Social Media and Healthcare
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The Modern Patient Treatment Journey

Today’s patients are active stakeholders in their healthcare journey and more digitally-aware than ever. Their decision making is not linear - it’s complex, ir…
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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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Here’s Why LinkedIn Matters to Your Medical Practice

Here’s Why LinkedIn Matters to Your Medical Practice | Social Media and Healthcare |

The adage is true: don’t go to the party if you’re not going to dance.

In this week’s podcast we sit down with Danielle Owings, Insight Marketing Group’s social media strategy specialist, for an in-depth discussion about LinkedIn. The key takeaway? LinkedIn matters to your medical practice, but not in all the ways you might think.

According to Craig Smith of DMR Stat Reports, LinkedIn has almost 500 million users, including 128 million users in America alone. Of them, 90% make household decisions, and 14% don’t use Facebook. That means for hundreds of potential patients, LinkedIn is one of their main social hubs and what you post may make the difference between an appointment with your office and a competitor down the street. Oh, and don’t forget that by ignoring your LinkedIn page, you are potentially neglecting an incredible human resource talent to fill open positions at your practice.

Used the right way, LinkedIn can be a great tool in your social media marketing strategy and an effective way to brand your practice with a targeted, engaged audience.

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Online Physicians and Health Reform – By the Numbers

Online Physicians and Health Reform – By the Numbers | Social Media and Healthcare |

As you’re likely aware, the US House of Representatives last week narrowly passed House of Representatives Bill 2192 – more commonly known as the American Health Care Act (AHCA) or Trumpcare. There was a time when physicians wouldn’t have been considered terribly “political,” and there still is a strongly pervasive “culture of permission” in medicine (see Dr. Bryan Vartabedian‘s thinking on this evolving phenomenon). However, like many other things we’ve taken for granted in the Trump era, the old rules really just don’t apply.

In order to assess physicians’ reactions to our most recent version of health reform, we consulted the MDigitalLife Online Health Ecosystem database. As a frame of reference, during the 3-year period between 2014 and 2016, .43% of physicians’ posts were related to health reform*. In the “new normal” of 2017, that percentage has risen to 3.1%, an increase of more than 6x.

Because we suspected that the passage of HR2192 in the house was going to cause a firestorm among online physicians, we decided to zoom in on the week that it was passed – Monday the 1st of May through Friday the 5th of May. As suspected, the passage of the house bill caused quite a stir.

NOTE: All statistics below are based on a random sample of 10,000 US Physicians posting between January 1, 2017 and May 5, 2017.



In and of themselves, however, those numbers don’t mean much. What is really interesting, though, is looking at those numbers in the context of TOTAL online physicians’ posts. Remember, we established that in the “old normal,” .43% of US physicians’ posts would be about health reform. And in the new normal, about 3.1% would be about health reform. On Thursday of this past week (5/4/2017), the day that the AHCA passed the house, a staggering 28.7% of US physicians’ posts were about health reform.

One of the things we’ve learned after years of studying online conversations is that going strictly by the number of posts can be misleading because it’s possible for a few very heavy posters to sway the balance for an entire population. For that reason, we also look carefully at the number of unique authors involved in every conversation. In this case, the unique authors were also explosively high – 16.9% of all physicians who posted on the 4th of May, posted something about health reform.

Fig. 2 – Percentage of US Physicians posting on Health Reform from 1 May to 5 May, 2017

Just as the debate around health reform has been a volatile one, so has physicians’ participation. Unsurprisingly, the spikes in the participation have been centered around votes (or anticipated votes) in the house.

Fig. 3 – Percentage of US MDs posting about health reform relative to all physicians posting

It’s also quite telling to examine these conversations in terms of who physicians are engaging as they post about health reform; in other words, who are they talking to and about. Below is a mention map illustrating exactly who these US physicians are talking to and about as the post on health reform during the week of 1 May, 2017. Click on the image (or here) to be taken to an interactive version of this map, in which you can identify each node by name.

Fig. 4 – “Mention Map” – Who are US physicians talking TO and ABOUT in health reform conversations

An upcoming post will focus on identifying some of the attitudes & sentiment of these physicians relative to health reform and its architects. However, I can tell you that anecdotally, the posts have been overwhelmingly oriented to physicians expressing concern about patients ability to receive adequate care should the AHCA pass the Senate. In fact, many physicians have been actively soliciting their peers for opinions; some more formal than others. I wanted to draw your attention to a particularly fascinating (and passionate) online conversation sparked by Esther Choo, MD/MPH, a member of the faculty at the Oregon Health and Science University’s Center for Policy and Research in Emergency Medicine. Dr. Choo made such a request (see below) that has garnered nearly 200 responses along with almost 2,000 retweets (so far). It makes for a fascinating read – I encourage you to read some of those responses, and join in yourself as appropriate.

There’s much more to come on this subject; in the meantime please don’t hesitate to reach out to the MDigitalLife team should you have any questions related to the reporting you’ve seen here, or would like to see how you and your organization could leverage the unique data, analysis and insights that are made possible only through the MDigitalLife Online Health Ecosystem database.

*Based on a random sample of 25,000 US physicians posting between 1 January 2014 and 31 December 2016 – a sample size of 21,451,617 posts

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Marketing your practice on social media platforms

Marketing your practice on social media platforms | Social Media and Healthcare |

Put a plan in place now for both your general online and social media presence so you can use them to effectively to communicate with and educate patients, said Kimberly Cockerham, MD, and Usiwoma Abugo, MD, Central Valley Eye Medical Group, Stockton, California. Dr. Cockerham and Dr. Abugo reviewed popular online sites and shared some tips for how to use them effectively Your website Even if you are part of a website for an institutional setting, you still may have your own business website. In Dr. Cockerham’s subspecialty of plastics, physicians are especially more apt to have their own websites. Keep your website communication simple and effective. “Less is always more,” she said. Include a photo of yourself; use a professional photographer who is skilled with photo editing to optimize a natural yet enhanced photo that makes you look professional but also friendly, Dr. Cockerham advised. It has long been thought that keywords are important for websites, but title tags and meta tags are now the key to help people find your website, Dr. Cockerham said. Speak with your webmaster to learn more about the appropriate tags. Two more tips from Dr. Cockerham: 1.  Keep the text on your site simple (for example, use “eye lift” instead of “blepharoplasty” or other medical terms). 2.  If you have multiple locations, focus your website marketing efforts on where you want more referrals, such as a location where you might have more premium IOL or refractive cataract patients. To get a better sense of how Dr. Cockerham approaches website design, visit her site at Check your online presence Check your online presence Do an online search of your name and your practice to see what you find, Dr. Cockerham recommended. Go beyond just the first page to read what information comes up. See where you can add your picture on certain sites (such as sites that aggregate information about doctors), and have a staff member verify that factual information is accurate--this can include your location, website, and phone number. 5/12/2017 2/3 1. Twitter Twitter is a great way to educate patients, but it is underutilized right now within ophthalmology, Dr. Abugo said. Twitter is important because you can influence via education. This is an area where ophthalmology is lacking behind other specialties,” she said. The specialty of plastic surgery shines ahead of other specialties in its usage of Twitter, both on the part of surgeons as well as to report research findings, Dr. Abugo said. “When you have effective communication [on Twitter], you gain followers, which equals more patients, which equals more money,” she said. If you are unsure what to tweet on Twitter, you can set up Google alerts on specific topics, and the alert system can automatically post to your Twitter account, Dr. Abugo explained. 2. Instagram and Snapchat. Both of these social media apps can help mold the landscape for future patients, especially younger ones, Dr. Abugo said. In fact, some younger patients will turn to an app like Instagram for medical information before they use an online search engine, she explained. Both are used to share photos and short recorded stories, and hashtags are used to lead people to view them. Use these apps to post live surgeries and Q & A sessions, Dr. Abugo suggested. Add appropriate search terms with hashtags to lead people to your posts—for example, #eye or #uveitis. Facebook, YouTube 3. Facebook “Facebook is the newsletter of today,” said Dr. Abugo, who emphasized the site is a great tool to connect with your local community. Use it to establish your presence and share information about new procedures and new staff. As patients visit your clinic, ask them to become fans or follow you on Facebook. 4. YouTube The popular video site can be used to post information about procedures. While in medical school and while preparing for cases in residency and fellowship, Dr. Abugo would often search procedures on YouTube and watch the related videos. Create a YouTube library of procedures and related educational information; many patients who come to the practice mention they have seen her videos on YouTube, Dr. Abugo said.  Kimberly Cockerham, MD

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Young Doctors Urged to Be Mindful of Social Media Behaviors

Young Doctors Urged to Be Mindful of Social Media Behaviors | Social Media and Healthcare |

According to a study published in BJU International, young doctors often have unprofessional or offensive content on their Facebook profiles.

Kevin Koo, MD, PhD, a urology resident at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH, and colleagues queried 281 doctors who graduated from US urology residency programs in 2015. 

The investigators found that 72% had a publicly identifiable Facebook profile. Next, the researchers looked for content deemed unprofessional or at least potentially offensive.

The team found such content in 40% of the profiles. Unprofessional content included images or references to drunkenness, drug use, or unlawful behavior. It also included posts that divulged protected patient information. 


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

"The majority of recent residency graduates had publicly accessible Facebook profiles, and a substantial proportion contained self-authored unprofessional content," the authors write. "Greater awareness of trainees' online identities is needed."


Koo K, Ficko Z and Gormley EA. "Unprofessional Content On Facebook Accounts Of US Urology Residency Graduates." BJU International. 2017. doi: 10.1111/bju.13846 [Epub ahead of print]

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Instagram creates mental health-focused social media campaign

Instagram creates mental health-focused social media campaign | Social Media and Healthcare |

Instagram launched a social media campaign to help support people suffering from mental health issues, according to ABC News.

The campaign promotes the use of the #HereForYou hashtag, which aims to open up a conversation on mental health. People can use their Instagram accounts to express their struggle visually and share how they are doing. Instagram posted a video featuring members who suffer from different types of disorders, "from eating disorders to depression," Instagram COO Marne Levine said to ABC News.

Instagram is collaborating with Troian Bellisario, an actress on the TV shows Pretty Little Liars, who noted that Instagram is also offering members tools "to speak to professionals, to review online literature, to connect you to a community that can get you the help you need," according to the report.

Ms. Bellisario hopes the campaign will encourage conversation around mental health issues and provide a community for those who need it.

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The Modern Patient Treatment Journey

Today’s patients are active stakeholders in their healthcare journey and more digitally-aware than ever. Their decision making is not linear - it’s complex, ir…
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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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How Clinicians Use Social Media in Healthcare

A basic introduction into evolution of web architecture, fragmented healthcare, rise of e-patients and a peek at how clinicians use of social media in healthca…
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Digital technology: Focus on the patient experience 

Digital technology: Focus on the patient experience  | Social Media and Healthcare |

s traditional medical practices and hospital systems continue to see competition from retail healthcare, patient convenience has become the name of the game. Rising out-of-pocket medical costs are driving patients to “vote with their wallets,” Dave Kriesand, Banner Health’s vice president of consumer experience, told PatientEngagementHIT. 

Kriesand says a focus on convenience can help traditional providers compete, and digital technology, such as online appointments, can play a pivotal role. 

Increased care coordination can also boost patient convenience, especially in larger organizations. That means an integrated health IT system that ensures all clinical staff have access to a patient’s information.


“We want to ensure our customers never have to retell their story no matter where they arrive in our system,” said Kriesand, adding that patients should be able to get their information into such a system easily, which could mean pulling together information gleaned from web portals, emails or social media in addition to traditional health records.

Matching patients and providers properly can drive patient engagement as well and can give providers an edge, said Kriesand: “Finding a provider who meets a consumer’s preference, whether that be by distance, specialty or even ratings/reviews, is critical to ensuring excellent care with an excellent experience.” 

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Patient satisfaction and social media. 

Insights for medical professionals about social media and patient complaints. Presented at the BSCRS - SOOS congress on 22 april 2017.
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Sorry, Facebook Doesn’t Produce New Dental Patients

Sorry, Facebook Doesn’t Produce New Dental Patients | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media. It’s hip. It’s cool. It’s a sexy marketing channel that’ll produce a flood of new patients for your practice. Right?

Sorry, not going to happen.

Sure, Facebook has a host of benefits. But the notion that Facebook delivers new patients is arguably the biggest misconception in the online marketing world today.

Dental Facebook Marketing isn’t a New Patient Generator

With more than a billion active monthly users, Facebook is by far the most popular social media network in the world. But Facebook hasn’t delivered on its early promises for being a robust marketing tool (unless you hand over some money).

And don’t just take our word for it. It’s a conclusion arrived at by some of the top marketers in the world.

Survey results from Forrester aren’t too encouraging for dentists looking to grow their practice through Facebook. About 400 marketers from the U.S., U.K., and Canada were surveyed about the business value they gained from 13 different social media sites and marketing strategies.

Facebook finished dead last, shadowed by Twitter, YouTube, and a range of online marketing initiatives.

In an open letter to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, principal analyst at Forrester Nate Elliot had this to say:

"Everyone who clicks the 'like' button on a brand's Facebook page volunteers to receive that brand's messages – but on average, (Facebook) only shows each brand's posts to 16 percent of its fans.”

That was in 2013. Today, that number has plummeted to a whopping three percent.

Above all, you must have a "conversion-friendly" practice website – coupled with a comprehensive strategy that includes blogging, SEO, email marketing, and social media – to produce a consistent flow of your ideal patients.

Why Facebook “Doesn’t Work”

Where would you go to find an accountant? Would you go to Facebook?


Most likely, you’d head to Google.

Google is the number-one source of new patients. From a simple search, prospective dental patients have the ability to compare several practices with just a few clicks. They can read through pages that detail special techniques, learn more about a dentist, and read blog posts that showcase a dentist’s knowledge and philosophies.

Meanwhile, on Facebook a prospective patient would already have to know your name to find you. And even if they did, what would they discover? Facebook isn’t designed to host pages and blog posts. Not to mention, how far will your 20-word post on dental dams get you?

We market for dentists all day long. And based on research from thousands of client websites, we’ve found that Facebook delivers a mere two percent of all new patients.

The myth that Facebook produces new patients is just that – a myth.

Where Dental Facebook Marketing Does Deliver

Now, for the benefits…

Dental Facebook marketing is best viewed as an internal marketing tool. It’s a way to stimulate community and nurture existing patient relationships. With Facebook, you can increase profitability in three ways:

  • Patient retention: Staying in touch with patients who follow you encourages repeat office visits.
  • Upsell opportunities: Educating patients on their oral health allows you to upsell your services.
  • More referrals: An active social presence boosts top-of-mind awareness, which reminds patients to refer you when the time presents itself.

How do you achieve these goals? At Smile Marketing, we’ve found that dental clients who benefit most from Facebook follow these guidelines:

  • Brand your page: Just like all your marketing materials, your social media should have consistent branding. If someone visits your Facebook page after visiting your website, they should know they are in the right place.
  • Be active: A Facebook page that lies dormant shows a lack of commitment. Commit to posting on a regular schedule (daily or a few times per week).
  • Be creative: One-line posts of text don’t keep followers engaged. Add beautiful photos to make your content stand out. Follow the 80/20 rule: 80 percent fun and educational (like a health tip or fun fact); 20 percent promotion (like a call for patients to schedule an appointment).
  • Personalise: Your Facebook page should showcase your personality. Breathe life into your page by keeping patients in the loop. Have an upcoming event, or a new staff member? Let your followers know.
  • Interact: Once someone “likes” your page, they can leave comments on your status updates. Furthermore, they can review your practice for all the world to see. Monitor this activity regularly and respond when necessary. Remember, the point of social media is to be social.


Note: If you and your staff are limited on time, you might consider hiring a social media service.

Social Media is Just One Component

Facebook should be part of your marketing mix. But it’s not the first, nor is it the last, touchpoint. It aides the conversion process, but it’s hardly the hero. Unrealistic expectations, proposed by sales-hungry agencies, have created this fallacy.

Facebook isn’t your website. It’s merely an extension of your website, working to complement your overall marketing strategy.

Say a prospective patient finds your website on Google. They learn about you and then decide to click to your Facebook page. A dull, barren page can reflect poorly on your practice.

Ultimately, when a young mother visits your Facebook page, this is what they are asking: “Do I like these people?”

Referrals play into social media in a powerful way. After all, where do many referrals come from? Oftentimes, it’s an enquiry on someone’s Facebook newsfeed. “I’m looking for a new dentist, does anyone have any recommendations?”

Once they get their recommendation, most likely they’ll head to Google. Sometimes, though, they’ll visit your Facebook page. And you better impress them.

Believe it or not, for some potential patients (particularly young mothers), your Facebook page can make or break the appointment.

Remember this: You have control over your website, your blog, your email marketing, etc. Once you post something on Facebook, it’s no longer yours. Facebook decides what it wants to do with it – that is, whether they even want to give it the time of day.

The point is, when it comes to Facebook, don’t be reliant and be sure to manage your expectations.

How Facebook Can Produce New Patients

As we’ve discussed, the only new patients Facebook typically produces is referrals.

However, there is a way Facebook can produce a steady flow of patients. You just have to pay for them.

Facebook offers a paid advertising solution that is ideal for attracting potential patients who have never heard of you. With its unique ability to target specific user demographics, Facebook is a cost-effective way to customize ads for a particular audience.

It couples interests with location so you can target only those who may need dental care near you. Are you a paedatric dentist? Set your target audience to moms and dads. Screening patients for oral cancer? Target users by age.

When running Facebook ad campaigns for our clients, the most impactful strategy we’ve found is something called “remarketing.” With remarketing ads, we tell Facebook that we want to serve ads only to people who have already visited a client’s website.

When running Facebook campaigns, we take a three-step approach:

  1. Integration: Create an advertising strategy that integrates with a website’s SEO plan to promote short- and long-term growth.
  2. Landing pages: Develop customised landing pages to convert visitors from their Facebook ads
  3. Unique content: Write ads that encourage relevant visitors to click and engage.

To Sum it Up…

  • Facebook is not a primary driver of new patients
  • It encourages referrals, improves retention, and presents upsell opportunities
  • It should be used as a way to complement your practice website
  • You must be active and creative to make it impactful
  • Its advertising platform can produce new patients with the right strategy
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4 Ways Social Media is Boosting Healthcare Brands 

4 Ways Social Media is Boosting Healthcare Brands  | Social Media and Healthcare |

There are four key ways that social media is proving to be a big success in healthcare.

Figure 1: PwC Health Research Institute social media consumer survey, 2012

1. Reviews

People are seeking out reviews on social media about healthcare providers – and making their decisions based on what they find. This is especially true for people coping with a chronic condition or managing their diet, exercise or stress. 42% use social media for health-related reviews, whether it’s asking their network for health tips, good dentists in the area, or going private for an operation.

2. Information and insight

Around a third of social media users seek out information about health conditions. So companies that embrace social media as part of their marketing strategy can engage with patients in helping them access information.

Novartis is a great example. Very active on Facebook and Twitter, they link to content about particular innovations and health conditions – from Motor Neurone disease to migraines. Using patient stories helps drive shares and comments.

3. Other patient’s experiences

Some of the most active people on social media are individuals coping with health conditions – and hearing from others in the same boat is invaluable. Organisations such as Diabetes New Zealand use social media to encourage and direct participation in their web-based diabetes awareness chats. Other brands tap into Facebook member groups to share expertise and advice specific to a condition or illness.

4. Video

24% of customers view health-related videos on social media. Whether it’s ‘top superfoods for diabetics’ or animations showing how knee surgery works, there’s a wealth of content out there.

Health providers are busy creating that video content and Google’s Think Insights revealed that YouTube traffic to hospital websites has increased 119% in a single year.

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What’s on your Facebook page? Study says many new doctors post unprofessional content 

What’s on your Facebook page? Study says many new doctors post unprofessional content  | Social Media and Healthcare |

What’s posted on your Facebook page? It might be time for some self-editing, as a new study found that many new doctors are posting unprofessional content on the social media site.

In fact, researchers found that 40% of 201 public profiles of young urologists had posts that they described as unprofessional or had potentially objectionable content, including 13% that reflected “explicitly unprofessional behavior.” In those cases, posts included depictions of intoxication, uncensored profanity, unlawful behavior and confidential patient information, according to the study published in BJU International. What’s more, the content was self-authored in 82% of those categories.


Researchers from the urology section at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in New Hampshire searched Facebook for the public accounts of all urologists who graduated from U.S. residency programs in 2015. Many contained self-authored content that was considered unprofessional based on the guidelines of three physicians’ organizations, the American Urological Association, the American Medical Association and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. When it came to unprofessional content, it didn’t make a difference whether the new doctors were men or women or held an M.D. or D.O. degree.

"As a new generation of social media-savvy physicians graduates from residency and enters practice, these findings raise concern about their professional behavior, online and offline," the study’s lead author, Kevin Koo, M.D., said in an announcement.  


Physicians should educate themselves and follow social media guidelines to stay out of trouble, as FiercePracticeManagement previously reported. Not only should physicians be concerned about protecting patient privacy on social media, but they also need to be sure they present a professional image in the online world.

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Do you know what your doctor has shared on social media? 

Do you know what your doctor has shared on social media?  | Social Media and Healthcare |

How much information should doctors and medical professionals share on social media?

The ethical and legal pitfalls facing health professionals in an age of instant‚ global communication are akin to a minefield.

The furore around low-carbohydrate high-fat advocate Tim Noakes is a case in point.

He emerged victorious after a long and bruising disciplinary after giving dietary advice to a breastfeeding mother on Twitter.

Academic dismissal‚ employment termination and deregistration from professional boards are some of the sanctions faced by health professionals abroad.

Brenda Kubheka from the School of Public Health‚ Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of the Witwatersrand says a whole new generation of medical students have emerged with digital footprints and established social media habits “unimaginable to their seniors”.

Writing in the South African Medical Journal‚ she cited a study that found 52% of undergraduate medical students admitted to having “embarrassing photos on Facebook”.

But‚ she warned‚ the same laws and codes of conduct apply in cyberspace as they do in the real world in a paper titled‚ Ethical and legal perspectives on use of social media by health professionals in South Africa.

“Failure to uphold ethical standards on social media exposes patients to embarrassment and psychological harm‚ thus undermining the principles of beneficence and non-maleficence‚” she wrote.

Social media is a valuable tool for health promotion due to its massive reach. Group-based communication using WhatsApp enables medical professionals to communicate about shift work‚ traffic issues and‚ for example‚ share pictures of patients when requesting second opinions from colleagues.

Kubheka’s paper offers some useful pointers on cyberspace etiquette for medical professionals. They include:

– Think carefully before accepting friend requests from patients or sending friend requests to them‚ because of the risk of blurring professional and personal lives.
– Sharing patients’ photographs‚ even for educational purposes‚ might constitute an invasion of privacy.
– Do not take photographs without obtaining informed consent from patients.
– Share generic information online. Avoid responding with direct medical advice to individuals.
– Making negative comments about colleagues and patients on social media can be viewed as bullying and unprofessional.

“Professionals ought to ask themselves before posting on social media whether sharing certain information is legally and morally defensible‚” said the paper.

It recommended that the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA) “develop social media guidelines and train medical trainers in this specific area”.

Medical schools were also encouraged to address social media issues.

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Doctors can learn something from United's woes

Doctors can learn something from United's woes | Social Media and Healthcare |

By now, we have all seen the cell phone footage of a doctor being dragged off a United Airlines flight. I’ve seen it on Twitter, on Facebook, on cable news and read about it in the printed press. I’ve been texted links to the various videos each from different angles but all showing the same images — a man being dragged away with a bloody face. This has prompted quite a bit of discussion. Why do airlines overbook? Could they have handled it better? Why didn’t he just de-board the plane? Why was airport security so aggressive?

These are all great questions, and we can from this situation. For starters, I am not telling anyone on a United Airlines flight I am a doctor. Secondly, there are some very talented meme creators out there. More importantly, I think in health care we can and should learn from this tragedy.

Here we have an overbooked flight — something that routinely happens every day — that devolved into a social media firestorm that has cost United Airlines hundreds of millions of dollar in stock value alone. Social media justice is swift and exponentially powerful with each passing moment. We would like to think that something like this has nothing to do with our day to day practice of medicine, but I would point out that every day we have countless routine interactions with patients.



I would hope and pray that none of them end up with us having a patient dragged from an exam room forcibly with blood trailing the path out, but some of our interactions are likely to go less ideally than we would have hoped. Some of our patients are going to be upset with how things turned out. We know this since we all get those dreaded Press Ganey comment scores every month.

We don’t like looking at them. We come up with reasons why they aren’t valid. Maybe they aren’t the best judge of how things went, but we live in a day and age where that patient experience can and will end up on Facebook, Yelp, Twitter or countless other forms of social media and explode into something we could never image and forever damage our ability to care for patients.


Many people are looking back at the United Airlines incident and wondering why they did just offer more money to have a passenger voluntarily leave the flight. Some reports even indicated that airline staff scoffed at the idea of offering more compensation to passengers. In retrospect, that small sum of money seems insignificant to the fallout — financial and otherwise — that erupted. In that same thought process, when we see a patient encounter moving in a negative direction that we didn’t anticipate, we have two options.

The first option is to quickly assume we have done all that can be reasonably expected of us and demand change of the patient to scoff at the idea of doing more. The other option is to stop for a moment, step back from the situation and think, “Is there a way to make this a positive experience for the patient even if you feel you have done more than any reasonable doctor would do? This could prevent that negative online review that snowballs into a social media nightmare and help build a relationship with a patient that allows better care going forward.

After the initial reports came out about United Airlines, the airline’s first response seemed to lay blame with the passenger just as our first reaction when we see an online review is to want to post a long explanation indicating how the patient showed up late, didn’t listen to us, wanted narcotics or thought that sea salt could cure cancer. In the case of United Airlines, the first responses didn’t sit well with anyone. In the case of our patient reviews, I would think those responses will have a similar reaction.


Every day, we have routine interactions just as an airline boards passengers countless times a day. Every day one of these interactions can become negative. If we truly want to take care of patients, which is why we all got into this, we have to work harder when things don’t go as expected — just as United Airlines should have worked harder to make it right. In this day of social media, it’s not only how to provide good care and what patients expect of us, but it is also the standard social media justice will hold us accountable to.

The United Airlines incident was a terrible situation that hopefully will never happen again. I learned from it as an airline passenger, doctor and patient. I hope you did too.

Nari Heshmati is an obstetrician-gynecologist and can be reached on Twitter @nariheshmati.

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5 Noteworthy Social Networking Sites for Healthcare Professionals

5 Noteworthy Social Networking Sites for Healthcare Professionals | Social Media and Healthcare |

Connecting with other doctors can be very beneficial for your practice.  For example, connecting with specialists can help with patient referrals.  It can also be important for second opinions when problem-solving. Doctors can ask questions, share opinions and more. For many doctors, time is limited for typical social media use.  Personal Facebook accounts may go a while without an update. Luckily, several efficient social networking sites have been created specifically for doctors.  Check out the below 5 noteworthy social media sites for medical professionals.


SERMO is probably one of the most popular social networking sites for doctors. The site has 600,000 members from all over the world.  Doctors must be “verified and credentialed” to have access to the site. SERMO is unique in that its doctors can speak anonymously and thus more openly to their peers on topics that are important to them. Your conversations are confidential.


Doximity is another social networking site with an already large user base.  Over half a million U.S healthcare professionals are members.  An interesting advantage to this network is that you can earn CME/CE credits by reading medical journals found on the site.  You can also send and receive HIPAA-secure faxes from your mobile device.


QuantiaMD is known not only for its collaboration component but also for its learning component.  There are over a thousand U.S experts from top hospitals and institutions that provide knowledge and advice through 5-10 minute intervals. These are meant to fit easily into your busy schedule.  The platform seamlessly connects its 200,000 members across phones, tablets, and laptops.


WeMedUp is another social networking option with a global network of medical professionals.  Members can include physicians, dentists, allied health professionals, administrators & staff at medical and dental institutions, medical & dental students as well as students of other health professions. On this site, you can discuss cases as well as search for job openings worldwide.


Figure1’s 1 million strong user base includes healthcare professionals and healthcare students from a variety of specialties including medicine, nursing, paramedicine, and dentistry. What makes figure 1 unique is the emphasis on the ability to anonymously submit photos of an ailment.  Whether an x-ray or photo, the healthcare provider can then compare to other images on the site. This can be helpful when dealing with a rare disorder.

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10 lessons learned from a hospital’s dual digital debuts

10 lessons learned from a hospital’s dual digital debuts | Social Media and Healthcare |

We addressed work flow, fun stories and far-flung teams.

We’ve learned what a fecal transplant is and how much people want to read about it as well.

Our team at Sharp HealthCare in San Diego developed Sharp Health News and a customer and media engagement center in less than a year. Now, we reflect on 10 takeaways that other communicators might consider when taking on such projects:

1. Get buy-in from the top. Unless your project is an institutional priority, it might be difficult to garner consensus from even your most supportive peers. From the beginning, our executives saw the value of a newsroom and engagement center, and they continue to encourage participation from staff members who write stories and rotate in and out of monthly shifts in the engagement center.

2. Big projects bring far-flung teams closer together. Located in seven hospitals, two medical groups, a health plan and a corporate office, our teams don’t always have opportunities to work together. The collaboration required to staff our newsroom and engagement center not only brought our teams closer, but it encouraged even non-digital staff to think about online content and social media strategy. 

3. Show, don't tell. A recent survey from Isebox found that 54 percent of surveyed journalists complained that PR newsrooms lack images and video. We have learned that original photography,infographics and video drive users to our content, keep them on the site and entice them to share our material. In our engagement center, we track these successes—and act on them—in real time.

4. Make your content easy to access. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but no one wakes up wondering what fascinating content you’ve posted to your newsroom home page that day. Your stories must be where your readers are: in their email inbox, on their social networks (33 percent of our traffic) or on your corporate intranet (32 percent). We placed a link to Sharp Health News in our main site navigation, making it accessible from every page. 

5. Go with the (work) flow. Since last September, we have produced more than 400 newsroom stories and logged hundreds of hours in the engagement center. It’s easy to become overwhelmed if you haven't developed processes and procedures, nor documented team roles and responsibilities.Trello and Basecamp have been exceptional resources for us. 

6. Everyone has a story. It’s cliché, but amazing things happen every day in hospitals and health systems. In the past six months, we’ve had two ICU weddings and countless “Sharp Experience” moments that we’ve identified through social media engagement. These stories have been shared with local journalists and our community through our newsroom and social media

7. Know what you want your audience to do. Whether you want readers to share a story on social media, watch a video or sign up for a class, make it clear and make it easy. Website conversions aren’t always the end game, though. We’re happy to raise our profile in the community and participate in and lead conversations about health and wellness topics. 

8. Use the news cycle to your advantage. In our engagement center, we follow and track what local reporters and producers are covering—and where their personal interests lie. We connect with them online, via email or with a phone call for a personal follow-up. 

9. Employees are no different from customers. Our analytics show that workers are less interested in reading stories about their peers than they are about the everyday health and wellness tips we’re sharing with the outside world.

10. Don’t fear the fun. Working toward our first full year has required patience and flexibility, but it’s also been an awful lot of fun. Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries of what you think a hospital “voice” should sound like. If you’d click on that snappy headline, your audience probably will, too.        

Jennifer Balanky is the manager of digital content for Sharp HealthCare. Pam Hardy is managing editor of Sharp Health News.

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2017 Facebook & Instagram Changes Your Medical Practice Should Know About

2017 Facebook & Instagram Changes Your Medical Practice Should Know About | Social Media and Healthcare |

It’s no secret that Facebook and Instagram are constantly updating, tweaking, and reworking their platforms. While we aren’t always sure if it is for the betterment of the user or not, we can’t seem to stop the changes. Thankfully, the changes that have been rolling out recently seem to add to the functionality for organizations. 

As your medical or plastic surgery practice grows, you need to stay on top of the latest Facebook and Instagram trends so you can better serve your patients. These two social media platforms reign supreme in terms of engagement and ROI for practices like yours, so don't miss out.  

In today’s post, we are breaking down the most relevant updates that Facebook and Instagram released in the first quarter of 2017.

What’s New on Facebook


Just when you got used to keeping your videos under 60 seconds, Facebook went and changed the game.

According to Social Media Week, a news feed algorithm change puts more emphasis on longer videos - as long as they are relevant. Apparently, Facebook is paying more attention to how your audience is interacting with videos - are they watching the full video, are they making it full screen, etc. While a shorter video is easier to watch, that doesn’t mean that it is better.

Social Media Week reports, “until now, Facebook evenly weighed the percentage of completion, so 60 percent of a 3-minute video was the same as 60 percent of a 12-minute video. With this update, it will score the latter higher.” Keep in mind that this applies to organic videos, not paid videos.

Finally, Facebook is realizing that it is more important to produce high-quality videos rather than videos that hit a specific time limit. Facebook states “the best length for a video is whatever length is required to tell a compelling story that engages people, which is likely to vary depending on the story you’re telling.”

Another video update Facebook released is automatically playing videos in your news feed with the sound on. Instead of the default being that video sound is off, it will now be turned on. This means you won’t have to work quite as hard to capture the attention of your audience with silent videos. Keep in mind, however, how your audio message will come across when it automatically starts playing as someone is scrolling through their news feed.


Consumers begged to have something more than the standard “Like” button, and Facebook delivered with the Reactions. Now, Facebook is going one step further. According to Flash Stock article, Facebook announced that they are tweaking the news feed algorithm “to prioritize content and related content that earns 'Reactions’ from users over ‘Likes.’” So, if you can get more people to click a Reaction other than a Like, your content will show up more consistently in your followers’ news feeds.  

Mashable reports that a Facebook spokesperson explained, “over the past year we've found that if people leave a Reaction on a post, it is an even stronger signal that they'd want to see that type of post than if they left a Like on the post. So we are updating news feed to weigh Reactions a little more than Likes when taking into account how relevant the story is to each person."

So, what kind of content can your practice post that will garner a more intense emotion? This should help you focus more on the human side of your practice instead of just growing your number of patients.


Have you noticed the cheerful greetings at the top of your Facebook news feed lately? According to Flash Stock, this is Facebook’s way of reminding marketers to keep their content timely and relevant. In the big scheme of things, Facebook is concerned that practices are getting away from sharing personal posts. This is their way to help remind people to notice the little things like the seasons and be more personable.

When you are thinking about the content you are publishing on Facebook, are you aware of what is going on in the world? By keeping your content fresh, you are more likely to earn reactions from your patients. Check out our post, "10 Summer Marketing Ideas + 5 Summer Email Campaigns for your Medical Practice" to keep your content seasonally fresh.


The question these days is what social media platform DOESN’T have a Stories feature? Not many. While Snapchat may have been the first social media platform to have a Stories feature, Instagram was soon to follow, and at the end of March, Facebook launched their version on their mobile app as well - called Messenger Day. Just like the other two platforms, this photo and video content are only available for 24 hours.

Much like the other updates, Facebook has recently released, the hope behind this move is that users will be more personal and share more of their real life on Facebook. According to a Business Insider article, Facebook product manager Connor Hayes stated, “we’ve seen this do well in other apps. This is something that Snapchat has really pioneered, and our take on this is that Stories has become a format that people use to share and consume photo and video across all social apps.”

If you want to jump on the bandwagon, your best bet is to use Messenger Day as a way to share a behind the scenes look at your practice, featuring before and afters, and simply letting your patients get to know your team. Keep these posts short, sweet, and friendly.

What’s New on Instagram


Here is one update that everyone seems excited about. Sometimes you have more than one photo you want to feature but don’t want to be that annoying practice that bombards your followers’ feed. The new carousel post allows you to do just that! According to AdEspresso, this kind of post, “lets you create a single Instagram post with a slideshow of up to 10 images and/or videos. Users can scroll them. You can tag users on individual slides within the post.”

This means you can do a complete tour of your facility in one post, or better yet, you can show a series of stunning before and after pictures that really make an impact compared to individual posts. Another benefit of using the carousel post is to show multiple photos from one event without overtaking your entire profile with similar photos.


If your practice is looking to get more bang for your buck when it comes to social media advertising, you will want to pay attention to Instagram’s release of ads on Instagram Stories. According to Instagram, “ads in Stories let your business use targeting and reach capabilities that make your ads personally relevant to the people you want to reach. That, paired with measurement tools giving you the confidence to know it works, is unmatched in a Stories experience.”

The cool thing about these ads is that you can optimize them for reach - meaning “you can show your ads to the maximum number of people in your audience and control how often they see your ads.” Again, this is pushing practices to focus on the experience they are creating and the value they are providing instead of following traditional marketing methods of simply showcasing your offerings. Instagram Stories ads help push practices to think about the visual experience they are creating.


According to AdEspresso, lead ads were first developed by Facebook to encourage users to “make filling out lead forms as simple as approving information Facebook automatically pulled from your profile.” As usual, because of its success on Facebook, they have recently been released on Instagram.

While the fields are more limited on Instagram, it still allows you to access the most important contact information. If you’re looking to use Instagram as a lead capturing tool, this could be a game-changer for your practice. 


If Instagram Stories isn’t instantaneous enough for you, don’t worry, Instagram released their Live Stories feature earlier in Q1. As with any live broadcasting feature, this update pushes users to be more authentic and to share the most relevant content possible. Live Stories is another way to attract new followers and to simply provide quality-rich content to your current followers. Practices are using Live Stories to answer questions, host discussions, and share behind the scenes information.

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How Content Can Help Your Healthcare Marketing

How Content Can Help Your Healthcare Marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

The overwhelming amount of regulations and compliance involved in healthcare content marketing means healthcare practices have been hesitant to examine the benefits content marketing provides. But since healthcare is one of the industries best suited to content marketing, it’s time to forget the fears and discover how this strategy can improve the health of a practice. provided some savvy and sound suggestions for adding content marketing to a healthcare practice’s operations.

The Prescription for Compliance
In the healthcare industry, HIPAA compliance is a must in every aspect of operations. If providers fail to follow HIPAA rules, they face enormous fines and penalties. HIPAA compliance is especially important in marketing. The following guidelines make it easy for a practice to develop marketing that remains HIPAA compliant:

  • Do not develop any marketing designed to directly treat or diagnose ailments.
  • Avoid using patient information for marketing purposes unless permission has been clearly provided by the patient in writing.
  • Remember that every piece of content created carries a great deal of authority and should be positioned as expert advice.

Content That’s Just What the Doctor Ordered
It’s not always easy to know the kind of content that will work best in healthcare. But remember, the goal of content marketing is to build a relationship of trust between the patient and the provider.

One tried-and-true tactic is simply starting a blog and creating posts that feature relevant information and answers to common questions. Webinars are another source for content because they allow patients to personally ask doctors questions without needing to make an appointment. Then, the doctor can make arrangements for the patient to visit, if needed. Also, webinars offer an efficient way to gain access to numerous patients and prospects all at once. And when it comes to content, one of the best forms of content that a practice can provide is a handbook or guide. Similar to blog posts, these are an outstanding way to answer questions for patients. Plus, they can be downloaded very quickly so patients can read them any time, as well as take them any place, and share them with anyone.

The Cure for Widespread Awareness
Content marketing won’t make any difference if nobody knows about it. That’s why you need to steadily promote every piece of content. Begin by ensuring that all content is clearly posted on the company website and SEO-optimized to draw the greatest amount of online traffic.

Then, it’s time to turn to social media. Today, social channels are considered to be the most important places for healthcare professionals. They provide direct opportunities to establish patient relationships and show the personal side of a practice. This can be accomplished through staff spotlights, tips from doctors, and other friendly items that display the personality of a practice. And while it’s wise to broadly share your content on many social channels, be sure to focus on leaders like Facebook and Instagram

Finally, don’t overlook email. After all, it offers free and direct access to patients and provides an easy way to capture attention. Email can be used for so much more than appointment scheduling and confirmations. Consider sending a regular newsletter featuring the latest content and patient posts from social media. Email can help a healthcare brand nurture patient relationships and increase the rate of referrals.

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Finding New Patients for Your Practice

Finding New Patients for Your Practice | Social Media and Healthcare |

In many practices, one of the biggest challenges they face is finding new patients for their practice. In some ways, technology has helped the situation, but in many ways technology has made this a real challenge for doctors.

Some recent data from Accenture Health provides an interesting look at one element of how patients find a medical practice.



When I saw this number I was shocked that it was so low. In the past, this number has been so much higher since finding a doctor from your health insurance company was the simple, logical way to make sure you were choosing a doctor which would take your insurance. Times are a changing.

When you look at the full report and the graph on how people find doctors, we learn even more:

Coming as no surprise is that highly digital patients leverage social media, internet searches and health websites to find a doctor at a much higher rate than those whom are less digital. However, what’s shocking to me is how much less the highly digital patient trusts the medical professional versus those that are less digital.

Not surprising is that friends and family is one of the most important factors for finding a doctor regardless of digital skills. Of course, it’s worth noting that in many cases, social media is really synonymous with friends and family. Social media is just the next generation of friends and family influence and communication.

What’s important to realize about these charts is that patients are quickly shifting from the less digital to the more digital category. So, 5 years from now we’re going to see a massive shift with how people find doctors. Social media, internet searches, health websites, and online ratings and review sites are going to continue to grow and become more important to practices looking for new patients.

What are you doing to prepare for this future?

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Facing Negative Patient Feedback Head-On Key for Success

Facing Negative Patient Feedback Head-On Key for Success | Social Media and Healthcare |

Healthcare organizations are increasingly consulting patient feedback surveys and online reviews as a means to assess patient satisfaction with the care experience.

In-office survey platforms that collect patient satisfaction data at the point of service are becoming more popular, with various startups emerging on the market.

Online patient reviews, such as Yelp, Healthgrades, or ZocDoc, are also becoming increasingly popular. Research published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine showed that online patient reviews are useful for patients making care decisions. In 2015, nearly one-third of patients were posting to online review websites, up from only one-quarter of patients doing so in 2012, the researchers reported.

Online patient reviews have proven useful for patients making healthcare decisions. Multiple sources have reported that patients consult online reviews before visiting a new doctor, and that most of those patients pay attention to what the majority of respondents have to say about an individual provider.

But with that convenience for patients comes a downside for providers. That same Journal of General Internal Medicine study showed that online patient reviews are a cause for stress for three-quarters of providers. This is likely due to the potential for the public to see unflattering, and perhaps unfair, comments about providers.

Despite those difficulties, healthcare organizations are going to continue to collect patient feedback. Practices should establish an effective system for collecting that feedback, and ensure that the practice quickly acts on potentially negative comments, said Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System Senior Physician Development Consultant Mary Reid, RN, BSN.

In-office and practice controlled feedback mechanisms are preferable to online review websites, Reid said in an interview with

At Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System, Reid and her team in the marketing department use technology from Binary Fountain. These surveying tools are in every clinical practice and allow the patient to offer immediate feedback during the discharge process.

“We have control of the review, so that’s positive,” Reid said of the office reviews. Instead of patients offering up their critiques in a public manner, in-office satisfaction surveys allow patients to air their grievances directly with their providers.

“That way patients can put their thoughts down right there and not feel like they need to go out on social media,” Reid noted. “More and more, we’re trying to get to the issue while the patient is still in the office and deal with it that way rather than broadcast it on social media.”

This lets the practice take the adequate measures to mitigate the problem, Reid explained.

“We’re able to take the measures to work with the patient in a controlled way,” she said. “If we didn’t have in-office review surveys, it would just be a wild back and forth on social media. Nine times out of 10, that would turn out to be a negative situation.”

Currently, Reid and her team at Spartanburg yield an approximate 33 percent return on those in-office patient satisfaction surveys. Whether those surveys show positive or negative feedback, Reid and her team are always certain to share responses with the provider.

“When we get positive feedback, we take that out to all of our clinicians on a monthly basis and show them all of the surveys that they’ve gotten for that month,” Reid said. “We take that information out there and show the physicians to boost their morale and increase their physician engagement.”

When feedback is bad, Reid says the clinician, the practice manager, and the vice president of marketing all convene on the matter and try to put a positive spin on things. This makes negative feedback and subsequent improvement projects more palatable to doctors, she said.

“Negative feedback happens to everybody,” Reid explained. While the clinician and practice manager must acknowledge the mistake made, Reid works with them to make it a positive opportunity for growth.

“We’re positive when we show them that negative comment,” she explained. “We don’t just say, ‘you are bad and don’t do this.’ We show it all in a positive way and say, ‘let’s make sure this doesn’t happen again.’”

However, in the age of social media it is of course near impossible to completely avoid online reviews on increasingly popular websites such as Yelp, Healthgrades, or ZocDoc.

“People are always on their phones these days. It’s right there at their fingertips,” Reid explained. “They can go on social media sites, so we get a good bit of feedback from there, too.”

Although Spartanburg tries to get the bulk of its feedback from its own patient satisfaction surveys, online patient reviews do glean some valuable insights that they end up using. The key is handling negative reviews responsibly, Reid pointed out.

In the Spartanburg marketing department, there is a staff member dedicated to monitoring social media websites for negative patient testimony.

“If there is a negative comment, he gets the practice involved in a very confidential manner,” Reid explained.

From there, the practice confidentially contacts that patient. Contacting the patient in a private manner – not via the social media website – is critical for HIPAA compliance, Reid said.

Through patient-provider communication and problem-solving, Reid says her practices usually successfully mitigate the issue and improve patient satisfaction. This benefits the patient as well as the practice, which might have its online reputation salvaged after a less-than-stellar online review.

“A lot of times, once we solve that problem with the patient or the person who put the post online, they’ll take down that post,” Reid noted. “We don’t want negative things on social media to remain there. We work very hard at making the experience for that patient into a positive one so they’ll remove that negative post.”

And under no circumstances does Reid or her team advise a clinician to intervene on a negative social media post.

“We don’t want the doctor going onto the social media sites and responding right there,” Reid said. “We handle that in marketing, which is why we have someone looking at the sites at all time. We want him to catch those before anyone else would.”

Reid and the marketing team have also instructed all physicians and practice staff members to alert the marketing department as soon as they see a negative review on social media.

Social media in healthcare isn’t going away soon, Reid acknowledged. Instead, it is best for healthcare organizations to develop confidential and detailed strategies for mitigating any negative situations that may occur online.

All organization members need to be made privy of these strategies, as well. Practices with all of their staff members on board for their social media strategy will see a decreased chance of someone handling an online review inappropriately.

Ultimately, it will be key for healthcare organizations to offer patients an alternative platform to online reviews. Having an option for patients to flag and address concerns in the office reduces the chances of the patient airing that issue online.

Handling an issue internally – either through patient satisfaction surveys or customer experience representatives – may save a practice’s online reputation and also ensure a more immediate response to a patient experience grievance.

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How to Set Up a Social Media Calendar for Your Pharmacy

How to Set Up a Social Media Calendar for Your Pharmacy | Social Media and Healthcare |

Let’s take a look at your pharmacy’s current social media efforts.

Are you posting content consistently? How about engaging with your followers and patients?

Because most independent pharmacy owners have a shortage of time, social media probably sits at the bottom of your to-do list—and rarely gets done.

But social media can be a powerful marketing tool for your business. If you make time for it.

Make it easy on yourself with a calendar. Follow these steps to set up a social media calendar for your pharmacy.

Step 1: Choose a calendar

You first need to choose a calendar you’re comfortable using. Maybe you use Gmail or Outlook for your email, so you may already be familiar with their calendar features.

Once you’ve selected a calendar, block off time each week to focus on your social media efforts. And you can even set up notifications as reminders.

For example, block off an hour every Monday to schedule your social media posts for the week. Then, block off 15 minutes every Wednesday and Friday to check for comments and replies. You can engage with patients on your accounts and monitor your posts’ performance during this time.

In total, you’ll spend an hour and a half a week on social media, but your efforts will be much more successful than before.

Step 2: Be consistent

If you don’t post content consistently, your accounts will appear inactive, and you won’t attract or retain followers. Plus, you’ll miss out on easy opportunities to market your business.

When you create a social media calendar, you can ensure you post content on a weekly basis.

And, you can set up a social media calendar template, so you know what to post. This social media template from Small Business Trends is a great example. You can also create your own template using Google Sheets or Microsoft Excel.

You should also make an effort to consistently share content from other social media accounts relevant to your business and your patients. That keeps your social media pages fresh and improves your engagement.

Step 3: Use a scheduling tool

If you plan to block off time once a week to “batch” schedule all of your social media posts, you’ll need to use a scheduling tool.

Hootsuite is a great scheduling tool that allows you to manage all of your social media accounts in once place. But you can also schedule posts on Twitter using its scheduling platform, TweetDeck, or on your pharmacy’s Facebook business page using the schedule function on each post.

Step 4: Measure results

It’s important to block off time each week to analyze the results of your social media efforts.

Facebook and Twitter each have their own set of analytics tools to help you measure your account’s performance based on reach and engagement.

Additionally, Google Analytics is a great tool to gauge the success of your content. It can track how many people clicked through to your website or blog from your social media posts, for example.

Setting a little time aside each week to focus on your pharmacy’s social media marketing can make a big difference for your business.

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The Patient-Industry Connection: Building Brand Loyalty

The Patient-Industry Connection: Building Brand Loyalty | Social Media and Healthcare |

Many patients don’t know which pharmaceutical companies are responsible for the medications they take.

What Patients Say About Their Relationship With Industry

Over the last two years, Inspire’s Annual Survey illustrates this insight with little change from year to year. Despite regular medication usage, the majority of respondents had limited, if any, knowledge of the manufacturer of their treatment(s).  At most, 14 percent of responding patients and caregivers reported having a ‘relationship’ with these companies, characterized by utilizing such resources as educational materials or financial assistance or communicating with them directly.  Of these individuals, less than half reported that they would consider it to be a good ‘relationship’.1,2

This disconnect may be a major missed opportunity for pharmaceutical companies in their attempts to engage with patients and build lasting, loyal relationships.

Does it matter that patients are unaware of specific pharmaceutical companies?  Do patients need to have a relationship with pharmaceutical companies?

Some marketers say yes with social media being the reasoning behind this stance.  Consumers used to talk in small circles about the products they used, if they worked, and if they liked them.   Today, those feelings can be shared with thousands of consumers in 140 characters or less or even through the use of social ‘reactions’.  The speed of social media sharing and the impact of patients’ opinions going viral can extend not just to a product but to a whole company.

Drug Versus Brand Identity

Presently, pharmaceutical companies focus on promoting their brands as the one and only treatment for a given illness.  This focus on products can be seen in direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA).  Pharmaceutical DTCA has grown from $3.1 billion3 to $5.17 billion over the past 3 years.4   Studies indicate that DTCA increases disease awareness,6 which in turn, motivates people to make appointments with their physicians and review their treatment options with them. 7   In this gatekeeper-driven environment, simply getting people to the gatekeeper (physician) is a positive outcome.

But this gatekeeper-driven sales environment can be tricky.   A recent study from the Wharton School comparing DTCA campaigns of Lipitor, Crestor, and other non-advertised, anti-cholesterol drugs showed that, although people go to their physician to discuss the advertised product, they might end up with a prescription for a drug in the same class, but with a lower price.8

In cases where multiple products are similar, could corporate reputation and brand loyalty overcome price considerations?   What if awareness, and even a relationship with a corporation, were forged before illness?  Would it make a difference in the decisions made by engaged patients?

The Mayo Clinic has developed its brand through providing preventive health information and research publications on an authoritative website.  Post-care, they provide gatherings for patients like the WomenHeart Science and Leadership Symposium that educates women with heart disease on how to lead patient support groups in their communities.

In the pharmaceutical arena, Novo Nordisk has tried associating the industry with health and healthy living with chronic conditions to build its corporate brand, including the sponsorship of patient-athlete teams.

For many years, consumer goods manufacturers have been using their corporate names as “umbrellas” like Nike shoes, gym bags and jerseys, but this approach could also be used in the pharmaceutical industry with success.9

Patient-centric strategizing and incorporating the patient’s voice in corporate brand development as well as product naming and packaging could bring about a needed competitive edge.

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