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Chinese social media reaction to disease outbreaks

Chinese social media reaction to disease outbreaks | Social Media and Healthcare |

Studying the geographical distribution of diseases over the internet is a hot trending topic in digital epidemiology. Epidemiologists have begun to use online data (such as Twitter trends) to track the activity levels of infectious diseases, as social media is a good method of measuring public awareness to disease outbreaks.

A recently published article in Infectious Diseases of Poverty is the first to document the online Chinese community’s reaction to a SARS-like virus (MERS-CoV) in the Middle East and Europe in 2012, compared to their reaction to the bird flu (H7N9) outbreak in China in 2013. Data was collected via Weibo (a Chinese version of Twitter) by the University of Hong Kong’s Weiboscope project.

This article showed that the reaction on Weibo to the H7N9 outbreak within China was two orders of magnitude stronger than the reaction to the MERS-CoV disease outbreak in the Middle East and Europe. This data indicates that the online community’s reaction is more profound when the disease outbreak occurs within the same country, demonstrating the usefulness of social media in measuring public reactions to disease outbreak information released by health authorities (in this case official press releases of outbreak data by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Chinese government). This article also highlights the fact that social media can be used to measure psychological reactions to disease outbreak on a wider scale because social media provides a large dataset, which can be used to track activity levels of infectious diseases when there is an outbreak.

The Editor-in-Chief of Infectious Diseases of Poverty, Prof Xiao-Nong Zhou (Director of the National Institute of Parasitic Diseases at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention) commented: “The psychological reactions of local people to disease outbreak are difficult to record on a wide scale. This manuscript provides a unique method to track the Chinese peoples’ reactions to H7N9 influenza outbreak in 2013, and compare the MERS-CoV outbreak in the Middle East through the most popular internet media (Weibo) in China. This provides an avenue to guide local health authorities to improve their health education information to local people after disease outbreak as quickly and correctly as possible.

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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. 

Formdox's comment, April 20, 5:34 AM
#Formdox integrates perfectly with several #functionalities for the monitoring
cctopbuilders's comment, April 26, 6:01 AM
Shala Wedikom's curator insight, September 27, 5:05 PM

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Preparing The Healthcare Workforce To Deliver A Digital Future

Preparing The Healthcare Workforce To Deliver A Digital Future | Social Media and Healthcare |

When it comes to achieving digital transformation, one of the primary barriers holding back organizations is the lack of suitable skills within their workforce.  With the potential for digital transformation in healthcare so great, and the progress so slow, a recent report for the U.K. National Health Service by digital health pioneer Dr Eric Topol is timely indeed.

The paper aims to assess how new technologies are likely to influence the roles and functions of clinical staff, and their support, over the next two decades. What new skills will be required? How will curricula and education need to change to meet this demand?

With 1.2 million employees, which puts it in the top 5 biggest employers in the world, implementing change is no small undertaking, but one that is crucial if the service is to move with the times.


"In a fast changing healthcare environment, with a growing and aging population, the task of ensuring that the workforce has the skills, knowledge and time to care is essential to future proofing the NHS and its ability to meet patients’ needs," Topol says.

Workforce of the future

The report proposes three core principles by which Topol believes the NHS's workforce strategy should be guided in the future:

How A CSR Pilot Program Became A Key Business Imperative At Tyson Foods

  1. Patient empowerment - with new tools enabling patients to take a more active involvement in their own care.
  2. Driven by evidence - with any introduction of new technology driven by evidence rather than hype or the latest trends so that stakeholders can trust it.
  3. Saving time - healthcare is a notoriously time-pressed environment, and so the adoption of technology should strive to return time to professionals to deliver better care.

The need to change is underpinned by the fact that despite the workforce growing to its largest ever, the NHS still struggles to keep up with the demands placed on it by the growing and aging U.K. population.  The education of this workforce will be crucial if any kind of successful digital transformation is to be seen.

"The education and training of the existing workforce, along with the preparation of an appropriate pipeline of talented future staff, will be key to the success of any programme of change designed to empower staff to take advantage of the advances in technology to improve service delivery," Topol says.

Whilst there have been some projects, such as the NHS Digital Academy, already created, these programs target a tiny proportion of the overall workforce. One of the core challenges identified in the report is the time required to train. Workers at all levels report increasing levels of stress as they struggle to cope with the growing expectations of both the public and their managers. Factoring in the requisite time to both learn new skills, and to integrate their new skills into current practice in a heavily target-driven culture is a hurdle that cannot be over-estimated.

As with other industries, Topol suggests that in addition to upskilling medical staff (ok, he says clinicians only, but I hope he means all medical staff!), there will be a need to create a number of new professional groups, including medical software engineers and digital medicine specialists.

He suggests that new methods of training, such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), will play a key role in the delivery of training and development, whilst technologies such as augmented reality could also play a role.

Making the vision reality

The report is the first publication of a wider-reaching review being conducted by Topol, and it acts as a call for evidence from practitioners working in the field, either of healthcare or education.

The review aims to examine the specific workforce needs across three main themes: genomics; digital medicine; and AI and robotics. Topol has convened expert panels in each area and has solicited evidence in these areas to inform a second report that will published in early 2019.

"While it’s hard to predict the future, we know artificial intelligence, digital medicine and genomics will have an enormous impact on improving efficiency and precision in healthcare," Topol says. "This review will focus on the extraordinary opportunities to leverage these technologies for the healthcare workforce and power a sustainable and vibrant NHS."

The NHS doesn't have a great track record in transferring the recommendations of reviews and white papers into actual practice, so whilst the aim of the Topol review is to be commended, time will tell how successfully it proves to be in driving change.

I am a free range human who believes that the future already exists, if we know where to look. From the bustling Knowledge Quarter in London, it is my mission in life to hunt down those things and bring them to a wider audience. I am an innovation consultant and writer, and...

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The Aesthetic Medical Experts’ Guide to Nurturing Prospective Patients

The Aesthetic Medical Experts’ Guide to Nurturing Prospective Patients | Social Media and Healthcare |

1. Recognize the Need for Speed

Our first expert, Karen Zupko, President of the medical practice management consulting firm Karen Zupko & Associates, Inc., points to The Short Life of Online Sales Leads published in the Harvard Business Review. This article covers research that audited more than 2,000 U.S. companies to measure how long each took to respond to a web-generated lead (see chart). They found that 37% responded with an hour and 16% within 1 to 24 hours. But 24% took more than 24 hours and 23% never responded at all!

The article states, “These results are especially shocking given how quickly online leads go cold—a phenomenon we explored in a separate study, which involved 1.25 million sales leads received by 29 B2C and 13 B2B companies in the United States. Firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead than those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.”

Eva Sheie, the Director of Professional Education at RealSelf, emphasizes the importance of responding quickly. A study done by her team at RealSelf found that the likelihood of successfully scheduling a consultation increases by 76% if you respond within 1 hour as opposed to the industry average response time of 2 days.

Here at Etna Interactive, we recommend that our clients strive to respond to all inquiries within 5 minutes during normal business hours.

2. Be Tenacious

The experts we consulted indicate that persistence is as important as speed.

Sandy Roos, a plastic surgery business consultant for Sientra, has data that showed an increase in the schedule rate when practices follow up with prospects 4 to 5 times within the first 7 days post-inquiry.

Catherine Maley, president of Cosmetic Image Marketing, recommends that you continue to stay in contact until they ask you not to. She reminds us that “people change, circumstances change, technologies change, so keep in touch forever since you never know how close they are to picking up that phone again to call you and book!”

Marie Olesen, Founder & Chief Patient Experience Officer of Vizium360, agrees with Maley. “Presume good intent. Understand that follow up is a process. It may take several attempts. If a prospect doesn’t respond immediately, keep trying. Don’t misinterpret no response as lack of interest. What seems like a whim may actually be the culmination of years of thought. Try again in a different mode, email, call, or text.”

Enrique Rangel, CEO of MyMedLeads, was able to review data from his clients’ 2.5 million leads and see that most of them are missing the mark on following up. Rangel found that “the most successful practice will attempt to call the lead 3.2 times, while 70% of those leads we analyzed were only called once.”

3. Create a Protocol

All of our experts stressed the importance of having a protocol in place. While it’s one thing to knowwhat to do, it’s another to actually do it.

Roos says “I suggest to all my practices to have a defined follow-up protocol in place regardless of if they have a phone number.  I have found many patients who inquire online are not quite ready to talk to someone (or they would have called themselves) so to answer via email as well.”

Think Quantity

So how many touchpoints are suggested? More than you think! Maley maps out a series of 15 to 27 points of contact via calls, emails, and texts. “The point is to turn it into protocol just like you do in surgery. This helps ensure it gets done no matter what your mood or how busy you get.”

Be a Standout

It’s important to have something interesting to say or provide when you’re contacting prospective patients. Olesen suggests using a series of diverse touchpoints that showcase your quality and differentiate your practice. That could be sharing ratings and reviews, patient stories, awards, etc. “Remember, it won’t take long before yours is the only practice following up.”

4. Personalize Your Outreach Efforts

Just because you have a protocol, doesn’t mean it has to be dry and impersonal. Tips include:

  • Always use the patient’s name in email communication.
  • Using an autoresponder? Make sure it works. Zupko recalls receiving an email addressed to: “Dear {Patient Name}”
  • Maley recommends providing strategic FAQs in follow up responses so that prospective patients feel you understand them.
  • Maley also recommends that you “End with a question to see if they will respond with an answer and start a dialogue with you.”

5. Give the People What They Want

Make the road to Patientsville as smooth and easy-to-navigate as possible.

Answer the Questions

This starts with just the basics like answering questions that are included in the initial inquiry. Zupko points out how frustrating it can be when a staff member’s email responses continue to direct people to the website instead of just taking the time to answer the question directly. To combat this, a staff member must read what the inquirer has written and respond appropriately instead of using scripted or canned answers.

“If they ask about recovery time, or say they are concerned about pain, or ask about the techniques the surgeon offers for breast augmentation, explain them. Not answering patients’ questions is a sure way to annoy them— and being annoying is not a winning marketing technique.”

“I don’t know” Is Better Than No Response

If you don’t know the answer to a question, say you’ll find the answer and get back to them, so they know you aren’t just ignoring their request. Zupko suggests scheduling a phone call to share the answer to their question which has two benefits. “This feels personal and not robotic. Plus, if the patient will engage by phone you have more opportunity to build the relationship.”

Ask for Permission to Follow Up

Many of us don’t want to feel like we’re pestering someone by following up when we aren’t getting a response. Sheie suggests a simple solution: “Rather than guessing how many times you should follow up, in every interaction get in the habit of asking for permission to reach back out before ending a conversation. It can be helpful to say something like: ‘I’d like to follow up with you in a week/a month/3 months, if that’s alright with you. What’s the best way for me to reach you?’”

Take the Time to Build Trust

Giving the people what they want may include things the patient doesn’t even know they want yet. Trust is being built long before a patient walks into your office. You need to deliver the information the prospective patient needs to feel comfortable and safe. Sheie says “This is a simple recipe of photos, reviews, and accurate price range information.”

Maley agrees, adding the following to Sheie’s recipe:

  • A good-looking website
  • Videos of you discussing procedures
  • Social media posts with lots of personality

6. Embrace Technology (But Use Caution)

It’s important to be open to the changes and trends of technology related to marketing as long as you make sure you use it correctly. A recent example of incorrect use of technology? Chat bots.

According to Zupko “Many patients appreciate the convenience of having a chat bot with a photo of your smiling staff pop up while they are exploring your website. But be careful of the bots that integrate with search and preference engines. Our experience with these is that the way they follow people days and weeks later can make potential patients feel stalked and harassed. It feels like a disconnect to have a chat bot ask about aesthetic procedures while you are searching for gourmet cookware.”

Social Media ≠ Facebook

While Facebook is one social media platform, it’s important to consider working others like Instagram and Snapchat into your marketing efforts. Roos points out that with a more diverse social media strategy you can target a wider range of patient demographics and see growth at a much higher rate than practices ignoring social media. “They also need a different protocol for patients coming from different social media platforms.”

Value Your Email Leads

Olesen warns that email leads need to be taken just as seriously as leads from any other source. These are perpetually connected consumers that are reaching out when the office is closed, while they’re in line at the store, or even in meetings. “While in the past, we might have thought email leads were less likely to schedule, that isn’t true today.”

7. Give Incentives to Book

Motivate patients to book a procedure/treatment or even to just reconnect. Tips include:

Maley suggests you “Give them an incentive to book surgery within a tight expiration date so those on the fence can stop procrastinating, put their fears aside, and just do it (just like hundreds of thousands of others like them do every year!)”

Roos’ advice: “Send a personal invite to a VIP event or new product release.”

And Rangel says to “Take advantage of open houses and invite patients to come and hear stories from other patients.”


You won’t win over every client and that’s okay, as long as you try to leave everyone who contacts you with a positive impression of your practice. Sheie reminds us that “Each and every interaction your practice has with the public is how you build your brand. That person may never come in to see you, but when they hang up the phone, they have the potential to tell 100 other people how kind you were—or how rude. “

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Social media scheme boosts breast cancer screening uptake 

Social media scheme boosts breast cancer screening uptake  | Social Media and Healthcare |

An NHS project using social media has driven a 13% increase in first time attendances for breast screening in Stoke-on-Trent over four years.

Under the local initiative, information about screening was posted on Facebook community groups, in a bid to reduce anxiety surrounding breast examinations.

NHS Digital said the move empowered women to make appointments and also allowed them to communicate quickly and easily with health practitioners to ask questions about the screening process.

The initiative is part of NHS Digital’s Widening Digital Participation Programme, commissioned by NHS England, which aims to make digital health services and information accessible to everyone.

Across England attendances for breast screening are declining and most recent figures, from 2016-17, show the proportion of eligible women taking up breast screening in dropped to its lowest level in a decade.

According to NHS Digital, in the last financial year 7,938 women in Stoke-on-Trent failed to attend a breast screening appointment, “meaning around 65 cases of potential breast cancer were not detected”.

Through the project, the North Midlands Breast Screening Service promoted their Facebook page on local community groups which their target group - women aged over 50 - regularly visited.

Posts to the Facebook site, which included information such as patients explaining the screening process and videos showing the rooms where it takes place, were designed to encourage women to share them and so spread the message about the importance of screening.

Data on attendances for first time appointments at the North Midlands Breast Screening Service has shown they increased by an average of 12.9% between three-year screening cycles from 2014 to 2018.

“This is a fantastic idea and the community aspect of the group is so powerful that we now have 1,138 followers,” commented Gina Newman, health improvement practitioner at the North Midlands Breast Screening Service.

“We have seen an increase in the number of ladies who have booked and attended their appointments, who might not have done otherwise”.

“The Stoke project is an example of how digital channels can be used to communicate with patients, providing local advice and answer key concern,” said Juliet Bauer, chief digital officer at NHS England.

“This work is part of the NHS’s wider commitment to digitally transform the way we work with all of our patients, improving the information we provide and empowering the public to take charge of their own health and care.”

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Diabetes patients want more information about research 

Diabetes patients want more information about research  | Social Media and Healthcare |
People affected with diabetes want information on research and innovation to be distributed through social media; not just information about what they should eat or how to inject insulin. (Photo: Shutterstock)

In cooperation with the Norwegian Diabetes Association, Elia Gabarron, a researcher at the Norwegian Centre for E-health Research, is conducting research on the use of social media for diabetes.

Research shows that the wellbeing of people affected with diabetes improves and that they greatly benefit from information about the disease on social media. Gabarron carried out a systematic review, which shows that people with diabetes might feel better after receiving support or relevant information about the disease on social media platforms.

She wanted to use this as a starting point for further research. In the new research project ‘Social Media for Health Promotion in Diabetes’ she looks at how the Norwegian Diabetes Association can use platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to distribute information to their members.

“We came up with the idea of using social media platforms to provide diabetes patients with the contents they would like to find, as my earlier research shows they greatly appreciate this,” says Gabarron.

To find out which type of content would be popular for them, the researcher asked the Norwegian Diabetes Association’s followers this question: What kind of health information you would like to find on social media platforms?

Thereafter, healthcare professionals were also asked: In your view, what kind of information on diabetes these users should receive?

The responses from both groups were entirely different.

Patients want to read about research and innovation

Gabarron discovered that the content the patients believed to be most important to them, was the same as the content the Norwegian Diabetes Association posts on its social media platforms.

But surprisingly, the users wanted to know more about research on diabetes.

“In their responses, they said they were very interested in receiving more information about research, which was quite surprising,” says Gabarron.

More than 300 people from all age groups and with different types of diabetes responded to that questionnaire.

Measuring the number of ‘likes’

Gabarron is now going to provide this content through the Norwegian Diabetes Association’ social media channels.

She will measure and analyse the number of likes and comments on this content, which the diabetes patients say they want, and the content that the healthcare professionals think are important. She will also measure how often it is shared.

The objective is to determine whether the users actually like the requested content on research and innovation or whether they are just saying they do, but in fact find it boring.

In cooperation with the Norwegian Diabetes Association, Elia Gabarron, a researcher at the Norwegian Centre for E-health Research, is conducting research on the use of social media for diabetes. (Photo: Norwegian Centre for E-health Research)

In addition, the Norwegian Diabetes Association’s Facebook followers will receive a questionnaire every six months to give the researchers more clues.

“We want to find out if the requested content is more meaningful to them than the content on social media platforms they find less relevant.”

Healthcare professionals are skeptical

Gabarron found that healthcare personnel viewed research information on social media platforms as less significant.

“They believed that self-management was primarily the most important, and would reach the patients,” she points out.

The project will end in 2020 and Gabarron is excited about the results.

“We expect the results to show that support and relevant information for the patient groups on social media platforms could improve their wellbeing,” says the researcher.

Social media can help lower glucose levels

Other research in the field has shown that diabetes patients feel better after receiving support and relevant information on social media. It can even help lower glucose levels. In 16 of the 20 research publications on diabetes and social media that it was measured the glucose levels of users prior to and after being on Facebook, Twitter or other social media, 13 reported lower glucose levels.

“Based on this, it seems that social media really might help the patients,” says Gabarron, who has published a summary of this research in her article "Rapid Social Media Use in Interventions for Diabetes: Rapid Evidence-Based Review."

Most of the studies that show that social media helps glucose levels, were conducted with young people affected with Diabetes Type I. Gabarron believes the studies demonstrate that the users are there and want information. Yet, are healthcare personnel ready to distribute it this way?

“They are probably more traditional and sceptical. In my view, they should be more open, even though many are already very positive. It’s a nice way to reach out to patients,” she says.

More research should be done
Facebook groups are very common in Norway, and the Norwegian Diabetes Association’s social media platforms have more than 40,000 members.

“This is a perfect way to distribute relevant information and it is incredibly exciting that the research results show lower glucose levels in some diabetes patient groups. Why not conduct more research on this?

She believes that the practice could easily be transferred to other patient groups, for example, adolescents to spread information about STDs or to reach the chronically ill.

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Social media: A health risk! - The Patriot on Sunday

Social media: A health risk! - The Patriot on Sunday | Social Media and Healthcare |

Patients currently control all aspects of their interactions with the medical profession as they dictate the way they want to be assisted health wise without paying attention to the special advice of a trained medical professional. This is mostly influenced by the Social Media through the abundant access of The Internet.

South African-based Scientist, Director and Founder of The Noakes Foundation Professor Tim Noakes said this when giving a keynote address under the topic “The pending revolution in Medicine: How social media, the internet and the nutrition revolution have irrevocably changed patient ‘perceptions of what constitutes medical care’’ in Gaborone this week.

The lecture focused on how the nutritional feeding means has changed and its outcomes and how social media shapes perceptions of the patients towards medical treatment as well as the trend in which it influences individuals’ way of living.

Prof Noakes charged that the Social Media era has brought up different perceptions and approach on how people diet, receive treatment and cure based on what they read and see from the new media, hence this leads to a number of serious trending diseases such as sugar diabetes, extreme obesity and cancer.

He said it is very important for individuals to change how they consume social media health tips as this sometimes put their health at risk since most of them are not valid.

“New media has typically brought a revolution by the patients on how they respond to medical needs and this also comes with continuous health posing threats and changed nutrition landscape of the patients, because they end up taking a diet that is not in line with the kind of a disease one should treat. However, the new media also comes with some positivity in availing information about how patients can live positive and healthy as well,” he said.

Professor Noakes indicated that the changing habit in nutrition and diet across the world is a cause for concern because a lot of diseases come as a result of the evolution. Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity are cited as the outcomes of the change in nutrition and diet.

He said it is high time there is reduction in consuming more starchy carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, rice and sugar and meat as well, saying vegetables and fruits should be the most consumed form of diet because of their rich nature of maintaining a healthy lifestyle as they resist most of diseases to attack the body.

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Effectively Improving Patient Engagement

Effectively Improving Patient Engagement | Social Media and Healthcare |

Healthcare technology has been dominated by electronic health records (EHR) and everything that comes with them throughout the last decade.  The premise of EHRs is to have integrated real-time information that can easily be shared throughout a health system. It was realized early on that, if clinicians can share information with each other, making their jobs more efficient and improving patient care, couldn’t sharing information with patients also improve the quality of care?  And just like that, the need for improving patient engagement was born.

Patients in the information age have an important role to play in their own healthcare experience. However, their input relies squarely on how informed they are and the quality of the information they are receiving.  Can your patients understand the information being shared?  Is the information accurate and easily digestible so that patients can use it to make informed decisions about their care?  Do they have the technical means to engage with their physicians?

The logical place to start thinking about patient engagement is with patients, right?  Actually, healthcare organizations have to examine their internal processes first before attempting to engage with patients.  Sure, there are reasons to get every patient signed up for myChart as quickly as possible, but for the purpose of patient satisfaction and quality care, internal education is more important than jumping the gun with mobile application downloads.

Think of patient engagement as a lifecycle that begins with their first need to visit a healthcare facility.  Why should they choose yours? What do they know about you? What information is available to them and in what mediums?  The people they come in contact with at your facility stand as the primary communicators at this stage and that includes everyone from scheduling, security, and reception, to technicians, clinicians, nurses and doctors involved in their care. Everyone must be informed.

The more knowledgeable your people are about your organization and its offerings, including patient engagement tools, the more comfortable they will be talking to patients and visitors about them.  Equally as important is that the quality of the data presented to patients builds trust both internally and externally. Make sure your people have the tools and information they need to engage patients.

There are numerous ways to engage patients these days and capabilities vary wildly from organization to organization. These can include mobile applications, email, texting, wearable technology, biometrics, and patient portals, among others.  The public drives the market here and you have to go where patients are and use the tools they use.

Currently, email, social media, and text messaging are the primary forms of personal communication.  Mobile push notifications and text messages work best for quick messages while email and social media provide access to patients where additional information can be linked.  Text messages can be used to remind patients about their medications or upcoming appointments as well.

Encourage patients to engage with you as well.  One of the best features of patient portals is the ability for patients to reach out to their physicians directly and ask questions about their treatment.  This feature should not be overlooked as it gives the patient some control in the engagement process and this ongoing conversation between patients and their care team is the ultimate goal of improving patient engagement.

Mobile optimization is a must.  Most people use their phones to send, receive, process and store information. Ensuring that your organization’s website is optimized for mobile capabilities is essential,  as is proving engagement tools on mobile devices, i.e. mobile applications and patient portals.

Some of the most common interactions patients have with their doctor or healthcare practice once they leave the office are appointment scheduling, prescription refills, and bill payments.  A win for patients and clinicians is to provide those capabilities via desktop and mobile applications.  Automating these processes builds trust and appreciation from patients as their time is valuable too.

But it shouldn’t just be patients initiating interaction. Social media provides communication opportunities with patients as well as the general public.  It’s an opportunity to display your organization’s thought leadership, but also show that you’re modern and progressive enough to engage in two-way communication.  Social media, when done properly, allows you to communicate and have conversations with patients, the public, partners, other businesses, etc.  The possibilities are endless.

There are a number of vendors in the marketplace who are working to assist hospital systems with this issue.  Their collective goal is to provide patient’s with information while allowing providers to devote more attention to patient care, resulting in a better experience for everyone.  Patients have the information they need to actively participate in their care and the decisions that must be made, nurses are freed to focus and engage with patients – which is what they do best – and physicians are empowered to reduce costs from an improved workflow, outcomes, and patient satisfaction.  It’s a cycle that all begins with proactive sharing of information and a focus on patient’s needs and engagement.

Even tech giants like Apple are getting into the game as user experience is what they’ve hung their hat on for years. If a user is a patient at a participating hospital, the new features in Apple’s Health app will collect all existing patient-generated data, from over 40 participating health systems and 300 participating hospitals, and display it in a user’s Health app. Apple’s goal is to bring a patient’s medical information right to their iPhone. Given the slow pace of technology adoption in healthcare, the willingness of these institutions to work with Apple is immense.

Improving patient engagement is not only good for the business’s bottom line, it is also good for the patient.  Healthcare is a very real and personal thing and the more information we share, the more personal it becomes.  The more we engage, the more we’re able to partner with our patients to provide the highest quality care for them.  Improving patient engagement strengthens bonds within the community and ensures patient loyalty at a time when patients are starting to shop for healthcare.

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Twitter for healthcare professionals: what you should know

Twitter for healthcare professionals: what you should know | Social Media and Healthcare |

Twitter can be an extremely valuable tool for healthcare professionals who want to use social media in a professional capacity. Get some tips and tricks here.

Twitter can seem daunting to first-time users, but it is actually a simple tool that allows you to stay up to date about research and hot topics in your field of medical expertise. It is possible to use your Twitter account only to listen, and to start participating only when you feel truly comfortable with doing so. The character limit has been increased to 280 characters, which means that it is easier to create a tweet.


What is a hashtag?

A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign (#) and is used to identify messages on a specific topic. Hashtags are very useful to allow you to follow conversation threads around specific topics, for example a disease type. All medical conferences now also use hashtags to engage Twitter users to tweet about what they have learnt and about their congress experience in general.

Which hashtags are of interest to healthcare professionals?

Symlur, a healthcare social media analytics provider, have created a Cardiology Ontology which provides a list of hashtags used around the world to communicate on different topics: view Symplur’s Cardiology Ontology

Hashtags of particular interest to interventional cardiologists are amongst others:

  • #STEMI ST elevation MI
  • #NSTEMI Non-ST elevation MI
  • #cvVHD Valvular Heart Disease
  • #RadialFirstRadial
  • #Stroke Stroke
  • #TAVI Transcutaneous Aortic Valve Implantation
  • #TAVR Transcutaneous Aortic Valve Replacement
  • #Heartfailure Heart failure
  • #CardioOnc Cardio-oncology
  • #cvACS Acute Coronary Syndrome
  • #cvCABG Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting
  • #cvCHF Congestive Heart Failure
  • #AFib Atrial Fibrillation
  • #LVAD Left Ventricular Assist Device
  • #MitraClip MitraClip

Other hashtags often used by Cardiologists are: #CardioTwitter, #CardioEd, #Twitterati

The anatomy of a tweet

A typical tweet can contain several elements. It can be a simple phrase, but to increase engagement, it's a good idea to include a hashtag, a link, an image and a mention. To find someone's Twitter handle, search for the person's or organisation's name on the web, and add Twitter to the search phrase, for example: "PCRonline Twitter".

1. #hashtags

2. @people

3. @society

4. Image

Practical tips for Increasing visibility on Twitter :

  • Asking people to retweet (RT)
  • Tweets with images get twice as many retweets as those without
  • 18% more engagement for accounts that respond than those that don’t
  • Shorter tweets get more engagement than longer ones
  • Links receive more retweets than tweets without links
  • Use hashtags to increase engagement
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What Physicians Should Know about Posting on Social Media

What Physicians Should Know about Posting on Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Should otolaryngologists use social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram to expand their professional network, engage with patients, or promote their published research? Four physicians at a panel discussion at the American Academy of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery (AAO–HNS) Annual Meeting in Atlanta on October 6, 2018, “#ENTSurgery: How Otolaryngologists Can Leverage Social Media to Promote Public Health, Disseminate Science and Build Their Professional Network,” said yes.

They offered their tips and potential pitfalls for social media use to fellow surgeons, who are increasingly online-curious. According to a 2018 study, social media was the preferred networking and communication tool for 22% of surveyed surgeons, and 70% of surgeons find social media useful for networking purposes, said moderator Alexander Langerman, MD, SM, a head and neck surgeon at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville (J Surg Educ. 2018;75:804–810).

Facebook and Twitter are the most popular platforms for surgeons, said Dr. Langerman, who noted that this session’s panel was arranged over Twitter—in just 24 hours. “All major healthcare professional conferences, organizations, and government and health policy agencies now have a social media presence. It is de rigueur,” said Dr. Langerman. “You can do a lot as a surgeon on Twitter. It is a great way to put yourself out there and get feedback.”

Curate Academic Information

Social media can seem crowded and noisy to a busy physician. Focus on curating academic information to enhance collaboration and stay up to date on surgical research, said Jennifer A. Villwock, MD, a rhinology and skull base surgeon at the University of Kansas Medical Center (@docwock). She also manages the Women in Rhinology account (@Women_Rhinology).

Consider how different readers may view your posts. “As you’re putting content onto the Internet, people don’t know your background, or what was happening with that patient or that research. It’s easy to post something that you think is benign and helpful, but it could be interpreted in different ways,” she said.

Professionals who read your tweets about your research may offer “pseudo-peer review,” said Dr. Villwock. “On Twitter, the peer review process is simplified. There’s a tweet, and then the ‘peer review’ is either retweeting, liking, or nothing. It offers a nice opportunity for potentially high-impact studies that may take a while to gain traction and gain a broader readership,” she added.

Curate information online by searching for hashtags related to research on specific topics, she said. One example: #UTI led her to tweets on post-surgical urinary tract infection management studies. “Social media is a great opportunity for that cross-pollination—how can we apply what’s being done in other fields to our field?”

Visual Abstracts

One rising social media-driven innovation is the visual abstract, or a single-slide, graphic summary of a study’s main findings, said Andrew M. Ibrahim, MD, MSc, resident surgeon at the University of Michigan (@AndrewMIbrahim). He quickly shared four visual abstracts with the audience on a glioblastoma therapy trial, a children’s sleep study, a commentary on patient-centered hospital design, and a survey on barriers to developing surgical scientists.

“You are not an expert in any of those topics, but in just one minute, I gave you the movie trailer version of each study,” said Dr. Ibrahim, who also published a study on visual abstracts’ utility for disseminating research for a broader audience (Ann Surg. 2017;266:e46-e48). Visual abstracts are found on the Twitter feeds of major academic journals, and they may be linked to soon (see Figure 1, left).

Dr. Ibrahim, who previously trained in architecture and design, is on the editorial board of Annals of Surgery. In 2016, he launched the visual abstract concept after he was “totally geeked out” by the journal’s paper on London trauma centers. He designed a bold, illustrated yellow slide encapsulating the study’s data. In one week, the visual abstract had 35,000 Twitter impressions, a 17-fold increase from a regular tweet about the same study. Readership of the full article tripled, so the journal staff created 100 more visual abstracts of its published studies in 2017.

More than 75 academic journals now use visual abstracts, along with national health agencies. Search for #VisualAbstract on Twitter to view examples, or go to for a free, online, open-sourced primer of visual abstracts and a template for creating your own.

Online Professionalism

Use the same professional judgment on social media that you use offline, said Heather Logghe, MD, surgical research fellow at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia (@LoggheMD) and the co-author of a paper on best practices for surgeons using social media (J Am Coll Surg. 2018;226:317–327).

“Know the rules of your institution” for social media use, including whether yours requires your bio to state that your opinions online are your own, she said. Use the elevator test, she said. “If you wouldn’t be comfortable sharing a tweet or a photo in a crowded hospital elevator, it definitely does not belong online.”

Go beyond HIPAA to safeguard patient confidentiality on social media, she said. Patients or their families may recognize that your tweet refers to their particular case even if you don’t reveal their names.

Even when you discuss controversial topics on social media, try to stay positive, said Dr. Logghe.

“One strategy I follow when tweeting about difficult topics is to avoid putting my own judgment on it,” she said. State the facts, but don’t personally attack people or institutions online. “I encourage you to not stray from the difficult topics. Just because something is controversial doesn’t mean you should avoid it.” Run your tweet’s wording by trusted colleagues before you post it, she suggested.

“Also: Don’t feed the trolls. Trolls are those people who tend to be negative, want to detract from your message, or have their own agenda,” she said. Reply once to negative responses to clarify your message or ask them to clarify their comment. If the person continues to argue with you, gracefully allow them to have the last word.

“Know that you can delete your tweets later. Think twice, post once,” she said. “If you’re thinking about deleting or that it wasn’t a good idea to tweet something, delete it. You can always repost it after you’ve thought it through.”

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Massachusetts Medical Society: The Why, How, Pros, and Cons of Online Physician Communities

Massachusetts Medical Society: The Why, How, Pros, and Cons of Online Physician Communities | Social Media and Healthcare |

The tools of the modern doctor’s kit: white coat, stethoscope, and Twitter. And if not Twitter, then Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, or other online forums. Industry estimates suggest more than 90 percent of physicians in the US are actively using at least one social media platform to interact with colleagues as well as patients.

These electronic forums — and the tools that physicians use to access them — serve the same purposes as traditional medical communities. They have become integral to advancing medical education, as well as facilitating cultural evolution within the profession, says Kathryn Hughes, MD, an acute care surgeon at Falmouth Hospital.

“The reach [of online forums] in the medical community is broad, global, and across the entire arc of the medical experience, from student, to resident, to attendings, to thought leaders and industry leaders,” says Dr. Hughes. “It encompasses the entire spectrum of the hospital experience as well as colleges and universities and medical programs.”

General interest physician-only communities, such as Doximity and Sermo, are one manifestation of physicians’ online networking; Doximity estimates that 70 percent of US physicians have used the platform at least once. These forums are complemented by social media initiatives that bring physicians together, often in special interest communities. Facebook’s Physician Moms Group, for example, has become a dynamic forum for women physicians. “These are very fluid and nimble communities that can lay the groundwork for the next community to be created. Significant and real collaboration grows out of them, and they are a powerful way to form connections,” says Dr. Hughes. She and other physicians spoke to Vital Signs about the value of Twitter.

Enduring Goals, Changing Means

More than a century ago, surgeons came together in person to collaborate, support each other, set standards for the profession, and bond over shared experiences, says Dr. Hughes. “Flash-forward to a new millennium. Problems, benefits, and all of the good and all of the bad are bigger in this new electronic format, but they aren’t different.”

In 2015, the American Association of Medical Society Executives noted, “[T]he mechanisms and ways that [medical] communities come together have changed a great deal. New technologies allow physician communities to be built online as in-person networking opportunities are harder to fit into members’ schedules.” In addition, young physicians are technologically savvy and would likely be active on social media platforms regardless of their career choices.

Some physicians find that online interaction can substitute for, or at least complement, face-to-face connections. Michael S. Sinha, MD, JD, MPH, says, “It’s nice to reconnect with the online colleagues you’ve made on a periodic basis. You often feel like you get to know people, even if you’ve never met in real life.”

Moving Medical Culture Forward

The influence of such networks has grown rapidly. Social media helps explore the ways that issues of broad topical currency play out in the practice of medicine. With women accounting for more than half of incoming US medical students in 2017, for example, online physician communities are dynamic forums for discussing diversity and inclusion.

“Virtual discussions have led to an increase in awareness of issues related to gender parity in medicine,” wrote Julie K. Silver, MD, associate professor and associate chair in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School, and co-author of a June 2018 article in the New England Journal of Medicine on the role of social media in advancing women physicians’ careers. “Social media may play a role in supporting these female students, just as it has begun to support women physicians of all career stages, helping them overcome traditional barriers to professional development.”

Dr. Hughes, chair of the MMS Committee on Women’s Health, was a pioneer of the hashtag #Ilooklikeasurgeon, which first appeared in 2015 in an effort to highlight women’s contributions to the heavily male-dominated field of surgery. The hashtag went viral. (The theme was immortalized in popular culture by an April 2017 New Yorker covershowing four masked female faces gazing down at a patient in an operating theatre.)

Facilitating Patient Care

Online networks can facilitate clinical learning. The use of hashtags on some social media platforms enables users to find relevant content and conversations. Dr. Sinha, a research fellow at Harvard Medical School, routinely engages in several e-communities on Twitter, including #WomenInMedicine, #HMIChat (transforming health care delivery and medical education), #PWChat (physician well-being), #JHMChat (care for hospitalized patients), and #MedEd (medical education).

Matthew Katz, MD, a Lowell radiation oncologist, turned to Twitter more than four years ago as a means to keep current efficiently with cutting-edge academic research. Dr. Katz initiated a monthly journal discussion for tweeting oncologists, engaging article authors and introducing them and their research to the e-community. He facilitates chats that often attract 50–100 colleagues, researchers, and patients interested in treatment developments related to breast, lung, and brain tumors. Dr. Katz, who is also a regular user of Doximity, is a past chair of the MMS Committee on Communication, which is developing an updated guide to social media for physicians (available imminently on

Patient-Physician Learning

Online learning communities can include patients, says Dr. Sinha. “When patients join the chats, especially topical chats centered around specific diseases like #lcsm (lung cancer), #obsm (obesity), or #bcsm (breast cancer), those perspectives and contributions are tremendously insightful and important for physicians.”

This multidimensionality of online communities is a major benefit to medicine, he says. “Increasingly, it’ll be a way for physicians and patients to engage with one another, to educate one another, and to establish meaningful relationships. It’s certainly not an appropriate venue for establishing a patient-physician relationship, but if used correctly, e-communities like Twitter can allow physicians to walk in patients’ shoes, and vice versa. That’s critically important in health care today,” said Dr. Sinha.

Challenges and Pitfalls

Online forums are not without hazards. Social media can be a time sink; it is important to be conscious of the return on investment. “You have to do it in a way that adds to your clinical practice of medicine,” says Dr. Katz. In addition, any mistakes made in such forums are public.

Protecting Patient Privacy

Participating physicians have the added responsibility of constant vigilance about patient privacy laws. Many physicians who are active on Twitter make a point not to reply to posts soliciting medical or legal advice, and place such disclaimers on their profiles, says Dr. Sinha. “Above all, it’s important for physicians to avoid disclosing identifiable information about patients — and not just because HIPAA says we should. It’s more about respect for patient dignity and personal privacy.”

Online medical communities are working on these challenges. “Social media are potentially very powerful tools for communication, and I am hopeful we’ll figure out through better research a way to use them both ethically and effectively, but I don’t think we are there yet,” Dr. Katz says.

That said, there’s no going back. “We’ve barely scratched the surface of the potential for how social media can be used to bring us together to disseminate information and improve clinical practice,” says Dr. Hughes. “We are in the early stages of seeing where this can take us. I’m an optimist.”

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Traditional Digital Advertising Rules Don’t Apply To Patient Recruitment

Traditional Digital Advertising Rules Don’t Apply To Patient Recruitment | Social Media and Healthcare |

Syneos Health has released the results of a study conducted to gather real-world patient insights into the effectiveness of digital advertising to assist with clinical trial recruitment. The study was conducted online and involved 432 patients in the U.S. with epilepsy and migraine, two conditions with active late-phase pipelines. The patients were about equally split between male and female, with 91 percent being white. All were in the U.S.

Social media has taken an increasingly important role in patient recruitment. A research report from Consumer Health Online found 75 percent of Americans are now looking up medical-related information online at least monthly. From the sponsor company perspective, social media offers more granular targeting capabilities, efficient pricing for ad delivery, and increased variability in creative execution than traditional forms of marketing. The Tufts Center has found only 11 percent of clinical trials currently use social media to recruit patients, leaving a lot of room for growth.

With those statistics as a background, the study was conducted to help digital marketers better understand patient perceptions surrounding online clinical trial advertising. It evaluated patient trust levels with specific online channels and platforms as well as what factors contributed to content success.

Patient recruitment for trials has always been difficult. With personalized therapies and precision medicine treatments now making their way into clinical trials, finding the right patients will become even more challenging. As a result, social media advertising will play an increasingly important role in trial recruitment.

Patients Remember Ads

The study, titled Content That Clicks: Effective Social Marketing for Clinical Trial Recruitment, notes four key findings.

First, the recall rate of clinical trial ads is high. In other words, patients who see these ads will later recall having seen them. This is certainly different than most traditional advertising efforts. Sixty-six percent of epilepsy patient respondents and a whopping 79 percent of migraine respondents recalled seeing clinical trial advertising.

When asked where they recall seeing the ads, most respondents cited television ads, followed by Facebook, and their doctor’s office. Other sources garnering over 20 percent of responses by either epilepsy or migraine patients were online patient communities, search engines, newspapers, and radio. LinkedIn was cited by just 8 percent of epilepsy patients and 0.6 percent of migraine patients. Respondents were also asked what social media platforms they use regularly to read or post content. YouTube was number one, followed by Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Clinical trials expose patients to new and unfamiliar treatments. That makes patient trust in sponsors and investigators essential. Advertising decisions should, therefore, be made in a way that maximizes that trust.

The study found that high trial intenders have a significant trust of social media. High trial intenders are defined as individuals who indicated a high intent to enroll in a clinical trial. These individuals showed high levels of trust in every digital information source outlined in the study, including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. In terms of the level of trust placed in these sources, most social media channels were clustered closely together. YouTube was the most trusted channel. In fact, trust in YouTube amongst those with high intent to enroll in a trial was 19 percent higher than those with low intent.

Patients Trust Their Doctors

We know that patients have a high level of trust in their physicians, and those professionals were cited as the most trustworthy source of information. In terms of trustworthiness, physicians were followed by patient advocacy groups and medical/health websites.

A third finding notes that the trust level in healthcare professionals also translates into creative imagery. In the study, patients were shown two ads. One ad featured a doctor in a lab coat. The other featured a woman in obvious discomfort. The creative imagery that featured the physician outperformed the other image by nearly 10 percent.

Unfortunately, patients in the survey did not place a lot of trust in pharma companies. Pharma ranked last amongst the survey options, trailing behind sources such as other patients, family members, and friends.

Deliver The Right Emotional Message

Pharma is focused on the promise that their medicines offer patients. Therefore, an ad for a migraine treatment might tend to picture a patient who looks healthy and happy. That aspirational tone might look good in ads but can miss the target by not being relatable to patients. The study found people living with migraines were more likely to click on an image of a person who appeared to be experiencing a headache or other type of pain. The study also found illustrations outperformed stock photography, possibly because photography requires the user to identify with the real person in the photo. If you don’t relate to the person, it can negatively impact the advertising.

Finally, standard social rules may not apply when attempting to recruit patients. On social media, shorter content is typically viewed as the gold standard. However, this study found that with clinical trial social ads, longer content performed better. Eighty-one percent of responders who indicated their condition has a high negative impact on their quality of life preferred an ad with longer and more detailed copy. 

One additional piece of information in the survey is worth discussing. Participation rates in clinical trials are low, and the reasons for not participating are numerous. Respondents were asked what might keep them from opting to participate in a clinical trial. Transportation issues ranked number one, followed by the lack of payment for the time invested. Both issues could be reduced or eliminated with some amount of investment by pharma. Coming in third was concern over receiving a placebo, followed by lack of time and concerns over privacy.

The worlds of patient recruitment and social marketing will continue to become more intertwined. That will make it essential for sponsors and agencies to invest the time necessary to deeply understand the needs of their target audience. As the report notes, targeting the right audience with the right message on the right channels can make a meaningful difference in patient recruitment.

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6 steps for increasing patient enrollment in clinical trials

6 steps for increasing patient enrollment in clinical trials | Social Media and Healthcare |

Clinical trials are the engine that feeds innovation for the biopharmaceutical industry. At any given time, 6,000 clinical trials are enrolling participants across the globe — patients with cancers, serious conditions, or one of 7,000 rare diseases. Not surprisingly, enrolling trial participants has become a core competency, required of biopharma companies to complete clinical studies and move on to regulatory filing and approvals.

And still patient enrollment is often cited by companies as one of the most significant barriers to conducting clinical trials.

Failure to enroll sufficient numbers of patients can result in costly delays or even cancellation of the entire trial. In fact, roughly 80% of clinical trials fail to meet enrollment timelines and approximately one-third of Phase III study terminations are due to enrollment difficulties. In addition, 15% to 20% of sites never enroll a single patient.

Here’s the basic truth: Without patients, there’s no trial. That’s why the obstacles and inefficiencies that plague clinical trial enrollment must be reduced via an infusion of technology and a big dose of patient-centricity.

For anyone with an entrepreneurial mind and a high tolerance for risk, clinical trial enrollment presents a perfect opportunity. Here are the steps the industry needs to take.

Widen the enrollment funnel.

The enrollment process best resembles a funnel. It is initially wide, but narrows considerably as inclusion and exclusion criteria are applied and as patient location, availability, and willingness to participate come into play. Interested parties must seek out opportunities to use technology to minimize each potential disruption so that more patients are included at the mouth of the funnel and fewer are eliminated due to logistical reasons.

Understand key stakeholders.

When it comes to clinical trial enrollment, patients want to find out about research opportunities as soon as possible, and they want the ability to sign up or prescreen, ideally online, for clinical studies. They want fewer phone calls, no voicemails, and more control over scheduling and rescheduling screening visits. They want to be able to summon transportation without red tape and access their medical records quickly and easily.

How about clinical trial sites? They want more eligible patients to manifest at a steady rate, a system to organize and track these patients, and support from the sponsor to arrange for transportation or in-home testing.

And the biopharmaceutical sponsors of the research? They want steady progress toward complete enrollment, accelerated enrollment, and to know — in real time — the study’s enrollment status.

Together, these three stakeholder groups can help design the future of clinical trials, a future when clinical trials are efficiently enrolling all over the world. And technology, within and outside pharma, is already helping the industry move in that direction.

Harness digital targeted advertising.

Patients often share that they may not ever find out about a clinical trial. If their doctor is not participating in the study, they say, then why would he or she let patients know about the clinical trial? And how long will it take to inform them?

In the future, every clinical trial will be advertised on mass channels such as Facebook, with targeting so sophisticated any likely participant will be offered the opportunity to participate. But trial enrollers are currently falling short: A mere 11% of organizations currently recruit patients through social media.

Conduct online prescreening.

In the future, it will not be enough to simply inform patients about a clinical trial. Instead, we must provide them an actionable way to prescreen, sign up, and opt-in to be contacted.

While provides a comprehensive listing of trials, it suffers from two key problems.

One, the study descriptions are not easily understood by the average patient. And two, there is no actionable way to prescreen. At some point, each study should have an online prescreening mechanism that allows patients to find out if they are eligible and, if so, continue the enrollment process.

Consolidate and transfer medical records.

Once we’ve gotten the patient to a screening visit, the next major hurdle is the consolidation and transfer of medical records — two activities that do not occur with any degree of predictability or efficiency today.

For patients with complex or severe conditions, the process may take weeks or months, and oftentimes becomes the responsibility of an already overtaxed caregiver. In the future, we must develop a central, secure repository of medical records that can be accessed by patient or caregiver for easy transfer and use by the clinical trial site.

Facilitate in-home testing.

Just as they summon Lyft and Uber drivers with their phones, what if clinical trial participants could summon nurses to help complete diagnostics and forms required during the screening or later visits?

Patients are often overburdened by the number of study visits and the slew of blood tests and other diagnostics required. Bringing the ones that don’t require a clinical environment right to the patient’s living room would significantly increase enrollment.

The in-home tests could be conducted using an app, a wearable, or a diagnostic device specifically designed for the task at hand. But it won’t happen until regulators get on board with the process, expediting the review of these tracking systems and enabling implementation.

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Top 10 U.S. Social Media Influencers in Healthcare

Using our extensive media database, we compiled a list of the top 10 United States social media influencers in the Healthcare space. See how our solutio
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How To Grow A Business Using Social Media

How To Grow A Business Using Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

When I first graduated from dental school, I chose to work in several well-established dental practices. Each day as I walked into work, all I could see was opportunity — to one day have my own business, to refine my skills, to use those refined skills to help people from all over the world. About a year and a half after school, I became a partner in what I thought was a very well-established office. Little did I know what a turn the business would take. Shortly after the buy-in, the other partner that was in the office stopped practicing dentistry and I was left without any patients and a staff that expected to be paid. Most of the patients became angry and left, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it.

At that point, I didn’t have money for marketing, so I turned to social media. I saw it as a way to market myself for free. I figured since everyone was on it, I may as well start showcasing my work. And I’m so glad that I did. Today, my practice looks much different than before. Today I have people traveling from all over the world for me to redesign their smiles. I have plenty of new patients in my office each month. And today, I have built the freedom in my business — and my life — that I had always dreamed of. And it's all because of social media.

In a world where the internet has taken over, it’s silly to think that a new business would choose to not use social media as a marketing strategy. My first step was to start using Facebook and Instagram to connect with people individually about my business. I started sharing my passion with the world. Social media is all about the one-on-one connections and recognizing that early on can be a game changer. If you’re on social media, you need to be social. And that is exactly what I started doing — being social. So, how do you grow a social media page that brings in new business? It comes down to four simple steps.


1. Pick Your Niche

When you niche down, it will be easier for you to grow. Why? Because people are looking for specificity. One mistake I constantly see is trying to have a very broad audience so that as many people as possible notice you. In my experience, that's the wrong approach. If you’re trying to establish yourself as a dog-training expert, then you will be marketing yourself to dog lovers and dog owners. You should be creating content about training dogs: what type of collar to use, what kind of leash to use, what hand signals to use, what age to start training your dog. If you instead created all kinds of content, such as posts about refurbishing furniture, you’re never going to gain a true following. Pick a niche and then create your social media content around that niche.

2. Edit Your Bio

Your bio is the first thing people see when they land on your page. Use it to make clear who you are, what you do, where people can find you and how they can reach you."


3. Nail Down Your Ideal Audience

You aren’t going to be able to attract everyone, and you shouldn’t want to. It may feel effective in the beginning, but it’s hard to sustain long-term growth with this method. Why? Because when you’re talking to everyone, you’re actually talking to no one. When you are talking to a specific person, they will be drawn to you because it feels like your content was created for them and their needs.

Let’s say you’re a bride and you’re looking for a wedding photographer. You land on a page that has pretty photos, but they're lifestyle images. You're probably going to keep scrolling. But, let's say you land on a page filled with beautiful wedding photos. You will feel like this page was made for you, and you will likely start to be interested in the content they have created.

4. Be Consistent

Your following on social media grows when you are consistent. In order to get people to follow you and engage with you, and in order for you to have opportunities from the platforms, you need to be consistent. You can't expect to post 10 photos one day, then disappear for two weeks and still see growth. Remember, you're building one-on-one connections. So if you aren't consistently showing up, people won't engage with you. They won't want to see what you are doing next. If you want a platform that grows, you need to show up every single day, no matter what.

Now that you have your four steps, it’s time to put them into action. And remember, social media is about long-term growth. It’s not a get-rich-quick strategy, so stick with it and stay consistent.


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Social media for medical journals operates in 'wild west,' needs more support to succeed

Social media for medical journals operates in 'wild west,' needs more support to succeed | Social Media and Healthcare |

Much of the published medical research goes unread by the general public and medical community, despite being largely funded by the federal government and private foundations. To reach more people, medical journals have begun using social media to promote new research.

A new Northwestern Medicine study has found social media editors lack established best practices and support from their journals and home institutions, making it difficult for them to successfully promote new research.

In general, the median citation rate for journal articles -- when one paper refers to another paper -- is zero, meaning a lot of new research isn't being read even in the medical community. If utilized correctly, social media could help journals increase awareness of new research, according to the study. But first, social media editors need more resources and support.

"American tax dollars are paying for research the public never hears about," said senior author Dr. Seth Trueger, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a practicing physician at Northwestern Medicine. "I'm optimistic we can get the word out through social media, but we first need to explore and develop tried-and-true methods to distribute this information to the public."

Study authors urge medical journals to define social media editor roles and responsibilities more clearly and provide more resources to social media editors.

The study was published this week in the journal Academic Medicine. It is the first study to examine this specific role of social media editor at medical journals.

Journals may be able to help social media editors to more effectively get the word out and determine which strategies are most effective, study authors said. Doing so will help journals and social media editors better focus their limited resources.

"Many journals have been building social media editor positions, which is great, but as a relatively new niche, our study found journals didn't really know what these people should be doing," Trueger said. "They would tell new editors to 'take this job and do what you can with it.' It's the wild west."

The study also found: (1) monetary support for these roles is lacking; (2) journals use different metrics to measure engagement and success; and (3) there is no consistency in editor responsibilities among journals.

In addition to his role at Northwestern, Trueger previously was the social media editor for the Annals of Emergency Medicine. He is now the digital media editor at JAMA Network Open and said his goal is to "get eyeballs on the science."

Something Trueger has learned in these positions is how impactful social media can be for medical research, if done properly.

"If you have a paper on a Medicare program, you don't just have physicians looking at that research; there are health economists, patient groups and the general public who have an interest in it," Trueger said. "If we can determine which strategies work for online dissemination, a social media editor's success rate for sharing new information to a wide audience can skyrocket."

Medical schools and universities should better incorporate social media engagement with more tangible support, such as academic credit toward promotion and tenure, according to the study.

Given the overall lack of tangible support reported by social media editors in the study, medical journals should consider providing non-physician staff to help manage social media accounts to support editors in their positions, the study suggested.

Twenty-four social media editors from 19 medical journals participated in the study. The study was funded by the Summer Research Program at the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago, which is in part funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Northwestern University. Original written by Kristin Samuelson. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Melany Lopez, Teresa M. Chan, Brent Thoma, Vineet M. Arora, N. Seth Trueger. The Social Media Editor at Medical JournalsAcademic Medicine, 2018; 1 DOI: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002496
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How To Get New Patients From Facebook

Facebook marketing for physical therapy, occupational therapy, rehab therapy, and healthcare clinical practices. Learn more at
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Time to use technology, not be used by it: Build trust, relationships

Time to use technology, not be used by it: Build trust, relationships | Social Media and Healthcare |

For years, the healthcare industry has been scrambling to use new technologies to access consumers, to get closer to us, to secure us as customers. 


Healthcare organizations got on social media, built patient portals and smartphone apps. And guess what? It didn’t really work all that well. The intentions were good, but it turns out it was really all about them and not about us, the healthcare consumers. The focus was in the wrong place.

Today’s technology allows organizations to push out more and more information, useful or not. Conversely, technology enables the consumers of that information to throttle it. Consumers have more control over what they see and when they see it than ever before. Technology for technology’s sake has ceased to be the end game. Healthcare consumers are savvy and, more and more, want control—of everything.  

As Syndrome tells the Parr family in The Incredibles about his plan to sell his inventions and technology to all-comers: “Everyone can be super, and when everyone’s super, no one will be.” And that, essentially, is what’s happening with technology in healthcare. Everyone in the healthcare business has access to more or less the same technology: websites, patient portals, connected devices, wearables, chatbots, artificial intelligence. It’s understanding, fashioning, and empowering the relationships between these technologies and our humanity that will make healthcare organizations super today and in the future.

Online reviews build trust

To some degree, technology has become commoditized because everyone from health systems to healthcare providers to patients has access to it at a very low price. 

There’s an opportunity, however, for healthcare organizations to be super by using technology to serve customers. But they must approach the issue from the healthcare consumer’s point of view. The way to gain trust is by creating long-term, mutually beneficial relationships between healthcare consumers and healthcare organizations. 

The University of Utah hospital gets this relationship-based model. They understand healthcare consumers want to control their treatment destiny. 

Healthcare consumers using the university’s website bypass the marketing hype and go straight to the doctor ratings. That’s right. More than 40,000 patients have ranked and evaluated hundreds of primary care physicians and specialists. By opening its staff to this criticism, the hospital is fostering a long-term bond with anyone who is or may become a patient.

The hospital’s openness builds trust and puts the organization’s emphasis—from the very top to the very bottom—onimproving patient care and interactions.

Temper technology with humanity

The USC Center for Body Computing gets it, too. They recently published fitness research using leading-edge technology, including glasses with a biometric sensor. But the technology was simply the pipeline used to support a relationship built between study participants, digital coaches and an online community of like-minded people. This far-reaching social network, literally and figuratively, was designed to encourage participation in an exercise program.

The researchers learned three things increased engagement:

  • Digital coaching; 
  • Social networks; and
  • Philanthropy (participants who reached a certain involvement goal activated a donation of an eye exam and glasses to a person in need).

"One in every five Americans wears a health tracker but there was no research that took a look at what motivates engagement, until now," according to Leslie Saxon, MD, founder and executive director of the USC Center for Body Computing and the study’s primary investigator.

The engagement described in the study has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with friendships, relationships, andaltruism. This is technology done right. It works for the patient allowing her to engage with others on multiple levels and in doing so creates and builds long-term relationships. 

So the fact that 90 percent of healthcare practices offer a patient portal sounds great, like the healthcare industry’s work is already done. Unfortunately, that’s not true. Through its own studies the MGMA found many patient portals are poorly designed and really nothing more than a secure spot to send and receive messages.          

Poorly designed and clunky. Not a great strategy to build long-term patient relationships nor to keep healthcare consumers coming back to use the portal. Most patients who used these portals were undoubtedly one-time users who found them utterly useless for accomplishing anything that might be related to improving health.

Technology, of course, hasn’t really run its course. And it’s not going away.

But it is critical to temper and separate technology hype and usage with humanity in order to achieve the balance necessary to bring healthcare consumers into the fold even as new functionalities are implemented. The healthcare industry can’t lose sight of its customers as new technologies are brought into hospitals and exam rooms. 

Antonella Bonanni is chief marketing officer of healthcare at Cognizant, a Fortune 200 company. Antonella has an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh and a Masters of Communications from the CUOA in Vicenza, Italy.

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Optimizing Social Media Use in Health Care: The Mayo Clinic Social Media Network

Optimizing Social Media Use in Health Care: The Mayo Clinic Social Media Network | Social Media and Healthcare |

In this interview, EP Lab Digest talks with Farris K. Timimi, MD, Medical Director of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network (MCSMN), and Lee Aase, Director of the MCSMN and Communications Director of Mayo Clinic’s Social and Digital Innovation (SDI) Team, about social media strategies in health care. 

Tell us about your medical background. How did you become involved with the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network (MCSMN)?

I am a cardiologist specializing in heart failure, and through that work have had an interest in patient involvement, such as with creation of our Patient and Family Advisory Committees. On major initiatives and in our basic structure, Mayo Clinic uses an physician/administrator model of shared leadership, with the administrator managing day-to-day operations and the physician leader helping to ensure medical relevance.

When the Mayo Clinic created what is now MCSMN, I was very interested in taking on the role of Medical Director.

What is the purpose of the MCSMN? When and why was it formed?

In 2011, Mayo Clinic created our Center for Social Media, which is now the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network, to help bring the social media revolution to health care. Our first goal was to ensure that Mayo Clinic staff and stakeholders had the guidelines, training, and resources to apply social media tools in support of clinical practice, education, and research. We also saw an opportunity to share globally what we were developing with colleagues, as well as learn alongside them as we navigated issues and concerns with these new technologies.

We see MCSMN as a catalyst to reduce the activation energy required to apply social media in health care organizations. By using our resources, colleagues can advance in their knowledge and capabilities more quickly than they would on their own.

Our association with Mayo Clinic also helps members gain internal buy-in; with these resources, they will be building on an approach and philosophy that has been shown to be safe and effective.

What is the role of social media in healthcare today? Additionally, what is the role of social media in healthcare education, research, and practice?

Social media has had a transformative impact on society as a whole, and health care is no exception. Through platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and others, patients and caregivers can share their experiences as well as look for support and answers. They are able to overcome barriers of space and time to connect with others like them, even if they have a rare condition that is not shared by anyone in their immediate geographical area.

The patients were there first, but now medical professionals and organizations are seeing opportunities to listen, serve, and educate using these tools. 

Tell us about the Social for Healthcare Certificate from the Mayo Clinic and Hootsuite. How did this collaboration come about? What does this training program help achieve? 

The Social for Healthcare Certificate from Mayo Clinic and Hootsuite ( provides focused and trustworthy training for busy professionals who want to safely and effectively learn to use social media. We developed this course with Hootsuite because we wanted to keep it up to date, reflecting on the latest changes in social platforms. Hootsuite markets to its clients, while we offer it to MCSMN members.

Because of its modular design and online delivery, participants can choose the elements they find most valuable and that fit their busy schedule, and it’s available on-demand, 24/7.

This course is our front-line training for any Mayo staff interested in using social media for professional purposes.

Physicians obviously could figure out elements of using social media on their own through trial and error, but our goal is to condense what they need to know into brief modules that they can apply to create their own professional presence, and to avoid missteps they otherwise might make.

What is the Social Media Residency? How long is the program, and what topics are covered?

Social Media Residency ( is a one-day program for those interested in developing a social media strategy aligned with their professional or organizational priorities. Some participants are social media managers for hospitals and are developing overall organizational strategies, while others are clinicians or scientists interested in narrower applications. Our online training provides the foundation, and then in Social Media Residency, we go beyond those basics and dig into strategy, providing guidelines for plan development.

In addition, what can you tell us about the Social Media Fellows Program?

The Social Media Fellows program ( is for those who have gone through Social Media Residency, and want guidance in developing and implementing their social media strategic plans. It’s also a way for them to give back by sharing their experiences with the Network.

How many people have completed the Social for Healthcare Certificate, Social Media Residency, and Social Media Fellows Program thus far? Who is best suited to participate in these programs? 

We’ve had more than 2,000 participants in the Social for Healthcare Certificate, and more than 700 in Social Media Residency. The Fellows program is much smaller, as it involves developing a strategic plan and submitting for review.

The Social for Healthcare Certificate is appropriate for anyone in health care, whether in a clinical or research role or in administration, marketing, and communications. It helps those who aren’t familiar with social media to get up-to-speed quickly, and for younger staff who have personal experience in social media, it introduces important elements of professionalism that are necessary in the health care context.

Social Media Residency is mainly for those who are advocates for social media and who are interested in promoting strategic use of these platforms.

Which programs are available online or onsite? What costs are involved with these opportunities?

As mentioned earlier, the Social for Healthcare Certificate is our online, on-demand program. While the retail price for the course is $250, we include it in both Premium Individual and Organizational memberships.

Registration for Social Media Residency is $795, and includes the Social for Healthcare Certificate. Organization members save 25 percent, and also may have the opportunity to host Social Media Residency, which can enable broader participation by their staff.

What the benefits of MCSMN membership? What other opportunities are available? 

In addition to the Social for Healthcare Certificate, premium members of MCSMN have access to a members-only discussion board where they can safely and confidentially get feedback and answers from fellow members. They also have access to our monthly webinars (regularly $95 each) and save 25 percent on any of our in-person events, including our Annual Conference and Social Media Residency.

In addition to Premium Individual membership, we also offer Organization membership at an affordable flat rate, which gives full premium membership to anyone on the organization’s email domain (e.g.,

Tell us more about the upcoming annual conference in November.

Our Annual Conference will take place from November 14-15 in Jacksonville, Florida, with four compelling keynotes and three tracks of case studies and opportunities for networking and expert consultations. We’re also offering Social Media Residency on our Mayo Clinic campus in Jacksonville on November 13, with special bundled registration available.

Who is involved with Mayo Clinic’s Social and Digital Innovation (SDI) Team?

Our Social and Digital Innovation Team is led by my administrative partner, Lee Aase, and includes representatives on our campuses in Florida and Arizona as well as several members in Minnesota. The SDI team maintains Mayo Clinic’s overall social media presence and also consults with Mayo stakeholders interested in professional or specialty accounts. It also provides the foundation for what we offer through MCSMN. (Editor's Note: See interview with Lee Aase in sidebar.)

Why is important for healthcare professionals to engage on social media? Also, what brief tips do you have for healthcare professionals about how to build a digital identity?

Health care professionals at least need to understand the importance of their online reputation, and the role social media presence can play in shaping what people find when they Google your name. Doctors should all claim and complete their profiles on Doximity, and should also consider how presence on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and other social networks can affect search results.

Beyond that, they should explore how they can use these tools to accomplish their life’s work. These are powerful tools for communication that enable us to have a much bigger impact than we otherwise would. 

At the same time, digital tools used incorrectly can do more damage than analog communications. But just as with other tools, with proper guidelines and training, these can do immense good.

What main social media platforms are doctors currently using?

Twitter and LinkedIn are probably the most important participatory platforms for physicians. 

Using Twitter hashtags related to diseases or scientific meetings enables physicians to participate in niche conversations that interest them, highlight their expertise, and learn more about patients’ experiences.

LinkedIn provides a platform for longer-form writing and sharing in a more professionally-oriented environment.

Presence on both of these can strongly influence online search results for the physician’s name, pushing some of the unreliable rating and review sites down the page.

Why should organizations and individuals utilize the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network?

The recent PBS documentary by Ken Burns, The Mayo Clinic: Faith – Hope – Science (, begins with an African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” 

Through the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network, we help our members go both farther and faster. By using our guidelines, templates, and training materials, our members can jumpstart their social media involvement with trusted resources. And by collaborating with like-minded colleagues from around the globe, they can get new ideas and perspectives to help shape their own initiatives.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

The Mayo Clinic Social Media Network is a modern-day manifestation of our founders’ philosophy and practice. Drs. Will and Charlie Mayo recognized that to provide the best care to every patient, they needed to travel and learn from others, and bring that knowledge back to their rural Minnesota practice. Dr. Will visited 25 countries on five continents at a time when travel was arduous.

They also welcomed physicians to visit and observe them in surgery, and in the period from 1908 to 1918 alone, nearly 3,400 physicians came to Rochester to observe them and become part of what became known as The Surgeons Club.

We see the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network as the health care social media version of what the Mayo brothers did in surgery, and we’re glad that we can connect with colleagues both face-to-face in our in-person events, and on a continuing basis through the MCSMN community.

I would invite anyone who is interested in these resources to contact my administrative partner, Lee Aase. We’d be glad to be of service.

For more information, follow along on Twitter: 




Interview with Lee Aase, Director of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network (MCSMN) and Communications Director of the Mayo Clinic’s Social and Digital Innovation (SDI) Team

Tell us about your background, and how the MCSMN came about. 

My background is in media relations, and I was the manager of Mayo Clinic’s media relations team when we began dabbling in “new” media with podcasting in 2005. We were early adopters of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube when they started becoming available, because we saw them as ways to directly reach patients instead of only indirectly through traditional media.

The MCSMN arose as our colleagues at other hospitals saw our leadership in adopting these new platforms, and were interested in learning from us how to navigate this space. We developed tools and training for our Mayo staff, and through MCSMN, we make them available to our colleagues everywhere.

What can you tell us about the Mayo Clinic Social and Digital Innovation (SDI) Team? 

Our team represents Mayo Clinic as a whole, with team members on our three campuses in Rochester, Minnesota, Jacksonville, Florida, and Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona. We maintain Mayo Clinic’s enterprise-level accounts on the major social platforms ( Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube) as well as our community and blogging platform. We also consult with stakeholders interested in specialty-focused social accounts and provide training for them, as well as a central management platform for governance of the accounts. 

How can social media help promote health and improve health care?

Social media provides platforms for listening to both patients and consumers as well as physicians and scientists to share knowledge and the latest research. They are experts in the science of various diseases and conditions, and the patients are experts in the day-to-day challenges of coping with those health issues. For example, I have celiac disease and can benefit from videos from Dr. Joseph Murray (, our leading expert on the science of celiac disease. Through social media, I can connect with fellow patients to get recommendations on restaurants with gluten-free menus when I’m traveling. We like to say that patients are experts by experience, and we’ve collaborated with on a series of blog posts ( featuring those patient insights. 

Why should health care professionals and organizations engage on social media? 

People of all ages are increasingly engaging in social media — particularly when they’re looking for information or support when facing a health concern. If health care professionals aren’t engaged, others who are spreading unscientific remedies or positions, such as the anti-vaccine advocates, will be unchallenged in the online space.

It’s also important from a reputation management perspective; by having social media presence, providers and organizations are equipped to share their perspectives and have a vehicle for telling their side of the story.

How do you see the use or the role of social media evolving? 

I think the opportunity to engage in conversation online is an increasing expectation, and that organizations will be finding ways to hold those conversations not only on broader social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, but on their own digital properties as well. 

What are some of your tips to health care organizations for developing a social media strategy?

Social media strategy needs to be an element of business strategy. With few exceptions, every communications or marketing initiative should have a social media component. The first step to social media strategy is developing an understanding of the nature of the social media platforms, the audiences they attract, and their core capabilities. Then, map those to what you are trying to accomplish, whether it relates to building a clinical practice, improving communications efficiency, promoting clinical trials and other research, or recruiting a top-tier workforce.  

Which social media platforms have you found to be most beneficial or effective for doctors to use? What do you consider to be a “balanced social media diet” in 2018?

We recommend that physicians use social media to help with their online reputation management, because these accounts tend to show up high in search results. Our top recommendations include claiming and completing your account on Doximity (, which powers the U.S. News & World Report search engine, as well as creating accounts on LinkedIn and Twitter. Filming and uploading informational videos to YouTube can also introduce you to prospective patients and begin to build empathy.

Any final thoughts? 

Don’t miss the Social for Healthcare Certificate from Mayo Clinic and Hootsuite (, which we created to provide on-demand basic training in social media for health care professionals. It’s what we use as front-line training for our busy Mayo Clinic staff, so they can choose modules that are most helpful to them. For example, a doctor who wants to create a Twitter account can go through that module in 20-30 minutes and feel confident in setting up a professional account, knowing how Twitter works in the health care context. 

This course is available to any of our premium individual Mayo Clinic Social Media Network members, and for a flat fee, we can make this same training available to anyone in an organization. We’re excited that now we can say any employee of our organization can have access to the same social media training that our Mayo Clinic staff depend upon.

For those who want to dig deeper and take a leadership role in social media in their organization, please check out our Social Media Residency (, a one-day course offered a few times each year, as well as our Annual Conference ( taking place November 14-15 in Jacksonville, Florida.

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Always Be Listening: How to Evolve Your Facebook Page by Listening to the Community 

Always Be Listening: How to Evolve Your Facebook Page by Listening to the Community  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Are you listening? Are you really listening? 

As pharma becomes more and more ingrained in social media, it’s critical to know how and where to listen to the community that you are engaging with and to understand that this is an ongoing, individualized process. With so much discussion happening online, particularly within communities you might be building on Facebook, listening is the best way to mine insights straight from the horse’s mouth.

Standard practices might not always resonate with the community you’re trying to reach, which is where effective listening comes into play from start to finish of creating an online community. Social media should be treated more like a telephone and less like a megaphone, meaning listening and adding value to help anchor conversations rather than solely pushing out messages. The most valuable information and resources you can offer to a patient community is simply providing them what they are asking for and understanding what’s meaningful to them.

So how can you do this? At Digital Pharma East, I learned about the successful approach that allowed one pharma company to listen a little better when building a Facebook page for a rare disease community:

  1. Understand the Current Online Landscape: Is there an unmet need? What are the challenges and concerns shared by the community? How can you address them? Take time to research what’s already out there and identify what type of voice you want to be.
  2. Don’t Work in A Vacuum: Sit down with advocates, patients and caregivers to co-create the content vision and direction; remember that they are the experts and they can help guide you.
  3. Strike a Balance: Particularly in the early days, be mindful of ways that you are engaging with the community. This is the best way to understand what types of content are resonating, when you should be posting, and how effective your targeting is.
  4. Find Opportunities for Offline Touchpoints: Are there easy ways to bring the community together outside of social media? Whether it’s a phone call, in-person event or a virtual meeting, provide opportunities for members of your community to build upon their online relationships. By enabling this valuable meet-up to happen, you can also be a part of it. 
  5. Test, Learn, Repeat: Try to focus on one key insight to test for an extended period of time to help learn more about the audience and what they want from a community. But always remember learning is never done. As online behaviors and offerings shift and grow, so must your approach. 


The more that you listen – to conversations, interactions and reactions – the more you can build an authentic community that adds value to the patients you are trying to help. By creating a connection between you and your community, and treating your content accordingly, higher and authentic engagement will follow.



Alyssa Kaden is a creative and analytical digital marketer with proven experience in helping growth and improving business performance with a data-driven approach and design thinking. Alyssa joined Syneos Health in 2014 as a digital and social media strategist just as the explosion in use within the healthcare industry was taking place. She serves as a digital lead for several client engagements, leading teams of designers, digital analysts and content writers to ensure projects exceed business and creative goals. Alyssa has been at the forefront of work within the oncology, diabetes, mental health and rare disease space, and brings a detailed eye and strategic mindset to any fully integrated digital campaign. Alyssa graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a Bachelor’s Degree in International Studies.


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How to Develop a Unique Tone in Patient Communication

How to Develop a Unique Tone in Patient Communication | Social Media and Healthcare |

Texting is the most common way for people to communicate. And almost everyone is part of at least one group message with lots of friends or family members. In these groups, multiple messages are coming at the same time. Sure, each message is tagged with a name, but do you really even have to rely on that tag? Chances are you can tell which of your friends sent which message just by the tone of the message sent.

Everybody has a different voice when speaking, and that usually translates over to their voice in a written message too. You would think it strange if a friend who is normally witty and causal in their written messages sent a message in a serious or formal tone. Even if you don’t realize it, you become accustomed to the voice of those who frequently send you messages.

Just like you can recognize your friends’ texts or emails before seeing their name, your patients should be able to recognize the tone in the messages that come from your practice. The voice you set for your practice should be consistent and help convey the message you want to send. With so many ways to connect with your patients, utilizing one consistent voice will help increase the uniformity and recognizability of your messages, and ease the flexibility of who can send them.


Between eNewsletters, appointment reminders, text messages, and social media posts, you’re hitting your patients with a lot of communication. If every message you send sounds as if it’s coming from a different person and using a different voice, your patients may start to feel overwhelmed. But if each message they receive has a similar look and tone, they are likely to pay more attention to what you are trying to say. The messages will all feel cohesive and unified. It will convey organization and uniformity in your practice, which in turn will increase your practice’s credibility in your patients’ eyes.


It’s important to keep a consistent connection with your patients between visits, and a great way to do that is by communication through a variety of channels. Maintaining the same voice in all of your patient communication makes it easy for patients to recognize your messages. Your patients are bombarded with emails and texts and they scroll past countless ads on social media every day. If your messages lack a consistent voice that helps them identify you, they are more likely to delete or scroll past without even bothering to read it.


Determining your written voice can also make it easier for anyone in the office to compose and send messages or social media posts. If everybody knows the office voice, you don’t have to have a dedicated writer for all messages—any member of your staff can write the message and it will maintain the tone that helps your practice build credibility and connections with your patients.

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Use Search and Social Media Ads to Recruit Patients for Rare Disease Clinical Trials

Use Search and Social Media Ads to Recruit Patients for Rare Disease Clinical Trials | Social Media and Healthcare |

Meeting recruitment goals is incredibly challenging for any clinical trial, but it’s even more so when fewer than 200,000 people nationwide are potential candidates, as is often the case for rare disease studies.

No matter what condition they’re investigating, clinical trials are always concerned about sufficient patient enrollment. No wonder: upwards of 75% of clinical trials fail to meet recruiting targets. However, it’s even harder to reach recruiting goals for rare disease clinical trials. When pulling from an small pool of potential candidates, reaching an enrollment number that ensures reliable results can seem impossible.

It’s true that recruiting for rare disease clinical trials is in many ways a whole new ball game. There are unique challenges — even beyond patient population numbers — that accompany these kinds of trials. With that being said, the agility and affordability of digital marketing make digital solutions especially impactful, as long as sponsors and CROs are innovative in their marketing approach.

Reaching a Small Patient Pool

The FDA defines rare diseases as those affecting fewer than 1 in 200,000 people, which equates to 200,000 people or fewer in the United States. Reaching such a small pool of candidates is difficult to begin with, but that difficulty is compounded by the fact that many rare disease sufferers are misdiagnosed due to the rarity of their actual condition. In addition, many rare diseases have a high level of genotypic heterogeneity, which can make standardized results near-impossible to achieve.

For rare disease trials, success hinges on communicating with the right patients and making it as convenient as possible for them to participate in the trial. Fortunately, when it comes to reaching potential patients, many of the same tactics that work for regular clinical trials are even more effective for rare disease trials.

Facebook offers a unique opportunity to reach patients with rare diseases. With almost 2.3 billion active users, Facebook has 100% coverage of many disease populations, meaning that everyone in the world with a certain condition has a Facebook account. By targeting users that are interested in rare disease Facebook groups, sponsors and CROs can pinpoint likely trial participants out of a sea of social media users.

Patients with rare diseases tend to do a lot of research on their conditions, and there’s no better place to meet them than in their search results. With Google Ads, sponsors and CROs can target long tail keywordsassociated with the condition they’re studying, presenting ads to patients or caregivers who are looking for alternative treatments.

Putting the Patient First

While rare disease patients tend to be open to clinical trials, especially if treatments for their condition are currently nonexistent or lacking, it’s likely that the locations of most clinical trials make them inaccessible to many eligible patients. For a rare disease clinical trial to be successful, sponsors and CROs need to think in terms of the patient first.

Eligible patients are few and far between, so it’s worth going to them. Trials should wait and see where their patient populations are located before choosing research sites. In some cases, it may even be a good idea to travel directly to patients, especially if their condition limits mobility.

Rare diseases are attracting more clinical trial attention than ever before, but in many ways, they’re also the perfect storm of trial challenges. Between recruitment difficulties and obstacles to accessibility, it’s up to rare disease clinical trials to be more innovative, nimble, and patient-centric than any of their peers. It’s possible that these trials aren’t just creating groundbreaking treatments and cures for rare diseases; they’re also paving the way for greater efficiency and improved patient experience in all clinical trials.

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What Gen Z and Millennial patients look for in healthcare providers

What Gen Z and Millennial patients look for in healthcare providers | Social Media and Healthcare |

It’s no secret that Generation Z and Millennials are highly different from older generations, but you might not realize these differences extend to healthcare. One area this is becoming increasingly notable is young adults’ views on primary care physicians (PCPs).

Nearly half (45 percent) of 18-to 29-year-olds and 28 percent of those in the 30 to 49 age range do not have a PCP, according to research conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation as reported by The Washington Post. In contrast, only 18 percent of 50- to 64-year-old participants and just 12 percent of those age 65 and older do not have a dedicated PCP.

Regardless of specialty, ensuring your practice offers the accommodations younger patients seek out should be high priority. Read on to learn how you can grow your practice with younger patients.

5 things Gen Z and Millennials want from a healthcare practice

Virtual access

They grew up with technology at their fingertips, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that Gen Z and Millennials expect it to be incorporated into their healthcare. An overwhelming number (92 percent) want full two-way electronic communication with their providers, and 83 percent look for a doctor who allows them to access all their patient information online, according to a 2017 survey conducted by Jefferson Health.

Features like patient portals and telehealth services are a huge draw for young adults. If you want to attract new patients from this demographic, it’s time to incorporate more technology into your practice.

Online scheduling

When the younger generation makes a healthcare appointment, they don’t want to pick up the phone. The vast majority (71 percent) of those who participated in the Jefferson Health survey expect providers to offer online scheduling.

Not just a convenience for patients, online scheduling benefits your practice, too, because it allows people to make appointments 24/7. If patients can easily book an appointment on their own time, instead of having to race to the phone during your office hours, they’re more likely to choose your practice.

Look: 4 online patient scheduling opportunities your practice is missing


When young adults are sick, they expect to see a doctor immediately. However, many practices don’t make this easy. The average wait time for new patients to see a doctor is about 24 days, according to a 2017 survey of 15 large metro markets conducted by physician recruiting firm Merritt Hawkins.

Making an appointment is only half the issue; the younger generation also has no interest in wasting time in your waiting room. However, 85 percent of patients reported waiting 10 to 30 minutes past their appointment to see their healthcare provider, according to a survey conducted by digital research and design firm Sequence.

If you want to grow your practice with Gen Z and Millennial patients, offer same-day appointments and strive to keep the wait time as low as possible.

Evening and weekend hours

Gen Z and Millennials are busy. During the day, their schedule is filled with work and school, so it’s hard to make time for a doctor appointment.

Offering evening and weekend hours is a savvy way to attract new patients, because young adults want a provider who fits their schedule. If you make appointments convenient, they are likely to choose you over your peers who close down shop in the afternoon or early evening hours.

Related: What private healthcare practices can learn from urgent care centers

Social media presence

Many young adults grew up with social media, so they rely heavily on popular sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Therefore, it’s not surprising that 65 percent want to discuss health-related topics and compare providers on social media sites, according to the Jefferson Health survey.

Some 88 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds and 78 percent of people ages 30 to 49 use at least one social media site, according to a 2018 survey conducted by Pew Research Center. If you want to get on their radar, you need a robust social media presence.

Millennials are expected to become America’s largest population in 2019, according to Pew, so it’s important to tailor your practice to meet their needs. If you’re able to provide the kind of service they seek, they’ll join your regular patient roster and recommend you to their friends.

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Facebook says there's a place on Instagram for pharma companies

Facebook says there's a place on Instagram for pharma companies | Social Media and Healthcare |

Instagram might seem like a challenging environment for pharmaceutical companies but according to Facebook Health’s industry manager, there is ample opportunity for them to connect with patients through the app, which remains incredibly popular with younger consumers who are increasingly deleting the Facebook app.

At the Digital Pharma East conference in Philadelphia last month, Danielle Salowski told attendees:

“Now we feel that we’ve gotten to a point where we mastered Facebook, we want to talk about Instagram. This is now a place you need to pay attention to in order to reach patients at scale. [Instagram] is the intersection of amazing visual communication and the ability to share it with your friends and patients in a snap.”

Of course, Instagram presents numerous challenges for pharma marketers and there are a number of things they should take into consideration when developing Instagram campaigns.

Think visually and less formally

The highly visual nature of Instagram means that pharma marketers need to think creatively about how they can create image and video-based content that is more likely to resonate with Instagram’s younger user base.

As part of this, pharma marketers are wise to think about their tone. As Nancy Nolan, associate director of marketing communications at Merck, who appeared on stage with Facebook’s Salowski, explained, “When you think about pharma, we’re very formal in the way we speak and address patients, and it can be really standoffish. Millennials don’t like to be spoken to with that type of formality and tone.”

Monitor hashtags to identify virtual communities


Healthcare marketers should consider that they can tap into pseudo-communities that form around hashtags on Instagram. Facebook’s Salowski pointed to the hashtag, #migraine, pointing out that “there are a ton of posts just using #migraine, and [Instagram] is a place where patients come to connect, talk about their experience visually, and share with friends.”

By monitoring hashtags of interest, pharma marketers can identify opportunities to join the proverbial conversation, engaging patients and also, where appropriate, caretakers.

Consider teaming up with influencers

While influencer marketing on Instagram is most often the domain of fashion houses, beauty brands, and the like, with a little creativity, pharma marketers can also team up with popular Instagrammers to spread their messages.

Of course, choosing which messages to spread is critical. In many cases, pharma marketers are likely to find that unbranded campaigns aimed at driving awareness of conditions they offer treatments for are ideal for influencer campaigns. After all, by partnering with influencers who are in some way connected to those conditions, brands have an opportunity to foster emotional connections.

Don’t forget about healthcare professionals

While social marketing in many industries often focuses on consumers, pharma marketers shouldn’t overlook opportunities to reach healthcare professionals, including physicians, via social media.

As influencer marketing platform InNetwork noted, many healthcare professionals are active on social platforms today, where they have established themselves as trusted sources of healthcare information to both other healthcare professionals as well as consumers. As the company observed, “By partnering with a healthcare professional, you open the doors to both target audiences.”

Remember the rules

The rules that pharma marketers are required to adhere to don’t disappear simply because they might be slightly more inconvenient to comply with on social platforms.

A reminder of this fact came recently as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fired off a warning letter to pharma company Mannkind for failing to disclose the risks associated with Afrezza, its inhaled insulin drug, in content posted on its Facebook Page.

The letter was the result of a complaint made to the FDA Office of Prescription Drug Promotion (OPDP) Bad Ad program, which allows third parties to report potentially problematic ads.

In its letter, the OPDP demanded that Mannkind remove non-compliant content, which the firm appears to have done. A failure to do so could have led to enforcement action, something no pharma marketer wants to have to deal with.

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Social Media Posts Can Predict Depression

Social Media Posts Can Predict Depression | Social Media and Healthcare |

In any given year, depression affects more than six percent of the adult population in the United States—some 16 million people—but fewer than half receive the treatment they need.

What if an algorithm could scan social media and point to linguistic red flags of the disease before a formal medical diagnosis had been made?

New research published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,shows this is now more plausible than ever. Analyzing social media data shared by consenting users across the months leading up to a depression diagnosis, researchers from Stony Brook University and the University of Pennsylvania found their algorithm could accurately predict future depression. Indicators of the condition included mentions of hostility and loneliness, words like “tears” and “feelings,” and use of more first-person pronouns like “I” and “me.”

“What people write in social media and online captures an aspect of life that’s very hard in medicine and research to access otherwise. It’s a dimension that’s relatively untapped compared to biophysical markers of disease,” says H. Andrew Schwartz,Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science, Stony Brook University and principal investigator of the World Well-Being Project. “Conditions like depression, anxiety, and PTSD, for example, you find more signals in the way people express themselves digitally.”

For six years, researchers in the World Well-Being Project (WWBP), based in Stony Brook’s Human Language Analysis Lab and UPenn’s Positive Psychology Center, have been studying how the words people use reflect their inner feelings and contentedness. In 2014, Johannes Eichstaedt, WWBP founding research scientist and a postdoctoral fellow at Penn, started to wonder whether it was possible for social media to predict mental health outcomes, particularly for depression.

“Social media data contain markers akin to the genome. With surprisingly similar methods to those used in genomics, we can comb social media data to find these markers,” Eichstaedt explains. “Depression appears to be something quite detectable in this way; it really changes people’s use of social media in a way that something like skin disease or diabetes doesn’t.”

Eichstaedt and Schwartz teamed up with colleagues Robert J. Smith, Raina Merchant,David Asch, and Lyle Ungar from the Penn Medicine Center for Digital Health for this study. Rather than do what previous studies had done—recruit participants who self-report their depression—the researchers identified data from people consenting to share Facebook statuses and electronic medical record information, then analyzed it using machine-learning techniques to distinguish those with a formal depression diagnosis.

Nearly 1,200 people consented to provide both digital archives. Of these, 114 people had a diagnosis of depression in their medical records. The researchers then matched every person with a diagnosis of depression with five who did not, to act as a control, for a total sample of 683 people (excluding one for insufficient words within status updates). The idea was to create as realistic a scenario as possible to train and test the researchers’ algorithm. 

“This is a really hard problem,” Eichstaedt says. “If 683 people present to the hospital and 15 percent of them are depressed, would our algorithm be able to predict which ones? If the algorithm says no one was depressed, it would be 85 percent accurate.”

To build the algorithm, Eichstaedt, Smith, and colleagues looked back at 524,292 Facebook updates from the years leading up to diagnosis for each individual with depression and for the same time span for the control. They determined the most frequently used words and phrases, then modeled 200 topics to suss out what they called “depression-associated language markers.” Finally, they compared in what manner and how frequently depressed versus control participants used such phrasing.

They learned that these markers comprised emotional, cognitive, and interpersonal processes such as hostility and loneliness, sadness and rumination, and could predict future depression as early as three months before first documentation of the illness in a medical record.

“There’s a perception that using social media is not good for one’s mental health, but it may turn out to be an important tool for diagnosing, monitoring, and eventually treating it,” Schwartz says. “Here, we’ve shown that it can be used with clinical records, a step toward improving mental health with social media.”

Eichstaedt sees long-term potential in using these data as a form of unobtrusive screening. “The hope is that one day, these screening systems can be integrated into systems of care,” he says. “This tool raises yellow flags; eventually the hope is that you could directly funnel people it identifies into scalable treatment modalities.”

Despite some limitations to the study, including a distinctive urban sample, and limitations in the field itself—not every depression diagnosis in a medical record meets the gold standard that structured clinical interviews provide, for example—the findings offer a potential new way to uncover and get help for those suffering from depression.

Social Media Posts Can Predict Depression was originally published on the Stony Book University website.

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Looking up patients online: Why it’s a bad idea | 

Looking up patients online: Why it’s a bad idea |  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Searching for someone on the Internet and viewing his or her social media profile is an effective way to obtain information about people, including patients. Following our patients’ “digital footprint” may help us understand the context of their lives, reconcile discrepancies in what they have told us, or allow us to confront denial and address incomplete reporting.1 However, perusing our patients’ online profiles could negatively impact treatment and adherence. Consider these factors before looking up your patients’ online profiles1-3:

Inaccurate information. Information on the Internet, especially what you can find on user-generated forums, is largely unregulated; as a result, the veracity of that information cannot be guaranteed.1 Patients may choose to portray themselves inaccurately on their online profiles, and their identities often cannot be confirmed. Even if some information is accurate, you might discover things that you did not expect to learn about your patients, including important information that they did not share, or even something they lied about. This can create the conundrums of what to do with such information and how to discuss it at the next visit.

Impact on treatment. Despite patients’ online activities being displayed for the world to see, many patients do not expect their clinicians to access their online information. They might perceive such perusal as a breach of trust, which might lead some to view the doctor–patient relationship as adversarial. Accessing this information also could create a more intimate relationship than intended. Even if a clinician acquires consent to perform a search, patients may still feel coerced into allowing it because they might feel that declining to grant permission would make the clinician suspect that they have something to hide, or that the clinician would search without consent.2

In addition, if patients are aware that their psychiatrists are monitoring them, they might change their behavior. For example, they may delete certain data, add additional information that may not be accurate, or censor future social media posts. Knowing that their clinicians could be paying attention to them around the clock also might motivate certain patients to act out more or become withdrawn.

Possible medicolegal repercussions. If clinicians are able to access their patients’ electronic profiles, are they then legally obligated to monitor them? For example, if a patient who posts a picture with a noose around his neck later completes suicide, does the clinician who intermittently monitored this patient’s online profile face legal ramifications for not seeing the post? Do clinicians have to call 911 for vaguely suicidal tweets? What responsibilities does a clinician have at the first sign of an innocuous “sad” emoji? The sheer volume of online content that patients can create over different outlets is staggering. It can be overwhelming and ineffective to attempt to monitor patients’ online activities in addition to attending to one’s usual clinical duties, and the medicolegal repercussions of doing so are largely unknown.

Before searching the Internet to learn more about your patients, first consider the ramifications of doing so. While such searches could be helpful, they may lead to poor adherence, a lack of trust, or legal quagmires.

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What is Patient Engagement? | 

What is Patient Engagement? |  | Social Media and Healthcare |


According to industry experts, there are four principles of patient engagement:

  • Willingness: Is the patient willing to be engaged in their own healthcare management?
  • Proactiveness: Is the patient willing to be proactive about their health care? Many people, especially older patients, might prefer to leave health care management to the professionals.
  • Adaptability: Is the patient willing and able to use computers or smartphones to interact with the practice during off hours?
  • Support: Is there enough support available to help the patient stay on track and be proactive about their health care?

Whether a patient is willing and able to be proactive about their health will depend on the patient, and will need to be assessed on an individual level. Not all patients are willing to take that responsibility or have the technical aptitude to access the tools provided to them.


What can offices and staff do to improve patient engagement closer to home? There are quite a few tools that can be utilized, though some might take a substantial investment of time and money.

  • Provide and utilize patient portals: Portals give patients a way to keep track of their medical records and treatment. These portals can also be used to allow patients to pay their bills online, which saves practices time and money. Upwards of 60 percent of adults prefer to pay bills online, and offering online bill-pay can reduce the need for follow-ups.
  • Create and maintain a patient communication platform: Not every patient can afford to take the time to make a phone call or come into the office when they have a question, whether it’s about billing, medication or anything in between. Having an easily accessible and secure communications platform can help patients be more proactive about their health care by giving them the answers they need quickly and correctly.

These are just a few potential examples of ways to improve patient engagement in local offices. The exact implementation will vary from office to office to better cater to the needs of each patient.

Patient engagement is quickly becoming the future of medicine, largely by necessity, because patients are constantly connected via smartphones and the internet and want to be just as connected to their medical practitioners.

It’s up to professionals to choose the best way to engage with their patients.

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