Social Media and Healthcare
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Incorporating Social Media into Medical Education

Slides from Social Media workshop for medical educators at Academic Internal Medicine Week 2010. Presenters represent 3 different universities and different rol
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Social Media and Healthcare
Articles and Discussions on the intersection of Social Media and Healthcare.
Relevant to Healthcare Practitioners, Pharma', Insurance, Clinicians, Labs, Health IT Vendors, Health Marketeers, Health Policy Makers, Hospital Administrators.
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Social Media Implementation Checklist

Social Media Implementation Checklist | Social Media and Healthcare |

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

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

Support our people

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

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


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Pharma on social media – the time to engage is now

Pharma on social media – the time to engage is now | Social Media and Healthcare |

he pharma industry is moving on from merely broadcasting on social media platforms and starting to listen and engage, appreciating the benefits of mining these rich seams of data.

What does social media mean to you? There are now an estimated 2.4 billion social media users worldwide, and for many it is part and parcel of everyday life, with Facebook and Instagram being the most convenient ways to keep in touch with friends and family, and follow current affairs and celebrities. Of course, it has its downsides too, such as Twitter trolls and ‘fake news’.

In addition to all of this, social media also represents a legitimate and essential source of big data for commercial businesses looking to understand their customers better. For pharma, mining social media data can lead to unparalleled insights and fuel its move towards greater customer and patient centricity.

To examine how this picture is evolving, pharmaphorum CEO and digital expert Paul Tunnah chaired a recent webinar in conjunction with IQVIA.

Sharing their expert insights were Professor Andrew Stephen, Associate Dean of Research and L’Oréal Professor of Marketing at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford and Anurag Abinashi, IQVIA’s NEMEA Social Media Intelligence Lead.

The panel outlined that, much as the platforms themselves have matured, so has the technology available to work with them, automating and solving previous risk-based obstacles such as adverse event reporting.

Abinashi sounded a note of optimism, saying that the industry was showing some progress along the ‘maturity curve’ of social media: moving away from using it to merely ‘broadcast’ and now beginning to use it to listen and engage.

However, there is still some way to go: a poll of the webinar’s viewers revealed a mere 15% of participants used social media for listening, compared to 26% for engagement, and 41% for broadcasting, while 19% revealed that they weren’t active at all on social media.

One reason why many pharmaceutical marketers have been reluctant to use social media is to do with the reporting of adverse events. Pharma is under a legal duty to pass on reports of adverse events, and there remains uncertainty as to whether this responsibility extends to social media. Abinashi said this wasn’t a valid justification for not engaging: “We’re often given that excuse that pharmacovigilance teams will be inundated if we engage, but research supports that the volume of adverse events on social media is extremely low – 1-2%. We also now have tools to automate the process, so this is no longer a risk or resource-based issue.”

Professor Stephen described using social media solely for broadcast as, “just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how companies should be using social media for everything from traditional marketing, to customer relations and intel, right through to informing R&D processes. If it is all you are doing you are missing the opportunity.”

Abinashi said most pharma companies have dabbled in the broadcast element and some are using it to listen, but engagement remains an aspiration for most. “There are two big categories of social listening uses: social listening for insight generation (either retrospective or real-time) and also for influencer identification purposes. On engagement, however, pharma is lagging behind other sectors quite fundamentally.”

Other emerging uses for social media include corporate reputation engagement, and as a recruitment and education tool. On the education front, identifying unmet needs by listening to therapy area conversations could be used to educate and better engage customers from a non-promotional, disease awareness perspective.

Companies with experience in social listening know that it’s easy to focus on rudimentary analysis of brand mentions and topics, ‘followers’ and ‘likes’, and never get to the truly actionable insights.

The panel agreed that listening is not the goal, but social intelligence is, and this informs actions taken by marketing or some other area of the business, such as R&D and product development. This can be used to improve business outcomes, customer relationships, and operational efficiency.

Lessons for pharma – driving innovation

Another opportunity is using trend identification to inform product innovation. Professor Stephen explained that for global, consumer-focused companies like L’Oréal, P&G and Unilever, social media represents an unparalleled opportunity to widen and deepen knowledge of their customers, in all their diversity.

L’Oréal is increasingly diversifying into the healthcare sector, and Professor Stephen highlighted the firm as one which pharma should watch.

Fast moving and highly competitive, the beauty and fashion industry is one of the most difficult for forecasting trends and product demands. The ability to discern between a meaningful trend and a fad can help a company like L’Oréal to capitalise on trends and respond quickly with first-to-market new product offerings. By scouring YouTube to find consumer-generated content on hair colour trends, L’Oréal gained invaluable insights. They identified the kinds of materials and tools consumers were using to create the desired hair colour effects, as well as the myriad problems they encountered in doing so.

Monitoring this user output helps to spot trends and identify the most popular ‘vloggers’ who could act as influencers and help to sell and share new products with their followers.

So where does pharma go now?

Understanding how to engage, and how to extract the right data to get actionable insights – and all the while complying with regulations – isn’t so straightforward in our industry. Life sciences companies need to put this new data source in context with the existing broad range of metrics. Achieving this calls for a step-by-step progression towards social media maturity.

This progression could involve both behavioural and company-level changes within pharma, said Abinashi. “Pharma companies tend to have one person, a brand or business lead, who runs an account or commissions a single piece of research for a brand. This is very different to how other sectors operate, with more of a top-down rather than bottom-up approach. These sectors make social a key part of their business strategy and more and more they embrace social. This helps them to achieve an advanced level of maturity, and then bring in other data to correlate with the social data – this is an area in which pharma is lagging.”

Keeping pace with change

The industry needs to understand how to use each available social media channel, and keep pace with their development. A recent high-profile tweak to Twitter has sparked a change in usage within pharma, Abinashi stated.

Twitter’s trial of a 280-character tweet limit has been universally expanded – a move which has increased its appeal. “Twitter as a platform has been fundamentally unfriendly to pharma. The increase in character count has helped address the complexity of pharma tweets, making Twitter a more useful platform in terms of disease awareness and the publication of research. I’ve observed two companies (Novartis and Eli Lilly) who have already latched on to this expanded word count.”

Abinashi noted that the crucial difference in approach is in how socially mature companies are addressing what their audience wants to hear. “We’ve talked about the difference between listening, broadcasting and engagement. Companies seem to be making the links between those three modes – listening for insights and building that into the publication calendar to develop content that addresses what the audience wants to know. It’s a closed loop and what we’re seeing is more engagement as a result of that informed content.”

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Social Media in Medicine_ Professionalism and Opportunities 2018

2018 Grand Rounds on Social Media Professionalism and Opportunities. Examples are given of using Twitter for professional development, academic research, and n…
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A Social Media Wake Up Call for Plastic Surgery Societies

There’s a paradigm shift in how patients are finding their doctors. And nowhere is this more evident than in the cosmetic surgery space. In the past, consumers found their doctor through word of mouth. Then it was the yellow pages. That gave way to the internet, specifically a doctor’s website, and in the last decade, Google. Consumers’ tastes continue to change. They’re now relying less and less on search engines and the world wide web, and more on social media.

I’m not suggesting Google and their AdWords revenue model have anything to worry about. But I believe the way in which a consumer chooses a doctor is changing drastically. The consumer is no longer satisfied with the curated pages of the doctor’s website.

The Perceived Power of Social Media

Now, the patient in the research phase of finding a doctor will want to see the plastic surgeon perform surgery and see their results in some variation of real time. And the best way to do that is by watching them on Snapchat, Instagram Stories or Facebook Live.

The “truest” impression of a doctor, as far as the consumer is concerned, is on the physician’s social media where informal 10–15 second video clips build into a 24-hour story that reveals the doctor and staff in their natural habitat of the operating room and clinic.

It’s not about dancing in the operating room or dressing up in silly outfits which some doctors do. That’s just a distraction from the real power of social media in this context — education.

Some physicians will disagree. They’ll see ‘education’ as a just a euphemism for shameless entertainment. Well, here’s a thought…maybe it can be both!

There’s disagreement on the plastic surgery societal level as well. In a noble attempt to protect doctors from themselves and protect the reputation of the specialty, there are instances of the societies admonishing doctors for some of their social media posts. Determining what is and is not appropriate is such a futile exercise that even the Supreme Court outsourced those decisions when it came to obscenity. It comes down to a community standard. In other words, who is that doctor’s audience and what does their clientele want to see?

Our country is one of diversified opinions and tastes. Attempting to regulate or punish doctors for their social media tactics is futile and unnecessary. If a doctor posts something inappropriate, punishment in the court of public opinion will be swift, uncompromising and fierce. Ask anyone in Hollywood.

The Education War

The other risk the societies take in attempting to curb their own member’s activities on social media is their total lack of control for doctors that are non-members of those societies. There’s a battle out there over who is educating consumers.

A recent Aesthetic Surgery Journal (ASJ) article pointed out that most consumers following plastic surgeons aren’t following plastic surgeons at all. In fact, the most popular cosmetic surgery accounts and posts on social media were from plastic surgeons only 17.8% of the time. So while the plastic surgery societies may want to regulate their own members, doctors not subjugated to the same rules have the consumer’s ear.

As Dr. Clark Schierle points out in a recent Chicago Tribune article, his study in the ASJ mentioned above should serve as a “wake-up call” for board-certified plastic surgeons. “We’re losing the information war, and (we’re) being drowned out by these other players.”

Plastic surgery societies understandably promote the importance of board certification. But I’m afraid those board certification warnings are now falling on deaf ears. When the consumer sees an amazing result on social media, particularly reproducible results day after day on a doctor’s Instagram feed, results will win out over “board certification” every time. Can you blame the consumer for embracing results?

The plastic surgery societies should encourage their members to embrace social media and its educational benefits wholeheartedly. Don’t bother offering warnings or caveats. Doctors are adults and are responsible for their actions and shouldn’t have to rely on a society to make good decisions for them. If a doctor can’t police themselves when it comes to social media, maybe they shouldn’t be operating on anyone either.

Dr. Jonathan Kaplan is a board-certified plastic surgeon based in San Francisco, CA and founder/CEO of BuildMyBod Health, an online marketplace for healthcare services that allows consumers to determine cost on out-of-pocket procedures, purchase non-surgical services, and in exchange, the healthcare providers receive consumer contact info — a lead, for follow up.

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Growing Your Dental Practice with Social Media

Social Media for Dentists & Dental Professionals. Raw slides/presentation from Scott Childress' lecture on how dental practices can best use social media to gr…
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6 Fresh Ideas for Keeping Patients Engaged Between Appointments

6 Fresh Ideas for Keeping Patients Engaged Between Appointments | Social Media and Healthcare |

There are no guarantees in life, and that certainly applies to retaining patients. Each time a patient walks out your door, it could be the last you see of him or her. But, there’s good news: tools like patient engagementsoftware, automated appointment reminders, and interactive home exercise programs give providers a way to keep patients engaged throughout the duration of care, making it much easier to catch patient dropout before it happens—and even prevent it. But, it’s not enough to simply have these products—you’ve got to use them effectively.

1. Set appointments—and schedule reminders—during checkout.

If you’re looking for an easy, effective way to curb patient dropout, then I’ve got three words for you: automated appointment reminders. If your front desk staff still distributes handwritten appointment cards, then there’s a good chance your patient attrition rate is significantly higher than it should be. After all, appointment reminders sent via text message or phone call are significantly more effective at preventing patient no-shows than reminder cards are. (Seriously, there’s a whole lot of research on this subject—like this case study from Columbia University, which found that automated appointment reminders reduced patient no-shows by 34%.) That’s why your front office check-out process should, at minimum, require that:

  • every patient check out at the front desk after each appointment, and
  • staff ask each patient if he or she would like an appointment reminder for his or her next appointment. (Bonus points if the therapist physically walks the patient to the desk.)

Not only will this help patients achieve their therapy goals, but it’ll also keep your revenue stream steady by preventing patient cancellations and no-shows.

2. Stay in touch on social media.

In the early ’00s, most people viewed social media as a fleeting trend for Internet-obsessed teenagers. Fast forward to 2018, and everyone and their grandma has a social media presence—including rehab therapy practices. And with folks spending so much time on social media—more than 2 hours every day, on average—platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have become powerful tools for bringing in new patients and engaging with existing ones. That’s because social media:

  • showcases your company culture to prospective patients,
  • lets patients interact with your staff outside of the clinic, and
  • allows you to gamify engagement through contests and drawings.

3. Use an interactive home exercise program.

As a provider, you know that patient adherence to prescribed home exercise programs is key to achieving therapy goals, but ensuring your patients actually complete their at-home exercises can be a challenge. However, if you use a high-quality, evidence-based, interactive home exercise program, monitoring and promoting HEP adherence is a breeze. Not only do digital HEPs—like the one WebPT offers—let providers know when patients have completed their exercises, but this type of software also helps patients stay motivated by making it easy for them to contact their therapists for additional guidance and feedback.

4. Connect through telehealth.

Unfortunately, Medicare still won’t reimburse rehab therapists for telehealth services, so some providers are still hesitant to hop aboard the telehealth train. However, some commercial payers do pay for these services, so practices that don’t have any telehealth offerings are doing themselves—and their patients—a major disservice. Much like a digital HEP, telehealth services allow your patients to connect with providers remotely and receive additional assistance with exercises. It also helps patients who live in remote areas or have limited mobility by allowing them to connect with providers from the comfort of their own homes—thus decreasing the likelihood that they’ll drop out of therapy.

5. Measure patient satisfaction.

When a patient drops out of therapy, the therapist is often left with a lot of unanswered questions like:

  • Was the patient not progressing fast enough?
  • Was he or she not well-suited to therapy treatment?
  • Was there something I could’ve done differently?

Even if the reason the patient dropped out early was entirely beyond your control, it’s good to know what’s causing patient churn in your practice. And in many cases, there probably was something you could have done—but the patient might not have known how to communicate his or her needs. Fortunately, by measuring and tracking patient satisfaction—and using tools like Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys—you can catch early dropout warning signs before the patient actually quits therapy. Then, you can leverage this data—along with outcomes data—to pinpoint any problem areas and adjust your therapy plan as needed.

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Future of Health Care Marketing - Digital and Social

Mr Hemant Radhakrishnan,Director -Anvita Tours2Health Pvt Ltd delivered the talk on "Future of Health Care Marketing - Digital and Social " at the 4th Internat…
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Social Media Quality Control for Physicians

Social Media Quality Control for Physicians | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media has infiltrated our everyday lives – both personally and professionally. With most people keeping in touch with friends, family, and colleagues and monitoring the news cycle through multiple social media avenues, the question has shifted from if we should be using social media, to how we can make sure we use it to our benefit.

“Everything about how we communicate has changed,” said Mohamad Mohty, MD, PhD(@Mohty_EBMT), professor of hematology at the Clinical Hematology and Cellular Therapy Department at Hôpital Saint-Antoine, Université Pierre & Marie Curie in Paris, France. “Social media is felt to be increasingly important in plenty of things we do in health care, including academic projects, patient interactions, and research collaborations.”

Dr. Mohty was one of the panelists at a special education session at the 2017 ASH Annual Meeting that addressed how hematologists can effectively use social media. The session, titled “Quality Conversations on Social Media: Achieving Credibility and Efficiency Together” and chaired by Joseph Mikhael, MD, MEd (@jmikhaelmd), chair of the ASH Committee on Communications, featured Dr. Mohty and other panelists who discussed “best practices” for starting and maintaining conversations relevant to hematology on Twitter and other social media platforms.

A Double-Edged Sword

As Dr. Mohty and fellow panelists John P. Leonard, MD (@JohnPLeonardMD), and Elaine Schattner, MD, MA (@ESchattner), outlined, health care practitioners can use social media to their advantage in a number of ways.

In addition to enabling conversations with international collaborators, it can also open up new ways to help patients around the world. “It’s a tool for freedom,” Dr. Mohty said. “You don’t need a visa, you don’t need pre-authorization – it’s communication without borders that brings stakeholders in the community together to share experiences, to agree, to disagree, to comment,” Dr. Mohty said. “It’s a true added value.”

That immediacy, though, creates a demand for instant engagement that contradicts physicians’ roots in thoughtful consideration of evidence-based medicine. Also, when measured, considerate, and balanced ruminations about recently posted research findings are condensed into 280-character tweets, much can get lost in translation.

“With instant communication, you think less,” he said. “Your reaction needs to be matured before answering.” To avoid getting involved in “tweetstorms” or fruitless arguments on social media, Dr. Mohty applies a lesson he learned from replying to upsetting emails: “Embargo yourself.”

“Sometimes it’s hard to resist [responding immediately], because you want to attack,” he said. “But, if you want to do the right thing on social media, you need to create your own rules. There is no universal way to interact on social media – you need to decide what is most important to you.”

With so much of our daily lives moved online, people can lose sight of the consequences of these online interactions and of the value of “face-to-face” interactions, which would be a mistake, Dr. Mohty said. “Social media will never replace in-person interactions, because we need these close human relationships,” he said. “My advice is to be aware of the minuses and inconveniences [of this new technology]. Sometimes, they can hurt.”

The Rules of Engagement

Dr. Schattner, a journalist, patient advocate, and clinical associate professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, emphasized the value of social media in empowering patients.

“When patients go online, they are usually searching for information about a health condition,” she said. “The reality is that patients have less and less time with their doctors, and doctors increasingly may not be [an] expert in the particular issues that their patients ask them about. The need for information is extreme.”

Patients also use the internet to gather information on clinical trials or treatments that might not have been offered by their local physicians, and to look for other opinions altogether. “People used to go to other doctors. Now they go to other websites, follow certain disease-specific hashtags, and ask other patients online about where to go for more information.”

Social media also opens new avenues of communication between physicians and introduces the risk of oversharing – a tricky area to navigate because of legal issues surrounding doctor-patient confidentiality and professionalism.

Dr. Schattner said she believes patients understand and respect these issues, and doctors should in turn respect patients’ inquiries. “Most educated patients are not looking for specific answers to their medical problems online,” she said. “That said, I admire doctors who treat patients with respect. Some doctors only follow doctors – not patients or people who identify as patients. Whether or not you choose to follow people who are not physicians, I think if you acknowledge the legitimacy of their questions, that can go a long way.”

Social media platforms also invite informality, but Dr. Schattner advised the audience to keep it professional. “If doctors use words or phrases like ‘LOL’ or ‘garbage’ when referring to clinical trial results, for example, that can be hurtful to patients who are on those trials.” Patients are savvy enough to find and follow conversations about topics of interest to them, she said, adding “[physicians] should be careful, because patients may be paying closer attention than [doctors] realize.”

Maintaining privacy and safety online should also be of paramount concern, because some unwanted followers might be too close for comfort, Dr. Schattner noted. “There are creeps on the internet,” she said bluntly, “and because I have a significant following, at this point I have learned that directly.” Blocking and reporting spammers or users who employ hateful language or share violent images is a must for any doctor who wants to seriously use social media.

Dr. Schattner advised audience members to be careful about divulging details about their personal lives (such as their location or family, events they attend, etc.). “When I’m here, it’s useful for me professionally to reveal that I am in Atlanta for the ASH annual meeting,” she said, “but I’m not going to publish my family vacation plans on the internet.”

Tips and Tricks

According to Dr. Leonard, Richard T. Silver Distinguished Professor of Medicine and associate dean for clinical research at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York, deciding what to put on the internet is half the battle. He discussed best practices for taking full advantage of the connectivity and exposure inherent to social media.

Twitter can be helpful for shining a light on your institution, programs, work, and the work of colleagues, he said. Retweeting colleagues’ presentations or achievements to your followers – and providing your opinions – can be a great engagement tool.

For better engagement, Dr. Leonard noted, try to keep your posts interactive and, when possible, entertaining. Some doctors will use a lot of jargon, or will only post links to articles, and “that’s fine if you just want to talk to your colleagues on the internet,” Dr. Schattner agreed. “To make your Twitter feed or any social media feed interesting, though, it’s helpful to have a hobby. For me, it makes Twitter more fun.”

The back-and-forth comments and camaraderie that builds between users and followers is an essential aspect of social media. But Dr. Leonard warned, “Comment, don’t vent. It’s okay to comment and be excited about something you are posting, but be mindful of your language and reactions.”

And, of course, realize that not everyone online is following these same rules of engagement. In response to an audience member’s question about frustrating interactions on social media, Dr. Schattner advised that sometimes it’s best to just walk away from the situation. When conversations become argumentative, ignore them. “[These interactions] can be  hurtful to both sides – they are not helpful to patients, and they are not helpful to the people who tweet,” Dr. Schattner said.

The most important thing to remember is that social media is supposed to be informative and fun – not a burden professionally or personally. “Do it as much as you like,” Dr. Mohty said, “but it is not an obligation.”

An audience member noted that in the era of “alternative facts,” constantly correcting misinformation on the internet can be a burden. While the internet is rife with misinformation, “we are not in a position to police … Facebook or … what is said on Twitter, or in The New York Times for that matter,” Dr. Schattner said. “Conventional and new media all have some truths and some fallacies. My attitude is you can’t correct it all. I think patients, through better education, will gradually gravitate to people who prove to be reliable.”

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The Periodic Table of Healthcare Communications 2018 by Owen Health

A pharma marketer’s overview of the key elements of healthcare communications, covering brand planning, customer experience and multi-channel marketing. Brough…
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Social media & HIPAA: When sharing is not caring

Social media & HIPAA: When sharing is not caring | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media is an increasingly common presence within the healthcare industry – among providers and consumers alike – but despite the potential benefits it can offer both parties, it introduces many risks.

Paging Dr. Google

It’s no exaggeration to say that the internet has completely transformed the way people seek medical information, and social media has played a significant role in this transformation. In fact, of the 74% of internet users that engage on social media, 80% of those are specifically searching for health information, and nearly half are looking for information about a specific doctor or health professional[1].

What’s more, research[2] has shown that social media can have a direct influence on a patient’s decision to choose a specific health provider, or even lead them to seek a second opinion, particularly amongst patients coping with a chronic condition, stress, or diet management.

This presents many opportunities for healthcare providers looking to get ahead of the competition – and for those who choose to actively engage in social media, the rewards can be significant, but so can the risks. So before jumping into social media headfirst, physicians need to understand the potential pitfalls, specifically the risks associated with patient privacy, and their obligations under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

Social media and PHI

PHI stands for Protected Health Information. The HIPAA Privacy Rule[3] provides federal protections for personal health information held by HIPAA covered entities (health care providers, health plans, healthcare clearinghouses, plus their business associates) and gives patients an array of rights with respect to that information. At the same time, the Privacy Rule is balanced so that it permits the disclosure of personal health information needed for patient care and other important purposes.

The limits of permissible disclosure, however, are extremely limited, and definitely don’t include social media; if a physician were to disclose a patient’s PHI via social media without consent, even accidentally, this would be a direct violation of HIPAA guidelines and probably state law too.

While one would hope that most healthcare professionals know not to share PHI publically, some may not even know that what they are sharing, or intend on sharing is actually PHI; it is extremely difficult to anonymize patients, and even the subtlest of identifiers could be deemed a breach of patient privacy if it can be tied to a patient.

To avoid this happening, providers need to understand the 18 PHI identifiers, which are:

  •       Names;
  •       Geographic information;
  •       Dates (e.g. birth date, admission date, discharge date, date of death);
  •       Telephone numbers;
  •       Fax numbers;
  •       E-mail addresses;
  •       Social Security numbers;
  •       Medical record numbers;
  •       Health plan beneficiary numbers;
  •       Account numbers;
  •       Certificate/license numbers;
  •       Vehicle identifiers and serial numbers, including license plate numbers;
  •       Device identifiers and serial numbers;
  •       URLs;
  •       IP address numbers;
  •       Biometric identifiers (e.g. finger and voice prints);
  •       Full-face photographic images and any comparable images; and
  •       Other unique identifying numbers, characteristics, or codes.

How to ensure a HIPAA compliant social media strategy

To avoid an inadvertent breach of PHI, covered entities should educate staff on best practices when using social media, including:

  1. Avoid social messenger services

The likes of Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn, and Twitter Direct Messages may be familiar and convenient, but they are not secure and should be avoided at all costs when discussing patient health matters or exchanging PHI, even with trusted colleagues. Not only are these platforms inherently insecure due to a lack of encryption and access controls, the potential for error is increased as users could accidentally post information publicly or send a message to the wrong recipient.

What’s more, as BYOD (bring your own device) becomes more widely adopted in healthcare organizations, and as more devices are carried between home and work, the potential for device theft or loss increases, which further jeopardizes the security of any sensitive information that exists on a device, within social media applications, or on web browsers. This considered, PHI should only ever be exchanged via HIPAA-secure messaging services, that have been approved by IT departments and are used as part of an organization’s regular workflow.

  1. Think very carefully before posting

When utilized as part of a wider marketing strategy, social media can be a very effective tool, but those responsible for managing social media output on behalf of an organization must be well versed in what type of content is and is not acceptable to share online. Even a seemingly harmless photo of the outside of a premises could cause problems if patients can be seen entering or exiting the building, or if a vehicle can be recognized in the car park. The same can be said of waiting rooms and reception areas, where the likelihood of capturing a patient’s face is high.

  1. Keep work and home life separate

A HIPAA violation can just as easily happen in the home as it can in the workplace. After a hard day at work it is not uncommon for members of staff to air their grievances online – be it on Facebook, Twitter, or within closed forums. Again, considering how difficult it is to de-identify PHI, this behavior should be strongly discouraged, particularly where complaints about patients are involved. Similarly, posting about a famous person, friend, or family member being seen in a practice may be tempting, but is equally risky.

Social media has become second nature for many of us, and the ease of access to it is both a blessing and a curse for the healthcare industry. When managed responsibly, social media can be a highly effective marketing tool, and can even help improve the health outcomes of patients searching for information online. When used irresponsibly, however, the risks are high, and potential repercussions significant.

For HIPAA covered entities who engage in social media, the message is simple; develop robust company policies to ensure responsible usage, and ensure all staff are trained to think before they share.






About The Author

Gene Fry has been the compliance officer and vice president of technology at Scrypt, Inc. since 2001 and has 25 years of IT experience working in industries such as healthcare and for companies in the U.S. and abroad. He is a Certified HIPAA Professional (CHP) through the Management and Strategy Institute, a Certified Cyber Security Architect through ecFirst and certified in HIPAA privacy and security through the American Health Information Management Association. Most recently achieved the HITRUST CSF Practitioner certification from the HITRUST ALLIANCE. Gene can be contacted through DocbookMD is built by Scrypt, Inc.

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An irregular ultrasound is posted on social media—do you say something?

An irregular ultrasound is posted on social media—do you say something? | Social Media and Healthcare |

In the age of social media, photos of soon-to-be moms are the new normal and ultrasound images are frequently posted to share the good news. But what should a provider do if they notice an abnormality in the scan shared with friends and family across the internet?

That situation happened when Joanna Gaines, co-host of HGTV’s “Fixer Upper,” shared an ultrasound image on her Instagram account. Amid all the comments of congratulations, a physician commented that the image looked to show the baby might have hydrops fetalis, a potentially fatal condition, reports STAT.

Authors and physicians Casey Humbyrd, MD, orthopedic surgeon and medical ethicist at Johns Hopkins University, and Kavita Shah Arora, MD, an OB-GYN and medical ethicist at Case Western Reserve University, examined if doctors are obliged to say something and what manner they should do so if they are obligated to.

They find it comes down to who initiates the patient-physician relationship. In the case of Gaines, the physician commented on her post, initiating the relationship and thereby placing the responsibility of providing the best possible care under the circumstances on that physician. However, privacy in this situation was an issue.

“Gaines, or any woman for that matter, has the right to publicize her pregnancy and medical information on social media if she chooses. But that doesn’t change physicians’ professional responsibility to her as a patient—even if she isn’t their patient yet,” Humbyrd and Arora wrote in STAT.

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5 Tips to Consider Prior to Posting on Social Media Sites 

5 Tips to Consider Prior to Posting on Social Media Sites  | Social Media and Healthcare |


It was not that long ago when an employee at the University of Cincinnati Medical Center was fired for posting a patient’s protected health information (PHI) on Facebook. The employee had posted a screen shot of a patient’s medical record showing her name and her diagnosis of syphilis.

The employee who was fired from the University of Cincinnati Medical Center for posting the medical record posted the screen shot of the medical records in a closed member Facebook group.  Even though the employee thought she was sharing the information in a closed group, the information quickly became public. Not that it matters, whether she posted in a closed group or as a public post, either way the disclosure is a breach.

While this is an obvious example of a HIPAA breach, and an obvious no-no, it does provide us with a good example of why PHI should not be shared on Social Media unless you are authorized to do so. And as we have mentioned in a previous article, if you wouldn’t say your comment in public, then don’t put it on social media. If there is any doubt at all about a certain post, picture or comment then check with your compliance officer or even a colleague before publishing.

Below are 5 additional Tips for to consider prior to posting on social media sites:

  1. Know the difference between personal and professional use.

Personal use of social media is often referred to as a social media use on an account that is registered to an individual that is not used for business purposes. Professional use is generally using social media for approved business purposes on behalf of an account registered to an organization, a practice or provider.  You may have language in place in a social medial policy that states if personal use of social media is or is not permitted during business hours. Your policy may also explain professional use of social media on behalf of the organization, practice, or provider. In other words, who should post, who should update, what should be posted, etc.

  1. Understand if there are any risks involved with what you are about to post.

Whether you are posting on your personal account or on a professional account, it is important to understand if there are any risks.  For example, if you post something there may be a risk of receiving negative feedback from the public.  Or there may be a risk of sharing proprietary information or content that could get into the hands of someone with malicious intent. Some tips to mitigate risk include: posting accurate information; respectfully disagree with negative comments; etc.

  1. Do not post PHI without authorization! Even then, be extremely cautious.

Imagine a patient asks you to take a photo with him. You decide it is a cute photo so you post it to Facebook. If you have authorization from the patient, there wouldn’t be an issue under HIPAA. If you do not have authorization, it would be considered a breach under HIPAA. Therefore, when photos or patient information will be used for purposes other than Treatment, Payment and Operations (TPO), a valid HIPAA authorization must been obtained from the patient or the patient’s legally authorized representative. This includes when posting on social media.  When in doubt, check with your compliance officer before posting anything that could be considered PHI.

  1. When posting a response to a question use limited information and suggest another communication method.

If a patient asks you a question on a social media platform that could potentially lead to a disclosure of PHI, it would be best to suggest the patient contact you using another form, a more private form of communication.  It is important to limit unnecessary or inappropriate access to and disclosure of PHI. Avoid accessing or discussing PHI that is not essential to the task at hand.

When posting on your personal social media account, if it is something you don’t want the public to know or access, it is also a good idea to communicate with a private form of communication. This includes when sharing information in “private” groups.

  1. Remember, communication on social media is powerful.

Just recently, the power of social media has been on full display.  Social media allows for information to be communicated almost instantly to a broad audience, and may be communicated throughout the world.  Understand when you work for a professional organization what you post on your personal social media sites may potentially have an impact on your professional reputation.  Before posting somethings, consider what if any impact what you are sharing could impact you or your organization in any way.

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Responding to online complaints from patients 

Responding to online complaints from patients  | Social Media and Healthcare |

It is always difficult to receive criticism from a patient, but it can be even harder when that criticism is made publicly.

The increasing use of social media and online reviews has made it easier for patients to comment publicly on the care they receive. Often the comments are positive, but sometimes they are inaccurate, unfair, or misleading. This can be very frustrating especially when the feedback is made anonymously, or if patient confidentiality prevents you from putting the record straight.


The issue of confidentiality is an important one. In its guide Confidentiality - responding to criticism in the media the GMC says that you should usually limit your public response to an explanation of your legal and professional duty of confidentiality.

However, the GMC recognises that social media discussions might cause patients to be concerned about your practice. In such cases, it may be appropriate to give general information about your normal practice.

‘You must be careful not to reveal personal information about a patient, or to give an account of their care, without their consent,’ the guidance says. ‘If you deny allegations that appear in public media, you must be careful not to reveal, directly or by omission or inference, any more personal information about the patient than a simple denial demands.’

Responding to online comments

Practices need to be ready to deal with online criticism, and should use it as an opportunity to demonstrate that they take concerns seriously and want to improve the care they provide patients. A good response will reflect well on the practice, and will help counter-balance the negative remarks that have been made.

What you say in your online response is as important, if not more so, than the comments that patients have made about you. The GMC says that disputes between patients and doctors conducted in public can prolong or intensify conflict and may undermine public confidence in the profession, even if they do not involve the disclosure of personal information without consent.

So how should you respond when a patient has made negative comments about you or your practice online? A professional response will come across well to any others who may read the comments, and is the best way to try to resolve the patient’s concerns as swiftly as possible. Here are five steps that will help you to post a good reply:

  1. A quick response is important, although try to make sure that the reply is calm, measured and not written in haste. A knee-jerk reaction may just inflame the situation further.
  2. Thank the patient for their comments, acknowledge the specific concerns they have raised, and apologise if appropriate.
  3. Explain that you take all concerns very seriously, and that you will investigate the matter further.
  4. Invite the patient to contact you, giving them specific contact details to arrange a telephone call or meeting. Consider using your complaints procedure to deal with any expressions of dissatisfaction.
  5. Bear in mind your duty of confidentiality and do not disclose any personal information.

Finally, ask for advice from your medical defence organisation if you consider it may be necessary to have offending posts removed or to seek legal redress.

  • Dr Marika Davies is senior medicolegal adviser at Medical Protection
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How to Use the Healthcare Hashtag Project to Disseminate Research

How to Use the Healthcare Hashtag Project to Disseminate Research | Social Media and Healthcare |

You’ve done the work, now you probably want others to know about it, right? Sure, you could go shout about it from the rooftops, but there’s an easier alternative that doesn’t require ladders or shouting. Many people are turning to social media to share and seek health information, and using the appropriate hashtag when you post about your research can make that information more visible to the general public, as well as fellow researchers. 

Why hashtags?

Tagging tweets and other social media posts not only make you feel “hip” but they actually help others find the cool stuff you’re sharing. If you’re not sure where to start, you’re not alone. In fact, you don’t even have to be a social media expert to join the online conversations. Think about the broader categories your research might fit into, as well as very specific subgroups.

Enter: Healthcare Hashtags! Yay!

Healthcare Hashtag Project is a free open platform for patients, caregivers, advocates, doctors and other providers that connects them to relevant conversations and communities.

Search for the most relevant and popular hashtags related to the info you are sharing. Look, for example, at #HeartHealth and you’ll find the related hashtags, recent Tweets, as well as the key influencers for that particular hashtag trend. This provides a quick overview of what’s happening in that world, who’s involved in the conversation, and other hashtags you might find useful. 

How can YOU benefit from this?

Say you are trying to disseminate all your breaking research findings to the community of people who might benefit from your work. Using Healthcare Hashtags you can find the most relevant hashtags to include in your post so that you can easily join in current conversations and increase the visibility of your research, share your knowledge and passion, and even connect you to other researchers in that field as well as community health organizations or other emerging leaders who might take interest in the work you are sharing. 

In addition to posting, there often are engaging Twitter conversations you might be inclined to join to either share your knowledge or learn about others working in your specialty or a related field. Hashtags are also used to highlight topical Tweet ChatsConferences, and Ontologies.



  1. Prepare your Tweet or other social media message.

  2. Visit the Healthcare Hashtag Project website and search for hashtags related to your work. Refine your selection based on relevancy and popularity.

  3. Tag your post with the top 2-3 hashtags and then publish to the social media platform of your choice.

You can reverse the order of steps 1 and 2 by visiting Healthcare Hashtag Project to see what’s trending, then find a way to join the conversation by sharing your related information using that hashtag.

PRO TIP: Before using ANY hashtag, do a quick Twitter search to preview what’s happening in that world. No one wants to inadvertently tag their research tweets with something that will deliver questionable search results.

Have any other Twitter tips? Share them in the comments, or BE BOLD and write a post about how you are using social media in your research world!

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Solutionreach Top 10: Tips to Create a Dynamic Patient Experience

Solutionreach Top 10: Tips to Create a Dynamic Patient Experience | Social Media and Healthcare |

Every provider understands that their patients live life in the fast lane. With the endless demands we all face, it is no surprise that scheduled appointments are sometimes missed. To keep up with the dynamic lifestyles of their patients, providers need to make sure that their practice adds as little stress to their patients' lives as possible. From scheduling to check-in, here are 10 simple ways that every provider can make their patient processes more dynamic.

  1. Use your social media platforms to keep patients updated on your active business hours. Is a holiday coming up? A simple event on Facebook stating that your practice will be closed will do the trick. You can also use a fun graphic to post on the main feed of every platform your practice is using.
  2. Don’t leave your patients hanging. Even if your office is not open (or if you're simply away from the phone), make sure you have a voicemail, automated messaging, or an auto response available with information that includes why you are not available, and when you will be again. This seems so simple, but taking a moment to set up an automated message with this information shows your patients how much you care.
  3. Educate your patients when not in the office. Posting on your social media or using your newsletters to share helpful information on a variety of subjects is a great way to build a relationship with your patients and maintain contact with them between visits. This helpful information, like when is best to come in to see a provider during flu season, can help your patients by not wasting their time.
  4. Prepare them for the visit. Using your newsletter, practice blog, or Facebook page, post a “What to Expect” article where you can walk your patients through your office check-in process. Knowing ahead of time what to expect the minute they walk through the door is going the extra mile to ease their stressful lives, and also helps to make sure they bring everything they would need.
  5. Give them a friendly face. Using your newsletter, social media, or even a fun Facebook Live video, introduce your patients to your office staff. By sharing smiling photos of the office staff, patients can feel more relaxed and comfortable coming into the office and finding a familiar face to help them.
  6. Create a community. By sending a monthly newsletter, regularly posting on social media and/or apractice blog, a provider can create a community through educational information, sharing tips, and celebrating milestones and birthdays with their patients. When patients feel that they are part of a community, they are comfortable and more at ease to be open to communicate.
  7. Don’t hesitate to try digital. No one likes to feel sick and then spend time filling out patient information sheets or updates during the check-in process. Speed things up by sending these to the patient ahead of time to fill out online, or print and fill out, and bring in with them.
  8. Send personalized automated reminders of scheduled appointments. By making your reminders automated and personal, it shows patients that providers are invested in their care, in making sure that their needs are being met.
  9. Create a warm office environment. Use seasonal decor and cater your waiting room to match your patients, not the wall treatment, to help your practice set your patients at ease.
  10. Greet your patients. Knowing your patients by name and saying hello when you see them during their check-in process is a great way to build and maintain relationships between providers and patients.


Keeping patients updated on office hours, providing a warm office waiting area, and greeting patients by name may seem like insignificant or small things but they can really help patients feel that they are a priority and ease the stress of seeing a provider. A patient’s experience is important, to read more about how you can help your patients have the best experience in your office check out our free checklist, "7 Research-Backed Steps to a Patient-Friendly Office."

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My other doctor is a search engine - Kantar

My other doctor is a search engine - Kantar | Social Media and Healthcare |

The patient journey starts with an online search.

Pharma companies and health marketers looking to make the most of their ad spending need to find ways to engage patients who are doing their own research before heading to the doctor. The patient journey is often starting with an online search, and pharma companies looking to maintain an edge will need to gain a better understanding of exactly how they're researching health and wellness topics.

According to Kantar Media’s 2017 MARS Consumer Health Study, 55% of U.S. consumers value search engine results as a source of health information. 1 in 4 consumers say they have looked for information about a health condition or have researched symptoms online within the past month. Moreover, nearly 1 in 5 say they have read reviews about doctors, looked for doctors, healthcare facilities or scheduled an appointment with a healthcare professional online.

Many patients are researching their symptoms online before or after they visit the doctor’s office:

The value consumers ascribe to online sources of health information (e.g., health-related websites, blogs, etc.) is not far behind how they value their doctor:

And compared to two years ago, patients are increasingly valuing online sources:

Impact of Health Advertising

When consumers go online before seeing their doctor, it’s good news for pharma marketers and advertisers. Patients conducting research prior to a doctor’s appointment are 35% more likely than the average adult to ask their doctors for drugs they see in DTC ads. They are more knowledgeable and in control of their health and report feeling more positive attitudes toward healthcare advertising than the average adult:

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Nearly All US Hospitals Use Social Media. Now What?

Nearly All US Hospitals Use Social Media. Now What? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Virtually all US hospitals now have a social media presence, with widespread adoption having increased significantly in the past few years. But a recent study suggests that hospitals are continuing to search how best to realize a meaningful purpose and payoff from social media (SM).

“This dramatic increase in social media use may show the increasing value of social media to hospitals to potentially improve market share, engage with patients, increase profitability, or advance their missions in health and healthcare,” according to the study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR).

The question for marketing executives is: Is your social media program producing meaningful and measurable results?

Who’s using what SM platforms?

The picture of social media use that appears from the data paints a nearly universal awareness that social media in general is a useful conduit. But of the dozens of SM platforms, there are four that top the list.

“Of the total 3,371 US hospitals identified, the adoption of social media websites varied across platforms, with:

  • 3,351 (99.41%) having a Facebook account
  • 3,351 (99.41%) having a Foursquare account
  • 3,342 (99.14%) having a Yelp account
  • 1,713 (50.82%) having a Twitter account

“Overall, 1,699 (50.40%) hospitals had accounts on all four platforms. Few hospitals (42/3371, 1.25%) used just one or two types of social media platform. Large, urban, private nonprofit, and teaching hospitals were more likely to have higher utilization of these accounts,” the study says.

Study: Maps of social media utilization for hospitals

Social media has aim points, but may or may not be hitting the target…

“The relationships between hospital-associated social media activity, patient choices, clinical processes and outcomes, and hospital profit margins are unknown and almost certainly evolving rapidly.

“At the same time, it has become increasingly critical to find effective ways of communicating with patients outside of clinical settings. Mail and telephone communication channels that dominated the past are being supplemented or replaced by new media channels, and this is occurring faster in some demographic segments and hospitals than others.”

National survey data, such as the study from JMIR [available here], provides a useful overview. But an investment in social media requires meaningful information about local results. SM goals, and the measure of return, need to be connected to meaningful business information:

  • Increased revenue or growth
  • Reduced costs or expenses
  • Enhanced patient satisfaction

Although, as this study shows, most hospitals have now adopted at least one social media platform. And, depending on marketing considerations, the utilization of social media varies. For most, social media has yet to deliver to its full potential.

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How to Recruit and Retain Patients for Oncology Trials - Clinical Trials Arena

How to Recruit and Retain Patients for Oncology Trials - Clinical Trials Arena | Social Media and Healthcare |

On World Cancer Day, Shahana Chowdhury provides advice on how to overcome the obstacles of recruiting and retaining patients for oncology trials


Patient recruitment is one of the most difficult challenges faced when running clinical trials, and is particularly acute in oncology trials. A considerably low number of 3 percent of potential patients volunteer to participate in oncology clinical trials. The difficulty in recruitment can cause overall delays to such trials. Currently less than 20 percent of studies are on-time, meaning the majority of the trials fail to meet initial plans and expectations. There are many reasons why patient recruitment remains a challenge:

  • Awareness of Clinical Trials – Lack of awareness is one of the foremost reasons patient recruitment is an obstacle. Awareness has risen over the last few years, however, it is still very low and not often discussed with patients at the right time of treatment. 
  • Misconceptions about Oncology Studies – There are many misconceptions with oncology trials, such as the occurrence of a serious adverse event. Many potential patients also have the mistaken belief, oncology trials are only appropriate when all forms of treatment have been tried and tested. The misconceptions surrounding oncology trials come down to low awareness of the details of the trial, as well as a vague understanding about the overall conduct of the trial.
  • Patient-centric Oncology Trials are more popular – While designing the technical components of clinical studies, it can often be forgotten the first point of interaction between a patient and a sponsor company is a clinical trial. The outcome can cause an unnecessary burden on patients already in a challenging situation. As a result, this can lead to unhappy patients, low recruitment and high dropout rates. 

Furthermore, a lack of focus on the patients throughout the trial can be a negative point to deter them from participating. The aim of a patient-centric clinical trial is to provide a convenient and pleasant journey for the patient, which lessens the burden of participation.

  • Finding the Right Patients – Recruiting the right patients in oncology is particularly difficult, as patients need to be eligible for the trial. While the patients need to be diagnosed with cancer, they cannot be too ill to complete the entire duration of the study. 

Evidently, patient recruitment is a huge problem within oncology trials. However, there are ways to tackle this. The phenomenon that is social media has become a powerful communication tool and is increasingly being used within the clinical trial space. Does the practice of using social media as a tool to recruit patients really work, or is it just another example of an insufficient process? 

Harness the Power of Social Media

Social media channels are particularly effective in grabbing the attention of individuals and are a solution to overcome the challenges of patient recruitment. The average person checks social media 17 times a day. During this time, they are browsing on social media and may also seek information about and/or support for their disease. Using one opportunity of 17 daily check-ins to reach potential patients with clear and actionable information is very possible. 

Social media is a solution that enables efficient targeting, is measurable, and provides actionable education, as well as accurate demographic and user disposition. While using it to recruit patients, social media can also act as an opportunity to promote the trial. Communication with patients is key when interacting online. For clinical trial sponsors, a patient communication strategy must vary by geography in order to reflect the cultural differences between regions.

Patient Retention Complications - Could Home Nursing be the Answer?

Now that you have recruited participants it can often be a challenge to get patients to return to the study through follow up. Patients usually fall very sick and are unable to travel to the study site resulting in the trial not reaching its endpoint and incomplete data. 

Home nursing is the predominant solution to tackle this obstacle. Home nursing can reduce the risk of patient dropouts by bringing the study to the patient’s home, which removes the requirement of travelling to a trial site. Protocol-specific training, customized visit materials, and a severe quality control process that meets all study requirements is however necessary to conduct successful in-home visits. 

Good communication with patients can also tackle this problem. Text messaging is now a widely used tool to communicate with patients. Incorporating this into the trial process to notify and gain updates on patients’ conditions can increase retention rates.

Although patient recruitment and retention can be seen as problematic, particularly in the oncology trial field, there are solutions. With the rise of social media, it is a tool that can be integrated to both recruit and retain patients. While a home nursing situation for patients can be complex logistically to organize, if incorporated into a study, the retention rate of patients can increase. 



1. Improving Standards of Patient Recruitment and Retention in Clinical Trials,

2. How to Maximize Patient Recruitment in Oncology Trials,

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New App Hopes to Reduce Suicides, Alert Psychiatrists to Concerning Social Media Posts

New App Hopes to Reduce Suicides, Alert Psychiatrists to Concerning Social Media Posts | Social Media and Healthcare |

 The current research project in the College of Engineering and Computer Science could help reduce the number of suicides that occur each year by analyzing social media data generated by depressed patients and alerting their caregivers in time to intervene quickly.

Graduate student Pranika Jain, College of Engineering & Computer Science Professor Chilukuri Mohan and graduate student Siddhartha Roy Nandi, from left, are working on the new app to examine subjects’ social media postings.

Graduate students Pranika Jain and Siddhartha Roy Nandi, under the supervision of Professor Chilukuri Mohan, are developing an Android app designed to be installed on psychiatrists’ smartphones. If a patient agrees, the app monitors their social media posts and can trigger an alert if it detects significant risk indicators in the language used in posts or in the patient’s posting patterns over time.

“If there is some unusual behavior or some indicator of self-harm, an alert is generated and sent to the doctor,” says Jain.

If the primary mental health care-giver is unavailable, the alert would be routed to another responsible care-giver, possibly through a healthcare organization, with steps taken to protect patient data privacy.

“Only when abnormal situations arise which require urgent action, that’s when the physician will be alerted and they can look into it,” says Mohan.

In the pilot phase, the team is working with psychiatrists to refine the algorithm’s ability to detect concerning posts and reduce potential false alerts. The alert generation process will be sensitive to an individual patient’s social media posting patterns, rather than a one-size-fits-all. Doctors will provide feedback and rank potentially alarming posts on a scale of 1 to 10. Those rankings will be used to fine-tune the patient-specific algorithm parameters.

“Based on that, machine learning algorithms help improve analysis of the criticality of the posts and the usefulness of the app,” says Roy Nandi.

The project illustrates a unique intersection of technology and complex human emotions.

“The sentiment analysis looks at the words they are using—are they positive or negative words?” says Roy Nandi.

By comparing a new post to the past history of a patient’s postings, the app has a context for detecting anomalies—potentially troubling posts that can generate an alert.

“With the help of the doctors, I hope we can save some lives,” says Roy Nandi.

This work is being completed in collaboration with Research Professor Kishan Mehrotra and Linguistics Professor Tej Bhatia at SU, Dr. Mantosh Dewan and Dr. Seetha Ramanathan at Upstate Medical University, and Dr. Dayaprasad Kulkarni, founder/director of Aarogyaseva: Global Healthcare Volunteer Alliance.

About Syracuse University

Founded in 1870, Syracuse University is a private international research university dedicated to advancing knowledge and fostering student success through teaching excellence, rigorous scholarship and interdisciplinary research. Comprising 11 academic schools and colleges, the University has a long legacy of excellence in the liberal arts, sciences and professional disciplines that prepares students for the complex challenges and emerging opportunities of a rapidly changing world. Students enjoy the resources of a 270-acre main campus and extended campus venues in major national metropolitan hubs and across three continents. Syracuse’s student body is among the most diverse for an institution of its kind across multiple dimensions, and students typically represent all 50 states and more than 100 countries. Syracuse also has a long legacy of supporting veterans and is home to the nationally recognized Institute for Veterans and Military Families, the first university-based institute in the U.S. focused on addressing the unique needs of veterans and their families.

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In their own words: 4 healthcare influencers on the power of social media

In their own words: 4 healthcare influencers on the power of social media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media is a powerful tool for healthcare professionals to disseminate information and connect with peers, but a number of industry leaders have taken their social media platform to the next level as influential voices on the issue of lowering healthcare costs.

Here are four of the most active leaders currently championing this issue online and their thoughts on what social media means for them.

Dr. Josh Luke, healthcare futurist and author

"As a former hospital CEO, I have championed transparency and collaboration in healthcare as a speaker for audiences both within and outside the industry for years. Some of the most rewarding moments I have experienced, however, come as a result of someone approaching me and sharing a passage from one of my books or a specific post or blog that I shared. The power of social media has brought me together with great minds from all over the world. LinkedIn and Forbes both asking me to write for them in itself is evidence of the strength of social media. It's powerful."

Chris Van Gorder, president and CEO of San Diego-based Scripps Health

"I was initially very skeptical about using social media, but my marketing and communications group knew I was very transparent inside of Scripps and thought it would be helpful to the organization, our patients and the healthcare industry for me to share comments and articles on a regular basis. So today, I have a blog that is available on our website and I put it out on LinkedIn and other social sites. I receive significant feedback on the sites, which has actually been helpful. I now have contacts across the country and have reached out occasionally for new ideas and thoughts. But I also have many people who initially contact me on social media and end up having significant dialogue with me after the initial contact. So, I think it's been good for Scripps and for me, and I hope I've been able to share personal and business experiences that help others, as well."

Dave Chase, founder of the Health Rosetta Institute and author

"The biggest reason I'm so active on social media is it's the most effective method I've found to pressure test my ideas. Beyond refining the open source blueprint we're sharing with everyone, I have found Twitter and increasingly LinkedIn to be the best method of keeping up on the cutting edge. Over my career, I've used print newsletters, conferences, RSS feeds, email newsletters, you name it. Nothing has been as effective as my carefully curated list of 100 people I follow on Twitter. It's like having the best research staff I could possibly have for free."

Don Larsen, MD, CMO of Santa Monica, Calif.-based Saint John's Health Center

"As an academic physician by training and practice, now turned full-time healthcare executive, I have been driven to always seek evidence-based, peer-reviewed sources of information to guide my thoughts and decision-making in my career whenever possible. Given how fast healthcare is changing, books and peer review journals quickly become out of date. Therefore I have found some social media outlets, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, have been helpful at times in terms of distributing credible healthcare information much more quickly and efficiently. I'm also always careful to note that opinions expressed on this site are my own, may not represent those of my employers or business partners, and are never personal medical advice."

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Patients’ and Surgeons’ Perceptions of Social Media’s Role in the Decision Making for Primary Aesthetic Breast Augmentation 

Patients’ and Surgeons’ Perceptions of Social Media’s Role in the Decision Making for Primary Aesthetic Breast Augmentation  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media (SoMe) has evolved to be a platform that patients use to seek information prior to an operation, share perioperative and postoperative journey, provide feedback, offer and receive support. While there have been studies looking at the evolution and usage of SoMe either by patients or by surgeons, there is no information that compares its usefulness for both the groups.


The aim of this study was to compare the view held by patients and surgeons, towards social media and other internet resources, in relation to one commonly performed operation.


A questionnaire was presented to 648 consecutive patients who attended our clinic for consultation for primary breast augmentation from September 2016 to March 2017. A separate “surgeons’ questionnaire” was answered by a group of 138 plastic surgeons who either worked in our clinic, had previously done fellowship with us or were visiting the clinic.


All 138 surgeons and 648 patients responded to the questionnaire. 91.4% of patients said that they had searched online and 61.4% had searched in specific online groups for information on breast augmentation. 88.9% of patients had specifically looked for clinical photographs and 73.4% had specifically searched for unfavorable reviews of the surgeon. In comparison, 72.5% of surgeons thought that over three quarters of patients gather information on the internet while only 20.3% thought that over three-quarters of patients use social media for their information. 52.5% of surgeons have noticed that social media affected their consultations.


With the evolution of Internet and related technologies, the role of social media continues to increase. While patients use social media to help make their decision, it is not the only deciding factor. Surgeons appear to underestimate the patients’ use of these technologies. There is concern in each group about the amount of inaccurate information on the social media. This underlines the importance of providing factual, evidence-based information to the patients.

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Top 5 Healthcare Marketing Trends for 2018

Top 5 Healthcare Marketing Trends for 2018 | Social Media and Healthcare |

As we embark into 2018, it’s time to identify the trends that lie ahead for healthcare marketers.

The healthcare sector is evolving and marketers who can analyze the trends and prepare for the future, have the best chances of setting their companies up for success.

However, before we begin to predict this year’s trends, let’s take a quick look at what trends dominated healthcare marketing in 2017.

One of the main trends was the rise in patient awareness and engagement. The fact that patients are now more likely to research and browse health information online, before making any decisions, has created an opportunity for healthcare organizations to focus their marketing efforts digitally. Consequently, more have focused on creating engaging content, enhancing search engine optimization and increasing their social media presence; this has been prominent throughout 2017.

But, will it be the same this year?

Here are five marketing trends that you’ll want to watch out for.

  1. Improvement and investment in patient portals

Patients’ portals have been around for many years, and it is predicted that there will be a revamp of portals, as healthcare organizations are looking for ways to increase care outside of the traditional setting. This is likely to result in more sophisticated and user-friendly portals, particularly as more consumer-oriented tech companies enter the market.

Currently, most portals allow patients to view test results, immunizations, and their medical history. However, a recent review of patient attitudes toward patient portals found a number of negative experiences. According to the CDW Healthcare survey, less than 30% of patients would give their healthcare providers an “A” for technology use, and 89% want easier access to their portal. Patients are demanding a more user-friendly experience.

It pays to keep patients happy, and this year we hope to see more organizations take on a patient-centered approach to improve features, usability, and design.

Who is doing this well?

Geisinger Health System is a great example. In 2001, they launched “MyGeisinger,” an online portal, which has since then evolved into an essential tool between the organization and their patients.

Image source: myGeisinger

MyGeisinger has many beneficial features that are helpful to patients. Apart from patients’ medical record and health summary, patients are also able to renew prescriptions, request appointments and ask for medical advice for non-urgent questions or concerns.

Today, around 40% of Geisinger’s active patient population are on MyGeisinger, with 20,000 logins per day. This has also resulted in fewer calls to the office.

** Tip: To create a user-friendly portal, start by building a survey to ask your patients about their preferences and requirements. The responses collected should then give you specific patient needs. Use this to start mapping out a design that will directly address those particular user requirements.

Over time, a portal should give patients more control over their care and well-being and become the foundation for electronic communications between the patient and provider.

2. Voice-driven SEO

Digital assistants such as Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are invading our lives through mobile devices, smartphones, and home devices.

According to Md Connect, a staggering 200 billion searches per month will be done with voice! This is shown in the graph below. Voice search is already accounting for 20% of all searches and will make their way into the healthcare industry, with many projects underway.

Source: Graph by MD Connect

With the rise of popularity of voice search continues to rise, medical marketers need to adapt their SEO strategies to stay ahead of the curve, with consideration to the following:

  • Focus on users’ language

When marketers are planning out their voice search strategy, often they forget that people search differently; unlike search keyword phrases that you type into your computer, voice search is more conversational and natural in tone. The graph below demonstrates how many words are used in text vs. speech.

Source: Graph by Campaign

When users use text search, these are shorter than voice search. For example, in Google, a user may type “knee specialist, Lincoln.” However, the same query conducted via voice search might be “Who is the best knee specialist in Lincoln.”

Natural language is becoming more and more integrated into Google’s search algorithms. Because of this, marketers should focus their content on generalized topics rather than specific keywords as before.

** Tip: Start by thinking about the types of questions you get when patients call you on the phone, then document and record the exact words they used to get a better idea of what content to write.

  • Focus on local information

Patients often search for GPs and hospital information online based on their local area, therefore having your Google Business listing and Bing Places for Business claimed and up-to-date can help increase your chances of showing up when a voice search is done. Don’t forget also to update other online business directories!

Voice is inevitably going to play a larger and larger role in search results. Since most voice searches are done on mobile devices, your website must be mobile-friendly. It’s time for marketers to start optimizing their site for the new world of voice search.

3. Content

Content marketing has been a common digital strategy in the last few years, and once again, this shows no signs of slowing down. According to a survey by Smart Insights, 20% of marketers believe that content marketing will make the largest commercial impact this year.

Source: Smart Insights

So why is content marketing still relevant?

Many studies have revealed that healthcare content is the second most-searched-for service online. With so many people seeking expert healthcare information, it is important to capture these searches with relevant and unique content.

Developing content that answers patient’s questions and addresses their points is key to writing valuable content.

Example: If your goal is to improve appointments for your physiotherapy department, it’s a good idea to ask what a physio solution-seeker is searching for in a search engine. For many, it is signs of whether they need physiotherapy. As a marketer, you can create a simple on-site quiz that acts as a diagnostic tool to whether the person requires physiotherapy after answering a set of questions.

Once they have taken the quiz, the next stage is to prompt them to book an appointment. In this way, the prospect is self-qualifying themselves as someone who is need of an appointment with a physiotherapist.

Bupa, an international healthcare group, does content marketing very well. They run The Blue Room, an online destination that provides “information you can trust, and real stories to help inspire you to live a longer, healthier, happier life.”

Source: Bupa

Whether it’s content that answers questions about treatment options or content that provides information about care, Bupa has created a content strategy that has helped with customers’ engagement, as well as driving commercial outcomes.

At the end of 2016 – a year and a half after its launch, the site achieved the following statistics:

  • 5 million unique visitors
  • four million visits
  • five million page views
  • a high level of returning visitors
  • 17 million minutes people have spent in The Blue Room engaging with Bupa’s content

** Tip: As with any strategy that delivers results, the first thing to do is to set clear goals. What are the goals of your content – do you need to drive volume to a specific service? Are you trying to raise awareness? By having a set of clear goals, this makes it easier to align your content to make this relevant to users. Don’t forget the importance of landing pages when writing content to convert visitors to make a phone call, or book an appointment.

4. Social engagement

Social media marketing has changed significantly over the past decade. In the medical world, the trend in social media is being driven by changing attitudes and preferences. Patients now seek information via social media to help them make an informed decision on the best practice and doctors to seek care.

This year, we will see more engagement and two-way communication, as healthcare marketers are looking to communicate with patients in real-time, to build meaningful relationships with their target audience.

So what content should you have in place?

  • Video

Simply put, video works! Video is growing and will only get bigger in 2018 because people are visual by nature. According to Cisco, video traffic will be 82% of all consumer Internet traffic by 2021, up from 73% in 2016.

The graph below demonstrates the increase in video traffic, year by year.

Source: Business Intelligence

Already, you can see how healthcare organizations are utilizing videos via social media. Everyday Health, an online provider of health resources, for example, takes advantage of this trend nicely in this video featuring “celebrity doctor,” Dr. Frank Lipman.

Testimonials shown in videos, also make a great way for building brand credibility and trust in the eyes of customers. Take this example from Nexon Group.

Remember that video content elicits higher engagement rates. New formats such as live streaming are also an effective way to engage target customers.

  • Chatbots

In 2017, we saw how many companies incorporated chatbots as part of their marketing strategy. Forbes writer, Blake Morgan comments that Chatbots are the future of customer experience and have the power to replace search windows and many apps in the not-so-distant future.

Chatbots can give medical practices the chance to interact quickly with their patients in a way that feels personal and specific to their needs. There are more than 100,000 active bots on Facebook Messengerevery month, and almost 2 billion messages are exchanged between businesses and their target audiences each month.

Most healthcare organizations have done little to advance their client communication systems. Often, their best effort is to have a FAQ section on the website to cover any inquiries that a patient may have. This is very limiting, and patients are frustrated since they may not find the information they are looking for. Chatbots, on the other hand, are interactive, answers are obtained quickly and efficiently, further saving time taking phone calls! A combination of chatbots and messaging apps can significantly enhance the quality of patient service.

Bots like HealthTap has reinvented the way people all over the world take care of their health and well-being.

Image source: Internet Marketing Ninjas

HealthTap acts as a self-diagnosis tool and patients can quickly find out what they might be suffering from and how to treat it. If that’s not enough, they can submit their questions to more than 100,000 doctors by video or simply messaging them.

** Tip: Start by making your first chatbot simple, then gradually build on this as you test the waters. Building a complex chatbot can overcomplicate the process.

  • Be mindful of organic reach

Organic reach strategies in social media are likely to decline. Platforms such as Facebook has made this more difficult for firms to reach their fan base, their algorithms filter out all content and only show ones they believe are relevant to users. With Facebook already announcing that organic reach will soon be zero, businesses are more likely to pay to have their content seen by sponsored posts.

Healthcare marketers, therefore, need to stop relying on short-term tactics that once worked. 2018 is likely to be the year when we will feel the pinch on the organic reach of our social media content.

To show the decline in organic traffic, Social@Ogilvy conducted an analysis of 106 country-level brand pages and found that the average reach of organic posts had declined from 12.05% in October to 6.15% in February. For 23 pages in the sample with more than 500,000 likes, the drop was from 4.04% in October to 2.11% in February.

Source: AdAge 

In short, while you must create and share relevant content, you need to understand that it is a pay-to-play world.

Social media cuts across every customer segment and every aspect of the customer relationship. So whether you’re planning to launch your medical practice on Twitter or Facebook, it is important that you are creating social communities to connect, collaborate and communicate with the target audience.

5. Optimize user experience

UX design has had yet another wonderful year and will continue in 2018. An attentive approach to user experience (UX) can lead to stronger relationships between healthcare providers and their audiences.

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Mayo Clinic's new social media campaign highlights the patient experience in patients' own voices

Mayo Clinic's new social media campaign highlights the patient experience in patients' own voices | Social Media and Healthcare |

Mayo Clinic has launched a new social media campaign that revolves around patient experience—both positive and negative—featuring articles written by patients and their caregivers. 


Experts by Experience, which is a partnership between the health system and healthcare social network Inspire, will include posts from patients and caregivers from across the globe, according to Mayo Clinic.  

The system says the campaign has three goals: 

  1. Educate providers using first-hand stories of patients' experiences
  2. Offer a look into a "day in the life" for patients or caregivers dealing with certain conditions
  3. Provide opportunities for quality improvement

"Sharing stories has valuable health benefits for readers or listeners and narrators alike," the health system said in the announcement.

"Be it through their own experiences or those of loved ones, patients and caregivers are in a unique position—by sharing their stories they are able to create a comprehensive narrative out of often chaotic journeys." 


The series' first post, for example, describes a negative and a positive experience with emergency care.

Renata K. Louwers is a patient advocate and writer whose husband was being treated for bladder cancer. During one ER visit, her husband was left on a stretcher in a hallway as there were no available beds, according to the post. Louwers wrote that she was exhausted and no one offered her a chair or a place to sit. Worse, she was scolded by the hospital staff when she sat down against the wall. 

On another visit, Louwers said she arrived late at night with her husband and a nurse quickly recognized how tired she was. He offered her a pillow and a spot to sleep, saying he would wake her when the doctor needed to speak with her. 

"I understand that in an emergency room the top priority is to handle emergencies, not to comfort caregivers. But it takes discreet actions like kindness, helpfulness, empathy—things within the control of every person—to scale up the humanity of care," Louwers writes in the post.

"And scaling up, even slightly, can have a big positive impact on caregivers."

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How Online Reputation Management Helps Your Practice Growth

How Online Reputation Management Helps Your Practice Growth | Social Media and Healthcare |

The first month of a new year is all about creating new strategies for your practice in 2018. From an informative website to strengthening your presence on a social media platform that allows your target audience search you on Google or other search engines. In addition to SEO, it’s the practice reviews that are floating everywhere on the Google and establishing your online reputation. Today, in the world of the Internet, your practice’s growth is at the stake of your online reputation, so you need to get your practice displayed in the most pristine way.

Online reputation acts as the decision-influencer of a patient’s journey. 90% people say their decisions were influenced by the positive reviews. The Internet world affects purchase decisions of around 85% of consumers.

Online reputation management might seem to be a daunting task because of the numerous review sites and the active, positive or negative response of patients on your practice. And you just can’t ignore them. Let’s check the benefits of strong online reputation.

Building trust

Since online reputation is considered as a personal recommendation by many, it results in building the higher trust of patients in your practice. The number of positive reviews you have is directly proportional to the number of followers you get on your practice. Irrespective of the size of your practice, people want to know about your services before making a physical visit to your clinic. People wholeheartedly trust positive reviews.

Growing profitability

Profitability and trust go hand-in-hand. When a patient, searches online for a treatment offered by your practice and comes across your competitor who ranks higher on various review sites, then you are likely to lose them. So, aim to get a number of positive reviews on all review platforms. People read not more than 10 reviews before visiting a practice.

Resolving conflicts

To maintain the reputation of your practice you are required to deal with conflicts, i.e. responding to negative reviews. Replying to negative feedback should be in real-time to show your concern for your patients but with a calm mind. This act is admired by reviewers and can convert the disappointed patients into happy ones. For effective relationship building, you should learn how to respond to negative feedbacks. This builds your online reputation. The leads and revenue of your practice are directly impacted by the way people perceive your practice.

Some other direct and indirect benefits of online reputation management

–          Strong reputation creates a great impression of your practice for existing and new patients. This way you can identify the key touch points for your patients and build sustainable relationships.

–          With effective online reputation management strategy, you can showcase the services offered by your practice and how you are better than your competitors.

–          You can even win over your cold visitors and turn them into your patients with your good online reputation that will grow their trust in your services.

–          With the help of good online reputation, you can display your thought leader personality to the world and influence them. This is an effective way to leverage your image over the competitors and grow your practice exponentially as you end up having free media coverage.

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New Study Highlights Pros and Cons of Using Social Media for Clinical Trial Recruitment

New Study Highlights Pros and Cons of Using Social Media for Clinical Trial Recruitment | Social Media and Healthcare |

Though the medium presents a few unique challenges, clinical trials stand to recruit new patients and reduce costs through social media.

It’s no secret that social media gives advertisers new and effective ways to reach their audiences. With more than 2.07 billion monthly active users, Facebook alone provides a wealth of opportunity for clinical trials looking to find and recruit new patients. Yet some trials still hesitate to dive into the waters of social media.

The science is in: social media’s a valuable recruitment tool. A recent study out of the Indiana University School of Medicine explored the efficacy of social media for patient recruitment over a wide geographic area. Though trials must take demographic data and intake accuracy into account, researchers reported that using social media as a recruitment tool largely saved money and time for patients and sites alike.

The Pros: Save Money and Time

The study proved that social media offers several advantages for patients as well as clinical trials. Time and money can both limit patient participation; if a patient has to take time off work and pay for transportation to a trial site, he or she will be less likely to go through with the trial.

Social media minimizes these issues by allowing patients to virtually engage with trials from any part of the country. Within a Facebook group called the Autoimmune Hepatitis Research Network, researchers identified and pre-qualified potential patients more quickly with less time and money invested on the part of the patient. Of the 29 participants who signed up, 28 completed and returned study materials within three months of confirming consent over the phone, while 79% provided medical release forms and medical records after the first request.

The IU study proves that social media has a valuable role to play in rare disease research. With the right parameters, social outreach can transcend geographic limitations, cost issues, and prolonged study courses.

The Cons: Slow Adoption and Extra Due Diligence

Though social media can reduce the overall time and financial investment in clinical trials, the IU study proved that there are still some kinks to work out. This is to be expected, as no patient recruitment method is perfect, but researchers still need to address these challenges for the best results.

The study states that slow technology adoption rates, especially in fast-paced clinical environments, may impede the use of social media as a patient recruitment tool. Ironically, clinical trials have been slow to embrace productivity-boosting tech. But the tide is rapidly changing as recruitment costs skyrocket and patients increasingly search for health information online. We believe that once sponsors and CROs see the value of social media recruitment, quick adoption will follow.

But social media presents other, more complex challenges. First, trials have to ensure that the demographics of recruited patient populations align with the goals of their studies. In the IU example, 90% of the 29 recruited patients were white, all were female, and the median age among them was 52. These demographics happened to fit the requirements of the study, but that won’t always be the case. When using social media to recruit patients with certain rare diseases, trials must make sure that they’re gathering a representative sample of patients.

The other issue that the IU research team encountered was a discrepancy between patient-reported health information and medical records. This issue is equally prevalent with traditional recruitment methods, except when finding patients through medical databases. However, when trials rely on intake forms for pre-qualification, they may run into surprises when presented with official medical information. Trials must take care to incorporate medical fact-checking into the recruitment process when using social media.

None of these challenges are insurmountable, and none of them outweigh the benefits of using social media for recruitment. Clinical trials should run — not walk — to social media as a supplement to traditional patient recruitment efforts.

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