Social Media and Healthcare
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An Exploratory Infodemiology Study on Electronic Word of Mouth on #Twitter About Physical Activity in the US

An Exploratory Infodemiology Study on Electronic Word of Mouth on #Twitter About Physical Activity in the US | Social Media and Healthcare |

Twitter is a widely used social medium. However, its application in promoting health behaviors is understudied.

In order to provide insights into designing health marketing interventions to promote physical activity on Twitter, this exploratory infodemiology study applied both social cognitive theory and the path model of online word of mouth to examine the distribution of different electronic word of mouth (eWOM) characteristics among personal tweets about physical activity in the United States.

This study used 113 keywords to retrieve 1 million public tweets about physical activity in the United States posted between January 1 and March 31, 2011. A total of 30,000 tweets were randomly selected and sorted based on numbers generated by a random number generator. Two coders scanned the first 16,100 tweets and yielded 4672 (29.02%) tweets that they both agreed to be about physical activity and were from personal accounts. Finally, 1500 tweets were randomly selected from the 4672 tweets (32.11%) for further coding. After intercoder reliability scores reached satisfactory levels in the pilot coding (100 tweets separate from the final 1500 tweets), 2 coders coded 750 tweets each. Descriptive analyses, Mann-Whitney U tests, and Fisher exact tests were performed.

Results: Tweets about physical activity were dominated by neutral sentiments (1270/1500, 84.67%). Providing opinions or information regarding physical activity (1464/1500, 97.60%) and chatting about physical activity (1354/1500, 90.27%) were found to be popular on Twitter.

Approximately 60% (905/1500, 60.33%) of the tweets demonstrated users’ past or current participation in physical activity or intentions to participate in physical activity. However, social support about physical activity was provided in less than 10% of the tweets (135/1500, 9.00%). Users with fewer people following their tweets (followers) (P=.02) and with fewer accounts that they followed (followings) (P=.04) were more likely to talk positively about physical activity on Twitter.

People with more followers were more likely to post neutral tweets about physical activity (P=.04). People with more followings were more likely to forward tweets (P=.04). People with larger differences between number of followers and followings were more likely to mention companionship support for physical activity on Twitter (P=.04).

Conclusions: Future health marketing interventions promoting physical activity should segment Twitter users based on their number of followers, followings, and gaps between the number of followers and followings.

The innovative application of both marketing and public health theory to examine tweets about physical activity could be extended to other infodemiology or infoveillance studies on other health behaviors (eg, vaccinations).

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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. 

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Mining social media for patient research 

Mining social media for patient research  | Social Media and Healthcare |

In the first part of this series we discussed Spoons theory, a tool originally developed by Cristina Miserandino, a Lupus patient in 2003. While Christina explained to a friend that the difference between being sick and being healthy is having to make choices, she used an analogy of spoons – allocating a certain number to a given activity.

With the advent of social media we can see how patients have taken ownership of the Spoons theory and made it into something that relates to them. In early 2018 #spoonie came up as an organic search term on Instagram.

Further investigation reveals a powerful network of chronic fatigue sufferers sharing their stories, inspiration and advice. Social media and #spoonie, gives sufferers a cohesive identity and a community across the globe. What was once a theory shared via word of mouth has evolved and spread like wildfire as an effective support tool worldwide, helping more patients practically manage their condition than could have ever been imagined by Cristina.

Influencers and patient-led support groups

Patients or community groups that have significant reach in these rare conditions are easily identified. Take for instance Salty Cysters, two sisters with Cystic Fibrosis who share their experiences, highs and lows, post pictures of themselves to neutralise the stigma around the condition, with the aim of connecting with many other sufferers.

TheUnchargeables is another influencer group of sufferers who have come together to provide support and advice, encouraging other sufferers to be open and transparent about their condition. They even have their own merchandise.

An opportunity to learn and intervene

When patients engage with a wider network via social media, it can have a significant impact on both treatment perspectives and personal mindset.

From a cognitive behavioural bias standpoint, this kind of interaction can lead to changes in self-efficacy perceptions – that is, developing a belief through proxy that a treatment is right for them because they have read other patient cases/experiences and can see what that will mean for them.

It also offers incentives to improve their situation (patients can read these positive support stories and it can act as an incentive to seek out that support/treatment themselves). 

When pharmaceutical companies look to invest in patient support programmes, it is important that they are relevant and meaningful to patients, building on the networks they are already tapping into online.

The specifics of these interventions, however, need to be carefully considered and draw closely on gaps in the support networks or areas of great need. This insight can be captured through close and systematic social listening as well as digital cultural analysis supported by deep qualitative insight.

Patient research by nature is highly complex. The online world is now deeply embedded in the patient disease and support experience. As such, research in this arena must have a broader lens to explore this wider, yet critical element of the ecosystem to drive improved patient experience and treatment outcomes. 

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5 Tips for Involving Your Team in Social Media

5 Tips for Involving Your Team in Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

In healthcare practices, social media should be a team sport because everyone in the office has the ability to form and celebrate healthy patient relationships. Here are five tips for engaging all of your team members in creating a steady stream of fresh social media posts and better your healthcare marketing:

  • Spotlight Staff Members Spotlight a staff member by sharing a photo of them, along with a brief introduction in the caption, on your social channels.
  • Baby Photos Share baby photos of your staff members and have patients guess who they are.
  • Incentives Reward staff members who take the most patient photos with gift certificates, movie passes or even an extra day of Paid Time Off (PTO).
  • Throwback Thursdays Feature vintage photos of your doctors, staff members or office decor.
  • Live Streaming Share live streaming videos of doctor or staff members on Facebook or Instagram. Don’t include patients in live streaming unless they’ve first signed a HIPAA-release.

Implement these recommendations to win as a team on social media.

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8 Ways to Improve the Patient Experience | Making Patients Comfortable

8 Ways to Improve the Patient Experience | Making Patients Comfortable | Social Media and Healthcare |

When you are considering improving the patient experience for your practice, think about this story.

During our recent company retreat, our team went on a scavenger hunt. One item on the list was to review their experience at The Store.

Charlie was right! My fall visit to The Store in Warren Vermont cost me over $100.

He warned me that he never made out of this kitchenware and accessories store for less. I thought I was prepared not to spend a dime, but here is what happened to force my wallet open.

I opened the door and within a few seconds:

  • I was hit by the delicious smell of pumpkin soup simmering on a warming plate, waiting for me to pour into a cup and snack on.
  • One of the two portly owners, who obviously loves food too, and was seated behind the checkout counter, stood up to personally greet me.
  • Then within the next few minutes, she came out from behind the counter to start a conversation.
    She started a conversation about where I was from, my cooking interests and more.

Twenty minutes later I had my credit card out and was paying for a sushi roller and an amazing single serving microwave cooker that works really well. Since then, I’ve told dozens of people since about The Store too.

How can you apply this same approach to turning patients into raving fans who send all their friends to your practice?


18 Ways to Improve the Patient Experience


1. Minimize Wait Times

Long wait times are patients’ number one complaint. Make sure you have solid scheduling guidelines in place to avoid overbooking providers. If things are running behind, call the patient to let them know so they can come in a few minutes later or at least be prepared for the wait.

2. Express Concern

Ask the patient to make a list of any questions or concerns. Send a link to a page on your website telling them what to expect at their first appointment. Provide a form on your website, one that just asks, why did you schedule your appointment and what are your concerns or questions? Once they’ve made their appointment, tell them to use the link to provide any additional information they’d like the doctor to know. Even if patients don’t fill it in, it expresses the right attitude, which is that you care.

3. Demonstrate an Interest

Greet the patient. When a patient walks in the door, have your front desk staff stand up to greet them. It’s the courteous thing to do, it’s good for your front desk staff to stand up periodically, it demonstrates an interest in the patient, and makes them feel important. I don’t know about you, but I hate it when I go to a doctor’s office, and the welcome is done by someone sitting behind a counter who asks my name and then hands me a clipboard of paperwork to fill out. When you do that, you make the patient feel unimportant and like a cog in your patient factory.

4. Start a Conversation

If they are already a patient, have the front staff greet the patient by name. If they aren’t, ask for their name and how they can help. Then, whoever is speaking to the patient…take the important step of demonstrating an interest in them by starting a conversation.

Ask them how their day is, how their drive to the office was, or what they thought about the local high school football team winning last night. Ask for their opinion on something, to get a conversation going and treat them like you would a friend who walked into your house.

5. Make the Patient Feel Comfortable

Instead of starting the patient experience with paperwork, first, help the patient get comfortable.
Have your front desk staff come out from behind their desk, walk over to the patient, touch their elbow, and show them:

  • Where to hang their coat,
  • Where they can find a Starbucks-level cup of coffee,
  • Where the freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies are,
  • Where the bookshelf of free paperbacks is they can borrow (in our town you can grab these at the transfer station for free or from the library).

6. Make the Waiting Area Comfortable

In addition to adding amenities like coffee, cookies, and nice reading materials, take a look at your waiting area and see what it says about your practice. Is it designed to make your patients comfortable? Or are there plants dying in the corner from neglect? Is there soothing music, or is CNN loudly covering the latest breaking news? Are the chairs comfortable, or are they hard as a rock and made of chipped acrylic? Are the colors sterile, or are they warm and inviting?

7. Minimize Bureaucracy

Nothing is more frustrating to patients than to have to provide the same information over and over before they even get to see the doctor. If you’re still asking patients to fill out physical, paper forms, chances are they have to write out their name, address, insurance information multiple times. I’ve even been to doctors’ offices where they request you spend 15 minutes filling out paperwork online, only to ask you to repeat the same paperwork in the office so there is a witness to your signature. Given I thought I’d already completed the paperwork, I hadn’t brought my reading glasses, making filling it again that much more annoying.

Review your patient’s experience as if you were the patient. If you’re copying or scanning their insurance information into the computer, is it necessary to ask them to hand-write that information on multiple forms? Can you switch to a digital system where you auto-fill responses you already know so they just have to confirm the information is correct?

8. Help the Patient with Paperwork

Once you’ve made the patient feel welcome, ask for their insurance card, hand them the clipboard along with a pen, and explain what they need to fill out and what to do once they’ve filled in the form. Then, let them know if they have any questions at all, that you’re available to help.
After the patient has completed the paperwork:

  • Tell them where the magazines are, mention any recent articles of interest,
  • Let them know who the provider they will be seeing is.

9. Manage Expectations

Explain what they’ll be doing with the provider and how long the wait will be. Map it all out so the patient has an understanding of how they will be spending the next 30-60 minutes.

Demonstrate basic courtesy like telling them they should bring some reading material into the exam room if they’re going to waiting more than a couple of minutes. Then, if the patient is new, when the provider is ready to see them, introduce them to the patient. These small steps go a long way to making the patient feel comfortable.

10. Make the Patient Feel Important

Patients’ perception is practitioners are trying to rush through their office visit. One simple way to alter this perception is to sit down when asking patients questions. This small gesture makes the patient experience more comfortable and they feel they are being listened to.

11. Demonstrate Empathy

Yes, 75% of patients’ perception is that their physicians lack empathy. If patients truly believe you care, they are willing to overlook a multitude of mistakes and much more likely to accept your recommendations. Use questions to get patients talking about themselves. Over 51% of patients felt their relationships with their doctors could be more personal.

Increase patients’ perceived value of services provided. 62% felt they should have had a better patient experience considering the cost.

12. Include Caretakers

If the patient brought along someone who helps take care of them–a parent, spouse or other caretaker — and has given you permission to share medical information with them, ask the patient if it’s OK to include them in the post-examination discussion. Having caretakers present when instructions are given can lower the stress level for patients. They won’t have to repeat instructions, and if the caretakers have questions, they can ask them directly.

14. Demonstrate you care about the patient’s needs and their health

Did you wash your hands and clean your stethoscope in front of the patient, or did you do it out of their sight? This can make a big difference to patients, especially if they can hear a patient in the next examining room with a hacking cough. Do you have a section of the waiting room designated for sick patients, or did a patient wait 20 minutes to see you for their annual well-visit while sitting next to someone with the flu? Are your exam rooms spotless, or is there a dust bunny in the corner screaming, “This room hasn’t been cleaned in a loooong time”? As a health expert you know good hygiene is crucial to your patients’ health. Look at your office with a patient’s eyes and make sure you are demonstrating the kind of cleanliness that shows an authentic interest in your patient’s health.

15. Look them in the eyes

Patients often feel rushed in doctor’s offices. One way to make sure they feel heard and not rushed is to look them in the eye while they are answering questions. Reviewing notes, checking your smart devices, or conducting an evaluation while interviewing the patient may speed things up….but it also makes it feel more transactional to the patient. Make it a point at the beginning and end of every visit to make eye contact with the patient.

16. Touch your patients

A gentle reassuring hand on the patient’s shoulder or arm can go a long way to making the patient feel like a person. Not to mention the healing properties of associated with touch, can’t hurt.

17. End with a few questions

After you’ve given a diagnosis, offered advice, and prescribed any treatments, stop and ask your patient: are you comfortable with the treatments we discussed? Do you have any concerns with how we’re proceeding? Do you have any other questions or concerns? This final opportunity to address patient anxieties helps make the patient feel more comfortable.

18. Transform Patients Into Raving Fans

After the patient has finished seeing the physician or provider, have a staff member guide the patient into the front office. Again, express an interest and ask them something like, how did it go, did you get all your questions answered?

Hand a patient a printed summary of their visit, including the diagnosis and recommended plan of action. Then, hand them a short form and ask them if they would provide you with their email address so you can send them a copy of their invoice and ask them for some positive feedback. When they are done, have your front desk staff stand up, shake their hand, and thank them for coming by.

Providing a great patient experience sounds a lot like what you’d do if a friend visited your house

You’d welcome them in, shake their hand, make them feel comfortable, offer them a glass of water, and show an interest in them. You’d make them feel important.

This works for the people you know and the people who are your patients. Take these simple steps and you’ll stand out from other impersonal providers in your town and generate raving fans for your practice.

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The 3 Most Important Social Media Platforms for Pediatric Dentists

The 3 Most Important Social Media Platforms for Pediatric Dentists | Social Media and Healthcare |

It can be confusing as to which social media site your dental practice should spend time and resources developing. Here are the 3 most important social media platforms that help connect dentists to local patients. 


The most powerful social media tool for dentists is still Facebook, and that’s because of its continued popularity and multitude of tools that help dental practices connect with local patients. Dentists can use Facebook to share reviews and interact with patients in a more relaxed context.  

The best type of content for Facebook: 

  • Generating meaningful reviews 
  • Interacting with your community 
  • Sharing useful content about oral health 
  • Announcing contests and running promotions  
  • Advertising to get in front of more local traffic


Instagram is Facebook’s fun sibling and is a more laid-back social media platform with more personal and visual content. It also happens to be the second most popular social media platform on the planet, used by more than 500 million people every day. When setting up Instagram, make sure that your dental practice is using a business account, which gives you access to more detailed analytics and helps you promote posts to reach more local patients. 

The best type of content for Instagram: 

  • Sharing ore personal posts 
  • Creating fun and silly videos 
  • live video sessions and live Q&A’s
  • Using local hashtags to put your posts in front of large, local audiences

3 – YouTube 

The most viewed content online is video, and the premier video sharing service is YouTube, which makes it incredibly valuable for your dental practice. Online videos can help you earn more valuable clicks that ultimately result in more new patients visiting your practice. YouTube also has an effective advertising platform that can get your dental practice in front of more local patients, so it’s important that someone in your office understands how to use YouTube to fully take advantage of its utility.

The best type of content for YouTube:  

  • Recording team profiles 
  • Guiding virtual in-office tours  
  • Sharing simple oral health lessons 
  • Hosting live Q&A sessions

Click here for more YouTube video ideas you can use today!

Note: Move Away from Google+ 

Sometimes, a platform just fails to live up to the expectations of its creator, and that’s the case with Google+, which is officially being phased out by Google after years of lukewarm reception and poor usage volume. This means its time for your dental practice to begin moving away from Google+, and stop investing your time in sharing on the platform.

What’s Your Social Media Strategy? 

If you don’t have a social media strategy, then your dental practice is missing out on connecting with a lot of local patients.

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16 Highly Insightful B2B Healthcare Marketing Statistics

16 Highly Insightful B2B Healthcare Marketing Statistics | Social Media and Healthcare |

B2C healthcare stats are widely circulated, and most marketers can recite the broad strokes in their sleep.

Consumer healthcare stats like 73% of consumers use search engines to research treatments, or 83% of patients look at a hospital website before booking an appointment have been covered extensively by major media, and have become common knowledge amongst digital marketers.

But B2B healthcare marketing is a bit more of a black box. Actionable statistics are harder to come by, and the complexity of the buying cycle makes accurate data-collection a herculean task.

That’s why we’ve put together this list — to shed some light on some of the biggest challenges (and opportunities) B2B healthcare marketers should be aware of.

So let’s get started.

  1. 72% of potential medical buyers start with a search, and B2B buyers are anywhere from 60% to 90% down the purchase cycle when they decide to reach out to a vendor. (Source: HITMC)
This figure makes a strong case for healthcare content marketing — given the vast majority of B2B medical buyers will conduct extensive research before making a purchase. If your B2B healthcare company is not producing useful content for its buyers, you’re missing on a low-effort, high-impact opportunity to bring a consistent flow of new leads into your pipeline.


  1. Only 43% of B2B healthcare sales are made within the first six months of contact. (Source: Colony Health)
While on its face, this stat may seem discouraging to B2B healthcare marketers — there’s a silver lining. If your company is dealing with long cycles — so are most companies in your industry. This presents an enormous opportunity to go digital with your marketing efforts, leveraging a steady flow of organic leads, marketing automation to keep prospects engaged, and ABM to prioritize the highest quality, buying-ready organizations.


  1. One out of five (21%) B2B healthcare sales takes over a year to close. (Source: Colony Health)
Like the stat above — this figure may seem like a giant challenge. But a year-long sales cycle isn’t an issue if you have enough prospects in the pipeline, and are actively (and automatically) nurturing them throughout the year.


  1. 83% of health organizations are engaged in content marketing. (Source: MarketingProfs)
While this figure includes all health-care organizations, it’s still a sobering stat. If you’re not leveraging content marketing in your healthcare marketing efforts — you’re significantly behind the curve.


  1. However, only 36% say their organization’s content marketing efforts are very effective. (Source: MarketingProfs)
This presents an excellent opportunity for your organization to stand apart from the masses. While most healthcare companies are already using content marketing — only a small portion are doing it well. Investing in a solid SEO strategy and great content can make you more visible on the web than your biggest competitors.


  1. 52% of hospitals use at least three connected health technologies. (Source: HIMSS)
Hospitals are investing heavily in simplifying their systems and improving their technology. This presents an excellent opportunity for marketers of medical technology.


  1. 47% of healthcare organizations expect to expand their use of connected health technologies over the next few years. (Source: HIMSS)
Marketing goes beyond acquiring leads for existing products — and the changing medical landscape should be a sober reminder of that. The demands of hospitals are changing, and marketers need to work closely with their product teams to identify new opportunities.


  1. Optimizing your website for mobile is now a vital feature and not something that is just nice to have. 80% of the top Alexa websites are mobile adaptive. (Source: Mobiforge)
As more people turn to their phones and tablets to browse the web, websites that are optimized to serve content to these devices (responsiveness, load times, UX, etc.) will reap all the benefits. B2B medical websites are no exception.


  1. The average cost of a healthcare B2B sales lead is higher than any other industry at $60. (Source: Marketing Insider Group)
While the increased prevalence of digital marketing and marketing automation has significantly decreased the cost of lead generation across all industries — healthcare is lagging. This is a boon for SEO strategies, which can generate leads at 1/3rd of the price of traditional channels.


  1. Just 58% of healthcare marketers use blogs in their digital market strategy compared to 74% of all marketers. (Source: Content Marketing Institute)
Despite being one of the highest ROI digital marketing tactics, medical marketers are failing to take advantage of blogging. Those who do can quickly become thought-leaders on the web while driving their cost-per-lead down significantly.


  1. Only 26% of all hospitals in the U.S. have active social media profiles. (Source: DC Interactive Group)
It appears that most hospitals in the U.S. don’t see a value of maintaining a social media presence — which is a huge miss.


  1. Two out of three doctors are using social media (like LinkedIn) for professional purposes. (Source: EMR Thoughts)
On the other hand, hospital staff are taking to social media in droves. This presents an untapped channel for most medical marketers — with tactics like influencer marketing and LinkedIn ABM just waiting to be leveraged.


  1. The Mayo Clinic added 76,000 podcast listeners after it began using social media. (Source: Infographics Archive)

(Source: Google Think Insights)


  1. Video is a vital tool for healthcare buyers. 68% use videos to compare products, 63%use them just to see how a product performs, and 63% of those viewers will contact a vendor directly after viewing a product video. (Source: Google Think Insights)
Demonstrations and video overviews are especially important for medical device manufacturers. Marketers that don’t leverage the power of video will lose out to more digitally savvy companies — seeing as video consumption is to increase exponentially over the next decade.


  1. 81% of hospital administrators will directly contact a healthcare vendor as a result of their search. (Source: Google Think Insights)
In other words, if your healthcare company doesn’t appear for key search terms on Google, someone else is lapping up all of your potential digital leads.


  1. Healthcare buyers are using their mobile devices to research products and vendors. 38% read product reviews on their phones, 34% will request more product information from their phones, and 30% use their phones to read peer reviews and testimonials. (Source: Google Think Insights)
Although mobile device usage for product research is lower amongst healthcare professionals than other B2B industries — this number is only going to grow. It may not seem incredibly worthwhile to pursue mobile optimization for healthcare companies today, but this is changing quickly.


Putting All of These Healthcare Marketing Stats Together

There are a few key takeaways for medical marketers in this piece.

  • The medical B2B landscape is changing rapidly
  • Long sales-cycles are still a fundamental problem for most medical marketers
  • Leads generation is still too expensive.

But the biggest takeaway and one that medical marketers really need to absorb is this:

B2B healthcare marketers are significantly behind the curve on modern tactics like SEO, content marketing, social media, and marketing automation.

The biggest problems that medical B2B companies face in their marketing efforts can be handily addressed by employing modern digital strategies — and those who don’t adapt will be left behind.

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Using PPC Ads to Get More Patients

Using PPC Ads to Get More Patients | Social Media and Healthcare |

January is a rough month for many practices. As the year rolled to a close, many patients flocked to see their doctor before their deductible reset. This leaves January a little slower than many would prefer. But never fear...since you may have a little extra time on your hands, now is a great time to take stock of your current marketing plan and make changes accordingly. One of the easiest ways to reach potential patients is through the use of pay-per-click (PPC) ads. These are those ads you might see on Google or Facebook when you do a search. Pay-Per-Click advertising can be a great online marketing tool. In one recent survey, companies ranked paid search as the third most likely marketing effort to have a positive ROI...this is 12 percent ahead of social media. 

So how can your healthcare practice make the most of PPC ads? The answer to that question will vary depending on each practice. But here are six tips that all practices can use to make the most of their PPC ads.

1. Do Local Area Keyword Research Before You Place Your Ad

Google is the major player in the PPC ad market. They even offer a free Keyword Planning Tool that can show you how many times a specific keyword or set of words is being searched (ie. 100 hits/month). It will also slow you an estimated cost per click (how much you will pay will someone clicks on your ad and goes to your site) and how much competition there is for that keyword. 


2. Have A Dedicated Landing Page for Each Ad You run


One rookie mistake businesses often make with PPC ads is simply routing the click to their homepage. It is much better to send the ad click to a specific landing page associated with the service or promotion you are advertising. There are several reasons for this:

  • Search engines like it—The more specific your landing page to the ad, the better your ad ranking, which will help you pay less for each click!
  • Smaller chance customers will be overwhelmed—If you route potential customers to one specific page that is related to the ad, there is a much lower chance they will feel overwhelmed with information and leave your site before finding what they want.
  • Higher return on investment—Customers click on your ad because they are interested in what you are offering. By routing to a specific landing page that places the deal or product front-and-center, there is a much higher chance customers will follow through and make a buying decision.

3. Be Specific With The Location Targeting 


You don’t want to waste your practice’s marketing dollars on people who would never visit your practice. You have to stay local, ideally within 20-30 miles of your practice location. That’s where search engine location targeting comes in. On both Bing and Google, you can set your ad campaign to only show your ad to people who are within a certain distance of your business location.  Make sure to use this feature! Unless your practice is highly specialized, your marketing dollars will be much better spent on local searchers.


4. Two Are Better Than One: Create Multiple Ads

Creating multiple ads will also boost your results. If you create multiple ads within a single campaign, Google will automatically rotate them for you and then give you info regarding which has the most success. Sometimes, a certain phrase, image, or product can make a huge difference and cause one ad to significantly outperform another. By having multiple ads and tweaking them as you go, you can get a much more accurate idea of what works and what does not. More on this below.


5. Make Use of PPC Ad Extensions

Pay-per-click ads have certain things that can be added onto them, known as extensions. Basically, these allow you to include extra info in your PPC ads, like address, phone number, extra links to specific areas ofyour site, ratings and reviews, or additional buttons such as “Get directions.” Extensions can really make your ad stand out from the pack, so use them whenever you can. To learn more about ad extensions and other tips to increase your local PPC ad effectiveness, check out this guide on how to advertise on Google.

6. Evaluate and Optimize Your Ads Once They Have Run For a Week

Once you get your campaign up-and-running, your job is not yet done. To get the most out of your ads and campaign, you need to re-evaluate how it is doing every 1-2 weeks. There are several things to do:

  • Add negative keywords - Once your campaign has run for a week or two, you will be able to see which keywords and phrases people are searching that trigger your ads. If you notice there are certain keywords or phrases that don’t relate to your business/ads, you can add them as negative keywords, which means your ad will stop appearing for those search terms, focusing your target and ad effectiveness even more. 
  • Keep tweaking your ads - Once you have a week or two of results, keep the ad that is doing the best and delete the others. Then, create several new ads and re-check every couple weeks. This ensures your ad stays fresh and you can keep taking the elements of what is working in each ad and mixing and matching until you get the best combo.

Bringing It All Together

The most important thing for your private practice, is to use all the search tools you can to dial-in your PPC ads to reach your local area. You want to ensure that your PPC marketing dollars are being spent effectively. Google, Bing, and other search engines give you the tools you need to do just that. Follow the steps above and you will be well on your way to making the most of PPC ads for your private practice.

For more info on marketing your practice, check out "The Only Guide You'll Ever Need to Get More Patients."

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Should residency program directors look at applicants’ social media activity?

Should residency program directors look at applicants’ social media activity? | Social Media and Healthcare |

By now, I’m most of you probably have heard about the Cleveland Clinic first-year resident who was fired last September when it became known that in 2012 she had tweeted she would “purposely give all the yahood [Jews] the wrong meds…”

The website Canary Mission documented numerous tweets expressing similar thoughts. She has apologized but will likely have great difficulty finding another job as a physician.

This incident raises the question should residency program directors investigate prospective trainees’ social media activity before hiring them. I took an informal poll on Twitter and received 4512 responses in 24 hours. Here are the results:


Numerous replies, both against and for, were also received.

Some were worried that screening for social media activity would take too much time due to the large volume of applicants and the amount of material already requiring review. That objection could be countered by only examining the social media activity of candidates selected for ranking in the match.

Others were concerned about potential bias involving applicants’ political opinions, religious affiliations, or other activities. I believe most program directors and physicians in general are fair and would only be concerned with egregious cases.

A handful of people felt using the example of the resident from the Cleveland Clinic as a basis to review every applicants’ social media is wrong because she wrote the tweet about giving Jewish patients the wrong medication in 2012 when she was younger. But she would have been at least 20 years old then. Furthermore, Canary Mission listed more than 110 anti-Semitic tweets some of which were posted as recently as 2017 when she was still in medical school.

The situation highlighted the importance of educating medical students and residents about the use of social media. As one responder noted, medical students should assume program directors are googling them. Many employers are doing the same.

Here’s an illustration. My son was looking to hire someone to teach swimming to children. A young woman interviewed well. However when he googled her, the first post he found was one in which she said she hated kids. She did not get the job.

A few thought looking at applicants’ social media activity was reminiscent of the novel 1984. I pointed out that what is going on today seems different because the information has already been made public by the individual. There should be no expectation of privacy.

Despite disclaimers by those tweeting that their views do not represent the views of their institution, the public doesn’t necessarily accept that premise. What a trainee says on social media can reflect negatively on the program and the hospital.

To paraphrase a tweet by @ThePhoenixMD1, I’ll bet the Cleveland Clinic program director wishes they had looked a little harder at their applicants’ social media footprints before submitting the rank list.

Forget about the Twitter poll’s almost even split of votes. The reality is the posts are there for all to see.

Think before you post.


Skeptical Scalpel is a retired surgeon and was a surgical department chairman and residency program director for many years. He is board-certified in general surgery and a surgical sub-specialty and has re-certified in both several times. For the last 8 years, he has been blogging at SkepticalScalpel.blogspot.comand tweeting as @SkepticScalpel. His blog has had more than 3,000,000 page views, and he has over 18,000 followers on Twitter.

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Gastroenterology Marketing: How Does It Help to Grow Your Practice

Gastroenterology Marketing: How Does It Help to Grow Your Practice | Social Media and Healthcare |

Gastroenterology marketing is an online marketing method for GI (gastrointestinal) doctors and practices to find, attract, engage, and convert prospective GI patients via digital channels.These channels include search engines, social media, review sites, emails, etc.

Today, when most GI patients are taking to the internet to research their health conditions, assessing available treatment options, and finding and receiving care, gastroenterology providers like you cannot miss on leveraging these online channels for patient acquisition opportunities. You’ll need to create a more reputable and authoritative presence across all these online channels so that prospective GI patients searching online don’t have to think twice before choosing you as their provider.

Why Gastroenterologists Need to Market Their Practice Online

Gastroenterology providers need online marketing like never before mainly due to the following two reasons:

  • Constant decline in the reimbursements to GI providers leading to the increased need of acquiring more new patients for filling the revenue gap. There has been a general decline in the reimbursement for gastrointestinal (GI) care services in the light of ever-changing health policies, reforms, and regulations. Revenue cuts aren’t happening only on professional fronts, as in the cases of RVU-based payments, but also on the outside revenue fronts, such as income from outsourced pathology labs. In that scenario, GI providers are looking for ways to improve their patient acquisition to maximize revenue sources for their survival. As a result, the competition for acquiring increased market share has also increased.

  • The growing percentage of tech-savvy patients who rely heavily on online platforms like search engines, review sites, social media, etc., for gathering information and finding a provider. According to CGH (Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology) Journal, almost 50% of Americans seek health information online before seeing a physician. 7 out of 10 of these people are also using some form of social media for accessing health information and finding a care provider.

Other studies suggest that a significant percentage of the patient population (about 82%) use online reviews to evaluate a doctor before finally selecting them as their provider.

All of that points towards the need for a robust online marketing strategy for gastroenterologists. Let’s discuss the different online marketing tools and tactics that can increase patient acquisition opportunities for you.

Different Gastroenterology Online Marketing Techniques and What They Do

The different gastroenterology marketing techniques and their uses are:

    • Gastroenterology SEO:

      When people don’t have a referral, they search for a gastroenterologist online. This trend has been on the rise in recent times. Google registers keywords like “gastroenterologists near me,” “GI doctors near me,” “stomach doctors,” “pediatric gastroenterologist near me,” and “best gastroenterologists near me” in the thousands every month. See the screenshot below.Source: Wordtracker

      Search engine optimization (SEO) is the organic, non-paid method for inviting more local search traffic to your website. The gastroenterology SEO process starts with identifying all the locally-themed, highly-lucrative keywords that prospective patients use during their searches, and optimizing your website for them. A lot of consistent marketing efforts and activities go into optimizing your site for these keywords; namely, keyword planning, creating thoughtfully-written content, link building, networking with market influencers, etc.

      All these efforts ensure that whenever a prospective patient from your locality will search for a gastroenterology provider with related keywords, your website will rank on top of the organic search results. Higher website traffic means increased phone calls and more online appointments.

    • Online Advertising for Gastroenterologists

      While getting ranked for important keywords on Google or getting tons of likes, comments, and/or shares on each post on Facebook is essential, it’s not always guaranteed that these organic methods will deliver the expected results, especially in cases of high-competition. In that case, online advertising channels like PPC (paid online ads), remarketing (which is a component of PPC), and Facebook Ads are the ways to target the right prospects at the right time.

      GI doctors and surgeons take advantage of these online advertising techniques to instantly reach out to the right prospective patients by bypassing the organic ranking competition. Let’s learn more about the different gastroenterology online advertising methods.

    • Gastroenterology PPC:

      If there’s a lot of competition for a given keyword, it may take some time before your website gets ranked through your SEO efforts. With Gastroenterology PPC, you can bid on relevant keywords to reach the very top of search engine result pages (SERPs)—even above Google’s local organic results (see the screenshot below). The best part about PPC is that you can choose to pay only when a prospective patient clicks on your ads. Google has strict policies when it comes to advertising healthcare services on their platform. Be mindful of language restrictions in your ads. Words like “drugs” and “prescriptions” in your ads will get disapproved.

      PPC (Pay-Per-Click) is Google’s online advertising channel that lets you run both search ads and display ads. You can opt to get charged only when a user clicks on those ads (that’s why it’s called pay-per-click). PPC advertisements allow you to be highly-specific about targeting the right audience. You can choose the desired geographic location, preferred patient demographics, and the time of the day for targeting. Your ad campaigns are run according to a daily budget that helps it to be cost-effective, and result-oriented.


    • Facebook Ads manager:
      Like Google, Facebook also lets you show your ads to your target audience through its Ads Manager platform. The targeting options in Facebook are incredibly deep. It allows you to limit your patient audience by age group, gender, location, income level, or even interests and habits on both Facebook and Instagram.


    • Online Reputation Management for Gastroenterologists:

      Gastroenterology is a highly-competitive segment. This means a lot of GI care providers are battling to gain increased market share. In that scenario, providers who don’t have a reputable presence will lose the battle to their competitors in terms of patient volume. In today’s online world, a reputable presence means lots of 5-star ratings and positive patient reviews across all popular review platforms; including Google, Yelp, Facebook, HealthGrades, Vitals, RateMDs, etc. Most prospective patients (82% of them, according to Software Advice) use these review platforms to evaluate healthcare providers they’re considering.

      Online reviews are the most significant factor for your online reputation and those GI providers who have the most number of positive reviews across all the review platforms will be chosen by prospective patients. So how do you get those positive patient reviews and build a stellar online reputation from them? The answer is gastroenterology online reputation management (ORM).

      Screenshot of the header of the testimonials page of one of our gastroenterology clients. This testimonial page automatically collects positive reviews from all review sites helping the page to rank in Google searcheṣ. All reviews are RepuGen verified which means they are used with the permission of patients.

      As part of the ORM strategy, you are provided with an online reputation management tool that helps you:


      • Solicit genuine positive reviews from patients that adds to your reputation and improves your search rankings
      • Negative rating notifications that help you initiate service recovery ASAP
      • Monitor your reputation on the review sites that matter
      • Get insights on patient sentiment trends to discover areas of improvement for your practice and fix them


  • GI Care Social Network and Community Building

    Today, at least 70% of GI patients use some form of social media, such as blogs, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn for healthcare-related information and searches. They use these platforms to search for information about diseases and treatments, identify providers, and express or rate their satisfaction with providers, clinics or health systems. As a gastroenterology expert, it’s your chance to build an authoritative presence on these platforms and drive higher brand exposure.

    A misconception that needs to be cleared here is that social media marketing (SMM) is not strictly about driving more patients to your door. Patients who immediately need a gastro-physician or surgeon go directly to Google, and not on social media.

    SMM is more about network and community building and management with constant patient engagement efforts, such as sharing clinic-related news, replying to common questions from the online community, etc. It’s basically about reaching out to people, building your brand, and showcasing your office culture.

    CGH (Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology) Journal also discusses the value of social media marketing for GI providers. According to them, if used correctly, “social media can magnify your professional image, amplify your voice, and extend your reach and influence much faster than other methods.”

So these are the various online marketing techniques that can help your gastroenterology practice acquire more new patients consistently.

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How to get back those lost patients in 2019

How to get back those lost patients in 2019 | Social Media and Healthcare |

Ring in the changes this New Year with some dental marketing moves that will boost profits. Shaz Memon looks ahead…

Absent friends is a big theme of the New Year celebrations – I’m pretty sure we all raised a glass to those we have loved and lost or were apart from as the clock struck midnight to mark the start of 2019.

But as practice principals kick-start the year with one eye on the books, missing persons from the dental chair can be problematic – and January is notoriously a long month. With bank balances emptied and patient enthusiasm wilting, what can teams do to ignite those appointment books?

Arguably, the Scottish government’s controversial proposal to extend the dental recall interval for so-called ‘low-risk’ patients to intervals of 24 months doesn’t do dental practices any favours.

Aside from the concerns regarding the need for regular screenings and tackling oral diseases early and successfully, patients can see this as a green light to side step appointments – whatever the state of their oral health and in whatever country they reside.

Your dental marketing therefore sometimes has to partake in a little fire fighting to nip in the bud those common myths and misconceptions that arise for generic media coverage.

A year is a long time in dentistry let alone politics (as 2018 proved) so there needs to be engagement throughout the 12 months in order to hammer home these key oral health messages among existing patients and to reel in new ones.

Target the missing

So, target former patients you haven’t heard from in a while. Why are they staying away? Do they understand their own individual needs and oral health challenges? Remember, their absence is not only hitting your bottom line but also impacting on their overall health. In which case, use this as a reason to make contact.

Get active on social media to job memories as to why a dental health check is so important. Post-Christmas, many of us are seeking a healthier lifestyle following the indulgences of the season. Flag up the New Year resolutions idea and turn the long dark month of January to your business advantage.

Remind them of the importance of regular attendance and set up an email marketing campaign to those former patients you haven’t seen in a while.

Blog… a lot

Include a link to the relevant landing pages on your practice website to encourage further interested in the treatments you offer beyond the annual oral health examination.

Recycle blogs with a rewrite and update information if you haven’t the time to write fresh copy – or consider investing in a copywriter to put together a timetabled package of regular dental blogs that are unique to your practice. Ensure your website is as easy to read on a mobile as it is on a desktop – these days, most consumers begin their purchasing journey on their smartphone.

If you haven’t done so already, consider setting up an Instagram account. It is now widely considered one of the key tools used by businesses to market their products and services – and dentistry is no exception.

Dentistry is obviously a very visual business, which means the photo-sharing platform is perfectly placed to showcase your skills, those happy patients and ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos of successful smile makeovers.

Get technical

Technology is revolutionising the profession with innovations and tools to ensure treatments are delivered faster, are safer with more predictable and pleasing results.

Shout about the equipment you’ve recently invested in to ensure your patients’ receive cutting-edge care. If you’ve recently refurbished the practice, update your website with images and share on social media. If a patient hasn’t been to see you in a while, they wont know about the changes you’ve made unless you tell them.

Be sure to raise awareness of everything your practice offers, including any methods you may use to reduce dental anxiety. Statistics from the Oral Health Foundation suggest almost half of UK adults fear the dentist, with 12% of these suffering from an extreme dental anxiety or phobia.

Tell a story

Essentially, dental marketing is simply a form of story telling so do encourage patients to share their experiences. Personalise treatments with patient videos. Rich content is key for any business looking to interact with its target audience, with evidence suggesting that by 2020 videos will account for 82% of global consumer traffic.


Dental marketing is driven by good content but you also need to analyse your activity. Look back at 2018 and consider the posts that worked as well as those that didn’t. Paying to boost the content on Facebook that the statistics suggest excites your audience, for example, is better than second guessing what is of interest. You may be surprised by what posts get them to engage. Like dentistry, reflecting on past performances hones skills and will lead to better results in the long term.

Request reviews

Reviews, referrals and testimonials are powerful marketing tools. Invite feedback from your happy patients to boost the number of positive online comments about your business. Statistics suggest 97% of consumers are likely to read online reviews before settling on a local business.

So, regularly monitor your rating on Google. With patients chiefly concerned with quality of care, affordability and convenience, make sure you deliver on these areas. If your practice is particularly strong in any sector, shout about it on social media. Be sure to handle any disgruntled patients sensitively and react to their online posts immediately and professionally with a positive approach. Good complaints handling has been known to change around a negative viewpoint.

Be sure that the whole team understands your dental marketing strategy, is encouraged to share the ‘good news’ and encourage them to invite patient feedback. Effective team training is the backbone of any successful practice and marketing is no exception.

Tailor your dental marketing plan to meet the needs of your patients – lapsed or otherwise – and ensure there is consistency in your key messages. Educate, entertain and engage with long-forgotten patients using unique and valuable content on your website, via social media posts and in email marketing campaigns. Keep it coming – and so will they!

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5 Digital Trends You Need To Know To Stay Ahead Of The Medical Marketing Curve In 2019 [Infographic] –

5 Digital Trends You Need To Know To Stay Ahead Of The Medical Marketing Curve In 2019 [Infographic] – | Social Media and Healthcare |

To succeed on social media, it’s essential to stay ahead of the curve and understand the latest social media trends.

I’ve just published my annual social media marketing predictions for 2019. In it I’ve identified 14 major trends that should claim marketers’ focus in the new year.

It’s a lengthy post but if you’re serious about marketing your medical practice online in 2019, I highly recommend you take some time to read it over the coming days.

Below I’ve highlighted five of these trends which I think will have particular relevance to medical marketing.

Stella Chrysaki's curator insight, January 17, 11:49 AM
Top 5 digital trends you need to know about #marketing #digital #influencemarketing #contentisking
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What Medical Device Companies Need to Know About Incomplete Social Media Marketing Guidelines

What Medical Device Companies Need to Know About Incomplete Social Media Marketing Guidelines | Social Media and Healthcare |

When social media was just getting started a little over a decade ago, it seemed prudent for the FDA to withhold any real decision making on marketing and communication guidelines across those channels until more time had passed. Along the way, we’ve watched social media expand, multiply and transmute in such a way that leaves little doubt it will perpetually be in a state of flux.

But one aspect that’s remained a constant since almost the beginning is social media’s undeniable staying power. As soon as that became apparent, the FDA would have been wise to begin drafting some sort of protocol and updating it accordingly.

Instead, for many years they occasionally iterated their intentions to provide guidance, while still enforcing violations against both postmarketing submission and risk disclosure requirements on social media platforms as if those platforms were any other type of medium.

The problem: social media is unlike any other type of marketing or communication channel to come before it, with interactions taking place in real time, consumers asking for guidance (and expecting feedback) in a public space and third-party users contributing their own sets of data without worrying about validity or permission.

So in 2012, Congress enacted a provision designed to force the FDA into finally establishing its internet/social media promotion policies by July 9, 2014. The FDA responded slowly, and with some points to be desired, when on January 13, 2014 they released a guidance document that would provide some insight into their views on medical device marketing on social media.

Although it was nowhere near comprehensive, it was much better than what little had come before. And so far, it’s all we have.

What We Know Now . . .

One of the biggest problems facing medical device marketers was the FDA’s postmarketing submission requirements, which state that firms must submit copies of all labeling, advertising, mailers or any other promotional materials at the time of publication or initial distribution.

But adherence to this rule was almost impossible when applied to a real-time communications format, which the FDA acknowledged in its new draft guidance. Not only did they announce their intention to use discretion when enforcing postmarketing regulations, but they also released a list of principles which companies can use as a guide when submitting promotional items.

*1. A firm is responsible for product promotional communications on sites that are owned, controlled, created, influenced, or operated by, or on behalf of, the firm. If a firm has any amount of influence over a website, even if it’s only as nominal as editorial or review privileges, the firm is responsible for anything concerning their product that appears on that site. This even extends to comments posted by users.

  1. Under certain circumstances, a firm is responsible for promotion on third-party sites. As with #1, if a firm has even the smallest controlling interest in a site, even if they aren’t the owners or administrators, they are responsible for all product-related content. However, if the firm is merely providing promotional materials to the site, without having any influence over their placement or any other aspect of the site, they’re only responsible for the content they contribute.

Interesting side note: If a firm only provides financial support for a third-party site, but has no control or influence of any sort, the firm is not responsible for any of its content.

  1. A firm is responsible for the content generated by an employee or agent who is acting on behalf of the firm to promote the firm’s product. If anyone employed by a firm in any capacity, whether as a sales representative, blogger, customer care agent, etc., posts any product-related content on any site, whether it’s owned by the firm or a third-party, the firm is responsible for that content.

However, the firm is not responsible for product-related content that is posted on third party sites if the poster has no affiliation with the firm and was in no way prompted by the firm to post the content.

In the same draft guidance, the FDA listed the criteria governing postmarketing submissions for both restricted and unrestricted sites:

  • In the case of unrestricted (public) sites for which a firm is in any way responsible, they’re required to submit the entire site upon its initial launch, including static visual and descriptions of all interactive, real-time aspects. After that, an updated listing of all the firms unrestricted sites should be submitted every month (no visuals needed).
  • In the case of a firm’s interactive or real-time involvement with an unrestricted third-party site over which they otherwise exercise no control, the firm is required to submit the home page, interactive pages and the first communication ever made by the firm (including visuals). After that, the firm must submit an updated monthly list of all such sites (no visuals needed), but should remember to notify the FDA immediately should they discontinue their activity on the site.
  • In the case of restricted sites, or sites that are password protected and/or are not open to the public, the firm is required to make the same initial submissions as in the first two examples, after which they need only submit visuals of any product-related content, even if that content is user generated. This needs to be done on a continual basis, since monthly updates are not permitted for restricted sites.

Since 2014, the FDA has promised there will be more to come, but when that’s going to happen remains a mystery. Although many in the medical device industry were grateful for the draft guidance, just as many felt that it left countless unanswered questions and was too broad in scope. And with every passing year, the considerations keep piling up.

If you’re a medical device manufacturer/distributor who’s tired of navigating your social media marketing alone (and with a poor map), we’d love to talk to you. Solutions 8 is a different kind of marketing company – one that can (and does) successfully market just about anything, but chooses to specialize in medical device marketing.

We’ve worked hard to gain a comprehensive understanding of the unique marketing challenges faced by the medical device industry and we’d like nothing more than to give you a free consultation and explain how we can change everything for you and your company. Click here to get started.

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Social Media Marketing: Practical Tips for Measuring your ROI

Social Media Marketing: Practical Tips for Measuring your ROI | Social Media and Healthcare |

You get out of social media what you put in.

Just because there is currently a relatively low cost-of-entry compared to other outreach channels, does not mean that planning is not critical. Identify your target audience and develop an appropriate and thoughtful strategy. Always start by asking “What is the objective of this endeavor?”

Customize for each platform.

We often talk about social media as if it’s monolithic. Be cautious: each platform, whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter, has its own strengths and weakness. Use each platform to its best advantage. And remember, these tools are constantly changing. One needs to keep up.

Track your results.

Business is a science. Social media campaigns are like studies – you need a hypothesis with specific objectives in mind, and then a determination of whether those objectives were met. The data is rarely perfect, but this doesn’t absolve us of the need to gauge what we can re: ROI. Make adjustments to your next iteration in an effort to improve on your results. Compare one tool against the other to see what is most effective. Correlate results to dollars spent.

Unique plans are critical to success.

Every organization is different. Following some guru’s formula might not be right for you. You know your organization best. You know yourstrategic priorities. These ought to dictate your plan and how you assess your analytics. Use your sound judgement as a business person in all cases, especially when the data is imprecise.
This field is evolvoing. The data is getting better.

It may sound like an oxymoron: “Use the data. The data is imprecise.” But the truth is, analyzing data is part science, part art, especially when it comes to ROI for social media. The good news is, the analytics are improving. We enjoyed this advice given to us by Elizabeth Charles, a nationally recognized Chief Marketing Officer in the retail industry, “More social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram are matching their customer data with yours, allowing you to do more robust targeting up and down the funnel. This is allowing for a much stronger ROI.”

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Real-world data and the patient perspective: the PROmise of social media? 

Real-world data and the patient perspective: the PROmise of social media?  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Understanding the patient perspective is fundamental to delivering patient-centred care. In most healthcare systems, however, patient-reported outcomes are not regularly collected or recorded as part of routine clinical care, despite evidence that doing so can have tangible clinical benefit. In the absence of the routine collection of these data, research is beginning to turn to social media as a novel means to capture the patient voice. Publicly available social media data can now be analysed with relative ease, bypassing many logistical hurdles associated with traditional approaches and allowing for accelerated and cost-effective data collection. Existing work has shown these data can offer credible insight into the patient experience, although more work is needed to understand limitations with respect to patient representativeness and nuances of captured experience. Nevertheless, linking social media to electronic medical records offers a significant opportunity for patient views to be systematically collected for health services research and ultimately to improve patient care.


  • Social media
  • Patient-reported outcomes
  • Epidemiology
  • Real-world data
  • Patient-centricity

Patient-centricity in real-world research: prioritising the patient perspective

Real-world data (RWD) are those data collected outside conventional randomised clinical trials to evaluate what is happening in routine clinical practice. These data are increasingly used to support regulatory decision-making and to guide clinical practice in real-world populations [1]. While the focus of evidence generation using RWD has traditionally been on clinical endpoints (safety and effectiveness outcomes), in order to provide a more holistic view of disease and well-being there is a need for RWD that capture the patient perspective.

A patient-centric paradigm shift has already occurred in the clinical trial domain, where patient-reported outcomes (PROs) are routinely integrated into trial design [2]. These data provide assessments of how a patient feels and functions at a given point; they are measured using standardised direct-to-patient questionnaires. Particularly in fields such as oncology, these data can be pivotal in helping to differentiate interventions in which clinical outcomes (such as survival) may appear comparable, and to provide additional data on the impact of a treatment beyond that which can be obtained from traditional endpoints (e.g. an assessment of tolerability). Furthermore, it is well-documented that a patient’s and clinician’s view of disease and well-being can differ substantially [34], so these data provide valuable insight into patient experiences that might not otherwise be reported to or recorded by treating physicians, but that may have a meaningful impact on clinical outcomes [567].

Outside clinical trials, PRO measures can be incorporated into sources of RWD that are designed for research purposes, such as patient registries. The integration of PROs into prospective data capture is, however, resource intensive and maintaining patient engagement can be challenging, particularly in groups of patients who are older, sicker and of lower socioeconomic status [8]. Distinct from structured PROs, unstructured patient-generated health data (PGHD) are those data captured or recorded spontaneously by patients or their carers [9]. These data can be collected from a variety of sources including patient-powered research networks and smart wearable devices, as well as social media. Leveraging PGHD to generate insight into patient-experienced outcomes in the real world offers an exciting area for research, and is gaining attention from scientists, industry and regulators. Indeed, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recently encouraged the exploration of social media for this purpose [10]. The goal of this paper is to discuss the potential utility of social media as a unique source of PGHD to capture the patient perspective and patient-experienced outcomes in the real world.

Harnessing social media for real-world data

Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and patient networks have created abundant opportunities for patients and their carers to create and exchange health-related information. Previous work has found that patients tend to use social media platforms to increase knowledge, for social support, to exchange advice and to improve self-care and doctor–patient communication [111213]. This has in turn generated a potentially rich but analytically ‘messy’ source of RWD; the ability to harness these data for medical research has been assisted in recent years by the application of advanced analytics. Approaches such as natural language processing coupled with machine learning are now able to effectively deal with the many complexities of the data extracted from social media, including multiplicity of terms, duplicate posts, misspellings and abbreviations (among others) [14]. Furthermore, in place of manual coding, machine learning algorithms can be developed which accurately and automatically identify features of posted content, such as adverse events (AEs), enabling the analysis of hundreds of thousands of text-based posts [1516]. Data can also be easily extracted from publicly available sites, bypassing many logistical hurdles associated with traditional approaches and allowing for accelerated, real-time and cost-effective data collection.

Pharmacovigilance in particular has been an area of early development in the utilisation of social media data. This is because, outside of clinical trials, more than 95% of treatment-related AEs are estimated to remain undocumented by healthcare professionals [17]. Because social media is adopted by patients to seek advice and share experiences, it is thought these data may enable greater capture of AEs, augment real-time reporting and in turn enable expedited signal detection. Indeed, approximately 12–62% of all posts on patient forums have been found to include information related to an AE [18]. Initial work has explored the extent to which these data correspond with existing pharmacovigilance sources, and a recent systematic review found good concordance (between 57% and 99%) for AEs reported in social media [19]. Although concordance is generally good [20], where differences have been observed it has been found that social media data tend to include a higher frequency of AEs relating to milder, unpleasant or quality of life events, with severe events requiring clinical diagnosis being underrepresented [17]. However, it is important to consider that rather than being a limitation with respect to the validity of the data, these differences may instead reflect nuances in data capture. Indeed, other work has shown that patient and clinical agreement tends to be higher for observable symptoms but poorer for subjectively experienced symptoms such as fatigue [21]. By integrating the patient perspective, PGHD from social media may offer additional dimensionality to the routine monitoring of drug safety, as well as more broadly capture symptoms or experiences relevant to patients that may otherwise remain under-recorded. Reflecting the potential importance of social media data for pharmacovigilance, the US FDA signed an agreement in 2015 with PatientsLikeMe (a patient network) to determine how patient-reported data from the platform could help to generate insight into drug safety [22].

Beyond pharmacovigilance, other studies have shown that social media data can be used meaningfully to understand patient experience with their disease or treatment more broadly. For example, a recent study extracted >10,000 data points from a variety of social media platforms and developed a machine learning algorithm to automatically identify mentions of treatment switching among patients with multiple sclerosis. The most common reasons for switching were then mapped and found to be comparable to those obtained from published data [23]. Sentiment analysis is another promising area for this type of social media analytics [24]. This approach involves assessing the ratio of positive to negative words contained in a post to ascribe positive, negative or neutral sentiment to opinion-based text. This approach has previously been applied to understand experience with systemic treatment options among patients with multiple sclerosis [25], attitudes towards vaccinations [2627], and to monitor mood among cancer patients online [28]. More traditional qualitative content analysis can also be applied to extracted text from social media, albeit on a smaller scale owing to the manual nature of these techniques. This approach has also been successfully applied, for example, to understand patient perception of care quality [29].

Potential limitations and challenges

Despite a number of potential applications, using social media to capture the patient perspective is not without challenges. Exploration of topics can often be limited; Twitter, for example, only allows individuals to write 280 characters. Many discussions also take place in private patient forums, largely inaccessible to researchers. Although analytical techniques to deal with complexities inherent in social media data continue to advance, it may often be the case that there is too much noise to generate meaningful insight.

Beyond technical issues surrounding data capture, issues concerning the representativeness of the patient population are also important. Indeed, the demographics of individuals posting on social media are rarely known. Where it is possible to garner this information, data show active users tend to be younger, women, more highly educated and less acutely ill or functionally impaired [3031], presenting issues of external validity. Indeed, the ‘digital divide’ in Internet usage has been well documented; although recent reports suggest Internet usage in adults aged over 65 years has doubled in recent decades, older adults (>75 years) and those with functional impairment remain less likely to engage in health-related Internet usage [31]. It is also possible that, for older adults, younger carers or relatives may be engaging online on the patient’s behalf. It is essential to quantify demographic disparities in order to apply analytical strategies that help mitigate biases in patient representativeness (e.g. stratified sampling). Identifying proxies for demographic information is one potential solution for this; recent work has used machine learning techniques to show that features extracted from patients’ user names can be used to accurately infer patient demographics [32].

There may also be nuances in the data captured within social media. For studies that have attempted to validate data from social media with data obtained from traditional sources, further investigation is needed into the extent to which observed differences reflect issues in data quality (e.g. as a result of the limited representation of certain groups) as opposed to more general intricacies in the type of information patients may be more likely to share in online communities (e.g. quality of life events). Importantly, the current notion is not that social media should replace existing patient-reported data, but rather that the observed benefits of these data (rapid, cost-effective and large-scale access to real-world PGHD) should be harnessed to complement existing data sources. However, as the world continues to get more and more connected this needs to be continually assessed.

Privacy concerns also remain a fundamental challenge and a barrier to effectively harnessing social media data for public health. Even though text extraction takes place on content that is posted ‘publicly’, it can be contested whether or not it is correct to presume consent for the use of these data. Other publications have provided more detailed discussions regarding the ethical considerations associated with using these data [3334]. It should nonetheless be noted that privacy concerns are not unique to social media and are seen in other areas in which patient data are used for public health research or surveillance [35]. In these domains, effective communication and patient engagement are known to be key [36]. Indeed, studies have shown that the more patients know about how their data are used, the more accepting they are of data sharing [3738]. The same considerations will likely apply when targeting patient acceptability for social media. Encouragingly, early data show good acceptability, with 71% of patients recruited at emergency departments in the US identified as being willing to share their social media data for public health research [30].

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[Top 10] Hospitals Using Social Media for Patient Engagement

[Top 10] Hospitals Using Social Media for Patient Engagement | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media offers limitless ways to engage with patients. These top hospitals aren’t taking a day-off when it comes to patient engagement, and they’re going above and beyond to build online relationships and communities. 


We count down the top 10 hospitals taking patient engagement to the next level with social media.

10. Indiana University Health
Facebook Twitter | LinkedIn | Instagram YouTube

IU Health has a persona. Their Twitter account has a voice–a voice that stands out among the crowd. They’re not boring. Every caption is short, sweet, dramatic. “Healthcare In The Comfort of Home Sweet Home”, “Sister Cucumber is a Transplant Staple”, “Combating Crisis”, “They’re Training Doctors of the World”– what does all of this mean? I don’t know. But I want to. If you can make the user smile, they’re more likely to engage.

With smart writing and comedics, IU Health conversationally speaks and casts a dramatic light on daily news using social media. They know how to make headlines and turn them into headliners. You might even want to hang out with this Twitter account. To earn their Twitter following of 25.5k, a persona is key.

9. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC)
Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Instagram | YouTube

UPMC has a life-changing Twitter hashtag campaign–literally. #UPMCLifeChangersillustrates a community of physicians, patients, and people changing lives in the healthcare industry. The campaign offers a video series which not only proves the hospital’s credibility in making a difference but provides hope.

The message behind the campaign seems obvious and encompassing–it’s something we might universally want to partake in. The message pushes a mission statement and reminds us what healthcare strives for. The videos play as you scroll, requires no clicks, and is captioned. When you’re scrolling on the bus, or with friends, there’s no need for sound to enjoy these two-minute stories.

8. The University of California, San Francisco Medical Center (UCSF)
Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

UCSF uses a similar strategy by engaging with patients through offering hope. Facebook posts focus on unique people, each with their own success story. Power comes from bringing people’s stories to light–which elicits emotional engagement responses. Every few days, they offer a new short story. It’s like their own patient-success newsletter. UCSF is creating a small series for themselves–between Dennis who survived cancer 3x, to Gary celebrating his 6 -year heart transplant. A year ago, Tom was in the hospital for sepsis. Now, he’s out living a healthy life in the world!

These snippets of light, hope, and success brighten lives and prove that health is attainable, no matter the intensity of the struggle. While at the same time, it helps improve patient engagement and showcase the hospital’s success. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this? UCSF Health boasts a Facebook following of 186K.

7. The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Health
Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Instagram | YouTube

UCLA Health holds a Facebook following of 250K and Twitter 40K. And they hold an awesome Twitter chat — #UCLAMDChat. Users commented below a live Twitter video. In other Twitter chats, people are invited to tweet on certain days at specific times with corresponding hashtags in order to create an online community conversation. #UCLAMDChat offer various topics of interest to patients — for example, they explained a recent change in UNOS policies. They take complicated, newsy topics, and break them down into digestible pieces for the patients–by listening to questions, and answering.

The most recent patient engagement chat invited questions concerning kidney health. And previously–what is healthy breastfeeding?

6. Massachusetts General Hospital
Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Instagram | YouTube

Mass General holds a massive Facebook following of 81K. They don’t hold a general page; Mass General is very audience specific. In order to share content with only the most relevant audiences, they hold a collection of Facebook pages. Each page exists as its own channel with corresponding hashtags. If you’re looking for a specific conversation, chances are you’ll find it.

From @MassGeneralNews and @MassGeneralResearch to @MassGeneralChildren, @MassGeneralMDs, @MassGeneralCRM, and @MassGeneralEM. This way, content becomes very customer-focused and specialized. 

5. Shriners Hospitals for Children
Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Instagram | YouTube

Talk about trendy, Shriners Hospitals host a podcast series. Focusing on various forms of challenging pediatric care–from children with muscular dystrophy to cerebral palsy– they offering an engaging medium for sharing wisdom on everyday life struggling with these conditions. Physicians and clinicians offer the tips and trades of specialty care. On their website, for some topics, they offer the option of listening to a podcast rather than reading content.

Shriners Hospital for Children hold a following of 629K on Facebook and 20.5K on Twitter. 

4. New York-Presbyterian Hospital
Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Instagram | YouTube

New York-Presbyterian Hospital’s Facebook page is people-focused. Rarely do we encounter a hospital photo or white coats; instead, we see real pictures of real people. We see smiling kids and their dad, a new mom cradling her newborn, a high school student, a family at their cabin, a birthday boy and his cake. They stay true to what Facebook is all about–why it was created. For faces. For people. For celebrating our connections and personal life.

With seemingly un-edited, organic photographs, New York-Presbyterian has accrued a Facebook following of 115K.

3. Johns Hopkins Hospital
Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Instagram | YouTube

Johns Hopkins Hospital holds a large following on social media and we know why–they utilize narrative. Their Facebook page features personal narratives, intimate stories, of healthcare journeys and John Hopkins’ pivotal role. Its Humans of New York turned Patients of Johns Hopkins, and it takes form as copy and video. They use names, cultural backgrounds, hopes, symptoms, struggles. Patients voice the pain and strength that come with the reality of living with their condition. It’s intimate. The testimonials offer precious insight into what it means to be sick and the process of healing.

According to Jimmy Neil Smith, the Director of the International Storytelling Center, “We are all storytellers. We all live in a network of stories. There isn’t a stronger connection between people than storytelling.”

2. The Mayo Clinic
Facebook | Twitter | YouTube

The Mayo Clinic is a world-renowned hospital, and their social media is pretty famous, too. With a Facebook and Twitter following of 1M each, this hospital is doing something different. In addition to reliable interaction, engagement, and every other tried-and-true practice, they’re incorporating other unique strategies. They’ve created a #MayoClinicMinute video campaign.

Each video contains 60 seconds of health-worthy news. Maybe you don’t want to watch the daily news, but could watch something that will help you, take better care of you. It’s something healthcare companies should consider and continue pursuing–creating a short, creative, engaging videos series to brand your practice and connect with your patients outside the hospital.

1. The Cleveland Clinic
Facebook | Twitter | LinkedIn | Instagram | YouTube

The Cleveland Clinic is a hospital with local, national, and international reach, boasting 2M+ Facebook followers and 2M+ Twitter followers. With over 3,000 physicians and 120 medical specialties, they’re ahead of the game when it comes to social media.

One tactic stands out–recently, they featured a Facebook Live Chat. Dr. Hyamn, Director the Center for Functional Medicine, did a live Q&A and opened up the platform to questions concerning the functional medicine approach to the ketogenic diet. While the video live-streamed, people commented their questions below. Dr. Hyman answered in real-time and ignited an engagement of 857 comments and 538 shares within 24 hours. Facebook live Q&A could be the future engagement-fuel of choice.

These top hospitals are using next-level social media strategies, and we should be taking notes.

It’s one thing to own an organically accredited service, but social media represents another reality of your business–don’t neglect it, or leave it behind. In addition to responding to patients who reach out, maybe your business could make the first move by inviting interaction. How could social media take your patient engagementto the next level?

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How to Win at Clinical Trial Recruitment in 2019 –

There are so many theories on how to improve clinical trial recruitment. There are endless panels, discussions, conferences, webinars, press releases, white papers, and interviews on how to improve clinical trial recruitment and success. The majority of these recommendations miss the mark completely. Is your 2019 goal to improve clinical trial recruitment?Here’s what you need to do from a patient and carepartner’s perspective to fundamentally improve clinical trial recruitment and your trial’s lifecycle and success:

  1. Include patients and carepartners in the ideation and design of the clinical trial lifecycle.

This is a must, not a nice to have. This is solid business strategy, not a marketing tactic or buzzword. You can’t afford to not get a trial right the first time or not fill your trial. Until you have patients and carepartners partnering with your company throughout the clinical trial lifecycle, interacting with every department of your company, you have haven’t overturned every stone. While you’re at it, stop using the words “patient-centered”.

2. Prioritize running patient advisory boards as essential think tanks for a healthy exchange of experiential learnings.

Speak to every single patient who completes their trial and ask for their insights and expertise immediately. Even better, ask for their insights and expertise throughout the trial. Don’t just speak to people who have participated and successfully completed clinical trials. Welcome those who didn’t qualify due to exclusion criteria. Seek the voices of those who faced too many social determinants of health barriers that made participation unfeasible. Invite those who mistrust the clinical trial process. Listen to the carepartners who did everything in their power to support their loved ones’ participation in a trial and yet they still dropped out, suffered immensely, or died. Invite the young adults who are the primary carepartners for their loved ones due to language barriers and cultural circumstances.

These are the real-world experiences and lives you need to intersect with. It’s going to be uncomfortable. Embrace it. It will be worth it and will change and inspire you. Pro-tip for the record: AI is not going to help you with this.

3. Stop looking for volunteers to simply fill your quotas. You need to start looking for research partners.

Clinical trials are a commitment and a profound sacrifice. Many patients strongly express that they want to be proactive in advancing science and medicine. Welcome people to sign up for trials as your research partners.

By shifting the lens from volunteer to research partner, the entire perspective as to meaning of the relationship, the sanctity of the commitment, and the importance of the work takes an entirely different perspective from both sides. Forge a trusted, longitudinal research partnership and many downstream challenges, such as adherence and retention, can be managed proactively vs in a back-peddling manner, or worse, an incomplete trial that can’t fulfill statistical significance (AKA millions upon millions of dollars lost and potential life-saving treatments never coming to market).

4. Budget to cover ALL expenses of participating in a trial.

Financial toxicity is a significant barrier to access. Participating in clinical trials does not come without expenses. Many physicians, let alone patients, are shocked to find out that certain tests and requirements of the trial are the patient’s responsibility. There must also be considerations for travel, time lost from work, childcare, elder care, hospital visits and admissions due to treatment side effects, hotels accommodations or even temporary housing. Make addressing financial toxicity a priority.

The money is there, it’s the priorities that need alignment with what brings value to patients. Still struggling to come up with funding to cover these expenses? Find ways to leverage technology to bring trials to patients. Or there’s always those massive marketing budgets that you could dip into.

5. Invite patients and carepartners to visit your company. Have them speak with members of your compliance, regulatory, finance, marketing, leadership, and scientific research teams regularly.

When’s the last time any of these teams spoke with a patient or carepartner? Internal teams need to hear first-hand the stories of success and failure and understand all the barriers to participation. Patient advocacy and engagement teams may already be regularly working with patients. It needs to be bigger, company-wide. You’re either all in or you’re not.

Clinical trial success depends on the entire company. Pharma’s internal culture needs a landslide change. Listening to patient and carepartner stories is inspirational for the people who are graced to hear their words. Welcoming patients and their loved ones to your company is an exceptional opportunity to build empathy, bring joy, connection, and instill a sense of purpose to your work environment. Patients and carepartners often state that being welcomed to tell their story and share their experiences and expertise to be healing and empowering.

This is a win-win and more powerful than any commercial or marketing tactic you have in your projected pipeline.

6. Leverage social media to bring your clinical trials to the forefront.


Use social media platforms as ways to educate the general public about clinical trials, dispel myths, amplify the benefits of participating in clinical trials. Be the pioneers in sending the message that your company isn’t just looking for volunteers, you are looking for research partners to advance science and medicine. Be strategic and savvy about hashtags! Peer-to-peer patient and carepartner support groups, patient leaders, and advocates spread credible content and messages about cutting-edge research throughout their communities at lighting speed and virally.

Pharma must conquer its fear of social media. Meet patients where they are.

7. Provide digital tools for clinical trial exploration and matching to be offered at point of care (POC) for patients and doctors to use.

Many physicians state they do not have an easy way to search for clinical trials that may be of interest for a particular patient. If they can’t look it up quickly while talking to a patient, they sure as heck aren’t going to discuss it as a treatment option. Remove the barriers by leveraging technology NOW!

Patients and their loved ones often spend hours in waiting rooms and exam rooms with nothing to do. Having access to a digital tool and a simple chatbot for clinical trial exploration and matching based on diagnoses, genetic mutations, basic demographics, and geographic locations would connect patients with the opportunities currently available.

This needs to become a mainstream part of preparing patients for their appointments, especially for those diagnosed with chronic illnesses and cancer.

8. Dispel myths associated with trials at a health literacy people can understand.

Emphasize the high caliber of care & support people receive during a trial. Highlight positive patient and carepartner stories in a culturally sensitive manner. There’s a great deal of good that is being done on the frontlines to improve the clinical trial process! There are success stories and strides being made.

There are so many good people who work in pharma and are dedicated to literally saving people’s lives. We need to do a better job of communicating that dedication and passion to the general public, to patients, carepartners, our colleagues in medicine, and within the walls of your companies.

9. Work to update treatment guidelines to encourage discussion of clinical trials as a treatment option earlier in treatment planning. Clinical trials should not be a last resort.

When all treatment options have failed, many patients are devastated to learn that they do not qualify for trials because they have been treated with too many other therapies or are too sick. Have you ever heard a patient say they wish they knew about clinical trials earlier because now it’s too late? Hearing that literally knocks the wind out of you and is soul-crushing.

No patient should ever feel like they missed their opportunity. Patients have a right to be informed about all treatment options, including clinical trials. Physicians must have the tools they need to seamlessly include discussions on clinical trials at POC and patients and carepartners need to be able to proactively explore trials. They won’t and can’t participate in something they don’t know about.

10. Try signing up for your own trial.

Go through every step of the process. Bonus points if you can get through a search on and get in touch with a human being using the contact number listed. Travel to the clinical trial site. Acquire your medical records in preparation for your intake appointment. Book a flight, hotel, find public transportation or take an Uber or Lyft to the enrollment site. Try finding the building, suite, and office. Review the consent forms.

Would you agree to 5 spinal taps, endless bloodwork, poorly coordinated care, no access to your medical records, out-of-pocket responsibilities for imaging, and no access to digital technologies or telemedicine? Does this sound exhausting, frustrating, or leave you outraged? You have some homework to do. Go back to step 1.

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Social Media Marketing Ideas for Doctors in 2019

Social Media Marketing Ideas for Doctors in 2019 | Social Media and Healthcare |

The power of social media marketing is truly unbelievable. Be it food, travel, fashion, real estate, ICT or even government sector; every has realized the potential of social media.

Read Also: Why Social Media Presence is Mandatory for Any Business in 2018?

Similarly, currently social media is also giving benefits to medicine field. Various renowned hospitals across the world are using social media platforms to promote their services. Even individual doctors are also promoting their clinics via social media. That’s why in this article we are going to share Social Media Marketing Ideas for Doctors in 2019 to further help them by practicing latest marketing trends.

Social Media Marketing Ideas for Doctors in 2019

Here are some of the useful social media tips for doctors:

  1. Doctors need to carefully define their ideal patient and then target audience accordingly
  2. Recommended social media platforms for doctors can be for Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn
  3. Educate your patients on social media with awareness campaigns
  4. They need to focus on patients’ network of choice
  5. Listen to the voice of the patients
  6. Respond immediately to the questions, comments & reviews
  7. Advertise your availability & expertise on all social platforms
  8. Build relationships with patients
  9. A doctor should be more focused on quality content as compared to the quantity
  10. Being a caring doctor, every doctor needs to be present consistently on his/her social media
  11. Important thing to note is to always share useful information because it will be re-shared by the audience itself
  12. Cross-promote yourself on social media platforms
  13. Images add impact and easily grab attention so must use impressive visuals
  14. Make wellness more fun so that your patients can easily share any kind of health problem with you
  15.  Always be a source of “helpful information” and easily approachable doctor on social media

With these some of best social media tips and techniques any doctor/hospital can easily market its services the patients and build a long-lasting relationship with them.

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Social Media Marketing: Twitter Tips for Health Care Professionals

Social Media Marketing: Twitter Tips for Health Care Professionals | Social Media and Healthcare |

There’s no doubt that Twitter use by health care professionals is on the rise. The social platform has become a great vehicle to quickly reach a wider, engaged audience of clinicians, patients and the public. At the UC San Francisco Department of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, we have known about Twitter’s potential within the medical community for quite some time. Our profile, @UCSFImaging, has been recognized as one of the most active Twitter accounts with one of the highest followings in the field of Academic Radiology. These findings were based on a study from Vinay Prabhu, MD and Andrew Rosenkrantz, MD of NYU’s Langone Medical Center which performed an analysis of academic radiology Twitter accounts. This study was published in the Journal of the American College of Radiology (PubMed). Learn more about the study in Health Imaging magazine.

Based on insights and our own best practices, we put together these Twitter Tips for health care professionals to encourage collegial involvement within our own department and the greater medical community.

You can view a clickable, downloadable version of our ‘Twitter Tips’ by clicking this link


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Digging in to Your Social Media Feed

Digging in to Your Social Media Feed | Social Media and Healthcare |

It was with interest I read a recent Viewpoint article in the Journal of American Medical Associations (JAMA) titled: Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) in the Digital Age, Determining the Source Code for Nurture authored by Dr. Freddy Abnousi, the head of healthcare research at Facebook, along with a couple of other authors, Dr. John Rumsfeld, Chief Innovation Officer at the American College of Cardiology (@DrJRums) and Dr. Harlan Krumholz, Professor of Medicine at Yale(@hmkyale)

They rightly point out the major contribution of social determinants of health – a fact highlighted as far back as to 1946 and the World Health Organization (WHO), but the research has been hampered by the inability to capture accurate granular data which is mostly self-reported (with the associated unreliability). We do need better approaches and the social networks offer a tantalizing look into data of this nature with a peek into online behavior, data that is posted by the millions of users who engage daily online.

They offer an intriguing potential to pre-identify suicidal ideation, “with enough advance warning and accuracy to stage a peer-driven intervention“. The opportunity to identify high risk for opioid addiction or finding those at highest risk of cardiovascular mortality and engaging with the users corresponding social network who would be “tasked with responsibilities”.

There is much to applaud in the concept but it raises some serious and challenging issues in my mind

1) Informed Consent is a major challenge and history and recent revelations do not engender any confidence that this data or insights would not be used against the patients or their families

2) De-Identification of data is already problematic – when you consider Intensity Analytics ability to identify individuals and behavior simply from their interaction with a keyboard

3) Trust is broken across so many areas and the current system is working as designed – a business. It is highly unlikely that users would ever *knowingly* give their consent

4) Healthcare consumers in the United States are struggling while the business of healthcare continues its march towards profit. Intuitively any insights from an SDoH program would have to focus on the best economic solutions which are mostly non-healthcare solutions (food, housing, income, education)

We need insights and data to provide the data to support and effect change and this idea has merit – but without some real changes to the business of healthcare, it will struggle to take off or deliver value to our population. I’d suggest a better incremental step would be to look at this data to show the underlying struggles of the users and creating a catalyst for change

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5 Healthcare Marketing Resolutions for 2019

5 Healthcare Marketing Resolutions for 2019 | Social Media and Healthcare |

The end of the year is a perfect time to take stock of your marketing practices. You can note your big successes — and any missteps — for 2018, and make a plan for how you’ll reach your marketing goals in 2019. The new year is full of limitless potential, but we’ve narrowed it down to these top five “resolutions” for your medical marketing team to follow.

Audit Everything

Start the year off with a thorough audit of all your existing marketing channels. It’s time to assess what’s working and what isn’t, so that you know where to invest your time, energy, and marketing funds in 2019.

If you don’t already know your numbers, now is the time to see whether your 2018 efforts have grown engagement and shown a return on investment. How many people are engaging on your social media channels? Are click-throughs increasing patient calls or purchases? If the numbers aren’t what you hoped, it may be time to take stock of your SEO strategies.

Blogs can be a major part of your self-branding, and a powerful owned channel. Did keeping a blog work for you in 2018? Are you seeing increased organic traffic, engagement, and conversions? If the results aren’t what you hoped for, it may be time to optimize the content, design, and accessibility.

This is also a good time to glance behind the curtain and make sure your IT team’s strategy and security are working to protect your patients. If it’s relevant to your business, make sure you’re ADA compliant and have considered the EU’s data protection measure, GDPR.

Optimize Your Channels

All your channels represent your brand, but each should do it in its own way. It’s time to make sure that you’re taking advantage of each platform’s specific purpose and features.

Let’s start with your website. Your homepage should be an expression of your brand, with a clear message and strong, appealing imagery. Make sure you’re getting your money’s worth with PPC ads that send patients to an easily digestible landing page. Consider user experience — it might be time to rework site hierarchy if it could be confusing visitors, and make sure you fix any broken links.

Next, make sure your blog will continue to work for you in 2019, if it isn’t already. Include a call to action (CTA) with the majority of your blog posts to give your readers somewhere to go. This doesn’t mean you have to ask for the same action every time, however — consider if you want your readers to check out other articles, sign up for a newsletter, or make an appointment.

In addition, while an obviously keyword-stuffed blog will turn away prospects, ignoring SEO best practicesmeans even your most thoughtful, researched posts won’t find readers. Make sure you’re striking a balance between driving traffic to your site and encouraging real interest and engagement in readers.

Don’t neglect any peripheral efforts — all owned content should be an expression of your brand. Instagram can be a compelling tool for sharing patient stories and promoting events, and is a great platform for outside-the-box creativity. Make sure your content is visually interesting or appealing, and don’t neglect hashtags in the captions.

Practice Data-Driven Marketing

If you didn’t track KPIs this past year, it’s time for a fresh start in 2019. Marketing without data is a shot in the dark — you’re missing out on important information that can help you decide what strategies are working and where to invest your marketing dollars.

Take the time to set up a strategy for managing analytics on all your marketing channels. Google Analyticsis a straightforward way to figure out the story behind your numbers, and track not just bare stats but the quality of visits.  

Consider setting aspirational (and realistic) goals for the coming year’s numbers — what would success look like for your business? Schedule out biweekly or monthly reports, depending on the size of your organization. That way, as the year goes on, you’ll be able to identify the channels that work for you, and direct your time and energy accordingly.

Take Risks

If you had a successful year — or even if you didn’t — you might be tempted to stick with the marketing strategies familiar to your organization. But a strong year actually means you’re well-positioned to make forays into new channels without neglecting your current efforts.

Customers increasingly demand online accessibility, and healthcare providers should be prepared for an increased focus on patient-centric services in 2019. There are an increasing number of instant and secure messaging platforms for patients to be able to talk to doctors or engage with an AI bot. These can be a great way to increase customer access and loyalty, while streamlining operations.

If you haven’t already made the leap, Instagram is a well-respected and creative way to grow your brand; over a third of U.S. adults have joined the platform. The story format is extremely popular and offers an organic way to engage that doesn’t feel as stilted as some other digital marketing methods. Similarly, some organizations — especially those with a strong visual component or a younger demographic — might be interested in trying Snapchat.

Embrace Mobile

If your website isn’t mobile-friendly, you’re well overdue for an update. The majority of smartphone users — 80% worldwide — are eager to engage with health care providers using their phones. One study showed that about 58% of U.S. mobile phone users had downloaded a health app. If you aren’t engaging on mobile platforms, you’re missing out on possible patients across all demographics, but especially young patients.

As you overhaul your capabilities, don’t neglect mobile ads, as features like geotargeting make smartphones a powerful tool for bringing relevant content to patients. Lastly, ensure that your contact information, hours, and service offerings are updated across the databases that feed into mobile map searches, like Apple Maps and Google My Business.

The beginning of the year is the perfect time to evaluate what about your marketing strategy is working and what could be better. By following these five simple resolutions, medical marketers will already be several steps ahead of their competition — and several steps closer to reaching new patients.

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Facebook, I'm out. Your irresponsibility with patient groups has gone too far.

Facebook, I'm out. Your irresponsibility with patient groups has gone too far. | Social Media and Healthcare |

I have stopped participating on Facebook.  I’m leaving my account live (so that my post about why I’m leaving is visible), but everything will be shut off as much as possible, and the rest will be ignored. No Messenger, no more posts on my timeline, no notifications, no tagging, etc.

I’ll be spending more time on LinkedIn and Twitter. I hope you’ll follow those pages, or use the Subscribe form on the right side of my blog page.

This isn’t an easy decision because it will be harder to keep in touch with everyone in my life, not least my family (including famous daughter and grandchild) and the many friends I’ve made in my travels. But I’ve decided we must stand up.

The rest of this post explains why; if you don’t need that info, ignore it – but  please keep in touch.


I’ve concluded that Facebook is incompetent about security of our data and irresponsibleabout the side effects of what happens when marketers, bots, and monitors interact with the site. It allows (or fails to stop) unscrupulous behavior by unseen marketers, behind the scenes or even posing as members of patient groups.

In my opinion none of us should entrust a single bit of patient information to Facebook. Of course it’s up to you: you may want to stay, all things considered, and I support you in doing what you want. But be aware of what could be going on behind the curtain.

I’ll discuss three areas that have multiple evidence points.

1. Covert marketing within patient groups

For most of us, if someone is secretly selling on Facebook it may be merely annoying. But in some cases these people have done really bad things with patient groups.

Treating people this way when they have any kind of medical or mental health problem is flat-out predatory, and I believe patients should be aware that they might want to stay away. I would. (I won’t say “should stay away” because that’s a personal choice. But I won’t stand for it being in dark alleys.)  

Go to a legitimate, above-board patient site like or PatientsLikeMe or Inspire.comThey’re free, too! But, update: on Twitter, user Anita Figueroas said “sites like [Inspire] limit our outreach (links to our website aren’t allowed).”

2. Incompetence at security – and burying the evidence

An especially bad case of skullduggery and self-interest happened last July, when Wall Street was rattling swords at Facebook because FB had not been truthful to investors about the Cambridge Analytica election scandal: SEC Probes Why Facebook Didn’t Warn Sooner on Privacy Lapse (Wall Street Journal). (It’s one thing to mess with the public, but mess with Wall Street and s4!t gets serious, eh?)

Coincidentally, right when that happened, a thriving private FB #MeToo group of 15,000 sexual abuse survivors got hacked by trolls (see the Wired article How a Facebook group for sexual assault survivors became a tool for harassment), who proceeded to post vicious sexual images to certain members, privately or publicly in that group. When the admins reported it to FB, FB didn’t investigate – without warning they ERASED THE WHOLE GROUP, destroying all the evidence – not to mention all the group’s past conversations, networks of contacts, etc.

The company has gone too far, to the point where it’s time to walk away.

3. Incompetence and haphazard management of hate speech issues

Clearly, after the scandals around the 2016 elections and alt-right hate problems, Facebook needed to do something about all the fraudulent accounts and hate speech they were allowing. But rather than figuring out an approach that could have been costly – actually being careful about rules – they went for cheap and sloppy, because “careful” ain’t cheap. The result has been so dishearteningly inept that it helped nail the coffin on whether I could tolerate being there.

It’s summed up in two articles about how they’re clumsily handling censorship vs freedom of speech – a very delicate issue in these times, which they’re trying to handle by sending disorganized rules created by random people everywhere to cheap call center personnel, in the form of PowerPoint slides!

  • June 2017: Facebook’s Secret Censorship Rules Protect White Men From Hate Speech But Not Black Children  (Yes it literally says that; read it. An interesting contrast to the perception that Silicon Valley is reflexively left-wing.)

  • Nov 2018, Rolling Stone: “Who will fix FB?” including a sample story of a guy whose legit website got banned from FB as collateral damage during a sweep intended to erase frauds … it seems nobody checked whether the rules were working as intended! That is WICKED bad in a software company. Blind, unthinking execution of rules written by someone somewhere, carried out (the article suspects) by workers in low-priced overseas call centers. And nobody checking.

The decision to actually leave Facebook started in mid-December. (It had come up several times, but throughout 2018 it got worse and worse.) Then, right after Christmas this came out:

The leaker said FB “was exercising too much power, with too little oversight — and making too many mistakes.”  Mistakes like that can cause harm; harm that happens entirely because the company is being reckless.

Beware of technology carelessly used 
in the pursuit of large-scale automated profits

A basic reason why business loves automation is that human intervention is costly. “It doesn’t scale,” as they say. (Specifically, to do more of it, you have to hire and train more people, pay them benefits, etc. Silicon Valley likes things you can program into a system and sell to 100 or six billion people at the same cost.)

I love automation as much as anyone (it’s been my whole career), but there are limits: you have to check that the robots aren’t going insane. Especially in cases where harm can result. Like driverless cars. Or healthcare. 

Some things truly require human judgment.

Other big tech companies are getting too big and irresponsible for their britches – e.g. Amazon wants to sell its “Rekognition” face recognition software to the TSA, even though (USA Today, July) it misidentified 28 members of Congress in an ACLU test. The software said those 28 faces matched a database of arrest photos!

Click image to visit original article on American Civil Liberties Union website

Are you eager to walk through that software for TSA, at your next flight? Especially if you’re not Caucasian: “Nearly 40 percent of Rekognition’s false matches in our test were of people of color, even though they make up only 20 percent of Congress.” [ACLU]

Note: TSA hasn’t bought Rekognition yet, but USA Today says local law enforcement agencies already have. Do they have I.T. experts who can adjust and evaluate such new technology??

You should have exactly this kind of worry about anyone who’s touting some amazing “AI” (artificial intelligence) as the next miracle. AI is powerful and beginning to do great things – but it must be monitored and checked for unintended harms, or the robots truly will do large-scale harm in our civilization.

Some of the investor-oriented tweets and posts I’ve seen don’t care a thing about whether the stuff is accurate – “Hey, it’s NEW! It’s gonna be great! Don’t miss out – buy some today!” 

Not me – not unless a thinking human is doing a sanity check on whether it gives accurate answers.

And that’s exactly what’s missing in Facebook’s irresponsible management of group security, covert marketers, and censorship vs free speech vs hate speech.

It’s often said that with great power comes great responsibility. Actions like FB and Amazon’s go way too far, and the last straw to me was the increasingly clear picture that Facebook truly isn’t going to let the risk of harm to others slow them down.

That would be irresponsible in any walk of life; in criminal law it’s called negligence.  In healthcare (where I try to lead) it especially crosses the line into “must not be tolerated” territory.

So, Facebook: as they say on Shark Tank: I’m out.

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Medical Marketing Strategies: 10 to Try in 2019

Medical Marketing Strategies: 10 to Try in 2019 | Social Media and Healthcare |

This year, we’re likely to see some dramatic changes in the world of healthcare. With private equity acquisitions on the rise, retailization in high demand, and some fierce competition, it’s time to start treating your healthcare organization like the business it is.

Make 2019 the year you find what works for your medical marketing. 

These 10 medical marketing strategies can help you find and keep higher-paying cases. Stay ready for the competitive atmosphere in the coming months and years with our list of new things to try in 2019.

Audit your current medical marketing strategies

First things first—how are your current marketing strategies working out? If you’re blindly trusting processes you’ve had in place for months or years—without any data to back up their impact—it’s time for an audit.

If you’re doing your own marketing, determine if the time and expense really back up the results. Does your team spend too much time on social media? Rely too heavily on word-of-mouth marketing? Spend too little effort nurturing doctor referrals?

If you have an outside marketing company, on the other hand, it’s time to demand the data. If you have inconsistent ad copy, lackluster design, and no results to back it up, it may be time to find someone new.

Related: Learn More About Our Healthcare Marketing Agency

Change your messaging to be more “you”-centered

Some healthcare organizations are so focused on providing detailed information, they forget the most important question of all. Why should a prospective patient choose your team over any other?

The content on your website, social media, digital ads, and any traditional advertising must offer benefit to the patients. To put it simply, it should focus on what the organization can do for “you.” Your copy should use this magic word–“you”–liberally and answer some key questions. Put yourself in a patient’s shoes.

Reading the copy, do you feel the organization has something unique to offer? What can “you” expect to gain? Can you get back to work sooner? Recover faster? Live pain-free and enjoy new activities?

Break into social media advertising

We use the term “organic” to talk about types of marketing that don’t require paying for advertisements, including search engine optimization and posting updates on social media. And while organic social media is one of many methods to build your brand, it’s simply not the most effective way to get noticed.

Facebook is the most widely used social media platform—by seniors and millennials alike. Of course, your practice, hospital, or organization can build out a business page and post for free. But it’s tough to attract followers, and even as you do, you can expect very few followers to see your posts.

It’s time to start treating Facebook like a paid advertising platform. Create powerful, effective posts that boost brand recognition and clicks to your site. Add images and videos, and leverage custom audiences to reach more people within your target demographic.

Target patients you’ve already seen

Attracting new patients is a major goal for organizations of all sizes—but seeing returning patients should be an even higher priority for most. After all, the cost to acquire new patients can be 10 times more than the cost for patient retention.

Acquiring new patients is only the beginning of your medical marketing efforts. It’s important to follow up with patients and keep your name at top of mind. That means sending follow-up emails or mailers, as well as continuing to market for brand recognition. Often, this can come in the form of an email newsletter.

Get brutally honest about your website design

Is your website truly helping to bring in new patients? It’s time to get real and ask yourself tough questions about the look and feel of your site (and/or any landing pages you use with digital advertising).

Aim to WOW your prospective patients, not just to give them basic information. Remember: today, you cannot simply compare your website design to colleagues’ and competitors’. Patients care that your website is up-to-date, and they’re comparing it with standards set by other industries. A website that looks behind-the-times may be a deterrent, as patients see this as a reflection of your office.

Take advantage of Facebook Live

This is a strategy we’ve been learning more and more about in the last couple of years—and we’ve grown to love it. Sharing video on Facebook is a great way to build awareness of your brand. But too often, thanks to new algorithms like “Friends & Family First,” your followers never see those carefully filmed and edited recordings.

Facebook Live, however, actually prioritizes live video through its algorithms. Followers are alerted that you’re sharing helpful information on your timeline, increasing viewership dramatically. Past and prospective patients may share this content, increasing brand awareness and helping people in your community get useful health information.

Related: 5 Things Most Doctors Get Wrong about Social Media

Leverage existing content

Larger healthcare organizations like hospitals and health systems often create quality online content that simply loses momentum after a week or so. They post about it on social media, bank a few “likes,” and move on to the next piece of content.

But this content could serve a greater purpose. For example, you can repurpose content for email sequences. You can even “gate” content on your website so that interested parties must provide their email address and sign up for your weekly newsletter.

You may also repurpose particularly compelling content in paid advertising. Leverage ebooks and long-form articles as Facebook ads or even in paid search, depending on your medical marketing goals.

Ask for patient referrals

If restaurants, retail stores, and coffee shops can do it, why not healthcare? If someone tells you they had a great experience at your place of business, ask for a referral!

“Thanks! Please let your friends and family know we’re here.” …is a start. You can also refer them to online review sites (as long as this doesn’t violate the terms and conditions of that service).

For larger organizations and those looking to grow, there’s an even easier way to do things. Reputation management systems automate the process: unhappy patients are given an outlet to express their concerns, while happy patients have the opportunity to spread the word online.

Lead important discussions

“Thought leadership” is a common goal among many doctors and healthcare professionals. And you may not have to write a book or speak on a national talk show to gain recognition. Leading and joining important discussions can boost earned media. Typically, all you need is a website, a camera, a social media account, and some savvy marketing and public relations.

Sharing great content online—content that others will want to share—is the first step in gaining earned media from local news stations, along with larger opportunities. Videos typically get better engagement than images and text posts, and it helps to speak about the topics your audience cares most about. 

Commit to staff training

All healthcare organizations do their best to ensure their staff is polite, understands HIPAA, and stays organized. But too few organizations work to actively train staff members to convert calls.

You can buy all the right ingredients to bake a loaf of bread, but without a confident baker in the kitchen, you’ll go nowhere. The same is true of your marketing. You can spend money on beautiful ad campaigns that get the phone to ring. But all that means nothing if your staff isn’t prepared to convert calls.

It takes more than a friendly personality. In our years as healthcare marketing professionals, we’ve seen up to half of an organization’s inquiries go nowhere, largely because the staff was not trained to make the “sale”: armed with the right information, professionalism, and counterarguments to book that appointment.

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9 Social Media Experts Share Helpful Marketing Tips for Doctors

9 Social Media Experts Share Helpful Marketing Tips for Doctors | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media marketing is a hugely successful way to market your goods or services directly to your target audience. Whether Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn or Twitter, the targeting capabilities are impressive and can lead to massive exposure even on a lower-end budget as compared to traditional advertising avenues.

Marketing for doctors, medical offices and other healthcare related businesses can be a bit tricky. Nine successful social media professionals have shared their insight into making sure you're able to get the most out of your social media marketing campaigns for 2019 and beyond.

1. The Human Element

“The best way Doctors and medical offices can use social media in 2019 is all in the content. Lifestyle tips, healthy recipes and preventive information in their specialty will broaden their audience and perhaps capture the attention of someone that wouldn't have noticed them before. Keep the content informative, human and don't make it too clinical. You want to show your expertise, but also show that you are human and care about the full picture of your patients lives, not just one appointment.”

Kristen Harold of KMH Marketing

2. Facebook Live

“Facebook will continue to favor video content, especially live content. Medical professionals need to establish a formal process for creating facebook live videos in their practice. A great way to do this is to set a specific time each week that you film the doctor talking about common procedures and questions. This will create engaging content and is a great opportunity for potential patients to ask questions, you can't give medical advice but you can discuss procedures and their benefits!”

Joseph Sloan of Advice Media

3. Make Use of Video

“When it comes to social media marketing for doctors you will really want to utilize video. Take videos of the different treatments that you offer and show how these treatments are performed. People will want to see what they are getting themselves into before receiving any sort of treatment, and by using video you will be able to show them just how the treatment is done and how a patient reacted. Also, using video to give testimonials from patients. People want to make sure that your reviews and testimonials are REAL and by taking a video of someone talking about how your treatment helped them, it gives you more credibility because it shows them real people are coming to your office. Video gives people an inside look into your office and will ultimately make someone feel more comfortable going to your doctors office rather than someone else's who doesn't have an inside look.”

Samantha Walls of InTouch Marketing

4. And More Video…

“I work with surgeons (in extremely competitive online spaces) who stand out by leveraging this specific strategy – they take real, unedited testimonials videos from their patients & load them to YouTube so that it ranks for keywords. We then combine this with paid traffic, meaning we run YouTube ads and remarketing ads on Facebook and YouTube.

It's part of the doctor's office protocol now to ask their patients if they would be willing to share their story & to shoot the videos with their iPhones at post-surgical follow-up visits. Last month alone, regular uploading of videos like these for the spine surgeon resulted in 60+ very targeted phone calls.”

Kristen Hinman of Peare Media

5. Highlight Expertise & Accomplishments

“I work with an orthopedic practice and my strategy has always been to highlight the doctors expertise and accomplishments. This means creating content around events they attend or participate in. This helps add credibility to their name. To highlight their expertise I recommend writing blogs or recording videos where they give free advice for injuries they treat. Not only does a future patient get a feel for you, but they also get familiar with you. I started a Youtube channel for the group I work with and a majority of our content is doctors introducing themselves and explaining injuries they see often.”

Chris Williams of Clock In Marketing

6. Share User Friendly Content

“Share content with a broader focus than just the practice — while it's helpful to post about the availability of flu shots, changes in insurance provider arrangements or office hours, patients are interested in more macro information about their health. Provide tips for treating common ailments, updates about new research or clinical trials and articles about health trends and statistics. Post events you are hosting, and use groups to convene patients with common interests to specifically appeal to demographic segments like moms of young children or seniors.”

Leigh Picchetti of LKP Consulting

7. Facebook Ads & Live Webinar Funnels

“I’d say that the most successful revenue generator for me has been utilizing Facebook ads to drive traffic to live webinar events. It works because you give perspective customers something that not only educates them but allows them the opportunity to ‘get to know you' which builds an initial rapport. You can then invite them to take advantage of a special offer at the end of the webinar. The special offer can be anything from a free consultation, to a specific discounted services. Of course, there are variations on this strategy. The Facebook ad may not always lead to a webinar – maybe a free report that leads to an email series, maybe it leads to a quiz that leads them to a special offer. The point is using funnels in conjunction with Facebook ads is a sure way to make acquiring new clients simple and ongoing.”

Dr. Maiysha T. Clairborne, MD of

8. Start Small & Stay Active

“When you decide to post on social media, start small with a few platforms and then add more if you feel that you're able to keep up. There's nothing worse than starting out on social media, then not posting for six months. So focus only on the platforms that you feel are going to be the best fit for your audience. Maybe for doctors, that's Facebook and Twitter. Or maybe if they're interested in the B2B side, it's LinkedIn. Just don't try to do TOO much if you're just starting out. I've seen businesses get overwhelmed – and then just stop posting.”

Michelle Garrett of Garrett Public Relations

9. Consider An Ongoing Social Series

“Use a ‘Series' to increase engagement: One of the biggest problems many people face when getting into social media, is that they don't know what to feature each time they consider posting. Creating an ongoing (perhaps weekly) series' helps mitigate that issue – for instance ‘Cure-iosity Wednesday' where a doctor talked about the historical significance of a particular cure. This would allow each time you want to post on Wednesday, for their to be a continuity and a positive expectation from the audience, who would find a pleasant familiarity with your Wednesday posts after time. Ideally you stick to a very specific rhythm so there could even be an anticipation for the next one.”

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Social Media and the Spread of Misinformation: Taking Back Public Health

Social Media and the Spread of Misinformation: Taking Back Public Health | Social Media and Healthcare |

The online spread of health-related misinformation has demonstrable negative effects on public health. Antivaccine discourse on social media, for example, has been cited as a contributing factor to the rising number of parents who refuse to vaccinate their children.1 Similarly, rumors that circulated on social media during the 2014 Ebola outbreak generated hostility toward healthcare workers, hindering efforts to contain the epidemic.2

In a viewpoint article published in JAMA, Wen-Ying Silvia Chou, PhD, MPH; April Oh, PhD; and William M.P. Klein, PhD, research scientists at the National Cancer Institute, described ways in which medical professionals can curb the spread of health-related misinformation.3

Misinformation is amplified within “information silos” and “echo [chambers],” the authors wrote. Social media feeds are “personally curated” by each individual, thus decreasing the likelihood that users will encounter viewpoints that differ from their own. Misinformation is easily amplified in these social media environments. Research also suggests that “falsehoods spread more easily than truths” on social media and other online forums.4 Mistrust in medical institutions further legitimizes health misinformation in online circles; according to a 2016 Gallup poll, just 36% of individuals expressed “adequate confidence” in the medical system.5Additionally, a 2017 study suggested that 1 in 5 individuals express “skepticism about scientists” of any field.6 To mitigate the spread of misinformation, authors outlined guidelines for clinical practice, research, and public health.


To properly curb health misinformation, scientists must first understand the way such information is shared. The authors encouraged the “deployment of innovative methods” such as social network analysis to address misinformation on social media. Surveillance must be conducted to investigate the characteristics of certain information silos and identify which intervention methods may be effective. Scientists must also study the “context of misinformation exchange,” including the social media platform on which the information was shared. The dynamics among users sharing misinformation should also be properly understood before strategies are developed. Additionally, the “reach” and consequences of certain health messages must be understood; real-time behavioral data, linkage to medical records, and marketing research can help elucidate the way in which social media users internalize certain information.



Beyond research to identify proper means of intervention, the authors wrote, the medical community must also provide support and training for interaction with misinformed patients. Clinicians must be equipped to understand and respond to their patients' concerns, rather than “dismissing [them]…as skeptics.” It is also important for social media platforms to properly assess the credibility of certain content before it is disseminated, the authors wrote. Health-related misinformation can undermine efforts to provide proper health care. Social media platforms that encourage the spread of misinformation must receive due attention from medical and public health professionals to curb these effects.


  1. Broniatowski DA, Jamison AM, Qi S, et al. Weaponized health communication: Twitter bots and Russian trolls amplify the vaccine debate. Am J Public Health. 2018;108(10):1378-1384.
  2. Jones B, Elbagir N. Are myths making the Ebola outbreak worse? CNN. Updated August 25, 2014. Accessed January 8, 2019.
  3. Chou W-YS, Oh A, Klein WMP. Addressing health-related misinformation on social media. JAMA. 2018;320(23):2417-2418. 
  4. Vosoughi S, Roy D, Aral S. The spread of true and false news online. Science. 2018;359(6380):1146-1151.
  5. Saad L. Military, small business, police still stir most confidence. Gallup June 28, 2018. Accessed January 8, 2019.
  6. Funk C. Mixed messages about public trust in science. Issues Sci Technol. 2017;34(1).
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3 Key B2B Healthcare Digital Marketing Trends in 2019

3 Key B2B Healthcare Digital Marketing Trends in 2019 | Social Media and Healthcare |

This is a follow-up to our post about B2B Healthcare Marketing Statics (read it here).

With significant changes in the healthcare space sweeping the globe (increased automation, big data, new technologies, etc.) — it seems that many medical B2B companies are struggling to keep up.

Newer, more nimble, tech-savvy competitors are rapidly entering the space — and they’re dominating the entire conversation on the web. They’re leveraging the latest techniques in digital marketing — from SEO, content marketing, and mobile optimization, to slick videos and non-stop social media marketing — to get in touch (and stay in touch) with your target audience.

And according to the latest stats, the vast majority of medical buyers are actively researching new medical purchases on the internet. In other words, if you’re not taking advantage of digital marketing tactics — you might as well be invisible to them.

That’s why you need a comprehensive digital marketing strategy to leverage the shifting trends in demographics and consumer behaviour.

But marketing in the medical space comes with a myriad of challenges (that other industries don’t have to face).

To help you navigate these challenges (and make the most of your digital marketing spend), here are three major B2B healthcare trends that marketers need to be aware of in 2019.

1. Compliance, Compliance, Compliance

The unfortunate reality is that the standard marketing automation toolkit that businesses use across many B2B industries is not applicable to healthcare.

At least out of the box.

Every region has its own rules for medical marketing, and getting a single platform to comply across the board is no easy task.

That’s why healthcare organizations looking to adopt modern automation practices have to carefully consider how those practices fit within their regulatory requirements — or work with agencies that are well versed in working effectively within these limitations.

For example, every healthcare marketer — B2B and B2C — must be trained on HIPAA(Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations. This act was designed to protect the confidentiality and privacy of every patient.

Essentially, to be HIPAA compliant in your marketing, you must avoid the use of any protected health information that could in any way reveal a patient’s identity.

Additional Regulations Healthcare Marketers Must Be Aware Of

Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA): Ontario’s healthcare privacy laws were updated as recently as January 1, 2018.

Medicare and Medicaid Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS): A federal fraud and abuse statute that impacts all healthcare, pharmaceutical, and medical device organizations in the U.S. It is “an anti-corruption statute designed to protect beneficiaries from the influence of money on referral decisions.”


This can make vital best practices of a digital marketing strategy — like customer testimonials — a tricky thing to implement.

It is critical that every piece of your marketing strategy, whether it be email marketing, content marketing, or social media is HIPAA compliant. If your digital marketing campaign is not HIPAA compliant, you can be subject to enormous fines of up to $50,000 per violation.

And because regulatory requirements will vary from country to country and state to state (or province to province!), you need the help of an expert team who is equipped to traverse this minefield of compliance.

2. LinkedIn is King of B2B Social Marketing

When it comes to B2B social marketing, LinkedIn reigns supreme. In fact, LinkedIn is responsible for 80% of social leads generated by B2B companies. And because two-thirds of doctors are active on the social media platform, the medical B2B space is ripe with opportunity.

Think about your buyer personas for a minute.

Whether your product is EHR (electronic healthcare records) software or medical technology, the CFOs, hospital administrators, MSOs, etc., they’re all on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn’s growing user-base and hyper-granular targeting tools make it one of the best channels to invest in for Account Based Marketing (ABM). You can target prospects by:

  • Job title
  • Organization (specific hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, etc.)
  • Geography
  • Skills
  • Responsibilities
  • Interests (hash-tags)
  • Professional associations (LinkedIn groups, etc.)

You can advertise directly to your target, share useful content, message them with an offer, or add them to your Network.

Plus, by sharing insightful, well-produced content on your company’s LinkedIn page, you can grow your captive-audience and generate recurring, low-cost engagement from industry professionals.

How Can a Focused Content Marketing Strategy Generate You Leads?


3. Video is a Necessity, Not a Luxury

There’s no excuse for excluding video in your content marketing strategy. Let’s revisit the stats from the previous article:

  • 68% of B2B healthcare buyers are using videos to compare products;
  • 63% are using them just to see how a product performs;
  • And, 63% of buyers will contact a vendor directly after viewing a product video.

A video is 50 times more likely to rank organically on search engines compared to the blogs you are publishing, and in 2019, videos are expected to account for a whopping 85% of online traffic in the U.S.

Here are some prime areas of opportunity for medical B2B marketing:

  • Product/software demos: Tech sheets and snappy product pages aren’t enough — you need engaging demonstrations that show off your product/service.
  • Webinars with experts in a specific topic: You want to showcase your brand as a thought leader in a particular topic. With a webinar, you can target specific buyers with topics that they are interested to learn about, attracting them to your brand and generating leads in the process.
  • Client testimonials/use cases: On top of a product demo, client testimonials and use cases give you a chance to show buyers exactly how your service will work in their environment. (Just don’t forget to stay HIPAA compliant!)
  • Whiteboard video marketing: While increasingly cliche, whiteboard videos can be a creative way to showcase your product/service and are very social media friendly.
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Balanced Digital Marketing Strategy Tips

Balanced Digital Marketing Strategy Tips | Social Media and Healthcare |

A successful digital marketing strategy is all about balance. Today’s healthcare consumers live online, on multiple channels, and you need to shine in each one to capture their attention and gain their loyalty. Each realm of digital media – earnedpaid, and owned – is interdependent on the others, and your medical practice needs to solicit, dominate, and provide the right content in each of those spaces, with an integrated approach, to boost volume and satisfy consumers.

But how does that really work?

Think about it this way: For your owned media – or your practice website, your social media pages, location information, etc. – you can create as much as you want and update the content as often as you want, but those assets are only one part of a balanced digital ecosystem. Because of the way Google and other third-party sites rank websites based on reviews, your earned media – or your online reputation from reviews, star ratings, and more – is a great way to drive traffic to your owned media and promote engagement and positive sentiment around your brand. And finally, paid media – any paid digital ads in search, social, and beyond, plus retargeting, etc. – can help you both generate more earned media and drive traffic to your owned properties.

As you understand how interconnected your paid, earned, and owned digital media strategies should be, you can see that content is your most valuable marketing asset. Your owned media assets are the ultimate destination point for consumers, because that’s where you can capture emails, phone numbers, and more through web forms or drive traffic through phone calls, while your paid and earned media help make consumers aware of your brand and drive them to engage with you online. You can repackage that owned media content, webpage content, blog posts, provider profiles, and more in different ways for the other channels.

For example: Say you’ve hired a new cardiologist and want to drive business to help her grow her practice. Start with your owned media channels and publish things like press releases, bios, and introductory posts, being sure to optimize any new content for local search with applicable maps, directions, keywords, etc. Then, purchase social media ads and keyword-focused search ads to increase the community’s awareness of your new hire. Throw in a few print ads in local publications. Plus, you’ll want to make sure you’re asking for and sharing great reviews for your new physician and her services (which will also help with local search). Each of these tactics needs to work with the others, with consistent messaging, in order to make the biggest impact across multiple channels. You need these strategies to be working together, with similar messaging, to create the biggest impact. Balancing your digital marketing strategy in this way has been suggested to be the only way to accurately predict and measure your return on investment and justify your marketing budget.

What if you’re trying to carry out these same goals for multiple physicians in your practice, across different specialties, or even across multiple offices? You’re going to need some help. If you have inconsistent messaging, incorrect phone numbers and addresses, or poorly organized websites, because it’s all too much to manage, consumers will be turned off by your brand and choose different providers. They have sophisticated expectations for digital interactions that have been set by their lives outside of healthcare, so it’s time to take a larger view of your digital marketing landscape. agrees: “Marketers need to be more holistic in order to harness PEO [paid/earned/owned] for the greater good.”

Even something as simple as a Facebook ad needs each part of your digital marketing strategy to work together to maximize impact. A Facebook ad may be technically just paid media, but because it comes from your practice’s verified (owned) Facebook page, it’s also part of your owned media. When you factor in that Facebook’s algorithms that help you reach your ideal audience insure only those consumers who like/comment/share related content see your ad, and your paid content is suddenly validated, or earned, by their interests. A Google search ad works the same way. The top of the search results page shows paid ads, then earned links (based on star ratings and localized content like maps), followed by organic results from the most optimized owned pages. Every piece of the puzzle has to excel on its own so the completed picture can better engage your audience.

To drive more volume and meet consumer expectations, you need to embrace technology solutions and services that can help you reach your goals. You’ll need applications, technology, and vendors that:

(For Owned)
1) Help you manage your content and data with simple templates, reports, and applications
2) Make finding and correcting broken links and old addresses simple

(For Paid)
3) Provide services to help you plan and execute your paid media multi-channel campaigns
4) Provide in-depth reporting to help you measure campaign successes in real-time
5) Provide expertise that allows you to locate and engage your ideal new patients

(For Earned)
6) Automates alerts for when a negative physician review pops up on a third-party site so you can respond appropriately
7) Engages those currently under your care to improve their experiences and share their satisfaction

With so much competition in healthcare today, and the challenges of changing payer mix and technology evolution, crafting a balanced digital media strategy for your medical practice will help you grow patient volume, create better and more engaging experiences online, and build more loyal relationships.

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