Social Media and Healthcare
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Patient Education DVDs now available at an online store

Patient Education DVDs now available at an online store | Social Media and Healthcare |

Diabetes Patient Education Simplified!


P.E.A.S™  - India's first exhaustive patient education DVD library now available at our online store. 


Medically Accurate, High Definition Animated Videos related to Diabetes available in Indian regional languages viz. Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Bengali.


Via Parag Vora
nrip's insight:

Excellent use of technology (eCommerce) to bring Patient Education and Awareness into the limelight. I checked out this link and found something for each specialization.  Hope to see more and more of such examples in the coming months.

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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. 

Hupertan's curator insight, September 23, 2015 4:32 PM

The implementation of a communications strategy in social media in healthcare need not stick with the drafting of a check list. There she is!

venisabella's comment, November 4, 2015 10:36 AM
MARGARITA's curator insight, December 31, 2015 5:15 PM

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Study questions doctor judgement on personal social media accounts

Study questions doctor judgement on personal social media accounts | Social Media and Healthcare |

Not even doctors are immune from inappropriate social media posts. Young doctors often have "unprofessional" or offensive content on their Facebook profiles, a new study suggests.

The study, of newly graduated urologists, found that nearly three-quarters had publicly identifiable Facebook profiles. And 40 percent of them contained unprofessional or "potentially objectionable" content.

That ranged from profanity and images of drunkenness, to clear violations of medical ethics -- such as divulging a patient's health information.

The researchers said the findings add to concerns over how doctors' social media use -- if not thought out -- could potentially erode patients' trust.

"I think we all have a role to play in making sure the high standards of patient confidentiality and the doctor-patient relationship are upheld," said lead researcher Dr. Kevin Koo.

Koo is a urology resident at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, in Lebanon, N.H.

The study is not the first to bring attention to doctors' social media use.

The issue has been on the medical profession's radar for a while, said Dr. Matthew DeCamp, of the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics in Baltimore.

Several professional societies, and some university medical centers, already have guidelines that call on doctors to use social media with care.

The American Medical Association, for instance, issued guidelines in 2010. They encourage doctors to "consider separating personal and professional content online." They also stress the importance of "appropriate professional boundaries" with patients, and never violating patients' privacy.

But it's not clear how often those messages get through to doctors, said DeCamp, who was not involved in the study.

"It's concerning that professional guidelines may not be having the intended effect," he said.

Koo agreed it's not clear how many doctors "even know that guidelines exist."

For the study, Koo's team queried Facebook with the names of 281 doctors who graduated from U.S. urology residency programs in 2015.

The investigators found that 72 percent had a publicly identifiable Facebook profile.

Next, the researchers looked for content deemed unprofessional or at least potentially offensive. They found such content in 40 percent of the profiles.

Unprofessional content included images or references to drunkenness, drug use or "unlawful behavior." It also included posts that divulged protected patient information.

There were several cases of that, the study found. One post showed X-rays where a patient's name was visible; others gave enough details that the patient could be identified -- like describing complications that happened during surgery on a specific date.

Using social media that way is clearly wrong, DeCamp said. "Sharing patient information is egregious," he added.

In other cases, he noted, it's not so black-and-white.

The category of "potentially objectionable" content included images of doctors holding an alcoholic drink, for instance -- or posts expressing opinions on politics, religion or controversial social issues.

So should doctors not be allowed to offend anyone online?

No one expects doctors to never post an opinion, Koo said. "We realize they don't live in a vacuum," he added.

Still, according to DeCamp, there is reason for doctors to consider how posting their views will influence people.

It could be argued, he said, that doctors shouldn't lend their "trusted position" to a political cause that is unrelated to medicine, for instance.

Can doctors solve the problem by simply never "friending" a patient, and keeping all personal posts out of public view? And should they, as guidelines suggest, have a separate "professional" online identity?

DeCamp said he believes it's impossible to have two separate "identities." Instead, he suggested that doctors take the time to consider their posts carefully: "Ask yourself if this is something you really want in a public space," he said.

Some doctors' online personas have already affected them in the real world, Koo and colleagues noted.

One study found that 92 percent of U.S. state medical boards had investigated online professionalism violations. Most were reported by patients or their family members.

The study was published online recently in the journal BJU International.

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Yes, These Plastic Surgeons Seriously Snapchat Butt Lifts and Breast Implants

Yes, These Plastic Surgeons Seriously Snapchat Butt Lifts and Breast Implants | Social Media and Healthcare |

There's no way to say this nicely. The first thing you notice is the smell of burning flesh. You see the little white ribbons of smoke hovering over the patient, but it doesn't hit you until a circulation nurse swings open the operating-room door, wafting that apocalyptic smell around the room where it sucker punches your gag reflex. I had watched hundreds of tummy tuck videos on Snapchat leading up to this moment, but I wasn't ready for the stench. When you watch this procedure on your iPhone, with little pink hearts decorating the corners of the shot, it's not nearly as brutal. Emojis soften the blow.

If you follow Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Cat Begovic on Snapchat (beautybydrcat), you saw this surgery in early January. It's a tummy tuck plus hernia repair for an already slender woman. She's had a few kids, and the skin on her stomach had stretched and sagged. If you're having trouble placing it, it's the surgery Begovic snapped the same day as a video of her cat chasing a soccer ball. There was also a selfie, a weekly Snapchat surgery schedule written on a whiteboard like a TV Guide, a couple of before-and-afters — tap, tap, tap your screen — and now you're caught up. You didn't see me in any videos (it was offered; I declined), but I was there, hunched over in the corner of the room, wrapped in a blue medical gown, trying to breathe deeply through a surgical mask, and, despite having gotten permission from the patient to be there, feeling pretty creepy about the whole thing.

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"Creepy" seems to be the standard response when I tell people about the plastic surgeons who broadcast their surgeries in real time via Snapchat to an audience of…who knows, really. Children? Perverts? Plastic surgery hopefuls? "Is that even legal?" asks the bartender at my Los Angeles hotel. The answer is yes, so long as the patient signs a release with any personal caveats (like: "My butterfly tattoo was custom. Friends will know those are my innards"), and the doctors are free to use your unconscious body (minus the butterfly) for marketing purposes.

Begovic is in the company of a growing number of surgeons taking to social media to show off their work. Given the success of plastic surgery on television (Nip/Tuck, Dr. 90210, Extreme Makeover), it should come as no surprise that their snaps have viewers, and a lot of them. Dr. Miami, the Florida-based plastic surgeon widely credited as the creator of the operating-room Snapchat, is a veritable celebrity with an upcoming We TV series. There is capital in cutting people up on camera.

I first meet Begovic in her Beverly Hills office early on the morning of the tummy tuck. She's running a bit behind, filming the intro to her Snapchat story in the back because the lighting is better (she has a ring light set up for selfies). It's Barbie's Dream Waiting Room — everything is white or pink or damask or glittering. And there's a framed advertisement for her Snapchat handle on the front desk.

When she crosses the room, her loose curls are blown back by some divine wind machine. She's 40 but doesn't look it, maybe because of the Botox injections she performs on herself for her Snapchat followers. She speaks deliberately but with the slightly rising inflection of a Valley Girl — a board-certified Valley Girl with a Harvard degree. She's wearing pink eye shadow and pink lipstick and a lab coat with her name embroidered in pink thread.

She walks me through the tummy tuck and the labiaplasty I'll be observing. "There might be kids watching, so I don't show the vagina," she says. "I feel like it's my responsibility to censor things like that." Then she has me sign a consent form from the surgery center, "in case you pass out or have any emotional or psychological…you know." I start to ask whether it's OK that I have my phone in the operating room before I remember who I'm talking to.

The psychological "you know"s are part of the mystery. Who is watching this and why? It strikes me as kind of macabre. I guess there's the train-wreck theory: You can't look away. But that seems a little too simplistic. I'll glance over when I see a flaming car on the side of the road, but I sure as hell don't cruise around on the freeway hunting for one. Similarly, my social media feed is not specifically curated for seeing unwelcome flesh cut from a human body. I'm more of a baby animals person. I like to know what Selena Gomez is doing in her free time.

Granted, all I have on Selena is a two-dimensional shrunken-down version of her life. As far as I know, she lives in the 4.7-square-inch rectangle that is my phone screen and only in the 30-minute intervals before and after work while I'm sitting on the train. Maybe that's how these surgeries exist — fans are tuning in, tapping through, and moving on. But the real story is so much larger than 6.2 GB of app space. When you're actually in the operating room, it's not just a window of flesh framed by gauzy blue medical cloth. There's a person under there. I met her! She was pretty and sweet and quiet. And then I watched her drift off under anesthesia, giving sleepy half-answers to the medical staff. I watched them arrange her body in an unnatural pas de chat. I watched as a surgeon cauterized the muscle away from the fat for hours, making an oozy living cave between her body and her flesh. I watched her abdomen get tucked and sewn and a triangle-shaped portion of her belly get sliced off. I heard the sound it made as it flopped onto the table — like meat being weighed at a butcher's shop. I tried my best to forget the face of the pretty and sweet and quiet girl so that I wouldn't burst into tears. And of course, there was that burning flesh smell. That smell that's piped right into the devil's personal sauna, where he can bask in its smoky, musky, suffocating stench.

The people watching these graphic snaps, Begovic tells me, are young women. They want surgery, but they're scared. They're unhappy with the length of their labia, but they didn't know they could do something about it. For them, she provides step-by-step explanations and a Q&A session at the end of the day. Or, she says, they're looking for a role model: "They're just looking for motivation and inspiration. It's challenging being a woman in a male-dominated field."

She regales me with tales of her training, when some male doctors would tell her that the operating room was no place for a woman or that her breasts would be too distracting for them. She does an excellent job of convincing me that she's a Snapchat champion of feminism. The platform is simple: She wants to show young women that if they work hard, they can play with the boys ("and be better") and have a fabulous lifestyle to show for it.

The fascinating thing about Begovic is how deliberate she is in a celebrity-self-awareness kind of way. Every Snapchat that I watch is quickly rehearsed and thoughtfully framed before her assistant counts down to the recording ("Ready…set…go"). It hardly ever requires more than one take, although if she's not feeling it after three or so words, she'll ask to start over. Then Begovic will give a final glance of approval before the video or photo goes into editing on the sidelines. There are captions to add, emojis, and filters. She has a knack for rattling off hashtag suggestions in the OR.

Photo by Grant Cornett

The five-hour tummy tuck will be condensed into 20 or so ten-second snapshots and videos. That's a tummy tuck in 200 seconds — about three minutes of Snapchat content — edited and filtered for optimal glamour. Rest assured that the snapshots in which you can see the glistening flecks of human fat on her gloves were deleted and reshot. And up to 80,000 people will watch.

Begovic is a diligent doctor. The nurses are perfectly capable of mixing lidocaine, but Begovic likes to do it herself "just to be sure" it's done correctly. She can detect a change in blood pressure from the soft beeps of the heart monitor at the same time as the anesthesiologist. It just so happens that she can do all of this while her staff selects the best moments, lighting, and angles for Snapchat. It's become second nature. "I basically speak in ten-second bursts," she says.

If you're looking for something feistier to add to your feed, Sejal Patel (mydrsej), a plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills, has an office across the parking lot from Begovic. He has his own hashtag: #ShapedExtraJuicy, built off of the first three letters of his name and a callout to his drastic Brazilian butt lifts. Patel's snaps are more playful; there's music in the operating room, the occasional video of him rapping, and an "after" butt-lift video that frequently involves him zooming in on the newly plumped derrière and shouting "KABOOOOM!" at the reveal.

"As long as you're showing respect for your patients, it seems a little onerous for [us] to maintain this burden of having to behave in a certain way," he says. "I feel like I'm conservative with my Snapchat, but other people may think that I'm insane."

Patel is so animated, it's surprising. The way he sees it, Snapchat is the ultimate marketing tool. You see his before, you see his after, and then you'll book an appointment. "If you're bored with that, then go watch someone else's Snapchat. I'm not here to entertain you. I'm here to show you that I do really good work."

But not everyone sees it that way. "You've gotta look at the before and the after. If I take a girl who's — not to put girls as numbers, but — let's say we take a 9. And I do something on her. The likelihood is now she's going to look more than a 9." I recoil a little from his rhetoric; he doesn't notice. "If I take a woman that's got an obesity problem…no matter how hard I work on her, the likelihood is that she probably won't look as good as [the 9], who was already hot — I made a small incremental change, and now she looks like an unreal goddess. Everyone is looking at the after and saying, 'You are the most amazing doctor in the world.' No, I'm amazing for the one that weighed 200 pounds and can now go on a date and feel better about herself." A humanitarian ignored.

Patel says that an overwhelming majority of his patients agree to be on his Snapchat, which is, I tell him, surprising to me. Aren't they concerned that you'll be more focused on your phone than the procedure? "That's a hilarious concern because you're literally showing thousands of people what you're doing. It's the opposite. Once you start the Snapchat, you gotta finish it, and it better look good — or you're gonna look like a jackass. It takes balls to show what your results are."

Most of the patients who agree to speak with me have a similar attitude. They see Snapchat as accountability. And it is about passing on the good will — they were nervous about a procedure, but when they saw the snaps, they knew they weren't alone. The other response: Who cares? It's anonymous. One man who had a full-body lift — which is exactly what it sounds like — was in it for the novelty: "Of course I would agree! I was filleted! Once you're awake, it's over. You want to see what happened." But the one thing they all said was that they had found their surgeon through Snapchat — wouldn't it be hypocritical not to sign the forms?

Not all plastic surgeons are as forthcoming about their social media endeavors as Patel. Tarick Smaili, or Dr. Smiley — having forgone his given name for his Snapchat handle — is another Snapchat aficionado based in Beverly Hills. He doesn't answer repeated requests for an interview. His Snapchat is one of the more over-the-top depictions of plastic surgery I've seen. Smaili's feed is like a three-ring circus, but the segments of him in wacky costumes providing personalized shout-outs to his fans suggest that people love the show. His snaps range from speculation on whether or not Gisele has had any work done to him handling a silicone breast implant. People don't believe me when I tell them about the "bubble-butt dance," a brief artless shuffle that he films his scrubbed-in staff performing over the newly plumped-up ass of a still-unconscious patient. I'm sure the patient had to have given permission for this terrifying ritual. It's loud and frenetic and, to Smaili's credit, I can't stop watching.

It isn't until Patel sheds a little light on his own personal motives that I start to understand: "I don't need [the media] anymore. If you're good on social media, you're gonna be successful." Smaili has crafted himself into a kind of celebrity (or so he'd have you believe), and he's doing just fine on his own, thank you very much. Whether he doesn't want me to see beyond his social media image or he just doesn't give a shit about me doesn't really matter. It's important to remember that these snaps are not indicative of what surgery is. They give a glimpse of a procedure, sure, but it sounds different. It smells very different. It takes much longer. There is a recovery period that is not documented. You never actually see the patients slowly fade off under anesthesia. When these surgeons aren't "on" and ready to film, they're quietly suturing or chatting with their staff or, in some cases, getting a little testy with a Snap-ographer.

After a week on the set of the Beverly Hills operating rooms, here's how I reconciled this showbiz-y version of medicine: On my flight to L.A., I sat next to the Bachelor himself. He spent the flight crafting tweets and discussing with a person I assumed was his handler what he might say on Jimmy Kimmel. Now, the Bachelor is not certified with the American Board of Plastic Surgery, and his selfies are far from, say, a graphic breast implant, but what you're getting as a consumer of social media — of any media — is packaged in a similar way. He is creating the narrative, and all you're seeing is the final, filtered product, exactly the way he wants you to see it. If all goes well, you will lap it up without question.

The surgeons of Snapchat are no different. Do I think Begovic actually "chills" on Friday by putting on a cocktail dress and playing Chopin on a white baby-grand piano? No. But that's the "Dr. Cat" brand that she's selling. "You still have to do your own research," says Begovic. "You still have to get information from a credible source. It doesn't matter how many followers your doctor has."

They're all in it for different reasons, maybe some more noble than others, but we should know what those reasons are and hold on to that. By selecting the people whose content you choose to follow, you're filling your feed with their manufactured images. The best we can do is try to suss out the facts. The same goes for actors, that girl from college you stalk on Instagram, news outlets, and presidents. In this case, if you can look past the heart emojis and the rap music, you'll see the truth in the operating room: A person wanted to feel better about her body, and she signed on the dotted line.

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Use of Facebook as part of a social media strategy for patient engagement

Use of Facebook as part of a social media strategy for patient engagement | Social Media and Healthcare |

Using social media is part of many people’s daily routines. However, social media can also be a part of a patient engagement strategy by supporting information dissemination, raising awareness, and encouraging the public to ask their primary care providers about innovations in care delivery such as electronic consultation. The Champlain BASE (Building Access to Specialists through eConsultation) eConsult service is a secure, Web-based tool that allows primary care providers quick access to specialty care for their patients. In an effort to increase awareness of the service and invite patient feedback on the use of this new model of care delivery, we developed a Facebook page.

Why Facebook?

Facebook provides an accessible method of obtaining information in lay format about health services that would otherwise only be found in scientific or academic journals and other sources that are less accessible to the general public.1 Our choice of Facebook rather than other social media platforms was based on its rapid, interactive, free-form method of communication with the ability to strategically target groups and drive discussion by allowing users to rate the service, write a review, share the page, post about their experiences with eConsult, access the eConsult website, and stay updated on the service.

Implementing a successful Facebook page

Content development and management.

First, we created a mind map of patient engagement tools to demonstrate where social media fit within our strategic approach, incorporating promotional, engagement, and stakeholder objectives. Second, we held several meetings with the eConsult research team’s partners to review institutional policies and explore the potential risks and benefits of using a Facebook page as a patient engagement tool for eConsult. Extensive planning was required before launching the page. In response to suggestions made at these meetings, we created a “Facebook Moderator’s Handbook” outlining our implementation plan, which focused on 3 main objectives: raising page awareness among the target audience, privacy, and continuous evaluation. The handbook included a calendar indicating the date and type of pre-planned content, engagement, video, and photo posts (eg, “It’s Fun Fact Friday! Did you know that the average response time for an eConsult case is only 2 days?”); a plan for responding to feedback (both positive and negative); and methods of page moderation.

Reaching our target audience.

Our target audience included patients and the general Canadian public older than 18 years of age. To raise awareness, we reached out to our stakeholders with requests to disseminate information about the launch of the eConsult Facebook page on their respective social media platforms. Further, we “liked” health-related and patient-focused pages with similar target audiences (eg, Canada Health Infoway, The Ottawa Hospital), thereby linking our page to similar groups. Facebook demographic settings were used to set a “preferred page audience,” targeting age, location, interests, and language, increasing the chances of our target audience encountering our page. We expect people to join the page as they see their friends and family members doing so, and as they note that it has a following and is patient-focused, relatable, relevant, and free of medical jargon.


While the free-form nature of Facebook is optimal for interactivity, it holds the potential for privacy and liability issues. We adjusted settings to disable private messaging and ensure no posts would be published before being approved by the page moderator, a designated member of the eConsult team (Z.H.) who is responsible for page maintenance. Terms of use dictate no personal health questions, photos, or profanity are published, and responses can be expected during business hours Monday through Friday. In addition, a disclaimer stated that any personal health concerns should be voiced to a primary care provider.

Continuous evaluation.

Successes, setbacks, and obstacles encountered were tracked daily in a Microsoft Word document entitled “Facebook Journal.” Maintaining a record of problems and their solutions proved useful in providing day-to-day tracking of methods used and their success or lack thereof. Facebook’s insights and analytics provided detailed analysis including number of page and post likes, reach, sources of likes, and audience demographic characteristics.


Four weeks after the page went live, it received 198 likes from Canada, the United States, Ghana, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Ecuador. Engagement (post clicks, likes, comments, and shares) was obtained from the above-mentioned countries, as well as Israel, Australia, Iran, and the United Kingdom. The page had a total organic reach (ie, number of viewers who saw a post without paid advertisements) of 5601 people living in Canada, and had reached 44 other countries. Of the 198 likes, 78% were from people between the ages of 18 and 34 years. Posts that obtained the most reach were those including photos, followed by posts containing links.


The ultimate goal of the Facebook page was to engage patients and raise awareness surrounding the Champlain BASE eConsult service. Within 4 weeks of launching the site, we obtained extensive reach worldwide but limited uptake in terms of discussion flow. It might take more time for the page to gain the popularity and trust necessary to develop a large enough audience for consistent engagement. The eConsult Facebook page remains a key resource for patients, enabling them to conveniently acquire information about and comment on the service. We expect increased traffic as the service becomes more mainstream. With technology evolving and shaping our means of communication, Facebook can be an effective, simple tool for patient engagement

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Healthcare Social Media: how to make a positive impact on your practice and healthcare using word of mouse

Vandna Jerath, MD, ob/gyn physician and medical director of Optima Women's Healthcare and Optima Vitality MD and Women and Children's Services Chair at Parker …
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How to Respond to Negative Social Media Postings

How to Respond to Negative Social Media Postings | Social Media and Healthcare |

Doctors have always been subject to reputational risks from negative comments or rumors.  The difference now is the enormous speed and reach with which they are spread through social media.

The issue is not only how but whether the healthcare entity or an individual physician should respond at all. This creates a quandary: responding to the patient/family could be a violation of patient privacy, even though the patient or family posted their own protected health information, but ignoring the issue could be perceived as a tacit agreement with the complaints or lack of concern with the feedback. The desire to “correct the record” or give the other side of the story when faced with the negative online posting is natural. However, doing so may lead to an allegation of breach of confidentiality or other legal consequences.

Healthcare providers are bound by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and state privacy laws, which strongly restrict what personal health information of the patient can be shared, unless the disclosure is necessary for treatment, payment or healthcare operations. Thus, HIPAA restricts what a hospital or other covered entity can publicly say about a patient.

Be aware that something as simple as a response acknowledging that a patient is or was a patient may violate privacy laws. The mere acknowledgment of the patient-physician relationship or that someone is receiving care from your hospital/clinical setting without patient consent can be a HIPAA violation and could potentially result in the patient reporting the physician or healthcare organization to the Board of Medicine or the state Department of Health and/or filing a lawsuit claiming breach of privacy.

Unlike complaints that are made by a patient directly to an organization, many complaints made online are anonymous. You may think you know who made the complaint and want to reach out directly to the patient but consider how the patient may feel if he or she believes that his or her desire for anonymity and privacy has not been respected.

There are basically four alternative responses to a patient/family’s negative online posting:

  1. Ignore the post if the comments are generally benign.
  2. Respond to significantly negative or blatantly untruthful comments with a generic statement that explains your privacy rules and your process for receiving complaints. The statement should never identify that the individual is or was a patient but only confirm that your organization was named in the posting.
  3. Contact local law enforcement immediately if the posting is a threat against a specific healthcare provider, staff member or other individual. These comments should be taken seriously and require immediate action. Make a hard copy of the postings to provide to law enforcement as the posting could be deleted by the individual making the threats.
  4. Notify your insurance company’s Claims Department through a Notice of Potential Loss if any comments indicate that a medical malpractice or other claim against the healthcare organization is likely.

To reduce the risks and challenges with responding to an online complaint, take proactive steps to limit potential postings of negative online comments:

  • Post your organization’s social media guidelines on each of your social networks so the users understand the parameters for use.
  • Develop a policy which addresses the organization’s position on responding to social media comments, including who can speak on behalf of the organization and what can and cannot be posted on social media.
  • Ensure that everyone in the organization knows and understands why not responding directly to online comments is a best practice.
  • Strengthen the organization’s service recovery program by implementing effective systems that invite/encourage patients and families to express their complaints and concerns directly to the healthcare provider or organization. This could be via a Patient Satisfaction Survey.
  • Inform patients and families of the organization’s internal resources to address their concerns, such as providing the office manager’s name and contact information.
  • Do not delete negative comments from your website unless they violate your organization’s social media guidelines. Deleting comments can be perceived as your organization restricting access or “covering up” negative feedback.
  • Learn from these comments. Treat customer feedback, whether negative or positive, as an opportunity to improve the patient experience.
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Why Patient Satisfaction Matters in the Digital Age

Why Patient Satisfaction Matters in the Digital Age | Social Media and Healthcare |

We’d be doing everyone an injustice by not starting this article off with Rolling Stone lyrics, so here we go: “I can't get no satisfaction, cause I try and I try and I try and I try”. Now that this catchy tune is stuck in both of our heads, let’s dive in.

Today more than ever, improving patient satisfaction has become a top goal for healthcare administrators and providers alike. The reason for patient satisfaction taking a front seat is simple: in the digital age, the level of satisfaction patients have with the healthcare they receive is directly linked to key success metrics for hospitals, specialty programs, practices and individual providers alike.

Patient satisfaction affects clinical outcomes, patient retention, and medical malpractice claims.

Satisfaction rates are a strong indicator of how well the physicians and staff of a hospital or specialty program are serving their patients. Whether or not you agree that there's a correlation between patient satisfaction and the quality of care being delivered, CMS and Medicare are making moves to link the two. By moving away from a fee-for-service compensation model into a fee-for-performance reimbursement model, MACRA, MIPS and other quality reporting factors include patient satisfaction measures. In addition, bonuses set-up by hospitals for physicians are increasingly being linked to satisfaction rates.

Pair this with widespread internet access, social media accounts, and rating platforms, and the accelerated impact and scope of patient happiness or dissatisfaction becomes clear. Essentially, in a competitive market where patients are more like consumers in the service industry, capturing positive feedback and patient recommendations are at the core of growth, value delivered, and financial success.

Satisfied patients will share their positive experience with 5 others on average, and dissatisfied patients complain to 9 (or more) other people.

Why Patient Satisfaction Matters for Doctors and Hospitals: The Round-Up

  • Word travels. Satisfied patients will share their experience with 5 others while unsatisfied patients will complain to 9 or more people.
  • Online reviews and feedback put gas on the fire. With increasing numbers of patients posting about their experience and doctors online, more people are catching a glimpse of what goes on “behind the velvet curtain”. If you and your team are delivering great quality of care with satisfied patients, more people will know about it. If you’re missing the mark, these negative reviews can snowball even faster, catching the eyes and ears of even more potential patients.
  • Financial success is linked to patient satisfaction. Countless factors that affect your bottom line are tied to patient success. For instance, Medicare reimbursements, positive patient growth, physician bonuses, developing fruitful partnerships etc. "It is estimated that, in USA, loss of a patient due to dissatisfaction, can result in the loss of over $200,000 in income over the lifetime of the practice.
  • Improved loyalty and patient retention. Whether you’re running a sandwich shop or a joint replacement specialty program, happy people come back and refer others. The cost of patient acquisition is high, so retaining patients by delivering care that exceeds expectation is one of the best ways to avoid high-turnover, create loyalty and extend lifetime value.
  • Get accredited, market a cut above. For hospitals or practices that are accredited or earn a Center of Excellence designation, being able to legitimately market as a cut above or as the “best of the best” earns new patients. In order to be recognized by third party groups and boards, patient satisfaction and quality of service must exceed set benchmarks.
  • Reduced Malpractice suits. Studies suggest that there’s a correlation between doctor-patient communication, satisfaction, and medical malpractice claims or lawsuits. The greater the satisfaction, the lower the risk for lawsuits. Up with satisfaction, down with lawsuits!
  • Charge More for Better Service. Studies show that patients are willing to pay more to consult with a quality physician of their choice. As the peer-reviewed journal “Patient Satisfaction” by Bhanu Prakash states, “organizations with high customer loyalty can command a higher price without losing their profit or market share.” In other words, greater satisfaction lends care providers the ability to justify and achieve higher prices.
  • You’ll be happier, too. Although boosting patient satisfaction may be an uphill battle at first, reaping the rewards of happier, more satisfied patients will make your job easier. When others are happy, you’ll be happy too.

How to Improve Patient Satisfaction

To answer this, it's important to get in the mindset of patients. Ask: What do patients want from their healthcare providers? What do patients value in health care? What do patients expect from doctors? With this in mind, here are actionable ways to boost patient satisfaction.

1. Zero-In on Non- Clinical Factors

A lot of factors go into creating a satisfying patient experience. Although many have to do with providing adequate, quality care and treatment, a lot of it boils down to interpersonal skills, likeability, communication, and you know, everything you’ve read in “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. As a healthcare provider, making an attempt to connect with patients or at the very least, allow them to feel heard, goes a long way. Having poor bedside manner negatively affects patient satisfaction, trust and retention.

After all, if a patient feels their doctor isn’t listening or is preoccupied, naturally, they’ll question whether or not this healthcare provider will deliver the great treatment. In a competitive marketplace, like joint replacement surgery, it’d be a shame to lose a patient because a care team didn’t pay enough attention, make eye contact, actively listen, and so forth. Seeing patients more as customers who have a choice where they receive treatment may help to underscore how important giving a little more of yourself is.

2. Get Staff of All Levels on the Same Page

During a typical 3 to 4-day stay in a large hospital, a patient may interact with 50-60 employees.” Let that sink in for a minute. If you’re in a smaller practice, this number may be a bit exaggerated, but the point still rings true. Like that saying, “you’re only as strong as your weakest player”, building and maintaining a unified team, whether it’s entry-level staff to top-performing surgeons, that are service-oriented is key. Developing an organizational structure and mission that supports and encourages the delivery of top-notch patient satisfaction will help keep the head’s of all players, large and small, in the game.

For hospital administrators, adding-in incentive programs and physician bonuses that are linked to patient satisfaction can make improved service a tangible goal while the institution works toward it becoming second nature. For physician partners or members of small practices, beyond government incentives or accreditations, keeping all staff focused on the patient will boost referrals, generate hands-off online marketing, increase retention, and the list goes on.

3. Extend Reach to Beyond the Office

It’s much easier said than done to up your interpersonal game and come across as a more attentive group of staff, surgery bookers, nurses or physicians. The major reason: time. In a fast-paced, stressful environment feeling rushed and burned out can become the everyday familiar. Even at the best of times it’s impossible to share all of the information you’d like with patients. This is one reason why managing social media accounts for your practice or hospital is so great for communicating with patients, sharing more pertinent information, and building a stronger sense of connection and community.

PeerWell, the mobile PreHab and ReHab app that’s being adopted by hospital specialty programs, offers a lot of the same benefits as thriving social media accounts—greater patient engagement, communication and monitoring. However, the main difference is that PeerWell doesn’t add to clinical flow, but actually saves staff and physicians on care time. By providing patients with more attentive, around-the-clock care and guidance, PeerWell’s daily lessons boost patient satisfaction while better preparing and educating patients about their upcoming procedure. The app is customized for each hospital or doctor which means that the feelings of guidance and care received are directly linked back to that hospital and doctor, not just to PeerWell.

4. Go Beyond the HCAHPS

If you're a hospital administrator or provider at a hospital, you're likely well-acquainted with CMS' required patient satisfaction survey. HCAHPS (Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems) is a survey that aims to capture and score all inpatient experience and satisfaction in hospitals across the USA. For more than a decade, the standardized survey instrument and data collection methodology that has been used widely. The standard collection protocol keeps hospitals across the board in-check, measuring 27 items that touch on factors like: communication with doctors, responsiveness of hospital staff, cleanliness of the hospital environment, quietness of the hospital environment, and communication about medicines, discharge information and more.

In addition to dedicated reporting and collecting of the required HCAHPS satisfaction measures, think outside of the standardized box. Don't just try to satisfy patients in ways that can be linked back to how they will grade you on a fixed surgery, go above and beyond because an institution that is built around better serving patients will perform better and sustain success. If patient satisfaction becomes a true core value, it will show.

5. Become a Centre of Excellence

We’ve mentioned “Centre of Excellence” (COE) a few times throughout this post. This is because becoming COE is like a one-stop shop towards boosting patient satisfaction rates. Building a legitimate Centre of Excellence that hasn’t just adopted the title for empty marketing means putting into play a number of different factors—majority of which directly serve to better patient satisfaction.

Offering a higher quality of standardized care; creating clear cohesive leadership; enforcing an above average standard for physician’s career experience and annual caseload; having complete in-house experience; and delivering better patient education and support all help put a COE program on the map. Soaring patient satisfaction is a side effect of taking the time to strategically design a COE that engages key players in an organization, treats patients as customers, and unifies the goals of all staff member and physicians.

Got Patient Satisfaction? Here’s What’s Next

For hospitals and physicians who are sustaining positive patient satisfaction rates, the next step is to leverage them. If your organization has worked hard to earn the satisfaction of patients, why not use these positive experiences as a means to reach more people you can help? Not capturing positive ratings, feedback and testimonials is leaving massive opportunity on the table. It’s like achieving Olympic Gold behind closed doors and not telling a soul about (admittedly, this is a weak analogy. Comment below if you’re a literary wizard).

Here’s how to leverage patient satisfaction to reach more patients.

  • Capture Yelp Reviews. Like it or not, people read Yelp reviews before going to restaurants, buying a car, or you guessed it, choosing a physician or hospital. Having someone in the office set-up and manage a Yelp page is a must. Building a process that encourages patients to generate review content can serve as a well-oiled machine for your healthcare practice. Email campaigns, paper handouts, and providing iPads in waiting rooms with a call-to-action to leave positive feedback are all ways to build out your testimonial library.
  • Social Channel Ratings. Like capturing Yelp reviews, getting patients to rank your specialty program, hospital, or physician’s office on Facebook will help capture the attention of potential patients. Build enough written reviews, star ratings, or be tagged in enough posts, and you will begin to reap the rewards by “getting seen” by search engines, on your owned social pages, and in the newsfeeds of targeted users. Social media marketing for your care center requires little upkeep and lets the people you serve build out the testimonial content for you. Read more on running social media as a hospital or doctor’s office.
  • Add Testimonials to Your Website or Blog. Kudos if you’ve got a blog! I think you can guess how we feel about blogging as a means to reach the right people! But really, before scheduling an appointment or procedure, you have to assume that patients will be doing online research. Sharing personal patient success stories and building out a dedicated testimonial section on your site (or adding a “waterfall” feature that highlights positive patient reviews!) is a great way to show off how satisfied the people you serve really are. In the digital world, optimizing testimonials is a powerful tool for building a reputable name and earning more of the “right” patients.

Are you a clinician? Are you a hospital executive or administrator? Learn more about how PeerWell’s hands-off mobile PreHab and ReHab app boosts satisfaction while giving you more time to do what you do best—treat the patients that need you.

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Social Media for Doctors - Boon or Bane?

Social Media for Doctors - Boon or Bane? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Boon! Definitely. As a recent graduate and a social media fanatic, I can vouch for the many advantages that social media brings with it from the view point of a student and a practicing medical professional. I would like to list them out for the ones that aren't familiar with the usage or don't understand what all the hue and cry is about. If tapped the right way, it's a gold mine. Let me tell you how!

You have the regular Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Whatsapp, Telegram, etc, etc.

Facebook - Facebook usually has a feed that is overloaded with your regular posts by friends or friends of friends or pages you follow. So, academic posts may get lost in all that. However, if you are an active medical Professional with a constant patient load, have a good variety of cases and harbor a keen interest in academia, I would suggest you make your own page. On this page, content pertaining to your field of interest could be posted regularly and shared with your peers and a discussion could always benefit a diagnosis. On the other hand, if you would just like to observe and learn, there are plenty of pages that you could follow for each specialty, which constantly update cases or articles and facilitates a healthy discussion. Facebook has also recently launched the "story" feature similar to snapchat and instagram that allows you to post images that last 24 hours and automatically get erased.

Instagram - I personally love instagram as a medium to interact and discuss with my peers. There are plenty of pages exclusively catering to each specialty. For example, there are plenty of radiologists from all over the world, who post cases almost everyday, conduct quizzes and at the end of each day post answers allowing a healthy discussion to ensue. You could also privately message the authors for any doubts you may have. I feel this is the best way for residents to learn. As a radiology resident, I would contact authors on instagram or twitter and they would answer my question, clarify my doubts and some were even gracious enough to send me current updates or articles via email. The story feature is retained here as well in case you want to post an interesting case you encountered.

Twitter - Twitter is by far the most current and updated tool you may have on you smart phone. As soon as something happens, it's on twitter. The advantage is the who's who of every spectrum of the medical profession tweet. Infact, some programmes even ask you to list your twitter handle on applications. Authors have also started including their twitter handle in their articles under the contact information tab. Every medical advance is updated instantly. For example, I came across the recent classification of mediastinal compartments on twitter. I came across the latest updates in artificial intelligence pertaining to radiology on Twitter. I also found out that CT contrast studies are not responsible for AKI anymore. Almost every stalwart in your field of interest tweets! Almost every board or university or online resource tweets! Find them, follow them, retweet them, quote them, spread the word. The best way to stay updated in common practices, advances, participate in quizzes, find the best conferences, find the best courses and opportunities. Just search for the #hashtag.

Snapchat - Almost all of them have overlapping features. The story feature is now offcially available on every platform - Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp and Snapchat. You could just skip snapchat. However, if you already have a number of faithful followers, why not?

Whatsapp - This is for people on your contacts. So, what is being done is people form groups. For example - USMLE chat groups, FRCR chat groups, etc, etc. It allows people to stay updated, share links to books, study tips, images and the likes. Also some academicians do start groups for the benefits of their students and share cases regularly to aid their preparation in exams or simply to teach.

Telegram - Telegram is an app that functions similar to Whatsapp groups, however it allows you to share larger files such as books in the form of pdfs, larger image files and also allows a larger group size. Whatsapp restricts the number of contacts that you could add on to one group. Telegram usually allows larger numbers and larger media files.

In a country like India, where our hospitals are usually brimming with patients and give you access to a good variety of cases, we have all the material needed to share, educate and illuminate young minds. Also, it never hurts to stay updated on the recent advances, current protocols and practices in medicine. Try and incorporate a little bit of social media in to your lives. Stay updated. Use it to your advantage.

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Canadian physicians and social media: a survey

Canadian Medical Association review of social media use and attitudes among ePanel of CMA members
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Social Media and Total Joint Arthroplasty: An Analysis of Patient Utilization on Instagram

Social Media and Total Joint Arthroplasty: An Analysis of Patient Utilization on Instagram | Social Media and Healthcare |


The purpose of this observational study was to investigate and analyze the nature of the shared content of lower extremity total joint arthroplasty (TJA) patients on Instagram. Specifically, we evaluated: 1) perspective and timing of the social media posts (pre-, peri-, or post-operative); 2) tone of the post (positive or negative); 3) focus of the post (including activities of daily living (ADLs), rehabilitation, return-to-work (RTW)); and 4) compare these findings between hip and knee arthroplasties.


A search of the public Instagram domain was performed over a 6 month period. Total hip and knee arthroplasty were selected for the analysis using the following terms: “#totalhipreplacement,” “#totalkneereplacement,” and associated terms. A total of 1,287 individual public posts of human subjects were shared during the period. A categorical scoring system was manually applied for media format (photo or video), time (pre-, peri- or post-operative) period, tone (positive or negative), RTW reference, ADLs reference, rehabilitation reference, surgical site reference, radiograph image, satisfaction and dissatisfaction references. The post perspective was recorded.


91% of the posts by patients were shared during the post-operative period. 93% of posts had a positive tone to them. 34% of posts focused on both ADLs and 33.8% rehabilitation. TKA patients shared more about their surgical site (14.5% vs. 3.3%, p < .001) and rehabilitation (58.9% vs. 8.8%, p < .001) than THA patients, whereas THA patients shared more about their ADLs than TKA patients (60.5% vs. 7.6%, p < .001).


When sharing their experience on Instagram, arthroplasty patients did so with a positive tone, starting a week after surgery. TKA posts focused more on rehabilitation and wound healing than THA patients, while THA patients shared more posts on ADLs. The analysis of social media posts provides insight into what matters to patients following TJA.

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What’s Your Dental Social Media ROI? 

What’s Your Dental Social Media ROI?  | Social Media and Healthcare |

All dental marketing efforts are built on the bottom line question: “How will this help my practice be more profitable?” In the social media marketing space, new tools and trends allow us to show ROI more accurately than ever.

Social media return on investment is one of the most heavily debated topics in the marketing world. For dental practices, social media marketing deals with many aspects of the business that aren’t easily quantified — goodwill, top-of-mind awareness, patient relationships — and figuring out exactly how much revenue you can attribute to these is a vague science at best.

However, there are other returns that you can absolutely attribute to your social media, especially now that platforms like Facebook and Instagram have made powerful analytics tools available to the average user. With a little team training, you can easily see precisely how your online efforts are contributing to building your online presence and bringing in new patients.

There are two sides to thinking about social media ROI: first, the belief that even if the numbers aren’t definite, building your brand and strengthening patient relationships online will lead to a more profitable practice through higher visibility, word-of-mouth, and better patient retention.

And second, that if your team puts in the effort to track it, you can measure exactly how social media marketing leads to more Likes and shares, more referrals, more positive reviews and more new patients.


And the advertising world believes in spending on social media. In 2016, an eMarketer study reported that U.S. companies’ social media spending (approximately $72 billion) had surpassed television ad spending, with no sign of slowing down.

An online presence is something that potential patients expect you to have, as necessary as a phone number. And it will only become more important as an increasing percentage of people first turn to social media and search engines to research their dental care options.

Take Account of What You CAN Measure

Seeing exactly how your social media contributes to practice growth will take a little effort on the part of your team. Here are the three main things you should be doing to measure social media ROI:

  1. Learn the analytics tools. For each social media platform your practice is on, become familiar with how to track the engagement your posts are getting. Start by learning how to use Facebook Insights.
  2. Train your team to ask patients how they found you. Make sure Facebook, Instagram, and Google Reviews are available answers for “How did you hear about us?” on your new patient intake form. If someone says an existing patient introduced them, ask them if it was because the patient shared one of your social media posts.
  3. Invest in content promotion, and keep track of the costs. Because organic reach for business pages is now so limited (6.5 percent on Facebook according to some studies), most engagement with your posts can be attributed to how much money you put into their promotion. Once you’ve boosted a post, detailed analytics are available on exactly how much it costs to reach your target audience and how many people are clicking through to your pages.

Determining your social media ROI means assessing growth metrics such as Likes and referrals, as well as “intangibles” — things that aren’t easily quantified, but greatly impact new patient acquisition and retention. As you use social media to build your reach, reputation, goodwill and relationships, remember that the greatest return on investment of any dental marketing effort is a lifelong patient who is proud to introduce your practice to family and friends.

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Medical clinic social media marketing 

Medical clinic social media marketing  | Social Media and Healthcare |

According to a report by PWC, 42% of the users  who search for health information on social media look at health-related reviews. Similarly, 29% of the patients look for information on social media through other patients’ experiences with their diseases. This means that users on social media are quite active when it comes to health-related issues. So if you run a medical business, then social media provides you immense scope to grow your medical practice. However, in order to market your medical practice with social media, you need to be aware of certain guidelines. This article will guide you to use social media as a marketing tool for your medical practice.



Share Educational Content

As mentioned above, people are keen to look for health related information on social media. Now, wouldn’t it beneficial for you and your audience if you share this information. Your audience will get the information they need and you will get more engagement from them. Hence, share content that your users are looking for. When you educate your audience regarding certain diseases, treatment or precautionary measures, then they perceive you to be an expert medical professional. As a result, you increase credibility and your brand image enhances on social networks.

Your educated content can talk about precautionary measures to avoid certain diseases. For example, “10 foodstuffs that reduce the risk of heart diseases.” Your content can be related to a treatment process or procedure. For example, “What is an open heart surgery?” or “The process of carrying out an open heart surgery.” Similarly, you can focus on symptoms of certain diseases or habits that can have future complications. For example, “7 habits that can affect your brain.” In fact, you can even share unique content from medical experts as this will help you leverage your reach to more number of people on social media.

Provide Latest Information

You cannot talk about treatment or procedures that were used way back in the 90s. The medical industry has undergone tremendous change along with advancement in science and technology (as you may know) and so you need to provide the latest information about treatment and procedures. Similarly, there are an increasing number of diseases that people are suffering from than ever before. Therefore, you need to provide the latest information to your followers. For this purpose, you need to update your content. This means that you’ll have to create content regularly. In fact, if there’s an epidemic or some new disease that people are talking about, then you can use this time to make people aware and provide them latest information about such diseases such as the Ebola virus, Avian Influenza virus, and other illnesses.

Update Information on Your Services

Apart from posting general updates and sharing health-related articles, market your services as well. Once your followers read your content regarding certain diseases or sicknesses, they’ll search for medical services for treatment. This is where you need to promote your medical services and offers. Offers can be provided for flu shots during flu season, discount for a family checkup and others. Your new treatment procedures can be explained with the help of a video. Also, it is important that you update your social profile by adding new services.

Make sure you follow the 10 elements of a successful social media profile. When you follow these elements and update your profile, not only do people become aware of your new services but also other users on social media looking for similar services are able to find you. Thus, your followers increase and you reach out to more people.

Use Visuals

No one would like to read a blog unless you make it appealing through your tone and language or by adding visual elements. In fact, visuals are the best way to communicate the message in a short manner. Hence, visuals tend to resonate more than text alone. Images, infographics, videos, and GIFs are a great way to catch the attention of your audience. Your video content can include animated videos that show how certain illnesses affect your body or how harmful organisms enter your body. Now the creation of such content can be tedious and expensive. If you are low on budget, then it is recommended that you share content from others.


For images, you can list down content instead of writing a blog. For example, you can list “4 ways to reduce weight” or “10 harmful types of cancer.” You can even make use of infographics to indicate health statistics. For example, “increasing number of diabetes patients in Canada”, “number of people suffering from various illnesses” and other medical related data.

Visual communication of data is perfect for your audience on social media.

Engage By Responding to Your Followers

One of the best ways to engage with your followers is by beginning a conversation. Social media is all about building relationships and so you need to develop a conversation with your audience by answering or commenting on their questions or comments respectively. Moreover, when you provide thoughtful feedback, your followers regard you as a medical expert. Such interactions help in building your medical brand.

Social Media Ads

If you want to promote your medical services or products, then you should consider using social media ads. You can run ads on multiple platforms at the same time. This means you can have ads on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and other social media channels in order to extend your awareness to audiences across multiple platforms. However, the cost of advertising will differ and so will the targeting options. For instance, LinkedIn is more likely to take professional details into consideration when showing ads to its users. Facebook will consider professional details and also other social interactions like following, liking and commenting on particular posts.

Through social media ads, you can create different types of ads based on user interface. This means there will be different ad options for mobile, desktop or tablet version. They include banner ads on top of the screen as you’ll see on top of the screen on LinkedIn or ads that are shown in small boxes especially on the right corner of the page on desktop. When it comes to mobile, promoted or sponsored posts are forms of ad that are commonly used. Nevertheless, sponsored posts are used on other interfaces as well. Sponsored posts appear like normal posts when a user scrolls through his newsfeed.


Social media forms a part of owned media when you share your content on your profile. It becomes paid media when you start using social media marketing to get more customers.

Now when you run a campaign on social media, you need a user to perform some desired actions. Therefore, you add call to action buttons on your posts unless you just want to create maximum awareness for which, users do not have to perform any action. The ad is displayed to a user and he becomes aware of your medical service. In the case of sponsored posts, the call to action can be in the form of following your page, commenting or sharing your content, signing with your medical newsletter, booking an appointment and others. You can also redirect a user to your medical website when they click on your ad. Therefore, you need to create a landing page where your users are directed. Your landing page should be well-crafted so that it helps you in converting a prospect into your client. If you need any assistance in designing and running your ad campaign on social media, then it is recommended that you contact a social media marketing firm that will help you improve your conversion rate.

Follow this guide to market your medical practice with social media effectively. Social media marketing brings many benefits like increasing reach, getting more followers, increasing engagement, enhancing online reputation management, and also growing your medical business. Therefore, if you want to avail these benefits for your medical practice, then do not delay and get started with social media marketing.

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The need for pharmacists to draw boundaries on social media

The need for pharmacists to draw boundaries on social media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media is omnipresent today. Be it in private life or at work, every action and decision can be instantly projected to millions of people worldwide. As with all technological advancements, the omnipresence of social media is potentially a double-edged sword.

In the age where social media is powerful enough to influence the presidency candidature of a country, how should pharmacists draw the line that separates professionalism with the freedom to express their thoughts?

How well connected are Malaysians?

According to the 2016 report by the Malaysian Digital Association, close to 70% of Malaysians have access to the internet. Within the "online" population, almost all of them use social media as one of their communication tools. On average, Malaysians spend 5.1 hours a day on the internet, where 2.8 hours of the time is spent on social networks.

To put this into perspective, collectively Malaysians spend a staggering 21 billion hours on social media annually. Unsurprisingly, pharmacists and other healthcare professionals are increasing their reliance on digital platforms to communicate and interact with their patients and peers.

Social media and pharmacy

The utilisation of social media to exchange information is a contemporary method that presents unique challenges, especially to pharmacists in upholding professional conducts that are deemed appropriate.

A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of Sydney in Australia looked at how pharmacists use social media in their daily practice. The team reported that the respondents, mostly community pharmacists, limited their online interactions on social media.

Although most of the pharmacies own a Facebook page, the pharmacist owners did not “friend” consumers on their page in order to maintain a clear “boundary between professional and personal relationship”. Nonetheless, the respondents also saw the need to correct misleading information that was widely circulated on social media. Some innovative pharmacists used short YouTube videos to augment patient counselling in the pharmacy.

The grey areas

Concerns over patients’ privacy and confidentiality should take precedence when exploring social media as an alternative communication channel. There is still yet a suitable protection mechanism that can ensure information shared on these platforms will not be exploited by a third party, where the data could be used against either the patient or the pharmacist.

Secondly, there is a lack of evidence to support the notion that communication through social media is both effective and accurate. Text messages and written paragraphs or essays are the most commonly used media to convey health questions and relevant answers.

Without sufficient contact with patients, pharmacists will have a tough time to correctly assess their conditions, let alone provide accurate clinical advice to them.

Malaysian MOH guidelines

In order to address the increasing use of social media among healthcare professionals for clinical consultations, the Malaysian Ministry of Health issued a guideline to the healthcare professionals (HCP) working in public health facilities. The guideline particularly focuses on consultation between HCPs.

From the 8-page long guideline, the MOH stressed the importance of maintaining patients' confidentiality. HCPs are urged not to share images or videos that contain any patient identifiers, such as names, hospital registration number or their home address. Written consent should be sought from the patients before HCPs are allowed to upload any material relating to them.

The MOH also outlined the criteria of a "good social media platform that can be approved and used for group consultation". Features such as traceable member profiles, the presence of a moderator and sufficient security to exclude public access to the data are suggested. The guideline goes further to prohibit the use of several popular social media for consultation purposes. The banned platforms include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. MIMS

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Social Media Use in the United States: Implications for Health Communication

Social Media Use in the United States: Implications for Health Communication | Social Media and Healthcare |

Background: Given the rapid changes in the communication landscape brought about by participative Internet use and social media, it is important to develop a better understanding of these technologies and their impact on health communication. The first step in this effort is to identify the characteristics of current social media users. Up-to-date reporting of current social media use will help monitor the growth of social media and inform health promotion/communication efforts aiming to effectively utilize social media.

Objective: The purpose of the study is to identify the sociodemographic and health-related factors associated with current adult social media users in the United States.

Methods: Data came from the 2007 iteration of the Health Information National Trends Study (HINTS, N = 7674). HINTS is a nationally representative cross-sectional survey on health-related communication trends and practices. Survey respondents who reported having accessed the Internet (N = 5078) were asked whether, over the past year, they had (1) participated in an online support group, (2) written in a blog, (3) visited a social networking site. Bivariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted to identify predictors of each type of social media use.

Results: Approximately 69% of US adults reported having access to the Internet in 2007. Among Internet users, 5% participated in an online support group, 7% reported blogging, and 23% used a social networking site. Multivariate analysis found that younger age was the only significant predictor of blogging and social networking site participation; a statistically significant linear relationship was observed, with younger categories reporting more frequent use. Younger age, poorer subjective health, and a personal cancer experience predicted support group participation. In general, social media are penetrating the US population independent of education, race/ethnicity, or health care access.

Conclusions: Recent growth of social media is not uniformly distributed across age groups; therefore, health communication programs utilizing social media must first consider the age of the targeted population to help ensure that messages reach the intended audience. While racial/ethnic and health status–related disparities exist in Internet access, among those with Internet access, these characteristics do not affect social media use. This finding suggests that the new technologies, represented by social media, may be changing the communication pattern throughout the United States.

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What NOT to do...: Avoiding HIPAA risks on Social Media

What NOT to do...: Avoiding HIPAA risks on Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

What NOT to do…

A Texas physician who performs aesthetic treatments recently agreed to disciplinary action by the Board of Medicine. In 2015, a patient underwent a series of non-invasive laser treatments with Dr. Tinuade Olugesugun-Gbadeham. Around May 27, 2015, the patient made a video testimonial on the results of these procedures. The patient gave consent to have photos and videos taken – though authorization was limited to “anonymous use for the purposes of medical audit, education, and promotion.”

The patient’s video was posted to the doctor’s Facebook page with full face shots. No attempt to mask the patient’s identity.

The video suggested the patient was happy with the procedures.

But, soon after, all was different.

Two months later, the patient replied to the Facebook post saying “OK, I’ll make my Comment! Beware! Send me a personal message, and I’ll share my experience with this crap!”

Not a happy camper.

The patient disputed some of the charges for the procedure with her credit card company – and this may have fueled the deteriorating doctor-patient relationship.

Dr. Tinuade Olugesugun-Gbadeham and the patient exchanged a number of emails.

Around August 19, 2015, the doctor allegedly responded to the patient via email, “‘The contrast between your printed words and your video-taped testimonial are completely contradictory. …This video result, when posted as a response to your next slanderous comment about the Dr. O Lift on social media, will be just as damaging to YOUR professional reputation. Let this communication serve as our formal legal notice to you regarding these matters.” Just so we’re clear here. The doctor is writing this to the patient.

The patient then explicitly directed the doctor to remove the online video testimonial.

The saga continued.

Around August 29, 2015 and September 14, 2015, the patient filed police reports alleging that the doctor was harassing her in retaliation for a billing dispute by posting a videotape taken of her in her undergarments on Facebook and YouTube and by sending a copy of the videotape to her credit card company (challenging the chargeback).

On September 14, 2015, the doctor emailed the patient indicating that she would continue to post and distribute the patient’s videotape and that the patient would regret reporting anything against the doctor. The doctor allegedly wrote ], “I will damage your professional reputation, and you will be humiliated!” In addition, “[P]eople will see your glowing testimonial and your body, enjoy your Hi-Def video! Enjoy as others will do the same.” Just so we’re clear here again. The doctor is writing this to the patient.

The patient filed a complaint with the Texas Medical Board arguing she suffered burns during the first procedure. She also claimed she was overbilled and was disputing some of the charges with her credit card company.

The Texas Medical Board concuded the posting of the video was a HIPAA violation and was unprofessional. The Board also ruled that an email containing the link to a posting of the video sent to the patient in an “unsecured format” was ALSO a confidentiality breach and was unprofessional.

The Texas Medical Board continued with its laundry list. They also concluded Dr. Olusegun-Gbadehan sent the video to the merchant processing company in response to the billing dispute as evidence that the patient initially appeared to be happy with the treatment, but this too was a violation of the patient’s privacy. Piling on indeed.

Although patients cannot sue directly based on HIPAA, the case still lingers on.

The patient sued Dr. Tinuade Olugesugun-Gbadeham for mental anguish, physical pain, and suffering. This is being packaged as a health care liability claim claiming the publication of the video and subsequent correspondence via email were intended to damage the patient’s personal and professional reputation.

A handful of comments…

  • Get the appropriate consent for photographs/videos. We have generic consents for photographs/videos. Just ask.
  • Honor those consents. If the consent asks that pictures/videos be de-identified, make sure the pictures cannot be tied back to the individual patient. This often is more than just putting a stripe over the patient’s eyes. For example, if the if the photo includes an unusual shoulder tattoo, that is a potentially identifying mark.
  • HIPAA does actually allow you to send limited protected health information without the patient’s authorization to address a financial dispute. HIPAA is a federal law. And a given state may have more stringent requirements than the federal baseline. But, in addressing a financial dispute, little needs to be sent. For example, that the patient signed a credit card receipt authorizing for a specific procedure to be done on a specific date; and indeed that procedure was done. There’s no need to send a videotape of the patient in undergarments waxing eloquently (no pun intended) about how great the procedure was. The credit card company is not adjudicating whether the patient has buyer’s remorse. Merely whether the payment was authorized.
  • If a patient asks you to remove an online photo/video and it is within your reasonable control to make it happen, just do it. HIPAA allows patients to withdraw their authorization to disclose protected health information. Obviously if the patient’s photo is published in a national magazine, you cannot reasonably recall each copy. But, if it is on your Facebook page, you can honor the request.

Like many things, disputes over money can escalate into World War Three. Such disputes can often be pre-empted with targeted diplomacy.

What do you think?

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5 healthful ways physicians can respond to negative online patient ratings

5 healthful ways physicians can respond to negative online patient ratings | Social Media and Healthcare |

Patients have more avenues than ever to express themselves online, whether on social media, through physician rating sites like RateMDs, Vitals and Healthgrades as well as even Yelp.

Doctors are getting rated just like professionals in any other industry, and it pays to know how to handle criticism.

No matter how professional and caring a doctor you may be, no doctor will receive universally positive reviews. Here is some advice.

Many doctors dislike being rated at all, but to succeed in the online world you shouldn’t ignore reviews. Instead, approach online ratings proactively. You’ll find yourself better able to influence the online conversation about you, fix any shortcomings in your practice, and engage critical patients in a positive, constructive way.




When a patient posts critical comments, it’s important to know how to respond:

1. Listen to the criticism.

Patients may leave online reviews because they feel this is the only way they can have a voice.

After patients leave your exam room, often you don’t know what they thought about you or your practice. The criticism might not even be about you. You don’t know what patients thought about the nurses or medical assistants, or if they were concerned about the parking or whether the waiting room magazines were up to date.

These are issues you may not be aware of—but they matter to patients. By listening to online criticism, you can identify and fix easily correctable situations and improve patients’ satisfaction scores.

2. Take critical conversations offline.

Whenever you see criticism on the web, there’s a strong temptation to respond to it immediately. You want to set the record straight and clear the air.

Instead, take the conversation offline. An online argument is unlikely to result in anything productive.

Post a standard reply thanking the patient for the comment and asking him or her to call the clinic. Be careful not to reveal any private patient information. If you can resolve the dispute over the phone or in person, the patient may take down the comment or even add an addendum stating, “You know what? This office is actually listening to what I have to say.”

That can turn a negative situation into a more constructive one. Take the same approach whether the patient’s comment is on a ratings site or on social media. If you’re employed by a hospital or health care system, coordinate your efforts with your marketing or public relations team, who are likely to see an offline conversation as the most beneficial solution for both you and the organization.

3. Read the fine print.

If you believe any online comments are suspicious, contact the rating site to see if the comments violate the terms of service agreement.

For example, some rating sites have terms of service agreement that prohibit anyone from posting multiple ratings on a single doctor. Ask the company to investigate.

In general, always read the terms of service agreement and report any possible violations.

4. Ask more patients to rate you online.

Most patients generally like their doctors, and dozens of studies show that a majority of online ratings are positive.

By asking more patients to rate you online, you can make negative ratings look more like outliers.

In the surgical world, there’s a saying about irrigating an abscess:



 “The solution to pollution is dilution.” The same principle applies to physician rating sites. If you ask more patients to rate you online, the positive comments can dilute the negative ratings by placing them lower in search results and making them less visible.

Your patients just need to be encouraged to write reviews. Ask your patients to post a review if there’s something they like about you or what your practice is doing, or if they have any suggestions for your practice.

Don’t cherry-pick patients or pressure them to say something positive about your practice, but ask for a rating from every single patient in a low-key and low-pressure way. Many practices even hand out cards with specific instructions on how to rate their doctors online. On the whole, the reviews will be positive.

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5. Resist the urge to sue.

Only rarely have doctors successfully sued rating sites, which may argue that removing negative ratings is an infringement of a patient’s right to free speech.

Also, suing patients for bad reviews may backfire. A doctor once sued a patient for a negative review and made front-page headlines in a newspaper. Now whenever you search online for that doctor’s name, the newspaper story comes up as the first result. By suing patients over criticism, you will only bring more attention to it and highlight the negative reviews.

6. Don’t take it personally.

Doctors by nature take all patient interactions very seriously — and often take criticism personally.

That makes negativity especially hard to hear. It may be difficult to regard online criticism as an inevitable part of the job, but that’s what it is. Patients don’t expect us to be 100 percent perfect, and patients are more likely to see an 89 percent positive rating on a website as more authentic than a 100 percent rating.

Try to manage your patients’ expectations — and also try to manage your expectations for yourself. Recognize that you may not be the right fit for every patient, and that sometimes a patient simply has different expectations than you do.

Kevin Pho, M.D., is founder and editor of medical social media information site He wrote this article for Napa-based The Doctors Company.

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Digital Marketing for Doctors: A click closer to the patients !

Digital Marketing for Doctors: A click closer to the patients ! | Social Media and Healthcare |

Digital Marketing for Doctors : As they say, we must embrace meaningful changes. And since we are already living in a generation which is predominantly run by technological advancements such as the use of  computers and the rise and rise of internet , it is about time to embrace change  for our own advantage.

Despite it being both on the extreme sides, healthcare has something to benefit from digital marketing. Obviously, there are plenty of industries nowadays which are using these strategies and at the same time harnessing the benefits of it. The use of Digital marketing for doctors would result in more engagement from patients for improved satisfaction, increased brand awareness, improvement in patient retention, promotion of a positive reputation online, and improved digital visibility.

In the healthcare industry alone, doctors have slowly embraced the paradigm shift specifically on how healthcare has been marketed since then to the people. Nowadays, we can see that the healthcare industry and doctors alike already have custom websites, emails, social media, mobile app, and so on. After all, people nowadays are driven extensively by the use of social media as well as other available digital platforms in managing their health. And after thorough analysis, it is only the time that they decide to look at this medium more seriously. Doctors that can make use of these new channels of communication are prospects for new patient communication and engagement.

Due to the extreme ease with with information is available now , patients, as consumers, would no longer just accept anything that doctors feed them as information. Instead, people rely on most of the time health-related information that is accessible online. It’s no surprise then that patients today would search online first about medical conditions instead of asking it from doctors. And once they are able to search what they need to look for online, then that is the time that they book an appointment with a physician. Such scenario is a clear indication of how people nowadays are taking ownership and responsibility for their health, as well as taking to the online medium for looking for health information. And this is the same change that doctors must cope up with in order to keep the ball rolling.

Fortunately, the digital channels that are now present nowadays are becoming beneficial for a lot of doctors. They are no longer relying solely on the traditional means of marketing such as the word of mouth. But instead, they prioritize more the digital outreach that which is quite the norm of today. There might be a stiff competition but it is the only way for doctors to fair well in the competition of online reputation. Thus, it is very important for doctors to learn online marketing in their industry.

Interestingly, doctors must abide by the rules of today specifically in social media services for doctors as part of their strategy. It has been an indispensable way for doctors nowadays in order to nurture a relationship based on credibility and trust. Online medium and offers a great way to build a profile  and credibility about the doctors and cross geographic boundaries in terms of being able to provide consulting service. Digital marketing for doctors takes it a notch further by proactively reaching out to the people who may be looking for these services.

By embracing the digital marketing services for doctors that are present nowadays, doctors will be able to have a meaningful channel of communication with their patients that will work later on in their favor. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube & Google have been innovative used by some healthcare professionals across the world to better engage with their patients.  As the number of digital natives , people who grow with smart phones and tablets in their hands, increases and information access becomes easier for the masses across all socio-economic strata , doctors, must also think of managing their online brand reputation and perception and of better ways to engage with their patients

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How Social Messaging Apps are Encouraging Real-Time Patient Conversations

How Social Messaging Apps are Encouraging Real-Time Patient Conversations | Social Media and Healthcare |

In 2015, the use of social messaging apps exceeded social network apps for the first time. Since 70 percent of adults in the United States already own a smartphone, conversions via one of these apps can take place wherever someone happens to be at the moment. This is something that marketers soon discovered. Now the concept is being carried over to the healthcare industry, but not specifically for the purpose of marketing. Social messaging apps are being increasingly used to initiate and maintain real-time conversations between healthcare providers and patients. Messaging apps aren’t the standard form of doctor-patient interactions just yet. Still, there is plenty of potential and room for growth when considering the possible benefits of this type of engagement.

Lowering Communication Barriers

For most patients, connecting with their doctor means calling and leaving a message with a receptionist and waiting to hear back. Communicating through social media posts that are available for the whole world to see is only practical to a point; understandably, health info that’s more personal still needs to be discussed on a one-on-one basis. The happy medium here is a social messaging apps. In situations where these apps have been used, the response has been good, especially in China and a few other countries where the technology has already been adopted on a wider scale. It’s effective because it removes a “wall” or barrier between patients and doctors by allowing for real-time conversations. For healthcare purposes, the apps could be used to:

  • Provide immediate answers to patient questions
  • Periodically check on patients between visits
  • Encourage the reporting of potential issues sooner rather than later
  • Offer preventative care tips specific to a patient’s condition or health related issue

Building On Existing Online Interactions

Virtual doctor visits are already becoming increasingly common, so much so that online consultations are expected to double by 2020. This is just one of the ways healthcare professionals are already reaching out to patients beyond exam rooms. Social messaging apps can serve a similar function by encouraging real-time conversations and making it easier to keep those conversations going between visits. The best place to start with the goal of encouraging such interactions is with millennial patients. Not only is this a group that often embraces new technology faster, but they’re also the type of patients many healthcare providers hope to attract and retain (healthy patients more likely to be receptive to preventive care tips and suggestions). And patients within the 18 to 24 year-old group are already twice as likely as older patients to participate in health related discussions on social platforms.

Allowing for Future Growth with Adaption

Right now, only about 30 percent of healthcare organizations have some type of social media guidelines in place. So it’s not like social messaging apps will automatically be available to every single patient who wants to interact that way. Yet there’s an increased desire among patients to remain connected socially with their healthcare providers. 40 percent of consumers use info they find via social media to deal with their health needs, and 60 percent of doctors agree that social media interactions improve communications with patients. Stats like these suggest there is a need for relevant, useful content to be delivered quickly and efficiently to patients, especially via convenient forms of delivery like social media or messaging apps. However, it’s going to take time to find a comfortable fit for social app interactions in the overall patient experience.

Both patients and healthcare professionals need to learn more about how to take advantage of technology like social messaging apps in a way that makes sense for them. Real-time interactions have to be encouraged with meaningful content. Plus patients need to know that a particular healthcare provider even offers such options.

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In sickness and in health: Clinical research and social media 

In sickness and in health: Clinical research and social media  | Social Media and Healthcare |

In this “digital age,” the model of healthcare is changing rapidly, primarily in the area of communication that is happening among the major stakeholders each minute. Patients, being the central point of the importance of all the work and development, are more empowered than ever with information from various sources, among which social media is leading from the front. This article reviews how social media engages healthcare service providers, service seekers, and regulatory authorities. If the gaps in the current regulations are filled, better healthcare outputs can be triggered. This article also briefly explores the popular healthcare applications launched by leading pharmaceutical companies, encompassing the big data advantage, in this evolving era of patient centricity.

Keywords: Big data, communication, healthcare, mobile applications, patient centricity, social media


How to cite this article:
Ray S. In sickness and in health: Clinical research and social media. Perspect Clin Res 2017;8:73-8


How to cite this URL:
Ray S. In sickness and in health: Clinical research and social media. Perspect Clin Res [serial online] 2017 [cited 2017 Apr 16];8:73-8. Available from:


Many of us have grown up hearing the proverb “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but today's youngsters have coined a different one, “A tweet a day keeps the doctor away.” This signifies the huge impact that social media is having on our life in this “digital age,” globally. To define “social media,” it includes websites and applications which allow the users to create and also share content, empowering individuals for social networking. Currently, social media is omnipresent in most of the turfs. It has changed our perception right from politics to patient care, even altering the inter-industry relationships. A survey of more than 4000 physicians, conducted by the social media site QuantiaMD, found that more than 90% of physicians use some form of social media for personal reasons while 65% use these sites for professional reasons.[1] In another survey conducted by the Institute of Medicine, in the US; the report says that 94% agree with sharing their health data to help doctors to improve care; 92% agree to do so to help research work; 78% patients wish to help drug companies learn more about their disease; and 92% wish to help other patients.[2] Clinical research marking a big territory in the world's healthcare map is also dealing with this changing scenario due to increasing awareness and accessibility to social media. Being a highly regulated sector and where confidentiality of the patients' data has prime focus, these changing situations, with respect to social media, are bound to create a resounding impact, primarily in the way it is practiced and interpreted. In this article, we have focused on the meeting points where the leading social media portals are impacting different areas of healthcare functionalities including clinical trials. The gap between the existing regulations and the requirements should meet to make the best use of social media for better healthcare outcomes, which would also help to create awareness in this rapidly evolving era of patient centricity.

   The Meeting Points 

There is a myriad of social media platforms built with different features, which attract different users based on their needs and interests.[3] The social media platforms can be categorized broadly on their differences in the primary functionality. If each of these sites and applications (apps) are carefully analyzed, a very complex web of communication can be observed among people from varied background.

  • Social networking (Facebook, Pinterest, Google Plus, Twitter, etc.)
  • Health portals (,, etc.)
  • Media sharing (YouTube, Flickr, etc.)
  • Content production (blogs [Tumblr, Blogger] and microblogs [Twitter])
  • Knowledge/information aggregation (e.g., Wikipedia, RxWiki, Medpedia).

The origin of the term “blog” is from the word “Web log,” which is the oldest form of social media and has been used in medicine since 2004.[4] To mention a few more, the professional site, Sermo is a “physician-only” social networking community that verifies the credentials of new members during registration as a unique policy.[5] Physicians representing 68 specialties in all fifty states of the United States of America make a virtual presence on this site for multiple reasons like networking, to discuss multiple treatment options, and to consult peers for expert advice.[5] Shifting our focus from healthcare professionals (HCPs) to the care seekers, in the third quarter of 2015, more than 1 billion of active users visited the social networking site Facebook on a daily basis,[6] where one can find profiles of physicians, patients, nurses, pharmacists primarily. Although this use is most often for personal communications, interestingly more than ninety pages on Facebook are related only to the pharmacy profession [7] where the discussions are certainly not limited only to a personal level. The “Healthcare Hashtag” project, which aims to make the use of Twitter more accessible to the healthcare community as a whole, has recorded over 134 million healthcare-related tweets till date.[8]

Other than Facebook and Twitter, Pinterest is unique as it inspires and educates users with its attractive visual formats. YouTube is another popular platform where two billion videos are viewed every day.[9] Many healthcare and pharma companies are using YouTube to promote or describe their products online. For gathering quick knowledge, surprisingly, Wikipedia is the most commonly used wiki in the medical community.[4] It is often used as a reference by clinicians, despite its known shortcomings, such as errors and narrow breadth of information.[10]

In a nutshell, published as in Mashable, a digital media website [11] which is also referred as a “one stop shop” for social media; the most accessed online resources for health-related information [Figure 1].[11]

Figure 1: Most accessed online resources for health-related information

Click here to view

This figure portrays a change in mindset of the patients and consumers and the way the information seeking and sharing has changed in the past few years under the influence of the social media.

   Clinical Research and Social Media: the New Bond in Making 

Clinical research with its rising number of participants is also observing the change in the dynamics in sharing and gaining health-related information online. According to data from health consumer insights firm Treato, over half of the 300,000 patients posts available online today about clinical trials, were published in the last 6 months.[12] The empowered patient of today is more “health-literate” and connected with other patients with similar health conditions across the globe. The healthcare industry should join in a productive conversation with them to strike the poise. The communication webs between the stakeholders are not evenly woven. Communication through social media between the regulatory agencies and pharmaceutical companies to doctors and patients is in a very early stage; patients have established the most active gateway of communication among them. However, between doctors and patients, the communication channel is slowly establishing as briefed in the figure below communication through social media between different stakeholders [Figure 2].

Figure 2: Communication through social media between different stakeholders (original figure)

Click here to view

   Clinical Research, Social Media, and the Regulations 

Revisions or amendments of healthcare industry regulations regarding social media usage have not been able to match the pace with which social media usage has increased in different areas of clinical research. One of the renowned healthcare authorities, European Medicines Agency (EMA) is one of their recent press release (September 2016), on EMA's increasing engagement through social media concluded expressing the need for developing a social media strategy to broaden EMA's engagement, as a solution to people's comments regarding their absence in portals such as Facebook and Pinterest.[13] From the house of Food and Drug Administration, there are three draft guidance had been launched in 2011 and one in 2014,[14] which addressed issues such as, responding to unsolicited requests for off-label information about prescription drugs and medical devices; Internet/social media platforms and correcting independent third-party misinformation about prescription drugs and medical devices; Internet/social media platforms with character space limitations presenting risk and benefit information for prescription drugs and medical devices, but none of the guidelines has been finalized yet.

Apart from the regulatory authorities, social media usage guidelines for HCPs have also been issued by few professional organizations. In 2010, the American Medical Association released official guidelines for the ethical use of social media by physicians. In 2012, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists released a statement regarding the use of social media by pharmacists.[1] Unfortunately, none of these guidelines is definitive or tailor-made for platform-specific recommendations. To date, research sponsors and contract research organizations have neither established specific company policies nor formalized coordinated processes. Instead, most of them are using social and digital media communities on selected programs and moreover giving an experimental try.[15] The existing guidelines of the sponsors to address employee use of social media also has a very generalized approach, for example, guidelines for posting videos online, rules for discussing company business on personal sites, social media advisory board specified practices,[15] which needs to be extended so that it addresses the practical and modern issues churning from the use of social media.

   Meeting the Gap 

Although healthcare is the fastest growing content category for mobile device users,[16] there is a lack of awareness across the industry and also lack of definitive guidelines, primarily related to content regulation, which is preventing maximum utilization of it. In fact, among the fifty largest drug makers worldwide, only half even dabble in social media.[17] Giving it a further closer look, a new study by the IMS Health, Institute for Healthcare Informatics stated only ten drug makers are using all three of the most popular sites - Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Within that small group, even fewer are actually interacting with patients and the public.[15]

The key focus areas which are monitored by communication service leaders to review the social media performances based on six categories.[18]

  1. Social presence - How many social networks were the company on?
  2. Social network - How simple and intuitive was the connection between social networks?
  3. Community size - How big was the community?
  4. Activity - Was the content kept fresh with regular updates?
  5. Engagement - Were the companies engaging their users and generating interest?
  6. Virality - Was the content spread around the social sphere?[18]

There are different ways, in which social media could add speed and new dimensions to clinical trials when used in a structured and ethical manner.

  • Social media can boost study recruitment,[19] for example, Novartis used a Twitter feed to boost awareness of a phase 2 trial involving stomatitis and breast cancer, and others have used text messaging
  • Strategizing a speedy recruitment by engaging key opinion leaders as bloggers, trafficking a trial website to the recruitment page could save a lot of time for the sponsors. Clubbing similar type of content, for example, an advertisement of an arthritis trial, right beside an article like “how to stay fit at the age of 60”, in a web page may decrease the probability of delay in kick-starting a trial [16]
  • Social media engagements fosters interaction and further satisfaction by allowing them to communicate with patients with similar health conditions (e.g., various long-term diseases).[20]

The above-mentioned ones are the most popular uses of social media in modern-day trials, but the risk that comes with various irresponsible behaviors of many users of social media restricts from its' further positive contribution. As social media allows communications at various levels, a proper “risk calculation” is advisable for the sponsors as well as there is a huge need to educate the healthcare seekers when it comes to making comments in different social media portals. Clinical trial sponsors must work closely with regulators to define pathways to monitor social media used by trial participants to understand if conversations on the internet will affect their interpretation of study results by patients' sharing confidential trial information or conversations involving an early indication of whether a drug will be a success or not, to name a few.[20]

   Patient Centricity and Social Media 

The National Institutes of Health defines patient-centered care as “Health care that establishes a partnership among practitioners, patients, and their families (when appropriate) to ensure that decisions respect patients' wants, needs, and preferences and solicit patients' input on the education and support they need to make decisions and participate in their own care.”[21] In simple words “patient centricity” has empowered today's patients to be a part of the healthcare decision-making system more than ever. First, the internet and then the social media have heavily fueled the easy exchange of health-related information in today's patient-centric healthcare system as briefed below:

Healthcare mobility

It includes exchange of data and very active communications among the payers, service providers, and patients through various mobile apps and enterprise platforms. Use of these latest technologies has resulted in lesser rehospitalizations and better clinical outcomes.[22]

Enterprise application solutions

Different healthcare setups have restructured their work-model as mobile technologies, and enterprise application solutions have positively influenced handling collaborations and workforce management. Now, we have a big force of virtual caregivers (doctors, nurses, etc.) who can extend their consultation on real-time basis building more on the personalized care and simultaneously minimize the whole turnaround time.[22]

   Healthcare Apps and Pharmaceutical Companies 

Different mobile applications related to healthcare launched by different big and small pharma companies are available in different operating systems such as Android, iOS, and Windows. They are important as there is a need to understand the digital transformation that is taking place in the Pharma world and how the end users are reacting to this transformation. Few apps mentioned below created a positive impact in the recent past.

  • GlaxoSmithKline's Diabetes Health Mate app not only track patient's blood sugar readings but also shows how physical exercise, medications, mental wellbeing, and diet interact with physiological outcome measures [23]
  • Quantified self app - recently launched by Janssen collect health data from other tracking apps and turns the whole process into a game.[23]

Meanwhile, in a Digital IQ survey done by PriceWaterHouseCooper, it was found that, 29% of drug and device executives consider mobile as the most potential device for advancement in digital technology for their companies in coming 3–5 years, substantiating it further by stating that, 60% of them are investing in mobile technologies to make a stronger connect to the consumer base.[17] To get an idea about the current pharma app market, in the US, UK, and Germany an analysis done by a Munich-based app company, Smart Patient found that the top ten apps accounted for 66% of all downloads. The survey has covered 359 apps from twenty of the world's largest pharmacompanies, including AstraZeneca, Bayer, Sanofi, Janssen, Novartis, and Pfizer. Some highlights of their findings are summarized in [Table 1].[24]

Table 1: Summary of the survey of top healthcare applications

Click here to view

Along with usefulness and rising popularity, these apps come with shortcomings, such as having very basic user interface, and geographical restriction (e.g., Pfizer's Meds app). In another study, it was stated that, over the next 5 years, 86% of clinicians believe that mobile apps will play a major role in a physician's practice which is popularly known to be a part of today's “do-it yourself healthcare.” However, unfortunately, this flowing stream of digital health remains highly unregulated.

   The Big Data Advantage 

The word of the hour “big data” is surfacing as a term that describes large volumes of structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data with the possibility of being mined for information.[25] The development of social media has a major contribution toward this mega trend of big data. As estimated by McKinsey Global Institute, application of big-data strategies for well-informed decision-making could generate an annual value sum of up to $100 billion across the US healthcare system. It can optimize innovation, maximize the efficiency of research and clinical trials, and facilitate the innovation of tools for major stakeholders and give rise to individualized approaches.[26] Big data can be a game changer in the healthcare industry as it is capable of supporting multiple future possibilities such as predictive modeling of biological procedures and drugs, bonding with the patient to offer successful recruitment in trials, and monitoring trials in real time to manage the flow of data exchange between parent companies and research organizations.

To brief a few, “sentiment analysis' helps to measure, analyze, and ultimately influence the customer's sentiment, which helps in the generation of customer loyalty and revenue.[20] On the other hand, maturity models are established mechanisms that help organizations assess their capabilities along with a particular domain of interest, and determine the need to grow further to reach the desired end-state.[27] There are five levels such as motivated, organized, aware, informed, and assertive, where assertive being most conscious about their companies' reputation and connect in the social media arena.[20]


The current role of social media in the spread of clinical research globally, is demanding a close analysis, weighing its benefits against its risks if we imply it with its full availability and scope. Like we do for a drug before it hits the market, we should follow the same approach in this situation so that we do not miss any opportunity for leveraging more advantage for the patient. At the same time, safeguarding the integrity and safety of the patient is a concern. When used wisely and prudently, social media sites and platforms offer the potential to promote individual and public health, along with professional development and advancement. However, when used carelessly, the dangers of these technologies posed to HCPs are formidable. Having said that, historically, any new wave of change with a huge potential has essentially followed the same pattern of glowing opportunities intermingled with risks. The call of the hour is to work faster to build up governance, which can give a global platform for better understanding and usage of social media without challenging the ethical and legal boundaries. The primary aim while creating guidelines for the usage of social media should remain patients' “right to safety and well-being.”

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Twitter for doctors, physicians and other clinicians?

Twitter for doctors, physicians and other clinicians? | Social Media and Healthcare |

You’ve been keeping up with friends on Facebook for years. Email is pouring into multiple professional and personal accounts. Clinical tasks are piling up. Will you return that call to your mum? Invitations from colleagues to connect on LinkedIn, are gathering dust in your inbox… Maybe you actually need to meet with someone face to face?..

We are now expected to communicate using an overwhelming selection of different channels and networks. Many of us are already frustrated. So why would you want to use yet another social network?

Twitter is one of the more mature and well known social networks. But it is also one of the hardest to understand.

Why would a busy clinician use Twitter?

Twitter allows users to broadcast SHORT updates of up to 140 characters to the whole world. ALL other twitter users can choose to follow what you are saying and can find anything you have previously posted. You choose who to follow, but ANYONE can follow you.

It is this, brevity, openness and global reach which set twitter apart from the other social networks.

My path to Twitter…

I have a confession to make. I am a fairly new to using twitter regularly. As someone who identifies as being forward thinking and tech savvy, for a long time I had felt a little guilty for not being on board the twitter train. But like many people, I just couldn’t see how it would be useful to me.


However, this changed when I finally had something I wanted to tell the world about. Last year I started this blog with the intention of promoting discussion about innovation in General Practice. Naturally, I wanted to spread my message and let people know about the blog and twitter was one of a few obvious tools to do this. Once I began using Twitter, I began to follow and engage with other users, to enter into discussions and to hear what they had to say. I began to understand the platform and to finally see how it can be useful. 

How does Twitter work?

To use and appreciate twitter properly, you need to understand the basic mechanics. Twitter has a steeper learning curve than most social networks, but once mastered it is a useful tool.

  • Tweets – Posts with the option to attach pictures or videos. Every other twitter user will be able to follow and find what you have “tweeted”. The character limit of 140 characters keeps posts brief, focuses people to their point and makes it easy to follow what is being said.
  • Followers – When you choose to follow another user, their tweets will be visible in your timeline. When they follow you, they will see your tweets in theirs. The more followers you have, the people will see your tweets.
  • #Hashtag – This is perhaps Twitter’s most recognisable influence on modern culture. Topics, themes and events will have a hashtag. You can search for hashtags associated with topics or events that you are interested in. The most popular hashtags at anyone time are said to be “trending”. Add a hashtag to your post to allow others searching for a topic to find it. Learn what are the most popular hashtags in your field and use them.
  • @Mention – Include the name of another user in your tweet and they will be notified that they have been mentioned. This is a way of attracting a user’s attention and encouraging them to engage with your tweet.
  • Retweet – When you retweet a tweet from another user, it will be reposted in your own timeline and will be visible to your own followers, who can then also choose to retweet it too. This is an extremely important twitter mechanic. Tweets that are retweeted by many users spread across the network. These tweets are usually important, insightful, impactful, funny or otherwise noteworthy.
  • Like – If you like a tweet, the user is notified of you appreciation. But unlike a retweet, it will not be reposted in your timeline.
  • Lists – If you are following a large number of users, your timeline can become crowded. You can creating lists containing only certain users, such as just your medical news outlets for example. This allows you to look at tweets from only those users, providing another way to browse tweets in a more focused way.
  • Direct Message (DM) – If you really need to communicate with another user privately, then you can send a direct message and it will only be visible to the two of you.



1- Keeping up to date – You may not have enough time to check all of the news, medical, or journal publications that you would like on a regular basis. Most publications, even academic ones, will have a twitter account which you can follow. Important news and posts from these sources will appear together in your timeline. Some users are excellent at identifying, filtering and retweeting great content in their field. Find these people and follow them.

2- Networking and discussion – Talk about issues with others, make connections and expand your network. Contacts made on Twitter can become useful professional colleagues.

3- Enhanced experience of live events – Many events will acquire or be given hashtag. Following these hashtags can help you see what other people are thinking about an event you are interested in or attending. Follow conference hashtags, those for live TV shows (in the UK #BBCQT can be fun), or even breaking news. Keeping a step ahead of the TV news during the attempted July 2016 coup in Turkey was an interested experience.

4- Expose yourself to different perspectives – An interesting observation about recent political events, such as the Brexit vote and 2016 US election, was the notion that many people were in an opinion “echo chamber”. They were hearing only social media of updates and comments made or Iiked by their friends. Thus they were exposed overwhelmingly to views similar to their own, potentially strengthening cognitive biases and more extreme opinion. Deliberately following twitter users with different views to yourself can help you to maintain a balanced information diet and a more informed and objective perspective.

5- Find new patients – Physicians operating in private healthcare markets such as the US are increasingly using their social media presence to promote themselves and their services. A good way to recruit new patients.


Top tips for clinicians starting out on Twitter

Have a reason to be on Twitter. This might simply be keeping up to date in your field or with a hobby. Perhaps you have a message you want to spread or want to build your network? For me, Twitter only began to make sense, once I was clear about why I was using it.

Complete your profile. Be sure to have a suitable username, a good profile picture of yourself and an appropriate description of you and your interests. Other users will look at your profile when deciding if to follow you.

Search for keywords, organisations or hashtags of interest and see who is tweeting about them. Begin to follow these users.

Look at your timeline and reply, comment and engage with tweets and users as well as posting your own information and insights. Build your own followers and network.

And of course, remember to click here and follow me,   


Most professional and regulatory bodies will have published their own social media guidelines. Be sure to read those applicable to yourself to ensure you don’t make any missteps or end up in trouble. In the UK the GMC and RCGP social media guideline are useful reading.

Twitter for doctors in <140 characters:


Next, download the twitter app and get started.

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Working ‘With’ and Not ‘For’ Patients

Working ‘With’ and Not ‘For’ Patients | Social Media and Healthcare |

Christine, tell us how you got started in healthcare social media.

CB: I was always geeky. Before social media had begun, I was using forums for my hobbies fifteen years ago. Then in 2008, when I was looking for a diagnosis for my son, I started reading online about his condition, and saw how helpful it was to do so. Two years later in 2010, I was using the web in regard to my own diagnosis.

And the information you found online led you to create your own content.

CB: Yes, whether for my son’s diagnosis or for myself, I wanted to create a platform like the one I wished I had been able to use. When you get a diagnosis that is life changing, and you have to realign your whole life, it is daunting. You do not know where to start and I found no source of practical, localized information. We need, for example, to know about insurance, about the laws, about local associations. So I decided to create a digital place where someone living in French-speaking Switzerland can find everything they need, for the two diagnoses with which I had to deal.

For the Asperger community, I created a Facebook and a Twitter presence. For Seinplement Romande, I created both a website and a social media presence.

What similarities and differences have you observed in the two communities?

CB: Both communities are active in sharing in private Facebook groups

But Aspi Romandie is more active. Families get very involved when there is a child with Asperger. And also, in Switzerland, cancer is still too stigmatizing. So people leave the community when in remission. And the moderator has to be more involved and do the sharing.

And after creating these communities, you went on to establish new professional activities in healthcare social media.

CB: Yes, I was “discovered” on Twitter by Franck Schneider from the Geneva University Hospitals (HUG).  He suggested I apply to speak at Doctors 2.0 & You. At the time, I did not even know that opportunities existed to come and speak about my experience. I was a nervous wreck for my first talk, and now I really enjoy giving talks.

Yes, you were the first ePatient who had approached us at Doctors 2.0 & You, from Switzerland, and now you are also teaching healthcare social media to others.

CB: Yes, as people saw my online presence and heard about my talks, I was asked to participate in different new projects. The Swiss hospitals needed someone to teach healthcare social media classes to healthcare professionals in university settings in Switzerland. I did this in Geneva and Lausanne for three institutions, HUG, CHUV, and the PMU. I also hope that we will create classes for patients in the near future.

I know you are looking forward to speaking at eHealth Week in Malta.

CB: Yes, it is an incredible opportunity to come to this event, which is new for me. I will be speaking about “Working with and not for patients.” Professional and patient need to meet in the middle in a constructive relationship. Patients should learn how to be ready as a patient, to take advantage of a consultation and professionals should provide an environment that respects the patient’s time as well.

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Social Media For Doctors: Why You Need It 

Social Media For Doctors: Why You Need It  | Social Media and Healthcare |

In today’s fast-paced world, most communication takes place on the web. People are connected to everything via smartphones, tablets and computers. If you want to convey a message, you have to know how to reach your audience online. At Crystal Clear Digital Marketing, that is our specialty. We offer optimal strategies for social media use and how it works in conjunction with marketing. As a medical professional, there are several ways for you to make social media work to your advantage.

Why Use Social Media?

Since social media is free to use, you cannot afford not to utilize it once you discover its many benefits. In case you are concerned about HIPAA, there are plenty of ways to use social media without creating any privacy issues. Here are just a few of the many good reasons to use social media if you are a physician or run a medical practice.

You can get better reviews. According to research, 42 percent of Americans read health-related consumer reviews. Being active on social media and maintaining a good public image (as well as a personable one) boosts your ratings across several health review sites. If patients are unhappy or post a complaint, you can respond and resolve the issue. This shows that you care about patients and your reputation.

Word of mouth creates an impact. Even if the “word of mouth” phrase has shifted more towards “word of computer,” this is still an important factor for your business. According to research, 32 percent of people ask their family members and friends about their experiences with doctors and ask for recommendations. Another 29 percent talk to other patients about their experiences with certain illnesses. If patients suggest your social media pages to their friends and family members, you can build your reputation even more.

You can build meaningful relationships with patients. Using social media makes you more accessible. In a world where nearly everything is available on demand, you have to be as accessible as possible. People communicate these days differently. Not all people have the time or desire to pick up a phone or wait for a return call. They may want to send you messages with their questions on social media, because social media is a great tool for help with managing health today.

You have a competitive edge. Not all physicians realize the value of social media, and many do not have a strong online presence. You can stand above the competition by building your own brand, being an innovator and making yourself an advocate for your community. If people can see and understand your passions and contributions through what they read online, your personal brand receives a strong boost.

You have a more cost-effective marketing strategy. While paid ads and SEO are important, you should not rely solely on them for reaching a wider market. Since social media accounts are free to create, you can reach people without a big investment. You can also opt for paid ads to supplement your posts. Some social media sites provide analytic tools that help you see your reach, which types of posts garner the most engagement and how fast your follower base is growing. If you have satisfied patients, they will recommend you to their friends and family members.

Types Of Social Media

Today, there are social media sites based on the following:

  • Blogs
  • Videos
  • Information sharing
  • Written communication

Although one or two social media accounts may benefit you, having a presence across all major networks is a great solution. For example, a plastic surgeon can benefit from using a photo sharing social media platform to share before-and-after pictures of different procedures. Research shows that about 30 percent of people view pictures related to diseases or procedures online before seeking treatment.

A plastic surgeon could benefit from a video channel with demonstrations or informative videos about different procedures. Posting blogs about health tips or success stories and sharing the links to the posts using social media can boost traffic, increase revenue and draw in loyal patients.

Tips For Effective Content

Here are a few basic tips for social media posts to make them engaging:

  1. Focus on teaching people valuable things that they might search for with a search engine.
  2. Use photos, videos or other visuals whenever possible.
  3. Follow other medical professions and professional associations.
  4. Join conversations about your area of expertise to increase your visibility.
  5. Join groups related to your area of expertise.
  6. Ask other medical professionals questions to start conversations online.
  7. Always strive for 100 percent accuracy when posting facts.
  8. Make posts that encourage discussions, answers or feedback to maximize engagement.
How To Get Started

The biggest obstacle for medical professionals who want to use social media is time. Doctors are too busy helping patients, saving lives and being health advocates to spend copious amounts of time building a strong online presence. Also, family and social commitments make it hard to maintain social media accounts. Our marketing professionals understand these dilemmas that are unique to you as a physician.

Why spend the work doing it yourself when we can do it for you?

We help dentists, plastic surgeons, cardiologists, family physicians and all other types of doctors optimize their social media accounts. Our experts determine your target market and help develop strategies for reaching people. Also, we focus on engaging and retaining your current patients.

Social Media Marketing: A Holistic Approach

As our name implies, our strategies are clear, simple and concise to give you crystal-clear results. These are some of the other ways in which we help you build your brand and reputation.

Search Engine Optimization

The algorithms for search engine ranking are always changing, and keeping up with those changes can be a full-time job. We stay current with trends and know how to optimize everything from your page code to social media posts for maximum site traffic or engagement. There are many other components of successful SEO, and we will be happy to discuss them with you.

Search Engine Marketing

SEM utilizes paid advertising. You can bid on keywords related to your area of discipline. When people search those terms and other terms such as your location, you rank higher in search engines. Also, there are other types of programs that show people your ad on different sites when they search relevant terms. SEM is a great tool to use along with traditional marketing tactics.

Email Marketing

Our email marketing strategies focus on attracting new patients and maintaining your current ones. Automated emails are very effective for attracting and keeping patients with follow-ups when they contact you or after you call them back. Think of it as a way to stay in the forefront of their minds to maintain engagement.

Mobile Marketing

Mobile marketing is one of the most overlooked areas of online marketing today. However, more people use their tablets and smartphones to communicate, learn and search. If your blogs and sites are optimized for mobile platforms, you increase your potential viewers even more. We help you monitor mobile activity and develop strategies for quick conversion using the latest mobile technologies.


Maintaining a blog and optimizing it boosts your traffic from organic searches and your keyword ranking on search engines. Also, you can make yourself an authority figure in your field of expertise. By posting useful content on a regular basis, you can gain more followers, more patients and more money. We can help you develop a strategy for creating posts that people will share across social media.

Online marketing is similar to a recipe. Each ingredient is good and has its own qualities. When one is missing, it can affect the final outcome of combining all other ingredients. If all ingredients are combined and preparation methods are followed, the outcome is good. If you use several forms of marketing but neglect social media, your overall result may not be optimal. When you combine social media marketing with SEO, email marketing and use proper techniques, you are much more likely to meet and even exceed an ideal outcome.

Since about 75 percent of medical professionals have yet to discover the full value of social media marketing and having a strong social media presence, now is the time to start building your unique brand. With innovative and knowledgeable online marketing experts on your side, you can meet your goals faster, establish yourself, strengthen your reputation or become an authority figure in your area of expertise.

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 Mitigating Legal Risks: Social Media and the Doctor's Dilemma

Physicians need to know how to promote themselves while also maintaining their professionalism. This presentation discusses social media and specific ways it …
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Dubious Social Media ROI? Not in Healthcare. 

Dubious Social Media ROI? Not in Healthcare.  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Marketers, in general, have a hard time connecting the dots between their work and an uptick in revenue. Surveys quote it again and again. As a group, we struggle attributing results to our work.

And, if only a third of us are using attribution to draw the line between our work and the business outcomes, which 66% of us are just bad at our jobs?

E-commerce? Those folks know where it’s at.

Brick and mortar retail? That’s a tough one, but if you think that Foursquare was all about outscoring your friends, you’ve got another thing coming.

Now then, healthcare.

Whether or not you’re a fan of the Affordable Care Act, the law has provisions to tie Medicare reimbursement to HCAHPS surveys – a 27 category survey covering a variety of care experiences and outcomes. Up to 2.0% of total reimbursement from the feds are tied to the survey results. In other words, how someone feels about their experience has a direct tie to how much reimbursement the care provider gets.

But just in case you need further convincing that digital channels have a correlative relationship with care outcomes, and subsequently, $$, check out this NIH study that analyzed 50K Facebook comments and executed a regression analysis against formal HCAHPS results.

The findings suggest…

The findings suggest that patients’ informal comments help predict a hospital’s formal measures of patient experience.”

Most care providers have caught on – investing in and centering programs around patient experience and comfort. Marketers have found a role in this new reality, helping health systems and regional hospitals be better communicators surrounding everything that touches the patient, from their parking experience to the noisy nurse station outside your room at night.

So, my dear healthcare marketing colleagues, while you may not have a handle on every touchpoint at your facilities, and every doctor’s bedside manner, you can definitely get a handle on the Facebook comment section (and then some).

And while you may not be able to teach empathy (but you can hire for it), the process and speed to amplify empathy over your social channels is a real thing.

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