Social Media and Healthcare
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The Science of Getting New Twitter Followers

The Science of Getting New Twitter Followers | Social Media and Healthcare |

Follower count is, unanimously, the biggest indicator of success on Twitter. Some people may contend with that statement. They may argue that quality of followers, quality of tweets, level of engagement, etc. are far more important success metrics.  

However, a lot of people are, without a doubt, influenced by the number of followers somebody has. Having a huge follower count is kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy. People see you have a lot of followers, assume your tweets must be extra-special or you must be extra-special and follow you, thus increasing your follower count further.  

So, what really gets you more followers? You will find articles aplenty online that tell you how to get more followers on Twitter. Why, I have written quite a few myself.   

But this post is different.  

This post does not rely on experience, observation, commonly held beliefs, guesswork or any other abstract factors to tell you where Twitter followers come from and how to get and keep them. This post is based entirely on scientific analysis and facts – numbers, stats, hard-to-refute conclusions. So, let’s get going.  

Scientifically, these are the factors that influence how many twitter followers a particular account can amass:  

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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. 

rob halkes's curator insight, September 15, 2017 6:04 AM

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


Formdox's comment, April 20, 5:34 AM
Nice post
Formdox's comment, April 20, 5:34 AM
#Formdox integrates perfectly with several #functionalities for the monitoring
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Using Social Media for Public Health, Patient Behavior Change

Using Social Media for Public Health, Patient Behavior Change | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media can be an effective tool for disseminating public health messages and support better patient access to mental healthcare, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

“Given the broad reach of social media, it has been leveraged as a communication mechanism for a range of different health interventions, including smoking cessation, alcohol awareness, HIV prevention, childhood obesity, sexual health practices, and mental health awareness,” the researchers said. “However, it is not certain whether these types of social media campaigns actually influence the behaviors of intended audiences or the health care system in measurable ways.”

The researchers looked at the impact of social media in facilitating more widespread access of mental health services among adolescents and young adults. The 2011 Bell Let’s Talk campaign hosted by a Canadian telecommunications company used the Twitter platform to efficiently spread mental health awareness and reduce mental health stigma.

The campaign also donated $.05 to mental health awareness for each interaction the @Bell_LetsTalk account received.

More awareness about mental health treatment and reducing the stigma often associated with mental health treatment access may help encourage some patients to utilize treatments when they otherwise would not have done so, the researchers hypothesized.

READ MORE: Public Health Pros Use Twitter for Patient Education Messages


The researchers analyzed mental health treatment access patterns for patients between ages 10 and 24 before and after the Bell Let’s Talk campaign on Twitter.

The analysis of over 2 million mental health care visits annually between 2002 and 2015 showed temporal increases in care access during the Twitter campaigns. This means that each year during which the campaign ran, mental healthcare access saw a spike amongst adolescent and young adult patients.

Following the month-long campaigns, visit rates either decreased or plateaued, the researchers found.

Additionally, the researchers found an overall increase in mental health visits during the study period. Mental health visits in primary care settings increased for adolescent females (ages 10 to 17) from 10.2 per 1,000 patients in 2006 to 14.1 per 1,000 patients in 2015. That rate increased for males from 9.7 per 1,000 patients to 9.8 per 1,000 patients.

Adults accessing mental healthcare in the primary care setting also saw increases. Adult females saw care access increases from 26.5 per 1,000 patients in 2006 to 29.2 per 1,000 patients in 2015. Males saw increases from 16.6 per 1,000 patients to 20.3 per 1,000 patients.



The researchers also noted treatment access increases in outpatient psychiatric care settings for both adolescent and young adult males and females.

There were larger increases in mental health treatment utilization for females than there were for males, the researchers noted.

“Previous research exploring gender differences related to youth accessing mental health have identified females as possessing greater willingness to seek help,” the team stated. “This alone does not provide sufficient explanation related to the further increased mental health visit rate trend observed in females compared with males.”

For example, there are certain social media trends that impact females more than males, the team posited. The societal pressure for narrow body image and lifestyle ideals on individual platforms may have an impact on the rate at which females both need and access mental health treatment.

On the whole, the year-over-year increase the researchers observed in light of the campaign was not groundbreaking, the team conceded. However, the design of the Twitter campaign may have been the reason for that.



“As the Bell Let’s Talk campaign was primarily designed to generate awareness surrounding mental health and stigma, the lack of a substantive step change in health care utilization from normal levels is not surprising,” the researchers said.

The campaign did not have proactive elements that are usually associated with more dramatic spikes in health behavior change, the researchers explained.

“The 2012 Bell Let’s Talk campaign generated awareness related to a gradual change in behavior, rather than immediately triggering individuals with latent mental health concerns to seek formal mental health services,” the team pointed out. “Therefore, although we hypothesized that the campaign would encourage individuals to seek mental health services, the real outcomes of this campaign were likely more related to societal awareness, rather than discrete outpatient mental health system utilization.”

Previous research has also found that social media, and Twitter specifically, can support broad dissemination of certain public health initiatives. Specifically, public health professionalsreportedly find Twitter useful for sharing patient education messages.

Bearing in mind the efficacy for Twitter to spread public health information, it would be useful for organizations to understand the best practices for doing so. A more targeted campaign with specific calls to action may help lead to more health behavior change.

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Social Media and HIPAA: What Are You Doing to Mitigate Your Risks?

Social Media and HIPAA: What Are You Doing to Mitigate Your Risks? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Employees’ social media use can cause significant liability for healthcare providers who are subject to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (“HIPAA”). When posting to social media, the lines between what is personal and professional are often blurred, especially when employees develop close relationships with their patients. The Office for Civil Rights’ (“OCR”)1increased enforcement of HIPAA during the past few years makes it even more critical that health care organizations ensure they are addressing the risks associated with their employees’ social media use because such disclosures would likely constitute breaches requiring notification to both the patient and OCR. This article focuses on health care providers’ liability under HIPAA, but providers must also consider various state laws and employment issues when addressing employees’ social media use.

What is PHI?

As a starting point, health care organizations should ensure employees have a clear understanding of what constitutes protected health information (“PHI”) under HIPAA. A common misconception is that PHI only includes an individual’s name and health information, such as a diagnosis or other treatment information. The definition of PHI, however, is very broad and includes any individually identifiable health information held by a covered entity, in any form or medium, that relates to an individual’s physical or mental health or condition, or the provision of or payment for the provision of healthcare to the individual, and for which there is a reasonable basis to believe it can be used to identify the individual.2 For example, a nurse’s Facebook post describing a patient’s condition may violate HIPAA even if it does not contain the patient’s name or other identifiers. If the patient is a celebrity or is being treated as a result of an incident that received significant media attention, it could take very little information to be able to identify the individual. In addition, employees may not realize that posting photographs of a patient without first obtaining a signed authorization from the patient may also violate HIPAA.

Responding to Patient Reviews

Health care organizations must take HIPAA into consideration when addressing patients’ online posts and reviews on websites such as Yelp and Google. Because confirming that an individual is a patient constitutes PHI, providers should only respond to reviews generally and should not disclose any information specific to the patient. For example, if a patient writes a Yelp review stating that a dentist at XYZ Dental was rude to him, XYZ Dental may respond to the review by including a statement such as, “XYZ Dental values all of our patients and treats every patient with respect.” But, XYZ Dental may not include any specific references to the patient’s condition and/or treatment in the response because doing so would likely violate HIPAA.

Policies and Training

In order to help minimize HIPAA violations resulting from employees’ social media use, health care organizations should implement policies that specifically address the issues associated with social media use. An organization’s social media policy should prohibit the use of personal devices to photograph or film patients and should include examples of posts that would violate HIPAA. Specifically, organizations should include sample posts that do not mention a patient’s name but contain enough information to create a reasonable basis that the individual could be identified based on the post, to ensure employees have a clear understanding of the types of posts that are prohibited and how broadly the regulations can be interpreted. An organization should also address the proper protocol for responding to online reviews and include examples of permitted responses. Once an organization has developed its social media policy, the next step is ensuring employees know what the policy says. Training on social media use should also include examples of posts that employees may not realize violate HIPAA.

Incident Response

If an organization experiences an incident involving an impermissible disclosure of PHI via social media, despite implementing policies and training, the organization should investigate the incident immediately and take steps to mitigate any harm caused by the disclosure. Such steps should include ensuring the post has been removed and that the responsible employee has been sanctioned, as well as providing the employee with additional training on the proper use of social media. If the organization determines that the disclosure constitutes a breach under HIPAA, then it should also provide the required notifications pursuant to the Breach Notification Rule. As with any internal investigation, an organization will want to maintain thorough documentation of its investigation and any subsequent mitigation steps, in case OCR opens an investigation into the incident. Consultation with legal counsel is also advised.


Because it is unlikely that social media use will decline anytime soon, it is increasingly important for health care organizations to take immediate preventative steps to minimize the risks associated with such use. By implementing policies and procedures that specifically address employees’ use of social media and training employees on those policies and procedures, organizations can greatly reduce the risk of experiencing a HIPAA breach and any subsequent OCR review.

1 OCR is the agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that is responsible for enforcing the HIPAA Privacy, Security and Breach Notification Rules.
2 45 C.F.R. § 160.103.

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6 Ways You Can Stay HIPAA Compliant with Digital Marketing

6 Ways You Can Stay HIPAA Compliant with Digital Marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

Successful medical practice managers and physicians have embraced digital marketing and social media as a sustainable, cost-effective and measureable tool to attract and retain patients. Last year alone, 77% of patients searched their physician online before booking an appointment. The challenge for healthcare providers has been to stay HIPAA compliant with digital marketing efforts.

You obviously want to make use of your digital footprint and social networks to grow your patient base, right? But it’s important to balance the benefits and risks of being online and to maximize the use of digital channels within your overall marketing strategy while still ensuring proper HIPAA compliance.

Providing training and conducting compliance checks to practice managers and admin staff is pivotal to effectively mitigate the risks associated with today’s marketing landscape. When ineffectively managed, online breaches of HIPAA standards can harm patient privacy, lead to legal sanctions, and cause irreversible reputational damage for you and your practice.

In this article, we’ll break down what you need to do to remain HIPAA compliant online so you can reap the many rewards the digital world has to offer.

1. Actively Inform and Manage Privacy Concerns

When it comes to health information, you must respect the privacy and act in accordance with the preferences of your patients. In other words, you can only communicate directly with patients regarding their health information over social media channels if you’ve received their express permission to do so and you have made them aware of the risks associated with such communication through disclaimers on your website and in your practice brochures.

You may even want to be proactive and create a patient information leaflet geared entirely to the use of social media and outlining your practice’s social media and digital policy. Establishing your practice’s own online and social media code of conduct and ensuring it is understood and implemented by your employees will go a long way toward your practice steering clear of HIPAA disclosure violations.

Last year alone, 77% of patients searched their physician online before booking an appointment.

If you’re new to social media and Facebook, you’ll need to become well-versed in how the platform works and intimately understand its privacy settings and functioning. In this way, you can control the privacy settings your practice enables on its Facebook page and ensure that private patient messages and information stay private. By familiarizing yourself with the ins and outs of social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and understanding how information is transmitted within a given social media site, you can design your practice’s social media policy to address any HIPAA disclosure risks.

As a general rule of thumb, we recommend the elevator rule to the practice managers we serve every day. The elevator rule states that if you wouldn’t say your comment in public, or in an elevator full of people, then don’t say it on social media. And in the event that an improper disclosure does occur, you’ll also need to have a policy in place that guides how you’ll proceed to alleviate any potential damage.

In other words, if someone is asking a specific PHI-related question, politely ask them to give the office a call to protect their patient privacy rather than communicate the information on the web.

In today’s digital marketing world, we know exactly what works and how much it takes to attract and retain that coveted new patient. 

2. Keep Your Networks Secure

Research evidence shows that electronic communication with patients enhances patient care, boosts adherence for chronic disease patients, and can promote improved health outcomes. Also, patients may feel more satisfied by the increased communication with their doctors and having their questions or concerns addressed in real-time online.

Medical clinics and hospitals are starting to move in-person seminars (say for bariatrics) to live streams on Facebook to reach a larger audience with reduced costs. Moreover, these institutions are using the live feed to develop support groups by inviting current, former, and prospective clients to join and ask questions, gain insight, and garner support.

Therefore, with increased online connections, your practice needs to work closely with your IT department or internet service provider to establish strict security, access, and information sharing pathways.

Of utmost importance is reducing your exposure to a HIPAA violation via a 3rd party vendor. You need to have your business agreements in place with any 3rd party vendor to cover yourself in the event of an infraction. Without a signed business associate agreement, your practice will be the first in line for potential litigation; with the agreement, the 3rd party vendor is on the hook.

3. Be Mindful Before Posting

You must consider individual patient confidentiality before using their likeness in any way (that goes for images, testimonials, and letters). Have blank copies of standard photo and video release forms when filming patient testimonial videos or using patient photos or candids for marketing purposes.

As an example, an employee may post a photo of their lunch which might be lying inadvertently on top of a patient file, visible in the background of the post. Another thing to be mindful of is filming physicians in their office. It will be on your shoulders to make sure nothing is visible on the computer screen, and if it is, to blot it out (this can be done during editing or post-production). Such posts would be in clear violation of HIPAA disclosure rules. Moreover, you cannot share private details of past cases without prior written consent from the patient.

Remember, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, so even the slightest mishap on a photo or video can have serious repercussions.

4. Establish Roles in the Office

Everyone in your practice should know their role when it comes to your social media presence. This will help ensure compliance and save you headaches later on. When you first begin your efforts, decide which staff members will be able to coordinate, monitor, post and respond to social media messages or reviews left about the practice in general.

Establishing a chain of command will also help you quickly address issues should they arise down the road (pro tip: they will). Decide who will post photos, status updates, etc. and who will be their backup. Then choose if those same individuals will also respond to patient inquiries, health information requests, positive and negative reviews, and online complaints.

Having a few handcrafted responses ready to go will save you from scrambling around when you need to post a delicate and tactful reply. Here are a couple of response examples to both positive and negative online feedback:

Negative responses

  1. “We are sorry you were not satisfied with your visit to our office. In the medical field there can be unforeseen emergencies or patient needs that can set our calendar back. I can assure you the delay in your appointment was not intentional. If you are having an issue with our billing department, we invite you to contact our office so we can correct or clarify any misunderstanding about our policies. Thank you.”
  2. “We take feedback from our patients very seriously and are grateful you took the time to share your experience. We are sorry there seemed to have been a miscommunication with our office staff. Your concerns will be addressed. If we can be of further assistance please contact our office.”

Positive response

  1. “Thanks so much for those words of encouragement! It makes the work that much more rewarding. I feel blessed to have such wonderful patients and appreciate you sharing your thoughts with others.”

As the current scandal concerning Facebook and Cambridge Analytica suggests, potential violations of data usage can often be innocent and happen when not enough questions are asked.

We always tell our medical practice clients that today they need to be IN social media, not just ON it, to reach the right patient at the right time with the right message. However, that kind of public familiarity comes with its own risks where a HIPAA violation can happen without even realizing it.

5. Know the Difference Between HIPAA and FERPA

Many patients are under the assumption that athletic trainers (ATs) and educators are required by law to follow HIPAA. That is not technically the case. “Covered entities” under HIPAA must meet two requirements – those who: a) bill for services and b) file those bills electronically.  

ATs employed by educational institutions are usually required to follow FERPA (The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), not HIPAA (because they do not bill).  However, FERPA does restrict access to the student’s records (which includes the student-athlete file).

ATs employed by hospitals and clinics are usually considered “covered entities” under HIPAA, however, there is some confusion and potential loopholes if the ATs are not part of the bill. ATs employed at universities may need to adhere to both because there is often significant confusion (for example, many sports medicine departments do not bill, but are a part of student health which is clearly HIPAA).

The bottom line is that most ATs follow HIPAA because it is good practice and because they are required by their Code of Ethics to protect patient privacy.

6. Hire a Professional to Take Care of the Headaches

If you don’t have the time or the resources to handle effective online HIPAA-compliant management, you can always invest in training your employees or turn the work over to someone who does it for a living and has a tried and true record with digital medical marketing.

The HIPAA stakes online being so high, hiring a partner can save you time, money, stress, and headaches down the road.

Being online provides medical practices with digital marketing tools to connect with patients and improve their care and health outcomes like never before. With proper management and organization, your office can have a strong online and social media presence while remaining HIPAA compliant.

Gabriel David's curator insight, April 23, 10:34 AM
Successful medical practice managers and physicians have embraced digital marketing and social media as a sustainable, cost-effective and measureable tool to attract and retain patients. Last year alone, 77% of patients searched their physician online before booking an appointment.
Gabriel David's curator insight, April 23, 10:37 AM
Successful medical practice managers and physicians have embraced digital marketing and social media as a sustainable, cost-effective and measureable tool to attract and retain patients. Last year alone, 77% of patients searched their physician online before booking an appointment.
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The Digitally Empowered Patient: Towards Self Health Management

The Digitally Empowered Patient: Towards Self Health Management | Social Media and Healthcare |

Recently, a close acquaintance of mine was diagnosed with amblyopia, commonly known as ‘lazy eye’. Doctors recommended wearing an eye patch and some routine exercises. As a curious caregiver, I decided to dig deeper and understand more about this condition. I found many people with the same condition discussing their experiences across online channels. I was also able to note down some of the treatment options and consult with our doctor before we could start on the same.

This episode made me realize that both patients and caregivers are increasingly relying on digital touch points, such as web, mobile, social media, and video, for finding information on disease conditions, patient assistance programs, and so on. DRG report on Digital Patient Journey states 69% patients look for online information while managing their condition, and 72% patients are interested in using digital patient support tools from pharma.

Emerging Digital Trends in Patient Engagement

Life sciences companies are focusing on keeping patients digitally informed with accurate medical information on diseases, related drugs, and devices through microsites, mobile apps, and informative videos. Rather than replacing healthcare providers (HCPs), the digital medium will complement the quality of healthcare available for patients. Platforms or patient healthcare portals such as ChARM PHR help users manage not just their personal health records and medication history but also care plans, immunization records, health and wellness tips, and so on. patientslikeme and other such patient networking portals connect people with similar medical conditions and help them better understand medication regime, side effects, and cost impact, among others.

In such patient networks, some members are key influencers or ‘digital opinion leaders’. Life sciences companies can collaborate with these community leaders to share their opinions and information related to new therapies, trials, and care methods with others. Social networking sites can also provide information on specific campaigns to access drug vouchers, coupons, health-tips, and so on. Companies are leveraging social media channels by creating community pages for disease condition information well within the required compliance and regulation. Unimetric’s report on pharma-social-media-trends states that most of the pharmaceutical companies are active on five out of six social networks with the majority preferring Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and YouTube. MerckEngage is one such communication channel available across social media.

Digital technologies are now being leveraged to reduce medication non-adherence too with mobile-based trackers and schedulers, sensor-based devices such as inhalerssmart pillbox, and smart pills. Sensor-enabled medical devices such as oximeter and blood glucose monitor are capturing vital health stats for patients using their smartphones. These are transmitted to physicians and care teams, who provide patient-specific recommendations.

Enhanced Self Care by Digitally Empowered Patients

Combined, these trends are directing patients towards self-health management. Immersive solutions too are playing a vital part in helping patients manage their health conditions. Many are using virtual reality (VR) devices for understanding disease conditions, playing virtual games for stress and pain management, and so on. Artificial intelligence (AI) based virtual medical assistants (such as Melody) are guiding patients based on indicated symptoms or related questions. These bots are trained on medical terms, texts, and content to support patients and caregivers.

Pharma companies now must focus more on personalized content and targeted messaging – on the patient’s preferred channel, anytime, anywhere— for effective self-care. For this, patient data can be collected from various platforms, solutions, and channels available to gain actionable insights. In turn, this will help pharma companies improve their medical products. GSK and Merck are already making headway in that direction.

Empowering patients should also involve innovations in the form of drones delivering medicine supplies to remote places, brochures and leaflets to health camps, and so on; or GPS and sensor technologies transferring health vitals from remote location via drones. Care teams including HCPs can recommend digital services (which may include games) to patients for stress management, relaxation, additional medical information and so on.

How else do you think digital technologies will make self-health management easier and more effective? Tell us in the comments section below.

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Simple Ways to Engage Patients and Build Your Practice

Simple Ways to Engage Patients and Build Your Practice | Social Media and Healthcare |

With technology and social media invading every corner of our lives, an increasing number of channels are becoming available for you to engage your patients. Utilizing these new ways to engage your patients can lead to stable relationships, more referrals, and potentially increased profit. And implementing an all-around effective patient engagement system can help position your practice more prominently in the minds of your patients, and in the long run, build your practice.

If you think you could engage your patients more than you do right now, follow our tips on how to fully engage and connect with your patients.

Email Marketing – Emailing is becoming the standard mode of communication for businesses. And who knows how many of your patients are using their smartphones daily to keep updated on their email. Send out newsletters, confirmation messages, and group messages to your patients’ email to keep them posted on their appointments, office updates, and promotions.

Read about how to get started with email marketing in this article

Social Media – You may not realize it, but most of your patients are probably on Facebook and Twitter. It’s as easy as 20 minutes a day to post updates, news, promotions, and more onto your social pages. And it’s even easier for your patients to follow, like, respond or comment.

Tips for running an effective social media campaign can be found in this post

Online Marketing – Your online presence allows your patients and prospects to feel more connected toyour practice since you are more accessible through the Internet. Search engine optimization (SEO) or search engine marketing (SEM) can help increase your visibility in search engine result pages, such as Google, and allow your patients to easily connect with you.

Learn more about SEO in this article

Blog – A blog plays such a large role in your social media marketing that we are putting it in its own category. A blog allows your practice to create a second website where your patients go to find reliable and useful information. By writing interesting posts or exclusive promos, you are introducing your patients to a more personal level of your practice. Take full advantage of your blog and reach out to patients and even prospects.

Download a year's worth of blog topics here.

Text Messages – Some people prefer to talk via text on their cell phones rather than deal with a phone call. Connect with your patients by texting them appointment reminders and messages. They are sure to be impressed by the tech-savvy move, while also being grateful for the convenient mode of communication and engagement.

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3 Ways Social Media Has Changed Patient Care |

3 Ways Social Media Has Changed Patient Care | | Social Media and Healthcare |

Just a few years ago, no one would have imagined that the same media that hosts millions of selfies, silly emojis, made-up hashtags and virtual friends would have much impact on the life-and-death world of healthcare.


But it has.


In fact, social media in healthcare seems to have exploded. And it is transforming patient care as it spreads through many facets of healthcare delivery.


Whether you tweet, post pictures and videos on Instagram or keep it original with Facebook, there’s a strong possibility that social media has impacted the way that you practice medicine or interact with patients.


How many patients are using social media?


Physicians are discovering that they need to be on social media because patients are—in droves. The statistics are eye-opening.


PewResearch, a non-partisan think tank, found that 74 percent of internet users engage on social media. Among those internet users, 80 percent are specifically looking for health information, and nearly half are searching for information about a specific doctor or health professional.


That means that millions of patients are seeking out health information online every single day!


Physicians using social media can tap into this trend and enjoy increased engagement with current patients, while they promote their services more effectively to potential patients.


But it’s about more than just marketing. Research conducted a by Demi & Cooper Advertising and DC Interactive Group found that nearly 60 percent of doctors admit social media improves the quality of care provided to patients.


Social Media in Healthcare: 3 Key Changes


Here’s a look at the top three ways that social media has changed patient care:

1. Increased communication and connection

At its very core, social media was created to connect and unify communities and make it easier for people to interact with one another. Despite some risks for misuse, social media in healthcare can be a powerful tool to increase communication between clinical providers, patients and their healthcare networks.


Most hospitals, physicians and even insurance companies now have an active presence on social media outlets, and are leveraged to communicate important topics to patients.


From disease outbreak notices to tips on staying healthy during cold and flu season, physicians using social media can help bridge the gap between the provider and the patient--which makes for a more connected and unified healthcare experience.


FOLLOW Merritt Hawkins on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn or Google+ for the latest healthcare news and career opportunities.

2. Unfiltered feedback and access to reviews


Like it or not, patients can express their experiences about an interaction with a healthcare provider and then share that information online for everyone to see. News spreads quickly and reputations can be affected.


While most social media users understand that people are more likely to share bad experiences than positive ones, research shows that patients have come to trust the reviews they read online.


According to the website Mediabistro, more than 40 percent of customers say that the information found on social media impacts the way they handle their healthcare.


Not surprisingly, millennials are the most likely to rely on others’ opinions. Search Engine Watch reports that nearly 90 percent of them trust healthcare information shared by others on social media.


What does this mean for your practice? It’s critical for physicians using social media to build a community of trust and rapport with their patients.


In addition to the mainstream social media sites, there are various healthcare-specific social media networks, including PatientsLikeMe and HealthGrades. These popular sites let patients post feedback about their clinical experiences and connect with others who may have similar conditions and diseases.


HealthGrades also rates hospitals, which physicians and other practitioners could use to do some of their own comparisons when they are searching for employment or specific information.

3. Patient education and real-time information


This use of social media in healthcare can help educate patients and provide instant access to physicians. This is made possible by social media features that allow users to relay media, information, images and video in real time.


One notable example was a live-tweeting event that involved St. Vincent Charity Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio. In 2013, the hospital conducted a unique project where they live-tweeted a total knee replacement surgery. The surgery garnered almost 400 participants following along on Twitter and 3,000 over live-stream video.


Their hashtag #stvknee was a trending tag throughout the entire process, and the positive response caused many other facilities to copy this approach.


Other hospitals have used live-social media usage to share emergency information or fundraise for special causes.


Patient education is also a crucial part of the “information now” era where people can google a symptom and connect with a doctor or other clinician virtually via phone or web. A lot of what patients find online can be helpful, but they can also find a lot of half-truths and misleading information.


Healthcare practitioners who create and share useful content and are responsive to patients have the opportunity to become a trusted source of information.


Navigating the world of online interactions isn’t easy, but it has become part of the job for most medical practitioners. Physicians who embrace social media in healthcare can find a lot of positive outcomes.


MERRITT HAWKINS leads the nation in recruiting and placing physicians and advanced practitioners in top jobs across the country. We are committed to the healthcare industry and enabling clinicians and facility clients to consistently execute on their mission of patient care.

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Facebook's Medical Research Project Shows It Just Doesn't Understand Consent

Facebook's Medical Research Project Shows It Just Doesn't Understand Consent | Social Media and Healthcare |

Stanford University initially responded that the CNBC reporting was "inaccurate." When pressed on the specific inaccuracies, the university issued a second statement this morning confirming the CNBC article in its entirety, stating that there had indeed been conversations with Facebook and as CNBC reported, the project is still in the planning stages on a temporary pause. The university did not respond to any of the questions posed to it regarding its view of the ethics of the proposed project or how the university saw the proposed project complying with its data ethics rules.

Just as it seemed Facebook couldn’t outdo itself after weeks of ever more frightening disclosures and leaks about its perspective on privacy, CNBC broke the story this afternoon of a secret Facebook research project involving harvesting our private medical information from a group of major hospitals, with the hospitals’ full permission, but without ever informing patients their anonymized medical information was being handed to Facebook and without ever asking their consent. It seems Facebook simply doesn’t understand the very concept of informed consent.

The secret proposed Facebook project apparently never got beyond the planning stages and no data was actually exchanged. The company did not respond to a request for more details, but at its gist it appears the idea was for both Facebook and the hospitals to hash identifying information and merge Facebook’s social understanding of a user with their hospital’s medical understanding of them. Hashing would ensure that directly identifiable information was removed from the records and ensure only anonymized records were exchanged.


Of course, past history with deanonymized datasets offers little reassurance that simple hashing would fully preserve privacy, especially given past reidentification from similar attempts at anonymized medical research datasets.

It is also unclear precisely what provisions or exemptions under HIPAA the project was expected to operate under, though such research-oriented efforts have a number of avenues under HIPAA to avoid requesting user consent.


On the surface, Facebook’s proposed collaboration could certainly offer a number of beneficial new capabilities in improving the quality of care medical facilities can offer their patients, especially in identifying patients struggling with their care regimes, those lacking a support network to assist them in home recovery and those with lifestyles that might impact their recovery process.

The problem lies in how Facebook approached the project – in secret and allegedly with no intent of notifying patients or receiving any form of consent for their information to be shared with the social media giant. Speaking with two individuals familiar with the project, CNBC noted that “the issue of patient consent did not come up in the early discussions.”

Had Facebook structured the project from the very beginning as one that would be strictly opt-in, with the idea that patients would be given detailed information about it by their healthcare providers, informed of the risks and rewards and allowed to make an informed decision, there would likely have been little outcry. Indeed, some patients may have welcomed the ability to offer their caregivers greater insight into their lives in the hopes it would improve their medical outcomes.

Instead, Facebook’s intent to operate the program strictly in secret mirrors the way our medical information is commercialized everyday without our knowledge or informed consent and the company's broader view that its users have no digital rights. While the company and its hospital partners likely would have legal authority to repurpose and exchange patient data, public reaction really comes down to consent. Unfortunately, Silicon Valley and the international academic community have largely taken the stance that legal authority is all that is needed to harvest or repurpose user data – informed consent is entirely unnecessary.

The even greater problem here is the idea that Facebook itself would have access to all of this data. The Verge reports that while the intent was that data would never be deanonymized, a Facebook spokesperson confirmed that access to the anonymized records would have been provided to a select set of Facebook employees.

In my own career I’ve been involved in countless very similar projects involving merging highly sensitive datasets from multiple companies, including in regulated industries in which none of the companies were permitted by law to see the others’ data. In each case we would act as a “disinterested third party” in which all sides would hash the identifying information for each record and we would merge all of their datasets together and run all of the desired analyses, returning only aggregate statistics, such as the percent of users that had characteristic X or how highly correlated X and Y characteristics were. Each company would send their fully encrypted dataset via special courier to us, where we would decrypt it and store on a standalone system in a special secured room in a high security facility.

The idea that hospitals would transmit even hashed medical data to Facebook is simply beyond belief. It strains credibility that such a project even made it to the planning stage with active conversations with major hospitals.

On the other hand, at least some of the Facebook-related privacy concerns could have been avoided by using a similar third party approach to the analysis in which an accredited independent research organization would have received both the hashed hospital and Facebook data, merged them, performed all of the analyses and then destroyed the data. This would at the very least have shown Facebook to understand the unique privacy concerns around medical data, even if it did not understand the basics of informed consent.

CNBC reported that one of the hospitals in conversations with Facebook was Stanford Medical School. When reached for comment, the university pushed back on CNBC’s report, saying the article was “inaccurate” and that “Stanford has no such data sharing program.” When asked whether it was saying the university had never had any conversations with Facebook, or whether it was simply confirming that the project had never left the planning stage and thus there were no signed data sharing agreements in place, the university did not immediately respond.

In the past, however, the university has asserted that the public has absolutely no right of any kind to see the ethical justification for any of its data-driven research, even those projects that may involve their own data harvested from websites they use. In fact, Stanford’s stance has been that the public does not even have the right to know whether a given project was even subjected to ethical review of any kind, nor would it even confirm in the past whether its own rules and guidelines were adhered to in a given project.

It is also noteworthy that Facebook announced that it was merely “pausing” the project temporarily, rather than ending it, suggesting the company is merely waiting to ride out the current privacy storm before beginning again.

It is worth contrasting Facebook’s project with Estonia’s focus on data-driven medicine, including its new initiative launched last month to offer genetic testing to 100,000 of its residents as a first step towards eventually offering the service to its entire population – something its president touted this week in a visit to DC. The country views such data as making it possible to entirely reimagine personalized data-driven medical care.

Unlike Facebook’s proposed effort, Estonia’s initiative is based on a cornerstone of absolute control over one’s medical information. The 1999 Estonian Human Genes Research Act literally codified into law that a person who contributes their genetic information has absolute ownership and control over it and has the sole authority to decide who can see it and what can be done with it. The donor decides what studies they wish to make their information available to (if any) and can log into a secure system to see which of the studies they granted permission to actually ended up using their data. From the initial informed decision to contribute their genetic material to each individual access and use of that data, the individual remains in total control of their genetic information.

Putting this all together, Facebook’s proposed foray into medical research is as frightening as it is predictable: users are data points to be secretly exploited, rather than human individuals whose informed consent must be gained. In turn, its hospital partners would happily hand over their patients' most sensitive medical information to Facebook – again without any notification or consent. In Facebook’s world, as in the academic world from which it draws, informed consent is unnecessary when it comes to data – as long as the law says it is probably legal, there is no need to tell users about it or get their permission in any way. Contrast this with Estonia’s approach to data-driven medicine, in which the individual maintains absolute ownership and control over their data, deciding who can see it and why and with absolute visibility into every access they approve. Let’s hope that the future of data-driven medicine follows the Estonian way, not the Facebook way.

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Data’s Disrupting Healthcare Marketing: Here’s How

Data’s Disrupting Healthcare Marketing: Here’s How | Social Media and Healthcare |

Thanks to digital technology, we’re able to capture, store and analyze information like never before. This is affecting every part of our lives, but especially in healthcare marketing. Data is allowing us to regain, and improve, the clarity and knowledge we once got from in-depth conversations between physicians and sales representatives. It’s allowing us to embrace the endless possibilities of modern marketing.

Once, data could tell us where we’d been. Then real-time status became possible. Now, we can use data to predict where we’ll be. And increasingly, it can guide us toward what we should do. We’re moving from historical, to present, to predictive, to prescriptive.

Two-thirds of major pharmaceutical and life sciences marketers are already using big data. It’s a big deal – but that doesn’t make it a quick win.

Often, our clients don’t even know what data they have, though it’s sometimes incredibly valuable. Seemingly unrelated data points, when synthesized, can help you make better decisions faster and be more confident that what you’re doing is the best choice.

“Data is the new creative” has been a mantra in the industry for years, but using data isn’t just about collecting it – it’s about knowing how to draw actionable conclusions. That can look like many different things.

  • Chatbots can offer education, support, and advice – or triage patients, reducing the burden on overtaxed healthcare professionals – while learning from the interactions.
  • Programmatic media buying allows marketers to reach precise – and previously unreachable – targets. Recently, we used this to slice the estimated cost per new start for a campaign to one-twentieth what it would have been otherwise.
  • We’re applying new techniques to predict a payer’s likelihood to cover or drop a brand. This allows the brand to focus the efforts of their market-access reps, which could result in tens of millions of dollars saved.
  • Geolocation can deliver messages to individuals at exactly the right moment – a physician at a conference booth, a student in a health center, a parent at the pharmacy.
  • Advanced social listening reveals insights that marketers are applying to their entire multichannel ecosystem.
  • Personalized landing pages bring readers from an email to a that’s hyper-customized to them.

Admittedly, there’s hype, so it’s vital to remain practical, critical, ask the right questions and have the right expectations. But marketers from the 1980s and 1990s would be flabbergasted by what we’re capable of knowing today – no guesswork required. Our data scientists, like all good analytics teams, specialize in finding value – uncovering hidden stories and patterns that can be used to create competitive advantage, and do what we all always work toward: improving health.

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Amazon’s Healthcare Entrance and the Unfolding Digital Health Revolution

Amazon’s Healthcare Entrance and the Unfolding Digital Health Revolution | Social Media and Healthcare |

In the past several years, the healthcare landscape has altered dramatically as consolidation has continued across the healthcare verticals, but the scale of the entities involved now is truly gargantuan as the natural limits within sectors have been reached and this has led to vertical and cross vertical integrations with the pending CVS-Aetna and CIGNA-Express Scripts transactions being prime examples.  Another key dynamic is the recent entrance of Amazon into the healthcare ecosystem.  Commentary on Amazon’s entrance has run from, ‘they will revolutionize the delivery of care as they have revolutionized so many other industries’ to the more mundane view that ‘yet another tech company is about to get humbled by the quagmire of healthcare in America.’

Our view at ICR runs between these two extremes.  We view the healthcare system in the U.S. at an important juncture that will transform care delivery and access, but as with all revolutions, it will take time for the transformation to be more evident and live up to its potential.  In fact, the basic building blocks for this transformation are either already being put into place, or are well in the process of being developed and implemented.  Electronic medical records…check, bio-sensory devices to record an ever expanding level of human physiological data…check…AI-derived care monitoring and delivery protocols…check…personalized medicine with genomic and immunotherapies…double check.  The list of technological innovations goes on.

Mandated government payment reforms however, tend to be enacted slowly and implemented measuredly. Here we must recognize that there are always exceptions to these general conditions and meaningful progress has been made in the Medicare Advantage and the managed Medicaid markets driven by private-sector innovations.  Payment reforms have been the bottleneck in the evolution of healthcare in the United States since 1965.  Yet, we see the private sector reaching a critical cost juncture in the commercial market.  We note a recent conversation with a health plan executive that noted one of his biggest customers indicated that before long the cost of providing health insurance for its employees would soon surpass the wages paid to employees.  It is the cost of private healthcare, which subsidizes public care delivery that will force change across the healthcare industry and the reason why we expect significant structural changes ahead, regardless of the success or failure of Amazon in its endeavors.

It is this dynamic, along with the constant stream of innovations healthcare entrepreneurs grind out on a continual basis that we believe will revolutionize healthcare delivery in America.  We see digital capabilities supplanting asset-based care delivery models as the technological innovations accelerate to allow remote monitoring of an ever increasing list of conditions which will climb the acuity spectrum.  At ICR, we work with these courageous leaders on a daily basis as they build their companies that will fit into this mosaic of care transformation.  For young companies to navigate this changing landscape, it is imperative to:

  • Have a vision of what the healthcare landscape will look like ten years from now and how you fit into this world or help create it
  • Have a partner that understands this vision and can craft an integrated communications strategy to customers, partners, the healthcare ecosystem, investors, and has trusted relationships with the investment community across private and public equity firms
  • Build a team with the requisite experience and skillsets to meet the company’s long-term vision with diverse experiences across the healthcare ecosystem, technology, and consumer sectors
  • Begin building a board with similarly diverse backgrounds across these same sectors
  • Design flexibility into the model to account for unknowns

Before we go, an observation about the Amazon, Berkshire, and JPM joint venture.   One of the known facts about the joint venture is that it will be “free from profit-making incentives and constraints.”  Over 80% of healthcare delivery in the U.S. is provided by “non-profit” or “not-for-profit” institutions and that has largely done little to arrest the exponential growth rates in the cost of care.  However, another factor that has impacted the cost of care in the United States is one of consolidation and this applies across healthcare verticals and provides a lesson for those would be rebel pilots wanting to take down the Death Star.  An eco-system of potential Unicorn companies with ownership structures that protect from much larger competitors acquiring at high near-term multiples though low long-term valuations to subsequently reduce competition and raise prices would be a welcome development. It is the consolidation dynamic in the sector that is most likely a major factor in Amazon’s decision to structure the venture as a non-profit.

Potential disruptors need to shield themselves from the pervasive short-term investor mentalities that forsake more significant, though much longer-term disruptive opportunities.  This can be achieved via multiple share classes with graduated voting rights.

Another option is to include in the certificate of incorporation the authorization of the issuance of blank check preferred stock.  Blank check preferred stock among other things allows for the issuance of up to a certain amount of preferred stock to fix and designate the rights, preferences, privileges and restrictions of the preferred stock, including voting rights and terms of redemption and liquidation preferences.

An even more subtle alternative to assist founders resist near-term temptations is to include multiple board members with past experiences of having sold their companies too early.  In building a board, we suggest developing relationships with potential board members to get to know these individuals personally well before offering a board seat.

Arming the next generation of healthcare enterprises with a protective ownership structure should allow one or more to break through the defenses of the healthcare industry to deliver the much needed disruptive change required and allow founders to maximize the long-term value of their businesses. Ultimately protecting founders’ abilities to maximize the long-term value of their business will create extra hurdles in the public markets, if the company goes public. However, those hurdles can be successfully navigated when working with partners experienced in these matters.

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ROI Runaround: How Physicians Can Spot Evasive Marketing Vendors

ROI Runaround: How Physicians Can Spot Evasive Marketing Vendors | Social Media and Healthcare |

Medical marketing is essential for independent healthcare practices, particularly those that have recently opened or are in a competitive area. If you’re short on time and resources — as many small- and mid-size practices are — you’re likely tapping third-party vendors. This might mean working with one vendor to manage your website, another to handle your paid search advertising, and yet another for creating social media content.

With so many marketing techniques available to businesses — and so many agencies offering specialized services — outsourcing your marketing might bring you peace of mind. In fact, research has shown that small business owners who outsource their marketing are more satisfied with results than those who do marketing themselves or who delegate to an internal team.

But how do you know if your vendor is actually giving you the biggest bang for your buck? Here are a few signs your medical marketing vendors could be skirting transparency when it comes to performance.

Related: The Busy Doctor’s Guide to Marketing a Healthcare Practice

Performance Data Is Inaccessible

It shouldn’t be a chore for you to gain insight into your online presence and digital reputation, monitor your practice growth, and measure the impact of your marketing initiatives on your practice. If you can’t easily access important metrics like number of website visitors and number of appointment requests at any time, or you can’t interpret a complicated spreadsheet or graph without having to call someone, you’re in the dark regarding return on investment (ROI).

Vendors Offer Vague Information Only

If you reach out to your vendor for clarification and insights, you should expect specificity in their reporting. But that doesn’t always happen.

The team at Truxtun Psychiatric Medical Group & Psychiatric Wellness Center in Bakersfield, Calif., experienced this first hand. “When I asked about performance, [our website vendor] would relay the information over the phone without hard data or proof,” says Marketing Coordinator Kaylee Hoffman. After a long period of frustration, the psychiatry practice took its business to PatientPop in 2017. “The [PatientPop] dashboard is really easy to read. I’m glad I can see data without having to call someone.”

Look: Marketing SEO Terms Every Healthcare Provider Should Know

Vendors Misinterpret or Cloud Data

With modern technology and data tracking and a sea of information at marketers’ fingertips, it’s easier than ever to gain insights. But an inexperienced or cagey marketer can make comparisons between two different metrics — say last month’s website bounce rate to this month’s successful conversions — and draw the wrong conclusions.

You can judge for yourself how performance is going if your vendor presents not only their data takeaways but the data itself.

Vendors are Unresponsive or Fail to Take Initiative

You always want to have the option to speak with a support representative. And you should expect quick responses to issues that come up for you, as well as a steady stream of information, including fresh ideas for ways to boost website views and conversions, or about software product updates and new releases that could benefit your healthcare practice.

A proactive, customer service-oriented vendor will take calls, respond promptly to your requests, make data readily available and easy-to-read, and provide regular performance snapshots.

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What Healthcare Info Facebook and Other Tech Companies Have on You

What Healthcare Info Facebook and Other Tech Companies Have on You | Social Media and Healthcare |

The Cambridge Analytica scandal that’s rocked Facebook both in headlines and on Wall Street, has revealed the potential risks for users who want to keep their online data private.

As the story of the breach has unfolded and expanded to include a second data firm, it’s brought up incidences in which social media platforms and other large tech firms have questionably handled the personal health data of their users.


How big tech and private health information can collide

The Cambridge Analytica scandal started after it was revealed that the “political firm” obtained millions of users’ Facebook data under false pretenses in order to create “psychographic profiles” of U.S. and U.K. voters.

But even before this scandal, there have been multiple stories about how social media companies like Facebook can compromise personal health information and privacy.

In 2016, Splinter News reported that Facebook’s “people you may know” feature was suggesting that patients of the same psychiatrist friend one another, effectively identifying each patient in the practice to one another. In that case, the psychiatrist hadn’t even “friended” her patients, but Facebook had her phone number, which her patients also had.

The algorithm then likely thought they would want to connect online after analyzing the contacts. Facebook said at the time that they weren’t sure why the patients were recommended to be “friends” with one another, without additional information.


Other companies including mobile health apps used by doctors and even potentially Google, have also been caught in the crosshairs, due to a lack of protection on user data.


That at least appears to be the case for a young woman named Rose (who Healthline agreed to identify by her middle name). After she and her partner experienced a pregnancy scare, Rose began to Google questions about Plan B, her menstrual cycle, and a week later, pregnancy symptoms.


“A condom broke and I was being paranoid. I didn’t get to the point of thinking I was pregnant,” she told Healthline. Several weeks later, she received a text from her mother. A promotional StrongMoms package of baby formula from the company Similac had been shipped to her family’s home.

Rose said she’s close with her parents and she would tell them if she became pregnant.

Her mother’s text read along the lines of “‘Oh, this is funny, this came as an accident,’ and I was like, ‘Correct. It did come as an accident,’” she said.

Rose said she didn’t know why she was targeted for this promotion. And she has no proof that her parents received the package as a result of her activity online.


But searching online, she found a pattern. She saw other stories of women whose actual pregnancies were revealed by the package, or who’d received the packages months after miscarrying.

Rose told Healthline that she did purchase a baby shower gift from Babies R Us six months prior to receiving the package, and said potentially that could also have had something to do with the formula arriving. She saw online that other women who bought something at that store had received the formula.


A local 2017 NBC report on the packages suggested that the list of names to send the package to were generated by third-party data aggregators, although they had no definitive answers on if it was related to Google searches.

In response to Healthline’s questions about cases like Rose, Abbott Nutrition said in part: “We have partnerships that provide us with information about expectant parents who may find our information or products useful. The overwhelming majority of people we send our gift packs to enjoy them and we receive a lot of positive feedback from parents on the StrongMoms program. We also work quickly to ensure anyone who tells us they’d like to be removed from the StrongMoms program is quickly removed from our mailing list.”

Google didn’t immediately respond to Healthline to clarify if Abbott Nutrition could have received information from user search history.


No matter how the formula arrived addressed for Rose, the story points to a larger issue with companies being able to infer information about users — even sensitive health information — from their online activity.

DePaul University computer scientist Jacob Furst, said third-party data aggregators are likely looking at activities that might include a user’s Google searches.

“The Google privacy policy doesn’t explicitly mention data aggregators, although there are a number of somewhat ambiguous statements that could provide an avenue,” he said.

He said that these aggregators may be able to find information from a user’s Google searches and then send related materials.

“There are so many interconnections among applications, among data aggregators. There are often many paths to the same end,” Furst told Healthline, “It can be very hard to understand, and it can be a lot of sources put together.”


A common theme that emerges in stories like Rose’s is the interconnectedness of each platform. It’s hard to disentangle a Google search from an ad served on Facebook because of an app downloaded on your smartphone.

But the lesson is that your online interactions can mean companies may have more information about your health conditions than you realize.

And in the wake of the news that Cambridge Analytica obtained user data under false pretenses, reporters are finding more and more examples of the misuse of people’s personal information.

Facebook faces more scrutiny after it came to light that they had plans to share user medical data with hospitals for research purposes, according to CNBC.


A spokesman responded to CNBC that the plans hadn’t progressed past the planning stage.

Earlier this month, Buzzfeed reported that the app Grindr was sharing its users’ HIV statuseswith other companies. After the report, Grindr announced that it would no longer share this data with third-party companies.

Grindr’s chief security officer told Buzzfeed that the situation was “being conflated with Cambridge Analytica.”

Weeks before that news broke, the company was praised for its move to remind users to get tested for HIV.

What can users do to protect themselves?

While these problems will be difficult to solve, Furst said he recommends individual users restrict access to data from apps when they ask. This means not just blindly clicking yes when an app wants access to your contact list or your location or photos.

But more importantly, he thinks there needs to be a larger movement to regulate these tech companies to protect users.

“I think ultimately there needs to be enough of a societal outcry that we need to get the government to pass laws,” Furst said.

Furst added that he doesn’t expect that will happen right away, but he points to Europe as a potential way forward. The passage of Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation is poised to impose much stricter regulations on the handling of people’s data.

While Furst is skeptical as to how each aspect of the regulation will be enforced, he said it gives him reason to think the United States may follow the E.U. in the coming years.

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What Healthcare Can Learn From Finance About Data Sharing

Both financial data and health data require the highest levels of security and privacy. Heavy regulation ensures that this type of information is as secure as possible. In principle, that’s a good thing. No one wants their medical profile out there for all to see.

But the experience of that safe and secure data exchange, between healthcare and finance, is dramatically (and we do mean dramatically) different. Banks, credit card companies and other financial institutions are able to navigate these barriers to talk to one another, making it easier for customers to coordinate payments and understand their overall financial wellbeing. So why can’t patients, doctors, payers and insurance providers do the same for health data?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) was passed with the good intentions of keeping personal identifiable information out of the wrong hands. However, these same regulations also block health information from being shared within the right hands, at the right time. Extended care ecosystems — consisting of family, caregivers, payers, doctors, institutions and providers — would benefit from access to this data to better coordinate care for patients. Instead, this burden often falls to a patient and, if they have one, a family member or friend helping to care for them.


From products that would alleviate the burden of coordinating care, to advancements in health research, here are just a few ways designers can look to finance as a model to help bring the healthcare sector up to date.


In order for patients to be good advocates for their own care, they need to be provided with the right tools. However, for those navigating the system right now, the tools are not evolving at the same pace as the financial or consumer markets. This leaves patients stuck in endless paperwork and outdated systems, responsible for recording, remembering and communicating their full medical history. This may not seem like such a big deal for healthy people that don’t interact with the system much, but it can become overwhelming for those with chronic illness who have to become their own advocates. When the healthcare sector embraces secure, but open, data sharing, it will unlock a spectrum of new health service opportunities.

Much like healthcare, the finance industry has a vast trove of complex data spread across countless interactions overtime. Nevertheless, finance has found ways to both protect and simplify the aggregation and consumption of data through a series of consumer-facing tools. The credit score is perhaps the most ubiquitous. By calculating data from consumer credit reports, the FICO score puts a number to individual’s credit worthiness, allowing users to quickly prove to those they interact with that they will responsibly service their debt or stay current on their financial obligations. With the use of this score, consumers are able to purchase or rent homes or automobiles, open up credit cards, or finance the purchase of other big ticket items like laptops, televisions or furniture.


Since the credit score was first established in 1989, many more user-friendly financial tools have arisen to help people take control of their financial data. One such example is ClarityMoney, an app that tracks spending habits and offers recommendations on how to best manage personal spending. The app recommends credit cards that can save the user money, and even highlights all recurring subscriptions, allowing the user to cancel any they may not be using with a simple click of a button. Few tools like these, powered by comprehensive personal data, exist in the healthcare space today.


Banks have been utilizing image-recognition technology software for mobile check deposit and secure routing to ensure efficient access and distribution of funds for years now. In addition, advancements in blockchain technology are also opening up many different possibilities for the exchange of protected information in fields beyond finance. Take a look at what’s happening in home security. When the healthcare sector embraces these new and emerging technologies, we will see real advancements in sharing, maintaining and utilizing personal health data, through to making leaps and bounds in broad-based medical research.

Not all patient data needs to be personal in order to be valuable. For years, the finance industry has collected anonymized data to track patterns and provide targeted offerings to consumers, even before the customer realizes what they need. And with the rise of emerging technology, there are unprecedented opportunities to learn from new sources of data. Noting the rise of digital banking and social mediaLending Club adjusts their risk-worthiness of consumers in part by how quickly users fill out their online application, what time they fill it out, and the makeup of the social media networks. When larger pools of anonymized data around diagnosis and symptoms are made available in the same way, we will see real opportunities for tangible medical breakthroughs. The sharing or crowd sourcing of diagnoses and symptoms will most certainly be useful for those dealing with chronic illness. Activating this data will inevitably open up new possibilities for treatment advancements.


Today, the free flow of personal financial data is so seamless that purchases can be made from almost anywhere in the world with just a thumbprint or tap of an app. But in the healthcare sector, getting medical records from one physician to another may require a patient drive to the facility, provide proof of identity, pay a service fee, fill out paperwork, physically pick up the data and bring it to their next appointment. If it were this cumbersome to share financial data, the entire economy would be paralyzed.

When we open up communication, clinicians are able to collaborate by seeing notes from other doctors, cross-referencing medications, reviewing lab and test results, and observing changes in symptoms over time, delivering true, coordinated care. Patients will no longer be burdened with recording and describing health histories across multiple providers and (often) over long periods of time. PicnicHealth is one company already offering medical record management using an e-signature to request permission to access health records, including all doctor’s notes, prescriptions, lab results, X-Rays etc. Let’s take it one step further by incorporating data from patient’s own health or fitness trackers as well to create a fully connected care ecosystem.


For both patients and providers, knowledge is power. This means that as designers and strategists, it is crucial to find a way to optimize access to health data, while maintaining the highest levels of security and privacy. Using human-centered design for complex healthcare challenges can lead to data solutions that securely flow from one entity to the next, increasing convenience, advancing medical knowledge, improving (and saving) lives and, most certainly, our sanity.

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Impact of social media in healthcare discussed

Impact of social media in healthcare discussed | Social Media and Healthcare |

The possible impact of social media on the professional identity of medical professionals was examined at the latest Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q) Grand Rounds. 

Dr Dora Stadler, clinical assistant professor of medicine at WCM-Q, gave a presentation that explained how physicians, nurses and other healthcare professionals can use social media to benefit their patients, enhance their own professional development, foster collegiality and improve public health. She also examined some of the possible pitfalls of careless use of social media. 

Dr Stadler said, “Social media can be a very powerful and very positive tool for medical professionals if used correctly. We can utilize social media platforms to build collaborative networks to share knowledge across continents, educate the public about important health issues, build public confidence and make healthcare resources more accessible. But we have to be respectful of the power of social media and use it in a deliberate, thoughtful manner.”

Dr Stadler explained that a carelessly managed social media presence can compromise the professional identity of healthcare workers, adversely affect patient trust, damage the professional’s career and possibly bring their institution into disrepute. Perhaps most seriously, improper social media use can jeopardise patient confidentiality. 

“Patients have an absolute right and an expectation that any information they share with a healthcare professional will be in the strictest possible confidence. Healthcare professionals must be aware of the risk that social media presents to patient confidentiality and make sure they understand the technology so that no patient information is ever shared, either purposefully or by accident.” 

Dr Stadler explained the importance of recognizing the inability to completely separate one’s personal and professional identities online. She then offered detailed advice on how to formulate an effective, deliberate approach to social media to present a positive professional identity online and protect and enhance patient welfare. 

The lecture, titled Medical Professionalism in the Age of Social Media, was accredited locally by the Qatar Council for Healthcare Practitioners-Accreditation Department (QCHP-AD) and internationally by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME).

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We Can't Take Direct Access Patients—and Other Lies That are Killing Your PT Practice

We Can't Take Direct Access Patients—and Other Lies That are Killing Your PT Practice | Social Media and Healthcare |

Running a successful practice can be challenging—especially given the current payment climate. Add in the potential pitfalls of making a bad hire and the staggeringly high percentage of patients who drop out of therapy before completing their course of care, and you have a veritable minefield to traverse. So, don’t make it harder than it has to be by convincing yourself (or your staff) that you can’t take direct access patients in your state. As it stands, there aren’t even any states without direct access to physical therapy—because every state allows patients to receive at least an initial evaluation from a qualified PT before they must obtain a physician referral to continue treatment.

And that’s all you need to step into your role as a primary care coordinator. So, up your marketing game to include prospective patients; then, use your clinical expertise to help direct those patients to the type of treatment that is the most likely to benefit their condition or injury. If it’s physical therapy, great! You can send patients to a PT-friendly physician for a referral that allows you to move forward with treatment (if you’re not in a state that allows unrestricted direct access to physical therapy). And if it’s not physical therapy, then you can refer the patient to a provider who would be a better fit (with the added bonus of strengthening your network). Either way, you get to the be the one ensuring that the patient receives the very best treatment—and maybe (just maybe) that patient will explore a solution other than surgery, injections, or pain meds.

Misguided notions around direct access aren’t the only misconceptions preventing PT practices from realizing their full business potential. Here are five more:


1. “We can't use patient names in testimonials.”

You can—as long as you obtain prior written permission from the patient. Otherwise, you’re committing a HIPAA breach—and that could land you in hot water. If you’re wondering whether including names is worth the extra effort of obtaining permission, then consider how an unattributed testimonial may appear to a prospective patient: perhaps a little fishy. On the other hand, including names can aid in garnering trust and lending some legitimacy to your testimonials. In this article, Strive Labs co-founder Ryan Klepps uses Champion Physical Therapy and Performance as a great example of a practice that uses its website wisely by keeping its “messaging simple—and back[ing] it up with social proof via testimonials.” You’ll notice that Champion’s website features plenty of testimonials paired with the source’s name—and picture, which is a nice touch. And you can bet the clinic has a signed permission slip for each and every one of them.

2. “When patients stop coming to therapy, it’s because they’ve gotten better.”

If only this were actually true. Unfortunately, according to research conducted by the Strive Labs team, 30% of patients drop out of physical therapy during the first three visits, and 70% won't complete their entire course of care. While a small percentage of these patients may have experienced a miraculously speedy recovery, most bail before meeting their functional goals—and that’s not good for patients or providers. (In fact, according to WebPT president Heidi Jannenga, early patient dropout is a $6 billion dollar problem for the industry at large.) While this is clearly a systemic issue, there are things that you can do to improve patient retention in your clinic—the first of which is admitting that you have role to play in keeping patients engaged in their care. From there, be sure you’re:

  • Prioritizing the patient experience;
  • Collecting and acting on patient feedback;
  • Connecting with patients between appointments by sending them relevant content;
  • Providing access to a secure communication channel that patients can use to reach you;
  • Using a multimedia HEP program that enables patients to track their progress; and
  • Reaching out to patients who fall off the calendar to get them scheduled for their next appointment.

While small practices may be able to do all of the above manually without the risk of having patients fall through the cracks, mid- to large-sized practices—and ones that are growing—may benefit from adopting patient relationship management (PRM) software to help automate the process and improve engagement.

3. “We can’t post anything on social media.”

Sure you can. There are plenty of super-successful healthcare practices that use social media to share relevant content and market to patients. And considering that many people are now researching potential providers and treatment options online before ever setting foot in a provider’s office, social media is a great platform for connecting with prospective patients at the beginning of their care journey. Just like any communication tool, though, you best use it thoughtfully—and remember that everything you share, post, comment, and like will exist in the Interwebs permanently. That’s why any business that uses social media should have clearly written policies and procedures for interacting with patients online, emphasizing the importance of never posting anything that could even remotely be construed as personal health information (PHI) without obtaining written permission from the patient.

4. “Our patients are satisfied—just look at our satisfaction scores.”

Satisfaction scores can be misleading—especially if you’re:

  • using a survey method that isn’t sensitive enough to capture meaningful differences between patient responses, or
  • only administering surveys at discharge (hello, sampling bias) and in the clinic (hello, environmental bias).

All of this can leave you with an artificially inflated score that doesn’t actually represent your patients’ experience with your clinic. Instead, opt for a standardized, valid, and reliable measurement tool that truly captures your patients’ feelings about your clinic. And while you’re at it, we recommend measuring loyalty instead of satisfaction. As Strive Labs co-founder Scott Hebert explained during this webinar, “Satisfaction is easy to achieve: you simply meet a customer’s expectations. Loyalty, on the other hand, is a little harder won, because you have to exceed those expectations. And in today’s competitive and increasingly value-based, patient-centric healthcare marketplace, exceeding expectations is crucial.”

In our opinion, Net Promoter Score® (NPS®) is the best metric available for measuring patient loyalty. According to this NPS resource, it’s a “proven metric [that has] transformed the business world and now provides the core measurement for customer experience management programs the world round.” And the very best PRM software on the market has NPS tracking built-in, so you can automate the entire process, including asking your loyal patients to write you online reviews and testimonials.

5. “We can’t see Medicare patients past the therapy cap—or threshold.”

While the therapy cap has officially been repealed, there’s still a targeted review threshold in place. But, you can—and should—provide medically necessary services above that threshold. Failing to do so could hinder your patients’ progress. Simply affix the KX modifier and ensure that your documentation supports the continuation of care. As WebPT’s Kylie McKee explained here, on February 9, 2018, the Senate voted to repeal the Medicare therapy cap effective on January 1, 2018. However, providers are still required to “track total claim amounts for Medicare beneficiaries and apply the KX modifier to claims exceeding the $2,010 threshold [for 2018],” said Mckee. “...the targeted review process will now apply to therapy claims exceeding $3,000 for each individual patient.” In the comments of the same post, WebPT’s Brooke Andrus further clarified that “claims above $3,000 may be targeted for special review by Medicare to ensure they meet the requirements for reimbursement.” But, a little extra Medicare scrutiny shouldn’t deter you from doing what’s best for your patients. Just be sure your documentation is defensible.

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Patients’ Online Discussions Reveal Little-Known Side Effects 

Patients’ Online Discussions Reveal Little-Known Side Effects  | Social Media and Healthcare |

CANCER PATIENTS AROUND THE WORLDuse social networks to share their experiences. A study published in JAMA Oncology​ on March 1 suggests that patient forums could be a new source of information on cancer treatment side effects, as adverse drug reactions (ADRs) are being discussed months before they are officially reported in the medical literature.

The study authors used a technique called deep learning—a form of artificial intelligence—to analyze conversations that took place on Inspire, an online social network that hosts support groups for people diagnosed with medical conditions, including cancer. The researchers found 8 million references to ADRs affecting the skin in posts about the cancer treatment medications Tarceva (erlotinib), Opdivo (nivolumab) and Keytruda (pembrolizumab).

The study used a computer program called DeepHealthMiner that had been developed previously to scan social media for conversations about side effects by study co-author Azadeh Nikfarjam, a postdoctoral research fellow in biomedical informatics at Stanford University School of Medicine in California. To teach the program to identify relevant information, human helpers manually annotated more than 10,000 tweets to flag details like the drug being used, the condition it was intended to treat and the ADR in question, under the supervision of a pharmacologist. Nikfarjam fed this human-generated data into the program before using a technique called unsupervised learning to expand the program’s ability to recognize pertinent comments beyond the specific examples it was given.

For the new study, DeepHealthMiner scanned the Inspire posts for both formal terminology and more casual phrasing describing side effects. For instance, a post might not refer to psoriasis by name, but instead talk about a pink, scaly rash on the elbows. The program would be able to make the connection between those terms and the medical condition.

The team calculated the strength of the associations between drugs and ADRs, finding that the conversations in the forum faithfully reflected the number and frequency of ADRs already reported in the scientific literature. What’s more, their methods seemed to uncover relationships that previously flew under the radar.

“Common ADRs are seen in doctors’ offices around the world,” says co-author Julia D. Ransohoff, a medical student at Stanford. “Rarer ones, however, are often seen once or a handful of times at a single center, and a single provider seeing a drug reaction once does not enable us to determine if the drug reaction is related to a specific drug—especially when treating cancer patients, who are often on multiple medications.”

Analyzing online discussions can help clarify the connection between a side effect and a drug. Ransohoff gave the example of a patient using Tarceva who mentioned an inability to sweat while talking with co-author Bernice Y. Kwong, a Stanford dermatologic oncologist, during an appointment. Inability to sweat, or hypohidrosis, had not been documented as a side effect of Tarceva in the medical literature, but when the researchers analyzed the online discussion posts, they found a further 23 patients reporting the symptom in association with the drug.

Discussion forums can give researchers a valuable new perspective on patients’ experiences. “The unfiltered nature [of online communication] does mean that there will be a lot of posts that may not be relevant to researchers,” says Jeff Terkowitz, the vice president of product for Inspire, who was an adviser for the study. “However, it also means that people are more open and honest than they are at times with their physicians.”

Deep learning allows researchers to strip away the information that isn’t useful. The method—sometimes called “social listening”—provides another source of data to practitioners and researchers.

As patients’ conversations were being monitored, both the researchers and the Inspire team recognized the important of maintaining users’ privacy. The study only included posts that members made visible to the public, but even so, Terkowitz confirms that no personally identifiable information was transmitted or used in the study.

“As long as they used only public posts, I would not have a problem,” says Dee Sparacio, an ovarian cancer survivor and Inspire member who runs the Women of Teal​ blog, when asked if she would mind if her posts were used in the study. She says that participants in the #gyncsm​chats that she co-moderates on Twitter often voice a reluctance to “bother” their doctors with their experiences, but they are happy to share them among their peers.

For the study, the researchers looked at posts submitted to Inspire between 2007 and 2016. Going forward, Ransohoff hopes that these data could be used to create “live” online monitoring platforms offering a real-time digest of patient reports. This would help practitioners adjust treatments in response to ADRs in a more timely manner—the study found that posts on Inspire identified ADRs an average of seven months in advance of clinical reports—which could help make treatment more tolerable and improve patients’ quality of life.

“There is a wealth of information buried here that could greatly increase our understanding of the experience of cancer treatment for patients,” says Ransohoff.​ 

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Examining patient profiles for the right ad prescription

Patient profiles are essential for effective marketing: they help determine the best media channels and aid in targeting the right group with the right message at the right time. This blog post from the MARS Consumer Health Study outlines a few examples of Psoriasis patient profiles and how they can be applied to healthcare marketing and messaging strategies.

The adult Psoriasis patient is more likely to be female, middle-aged, college-educated, and a heavy user of traditional media channels:


Among the 5.8 million diagnosed with Psoriasis, there are many different profiles. Let’s take a look at how the average patient compares by gender:


While both patient groups are professionally diagnosed, females spend twice as much time online and value in-person support groups. A digital campaign focusing on patient-to-patient connectivity may be effective. An advertiser or healthcare marketer trying to reach the male Psoriasis patient might consider a prescription medication ad on television due to the value this group places on TV programs and their preference for Rx medications.

How about the social Psoriasis patient?

Compared to the average Psoriasis patient, Female Psoriasis sufferers that have posted on social media in the past month are 52% more likely to have used health-related apps on a mobile device (smartphone or tablet). Additionally, they are 16% more likely to agree they’d rather download an app than look for health-related information on a website:


To learn more about the MARS Consumer Health study, patient groups, treatment, media usage, health attitudes, behaviors and much more please stay tuned for our next blog post or contact us directly for additional information.

About the study

Kantar Media’s MARS Consumer Health Study is a trusted information source for reaching different patient groups and uncovering deep consumer insights. It provides stable and reliable media and healthcare data that is projectable to the U.S. population to better meet the needs of agencies, marketers, healthcare facilities, insurers and media companies. The study contains detailed information among U.S. adults including online and offline media usage for 100+ consumer magazines, newspapers and health-related publications as well as TV, radio, and internet usage.

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Social media: the power of people talking to each other – Patient Empowerment Foundation

Social media: the power of people talking to each other – Patient Empowerment Foundation | Social Media and Healthcare |

At the European Breast Cancer Conference (#EBCC11) held in Barcelona in March our board member and advocate Marie Ennis O’Connor (@JBBC) spoke about the power of social media for connecting patients and helping them to achieve better outcomes. Marie, a breast cancer survivor, experienced how the lack of information can have harmful consequences. At the moment of her diagnosis, she was not informed about fertility preservation with the consequence that she lost the opportunity to become a mother. Today she advocates for breast cancer patients and she has become a renowned social media specialist and speaker.

Marie Ennis O’Connor

Peer to peer communication is vital for patient empowerment. “Before the Internet connected people from every corner of the globe”, says Marie, “many patients experienced their illness in isolation. Humans have an innate desire to feel connected with others who live life through similar lenses. The Internet, and social media, in particular, has lessened this sense of isolation.”

Well-known patient advocates like Dave deBronkart (e-Patient Dave) and Andrew Schorr have shared how the internet helped them to connect with peers and saved their lives. Breast cancer patients have built a powerful online community where they share knowledge, experience and they help each other. There are numerous breast cancer Facebook groups and Twitter accounts that put patients in touch and facilitate the conversation. One of them is Breast Cancer Chat, a Twitter account that organises a chat every Tuesday (9-10pm GMT) around the hashtag #bccww

Another strong breast cancer advocate in social media is Joanne Taylor (@abcdiagnosis), a secondary breast cancer patient from Manchester. Joanne has over 12,000 followers on Twitter and she has managed to put metastatic breast cancer on the map. This community uses hashtags like #metastaticBC #stageivneedsmore and #breastcancerrealitycheck to reveal the reality of metastatic breast cancer and to advocate for more research.

Joanne Taylor

As we can see, “patients have moved from being a passive recipient of care to being an active participant in their health,” in Marie’s words. This empowerment facilitated by the internet is even more important in the field of rare diseases, where patients feel completely alone. Having a disease that affects one in 40,000 or one in 100,000 people makes it very difficult to find someone like you. Rare disease patients from all over the world have started Facebook groups to communicate and help each other. These communities share information about symptoms, treatments and they offer support. So valuable is this information that is being used for researchers to gain more knowledge in the difficult field of rare diseases.

“In the case of rare diseases, where doctors simply don’t have the answers to patients’ questions due to low patient numbers and, consequently, insufficient research into the disease, it is the patients themselves who are banding together to find the answers they need,” says Marie.

It is clear that patients have in social media patients a priceless resource. To quote Susannah Fox (@Susannah Fox), Former Chief Technology Officer at U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: “the most exciting innovation of the connected health era is people talking with each other.”

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UCLA researchers use search engines, social media to predict syphilis trends

UCLA researchers use search engines, social media to predict syphilis trends | Social Media and Healthcare |

UCLA-led research finds that internet search terms and tweets related to sexual risk behaviors can predict when and where syphilis trends will occur.

Two studies from the UCLA-based University of California Institute for Prediction Technology, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, found an association between certain risk-related terms that Google and Twitter users researched or tweeted about and subsequent syphilis trends that were reported to the CDC. The researchers were able to pinpoint these cases at state or county levels, depending on the platform used.

“Many of the most significant public health problems in our society today — HIV and sexually transmitted infections, opioid abuse and cancer — could be prevented if we had better data on when and where these issues were occurring,” said Sean Young, founder and director of the UCLA Center for Digital Behavior and the UC Institute for Prediction Technology. “These two studies suggest that social media and internet search data might help to fix this problem by predicting when and where future syphilis cases may occur. This could be a tool that government agencies such as the CDC might use,” added Young, who is also an associate professor of family medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

One study, to be published in the peer-reviewed journal Epidemiology, investigated the association between state-level search queries on Google with primary and secondary syphilis cases — the earliest and most transmissible stages in the sexually transmitted infection — that were subsequently reported in these states.

For this study, the researchers compiled data for 25 keywords and phrases (such as “find sex” and “STD”) collected on Google Trends from Jan. 1, 2012, to Dec. 31, 2014. They also obtained weekly county-level syphilis data from the CDC covering the same time period for all 50 states, merged that data by state and collated them with the weekly Google Trends data they had collected.

The research incorporated a type of statistical computer science model called machine learning, which can look through large amounts of data to find patterns and predict those patterns. This artificial intelligence-based machine looked at the relationship between people’s syphilis-related searches on Google and actual rates of syphilis over a period of time. After learning that pattern, it tested whether it could accurately predict future syphilis cases by using just the syphilis-related Google search terms.

Researchers found that the model predicted 144 weeks of syphilis counts for each state with 90 percent accuracy, allowing them to predict state-level trends in syphilis before they would have occurred.

Researchers from the institute found the same held true with Twitter. In a study published in Preventive Medicine, they took county-level Twitter data from May 26 to Dec. 9, 2012, amounting to 8,538 geo-located tweets. As with the Google Trends analysis, the researchers compiled a list of words associated with sexual risk behaviors.

They reviewed weekly county-level cases of primary and secondary syphilis and early latent syphilis (infection within the previous 12 months, with no symptoms evident) that likely occurred over the previous 12 months. The cases were from the 50 states and Washington, D.C., and were reported to the CDC from 2012 to 2013. The 2012 data were included because a county’s previous syphilis rates are likely to predict future rates, and they wanted to determine how the Twitter-based method would perform matched with the previous year’s data.

They found that counties having higher risk-related tweets in 2012 were associated with a 2.7 percent jump in primary and secondary and a 3.6 percent boost in early latent syphilis cases in 2013. By comparison, counties that reported higher numbers of syphilis cases in 2012 were associated with increases of 0.6 percent and 0.4 percent of primary/secondary and early latent syphilis cases, respectively, in 2013, suggesting that the Twitter-based model performed as well as simply using previous year’s syphilis data. This is important because Twitter data are extremely inexpensive and suggest that social media data are low-cost alternatives for predicting syphilis.

Both studies have certain limitations. For the Google paper, they include the likelihood that many primary and secondary syphilis cases are not reported; the findings were biased toward Google users, who account for about 64 percent of search engine users; and the Google Trends data are a random sampling of all data and not the full dataset, which might have affected how the model worked. In the Twitter study’s case, data were based on Twitter users, which is a select sample of people; the researchers reviewed data only for 2012 and 2013, when data from a longer time span would be needed to develop appropriate public health responses; and some areas with high numbers of syphilis cases may have had public health messaging via social media that contained relevant keywords that were captured in the data the researchers examined.

The National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases funded the Google paper. The National Institute of Mental Health; the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; the Center for HIV Identification, Prevention and Treatment; and the UCLA Center for AIDS Research funded the Twitter research.

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Avoid these 5 social media no-nos to grow your dental patient base faster and safer -

Avoid these 5 social media no-nos to grow your dental patient base faster and safer - | Social Media and Healthcare |

Eighty percent of people search for health-related information online.(1) And 81% of people have social medial profiles.(2) Given these statistics, a strong social media presence for your dental practice is critical to winning over new patients.

In order to take full advantage of the customer engagement and lead generation that social media has to offer, make sure your dental practice uses it properly by avoiding these five big no-nos.

No-no #1: Giving medical advice or providing protected health information (PHI)

Social media followers ask all kinds of questions, and some of your responses can cause regulatory nightmares. First, don’t give medical advice. It’s hard to tell where followers are from, and you don’t want to give advice to someone who isn’t located in a state where you’re licensed. If an existing patient asks for medical advice, ask them to take the conversation offline by thanking them for their concern and then providing your contact information. It’s very easy to give out PHI while dealing with clients online, whether they’re requesting help or you’re responding to a negative review about a less-than-satisfactory experience. To do so would violate HIPPA, so don’t do it!

No-no #2: Using your personal profile for your practice

On each social media platform, you should have a business profile or page separate from your personal page. Why are separate profiles important?

• They separate your personal and professional lives. There may be posts on your personal profile that you don’t want patients to see.
• Your business page serves as the hub for your followers, patients, and teammates. It’s a place for all things dentistry, your main vehicle for building your brand, sharing engaging information, and showcasing your staff and office vibe. It’s nearly impossible to keep your personal profile that focused.
• Many social platforms limit the number of connections a personal profile can have. Most business profiles don’t have that limitation. For example, Facebook allows only 5,000 friends on a personal page. Business pages, on the other hand, can have unlimited fans.

• You may eventually want your social media handled by a staff member trained in social media or even by an outside firm. Business profiles make giving and revoking access much easier than personal pages do, which keeps your brand and personal profiles safe if social media responsibilities change hands.

No-No #3: Self-promoting constantly

The ultimate goals of social media are simple: engage existing customers, promote referrals, and recruit new prospects. One sure way not to achieve these goals is by constantly promoting your practice. Imagine your social media profile is a TV channel. Do subscribers want to see constant commercials?

Spend a majority of your social efforts making your practice more personable and educational. Give your prospects real value, and two things will happen: (1) you’ll endear your social fans to you, or (2) they will be more receptive when you do put a great offer in front of them. A good rule of thumb is one promotional post per 10 engaging posts.

No-No #4: Content that doesn’t match your audience

Other dentists might appreciate learning about recent findings on Th17 cells at the gingival oral mucosal barrier, but they’re not your audience. Stay away from industry jargon and clinical speak in your posts. Be personable with your followers, and help them make informed decisions with educational content. Speak with them, not at them. Most importantly, involve them. Encourage followers to interact with your content by asking them to leave comments and share and like your posts. Promote a culture of engagement, and your follower-base will grow organically.

No-No #5: Buying followers and likes

It’s tempting. Who doesn’t want an instant boost of a few thousand followers for only $39? Buying followers and likes puts you and your company’s reputation at serious risk.

You can read about more specific reasons why not here, but put simply, when you buy fake followers or likes, you’re left with an impressive number of empty accounts that have zero interest in your practice and will never become patients. Most social media platforms regulate the visibility of your posts based on the engagement of your audience. The more engaged they are, the more they see of you. So fake followers drag down your metrics in the long-term

Social media is one of the most effective marketing tools available to you. Don’t ruin your chances of an engaged and loyal following by falling into one of the traps.

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Pharma's use of social has matured: report

Pharma's use of social has matured: report | Social Media and Healthcare |

Pharma use of social media is maturing as companies get more savvy about how they use social channels.

For its fourth-annual Social Check-up, Ogilvy Healthworld partnered with social data firm Pulsar and looked at the social activity of 20 leading pharma companies in the 11 months between January and December 2017.

Its conclusion: pharma use of social media has matured and companies are getting more and more mileage out of their efforts.

Specifically, except for YouTube, pharma companies have decreased the frequency at which they post content to social channels. Posts to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were down 3%, 16% and 41%, respectively, during the observation period.

But decreasing how much they posted didn't stop pharma companies from growing their audiences on these platforms. On average, audiences increased 15% on Twitter, 47% on Facebook, 50% on YouTube and 67% on Instagram.

The bad news: half of the 20 companies tracked saw decreases in engagement, with some, including Boehringer Ingelheim, Eli Lilly, Amgen and Teva, seeing significant double-digit drops of between 33% and 77%.

But four of Ogilvy Healthworld's five top-ranked pharma companies increased engagement. The top-ranked firm, Novo Nordisk, grew its engagement by 13%, while Johnson & Johnson, Novartis and Merck/MSD grew theirs by an even more impressive 111%, 77% and 122%.

Quality over quantity

How did these top performers do it? Not surprisingly, Ogilvy Healthworld attributed their success to the posting of high-value content possibly aided by paid promotion of that content "at the right time to the right audience." Indeed, the pharma companies with the highest engagement scores did not post the most frequently.

Trends and strategies

When it comes to producing high-value content and encouraging engagement, Ogilvy Healthworld offered a number of observations.

Being human helps

Pointing to Novo Nordisk's all diabetes pro cycling team, Ogilvy stated "Highlighting the human side of the business was the most regular theme across 2017's high-performing posts, such as spotlighting employees and internal initiatives."

This makes sense. Given that the pharma industry has been widely panned in recent years, it's smart for companies to remind the public that their employees are real people who are working to help treat and cure illness.

Get active

Unbranded advertising has been a big trend for pharma marketers and one of the ways that pharma marketers can get closer to consumers without advertising to them is by getting involved in causes around health conditions. It points to World Aids Day, World Cancer Day and Movember as examples of initiatives that offer opportunities for pharma company participation.

But activism doesn't have to be limited to the health realm, Ogilvy points out. It says other initiatives, such as Earth Day and Global Day of Service, can also be opportunities to engage. 

Partner with celebrities

While it's not as easy for pharma companies to team up with celebrity influencers as it is for, say, shoe companies, celebrity partnerships do hold promise.

In 2016, Novartis partnered with actress/singer Queen Latifah as part of a Rise Above Heart Failure initiative designed to call attention to heart failure, a condition her mother suffers from. With that blueprint, other pharma companies have formed relationships with celebrities. For example, last year, Novo Nordisk and Pakistani cricketer Wasim Akram worked together to promote #ChangingDiabetes.

Embrace new techniques and technology to create compelling content

Ogilvy observed that on Instagram, aerial drone content posted by Bayer and Eli Lilly of their headquarters was a hit, reminding pharma companies that new techniques and technology can help create content that will resonate with consumers.

Be prepared to pay to play

Noting that organic reach has declined significantly and rapidly, Ogilvy reminds pharma companies that paid social, employed strategically, is increasingly required to ensure that content cuts through the clutter.

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5 key trends for physician recruitment with social media

5 key trends for physician recruitment with social media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Physician recruitment is changing in the digital age.

Jackson Physician Search recently reported on the trend of physician recruitment with social media in their report titled "Physician Workforce through 2030: Social Media for Physician Recruitment."

Here are five key thoughts.

1. Peer-to-peer communication has always been a great way to recruit new physicians; now that communication is happening on social networking platforms. Around 65 percent of physicians use social media for professional purposes, according to the report.

2. Platforms and services such as NEJM Resident 360 connect training physicians with clinical and career insight as well as other residents, serving as a "virtual doctor's lounge." Credentialed physicians can also connect and speak openly with others about the business of medicine.

3. Around 70 percent of physicians in the U.S. are verified members of Doximity, which they can use to connect with other physicians and discuss career opportunities over the smartphone app.

4. The 87 percent of physicians aged 26 to 55 years old report using social media daily, which means there is a huge pool of potential passive job seekers on social media platforms. They may be interested in a change, but aren't proactively looking for new options.

5. Enlisting current physicians to build their social network with former classmates, colleagues and others can help build the center's reputation among industry professionals.

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Online Doctor Reviews May Be About More Than Just the Doctor

Online Doctor Reviews May Be About More Than Just the Doctor | Social Media and Healthcare |

Physicians with negative online reviews do not receive similar reviews on formal institutional patient surveys, yet they often score lower on factors beyond their immediate control when compared with colleagues without negative online reviews, a study has found. These findings were published in the April issue of the Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

"These findings are important, not only in disassociating formal [institutional] scores from online review comments but also in emphasizing that physicians need to be cognizant of their reputation both online and in-person," and highlights the "stark chasm between patient perception of the physician-related performance and non–physician-specific variables," write R. Jay Widmer, MD, PhD, from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and colleagues.

During a 4-month period from September 1 through December 31, 2014, the researchers identified 113 providers with negative online reviews and matched them with 113 randomly chosen physicians without negative reviews to provide an equal number of physicians representing 28 divisions/departments.

The researchers then compared the Press Ganey patient satisfaction surveys (PSSs; a validated tool that evaluates the patient experience across several domains) of the entire cohort during that same period. These PSSs scores were divided into physician-specific and non-physician-specific questions and compared for the entire cohort.


The study authors found that there was no significant difference in the mean PSSs between physicians with negative online reviews (4.05; 95% confidence interval [C], 3.99 - 4.11) and those without (4.04; 95% CI, 3.97 - 4.11; P = .92).

The researchers did note, however, that the mean scores on the non-physician-specific questions were significantly lower among physicians with negative online reviews (3.91; 95% CI, 3.84 - 3.97) compared with those who did not have negative online reviews (4.01; 95% CI, 3.95 - 4.09; P = .02). These non-physician-related issues included things such as wait time, interactions with the front desk staff, billing, and parking.

In an accompanying editorial, Bradley C. Leibovich, MD, from the Department of Urology at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, writes, "these findings speak to the leadership of health care organizations as they underscore the totality and integrity of processes, elements, and encounters — and not just the patient-provider interaction — that all need to be effectively and cohesively in place to ensure optimal patient experience and welfare."

The authors suggest that one way to potentially negate the effects of negative reviews from unstructured and unsubstantiated online reviews may be to "allow patients access to vetted physician-specific PSS scores and reviews."

This is a view shared by Leibovich, who notes that the best to way to help patients make informed decisions about their healthcare is through "transparently sharing results of validated measures of patient satisfaction, morbidity and mortality statistics, complication rates, and other quality metrics."

The authors acknowledge that this study included only a small number of physicians over a limited period of time and note that a study over a longer study period of time is warranted.

They conclude, however, "[t]hese data underscore the importance of health care organizations and their physicians to be aware of patient experience content posted on social media platforms and be proactive in managing their online reputation."

The authors and the editorialist have reported no relevant financial relationships.

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Everyone Loves an Underdog – Especially on Social Media

Everyone Loves an Underdog – Especially on Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Every summer, fans across the U.S. flock to Omaha, Nebraska, for the NCAA Men’s College World Series (CWS). For a city without a professional sports team, it’s a big deal. The locals happily cheer for all eight teams vying for a championship, but the biggest fans happen to be the smallest.

When the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers made their first appearance at the CWS in 2016, the team already had a special connection to Nebraska Medicine.

In 2006, then 1-year-old Caroline Hogue received a small bowel transplant at Nebraska Medicine. Caroline’s father, Matt Hogue, is the athletic director for Coastal Carolina University. When the team learned they were coming to Omaha, Caroline and her family also made the trip – and asked the team to visit pediatric patients at Nebraska Medicine.

Media was invited to cover the team’s hospital visit, which included a game of baseball between the players and patients. It gained a lot of attention on traditional and social media outlets. From there, an idea sparked.

Before every CWS game, the kids created a special message for Coastal Carolina, which was shared via the Nebraska Medicine Twitter and Facebook pages. The messages were produced by Nebraska Medicine child life specialists, a senior media relations coordinator, and videographer.

In return, Coastal Carolina retweeted the messages to their 35,000 followers, which ignited a social media frenzy. Several of the messages were shown on ESPN and television stations in South Carolina and Omaha.

To everyone’s amazement, the Cinderella team made it all the way to the finals and won the CWS! They dedicated their win to our pediatric patients.

Because this social media campaign was so successful, Nebraska Medicine did something similar in 2017 when the LSU Tigers baseball team made it to the CWS. After a visit to Nebraska Medicine, the players received special messages before each game via the Nebraska Medicine Twitter and Facebook pages. The team retweeted the messages to their 274,000 followers. Even though LSU didn’t win the CWS, the social media campaign still had a huge impact, with ESPN and media outlets in Louisiana and Omaha sharing the stories.

Everyone loves cheering for an underdog. This time, the underdog wasn’t the team, it was their small but mighty pediatric fans. As one baseball fan put it, “the @NebraskaMed tweets have to be the best part of the College World Series.”

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Facebook admits to negotiating with US hospitals to access patient data, abandoning talks last month

Facebook admits to negotiating with US hospitals to access patient data, abandoning talks last month | Social Media and Healthcare |

In the latest controversy for the beleaguered social network, Facebook has conceded it approached US hospitals and medical groups about the sharing of patient data for a proposed research project, which the company now claims has been paused.
The social media giant was in talks with healthcare organisations as recently as last month, negotiating to gain access to anonymised information such as patients’ diagnoses and medications.
The company planned to use “hashing" to match individuals who existed in both data sets to glean insights that would improve healthcare, initially in cardiovascular health, its pitch claimed.
"This work has not progressed past the planning phase, and we have not received, shared, or analysed anyone's data," a Facebook spokesperson told CNBC, the US media outlet that broke the story today.
Facebook was in talks with organisations including Stanford Medical School about the data-sharing project.
The company provided a statement from the interim CEO of the American College of Cardiology Cathleen Gates in support of the plan.
"For the first time in history, people are sharing information about themselves online in ways that may help determine how to improve their health,” Gates said.
“As part of its mission to transform cardiovascular care and improve heart health, the American College of Cardiology has been engaged in discussions with Facebook around the use of anonymised Facebook data, coupled with anonymised ACC data, to further scientific research on the ways social media can aid in the prevention and treatment of heart disease –the #1 cause of death in the world. This partnership is in the very early phases as we work on both sides to ensure privacy, transparency and scientific rigor. No data has been shared between any parties."
The doctor employed by Facebook to lead the talks was interventional cardiologist Freddy Abnousi, who claims he has been running "confidential projects at Facebook” since August 2016, according to his LinkedIn profile.
The news comes as Facebook VP Sheryl Sandberg said the company is still unable to confirm what happened to the data obtained by Cambridge Analytica, the data analytics firm hired by the Trump presidential campaign, because it needs to wait until the UK information commissioner completes an investigation.
“To this day, we still don’t know what data Cambridge Analytica have,” Sandberg said.
Cambridge Analytica improperly gained access to the data of millions of Facebook users without their permission, using it to target campaign material at American voters.
When the news of that massive breach emerged two weeks ago in the Observer, the number of those whose personal information had been taken was estimated at 50 million but this week Facebook admitted it is likely to be about 87 million.
Following this most recent revelation about Facebook’s proposed medical research project, ACC president Michael Valentine told The Guardian no data had been shared and the health group is committed the US’s strict health privacy legislation.
“We approached this research as we would any other scientific, medical, or clinical research – ensuring that the research protocol would be consistent with HIPAA regulations, the HHS Office of Human Research Protections regulations, and relevant Institutional Review Board decisions,” Valentine said in an emailed statement. “These practices are consistent with well-established norms in the scientific and medical community for safely conducting research on de-identified patient data. This commitment to privacy and complete adherence to relevant laws and regulations are why no data have been shared and all discussions are on hold.”
In response to CNBC’s queries about the healthcare data sharing discussions, Facebook said in a statement:
“Last month we decided that we should pause these discussions so we can focus on other important work, including doing a better job of protecting people’s data and being clearer with them about how that data is used in our products and services.”
Founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg is set to testify before the United States Congress next week.

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 Social Media Research Is Playing An Important Role In The Development Of Personalized Healthcare

 Social Media Research Is Playing An Important Role In The Development Of Personalized Healthcare | Social Media and Healthcare |

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

What are hot research challenges in social media analytics in health care? originally appeared on Quorathe place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

(Photo: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Answer by University of Texas School of Biomedical Informatics, Educating leaders in health informatics since 1997, on Quora:

With the increased social media usage in the patient population, researchers have started to capture this data and put it to better use to improve and personalize the care provided. There are multiple areas within social media that researchers have focused on. A few of the key areas are:

  • Understanding and preventing the flow of misinformation.
  • Linking patient-generated social media data with personal health records or the electronic health records for the care team to get a comprehensive picture of patient’s health.
  • Providing personalized social media-based interventions to patients.
  • Social media content curation.
  • Performing predictive analytics and real-time predictions for things like flu trends, etc.

Generating meaningful data from social media is a challenge at many levels. A few of the challenges could be:

  • Sheer volume of the data generated.
  • Specific vocabulary for specific platforms, e.g. use of slang terms like LOL, etc. This makes analysis very specific to each platform and generalizability becomes questionable.
  • It’s hard to estimate if user online behavior is consistent with their behavior offline. It’s hard to estimate if users practice what they preach bringing into question the use of such data as a measure of health.
  • Privacy concerns also exist. Even though social media posts are on public website, users may not appreciate their posts being used for research.

Social media analytics is still at the research stage for text based social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Whereas social networks that are available have moved ahead to speech based (Second Life) and image based networks (Instagram). This keeps researchers a decade or two behind with lots of technology to catch up on.

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