Social Media and Healthcare
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Social Media in Medical Education: The Debate

This debate took place between Dr Damian Roland and Dr Rakesh Patel at the University of Leicester Medical School on 26 June 2013.
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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, 12:29 PM
Being active on Social media can really help your company.
rob halkes's curator insight, September 15, 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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How Social Media is Helping Healthcare 

How Social Media is Helping Healthcare  | Social Media and Healthcare |

The development of social networks altered the methods by which customers and companies interact online. In the early days of the web, interaction embraced top-down, direct instructions; details were offered on fixed web pages or for by means of e-mail.

Social networks have actually redefined the standard function and decreased the degree of separation in between knowledge providers and knowledge consumers.

The usage of social networks continues to increase, and most notably, the fastest growing group of social networks users are people aged 45-54. While the patterns are indisputable, there is still a lot we don’t know about the way social networks can be helpful to health care companies’ interaction and treatment functions.

While there are restrictions provided for the different guidelines and policies surrounding the medical market, I personally feel the risks are far higher if companies do not embrace a social networks technique for their clients.

I have actually recognized 6 advantages for utilizing social networks for health care interaction, medical education, and treatments.

Boosts interactions with others

Peer-To-Peer health care has actually ended up being a source for client details and assistance. 25% of clients diagnosed with persistent medical conditions have actually utilized the web to discover and engage with others with the exact same medical conditions. Health care specialists need to tap these health sub cultures to supply a liable and informed tip.

Social network’s one-to-many abilities also allow you to offer public medical guidance without jeopardizing privacy. Think about patient adherence. As you might understand, patient adherence is a concern that health care companies face throughout disciplines.

A well-crafted short article on self-directed workouts, medical gadget usage, and self-care offers your patients near real-time guidance to properly follow medical guidance.

Available shared and customized details

Patients are using Google as a method to diagnose themselves. Today Google health associated searches include over 900 medical conditions. While the information exists, people often find unconventional ways to discover it.

As a healthcare company, you can not just limit yourself on education about your patient’s medical conditions, but the best way to find out more about it. If you discover a post on social networks, you can rapidly remedy medical diagnosis misalignment by directing the user to a more befitting piece of info.

Even providing suggestions on ways to utilize Google Scholar to look for conditions can go a long way. For instance, attempt browsing “sleeping disorders treatment” in Google, and after that look for “sleeping disorders treatment” in Google Scholar. The dependability and quality of details on the latter search are far remarkable to the previous.

Boost your access and availability

For several years, a regional medical professional has had complete control of all medical details available in a neighborhood. The web and progressively social networks have actually altered that providing the public not just access to medical education, but end up being active agents in direct communication efforts.

There are also advantages for health care specialists. Medical practitioners have embraced new technology into their brands, logos, and the overall way of showcasing their expertise to the public.

If you’re a regional physician in a little neighborhood that comes across a patient with an uncommon set of symptoms, you can use Social Media to get in touch with other Physicians. It’s actually a fantastic method to broaden your knowledge by widening your expert medical network beyond the borders of your library and regional health network.

Peer/social/emotional assistance

Social assistance has actually been connected to favorable health results, with some research studies concluding that patient’s adherence and overall health increases when getting assistance from peers, proving that motivation is key to any aspect of life.

Helene Campbell, a girl from Ottawa who utilized social networks to record her condition and her own need for brand-new lungs, affects my individual ideas on this. Her online project #BeAnOrganDonor on Twitter resulted in over 2,000 individuals becoming authorized organ donors in Ontario.

In addition, open discussions about health problems will just lower preconception from members of the public struggling with a medical condition. I personally think education eliminates any worries and seclusion.

Lastly, doctors can offer continuous assistance and support to patients as they aim to accomplish their objectives. Think about quitting cigarette smoking– giving up cigarettes is potentially among the hardest things to achieve. Believe me, I have actually given up smoking 7 times. Favorable support from a doctor can assist their patients to satisfy their objectives.

Public health surveillance

I do not anticipate social networks to ever replace standard information sources for public health and disease monitoring, however, social networks do hold prospective for complimentary details.

Provided this set of interactions, information is not mainly created for public health functions but is a set of online communications promoting a healthy way of living, illness dangers, and interventions.

Aside from being another resource to distribute data, social networks can be utilized to supply prompt projections of illness occurrence. Think about influenza. Twitter information relating to common cold occurrence was found to correlate with seasonal influenza information gathered by sources that are more conventional.

These social networks patterns can assist scientists, epidemiologists and health care specialists measure modifications in illness awareness along with beliefs to treatment and preventative care. In addition, social network’s information can determine response to public health messages and projects.

Analyses of metrics relating to particular health promotions or disease-specific awareness projects supply beneficial insights to health care experts throughout assessing their projects.

Affecting health policy

Social media is without a doubt the most spoken disturbance in marketing in years, but how can social networks affect health policies? Research studies reveal that 31% of health care companies have actually developed social networks guidelines in writing.

This tells us that nongovernment organizations are actively carrying out policies to protect patient privacy but still supply a concrete and organized policy throughout all personnel within a health care company as how they interact, react to and evaluate info published to or gathered from social networks channels.

But a fascinating fact gathered is that two-thirds of Physicians choose an open online forum instead of an expert, physician only online forum for expert communication purposes.

This is interesting because it reveals that health care specialists are welcoming social network’s openness and suggests that the open source of info is, in fact, enhancing the quality of care they have the ability to supply to their patients and the public.


Social network usage is growing and not likely to disappear. Currently, the general public and health care companies are taking part in social networks for health care interaction and treatment. Although there are some difficulties keeping personal privacy and the trustworthiness of the content shared on the internet, the advantages to the public and health care companies surpass its limitations.

Whether you are presently utilizing social networks or not, it’s crucial you develop an appropriate social networks policy, and share it with all personnel. Think about translating existing guidelines, such as PHIPA and PIPEDA and use these guidelines to your social networks policies as they refer to client details collection and upkeep.

When gathering information, use technology that protects the format of social networks interactions, consisting of edits and removals. Control and screen social networks interactions in real-time and act on any messages including keywords or expressions appropriate to your practice.

Educate the personnel who will be utilizing social networks– use real examples showing ways to utilize social networks and how not to.

Lastly, make sure to craft a compliance content technique by producing a library of content that your personnel can quickly publish to social networks, decreasing the possibility of medical malpractice.

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1 in 6 doctors admit to searching patients online

1 in 6 doctors admit to searching patients online | Social Media and Healthcare |

If you share information about your life online, there is a chance your doctor already knows about it.

An Australian study found one in six medical practitioners said they go online to look for information about a patient — around the same rate as doctors in the US and Canada.


The same number of doctors believe it’s acceptable to look up publicly available online information about a patient as part of regular clinical practice.

In an emergency such as a suicide attempt, 37.8 per cent of doctors said it would appropriate to search patient information online. 35.6 per cent were neutral and 26.7 per cent disagreed.

The rise of social media is bringing new ethical and legal dilemmas to healthcare which doctors learning to naviagte.

For example if a doctor finds evidence of patient waiting for a liver transplant drinking alcohol, they could intervene to stop the operation.

Emergency doctors may find searching online useful if there patients are not able to provide information due to being psychotic, intoxicated, or suicidal.

However, researcher James Brown, who conducted the Australian research in 2014, said conducting online searches has limitations as posts may not be accurate and could also be viewed as a breach of trust.

“We found poor literacy from the Australian Medical Association and very informal guidelines, which makes it easy for the doctor to make the wrong call,” he told

Mr Brown said that more needed to be done to develop guidelines around social media and healthcare.

 “Younger doctors have grown up with online communication, and frequent personal use may have instilled confidence in their ability to navigate any potentially hazardous ethical dilemmas,” he said.

“In comparison, older doctors have not been as involved in the progressive integration of social media into daily life, nor the increasing volume of its use.”

Professor at Columbia University Paul Appelbaum said building a profile from the online profile of patients could have wide-ranging repercussions.

“The standard of care is developed by the clinical community itself,” he told Nautilus.

“What most people do, or at least what a substantial number of people do, becomes a standard of care.”

“[That future] will depend on us, on the clinical professions and how we choose to use the ability that the internet is giving us,” he said.

“By going online and putting what we find in the chart — whether that’s a summary or a cut-and-paste excerpt or a screenshot — we are creating a new kind of medical record information that didn’t exist previously.”

“Unlike some of those sources — which may be hard to find, or ephemeral, and may ultimately disappear — medical records are forever.”

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Healthcare Brands Can (and Should) Go Live on Social Media 

Healthcare Brands Can (and Should) Go Live on Social Media  | Social Media and Healthcare |

If you’re a hypochondriac like me, surfing the internet for medical advice soon goes from helpful to horrific in about 0.3 seconds. A quick Google search for a mild stomach cramp turns into liver failure (true story) and before you know it, you’re saying your goodbyes and wondering where it all went wrong. If only there was a doctor in your back pocket you could contact to avert this crisis. If only…

If you have ever come under a wave panic thanks to a medical website, you’ve come to the right place. If you immediately turn a sneeze into a death sentence, this one’s for you. And for the people in the back who are too embarrassed to ask questions, we have a solution for you:

Live streaming. Yes you heard correctly. All of the cool healthcare brands are doing it. And if they’re not, here’s why they should.

Give your brand a human face




When social audiences are looking for answers about health conditions or medical advice, they don’t want to be faced with a block of text that unquestionably jumps to alarming conclusions (raise your hand if you have ever been personally victimized by WebMD). They want to speak with a real-life person. It’s comforting to put a face to a name and know that someone out there is listening and is willing to help. Face-to-face interaction is reassuring when speaking about heavy topics, even if it is done through a screen. Social media’s live functionality only further strengthens that bond.

Audience interaction with real doctors/experts



As humans, we are often scared of the unknown. We want answers. We want them now. We want you to give them to us. Tweet chats and Facebook live Q&As are perfect for interacting with patients who have burning questions that need answering ASAP. Medical terminology can get confusing, especially for those not in the field, so having someone to simplify and explain complicated details is sure to put people’s mind at ease. Social media also brings a sense anonymity for those who may be too embarrassed to ask their doctors these questions in person or who may just be curious about different health conditions and medications in general. Online discussions are a great way for doctors and experts to build a relationship with their community by sharing their knowledge and putting misconceptions to rest.

A glance inside the company



When people think about healthcare brands, their minds cut straight to images of hospitals and needles. They forget that actual hard working employees come together to make up an organization and that there’s way more than meets the eye. It’s never a bad idea to use live features on Facebook and Instagram to remind followers what goes into to making your company what it is today. Utilizing live streaming to give tours, conduct employee interviews and talk about company values is a great way to give people on the outside looking in a glimpse of the amazing culture that surrounds your organization.

Event coverage



Our friends at Einstein Health know a thing or two about covering live events on social. Not too long ago, Einstein celebrated their 150th anniversary. To honor the occasion, they held a ceremony to bury a time capsule which would be opened in 100 years. Healthcare brands are doing amazing things every day and they deserve to be acknowledged. Live streaming is the perfect way to give followers, patients and even potential employers a sneak peek and behind-the-scenes look at all of the great events you’re attending, hosting or speaking at.

Well, there you have it, folks. If you’re a healthcare brand and thinking about going live, believe me when I say that the benefits can be enormous from a content marketing perspective. Live streaming is an all around great idea to build an online presence and relationship with patients, put uneasy followers’ minds to rest, and share the wealth of knowledge I know you’re just itching to talk about. Consider it Gianna approved.

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 Professional social media instrument to meet researcher and healthcare instruments 

Research Article Open Access Luisetto et al., Int J Econ Manag Sci 2016, 5:3 Research Article Open Access Internati…
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How Digital Marketing Helps Dental Clinics to Reach New Patients

How Digital Marketing Helps Dental Clinics to Reach New Patients | Social Media and Healthcare |

The best way to learn about dental online marketing and your target market is hiring an experienced team that has worked with several dentists. Traditionally, the most effective way for dental offices to attract new patients has been from referrals. Today, the same concept exists online in the form of reviews and social media engagement. Here are ways dentists can attract new patients with digital marketing.


Social Media Conversations

Dentists need to embrace social media because it’s becoming a modern form of customer service and market research. If you can attract a steady stream of followers on social media, it can generate interaction that helps you learn about patients and they can spread the word to friends. Since it’s unlikely a dentist can spend hours answering questions on social media, it helps to outsource to a marketing team that is familiar with the dental industry.

One of the most important reasons that dentists need an interactive online presence is that women tend to be the decision makers when it comes to choosing a family dentist. Women are huge fabs of social media. A majority of both Facebook and Twitter users are more likely to make a purchase from a small business after seeing its content on social media.

What makes social media particularly powerful for dentists is that it can help maintain existing relationships and build new ones. LinkedIn provides opportunities to get endorsements for your business, which may influence new prospects. Since visiting a dentist is a personal experience, social media is an effective platform for building personalized relationships.


Promote Your Web Content

Ideally, your dental office has both a content-rich website and a social media page. You don’t need to be on several social media sites, but it helps to be on one or two. It also helps to have plenty of original web content that demonstrates your authority as a dental business. By building up a wealth of content about dental information, you will be able to easily answer people’s questions with links to deeper knowledge.

The reason that social media and a website work well together is that you can network with people on social media to promote various web pages. If people like what they read, they may share it on social media, which increases exposure for your business.

You can maximize your reach with your online following by creating a regular blog series. The blogs should be interactive and present fresh content that cannot be found anywhere else online. Here are some ideas for crafting original content:

  • dentist interviews
  • industry statistics
  • professional perspectives on the dental industry
  • video tour of your complex
  • demonstration video


Reviews and Reputation Management

The more you can get repeat business from your existing clients, the better your chances are at attracting positive reviews online. Reviews are posted on social media, message boards and review sites such as Yelp. You may want to encourage your most loyal patients to post reviews on your site, since reviews have become an important filter for consumers, especially those looking for personalized services.

It’s possible to attract new patients with your blog and website. The blog, which can be managed by a digital marketing team, needs to be updated continuously to keep followers coming back often. If the blog answers people’s questions or gives them insight, visitors may view your blog as a source of valuable information. If Google views your blog as authoritative for your niche, it can get high search rankings for your geographic location.

SEO techniques are important, but they do not guarantee high search rankings. You can still gain widespread search engine and social media visibility by using pay-per-click (PPC) ads. This type of advertising is ideal for reaching your target market at a more affordable cost than what traditional media offers. PPC advertising can generate leads immediately, but at first you usually need to experiment to find out what type of campaign strategies work the best.


Stand Out in Your Community

Many dental offices compete on a local level. So how does one dentist stand out from another if they offer the same services for about the same prices? That’s a question each dentist must answer for themselves. Just be aware that the best way to get high search rankings in Google is if your business corners a certain niche market.

Think of stories in your community that you can associate with and create content about. Perhaps there are annual events in your neighborhood that you can promote as a public service. Be sure to connect your actual patients with your online community by publishing your domain, email address and social media page on your physical marketing materials. Ultimately, the more your content stands out online, the better chances you’ll be remembered.



The secrets to achieving successful digital marketing for dentists revolve around working with knowledgeable digital marketing professionals. You can attract new clients by building a compelling website and integrating it with social media profiles. Consider saving time and money by hiring a seasoned team to attract new patients to your business through dental online marketing.

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How Social Media Is Changing the Game for Medical Providers and Healthcare

How Social Media Is Changing the Game for Medical Providers and Healthcare | Social Media and Healthcare |

It’s safe to say that we’ve come a long way from the days of AOL Instant Messaging and MySpace top 8. In less than a decade, the applications of social media have burgeoned as the technology has transformed from just a personal networking platform, to a valuable tool capable of connecting people to new ideas, greater information, and even better health.

From dispensing health advice to connecting with potential patients, there is no question that the role of social media  in recent years — and it’s showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Many providers are embracing this valuable new tool, jumping on the opportunity to use social media for networking, medical education, patient interactions, and professional development. And as new social media platforms have popped up over the past few years, most of these providers have found a way to navigate through the concerns of HIPAA violations, privacy breaches, and professional misconduct that plagued early adopters of this technology.

How can providers maximize the impact of their social media efforts? Most of the research I’ve conducted indicates that different social platforms target different types of audiences, and each can be effectively used in different ways.



What the Research Says

In our latest research, the social media task force at the American College of Chest Physicians analyzed all discussions on sepsis, a hot topic in critical care, to identify which social media platforms can be best used to reach specific groups of people. What we found is that Reddit “ask me anything” threads target laypersons, Facebook live streams target an international physician audience, and Twitter is a mixed bag of healthcare providers, industry and patients.

Why is this useful to know? A recent survey showed that increasing numbers of tech-savvy consumers now use social media to find healthcare information and participate in health related discussions. In fact, 90 percent of the youth has said they would trust medical information shared by doctors on social media. Knowing which platforms effectively reach which audience is extremely helpful for the medical community to disseminate important healthcare information to these various groups.

How Are Patients Using Social Media?

Besides medical providers using social media, many patients are also turning to social media to document their healthcare stories online. There are a number of popular YouTube channels dedicated to showcasing the patient experience and highlighting patient struggles with chronic illnesses. For example, a simple search of cystic fibrosis pulls up videos with titles such as “a day in the life of a cystic fibrosis patient” and “living with cystic fibrosis”. Social media has become more than social — it’s generated the birth of a virtual community, a way for people to connect from across the world and create a new kind of support network that has never before existed.

Social Media and Disease Awareness

And lastly, let’s not forget the significant application of medical research groups and charities using social media to raise awareness about little-understood diseases. Who can forget the famous ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, one of the most effective disease awareness campaigns to date, in which over 17 million people participated by soaking themselves in ice water for all their Facebook friends to see? In years prior a charity such as ALSA would have received $1 million in donations at most. The summer of the infamous Ice Bucket Challenge brought in over $115 million in donations to fund research for the disease and its cure!

It’s indisputable that social media technology has now emerged as a reliable and powerful presence within medicine, and I hope to see it continue to grow as innovators and providers join forces to make the technology even more effective. I strongly encourage all healthcare providers to get involved and take advantage of all the benefits that social media can provide!

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Sharing is caring: Millennial patients and social media

Sharing is caring: Millennial patients and social media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Marketing to millennials, sometimes called the selfie generation, can be a shoo-in for aesthetic practices.

Why? Millennials are happy to share.

While Generation-Xers, baby boomers and older generations were unlikely to want to share cosmetic procedure experiences, millennials, from about ages 21 to 37, not only tell their friends and family, but also their social media networks, according to Tom LaVecchia, president of X Factor Digital Marketing.

“Research shows that two-thirds of millennial patients are comfortable sharing their [cosmetic procedure] results,” LaVecchia says. “Obviously you still need consent for the doctors’ social media postings. But most millennials will gladly post on their own social media, without asking for anything for it. They’re happy to do it, because they’re part of an Uber mindset. They tend to share and over-share their experiences, and plastic surgery is no different.”

Today’s coveted millennial patients are having not only rhinoplasties, breast surgery and liposuction, but also filler and botulinum toxin injections, according to statistics.

To create social media marketing campaigns to reach the younger set, aesthetic physicians should first understand their own personality types and ultimate comfort level with social media; then, they should focus on a campaign that is congruent with their practices and that connects with these younger patients, according to LaVecchia.


What’s Your Style?

Most doctors fall into one of three categories, LaVecchia says.

1. Dr. Show Person

This doctor embraces everything social. Regardless of his or her age, this doctor is hip and extroverted. The staff is hip. The practice generates entertaining postings to showcase their services and talents.

2. Dr. I-Got-This

This doctor has a digital presence and works diligently on search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC) and traditional marketing. But he or she realizes the need to connect with people through “relational marketing,” not traditional transactional marketing, according to LaVecchia. The perfect venue for Doctor I-Got-This is to share a day in the life of an aesthetic physician or surgeon. This doctor is not a show person. This doctor is serious and tends to be more an introvert. But he or she is ready to open up professionally on social media to share results and glimpses of behind-the-scenes professional life in order to connect with consumers.

3. Dr. Results

This third category includes doctors who may very well be hip and have great personalities, but they have no interest in showcasing themselves or being front and center. Rather, Dr. Results likes to share patient outcomes. A more likely social media video featuring Dr. Results might be to film him or her injecting a patient, LaVecchia says.

Social media campaign success hinges on a campaign’s congruency with a physician’s practice, according to LaVecchia.

“That means if you’re in Idaho, and you’re a facial plastic surgeon, you might not be able to get away with the [Dr. Show Person] persona,” he says.

Conversely, a Dr. Results type who is just starting in practice might not have enough experience to rely on skill and outcomes.

“Make sure your social media program is congruent with who you are, what your practice is and what message you’re sending to your audience,” LaVecchia says.


Four Secrets to Millennial Marketing Success

1.     Create Epic Content

“Create epic content,” LaVecchia says. “And great content looks like: filming surgeries, filming injections, and don’t be afraid to show a little blood. Don’t have my company come in and film it. Use your iPhone. Create great content that’s real and genuine and, generally, people will follow.”

2.     Think Like a Millennial

If you’re a Gen-Xer or older, don’t be focused on creating content focused on your generation or what resonates with you, according to LaVecchia.

“Try to produce content that conforms to your practice and brand, but that relates to millennials,” LaVecchia says. “What’s important to millennials is results, so … maybe showing the injectables live or showing great befores and afters. Consider having millennial patients come in and do a reveal on camera, to capture the essence of your practice.”

3.     Expand From Facebook

“Instagram and Snapchat are a must,” LaVecchia says. “If you’re not on them, yet, hire somebody to do it right. Don’t have somebody do it from the office just because they are young.”

4.     Use Combos to Connect

Just like many aesthetic physicians are touting combination procedures to achieve better results, LaVecchia says combinations lead to marketing success. While SEO remains a primary channel for promotion, practices that ignore social media, or even pay-per-click, are missing the marketing boat, he says. 

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Pinterest and Healthcare Marketing -A Strategy Discussion 

Like Amazon, Pinterest Delivers…. It seems every company is trying to find a way to “Amazon” their sales initiatives to reach more customers, promote product, …
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Want to Increase Orthodontic Practice Patient Referrals? Read This Now!

Want to Increase Orthodontic Practice Patient Referrals? Read This Now! | Social Media and Healthcare |

Even in today’s day and age of booming technology and fancy online marketing techniques, good old-fashioned word of mouth advertising is as powerful as it has even been to increase orthodontic practice patient referrals.

In a 2014 study by Ogilvy, Google and TNS, 2,500 consumers were surveyed on their top 10 “points of influence” after making purchases.  Not surprisingly, word of mouth ranked number one at 74%.

People trust their friends, and they trust the experiences of others. If you’re looking to improve your practice and bring in lifetime customers, you want to do everything you can to increase orthodontic patient referrals.

Here are five simple ways to increase patient referrals for your orthodontic practice and help your patients spread the word.

1. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Referrals

Asking for business can seem a bit risky. After all, the last thing you want to do is sound like a sales company. But, how are your current patients supposed to know you want new patients without some form of communication?

It doesn’t have to be as blunt as “Refer us!” Instead, put up friendly signs where customers can see them saying, “New patients welcome!” You can also note it on your patient correspondence. Have your front desk coordinator casually mention it at check out, especially to patients who seemed very pleased with the service. Using a memorized script, you and your staff can ask if there’s anyone who might need your services.

2. Up Your Customer Service Care

People don’t refer businesses they don’t like to their friends, family and social media followers. Stand out and give your patients a reason to brag about you. One of the best ways to stand out in business is by exceptional customer service. Create a friendly, comforting, and helpful environment for your patients.

3. Include a Variety of Different Internal Marketing Strategies

Even if you have the best marketing strategy in the world, one single marketing tactic isn’t enough. Different people respond to different approaches. Implement at least 15 advertising strategies. From signage to social media to contests, various methods will be more likely to reach and connect with a wider audience.

4. Hire a Professional

Managing a patient referral program is no easy task, and it may not be wise to go at it alone. Invest in a part-time marketing coordinator who has the skill and experience to move your strategy forward quickly and efficiently.

5. Set a Goal

It’s no new concept that setting goals improve performance. In one study, setting goals improved work performance by 12-15%.

Setting goals acts as a source of motivation, inspiration, and accountability. Set a specific referral target. As an example, you might want to set a target of one referral per year from 50 percent of your patients. Break that goal up into quarterly, monthly, or weekly goals and use it to motivate your staff or marketing coordinator.


It’s true that marketing is moving in a whole new direction with our ever developing technological society. But word of mouth is one marketing tactic that’s not going anywhere anytime soon.  Increase your orthodontic patient referrals through word of mouth by following the guidelines discussed here. It will offer an excellent return for the time, money, and effort your practice puts into it.

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Gamification of medical education: Choose Your Own Medventure

Gamification of medical education: Choose Your Own Medventure | Social Media and Healthcare |

More and more health care practitioners are turning to social media for their medical education. Fellows are learning ultrasound from Snapchat, nurses are learning how to insert NG tubes from watching YouTube, and learners are learning pathophysiology from blogs and podcasts. To reach this audience with credible and reliable content, it is important for medical educators to be present where the learners are, and that means social media.

Users are also looking for entertaining ways to learn and engage with content. “Gamification” is a technique used making activities fun as well as beneficial by turning that activity into a game. Studies have found that gamification increases learner engagement, improves knowledge absorption and retention, and enhances the overall learning experience for all age groups. This strategy applies to medical education as well.


Many of us (myself included!) have fond memories of the Choose Your Own Adventure series by Jay Leibold from the 1980’s. Thus summer, Sarah Lascow did a piece in Atlas Obscura on how the author mapped out his stories. Fascinating graphic description of how these books were put together. A couple of days later, I saw a scenario that @NasMaraj posted on Twitter called “Intruders.” It was simple thread, but a clever idea. And I thought, this would be a fantastic tool for medical education! So on a long flight to Alaska, I put a case scenario together using the Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) Guidelines and mapped it out on paper. Then I spent about an hour or so tweeting and linking the tweets.



The response to these scenarios has been amazing. The first scenario had more than 11,000 interactions within the first few days, with hundreds of positive comments from doctors, nurses, and trainees thanking me and telling my how much they liked them. That’s been incredibly gratifying! Amy Coopes (@coopesdetat) helped me coin a name & hashtag for them: #ChooseYourOwnMedventure. Since then, I’ve published four different scenarios and collected them in a Twitter Moment.


Making these threads is not hard, but it can be time-consuming in the beginning. But I’ve learned a few things that may be helpful to others looking to do this. First, I would suggest mapping each tweet out ahead of time analogue style with paper! Plan how each tweet should link to the others, because once you start, you’ll need to refer back to that map, so you don’t get lost. There are two ways that tweets connect in these scenarios: by replying to the one above it, and by starting a whole new thread and copying the link to that new thread into another thread. This is key. Starting new threads and copying the link into a reply into another thread allows the user click down new pathways, and hop back and forth between the threads for the “Click here if you choose…” options. If you simply reply to the tweet above or don’t link the tweets at all, the scenario will not display correctly for people trying to “play” the game.

Take a look at this example. In my plan, each tweet is in its own text box. I’ve used bold font to indicate the start of a new thread, a black arrow to indicate a reply to the tweet, and a blue arrow to indicate that I’m copying the link to that tweet.

So the thread starts off with the tweet “You are called to the bedside …” The next tweet (“Your initial impression …”) is a reply to the first tweet. And the third tweet (“You decide to …”) is a reply to the 2nd tweet. To set up the choices, you start a new thread for each of the two choices “You decide to do your job …” and “If you choose to grab a donut …” Then you need to copy the link for each of these new tweets in a reply to the tweet that asks for your choices. Once this is done, you can proceed to expand the threads for each of the choices by replying to the first tweet in that thread. As you can see from this graph, this trick about copying the link for the tweet, and pasting it into a reply a tweet can enable you to hop around between threads.

Be sure to test out your threads as you’re laying it out. It is very easy to make mistakes! Think about including photos, graphs or links that might be useful for education. Also be aware that your timeline will appear very disjointed while constructing these scenarios, but should work well if you start at the beginning.


Hopefully, this will inspire you to do one of your own! Innovation of teaching tools that engage the learner is crucial in today’s medical education environment. The Choose Your Own Adventure style scenarios have been fun to make, fun to use and easily adaptable for a variety of medical scenarios. Good luck.

Chris Carroll is a pediatric critical care physician and can be reached on Twitter @ChrisCarrollMD.

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Researchers review electronic health records and social media for insights on patient care

Researchers review electronic health records and social media for insights on patient care | Social Media and Healthcare |

Every day thousands of people schedule medical appointments for physicals, tests and procedures. In the past, health professionals filed notes in paper charts about patient responses to medications, treatments and illnesses. Today this information is recorded electronically via computers.

Researchers recently initiated a “big data” analysis project to review electronic health records, in generic form to maintain patient confidentiality, and social media posts to identify common health symptoms and patterns. Doctors will use this information to develop better treatments for patients in the future. Here are a few examples of how this information is used at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

Electronic health records

Researchers are using algorithms to compile details from electronic patient files on treatment complications and medication reactions. Doctors can use this data to design innovative care for patients with specific health conditions.

One example of this is how the Abramson Cancer Center studies radiology results, lab testing and and patient symptoms to discover targeted treatments that can minimize patient visits to hospital emergency rooms. Also, while reviewing a compilation of clinical notes in the Health Language Processing Lab, scientists discovered new patterns of seizures and symptoms that will help doctors treat pediatric patients with epilepsy.

Social media

People typically use social media, such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, to share personal information with friends, family and colleagues. However, medical professionals are studying how to use these tools to compile people’s reactions to medications and treatments.

At the Center for Digital Health, researchers are reviewing Twitter posts to gain insights into medical issues, such as HIV. In addition, scientists in the Health Language Processing Lab are examining tweets from expectant moms to learn about reactions to pain medications and vaccines.

By mining electronic data and learning what patients are experiencing and communicating, scientists worldwide are unraveling complex medical issues. This information will greatly improve the diagnosis of health problems and the development of more effective treatment plans for patients.


Science Daily

Pearson Higher Education

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Use of digital to engage patients and providers

Overview of the use digital technologies and social media by hospitals - Dec. 7, 2016
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Social media in today's medical practice: the mismatch between current physician usage and consumer preferences

Social media in today's medical practice: the mismatch between current physician usage and consumer preferences | Social Media and Healthcare |



To determine if current use of social media by physicians is meeting consumer preferences.



Physician users of social media, recruited via private physician Facebook groups, were asked to complete an electronic survey evaluating the use of social media in medical practice. Social media consumers, recruited via various platforms (blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter), were asked to complete an electronic survey evaluating desired use of social media by the medical community.



A total of 200 physicians and 3,081 social media consumers participated in the surveys. A majority were Caucasian (81.9%, 81%), women (100%, 98.9%) of reproductive age (18-44 years) (80.4%, 92.8%) for physician and consumer respondents, respectively. Many physicians were OBGYNs (48.5%) with 43.2% in private practice, and 24.1% in academics. The majority of consumers desired to learn medical information via social media (85%). Similarly, most physicians believed that consumers would enjoy posts about medical information (83%) and would schedule appointments with physicians they follow on social media (92%). However, only 49.2% of physicians reported having a professional social media account, and many indicated they would not post medically related information (50.8%).The majority who indicated they would not post cited a desire to keep their personal life private (52.2%) and felt that professional and personal lives should remain separate (83.5%). Of physicians who do currently post on social media, most enjoyed posting medical information on Facebook (88.4% versus 2.1% for Instagram), whereas consumers indicated a desire to receive medical information via Instagram (44% versus 18.1% for Facebook). While topics of highest interest to consumers were medical facts and “behind the scenes” as physicians, most physicians agreed that they would post information about medical facts (71.2%) but would not post “behind the scenes” topics (59.6%).



Opportunities for recruiting patients and educating target populations via social media are likely underutilized by current physicians. Of those who are using social media, there is a mismatch between platforms and information preferred by consumers and those currently used and distributed by physicians. Efforts to recruit patients and spread medical information could be improved by targeting platforms and topics preferred by current consumers.

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Facebook wants pharma money

Facebook wants pharma money | Social Media and Healthcare |

Facebook wants pharma money and they want it for everything from advertising new drugs to clinical trials but obstacles still remain. 

CNBC recently said “some drug companies have been reluctant to use Facebook due to concerns that patients will share sensitive information like medical side effects and adverse events”.  However, patients will tell you, if you listen, that they are afraid to post or follow health conditions on social media due to retargeting.

Two months ago I was doing some research for a client on MS and social media.  For more than two days I received “suggested posts/groups’ to follow/read.  When I had my client do the same thing she became incensed telling me “this is last things MS patients want”.

Can it be done?

However Facebook can become a valuable tool for pharma marketers. Social media is about being informed, not being sold, when it comes to health care .   Pharma can leverage social media, but it’s going to require some belt loosening with regulatory and legal people as well as dedicated social media marketing people who understand what their audience wants and needs in information.

The key challenge is being able to have a conversation without having to have every word cleared by your M L R team. When it comes to adverse events pharma can monitor social media and give patients who report an adverse event an eMail address or URL to report their event.  The idea that pharma would ask someone on social media for their name and address is beyond comprehension.

The Facebook problem…

In an editorial in today’s Times called “Facebook wins, Democracy Loses” the Times brutally tore into Facebook over the latest scandal involving fake accounts buying political ads.  They went on to say..

Anyone can deploy Facebook ads. They are affordable and easy. That’s one reason that Facebook has grown so quickly, taking in $27.6 billion in revenue in 2016, virtually all of it from advertisers, by serving up the attention of two billion Facebook users across the globe.  A core principle in political advertising is transparency.  None of that transparency matters to Facebook. Ads on the site meant for, say, 20- to 30-year-old home-owning Latino men in Northern Virginia would not be viewed by anyone else, and would run only briefly before vanishing. The potential for abuse is vast.

Can a disreputable supplement company, for example, post an ad that looks like a pharma ad?You betcha and who do you think will take the fall?

We tested a facebook post targeted at depression suffers that had good information about getting help for depression and it did very well.  The key was that the post was informational, not a sales pitch.  If someone wanted more information it took them to an unbranded site that was rich in content.  When we rad the post traffic spiked with a majority of users going to the unbranded site and onto the branded site.  However, when we changed the post to “a sales pitch” it did very poorly.

The lessons are there if pharma wants to really learn.

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Instagram Can Diagnose Depression "Better Than Doctors"

Instagram Can Diagnose Depression "Better Than Doctors" | Social Media and Healthcare |

Instagram can be used to diagnose depression more accurately than doctors, according to researchers from the University of Vermont and Harvard University.

In a paper published this month in EPJ Data Science, Dr Christopher Danforth and Dr Andrew Reece discovered that an algorithm used to flag key signs in participants’ Instagram posts could diagnose depression 28% more effectively than doctors.

The study looked at nearly 44,000 photos posted by 166 participants, 71 of whom had been diagnosed with clinical depression.

Researchers found that while depressed participants posted more images with faces in them, healthy individuals’ photographs tended to have more people in them. Depressed individuals were also less likely to use filters on their posts.

The algorithm used by scientists accurately identified depression 70% of the time, compared to just 42% by US doctors. This isn’t the first time that research suggests social media can be used as a predictor for mental health.

A 2013 study by Microsoft Research analysed how Twitter could be used to measure and predict major depression. Another study by researchers at the University of Michigan and University of Leuven found that Facebook usage could be used to predict a decline in wellbeing in young adults.


The study authors have said that they have not created a diagnostic tool, but a “proof-of-concept for a new way to help people”. In a recent blog post, Dr Reece said: “These and other recent findings indicate that social media data may be a valuable resource for developing efficient, low-cost, and accurate predictive mental health screening methods.”

Fellow researcher Dr Danforth spoke of the potential applications for such research. “Imagine an app you can install on your phone that pings your doctor for a check-up when your behaviour changes for the worse, potentially before you even realise there is a problem.”

Happiful magazine will revisit the connection between mental health and social media in greater detail in 2018.

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A pediatrician was bullied by his fellow physicians on Twitter

A pediatrician was bullied by his fellow physicians on Twitter | Social Media and Healthcare |

#Tweetiatrician is a common hashtag used by pediatricians as a way I assumed to find advocates for children’s issues.

Recently, I used this hashtag to start a new Twitter account. I sought educated dialogue on Medicaid, health care reform, vaccination, and other pediatric topics.

I am a pediatric emergency medicine physician and consider myself a strong advocate for children and seldom agree with any political party. My advocacy work in many forms is not dissimilar to thousands of pediatricians. Clinically, I see the lack of access due to social issues, poor insurance reimbursement, ED overuse, and the challenge as we try to influence populations to care for themselves by simply brushing teeth, taking asthma medicine and stopping smoking.



My middle age does lend me to seek more perspective and not just prove myself right like my younger self.  I am frustrated by having to switch channels or read two articles to gain balance perspectives.  I look at politics like medicine and try to find evidence support with a focus on solutions.  Frankly, I thought all tweetiatricians would act the same.

I was wrong. I began to follow about 100 tweetiatricians.  I saw many posts rightfully suggesting Medicaid is under attack.  My tweet suggested that Medicaid, though needed, is woefully inadequate. Hospitals and pediatricians can’t make ends meet without a balanced ratio of commercial to Medicaid patients.  I worry more insurance has contributed to the rising health expenditures.  I thought good points for discussion.


Not so fast: my tweets were rebuked with political posts about rising insurance coverage and suggestions of me being anti-kids by not advocating for Medicaid.  My replies intended to foster dialogue went unanswered.

Next, I examined the amazing number of polarized political tweets and re-tweets of tweetiatricians based on opinion and skewed facts.  I really stepped in the Twitter pothole when one of these tweetiatricians mentioned giving a lecture on media advocacy at an upcoming meeting.   I asked if the presentation would offer more balance?  You know, perhaps recognize that there are two sides to every opinion, a need to focus on issues and solutions based on evidence instead of politics.

BOOM. My Twitter account exploded as tweetiatricians came on attack with vitriol. I was asked to argue a side rather than suggesting two sides and seeking truth.  Dialogue suggestions were met with highly liked and re-tweeted fire such as being a “MGMA hat wearing fool.” Troll, gadfly and being trite were insults lobbed at me. I suggested hate knows no political party. Ridicule followed and I was being told my opinion didn’t matter based on having so few followers.   My account was blocked, replies ignored and my LinkedIn profile examined.  I removed my name from my account, changed my Twitter handle, and backed away.


As the AAP defines it:  Bullying includes threats, spreading rumors, physical or verbal attacks, and intentional exclusion or marginalization.

My sadness is great for these tweetiatricians I randomly followed.   I am hopeful they don’t represent all. Social media is clearly dangerous and fosters single mindedness.  Pediatricians should be above this behavior and partisan polarization.  I am no longer a #tweetiatrician and perhaps let the bullies win.  I hope that others will recognize the need to see any and all sides.   Kids have issues, and partisan politics and bullying is not the way to solve them.   It’s time for a new mindset and a new hashtag that unites and not divides.

Mick Connors is a pediatric emergency physician.

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Why Your Potential Patients Are Like Hansel & Gretel—And How To Leave A Trail That Leads Them To Your Waiting Room

Why Your Potential Patients Are Like Hansel & Gretel—And How To Leave A Trail That Leads Them To Your Waiting Room | Social Media and Healthcare |

Whether they’re seeking a doctor to correct sight or hearing loss, or for consultations to address cosmetic or weight loss concerns, patients today have more control than ever when it comes to deciding who they will entrust to solve their health conditions. And the tool that’s driving their individual care choices is no longer the family practice doctor or even the insurance companies. It’s the internet—namely search engines like Google and social media outlets like Facebook.

Consider this: According to the Pew Research Center 74% of internet users engage on social media and 80% of those internet users are specifically looking for health information. Nearly half of those are searching for information about a specific doctor or health professional.  

In other words, millions of people globally are using online searches and wading through vast amounts of information in their quest for treatment options and doctor recommendations.

For many practitioners who are used to previous generations who relied on family doctor referrals or flipping through the yellow pages, this can be bewildering. But think of it this way: your patients are like Hansel and Gretel, lost in the woods. The trail makers they’re looking for are, “What’s my condition?” “How is it fixed?” “Who can help me?” “Where can I find the best treatment?”

Your job is to help them find their way out of the woods, which you do by targeting your medical practice marketing like a trail of strategically placed breadcrumbs. Just blanketing the woods with breadcrumbs—or the internet with a flood of information about your practice—won’t show them the clear path. You have to know which turns they’re be making, and how to point them toward your practice at those junctures so they don’t get off track and head in another direction.

Crumb 1: Awareness

Who is lost and what’s motivating them to look for your help? Marketing to a specific patient will help you attract patients who are an excellent fit for your practice. Be aware of who Hansel and Gretel as patients are by evaluating your current patients. Why have they chosen you? Is it your reputation for successful lasik surgeries, or cosmetic laser procedures, or your patient referral rate?

If Google is the proverbial woods, when these patients conduct their searches they should be able to find your practice easily. Write about your top practices and procedures and promote them on your website and on social media. Not just once, but over and over, with examples of how it’s worked for others, along with titles and keywords that target the subjects. Incorporate popular words and phrases your patients might use to find you and/or your specialty. Need help getting started on blog post titles? We’ve written two months of free medical blog post titles that work, like “10 Myths About (Insert Illness) & Our Treatment Advice.” or “4 Keys To Choosing An Expert (Insert Specialty) Doctor.” Download the two months of medical blog post titles here.

By creating content that addresses what your patients are wondering about, you’re essentially dropping the crumbs that say, “We see you and we’re over here! Come this way!” In short, the results that appear on the first page of a Google search are the options prospective patients will most likely consider when determining their next step. A good SEO (Search Engine Optimization) strategy will also help your practice jump to the top of search results.

Crumb 2: Consideration Options

Once your patients have found your first crumbs and are aware of who you are, you need to show them how your practice is a fit to solve their problem. At this stage they’ve gathered enough information to be aware of several medical practices that might help them and are considering which is the best fit, so you need to keep showing them how you’re better or different than the other healthcare contenders.

By providing your patients with free information to answer their medical questions, you not only position yourself as an expert in your field but you also become a resource that potential patients feel they can trust. Create digital content like checklists of symptoms, downloadable brochures or eBooks, or simple infographics about what happens before, during and after a procedure.

You don’t need to use patient’s names, just verifiably true examples of people who have had conditions like these potential patients, and how you’ve solved their condition. Use blog posts and checklists, etc., to show them what you’ve done for others like them, and how they too can be free from the pain or worry their malady is causing.

Crumb 3. Action Steps

When your prospective patient is at this stage of their journey to your waiting room, they’re almost clear of the woods. They see what you have to offer, have considered their options with other medical providers, and are ready to head your way.

This is the stage that medical practices too often abandon that trail of crumbs and consider the journey done, but this is a big mistake. At every stage of the journey—with each blog post or content created—you need to provide a way for potential patients to submit their contact information, or book a free consultation or appointment online.  

This can be as simple as a link at the end of each blog post that takes them to your “contact us” or “request a consultation” page which invites them to enter their name, email, and phone number. Until they’re ready to take action, they may not enter this info unless it’s required to download a resource you’re offering such as a checklist or symptoms quiz, but make it available on every post and page of your website—including prominently on your homepage.

Once you have their name and email address, they become new contacts and you can nurture them with automated, yet personal, emails to gently remind them that you are there to help and encourage them to take the next step into your office.

These nurturing emails help you become a familiar face as well as an expert your patients can trust. Monthly email newsletters to your contacts also work well because they provide readers with a glance into what your practice has been achieving that month and what is going on in your world of health care.

Some people prefer a more personal touch, so if the situation warrants, you can even call them directly (with the phone number they provided when downloading one of your resources or filling out the “contact us” info) to inquire about a treatment they referenced or to answer any questions they may have.

Remember that people who don’t want to request a free consultation or book an appointment now may become patients later, so don’t become discouraged if your new patient list is shorter than your email list. Each patient is at a different stage in the consideration and action-taking journey and some just need extra crumbs to find their way. Occasional, nurturing and non-pushy contact will maintain the relationship and serve as a reminder that you’re there for them when they’re ready to receive care.

Then, when they do emerge from the woods and enter your office, you can reassure them that the hardest part of the journey is over and that they’re in good hands, ready for the next step.

These are the strategies Baker Labs uses in marketing for medical practices, such as a vein clinic and vascular surgery group practice that was not having success with their traditional marketing methods. To see how we increased their website traffic 300% and generated hundreds of new appointment requests online, view this case study.

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One in six doctors searches patients online

One in six doctors searches patients online | Social Media and Healthcare |

TELLING your doctor you have only four drinks a week when you actually love a bender might not be as clever as you think.

If you openly share information about your life online, there is a good chance your doctor already knows all about it.

The booze, the sun, the cigarettes, the unhealthy burgers ... everything.

But why would your doctor want to search for you online?

Some suggest it’s to discover the “truth” about their patients to help provide more accurate care, while others admit it’s simply curiosity, voyeurism or habit.

This doesn’t necessarily mean your doctor is stalking your Instagram page, although an Australian study found one in six medical practitioners admitted to going online to look for information about a patient — on par with doctors in the US and Canada.

The same amount of doctors also believe it’s OK to look up publicly available online information about a patient as part of regular clinical practice.

In an emergency such as a suicide attempt, 37.8 per cent of doctors said it would appropriate to search patient information online — 35.6 per cent were neutral and 26.7 per cent disagreed.

The internet brings new ethical and legal dilemmas to health care, each with vastly different outcomes.


If a doctor finds a picture of a patient waiting for a liver transplant drinking alcohol, they could intervene to stop the operation.

Searching online could be especially useful for ER doctors, where patients are unable to provide information due to being psychotic, intoxicated, or suicidal.

Learning about patients from their digital footprints is not without limitations, given posts may not always be accurate or timely and accessing without consent could be viewed as a breach of trust.

Researcher James Brown, who conducted the Australian research in 2014, said more needs to be done to develop stricter guidelines to avoid any trouble that may arise.

“We found poor literacy from the Australian Medical Association and very informal guidelines, which makes it easy for the doctor to make the wrong call,” he told

Mr Brown said as a younger generation of doctors who grew up with the internet start climbing the ranks, there will likely be more integration of social media and healthcare.

“Younger doctors have grown up with online communication, and frequent personal use may have instilled confidence in their ability to navigate any potentially hazardous ethical dilemmas,” he said.

“In comparison, older doctors have not been as involved in the progressive integration of social media into daily life, nor the increasing volume of its use.”

Googling patients might be helpful in the ER, but maybe not in all cases.Source:AAP

A journal article by University of Washington clinical psychologist Keren Lehavot explored a case of a man in his late 20s being forcibly brought to hospital by police after updating his profile picture on Facebook with what looked like a gun pressed to his head.

As the man was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had a long history of suicide attempts, his doctor made the decision to hospitalise her patient after seeing the picture on his page.

The man denied wanting to end his life and voiced his disgust at the intrusion of his privacy and involuntary hospitalisation, which lasted for several days.

And when police performed a search on his apartment, they only found a single pellet gun.

Professor at Columbia University Paul Appelbaum said cases such as this inadvertently set new legal precedents for mental healthcare.

“The standard of care is developed by the clinical community itself,” he told Nautilus.

“What most people do, or at least what a substantial number of people do, becomes a standard of care.”

This means if examining a patient digital footprint becomes the norm, doctors could become liable for information their client posts online — if the doctor misses a suicide post from a patient that kills themselves, the clinician could potentially be sued for malpractice.

“[That future] will depend on us, on the clinical professions and how we choose to use the ability that the internet is giving us,” he said.

Mr Appelbaum said building a profile from the digital footprint of patients could also have long-lasting repercussions.

“By going online and putting what we find in the chart — whether that’s a summary or a cut-and-paste excerpt or a screenshot — we are creating a new kind of medical record information that didn’t exist previously,” he said.

“Unlike some of those sources — which may be hard to find, or ephemeral, and may ultimately disappear — medical records are forever.”

The psychiatrist said as third parties routinely access medical records, the data collected could

play a role in legal proceedings regarding accidental injury, child custody disputes or criminal cases. This isn’t even to mention criminal profiteering.

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Social media gets the word out during Irma emergency

Social media gets the word out during Irma emergency | Social Media and Healthcare |

Worried relatives, generous volunteers, frantic neighbors, even medical providers are turning to social media now that Hurricane Irma wiped out electricity and cell service to communities across Florida, cutting off most contact with remote islands in the Keys.

"We all sort of scattered around the country when we evacuated, so we're trying to stay in touch, by phone, by Facebook, however we can," said Suzanne Trottier, who left her Key West, Florida home for Virginia almost a week ago as the hurricane approached. "Unfortunately we've been really, really looking on Facebook a lot because I have people down there I haven't heard from," she said.

One of those posts Monday morning brought a bit of good cheer: a photo of a friend who had stayed behind, smiling, healthy and dry.

"Such great news" posted Trottier's husband Neil Renouf, adding a thumbs up.

But many questions remain about the situation on the Florida Keys. Irma's eye slammed into the island chain with potentially catastrophic 130 mph winds early Sunday morning, and more than 24 hours later, friends and family still couldn't contact people who were riding out the storm. Search and rescue teams were going door-to-door.

Facebook groups were still forming Monday to help from afar. Evacuees Of The Keys members shared school closure notices, videos of destruction, and many posts from friends and relatives searching for loved ones.

Leah McNally of Fort Lauderdale, whose mother stayed behind at her home in Tavernier, on Key Largo, was relaying information onto Facebook that she heard through a walkie talkie app, Zello, which has been widely used during both Harvey and Irma.

"Everything is like a black hole right now but there are people in the keys who are relaying information," she said.

Zello was relaying calls for help, and a team of unofficial dispatchers ran rescue operations to hundreds of locations, warning boaters to stay out of the water due to alligators and snakes.

Facebook activated its Safety Check feature for people to let friends and family know they're safe. Facebook spokesman Eric Porterfield said that by Monday morning, there were already more than 600 posts asking for help, mostly fuel, shelter or a ride, although one woman with broken ribs sought medical advice.

There were also more than 2,000 postings offering help, including free housing, clothes and people with chain saws volunteering for cleanup. Facebook community fundraisers had already been launched; a woman in France had already collected $12,000 for recovery supplies in St. Barts.

Social media has been a game-changer for Americans coping with natural disasters, Fordham University communications professor Paul Levinson said.

"In the past, when power went out, the best anyone could do when a hurricane hit was turn on the battery-operated transistor radio," he said. This helped, but didn't provide detailed information about loved ones that pops up on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

"As long as the phones are charged, you can find out almost instantly that people in the danger zone are doing OK," he said.

Thus phone charging has become an act of near desperation in some shelters as evacuees tried to plug in to generator power.

Some of the online contacts have been truly critical. DaVita Kidney Care, whose patients receive life-saving dialysis three times a week, for four hours a day, was using Twitter and Facebook, along with a blog to inform patients about open centers and hospitals.

"We hope that through our social media outreach patients know they can go to any dialysis center to get care," said spokeswoman Kate Stabrawa for the Denver-based company.

People engaging with Irma from well beyond the danger zone use social media "like huddling together during bad times," said public relations expert Richard Laermer, author of "Trendspotting."

"Social media makes people feel like they are doing something, as opposed to nothing," he said.


Martha Mendoza can be reached at .

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How social networks like Instagram could help identify when someone is depressed

How social networks like Instagram could help identify when someone is depressed | Social Media and Healthcare |

Various studies and news reports have linked social media use to mental health issues such as depression in the past few years.

Facebook has been around for just over a decade, and children are now growing up with many different social media accounts that even millennials struggle to keep up with.

However, it seems that social media may actually be helpful in some ways in identifying existing mental health problems.

A new study published this week suggested, for example, that an algorithm could guess the people who had depression just by analyzing their Instagram feed.

However, to understand how this works, we first need to understand what's wrong with social media in the first place.

Problems arise on social media when we compare our lives to others.

We show the "best" version of lives online, and we often forget that everyone is doing the same.

Psychotherapist Allison Abrams told Business Insider that people who already struggle with depression or anxiety, or who are not satisfied with their life circumstances, are most vulnerable to this affect social media can have. However, this very much depends on how you use sites like Facebook.

"If you use social media primarily to maintain long distance friendships or to stay connected socially, this will be less likely to apply to you," Abrams said. "On the other hand, if you spend most of your time scrolling through your newsfeed checking out other people's lives and compare them to your own, you become more at risk of developing (or having worsening) symptoms of depression or anxiety. This is especially so in those with low self esteem."

She added that it's only human to compare ourselves to other people, but social media is the perfect vehicle to do this on a more intense level.

For example, couples post smiling photos of themselves being ever so in love, but you rarely see a status update about all the arguments they're having. Your friends will post selfies when they feel good about how they look, but you'll rarely see someone post a photo of themselves that they don't like.

Photos on social media don't tell the whole story of someone's life.Shutterstock

"Others' lives are right there on our screen to see," Abrams said. "Most are not posting the less attractive pictures or the less pleasant moments that we all experience."

The biases and the different ways we all use social media makes the study of the psychology very convoluted. Psychiatrist Jean Kim calls our social media use a "human experiment in action" in a blog post on Psychology Today, because it is still a relatively new thing. Psychological research is struggling to keep up with how the way we interact with each other has rapidly evolved, and the long-term influences things like social media have on our mental health is not hugely understood because the time frame just isn't there to support hypotheses.

However, there is a bulk of research that shows how our internet use could be having an impact, and this is being built on all the time. For instance, a study from 2016 surveyed 1,787 adults, and found that the people who used social media more often tended to have higher rates of depression.

Another study from 2013 found a casual link between Facebook use and unhappiness in young people. The researchers tested the well-being of people before and after using the site, to rule out the idea that people turn to Facebook when they feel bad, rather than feeling less happy as a result.

Of course there is also the other end of the spectrum. People who find it difficult to make friends in real life often find communities in forums or on internet games, where they find others who are like-minded and enjoy the same things as them. One study from 2002 found that online social interaction could actually increase self-esteem and feelings of social support, as well as decrease loneliness.

However, 2002 was arguably before social media was such a massive part of society. It was also five years before the first iPhone was released.

The anonymity online social interaction brings can also lead to trolling, which has become an increasing problem since the early 2000s. Using nameless accounts on Twitter, Reddit, and other forums, people have the ability to attack others behind the safety of a screen without repercussions. So every way you look at it, the internet is a mixed bag for conjuring up feelings.

However, it now seems social media can be used to diagnose depression.

This week, a widely covered study, published in the journal EPJ Data Science, found that individuals suffering from depression were more likely to post Instagram photos that were bluer, darker, and greyer. They also posted significantly fewer faces per photograph.

Nearly 44,000 photos were analyzed in total from 166 accounts alongside the person's mental history. About 50% of the participants had been diagnosed with depression over the last three years.

Among mentally healthy users, the most popular filter was Valencia, which adds warmth and brightness to photos. The depressed users were more likely to go for Inkwell, which is a black-and-white filter.

Blue bars indicate disproportionate use of a filter by depressed compared to healthy participants, orange bars indicate the reverse. Gosling did not participate in the study.Andrew G Reece and Christopher M Danforth


The team then trained the computer program to look out for "depressed" users by logging the majority of the photos along with the user's corresponding mental health status. They then tested to see if the algorithm could accurately identify people with depression from their Instagram feeds. It correctly identified people with depression 70% of the time.

"We were able to observe these differences reliably, even when only looking at depressed users' posts made prior to receiving a clinical diagnosis of depression," said Andrew Reece, one of the authors of the study, in a blog post.

"These and other recent findings indicate that social media data may be a valuable resource for developing efficient, low-cost, and accurate predictive mental health screening methods."

This isn't the first time social media has been used as a predictor. One study from 2013 analyzed how Twitter could be used as a tool for measuring and predicting major depression. The researchers analyzed the postings of hundreds of Twitter users with depression, measuring their social engagement, emotion, language and linguistic styles, and mentions of antidepressants.

Individuals with depression were found to have "lowered social activity, greater negative emotion, high self-attentional focus, increased relational and medicinal concerns, and heightened expression of religious thoughts."

The authors concluded that their findings could be "useful in developing tools for identifying the onset of major depression, for use by healthcare agencies; or on behalf of individuals, enabling those suffering from depression to be more proactive about their mental health."

The authors of the recent study say they have not created a diagnostic tool, according to Buzzfeed, but a "proof-of-concept for a new way to help people" or a way to catch early warning signs of someone becoming depressed.

Abrams told Business Insider that it would actually be dangerous to diagnose a person based upon their social media use alone, without a thorough mental assessment.

"The APA (American Psychological Association) has very specific guidelines about diagnosing without examination in only very limited and rare circumstances," she said. "I don't believe this includes social media nor do I believe it should. Especially given the fact that most portray very biased versions of their lives."

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Create an effective social media campaign to market your practice: Here’s how

Create an effective social media campaign to market your practice: Here’s how | Social Media and Healthcare |

Developing an effective social media marketing campaign can expand your practice to bring you more of the type of patient you want to treat. Although ObGyns are often not trained in marketing, we can bring our practices to the attention of women who need our services with a few simple processes.

The American Marketing Association defines marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”1 Social media is described as various forms of online and mobile electronic communication with user-generated content.2 Social media marketing is the application of traditional marketing strategies to a social media platform. Delivering an effective social media marketing campaign requires focused targeting of a particular community to match the needs of those patients with the value of services and products your practice provides.

By communicating and connecting with the spoken and unspoken needs and desires of potential patients, you will generate greater enthusiasm for your medical services. Social media marketing benefits include: accessibility, low cost, the ability to build brand recognition and social capital, and the availability of analytics that provide large amounts of data to measure the effectiveness of the campaign.3

Though social media is pervasive, the medical community has not rapidly embraced it for marketing.4,5 Creating a social media strategy, rather than randomly or impulsively posting on social media, allows for more effective marketing. The discussion here focuses on Facebook, which has 2 billion monthly users,6 but these strategies and tactics can be applied to any social media platform, including YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter.7

Use Facebook to create a business page

Your medical practice needs to have a Facebook account and a Facebook page, separate from your personal account. A business-related Facebook page is similar to a personal Facebook profile except that pages are designed for organizations, brands, businesses, and public figures to share photos, stories, and events with the public.

If you do not have a Facebook account, you can create a new account and profile at After creating a profile, click on the “create a Facebook page” link. Follow the instructions and select the page category you would like to create; most physicians would select the “Company,” “Organization,” or “Institution” category. Next, follow the instructions to complete the registration.8 Once your Facebook page is created, build an audience asking others to “like” your page. Start posting content and use hashtags in your posts to make them discoverable to others (ie, #fibroids #noscar #singlesitesurgery).9


Related article:
Using the Internet in your practice. Part 2: Generating new patients using social media


One benefit to having a practice-based Facebook page is the automated visible analytics that come with the page, which are not available for personal profiles. When you write a post or upload a photo or video, Facebook provides the demographics of those engaged with your posts plus analytics on that post, including the number of people who viewed the post, clicked on a photo, and viewed the video for more than 3 seconds.


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Using Social Media in Academic Promotion

Using Social Media in Academic Promotion | Social Media and Healthcare |

During 2016 Mayo Clinic’s Academic Appointments and Promotions Committee began using Social Media scholarship as part of their metrics for promotion. This was based on the recognition of the increasing importance of social media for patient care and engagement, outreach, research and medical education. We announced this innovative concept in our blog, which led to an overwhelming amount of requests for details on how-to-do-it and guidance in implementation.

In response to this enthusiasm, we recently published our conceptual framework and a how-to-do guideline in the Journal of Graduate Medical Education (open access article). This was a fabulous multidisciplinary endeavor from Social Media and Academic teams trying to shine some light at this new field a scholarship. The authors of the paper are Daniel Cabrera, Bryan Vartabedian, Robert Spinner, Lee Aase, Barbara Jordan and Farris Timimi.

Here's a summary:

The role of academic physicians is to advance the domains of practice, research and education. We have typically focused on traditional areas and methods such as medical journals and face-to-face medical education; however, those paradigms are changing rapidly with the advent of the internet, digital platforms and social media. Scholars should occupy and make their impact in these new spaces as well as the classical venues.

Academic Promotions and Tenure Committees in academic institutions are charged with ensuring that the scholarly work of faculty impacts the academy. These committees aim to provide a promotion system rewarding the influence and significance of research, clinical care and education. The committees reward consistency and excellence.

The integration of digital and social media scholarly activities into academic promotions criteria has proven difficult, as with any other innovation. The major difficulties are related to

  • cultural differences between traditional media (books, journals) and digital platforms (social media);
  • the difficulty making equivalent comparisons,
  • absence of a recognized appraisal framework and the lack of the ability to consistently track digital work,
  • concerns about junk-scholarship and
  • the difficulty of measuring impact.

Despite these obstacles, it is of critical importance for scholars and institutions to use these new academic space in order to remain relevant in this new information and knowledge world.

While details are in the paper, here's a brief summary of the main ideas and criteria we offer to adopt Social Media and Digital scholarship for Academic Promotions:

  • Institutions should have clear goals and objectives for their digital presence, create clear guidelines governing the behavior of their scholars in social media as well as provide adequate training about healthcare digital platforms.
  • The Academic Promotions Committees have to create a clear appraisal framework based on institutional values, strategic priorities and specifics of the academic niche such as size and audience (a generic template is described in the paper).
  • The scholars applying for promotion using social media activities should create digital portfolios detailing their development plans, academic philosophy, alignment with strategic priorities, description of activities and quality of their work. We propose to use the widely adopted Glassick’s model.
  • The Committees appraising the portfolios must have transparent metrics to assess the portfolios, including digital analytics and peer-review of their impact. The combination of both methods probably facilitates a two-perspective approach (digital and traditional).

If you have any questions, we are happy to help you navigate this new paradigm. Ask in the comments below or via email.


  • Daniel Cabrera, Bryan S. Vartabedian, Robert J. Spinner, Barbara L. Jordan, Lee A. Aase, and Farris K. Timimi(2017) More Than Likes and Tweets: Creating Social Media Portfolios for Academic Promotion and Tenure. Journal of Graduate Medical Education: August 2017, Vol. 9, No. 4, pp. 421-425

Editor's Note: Daniel Cabrera, M.D. is an Emergency Medicine specialist at Mayo Clinic.

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MDU warns doctors of perils of posting on closed social media groups

MDU warns doctors of perils of posting on closed social media groups | Social Media and Healthcare |

The Medical Defence Union (MDU) is warning doctors of the need to act professionally and avoid discussing confidential information on so-called ‘closed’ social media groups.

The warning comes after a discussion on a Facebook group used by GPs was criticised in a national paper for the language it used when discussing patients.

Figures recently published by the BMJ revealed that the General Medical Council closed 28 investigations related to doctors' use of Facebook, Twitter or WhatsApp between 1 January 2015 and 30 June 2017.

Dr Ellie Mein, MDU medico-legal adviser, said:

'Medicine is a stressful profession and social media forums can provide a useful outlet to discuss the pressures of the job. However, even though many forums used by doctors allow discussions in 'members only' areas, it's important to be aware that comments may reach a wider audience.

'These 'closed' groups can create an illusion of security but it's not always possible to know who will be accessing and sharing posts. It's important to think carefully before you comment and to consider if you would be happy for your post to be shared, possibly with no reference to the original context in which it was made.

'For these reasons it's important to remain professional at all times when using social media and not to discuss information which could be identifiable.'

GMC guidance for doctors on social media states:

'You must not use publicly accessible social media to discuss individual patients or their care with those patients or anyone else.' And it also adds: 'You must not bully, harass or make gratuitous, unsubstantiated or unsustainable comments about individuals online.'

Further advice on the use of closed social media groups is available in the MDU journal.

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Mixing Social Media With Medicine

Mixing Social Media With Medicine | Social Media and Healthcare |

Pediatric oncologist Dr. Justin Baker can usually tell when some new “cure” for cancer is making the rounds on social media. He starts to get desperate questions from parents about a new technique or a new drug or a new surgery. Every time, he tells his patients he will look into it – and he does – knowing all too well the odds are overwhelming that it will end in more heartbreak for the family.

Baker, who is chief of the Division of Quality of Life and Palliative Care at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, works with some of the most seriously ill children in the country. He tells every new family that he will do whatever it takes to help their child, and that he works on a team with the top science and medicine experts in pediatric cancer to constantly look for cures. But he knows that eventually, there will be a Facebook post or a blog or a tweet claiming to have something better.

“In the context of medicine, social media has, unfortunately, given incredible strength to opinion and a very loud voice to the one,” Baker says. “It’s almost never grounded in data. It’s founded in a personal story or in hope for a cure that does not exist.”

Baker’s experience is played out day after day, appointment after appointment, in hospitals and doctors’ offices everywhere. A patient demands a medication that helped a Facebook friend’s neighbor, or they refuse treatment because a celebrity tweeted about the latest botanical oil to replace medical intervention.

It’s not surprising, considering the reach of social media in everyday life. A 2016 report by the Pew Research Foundation found that 68 percent of all U.S. adults are Facebook users, followed by Instagram (28 percent), Pinterest (25 percent) and Twitter (21 percent). Information is exchanged all day, every day and many times it collides with the facts of medical research.

Social media allows the introduction of these ideas and then they are disseminated as if they’re fact, not speculation.

One of the most public illustrations of this is the anti-vaccine movement on social media. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence of the safety and necessity of vaccinations, a small but growing number of parents are refusing shots for their children – and telling everyone about it across social media. Facebook has dozens of anti-vaccination groups, with anywhere from a few hundred members to tens of thousands.

Parents in these groups often share lengthy stories claiming vaccines cause autism, despite no evidence other than a retracted British study to support that assertion. Others tell of refusing new vaccines on the market because there isn’t enough evidence of their safety. Another common thread in these groups is that vaccines were developed to make money for the health care industry, not to protect the population.

“There is always something being blamed on vaccines in these online groups – autism, neurological problems, even death,” says Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at University of California Davis Children’s Hospital. “Social media allows the introduction of these ideas and then they are disseminated as if they’re fact, not speculation.”

This vast proliferation of misinformation has far-reaching consequences beyond the digital world. A patient may lose trust in a doctor who won’t go along with the latest “cure” being promoted on social media.

Likewise, a physician practice may have a policy against treating unvaccinated children, leaving those families to find care elsewhere. But of course, the most detrimental effect is on patient health.

In the case of vaccinations, that was made clear during a 2015 outbreak of measles that started at Disneyland and eventually sickened 147 people in six states, Mexico and Canada. A study in the journal Pediatrics determined the measles virus was able to spread because of unvaccinated visitors to the park. The whole episode led to a new California law tightening the rules for vaccine exemptions, and Blumberg and other health care providers hoped it also would lead to new faith in immunizations.

“We hoped there would be changing attitudes,” he says. “Instead, from what I saw in some of the anti-vaccination groups, it was people saying ‘So what? A handful of people got a fever and a rash. People are making a big deal of out nothing.’ Unfortunately, you can’t talk to them about how serious measles is worldwide. It’s really sad.”

Speak Up

In the face of so much misinformation on social media, it’s tempting for patients and health care providers to just avoid it altogether. But doing so leaves the power of social media in the hands of the people who promote misinformation, and the people who believe it and spread it.

By now, most hospitals and physician practices have a social media presence. It may be a robust site with new posts several times a day that encourage dialogue, or a small presence that gets updated a few times a month.

The advantage for hospitals that have a social media presence is they can use it to drive the conversation where they want it to go, says Dan Hinmon, community director for the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network. His platform offers resources and interactive communities for health care professionals and communicators.

For Mayo, it’s just one piece of its well-known social media presence, which includes 1 million Facebook likes, 1.7 million Twitter followers, 103,000 LinkedIn followers and 44,000 Instagram followers. It benefits from the brand recognition of a major health care center, and from a strategy that promotes easy-to-digest content about topics that are important to the public. For example, topics posted on a recent afternoon ranged from teething babies to dementia to the use of melatonin.

Hinmon says that in his experience, social and digital media have quickly become the third-biggest influencers of how a patient chooses where to get treatment, behind the best insurance value and where the patient’s physician recommends.

“If I am a patient, I am going to see if my physician is engaged in social media and what the hospital is doing on social media. I am also very interested in what other patients say about him or her on their own social platforms,” Hinmon says. “That’s one of the reasons hospitals got more engaged in social media. It gave physicians and hospitals the chance to be part of those discussions, influence those decisions, and respond to some of the misinformation out there”

In the decade or so since social media became part of the mainstream, Hinmon says the trend has turned toward more community engagement, rather than simply posting events or articles. This gives patients a chance to build a relationship with an organization or a physician, and perhaps choose them for a medical home.

“Social media is the way now to connect in significant ways with patients,” Hinmon says. “It is amazing because of its two-way communication potential. The mindset is shifting from broadcasting messages to connecting with communities in real time, two-way conversation. That has become more and more and more valuable. It is hard to find any hospital not doing Facebook and Twitter. It’s really become embraced as a valuable part of communicating with the patient and the community.”

Putting Guardrails Up

It is relatively easy to engage with social media under the name of a hospital or even a large medical group. They typically have staff to assist with the posting, ensuring it meets brand and professional guidelines. It’s much different doing it as an individual physician. A seemingly innocuous post about a rough night in the ER could quickly become a privacy violation or damage the hospital’s reputation.

In a 2017 study by the Journal of Medical Information Research, 54 percent of 1,628 pediatric residents surveyed reported seeing posts that made derogatory remarks about patients. Additionally, 40 percent said they were unaware of their institution’s policy on social media.

That’s why it’s essential to develop a strategic plan and enforce guidelines, says Krysta Privoznik, social media specialist for Blue Cross and Blue Shield Plans in Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. She counsels medical executives on how to use social media to raise the visibility of their company, drive awareness around important topics, and build an authentic online reputation for themselves while also avoiding some of the many pitfalls.

“I’ve provided training to people who haven’t touched their social media platform out of fear. They were afraid of what to say and how to say it,” she says. “I coach them through a crawl, walk, run approach and provide tips, tricks, guardrails and suggestions. It helps put them at ease when I show my support every step of the way.”

Perhaps most importantly, Privoznik tells them she will be monitoring what people say to them or about them, in addition to everything they post under their personal profile. She advises all organizations to come up with a monitoring plan that suits and protects their organization and its employees.

“Much of an executive’s social media success depends on up-front planning. Have a good strategy in place from an organizational perspective before you start training,” she says. “And prior to anything, have honest conversations with your company’s leadership – ask questions, listen, identify opportunities – to determine whether the executive is a good fit for social media. The fast-paced, cluttered environment is not for everyone and that’s OK too.”

Despite the risks and misinformation, Dr. Baker refuses to let the negative aspects of social media stop him from being a prolific user. He regularly tweets from conferences, or posts interesting articles to Facebook. He does have a few ironclad rules: 1) He will not accept friend requests from active patients and their families, and 2) He always keeps his posts positive. That can be difficult for someone who spends his days working with critically and often terminally ill children.

“I think of my relationship with social media as advocating for those things that are very important to me and to our patient population,” he says. “If there is an important story that is somewhat inspirational, I try to share that. Or if something happens at work that’s remarkable, I try to share that. I see myself as an advocate and promoter of the good in health care. I try to advocate through inspiration, rather than by shining a light on the negative.”

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Beware of Social Media Celebrity Doctors

Beware of Social Media Celebrity Doctors | Social Media and Healthcare |

The celebrity doctor phenomenon is not new to Americans. With the release of his first baby-care book in the 1940s, Benjamin Spock became a household name by helping mothers across America feel more confident in their child-rearing skills, long before the age of social media and daytime television. Now, decades later, some of the most prominent players in the game of celebrity doctoring are integrative medicine expert Andrew Weil, cardiothoracic surgeon turned daytime television health guru Mehmet Oz, and television’s go-to-psychologist, Phil McGraw.

All of these men have come under fire in the past, usually due to questions regarding the medical safety and efficacy of their recommendations. But the controversies surrounding them have hardly made a dent in the profitability of their longstanding empires or in the dedication of their fans. Doctors and researchers have been so riled up by the lack of medical evidence for the recommendations handed down by medical television shows that a 2014 study looked specifically at this issue. Not too surprisingly, only 54 percent of the recommendations studied had even one piece of medical evidence to back them up. And less than 1 percent were accompanied by disclosures of potential conflicts of interest.

But now, in the era of social media influencers, celebrity doctoring is no longer exclusively available through the handful of physicians writing books or starring in television shows; it can be found across just about every social media platform. Medical bloggers, doctor instagrammers, and physician twitterati are all reaching out to the American public, and this is a slippery slope to disaster.

What started as a way to improve professional development for physicians and help disseminate credible information for patients has slowly started to devolve into a world of glamour shots, with physicians often exaggerating their credentials at the expense of a gullible social media audience. As a result, social media has created microcosms of celebrity doctoring that have started to expand unchecked and unfettered, usually at the expense of their target audience.

Today’s self-promoting physicians have strayed far from the “no advertising rule” in the original American Medical Association (AMA) Code of Ethics that was in place from 1847 to 1975—mainly to prevent the practice of medicine from turning into a practice of solicitation. And while the rule ended to allow hospitals and medical practices to work on public relations efforts for the betterment of healthcare, we have to wonder about the significant potential for harm that stems from often misleading and misrepresentative healthcare information coming from these physician social media accounts.

With 2.5 million Instagram followers, Dr. Mike Varshavski is one of the most popular young physicians on the social media playing field. His account can often be entertaining, albeit misleading: many of his followers likely do not realize that Dr. Mike’s experience is very different from the experiences of the average American physician-in-training, based on previous studies looking at resident quality of life. This is fairly harmless, but he also ventures into some dangerous territory, where the line between physician and social media maven begins to blur. Recently, Dr. Mike’s Instagram account has been a collection of promotional photo shoots for companies ranging from Charmin to Kenneth Cole to Braun, raising the question of how appropriate is it for a physician to be profiting from Instagram views of posts on the same platform that provides medical commentary? Unfortunately, my requests for comments from Varshavski went unanswered.

Pop-star status for physicians has the potential for harm, simply because of the power wielded by physicians who have such wide access to the American public. Thankfully, in many instances, the Food and Drug Administration has cracked down on misinformation and false claims from such celebrity physicians as Oz and Weil. Oz’s claims regarding potentially unsafe arsenic levels in apple juice caused unnecessary hysteria, while Weil’s claims for his immune boosting supplements came with zero evidence that they could in fact “ward off” swine flu.

When the practice of clinical medicine begins to be trumped by individual physician brand-building, patient safety and well being can become endangered. And while many of the mega-media physicians often do face scrutiny for their practices, physicians who are merely social media celebrities attract less, even though they might have just as large an audience.

I am not advocating for a witch hunt, but physicians should be held to high clinical standards across every platform in which they practice—from their clinics to their Instagrams. Unfortunately, clinical standards seem to disappear in the realm of social media, where private practice physicians tout affiliations with academic institutions that they truly have no day-to-day dealings with; pediatric physicians branding themselves as integrative medicine experts for adults; internal medicine physicians branding themselves as skincare experts; and even non-endocrinologists branding themselves as thyroid and adrenal gland experts and pioneering “hormone revolutions.” The list goes on ad nauseam. Maybe we should have kept some form of the AMA’s original “no advertising rule” around.

Ultimately, there is an almost complete lack of evidence about the long-term effects of social media on the practice of medicine, and right now, there are several accounts that could potentially be deceiving their followers. So what can be done in the meantime? Take everything you see, read, and hear from social media physicians with a grain of salt. Google their credentials—because for nearly all physicians with legitimate training, this information is readily available online. Lastly, take some time to scrutinize those credentials to understand if their current area of medical practice is consistent with their training.

It's wise to remember that not everything “natural” is safe, and not all “expert” advice is sound.

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