Social Media and Healthcare
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Social Media in the Healthcare Industry

Focusing in on the importance of social media when it comes to Healthcare providers reaching patients and the community.
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Social Media and Healthcare
Articles and Discussions on the intersection of Social Media and Healthcare.
Relevant to Healthcare Practitioners, Pharma', Insurance, Clinicians, Labs, Health IT Vendors, Health Marketeers, Health Policy Makers, Hospital Administrators.
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Social Media Implementation Checklist

Social Media Implementation Checklist | Social Media and Healthcare |

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

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ProSites | 5 Tactics to Target the Right New Patients

ProSites | 5 Tactics to Target the Right New Patients | Social Media and Healthcare |
When it comes to dental practice marketing, identifying and targeting your ideal target audience can help you have more effective marketing messages and increase practice growth. While targeting your ideal patient may seem simple in theory, it can be difficult to execute. The key is getting in front of potential new patients in the right place at the right time, with the right message that resonates with your audience.
Here are five actionable tips to help you attract your ideal patients.
1. Define your ideal patient by creating personas. According to Buffer, “A marketing persona is a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience. For content marketing purposes, you need personas to help you deliver content that will be most relevant and useful to your audience.” 
Creating marketing personas helps focus your marketing strategies and tactics so that your efforts are likely to resonate with your targeted audience. In this case, you’ll want to create a persona based on the type of patients that you want to attract. Once you have identified your persona(s), put yourself in their shoes. Think of what their goals are – a mother with a goal of keeping her three kids happy and healthy – and what their challenges may be in trying to achieve their goals– like finding enough time to go to the dentist between working a full-time job and juggling after-school activities. This way you can create marketing messages that resonate with your audience and address their concerns (flexible hours, driving directions, programs for fearful patients).
Check out this guide to help you get started.  
2. Answer common patient questions with content that includes keywords a patient is likely to use. Once you identify the types of patients that you want to target (e.g. moms in your community), put yourself in their shoes to think about what types of keywords they’d use to find services that you offer. Moms are likely to search for children or family dentist. Young adults may want cosmetic dentistry or teeth whitening services. Use online tools like AdWords keyword planner to find and expand your list of keywords to utilize throughout your website’s content. 
Alternatively, you can use Google’s “suggested search” and “related search” to find other phrases that your target audience might use.
Suggested search:
Related search (bottom of results page):
3. Earn search engine credibility by optimizing your existing content with keywords. You can improve your ranking on search results pages by creating new content with targeted keywords (e.g. cosmetic dentistry) and also including these words within your existing website pages.
In the eyes of search engines, optimizing your content improves topic-relevance and credibility, which encourages search engines like Google to show your website high on a results page. Because prospective patients trust search engines results, they perceive higher organic rankings as more trustworthy recommendations.
Pro-tip: hyperlink all new content that you create (e.g. your blog posts) to other pages on your website throughout the article. For example, an article comparing composite fillings to amalgam fillings could include links to other pages on your website that talk about the various types of fillings that you offer. Doing these types of links helps draw readers deeper into your website, and allows search engines to easily crawl your website and rank it favorably. 
4. Use a blend of traditional and digital marketing channels. Not all of your patients will respond exclusively to digital messaging like email, search, and social media. Use traditional marketing methods, such as postcards, to keep a balanced marketing mix. Postcards can be beneficial since they have staying power—people can’t just click “delete” like they can on an email—and people may put them up on their fridge as a reminder. 
5. Consider pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. PPC advertising means you only pay when someone clicks on your ad. When launching a PPC campaign, you must identify: 
  1. Your audience 
  2. Keywords your audience uses to find answers to their questions
  3. Amount of search volume per each keyword
  4. The specific keywords you want to target and bid on
In creating a persona and keyword strategy, you can utilize this information toward your pay-per-click campaign. 
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Introduction to Social Media for Health Care

It's important for healthcare communicators to understand how to write for social media. This presentation reviews how to be respectful of patients within our …
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Scientists call for consistent guidelines on social media use in reseaerch 

Scientists call for consistent guidelines on social media use in reseaerch  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Researchers from the Department have called for guidelines to be made available to researchers who are considering using social media

Scientists at the University of York have called for guidelines, informed by public opinion, to be made available to researchers who are considering using social media as a research tool.

Whilst there has been much debate on the ethics of using social media posts in research, a comprehensive search of studies from around the globe only identified 11 that have explored the views of social media users on employing such research methods, and as few as six which considered the views of researchers.

Attitudes from social media users varied according to the studies, from people stating that such research is essential, to those strongly against their posts being used in this context.

Social media users were generally more supportive of their content being used if the research was conducted to a high standard, was conducted by respected researchers, did not include children or vulnerable people, and was aimed at making life better for patients or communities.

Personal views

Social media, such as Twitter and Facebook, are increasingly used by researchers to get a more personal and immediate view of peoples’ experiences on a range of issues, such as drug use, attempted suicide, and virus outbreaks.

Much of social media is publically available and provides a large amount of useful data to researchers; this can include geo-tagging information for researching disease spread and searches for clusters of key words, such as ‘virus’ or ‘infection.’

Dr Su Golder, from the Department, said: “We can see how popular social media is becoming in academic fields due to the number of journals and discussion lists dedicated to social media research and training programmes for researchers on how to use these channels as a research tool.

“There is no doubt that social media can be very useful in research, but there are many important ethical questions that surround it. Should researchers have to ask permission from the person posting the information? Can they use non-public sites? Is it enough for researchers to anonymise any posts that they use?”

Raising awareness

Some research institutions provide specific ethical guidelines on social media in research, but others do not have any and some will instead defer to organisations such as the Association for Internet Researchers (AoIR) Guidelines.

Dr Golder said: “Many social media users do not realise that their views could be used in research and they are therefore not posting comments and images with this in mind. 

“The more social media users become aware that researchers are looking at their accounts, the greater the risk that users become guarded about posting their honest opinions or posting anything at all.  

“This is particularly important for social media networks that provide valuable support networks across a range of issues, such as channels dedicated to information for new mothers, advice for cancer patients, and recovering alcoholics.

“It is therefore important that consistent and universal guidelines are produced that are informed by the views of social media users and that this becomes standard practice in ethics approval processes at universities and other research institutions.”

The research, funded by National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), is published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research.

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Digital Health Revolution and the Opportunity for Dietitians to Lead

This is a presentation that was given at the 96th Annual Conference of the Ohio Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics conference on May 18, 2017. During the sess…
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Five Strategies for Pharma Engagement on Social Media 

Five Strategies for Pharma Engagement on Social Media  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Here’s the big question: How does an industry with regulatory constraints around how it communicates with the public successfully engage on social media through robust, timely, and helpful interactions?

There’s not a simple answer, but creating clear and consistent “rules of engagement” can make for a good first step forward.

As a digital and social media strategist for C3i Healthcare Connections, I help pharma clients build out their social presence and extract meaningful information that can be gleaned from social media. While ongoing monitoring of conversations is a key component of any pharmaceutical brand’s social strategy (see my previous article here), companies need to be well-equipped to participate in those conversations, too. Five broad steps can help you get started.

  1. Develop engagement strategies

Take the time to outline your plan of attack, along with the ways your team can apply these principles to their everyday interactions. Doing so will benefit everyone involved by making operations more efficient and streamlined, your customers more satisfied, and your brand more favorable.

Start by assessing the engagement opportunities available to non-regulated industries and rule out those activities which regulations prohibit, such as providing off-label information, soliciting or prompting users to share content that might lead to off-label questions, and recommending or directly promoting the use of a product to a user. After implementing compliance safeguards for handling Adverse Events (AEs), Product Quality Complaints (PQCs), and Privacy Violations (see this article), you can begin to develop your own engagement strategies and practices.

As part of this process, you should:

  • Work with key stakeholders — including marketing and branding, public relations, medical information, and pharmacovigilance — to identify the objectives of engagement
  • Be prepared to identify and report any AEs and PQCs on owned properties (e.g., branded or unbranded Facebook Pages) and any properties over which the pharma company has control or influence
  • Evaluate the current social media space and your role in it
  • Develop workflows and escalation guidelines, perhaps considering third-party technologies that help streamline workflows and support operational evaluation
  • Establish community guidelines — besides guidelines for posting and commenting, this may include a statement that explains the purpose of the property, links, and contact information
  1. Be consistent … but human and flexible, too

After you’ve decided to move beyond monitoring and begin engaging on social media, many companies often start with a simple first-step strategy of responding to AEs and PQCs with a “contact-us reply.” For example: “Hi Sarah. Thank you for bringing this to our attention. We take product safety seriously and are interested in learning more about your experience. Please call us at 800-555-5555.”

A standardized “contact-us reply” can sometimes feel robotic. While remaining consistent is important, it’s equally necessary for brands to consider how to bring the human element to their interactions. Beyond AEs/PQCs replies, teams can add a personal touch by taking the initiative to respond to on-label inquiries or consumer sharing of experiences: “Thank you for sharing, John. We’re glad that you’re taking steps to manage your health.”

Being more human means listening carefully to what is being asked and acknowledging what has been stated. Text can be difficult to interpret sometimes, but you can take cues from emojis, emoticons, and images. While providing accurate on-label information is critical, so too is the emotional tone of an interaction, especially in the sensitive area of health.

  1. Establish KPIs

If something can be observed, it can be measured. Two kinds of key performance indicators (KPIs) help assess the performance of your interactions and resource needs of your initiatives. They are productivity KPIs and volumetric KPIs.

Productivity KPIs include metrics such as:

  • First Response Time — the time between the consumer’s first contact and the company’s first response for all engagements over a period of time
  • Response Time — the total time from the consumer’s first contact and the company’s last response
  • Handle Time — the time from the consumer’s first engagement and the completion of all tasks required to process a case
  • Resolution Rate — the ratio of the number of resolved posts to the number of those that needed resolution

In today’s world, consumers expect swift responses. In an ideal world with infinite resources, response times on social media could be less than a minute. In reality, however, resources can limit optimal response times. Establish your initial KPI standards based on the number of people on your staff, hours of labor, and average number of posts per hour they can handle. Often vendors can assist in the heavy load of supporting customer care in cooperation with your company.

Volumetric KPIs might include the total of all posts in a given period for a given property (e.g., total Facebook posts in May), or the volume of posts for which the company responded, which can be further organized by type of post (AEs, PQCs, product inquiries, etc.). Third-party technologies can assist with these KPI measurements, although some are better suited for monitoring and reporting, while others are built to support consumer care and interaction. Your technology selection depends on the objectives of your engagement strategy.

Besides supporting the initial stages of your engagement efforts, tracking KPIs after they have been established helps to identify areas of improvement and opportunities within your operations.

  1. Prepare for the unexpected

No matter how refined your social strategy, there are always surprises. While you can’t control unexpected events, you can prepare for them.

Before launching your social media initiative, carefully document the process for escalating an issue depending on the situation presented. Establish escalation criteria and communication protocols to avoid last-minute panic. Be transparent, and continually monitor the situation until it resolves.

Keep in mind that a response isn’t necessarily an answer. Make sure your teams can distinguish legitimate consumer concerns from spam content. If a consumer posts an inquiry and an immediate answer is not available, it’s OK to acknowledge the question and inform the consumer that he or she will receive a follow-up response. Suggesting a private message can be another effective way to handle, or public responses that benefit the community.

  1. Evaluate performance, apply insights, and adjust practices

In social media, as in any initiative, there is always room for improvement, refinement, and course-correction. For example, if average response and handle time goals are not being met, is it due to a lack of staffing (a volume issue), or a need to coach your representatives? On the flip side, if response times are quicker than anticipated, are there other activities that can be added to the initiative, such as improving the quality of responses?

A big advantage social media has over traditional media is the ability to more immediately measure and evaluate the performance of content. As experience is gained and insights are gleaned, proceed to evolve from a passive/reactive model to an active approach that seeks out opportunities for engagement.

Consumers are eager to receive information and support from all parties in the healthcare system. Those pharma companies or brands that have established the foundations for social media processes and, ultimately, build up to higher tiers of engagement, not only have a greater opportunity to meet or exceed patient expectations — they’re also able to earn long-term trust and favorability among patients.

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Cleveland Clinic's Eileen Sheil: 5 tips for integrating social media into comms

Cleveland Clinic's Eileen Sheil: 5 tips for integrating social media into comms | Social Media and Healthcare |

Public relations professionals have an increasing responsibility to engage on social media to better reach journalists and the public. Social strategies for media relations efforts can no longer be an afterthought. As media continues to evolve and the majority of people receive their news on their tablet or mobile device, we need to reach audiences where they are getting their news.

Consumers want engagement
Consumers want to be engaged, co-create content, and share experiences. They want to participate with you socially and contribute to the discussion. Messages have to be delivered in a simple, clear way to catch their attention.

Customer complaints rise to a new level
In healthcare, patients used to call the customer relations department with a complaint. Today, a single tweet can influence how the public views your brand—good or bad. Instead of filing a complaint with the ombudsman's office, the customer showcases discontent by streaming live on Facebook to share a bad experience with a broad audience. It creates a requirement for organizations to respond more quickly to avoid embarrassment and retain a happy customer. 

PR pros have to be where the journalists are
PR pros also need to use social media to build engaging relationships with journalists, understand what they write about, and know what resources they need and when. Bloggers and some "citizen journalists" have evolved and developed credibility and have a powerful voice that cannot be ignored.

Recruit the right talent
Recruit top talent, with a variety of experiences and skills, to bring the best to your PR team. Fresh ideas from outside of your industry could prove helpful in a big way. Planning your social strategy for key communications in advance of PR efforts will significantly amplify your results and outcomes.

Have a plan and a strategy
Social media is a tool for PR professionals that is critical for doing their job. A social plan should be integrated and have the right message for the right audience at the right time and place. Social strategies should be seamlessly built into your overarching PR strategies and support your key campaigns, as well. As always, efforts should be measured to be sure your strategy is right and engaging your target audiences to the highest level.

The use of social media needs to have balance in building brand recognition while enhancing and protecting reputation by engaging your audiences, telling stories they want to hear, and feeling a connection to your customer—in our case, our patients. We're in the midst of an information-delivery revolution. Adopting those technologies is essential for public relations.

Eileen Sheil is executive director of corporate communications at Cleveland Clinic. She can be reached at


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Can Social Media Be Useful for your Non-Profit Free Clinic? -

Can Social Media Be Useful for your Non-Profit Free Clinic? - | Social Media and Healthcare |

Why Use Social Media

As an organization you can use social media to educate, inform, spread awareness, advocate, and raise funds for your clinic. The platform with the largest user base is Facebook, which is what we’ll focus on during the presentation; some attention should be paid to Twitter for its potential use in outreach to journalists for publicity.

Misconceptions About Social Media

Many healthcare providers fear social media. They worry that it will take too much time, that they don’t have enough to post, or that it opens the gateway to HIPAA violations. None of that has to be true! Facebook has a feature to allow you to schedule posts, and once per week you can sit down for about 30 minutes and schedule them out over a long time period. Likewise, savvy page owners usually brainstorm, sometimes with staff, about topics to post. If you’re posting once a day you’re an overachiever in the world of small clinics!
HIPAA is worrisome, but only if you don’t have control over the page (ie. Make sure that access is limited to trusted personnel) or you don’t understand what constitutes private information. Don’t share patient information and you’ll be fine.

Social Media Strategies for Non-Profits

Non-profits need to raise funds and advocate for their brand/cause – and social media is the PERFECT platform for that.
Four core strategies on Facebook are our focus today, including:
Community Outreach & Engagement
Brand & Cause Awareness
Event Promotion
Direct Solicitation
These four strategies provide a path to achieving the goals of securing donations and raising awareness for your clinic and the good you do.

Easy, Actionable Tactics to Achieve Goals

Collect Emails Easily for Ongoing Outreach: using a cheap or free service you can easily implement a tab on your Facebook page to prompt your followers to share their email address with you.
Applications that are easy to use for email outreach campaigns: (free) (low price for nonprofits)
Profile Overlays to Show Support of Your Brand/Cause: encourage donors, sponsors, and allies to put an overlay on their Facebook profile picture; widely used tactic with great results for visibility (free) (free)
Solicit Donations: if you’re a 501C3 organization Facebook allows you to collect donations online through their platform. Visit for details on how to set up your page.

The Anatomy of a Successful Post

By keeping a few things in mind when creating your posts, you’ll see greater results: increased interaction & reach.
Have a Clear Goal: if you want donations, ask for them! If you want to increase awareness, ask them to share, like, comment, or show a reaction.
Ask for Engagement: pick subjects that people are passionate about and they’ll likely engage, but if you ask them to engage that chance goes up!
Promote Need, Urgency, and Progress: make sure that your audience knows that the need for advocacy is huge, and the need for donations is bigger. Strive to mix these posts in with educational posts.

Maximizing Success

Boost posts when they already show a good amount of organic reach & interaction- that means the post clearly resonated with the audience. This will rapidly expand your reach for that post, and in turn will expand the reach of your page as well.
You can create custom audiences on Facebook to further target people for advocacy or donations. By targeting people who like your page AND their friends, you’ll have a more receptive network see your page & posts, and they’ll be more likely to react well.

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Choosing a physician on social media: comments and ratings of users are more important than the qualification of a physician

Choosing a physician on social media: comments and ratings of users are more important than the qualification of a physician | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media provide users with descriptions, comments and ratings from others in order to facilitate decision making. In this study we want to assess how users make decisions with help of the tools provided by social media. In order to do so, we simulate a physician rating website in which participants had to choose one physician among four options in a task of 20 trials. For this, we used a choice-based conjoint design which allowed us to experimentally observe which features of social media have more impact on the decisions of the participants. Furthermore, personal characteristics of the participants, such as executive functions, cognitive styles and personality traits were measured. We found that the subjective features of social media, like the comments and ratings provided by other users, have the greater impact on the decision of the participants when compared to objective characteristics such as experience or specialty. Regarding the personal characteristics, we found that the executive functions cognitive flexibility and categorization were higher for those participants who preferred objective features (e.g., availability, specialty, experience of the physician) than for those participants who preferred subjective features. The results of the current study help to understand how users make decisions with social media tools. We also stress the importance of the comments and ratings of users in decision making on social media. Furthermore, we suggest to consider these results in the fields of recommender systems and information retrieval, in order to improve the human-computer interaction in platforms that use recommendations as an important part of the decision-making process of users.

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eWOM is an opportunity for healthcare companies

Tips to minimise the impact of negative WOM, using a three point strategy that consists web presence, customer focus and brand advocates.
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Top 10 Social Media Marketing Strategies for Orthodontists 

Top 10 Social Media Marketing Strategies for Orthodontists  | Social Media and Healthcare |

1. Facebook Groups

Facebook groups might not seem like an intuitive form of orthodontic marketing, but they are. Sharing your knowledge with industry professionals and customers is a great way to bring in business.

2. Instagram

Nothing brings people into an orthodontics practice like beautiful smiles, and a well-curated Instagram feed can do just that.

3. Snap, Snap, Snap

No, not Snapchat (though maybe that too?). This means, keep a camera on hand! That way, when those social-worthy candid moments occur, you’ll be ready.

4. Social Media Handouts

There’s no reason you can’t combine analogue with digital. Go ahead and hand out social media cards at your office, with every feed listed right on them.

5. Ask for Engagement

People like to do what they’re told … so tell them. In each social media post, ask for a comment, a like, a share or a follow. More often than you think, this works.

6. Don’t Forget Pinterest

Not just for party planning, Pinterest is a great way to round up interesting facts, blog posts and infographics. Show your expertise by curating your content and others’.

7. Branded Images

Nothing ties a social media marketing plan together like good branding. Where possible, use the same approach for Facebook and Twitter posts, blog title images, and your Instagram presence. If you don’t have a great designer on staff, sign up for Canva for Work for $12.95 per month.

8. Website-Wide Share Buttons

If your orthodontic website lacks share buttons, how can you expect people to … well … share? Make sure you’ve got them located in your top navigation bar and footer, at the bottom of each post and in sidebars.

9. Tweet Your Face Off

Twitter is all about constant connection, so share away: the good, the bad and (sparingly) the ugly.

10. Have Fun!

Sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Oftentimes, people are just on social media to get a smile or a laugh, so give it to them and you’ll be surprised by the awesome results!

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Reality of Patient Engagement Infographic

Reality of Patient Engagement Infographic | Social Media and Healthcare |
I always love a good infographic. Boston Technology has put one out that looks at patient engagement. Which of the numbers on the infographic pops out to you?
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Are Facebook user ratings associated with hospital cost, quality and patient satisfaction? 

Are Facebook user ratings associated with hospital cost, quality and patient satisfaction?  | Social Media and Healthcare |
Background Hospital care costs are high while quality varies across hospitals. Patient satisfaction may be associated with better clinical quality, and social media ratings may offer another opportunity to measure patient satisfaction with care.

Objectives To test if Facebook user ratings of hospitals are associated with existing measures of patient satisfaction, cost and quality.

Research design Data were obtained from Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Hospital Compare, the Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment System impact files and the Area Health Resource File for 2015. Information from hospitals’ Facebook pages was collected in July 2016. Multivariate linear regression was used to test if there is an association between Facebook user ratings (star rating and adjusted number of ‘likes’) and Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) patient satisfaction measures, the 30-day all-cause readmission rate, and the Medicare spending per beneficiary (MSPB) ratio.

Subjects One hundred and thirty-six acute care hospitals in New York State in 2015.

Results An increase in the Facebook star rating is associated with significant increases in 21/23 HCAHPS measures (p≤0.003). An increase in the adjusted number of ‘likes’ is associated with very small increases in 3/23 HCAHPS measures (p<0.05). Facebook user ratings are not associated with the 30-day all-cause readmission rate or the Medicare spending per beneficiary ratio.

Conclusions Results demonstrate an association between HCAHPS patient satisfaction measures and Facebook star ratings. Adjusted number of ‘likes’ may not be a useful measure of patient satisfaction.
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The Quest for Meaningful Pharma-Patient Dialogue

The Quest for Meaningful Pharma-Patient Dialogue | Social Media and Healthcare |

Over the last decade or so, patient groups have become better organized, more professional, and, not least, more vocal. As the pharmaceutical industry and regulators have acknowledged this strengthening of influence and resources, the patient has begun to have more impact on the way pharma works, particularly in health technology assessment markets. Consequently, the move to involve patients across the drug development and commercialization process—from R&D and clinical trials to promotional campaigns—is becoming an increasingly important consideration for companies committed to pursuing transformational medical innovation. 

There are, of course, remaining barriers to the smooth cooperation of pharma and patient groups. A pharma company is a commercial organization, bound by regulatory restrictions and the expectations of all its stakeholders. The relationships pharma companies have with patient organizations can only advance if the right balance is struck and clearly defined boundaries are established. Historically, as Steve Wooding, head of Janssen’s global commercial and market access strategy organization, points out, there have been issues resulting from the potential of both pharma and patient organizations to use their influence inappropriately. 

“The patient voice has to come through, but there needs to be a clear separation between responsibility and accountability,” Wooding told Pharm Exec. “We do need to make sure that the relationship is on an equal footing and is based around appropriate exchange of information.”

Ipsos MORI’s head of ethnography, Victoria Guyatt, notes the operational barriers to shifting further toward patient centricity. “There’s still the thinking among pharma companies that, ‘if we talk to patients, does that mean we can’t deliver for our stakeholders?’” she says. “One of the things that pharma is getting good at is the gathering of patient insights—listening on social media, for example—but embedding and pushing these insights out to the rest of the organization, the R&D teams, is still difficult. And there’s a lot of anxiety about doing the wrong thing.” 

For Abeona Therapeutics’ vice president for patient advocacy, Michelle Berg, “harmonizing language and terminology” is a challenge. “It can be difficult for some individuals, or families or community members to understand the drug development practice, gene therapy and clinical trials,” she says.

The digital dilemma

Developments in digital communication have radically altered the position of patients, and there is broad consensus that the resulting empowerment has brought major improvements to the pharma-patient dialogue. From a rare disease perspective, in particular, social media and online forums have  proved to be vital tools that can engage patient communities that were hitherto almost invisible. 

Abeona Therapeutics focuses on developing products for severe and life-threatening rare genetic diseases, such as mucopolysaccharidosis (MPS) IIIA and IIIB, a progressive neuromuscular disease with profound CNS involvement, which manifests in young children. Berg told Pharm Exec: “I am grateful that we have such communication tools available for families, because knowing that these are such rare diseases, there are not clusters of families in a region who can find each other and share experiences. With the advent of digital communications, families and healthcare providers have the opportunity to locate and support one another.”

A patient diagnosed with acanthamoeba keratitis, a rare amoebic infection of the cornea, told The BMJ’s Stephen Armstrong (“Social Networking for Patients,” August 10, 2016) that when she was first diagnosed, “most of the information I could find was either inaccurate or terrifying. But I found a Facebook group, with only 38 members at the time, and the relief was enormous. I was so happy to connect with someone, to share the same emotions and experiences, the same anxiety and frustration and shock in a normal, accessible way.”

Armstrong adds that online groups don’t just enable patients to share experiences and support each other. He points to research from the University of Toronto conducted in 2011 that found that the 620 groups on Facebook for breast cancer had purposes including fundraising (44.7%), raising awareness (38.1%), promoting products or services (9%), and exclusively offering support to patients or caregivers (7%).

However, Armstrong also highlights the risk of social media disseminating misleading, superfluous, or incorrect information, or being used for the promotion of dangerous or unsuitable remedies. Berg adds that “communication tools are only going to be as good as the information that is perpetuated, and a problem can be that false or inaccurate information can be perpetuated quite quickly, which can have a negative impact. That’s why it’s important for organizations to have resources available and that are committed to supporting individuals and families with rare diseases, offering resources that can serve as a fact-check against any information that might not be right.” 

Marc Princen, EVP and president, international business, Allergan, reminds us that pharma is a very regulated industry. “We are talking about decision-making where trained healthcare professionals must make the right decisions,” he says. “It shouldn’t be just a free-for-all. We need to respect the regulations. It is helpful that the technology exists and people can get better informed, but professional advice and decision-making is still needed.”

Armstrong observes that “few physicians are currently using social media to talk to patients.” Indeed, for some patients, “the idea of any healthcare professionals taking part in patient groups is an anathema; many see them as private patient spaces where people can vent frustrations about treatment,” he says. If clinicians are to engage, they need to keep up to date. Armstrong spoke to one parent who explained that her daughter, who has type 1 diabetes, only uses the photo and picture-based platforms Instagram and Snapchat rather than Facebook or Twitter. She added she had “no idea” how clinicians could use these platforms even if they can understand them.


Patient-driven results

Nevertheless, the pharma-patient dialogue continues to advance, and pharma is faced with re-evaluating how to incorporate the patient view in its processes, not just to facilitate a better relationship but effectively to translate innovation into the market.

“In the old days, you had your product and you put it out there. But to bring meaningful innovation to people today, for instance, with clinical trials, we have to ask ourselves: are we designing trials that are great for the scientists but impossible for the patients?” says Wooding. “The latter will ultimately delay access and commercialization of your medicine. And what endpoints do we need? Whether a treatment shrinks a tumor, for example, is a useful endpoint from a regulatory standpoint; but it may not be enough from a patient standpoint, if they don’t feel better or their quality of life is not improved along with the medical benefit.” 

These are the criteria, says Wooding, that payers are starting to look at, “so we have an opportunity now to build those metrics into the process in a meaningful way.”

In many cases, symptomatic relief is more important to patients than outcome improvements in the long run. With payers in the past having valued outcome improvements higher than symptomatic improvements, it has become clear that the patient voice needs to be drawn further into the debate. As Pharm Exec’s Jill Wechsler noted in her April column, FDA is now looking to improve communications with patients by forming an Office of Patient Affairs in the Office of the Commissioner. “This would provide a single, central entity to handle inquiries from the patient community, and would expand the current patient team in FDA’s Office of Health and Constituent Affairs,” she wrote. 

From the industry side, building meaningful relationships with patient groups is less a case of responding to patient lobbying and more a case of encouraging them “to share with us what is important to them so that we can actually make those developments,” says Wooding. 

Princen, who was formerly Takeda’s president of Europe and Canada, notes that it is about finding out “how you can institutionalize working with the patient.” He says that Takeda worked with an outside think tank, which put together criteria for inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. “We developed an app that included these criteria, allowing for collection of data on symptoms, triggers and aggravating factors, and provided it to patient organizations,” he says. “This type of objective criteria-setting is really useful, and it is where the patient organizations are very helpful. The next step was to work with the payers, measuring the real patient outcomes and then work out how the funding could be shared.”

So, what does pharma look for from a patient group to facilitate an effective collaboration? Ideally, according to Wooding,  it’s the ability to connect with a large unifying group. 

“But that isn’t always possible,” he says. “It is certainly an advantage if they have a depth of scientific knowledge. They should be informed and have a clear structure that we can interact with; they need to have the right charter in place and to be professionally operated.”

Wooding adds that, in specialty areas, particularly in diseases with increasingly complex treatments and where the side effects need to be managed effectively, “effective partnering is easier with a better informed, better aligned patient.”

For Berg, “it’s very important to collaborate and partner with those specific communities that we are aiming to serve, in order to step into their shoes and understand the impact of what that disease might be, not only for the individuals afflicted but, in the case of much of what we’re working on, in the pediatric population.” She believes  that understanding what’s important to the parents and caregivers is critical and, in some cases, may be more important than understanding the priorities of the children themselves. “Because with these diseases, their voices are not really able to be heard,” says Berg.


A measure of how important patient input is perceived in the rare disease area is highlighted by results of a survey of over 3,000 US patients and caregivers across several hundred diseases and conditions, conducted this year by Rare Patient Voice. The survey found that the majority of respondents (55%) were in favor of patient advocacy groups partnering with pharma or biotechnology companies to develop drugs for medical conditions. Some of those who support partnerships stressed that they can enable drug development to take patient perspectives into account; that they are the best way to obtain funding; that they can accelerate the development of treatments; and that, ultimately, “anything that might help obtain a cure or improvement should be tried.”

Writing on the Clinical Trials Arena website, Horizon Pharma’s Dr. Jeffrey Sherman, in an article published late last year, emphasizes that “engaging with patient groups to understand the patient voice from the beginning of research can greatly benefit overall drug development.”  Sherman outlines how, for a clinical trial evaluating a medicine for the treatment of Friedreich’s ataxia (FA), a rare neuromuscular disorder, Horizon collaborated from the outset with the patient organization Friedreich’s Ataxia Research Alliance (FARA). 

“FARA offered crucial input on trial design to ensure that travel requirements, medicine administration and study eligibility criteria were realistic within the FA community,” he notes. “Moreover, FARA provided full access to its comprehensive patient registry, the only collection of demographic and clinical information for 2,000-plus FA patients around the world.” 

The result was that the FA study completed enrollment in less than one year, “an unusually fast pace for a rare disease trial.”

An expanding opportunity

While Wooding acknowledges that, in terms of involving patients, “there are only so many things that you can choose to do within an R&D setting,” he points out that Janssen’s move in this direction has begun to deliver results for the company in the last couple of years. 

“We are now starting to see patient-reported outcomes become acceptable in terms of registration and licensing and labeling,” says Wooding. “For example, for a prostate cancer medicine, we now have within the indication the fact that the drug can have an impact on pain. For most patients, that is their most relevant day-to-day symptom. Those kinds of things are working their way through into labels. The only way for a company to anticipate what’s important to patients is to have their input. With the availability of more data, to link to the genotype and phenotype, this will become even more of an opportunity.”

Wooding concludes: “We have always been a patient-oriented company, highly aware that patients are waiting. We realize, however, that not only are patients waiting, they are engaging and wanting to take more control of their own destinies.” 

It is very clear, he says, that the voice of the patient is not only going to become more influential, but will have a significant impact from a business point of view. “At Janssen, we heard it,” says Wooding. “Now we needed to do something about it. Some of that is about best practice sharing; some is about spreading the message within our organization. In other cases, it’s about trying out new approaches and seeing what works. It’s about continuing the patient dialogue—and learning from it.” 

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I am a social media medical doctor because i simply want to help patients… My Twitter Story!!!

I am a social media medical doctor because i simply want to help patients… My Twitter Story!!! | Social Media and Healthcare |

I got to know about Twitter in a very odd manner. That was in 2012, when I was still in Medical School. I had just passed my MBBS examination and was only relaxing after weeks of serious reading, when two room-mates of mine walked in, debating as usual. But this time, it was very clear they were discussing an issue i have never heard of, Twitter.


It appeared the gist was about a fast rising “gossip blog” Linda Ikeji’s Blog, whom they believed was spewing so much controversy in the society. At the time, I wondered how a single blog could be so influential, yet I had not heard about it. I like to believe I know so much more than an average person, so in my mind i thought she must be overrated. Now, I know better.

So I whipped out my blackberry device and went straight to search engine, Google, where I read loads and loads of stories about Twitter. That day I signed up to Twitter and I have been moving at a pace I consider too slow.

Twitter is a micro-blogging social media where people of like minds and interest follow one another to share in their knowledge.

As a medical student, the life and work load of that phase of life made it  almost near impossible to be an active participant on twitter. But now that I have experienced the true nature of twitter, twitter-ing is now a part of what I must do everyday as a social media doctor.

Twitter gets to expose you to similar users who discuss issues and topics of relevance in your niche. A tweet is said to be so strong that it could change the course of how health issues are looked at. This is usually achieved via strong campaigns with hashtagging certain words.

A perfect example of this is how #RegulateInternship campaign have influenced the authorities to act accordingly. The Federal Government have approved the centralisation of internship matters, including posting and funding of young doctors. This campaign have been on for over a year on twitter, and the fruit was only seen recently.

Tweeting got me connected to world class health institutions like the World Health Organisation, the National Postgraduate College of Medicine, Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Health etc. Daily updates and direct correspondences, via tweets and Direct messaging, have kept me abreast of all health information and have made me a better social media doctor, a concept that is still new in Nigeria.

To be a social media doctor allows you to have a broader engagement with patients and clients on topical issues affecting health. It simply makes you brimming with so much knowledge. It affords a doctor to join veritable health projects as a volunteer, to help those who may not be able to pay for a medical service.

A social media doctor influences health issues online and in real time. This what i love most about being a social media doctor… To be perpetually with your patients and/or clients 24/7. This is why social media doctors may appear so organised and meticulous since every new step as important as the former. Client-Doctor relationship is paramount in this fast rising field, so the patient/client gets to be the king in the game

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How hospitals use data for patient education 

How hospitals use data for patient education  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Patient portals and telehealth provide crucial insights into patient concerns, treatments and behaviors. The value of this information is elevated when communicators can connect it to patient education, content development and outcomes.

This infographic shows that hospitals with strong digital relationships and an emphasis on relevant patient education:

  • Provide clear post-care instructions to individuals being discharged

  • Use emails to maintain contact and keep communication open

  • Offer patient satisfaction surveys to monitor experiences

Take a look:

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Posting About Your Residents on Social Media Violates More Codes Than You Could Ever Imagine

Posting About Your Residents on Social Media Violates More Codes Than You Could Ever Imagine | Social Media and Healthcare |

Amid shocking new realities like broadcasted rapes and a Facebook Live murder, debate on how to address malicious use of social media is rightfully underway.

The nursing home industry is not immune. News stories are surfacing about nursing home patients and residents being photographed for Snapchat and other social media outlets covered in their own feces, getting ready for the shower or engaged in sexual relations. The images are appalling, and only humiliate vulnerable patients and residents served in nursing homes. 

For many years, these acts pre-dated any laws on patient violations. That is quickly changing. Last year, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) began reviewing nursing homes’ policies regarding staff members violating patient rights on social media.

The Joint Commission is strongly urging all organizations including nursing homes to draft a social media abuse policy and train employees accordingly. 

Geriatric Abuse Assessment Violation
Know that The Joint Commission considers social media abuse a violation of PC.01.02.09, EP1. It’s essential that we assess and re-assess our patients and residents for any possible indication of mistreatment on social media as judiciously as we would for:

  • physical abuse
  • sexual, abuse
  • domestic abuse, or
  • any other form of abuse, neglect, or exploitation

In addition to this EP, PC.01.02.09 EP 3 states: “The organization educates staff about how to recognize signs of possible abuse, neglect, and exploitation, and about their roles in follow-up, including reporting. (See also HR.01.05.03, EP 5). Staff should educated by the facility on what constitutes:

  • abuse
  • neglect
  • exploitation
  • individual responsibility to report.

Video recording without consent opens an organization up to non-compliance allegations and raises questions about reporting requirements for abuse, neglect and exploitation. The Leadership chapter of The Joint Commission Accreditation Manual, specifically LD.04.01.01 EP 2, and the Information Management chapter IM.02.01.01, EP 3 speaks to sharing of health information only for purposes permitted by law and regulation.

Lastly, organizations are expected to have an organization-wide, integrated patient and resident safety program. Leadership is responsible for providing and encouraging the use of systems for blame-free internal reporting in LD.04.04.05, EP6. Staff must feel safe to report any abuse, neglect or exploitation that they witness in order to have a true culture of safety. (Learn more about the importance of blame-free reporting as one of the 11 tenets of safety culture in this blog.)

Marketing Materials Infringement
When a patient or resident is admitted into a nursing home, it is standard policy to present a document affirming that it’s acceptable to take and use photographs in facility’s marketing materials. This does not, however, extend to capturing patient or resident images for a staff member’s personal social media feed, even with the purest intent. (Yes, it does happen that staff member post a resident photo in a positive capacity, thinking this is admissible.)

The Joint Commission requires facilities to seek informed consent when residents are photographed or videotaped for external distribution under RI.01.03.03, EPs 1 and 2. This mandates an explanation of how the materials will be used. Under no circumstances is it ever acceptable to \ patient or resident images obtained for publicity purposes into memes.

Acknowledging HIPPA
Clinical and non-clinical staff are trained extensively on HIPAA regulations, and there is nothing that can be justified as suitable for posting about a patient or resident without authorization.
In 1996, HIPPA was enacted, ensuring data privacy and provisions for safeguarding patient medical information, including:

  1. names
  2. addresses
  3. all elements of dates (except year) directly related to an individual
  4. phone numbers
  5. fax numbers
  6. electronic mail addresses
  7. Social Security numbers
  8. medical record numbers
  9. health plan beneficiary numbers
  10. account numbers
  11. certificate/license numbers
  12. vehicle identifiers and serial numbers, including license plate numbers
  13. device identifiers and serial numbers
  14. web Universal Resource Locators (URLs)
  15. Internet Protocol (IP) address numbers
  16. biometric identifiers, including finger and voice prints
  17. full face photographic images and any comparable images; and
  18. any other unique identifying number, characteristic, or code (note this does not mean the unique code assigned by the investigator to code the data)

On social media, many people fall into the pitfall of thinking that anonymous photos of patients or residents don’t fall into any of these categories. However, if you showcase a face combined with the name of the facility without a HIPPA-compliant authorization, it’s considered a HIPPA violation.

This stands even when the patient has offered verbal or written (non-HIPPA specific) consent. Even when the offending staff member doesn’t list the facility name on his or her social media profile, it can still be discovered with a simple Internet search of staff’s name or comments about where the staff member is working, or the geographical area and, therefore, may still be a HIPPA violation.

It’s also common for violators to think they won’t be caught. While that may have been the case in the dawn of social media, times have changed. In fact, the Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights already opened investigations of breaches affecting 500 individuals and more will surely follow.

Implications are far-flung in each and every one of these cases. Individual offenders can suffer significant penalties with an intentional violation of the law.  For the nursing home, consequences can be severe, encompassing:

  • adverse licensure actions
  • civil monetary and/or penalties from $100-$50,000 per violation per day
  • sanctions by federal and state regulatory authorities
  • trigger of the HIPPA Breach Notification Rule

It’s worth your time to train your staff on the dire consequences to ill-conceived publishing on social media. The wrong kind of post can not only end up costing your organization a great deal of money—it’s also harmful and degrading to our patients and residents

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Three Ways to Drive Patient Engagement through Social Media

Three Ways to Drive Patient Engagement through Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

One thing that we focus on with our clients at Dodge is how to help them better engage with all generations of patients. While traditional media and external marketing campaigns have been typically used in the past, increasing engagement via social media is now a key way to communicate.

Why is social media so important when achieving patient engagement? A study from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics found that between 70 and 75 percent of U.S. consumers look to the internet for healthcare advice, of which 40 percent rely on responses from social sites. Based on this finding, we now know that social media is continuing to grow and adopting social media into patient engagement strategies is imperative for all healthcare companies.

Below are three ways that can develop and drive patient engagement through social media.

Communicate to them in the way they prefer. The Pew Research Center found that 87 percent of online adults in the U.S. age 18 to 29 use Facebook, with 53 percent on Instagram, 37 percent on Twitter and 34 percent on Pinterest. This means that social media has turned into their preferred communication method. It also shows that if you are able to spread your message across all of these social channels, you’ll be able to reach your target audience via social media. It’s important to reach your patient population in the way that they prefer in order to drive patient satisfaction and, in the end, drive a long-term patient engagement and retention.

Leverage your online reviews. Patients may leave reviews on social media channels such as Yelp or HealthGrades, and some reviews may be good while others aren’t. No matter what type of review it is, it’s important to respond to not only try and mitigate the situation, but to show current and potential patients that you are attentive to those channels. This is especially true since according to a study released by PNC Healthcare, nearly 50 percent of millennials and Gen-Xers use online reviews to help their decision in healthcare situations.

Address their concerns. While patients may not be able to have their medication questions answered via social media, they should be able to find some answers regarding their care. For example, if a practice has a lot of diabetic patients, that practice could leverage their social media channels to provide their patients with recipes, diets and exercises tips geared towards their chronic condition.

No matter how you define patient engagement, social media has become a major component for practices when it comes to driving engagement with their patients.

How has your company been leveraging social media to drive patient engagement?

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The Top 7 Pharma Social Media Best Practices of 2017 

The Top 7 Pharma Social Media Best Practices of 2017  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Your pharma social media heroes (#psmh) Brad and Spitz recently shared top line insights from this year’s “Best Practices” landscape analysis at the DHC Spring Summit. Review them here, and download all the data for continued pharma social success…

The Digital Health Coalition Spring Summit last week in Jersey City was themed “The Ins and Outs of Digital Strategy,” and featured a broad range of thought leaders sharing how today’s digital centricity impacts our approach to brand strategy, data-driven marketing, and strategic innovation. Segued between Melissa Mackey’s compelling presentation on applying cross-industry ideation to pharma and the all-star panel discussion on brand safety, we teased the audience with the latest results from our annual social media landscape analysis.

The DHC and Klick Health have partnered for the past four years to offer our increasingly anticipated “Pharma Social Media Best Practices” deck, replete with a comprehensive survey of the social ecosystem, summation of key insights, and prescriptive recommendations to optimize engagement while keeping healthcare brands compliant and safe. For the Spring Summit, we condensed megabytes of this year’s data into a “Top 7” Buzzfeedesque list of best practices perfect for a presentation—and a blog post teaser before we release the whole deck.



What a long, strange trip it’s been in pharma social media! Many of us remember and some even participated in the FDA Public Hearings on using the Internet and social media tools back in November of 2009, triggered by these weird and unwieldy new social platforms that were already driving marketers bonkers with their unprecedented levels of engagement. But we had good company, Larry Page and Sergei Brin also freaking out, especially when by the middle of 2010 users were spending more time on Facebook than all Google sites:



Although monetization remained elusive, these social media upstarts blew the fuse on metrics dashboards, as exponentially increasing numbers of users the world over spent more and more time on these platforms. What many then dismissed as a “social fad” rapidly morphed into an inexorable channel-disrupting and society-transforming communications paradigm shift—now more than a fifth of all digital time spent on peer-to-peer networks, becoming the go-to source for most info, including news and even health advice and support.



Hungry for a share, healthcare marketers rushed to stake their claim, the trajectory of pharma social media closely mapping to the highly descriptive and surprisingly accurate “Gartner Hype Cycle” of emerging technology. With time running along the x-axis and expectations the y-, ideas from gamification to virtual realty to 3D printing follow the curve from initial tech trigger up into the stratosphere of inflated expectations, only to plummet headlong into the trough of disillusionment, most failing or caught within indefinite stasis…



With manic fits and starts, between AEs and PR assaults, from branded to unbranded approaches, pharma marketers created Facebook pages, Twitter profiles, and YouTube channels. Comment functionality was opened then closed again, social campaigns were launched and pulled, Warning Letters issued and addressed, while roundabout blogs and endless POVs packaged and repackaged the pharma social revolution to the point disillusionment was as inevitable as failure became unsurprising and even welcomed.

Over the past four years of our “Best Practices” landscape analyses, however, we’ve observed a steady crescendo of success and safety. Confidence has been building in parallel with the maturation of Facebook and other top platforms; audiences have made social media an integral part of their digital experience, and the networks have reciprocated with improved functionality and ease. The positive feedback between user and user experience has increased the appeal of social media to brands, marketers, and audiences alike.

Our analysis from 2016 to 2017 suggests a milestone year for pharma social media, the emerging tech and experience at long last making it up the slough of enlightenment to the plateau of productivity. The tipping point has been reached, we think, largely thanks to the sheer critical mass of the channel, combined with innovative technologies that for the first time help brands accurately and effectively measure ROI. Along the way a few key best practices have evolved to also help the cause, which we summarize here:



Everyone knows Charles Lindbergh and Neil Armstrong, while Clarence Chamberlain and Edwin Aldrin are less lucky. That’s because being first is sexy and memorable—but also risky, cue Captain James Cook and Amelia Earhart. The good news for pharma brands is despite the initial uncertainty and many challenges, the social ship has already sailed—Check out the lastest stats revealing enthusiastic pharma participation in the top 3 networks, suggesting that if you still refuse to play, you can count on your competitors already doing so:



Key takeaway: The path has already been paved by brands across most disease states, patients and caregivers are eager to engage, and proven systems have been created to keep your brands communicative and compliant.



Social networks—akin to portals, search engines, and essentially any product or service— observe the Law of Duality: Sooner or later the category becomes a two horse race, Coke or Pepsi. Despite a rugged IPO and challenges adapting to mobile, Facebook has dominated the channel with a vengeance, stats consistently off the charts and growing, no end in site [sic]. With nearly a third of the human population of planet Earth logging in monthly (and more than 1.28 billion daily), Facebook blows away the competition for every demographic:

Key takeaway: Emerging social platforms including Snapchat and Instagram are gaining popularity, but when considering a social channel for your brand, Facebook remains the obvious, easiest, and most viable choice.



Each social network handles paid ads differently, have greatly varied formats, and vary tremendously in available real estate for text, images, and multimedia. Whether your social campaign is branded or unbranded, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or others, a deep and broad familiarity with the numerous available formats is a prerequisite for safety and success. We’ve analyzed over 500 pharma ads across these channels, and provide a comprehensive and up-to-date summary of all your paid social media ad options:



Key takeaway: Build it and they won’t come—so know your paid ad formats and functionalities. Effective targeting is also vital, making sure you get the right kind of ad in front of the right audience type in the right way.



Medical, legal, and regulatory teams have a favorite word for pharma social media marketers: “No!” That comes as no surprise, considering the inherent challenges of user generated content, continuously changing platforms, and ambiguous guidance. Reducing any surprises and gaining trust by partnering with your teams early and often is therefore a must. A slew of proven best practices including 3-month submission cycles, flexible moderation approaches, and special processes for edge cases and automation also work.


Key takeaway: Adopting a systematized approach to content, moderation, and metrics not only optimizes your processes, but helps assure regulatory that you are covering all the bases to protect and provide value for the brand.



As we’ve seen, health tech is listening and talking back, automation fueled by machine learning and artificial intelligence. By applying some of that same tech to social media community management, an otherwise unwieldy and even impossible project becomes feasible and even practical. Hundreds and even thousands of responses can be rapidly and accurately processes with the help of automation, which enables multi-layer workflow and protection, and lets your social teams shift their energies to more worthwhile, human tasks.


Key takeaway: Resourcing is a significant obstacle in social media, a bandwidth problem best suitable for tackling by bots. From keyword filtering to conditional responses, an artificially intelligent member on your team can bring real smarts to your campaign management.



Substantiating value has been a significant impediment to pharma social—thousands might “like” your page, but so what? And simply because they’re talking about the disease state or your brand doesn’t mean they’ll choose yours as their treatment option—and even if they did, how would you know? Thanks to innovative tech and evolving social functionality, those days of flying blind in social are finally over. The trajectory of targeting to program optimization to ROI analysis is slowly becoming the norm, and you should expect nothing less:


Key takeaway: A strategic approach to social now “connects the dots” between your highly targeted audience and their omnichannel behaviors along the way to choosing and staying on your brand as the best treatment option.



Another revelatory insight from our 2016 to 2017 analysis of the space suggests the Gartnerian plateau of productivity will soon evolve into what we’re calling the “Undercurrent of Ubiquity”—an interpersonal reality where peer-to-peer communication becomes central to the digital experience. As the Internet of Everything crosses the boundary between analog and digital worlds, people become central to the devices, data, and processes that will seamlessly tie together home, work, and all places in between, especially for healthcare:


Key takeaway: The future is now! Klick Health and the DHC wll be announcing the release of our complete “Pharma Social Media Best Practices” deck soon. Until then, browse the version we presented at the DHC Spring Summit, and reach out to us with any questions:

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Can A Hashtag Change Healthcare? The Impact of Healthcare Tweet Chats

Can A Hashtag Change Healthcare? The Impact of Healthcare Tweet Chats | Social Media and Healthcare |

The first time I read this quote from Dana Lewis, moderator of #hcsm the premier tweet chat on healthcare, I was gripped by the notion of how Twitter and in particular tweet chats could influence the way we practise healthcare.

Social media is a radical shift in the way we communicate. The healthcare conversation is no longer a one-way narrative but is evolving into a global, participatory discussion. One of the most powerful ways I see this happening is in the modality of the tweet chat. The role Twitter plays in breaking down patient/provider barriers, disseminating and expanding the reach of healthcare information, widening social networks and co-creating a collaborative model of shared health information is one of the most exciting developments in social media.

What Is A Tweet Chat?

For those who may be unfamiliar with the phenomenon of a tweet chat – it is a pre-arranged chat that happens on Twitter through the use of updates called tweets. It includes a predefined #hashtag which links the tweets together in a virtual conversation. Most tweet chats follow a common format of a moderator who introduces pre-arranged topics relevant to the chat and keeps the conversation on track. The chats usually last one hour and a transcript of tweets is available after the chat has ended.

Symplur is doing an impressive job of compiling all of the healthcare hashtags and providing chat transcripts in The Healthcare Hashtag Project. The goal of the project is to make the use of healthcare social media and Twitter more accessible for the healthcare community as a whole (a full list and a tweet chat calendar of meeting times can be found on the Symplur website).

What Is The Impact Of Tweet Chats On Healthcare?

As a relatively new technological innovation, the use of Twitter as a modality for health communication is only now beginning to be explored with particular emphasis on the role Twitter may play in contributing to health based conversations directed at individual, community, and societal levels.

Many times, people’s choices in terms of Personal Health Practices (PHP) are context dependent and socially constructed. Healthcare tweet chats have tremendous potential to motivate participants and encourage change. Much of this change comes from peer-to-peer support which has been shown to be highly effective in motivating change. Many participants share conversational and informational knowledge that they believe is valuable both to themselves and others.

Tweet from participant in the #BCCEU (Breast Cancer Social Media Europe) tweet chat

Studies show that individuals enrolled in meaningful social networks have protective properties in terms of overall health and wellbeing. Healthcare tweet chats provide participants with a sense of community and valuable opportunities for meaningful exchange and positive interactions.

The impact of digital technology in healthcare is leading to changing expectations by health consumers who, along with a desire to share information and connect with others, increasingly want to interact and engage with their healthcare providers. Twitter has also facilitated the emergence of  the “patient opinion leader” an individual who is seen as an expert in chronic conditions such as cancer.  Gunther Eysenbach refers to this group as “Apomediaries” – individuals that assist in the process of information searching but do not act as a gatekeeper.

So, what’s in it for healthcare practitioners?

Dr Bryan Vartabedian (@Doctor_V) of Baylor College notes of social media “the greatest value of this medium is the breakdown of barriers that have traditionally come between doctor and patient.” It is encouraging to see the increasing participation by doctors in many healthcare tweet chats, reaching out and sharing information, but also listening too.

Twitter offers opportunities for healthcare to reach out to patients in new and valuable ways.

These [social media] tools help us reach so many more people; we can bring shared interactions into our practice and that is powerful … This isn’t an addition to your job. This is part of your job.  This is a conversation, and that is what we are trained to do … This is where our patients are these days and this is where we need to reach them. We can engage learners, patients and peers, and we are not limited by geography or time – Farris Timimi, M.D., medical director for the Mayo Clinic Center for Social  Media.

Another striking feature is Twitter’s crowd-sourcing capacity which allows health consumers, researchers and practitioners tap into a global source of advice, support and information. Twitter also provides a unique opportunity to learn from patients’ direct experience shared during these chats.

If healthcare innovators and providers wish to remain relevant and connected to digitally enabled patients, they need to go where the conversations are – more and more those conversations are happening on Twitter and the evolving dynamic of the tweet chat is the best place to find them.


Eysenbach, G. (2008). Medicine 2.0: Social networking, collaboration, participation, apomediation, and openness. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 10(3), e22. doi:10.2196/jmir.1030

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Should Physicians Use Social Media?

Should Physicians Use Social Media? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media has become an increasingly popular tool for communicating with patients, educating the public and interacting with colleagues. Technology is growing at a rapid speed and establishing a digital presence is one of the most powerful and cost-effective ways for physicians to increase their online reputations. Nowadays, individuals are constantly turning to the internet for any health-related questions or concerns that they might have. The great thing about Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and other social media platforms, is that they all offer endless opportunities for health care professionals to expand their network and connect with experts in their fields.

  1. Establishing your presence online
    Facebook has become one of the most popular social networking websites with active users exceeding millions. Sharing helpful content such as health tips or educational videos gives potential patients an idea of what you and your medical practice have to offer. Eventually, your presence in the social media space will reach a larger audience and you will become known for your work. Studies show that more than 60% of individuals are more likely to trust social media posts by doctors over any other group.
  2. Developing a strategy for targeting different demographic groups
    Posting success stories, reviews from other patients and treatment options are just some of the ways in which you can reach out to your patients and the public at large. The beauty of social media is that it acts as an equalizer across different audiences and encourages collaboration. It allows you as physicians to find creative and innovative ways of helping others. You can share your knowledge and figure out how to better serve patients’ needs.
  3. Helping patients find reliable health information online 
    There are thousands and thousands of blog posts, articles, video presentations, and forums dedicated to health related matters. Not all medical content is credible, so this is where you step in. Social media is one way to share reliable health information and guide patients to reputable health websites. It becomes more valuable as it is integrated into communication efforts. Most often, patients will provide feedback on a physician’s viewpoints. As an added bonus, they tend to share this information with family and friends, thus increasing awareness.
  4. Distinguishing yourself from the competition
    Today’s advancements in technology have allowed social media channels to amplify professional networking efforts. For one thing, building a successful career depends on individuals recognizing your work. Content that is shared via social media can help you get your message across and reach millions of individuals. Yet, quality is just as important as quantity. Creating a unique website design or a catchy slogan will make it easier for you to stand out and build a successful online reputation. Individuals tend to feel more comfortable if they have consulted with a physician beforehand or are at least familiar with their work. As social media is becoming a more common feature of clinical practice, physicians who engage in social networking are more likely to rank higher on Google search results. After all, who goes past page four or five on Google?

Choosing a physician is one of the most significant medical decisions to be made. A patient must trust your knowledge and skills and above all, have faith in you. With unlimited access to social media, patients are now in a unique position to pick from countless physicians so why should they pick you? Demonstrating your expertise, dedication and personality can help you establish a solid online reputation and build customer loyalty. If patients trust you, they will reach out to you. More than 40% of individuals have stated that social media would influence their choice of doctor, hospital, or medical practice. Think about it this way: do patients respond more to inspirational stories and interviews or what they read in textbooks?

It’s a new era and social networking websites have grown exponentially over the past few years. Whether it’s Facebook or Twitter, a growing number of health care professionals and medical practices are embracing social networking. It is the modern approach to promoting a medical practice and helping the greater good. Many of these practices post useful patient information online such as wait times, specialty clinics, and outbreak announcements.
Social networking websites have also become a place where patients can share their stories with other patients and raise awareness on health-related topics. When it comes to coping with the psychological aspects of certain diseases or side effects of treatments, many turn to social media for support. Online health forums have helped individuals share ideas, seek feedback and most important, contribute to countless associations in donations. The weight of such social circles should not be underestimated.
At the heart of healthcare is the physician/patient relationship. It is a two-way dialogue that gives both physicians and patients the opportunity to speak, listen, and learn from one another. In the coming years, social media will continue to transform the medical world. We will see more health-related applications and more blogs for healthy living and better healthcare. So if you are passionate about your work, then share it and promote your cause. Healthcare may require time and commitment; however, social media is available at the click of a button. It is a great way to go beyond the four walls of a physician’s office and improve patient care. Social media platforms help individuals find the right physicians. They help them find YOU.

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The Internet and Social Media: our new Doctors and Hospitals 2 - Medbrief

The Internet and Social Media: our new Doctors and Hospitals 2 - Medbrief | Social Media and Healthcare |

Has the internet and social media replaced health professionals as our source of information on health, drugs and diseases? Should we be worried?

  • No one should solely depend on what they read and see on the Internet and social media.
  • Always look at the source. Is it credible? A health professional?
  • Seek medical advice from your doctor and drug advice from your pharmacist.
  • Do not spread health rumours and broadcasts without confirmation.

For many, when faced with a medical problem, it can be easier, quicker and cheaper to search the Internet for an answer – but while it can be useful to research a condition, an accurate diagnosis can only come from a medical professional.

It is useful to research a condition, but an accurate diagnosis can only come from a professionalCLICK TO TWEET

Medical books, journals the internet and social media can only give an overview of symptoms but diagnosis is not a patient’s job as treatment should be from a professional person.

In the past, if one were ill and consulted with a doctor, we’d have simply swallowed any pill, however bitter.

There is no doubt that the vast health information on the internet has contributed to a more informed public, but this is an area in which frankly the expertise of the professional should not be undermined by the power of the web.

Internet Health Advice and Self Medication

Using the Internet for health advice leads to self-medication with potentially dangerous side-effects. Self-medication is a very common problem all over the world and is far more harmful than beneficial.

Self-medication is the human behavior of selecting and using medication to treat self-diagnosed conditions.

Self-medication is the human behavior of selecting and using medication to treat self-diagnosed…CLICK TO TWEET

The habit of self-medication is far too common, and most people aren’t aware of how well-meaning drugs can have side-effects and damage their system if taken without professional advice.

Possible risks of self-medication include inaccurate self-diagnosis and dosage, delays in seeking medical advice when required, irregular but severe adverse reactions, unsafe drug interactions, incorrect administration, and the risk of dependence and abuse.

  Reducing Polypharmacy in Geriatric Patients - Part 1

Some of the disadvantages of self-medicating range from minor allergies to kidney failure and other serious health issues.

The public have to remember that most medications can have a potentially harmful side-effect if taken incorrectly.

There are some examples of self-medication gone awry seriously. One of these instances was a patient in India who had stomach ache and took a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) and suffered severe stomach bleeding.

Self-diagnosis can also make people to convince themselves that their ailments are far worse than the reality. For example self-diagnosing cancer when the illness is cerebral malaria, or self-diagnosing gout as a result of pain in the foot when it may actually just be ligament pain from an existing injury.

No one should solely depend on what they read and see on the Internet especially as regards to health and drugs. It should the tailor the individuals needs.

Do not depend only on what you read and see on the Internet as regards to health and drugs.CLICK TO TWEET

Many drugs should not be taken in conjunction with other treatments, or if patients have other medical conditions. For example, antibiotics can interfere with a woman who takes contraception pills and could lead to her becoming pregnant.

Patients could also suffer analgesic nephropathy – an injury to the kidney caused by over-medication – as a result of self-admitting non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs for joint pain. Self- medication can also mask the real pain or a more serious, underlying condition.

Pregnant women, also have to be very careful about self-medicating. Most medications should not be taken if pregnant and misuse of these drugs could be harmful to both mother and child. It is always better to see a doctor so they can correctly diagnose.

While self-medication may result in faster access to medication and relief for a patient, it is not a completely safe practice. Using the Internet for self- diagnosis and self-medication can be detrimental to your health.

Only a doctor can reason and figure out what your symptoms amount to. More often than not, referring to medical blogs and social media instead of visiting a doctor to save money and time can lead to a grave misdiagnosis.

  Basic Information To Have About Your Drug
A tool for pedaling rumours on health and drugs?

Another issue is that of health-related and drug-related broadcasts that circulate on selected social media and some applications such as whatsapp and BBM.

Most times a disgruntled person who has either an unpleasant encounter with the issue being peddled often initiates it.

It was told of a man in Seychelles who reacted to a drug containing sulphur (name of drug withheld) and started posting pictures of his reactions exhibited on his body as swellings and some 3rd degree burns, warning others to avoid the drug as a plague.

If further investigations where carried out, I’m willing to bet real money that he must have self-diagnosed and paid dearly for it.

Everyone has unique individual body systems. What may work for one may not work for another or what one may react to may not be the same for another person. In essence, to rule any of such occurrence, always consult with your doctor.

As regards broadcasts of list of drugs that are said to be detrimental to health or that are used for animals or that have been banned; always clarify with the local health authorities e.g. NAFDAC for proper verification or seek consultation from licensed pharmacists around you.

Also try as much as possible not to spread these broadcasts/messages without valid authentication.

Seek medical advice from your Doctor and medication advice from your PharmacistCLICK TO TWEET

As a whole, as often as possible, always seek medical advice from your doctor and drug/medication advice from your pharmacist and not the Internet.

It is also paramount that health professionals must bridge in the gap and find a way to make use of this ICT rave, reducing bureaucracy in the hospital setting and time wastage in seeing patients hence ensuring that self-medicating over the Internet would reduce with time.

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Applying a Doctor’s Office Standard to Health Care Studies

Applying a Doctor’s Office Standard to Health Care Studies | Social Media and Healthcare |

Communication within the walls of a doctor’s office has improved greatly over the past 40 years. There was a time when women would awake from a breast biopsy to find that she had breast cancer and that a mastectomy had been performed – without her consultation.

Patients are now completely involved in the decision-making process due to the recognition that every decision cannot be viewed as strictly a medical judgement, but as a patient value judgement.

As a result, doctors present treatment options, with variables and trade-offs, in an unbiased and straightforward fashion. This is because doctors are cognizant that patients react differently based on how a treatment is framed, especially in outcomes.

As a study on framing medical choices highlighted, people opted for procedures with a “90 percent survival rate” over a procedure with a “10 percent mortality rate,” despite the outcome being identical.1

While the doctor-patient communication channel has grown significantly, it pales in comparison to the growth of health care information available through social media and online sources.

A 2016 study performed by the American Press Institute (API) found that 51 percent of Americans get their news from social media.2

An aspect of the news on social media consumption relates to health care news. A study from Aetna shows that 47 percent of social media users use social platforms for the purposes of health education.3

These figures show that the same standard of information and framing in a doctor-patient communication needs to be met by health care communicators or social managers.

That’s right, we are talking about a high level of responsibility.

This standard is especially important in the dissemination and sharing of health care studies.

Health care communicators act as gatekeepers of information – how the information is presented to the public is how it will appear in print or broadcast. Similarly, social media managers sharing a third-party study or findings provide a stamp of approval. People make health related decisions based off this information.

When pitching or sharing complicated studies, health care communicators and social media managers have a responsibility to holistically understand the study, not only the talking points or headline.

Take, for instance, a study that made the online and social media rounds a couple weeks ago on diet soda’s linkage to Alzheimer’s and stroke.

While the headlines of articles from traditionally recognized outlets like The Washington Post and NBC News proclaim “diet sodas cause strokes,” the reality is that there is no cause-and-effect, but instead, a minor observational link. This particular study also relies on self-report (recall bias is a possibility), was absent of ethnic minorities (generalizability to an entire population is not possible) and did not look at factors like family history of disease or socioeconomic status (noted cause-and-effect factors of stroke).

This study was irresponsibly pitched, and as a result, irresponsibly shared on social media.

Scientific studies by their very nature are imperfect – each study type comes with its own positives and negatives. In fact, the three studies that I cited throughout this article include flaws:

  1. Framing Study: Was published in 1988 – are the findings still relevant?
  2. API Study: The study was a self-report survey, which can lead to recall bias.
  3. Aetna Study: The pool consisted of only people 18 and older using their mobile app.

Before pitching a study to media or sharing a study from a brand’s social channel, consider and seek out the answers to these questions:

  • What is the size, demographic and location of the study’s pool?
  • What type of study was used? Can this type lead to any bias?
  • What is the author’s purpose in creating the study?
  • Does the study show causation or correlation? What is the strength of the causation or correlation?
  • If you are looking to share online, what is the source of study? Has it been published in a peer-reviewed journal? Is that journal reputable?

These are only a few of the possible questions you should weigh before disseminating a study. You might not be a doctor talking with a patient, but you are a lot closer than you think.

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Tips for Creating the Best Medical Website for Your Patients

Tips for Creating the Best Medical Website for Your Patients | Social Media and Healthcare |

There are a few basic things all websites need to be successful such as great search engine optimization (SEO), responsive design, and an easy to use interface. However, medical websites need to take their website design one step further and also ensure their site is HIPPA compliant and able to provide patient education. In a niche market with unique challenges and demands, it makes sense to work with a designer that specializes in the field of medical website design such as iHealthSpot. This helps guarantee the design is meeting patient needs as well as those of the medical office and the requirements set forth by federal and state agencies.

Search Engine Optimization

A medical practice or doctor’s office may not be aware of the power and value of narrowly targeted SEO. By using carefully targeted keywords it is possible for a website to tell search engines such as Google exactly what the content on their site is about and where the business is located. When patients search for these and related terms, the search engine directs them to the websites that are most closely related to the query.

It is incredibly important to have targeted the correct terms and to have used them throughout the website in a way that search engine algorithms find acceptable and useful. Intuitively, it may seem as though simply using words such as doctor, medical practice, and the location would be sufficient. In smaller communities, this may be adequate but in larger urban areas the number of doctors can mean that generic keywords such as these would not help the website rank on the first page of results.

Users rarely scroll to the second page of results so it is easy to see why it is important to be among the first they see. Another complication for those unfamiliar with the best SEO practices for medical websites is that what medical practitioners think patients are searching for are rarely the terms truly being used. For example, a pediatrician might want to use ‘Houston pediatrician’ to help parents find their practice but parents may be more likely to search for specific symptoms or conditions rather than looking for a doctor. This is one of the reasons working with an expert in the field of medical website design is imperative for optimal results.

Responsive design is another component of a great SEO campaign. Users who are accessing a search engine from a mobile site are treated differently than those using a computer. The search engine recognizes the type of device and will rank results higher that are optimized for mobile viewing. They are also more likely to use location-specific data when providing results to mobile users.

User Experience

Patient engagement is far more important in overall user satisfaction and efficacy of treatment than many people realize. This entails getting patients more involved with their own healthcare rather than allowing them to simply be recipients of that care. One of the most powerful ways to do this is to create a website that is filled with useful content and allows the patient to become more empowered and knowledgeable about their health condition.

Part of this includes offering reliable medical information about the various conditions the physician addresses in the practice. This gives the patient a way to learn more about their condition without resorting to websites that are more interested in advertising than in providing high-quality content.

Another way to increase patient engagement is by having a strong presence on social media. This can be incorporated into the website design in several ways. Links to social media profiles can be provided and articles or blog posts can be designed to easily be shared on the patient’s preferred platform.

HIPPA Compliance

The rules of website design always lean in favor of customer experience. This isn’t always easy for medical websites to manage given the complexities of HIPPA regulations. Increasing patient and practitioner usability in a HIPPA compliant website ultimately comes down to addressing key user needs, developing education, and consistently improving engagement through testing.

Today, most patients want conveniences such as online appointment scheduling and bill payment. These features help the patient communicate 24/7 with their doctors and help practices function more efficiently. While these conveniences are important, information must be kept secure. That’s the balance that HIPPA compliant, medical website developers must maintain to help medical practices operate lawfully, and successfully.

The partnership between a medical practice and a medical website design firm requires a lot of trust and transparency. There are unique regulatory practices that must be in-place to ensure HIPAA compliance whenever patient communication takes place via the website. The average website designer may not know what these regulations are or how to adhere properly to them.

Medical website design is trickier than creating the average website. While it is important to follow the best practices used in the field, it is also necessary to incorporate industry-specific regulations. Doing this properly will take more time and effort but in the end, it will become an invaluable tool for your patients.

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