals to connect with individuals from different geographical areas in order to contribute on their health improvement by providing them with medical documents and by creating discussion forums on health related topics. This advantage gave them the opportunity to expand their activities introducing new services such as the online consultation and the provision of different treatment options at low cost. There are cases where social media used to promote communication both among patients and among Healthcare Professionals. Patients have the ability to share their concerns and discuss about common diseases or possible medical treatments and on the other hand Healthcare Professionals are enabled to share information, experiences and ideas supporting their lifelong learning (KPMG, 2011).

Some social networking platforms are free to the public but to some other the patients will have to pay if they need an online consultation by a healthcare professional or if they wish to discuss and share their concerns with other healthcare providers or other patients that suffering from the same condition. In UK operate websites like which is provided and operated by National Health Service (NHS) and offer a wide range of services such as pregnancy email service and online doctor diagnosis from registered UK-based General practitioners, discussion forums and online applications like symptom checker that help patients to get a better understanding of their healthcare needs. NHS in UK uses social media in order to improve public health by providing health related information through NHS choices. Also it has been integrated to other social media such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to promote its services and offer a broad spectrum of applications. For instance online healthy life style advisor, smoking secession programmes and body mass index (BMI) health weight calculator.

These services and applications enable patients to decide whether or not they require visiting a doctor for further advice retaining their privacy. However this way of communication can be very ineffective, as examining and interpreting medical notes without the availability of a full medical history and with the absence of physical exams can be a serious threat to the patient (Britton, 2012). In addition diagnosis can become unreliable due to lack of information and accuracy of data provided by the patient or due to underestimation of the seriousness of the situation, making online consultation inferior to a face to face consultation.

Internet usage statistics showed that the adults that are active users of Facebook and Twitter in UK come to 37.4 million and 15.5 million respectively (Ayres, 2012). Considering this amount of people it is easy to understand how important is for Healthcare Professionals to use social media wisely and with professionalism.

Inappropriate use of social media can affect healthcare's personal and professional life. Many of them choose to disclose patient's personal data for maintaining an easily accessible online medical record for personal use but they are unaware that many of that information (including videos or pictures) they upload on the internet in some cases can be accessed, used and spread from the general public without control (Thompson LA, 2008).

It is therefore Healthcare professional's ethical and legal responsibility to protect patient confidentiality at all times on the internet as well as to other media. Some social networking platforms give the ability to the users to set privacy settings in order to prevent uncontrolled distribution of data and to put restrictions to individuals seeking access to information that have been chosen to be kept private (Thompson LA, 2008).

However concerns have been raised in the past related to protection of personal data. Many social networks upload and share data without considering any legal or ethical considerations. Publishing personal information of patients without their consent can result to legal implications. In UK Data Protection Act limits healthcare providers from disclosing any personal information without patient consent with few exemptions. According Data Protection Act (1998) all personal data should be fairly and lawfully processed, they should be used for limited and specific purposes in a way that is adequate, relevant and not excessive, they should be accurate, held up to date and for no longer than its necessary and finally should be kept safe and not transferred to countries without adequate date protection.

Nowadays social media have become an integral part of our lives. General public uses them to obtain health related information, to connect with other users with the intention to discuss issues concerning their health, to get educated by reading medical documents so that will get a better understanding of their condition or their disease and to pursue new treatment options in a fast and inexpensive way. Social media have also become an essential way for healthcare professionals to provide their services in order to improve and monitor patient needs such as the online consultation. On the other hand the rapid and uncontrolled sharing of information can result to potential risks and have negative impact to the provision of health care and personal lives of both patients and healthcare professionals. Breach of personal data protection, publication of untrustworthy medical documents and faulty consultation due to lack of evidence can be some of the pitfalls that users may face.

In order to avoid these drawbacks both patients and healthcare professionals need to understand the limitations of the use of social media. Creating bounds between personal and professional use of social media is essential. Healthcare professionals who choose to interact with patients online must maintain appropriate boundaries concerning the relations between them. For instance, they should not discuss about health related matters on a friendly but only on a professional level.

Additionally in order to ensure that high quality information is provided and that a conversation between a patient and a healthcare professional will have a positive outcome, both of them must build a relationship of trust by being precise and honest to each other regarding the information they share. This will cause the patient to capitalize on the doctor's consultation appropriately and follow essential tips for a better result and will make it easier to healthcare professional to give the most appropriate advice. Also in my opinion healthcare professionals should only share medical documents that based on scientific studies while patients should consult their health provider before taking any action based on information obtained using social media.

There are personal data that should not be allowed to be shared through social media as it is very likely patients to be offended. So individuals who use social networking platforms, especially for medical purposes should be able to consider whether is safe or not to share their data with the public. Healthcare professionals must recognize that they have an ethical and legal obligation to maintain patient privacy and confidentiality at all times and need to be aware that social media cannot be completed safe for protecting the information they share. For this reason they should use social networking platforms that privacy settings can be set and are secure to the highest level.

Finally I believe that healthcare professionals should be restricted from disclosing patient personal information on public internet forums and any health related data should be safeguarded and be disclosed only to the patient or other healthcare professionals if it's necessary and only for the use of medical purposes and with the consent of the patient.

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Four digital trends in global clinical trials 

Four digital trends in global clinical trials  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Could ‘digital health’ be the next worldwide phenomenon? As advanced technology continues to evolve for health information purposes, it’s important to understand what digital health is and how its adoption is likely to impact end users.

Digital health encompasses a few technologies: mobile health (mHealth), health information technology (HIT), wearable devices, telehealth, telemedicine and personalised medicine, for example. But only recently have we seen healthcare providers move from experimenting with these solutions to fully deploying them. This is paving the way for early adoption across developed and developing nations, ensuring that a patient’s data and services are kept consistent.

While the paperless trial era is not yet in full swing, it won’t be long before paper processes for data capture, labelling, global clinical trial recruiting, regulatory compliance, translation and internal centralisation are phased out. In the meantime, what tools can the industry expect to take advantage of?

1) Social media

Clinical trials are by no means excluded from social media, a modern staple for daily life. In fact, social media is used by trial sponsors and CROs across a variety of applications, from setting up recruitment websites to educating trial participants.

The importance of social media as a platform for educational content, especially to the millennial generation, can’t be overlooked. According to PwC, 40 percent of consumers say social media content affects the way they manage their health, and 90 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds would trust medical information shared by their peers.

2) Apps

Most popular for gaming, mobile apps are in fact becoming integral to the clinical trial process. As compatible mobile devices (including tablets and smartphones) face wider adoption worldwide, so do health information apps. Technology companies have even begun to develop apps for electronic labelling of investigational medicines, using QR codes that can be scanned to convey instructions for use.

Widespread adoption of mobile devices is also helping to collect patient-reported outcomes (PROs), an increasingly important endpoint in clinical trial design, and opening new channels of communication between doctors and patients. Instead of making an appointment to see their GP, patients in remote locations can use their smartphones to initiate e-consultations — a service which the NHS recently launched in the UK. Pharma and biotech companies, too, can use specialised apps to administer patient questionnaires and remind patients about scheduled trial site visits.

3) Wearable devices

Worldwide adoption of wearable devices is expected to jump from 325 million in 2016 to about 830 million in 2020 thanks to an increasingly ‘always-on’ environment. The popularity of Fitbits and other wearables has exploded, helping patients monitor their blood pressure, glucose levels and other risk factors whilst also facilitating medical access to information about symptoms, disease patterns and adverse events.

Wearables not only benefit the user but may have enormous cost-saving potential. If they motivate users to take control of their health, they can help curb unhealthy lifestyles that lead to chronic conditions. An even more exciting development is wearable tech’s ability to detect serious medical conditions.

4) Companion diagnostic devices

Much like the paperless era, the personalised medicine revolution has yet to fully take hold. However, the pharmaceutical industry and research committees are clearly moving in that direction — and advanced analytics may play a key role.

Technology companies are developing in-vitro companion diagnostic devices that pharma companies can use to target specific diseases based on patients’ personalised genomic profiles. Diagnostic tests can help healthcare providers weigh a product’s benefits and risks, and may also be helpful for data-gathering purposes. As a result they may encourage drug companies and regulatory bodies to share data.

The Compliance Factor

We can’t know for sure which new technologies will be accepted as the norm for global clinical trial recruiting and management, especially those in early development or yet to be invented. But these advances are expected to make clinical trials more efficient and possibly shorten drug development timelines, reducing the wait time for lifesaving drugs to reach the hands of those in most need.

Of course, the collection, use and exchange of personal data raise significant concerns about data storage, security and privacy. If they have not already done so, life sciences companies handling sensitive personal information will need to safeguard patient data and ensure global clinical trial compliance with privacy laws of relevant markets.

The debate, now and in the near future, is how compliance will affect the adoption of new technologies — and whether pharma companies are prepared to overcome regulatory pitfalls quickly to adopt innovations before their competitors do.

Peter Quigley is director of global regulatory solutions, life sciences, at Lionbridge

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Community health advocate hits social media jackpot with video about booster seats

Community health advocate hits social media jackpot with video about booster seats | Social Media and Healthcare |

Talking to parents about car safety can be thankless work for a health advocate, but Kelli England Will recently hit the jackpot, thanks to social media.

video that the professor at Eastern Virginia Medical School developed about child booster seat safety – not exactly riveting material compared to cat pratfalls and flash mobs – has grabbed more than 9 million views on Facebook since late November.


More than 197,000 people have shared it and 8,000 made comments. That’s a lot of views and comments, at least for the EVMS Facebook page, outpacing anything else the Norfolk school has posted.

Many were simply one person tagging another with a comment like:

“This is why I say Kevin still needs to be in a booster seat. ... so listen to me.”

And: “My kids thought I was mean and over protective. they would always say ‘my friends don’t sit in a booster seat.’ ”

And: “why did I watch this so early, nothing like tears first thing in the morning. Also we are keeping cooper in a car seat like forever.”

Will received feedback from around the globe with her “Boost ’em in the Back Seat” video. It explains the importance of keeping children in booster seats, not just until they are 8, as stipulated in Virginia law, but until they reach a particular size, which is often past that age.

Will works in the division of community health and research and has spent years crafting public-safety messages about electronic cigarettes, car safety and substance abuse. The irony is that she produced a video with the same booster seat message a decade ago. It played well in doctors’ offices and health departments, but it didn’t get the attention that social media can unleash.

She recently revamped the message by using a grant from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles to hire a digital company called Jpixx to produce a heart-rending video that shows a mother taking her young son to soccer practice.

The boy hops in the back seat and puts his seat belt on, but there’s no booster seat. The video cuts to a banged-up car with smoke rising from it, sirens blowing, and the boy unconscious in the back seat.

The boy and his mother are actors, but the rescue workers, hospital doctor and nurses, and public-safety advocates play themselves – and volunteered their time to make the video.

The hospital scene of the boy getting treatment includes a doctor asking, “Was he in a booster seat?” and the mother tearfully responding, “No, he’s 9, he’s almost 10!” The doctor explains that since the seat belt did not fit correctly, the boy’s internal organs and neck might have been hurt.

A crash test footage shows how a misplaced belt can harm a child.

Even though state law requires that children under 8 be in a child restraint seat, the safety recommendation from agencies like the American Academy of Pediatrics, and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is a little more nuanced, and stringent.


Those agencies recommend that children be at least 4 feet 9 inches tall or 80 pounds and pass a “fit test.” That means they can sit with their back against the seat, with knees bent at the front edge and feet on the floor, with the belt coming across their shoulders and chest, not across the neck.

Will, who was surprised at how much the video was shared, listed some of the public message fundamentals that made it successful.

One, it takes a scare tactic to get people’s attention.

Two, find the media that fits your audience. In this case, Facebook was the perfect platform because a lot of parents use it. Teens, on the other hand, have migrated to Instagram and YouTube.

Three, follow the scare tactic with simple advice that people can accomplish.

Will said booster seat use is something that parents tend to be uncertain about, so they’re looking for clarification. The fact that the video first ran a few days before Thanksgiving, when families were traveling, also helped.

“People were tagging other family members saying things like ‘We need to get Jenny back in a seat,’” Will said.

She’s hoping for another bump as people travel during December holidays. A Spanish version is now available on the BoosterSeats4safety website.

“Social media is the most effective way to get the message out to the masses,” Will said. “It’s inexpensive and it’s easy.”

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2018 Digital Healthcare Marketing Trends That Are Here to Stay

2018 Digital Healthcare Marketing Trends That Are Here to Stay | Social Media and Healthcare |

After re-designing websites, creating apps, and getting to grips with new channels like social media, 2017 felt like the year healthcare marketers started to look beyond 'the basics' of the digital patient experience.

With the fundamental building blocks in place, the last 12 months have seen providers double down on technologies and strategies that measurably improve the patient journey, remove friction from provider-patient interactions, and move towards a more personalized digital experience for all.

So, where should you place your bets (and budget!) in 2018? 


There are already 45 million voice-enabled devices in the US, with that number expected to grow to 65 million over the next 12 months.

Needless to say, the proliferation and use of voice-enabled assistants and devices will make 2018 the year voice goes from being a curiosity to something healthcare marketers need to roadmap, budget for, and implement.

But where do you start? Listen to this podcast and learn how the digital marketing team at Northwell Health took their first step into voice assistants, harnessing the power of Amazon’s Alexa platform to better engage their patients and transform the digital patient experience.


With the rise of voice activated assistants, comes the rise of the voice powered search. Starting from virtually 0% of searches a few years ago, Comscore predicts that by 2020 50% of all searches will be voice searches.

The rise of voice search on personal digital assistants like Siri, Alexa, Cortana and Google Home has added a whole new dimension to SEO. The increase in longer phrase, spoken queries, and the ability to process natural language, mean that patients no longer have to search with simple keywords. Instead they can ask search engines questions the same way they would their doctor.

Voice search usage continues to increase as technology accuracy approaches human levels of understanding. Mary Meeker’s 2017 internet trend report highlights that Google’s advances in natural language processing have lead to a 95% voice word accuracy rate.

Digital healthcare marketers and content creators must optimize their websites, content, and publishing platforms for voice search. That includes optimizing your SEO, researching users, developing a content strategy, adjusting content language and tone, and continuous testing and iteration.

Here’s a handy guide to help you get started with voice search optimization.


Chatbots, and the AI ‘brains’ that power them, are revolutionizing how brands interact with their customers. Able to answer ever more complex questions and resolve issues in real-time, they are the very embodiment of the Micro-moment and the future of how we find information, buy, book appointments, or interface with any type of customer service.

In 2017 we saw chatbots being deployed at the beginning of the patient journey (see Piedmont Healthcare), and used as an automated way to keep in touch with patients and ensure they remain healthy post appointment or procedure.

Keen to alleviate pressure on call centers and overstretched doctors, 2018 will see a growing number of health systems, hospitals, and clinics start to experiment with chatbots throughout the patient journey.

Chatbots offer hospitals an instant, scalable, and more measurable digital touchpoint with patients than, say, communication through a website or app. Using artificial intelligence, chatbots can assess symptoms, offer patients reliable and trusted resources, determine insurance information, and connect them with the right doctor to address their concerns all in one convenient, empathetic interaction.

Take a look at how chatbots dramatically enhance communications during 3 of the most common patient and health system interactions.


Can your patients use one set of login credentials (Single Sign On) to access all their billing, booking, patient records, customer service, prescription and other services? Can they get everything they need through one app, without being pushed to a third party medical records,  billing or other patient portal?

If the answer to either of these is no, then it’s time to take a long, hard look at the infrastructure underpinning your digital patient experience. 2018 is the year providers will start to get serious about integrating their disparate systems to provide a unified, frictionless, and increasingly personalized experience for patients.

Find out more in A Marketer's Guide To APIs and API First Design.


Want to grow market share? Then work on your brand.

Brand is the new bedside manner by which providers are judged and patients are acquired. Health systems have the benefit of being able to establish strong brand equity because they, by the very nature of what they do, help people live better. And in those exchanges, there is an investment and equity that a healthcare provider can build with patients and project outwardly to burnish their standing in the minds of consumers.

Previously the doctors, and not the system, represented healthcare brands. But with patients acting more like consumers, there is an amazing opportunity to create an anticipated healthcare experience.

When it comes to seeing a brand come to life on the internet, your website content is most likely the largest touchpoint with the most reach, and it’s important to guide the way patients will interact with and perceive your content.

Click here to read more about the value of brand in healthcare today.


Millennials are shaping the future of healthcare in important ways, one of which is emphasizing the focus on preventative healthcare and wellness. In addition, they also want to access relevant health information quickly and have access to convenient healthcare options when they need them.

According to Communispace, 27% of millennials research health information online and self-treat at home, never setting foot in a doctor’s office. And with the proliferation of telehealth and quick outpatient and surgery center visits, healthcare is no longer confined to the four walls of a monolithic hospital building. Conversations around health and wellness are happening 24/7 on social media, in online health communities, and increasingly in smaller retail and convenience clinics - and that’s where you need to be as healthcare marketers.

The economic influence of Millennials is growing fast, currently representing over $200 billion in annual buying power. If you ignore the healthcare values of Millenials and market only to Baby Boomers you’re going see patient acquisition and retention plummet.

The most important thing you can do to attract Millennials is to make sure that your information is findable and accessible across devices (see Voice Search above). If it’s difficult to access symptom information or find a doctor on your site, or if your content is not mobile friendly, Millennials will simply move on to your competitors.


Along with the major trends already mentioned, here’s a couple of other areas we also expect to see develop further in 2018:


The humble CRM system has been a mainstay of consumer-brand interaction in other industries for years. The ability to track and store customer data is an essential piece of the modern marketer's toolkit and, as such, more health systems will implement CRM systems in 2018.


A single word with a multitude of technical, design, and content strategy implications, personalization is the ‘payoff’ for having a CRM system. Using the data collected, you can tailor everything from your social media advertising strategy to your website appearance to fit the individual patient, giving them a digital experience to remember for all the right reasons.

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Prescriptions for Healthcare Marketing in 2018

Prescriptions for Healthcare Marketing in 2018 | Social Media and Healthcare |

Technology is changing the game for all businesses, and marketers are also finding new ways in which to do their jobs more effectively. Now healthcare marketers are discovering the ways in which they can use technology to identify and engage their target market.

In order to identify the priorities for healthcare marketers in the upcoming year, Affect, a public relations and social media agency specializing in technology, healthcare and professional services, spoke with a panel of senior healthcare executives from organizations like, Illumina, MDxHealth, Pfizer and Phoenix Children's Hospital. Based on those discussions, it published a guide to navigating major trends in healthcare marketing in 2018 with a look at five key areas:

  1. Advanced social media use to increase awareness  and loyalty
  2. Highly customized content plus promotion
  3. Creative media relations
  4. Emerging tech campaigns
  5. Business-oriented metrics

I spoke with Melissa Baratta, SVP and healthcare practice lead at Affect, about the state of healthcare marketing in today's environment. She said that because of the increasingly important role technology is playing marketing, “the role of marketers for healthcare is shifting.”

It's a challenge for markets “to stay on top all of these tech trends in the industry” that they need to incorporate into their marketing content while also leveraging technology in their role as marketers. In fact, some marketers see their jobs as “so tech-driven” that they have to have the capability of a CIO. The call for such a high level of technological ability makes some believe that the marketer's role “may have to split into different roles” down the line.

However, that's not necessarily a negative thing, Baratta explains. “There's excitement, looking at how to put all the pieces together, trying to figure out how to use technology to their advantage.” They know that technology offers them a “better way to market now.”

Some are “incorporating more advanced analytics, using AI for big data,” she said. With so much data to work through, they find that they need to use AI tools to handle it efficiently. On that basis, they “can better segment audiences,” and work out better alignment with business-oriented metrics.

Baratta says that “more alignment between marketing and sales” is needed. “At end of the day, all are working toward same goal.” Marketers do realize that, and as a result CMOs are now very “revenue-driven, and really focused on business oriented metrics.”

Consequently, one of the focal points set for marketers for the coming year: “to have the financial metrics” in place to make sure they are on the same page as sales. This is a change from the past in which “they didn't really have solutions on metrics side.”

Precise metrics also play into fine-tuned marketing. The goal is to reach the “right audiences with at the right times with the right content” and also connect the “results back to financial metrics,” Baratta explained. “Audience segments are more important than ever,” she declared. Technological solutions can show marketers what audiences “want from a content perspective and how to reach them effectively.

Social media plays a part in that. Some people suggested that “social media is becoming its own workflow,” she said. That a change from its previous categorization as a subset of PR or even “ignored altogether.” Marketers have to recognize the increasing “opportunities for engagement” offered by social media.

Live video is one of the ways healthcare marketers are effectively reaching out to audiences. Jared Johnson, manager of marketing technology and analytics at Phoenix Children's Hospital, was quoted in the report, saying: “We started live video streaming, we began a series of Facebook Live Q&A videos with hospital stakeholders, and we were the first children's hospital to Periscope a surgery.”

Baratta said that though, the organizations was “a little bit nervous” about broadcasting the surgery live, they found it extremely rewarding. Parents responded very positively; seeing the surgery alleviated many of their worries about the procedure for their children.

I asked if mixed reality was being used in this space. She answered that a few said they were trying things in VR, but its expense prevents it from being “mainstream” now. She thinks that will take another couple of years to happen.

While some healthcare marketers are using email and text messaging, they will have to think about not crossing over into what people consider invasive. They “need to find the right balance” to deliver just “the right amount of communication” to their target audiences and not too much, she explained.

Overall, though, it's clear to Baratta that “technology is the number one thing impacting healthcare marketing.” Going into 2018, healthcare marketers have to be extremely “tech savvy” to be on top of their game.

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The 3 Social Media Campaigns to Help Healthcare Practitioners Reach Out To Prospective Patients 

The 3 Social Media Campaigns to Help Healthcare Practitioners  Reach Out To Prospective Patients  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Healthcare marketing has become a requisite for all organizations in the healthcare industry today. A significant shift is visible in the way people used to search for healthcare practitioners 10 years ago and how they do it today. According to a 2013 report by Pew Research Center, 72% of internet users look for health information online today. What does that mean for you as a healthcare service provider? It means that the smartest way to connect with service seekers is by meeting them where they are. At Social Media platforms! At Refresh Healthcare, we help healthcare practitioners and institutions connect with prospective patients using digital marketing at its best. Here’s how we can help you with the successful running of these 3 incredible campaigns. Campaign 1: Patient Awareness Programs Pick a local business such as a dentist, pharmacy or gym which isn’t a direct competitor. Partner with them by making services like flu shots, pet vaccines or specific drugs available for free or at discounted rates. For instance, you can have free flu shots at a nearby gym. This small effort will go a long way as a promotion for both - you and the gym. The event will only be a success if everyone shows up. To create awareness about it, we can help you design smart adverts, brochures and targeted digital content that will bring new patients to you. Source Campaign 2: Sharing is Caring Source Tags and shares in the pursuit of a giveaway are another great social media campaign scheme. This is especially ideal when the social presence of your institution goes stagnant and you want to reach out to more people. Promising people a special offer, discount or giveaway, practitioners can engage and connect with a wider audience using the same platform. A random winner can be selected at the end of the contest. For the successful running of any such campaign, it is important that the social media profile remains actively involved. Since most doctors and nurses won’t have the time, you can leave it to us to deliver your gratitude to all those who actively participate in the contest. We can handle your social media account and be as responsive as possible. Campaign 3: Meet the Doctor Series ‘Meet a Doctor’ series is another great campaign to connect with your doctors (current or potential) in a less formal setting. A Meet the Doctor series can embark on a rather more personal and a light journey of the doctors with them sharing the best, worst and most difficult challenges and cases in the lives of doctor’s nurses and hospital staff. The campaign can feature video interviews, a Question/Answer session in the form of a monthly newsletter, a webinar or even live session where patients can directly interact with their doctors. Source Tracking the Success Source The easiest way to track the success of your campaign and whether they lived up to your expectation or not, is by evaluating the impact it made. With the help of the right analytical tools and metrics, we can help you determine if the campaign was a hit or a miss. Using our expertise, we shall track any new likes, followers and shares on social media. We shall also trace new website visitors, what time they were most active, the number of new appointments and bookings etc. This way you will have a thorough idea of how big an impact you campaign was able to make.

Read more: The 3 Social Media Campaigns to Help Healthcare Practitioners Reach Out To Prospective Patients | Refresh Healthcare Blog |

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Two-Way Social Media Messaging in Postoperative Cataract Surgical Patients: Prospective Interventional Study

Two-Way Social Media Messaging in Postoperative Cataract Surgical Patients: Prospective Interventional Study | Social Media and Healthcare |

Background: Social media offers a new way to provide education, reminders, and support for patients with a variety of health conditions. Most of these interventions use one-way, provider-patient communication. Incorporating social media tools to improve postoperative (postop) education and follow-up care has only been used in limited situations.

Objective: The aim of this study was to determine the feasibility and efficacy of two-way social media messaging to deliver reminders and educational information about postop care to cataract patients.

Methods: A total of 98 patients undergoing their first eye cataract surgery were divided into two groups: a no message group receiving usual pre- and postop care and a message group receiving usual care plus messages in a mobile social media format with standardized content and timing. Each patient in the message group received nine messages about hand and face hygiene, medication and postop visit adherence, and links to patient education videos about postop care. Patients could respond to messages as desired. Main outcome measures included medication adherence, postop visit adherence, clinical outcomes, and patients’ subjective assessments of two-way messaging. The number, types, content, and timing of responses by patients to messages were recorded.

Results: Medication adherence was better in the message group at postop day 7, with high adherence in 47 patients (96%, 47/49) versus 36 patients (73%, 36/49) in the no message group (P=.004), but no statistically significant differences in medication adherence between the groups were noted at preop and postop day 30. Visit adherence was higher at postop day 30 in the message group (100%, 49/49) versus the no message group (88%, 43/49; P=.03) but was 100% (49/49) in both groups at postop day 1 and 7. Final visual outcomes were similar between groups. A total of 441 standardized messages were sent to the message group. Out of 270 responses generated, 188 (70%) were simple acknowledgments or “thank you,” and 82 (30%) responses were questions that were divided into three general categories: administrative, postop care, and clinical issues. Out of the 82 question responses, 31 (11%) were about administrative issues, 28 (10%) about postop care, and 23 (9%) about clinical symptoms. All the messages about symptoms were triaged by nurses or ophthalmologists and only required reassurance or information. Patients expressed satisfaction with messaging.

Conclusions: Two-way social media messaging to deliver postop information to cataract patients is feasible and improves early medication compliance. Further design improvements can streamline work flow to optimize efficiency and patient satisfaction.

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