Social Media and Healthcare
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Big Pharma Can't Figure Out Social Media, and the FDA Isn't Helping

Big Pharma Can't Figure Out Social Media, and the FDA Isn't Helping | Social Media and Healthcare |

Pharmaceutical companies are finding that the best—or at least safest—route to take with social media is to just ignore it. Given the a so-far unadapted FDA regulatory scheme for communication via things like Twitter and YouTube comments, rules for how drug companies can and can't interact with consumers online have remained prohibitively vague.

If a patient posts something online, like "this drug made my face turn into a giant boil," does it count as the sort of adverse event that pharmaceutical companies are required to report to the FDA? Historically, an adverse event is an adverse event, but the word-barf of social media makes this a murky proposition. If that's an adverse event, then what are the responsibilities of the drug manufacturer in tracking those events, which might pop up in any number of places online, from obscure message-boards to an @-tweet to, indeed, a YouTube comment?

It's nice to imagine a system, likely administered by the FDA, for mining comments like that, but in the meantime this is yet another online Wild West. Believe it or not, drug companies are in fact capable of playing it safe, especially when it comes to regulation, and so just about 50 percent of all pharmaceutical companies are choosing to sit social media out. This is according to a report published in Nature Biotechnology outlining a state of confusion that's hampering Big Pharma's marketing efforts, sure, but also repressing information that could prove to be critical in assessing the ongoing safety and efficacy of drugs, from clinical trials to the marketplace.

There are two broad categories of problems. One has to do with trials, which can drag out for extended periods of time in which supposedly blind trial subjects are free to post and read whatever they want online. And they do. In 2014, a trial for a drug designed to treat amyotrophic lateral sclerosis was effectively nuked as subjects described their symptoms on the forums of PatientsLikeMe, revealing who had and who hadn't received the experimental drug. The study was then no longer blind, with 27 percent of trial participants active on the same site.

Health is a hyperactive topic within social media

The second category is what's known as "pharmacovigilance," a guiding force in pharmaceutical research and manufacturing since the 1961 thalidomide disaster. It is what it sounds like: Essentially, it's the science of adverse reactions. Some of this information is provided to drug companies through pharmacovigilance agreements with doctors and patients or "spontaneous" reports, while some comes from research, the media, and regulators themselves. Theoretically, adverse event reporting comes from anywhere, and in most countries, drug companies are required to submit this information to regulators.


It's a data quandary then. Health is a hyperactive topic within social media, as anyone that's spent much time on illness-related forums can attest, and so it should be a golden age of adverse event reporting. But how to actually do that and when to stop is an ugly science. How are social media comments to be weighed? What sources count as quality data? What's to keep an anti-vaccine brigade from trying to sink a safe, life saving drug?

"With social media, anybody can publicly complain in just 140 characters," the Nature report frets. "It's not yet clear under what circumstances companies are supposed to be monitoring these reports, so many of them are choosing the simplest option: ignore."

But ignorance really shouldn't be an option when it comes to adverse event monitoring, particularly if it's intentional ignorance. So what now? The FDA will be coming out with updated guidelines at some point TBD—it published some "vague and overbearing" preliminary guidance in 2014—but the issue really shouldn't be of what on social media drug companies are allowed to ignore so much as what the FDA can do to net as many possible social media comments about potentially dangerous pharmaceuticals. It could be a golden age, or it could be Big Pharma business as usual.

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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. 

MARGARITA's curator insight, December 31, 2015 5:15 PM

Support our people

United Home Healthcare's curator insight, June 12, 2017 12:29 PM
Being active on Social media can really help your company.
rob halkes's curator insight, September 15, 2017 6:04 AM

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


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7 Low-Cost Ways to Promote Your Medical Practice

7 Low-Cost Ways to Promote Your Medical Practice | Social Media and Healthcare |

Healthcare marketers understand just how crucial it is to market their private practice in order to gain online visibility and reach their target audience. Marketing is an important way for you to show your skills to your target audiences. As you establish yourself as a healthcare expert, it becomes imperative to build a level of trust between your practice and your patients. Through your various marketing efforts, you can demonstrate your commitment as well as your passion for serving the community.

Like all other businesses, private medical practices must implement effective marketing strategies for accomplishing their business goals. Healthcare marketing requires inventing innovative strategies that are cost-effective, yet results-oriented, and help the marketers connect with their target audiences, increase the bottom line, get an edge over competitors, improve online reputation, promote services and increase their market share.

While there are a bunch of successful digital strategies to market your private practice, nothing can compete with a long-term approach to improving your online reputation. Most successful practices rely on word-of-mouth referrals as their biggest and most efficient source of acquiring new patients. This means, if your existing patients are satisfied with your service, they are more likely to the spread the good word about your practice and refer family and friends to you. However, in the absence of a recommendation, most potential patients turn to online reviews to find the best medical practice in their area. Ensuring your practice is listed on relevant online forums, online directories and review sites is key to driving more traffic to your practice.

With the wide variety of healthcare marketing strategies to choose from, it is normal to feel confused. Keeping this in mind, we have compiled some of the most cost-effective yet efficient marketing tricks for your private medical practice.

Highly effective healthcare marketing strategies that do not cost a fortune

1. Email marketing is one of the best choices for personalized communication. It is cheap, easy and quick. You can use it to stay in touch with your existing and potential patients. According to research by Marketing Sherpa, nearly 60 percent of respondents chose email as the preferred way to receive promotions and updates from companies with which they are interested in doing business.

Email marketing continues to be one of the most cost-efficient healthcare marketing strategies, with some sources claiming an ROI of 400 percent or more. As long as you have an excellent patient database and a steady stream of email blasts, you will be able to see a significant ROI sooner rather than later. A survey by the Direct Marketing Association and Demand Metric of marketers revealed that in 2016, email marketing generated an ROI of $44 for every $1 spent, which is up from $38 in 2015.
You can send personalized newsletters and e-mailers to targeted groups and individual patients. Email marketing has also proven to be perfect for sending appointment reminders and follow-up emails to ensure your patients do not miss their checkups. Through personalized emails, you can also educate your patients about general healthcare tips, offers and discounts and updates about your staff. It is surprisingly easy to kick-start your email marketing and start attracting more patients.

2. Social media has exploded over the past decade, making it a compelling marketing channel. You can use simple tricks to boost your social media presence, such as adding social media icons to your website and offering incentives to your patients to Like and Share your social posts.

You can start by establishing profiles for your practice on popular social networks such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Keep your profiles updated with fresh content that your target audience would like. Sharing good-quality content about your service offerings is an effective way of marketing your practice. Rich and relevant content will add value to your brand name. Good-quality content plays an important role in search engine ranking.

However, it is important to select your social networks wisely and make sure to dedicate time and effort to promote your practice the right way. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram offer various advertising options, and most of them are cost-effective. Having an active social media presence is an excellent way to stand out from the competition and build a loyal brand following.

3. A responsive website will not only add to your patients’ experience when they use your website, it will also provide SEO benefits as Google prefers responsive websites over standard websites. A website is an extension of your medical practice and a reflection of the care and expertise you provide to patients. It is important to have a website, and it is equally important to make sure that it looks welcoming and informative.

According to a study by Pew Research Center, nearly 72 percent of U.S. adults search for health-related information online. Therefore, if you want to promote your medical practice online, you will have to maintain a robust online presence. Moreover, if you are using several ways to market your practice online, all of your efforts must point to one central location – your website.

According to a Google survey, nearly 61 percent of people will leave a website if it is not mobile-friendly. So if your website is not responsive, you must upgrade it. Non-responsive websites are not likely to rank well in search engine results. In addition, do not ignore the page load speed of your website. This is because slow-loading websites are abandoned by visitors, which means lost prospects and lost revenue.

4. Patient referrals are worth their weight in gold and will go a long way for your practice marketing. If you did a great job handling a new patient’s health issue and that patient goes on to recommend your practice to his or her friends and family, you are very likely to acquire a new patient. Consider the fact that people are four times more likely to try a new brand or business when it is referred to them by a friend. So why not give your existing patients some added motivation to refer to your practice by offering an incentive?

Establishing a patient referral program does not cost much, and depending on how you plan it, might be free. You could offer your current patients a discount on their treatment in exchange for referring a new patient, or a free consultation if you are really interested in this strategy. For local practices promoting their service on a shoestring budget, an active patient referral program is the best strategy for maximum ROI and practice growth.

5. Search engine optimization (SEO) is the backbone of your digital marketing strategy. It is critical for medical practices to invest in SEO activities because ranking has become very competitive. When a new patient looks up medical practices online, you want to be one of the first names that pop up. So if you plan on expanding your online outreach, be sure to invest effort and resources into effective SEO techniques.

SEO is one of the most efficient techniques for practices trying to gain an edge over their competitors. Regardless of the size of your practice, SEO can help you attract more targeted patients and boost your search engine rankings. Patients are most likely to learn about your services through your ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs).

In addition, relevant content plays an important role in search engine ranking as Google promotes websites that publish original and useful content on a regular basis. Search engines are intelligent enough to understand whether or not you are providing the relevant information. Therefore, stuffing your website with popular keywords may not work for long. Instead, when you invest your time and effort in creating genuine content, search engines will spot it and reward you with a higher ranking.

6. Superior patient experience is an indicator of how well the patient is being treated at your medical practice. Improving patient experiences can lead to an almost 50 percent increase in net margins, regardless of the size and type of your medical practice, revealed Accenture Consulting. With today’s patients actively shopping for healthcare services, patient experience plays an integral role in the growth and profitability of your practice.

Attracting new patients is important, but your marketing efforts should also involve retaining your existing patient base. After all, it is far less expensive to engage existing patients than to acquire new ones. This is why is it critical to establish strong relationships with your patients. One of the ways you can engage your patients is by keeping in touch through emails, newsletters and social networks. You can use personalized emails and social media posts to stay engaged with your patients. The more appreciated your patients feel, the more likely they are to return to your practice and recommend you to their family and friends.

It is also a good idea to follow up with new patients regularly through emails to ensure they are satisfied with your service, and if you sense a problem, take every measure possible to fix the problem as quickly as possible.

Sometimes the best healthcare marketing strategies are not strategies at all. If you can create strong relationships with your patients and reward their loyalty, they may become your greatest advocates. Patient referrals are powerful, but many practices neglect to even ask their patients for referrals. Make a point of requesting your patients to recommend your practice to their family and friends.

7. Video content marketing is gaining importance in the healthcare marketing plans of most medical practices, regardless of their size and marketing budget. Most healthcare marketers use video content to engage their potential patients and convert them into regular patients. This is because users are more likely to watch and share video content than other forms of content. The video is an excellent tool for healthcare marketers to showcase their vision, products, services and announcements for maximum online outreach.

Brand building and video marketing go hand in hand. If you are looking to improve your brand image, you need to create compelling video content that resonates with your target audience. Your video should tell your story and maximize your outreach. However, with hundreds and thousands of practices spawning every day, it is getting harder to cut through the noise and convey your message to the target audience. According to healthcare marketing experts, 2018 is the year when private practices should explore video content types to acquire new patients and improve their reputation.

Wrapping Up

The competition among private medical practices is fierce. Online marketing campaigns and paid promotions have become vital functioning limbs in the healthcare business. Before the Internet, private practices only had a few ways to market their services cost-effectively, through printing out fliers or sponsoring local events. However, now there are all kinds of opportunities out there on the Web – you just need to know where to look. So if you find yourself struggling with your revenue and budget, do not resort to cutting marketing out of the equation. Instead, find creative ways to build your brand image that do not require significant investment.

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Social Media and Physician Conflict of Interest.

Social Media and Physician Conflict of Interest. | Social Media and Healthcare |

The use of social media by physicians has increased substantially in recent years, with some estimates reporting increases from 41.6% in 2010 to as high as 90% in 2011.1 While personal use is more common, 65% of physicians interact with various social media platforms for professional reasons.1 For example, some physicians use social media to promote positive health behaviors, debate health care policy, network with colleagues, and educate their patients, peers, and students.

As such, there is great potential that physician use of social media can help to improve health outcomes. However, protection of patient and physician privacy, distribution of inaccurate healthcare information, violation of personal–professional boundaries, misrepresentation of credentials, and bias in physicians' recommendations on social media remain significant concerns. Recognizing this, in 2010, the American Medical Association and, in 2013, the American College of Physicians (ACP) and the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) published guidelines for the ethical use of social media by physicians.23 The ACP/FSMB policy statement advises that physicians must disclose any potential conflicts of interest (COI) when discussing their professional experiences online. These recommendations were (and remain) innovative; we are not aware of similar recommendations applying to other professional groups using social media (e.g., lawyers and scientists). Despite this recommendation, data suggest that lack of disclosure by physicians continues to be a significant problem. In this commentary, we examine the challenges of disclosure on social media and propose potential solutions.


The Importance of Disclosure

Industry relationships may explicitly or implicitly bias physicians in their reporting of research study results and in their declared medical management recommendations. Such conflicts may create risks for individual patients and can also undermine the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship. Disclosure of potential COI ensures such influences can at least be acknowledged and incorporated into the interpretation of online information. Physicians are already required to disclose potential COI during conference presentations, on submissions to medical journals, and to their employing institutions (e.g., academic medical centers). While some may argue that disclosure can lead to misguided trust in the discloser,4 in general, disclosure serves to 1) caution readers, and 2) serve as a deterrent from engaging in these relationships when unethical.


Current Status in Social Media

Are physicians following the ACP/FSMB policy recommendation on disclosure, and should consumers of social media be concerned about potential COI amongst physician's distributing healthcare information on these platforms? Available studies raise concerns.

Data about physicians' failure to disclose potential conflicts online predate the 2013 ACP/FSMB policy statement. In a 2012 survey of osteopathic and medicine boards in the United States, 92% indicated that at least 1 online professionalism violation had been reported to their board, and approximately 20% of these violations related to failure to disclose COI online.5

Data in the wake of the ACP/FSMB recommendations suggest that the current state of disclosure online is no better. In a study of US haematology-oncology specialists using Twitter, 79.5% had at least one financial COI.6 In a subsequent study, researchers analysed the contents of the tweets of 156 haematology-oncology physicians with a financial COI of at least $1000 in general payments in 2014.7 81% of physicians mentioned at least one drug from a company for which they had a COI.7 Comparing 100 tweets about potentially conflicted drugs with 100 tweets about non-conflicted drugs at random, conflicted tweets were more likely to be positive, similarly likely to be neutral, and less likely to be negative.7 Of utmost concern, only 1.3% of these physicians included disclosures of their payments.7 Whether such potential biases exist among other specialties warrants further study.


Future Directions

Current evidence suggests that physicians using social media commonly have potential COI, often discuss medications from a company for which they have a financial COI, are more likely to discuss these medications in a positive manner, and are rarely reporting their potential COI. In an era where disclosure of potential COI is standard in medical journals and conference presentations, why has it been so challenging to get physicians to disclose on social media, which has the potential to influence millions? Several possible explanations exist, each of which suggests a way forward to improve disclosure.

One explanation is simply that disclosure online is difficult because social media pose inherent challenges for disclosing potential COI. Content is often brief, with characters limits often making it difficult to report disclosures. Furthermore, information distributed and shared by users of social media may not necessarily contain the original disclosure present in the initial post or physicians profile, if it was included. Lastly, a layperson may not fully comprehend potential conflicts in a manner similar to other physicians and scientists. Yet, these technical challenges are not insurmountable. On weblogs, this may be achieved by explicitly reporting disclosures in the relevant post. Ideally, this should be reported in simplified language which a layperson could interpret. When using social media platforms where character limits apply (e.g. Twitter), disclosure could be accomplished by providing an electronic ‘tag’ or link to a standardized disclosure form e.g. International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICJME) or to a public reporting database.8 Links could be made to publicly available online databases, such as the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Open Payments system.

Another explanation could be that physicians are unaware of recent ethics guidelines. Just as uptake of new clinical guidelines is notoriously delayed, so too might be uptake of ethical guidelines. However, this explanation is unconvincing. Ethics guidelines for disclosure on social media did not create a new ethical obligation; they applied an existing and well-established obligation to a new media. Nevertheless, additional educational efforts highlighting the importance of conflict of interest disclosure and management amongst physicians using social media could increase awareness of the requirement to disclose. These efforts should be developed with special attention to the undergraduate medical school level (as these future physicians are more likely to use social media and are at a critically impressionable period of their professional development).

A third explanation is the lack of enforcement online. Perhaps, as an unintended consequence of COI disclosure policies being formalized and enforced at conferences, in journal publications, and at physicians' institutional employers, physicians have a blind spot regarding social media. The blurred boundaries of social media between the personal and professional realms may also contribute to this. The absence of enforcement online only makes physicians' self-regulation as a profession more important. Medical professionals using social media must realize that the obligation to disclose is fundamentally an ethical one, independent of whether they are required to disclose as a matter of policy. Physicians should not post content for which they have a potential conflict when they cannot assure adequate disclosure. In certain circumstances, physicians may also need to consider reporting other physicians whom they know fail to disclose, perhaps to their professional associations.

With mounting evidence that industry relationships may bias the content of social media content, physicians who post must recognize their fundamentally ethical duty to disclose and manage potential COI in social media. In the meantime, more research examining the prevalence, impact of physician's COI on social media, and appropriate management strategies are clearly warranted.

Without improvements in COI disclosure and management on social media networks, trust in the medical profession and the validity of social media as an outlet for medical education are both in danger.



  1. Modahl M, Tompsett L, Moorhead T. Doctors, Patients & Social Media. 2011 Available at:
  2. American Medical Association. Opinion 9.124. Professionalism in the use of social media. 2010. AMA Code of Medical Ethics.
  3. Farnan JM, Snyder Sulmasy L, Worster BK, et al. Online medical professionalism: patient and public relationships: policy statement from the American College of Physicians and the Federation of State Medical Boards. Ann Intern Med. 2013;158(8):620-627.
  4. Sah S, Fagerlin A, Ubel P. Effect of physician disclosure of specialty bias on patient trust and treatment choice. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2016;113(27):7465-9.
  5. Greysen SR, Chretien KC, Kind T, Young A, Gross CP. Physician violations of online professionalism and disciplinary actions: a national survey of state medical boards. JAMA. 2012; 307 (11) 1141-1142.
  6. Tao DL, Boothby A, McLouth J, Prasad V. Financial conflicts of interest among hematologist-oncologists on Twitter. JAMA Intern Med. 2017;177: 425–27.
  7. Kaestner V, Brown A, Tao D, Prasad V. Conflicts of interest in Twitter. Lancet Haematol. 2017;4(9):e408-e409.
  8. Decamp M. Physicians, social media, and conflict of interest. J Gen Intern Med. 2013;28(2):299-303.
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Too much online support can be harmful for HIV patients - University at Buffalo

Too much online support can be harmful for HIV patients - University at Buffalo | Social Media and Healthcare |

For individuals living with HIV, online communities provide the support system they need to engage in positive self-care, which is critical in managing the virus and its ill effects.

However, as new University at Buffalo School of Management research finds, beyond a certain threshold, online support can become overwhelming for HIV patients, leading to negative health behaviors.

“Despite advancements in research and treatment, HIV is still a devastating diagnosis and a highly stigmatized disease,” says senior author Rajiv Kishore, PhD, associate professor of management science and systems in the UB School of Management. “Many patients feel isolated and uncomfortable revealing their diagnosis, even to close friends and family. Without that support system, many HIV patients turn to social media and online forms for emotional reassurance and health-related information.”

Forthcoming in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, the study analyzed more than 30,000 discussion threads from an online community for people living with or affected by HIV/AIDS from May 2006 to March 2017, representing about 15,500 users and 330,000 individual posts.

Using text mining and linguistic analysis methods, the researchers measured the emotional support or information the posts provided, from both objective sources and personal experience, as well as the level of self-care patients expressed in response. The researchers collaborated with three HIV health specialists to ensure their methods were valid.

“Initially, we found that as an individual receives more words of encouragement and health information, their self-care improves,” Kishore says. “They develop comforting relationships and better understand the virus and how to manage it, which encourages them to engage in positive self-care behaviors.”

Above a certain level, however, too much social support negatively affects HIV patients’ self-care behaviors, the study found.

“Self-care is about having control, feeling like you can make a difference in your own health,” Kishore says. “Many people perceive excessive emotional support as forced optimism and may become stressed and lose hope as a result. Similarly, patients who receive too much information may become overwhelmed and give up on reading material that’s necessary for understanding and implementing appropriate health behaviors.

“In both cases, we find patients cope by disengaging from productive self-care,” Kishore says.

Next, the researchers plan to replicate their study with other stigmatized and nonstigmatized chronic diseases.

Kishore’s co-authors on the study were UB School of Management doctoral students Xunyi Wang and Srikanth Parameswaran, along with Darshan Mahendra Bagul, a master’s student in the UB Computer Science and Engineering Department.

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Best healthcare Twitter accounts to follow 2018

Best healthcare Twitter accounts to follow 2018 | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media can be a great vehicle to improve patients’ access to healthcare information and other educational resources. And for those working in the industry, tools such as Twitter can be used to enhance professional networking, launch public health programmes and share best practice with others in the sector.

We’ve gathered together a few examples of individuals and organisations who are showing how Twitter can be used effectively to share relevant and timely information, to debate healthcare policy and practice issues, to promote health behaviour and potentially improve health outcomes.

  1. Academy Of Fab Stuff @FabNHSStuff

Sharing fabulous things about the NHS and Social Care. A collaboration to ensure best practice examples, great ideas and service solutions are available to all.

  1. WeNurses @WeNurses

Sharing information, ideas, knowledge and support in order to improve patient care via #WeNurse.

  1. Infection Prevention Society @IPS_Infection

Registered charity with a mission to inform, promote and sustain expert infection prevention policy and practice.

  1. NHS @NHS

Every week a new person becomes the curator of the @NHS Twitter account and through their tweets will offer a glimpse into their life and share their NHS story.

  1. NHS England @NHSEngland

Setting priorities and direction, and encouraging and informing national debate, to improve health and care.

  1. Nursing times @NursingTimes

The voice for the nursing community and the leading source of nursing news and best practice in the United Kingdom.

  1. Martin McShane @docmdmartin

Doctor with surgical, general practice and commissioning experience.

  1. John Appleby @jappleby123

Director of Research and Chief Economist, The Nuffield Trust. FAcSS. Visiting professor, City University, London and at Imperial College. Columnist, BMJ.

  1. The RCN @theRCN

A trade union and professional body supporting more than 435,000 nurses, midwives, HCAs, APs and students #NursingNow ‏ #RCNchat

  1. And don’t forget to follow @DanielsHCareLtd for sharps-related updates, team news and healthcare events and campaigns!

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How the Internet Changed the Way New Patients Find a Physician

How the Internet Changed the Way New Patients Find a Physician | Social Media and Healthcare |

The Internet has changed the way nearly everyone in the developed world experiences healthcare. With volumes of medical information–and misinformation—available online, the digital age has empowered patients to self-diagnose conditions, research treatments, and shop around for healthcare practitioners of all kinds.

For healthcare providers who want to reach new patients, there’s more opportunity now to grow their practices—if they know how people are looking for them online.

Selecting a Healthcare Provider Before the Internet

Not that long ago, patients looking for a new physician often relied on word-of-mouth referrals from family and friends. Or they might have chosen a healthcare provider affiliated with their healthcare plan and hoped for the best. They also had the option to let their fingers “do the walking” through the Yellow Pages to find a provider close to home.

If a patient needed to see a specialist, they would ask their primary physician for a recommendation or referral. Although they hoped they’d wind up with a qualified, caring physician, they often did not look at provider’s credentials or patient satisfaction ratings.

If patients conducted any online research, their findings were mostly limited to a provider’s name, address and phone number—obviously not enough to paint a full picture of what they could expect.

Read: Is Word-of-Mouth the Best Marketing Resource for Healthcare Practices?

How New Patients Choose a Healthcare Provider Today

Today, patients have countless online avenues to research potential healthcare providers. The most widely used options are listed below.

Search Engines

New patients often start their search for a healthcare provider on Google or other search engine. This makes having a fresh, optimized online presence critical for providers who want to attract new patients.

A growing number of patients are using smartphones as their primary means of online access. According to Hitwise, 68% of consumers start their mobile health research with a search engine. This is one more data point to keep in mind when marketing doctors online–to ensure practice websites are optimized for mobile search results.

Online Patient Reviews

Patients put a lot of trust in unbiased reviews and opinions from other patients when choosing doctors. Research shows that 77% of consumers use online reviews as the first step in finding a new physician–whether on public sites like Google My Business and Healthgrades, websites managed by provider practices, or sites facilitated by health plans for their members.

  • Patients rate and comment on everything nowadays, including:
  • The ease of making appointments
  • How helpful and courteous office staff are
  • Provider communication
  • Wait times
  • Overall condition and cleanliness of the office
  • Patient follow-up

Since patient reviews carry so much weight, it’s important for providers to monitor and respond to any negative reviews immediately. A recent Bright Local survey showed that a single negative review can cost a business an average of 30 customers.

Social Media

Although word-of-mouth still ranks high as a means for finding a provider, today’s patients – particularly Millennial patients – are apt to solicit input through social media. Sites like Facebook and Twitter provide forums for friends and neighbors to share their experiences and recommend doctors.

Location-Based Services

Nine out of 10 respondents in a Pew Research Center survey said they use their phone to get directions, recommendations, or other information related to their location. That includes finding healthcare providers close to home.

Look: What Makes a Website Useful for Local Search?

Healthcare and Business Directory Listings

Listings on healthcare and local business directories are essentially free advertising for healthcare providers. Providers should claim and optimize listings, since they can drive people to their websites and help with search engine rankings.

Top Doctor Roundups

Special “best doctor” features in regional magazines have become a popular resource for patients who put stock in nominations from a provider’s peers. Since these listings don’t offer much context for how a provider landed on the list, many patients use this kind of information as a jumping off point to do more research.

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HIPAA Social Media Rules

HIPAA Social Media Rules | Social Media and Healthcare |

HIPAA was enacted several years before social media networks such as Facebook were launched, so there are no specific HIPAA social media rules; however, there are HIPAA laws and standards that apply to social media use by healthcare organizations and their employees. Healthcare organizations must therefore implement a HIPAA social media policy to reduce the risk of privacy violations.

There are many benefits to be gained from using social media. Social media channels allow healthcare organizations to interact with patients and get them more involved in their own healthcare. Healthcare organizations can quickly and easily communicate important messages or provide information about new services. Healthcare providers can attract new patients via social media websites. However, there is also considerable potential for HIPAA Rules and patient privacy to be violated on social media networks. So how can healthcare organizations and their employees use social media without violating HIPAA Rules?

HIPAA and Social Media

The first rule of using social media in healthcare is to never disclose protected health information on social media channels. The second rule is to never disclose protected health information on social media. (see the definition of protected health information for further information).

The HIPAA Privacy Rule prohibits the use of PHI on social media networks. That includes any text about specific patients as well as images or videos that could result in a patient being identified. PHI can only be included in social media posts if a patient has given their consent, in writing, to allow their PHI to be used and then only for the purpose specifically mentioned in the consent form.

Social media channels can be used for posting health tips, details of events, new medical research, bios of staff, and for marketing messages, provided no PHI is included in the posts.

Employees Must be Trained on HIPAA Social Media Rules

In 2017, 71% of all Internet users visited social media websites. The popularity of social media networks combined with the ease of sharing information means HIPAA training should include the use of social media. If employees are not specifically trained on HIPAA social media rules it is highly likely that violations will occur.

Training on HIPAA should be provided before an employee starts working for the company or as soon as is possible following appointment. Refresher training should also be provided at least once a year to ensure HIPAA social media rules are not forgotten.

HIPAA Violations on Social Media

In 2015, ProPublica published the results of an investigation into HIPAA social media violations by nurses and care home workers. The investigation primarily centered on photographs and videos of patients in compromising positions and patients being abused.

In some cases, images and videos were widely shared, in others photographs and videos were shared in private groups. ProPublica uncovered 47 HIPAA violations on social media since 2012, although there were undoubtedly many more that were not discovered and were never reported.

In most cases, the HIPAA violations on social media resulted in disciplinary action against the employees concerned, there were several terminations for violations of patient privacy, and in some cases, the violations resulted in criminal charges. A nursing assistant who shared a video of a patient in underwear on Snapchat was fired and served 30 days in jail.

It is not only employees that can be punished for violating HIPAA Rules. There are also severe penalties for HIPAA violations for healthcare providers.

Common Social Media HIPAA Violations

  • Posting of images and videos of patients without written consent
  • Posting of gossip about patients
  • Posting of any information that could allow an individual to be identified
  • Sharing of photographs or images taken inside a healthcare facility in which patients or PHI are visible
  • Sharing of photos, videos, or text on social media platforms within a private group

HIPAA Social Media Guidelines

Listed below are some basic HIPAA social media guidelines to follow in your organization, together with links to further information to help ensure compliance with HIPAA Rules.

  • Develop clear policies covering social media use and ensure all employees are aware of how HIPAA relates to social media platforms
  • Train all staff on acceptable social media use as part of HIPAA training and conduct refresher training sessions annually
  • Provide examples to staff on what is acceptable – and what is not – to improve understanding
  • Communicate the possible penalties for social media HIPAA violations – termination, loss of license, and criminal penalties
  • Ensure all new uses of social media sites are approved by your compliance department
  • Review and update your policies on social media annually
  • Develop policies and procedures on use of social media for marketing, including standardizing how marketing takes place on social media accounts
  • Develop a policy that requires personal and corporate accounts to be totally separated
  • Create a policy that requires all social media posts to be approved by your legal or compliance department prior to posting
  • Monitor your organization’s social media accounts and communications and implement controls that can flag potential HIPAA violations
  • Maintain a record of social media posts using your organization’s official accounts that preserves posts, edits, and the format of social media messages
  • Do not enter into social media discussions with patients who have disclosed PHI on social media.
  • Encourage staff to report any potential HIPAA violations
  • Ensure social media accounts are included in your organization’s risk assessments
  • Ensure appropriate access controls are in place to prevent unauthorized use of corporate social media accounts
  • Moderate all comments on social media platforms
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Are patients using social media to attack physicians?

Are patients using social media to attack physicians? | Social Media and Healthcare |

I have a colleague who is a pediatrician in private practice in the suburbs. He has a great practice and loves his patients. One day, he walked in 15 minutes late to a 7:00 a.m. meeting we both attend. “Moms are calling early today.” Parents in his practice have learned to bypass their elaborate phone triage system. They have learned that if you press “1” for emergency, an actual doctor will call you back within 15 minutes, regardless of whether an actual emergency exists. When I asked what can be done to curb such behavior, he shrugged and replied, “We’ve tried a few things, but then we just get slammed on Facebook … and that’s bad for the practice.”

Another physician friend provided factual and evidence-based testimony as an expert witness during a legal proceeding. When the proceedings did not go in favor of the plaintiff, they took it upon themselves to post slanderous comments about this physician (not their own personal physician, mind you) on various online forums, including comment sections on advocacy group websites.

Anyone who uses social media knows the vitriol that spills forth should anyone dare make a public statement about topics such as vaccines, essential oils, or GMOs. But this is different. Physicians who are active on social media, which I fully support for many reasons, know going in that they can become a target. It’s part of the job description. In fact, you know you’re actually starting to make a difference once the hateful Tweets start flying.

But what about those physicians or practices that become unwilling targets on social media? What recourse do they have? What can be done? Unfortunately, not much. We are simply playing by a different set of rules. Physicians need to always be mindful of HIPAA laws and patient privacy. If a patient is unhappy with their physician and takes to Twitter or Facebook to post hateful comments, that physician cannot publicly defend themselves. They can’t even acknowledge that they know the patient or that the visit took place as that violates HIPAA. They have to sit back and take their medicine.


This type of patient behavior is inappropriate on many levels. Social media affords anyone a platform and ability to type whatever they wish, regardless of merit or truth. Anonymous accounts are the worst offenders, offering strong opinions with no repercussion aside from a suspension of their social media account should enough people complain. What happened to accountability for one’s words or actions?


It is important to acknowledge that patients are wronged every day. Some physicians offer poor care to their patients. Personalities may not match, and patients may not feel like their concerns are being heard. There absolutely must be a mechanism for patients to voice their complaints, and there are numerous ways this can occur. But this cannot occur through public-facing social media accounts, and needs to go through the proper channels.  Patients can speak with an ombudsman if their physician works at a hospital or file a complaint with the State medical board. Written documentation is necessary to communicate concerns and also formulate a record that protects the patient and affords the physician an opportunity to discuss their interpretation of events. A third party can then remediate, and disciplinary action can take place when warranted.

In the meantime, physicians need to be aware that this behavior is occurring. They also need to be trained on how to handle these situations. Physicians are not allowed to address any public comments, acknowledge that they know any patient, and especially cannot fight back with negative comments of their own. Hospitals and medical practices can start addressing this by clearly posting information about the process involved for patients who have a complaint. They also need to monitor social media outlets and take these interactions offline as soon as possible. It will take time to see where all of this leads but a collective effort will be necessary to help the medical community respond appropriately.

David R. Stukus is a pediatric allergist and can be reached on Twitter @AllergyKidsDoc.


Image credit:


Andrea Walker's comment, March 20, 9:22 PM
You can’t control it! People will and should have their say wherever they want to.
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Engaging the digital healthcare professional

Engaging the digital healthcare professional | Social Media and Healthcare |

How to plan relevant customer strategies in the digital age

Some years ago, I spoke with an emergency medic who had twenty five years’ experience as a practicing doctor. He told me how public social media channels had allowed him to develop an international, collaborative network of peers. Using public social media channels including Twitter was a natural choice for his network of healthcare professionals because, he told me, pharmaceutical companies would never bombard them with messaging in the way he had experienced inside closed doctors’ networks.

This may be a challenging lesson for those who still invest heavily in advertising targeted at doctors inside closed networks. The emergency medic’s prediction was correct, of course - in most markets, pharmaceutical companies cannot simply advertise products to doctors using public channels, and the very public international reach of Twitter makes it a platform that many pharmaceutical compliance professionals feel a little uncomfortable about.

Yet perhaps the very nature of public social media, and the challenging questions it inspires among those tasked with compliance, are precisely where the opportunity lies for the pharmaceutical marketer.

Who is influencing the digital healthcare professional?

Research into healthcare professionals’ online behaviors show that when sharing ideas with each other on public social media channels, they are as likely to reference mainstream news media as academic journals. In fact, in a recent study of UK healthcare professionals discussing the topic of IVF on social media, the most-shared article in all their online conversation was a story published by the BBC about IVF add-on success.

The same study revealed that among 1,500 healthcare professionals discussing IVF in the UK were senior experts who might be considered traditional ‘Key Opinion Leaders’. One such example is Geeta Nargund, Lead Consultant in Reproductive Medicine and a Consultant Gynecologist at St George's hospital NHS Trust, whose accolades include being President of the International Scientific Society for Mild Approaches in Assisted Reproduction (ISMAAR) and Founder and Medical Director of fertility clinic CREATE. Over recent years Ms. Nargund’s social media channels of choice have included Google+, LinkedIn, and her own blog, but these days she is most active on Twitter, where she has more than 900 followers and actively shares advice and engages on policy and education.

The professional who was most mentioned by peers in the fertility conversation, however was Zita West, midwife, acupuncturist, author and founder of her own holistic clinic, who has been described by The Telegraph as “the fairy godmother of fertility”. Ms. West’s Twitter profile, which is followed by more than 4,000, is a stream of nutritional and health advice on fertility, interspersed with promotion of her clinic’s webinars and blog posts.

Other influencers in the study included a wide range of healthcare professionals united by a common interest in fertility: nurses, midwives, gynecologists and public health experts. On social media, it seems, the exchange of ideas among diverse healthcare professional roles at different levels of seniority is the norm. It is not unusual to find junior doctors and even medical students exchanging ideas with senior experts. One senior doctor told me that on social media he feels comfortable learning from nurses and those in junior roles, whereas in the hospital where he practices, this would be highly unlikely to happen.


In another case, a junior doctor who ran a blog collaborated with a specialist who had decades of medical experience but limited social media know-how. The young doctor’s digital reputation gave online reach to the senior expert’s content, while the expert’s content gave credibility to the junior’s blog.

Getting involved

If social media is changing the way our customers are learning, developing and sharing ideas and influencing each other, then it must also change our customer engagement strategies. This lesson has already been learned by other organizations who engage healthcare professionals, including policymakers and patient groups.

When NICE, the UK policymaker for health spending, rejected Pfizer’s breast cancer drug palbociclib for routine funding on the NHS in February, it tweeted the news and invited comments on the draft guidance. NICE has been actively using Twitter to engage healthcare professionals for some time, and its Tweet was shared by medics in the UK and overseas. It was also shared by a student midwife who tweeted to Pfizer and NICE asking them to work together to provide access to the drug.

Two days after the student midwife’s Tweet, UK organization Breast Cancer Now shared its own response to the guidance, also tweeting to Pfizer and NICE and urging them to work together to make the drug available. Breast Cancer Now is followed by almost 40,000, and its Tweet, which it posted twice, was re-tweeted by one hundred people, including healthcare professionals.

Weeks later, following the NICE consultation period, the organization announced that following communication with Pfizer it had decided to postpone its committee meeting to discuss palbociclib, “ allow the company to submit an updated evidence package…”.

Ten insights-led customer engagement strategies for pharma

So how can pharmaceutical brands plan for meaningful engagement with healthcare professionals, and learn from the organizations that connect with them online? Here are ten ways I have seen at work:

1. Use your customers’ language: When marketers in one brand team saw how pharmacists talked about its products, they discovered that whilst the messaging they planned was on track, the particular language they were using was likely to alienate its customers. Instead, they used words that they now knew would resonate well to engage healthcare professionals effectively.

2. Meet customers’ expressed needs: One pharmaceutical brand discovered that a particular group of healthcare professionals was anxious about how to administer their product, so the brand team immediately responded by providing relevant training and resources. This supported better product uptake at a critical time for the brand.

3. Develop digital customer advocates: To prepare the way for future digital collaboration, a pharmaceutical company identified thirty emerging Key Opinion Leaders and taught them how to use social media in their specialist area, using real examples to support the specialists’ professional development.

4. Improve offline marketing: Traditional, offline marketing activities can be improved by hearing doctors share their hopes, concerns or questions about their work in a particular therapy area. One pharmaceutical company, for example, is tracking the online response of healthcare professionals to stories in traditional press, in order to gain an instant view of not only the reach of the story, but its customers’ reactions as they happen.

5. Provide timely patient support: Listening to the first-hand experiences of healthcare professionals can provide an early-warning system for concerns or needs among patients. For example, during the launch of a new drug, one pharmaceutical company found that doctors raised specific concerns about the product several months before the same issues were heard from patients. Based on this pattern, they were able to prepare for patients’ future needs ahead of time.

6. Target digital content: By listening to conversations among healthcare professionals, one pharmaceutical company discovered that doctors were not finding the answers to their questions about the company’s launch product online. This insight led them to refine their digital strategy to target key customer groups more effectively.

7. Integrate social and CRM data:Knowing which healthcare professionals are “Digital Opinion Leaders” - those shaping opinions among their peers - can help when developing key customer relationships. One pharmaceutical company, for example, is integrating insights from its customers’ digital activities into its CRM data, improving its understanding of key customers and identifying new potential advocates.

8. Prepare informed policy response: By listening to healthcare professionals on social media, one pharmaceutical company was able to measure the immediate response to draft policy guidance that would affect the success of its product. The rapid availability of insights put the company in a strong position to respond based on healthcare professionals’ expressed needs.

9. Differentiate from competitors: A new pharmaceutical brand entering a competitive drug class tracked conversations among healthcare professionals about its comparative products in several major global markets. It was then able to develop timely messaging to differentiate its own product as it launched.

10. Leverage congress meetings: Learning from HCP conversations before, during and after meetings is helping pharmaceutical brands to do more with their congress investment. For example, one pharmaceutical company is using insights from healthcare professionals on social media to plan its congress activity and schedule relevant meetings addressing the specific needs of individual specialists.

Every brand team’s response to the changing market is unique; some will continue to rely solely on traditional market research techniques and “the way we do things”. Others, led by innovators who are eager to achieve better outcomes for customers, patients and products, are already transforming the way they plan and manage brand strategies.

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The Gap Between Real World Healthcare & Social Media

The Gap Between Real World Healthcare & Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Part of what I like to think makes my blog unique is that I’ve been a cancer patient as well as a clinician treating cancer patients. So, I have one foot in each camp, as it were.

This blog, and my introduction to social media, germinated almost ten years ago after I had been diagnosed with breast cancer in July of 2008. Desperate for help and information, I found my way, as many have and many will, to and it’s online, peer support community. Dozens, possibly hundreds, of the people I connected with in that community are still my friends online all these years later on other social media. Then and now, these friends help validate my experience and often provide helpful information about breast cancer and treatment and side effects and middle-of-the-night freaking out. Back then, communicating with them spurred me to start reading research studies again, which I hadn’t done much of since physical therapy graduate school. Because of that, I began to connect with clinical and medical and science websites, and with researchers who’d published interesting studies or were seeking study participants. One of the most helpful experiences I had early on was finding an online listing for two doctors within driving distance who were conducting a clinical trial on treating cancer related fatigue. Thus, I am one of the first people to extol the virtues of social media and of those of us who employ it to advocate for better healthcare.


And it’s an important ‘but.’ I may write about healthcare here in cyberspace, but in my daily, real-world job, I work in the concrete world. I do connect with a secure server to upload my patient notes and download my schedule each day on my work laptop. And I email my colleagues and share a few pdf’s.

But my real work has little to do with zeroes and ones. I see patients of all ages, with all kinds of healthcare problems, in their homes, and try to teach them to walk better or not fall or to get out of bed without pain. And I have to tell you that, for most of them, social media has little to no impact on their experience of their own health and healthcare. A few of them might have a Fitbit. A few might have a patient portal account that they use to email their doctors’ offices or confirm upcoming appointments. And that’s about it.

The last thing that most, perhaps nearly all, of my patients would consider doing when they have a health crisis is to get online. You’d be forgiven for thinking this is an age thing, that it’s because most of my patients are elderly. And you’d be wrong. Sometimes, it does occur to a few of them, or to one of their family members or caregivers, to buy things like tub seats and walkers online. Most of the time, however, I have to tell them they can buy that stuff online. I have to tell the folks who have uncommon chronic diseases, or even common ones, that there are online communities that can help them feel less isolated. I have to tell them that there are websites for our state’s department of health, the department of elderly affairs, the local hospital or orthopedic practice, for, for the American Diabetes Association, etcetera, ad infinitum.

Pay No Attention to That Charlatan Behind the Curtain

Why don’t people get online for help with their health issues? Because they have health issues. Which means that they feel like shit, they’re exhausted, confused, overwhelmed, in pain, and generally gobsmacked. And the last thing they feel like doing is anything that does not immediately and concretely help them to feel better. And you know what? Mostly, I’m glad they don’t get online. I want them to listen to me and their doctors and nurses, and to follow our advice, not to read most of the execrable bullshit that passes on the web for healthcare information. I do not want them getting their health advice from the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow or Dr. Google. It’s bad enough that they watch TV. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve had to refute some nonsense a patient heard via Doctor Oz.

It’s hard enough for me to sort through the dross on the web to find the genuine nuggets. And I have an advanced degree in science. And I still get hoodwinked sometimes. But I also have online friends who are scientists, doctors, and intelligent healthcare journalists, and we help each other wade through the swamp.

That is not, however, true for most people. I have some very admirable friends online who have devoted themselves to improving health literacy, who work hard to improve their own, so that they can provide the patient’s perspective to researchers who design studies. But the odds that most of the thousands of people I have ever treated in the past twenty-five years could or would find their way to these web advocates or others like them is a snowball’s chance in hell. For real.

A Breed Apart

The thing to keep in mind is that those of us who are members of the healthcare social media community are not most people. Yet we may think we’re more important than we really are to most people. If there’s one thing that social media is good at, it’s declaring how important and influential social media is. And that’s true, up to a point. But we need a little humility, a little perspective about our role. When you have crushing, unrelenting chest pain, the sensible response is not to Tweet about it. You call a freaking ambulance.

I remember the first time I took a survey — one of several over the years — about how useful social media had been to me as a cancer patient. It was put together by a grad student who was working on her Ph.D. and whose mom had had breast cancer. It was pretty good. But when I got to the questions about who did the most to help me outlast cancer, or who I could most count on in a crisis, none of the answers included social media. The answers included the doctors and other clinicians who treated me, and the friends who drove me to see them. And yet, to hear some tell it, social media is going to save us all and reinvent the healthcare system. Really? Tell that to all my patients and work colleagues. Social media has facilitated awareness, research, and patient support. And it will continue to spur new and worthwhile ideas and projects. But the rest of the fix is not that simple.

In the Trenches

If you want to hear a passionate discussion about how to fix the healthcare system, talk to another clinician. And I don’t mean online. I mean in person, in a clinical setting or at a seminar. Or at the local pub over a beer or three. You’ve never heard intelligent snark like you’ll hear from us. A few of the doctors I’ve known over the years, who have also treated me as a patient, are especially enlightening. When I see them for a checkup, we often spend the first few minutes having a nice, soul-cleansing rant about it all. Do they check out social media for ways to further the cause? Hell, no. They have neither the time nor the energy. Frequently, neither do I. We’re all too busy trying to help our patients get better, or returning their phone calls, or typing notes about them on a computer, or wrangling with insurance companies and their criteria for reimbursement, or going to meetings and continuing ed seminars so we can remain competent enough to keep our licenses. On a daily, practical basis, has social media or digital documentation made our work easier or better? Not really.

I don’t have any immediate answers to this conundrum. And the ideas I have would require another blog post. But I can tell you one thing. When my patients improve, it has everything to do with how much access they feel they have to a real-world clinician who knows them, and how empowered they feel to take responsibility for their health. And then to do what they truly need to do in order to get better. And that’s where fostering the nexus between social media and the real world may be genuinely useful. Any and all ideas welcome. In the meantime, onward, friends.

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The Benefits of Social Media for Healthcare Professionals –

The Benefits of Social Media for Healthcare Professionals – | Social Media and Healthcare |

We have all heard about the rapid growth of social media sites but not many consider the increase of social media usage in the healthcare industry. In fact, a U.S. News & World Report article entitled “Health Care Harnesses Social Media” states that sixty-seven percent of medical professionals report using these social sites for professional purposes rather than simply personal pleasure. Social media websites have proven to be beneficial for both patients and physicians and can even increase the quality of care.

Some of the benefits of social media usage in healthcare are:

  • Spreading news: Hospitals are notified immediately via Twitter or Facebook when a tragic incident occurs. This means that they are prepared to treat any injured individuals before the tragedy has been publicly reported. After the Boston Marathon bombing for example, trauma teams saw the social media posts and were able to prepare for the victims by halting elective surgeries and readying themselves for the influx of patients.
  • Providing mass information: Healthcare providers are able to benefit more people by posting an informational/educational YouTube video rather than trying to explain something to each patient individually. Additionally, watching a video clip before meeting with their physician provides a patient with some context and allows for a more in-depth conversation in the examining room.
  • Ending geographic, mental, and medical isolation: Those who feel that they are alone in their illness or do not have easy access to a physician can go online to connect with healthcare professionals and support groups. Those who are too shy or embarrassed to ask for help can also benefit from an anonymous online interaction. Social media sites provide a wealth of information and make it easier to contact those professionals that can help.

One of the most common online activities is to search for healthcare information, and providers have an opportunity to benefit many by connecting with patients through social media. This is an ideal outlet for sharing healthcare news, providing information, and encouraging communication. We have all heard about the spread of social media, and it is not something that healthcare professionals should ignore.

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Social Media and healthcare companies

Social Media and healthcare companies | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media offers tremendous value to healthcare companies looking to connect with audiences, especially when you consider that one-third of consumers use forums and social media platforms for health-related matters, according to PwC Health Research Institute. Furthermore, social media advertising is expected to hit new highs in 2018. According to eMarketer, 10% of total U.S. ad spend will go to Facebook. Meanwhile, Twitter and Snapchat will reach ad revenue parity in 2018 as Snapchat is expected to pull in $1.18 billion vs. $1.16 billion for Twitter. But social media marketing is much more than just placing ads. It is about engagement.

“The success of social media has traditionally been measured in audience size: How many followers do you have? How many re-tweets or hash tags? How many likes? How many shares?” explains Jim Cimino, VP, Technology at TAG MM, A division of The Access Group. “Get ready for 2018—the year of engagement, the year where the emphasis shifts from quantity to the quality of social media content. Instead of asking ‘how many,’ the questions become how do your messages resonate with your audience? How do your followers interact and react? It is the year where size doesn’t matter.”

That shift could also mean a change in how companies approach social media in 2018.

“The traditional conversation calendar that was developed in the Facebook heyday has already gone by the wayside,” says Nicole Hamlin, Account Supervisor at Butler/Till Health Group. “As more platforms focused on the 1:1 relationship are adopted, brands will have to shift their strategies from maintaining and engaging with a community, to impacting the life of each consumer one at a time.”

Social Becomes More Personal

Chatbots, in particular, are one method that social media marketers can use to deliver more personalized experiences to their customers.

“These programs can deliver a customized experience that can be turned on and off at the discretion of the user,” says Kevin Dunn, VP, Strategy & Client Engagement, Life Sciences at LevLane. “The lifestyle, support, product education, and dosing reminders are all delivered when the consumer wants it, how they want, and so that it meets their needs.”

But chatbots can also lead to an improvement in how the pharma industry handles customer service.

“I call this the ‘airline response effect,’” explains Chris Iafolla, Head of Digital & Social Strategy at Syneos Health Communications. “If you have a late-arriving plane and need to rebook, tweeting the airline tends to yield a quicker result than walking to the ticket counter. This is what our audience wants from pharmaceutical companies and this transition will be enabled by chatbot technology.”

However, chatbots are not the only new opportunity within social that marketers should be looking into in 2018.

What’s New in Social for 2018

“2018 will be the year of Instagram Stories,” predicts Dhara Naik, Social Media Strategy Lead at AbelsonTaylor. “Marketers will tune into the raw, unscripted storytelling nature of Instagram Stories by pushing their own comfort levels and tapping into this transparency to deliver better outcomes. They can use Instagram Stories to share emotion-based content that isn’t masked behind a perfectly coiffed social media page, but is more real-time in sharing authentic moments.”

Another way to connect with audiences in a more authentic way will be through virtual hangouts, which are not entirely new, but there are several new offerings in this area.

“Houseparty is an example of one of these emerging platforms, and is especially popular with Gen Z,” explains Hanna Johansen, Senior Digital Strategist at Sandbox Agency. “The app allows friend groups to hang out via video chat. Facebook will also launch similar functionality this year through Facebook Spaces, which enables users to hang out with friends in a virtual environment that allows them to create, share, and explore together without actually being in the same room.”

But, an increase in meetings should not be expected to be limited to a virtual environment.

“This year, social marketing will progressively incorporate in-person experiences and interactions to maximize the success of its digital initiatives,” adds Kieran Walsh, President at Greater Than One. “As the distinction blurs between online and offline social communities, marketers with established social presences can further augment their capabilities by engaging in experiential opportunities with the groups they serve.”

New emerging technologies are also expected to make an impact in social.

“With the rollout of iOS 11 and Google AR Stickers, expect to see AR taking a more prominent role in patient and physician engagement,” says Sophia Liu, Social Media Coordinator at HCB Health. “For example, skin care brands will be able to project various physical responses to sun exposure or water intake. AR projections could help increase empathy among treating HCPs, prompting them to proactively explore new treatment options.”

What’s Important for Social in 2018

As always in marketing, just because something is new and shiny doesn’t mean it is the best approach. So, instead of focusing on platforms, marketers should make sure they are making an impact with the right people.

“The authenticity of the patient’s voice is contagious,” says Katie O’Neill, VP, Patient Engagement Solutions at Bionical. “In influencer marketing, customers place more trust in individuals they know or can identify with. In fact, 76% of users placed greater trust in content generated by others on similar health journeys.”

However, marketers just don’t need to limit themselves to making connections with top influencers in a disease state.

“Marketers should further explore niche community platforms that can further drive engagement and insights from very specific audiences,” says Dr. Theodore Search, Founder and CEO at Skipta. “As an example, brands can look to these niche community platforms for crowdsourcing of very specific information and insights to explore virtual alternatives to live meetings and advisory board panels, and to deliver specific content to niche audiences.”

Ultimately, this brings us back to where we started. No matter what platform you use or who you are trying to reach, the most important thing to keep in mind is engagement.

“Real social media success can’t always be measured in a monthly or quarterly report,” explains Andrew Lange, VP, Director Analytics at Harrison and Star. “In 2018, success should be something bigger—making a connection with the audience, having a true conversation as opposed to blasting out corporate-approved tweets. Even if they don’t end up using your brand, you’ll leave the customer with a positive experience they will remember.”

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Patients’ Vlogs Can Provide Another Form of Engagement, Support

Patients’ Vlogs Can Provide Another Form of Engagement, Support | Social Media and Healthcare |

Some docs may question social media’s place in patient care, but the number of YouTube users show it might be worthwhile to cultivate allies online.


YouTube Video blogs are popular time-wasters for many people. But the technology also can be a tool to help patients and physicians connect, some medical researchers say. 

"It has a great potential for patient engagement, but we don’t know a lot about it yet,” says Joy L. Lee, PhD, a research scientist at the Regenstrief Institute and Indiana University Center for Health Services and Outcomes Research.

Joy Lee

Lee studies how physicians and patients communicate electronically and co-authored a 2017 report, “Seeing Is Engaging: Vlogs as a Tool for Patient Engagement.” Noticing her younger friends watching YouTube videos whenever they have a few free minutes made Lee wonder whether there was a way doctors could tap into that. 

YouTube has given rise to online personalities who share thoughts and observations on any number of subjects — makeup, cooking, pets — and has made information about all sorts of hands-on projects — cooking, exercise, carpentry — accessible worldwide through video. 

“I was really marveling in the power of [YouTube] and wondered how it translated to health care and if health care was aware of it,” Lee says. 

YouTube says it has more than a billion users. On mobile devices alone, it reaches more 18-to-49-year-olds than any cable TV network in the United States.

“It’s a very powerful platform that these YouTube people have,” Lee says. 

She began to search YouTube for patient vloggers —people with certain health conditions who record themselves discussing their maladies, treatment and recovery. Among those with large followings, Lee noticed they revealed a lot about their experiences.

“Patients are people, and that’s what these videos are showing,” Lee says, “I was surprised at the level of detail they were showing.” 

The vlogs can be helpful in different ways. For patients, seeing someone dealing with a similar situation can provide support and understanding. For practitioners, it can provide a window into a patient’s world after he or she leaves a medical office.

“It’s really about educating them about the lives of their patients,” Lee says. 

Patients, especially those with chronic conditions, spend so little of their time with their physicians relative to their everyday lives, Lee says. “It’s helpful in different ways for both groups.”

In “Seeing Is Engaging," she notes: “The unique attributes of vlogs overcome some of the barriers to engagement such as high treatment burden and a lack of the sense of community.”

The Frey Life vlog chronicles Mary and Peter Frey and their experiences in managing her cystic fibrosis. According to YouTube, their vlog has about 190,000 subscribers and draws several thousands  viewers daily. | AAPL 

Lee suggests physicians spend a few minutes on YouTube finding vloggers with lots of followers who may be dealing with similar situations as their patients.

“It requires a bit of legwork, but not a lot because you only need a few good examples.”

She says, “The strength of the videos is that it’s coming from patients,” adding they are a way to raise awareness outside of the science. 

Lee says buy-in on the part of physicians is not easy because of the concern the videos might not contain sound medical advice. Some clinicians may simply distrust social media and question its place in patient care. 

However, she suggests it’s worth the limited investment to find some good vlogs because some people learn better by watching something rather than reading about it. 

That can increase buy-in for patients into their own care. “I think people realize video is a powerful tool,” Lee says. 

She stresses that vlogs should not be a way to diagnose or change treatments, but should only add to a patient’s arsenal of information. They can help a physician understand the patient experience and help the patient understand his or her own experiences, she says.

“This is really for patient engagement, patient support.”

Tiffani Sherman is a freelance writer based in Florida. She originally wrote this story for AAPL in February 2017. 

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How Healthcare's Digital Transformation Can Drive Better Patient Engagement

How Healthcare's Digital Transformation Can Drive Better Patient Engagement | Social Media and Healthcare |

Like many industries, healthcare is undergoing rapid upheaval as a result of digital innovation. From the proliferation of mobile devices and wearables such as Fitbit, to the spread of online health information sites and telemedicine, to the growth of electronic health records and plethora of data available to companies, the digital revolution in healthcare is reframing consumer expectations and how healthcare organizations are delivering care. In this new norm, healthcare marketers need to engage consumers in new and meaningful ways to ensure patient satisfaction.


Catching up to today’s digital consumer

Compared to industries like retail and travel, healthcare providers have lagged in adapting to today’s digital realities. In a recent survey of global healthcare organizations, nearly 60 percent said they were behind in implementing a digital health strategy or had none in place. Healthcare providers have been slow to turn to technology to improve patient communications, but things have changed over the last several years, and the healthcare industry is now rapidly playing catch up. There are several reasons for this:

First, providers have realized that patients have become empowered consumers, armed with access to an abundance of information and growing expectations for personalized engagement in all aspects of their lives. Second, consolidation among providers and the emergence of new healthcare options, such as urgent care and telemedicine, are increasing competition. Third, the shift to value-based care—in which providers are compensated on quality of care rather than volume—means marketers are key to meeting patient and population wellness objectives. Healthcare marketers, who traditionally invested heavily in mass advertising and local community events, are forced to now meet digitally savvy consumers where they are and demonstrate ROI. In fact, digital ad spending by the healthcare and pharma industries totaled $2.23 billion in 2017, up nearly 60 percent from three years earlier.


Driving personalized patient engagement

Consumers are demanding experiences from healthcare providers that are on par with those they’ve come to expect from other industries and brands. They expect personalized, cohesive engagement that makes their lives easier across email, mobile, social media and other channels. Healthcare is no exception--it is incumbent upon marketers to deliver exceptional experiences before, during and after care. Yet, nearly half of all providers acknowledge they lack the tools to effectively manage patient journeys. Knowing this, how can healthcare marketers get up to speed?

Understanding the patient starts with data. In order to deliver relevant content and information to consumers, marketers need to understand as much as they can about the people they’re trying to engage. For healthcare providers, that means collecting and analyzing as much data as possible about each patient interaction—whether they’re clicking on an ad, completing an online form, or opening an email on their mobile device. Now more than ever, healthcare providers have an opportunity to tap into new technologies like wearable devices to better understand patients. With the shipments of wearable devices expected to double between 2017 and 2021, patients’ opting to share information from their devices provides another invaluable stream of data for marketers.

Get personal with meaningful marketing. Healthcare providers must leverage their knowledge about patients to deliver the right message, at the right time, and on the right channel. Gone are the days when mobile, digital advertising, social media and email were operating in silos. Whether it’s sending mobile reminders for appointments or delivering a targeted newsletter with tips for relevant preventative care, successful marketers need to adopt a single engagement strategy to reach consumers and meet value-based care objectives.

Reaching a large amount of people with personalized content can be achieved only with technology that learns from past patient behavior and automatically knows how best to engage them. For example, a leading regional network of hospitals and clinics in the U.S. Midwest was able to boost its online portal membership by 25 percent by using a technology platform to send targeted email communications and mobile messaging to encourage its patients to sign up for the portal, which provides patients with healthcare updates and wellness information.

Wake up to the power of mobile. Mobile devices continue to transform every part of healthcare, including communicating with providers, filing insurance claims, filling prescriptions, getting medication reminders and recording information during patient visits. It’s no shock that earlier this year, Apple announced that its Health app would allow users to store and view medical records along with patient-generated data, another sign of the increasingly empowered consumer. As more and more mobile innovations surface, healthcare marketers have an opportunity to leverage these tools as a means to get closer to patients and deliver better care. For example, while more than half of patients would like to communicate with providers on mobile devices, the 100 largest U.S. hospitals are only reaching two percent of their patients on mobile apps.

Analyze your campaigns and pivot fast. Smart healthcare marketers set concrete goals, constantly assess which strategies are working and course correct as necessary. Marketing technology platforms that do the heavy lifting are a must here. Why? Because they equip marketers with detailed, real-time insights into how, when and where prospective and existing patients are engaging with content and information. Instantaneously, they can know what’s resonating and what isn’t, and can focus on solutions that work. Marketers need to make sure their campaigns are paying off in terms of attracting new patients, but are also succeeding when it comes to patient outcomes, such as their health and wellness.

The digital transformation of healthcare is a win-win. Patients become more informed, active participants with greater access to tools that help them lead healthier lives. Meanwhile, providers gain access to unparalleled data inventories to provide more personalized experiences and align with today’s value-based care paradigm.

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Using Social Media in Your Health Care Career

Using Social Media in Your Health Care Career | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media may be used a number of ways within the medical industry. Social media sites, including social networking websites, have grown tremendously and have become a popular way of communicating, networking, and growing a business. New uses for social media are being developed every day, particularly in the medical industry.

Many books and articles have been written about how to use social media.

However, there is not a great deal of information specific to the healthcare industry. There are several ways that medical professionals may utilize social media or social networking sites in the healthcare industry.

Medical Job Search and Professional Networking

Several websites provide excellent networking opportunities. Some are general in nature, and some have been created specifically for medical professionals. The general sites can also be helpful, especially if you know where and how to find other medical professionals. Also, the general sites are great for reaching out to patients and consumers.

  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn has one of the largest online networks of members, as it was one of the first sites designed solely for professional networking.
  • Twitter: Twitter is a micro-blogging site that offers a number of ways to receive industry news updates, share information, and connect with other medical professionals.
  • Facebook: Many hospitals, such as the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, have a presence on Facebook now. Facebook is another way for healthcare providers and institutions to maintain contact and relationships with other medical professionals, patients, and the general public.

Clinical Applications

Social media is taking on clinical uses as well.

Hospitals have started utilizing Twitter as a teaching tool, as well as a marketing tool, “tweeting” each step along the way of a surgery.

Additionally, Sermo, a networking website exclusive to physicians, offers a unique, confidential environment where physicians can informally consult on medical cases and share valuable information.

Administrative Uses

Some medical office managers and thought leaders in the healthcare industry feel that some social media sites could be an excellent notification method between providers and patients. For example, Twitter could be used for scheduling appointments, appointment reminders, practice updates, or public health notifications.

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#SoMe for the busy physician

#SoMe for the busy physician | Social Media and Healthcare |

Seven in 10 Americans are using social media today to connect with one another. From 2005 to 2016, the number of Americans using social media platforms to engage, learn, read the news and connect increased to more than two-thirds of the population. Social media usage rose in all age groups in the past decade, but, interestingly, it has been increasing in the population aged 65 years and older. This is relevant to the cardiology community, since the majority of patients with CVD are older.

We are two people in this large group worldwide who use social media — Twitter, in particular — on a regular basis. For the busy physician, it can be difficult to stay on top of relevant news for you and your patients or to find time to network. Enter Twitter, a community-engaging platform by which you can customize your feed to see only the news you want to see, generate conversation surrounding your clinical interests, follow conferences around the world remotely, share your expertise with your peers, and learn tips and tricks from others.

 Since both joining Twitter, we have watched the number of our cardiology colleagues as well as experts in the field rise in recent years and engagement has been strong. This is very exciting because what we are reading on Twitter can only be as good as the content that is being generated. Given the fast pace of this digital social media platform, it is important that we have thoughtful, clinically accurate evidence based discussions. This is why we continue to encourage more cardiologists, especially those who are involved in clinical practice, basic science, clinical trials and journal editing, to become involved on social media.

The power of social media

We met at the Cardiovascular Research Technologies meeting in 2016 in Washington, D.C., upon discovering a shared passion for social media and digital outreach. We were tweeting from that event, sharing news and lectures, and engaging with other attendees. This is when we also began using the #CRT2016 hashtag and started to build an audience at that meeting around this hashtag. By simply following the official hashtag during a national medical meeting, attendees could learn the science at a rapid, almost instantaneous pace. The two of us collaborated on this shared interest and evolved the idea of bringing social engagement to the interventional community.

The main question is: How are doctors using Twitter? Twitter is transforming the physician community into a learning portal for educating, spreading research and new ideas, sharing information that is being disseminated at scientific meetings, and for advocacy and networking.

Current statistics show that about three-quarters of digital media is being accessed by a smartphone. Health information accounts for 50% of what consumers are using the digital space for. Health information is, literally, at everyone’s fingertips.

There are not yet robust data on how often cardiologists, or physicians in general, are joining social media or how often they are using it. In one survey of 360 physicians, 83% mentioned using a web base to promote their practice, 63% to communicate online and write prescription e-scripts and 85% to follow their reviews and what people are saying about their practice. But when it comes to social media, the view is different: About half of physicians report using Facebook, mostly for personal reasons, and just 21% use Twitter. We would argue that the engagement on Twitter in cardiology has been quite impressive; more than 200 cardiologists have been identified as using Twitter, by way of a Twitter poll.


Health-related social engagement

Some physicians have expressed hesitation at joining and being active on social media. “Don’t lie, don’t cry, don’t cheat, don’t delete, don’t steal, don’t reveal.” This is the 12-word Social Media Policy by Farris Timimi, MD, at Mayo Clinic which summarizes the main “rules” for physicians who engage in social media.

Here are several tips to ease that hesitation and open the door for the positive aspects of social media engagement.


Twitter is limited to 280 characters per tweet. In those 280 characters, you might summarize an interesting PCI case you saw at a meeting or share a photo of a cath lab hack. Remember to maintain professionalism at all times. Your social engagement should reflect the same level of conduct you bring to your professional life. Expect every message on social media to be read aloud in the court of law or by your patient; if it doesn’t align with your professional behavior in the workplace, don’t post it. This is almost like a medical record; it’s going to represent you for the rest of your career. Importantly, on Twitter, you cannot edit your tweets. You can delete your tweet, but you cannot make changes to it once it has been posted. Always carefully consider what you are posting before you click the “tweet” button. Be cautious, neutral and evidence-based in what you tweet. If you’re new to social media, start slow.

Just as we do in patient care, remember to protect HIPAA at all times and never identify a patient. For example, if you want to share a photo of an angiogram or an echocardiogram to discuss an interesting case, ensure that the image is anonymous and the names, age and all personal information are blinded or you have taken a clean shot of the image. Also, ask for permission. This is one of the main fears we hear from physicians on social media. Ask your media or marketing department about your institution’s social media policy.

Source: Sheila Sahni, MD, and M. Chadi Alraies, MD

Why to engage; how to start

There are a number of reasons why the cardiology community should be engaged in social media and what it can do for you in multiple areas of one’s career. Major medical societies have social media accounts; in the realm of intervention, this includes the Society for Cardiovascular and Angiography Interventions, the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, among others. Similarly, many leaders in the field are on social media to increase awareness, to promote their expertise, to come up with new research or discuss research questions, or even discuss a new app that can be used to improve patient care. Further, we use social media mainly to follow journals, articles, to stay up-to-date and when they use a hashtag we can track the papers of our interest. Social media presents an opportunity to see everything of interest at your fingertips in digital form. You can retweet it, reply to a poster, forward it, share with others, ask questions to generate discussion: What do you think of this study? How will this change your practice?

So, what are the benefits of social media for the busy physician?

  • One, you’re going to learn a lot and will find the news relevant to you and your patient care.
  • Two, you have an opportunity to educate others — friends, peers, fellows, residents, colleagues, and so on.
  • Three, advocacy. Social media is a huge platform you can use to make your voice heard. Promote an organization or initiative you are passionate about. Build your personal brand as a physician known for your expertise. Have a bio and photo that is consistent across all social media platforms — for example, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. It’s important to focus yourself to a certain message.


No discussion of social media can really be completed without discussing the power of the hashtag. A hashtag links to a database of that subject matter in the Twittersphere, but it’s also used on other social media platforms.

To give you an idea, let’s look at #CTO (chronic total occlusion). You can use that hashtag to search and see all the new CTO information that is being tweeted about and you can decide what you’re going to keep, retweet, like or quote about. You may even come across a tip from someone who is advanced in their CTO career and may learn something about a new technique that you can then use yourself or generate a discussion around.


Similarly, #RadialFirst is a hashtag that was launched in January 2017 advocating for radial access practice in the field of interventional cardiology. The hashtag was adopted quickly by leaders in the field and used at large scale to share cases, images, discussions and even journal clubs. #RadialFirst truly represents the perfect example of the use of social media to advocate for a best-practice technique.

There are a number of other relevant hashtags in the interventional space that are currently popular on Twitter (see Graphic). Additionally, most national meetings and societies feature official hashtags to follow, whether you are attending a conference or following the conference virtually from home.

Generate conversation

Social media provides us the opportunity to connect with our colleagues at all levels and all over the world. But social media is not without its caveats: It’s important to have regulators. Having senior-level practicing physicians in different arenas — academic, clinical and so on — to be on Twitter and help control the dissemination of knowledge and increase awareness and adjudicate is vital.

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Using Digital Marketing to Successfully Market You and Your Practice

Using Digital Marketing to Successfully Market You and Your Practice | Social Media and Healthcare |

If you’re living in 2018, you know, to some extent, that social media, blogging and your online presence matter more than it ever has before and digital marketing should be the centerpiece of your online strategy. The online space is facilitating an incredible landscape for the practitioner of all sorts, to easily get their name out there, sell products and get more patients.

You may already have your foot in the door (and not even know it) through the use of a Facebook business page or even a newsletter that goes out to your patient database.

Here is what you really need to know about successfully digital marketing yourself and your practice.

1. Start with what you’re passionate about and what you know.

This may sound like a given, but many practitioners struggle with what to talk about or write about. Rather than trying to do it all, hone in on what you really are an expert in.

Ask yourself what really moves you and what excites you when you wake up in the morning? Ask yourself what makes you feel complete and why you do what you do each day? Ask yourself what your patients are needing most from you.

“No matter how small you start, start with something that matters…” Brendan Burchard

2. Be yourself.

Be authentic. One of the best pieces of advice you can follow is to stay true to what you believe in and what you are passionate about. Ask yourself what sets you apart from others in your space? Your strongest power is that you are you and that no one else is. You have something unique that defines you and makes you special. Use this to your advantage. Be a leader and an expert in whatever you decide is your place in this world. Importantly, keep in mind that people want to connect to WHY you do what you do. They want a personal story of love, healing and resiliency. What can you share with your audience that allows them to connect with you? You have one chance to make a good impression online, how will you be remembered?

3. Give love to get love.

This is so important and often times is misunderstood in the online world. There will always be other people who do what you do, offer services that you do and sell products you do. At the end of the day, however, there is room for everyone and unfortunately, there is no shortage of sick people who need help. Offer to support your colleagues, brands, business, bloggers and other influencers without expecting anything in return. This will always come back to you in the best possible way.

4. Back to basics

Why online marketing? Digital marketing is an opportunity to engage, converse and create a name for your legacy. What you put out into the digital world has the opportunity to reach thousands if not millions of people! Imagine seeing 20 patients a day and then writing a blog that can be read by ten thousand people…the opportunities are really endless. Everyone has different goals and whatever those may look like, an online campaign can and should be tailored to help you get there.

5. Have a website that will impress.

This is hands down one of the most important pieces. Your website is home base. It’s where everything you create lives and where everyone will remember to go to learn more about you.
Ask yourself:

  • Is it fresh, modern and user-friendly?
  • Do consumers know where to go to find the content they are looking for?
  • Do you have free content and free opt-ins to convert your visitors into e-mail subscribers? It’s an investment of your time and energy up front but absolutely worth it.
  • Does your website accurately demonstrate why YOU are unique and what you have to offer?

6. Write, write, write and write some more.

Great content is king of the internet. There are most definitely fears associated with creating content or “blogging” but let me break it down further.

A piece of content can be ANYTHING you feel compelled to create. A recipe, a video, a 700-word update on your latest research, a review of a product etc. Don’t be hesitate to create content around what you feel passionate about.

Additionally, consistency is so integral. Writing content each week gives your readers a reason to come back to your site. It also gives you an opportunity to share more on social media and in your newsletter which drives traffic back to your site. Get creative with what you create and remember there is no right or wrong way!

So, what’s next?

You may be asking yourself, what’s next? How do I get started? Have a team that can support you and helps move you forward. Start writing down your thoughts and reflections and more importantly, where you want to be in the next year and start tackling your goals.

It’s important to remember that you’re a practitioner. There are things you’re great at (healthcare) and maybe other things that are not your strength. That’s ok! The vision is the most important piece. Have the right people around you and get to work.

Get Started

Online digital marketing is a beautiful thing. It can be fun and drive your creative juices in addition to helping you grow your practice and sell your products. Every effort you put in opens new doors and new opportunities. While all of this may sound like a lot, keep in mind that you can take it piece by piece. Good luck!

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Digital Marketing Strategy for healthcare industry

The importance of Digital Marketing in Healthcare like Medical, Pharma Industry. Rssquarz Tech Solutions is a digital marketing agency dedicatedly focused on h…
Gabriel David's curator insight, March 21, 4:40 AM
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Social Influencers: A Short Course in Creating Power and Leverage

Social Influencers: A Short Course in Creating Power and Leverage | Social Media and Healthcare |

Here’s a powerful secret sauce that social media pros use to make a mega-splash. Social influencers magnify and extend the typical reach.

A hospital, health system or a premier doctor group, isn’t going to dominate the market by doing what everyone else does. Successful providers and organizations have an in-house leader, marketing person or team that knows how to think bigger, be more effective and be more aggressive than the competition.

Defining Social Influencers…

A website…or a blog…or social media content…or these and other Internet marketing tools form the basics. With some devotion and persistence, a healthcare entity can build around its target audience. And—over time—your online presence, your authoritative reputation and marketing dynamics bring new patients and other results. All too often, the program stops there.

Reaching the next rung in the ladder of success means going a big step further. Social Influencers are the springboard…the extra leverage…the overdrive connection for more power and effectiveness. An exact definition can be elusive, but…

An influencer (or influencers) is a recognized authority, has credibility or thought-leadership in a particular subject area, business or industry. These individuals or small groups have an established influence ON others, and their decisions, directions and/or advice are persuasive with the audience. Hence, the original message is endorsed and magnified with the target audience. Ultimately, influencers are valuable to extending reach and influence.

Why influence is power…

Influencers are, in effect, a personification of the common marketing tenant of social proof. Sometimes called “informational social influence,” social proof is the phenomenon where individuals will take the same course as others in order to feel that they are doing the right thing. And, if that audience finds that an authoritative source is taking or recommending a course or decision—expert influence—it encourages them to do the same thing.

The testimonial of a single person often has some clout, but the support or endorsement of an expert (influencer) has significantly greater power. About 90 percent of consumers trust peer recommendations, and better than 70 percent of Millennial consumers are likely to buy because of social referrals.

Influencers don’t appear magically…

Although some experts are almost universally recognized, many, if not most influencers are deliberately self-created. They have deliberately focused their time, attention and proactive voice on a specific topic or subject.

To extend your “social splash,” you can find and work with existing influencers. Or, in some instances, a social entity has proactively created its own center of influence around a particular idea. By either channel, the benefit is in creating leverage and extending your marketing message. An effective influencer is a recognized authority, thought leader and expert on a specific topic; who also:

  • Concentrates on a select number of social media channels
  • Continues to expand their audience or circle of influence
  • Creates compelling, actionable and meaningful content
  • Has a measurable and growing number of followers
  • Presents sharable information of value, often with a unique perspective
  • Proactively connects with other noted authoritative voices
  • Provides persuasive, useful and positive solutions to problems
  • Willingly promotes self and content to expand the audience

Surveys reveal that, among the social media options, Facebook (FB) is undisputed as the single largest and most influential channel. That said, FB is not the only social option and some audience groups may gravitate to other platforms.

Now, as never before, the Internet provides a window for the consumer to find and evaluate hospitals, doctors and other professionals. This means that the Internet is a research resource for health information, as well as a powerful influence in the consumer’s decision and selection process.

The consumer public is increasingly better informed about facilities, providers, and the competition. And the online information provided by specifically by influencers and fellow patients strongly directs the actions and next-steps of consumers. Influencers stand out as a primary and significant guidepost for consumer purchase decisions.

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How social media can reach a wider audience for healthcare services

Social media optimization is growing in importance at a rapid rate. One cannot neglect the positive outcomes of SEO factor. Whatever may be the sector you are …
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How Optometrists Can Improve Their Online Reputation

How Optometrists Can Improve Their Online Reputation | Social Media and Healthcare |

It might feel like you have little control over what is posted on the Internet about your optometry practice, and to some extent that may be true. However, that does not mean you must sit idly by while past patients comment on their experiences. Whether they are singing your praises or criticizing every detail about their visit, there are some steps you can take to interject yourself into the conversation and cast your optometry services in the best possible light.

Why It Matters

Your reputation matters – especially your online reputation. When it comes to optometric care, you already know that your patients have several choices in your community alone. There are no referrals necessary, and many probably don’t even have vision insurance. Ultimately, that means that some patients may be more likely to shop around for an optometrist than they are for, say, a cardiologist. Where do you think they will start their search? The Internet. Bad reviews not only damage your image, but they can also damage your search engine rankings. Why let your competitor enjoy a better Google search ranking just because he or she has better average reviews?

Assess the Damage

It goes without saying that a bad experience gets shared more often than a good one. You could be providing over-the-top service and quality care to everyone that darkens your doors, but it only takes one person to cast a shadow over your glowing reputation with an online review. Perhaps you already know about that one review. Maybe you know about several. Perhaps you have no idea what types of things are being said about your practice on the Internet because you’ve never taken the time to check. At the end of the day, you cannot direct the conversation if you aren’t a part of it. Take time to research your own name and practice on top review sites, including Google and Facebook, to find out what is being said about you.

Remove What You Can

Most third-party websites will not allow you to remove bad reviews from their websites. The exception is social media, which allows you to manage what information is prominent on your page. If a customer tags your office in an unflattering way, simply remove the tag. You can also choose to hide negative comments on your posts.

Know When to Respond

Sometimes it may not be necessary to respond to comments about your practice. However, more times than not, it helps to contribute your voice to the conversation, whether just to say thank you or to address a problem with your practice. This shows that you care about the experience your clients have at your office and want to do everything you can to right any wrongs.

If you come across a negative review, keep your cool. It’s easy to get angry about an online review, but it is best to keep your emotions out of it – even if you want to defend yourself. Do you remember the golden rule of customer service? “The customer is always right.” When it comes to public comments, remember that potential patients are paying attention to how you respond. In this case, the patient is always right. Apologize for any negative experience, assure the issue is being addressed, and offer to make it right.

No News Is Not Good News

Keep in mind that if you research your practice and find that there aren’t any good or bad reviews, don’t be quick to celebrate. Reviews are what drive your reputation. You need good reviews to improve your online visibility and drive new patients through your doors.

Be Proactive

No matter where you are in this journey, with effort, it is possible to build a solid online reputation that encourages potential patients to consider your office for their next eye appointment. We recommend:

Asking for Positive Reviews
Loyal, satisfied patients are often happy to leave you glowing reviews; you just need to ask. Try putting a reminder in your waiting area asking patients to ‘check-in’ at your practice and leave you a review. You might even offer a discount on a pair of prescription sunglass frames or accessories for those who do. Even if you have bad reviews, a flood of new positive reviews can quickly overwhelm the bad ones, bringing up your average rating and hopefully your ranking, too.

Establishing an In-House Review System
Sometimes people with bad experiences look for the first place they can to leave negative feedback. A Reputation Management System offers an opportunity to directly to prevent the information from going public. This could be a comment box at the check-out desk or maybe quick follow-up email that includes a link to provide immediate feedback. Ideally, you would be able to rectify the situation before it makes it into the public domain.

If all of this seems like a lot to remember or a time-consuming process you cannot fit into your schedule, we understand. It’s what we do all day, every day, for healthcare providers like you. If you need help managing or improving your practice’s online reputation, contact the team here at Solution21 to find out more about our reputation services. We look forward to serving you soon.

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How Negative Keywords Help Boost Your Medical Practice’s Digital Advertising ROI

How Negative Keywords Help Boost Your Medical Practice’s Digital Advertising ROI | Social Media and Healthcare |

With negative keywords, savvy digital marketers can prevent their ad spend from reaching the wrong audience.

As internet users flock to search engines for medical queries — a Pew report shows that 80% of peopleonline have sought out answers to health-related questions — it’s becoming increasingly important for digital marketers in the healthcare industry to use their ad spend wisely.

With pay per click (PPC) campaigns, medical practices can more effectively target their ideal customers than they can with traditional media. Strategically selected keywords can promote your business to potential patients at key decision-making junctures, but you’ll only have to pay if they click on your content.

While it’s important to structure your keywords so that your online content reaches interested users, it’s just as essential to preserve your ad spend by filtering out customers who don’t fit your buyer personas. Taking the time to familiarize yourself with negative keywords can boost your digital advertising ROI by preserving your PPC investment for people are the most likely to become patients.

What You Need to Know About Negative Keywords

According to Google, negative keywords are “[a] type of keyword that prevents your ad from being triggered by a certain word or phrase.” With negative keywords in place, Google won’t show your ads to anybody search for those specific phrases. In other words, negative keywords help Google better understand which keywords you don’t want to appear for.

For example, you may use “free” as a negative keyword. While someone may be interested in the skincare treatment that your medical practice specializes in, you don’t want to pay for clicks from users who are primarily looking for free services. There may be other places that can provide them with that kind of care, but your business, in this circumstance, only wants to target customers who will pay. With “free” as a negative keyword, your content won’t appear to these users, preserving your ad spend for potential customers who fit within your target audience.

How to Determine Negative Keywords

In order to select the most effective negative keywords, you’ll have to get creative while relying on whatever data is available to you. Brainstorm the types of business or services that may use similar keywords as yours, and then figure out which negative keywords you can employ in order to prevent your content from being promoted to their customers.

Let’s say that your medical practice specializes in ear, nose, and throat care. Your regular keywords might coincide with at-home products that people can use to avoid a trip to the doctor altogether. In this instance, you could add “home” or “at home” to your negative keywords so that you’re not paying for users who aren’t seeking professional attention. (Whether you want to target these users in order to persuade them that care from a licensed physician is preferable to at-home remedies is up to you.)

Additionally, you can analyze data from previous PPC and SEO campaigns that can drive insights into what keywords you consistently rank for. By understanding how your website appears in organic searches, you can employ evidence-based negative keywords that you may not have predicted.

Entering and Maintaining Your Negative Keywords

The negative keywords tab is easily accessible in Google Adwords, right next to the regular keywords tab. You’ll have the option of entering campaign-level negative keywords or limiting your negative keywords to discrete ad groups depending on your current needs. Also, you can define whether each negative keyword you use is exact, broad, or a phrase match just as you would with regular keywords.

After selecting your negative keywords, it’s vital that you monitor their performance. New data may inspire additional negative keywords, market developments could shift your industry landscape, and competing businesses or services may make unanticipated changes to their own offerings. By continuously checking in on how each negative keyword is preserving your PPC investment, you’ll be able to improve them over time.

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5 Digital Marketing Tips for Doctors

5 Digital Marketing Tips for Doctors | Social Media and Healthcare |

Let’s face it – marketing and advertising have undergone monumental changes in recent years. As a whole, we have become incredibly reliant on technology in all different aspects of our lives. When it comes to marketing a medical practice, it is imperative you stay up-to-date with the latest trends in digital advertising. Gone are the days of putting up a billboard or taking out an ad in your local newspaper. These days people turn to the internet – specifically Google – in order to find a doctor, dentist, or any other healthcare provider. This is a huge shift for the medical community and one they’ve struggled to keep up with. Not only have internal protocols changed, requiring doctors to ensure all medical information is online, but the way in which patients search for and receive care is much different.

Numerous studies have been conducted that show how the medical patient has changed over the years. Many people now have what some call “high health literacy”, which means they are often inclined to seek credible information online. This has resulted in patients becoming more involved in their own healthcare, which is affecting how you, the doctor, provides medical care. Because of these shifts, it is more important than ever for doctors to understand how to promote their medical practice and get in front of patients. There are many different digital marketing strategies out there today that can help you develop a healthy, strong, and relevant online presence. These days, it’s all about building trust and establishing your reputation, which is something Med Critic can help you with.


Every doctor or healthcare provider should take the time to understand just how important digital marketing is for medical professionals. Building trust and providing patients with relevant, rich information is the first step. Sure, it may seem complicated or even overwhelming, but there are a few things you can do to build a stronger online presence:

  • Start with a professional website that is search engine optimized – It may help to Google yourself before you do anything else, and once you do that if you find that your website does not show up on the first page of search engine results, you’ll know where to start. Having a website that is modern, easy to navigate, mobile-friendly, and offers relevant information is an absolute must. Make sure your website is search engine optimized (commonly referred to as SEO) in order to improve your website rankings and increase traffic. Keywords are huge when it comes to SEO, as they will help bring local people to your website.
  • Focus your marketing efforts – Research shows that people respond better to focused, tailored marketing campaigns. Take the time to understand who your audience is and then adjust your marketing efforts to these specific groups of people.
  • Cultivate your personal brand – Today’s medical patient is looking for a doctor they can trust and who they believe truly cares about their patients. This is why it is important to cultivate your personal brand and help people get to know you. Even though we live in a technological age, Millennials and other generations are looking for that personal connection. Write blogs, engage with social media followers, and do everything you can to position yourself as an industry expert.
  • Follow-up with your patients – Email is a wonderful tool that allows doctors to provide patients with more personalized care and attention. We know it can be challenging to try and stay up-to-date with all of your patients, but taking care of your patients is a must.
  • Grow your content marketing efforts – Content marketing includes both blogging and social media, and it is an extremely effective way to reach both new and existing patients. Consider a podcast or YouTube channel, as these are both great platforms to interact, educate, and engage with your patients.
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Xbox for Docs: Pharma backs AR games for use in physician learning 

Xbox for Docs: Pharma backs AR games for use in physician learning  | Social Media and Healthcare |

The polyp, visible under the fleshy tissue of the intestine, needs to be removed. You grasp the clump of cells with a glinting metal forceps and pull. Red liquid gushes from the area, flowing outward and collecting in a shallow pool. A blood vessel has burst. Flustered, you cauterize the wound, but cause unnecessary damage to the surrounding tissue.

Your score dips. The case is real, but the blood is virtual. The above scenario was designed by a company that creates mobile games in which doctors can diagnose conditions and “perform” a variety of surgical procedures on digital patients.

“We're using video game design and psychology to improve physician decision-making and enhance critical thinking,” says Sam Glassenberg, founder and CEO of Level Ex, a medical tech company creating professional video games for doctors.

Before founding Level Ex in 2015, Glassenberg worked at LucasArts and led Microsoft's advanced graphics team. Not surprisingly, he runs Level Ex like a gaming studio. Cases are designed to get harder over time, users unlock new equipment as they progress, and games are A/B tested to achieve the perfect balance of reward and frustration.

See also: Diabetes marketers turn to big data, gaming to improve outcomes

Dr. Jonathan Cohen, a gastroenterologist and a clinical professor of medicine at New York University's Langone School of Medicine, sees the promise of using such gaming to teach clinicians. Cohen took the above simulation, dubbed Gastro Ex, on a test run (Level Ex, he says, isn't well known in the gastrointestinal community). He was impressed by its ability to present complex situations in which users must weigh multiple options and make decisions in real time.

While human interaction remains the core of medical training, there's room to improve its support system, Cohen says. Traditional simulators, which can cost upwards of $100,000, are good tools for practicing mechanical skills. But games, which are cheap, engaging, and easy to disseminate, might do a better job teaching cognitive ones. When well designed, they can better equip doctors to identify abnormalities, respond to unexpected problems, and work more efficiently with team members.

Engaging with Providers

Where doctors see an opportunity to improve training, pharma companies see a potential entrée with providers. Level Ex's Airway Ex app, which features mobile games for anesthesiologists, has more than 35,000 registered users. Both Gastro Ex and Airway Ex are free to download and are built around real medical cases. Drug companies eager to expose physicians to new treatments and medical devices pay Level Ex to insert ads into existing games or to develop custom ones.

For Baxter, Level Ex created a mini game that instructs anesthesiologists how to properly dose the inhaled anesthetic Suprane. For Medtronic, it built an AR simulator that teaches doctors how to use its updated version of the laryngoscope.

“Doctors are avid learners who want to learn about new devices and treatments,” Glassenberg says.

See also: Cigna partners with Microsoft HoloLens on biometric game

He speaks from experience: The son of two physicians, his wife is a pediatrician. “I'm the black sheep of my family that never went to medical school,” he jokes. Level Ex informally started in 2012, when Glassenberg designed a training app for his dad. When the app blew up, he realized how starved physicians were for digital tools.

Level Ex isn't the only company helping pharma engage with providers through games. Klick Health built an interactive experience in VR that teaches physicians about the bonding mechanisms of a neurotransmitter receptor (users must fend off molecules by blocking them). BioLucid, which was recently acquired by Sharecare, creates interactive VR videos that help doctors teach patients about a range of conditions. Pharma companies can pay to sponsor the videos or run ads inside them. Sharecare's series on diabetes and psoriasis were sponsored by Eli Lilly brands Trulicity and Taltz, respectively.

Like Level Ex, both companies are steeped in video game culture, with developers coming from Electronic Arts, Blizzard Entertainment, and Microsoft.

Cohen believes these game-like experiences can be effective in teaching doctors how to perform rare procedures. While most gastrointestinal fellows will perform more supervised colonoscopies than required to meet competency standards, there are many opportunities for dynamic practice for less-routine surgeries.

“A machine can tell a trainee, ‘You didn't see that area very well. Go back again,'” he explains.

See also: How Can Marketers Best Unleash the Potential of Virtual Reality?

Despite the promise of these platforms as learning tools, Cohen says their job is to enhance, not replace. Medical training continues to rest on a foundation of human interaction, such as the back and forth between an experienced doctor and a trainee operating together.

Marketers' Golden Hour

Glassenberg aims for his games to mirror this exchange and provide many of the basic functions as a mentor does — for example, detailed monitoring and real-time feedback. Games are about “driving user behavior,” making them useful tools for learning and marketing.

“When you talk about the psychology of advertising, you think about the anchoring sunk-cost fallacy and using users' known cognitive biases. These principles are employed by video games,” Glassenberg notes.

He has found most Level Ex users play the game at night, when they have time to engage with the content. For marketers, this could be the golden hour, provided they find a way to slip their messages in. 

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Social Media Helps Health Officials Detect Food Poisoning Outbreaks

Social Media Helps Health Officials Detect Food Poisoning Outbreaks | Social Media and Healthcare |

Food poisoning is the last thing you want to read in a review about a restaurant on social media. Though these negative comments are not always reliable, they may help governments detect potential food poisoning outbreaks.

A team of developers at Columbia Engineering designed a computer program that hunts for complaints of food-borne illness on Yelp and Twitter.

“It picks up on keywords and key phrases that you as a person would associate with it, like 'I got sick' or 'I got food poisoning,'" said Thomas Effland, the program’s creator and a Columbia Ph.D. student.

The information goes to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, which investigates the claims that may have otherwise gone undetected. According to a study, the program has helped identify 10 outbreaks.


Francisco Seco/AP

Others are using social media to search for new cases of food poisoning, such as Harvard Medical School, and health officials in Chicago and Nevada. 

Even though sharing on social media may seem helpful, Consumer Reports recommends you go through official channels to alert authorities so they can investigate immediately.

“If someone is really concerned about whether there’s an outbreak at a restaurant, they should really be consulting their local public health department,” Consumer Reports Health Editor Julia Calderone said. 


If you experience symptoms of food poisoning, Consumer Reports says you should try to stay hydrated and of course consult your doctor.

Rob Batot's curator insight, March 17, 3:16 PM
You've gotta love the checks and balances that have accompanied social media! Here's another that Sensational Seasonings is excited about.
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How Healthcare Digital Marketing Helps Doctors to Grow Their Practice 

How Healthcare Digital Marketing Helps Doctors to Grow Their Practice  | Social Media and Healthcare |


Marketing isn't just advertising because so many people believe. It is countless has a challenge. Marketing doesn’t relate to just selling of product or even services and need to do much more with techniques and campaigns apart from marketing. When someone describes healthcare marketing agency it is about a specialized marketing agency that's capable with regard to effective marketing of healthcare services. This kind of marketing was unheard expression in the past whenever clinical services were very limited on the specific place. 

Necessity of marketing regarding healthcare

The circumstance has changed over years and doctors also need aid of marketing services today. This doesn’t signify only an unbiased practicing doctor needs to marketplace his clinical services but an established medical center, medical center or hospital or perhaps a big party would also need marketing assistance to grow their business. Not merely medical providers are limited but patients’ approach is fixed. Patients must also know about common and specialised medical services in and around their whereabouts where they can approach for much better treatment and medical care. On the internet technology has developed an ease for patients to search doctors, clinics, healthcare centers, as well as hospitals on the web and book their appointment together with consultants.

Marketing is useful for medical doctors and sufferers
Online lookup has no utilize if healthcare services are not available on the web. That’s why doctors and medical solutions do sustain their internet sites and some other websites consolidate list of specialised medical services and obtainable doctors in the city. A good some medical doctors and healthcare services can be accessed about popular social media networks. All of this is possible as a result of healthcare digital marketing agencies that create a solid link between medical doctors and their individuals. Digital marketing is not only assisting doctors to cultivate their individual network but in addition facilitating sufferers to connect to medical doctors. 

Services which marketing agencies offer

Marketing agencies specializing in healthcare marketing, like healthcare marketing agencies UK play significant function in expanding practices of doctors as well as other medical services by building tweaking their internet sites. The marketing agencies also assist in Search engine optimization, SEM, e-commerce, social networking marketing, and mobile apps. More people search on their cell phones and advance of mobile apps is, therefore, extremely important part of digital marketing. Marketing agencies aid doctors to maintain their online presence and lead in their web reputation. The specialized healthcare digital marketing agencies generates campaigns for doctors as well as suggest ways to market their services. It is sort of comprehensive unique brand marketing to fit specific clinical requirements.

Exactly why to use them

Like a doctor or even clinician, marketing isn't your job and you may not be conversant with fundaments associated with marketing. Digital marketing is highly experienced job that can be performed by technology specialists within digital environment. Lots of people in your field may be making use of marketing services, however, you need to stick out in the crowd. The specific healthcare marketing agency is thus, the right means to fix bring you in standout placement.

All this is possible because of healthcare digital marketing agencies that create a strong link between doctors and their patients. Digital marketing is not only helping doctors to grow their patient network but also facilitating patients to connect to doctors.Marketing agencies specializing in healthcare marketing, like healthcare marketing agencies UK play significant role in growing practices of doctors and other medical services by building and maintaining their websites. For more details please visit healthcare digital marketing agencies.

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