Social Media and Healthcare
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5 Ways Healthcare Professionals Are Using Social Media

5 Ways Healthcare Professionals Are Using Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

In 2017, social media plays a very integral role in our personal lives.  Seldom a day goes by that we are not on our smartphones documenting the noteworthy (and sometimes less than noteworthy) happenings of the day.  Social media not only connects us as individuals, but also as businesses.  New effective ways of utilizing social media for business are always surfacing.

In the healthcare industry specifically, there are several reasons why healthcare managers are choosing to incorporate social media into their marketing strategies.  Here are 5 noteworthy ways your practice can use social media.

Share Information

Social media allows healthcare professionals to better share information that is important to their patients.  This can range from health tips to their take on the latest current studies in their field of expertise.  New doctors can be introduced and questions can be answered.  Practices can connect with their patients on a more personal level.

Gain Brand Ambassadors

Speaking of connecting with patients on a more personal level, by doing so, your practice may gain some “brand ambassadors.” If a patient feels a doctor or practice cares enough to offer them helpful tips or even reach out to them in a more personal way (by liking comments, answering questions, etc), they will be more likely to refer friends and family or simply share with their social networks the latest treatment they received at your office. Ultimately, customer service is important no matter the industry.

Real Time Updates

One of the great things about social media is that information can be shared immediately.  Use this to your advantage.  If you work at a hospital, give real time updates on hospital capacity. Do you have extra appointment availability? Share this info with your patients.  You never know who might be looking for a last-minute appointment.

Competitive Analysis

Social media provides an easy way to check out your competitors. Take a look at their profiles. See what kinds of information they are sharing. Find out what kind of content their patients are commenting on.  This can only help your practice improve the quality of your social media presence as well as offer higher patient satisfaction.

Connect with Other Doctors

Using social media for professional purposes is also very common and useful.  Connect with specialists in different fields.  These kinds of professional relationships can help with referral business in the future.

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Social Media and Healthcare
Articles and Discussions on the intersection of Social Media and Healthcare.
Relevant to Healthcare Practitioners, Pharma', Insurance, Clinicians, Labs, Health IT Vendors, Health Marketeers, Health Policy Makers, Hospital Administrators.
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Social Media Implementation Checklist

Social Media Implementation Checklist | Social Media and Healthcare |

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

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

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

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

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The Impact of Social Media in Healthcare

The Impact of Social Media in Healthcare | Social Media and Healthcare |

What’s the first thing you do when you get sick? For many people, a cursory search through various online resources is the initial step in gathering information toward obtaining a diagnosis.  The internet places an infinite number of health-related resources at our fingertips, many of which are consumed through social media.

Presently, 74% of US internet users participate in social media, and of those users, 80% are searching for health information. The rapid adoption and prevalence of social media among internet users has allowed it to become an innovative and disruptive force within the healthcare field, potentially influencing the opinions and interactions of both patients and providers.

Before diving in to discuss the impact of social media in healthcare, let’s first define the term “social media.”  This article defines social media as follows:

“The term generally refers to Internet-based tools that allow individuals and communities to gather and communicate; to share information, ideas, personal messages, images, and other content; and, in some cases, to collaborate with other users in real time.”

This IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics report [PDF], Engaging Patients through Social Media, further describes social media as encompassing a wide variety of online, interactive platforms that host user-generated content.  These can be blogs (like this one!), social/professional networking sites, virtual communities, wikis, or video-/image- sharing sites.

Impact on Patients

For patients, social media can be a valuable source of information or a dangerous source of misinformation. This article in the Health Informatics Journal describes a systematic review of how both video and text-based social media are used and perceived by patients.  The authors found that social media can support patient empowerment, engagement, and build communities, but since little is known about the quality of information circulating throughout social media, there’s always a risk of it being incorrect or misleading.

Wired magazine recently provided a specific example of social media’s impact on healthcare through “patient influencers.” The article describes how many of those diagnosed with a chronic disease have taken to social media to provide insights and give a voice to their condition. However, while social media provides patient influencers and patients with a virtual community to share their concerns and experiences, there’s no oversight, and no guards against potential conflicts of interest.

Impact on Providers

Social media can also serve as a useful tool for providers, not only for professional networking and information sharing, but for patient education as well. An exploratory survey of 17 physicians (76% of whom were bloggers) identified the benefits of social media involvement,  including career advancement and staying up-to-date on the latest literature. Barriers included lack of institutional support, employer backlash, unfamiliarity with technology, time requirements, and the fear of saying something wrong.

Some providers see social media as a source of low-cost health information for themselves and an opportunity for community outreach. In another survey involving 485 physicians, 24% reported using social media at least once a day to look for medical information and 60% said social media enhances the quality of care they provide.

On the other hand, the use of social media does not come without risks for providers. Healthcare providers are responsible for protecting the privacy of patient information and HIPAA regulations govern patient-provider electronic communications.  Additionally, providers must consider legal and ethical issues associated with using social media for patient care purposes.

Impact on Patient-Provider Interactions

Social media can also affect patient-provider relationships by facilitating communication outside of the traditional office setting. One study focusing on adolescents with psychiatric illnesses indicated that social media allows for a less anxiety-provoking mode of communication (than face-to-face), constant access to providers, and more consistent monitoring. Furthermore, patients are using social media sites like Yelp to find and rate physicians and post detailed accounts of their interactions.

As social media plays a larger role in healthcare, how will patients, providers, and the overall healthcare industry adapt? Stay tuned!

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Patients as Consumers: Understand Purchasing Patterns to Drive Loyalty

Patients as Consumers: Understand Purchasing Patterns to Drive Loyalty | Social Media and Healthcare |

Healthcare is an industry prone to change. Patient populations evolve constantly as new generations bring new habits, values, expectations and needs. For healthcare providers, keeping pace is a challenge. 

Whether we like it or not, today’s patients are consumers. Healthcare organizations need to recognize this and ask themselves the question: how can we create customer loyalty?  

Creating loyal customers—or as we marketers would say, brand evangelists—requires both attracting customers, and offering them a better experience than a competitor. The first step is to understand their purchasing patterns. Pulled from a variety of sources and studies, we’ve gathered six key trends that help you understand the mindset of today’s patients:

1.    Patients are cost-conscious – 59% of patients surveyed in 2014 chose a less expensive care option when comparing prices
2.    Patients are readers and researchers – 77% of patients searched online prior to booking an appointment
3.    Patients are social – 41% of patients reported social media as a factor that can impact their choice of physician or hospital
4.    Patients are web-savvy – 83% of patients booking appointments visited the website of a hospital when searching for care
5.    Patients are digitally-minded – 21% of patients booked appointments via computer or mobile device in 2012, a number that certainly has increased five years later
6.    Patients are open to sponsored content – 81% of patients click on a sponsored link when looking for health information

So, what advice do we have? We’d recommend that healthcare providers:

•    Be affordable (or at least look like it).
•    Be digital.
•    Be social.
•    Be web-friendly.
•    Be flexible.
•    Be educators.

Healthcare providers need to adapt to meet today’s patients. 

Previously, healthcare providers’ marketing efforts went something like this: We’re a great institution, we do great stuff, we’ve been doing it for a long time, and you should be our patient. 

The new model looks something like this: Your needs are important, we understand your unique circumstances, we cater our care around you and your family, and we hope to earn the opportunity to care for you today, and tomorrow.

Marketing for healthcare organizations isn’t about shouting from the rooftops. It’s about showing empathy, compassion, and humility. And doing it digitally. 

So, the only question left is, how do today’s patients view your brand?


And in the for-what-it’s-worth category, in 2014, 4.8 billion people owned a mobile phone and 4.2 billion people owned a toothbrush. By our calculation, that’s approximately 600 million people chatting on cellphones with stinky breath.

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5 Social Media Pitfalls In The Pharmaceutical Industry - 

5 Social Media Pitfalls In The Pharmaceutical Industry -  | Social Media and Healthcare |

In an ever fast paced and changing world, legal thinkers and practitioners must not only keep up with the changing laws and legal dynamics but stay ahead of them. This was the theme of the life sciences symposium co-sponsored by Mayer Brown and Seton Hall Law. The symposium, which was the second of its kind, was on March 2, 2017 in Newark, New Jersey. There were panel discussions covering many emerging topics, including advertising by the pharmaceutical industry on social media.[1] This discussion included in-house counsel from the pharmaceutical industry, law professors and Mayer Brown practitioners. This unique combination of perspectives created lively and thought provoking discussions on each emerging issue. There were several key take away points that we should all keep in mind as we navigate the future of the life sciences industry.
In an age where more than 40 percent of consumers use social media to make health decisions[2], pharmaceutical companies are increasingly using it as a tool to engage and educate patients. Here lies an opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to connect with patients and health care providers to offer reliable information about ways to improve health and well being. Social media is a mechanism for the industry to create an online community where patients can connect, share information and feel supported.[3]

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has provided some guidance when it comes to advertising pharmaceuticals on social media. In particular, the FDA specifically has addressed internet/social media platforms that impose character space restrictions such as Twitter. In essence, the FDA has counseled that when using internet/social media platforms with character space limitations, a company must, despite space limitations, ensure that it gives a balanced presentation of both the risks and benefits of any medical product. Notably, the FDA mentioned that it was not necessarily addressing media platforms that did not impose character space restrictions.[4]

The FDA has also provided guidance when advertising on social media relates to “Third-Party User Generated Content”.[5] In its draft guidance, the FDA describes its current thinking about if and how pharmaceutical companies should respond to misinformation disseminated by independent third parties.[6] A company is responsible for the communications that contain misinformation that it controls and are made by its employees or any agents acting on behalf of the company.[7] If a company does not have control over third party misinformation about its product, a company is generally not required to correct such information.[8] If, however, a company chooses to correct such misinformation, it should consider the FDA’s guidance on how to go about doing so.[9]

Because the FDA has provided only some basic guidance to date, companies should take care when using social media in such a highly regulated industry where the FDA is clearly watching. Many will recall the FDA’s censure when Kim Kardashian posted an Instagram picture touting the benefits of the morning sickness drug Diclegis. The FDA objected that Kardashian, a paid spokesperson for the maker of Diclegis, did not present a “fair balance” of risks and benefits in her promotion of the drug on social media.

Here are five suggestions to avoid potential pitfalls when advertising pharmaceutical products on social media.

  1. Set a clear internal policy. It is important to decide if there will be centralized social media postings (e.g., a dedicated, company sponsored webpage, Twitter feeds, etc.). In creating a concrete social media advertising policy, it is crucial to define who may engage on social media on the company’s behalf. It can be a specific group of employees that will control the content being posted or there may be allowances for individual employees to participate online. Either way, the policy should be definitive, explicit and it is imperative that all employees understand their role and understand the rules. There should also be a consensus on the content that will be posted on line to ensure that there is a consistent and regulatory compliant message.
  2. Create a controlled environment. Instead of shying away from social media, companies should embrace it but maintain control. Choosing online platforms that allow for the control of the web based medium is key. For example, hosting a company website or a company-initiated chat area may create an environment where the company can foster relationships with patients, and provide support while managing the proper dissemination of information about its product. Also, companies may consider working with social media platforms for customized approaches tailored to the highly regulated pharma industry to establish tighter control over the content and flow of information. For example, Facebook may disable commentary for pharma advertisements.[10] This is an important development because companies could face regulatory issues if they fail to report postings that are deemed “adverse events”.
  3. Create a compliance strategy. Once a policy is in place and employees’ roles are defined when it comes to discussing product information on social media, it is wise to create a compliance system. It is also advisable to appoint a compliance director so that the company’s social media policy can consistently be adhered to throughout the company. With proper controls and planning, the many benefits of advertising on social media can be realized while minimizing any risks associated with off label promotion and reporting of adverse events.
  4. Comply with all Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act privacy laws. As social media advertising continues to grow in importance in medical practice, one must be aware of the challenges associated with complying with HIPAA rules and regulations in this new media. Any disclosure of protected health information, even an inadvertent posting of a picture of a consumer, is a privacy violation. To avoid noncompliance, ensure all employees have a thorough understanding of the patient privacy laws and how they pertain to the business. Create a social media working group to discuss any concerns or issues. Save and capture records that preserve the format of social communications, including edits and deletions.
  5. Keep future litigation in mind. The potential discovery of social media content in a litigation should also be considered. This underscores the need for a coordinated message and the creation of carefully vetted internal policies, standards and compliance mechanisms before embarking on a social media campaign.

As forms of communication continue to evolve — radio to television to Instagram — the pharmaceutical industry will continue to adapt. With proper planning and execution, the internet is a great vehicle for the industry to continue to advance health improvement and disease prevention.

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How can pharma better understand and engage with patients? 

How can pharma better understand and engage with patients?  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Consumers have access to more healthcare information than ever before, and the huge numbers behind online health-related activity are well documented. The impact of social media and its potential disruptions to (pharma) marketing are especially interesting when you look at some of the statistics;

42% of individuals viewing health information on social media look at health-related consumer reviews

32% of users post about their friends and family’s health experiences on social media

30% of adults are likely to share information about their health on social media sites with other patients

The trust, openness and value being placed on social media today by patients, and the demands this creates in terms of treatment and service, can no longer be ignored by healthcare providers and pharmaceutical companies alike. Patients are, rightly so, demanding more of a say in the type of care they get, the type of medicines that are being developed, how the medicines are going to be applied to them, and what the regulatory pathway should be.

When you put all of this together, it’s clear that there needs to be a brand-new level of deep engagement with patients. The good news is that all of this is coinciding with a revolution in digital technology and social media in the ability to reach people with particular characteristics all over the world.

The healthcare decision journey

As McKinsey discussed so eloquently back in May 2016, most pharmaceutical marketers are familiar with the concept of conducting market research to create a ‘sales funnel’ as a guide for marketing programs, where patients move from product awareness through to purchase and beyond. In retail, this linear journey has been superseded in recent years by the consumer decision journey (CDJ) which recognises that in a world where consumers are empowered by information, the process involved in making a purchase is more iterative.

For pharma companies seeking to understand how consumers make health decisions, the CDJ is enlightening. McKinsey see consumers undertaking what they call a CareFlow; mapping a patient’s journey from the first awareness of a problem to treatment, examining the factors guiding their decisions at each stage. These insights enable pharma marketers to engage with patients in ways that feel natural and personal.

Every point, branch and loop in the CareFlow is potentially a vital point of interaction; by understanding it, the marketer can understand the relative importance of points and (re)allocate investment and attention accordingly.

For example, in a sample of US patients with psoriasis, a CareFlow found that 58% had requested a specific brand of medication from their physician in the past year, twice as high as expected in the general population, this illustrates the importance of communicating with these patients before they visit a physician.

A CareFlow for depression revealed how long it took patients to seek care; often 6 months or more. The time lag represents an opportunity for pharma companies to accelerate the patient path to care. It also revealed how better management of patients’ expectations could improve treatment adherence.

Data and insight available from social media has a critical part to play in constructing such CareFlows, especially when placed in conjunction with other sources such as surveys, web-engine search trends, electronic medical records and consumer data. Once companies are committed to concepts such as CareFlow, the next imperative is to reshape their commercial approach accordingly, something that is likely to require a reallocation of marketing focus and investment. In a digital world, such concepts will be a crucial element of any successful commercial strategy.

What can social research provide in terms of patient insight?

In the digital era and with the boom in social media there are thousands of patient conversations happening daily. This isn’t breaking news, but how can we ensure we are making use of these conversations and gaining valuable patient insights from them? Social research goes beyond social listening, and whilst many assume it’s the same thing, intelligently conducted social research can uncover some great insights in double quick time.

So, what experiences have we gained here at MMRI?

Can you capture the emotion of the patient?

In Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, we were able to capture the emotion of the patient in the moment of their diagnosis, which you cannot get via traditional research methodologies due to a reliance on memory recall. This insight helped our client to devise the right patient support services and these formed a key pillar of their brand launch strategy.

Does patient experience match HCP perception?

In Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia, we discovered that HCP perception on side effects related to one particular brand was not echoed by the patient population. For the client, this insight enabled them to refine their communication strategy in such a way that effectively changed HCP perceptions about their brand and its side effect profile.

What does MMRI Research give you?

Social research, when carried out by market research professionals, carries benefits that can add value, whether integrated with traditional methodologies or used in isolation, such as:

  • In the moment (capturing the emotion as it happens)
  • Spontaneous (unprompted and unbiased)
  • Conversational (comments and responses can be picked up from other users)

We go beyond social listening, capturing relevant, real-time conversations which are then analysed by our skilled research team to organise and understand themes, topics and sentiment, leading to actionable insights for our clients.

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The EHR Report: Communication, social media, and legal vulnerability

The EHR Report: Communication, social media, and legal vulnerability | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media is now a part of everyday life. From Twitter, with its 140 character limit, to Facebook to Linkedin, there is a world of possibilities for communicating with friends, family, colleagues, and others online. Communication is good, but electronic media is a minefield for medical professionals who do not think carefully before they post.


The stories in the news about health care professionals who have posted obviously inflammatory material online, perhaps in a fit of rage, and have had their careers impacted or ended are just the tip of the iceberg. HIPAA violations have received a good deal of attention, with a well-known example being the doctor who was accused of posting a selfie with Joan Rivers, who was unconscious on the operating table. These examples, however, represent obvious violations of HIPAA and are infractions that most physicians would readily identify. Other examples may not be as obvious.

Dr. Neil Skolnik

If a professional posts information on social media about a patient, he or she is not insulated simply because the patient’s name was not included. Suppose a professional creates a post on social media about a procedure or interesting presentation that day, and a family member or friend of the patient sees that post and knows that the patient was seeing that doctor that day and connects the dots. This could constitute a HIPAA violation.

We know of one case where a nurse on the staff of a physicians’ office posted on Facebook that work was grueling that day because he felt under the weather with suspected flu. This may seem, at first, to be an innocuous communication. And that’s all it was, until, the son of an immunosuppressed man who had an appointment at that doctor’s office was flabbergasted to hear from a mutual friend that one of the nurses in the office was at work despite having the flu. He demanded to speak with the office manager and made sure that his father was not seen by that nurse. It may seem like an unlikely coincidence, but, in medical-legal circles, unlikely events occur all the time.

Brett C. Shear, Esq.

Often, we think that maximizing our privacy setting will ensure that unwanted people will not see what is posted. That is not always the case. With social media, we should assume that nothing is truly private. For example, on Facebook you can opt to allow only your friends to view what you post. However, if your friend comments on one of your posts, that friend’s friends may then be able to view the post. Your “friend” could, also, allow anybody to see what you have posted on Facebook. In a recent case, an administrative assistant happened to be friends on Facebook with an expert from the other side and was able to find compromising information that was used in that expert’s cross-examination at trial. Our social networks are often quite large, and it is not unusual to have hundreds of “friends.” These people typically include acquaintances of whom we have only casual knowledge. It is impossible to know how private information can be interpreted by people we do not know well or how that information may be used.

Many people who use social media will check in or post when they are out with friends or colleagues blowing off steam. For example, you might post something on social media about a holiday party you are attending. But, consider what happens if, at work the next day, something goes wrong, your care is called into question, and a lawsuit ensues. Your post may be innocent, but it now falls into the hands of the patient’s attorney. When you are having your deposition taken, the lawyer pulls your social media post out of a stack of papers and grills you about where you were, what you were doing, how late you stayed out, whether you were drinking, how much, and so on. Maybe you explain to him that you were only at the holiday party for an hour and did not have a single drink. That attorney, however, is not required to take your word for it and can ask you who you were with. All of a sudden, your friends and colleagues are being served with subpoenas for their depositions and being examined about what you did that night. Possibly, the lawyer is sending a subpoena for your credit card receipt and the restaurant’s billing records to determine what you ordered that night.

You should never rely on the false assumption that even “private” messages sent directly to other people will truly remain private. One of us was recently involved in a case where this worked to our advantage. A 30-year-old woman claimed that her family doctor never recommended that she see a gastroenterologist. A friend of the patient testified in a deposition that the two of them had discussed her medical care in private messages on Facebook. After the court ordered that the patient turn over her private Facebook messages, we learned that she told her friend that the doctor had indeed made the recommendation for her to see that specialist.

This cautionary tale doesn’t just apply to social media. Keep in mind that, if you are involved in litigation, attorneys can subpoena the records from your cellular phone provider. All cell phone text message are archived by the cellular provider and can be retrieved under subpoena. You may innocently be blowing off steam to a spouse or friend about a difficult patient or bad outcome but later have those text messages used against you in litigation.

The various social media platforms can be great tools for all kinds of professionals to share interesting information and further their professional development. However, everybody, especially the medical professional, needs to think before they post or send a message. We must also remember that, once information is out in cyberspace, it remains there and can never be truly erased. In other words, you can never unring the proverbial bell. It is important to think about the potential impact of that communication before posting and electronically communicating. Only communicate something that you would be comfortable defending in court.

Dr. Skolnik is professor of family and community medicine at Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia, and associate director of the family medicine residency program at Abington (Pa.) Jefferson Health. Mr. Shear is an associate attorney in the health care department at Marshall Dennehey Warner Coleman & Goggin in Pittsburgh. He represents physicians, medical professionals, and hospitals in medical malpractice actions.

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3 things patients expect from hospitals on social media

3 things patients expect from hospitals on social media | Social Media and Healthcare |

If somebody told me just some years ago that hospitals would soon be using social media as a means to advertising their services and communicating with potential patients, I would be pretty surprised. However, big social media platforms deservedly earned their popularity in the healthcare sector due to their effectiveness in connecting those who provide healthcare services with those who are searching for them.  It is true that in many countries hospitals still don’t view powerful social platforms like Twitter or Facebook as a communication tool between a potential patient and a hospital. But the fact remains: In many countries it has proven to be effective and lucrative for hospitals to use social platforms, also due to significant changes to the health insurance system in Switzerland over the years and the need for hospitals to prove their function as an economic enterprise, using the structure of Swiss Diagnosis Related Groups, the Swiss version of a fee-per-case system.

But not only hospitals can use social media to their advantage.  Patients can also benefit from the use of social platforms in order to convey their wishes to those, whose services they might be using later. Being a frequent guest in hospitals due to diabetes and gaining deep understanding through my experience about how medical insurance, health centres and hospitals work, I took interest in the subject of hospitals’ involvement on social media. I am going to analyse the use of social platforms by some hospitals in Switzerland in order to show what catches an eye of a patient and what he expects from a hospital to publish on its page.


First of all, it is very important for a patient to be engaged in conversations with other people, especially with those who face the same difficulties with health. Sharing experience and seeking advice is an important part of the interaction between patients and doctors or other patients, who went through the same troubles. This kind of interaction on social media can be encouraged by letting patients speak on camera about their experience through an interview (for sure, if the patient himself agrees to share his story) or letting them leave reviews and comments on social platforms.  It is also advisable to let patients speak openly about their experience at the hospital, no matter if good or bad. I found it very nice that hospitals like the Universitätsspital Zürich or the Klinik Hirslanden are answering politely on Facebook to all kinds of comments from their patients and trying to solve conflicts with all possible means. It helps show people that their opinion matters and that measures are undertaken to improve the level of satisfaction with the services.


The second thing that is greatly appreciated by patients is the publication of educative videos and articles on the page of a hospital. I have found loads of informative articles on diverse health problems on the pages of different Swiss hospitals. However, the quality of content varies greatly. The best work done so far in this direction is the videos from the Klinik Hirslanden on YouTube. Their videos are very informative, helpful and comprehensible. It is essential to remember that most patients don’t have medical education and they shouldn’t get a feeling like they don’t understand what they are reading or watching. The information has to be easily interpreted and put in simple words so that even children can understand it. In this way hospitals can make connections between patients, create a friendly and caring atmosphere and build credibility and trust.


Another important thing that patients value greatly when it comes to relationship between hospitals and patients is the demonstration of concern and care for other people. One of the ways to show on social media that your team at the hospital is not indifferent to the suffering of others is by posting news about different humanitarian campaigns and encouraging those who are interested and want to help to take an active part in volunteering work. I found it touching, when I discovered a link on the Facebook page of the Stadtspital Waid in Zürich to a project that a group of doctors organized in order to help establish basics for accident surgery in Tanzania. The Stadtspital Waid reported about their trip and the work the doctors are doing there. It is a great way to show support for the people who have no access to good medical care and social media can help build awareness and sympathy.

Since social media platforms are gaining popularity not only among private internet users, but also in business, it is only left to say that every hospital that wants to ensure its further success and development needs to consider being active on social platforms. Many hospitals in Switzerland are moving in the right direction, providing all the information needed for the patients about the hospital itself and its services. It allows building a bridge between a patient and a hospital, because communication is the very first and most important step in promoting mutual cooperation and trust between the two parties.

Are you a hospital or another institution in the healthcare system, that would like to raise the attention of their stakeholders and improve communications to (potential) patients, medical doctors etc.? Then we might be able to help you.

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How to Grow Your Practice: 3 Tips to Turn Happy Patients into Brand Ambassadors 

How to Grow Your Practice: 3 Tips to Turn Happy Patients into Brand Ambassadors  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Ask a clinical administrator how they plan on growing their business in the near future, and there’s a good chance you’ll hear them talk about new patient acquisition. Who they want to target, how they’ll target them, the marketing dollars they’re going to spend on an open house or digital outreach efforts. The fact is, the viability of a group practice is largely determined by its ability to acquire new patients; not only that, but knowing a new patient chose your practice over the one down the street can be thrilling. Growing patient volume is a solid indication your practice is headed in the right direction, if not already successful.


However, acquiring new patients is time-consuming and expensive; in fact, it’s anywhere from four to ten times costlier to acquire a new patient than to retain one you already have. Patient acquisition can also be unpredictable, as you don’t always know exactly who you should be marketing to and what those faceless future patients need from you.


The way to mitigate these pitfalls of marketing to new patients is through referrals. Your current patients can be your best source of new business, and it’s up to you to nurture that referral source and make it as profitable as possible for your practice. The question is, how do you turn your patients into passionate ambassadors for your brand?


Make the Patient Experience Remarkable

There are lots of qualified medical professionals out there who can do a serviceable job, but people don’t tell their friends about lukewarm experiences. They’ll only want to share experiences that were memorable in some way (that goes for both negative and positive experiences, by the way). Differentiate your practice by offering services patients can’t get anywhere else by considering the following:

  • Welcome new patients with a letter and small (branded, of course!) token of appreciation
  • Make scheduling easier through an online patient portal
  • Send patients appointment reminders via their preferred communication method
  • Create a care package for patients undergoing special appointments or procedures—for example, a prenatal package for newly expectant mothers
  • Set up a play area in your waiting area for patients’ children to alleviate the stress of entertaining kids in a confined public space
  • Survey patients for feedback, and more importantly, follow through on their suggestions


These are just a few ideas for designing a remarkable patient experience. Depending on your customer base, the options are vast; all it takes is understanding your patients, then employing a little creativity.


Help Your Patients Help You

If you want your patients to act as evangelists for your brand, you have to give them an avenue, and online ratings are an ideal medium to spread word-of-mouth from your loyal patients to potential prospects. Online reputation management tools have become standard in the industry; there are over 70 online review sites for healthcare providers, and in 2014 about 61% of patients used these sites to choose their doctor (and that stat is only rising). Reviews on Facebook, Google, Yelp, and other review sites are a great way for future customers to find you, and you should be monitoring those reviews so you can respond to them appropriately. However, you can go a step further and ask satisfied patients to review your service before they leave their appointment. Consider having an iPad at the reception desk so happy patients can quickly review your practice while their great experience is still fresh in their minds.


Be Social

In addition to reviews, you should also afford your patients the opportunity to interact with your practice in ways that are convenient to them, specifically using social meda. Though the particulars of this strategy vary depending on your typical patient demographic, a good place to start is by having social media accounts (think Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc.) for your practice that are visually unified and consistent in terms of branding. These accounts should be accessible via your website, which should also be a place patients and consumers can interact with your practice in a low-pressure, educational environment. Your site acts as a digital storefront for your practice, so be sure to give it the attention it deserves. Your website should be a reflection of your brand’s values, and reflect your practice and its physicians well.


An attractive and useful website that has resources for patients—both current and potential—can be a very effective tool for acquisition if it’s integrated with your social media accounts. As an added bonus, analytics from social media and digital marketing efforts give you excellent insight into your target market.


This is not all to say that new patient acquisition should all be done through referrals. There’s still plenty of room for more traditional methods of reaching new market segments. However, putting your current patients to work as ambassadors for your brand is a cost-effective and measurable way to generate quality leads who you can, in turn, make into happy patients themselves.

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Five Reasons Why Physicians Need to Use Social Media

Five Reasons Why Physicians Need to Use Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Physician participation in social media is a health care imperative according to Dr. Kevin Pho, a practicing internist and the founder, a leading online health portal; however, many physicians remain skeptical about the value of social media.  At an Ethics Forum hosted by the Massachusetts Medical Society on December 2, 2011, Pho suggested several reasons why physicians need to embrace new ways to communicate with their patients.

A social media epiphany

Pho began blogging in May, 2004 as a way to share links to health care resources and talk about health care reform.  In the fall of 2004, when the Merck drug Vioxx was recalled, Pho’s office was flooded with patient phone calls.  In response, Pho decided to write a blog post about the recall.  When one of his patients mentioned that the blog post had reassured and comforted him, Pho recognized the tremendous potential of social media.    He realized that patients want health information but are overwhelmed, frustrated, confused and even frightened by what they find online.  Health care professionals, Pho noted, can play an important role by becoming a reputable source of online information or by directing patients to reliable sources.  

Making the case for social media participation

Pho offered five reasons doctors should participate in social media:

  1. Provide context.  Pho pointed out that every day new health stories are published.  Social media is a powerful way for physicians to provide context and meaning to the news items that patients read and view.
  2. Dispel myths.  Online health information can be medically and factually inaccurate.  To maintain physicians’ standing as health care authorities, Pho emphasized that it is critical for doctors to use social media to counter myths perpetuated by inaccurate health information.
  3. Influence the health care debate.  Pho cited the results of a Gallup survey which concluded that patients trust physicians regarding health care policy. Participation in social media gives physicians a way to express their views and influence the formulation of policies that will shape how medicine is practiced.
  4. Choose social networks carefully. There are many different social media networks today. Facebook has been the most popular for a long time, but others are gaining traction too, such as Instagram. It’s a good idea to buy Instagram likes and invest in other social networks, since they are changing the marketing landscape for the healthcare profession.
  5. Connect with mainstream media.  Experience with social media can provide physicians with the skills they need to connect with mainstream media.  For example, Pho noted that writing his blog gave him the confidence to write op-eds for mainstream news publications.
  6. Hear what patients have to say.  Social media gives patients a place to express their frustrations and concerns about health care.  By listening to patient feedback on his blog, Pho has changed the way he practices medicine.  He now offers same day appointments, doesn’t take his laptop into the exam room and makes sure patients receive their test results.

Rules of engagement

Prior to using social media, Pho suggested that physicians consult guidelines, such as those prepared by the American Medical Association or the Massachusetts Medical Society.    He emphasized that patient privacy always comes first.  He also offered these pointers:

  1. Tiptoe into social media.  Start small by establishing a presence in a single social media community.   Expand your presence as you get more comfortable.
  2. Stay professional.  Pho advised that rules for online and offline professional behavior are identical:  behavior on the web is no different from behavior in the exam room.
  3. Think twice before you hit enter.  Pho reminded attendees that what you post on the web is permanently indexed by search engines so post thoughtfully not impulsively. 
  4. Manage your online reputation.  According to Pho you can’t get delete a negative online review but you can downplay its significance by creating a healthy online presence.  He noted that any page you put in your own name such as websites, blogs or social profiles on Linkedin, Twitter or Facebook, will rank more highly in search results than reviews on third party rating sites.  Additionally, he suggested being proactive by asking patients to submit reviews. He noted that most reviews are positive.  He also encourages doctors to Google their name at least once a week to continually monitor and protect their reputations.

 Pho closed by noting that the true value of social media for physicians may be its ability to strengthen and preserve relationships with patients.

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How Much Is a New Patient Worth to Your Medical Practice?

How Much Is a New Patient Worth to Your Medical Practice? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Determining the lifetime value of a new patient can help your medical practice run a more informed and cost-effective business.

In an increasingly competitive healthcare environment, there’s no way around the fact that in order to get a seat in the table, you have to ante up. That means investing in a variety of digital marketing tactics, such as search engine and social media advertising, content marketing, and website optimization. But how do you determine how much budget you can spend on patient acquisition while still remaining profitable?

By determining the actual lifetime value of a new patient for your medical practice, you’ll be better prepared to set realistic goals, build an impactful strategy, and justify your decisions to administrators. Most importantly, by assigning a hard value to each new patient gained, you’ll gain a practical understanding of what kind of marketing budget is appropriate in order to maximize your practice’s profitability.

How to Determine a Patient’s Value

The real question is, how do you actually go about calculating the lifetime value of your patients? It’s best to begin with the basics. Of course, you want the number to be as accurate as possible — but a bit of estimation is expected and perfectly acceptable. Here are a few of the considerations you should take into account:

  • Average cost of each in-office visit
  • How many times the average patient receives treatment
  • Average number of peer referrals per existing patient
  • Average recurring revenue generated by each patient
  • Revenue from procedures

For example, if you typically charge $120 for an in-office consultation, and the average patient visits the practice about five times per year, each patient is worth a minimum of $600 per year. However, if each of those patients, on average, makes two referrals that result in new appointments, their value effectively doubles. And that’s not even factoring in recurring revenue from follow-up visits, as well as revenue from procedures.

Then you have to consider that value over the course of a lifetime — the longer the patient stays with your practice, the longer you’ll continue earning the same amount of revenue (and sometimes even more) year after year.

Once you’ve identified the average baseline value of each new patient, you can determine all sorts of things, like how much you can afford to spend on various digital tactics while still remaining profitable.

Maximizing the Lifetime Value of Each Patient

Now that you’ve determined the potential lifetime value of each patient, it’s time to focus your efforts on improving that value. The good news is this is a relatively simple thing to do.

You should strive to make your practice as patient-focused as possible, both online and off. By improving the overall patient experience, you bolster loyalty, retention, and referrals. In an increasingly competitive healthcare environment, the value of a solid reputation is immeasurable. Also, remember that it’s much more expensive to find new patients than it is to hold onto existing ones.

At the end of the day, the deeper your understanding of who your patients are and the lifetime value they represent, the better you’re able to build the business side of your operation. By reducing revenue-related stress and uncertainty, you can focus more of your attention on quality of care, treatment, and patient satisfaction — in other words, the building blocks of a successful and sustainable medical practice.

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6 Legal Issues When Healthcare Gets Social 

6 Legal Issues When Healthcare Gets Social  | Social Media and Healthcare |

In the healthcare world, today’s patients demand greater flexibility, convenience and cost transparency when they access health care. This has changed the face of communications for the healthcare industry. Patients are increasingly turning to online sources and social media for information-related health issues. In fact, a recent global survey revealed that 29% of health industry respondents believe that social media for external communication, collaboration, and commerce is currently of the highest strategic importance to their organization.

However, as the healthcare industry seeks to drive down costs, there are 6 legal risks can arise when healthcare providers use social media and other new forms of communications:

  1. Patient Privacy – HIPAA and state privacy laws limit healthcare providers’ ability to interact with patients through social media and other forms of communications. HIPAA and state privacy laws prohibit healthcare providers from disclosing patient information without proper patient authorization. Information protected by HIPAA includes anything that can be used to identify a patient, including pictures. A healthcare provider discloses patient information without patient authorization in violation of HIPAA and/or state privacy laws can be subject in fines and other penalties.
  2. Litigation & eDiscovery – Healthcare providers and insurers are vulnerable to lawsuits from a wide variety of sources, from consumers, regulatory bodies and even employees, all of which translate into high cost and risks. One of the challenges of litigation is the growing complexities of litigation preparedness, especially around information management.
  3. Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the parties involved in a lawsuit are required to make good faith efforts to produce all information, written or electronic, requested by the opposing party. Failure to do so would result in expensive fines, the loss of the lawsuit and negative publicity
  4. Fraud and Abuse – Federal and state laws aimed at preventing fraud and abuse in health care prohibit healthcare providers from giving third parties anything of value as an inducement for the third party to generate referrals to the healthcare provider for services which may be reimbursable by Medicare or Medicaid. Paying third parties to use social media to talk up a healthcare provider’s services may present risks under laws aimed at preventing fraud and abuse, such as the federal Medicare and the Medicaid Patient Protection Act of 1987 (“Antikickback Statute”).
  5. Tax-Exempt Status – Healthcare providers that are exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code are prohibited from intervening in political campaigns and from seeking to influence legislation as a substantial part of their activities. This restriction may extend to advertising on or sponsoring social media or other public sites that support a political candidate or particular pieces of legislation.
  6. Physician Licensing – Healthcare professionals need to be careful about providing medical advice to patients using social media. If a patient receiving the medical advice from a doctor through social media is located in a state in which the doctor is not licensed, the doctor giving the advice risks liability under state licensing laws.
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Yelp for drugs? Sermo debuts drug-rating tool for doctors featuring reviews, ratings and comments

Yelp for drugs? Sermo debuts drug-rating tool for doctors featuring reviews, ratings and comments | Social Media and Healthcare |

Like consumers who scroll Amazon reviews, doctors looking for opinions on prescription drugs have a new place to turn. The Drug Ratings online database, launched last week by physician social network Sermo, allows doctors to tap into peer reviews, ratings and discussions about drugs.

The database—open to Sermo’s 650,000 members worldwide—was in beta until recently but already includes more than 1,000 drugs and more than 250,000 ratings. Drugs are rated anonymously across five different factors: efficacy, accessibility, adherence, safety and tolerance.

While pharma companies won’t be allowed to participate in the rating system, of course, Sermo will allow them access to the aggregate data. A Sermo spokeswoman further clarified via email that Sermo “will never share what any specific doctor has said about a drug, or anything else. Sermo exists to offer doctors a place to anonymously and collectively drive medicine forward, and Drug Ratings adheres to the same privacy standards as everything else on the Sermo social network.”

Sermo will not serve banners or any other advertising on the Drug Rating tool, she said.

Neurologist Heidi Moawad, M.D., was one of the beta testers of Sermo’s Drug Rating tool and found it helpful not only to look at other doctors’ ratings but also in providing an outlet for sharing.

“Doctors care a lot about sharing information. I know myself if I’ve had a negative side effects with a drug I want to share it with other doctors. You want people to have the most information possible when prescribing medicine,” she said.  

She likened the Drug Ratings tool to similar exchanges that happen in person in the hallway of a hospital or in a physician’s office corridor, where one doctor asks another for their opinions and experiences with a particular drug.

As for the pharma review of aggregate data, Moawad said she hopes companies might use the information to improve drugs, for instance, when there are many similar complaints about the same side effect.

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Five Ways to use Social Media to boost Private Medical Practice Marketing 

Five Ways to use Social Media to boost Private Medical Practice Marketing  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Expanding the patient base is the aim of every medical practice. However, nowadays traditional marketing practices are expensive and less effective. They are often also not responsive and do not give the desired result. Using social media can help any private medical practice boost patient traffic. Today, Facebook, Linkedin, Googel+, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter are the way! Advocates of social media stress over increasing online presence to improve business. This can also help boost patient base. Using social media to engage patients is the best way to better customer services. Doctors who update on the changing trends of the world and patient experience have the edge over other physicians. Social media provides an easy way to see what patients need. This helps turn obstacles into opportunities.

Five Ways to use Social Media to boost Private Medical Practice Marketing

Social Media, The Marketplace to Search Private Medical Practice Providers

Social media helps patients search private medical practice providers. It also helps physicians in improving different aspects of patient care. Keeping a tab on the latest health trends has become popular. Health trends that go viral online can help better engage patients and visitors. Such patterns reflect the needs of the people. A hospital can use social media to know what people talk about. It can target patients using proper strategies. Sharing content that caters to people’s needs on social media can guide patients to a particular medical service.

Spread The Message and Attract Patients

Proper use of social media helps a doctor to be known as an expert in his field of medicine. It is an excellent vehicle to promote one as a thought leader who focuses on promoting quality patient care. A family doctor can use social media platforms to share health tips. Share articles from medical websites about different diseases like allergies, chronic conditions, or ones that affect children. Such posts could entice patients and leave a good impression on them. This helps when the patient is thinking of switching to a new doctor.

Let Everyone Know How Awesome You Are

Social media is the best place to build a rapport with patients. Share new data or answer patient queries. Aim to respond to all comments, questions, and reviews with accurate and engaging content. The way a hospital, health care center or doctor responds to negative comments carries weight over positive reviews. Unlike customer complaints that take several days, the ones on social media can be quickly resolved. Though certain content is private, a public apology is viewed as an action taken in the right direction. When issues are resolved fast, patients realize that customer services are not taken lightly. Patients prefer such doctors and centers over ones that are not available for their patients.

Guide Patients To Your Clinic

A good way to improve patient volume via social media is to keep your contact information updated. It makes it easier for tech-savvy patients to locate a doctor and book an appointment online. Young people too find it easier to access such details via the internet. Mention all details right from the clinic address, its location using online maps, telephone number, email, office hours. Share links to any related website for ease. Booking appointments online is a new feature offered by many clinics. You can integrate your practice with one of the apps that already has that feature. Patients can schedule a visit from the comfort of their home with just a few clicks. This provides a platform to promote special hours or holiday offers. One can let patients know in real time about available last minute appointment bookings. Thus, booking canceled at the last minute can be filled by other patients. Providing excellent patient feedback on social media profiles can put you in a better position.

Use of social media for boosting one’s practice can seem like a lot of work initially. However, a planned strategy can help market your practice rapidly. RxTap offers all in one private medical practice management solution provider. Contact Us to know more about social media solution and services offered by our awesome team of expert digital marketing experts.

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Cedars-Sinai researchers identify patient medication concerns via social media

Cedars-Sinai researchers identify patient medication concerns via social media | Social Media and Healthcare |

The No. 1 treatment concern patients with inflammatory bowel disease voice is risk of side effects from biologic medications — even when risks are low.

A team led by Bibiana Martinez, a gastroenterology researcher at Los Angeles-based Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, used natural language processing tools to identify more than 15,000 IBD-related posts on Twitter and online forums. After analyzing relevant keywords and themes, the researchers published their findings on patient concerns in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation's journal.

The researchers found 28.3 percent of patients' posts focused on biologic medications. The majority (54.6 percent) of these posts discussed patient experiences and fears of negative side effects, while only 8.4 percent of posts discussed the cost of prescribed medications. Twenty-seven percent of posts were from patients asking for treatment advice, despite recently speaking with a physician.

"The complexity of navigating [IBD biologics'] risk-benefit profiles suggests merit in creating online tailored decision tools to support IBD patients' decision-making with biologic therapies," the study authors concluded.

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Social Media for Radiation oncologists: A Practical Primer

Social Media for Radiation oncologists: A Practical Primer | Social Media and Healthcare |



Social media is a powerful tool to exchange and disseminate knowledge. It can be used to enhance and share the value of our profession to a wider audience by creating an online presence, connecting to other healthcare professionals, sharing information with patients, keeping up to date on specific subjects, and facilitating virtual attendance at medical conferences. However, using these new tools can be difficult and a set of best practices is now available to physicians who wish to engage with patients or colleagues through social media. Medical ethics also apply to virtual communication. Guidance on creating and managing an online presence, sharing scientific or medical information and creating honest and responsible content is provided in this article.


Fifteen years ago, the National Cancer Institute stated in its 2001 budget proposal that the Internet was a “revolution unparalleled since Gutenberg introduced movable type to the western world in the 15th century” (1). Since then, online technologies have reshaped the way physicians practice medicine (2). Ninety percent of U.S. adults use the Internet, and more than 72% use it to look up health information(3). Social media is the sum of online communications channels dedicated to community-based input, interaction, content sharing or collaboration. They include personal websites, forums, microblogging (Tumblr or Twitter) and social networks (Facebook, Instagram). Thirty-five percent of patients have gone online to determine a medical condition they or someone else might have and eighteen percent also specifically went online to connect with other patients with health concerns similar to theirs (3). Healthcare professionals also use the Internet, and more recently social media, for many purposes: to create an online presence, to connect with others, to share information with patients, to keep up to date on specific subjects, and to virtually attend or discuss conferences (figure 1) (2, 4, 5) or listen to podcasts (6). For example, during the 2016 ASTRO Annual Meeting, over 4,400 tweets were exchanged and generated 13 million views over the Internet, up 270% from ASTRO’s previous annual meeting (figure 2, 1881 tweets and 7.5 million impressions)(7).

Figure 1

Number of tweets sent per day during annual meetings (ACoS : American College of Surgeons ; ASCO : American Society of Clinical Oncology ; ASTRO : American Society of Radiation Oncology ; AUA : American Urological Association ; RSNA : Radiological Society of North America)



Figure 2

Number of tweets sent per day during ASTRO 2014 to 2016 using the dedicated conference hashtag. Source :



The ways in which health professionals use social media in daily practice remains underexamined (8). Increasingly, doctors must balance ethical and legal requirements to protect patients and their confidentiality with the trend toward more transparency and public sharing online. New research will help define evidence-based ways to integrate our obligations to the public with our interests and responsibilities as public health advocates in cancer care. It is also our responsibility as health professionals to minimize the spread of fake news cancer stories, as this has been coming more prevalent in recent years.

Our aim in this article is to provide practical guidance to use these communication technologies ethically and effectively.

Best practices in social media for the radiation oncologist


Several general rules should be followed when using social media as a healthcare provider. Digital Health communications should generally follow the “4 Rs” (figure 3). Scientific societies have also already published several guidelines (9, 10), but oncologists should also follow specific rules. These simple guidelines will allow the physician to have an online presence complying with medical and/or scientific ethics.

Figure 3

The 4Rs of Digital Health communications


1. - Create an online professional identity and adopt a behavior similar to offline with medical ethics and professionalism


Your profile should use your real name, picture and clearly state your position and institution. Anonymous accounts should not be used to report or discuss medical opinion or expertise. Be honest, courteous, and professional. Do not engage in provocative content. If pushed, simply decline further discussion or, ignore the provocation. Think carefully before posting. Patients may search for their doctor, therapist or nurse online. Your profile and accounts should reflect who you really are.

Do not use social media for advertising or self-promotion. If you are sharing information about open clinical trials at your hospital, make sure to know your hospital’s policy or the IRB on how to publicly encourage trial participation. You should only report faithful information and not make unverified claims.

2. - Strictly separate your personal from your professional profiles


Some people may want to keep their private lives offline. Regardless, keeping something ‘private’ may also reflect upon you professionally. A solution for physicians could consist in creating two different profiles and not share personal content on their professional page. They should also carefully consider the right privacy settings for their personal account to avoid getting requests from patients on their personal page.

3. - Respect the doctor–patient relationship and patient confidentiality


Most social networks are open and public environment. Willingly or unwillingly identifying patients through name, case description or pictures is punishable by penalties and sanctions, in accordance with the law of your country. Patient information should only be communicated in a secure, protected HIPAA-compliant (most social network are not). Direct personal contact with a patient is not be encouraged on social media and should be referred to normal communication channels. Specifically on Facebook, friend requests from patients should not be accepted (11, 12).

4. - Respect your institution’s social media policy


A disclaimer can be included in your profile description to explicitly mention that the views expressed on your account do not represent those of your institution.

5. - Adapt to the existing communities to integrate and enrich them

The strongest communities are the one with the higher numbers of users. While being part of a community will help you to observe appropriate interactions and identify good and unacceptable behavior, it should not forbid you from expressing your own views in a respectful and polite manner. On Twitter, using the #radonc and disease-specific hashtags (13) may make your participation visible to a cancer-oriented audience. The discussion will be easier to follow and anyone willing to participate will be able to do so in a relevant way

6. - Adapt to the etiquette of the network you are using and use the appropriate terms


Each platform has specific good practice that you should adapt to. Try to get familiar with them before using a new platform. Once you join, watch others first to learn ‘netiquette’ before posting or creating a lot of content of your own.

Why do we need to use social media as radiation oncologists?

Our colleagues and patients often base their decision on the information they find online. A significant presence of oncology on the Internet and social media means more chance for anyone to find the relevant information regarding our complex specialty. Consenting to any treatment can only be based on a faithful and clear information. If a vast majority of patients now look for information online, the quality of this information may vary greatly from a website to another. Conflict of interest and biased information, through a false sense of knowledge, should not expose the patients to an inadequate treatment.

Social media is prone to spreading misinformation about science and health(14). If radiation oncologists do not fill the void of information about radiation oncology on the Internet, patients, industry, or other specialties will do it for us. Indeed, the value of social media has been well understood by others. The 2016 ASCO annual meeting generated more than 69,000 tweets with over 314 million views (15). This considerable amount of attention deeply influence general media, political sentiment and, most importantly, policy making.

Oncologists should consider reputation management relevant on an individual basis. For those concerned about negative patient reviews or press online, the best protection is to have a proactive, professional online presence that fills search engine queries to compete with any negative information.

While it’s important to have guidelines regarding social media, it’s just as important oncologists have a basic understanding of each social media platform, it’s intended audience, and it’s desired intent.

Perspective: a role for social media in cancer care?

As oncologists and researchers, we can no longer ignore the power of 21st century technological tools. Instead, we need to create a culture that explicitly engages us on social media to share the value of our profession. There is a need to better understand how patients use social media for cancer care in order to design specific online interventions to promote awareness on the best treatment options and clinical trials participation.

Data on whether these innovations are improving patient engagement or outcomes (e.g quality of life) do not exist. There is almost no literature evaluating the content and quality of social media in cancer care (16). Analysis of Twitter data could be easily performed, because almost all messages are directly accessible through the 3rdparty sites. But analysis of the same kind of data extracted from Facebook is still impossible for researchers without the corporation’s participation, because, this data is probably much more personal and detailed. Patient-reported outcomes on social media represent a true opportunity to better understand how patients live through our treatments. However, there are currently no standardized metrics or validated research methodology to explore social network statuses or tweets, beyond simple quantitative data. It is imperative in the coming years more research is completed in these arenas to better understand the impact of social media on different populations in health care.



Social media are changing the way we communicate with our colleagues and patients. Oncologists should learn to use these tools effectively. Simple rules should be followed to respect medical and scientific ethics online, as we do in real life. We also have a tremendous opportunity to better learn how patients are experiencing our treatments, which may then help us improve them. Since patients are using these media to look for the best treatment options, we owe it to them to share faithful and unbiased information online

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Social Media for Dentists: How to Get Clients using Social Media

Social Media for Dentists: How to Get Clients using Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Just like any other professional, dentists are always on the lookout for tools that can help them provide better services for their patients. Social media can be one of these tools. It’s not just about promoting their services. There is more to social media for dentists than that.

It all comes down to using social media in the right way. Read on to learn the various strategies that dental clinics can use to get the most out of the various social media sites available.

Why using social media is a must for dentists

A common question asked by dentists who are not yet on board social media is “Why should we?” First reason is because your clients are on there and they are already talking about you. Sometimes they’re not speaking of you very nice:


Here are some of the reasons that should convince you to sign up:

  • Establish your practice online: Even if you are a small clinic servicing your immediate neighborhood, it still pays to have a social media presence. It helps to get your trade known by those in neighboring communities and beyond, attracting new clients.
  • Social media can be used for customer service: The platform lets you respond to patient queries faster, and even when the clinic is closed. This also helps client retention, as they are more likely to stick to you.
  • Information dissemination becomes easier: Dentists have a sworn duty to provide the public with information on proper dental care. Social media is an effective avenue to disseminate that information 24/7.
  • It connects you with other people in the industry: Having more connections with dentists and other healthcare professionals can help you deliver a better service to your patients and increase your reach.

All these reasons should be enough to convince you to start setting up your social media accounts.

Building your LinkedIn presence

The first step in establishing your LinkedIn presence is having a good profile. A well-executed profile should have the following elements.

  • A well-written headline and summary: Your headline should adequately describe your specialization while also grabbing attention. On the other hand, your summary should have facts to support its claims.
  • A detailed listing of your skills and experience: State all the jobs that you have undertaken in the dental field, providing accomplishments made in these. List at least five skills relevant to your work.
  • Honors and achievements: One way to make your profile stand out is to highlight the awards and distinctions you have received throughout your career.

Keep the information on your LinkedIn profile up to date to maintain its effectiveness. This account is an example of how a good dentist profile should look.

Frequently posting status updates is also a good way to make your profile visible. The updates should not only be relevant to your trade but also have some use for your followers. For instance, you can post about:

  • The new treatment that your clinic is offering.
  • Home dental care tips your audience should be aware of.
  • To better connect with other dentists, start discussing the latest news in your field.

LinkedIn is a vibrant community of your customers, and your fellow professionals. Share information which will best to attract the audience you want to target among them.

Building your LinkedIn connections

When it comes to social media for dentists, building your network of connections plays a large role in your success on LinkedIn. The network that you create can be used to reach out to both potential clients and other people from the industry.

The first people that you should connect with are the ones that you are already acquainted with, such as past colleagues. They will be the most likely to accept your connection request without further introduction.

When reaching out to others in the industry you need a convincing reason for them to connect with you. This is where your initial connections can be a lot of help, as they can be leveraged to provide referrals. It can also be useful to use our LinkedIn Connections Service. This service will help you establish your social proof, and make other dentists believe that you are an important member of the industry.

Using LinkedIn Groups

LinkedIn Groups are another place that you would want to hang out in to further increase your prominence. There is a multitude of dentistry-related groups on the site. They are going to be full of other dentists, offering you great amounts information and insight. Here’s an example LinkedIn Group:

Remember that you must be active to get the most out of LinkedIn Groups. Regularly comment on the threads you are interested in and answer the questions asked by other members. This results in continuous interactions between you and them.

One thing that you need to avoid is self-promotion. Instead, present your content in a helpful light, bringing it up only to answer the needs of your fellow members.

Harnessing the power of Twitter for dentists

One of the challenges for dentists using Twitter for marketing is how to make the most out of the 140 characters available to them. Some of the info that you can tweet about are:

  • Announcements and advisories coming from your clinic or other organizations
  • News about the latest developments in your field
  • Articles and tips on proper dental hygiene
  • Lighter topics still pertaining to your trade
  • Dates for upcoming events and conferences

Each of these is going to better when you use a variety of media. Videos, in particular, are great for providing more detailed content. This will help you convey more information than you used to be able to and your simple 140 character limit. Here’s an example:


Sharing and retweeting other dentists’ content is also a good idea. This is an easy way to share relevant information, as well as make connections with other people in your industry. It also opens the door to them wanting to share your information in the future.

Using Twitter for customer service

You can use Twitter as an effective means of providing real-time customer service. One thing that you need to keep in mind when doing customer service on Twitter is that the conversation you have with the patient is publicly displayed. Including statements like this:

Well the dentist sucks he left ridges and filled one so overlapping it's affecting my bite. Jackass!



As such, it would be best if you are the one to address their concerns. Not only will you be able to better handle their questions, but this will also reflect well on your public image since others will see you in action. On the other side of things, don’t forget to thank your clients for positive feedback.

"This is seriously the best dentist I have ever been to. Best customer service I have ever had." -Monica via Yelp

We appreciate you Monica!



Take advantage of Twitter’s Customer Feedback Cards to assess how well your responses are being received. This is a new feature of the platform that lets your customers rate your performance. The results you get can then be leveraged to emphasize your good customer care record.

Connecting with other dentists on Twitter

Twitter can also be used to develop your professional network. You don’t have to go through a formal request to connect. All you need is hit the follow button and you can start engaging them.

Sharing other dentists’ content is one of the ways that you can engage them. While you don’t always need to ask permission to retweet their content, crediting them in your retweets is always a nice gesture.


Your patients can also benefit from the professional network you build on Twitter. For instance, you can refer them to the dentists you are following in case they have special needs that you might not be able to meet. This fosters a strong three-way relationship between you, your patient, and the other dentist that will bring you a lot of benefits.

Facebook for dentists

As it is with the other social media platforms for dentists, having a well-made page for your customers to visit is the first step in building your presence. For this, your page profile needs to be completely filled out, particularly your About section:

  • Your clinic’s complete address and phone number
  • Your business hours
  • Links to your website and other social media accounts
  • A short description of your practice and services

Make sure that all the details you put in here are correct and up to date. Here is a dentist’s account on Facebook which gets everything right.

Verifying your Facebook page is one step that you shouldn’t forget. This lets your patients know that they have found your real account.

Posting the right content

One great thing about Facebook is that you don’t have to worry about character limits for your posts. When you need to share a lot of the information though, use a variety of media content like photos, videos, and infographics.

As is with other social media for dentists, avoid being a hard sell on Facebook. One good rule of thumb here is that, for every ten posts you make, only one should be purely promotional.

YouTube for dentists

Of the various social media for dentists, YouTube one site that some might pass up on. Google notes that around 64 percent of people looking for health care information online watch videos to learn about clinics, hospitals, and other providers.

Coming up with video ideas for your YouTube channel is actually fairly easy:

  • Create videos about your service, using before and after photos.
  • Put up testimonials from former patients, which can be used to further convince viewers to check these out.
  • You can also post “How-to” videos that focus on proper dental hygiene, such as proper brushing and flossing, like this video on the topic.

These are relatively easy to make and you can shoot them right from your phone. You or a staff member can be the one to “star” in the video, which helps bring you closer to potential patients. To get your new videos going you can buy YouTube views to attract attention.

Creating follow-up action

Special offers and incentives are some of the common ways that you can push your audience to make the next move. This offer from Kings Dental Clinic is a good example of how this goes.

When implementing this strategy, your video should end with a clear call to action for your viewers to click on the provided link. The link directs them to a page where they follow the provided instructions in order to claim the offer. Make the URL unique so that you can track how many people are sent from your video to website.

Social media for dentists: getting more clients

Social media, for dentists, can be a useful tool for both marketing their practices and helping patients. To be effective on both fronts, you need to know how to harness it the right way using these important points:

  • Identify the right social media sites: You don’t need to be on all the platforms, but you do need to be present on the ones where your patients are.
  • Focus on delivering a good service: Remember that you have a sworn duty to provide proper dental care for your patients. Make this a pillar of your social media presence.
  • Add more value to your services: By providing the public with the right information on dental hygiene, you give them a reason to visit your practice for more details.
  • Engage your patients the right way: Use social media to respond to their concerns.

Follow these reminders and you can effectively grow your practice, attract more clients, and better serve your community using social media.

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Innovation in clinical trials – What’s the future of patient recruitment?

Innovation in clinical trials – What’s the future of patient recruitment? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Clinical trials sit at the core for answering important scientific questions, advancing medical research and improving outcomes against diseases. Patients are at the heart of clinical trials. They are the real “end users” of the drug that is being investigated and whose well-being matters the most. Needless to say, patient recruitment and retention is fundamental for the conduct, completion and the eventual success of a clinical trial. No patients – no clinical trials, no new drugs, surgical procedures or devices and thus no advancement in science to combat diseases. Despite such paramount need, recruitment in clinical trials remain as one of the biggest issues plaguing the industry. The data is there and the numbers are astonishing. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), more than 80% of clinical trials in the US fail to meet their enrollment timelines. Retention of study subjects is at an all-time low with average drop-out rates being 30% across all clinical trials1. For each day a pharmaceutical or biotech company goes beyond the planned deadline for a clinical trial it stands to lose millions of dollars in expected sales. Such implications go even beyond the financials; delays significantly hamper innovation and medical progress.

“No patients – no clinical trials, no new drugs…”

Judging by the numbers, it comes as no surprise that drug companies and CROs are spending significant amount of time and money towards increasing patient enrollment and retention. Relying on the investigators to find suitable patients is simply not enough. Pharma companies must adopt digital health tools and go directly to the consumer. Powerful social media networks and smartphones can be used to increase company relevance and help drive patient acquisition and retention.


Healthcare organizations and pharmaceutical companies must take digital health seriously as a tool to attract, engage and retain patients. Smartphones are slowly becoming the no.1 device for consumer attention replacing television, radio etc. By 2020, 67% of 65+ seniors who use the internet will also have smartphones. Consequently, the adoption of mhealth – wearables, mobile apps, etc. is also increasing amongst seniors. Among the 65+ population, wearables adoption has grown by 264%, more than 5 times faster than general population8. A recent research showed patients are getting more and more comfortable communicating with providers via digital channels: 83 percent of patients are comfortable communicating via mobile apps, 77 percent are comfortable with texts, 75 percent are comfortable with online chat, and 69 percent of patients are comfortable with video chat7. These numbers will only continue to increase as technology advances and as millennials and future generations’ age. In the next decade or so, wearables will advance by not only acting as data providers for an individuals health at a single time point but also as consultants/coaches providing 24/7 real world, real-time analysis of your health and suggestions to be the healthiest version of yourself. Patients are relying more and more on digital health tools to understand their health.
This recognition of the advantages of digital health has kick started collaborations between pharmaceutical companies and digital health tools which has led to increased patient recruitment and engagement in clinical trials.

PatientsLikeMe is a health network for patients to connect with others, find new options for treatments and contribute data for research. One of the aims of PatientsLikeMe is to provide its commercial partners a platform to increase clinical trial awareness by allowing targeted messaging about trials for which patients might be eligible for based on the data they have submitted through their profiles. Last year, Biogen and PatientsLikeMe collaborated on a study to investigate whether patients with multiple sclerosis found it useful to track their activity using FitBits. Within a day of launching the study, 248 patients had been enrolled and 77% completed the study and follow-up survey. Collaborations like these benefit both the patients, who get accelerated access to clinical trials, and pharmaceutical companies who get a boost in patient recruitment, improved clinical trial timelines and thus save millions of dollars.

There have also been instances where digital health devices have been used by research sites to recruit a large number of people who might be willing to participate in future trials. Using Apple’s ResearchKit framework, a group at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, developed a free Asthma Health app. The app was downloaded by 50000 people and it enabled users with asthma to participate in a large-scale medical research study entirely through their iPhones. The study enrolled more than 8,600 participants within six months without any direct, in-person contact with researchers2. The app also helped widen the geographic reach of the study; 87% of the participants enrolled did not live near the study site in New York. This highlights the potential digital health has in significantly improving the efficiency of clinical trials saving time, money and resources. Participating in a clinical trial where patient has to travel long distances often acts as a deterrent for the patient especially if it requires multiple visits. “Virtual trials” through mobile health allow all patients to participate regardless of geographic location. This not only ensures geographic diversity in patient populations but also results in a clinical trial requiring less sites, investigators and other operational costs.


The phenomenal growth of social media in spreading information and creating communities is undeniable. It has created a wide range of opportunities for recruiting patients into clinical trials. From Facebook, Twitter to Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube, social media is where the patients are and that offers sponsors an avenue to engage directly with them. 72% of internet users look online for health information, however, only 3% of pharmaceutical promotional spending goes to digital channels4. According to Accenture report, 63% of 65+ seniors use the internet and 47% of them use social media in 20158. A recent report shows that millennials, who are also the world’s largest generation, are present across all social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat etc6. Another report shows YouTube can be a strong resource for patient recruitment and engagement. It has a billion active users and it reaches more 18-49 year olds than any cable networks in the US. 35% of Gen X, 49% of Gen Y & 70% of Gen Z watch videos on YouTube on a daily basis and only 4% of Gen X, 2% of Gen Y & 1% of Gen Z doesn’t use the platform at all5. As Gen Y & Z ages, they will rely more and more on social media for health related information than ever before.

A group at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada analyzed the impact of social media on the recruitment of pregnant women in an ongoing randomized, open-label clinical trial. This study assessed the effectiveness of social media as a recruitment tool by comparing it to traditional recruiting methods. In Phase 1 of the study, only traditional healthcare-based sources such as posters, ads and brochures were used for recruitment. In Phase 2 of the study, the traditional methods were used and social media was added as a supplementary source. In the first phase of the study, with over 56 months of recruitment using traditional sources, 35 women were enrolled in the study. However, in the 6 months implementing recruitment through social media, 45 women were recruited representing a 12-fold higher rate of mean recruitment per month3.

This shows how far the pharmaceutical industry lags behind towards understanding consumer behavior and using it to drive patient recruitment. Following that, the question becomes how do sponsors leverage these platforms to drive patient recruitment? The answer is: by driving consumer engagement and wielding influence. Social media can be used to share research and get the word out about a clinical trial device or treatment that patients may not know about. For example, Twitter can be used by sponsors by tweeting out a headline (containing the hashtag of the drug and the disease) and linking the tweet to an article regarding the particular trial. Facebook being the no.1 social media platform can be used as an effective tool to get important information out to the audience by using Facebook Ads or using various Facebook disease groups to get the word out for a particular trial that may benefit that patient population. Creating effective videos about a certain trial and sharing it on YouTube as well as Instagram and Snapchat stories will allow pharma companies to reach a wide range of audience. The idea isn’t to use all these platforms to coerce patients but rather to drive engagement and discussion thus creating more awareness about a trial for which a particular patient or even a physician might not have been aware of before.

As technology advances and users, healthcare providers and pharmaceutical sponsors work together, we will see a seamless integration of all digital health tools in clinical trials. This will lead to faster, better and extremely efficient clinical trials resulting in faster breakthroughs and thus faster drug discovery and development.


  2. Lee SM. How an iPhone Medical Research App Is Helping People with Asthma. BuzzFeedNews. September 29, 2015.
  3. Shere, Mahvash, Xiu Yan Zhao, and Gideon Koren. “The role of social media in recruiting for clinical trials in pregnancy.”PloS one9.3 (2014): e92744.
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How to Target New Patients with PT Advertising 

How to Target New Patients with PT Advertising  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Practice owners know that not all new patients equal the same results for your business. Typically, there are a few types of new patients that each present their own unique set of pros and cons. From compliance issues and delinquent payees to stretching superstars and frequent referrers, the patient can often make or break the experience with your clinic. So how can you target the right type of patients that bring both results and revenue to your practice?

PT advertising is not just creating monthly newsletters and posting blogs to your website and social media. Marketing is only successful in attracting new patients when the ideal viewer is within your target. For example, your goal is to get 20 new patients per month from your website and social media. Each month you are getting 15 appointments from the website and 5 from Facebook. But, those from Facebook tend to be less reliable and compliant with more payment issues. On one hand, you are meeting your goal of 20 new patients per month from online marketing. However, 5 of those often yield less than optimal results and create billing challenges for your practice. How can you still make your online marketing conversion goal—and get better patients from Facebook? The answer is targeted advertising.

Download our free guide for tips on marketing your PT practice and getting more new patients

First, you need to identify the demographics around which patients perform the best for your practice from a conversion and compliance perspective. Are they mostly 35-55 years old professionals? Or, do you see the best results with seniors 55+ who are retired? Maybe athletes age 25-45 with full time jobs are top patients. Once you know your advertising demographic, it’s time to optimize your marketing to attract those new patients.

5 Tips to Target New Patients with Advertising:

  1. For older populations, invest more heavily in print marketing such as newsletters or postcards. This demographic is less likely to convert from online sources like your website or social media. Having an informative and persuasive promotion that explains the benefits of PT and drives a “Call to Make an Appointment” message.
  2. For busy professional populations, target quick digital advertising that fits with their on-the-go lifestyle. Emails, e-newsletters and your website are key points of interest to these patients. There is a balance of advertising and spamming though! You need to find that sweet spot of staying top of mind but not feeling overwhelming or aggressive.
  3. For those with full time jobs or active families, advertising should aim for times and days when they have a chance to slow down and digest the information. Sending an email at 10AM on a Monday will most likely be deleted or ignored. Instead, opt to send emails and social media posts in the afternoon or evening to stand out among the other communications.
  4. For retirees, try a mix of timing and media to reach those prospective patients. Post to Facebook between 8-11AM to reach seniors catching up online. Radio and TV commercials also work well for this group. You can also get creative with ads in the newspaper and flyers at community centers.
  5. For younger demographics, the key factor is make it easy to book at appointment. Students and young professionals do not want to have to call into the office. Use your website and social media to drive viewers to an online “Make Appointment” form that someone from your office will promptly respond to. Incorporating services like Online Bill Pay and scheduling are key to feel relevant to the digital crowd.

To target new patients with physical therapy advertising, you need to 1) know who you want to reach and 2) how to best reach them. This takes a mix of diving deep into your marketing analytics and optimizing content + delivery for your promotions

- See more at:

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How Digital is Pharma? | Thought leadership and innovation for the Pharmaceutical Industry

How Digital is Pharma? | Thought leadership and innovation for the Pharmaceutical Industry | Social Media and Healthcare |

Digital transformation will impact pharma in many ways, not least through innovation in medical technology, customer experience for both patients and healthcare professionals, and platforms to facilitate and measure outcomes-based care. What is clear is that companies will need a deep understanding of the digital world and improved internal skills if they are to succeed.

To better understand how ready companies were for the digital tidal wave, a year ago, we looked at the digital intensity of pharma companies, and highlighted J&J’s strength and the slower response of others, such as AstraZeneca and Pfizer. To measure digital intensity, we looked at the number of employees who referred to ‘digital’ in their LinkedIn title.

In February, we repeated the analysis for a third year; the big news is that Bayer has joined J&J/Janssen at the top of the table, with 4.8 digital employees per thousand, an increase of 150% since 2015 when it went public with its digital transformation project.

Examples of Bayer’s external actions include a more relaxed/digitally native voice on social media and the grant4apps program that encourages external innovation, while, internally, it has run hackathons and worked to change its culture. It will be interesting to see how this momentum and focus changes while integrating with Monsanto.

J&J continues to invest in digital and remains ahead – but only just. Recent external actions included a sleep tracking and coaching system for babies, and investments in StartUp Health and an ADHD app in Japan. It has also added positions focused on digital health at its innovation labs.

Novartis’ growth has levelled off; it is likely bedding down a number of organizational changes and trying to prove the effectiveness of its current approach. It recently announced the launch of a connected inhaler with Propeller Health, which now has five partnerships with pharma companies. Also, the company has stated an interest in moving to outcomes-based payments, so it will be interesting to see how it uses digital in this space.

Eli Lilly continued its strong growth on our measure of digital intensity, and has made some external investments including a connected Epi Pen. Sanofi and GSK remained the middle of the pack; an interesting example is GSK’s partnership with 2Morrow, which allows patients to order nicotine patches free from an app, a model of patient convenience and a break with the doctor as gatekeeper that others could follow.

The digital divide between Roche and Genentech identified last year continued [1], with Roche growing by 29% and Genentech staying steady. Roche has invested in capabilities to improve clinical trial efficiency as well as its digital marketing and multichannel capabilities.

Pfizer also saw strong growth, moving it out of the bottom three. In addition to marketing capabilities, like Roche, it has invested in digital capabilities in clinical trials. Pfizer’s low position was taken by Abbvie, which has moved down the table from third two years ago due to a lack of significant changes on this measure.

Merck and AstraZeneca remain at the bottom. Merck grew 36% and has a number of investments, with the Merck Global Health Innovation Fund in workflow, behavioral change and chronic care support that could be support future moves. AZ was flat in numbers but launched AZHelps to support patients with information and access for its medicines and basic support for non-AZ medications.

We’d love to hear how you think the digital title reflects the true commitment of these companies and how it compares to the changes you’ve seen in the last 12 months.

Douglas Haggstrom is an Independent Consultant and Tina Boggiano is Principal Consultant, Life Sciences, at PA Consulting Group.

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Build a Social Media Toolkit! Strategies for organisations to engage and optimise their social media platforms

Health Evidence presented an interactive 90 minute workshop at the 2017 Cochrane Canada Symposium. Participants learned about techniques, strategies, and resou…
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How To Get More Patients From Social Media

I walk you through what the top practices are doing to get a consistent flow of new patients instead of waiting around for referrals
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Social Media and Tech for Health Research

A part of the Workshop on Social Media for Health Research at ICWSM 2017, here we go over the recent history of health-related social media and other technolog…
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Social Media and Health: Information Overload?

Social Media and Health: Information Overload? | Social Media and Healthcare |

For plenty of us, focusing on and filtering information can be a challenge. Gutenberg opened the information floodgates first with the invention of the printing press. Similarly, all the devices and channels we now use to access that information, with social media playing a starring role, made information more available—and took away social restrictions on who publishes new content.

So why would having more access to information be a problem? Because of the health effects of social media. As Paul Hemp pointed out in the Harvard Business Review, “Researchers say that the stress of not being able to process information as fast as it arrives—combined with the personal and social expectation that, say, you will answer every email message—can deplete and demoralize you.”

As more and more information is hurled at us more frequently and in new, more invasive ways, our attention span diminishes while we simultaneously feel guilty for not being able to keep up. Then we’re faced with the dilemmas of whether sources and their information are credible. And heaven forbid we receive conflicting messages. The irony of this is, though researchers warn of social media’s potential ill effects on health, it’s also one of the newest vehicles healthcare professionals can use to connect with their patients.

Side Effects of Social Media: Pros and Cons

The average person spends nearly two hours a day on social media. In the course of a human life, that equates to 5 years and 4 months spent staring at the screen. But research suggests that level of use isn’t healthy for everyone.

A 2015 study conducted by Ottawa Public Health found that teenagers who were logged in for 2 hours a day were more at risk for mental health problems, including psychological distress and thoughts of suicide. However, researchers were careful to point out that despite the clear connection between social media and mental health, causality cannot be determined. Heavy social media usage may play a role in poor mental health, but it is also likely that poor mental health drives users to satisfy unmet needs through social media, opening a vicious cycle.

Satisfying those needs through social media is not necessarily a bad thing. Aaron Harvey, who founded Intrusive Thoughts, a resource network for people struggling with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), told one reporter that if users access social media for connection and community, its original purpose, “then the benefits outweigh the costs.” Harvey also said he believes that while it’s easy to blame social media for poor self-esteem, social media isn’t the problem. How we engage with it and allow it to penetrate our daily lives, on the other hand, is.

Social media and mental health: There are some proven benefits.

  1. Fosters community and togetherness, giving even those who live alone more potential connections
  2. Allows users to keep in touch with friends and family members from great distances
  3. Makes it easy to gather lots of information quickly

However, the reverse is also true for some who use social media.

  1. Decreases number and quality of in-person interactions
  2. Encourages dependency on devices, which can cause anxiety for those trying to keep up with notifications and alerts
  3. Causes depression in some heavy users who compare their lives to friends’ online representations

As with anything in life, moderation and balance are key. Social media has become such an ingrained part of our existence that it isn’t realistic (or necessarily beneficial) to cut it out completely. Instead, director of Pitt’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health Dr. Brian A. Primack explained, “Because social media has become such an integrated component of human interaction, it is important for clinicians interacting with young adults to recognize the balance to be struck in encouraging potential positive use, while redirecting from problematic use.” One potential positive use would allow patients to connect with their healthcare providers on these platforms.

Self(ie) Help

There are a few steps you can take to help yourself navigate social media in your personal life with less stress.

  1. Turn down the notification noise to a dull roar.
    “Alerts and notifications can increase anxiety,” Harvey pointed out. Try turning off your application notifications, and only check social media during certain times of the day.
  1. Introduce a level of purpose to your social media channels.
    Focus on who and what you follow on social media feeds. Eliminate the things that increase your anxiety. “If you had to go with one primary social channel, what would it be and why?” Harvey asked. “I think there’s a lot of pressure on people to be on every platform.” No, you don’t have to deactivate your Facebook—or your Instagram, your Snapchat, and your Twitter—“but at the end of the day, you have to take a step back and figure out what’s actually meaningful for you and not just on trend,” he said.
  1. Balance social media with real-world interactions.
    Don’t lose sight of your current ways of connecting with friends. If you’ve always met up once a week or had a Friday night phone call, a group text isn’t an appropriate replacement.

The Social Media and Healthcare Connection

Some health professionals are beginning to use social media and other new technologies to meet the general populace where they are and bring healthcare to them.

“We see social networking sites, which may be a problem for some, also being a solution,” Dr. Brenda K. Wiederhold of the Interactive Media Institute in San Diego said in a statement reacting to the Ottawa Public Health study’s findings. “Since teens are on the sites, it is the perfect place for public health and service providers to reach out and connect with this vulnerable population and provide health promotion systems and supports.”

Here are just a few of the ways healthcare professionals are using social media and other new technologies to connect with patients.

Using the Internet as the world’s largest medical library. The wealth of information online, and the ease with which it’s updated, means doctors can stay up to date on the latest research, technology, and treatments. (And a smartphone is a lot less unwieldy than those thick medical tomes.)

Encouraging accountability between patients and providers. Reviews are ubiquitous on social media, and doctors work with the knowledge that any patient can publish their experience in a matter of minutes. Sixty percent of doctors feel that social media has improved the care patients receive.

Producing apps so patients can track progress toward health goals. There are 165,000 health-focused apps out there, and half of them are free. These apps can help encourage patients to achieve their goals or track progress between doctor’s appointments. Apps geared toward diet, stress, sleep, exercise, reproductive health, medication reminders, mental health, and diabetes are just a sample of what’s out there.

Creating accurate, credible resources. Because anyone can publish information online, some healthcare providers feel a responsibility to provide their patients with content they can trust—and to share that content on social media. And patients tend to be more receptive to content from doctors than from health brands. Even more striking—60 percent of people said they trust social posts from doctors more than any other group out there.

Maintaining social media accounts for offices or practices. More than half of all physician practices in America have a Facebook page. Medical professionals also have a presence on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and even 4Square. These accounts offer patients a way to leave and read reviews as well as helping doctors reach more potential patients and recruit staff.

Scheduling appointments and following up with patients. When patients can use social media to request appointments and doctors choose this channel for follow-up conversations, agile response time is a big benefit.

Social media may just be a powerfully effective way for providers and patients to communicate, according to cardiologist Dr. Kevin Campbell. “Patients are already in cyberspace, and social media allows physicians to figure out what they are thinking, what they are doing, [and] what we can do better to serve the patients’ needs.”

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Exploring social media as a public education tool to increase awareness of early psychosis intervention

#EPION2017 Session D1. NorthBEAT 2.0: Exploring social media as a public education tool to increase awareness of early psychosis intervention and its services …
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Social Media use within medical education: A systematic review

Background: Since the early 2000s social media has become a major part of our daily lives, and over the past decade it has found its way into the medical profession. Despite its ubiquity, only 5 systematic reviews exist on the subject of social medial use within medical education. The reviews conclude that there are positive correlations linked to social media use however the studies are restricted by the same limitations: a lack of quantitative data and the fact that social media research fast becomes outdated. This review will therefore examine the latest studies in order to identify which questions remain to be answered and what areas need further development in order for social media to become a credible resource within medical education. The information gained from this process will be amalgamated to create a valid questionnaire which will produce quantitative data.

Methods: A systematic review of Pubmed, Cochrane, PsychINFO, ERIC & Scopus was conducted following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. The search was from 1st January 2014 to the 12th January 2017 and included keywords linked with social media and medical education. 27 papers were identified: 12 qualitative and 15 quantitative. From this data a questionnaire was drafted and put to a focus group in order for it to be validated.

Results: Six major themes were identified and analysed: community & interactivity, communication & feedback, learning theories, social media vs traditional didactic lectures, role of faculty and professionalism. Quantitative data was limited but highlighted the efficiency of social media use especially when Facebook and Twitter were used. After the analysis a validated questionnaire was produced.

Conclusion: Social media can be a useful tool within the medical curriculum if implemented correctly. The final questionnaire can be used to generate quantitative data on the following questions: which platforms are most effective and for what purposes? How beneficial is social media to teaching? and What do students understand the benefits/disadvantages of academic social media platforms to be?

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