Social Media and Healthcare
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PHI of 15,000 Shared on Social Media 

PHI of 15,000 Shared on Social Media  | Social Media and Healthcare |

It’s not surprising the popularity of social media continues to rise. Social media provides us with a convenient way to communicate electronically, to share information, ideas, personal thoughts, and other content.  The Pew Research center estimates approximately 76% of Americans who use the internet regularly use at least one social networking site. 10 years ago, only 7% of the U.S. population used one or more social networking sites.

Because of the convenience and the increased popularity of social media usage, we need to proactively be thinking about what information is being shared, who will see the information, and when the information may be shared.

Just last year, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) announced that personal information form DHHS internal files had been posted to a social media site. The breached files contain protected health information (PHI) and personal information for as many as 15,000 DHSS clients.

According to the New Hampshire DHHS press release:

  • In October 2015, PHI was accessed by an individual who was a patient at New Hampshire Hospital at the time, using a computer that was available for use by patients in the library of the hospital.
  • A staff member observed the individual access non-confidential DHSS information on a personal computer in the library.
  • The staff member reported the incident to a supervisor who attempted to restrict access to the library computers. However, the incident was not reported to management at the hospital or to DHHS.
  • On August 2016, a security official from the hospital informed DHHS that the same individual may have posted some DHHS information on social media.
  • On November 4, 2016 DHSS was informed by the hospital security department that the same individual that day had posted confidential, personal information to a social media site.

The press release goes on to say this was an isolated incident that stemmed from unauthorized access in October 2015 and “not the result of an external attack.” If you need help training your organization on social media and HIPAA, read our article about the “Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media.

While the popularity of social media usage continues to grow, so does the threat of confidential and personal information being shared.  This is one of the reasons why Healthcare Compliance Pros is publishing our social media series.  In our next article, we will reference this incident as we provide 5 tips for ensuring PHI does not impermissibly be shared on social media.

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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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Top 5 Social Media Networking Sites For Doctors And Patients

Top 5 Social Media Networking Sites For Doctors And Patients | Social Media and Healthcare |

While most doctors and other healthcare professionals have little time to regularly check and update social media accounts, it’s the digital platform where most of their patients search for a diverse range of health-relation information. Participating in online social conversations with peers and patients is critical to modern medical success, both in terms of educating people and promoting practices. As a healthcare provider, or even a patient, you need to find and share information online, get to know about public opinions and observations, and find solutions for health issues and ailments. Lucky for you, there are a number of websites and app created for the masses to share general or specifically healthcare-related information. Here are some suggestions: 1. Facebook The social networking website is more than just an online application for the public to share everyday posts, images and videos. It has a treasure of information for people in the healthcare industry too. Many healthcare providers use for desktop and mobile Facebook to connect with potential and current patients. RSS.Bitcoin Daily Bitcoin videos twitter However, since the website has limited guidelines about specific healthcare fields, healthcare providers and patients need to proceed with caution when sharing information, so as to not violate HIPAA rules and regulations. 2. LinkedIn Groups One of the leading websites for organizations and employers to find talented candidates, and professionals to seek out a great position in their industry, LinkedIn has social tools to cater to healthcare professionals. Doctors, nurses, physicians and other healthcare providers can become members of niche groups for job searching, joining discussions, networking and marketing. 3. Healthguv A recent innovation venture that that information-sharing and social media tools specifically related to healthcare, Healthguv can be used by people all around the world. The healthcare social networking site enabled its registered users to create profiles, through which they can create and post healthcare articles, blogs, news, images and videos. They can also discover and learn from content shared by other users. The website also enables medical providers and companies to promote their practices and products in a more personalized way, and assist patients with queries through chats and, messages. Users can also control which parts of their profile and shared content to keep public or private. 4. AllNurses Nursing students and nurses looking to discover job listings, articles, forums and more can join AllNurses. The site enables registered members to share information on a password-protected system. 5. MomMD Female physicians and other healthcare providers can join in on the discussion forums and explore the website’s job board to find suitable positions in various healthcare sectors. The users can also compare salaries, and raise and spread information about healthcare related issues faced by the female population. These social platforms consist of user-friendly features, and some have immense databases of information that cannot be found on conventional medical websites. However, it’s important to know that social media can be a tricky domain for first-time healthcare users; you must remain aware of each site’s security and privacy guidelines and regulations.

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The Top Trending Dental Social Media Marketing Ideas

The Top Trending Dental Social Media Marketing Ideas | Social Media and Healthcare |

Building a dental practice and keeping your patients happy can be a huge job. We all know that digital marketing tools can make life easier.

By using digital content like blog posts, or focusing on customer reviews, you can build your brand. Local patients will boost your word-of-mouth business and you can focus on practising dentistry.

Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple. The blessing and the curse of digital marketing is that it happens so fast.

Yesterday’s tools are today’s junk.

You need to be focusing on dental Social Media Marketing ideas for your digital campaigns to remain effective.

If not, you may fail to reach the patients you want. We can help.

Here’s why you need Social Media as part of your strategy:

Dental Social Media Marketing Ideas Work

Many dentists know that the way to boost business and establish the foundation for a successful practice is by increasing your word of mouth referrals.

Social Media takes that same concept and allows you to accelerate the process with digital content and targeted advertising.

Since more than 90 percent of all people say referrals (or earned media) are their preferred form of advertising, you can cater to their needs.

Social Media is where you enable endorsements, community presence, and add a boost to your digital content strategies. You’ll increase revenue and have a marketing strategy that is measurable every step of the way.

We know the trends aren’t always easy to follow. After all, you have a dental practice to run.

And when you and your staff finally pin down a digital marketing technique, something new comes along and changes the rules.

But if you master this list you’ll be on top of the trends this year. Here’s how to make the most of dental Social Media marketing ideas:

1. Make It Mobile

Too many dental practices still have it backwards when it comes to mobile. They plan their marketing strategy for desktop users and then reverse engineer the content for mobile platforms.

This is true for every aspect of digital marketing. But especially when it comes to Social Media marketing ideas, it’s time to shift the paradigm.

It’s simple: Your current and potential patients depend on mobile for all of their content.

If you start on the desktop you are working against yourself. Mobile is your patient’s first priority.

Mobile needs to be your first priority too.

Facebook reports that 80 percent of their new ad revenue is from mobile campaigns. This is true because business owners understand that the majority of users get their information from mobile platforms now.

Whether they are using smartphones or iPads, your current and potential patients want access on mobile platforms. You won’t just be designing your dental Social Media marketing ideas around their preferences, though.

What better place to leverage Social Media than on mobile devices? The connection between communication and the personal touch is strongest when it’s made on Social Media.

Mobile technology is hardly a trend. But designing for mobile first and desktop second is.

2. Focus On Social Messaging

It’s not enough to limit your practice to the Social Media side of digital content. Investing in social messaging is one of the most effective trends to follow this year.

Many dental practices aren’t aware of the incredible reach of social messaging. Did you know that WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Viber and WeChat together have more users than the big networks?

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram are second place to the Social Messaging apps.

Social Messaging can be a great component of your digital marketing strategy. Don’t be a latecomer to the party with this mode of connection.

Dental Social Media marketing ideas work hand in hand with social messaging. You can connect users, leverage reviews, and deploy targeted ads as well.

3. Be Social With Video

Mobile video traffic is projected to grow by 50 percent annually between now and 2022. If your digital marketing content creation strategy doesn’t include video yet it’s time to start.

Your patients don’t just want mobile content. They want video, too.

Plus, video is a great way to connect socially. You can post reviews, procedures, case studies, community events, and more.

There is no limit to the ways video content can help you build your brand and connect with new patients. In terms of dental Social Media marketing ideas, video content works because it also encourages engagement with your content.

Engaged patients are likely to be moved to action. Plus, if they like your Social Media content they are more apt to share it.

You can watch your referrals soar. But the content isn’t the only reason to get moving with video.

You’ll have access to other networks.

YouTube is a Social Media community.

Many dentists don’t think of YouTube as a Social Media community. But it’s designed is for users to share personal content, respond, and connect.  It’s actually the original platform for video users in a Social Media setting. Plus, YouTube is the second most visited site in the world.

We see too many dental practices fall short with their dental Social Media marketing ideas. They use one or two but fail to see the impact.

For instance, they focus on SEO away from a Social Media strategy. But YouTube isn’t just a popular site.

It’s also the second largest search engine in the world. YouTube processes over 3 million searches a month.

By using video content as a key dental Social Media marketing idea you will have the benefit of boosting SEO and engagement while reaching more web users with popular content.

4. Get Live

Don’t just focus on video content this year. Focus on Live Video content if you want the best in dental Social Media marketing ideas.

Live content is taking off in popularity. Facebook has made huge investments in the technology which can help you reach new and existing patients.

Their approach allows for targeted ads inside Live Video content.

But Facebook is not alone. Snap, Twitter, and Instagram have all expanded their offerings and are investing in Live Video technology. Much like video content and mobile access, Live Video is what users want. With increasing distrust of mass media, Live Video allows users to connect in real time.

You can use this video in the same way. Promote a new special or connect with your followers in social and friendly ways.

Just like your other content strategies, Live Video stands ready to build your brand.

5. Be Professional

When it comes to dental Social Media marketing ideas, you’ll need to consider your platform as well as your brand. You will find you use Facebook very differently than you use Instagram.

But LinkedIn is a Social Media platform many practices ignore. They don’t remember that the branding of LinkedIn makes it a unique forum to promote expertise and professionalism.

Your dental Social Media marketing ideas can benefit from LinkedIn because you can integrate this platform with your overall strategy.

How is a platform we’ve all heard of a trend for 2017? Simply put, Microsoft’s purchase of the Social Media platform has changed things for the better.

Make sure you are being professional in a way that relates to your patients by using LinkedIn this year.

6. Invest In Targeted Ads

Targeted ads are nothing new for Social Media. But the ability to link to return on investment is becoming more and more effective.

If you think of advertising on Social Media something like placing an ad in a local magazine, it’s time to reassess your strategy.

Targeted ads need to be utilized alongside the dental Social Media marketing ideas you deploy across different platforms.

As mentioned above, this can include Live Video and Social Messaging. But you should also pay attention to return on investment (ROI) and SEO.

If you are investing the right way for your practice you should tie each campaign back to results. New dental Social Media marketing ideas include getting incredibly precise in both your targeting as well as your returns.

Social Media marketing allows for this investment to be measurable and direct.

7. Boost Reviews

Reviews are just becoming a larger trend because of their ability to boost other aspects of your dental Social Media marketing ideas. Reviews aren’t new. But using them as an SEO strategy and a way to promote content and sharing on Social Media is.

Done correctly, you can increase reviews and referrals by leveraging your Social Media strategy.

All of this should be done in an integrated approach.

8. An Integrated Approach

Each of these trends is useful when taken separately. But when combined, the effects are exponential.

Integrating your Social Media strategy with Live Video, reviews, video content, and reviews will propel your website upwards in the search results. Unfortunately, when it comes to Social Media trends, it’s hard to stay on top of things. Plus, unless you combine these ideas you are missing out on the results.

You may even watch your competitors do less work for more returns.

Don’t lose your competitive edge when it comes to the latest dental Social Media marketing ideas.

We can help. Dominate Dental creates and deploys successful digital marketing campaigns that include an integrated Social Media strategy.

Don’t wait. Keep focused on your core business.

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Plastic surgeons sharing procedures on social media raises ethical concerns

Plastic surgeons sharing procedures on social media raises ethical concerns | Social Media and Healthcare |

Plastic surgeons have been advertising their services for years with before and after photos.

Since May 2016, Toronto plastic surgeon Dr. Martin Jugenburg has been using his Instagram account to increase business by showing the steps in-between.

Jugenburg, whose Instagram handle is @realdrsix, shares videos and photos of liposuction, breast augmentations and the increasingly popular Brazilian butt lifts in grisly detail on his Instagram and Snapchat accounts.

Read more: Millennials using Botox to stay young looking, plastic surgeons say

He has almost 74,000 followers on Instagram — and 80,000 on Snapchat. Many of them post comments on his photos and videos and, more importantly, reach out to him with their questions.

Jugenburg says he is providing an educational tool. But critics are concerned that viewers and potential patients may not be getting a full picture of the risks involved with plastic surgery and worry online postings could easily cross ethical lines.

“My goal is to educate the public, and make my patients better understand what they are getting into,” said Jugenburg, who believes seeing real plastic surgeons at work on Instagram is far less dangerous than watching non-qualified people at work.

“I see social media as the new Discovery Channel or TLC,” Jugenburg said. “Millennials don’t watch TV anymore. They are online.”

Jugenburg isn’t the only plastic surgeon to operate on social media, but he was the first Canadian to do so and he has the largest following among Canadian plastic surgeons.

The videos can be jarring and hard to watch at first. On the lower end of the ick spectrum is seeing the fat collected from liposuction. Higher up is seeing kilograms of flesh removed from tummy tucks weighed on a scale. Higher still is seeing the inside of a breast during lift surgery while the nipple is still in place.

If you can get past the ick factor, it’s educational and informative, said Tania Isnor, a 32-year-old mother of two, who watched Jugenburg’s videos of breast lifts before going to him for the same procedure as well as implants in November.

“The first or second time that I saw it I was like, ‘Whoa! That’s a lot,’ but then it kind of grew on me and became more interesting,” said Isnor, adding that one of the main reasons she chose Jugenburg was his social media presence.

“He shows exactly what’s happening, so I knew when I went into surgery what they were doing, so there were no surprises,” she said.

Isnor gave Jugenburg consent to share her procedure on social media to inform others about what the surgery entails.

“I told all my girlfriends I’ll be on Snap and Insta. This is the time. This is the day. So they all watched,” she said. The video was very technical, with Jugenburg explaining everything as he did it. He shared her before and after photos in his Instagram and Snapchat stories.

A recent study in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal found plastic surgeons who are eligible to be members of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery created almost 18 per cent of the top posts on Instagram with hashtags related to plastic surgery. The rest were by doctors not trained in plastic surgery and people who aren’t doctors at all, but offering services they’re not necessarily trained to do.

The study also found certified plastic surgeons were much more likely to post educational content under the hashtags than nonplastic surgeons.

Dr. Giancarlo McEvenue, a plastic surgeon at the McLean Clinic in Mississauga who also posts surgeries on his Instagram accounts, wrote a paper about social media activity among Canadian plastic surgeons in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal.

He chose the topic because “no one knew what plastic surgeons were actually doing online,” he said.

McEvenue found plastic surgeons typically do not have a strong online presence and thinks that is disconcerting.

“I think it’s important for plastic surgeons to be leaders online in social media because we have the education and the expertise to inform patients correctly,” he said. “If we’re not going to do it, other people will, and it may put people in danger because of misinformation out there.”

Though the social media content is popular amongst patients and prospective patients, it can be an ethical grey area.

Not only do doctors need a patient’s consent to share photos online — even when taking care to cover identifying features such as faces and tattoos — there are concerns that surgeons may misrepresent their results by altering photos and not explain the risks of surgery thoroughly.

When it comes to sharing surgeries, McEvenue asks patients to sign a disclaimer. “Once something has been posted online in any format there’s no guarantee of privacy,” he said.

Regarding representation, Karyn Wagner, the executive director of the Canadian Society of Plastic Surgeons, said the organization’s code of ethics states that members are not allowed to give deceptive or misleading information, which includes before and after photos or images of patients “with different light, poses or photographic techniques to misrepresent the results achieved by the individual.”

But this can be hard to police.

The society does not have a section specifically addressing conduct on social media, nor does it have any plans to, Wagner said.

Kerry Bowman, a bioethicist at the University of Toronto, said it’s hard to know if all the stipulations plastic surgeons are required to follow are being met.

“Anything with before and after pictures where there’s any alteration of the photographs or the lighting or anything else would be considered unethical,” he said. “I’m not saying there is, but I wouldn’t know either.”

Neither do the doctors’ followers — they just have to hope the doctors are acting ethically.

As does the Society of Plastic Surgeons, which does not monitor its members’ postings on social media to see if they follow the ethics code, Wagner said.

However, Bowman also believes that social media can help to educate patients.

“I do think the strength of it is the amount of detail you get as to exactly what goes on in the procedure, but I wouldn’t say that’s full-informed consent because you don’t see what the risks could possibly be or the range of outcomes.”

In conventional medicine he would see “a whole lot of red flags,” in terms of the self-promotion by doctors and hard-to-find information on risk and benefits, he said. But the defence of that is the culture of plastic surgery — a very visual specialty — is so radically different, he added.

McEvenue agrees.

“We’re not dealing with sick people, we’re dealing with healthy people that are concerned with beauty,” he said. “So, we’re in a grey area of the fashion industry and medicine.”

The phenomena of sharing videos of surgeries on social media began with Dr. Michael Salzhauer, better known as Dr. Miami, an American plastic surgeon who has been sharing videos and pictures of procedures on Instagram since 2014. His two Instagram accounts combined have more than one million followers and his Snapchat account has around two million with an average daily viewership of up to one million, he said in an email.

His popularity on social media even snagged him an unscripted TV show called Dr. Miami.

“I started doing it to show my prospective patients and their families how plastic surgery works,” he said.

“It is the very best way to provide ‘informed consent.’ If a patient is able to see how an actual tummy tuck is performed, they are in a better position to decide if it is right for them. In addition, there are thousands of students that watch and are able to learn more about medicine, surgery and anatomy.”

One of McEvenue’s Instagram accounts, @topsurgery, has become a hub for his transgender patients to discuss their experience with each other.

“They’ve actually created a whole community on that page where they love being posted and talk to each other on the account and make friends and they’re all very supportive of each other,” he said.

Many of the same millennial-age patients ask to have their surgery recorded on their iPhones and shared on his Instagram account dedicated to the procedure, McEvenue added.

“In the future, probably we’ll have somebody full-time filming because it’s what patients want,” he said.

And it isn’t just millennials who’re flocking to social media for their plastic and cosmetic surgery research.

Sonia Totten, a 42-year-old nurse from Mississauga, chose Jugenburg to do her lower blepharoplasty (eyelids) in large part because she’d watched him operate on social media. She consented to broadcasting her surgery live on Snapchat and Instagram so that other people could learn.

During her surgery, her husband, Jason, who is also a nurse, could watch the procedure live on Snapchat.

“I was able to get instant updates on how my wife was doing and how everything was going in the surgery,” he said. “It was amazing.”

Though he was nervous, seeing his wife was comfortable and knowing everything was going fine helped, he said.

When the couple got home, they watched the procedure together.

“It just put my mind at ease,” said Totten of Jugenburg’s technique and professional demeanour. “It actually comforted me after and I was appreciative for that.”

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Responding to online complaints from patients 

Responding to online complaints from patients  | Social Media and Healthcare |

It is always difficult to receive criticism from a patient, but it can be even harder when that criticism is made publicly.

The increasing use of social media and online reviews has made it easier for patients to comment publicly on the care they receive. Often the comments are positive, but sometimes they are inaccurate, unfair, or misleading. This can be very frustrating especially when the feedback is made anonymously, or if patient confidentiality prevents you from putting the record straight.


The issue of confidentiality is an important one. In its guide Confidentiality - responding to criticism in the media the GMC says that you should usually limit your public response to an explanation of your legal and professional duty of confidentiality.

However, the GMC recognises that social media discussions might cause patients to be concerned about your practice. In such cases, it may be appropriate to give general information about your normal practice.

‘You must be careful not to reveal personal information about a patient, or to give an account of their care, without their consent,’ the guidance says. ‘If you deny allegations that appear in public media, you must be careful not to reveal, directly or by omission or inference, any more personal information about the patient than a simple denial demands.’

Responding to online comments

Practices need to be ready to deal with online criticism, and should use it as an opportunity to demonstrate that they take concerns seriously and want to improve the care they provide patients. A good response will reflect well on the practice, and will help counter-balance the negative remarks that have been made.

What you say in your online response is as important, if not more so, than the comments that patients have made about you. The GMC says that disputes between patients and doctors conducted in public can prolong or intensify conflict and may undermine public confidence in the profession, even if they do not involve the disclosure of personal information without consent.

So how should you respond when a patient has made negative comments about you or your practice online? A professional response will come across well to any others who may read the comments, and is the best way to try to resolve the patient’s concerns as swiftly as possible. Here are five steps that will help you to post a good reply:

  1. A quick response is important, although try to make sure that the reply is calm, measured and not written in haste. A knee-jerk reaction may just inflame the situation further.
  2. Thank the patient for their comments, acknowledge the specific concerns they have raised, and apologise if appropriate.
  3. Explain that you take all concerns very seriously, and that you will investigate the matter further.
  4. Invite the patient to contact you, giving them specific contact details to arrange a telephone call or meeting. Consider using your complaints procedure to deal with any expressions of dissatisfaction.
  5. Bear in mind your duty of confidentiality and do not disclose any personal information.

Finally, ask for advice from your medical defence organisation if you consider it may be necessary to have offending posts removed or to seek legal redress.

  • Dr Marika Davies is senior medicolegal adviser at Medical Protection
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How to Use the Healthcare Hashtag Project to Disseminate Research

How to Use the Healthcare Hashtag Project to Disseminate Research | Social Media and Healthcare |

You’ve done the work, now you probably want others to know about it, right? Sure, you could go shout about it from the rooftops, but there’s an easier alternative that doesn’t require ladders or shouting. Many people are turning to social media to share and seek health information, and using the appropriate hashtag when you post about your research can make that information more visible to the general public, as well as fellow researchers. 

Why hashtags?

Tagging tweets and other social media posts not only make you feel “hip” but they actually help others find the cool stuff you’re sharing. If you’re not sure where to start, you’re not alone. In fact, you don’t even have to be a social media expert to join the online conversations. Think about the broader categories your research might fit into, as well as very specific subgroups.

Enter: Healthcare Hashtags! Yay!

Healthcare Hashtag Project is a free open platform for patients, caregivers, advocates, doctors and other providers that connects them to relevant conversations and communities.

Search for the most relevant and popular hashtags related to the info you are sharing. Look, for example, at #HeartHealth and you’ll find the related hashtags, recent Tweets, as well as the key influencers for that particular hashtag trend. This provides a quick overview of what’s happening in that world, who’s involved in the conversation, and other hashtags you might find useful. 

How can YOU benefit from this?

Say you are trying to disseminate all your breaking research findings to the community of people who might benefit from your work. Using Healthcare Hashtags you can find the most relevant hashtags to include in your post so that you can easily join in current conversations and increase the visibility of your research, share your knowledge and passion, and even connect you to other researchers in that field as well as community health organizations or other emerging leaders who might take interest in the work you are sharing. 

In addition to posting, there often are engaging Twitter conversations you might be inclined to join to either share your knowledge or learn about others working in your specialty or a related field. Hashtags are also used to highlight topical Tweet ChatsConferences, and Ontologies.



  1. Prepare your Tweet or other social media message.

  2. Visit the Healthcare Hashtag Project website and search for hashtags related to your work. Refine your selection based on relevancy and popularity.

  3. Tag your post with the top 2-3 hashtags and then publish to the social media platform of your choice.

You can reverse the order of steps 1 and 2 by visiting Healthcare Hashtag Project to see what’s trending, then find a way to join the conversation by sharing your related information using that hashtag.

PRO TIP: Before using ANY hashtag, do a quick Twitter search to preview what’s happening in that world. No one wants to inadvertently tag their research tweets with something that will deliver questionable search results.

Have any other Twitter tips? Share them in the comments, or BE BOLD and write a post about how you are using social media in your research world!

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Solutionreach Top 10: Tips to Create a Dynamic Patient Experience

Solutionreach Top 10: Tips to Create a Dynamic Patient Experience | Social Media and Healthcare |

Every provider understands that their patients live life in the fast lane. With the endless demands we all face, it is no surprise that scheduled appointments are sometimes missed. To keep up with the dynamic lifestyles of their patients, providers need to make sure that their practice adds as little stress to their patients' lives as possible. From scheduling to check-in, here are 10 simple ways that every provider can make their patient processes more dynamic.

  1. Use your social media platforms to keep patients updated on your active business hours. Is a holiday coming up? A simple event on Facebook stating that your practice will be closed will do the trick. You can also use a fun graphic to post on the main feed of every platform your practice is using.
  2. Don’t leave your patients hanging. Even if your office is not open (or if you're simply away from the phone), make sure you have a voicemail, automated messaging, or an auto response available with information that includes why you are not available, and when you will be again. This seems so simple, but taking a moment to set up an automated message with this information shows your patients how much you care.
  3. Educate your patients when not in the office. Posting on your social media or using your newsletters to share helpful information on a variety of subjects is a great way to build a relationship with your patients and maintain contact with them between visits. This helpful information, like when is best to come in to see a provider during flu season, can help your patients by not wasting their time.
  4. Prepare them for the visit. Using your newsletter, practice blog, or Facebook page, post a “What to Expect” article where you can walk your patients through your office check-in process. Knowing ahead of time what to expect the minute they walk through the door is going the extra mile to ease their stressful lives, and also helps to make sure they bring everything they would need.
  5. Give them a friendly face. Using your newsletter, social media, or even a fun Facebook Live video, introduce your patients to your office staff. By sharing smiling photos of the office staff, patients can feel more relaxed and comfortable coming into the office and finding a familiar face to help them.
  6. Create a community. By sending a monthly newsletter, regularly posting on social media and/or apractice blog, a provider can create a community through educational information, sharing tips, and celebrating milestones and birthdays with their patients. When patients feel that they are part of a community, they are comfortable and more at ease to be open to communicate.
  7. Don’t hesitate to try digital. No one likes to feel sick and then spend time filling out patient information sheets or updates during the check-in process. Speed things up by sending these to the patient ahead of time to fill out online, or print and fill out, and bring in with them.
  8. Send personalized automated reminders of scheduled appointments. By making your reminders automated and personal, it shows patients that providers are invested in their care, in making sure that their needs are being met.
  9. Create a warm office environment. Use seasonal decor and cater your waiting room to match your patients, not the wall treatment, to help your practice set your patients at ease.
  10. Greet your patients. Knowing your patients by name and saying hello when you see them during their check-in process is a great way to build and maintain relationships between providers and patients.


Keeping patients updated on office hours, providing a warm office waiting area, and greeting patients by name may seem like insignificant or small things but they can really help patients feel that they are a priority and ease the stress of seeing a provider. A patient’s experience is important, to read more about how you can help your patients have the best experience in your office check out our free checklist, "7 Research-Backed Steps to a Patient-Friendly Office."

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My other doctor is a search engine - Kantar

My other doctor is a search engine - Kantar | Social Media and Healthcare |

The patient journey starts with an online search.

Pharma companies and health marketers looking to make the most of their ad spending need to find ways to engage patients who are doing their own research before heading to the doctor. The patient journey is often starting with an online search, and pharma companies looking to maintain an edge will need to gain a better understanding of exactly how they're researching health and wellness topics.

According to Kantar Media’s 2017 MARS Consumer Health Study, 55% of U.S. consumers value search engine results as a source of health information. 1 in 4 consumers say they have looked for information about a health condition or have researched symptoms online within the past month. Moreover, nearly 1 in 5 say they have read reviews about doctors, looked for doctors, healthcare facilities or scheduled an appointment with a healthcare professional online.

Many patients are researching their symptoms online before or after they visit the doctor’s office:

The value consumers ascribe to online sources of health information (e.g., health-related websites, blogs, etc.) is not far behind how they value their doctor:

And compared to two years ago, patients are increasingly valuing online sources:

Impact of Health Advertising

When consumers go online before seeing their doctor, it’s good news for pharma marketers and advertisers. Patients conducting research prior to a doctor’s appointment are 35% more likely than the average adult to ask their doctors for drugs they see in DTC ads. They are more knowledgeable and in control of their health and report feeling more positive attitudes toward healthcare advertising than the average adult:

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Nearly All US Hospitals Use Social Media. Now What?

Nearly All US Hospitals Use Social Media. Now What? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Virtually all US hospitals now have a social media presence, with widespread adoption having increased significantly in the past few years. But a recent study suggests that hospitals are continuing to search how best to realize a meaningful purpose and payoff from social media (SM).

“This dramatic increase in social media use may show the increasing value of social media to hospitals to potentially improve market share, engage with patients, increase profitability, or advance their missions in health and healthcare,” according to the study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR).

The question for marketing executives is: Is your social media program producing meaningful and measurable results?

Who’s using what SM platforms?

The picture of social media use that appears from the data paints a nearly universal awareness that social media in general is a useful conduit. But of the dozens of SM platforms, there are four that top the list.

“Of the total 3,371 US hospitals identified, the adoption of social media websites varied across platforms, with:

  • 3,351 (99.41%) having a Facebook account
  • 3,351 (99.41%) having a Foursquare account
  • 3,342 (99.14%) having a Yelp account
  • 1,713 (50.82%) having a Twitter account

“Overall, 1,699 (50.40%) hospitals had accounts on all four platforms. Few hospitals (42/3371, 1.25%) used just one or two types of social media platform. Large, urban, private nonprofit, and teaching hospitals were more likely to have higher utilization of these accounts,” the study says.

Study: Maps of social media utilization for hospitals

Social media has aim points, but may or may not be hitting the target…

“The relationships between hospital-associated social media activity, patient choices, clinical processes and outcomes, and hospital profit margins are unknown and almost certainly evolving rapidly.

“At the same time, it has become increasingly critical to find effective ways of communicating with patients outside of clinical settings. Mail and telephone communication channels that dominated the past are being supplemented or replaced by new media channels, and this is occurring faster in some demographic segments and hospitals than others.”

National survey data, such as the study from JMIR [available here], provides a useful overview. But an investment in social media requires meaningful information about local results. SM goals, and the measure of return, need to be connected to meaningful business information:

  • Increased revenue or growth
  • Reduced costs or expenses
  • Enhanced patient satisfaction

Although, as this study shows, most hospitals have now adopted at least one social media platform. And, depending on marketing considerations, the utilization of social media varies. For most, social media has yet to deliver to its full potential.

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How to Recruit and Retain Patients for Oncology Trials - Clinical Trials Arena

How to Recruit and Retain Patients for Oncology Trials - Clinical Trials Arena | Social Media and Healthcare |

On World Cancer Day, Shahana Chowdhury provides advice on how to overcome the obstacles of recruiting and retaining patients for oncology trials


Patient recruitment is one of the most difficult challenges faced when running clinical trials, and is particularly acute in oncology trials. A considerably low number of 3 percent of potential patients volunteer to participate in oncology clinical trials. The difficulty in recruitment can cause overall delays to such trials. Currently less than 20 percent of studies are on-time, meaning the majority of the trials fail to meet initial plans and expectations. There are many reasons why patient recruitment remains a challenge:

  • Awareness of Clinical Trials – Lack of awareness is one of the foremost reasons patient recruitment is an obstacle. Awareness has risen over the last few years, however, it is still very low and not often discussed with patients at the right time of treatment. 
  • Misconceptions about Oncology Studies – There are many misconceptions with oncology trials, such as the occurrence of a serious adverse event. Many potential patients also have the mistaken belief, oncology trials are only appropriate when all forms of treatment have been tried and tested. The misconceptions surrounding oncology trials come down to low awareness of the details of the trial, as well as a vague understanding about the overall conduct of the trial.
  • Patient-centric Oncology Trials are more popular – While designing the technical components of clinical studies, it can often be forgotten the first point of interaction between a patient and a sponsor company is a clinical trial. The outcome can cause an unnecessary burden on patients already in a challenging situation. As a result, this can lead to unhappy patients, low recruitment and high dropout rates. 

Furthermore, a lack of focus on the patients throughout the trial can be a negative point to deter them from participating. The aim of a patient-centric clinical trial is to provide a convenient and pleasant journey for the patient, which lessens the burden of participation.

  • Finding the Right Patients – Recruiting the right patients in oncology is particularly difficult, as patients need to be eligible for the trial. While the patients need to be diagnosed with cancer, they cannot be too ill to complete the entire duration of the study. 

Evidently, patient recruitment is a huge problem within oncology trials. However, there are ways to tackle this. The phenomenon that is social media has become a powerful communication tool and is increasingly being used within the clinical trial space. Does the practice of using social media as a tool to recruit patients really work, or is it just another example of an insufficient process? 

Harness the Power of Social Media

Social media channels are particularly effective in grabbing the attention of individuals and are a solution to overcome the challenges of patient recruitment. The average person checks social media 17 times a day. During this time, they are browsing on social media and may also seek information about and/or support for their disease. Using one opportunity of 17 daily check-ins to reach potential patients with clear and actionable information is very possible. 

Social media is a solution that enables efficient targeting, is measurable, and provides actionable education, as well as accurate demographic and user disposition. While using it to recruit patients, social media can also act as an opportunity to promote the trial. Communication with patients is key when interacting online. For clinical trial sponsors, a patient communication strategy must vary by geography in order to reflect the cultural differences between regions.

Patient Retention Complications - Could Home Nursing be the Answer?

Now that you have recruited participants it can often be a challenge to get patients to return to the study through follow up. Patients usually fall very sick and are unable to travel to the study site resulting in the trial not reaching its endpoint and incomplete data. 

Home nursing is the predominant solution to tackle this obstacle. Home nursing can reduce the risk of patient dropouts by bringing the study to the patient’s home, which removes the requirement of travelling to a trial site. Protocol-specific training, customized visit materials, and a severe quality control process that meets all study requirements is however necessary to conduct successful in-home visits. 

Good communication with patients can also tackle this problem. Text messaging is now a widely used tool to communicate with patients. Incorporating this into the trial process to notify and gain updates on patients’ conditions can increase retention rates.

Although patient recruitment and retention can be seen as problematic, particularly in the oncology trial field, there are solutions. With the rise of social media, it is a tool that can be integrated to both recruit and retain patients. While a home nursing situation for patients can be complex logistically to organize, if incorporated into a study, the retention rate of patients can increase. 



1. Improving Standards of Patient Recruitment and Retention in Clinical Trials,

2. How to Maximize Patient Recruitment in Oncology Trials,

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New App Hopes to Reduce Suicides, Alert Psychiatrists to Concerning Social Media Posts

New App Hopes to Reduce Suicides, Alert Psychiatrists to Concerning Social Media Posts | Social Media and Healthcare |

 The current research project in the College of Engineering and Computer Science could help reduce the number of suicides that occur each year by analyzing social media data generated by depressed patients and alerting their caregivers in time to intervene quickly.

Graduate student Pranika Jain, College of Engineering & Computer Science Professor Chilukuri Mohan and graduate student Siddhartha Roy Nandi, from left, are working on the new app to examine subjects’ social media postings.

Graduate students Pranika Jain and Siddhartha Roy Nandi, under the supervision of Professor Chilukuri Mohan, are developing an Android app designed to be installed on psychiatrists’ smartphones. If a patient agrees, the app monitors their social media posts and can trigger an alert if it detects significant risk indicators in the language used in posts or in the patient’s posting patterns over time.

“If there is some unusual behavior or some indicator of self-harm, an alert is generated and sent to the doctor,” says Jain.

If the primary mental health care-giver is unavailable, the alert would be routed to another responsible care-giver, possibly through a healthcare organization, with steps taken to protect patient data privacy.

“Only when abnormal situations arise which require urgent action, that’s when the physician will be alerted and they can look into it,” says Mohan.

In the pilot phase, the team is working with psychiatrists to refine the algorithm’s ability to detect concerning posts and reduce potential false alerts. The alert generation process will be sensitive to an individual patient’s social media posting patterns, rather than a one-size-fits-all. Doctors will provide feedback and rank potentially alarming posts on a scale of 1 to 10. Those rankings will be used to fine-tune the patient-specific algorithm parameters.

“Based on that, machine learning algorithms help improve analysis of the criticality of the posts and the usefulness of the app,” says Roy Nandi.

The project illustrates a unique intersection of technology and complex human emotions.

“The sentiment analysis looks at the words they are using—are they positive or negative words?” says Roy Nandi.

By comparing a new post to the past history of a patient’s postings, the app has a context for detecting anomalies—potentially troubling posts that can generate an alert.

“With the help of the doctors, I hope we can save some lives,” says Roy Nandi.

This work is being completed in collaboration with Research Professor Kishan Mehrotra and Linguistics Professor Tej Bhatia at SU, Dr. Mantosh Dewan and Dr. Seetha Ramanathan at Upstate Medical University, and Dr. Dayaprasad Kulkarni, founder/director of Aarogyaseva: Global Healthcare Volunteer Alliance.

About Syracuse University

Founded in 1870, Syracuse University is a private international research university dedicated to advancing knowledge and fostering student success through teaching excellence, rigorous scholarship and interdisciplinary research. Comprising 11 academic schools and colleges, the University has a long legacy of excellence in the liberal arts, sciences and professional disciplines that prepares students for the complex challenges and emerging opportunities of a rapidly changing world. Students enjoy the resources of a 270-acre main campus and extended campus venues in major national metropolitan hubs and across three continents. Syracuse’s student body is among the most diverse for an institution of its kind across multiple dimensions, and students typically represent all 50 states and more than 100 countries. Syracuse also has a long legacy of supporting veterans and is home to the nationally recognized Institute for Veterans and Military Families, the first university-based institute in the U.S. focused on addressing the unique needs of veterans and their families.

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In their own words: 4 healthcare influencers on the power of social media

In their own words: 4 healthcare influencers on the power of social media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media is a powerful tool for healthcare professionals to disseminate information and connect with peers, but a number of industry leaders have taken their social media platform to the next level as influential voices on the issue of lowering healthcare costs.

Here are four of the most active leaders currently championing this issue online and their thoughts on what social media means for them.

Dr. Josh Luke, healthcare futurist and author

"As a former hospital CEO, I have championed transparency and collaboration in healthcare as a speaker for audiences both within and outside the industry for years. Some of the most rewarding moments I have experienced, however, come as a result of someone approaching me and sharing a passage from one of my books or a specific post or blog that I shared. The power of social media has brought me together with great minds from all over the world. LinkedIn and Forbes both asking me to write for them in itself is evidence of the strength of social media. It's powerful."

Chris Van Gorder, president and CEO of San Diego-based Scripps Health

"I was initially very skeptical about using social media, but my marketing and communications group knew I was very transparent inside of Scripps and thought it would be helpful to the organization, our patients and the healthcare industry for me to share comments and articles on a regular basis. So today, I have a blog that is available on our website and I put it out on LinkedIn and other social sites. I receive significant feedback on the sites, which has actually been helpful. I now have contacts across the country and have reached out occasionally for new ideas and thoughts. But I also have many people who initially contact me on social media and end up having significant dialogue with me after the initial contact. So, I think it's been good for Scripps and for me, and I hope I've been able to share personal and business experiences that help others, as well."

Dave Chase, founder of the Health Rosetta Institute and author

"The biggest reason I'm so active on social media is it's the most effective method I've found to pressure test my ideas. Beyond refining the open source blueprint we're sharing with everyone, I have found Twitter and increasingly LinkedIn to be the best method of keeping up on the cutting edge. Over my career, I've used print newsletters, conferences, RSS feeds, email newsletters, you name it. Nothing has been as effective as my carefully curated list of 100 people I follow on Twitter. It's like having the best research staff I could possibly have for free."

Don Larsen, MD, CMO of Santa Monica, Calif.-based Saint John's Health Center

"As an academic physician by training and practice, now turned full-time healthcare executive, I have been driven to always seek evidence-based, peer-reviewed sources of information to guide my thoughts and decision-making in my career whenever possible. Given how fast healthcare is changing, books and peer review journals quickly become out of date. Therefore I have found some social media outlets, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, have been helpful at times in terms of distributing credible healthcare information much more quickly and efficiently. I'm also always careful to note that opinions expressed on this site are my own, may not represent those of my employers or business partners, and are never personal medical advice."

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Patients’ and Surgeons’ Perceptions of Social Media’s Role in the Decision Making for Primary Aesthetic Breast Augmentation 

Patients’ and Surgeons’ Perceptions of Social Media’s Role in the Decision Making for Primary Aesthetic Breast Augmentation  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media (SoMe) has evolved to be a platform that patients use to seek information prior to an operation, share perioperative and postoperative journey, provide feedback, offer and receive support. While there have been studies looking at the evolution and usage of SoMe either by patients or by surgeons, there is no information that compares its usefulness for both the groups.


The aim of this study was to compare the view held by patients and surgeons, towards social media and other internet resources, in relation to one commonly performed operation.


A questionnaire was presented to 648 consecutive patients who attended our clinic for consultation for primary breast augmentation from September 2016 to March 2017. A separate “surgeons’ questionnaire” was answered by a group of 138 plastic surgeons who either worked in our clinic, had previously done fellowship with us or were visiting the clinic.


All 138 surgeons and 648 patients responded to the questionnaire. 91.4% of patients said that they had searched online and 61.4% had searched in specific online groups for information on breast augmentation. 88.9% of patients had specifically looked for clinical photographs and 73.4% had specifically searched for unfavorable reviews of the surgeon. In comparison, 72.5% of surgeons thought that over three quarters of patients gather information on the internet while only 20.3% thought that over three-quarters of patients use social media for their information. 52.5% of surgeons have noticed that social media affected their consultations.


With the evolution of Internet and related technologies, the role of social media continues to increase. While patients use social media to help make their decision, it is not the only deciding factor. Surgeons appear to underestimate the patients’ use of these technologies. There is concern in each group about the amount of inaccurate information on the social media. This underlines the importance of providing factual, evidence-based information to the patients.

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what does social media success look like for pharma? –

what does social media success look like for pharma? – | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media marketing measurements are not so straightforward and easy to measure. At the same time, social media platform offer so many opportunities for pharma. When asked what does social media success look like for pharma, for me the following 5 elements are key.


Social media success for pharma is reach and/or audience

  • Reaching the broadest audience is the ultimate goal for any social media presence
  • A slow and organic building of an audience will take time (aka no overnight success) but it is the one which pays off in the long run
  • An audience gives a privilege to communicate
  • An audience gives you a competitive edge
  • An audience makes you an authority

Social media success for pharma is engagement

  • Your audience is built of people, not consumers
  • Engagement is a paradigm shift in how pharma companies and brands engage with people
  • It is all about values and interests and this relationship is built across a dialogue
  • A good mix of social media platforms allows for engaging with different audiences on different platforms

Social media success for pharma is being inspiring

  • Make content that is inspiring, not just pushing your brand
  • Always ask yourself how can I take this information and make people care about it
  • Make people enjoy what pharma does (not hate you)
  • Gain inspiration from what your audience is asking or saying online

Social media success for pharma is educating

  • Be the go-to source for information
  • Explain the research you do – break research down and make it relatable and understandable
  • Don’t just push your same old marketing messages or DTC commercials – provide something of value

Social media success for pharma is being relevant

  • Just do not tout your product (which is so evident)
  • Listen to what people are saying or talking about on social media
  • Mine the conversation (large or niche) and try to become a part of the conversation
  • Proactively try to reach your audience and answer their needs, not yours
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5 Ideas for Dentists Using Instagram Live Video to Attract New Patients

5 Ideas for Dentists Using Instagram Live Video to Attract New Patients | Social Media and Healthcare |

Instagram Live Videos are a powerful way to boost social media engagement and attract new patients to your dental practice. Here are five fun and effective ways pediatric dentists can use Instagram Live Videos to attract new patients.  

How to Use Instagram Live Videos

To begin an Instagram Live Video session, tap the camera icon in the top left of the screen, or swipe right anywhere inside the app. Then, tap the “Live” button at the bottom of the screen and hit “Start Live Video.” And, voila! You’ve successfully started your first Instagram Live Video.  

For more detailed instructions, check out Instagram’s guide to Live video 

1 – Dentist Q&A

Hosting a dental Q&A is a great way to engage with your patients, and allows you to share valuable insight with your audience. Try to use the Q&A to answer some of the most common questions they have about teeth and share your expert advice about pediatric dentistry. When hosting a Q&A, be sure that you have comments turned on so that you can field questions and answer in real time. Keep your Q&A short (15-30 minutes), and direct your commenters to your dental practice website so that they can get more information afterwards.

 Guided Office Tour

Instagram Live Videos are an excellent tool to show off the inside of your dental practice with a live office tour. Be sure to highlight any special qualities about your dental practice, and have someone from your office guide the tour, and talk about some of the keystones of your dental practice.  

3 – Streaming a Live Event

Does your practice take part in a candy buy-back campaign, or volunteer dental services to the your local community? If your practice does any sort of public-facing event, then use Instagram Live Videos to share the experience. This can help better connect you with patients that are passionate about community service, or those that share your practice’s values.

4  An Oral Care Info Session

Parents are always searching for the right way to care for their children’s teeth, and you can help them by hosting live, oral care info sessions. You can show your audience the proper way to brush teeth, how to floss, or discuss common oral ailments like gingivitis and cavities. These types of oral health info sessions allow you to determine a subject, and dive in at your own discretion.

5 – A Digital First Visit  

A child’s first visit to the dental office can be stressful, but you can help quell anxious feelings with a digital “first-visit.” Host the video as if you were a first time patient or parent, and have your staff walk you through a first visit. This can help parents show their kids that there’s nothing to fear about visiting your dental practice.

Important Tips for Promoting Your Live Video Session 

Instagram Live Videos appear at the top of your follower’s feeds, so each person following your dental practice will see that you’re currently hosting a Live Video session. Despite the prominent placement atop your follower’s feeds, you’ll want to remind people to view your Live Video by promoting it in your dental practice’s Instagram Story. There, you can tease your session by sharing photos and videos with text overlaid. This lets you write out captions that tell your audience exactly when to tune into Instagram to catch your Live Video.

Also, be sure to save your video by hitting “Save” after your Live Video session has concluded. This will save your Live Video for 24 hours, and display it as your dental practices Story on top of your follower’s feeds.

Stay Ahead of the Social Curve

Smile Savvy helps dental practices stay ahead of the social media curve with comprehensive social media management services for dentists. We understand the shifting landscape of social media, and take time to learn about new apps, technologies and tools that can better connect your practice to your community.

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How to become a pharma social media rock star in 2018

It’s undeniable that social media can be a real challenge for Pharma companies.

  • The restrictions imposed in a regulated industry when publishing content
  • The strategic decisions global organisations have in establishing global and regional social presences
  • The need to balance corporate, brand and product content and messaging
  • The challenge of deciding who their social outposts should cater for … patients, payers, policymakers, HCPs?

Therefore, it may not be surprising to learn that many of the pharma companies that have adopted social media marketing are still finding their feet. They may simply be using these channels to promote corporate news or re-publishing marketing campaigns. They may have also started following key influencers including KOLs, HCPs or patient groups. The primary KPI may currently be the number of followers or fans accumulated.

As a team who’ve been helping digital teams in global corporates across many sectors succeed in social media over the past decade, we’ve got 5 hot social media tips to help pharma social media managers push ahead, find their confidence and become social media rock stars in 2018.

1. Nurture your pharma social media community spirit

Have conversations. Don’t just start them, find, join and foster them. Consider retweeting or curating great content which you know your followers and fans will find relevant.

Adopt an always-on and real-time mindset, as the conversation doesn’t revolve around you and the working hours of pharma social media managers.

The number of replies or comments on your posts as well as your average response times would be good KPIs in helping understand if the community is accepting you.

2. Only create content that’s brilliantly relevant, valuable and timely

It’s too easy to fall into the trap of routinely creating content calendars full of mediocre content. It’s time to gain a deeper understanding of your followers and the broader social media community around your key therapeutic areas. Only then can you create brilliantly relevant content whether that’s valuable or timely content for your fans, followers and community. Likes and retweets would be useful KPIs here.

Pharma social media managers need to ensure their content is part of a broader content and inbound marketing plan which is informed by the brand strategy.

3. Fully embrace paid social media or leave the stage

Facebook announced on 11th Jan that they would prioritise family and friends posts over companies and media outlets. This was an inevitable move which further reduces the organic reach of companies posts on Facebook.

Therefore, as social media increasingly becomes another pay-to-play channel, as well as needing relevant content, pharma companies need to budget for promotion to reach their fans and followers as well as the wider community.

4. Get in touch with your inner filmmaker.

As the consumption of video content on social media channels continued to grow during 2017, pharma social media managers need to ensure video is part of their format mix in 2018. If it’s not being used already then it’s time to start experimenting with video and live video content during 2018.

All the main social media platforms are video-ready so it’s important for pharma social media managers to get to grips with how to get the best from each of them.

5. It’s time to ‘really’ listen to what social media is telling you

Use social listening tools to gain insights which can be used to inform and then make improvements across the whole company. ROI should be the ultimate KPI here.

Social listening tools can also help identify influencers which may or may not be on your KOL radar. Some of these may be micro-influencers, which means that even though they have relatively small communities in particular therapeutic areas, they hold incredible influence. KPIs here would be the number of micro-influencers following you and their engagement with your content.

And to find out who are the pharma social media stars take a look at our Social Media Ranking — Global Twitter Edition 2018

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The Art of Patient Loyalty – 4 Tips for Building a Practice Patients Love

The Art of Patient Loyalty – 4 Tips for Building a Practice Patients Love | Social Media and Healthcare |

In a world where your competitors are just a click away, patient loyalty is the new marketing. Today’s patients have access to an endless amount of information about your medical practice and the unique services your offer. Research shows that patients are willing to stop hopping from one doctor to another and stick with practitioners who go the extra mile to create a fantastic patient experience. When patients feel taken care of, they are more inclined to come back to your practice and recommend you to their family and friends.

Here are some of the reasons why patient loyalty is so important:

  • Most patients have a choice. Despite being limited by factors beyond their control, most patients prefer to change their doctors to get a better patient experience.
  • Better patient experience makes everyone’s job a lot easier. Patient satisfaction leads to more accommodating patients, which makes a smoother experience for your practice overall.
  • Higher patient loyalty means more referrals and word-of-mouth business. When patients have a good experience, they are more likely to talk about it to their family. That means more word-of-mouth referrals, which means more patients and an increased bottom line.

The Power of Patient Loyalty

As an individual practitioner or a small-practice owner, you may lack the capital or need more staff members. However, you can remain profitable by serving your existing patients well. According to studies, nearly 67 percent of practice owners do not understand the value of patient loyalty. These practice owners often miss the opportunity to gain lifelong patients and brand ambassadors.

When a patient is loyal to your brand, it means when faced with a decision between you and your competitors, he or she picks you every time. Clearly, all practitioners want patients to prefer their brand over their competitors. However, the key is to learn about your patients’ preferences from the very beginning. A report stated that almost 48 percent of patients think the most critical time to gain their loyalty is when they make their visit to your office. This is the best time to offer a consistent experience that addresses their needs and solves their problems. It is essential to understand how the patient experience affects brand loyalty.

When your patient calls to ask for help, do not be passive. Make sure to familiarize yourself with a patient’s background so you can take charge of the conversation. Brand loyalty is strengthened with every interaction your patient has with your practice. The key to patient loyalty is always to meet or exceed your patients’ expectations. When patients become loyal, they not only come back to your practice, they become emotionally attached to your brand. Loyal patients will recommend your brand to their friends and family, develop an emotional connection and act as brand ambassadors. Brand loyalty is an essential investment for your medical practice and you must offer value in order to become invaluable to your patients.

But Why Do Patients Leave?

According to an insightful report, the number-one reason patients stop visiting a medical practice is poor patient service experience. But what reasons lead a patient to describe a service experience as “poor” or “unacceptable”?

The report stated that incompetency, staff manners and slow service define poor patient service. Almost 73 percent of patients described the incompetent staff as their most prominent reason to “dislike” a practice or practitioner.

This candid feedback from unhappy patients shows that competent and polite staff is more critical than the speed of the service. So how do you build a brand that wins over the hearts and minds of your patients? Let us look at four ways medical practices can move relationships with their patients.

1. Engage with your patients: Patient loyalty is about reaching out and nurturing the patients who help your practice grow. Engaging with your patients will help you create a sense of belonging. You can use social networks to inform patients of special deals and exciting developments. If you can make your patients involved in your practice, they are more likely to have positive associations, and engaged patients are loyal patients. According to the Pareto principle, 80 percent of results come from 20 percent of efforts. But for most medical practice owners, the disparity between your best patients and the rest is stark. The top 5 percent of your patients are worth as much as 1800 percent of the average patient lifetime value. So adding a few more loyal patients might be the smartest thing you can do to grow your practice. Adding and retaining patients often starts with figuring out how and where you are losing patients: Why do so few patients become loyal members of your practice? In most cases, this is due to poor patient service. It is important to make sure your patient service is impeccable, and if you play your cards right, this can be an easy victory for your practice. Provide a positive patient experience, safeguard your online reputation and encourage patients to stick by your brand long enough to develop loyalty. One of the most effective strategies to retain patients is by recognizing and fulfilling their needs. You can use your patient behavior data to assess what your patients are likely to expect from your practice and offer it to them.

2. Use technology to improve patient experience: The latest tools and technology can be used to help improve your relationship with your patients. When patients understand that you are delivering a unique experience and exceeding expectations in order to meet their demands, they will return the favor by giving you their time and information. This symbiotic relationship is valuable as it helps create trust, which should be the goal for every medical practice.

Providing data-driven services can increase revenue for your brand. According to a study, nearly 86 percent of patients said that personalization plays a role in their decision to choose a healthcare provider. In addition, almost 73 percent of patients said they preferred to visit practices that use personal information to make their experience more relevant.

Once your practice has earned the trust of your patients, you can employ patient portals to gain intelligent insights and solutions. Such portals will enable your patients to create, edit and delete their profile and use it whenever they want. Patient portals will help your staff have quick access to valuable insights about the needs and preferences of your patients. By engaging your patients with data aligned with their preferences, your practice can provide a better patient experience.

3. Use social media to show patient appreciation: Social media is an excellent way to build brand loyalty and improve patient engagement. According to a study, when a business – including the healthcare market – uses social networks to communicate with their target audience, people listen. In fact, more than 81 percent of people said they had more confidence in a medical practice when its doctors are using social media.

When you communicate with your patients on social media, it helps build brand loyalty, and those patients can become your brand ambassadors. Replying with a personal message or updating your patients with general healthcare-related news is a great way to humanize your brand and strengthen the relationship.

Your medical practice likely has some brand ambassadors continually engaging on social media. You must surprise them. Go beyond the typical reply with a special discount voucher or complimentary service. The cost will be minimal, and you can rest assured that the recipients will post about it for others to read. This shout-out or acknowledgment on social networks will help attract more patients and increase the positive exposure of your brand. Showing that your practice cares about its patients and their experience will separate your brand from the competition.

4. Deliver value: Patients are looking to identify with your practice’s mission and values. To them, what you offer is who you are. How can you help your patients identify your brand’s values? The answer is: Be definitive. The more specific you can be about your skills and services, the more your patients will understand what value you can offer them. You need to make sure your patients understand what you do and the value you add to their lives. This means you need to zoom in on just one service or unique proposition until it fills the screen. Even the most effective brand loyalty campaigns will be futile if you do not deliver value through your unique services and focus on your patients’ needs. You must promote your unique selling proposition and use it as the foundation to design and deliver your brand loyalty campaigns.

Do Patients Forgive Poor Service?

Despite your best efforts and intentions, mistakes are bound to happen when dealing with patients. A lot of small issues may make their way into your service provision. However, the good news is: Occasional mistakes will not damage your reputation unless such errors become the norm.

But what about serious errors? Will patients forgive a massive error? It is important to understand the thought process and associated actions of dissatisfied patients. As mentioned in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink, most patients who suffer an injury due to a practitioner’s negligence do not sue their healthcare provider. A common factor among those patients who pursued legal action felt like they did not get enough time with their doctor. Most of the litigious patients described their interactions with their doctor as poorly diagnosed. However, most of these patients are willing to give their doctor a second chance.

Speed and quality of service are the innocent culprits in most of these situations. Trying to respond to patients as quickly as possible decreases your chances of ignoring critical details, something that is very important to patients.

Wrapping Up

It is believed that by 2020, more than 89 percent of patients will shift to practices providing better patient experience and engagement. Your competitive advantage must focus on building patient relationships and improving experience.

Gone are the days where practices offered basic healthcare services. If you expect brand loyalty, it is time to treat patients like people, not numbers.

Always pay attention to what your patients are telling you. Do not be a transaction-focused practice. It is critical to building a practice to serve people and care about them, and they may return the favor by caring about you. This is the key to nurturing brand loyalty.

Remember, engaging patients and strengthening relationships is a practice-wide endeavor. It is not just for your front-desk staff. Brand loyalty and patient satisfaction are everyone’s responsibility.

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Pharma on social media – the time to engage is now

Pharma on social media – the time to engage is now | Social Media and Healthcare |

he pharma industry is moving on from merely broadcasting on social media platforms and starting to listen and engage, appreciating the benefits of mining these rich seams of data.

What does social media mean to you? There are now an estimated 2.4 billion social media users worldwide, and for many it is part and parcel of everyday life, with Facebook and Instagram being the most convenient ways to keep in touch with friends and family, and follow current affairs and celebrities. Of course, it has its downsides too, such as Twitter trolls and ‘fake news’.

In addition to all of this, social media also represents a legitimate and essential source of big data for commercial businesses looking to understand their customers better. For pharma, mining social media data can lead to unparalleled insights and fuel its move towards greater customer and patient centricity.

To examine how this picture is evolving, pharmaphorum CEO and digital expert Paul Tunnah chaired a recent webinar in conjunction with IQVIA.

Sharing their expert insights were Professor Andrew Stephen, Associate Dean of Research and L’Oréal Professor of Marketing at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford and Anurag Abinashi, IQVIA’s NEMEA Social Media Intelligence Lead.

The panel outlined that, much as the platforms themselves have matured, so has the technology available to work with them, automating and solving previous risk-based obstacles such as adverse event reporting.

Abinashi sounded a note of optimism, saying that the industry was showing some progress along the ‘maturity curve’ of social media: moving away from using it to merely ‘broadcast’ and now beginning to use it to listen and engage.

However, there is still some way to go: a poll of the webinar’s viewers revealed a mere 15% of participants used social media for listening, compared to 26% for engagement, and 41% for broadcasting, while 19% revealed that they weren’t active at all on social media.

One reason why many pharmaceutical marketers have been reluctant to use social media is to do with the reporting of adverse events. Pharma is under a legal duty to pass on reports of adverse events, and there remains uncertainty as to whether this responsibility extends to social media. Abinashi said this wasn’t a valid justification for not engaging: “We’re often given that excuse that pharmacovigilance teams will be inundated if we engage, but research supports that the volume of adverse events on social media is extremely low – 1-2%. We also now have tools to automate the process, so this is no longer a risk or resource-based issue.”

Professor Stephen described using social media solely for broadcast as, “just the tip of the iceberg in terms of how companies should be using social media for everything from traditional marketing, to customer relations and intel, right through to informing R&D processes. If it is all you are doing you are missing the opportunity.”

Abinashi said most pharma companies have dabbled in the broadcast element and some are using it to listen, but engagement remains an aspiration for most. “There are two big categories of social listening uses: social listening for insight generation (either retrospective or real-time) and also for influencer identification purposes. On engagement, however, pharma is lagging behind other sectors quite fundamentally.”

Other emerging uses for social media include corporate reputation engagement, and as a recruitment and education tool. On the education front, identifying unmet needs by listening to therapy area conversations could be used to educate and better engage customers from a non-promotional, disease awareness perspective.

Companies with experience in social listening know that it’s easy to focus on rudimentary analysis of brand mentions and topics, ‘followers’ and ‘likes’, and never get to the truly actionable insights.

The panel agreed that listening is not the goal, but social intelligence is, and this informs actions taken by marketing or some other area of the business, such as R&D and product development. This can be used to improve business outcomes, customer relationships, and operational efficiency.

Lessons for pharma – driving innovation

Another opportunity is using trend identification to inform product innovation. Professor Stephen explained that for global, consumer-focused companies like L’Oréal, P&G and Unilever, social media represents an unparalleled opportunity to widen and deepen knowledge of their customers, in all their diversity.

L’Oréal is increasingly diversifying into the healthcare sector, and Professor Stephen highlighted the firm as one which pharma should watch.

Fast moving and highly competitive, the beauty and fashion industry is one of the most difficult for forecasting trends and product demands. The ability to discern between a meaningful trend and a fad can help a company like L’Oréal to capitalise on trends and respond quickly with first-to-market new product offerings. By scouring YouTube to find consumer-generated content on hair colour trends, L’Oréal gained invaluable insights. They identified the kinds of materials and tools consumers were using to create the desired hair colour effects, as well as the myriad problems they encountered in doing so.

Monitoring this user output helps to spot trends and identify the most popular ‘vloggers’ who could act as influencers and help to sell and share new products with their followers.

So where does pharma go now?

Understanding how to engage, and how to extract the right data to get actionable insights – and all the while complying with regulations – isn’t so straightforward in our industry. Life sciences companies need to put this new data source in context with the existing broad range of metrics. Achieving this calls for a step-by-step progression towards social media maturity.

This progression could involve both behavioural and company-level changes within pharma, said Abinashi. “Pharma companies tend to have one person, a brand or business lead, who runs an account or commissions a single piece of research for a brand. This is very different to how other sectors operate, with more of a top-down rather than bottom-up approach. These sectors make social a key part of their business strategy and more and more they embrace social. This helps them to achieve an advanced level of maturity, and then bring in other data to correlate with the social data – this is an area in which pharma is lagging.”

Keeping pace with change

The industry needs to understand how to use each available social media channel, and keep pace with their development. A recent high-profile tweak to Twitter has sparked a change in usage within pharma, Abinashi stated.

Twitter’s trial of a 280-character tweet limit has been universally expanded – a move which has increased its appeal. “Twitter as a platform has been fundamentally unfriendly to pharma. The increase in character count has helped address the complexity of pharma tweets, making Twitter a more useful platform in terms of disease awareness and the publication of research. I’ve observed two companies (Novartis and Eli Lilly) who have already latched on to this expanded word count.”

Abinashi noted that the crucial difference in approach is in how socially mature companies are addressing what their audience wants to hear. “We’ve talked about the difference between listening, broadcasting and engagement. Companies seem to be making the links between those three modes – listening for insights and building that into the publication calendar to develop content that addresses what the audience wants to know. It’s a closed loop and what we’re seeing is more engagement as a result of that informed content.”

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Social Media in Medicine_ Professionalism and Opportunities 2018

2018 Grand Rounds on Social Media Professionalism and Opportunities. Examples are given of using Twitter for professional development, academic research, and n…
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A Social Media Wake Up Call for Plastic Surgery Societies

There’s a paradigm shift in how patients are finding their doctors. And nowhere is this more evident than in the cosmetic surgery space. In the past, consumers found their doctor through word of mouth. Then it was the yellow pages. That gave way to the internet, specifically a doctor’s website, and in the last decade, Google. Consumers’ tastes continue to change. They’re now relying less and less on search engines and the world wide web, and more on social media.

I’m not suggesting Google and their AdWords revenue model have anything to worry about. But I believe the way in which a consumer chooses a doctor is changing drastically. The consumer is no longer satisfied with the curated pages of the doctor’s website.

The Perceived Power of Social Media

Now, the patient in the research phase of finding a doctor will want to see the plastic surgeon perform surgery and see their results in some variation of real time. And the best way to do that is by watching them on Snapchat, Instagram Stories or Facebook Live.

The “truest” impression of a doctor, as far as the consumer is concerned, is on the physician’s social media where informal 10–15 second video clips build into a 24-hour story that reveals the doctor and staff in their natural habitat of the operating room and clinic.

It’s not about dancing in the operating room or dressing up in silly outfits which some doctors do. That’s just a distraction from the real power of social media in this context — education.

Some physicians will disagree. They’ll see ‘education’ as a just a euphemism for shameless entertainment. Well, here’s a thought…maybe it can be both!

There’s disagreement on the plastic surgery societal level as well. In a noble attempt to protect doctors from themselves and protect the reputation of the specialty, there are instances of the societies admonishing doctors for some of their social media posts. Determining what is and is not appropriate is such a futile exercise that even the Supreme Court outsourced those decisions when it came to obscenity. It comes down to a community standard. In other words, who is that doctor’s audience and what does their clientele want to see?

Our country is one of diversified opinions and tastes. Attempting to regulate or punish doctors for their social media tactics is futile and unnecessary. If a doctor posts something inappropriate, punishment in the court of public opinion will be swift, uncompromising and fierce. Ask anyone in Hollywood.

The Education War

The other risk the societies take in attempting to curb their own member’s activities on social media is their total lack of control for doctors that are non-members of those societies. There’s a battle out there over who is educating consumers.

A recent Aesthetic Surgery Journal (ASJ) article pointed out that most consumers following plastic surgeons aren’t following plastic surgeons at all. In fact, the most popular cosmetic surgery accounts and posts on social media were from plastic surgeons only 17.8% of the time. So while the plastic surgery societies may want to regulate their own members, doctors not subjugated to the same rules have the consumer’s ear.

As Dr. Clark Schierle points out in a recent Chicago Tribune article, his study in the ASJ mentioned above should serve as a “wake-up call” for board-certified plastic surgeons. “We’re losing the information war, and (we’re) being drowned out by these other players.”

Plastic surgery societies understandably promote the importance of board certification. But I’m afraid those board certification warnings are now falling on deaf ears. When the consumer sees an amazing result on social media, particularly reproducible results day after day on a doctor’s Instagram feed, results will win out over “board certification” every time. Can you blame the consumer for embracing results?

The plastic surgery societies should encourage their members to embrace social media and its educational benefits wholeheartedly. Don’t bother offering warnings or caveats. Doctors are adults and are responsible for their actions and shouldn’t have to rely on a society to make good decisions for them. If a doctor can’t police themselves when it comes to social media, maybe they shouldn’t be operating on anyone either.

Dr. Jonathan Kaplan is a board-certified plastic surgeon based in San Francisco, CA and founder/CEO of BuildMyBod Health, an online marketplace for healthcare services that allows consumers to determine cost on out-of-pocket procedures, purchase non-surgical services, and in exchange, the healthcare providers receive consumer contact info — a lead, for follow up.

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Growing Your Dental Practice with Social Media

Social Media for Dentists & Dental Professionals. Raw slides/presentation from Scott Childress' lecture on how dental practices can best use social media to gr…
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6 Fresh Ideas for Keeping Patients Engaged Between Appointments

6 Fresh Ideas for Keeping Patients Engaged Between Appointments | Social Media and Healthcare |

There are no guarantees in life, and that certainly applies to retaining patients. Each time a patient walks out your door, it could be the last you see of him or her. But, there’s good news: tools like patient engagementsoftware, automated appointment reminders, and interactive home exercise programs give providers a way to keep patients engaged throughout the duration of care, making it much easier to catch patient dropout before it happens—and even prevent it. But, it’s not enough to simply have these products—you’ve got to use them effectively.

1. Set appointments—and schedule reminders—during checkout.

If you’re looking for an easy, effective way to curb patient dropout, then I’ve got three words for you: automated appointment reminders. If your front desk staff still distributes handwritten appointment cards, then there’s a good chance your patient attrition rate is significantly higher than it should be. After all, appointment reminders sent via text message or phone call are significantly more effective at preventing patient no-shows than reminder cards are. (Seriously, there’s a whole lot of research on this subject—like this case study from Columbia University, which found that automated appointment reminders reduced patient no-shows by 34%.) That’s why your front office check-out process should, at minimum, require that:

  • every patient check out at the front desk after each appointment, and
  • staff ask each patient if he or she would like an appointment reminder for his or her next appointment. (Bonus points if the therapist physically walks the patient to the desk.)

Not only will this help patients achieve their therapy goals, but it’ll also keep your revenue stream steady by preventing patient cancellations and no-shows.

2. Stay in touch on social media.

In the early ’00s, most people viewed social media as a fleeting trend for Internet-obsessed teenagers. Fast forward to 2018, and everyone and their grandma has a social media presence—including rehab therapy practices. And with folks spending so much time on social media—more than 2 hours every day, on average—platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have become powerful tools for bringing in new patients and engaging with existing ones. That’s because social media:

  • showcases your company culture to prospective patients,
  • lets patients interact with your staff outside of the clinic, and
  • allows you to gamify engagement through contests and drawings.

3. Use an interactive home exercise program.

As a provider, you know that patient adherence to prescribed home exercise programs is key to achieving therapy goals, but ensuring your patients actually complete their at-home exercises can be a challenge. However, if you use a high-quality, evidence-based, interactive home exercise program, monitoring and promoting HEP adherence is a breeze. Not only do digital HEPs—like the one WebPT offers—let providers know when patients have completed their exercises, but this type of software also helps patients stay motivated by making it easy for them to contact their therapists for additional guidance and feedback.

4. Connect through telehealth.

Unfortunately, Medicare still won’t reimburse rehab therapists for telehealth services, so some providers are still hesitant to hop aboard the telehealth train. However, some commercial payers do pay for these services, so practices that don’t have any telehealth offerings are doing themselves—and their patients—a major disservice. Much like a digital HEP, telehealth services allow your patients to connect with providers remotely and receive additional assistance with exercises. It also helps patients who live in remote areas or have limited mobility by allowing them to connect with providers from the comfort of their own homes—thus decreasing the likelihood that they’ll drop out of therapy.

5. Measure patient satisfaction.

When a patient drops out of therapy, the therapist is often left with a lot of unanswered questions like:

  • Was the patient not progressing fast enough?
  • Was he or she not well-suited to therapy treatment?
  • Was there something I could’ve done differently?

Even if the reason the patient dropped out early was entirely beyond your control, it’s good to know what’s causing patient churn in your practice. And in many cases, there probably was something you could have done—but the patient might not have known how to communicate his or her needs. Fortunately, by measuring and tracking patient satisfaction—and using tools like Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys—you can catch early dropout warning signs before the patient actually quits therapy. Then, you can leverage this data—along with outcomes data—to pinpoint any problem areas and adjust your therapy plan as needed.

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Future of Health Care Marketing - Digital and Social

Mr Hemant Radhakrishnan,Director -Anvita Tours2Health Pvt Ltd delivered the talk on "Future of Health Care Marketing - Digital and Social " at the 4th Internat…
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Social Media Quality Control for Physicians

Social Media Quality Control for Physicians | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media has infiltrated our everyday lives – both personally and professionally. With most people keeping in touch with friends, family, and colleagues and monitoring the news cycle through multiple social media avenues, the question has shifted from if we should be using social media, to how we can make sure we use it to our benefit.

“Everything about how we communicate has changed,” said Mohamad Mohty, MD, PhD(@Mohty_EBMT), professor of hematology at the Clinical Hematology and Cellular Therapy Department at Hôpital Saint-Antoine, Université Pierre & Marie Curie in Paris, France. “Social media is felt to be increasingly important in plenty of things we do in health care, including academic projects, patient interactions, and research collaborations.”

Dr. Mohty was one of the panelists at a special education session at the 2017 ASH Annual Meeting that addressed how hematologists can effectively use social media. The session, titled “Quality Conversations on Social Media: Achieving Credibility and Efficiency Together” and chaired by Joseph Mikhael, MD, MEd (@jmikhaelmd), chair of the ASH Committee on Communications, featured Dr. Mohty and other panelists who discussed “best practices” for starting and maintaining conversations relevant to hematology on Twitter and other social media platforms.

A Double-Edged Sword

As Dr. Mohty and fellow panelists John P. Leonard, MD (@JohnPLeonardMD), and Elaine Schattner, MD, MA (@ESchattner), outlined, health care practitioners can use social media to their advantage in a number of ways.

In addition to enabling conversations with international collaborators, it can also open up new ways to help patients around the world. “It’s a tool for freedom,” Dr. Mohty said. “You don’t need a visa, you don’t need pre-authorization – it’s communication without borders that brings stakeholders in the community together to share experiences, to agree, to disagree, to comment,” Dr. Mohty said. “It’s a true added value.”

That immediacy, though, creates a demand for instant engagement that contradicts physicians’ roots in thoughtful consideration of evidence-based medicine. Also, when measured, considerate, and balanced ruminations about recently posted research findings are condensed into 280-character tweets, much can get lost in translation.

“With instant communication, you think less,” he said. “Your reaction needs to be matured before answering.” To avoid getting involved in “tweetstorms” or fruitless arguments on social media, Dr. Mohty applies a lesson he learned from replying to upsetting emails: “Embargo yourself.”

“Sometimes it’s hard to resist [responding immediately], because you want to attack,” he said. “But, if you want to do the right thing on social media, you need to create your own rules. There is no universal way to interact on social media – you need to decide what is most important to you.”

With so much of our daily lives moved online, people can lose sight of the consequences of these online interactions and of the value of “face-to-face” interactions, which would be a mistake, Dr. Mohty said. “Social media will never replace in-person interactions, because we need these close human relationships,” he said. “My advice is to be aware of the minuses and inconveniences [of this new technology]. Sometimes, they can hurt.”

The Rules of Engagement

Dr. Schattner, a journalist, patient advocate, and clinical associate professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, emphasized the value of social media in empowering patients.

“When patients go online, they are usually searching for information about a health condition,” she said. “The reality is that patients have less and less time with their doctors, and doctors increasingly may not be [an] expert in the particular issues that their patients ask them about. The need for information is extreme.”

Patients also use the internet to gather information on clinical trials or treatments that might not have been offered by their local physicians, and to look for other opinions altogether. “People used to go to other doctors. Now they go to other websites, follow certain disease-specific hashtags, and ask other patients online about where to go for more information.”

Social media also opens new avenues of communication between physicians and introduces the risk of oversharing – a tricky area to navigate because of legal issues surrounding doctor-patient confidentiality and professionalism.

Dr. Schattner said she believes patients understand and respect these issues, and doctors should in turn respect patients’ inquiries. “Most educated patients are not looking for specific answers to their medical problems online,” she said. “That said, I admire doctors who treat patients with respect. Some doctors only follow doctors – not patients or people who identify as patients. Whether or not you choose to follow people who are not physicians, I think if you acknowledge the legitimacy of their questions, that can go a long way.”

Social media platforms also invite informality, but Dr. Schattner advised the audience to keep it professional. “If doctors use words or phrases like ‘LOL’ or ‘garbage’ when referring to clinical trial results, for example, that can be hurtful to patients who are on those trials.” Patients are savvy enough to find and follow conversations about topics of interest to them, she said, adding “[physicians] should be careful, because patients may be paying closer attention than [doctors] realize.”

Maintaining privacy and safety online should also be of paramount concern, because some unwanted followers might be too close for comfort, Dr. Schattner noted. “There are creeps on the internet,” she said bluntly, “and because I have a significant following, at this point I have learned that directly.” Blocking and reporting spammers or users who employ hateful language or share violent images is a must for any doctor who wants to seriously use social media.

Dr. Schattner advised audience members to be careful about divulging details about their personal lives (such as their location or family, events they attend, etc.). “When I’m here, it’s useful for me professionally to reveal that I am in Atlanta for the ASH annual meeting,” she said, “but I’m not going to publish my family vacation plans on the internet.”

Tips and Tricks

According to Dr. Leonard, Richard T. Silver Distinguished Professor of Medicine and associate dean for clinical research at Weill Cornell Medicine and New York Presbyterian Hospital in New York, deciding what to put on the internet is half the battle. He discussed best practices for taking full advantage of the connectivity and exposure inherent to social media.

Twitter can be helpful for shining a light on your institution, programs, work, and the work of colleagues, he said. Retweeting colleagues’ presentations or achievements to your followers – and providing your opinions – can be a great engagement tool.

For better engagement, Dr. Leonard noted, try to keep your posts interactive and, when possible, entertaining. Some doctors will use a lot of jargon, or will only post links to articles, and “that’s fine if you just want to talk to your colleagues on the internet,” Dr. Schattner agreed. “To make your Twitter feed or any social media feed interesting, though, it’s helpful to have a hobby. For me, it makes Twitter more fun.”

The back-and-forth comments and camaraderie that builds between users and followers is an essential aspect of social media. But Dr. Leonard warned, “Comment, don’t vent. It’s okay to comment and be excited about something you are posting, but be mindful of your language and reactions.”

And, of course, realize that not everyone online is following these same rules of engagement. In response to an audience member’s question about frustrating interactions on social media, Dr. Schattner advised that sometimes it’s best to just walk away from the situation. When conversations become argumentative, ignore them. “[These interactions] can be  hurtful to both sides – they are not helpful to patients, and they are not helpful to the people who tweet,” Dr. Schattner said.

The most important thing to remember is that social media is supposed to be informative and fun – not a burden professionally or personally. “Do it as much as you like,” Dr. Mohty said, “but it is not an obligation.”

An audience member noted that in the era of “alternative facts,” constantly correcting misinformation on the internet can be a burden. While the internet is rife with misinformation, “we are not in a position to police … Facebook or … what is said on Twitter, or in The New York Times for that matter,” Dr. Schattner said. “Conventional and new media all have some truths and some fallacies. My attitude is you can’t correct it all. I think patients, through better education, will gradually gravitate to people who prove to be reliable.”

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The Periodic Table of Healthcare Communications 2018 by Owen Health

A pharma marketer’s overview of the key elements of healthcare communications, covering brand planning, customer experience and multi-channel marketing. Brough…
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Social media & HIPAA: When sharing is not caring

Social media & HIPAA: When sharing is not caring | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media is an increasingly common presence within the healthcare industry – among providers and consumers alike – but despite the potential benefits it can offer both parties, it introduces many risks.

Paging Dr. Google

It’s no exaggeration to say that the internet has completely transformed the way people seek medical information, and social media has played a significant role in this transformation. In fact, of the 74% of internet users that engage on social media, 80% of those are specifically searching for health information, and nearly half are looking for information about a specific doctor or health professional[1].

What’s more, research[2] has shown that social media can have a direct influence on a patient’s decision to choose a specific health provider, or even lead them to seek a second opinion, particularly amongst patients coping with a chronic condition, stress, or diet management.

This presents many opportunities for healthcare providers looking to get ahead of the competition – and for those who choose to actively engage in social media, the rewards can be significant, but so can the risks. So before jumping into social media headfirst, physicians need to understand the potential pitfalls, specifically the risks associated with patient privacy, and their obligations under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

Social media and PHI

PHI stands for Protected Health Information. The HIPAA Privacy Rule[3] provides federal protections for personal health information held by HIPAA covered entities (health care providers, health plans, healthcare clearinghouses, plus their business associates) and gives patients an array of rights with respect to that information. At the same time, the Privacy Rule is balanced so that it permits the disclosure of personal health information needed for patient care and other important purposes.

The limits of permissible disclosure, however, are extremely limited, and definitely don’t include social media; if a physician were to disclose a patient’s PHI via social media without consent, even accidentally, this would be a direct violation of HIPAA guidelines and probably state law too.

While one would hope that most healthcare professionals know not to share PHI publically, some may not even know that what they are sharing, or intend on sharing is actually PHI; it is extremely difficult to anonymize patients, and even the subtlest of identifiers could be deemed a breach of patient privacy if it can be tied to a patient.

To avoid this happening, providers need to understand the 18 PHI identifiers, which are:

  •       Names;
  •       Geographic information;
  •       Dates (e.g. birth date, admission date, discharge date, date of death);
  •       Telephone numbers;
  •       Fax numbers;
  •       E-mail addresses;
  •       Social Security numbers;
  •       Medical record numbers;
  •       Health plan beneficiary numbers;
  •       Account numbers;
  •       Certificate/license numbers;
  •       Vehicle identifiers and serial numbers, including license plate numbers;
  •       Device identifiers and serial numbers;
  •       URLs;
  •       IP address numbers;
  •       Biometric identifiers (e.g. finger and voice prints);
  •       Full-face photographic images and any comparable images; and
  •       Other unique identifying numbers, characteristics, or codes.

How to ensure a HIPAA compliant social media strategy

To avoid an inadvertent breach of PHI, covered entities should educate staff on best practices when using social media, including:

  1. Avoid social messenger services

The likes of Facebook Messenger, LinkedIn, and Twitter Direct Messages may be familiar and convenient, but they are not secure and should be avoided at all costs when discussing patient health matters or exchanging PHI, even with trusted colleagues. Not only are these platforms inherently insecure due to a lack of encryption and access controls, the potential for error is increased as users could accidentally post information publicly or send a message to the wrong recipient.

What’s more, as BYOD (bring your own device) becomes more widely adopted in healthcare organizations, and as more devices are carried between home and work, the potential for device theft or loss increases, which further jeopardizes the security of any sensitive information that exists on a device, within social media applications, or on web browsers. This considered, PHI should only ever be exchanged via HIPAA-secure messaging services, that have been approved by IT departments and are used as part of an organization’s regular workflow.

  1. Think very carefully before posting

When utilized as part of a wider marketing strategy, social media can be a very effective tool, but those responsible for managing social media output on behalf of an organization must be well versed in what type of content is and is not acceptable to share online. Even a seemingly harmless photo of the outside of a premises could cause problems if patients can be seen entering or exiting the building, or if a vehicle can be recognized in the car park. The same can be said of waiting rooms and reception areas, where the likelihood of capturing a patient’s face is high.

  1. Keep work and home life separate

A HIPAA violation can just as easily happen in the home as it can in the workplace. After a hard day at work it is not uncommon for members of staff to air their grievances online – be it on Facebook, Twitter, or within closed forums. Again, considering how difficult it is to de-identify PHI, this behavior should be strongly discouraged, particularly where complaints about patients are involved. Similarly, posting about a famous person, friend, or family member being seen in a practice may be tempting, but is equally risky.

Social media has become second nature for many of us, and the ease of access to it is both a blessing and a curse for the healthcare industry. When managed responsibly, social media can be a highly effective marketing tool, and can even help improve the health outcomes of patients searching for information online. When used irresponsibly, however, the risks are high, and potential repercussions significant.

For HIPAA covered entities who engage in social media, the message is simple; develop robust company policies to ensure responsible usage, and ensure all staff are trained to think before they share.






About The Author

Gene Fry has been the compliance officer and vice president of technology at Scrypt, Inc. since 2001 and has 25 years of IT experience working in industries such as healthcare and for companies in the U.S. and abroad. He is a Certified HIPAA Professional (CHP) through the Management and Strategy Institute, a Certified Cyber Security Architect through ecFirst and certified in HIPAA privacy and security through the American Health Information Management Association. Most recently achieved the HITRUST CSF Practitioner certification from the HITRUST ALLIANCE. Gene can be contacted through DocbookMD is built by Scrypt, Inc.

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