Social Media and Healthcare
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Can Social Media Change Health Behavior?

Presentation at 10th Anniversary Convention of the Ateneo School of Medicine & Public Health, 24 Nov 2017. Novotel Araneta.
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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.
Curated by nrip
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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. 

Formdox's comment, April 20, 5:34 AM
#Formdox integrates perfectly with several #functionalities for the monitoring
cctopbuilders's comment, April 26, 6:01 AM
Shala Wedikom's curator insight, September 27, 5:05 PM

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HIPPA and Social Media: Avoid Costly Mistakes in Your Practice

HIPPA and Social Media: Avoid Costly Mistakes in Your Practice | Social Media and Healthcare |

Doctors in private practice must include social media in their overall marketing strategy. This is practically non-negotiable for physicians who provide elective procedures. But social media isn’t all selfies and cat videos. One wrong move, and a HIPAA violation could cost you the practice you took years to build.

Like any surgeon worth their scalpel will tell you, managing risk is as simple as creating and sticking to a procedure. That’s why the Joint Commission requires use of the Universal Protocol prior to putting any patient under the knife. Even after a patient is under anesthesia, the entire team repeats the checklist once more during the Universal Protocol Timeout.

To protect your patients’ identity, your practice and yourself from costly HIPAA violations on social media, any posts should follow a strict operating procedure. With that in mind, here’s your social media timeout to prevent HIPAA violations in your practice.

Call Timeout When Posting On Your Practice Accounts

If you elect to handle your practice’s social media in house, select one trustworthy employee to be in charge of this task. Make sure that only this one employee and you have the credentials to all social media accounts. Be sure that they aren’t storing the credentials or any patient information, including names and photos, on personal devices. Only practice equipment should be used for social media.

Make it clear to this team member: Before they post anything to social media, they are to call a timeout. During the timeout, you and the team member review the following pieces of information.

Verify the Patient’s Identity & Ensure You Have Their Consent

Who is the patient that you’ll be posting about on social media? Check their files and be sure that they have signed a social media consent form. You should have this form created and reviewed by a lawyer and/or HIPAA expert before use.

When verifying the patient’s identification and if you have consent to post about them on social media, check their age. If they are under 18, then they cannot legally consent to sharing their information on social media. You must have separate consent from their parent or legal guardian. Once again, talk to a lawyer and/or HIPAA compliance expert about this.

Is the Social Media Outlet Appropriate?

Not every patient and every patient story is appropriate for all forms of social media. For example, uploading a patient’s colonoscopy to Instagram — even if they did consent to it — may be a shortcut to getting them ridiculed or you potentially banned from the platform. You need to use your own good taste and judgment, keeping your patient’s best interests in mind when posting about them on social media.

You can give patients options for which social sites they’ll allow. Maybe they’re comfortable with you sharing their testimonial about getting rid of their crow’s feet, but they’d rather you not broadcast the before-and-after photos on Facebook.

A good rule of thumb is that people want to feel good about how they’re represented on social media. If you don’t think what you have in mind will make the patient feel good — even if you have their consent — don’t do it.

Conduct Your Final Check

Look at what social platforms your practice employee will be posting to. Be sure that the patient has consented to those specific platforms.

Next, review the posts carefully for spelling, punctuation and clarity. If what you’re posting doesn’t make any sense, it’s at best useless and at worst fodder for internet trolls.

After you’ve done your due diligence, it’s time to hit the button. Once the posts are live, look them over to make sure that all is correct and that they are displaying properly. Notify the patient that the posts are up so that they can give them a once over too (and hopefully share them on their social networks).

Finally, be sure that your team member monitors the posts for any comments or interactions, responding to questions and potential customers, as well as flagging any suspicious or malicious behavior.


Use a social media timeout to avoid HIPAA violations.

  • Correct patient identity (and consent): Who is the patient, and do you have their written consent to share their information or story to social media?
  • Correct (social) site: What platforms will you be sharing to and is what you plan on sharing about the patient in good taste? Will the patient feel good about it?
  • Procedure to be done: Make sure you have consent for the specific social platforms. Check spelling, grammar and punctuation. Monitor the post carefully.
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Today’s Healthcare Professionals Are Leveraging Social Media Conversations For Collaboration Global Reach And Real-Time Learning

Today’s Healthcare Professionals Are Leveraging Social Media Conversations For Collaboration Global Reach And Real-Time Learning | Social Media and Healthcare |

In today’s connected world, healthcare professionals (HCPs) are taking advantage of new ways to collaborate and social media is leading the charge. Collaboration has become a key factor for doctors using social media, allowing them to anonymously share experiences, insights and challenges. This type of collaboration simply wasn’t possible before the use of social media.

Social media platforms continue to grow, becoming a main channel for communication and collaboration in just about every industry. While patients increasingly use social media for on-demand healthcare advice and support, physicians see social media as an avenue for delivering better care, tapping into the insights of colleagues and staying current on healthcare industry developments. In fact, 88 percent of physicians use social media and the internet to research pharmaceutical, biotech and medical devices. By arming physicians with technology that allows them to discuss treatments with colleagues, social media is changing the game of the doctor-doctor-patient relationship and revolutionizing better, faster clinical care for patients.

Healthcare is an industry that’s often viewed as antiquated. As a result, the opportunity for the digital transformation of the healthcare industry is greater than any other industry. Now more than ever before, physicians are relying on social media to enable better care and this reliance is fueling the broader digital health revolution. However, social media is not only transforming the conventional world of physician engagement, it’s also revolutionizing healthcare data collection processes. Just as HCPs are leaning on social media for specific reasons such as collaboration, learning, depth of available expertise and easy access, the industry is relying on data collected from physician communities to develop needed market insights, according to SERMO, a private social network for physicians.

As the healthcare industry becomes more digitalized, outlined below are key ways the advent of social media is bringing the so-called “antiquated” behavior of the healthcare industry into the 21st century:

Public And Private Social Networks Provide Different Perspectives

Considering that physicians are constantly surrounded by sensitive information, it’s reasonable that public social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter vs. private communities, like SERMO, stimulate transparent and valuable conversations. Research shows that with Twitter, HCPs frequently share and react to medical congress meetings, clinical trial data and product news. In private platforms, physicians’ conversations are frequently more qualitative with real-life experiences.

Connecting With Colleagues Around The Globe

Reach has become an incredible asset for physicians leveraging social media with real-time crowd sourcing and sharing of data among peers. When HCPs need to consult rapidly with other experts in a particular disease area, they may not always be able to turn to peers in their local hospital. With social media, they can start a worldwide conversation to find the expert opinion they need.

HCPs Are Behaving Differently Across Social Channels

HCP specialties behave differently across social channels and various factors drive posts on each channel. In fact, physicians reflect different attitudes toward products in their posts on different channels. Sentiment analysis is a technique often used to indicate those positive or negative feelings expressed in qualitative verbatim data.

On private platforms, HCPs are typically considering their own experience, so their views shared may be associated with what they have read from others or posted themselves on the private network. On Twitter, however, much of what HCPs post is directly linked to other sources, including mainstream media, medical journals, policy influencers and peers. In this environment it is possible that their expressed views may provide a glimpse into future hopes and expectations.

Online Conversations Can Be Used To Understand Physician Needs And Perceptions

With private networks, data can be collected to analyze how HCPs perceive new research and therapies, the latest trends and prescribing habits. Information can be used to identify how doctors talk about their needs, the moment their product perception changes and how they vary in different digital environments. Obtaining a firsthand view into how different channels impact physician terminology, insights and treatment approaches offer another opportunity for healthcare brands to take action.

It can’t be stressed enough how social media will continue to play a role in connecting physicians, patients and various stakeholders. How the pharmaceutical industry, medical technology and the healthcare organizations that serve those industries use this data now available to them will be critical to how they maintain their own competitive edge as the digital health revolution continues to bring the healthcare industry in the 21st century.

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Iraqi war victims turn to social media to find medical help 

Iraqi war victims turn to social media to find medical help  | Social Media and Healthcare |

It was spring 2007 in northern Iraq when 6-year-old Saja Saleem raced home from school with the good news about her excellent grades, hoping to receive the gift her father had promised her.

"All of a sudden, I found myself spinning into the air with fire trailing from my school uniform after a loud boom," Saleem, now 17, recounted to The Associated Press.

Saleem lost her eyesight, right arm and an ear in the explosion, set off by a roadside bomb. Months later, her disfiguring injuries forced her to drop out of school after other students complained about her "scary face."


Feeling helpless, Saleem recently turned to social media to find help. Eventually, her appeal grabbed the attention of a surgeon who offered free treatment.

Others have also reached out on social media.

Emotional videos and photographs of Iraqis with war wounds and disabilities have overwhelmed social media platforms, mainly Facebook, widely used in Iraq.

The widespread violence unleashed by the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein and the 2014-2017 battle against the Islamic State group has wounded hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. Many are maimed and scarred, their suffering lingering long after the violence subsides.

Poor medical services, scarcity of specialized staff and medical centers, and poverty have exacerbated the suffering. Those who cannot get treatment at state-run hospitals and cannot afford private clinics are looking to social media platforms to make appeals.

Appeals are posted on the personal Facebook pages of patients or on the pages of aid organizations and public figures with tens of thousands of followers. Patients describe their condition along with contact details. Messages are also distributed on platforms like WhatsApp and Viber.

Saleem and her family recall the explosion that upended her life, and the years that followed as they struggled financially to get her treatment.

"When I hit the ground, I felt severe pain all over my body ... I was bleeding, a pool of blood around me ... everything turned dark and I lost consciousness," she recalled from her bed at a Baghdad hospital where she is undergoing free reconstructive and plastic surgeries.

Saleem's mother, Khawla Omar Hussein, remembers her daughter's screams when three weeks later, she regained consciousness and realized she had lost her right arm and ear.

"She woke up screaming, crying: 'Mammy, mammy'," Hussein recalled. "Then she asked: 'Why can't I see and why is everything dark?'"

They told her it was the bandages over her eyes and that she would see after they were removed. When that day came, the doctors told her she had lost both eyes.

Nearly two years later, Saleem's family tried to send her back to school where she was accepted only as a "listener" in class, accompanying her brothers. But that arrangement ended soon as other students and teachers complained that her disfigured face was bothering them.

"I was crying day and night and became a very reclusive person," Saleem said.

After the state-run hospital couldn't go beyond the necessary treatment to save her life, Saleem's family looked for plastic and reconstructive surgery for her at a private clinic, but they couldn't afford the doctor's $7,500 fee.

Then, late last year, her mother made an appeal, posting photographs of Saleem and details about her ordeal in a public group on Viber. Days later, Baghdad-based Dr. Abbas al-Sahan, one of Iraq's best plastic surgeons, offered to do free surgeries.

Since January, Saleem has undergone four surgeries — first so her face could accommodate the two glass eyes, or ocular prostheses, then a procedure to reduce some of the scars. She also had a surgery to adjust to a prosthetic arm and is due to have plastic surgery to reconstruct her missing ear, al-Sahan said.

Al-Sahan runs the only state-run specialized hospital for reconstructive and plastic surgery in Iraq. He said that about 40 percent of the monthly surgeries his hospital preforms — between 600 to 850 — are for victims of bombings and other war-related explosions, as well as for casualties of military operations.

Saleem's family feels she is lucky. Not everyone gets the help they need through social media.

Iraqi army Capt. Salar al-Jaff was shot by a sniper in January 2017, during the height of the fight to recapture the northern city of Mosul from the Islamic State group. The bullet hit him in the head and left him paralyzed in one side of his body.

Since then, he has been treated for the head wound and for complications from lying in bed all the time, but not for the paralysis. He sold his car and all his possessions to be able to afford three injections a day, each costing $100, to overcome the pain.

He also appeared in a video, posted on social media, alongside a cleric who asks that someone help al-Jaff.

But so far, there have been no offers for free treatment.

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A new frontier for drug ads: patient 'influencers' on social media

A new frontier for drug ads: patient 'influencers' on social media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Anne Marie Ciccarella is not a doctor, though she spends a great deal of time with them. She’s not a researcher, though she routinely pores over scientific papers on cancer. And even though she spent most of her career at an accounting firm, she’s getting paid by drug companies for her opinions.

Ciccarella is one of a growing number of people who have leveraged their experiences as patients and the loyal followings they’ve built on social media into a career, no matter how small their audience.

For years, so-called influencers — celebrities, former reality television contestants and sometimes, former lawyers or other professionals — have hawked diet teas and hair products everywhere from Facebook to Snapchat. And now, pharma is catching on.

The use of RWE to achieve several commercial and strategic objectives, including value-based contracting, regulatory submissions, and clinical trial design is expanding.

An entire industry has cropped up to link drug makers with the industry’s own version of an influencer — people, usually patients, who have small but devoted followings and who might be willing to promote their products or share valuable insights about the patient community. Ciccarella, for example, is one of nearly 100,000 such influencers on the rosters of Wego Health, one of a handful of companies that essentially act a patient influencer talent agency.

It’s a lucrative new frontier for drug advertising — and for patients, too, who benefit from close contact with the drug maker and, often, a fee. But it is also an increasingly regulated frontier, and one with ethical quandaries that some experts say the drug industry hasn’t fully considered.

“What has become obvious now is that micro-influencers, folks with smaller communities can have a dramatic impact on people’s behavior,” said Jack Barrette, the founder and CEO of Wego Health.


Wego is perhaps the biggest company of its kind, though competitors like Voz Advisors also link patients and other interested parties with drug companies.

Wego functions, largely, as a database. Patients who feel they have a dedicated following and want to work with brands can reach out via Wego’s website to see if there’s a relevant and interested drug company. Drug companies, too, can check with Wego for patient influencers in a new space, or even for potential patient participants for an advisory panel.

Most of the time, Wego’s helping companies find patients, not the other way around, Barrette told STAT.

“We tend to start with, ‘This is a very influential person, now let’s see what about your product is relevant or not and then we’ll see if they’ll work with you,” he said.

Unlike ordinary Instagram influencers — who will generally get paid for making a post about a product — patient influencers can be paid both for posting about a drug or a device, but also for bringing the opinions of people like them to the companies developing those products.

In some ways, Wego is its own kind of advertising agency for the drug companies it works with — just a very targeted one. Drug developers may pay Wego to reach out to its network of influencers to let them know what’s new.


Some influencers will give their opinions for free; others that participate in videos or events can get paid. Ciccarella, for example, received $1,500 from AstraZeneca to sit on a seminar panel about patient engagement. The company also covered her travel expenses.

“That was generous,” Ciccarella noted.

Often, companies will pay less — Ciccarella said she’s also been told she wouldn’t be paid because a company considered her a member of the media. (“None of us is a credentialed press person,” she noted.)

In that way, Wego acts like an agent. “[Barrette] has pushed to have us compensated for the time we put in to things,” Ciccarella said.

There are several health-specific online forums — notably, PatientsLikeMe — but for Wego, most of the action is on Facebook, “The platforms include, probably in rank order, Facebook is far and away the most active community — even for serious health issues,” Barrette said. “Then you’ve got Instagram, Twitter, also very important, and then other platforms in descending order from there.”

Through Wego’s websites for the companies it works with — which it calls sharing hubs — patient influencers get a chance to talk to companies making the drugs they use and get company-cleared material to use in their own posts. In some cases, they’re paid for their time or input or presence at events.

Drug companies get excellent advertising in return — and it’s cheap.

Sunovion, a pharmaceutical company based in Marlborough, Mass., saw a jump in earned media impressions — a common marketing metric —  from less than 100,000 impressions to more than 13.2 million after using Wego’s services, according to the company’s former senior marketing director, Paul Murasko.

According to a presentation Murasko and Barrette gave in 2017, more than 50,000 people visited one of Sunovion’s sharing hubs on Wego. More than 14,000 took a “high-value action,” like filling out a discussion guide that the company’s research showed led to more prescriptions for a drug.

During that same presentation, Barrette noted that about 87 percent of people who saw an influencer share information about a specific drug would ask their doctor or health care provider about it — something that Murasko notes often leads to a prescription.

The return-on-investment is particularly high with influencers since their work is so much cheaper than other forms of direct-to-consumer advertising, like TV ads.

“I’m putting in single-digit percentages [of my budget],” Murasko claimed. “We’re talking 2, 3 percent.”

That’s not the only benefit to pharma companies, either. Micro-influencers also give drug companies new insights into the patients taking their products. “A lot of my work over the last four years with patient influencers has been in using them as market research, using them as advisers,” Murasko said. “You can easily see what’s of value and what’s not.”


“Pharmaceutical companies, like physicians, have a blind spot — the patient’s perspective,” said Dr. Danny Sands, the chair of the board for the Society for Participatory Medicine. (Wego has sponsored the society’s annual meeting.) “They really don’t know what it’s like to be taking the medications. What do the side effects really feel like?”

For companies like Wego, the benefits translate into some serious cash. Wego’s revenue grew to well over $3 million last year — Barrette declined to make specific revenue figures public — and that’s just the start, Barrette said.

“Our revenue will grow [significantly] year on year, which is a big jump for any company, even one with relatively small numbers,” he said. “[It] looks like it will continue even more strongly next year.”

Influencers — broadly, and in the health care space, too — are increasingly subject to scrutiny and skepticism. Many see their work as another form of advertising, and question both the transparency of the players involved as well as the financial links between a given blogger or patient and the massive drug companies whose products they’re pushing.

For over-the-counter products, the Federal Trade Commission can (and has) come after influencers who fail to disclose they’re being paid for their endorsement. And social media influencers who act as boosters for cryptocurrency might get a stern letter from the Securities and Exchange Commission, which has done most of the enforcement so far in a loosely regulated space.


Drugs are different. If an influencer endorses an FDA-approved drug, there’s a bunch of information he or she must say about the approved indications and the risks. In 2015, Kim Kardashian West failed to mention the risks of a drug called Diclegis that she was promoting for morning sickness and didn’t mention that the drug hadn’t been studied in women with a particularly severe form of the condition. The FDA sent the company a warning letter and asked it to remove the posts; Kardashian took at least one down.

But if companies are promoting awareness of a condition rather than a drug, they historically haven’t needed to disclose that they’re behind the content.

An FDA press officer also confirmed there aren’t any restrictions on who can be a spokesperson for a prescription drug — just about what they can say.

But patient influencers — paid or otherwise — are a particularly American phenomenon. In other markets, their involvement opens up a whole other can of worms. “There are still a lot of questions about how a company can do this in a compliant way, particularly in Europe” and jurisdictions where there is no direct-to-consumer advertising allowed,” said Ellen Coleman, the president and CEO of


And there’s always the potential that influencers may go outside the bounds the FDA sets. “There’s a myriad of ethical issues around this,” said Lisa Gualtieri, an assistant professor at Tufts’ school of medicine who has studied the use of social media to promote off-label uses of drugs. “What’s the responsibility of various stakeholders to educate people that this is potentially dangerous and harmful?”

Wego said it does provide some educational programs to influencers that cover exactly those issues, like what advice crosses the line into medical advice, what disclaimers they need to attach, and how to check some of the claims they’re making online. “We’re definitely advising them on how to stay on the right side of that line, but day to day we’re not kind of looking at folks and saying, are you crossing it or not,” Barrette said.

Ultimately, Barrette said, companies just have to trust that the influencers will stay in bounds — just like the people they connect with have to trust that their integrity hasn’t been compromised by any compensation.

For Ciccarella, the balance is clear. “There’s no amount of money that’s going to get me to say something I don’t believe in,” she said. “I’m going to tell it like it is.”

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The New Age of Patient Autonomy: Implications for the Patient-Physician Relationship

The New Age of Patient Autonomy: Implications for the Patient-Physician Relationship | Social Media and Healthcare |

The rejection of medical paternalism in favor of respect for patient autonomy transformed the patient-physician relationship. Historically, medicine and society subscribed to the ethical norm that the physician’s main duty was to promote the patient’s welfare, even at the expense of the latter’s autonomy. A central assumption of the paternalistic framework was that physicians, because of their medical expertise, knew best what was in the best interest of patients. Accordingly, physicians decided which interventions would promote patients’ welfare; patients, for their part, were expected to comply.

The decades since the 1950s have seen an increasing emphasis on patients’ rights to accept or decline recommended treatment. The rejection of medical paternalism did not, however, overturn physicians’ control in their relationships with patients. In theory, physicians could no longer make unilateral decisions about their patients’ care, but in practice, they retained gatekeeping authority by virtue of their monopoly over medical information and most medical resources. This characterization of the patient-physician relationship, with patients in control of their medical decisions but dependent on their physicians for access to information and most medical products and services, is no longer accurate. Medicine has entered a new age of patient autonomy. Today’s patients, informed by the internet and social media, are increasingly less dependent on their physicians for access to medical information and resources. This revolutionary change requires a fundamentally different understanding of the patient-physician relationship.

The New Age of Patient Autonomy

The abandonment of strong medical paternalism led scholars to explore alternative models of the patient-physician relationship that emphasize patient choice.1 Shared decision making gained traction in the 1980s and remains the preferred model for health care interactions. Broadly, shared decision making involves the physician and patient working together to make medical decisions that accord with the patient’s values and preferences. Ideally, for many decisions, the physician and patient engage in an informational volley—the physician provides information about the range of options, and the patient expresses his or her values and preferences. In some cases, the physician may need to help the patient identify or clarify his or her values and goals of care in light of the available treatment options.2

Although there is general consensus that patients should participate in and ultimately make their own medical decisions whenever possible, most versions of shared decision making take for granted that the physician has access to knowledge, understanding, and medical resources that the patient lacks. As such, the shift from medical paternalism to patient autonomy did not wholly transform the physician’s role in the therapeutic relationship.

In recent years, however, widespread access to the internet and social media has reduced physicians’ dominion over medical information and, increasingly, over patients’ access to medical products and services. It is no longer the case that patients simply visit their physicians, describe their symptoms, and wait for the differential diagnosis. Today, some patients arrive at the physician’s office having thoroughly researched their symptoms and identified possible diagnoses. Indeed, some patients who have lived with rare diseases may even know more about their conditions than some of the physicians with whom they consult.

The expanding availability of direct-to-consumer (DTC) tests and screens has further diminished physicians’ control over patients’ access to medical resources. Some tests that once required expensive equipment and an office or hospital visit can now be done by a consumer at home. For example, consumers can perform a do-it-yourself electrocardiogram on a $99 device that interfaces with a smartphone app. The use of DTC laboratory tests is also increasing. These tests run the gamut of scientific legitimacy. Some, such as an at-home blood test for food sensitivity, do not meet standards of clinical validity.3 Others, by contrast, are considered high quality and, until recently, would have required a physician’s order. For example, depending on the state, consumers can order an array of laboratory tests, including complete blood cell counts, comprehensive metabolic panels, hepatitis C screening, and a variety of sexually transmitted disease screening panels.

There is also a burgeoning market for health-related DTC genetic tests. Notably, in April 2017, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved 23andMe to market a genetic test that assesses consumers’ risk of developing 10 different conditions, including late-onset Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, and hereditary thrombophilia. Recently, the FDA authorized 23andMe to test for 3 specific BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations that are known to substantially increase a woman’s risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer.4

The Physician’s Role in the Age of Increased Patient Autonomy

Expanded access to information and to a variety of health-related products and services will bring new opportunities for patients to direct their own health care. It will also bring new challenges for physicians who must manage the downstream consequences of tests and screens they did not order. Most important, the new age of patient autonomy will necessitate that physicians reconceptualize their role in the patient-physician relationship. In this new age of autonomy, physicians may need to act in the following 3 capacities.

First, physicians will serve as consultants or advisors to patients who will increasingly direct their own care. Unencumbered access to information and DTC tests and screens, while potentially autonomy enhancing, can also lead to confusion and uncertainty. When patients have questions or concerns about information obtained online or about the significance of a DTC test result, they may contact their physicians to interpret an ambiguous finding, recommend medical management options, and if necessary, refer them to the appropriate specialist.

Second, physicians will continue to perform diagnostic and therapeutic procedures that patients are not able to carry out. Moreover, physicians will still need to make judgments about whether a given procedure is appropriate for a patient. Even in the new age of autonomy, there is still a need for physicians to exercise professional agency.5

Third, although physicians will still be the gatekeepers of many medical resources, the function of gatekeeping will change. The availability of DTC products and services has pushed physicians’ gatekeeping back a level. No longer in control of patients’ initial access to an expanding array of tests, physicians will increasingly act as gatekeepers to follow-up services. For example, how should a well-informed primary care physician respond when a healthy middle-aged patient requests a referral to a hematologist after learning (eg, through a DTC genetic test) that he is heterozygous for the factor V Leiden mutation associated with an increased risk of thrombophilia? One of the many challenges for physicians in the new age of autonomy is how to advocate for care that is driven by medical need rather than solely by patient demand.


Unmediated access to medical information and to an increasing array of health-related products and services has radically altered the balance of power between physician and patient. But while patients can research their symptoms and order many laboratory and genetic tests online, they will continue to depend on their physicians for advice, procedural expertise, and access to restricted medical services. By appreciating how the internet, social media, and other factors are transforming medical relationships, physicians will be better able to meet their patients’ health care needs in the age of enhanced patient autonomy.

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Could machines using artificial intelligence make doctors obsolete?

Could machines using artificial intelligence make doctors obsolete? | Social Media and Healthcare |

The technology of these tools is evolving rapidly. Standalone machines can now perform limited tasks raising the question of whether machines will ever completely replace doctors? Experts debate the issue in The BMJ today.

Artificial intelligence systems simulate human intelligence by learning, reasoning, and self correction. This technology has the potential to be more accurate than doctors at making diagnoses and performing surgical interventions, says Jörg Goldhahn, MD, MAS, deputy head of the Institute for Translational Medicine at ETH Zurich, Switzerland.

It has a "near unlimited capacity" for data processing and subsequent learning, and can do this at a speed that humans cannot match.

Increasing amounts of health data, from apps, personal monitoring devices, electronic medical records, and social media platforms are being brought together to give machines as much information as possible about people and their diseases. At the same time machines are "reading" and taking account of the rapidly expanding scientific literature.

"The notion that today's physicians could approximate this knowledge by keeping abreast of current medical research while maintaining close contacts with their patients is an illusion not least because of the sheer volume of data," says Goldhahn.

Machine learning is also not subject to the same level of potential bias seen in human learning that reflects cultural influences and links with particular institutions, for example.

While the ability to form relationships with patients is often presented as an argument in favour of human doctors, this may also be their "Achilles heel", Goldhahn points out. Trust is important to patients but machines and systems can be more trustworthy than humans if they can be regarded as unbiased and without conflicts of interest.

Furthermore, some patients, particularly younger ones and those with minor conditions, may rate correct diagnosis higher than empathy or continuity of care, he says. "In some very personal situations the services of a robot could help patients avoid feeling shame.

The key challenges for today's healthcare systems are rising costs and insufficient numbers of doctors. "Introducing AI-driven systems could be cheaper than hiring and training new staff, Goldhahn says. "They are also universally available, and can even monitor patients remotely."Doctors as we now know them will become obsolete eventually."

But Vanessa Rampton at the McGill Institute for Health and Social Policy in Montréal, Canada and Professor Giatgen Spinas at University Hospital in Zürich, Switzerland, maintain that machines will never replace doctors entirely because the interrelational quality of the doctor-patient relationship is vital and cannot be replicated.

They agree that machines will increasingly be able to perform tasks that human doctors do today, such as diagnosis and treatment, but say doctors will remain because they are better at dealing with the patient as a whole person.

Doctors can relate to the patient as a fellow human being and can gain holistic knowledge of their illness as it relates to the patient's life, they say.

A doctor-patient relationship where the doctor thinks laterally and takes into account an individual patient's preferences, values and social circumstances is important for healing, particularly for complex conditions, when there are symptoms with no obvious cause, and if there is a high risk of adverse effects.

"Feeling they've been heard by someone who understands the seriousness of the problem and whom they can trust can be crucial for patients," Rampton and Spinas argue.

"Computers aren't able to care for patients in the sense of showing devotion or concern for the other as a person, because they are not people and do not care about anything. Sophisticated robots might show empathy as a matter of form, just as humans might behave nicely in social situations yet remain emotionally disengaged because they are only performing a social role."

Most importantly there will be no cure for some patients—care will be about helping them have the best quality of life possible with their condition and for the longest time. "Here doctors are irreplaceable," they emphasise. "Robots cannot understand our concern with relating illness to the task of living a life."

Regulated and well implemented, machines that learn have the potential to bring huge benefit to patients, but who wants to receive a terminal diagnosis from a robot, ask Michael Mittelman and colleagues in a patient commentary?

"Patients need to be cared for by people, especially when we are ill and at our most vulnerable. A machine will never be able to show us true comfort," they say.

They acknowledge that AI may have the potential to become a highly useful and innovative aide in healthcare, but they hope there will always be room for humanity—human healthcare professionals.

"Ultimately, no one wants to be told he or she is dying by an entity that can have no understanding of what that means. We see AI as the servant rather than the director of our medical care," they conclude.

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Preparing The Healthcare Workforce To Deliver A Digital Future

Preparing The Healthcare Workforce To Deliver A Digital Future | Social Media and Healthcare |

When it comes to achieving digital transformation, one of the primary barriers holding back organizations is the lack of suitable skills within their workforce.  With the potential for digital transformation in healthcare so great, and the progress so slow, a recent report for the U.K. National Health Service by digital health pioneer Dr Eric Topol is timely indeed.

The paper aims to assess how new technologies are likely to influence the roles and functions of clinical staff, and their support, over the next two decades. What new skills will be required? How will curricula and education need to change to meet this demand?

With 1.2 million employees, which puts it in the top 5 biggest employers in the world, implementing change is no small undertaking, but one that is crucial if the service is to move with the times.


"In a fast changing healthcare environment, with a growing and aging population, the task of ensuring that the workforce has the skills, knowledge and time to care is essential to future proofing the NHS and its ability to meet patients’ needs," Topol says.

Workforce of the future

The report proposes three core principles by which Topol believes the NHS's workforce strategy should be guided in the future:

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  1. Patient empowerment - with new tools enabling patients to take a more active involvement in their own care.
  2. Driven by evidence - with any introduction of new technology driven by evidence rather than hype or the latest trends so that stakeholders can trust it.
  3. Saving time - healthcare is a notoriously time-pressed environment, and so the adoption of technology should strive to return time to professionals to deliver better care.

The need to change is underpinned by the fact that despite the workforce growing to its largest ever, the NHS still struggles to keep up with the demands placed on it by the growing and aging U.K. population.  The education of this workforce will be crucial if any kind of successful digital transformation is to be seen.

"The education and training of the existing workforce, along with the preparation of an appropriate pipeline of talented future staff, will be key to the success of any programme of change designed to empower staff to take advantage of the advances in technology to improve service delivery," Topol says.

Whilst there have been some projects, such as the NHS Digital Academy, already created, these programs target a tiny proportion of the overall workforce. One of the core challenges identified in the report is the time required to train. Workers at all levels report increasing levels of stress as they struggle to cope with the growing expectations of both the public and their managers. Factoring in the requisite time to both learn new skills, and to integrate their new skills into current practice in a heavily target-driven culture is a hurdle that cannot be over-estimated.

As with other industries, Topol suggests that in addition to upskilling medical staff (ok, he says clinicians only, but I hope he means all medical staff!), there will be a need to create a number of new professional groups, including medical software engineers and digital medicine specialists.

He suggests that new methods of training, such as Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), will play a key role in the delivery of training and development, whilst technologies such as augmented reality could also play a role.

Making the vision reality

The report is the first publication of a wider-reaching review being conducted by Topol, and it acts as a call for evidence from practitioners working in the field, either of healthcare or education.

The review aims to examine the specific workforce needs across three main themes: genomics; digital medicine; and AI and robotics. Topol has convened expert panels in each area and has solicited evidence in these areas to inform a second report that will published in early 2019.

"While it’s hard to predict the future, we know artificial intelligence, digital medicine and genomics will have an enormous impact on improving efficiency and precision in healthcare," Topol says. "This review will focus on the extraordinary opportunities to leverage these technologies for the healthcare workforce and power a sustainable and vibrant NHS."

The NHS doesn't have a great track record in transferring the recommendations of reviews and white papers into actual practice, so whilst the aim of the Topol review is to be commended, time will tell how successfully it proves to be in driving change.

I am a free range human who believes that the future already exists, if we know where to look. From the bustling Knowledge Quarter in London, it is my mission in life to hunt down those things and bring them to a wider audience. I am an innovation consultant and writer, and...

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The Aesthetic Medical Experts’ Guide to Nurturing Prospective Patients

The Aesthetic Medical Experts’ Guide to Nurturing Prospective Patients | Social Media and Healthcare |

1. Recognize the Need for Speed

Our first expert, Karen Zupko, President of the medical practice management consulting firm Karen Zupko & Associates, Inc., points to The Short Life of Online Sales Leads published in the Harvard Business Review. This article covers research that audited more than 2,000 U.S. companies to measure how long each took to respond to a web-generated lead (see chart). They found that 37% responded with an hour and 16% within 1 to 24 hours. But 24% took more than 24 hours and 23% never responded at all!

The article states, “These results are especially shocking given how quickly online leads go cold—a phenomenon we explored in a separate study, which involved 1.25 million sales leads received by 29 B2C and 13 B2B companies in the United States. Firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead than those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.”

Eva Sheie, the Director of Professional Education at RealSelf, emphasizes the importance of responding quickly. A study done by her team at RealSelf found that the likelihood of successfully scheduling a consultation increases by 76% if you respond within 1 hour as opposed to the industry average response time of 2 days.

Here at Etna Interactive, we recommend that our clients strive to respond to all inquiries within 5 minutes during normal business hours.

2. Be Tenacious

The experts we consulted indicate that persistence is as important as speed.

Sandy Roos, a plastic surgery business consultant for Sientra, has data that showed an increase in the schedule rate when practices follow up with prospects 4 to 5 times within the first 7 days post-inquiry.

Catherine Maley, president of Cosmetic Image Marketing, recommends that you continue to stay in contact until they ask you not to. She reminds us that “people change, circumstances change, technologies change, so keep in touch forever since you never know how close they are to picking up that phone again to call you and book!”

Marie Olesen, Founder & Chief Patient Experience Officer of Vizium360, agrees with Maley. “Presume good intent. Understand that follow up is a process. It may take several attempts. If a prospect doesn’t respond immediately, keep trying. Don’t misinterpret no response as lack of interest. What seems like a whim may actually be the culmination of years of thought. Try again in a different mode, email, call, or text.”

Enrique Rangel, CEO of MyMedLeads, was able to review data from his clients’ 2.5 million leads and see that most of them are missing the mark on following up. Rangel found that “the most successful practice will attempt to call the lead 3.2 times, while 70% of those leads we analyzed were only called once.”

3. Create a Protocol

All of our experts stressed the importance of having a protocol in place. While it’s one thing to knowwhat to do, it’s another to actually do it.

Roos says “I suggest to all my practices to have a defined follow-up protocol in place regardless of if they have a phone number.  I have found many patients who inquire online are not quite ready to talk to someone (or they would have called themselves) so to answer via email as well.”

Think Quantity

So how many touchpoints are suggested? More than you think! Maley maps out a series of 15 to 27 points of contact via calls, emails, and texts. “The point is to turn it into protocol just like you do in surgery. This helps ensure it gets done no matter what your mood or how busy you get.”

Be a Standout

It’s important to have something interesting to say or provide when you’re contacting prospective patients. Olesen suggests using a series of diverse touchpoints that showcase your quality and differentiate your practice. That could be sharing ratings and reviews, patient stories, awards, etc. “Remember, it won’t take long before yours is the only practice following up.”

4. Personalize Your Outreach Efforts

Just because you have a protocol, doesn’t mean it has to be dry and impersonal. Tips include:

  • Always use the patient’s name in email communication.
  • Using an autoresponder? Make sure it works. Zupko recalls receiving an email addressed to: “Dear {Patient Name}”
  • Maley recommends providing strategic FAQs in follow up responses so that prospective patients feel you understand them.
  • Maley also recommends that you “End with a question to see if they will respond with an answer and start a dialogue with you.”

5. Give the People What They Want

Make the road to Patientsville as smooth and easy-to-navigate as possible.

Answer the Questions

This starts with just the basics like answering questions that are included in the initial inquiry. Zupko points out how frustrating it can be when a staff member’s email responses continue to direct people to the website instead of just taking the time to answer the question directly. To combat this, a staff member must read what the inquirer has written and respond appropriately instead of using scripted or canned answers.

“If they ask about recovery time, or say they are concerned about pain, or ask about the techniques the surgeon offers for breast augmentation, explain them. Not answering patients’ questions is a sure way to annoy them— and being annoying is not a winning marketing technique.”

“I don’t know” Is Better Than No Response

If you don’t know the answer to a question, say you’ll find the answer and get back to them, so they know you aren’t just ignoring their request. Zupko suggests scheduling a phone call to share the answer to their question which has two benefits. “This feels personal and not robotic. Plus, if the patient will engage by phone you have more opportunity to build the relationship.”

Ask for Permission to Follow Up

Many of us don’t want to feel like we’re pestering someone by following up when we aren’t getting a response. Sheie suggests a simple solution: “Rather than guessing how many times you should follow up, in every interaction get in the habit of asking for permission to reach back out before ending a conversation. It can be helpful to say something like: ‘I’d like to follow up with you in a week/a month/3 months, if that’s alright with you. What’s the best way for me to reach you?’”

Take the Time to Build Trust

Giving the people what they want may include things the patient doesn’t even know they want yet. Trust is being built long before a patient walks into your office. You need to deliver the information the prospective patient needs to feel comfortable and safe. Sheie says “This is a simple recipe of photos, reviews, and accurate price range information.”

Maley agrees, adding the following to Sheie’s recipe:

  • A good-looking website
  • Videos of you discussing procedures
  • Social media posts with lots of personality

6. Embrace Technology (But Use Caution)

It’s important to be open to the changes and trends of technology related to marketing as long as you make sure you use it correctly. A recent example of incorrect use of technology? Chat bots.

According to Zupko “Many patients appreciate the convenience of having a chat bot with a photo of your smiling staff pop up while they are exploring your website. But be careful of the bots that integrate with search and preference engines. Our experience with these is that the way they follow people days and weeks later can make potential patients feel stalked and harassed. It feels like a disconnect to have a chat bot ask about aesthetic procedures while you are searching for gourmet cookware.”

Social Media ≠ Facebook

While Facebook is one social media platform, it’s important to consider working others like Instagram and Snapchat into your marketing efforts. Roos points out that with a more diverse social media strategy you can target a wider range of patient demographics and see growth at a much higher rate than practices ignoring social media. “They also need a different protocol for patients coming from different social media platforms.”

Value Your Email Leads

Olesen warns that email leads need to be taken just as seriously as leads from any other source. These are perpetually connected consumers that are reaching out when the office is closed, while they’re in line at the store, or even in meetings. “While in the past, we might have thought email leads were less likely to schedule, that isn’t true today.”

7. Give Incentives to Book

Motivate patients to book a procedure/treatment or even to just reconnect. Tips include:

Maley suggests you “Give them an incentive to book surgery within a tight expiration date so those on the fence can stop procrastinating, put their fears aside, and just do it (just like hundreds of thousands of others like them do every year!)”

Roos’ advice: “Send a personal invite to a VIP event or new product release.”

And Rangel says to “Take advantage of open houses and invite patients to come and hear stories from other patients.”


You won’t win over every client and that’s okay, as long as you try to leave everyone who contacts you with a positive impression of your practice. Sheie reminds us that “Each and every interaction your practice has with the public is how you build your brand. That person may never come in to see you, but when they hang up the phone, they have the potential to tell 100 other people how kind you were—or how rude. “

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Social media scheme boosts breast cancer screening uptake 

Social media scheme boosts breast cancer screening uptake  | Social Media and Healthcare |

An NHS project using social media has driven a 13% increase in first time attendances for breast screening in Stoke-on-Trent over four years.

Under the local initiative, information about screening was posted on Facebook community groups, in a bid to reduce anxiety surrounding breast examinations.

NHS Digital said the move empowered women to make appointments and also allowed them to communicate quickly and easily with health practitioners to ask questions about the screening process.

The initiative is part of NHS Digital’s Widening Digital Participation Programme, commissioned by NHS England, which aims to make digital health services and information accessible to everyone.

Across England attendances for breast screening are declining and most recent figures, from 2016-17, show the proportion of eligible women taking up breast screening in dropped to its lowest level in a decade.

According to NHS Digital, in the last financial year 7,938 women in Stoke-on-Trent failed to attend a breast screening appointment, “meaning around 65 cases of potential breast cancer were not detected”.

Through the project, the North Midlands Breast Screening Service promoted their Facebook page on local community groups which their target group - women aged over 50 - regularly visited.

Posts to the Facebook site, which included information such as patients explaining the screening process and videos showing the rooms where it takes place, were designed to encourage women to share them and so spread the message about the importance of screening.

Data on attendances for first time appointments at the North Midlands Breast Screening Service has shown they increased by an average of 12.9% between three-year screening cycles from 2014 to 2018.

“This is a fantastic idea and the community aspect of the group is so powerful that we now have 1,138 followers,” commented Gina Newman, health improvement practitioner at the North Midlands Breast Screening Service.

“We have seen an increase in the number of ladies who have booked and attended their appointments, who might not have done otherwise”.

“The Stoke project is an example of how digital channels can be used to communicate with patients, providing local advice and answer key concern,” said Juliet Bauer, chief digital officer at NHS England.

“This work is part of the NHS’s wider commitment to digitally transform the way we work with all of our patients, improving the information we provide and empowering the public to take charge of their own health and care.”

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Diabetes patients want more information about research 

Diabetes patients want more information about research  | Social Media and Healthcare |
People affected with diabetes want information on research and innovation to be distributed through social media; not just information about what they should eat or how to inject insulin. (Photo: Shutterstock)

In cooperation with the Norwegian Diabetes Association, Elia Gabarron, a researcher at the Norwegian Centre for E-health Research, is conducting research on the use of social media for diabetes.

Research shows that the wellbeing of people affected with diabetes improves and that they greatly benefit from information about the disease on social media. Gabarron carried out a systematic review, which shows that people with diabetes might feel better after receiving support or relevant information about the disease on social media platforms.

She wanted to use this as a starting point for further research. In the new research project ‘Social Media for Health Promotion in Diabetes’ she looks at how the Norwegian Diabetes Association can use platforms, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to distribute information to their members.

“We came up with the idea of using social media platforms to provide diabetes patients with the contents they would like to find, as my earlier research shows they greatly appreciate this,” says Gabarron.

To find out which type of content would be popular for them, the researcher asked the Norwegian Diabetes Association’s followers this question: What kind of health information you would like to find on social media platforms?

Thereafter, healthcare professionals were also asked: In your view, what kind of information on diabetes these users should receive?

The responses from both groups were entirely different.

Patients want to read about research and innovation

Gabarron discovered that the content the patients believed to be most important to them, was the same as the content the Norwegian Diabetes Association posts on its social media platforms.

But surprisingly, the users wanted to know more about research on diabetes.

“In their responses, they said they were very interested in receiving more information about research, which was quite surprising,” says Gabarron.

More than 300 people from all age groups and with different types of diabetes responded to that questionnaire.

Measuring the number of ‘likes’

Gabarron is now going to provide this content through the Norwegian Diabetes Association’ social media channels.

She will measure and analyse the number of likes and comments on this content, which the diabetes patients say they want, and the content that the healthcare professionals think are important. She will also measure how often it is shared.

The objective is to determine whether the users actually like the requested content on research and innovation or whether they are just saying they do, but in fact find it boring.

In cooperation with the Norwegian Diabetes Association, Elia Gabarron, a researcher at the Norwegian Centre for E-health Research, is conducting research on the use of social media for diabetes. (Photo: Norwegian Centre for E-health Research)

In addition, the Norwegian Diabetes Association’s Facebook followers will receive a questionnaire every six months to give the researchers more clues.

“We want to find out if the requested content is more meaningful to them than the content on social media platforms they find less relevant.”

Healthcare professionals are skeptical

Gabarron found that healthcare personnel viewed research information on social media platforms as less significant.

“They believed that self-management was primarily the most important, and would reach the patients,” she points out.

The project will end in 2020 and Gabarron is excited about the results.

“We expect the results to show that support and relevant information for the patient groups on social media platforms could improve their wellbeing,” says the researcher.

Social media can help lower glucose levels

Other research in the field has shown that diabetes patients feel better after receiving support and relevant information on social media. It can even help lower glucose levels. In 16 of the 20 research publications on diabetes and social media that it was measured the glucose levels of users prior to and after being on Facebook, Twitter or other social media, 13 reported lower glucose levels.

“Based on this, it seems that social media really might help the patients,” says Gabarron, who has published a summary of this research in her article "Rapid Social Media Use in Interventions for Diabetes: Rapid Evidence-Based Review."

Most of the studies that show that social media helps glucose levels, were conducted with young people affected with Diabetes Type I. Gabarron believes the studies demonstrate that the users are there and want information. Yet, are healthcare personnel ready to distribute it this way?

“They are probably more traditional and sceptical. In my view, they should be more open, even though many are already very positive. It’s a nice way to reach out to patients,” she says.

More research should be done
Facebook groups are very common in Norway, and the Norwegian Diabetes Association’s social media platforms have more than 40,000 members.

“This is a perfect way to distribute relevant information and it is incredibly exciting that the research results show lower glucose levels in some diabetes patient groups. Why not conduct more research on this?

She believes that the practice could easily be transferred to other patient groups, for example, adolescents to spread information about STDs or to reach the chronically ill.

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Social media: A health risk! - The Patriot on Sunday

Social media: A health risk! - The Patriot on Sunday | Social Media and Healthcare |

Patients currently control all aspects of their interactions with the medical profession as they dictate the way they want to be assisted health wise without paying attention to the special advice of a trained medical professional. This is mostly influenced by the Social Media through the abundant access of The Internet.

South African-based Scientist, Director and Founder of The Noakes Foundation Professor Tim Noakes said this when giving a keynote address under the topic “The pending revolution in Medicine: How social media, the internet and the nutrition revolution have irrevocably changed patient ‘perceptions of what constitutes medical care’’ in Gaborone this week.

The lecture focused on how the nutritional feeding means has changed and its outcomes and how social media shapes perceptions of the patients towards medical treatment as well as the trend in which it influences individuals’ way of living.

Prof Noakes charged that the Social Media era has brought up different perceptions and approach on how people diet, receive treatment and cure based on what they read and see from the new media, hence this leads to a number of serious trending diseases such as sugar diabetes, extreme obesity and cancer.

He said it is very important for individuals to change how they consume social media health tips as this sometimes put their health at risk since most of them are not valid.

“New media has typically brought a revolution by the patients on how they respond to medical needs and this also comes with continuous health posing threats and changed nutrition landscape of the patients, because they end up taking a diet that is not in line with the kind of a disease one should treat. However, the new media also comes with some positivity in availing information about how patients can live positive and healthy as well,” he said.

Professor Noakes indicated that the changing habit in nutrition and diet across the world is a cause for concern because a lot of diseases come as a result of the evolution. Type 2 Diabetes and Obesity are cited as the outcomes of the change in nutrition and diet.

He said it is high time there is reduction in consuming more starchy carbohydrates such as bread, pasta, rice and sugar and meat as well, saying vegetables and fruits should be the most consumed form of diet because of their rich nature of maintaining a healthy lifestyle as they resist most of diseases to attack the body.

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Effectively Improving Patient Engagement

Effectively Improving Patient Engagement | Social Media and Healthcare |

Healthcare technology has been dominated by electronic health records (EHR) and everything that comes with them throughout the last decade.  The premise of EHRs is to have integrated real-time information that can easily be shared throughout a health system. It was realized early on that, if clinicians can share information with each other, making their jobs more efficient and improving patient care, couldn’t sharing information with patients also improve the quality of care?  And just like that, the need for improving patient engagement was born.

Patients in the information age have an important role to play in their own healthcare experience. However, their input relies squarely on how informed they are and the quality of the information they are receiving.  Can your patients understand the information being shared?  Is the information accurate and easily digestible so that patients can use it to make informed decisions about their care?  Do they have the technical means to engage with their physicians?

The logical place to start thinking about patient engagement is with patients, right?  Actually, healthcare organizations have to examine their internal processes first before attempting to engage with patients.  Sure, there are reasons to get every patient signed up for myChart as quickly as possible, but for the purpose of patient satisfaction and quality care, internal education is more important than jumping the gun with mobile application downloads.

Think of patient engagement as a lifecycle that begins with their first need to visit a healthcare facility.  Why should they choose yours? What do they know about you? What information is available to them and in what mediums?  The people they come in contact with at your facility stand as the primary communicators at this stage and that includes everyone from scheduling, security, and reception, to technicians, clinicians, nurses and doctors involved in their care. Everyone must be informed.

The more knowledgeable your people are about your organization and its offerings, including patient engagement tools, the more comfortable they will be talking to patients and visitors about them.  Equally as important is that the quality of the data presented to patients builds trust both internally and externally. Make sure your people have the tools and information they need to engage patients.

There are numerous ways to engage patients these days and capabilities vary wildly from organization to organization. These can include mobile applications, email, texting, wearable technology, biometrics, and patient portals, among others.  The public drives the market here and you have to go where patients are and use the tools they use.

Currently, email, social media, and text messaging are the primary forms of personal communication.  Mobile push notifications and text messages work best for quick messages while email and social media provide access to patients where additional information can be linked.  Text messages can be used to remind patients about their medications or upcoming appointments as well.

Encourage patients to engage with you as well.  One of the best features of patient portals is the ability for patients to reach out to their physicians directly and ask questions about their treatment.  This feature should not be overlooked as it gives the patient some control in the engagement process and this ongoing conversation between patients and their care team is the ultimate goal of improving patient engagement.

Mobile optimization is a must.  Most people use their phones to send, receive, process and store information. Ensuring that your organization’s website is optimized for mobile capabilities is essential,  as is proving engagement tools on mobile devices, i.e. mobile applications and patient portals.

Some of the most common interactions patients have with their doctor or healthcare practice once they leave the office are appointment scheduling, prescription refills, and bill payments.  A win for patients and clinicians is to provide those capabilities via desktop and mobile applications.  Automating these processes builds trust and appreciation from patients as their time is valuable too.

But it shouldn’t just be patients initiating interaction. Social media provides communication opportunities with patients as well as the general public.  It’s an opportunity to display your organization’s thought leadership, but also show that you’re modern and progressive enough to engage in two-way communication.  Social media, when done properly, allows you to communicate and have conversations with patients, the public, partners, other businesses, etc.  The possibilities are endless.

There are a number of vendors in the marketplace who are working to assist hospital systems with this issue.  Their collective goal is to provide patient’s with information while allowing providers to devote more attention to patient care, resulting in a better experience for everyone.  Patients have the information they need to actively participate in their care and the decisions that must be made, nurses are freed to focus and engage with patients – which is what they do best – and physicians are empowered to reduce costs from an improved workflow, outcomes, and patient satisfaction.  It’s a cycle that all begins with proactive sharing of information and a focus on patient’s needs and engagement.

Even tech giants like Apple are getting into the game as user experience is what they’ve hung their hat on for years. If a user is a patient at a participating hospital, the new features in Apple’s Health app will collect all existing patient-generated data, from over 40 participating health systems and 300 participating hospitals, and display it in a user’s Health app. Apple’s goal is to bring a patient’s medical information right to their iPhone. Given the slow pace of technology adoption in healthcare, the willingness of these institutions to work with Apple is immense.

Improving patient engagement is not only good for the business’s bottom line, it is also good for the patient.  Healthcare is a very real and personal thing and the more information we share, the more personal it becomes.  The more we engage, the more we’re able to partner with our patients to provide the highest quality care for them.  Improving patient engagement strengthens bonds within the community and ensures patient loyalty at a time when patients are starting to shop for healthcare.

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Are Telehealth Offerings Meeting Patient Expectations? [#Infographic] -

Are Telehealth Offerings Meeting Patient Expectations? [#Infographic] - | Social Media and Healthcare |
More patients than ever are open to the idea of virtual visits with their physicians, but provider telehealth adoption isn’t quite keeping up with demand.


Juliet is the senior web editor for BizTech and HealthTech magazines. In her six years as a journalist she has covered everything from aerospace to indie music reviews — but she is unfailingly partial to covering technology.


In early November, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services underscored the shift toward remote care offerings by offering a reimbursement option for remote patient monitoring services in its final 2019 Physician Fee Schedule and Quality Payment Program. This is perhaps one of the best benchmarks for how telemedicine services are becoming more widely accepted at doctor’s offices and health systems across the country.

There are plenty of merits to establishing ways for patients to connect virtually with their doctors. In both rural and urban areas alike, telehealth can save patients time and money, while expanding their access to specialists and care in general.

But a new survey from Deloitte of U.S. physicians and healthcare consumers finds provider telehealth offerings are lagging behind consumer expectations. While 80 percent of consumers have tried or are willing to try virtual care options, just 14 percent of providers have implemented telehealth technology, and another 18 percent will implement it in the next two years.

Check out the infographic from Deloitte below to see what challenges still lie ahead for telehealth.

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Is radiology education ready for #SocialMedia? - 

Is radiology education ready for #SocialMedia? -  | Social Media and Healthcare |
Social media is part of our lives, our physical and digital personas are increasingly integrated to where we have gone from having a digital extension of our self to seamlessly living  both on and off screens.  
The majority of US adults are using Facebook (68%), and the numbers are significant in the 18-24 age demographic using Snapchat (78%), Instagram (71%), Twitter (45%) and YouTube (94%). When you include radiology trainees in the 18-29 age demographic, 88% use at least one social media platform. It is well overdue the interactive nature of social media platforms are being explored as a teaching tool, with early adaptors reporting significant successes.
Students today want to use these social media for learning and report a greater degree of student satisfaction when using interactive platforms in their training. This of course means facing challenges to implementing social media into curriculums, yet there are great opportunities to educators using social these platforms to interact with the new generation of digital natives.
Radiologists can use disruptive technologies to their advantage to engage and relate to their students and find new ways to take advantage of daily use of digital media in the workplace. The interactive nature of social media provides new avenues compared to the one-way use of the internet for education to just provide material. Educators now are exploring ways to enhance their teaching using social media in order to increase the interaction between students as a natural evolution to the value of traditional didactic teaching.
Students today are connected, creative, collective and religiously ‘google’ questions or information, 24/7 and this has shifted the dynamic of teacher as ‘expert’ making the real value of educators their ability to help students interpret and vet the magnitude of information available at their fingertips. This is an interactional relationship which can be cultivated using social media for learning.
Increasingly students want more online content, with a study showing the majority of health students today prefer to get educational materials online rather than in the classroom. Early adopters of social media use in medical education have seen success, with Stanford medical school reporting an 80% increase in class attendance after incorporating online sessions reserving classrooms for interactive discussion and problem solving.  
There is no standard to successfully implement online learning which is one of the obstacles to social media adoption even though students want more use of online and interactive educational strategies. Another hurdle is the significant time faculty need to invest to incorporate social networking as a teaching tool.    
Medical education has been a one way transfer of information where in no uncertain terms the educator is ‘god’ passing down knowledge and it will take a major change in perception and time to move to the social media interactive experience and value of the teacher as an interpreter and guide. 
Radiologists can leverage digital platforms as tools and use this power as an exchange and inclusive dialog, the very nature of social media, to go beyond posting lectures or tweeting a case, to ask learners questions that will engage further queries they can interact with by harnessing the sea of online information at their disposal. They can create journal clubs through Twitter, use Facebook to challenge students with case-of-the-week challenges and start discussions on Snapchat. It may take some work in the beginning but the rewards of medical students and residents interacting as they learn and evolve in the digital era will far out way the effort.  
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BioCentury - Patients: Trust and transparency key to using social media, apps to gather data

BioCentury - Patients: Trust and transparency key to using social media, apps to gather data | Social Media and Healthcare |

Members of an FDA committee agreed that social media and digital technologies could help companies and the agency gather real-world data on adverse events and patient-reported outcomes, but the parties must be transparent in the intended use of the data and share outcomes with patients.

The Thursday meeting of the Patient Engagement Advisory Committee (PEAC) was intended to provide FDA with patient input on the best methods to collect postmarket data for devices beyond its existing tools of postmarket studies and patient registries. At the meeting, the agency said these existing tools have limitations including under reporting of adverse events, lengthy study timelines and challenges enrolling trials. The increased availability of mobile devices and sensor technology as well as social media could provide new platforms to enrich its existing tool kit to collect this information post market, the agency said at the meeting and in its briefing materials.

Members of PEAC agreed that they'd like to see more input from patients to inform how a device performs in the real world, including its benefits on symptoms of concern to patients, as well as any potential risks or safety issues. And they feel the near ubiquitous nature of mobile technology should be harnessed to provide some of this information, including real-time mobility data about joint replacement or increased insulin levels.

However, they believe this data should be considered complimentary to and not replace existing tools.

"I'm fine with the idea of FDA and companies using digital health technology, but it should not supplant others. Heart failure affects people between the ages of 60-90 and the likelihood that they are conversant in this technology is not strong. Some will and some won't," said Cynthia Chauhan, a patient advocate on the panel. Additionally, this data should be "corroborated with patient reports. [Sensor] devices can be wrong," said Mary (Suzanne) Schrandt, a committee member from the Arthritis Foundation.

The panel agreed, however, that when these mobile applications or social media campaigns are deployed to patients, there must be transparency about the data that will be collected, how it will be used and for how long.

"Just be upfront with me and I will then decide whether to engage with you or not," said Necie Edwards, a healthcare advocate for pain management.

"There has to be some understanding of how the data is being used and applied," said Chair Paul Conway in summarizing the panel's perspective on using these tools and platforms. "Nothing about me, without me," he added. Conway is a patient advocate with the American Association of Kidney Patients.

To maintain or build trust, the panel recommended that companies and FDA work with patient groups as third parties to help gather data via social media.

Patients agreed that companies and FDA should be upfront about all potential uses for the data and that there be a limited time frame around which the data would be used. They also said they want FDA and/or the company to share the aggregate data and/or outcome of what is found with their individual data.

The panel was not asked to vote but rather discuss and provide its input on these platforms and technologies to collect real-world data.

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Addressing Health-Related Misinformation on Social Media 

Addressing Health-Related Misinformation on Social Media  | Social Media and Healthcare |

The ubiquitous social media landscape has created an information ecosystem populated by a cacophony of opinion, true and false information, and an unprecedented quantity of data on many topics. Policy makers and the social media industry grapple with the challenge of curbing fake news, disinformation, and hate speech; and the field of medicine is similarly confronted with the spread of false, inaccurate, or incomplete health information.1

From the discourse on the latest tobacco products, alcohol, and alternative therapies to skepticism about medical guidelines, misinformation on social media can have adverse effects on public health. For example, the social media rumors circulating during the Ebola outbreak in 2014 created hostility toward health workers, posing challenges to efforts to control the epidemic.2 Another example is the increasingly prevalent antivaccine social media posts that seemingly legitimize debate about vaccine safety and could be contributing to reductions in vaccination rates and increases in vaccine-preventable disease.3

The spread of health-related misinformation is exacerbated by information silos and echo chamber effects. Social media feeds are personally curated and tailored to individual beliefs, partisan bias, and identity. Consequently, information silos are created in which the likelihood for exchange of differing viewpoints decreases, while the risk for amplifying misinformation within a closed network increases. However, research suggests there may be ways to lessen the echo chamber effects by deliberately enabling social learning and engagement of different perspectives.4

Regarding the diffusion of information, mounting evidence suggests that falsehoods spread more easily than truths online.5 Meanwhile, these trends are occurring at a time of low trust in institutions, with a 2016 Gallup report indicating that only 36% of individuals in the United States have adequate confidence in the medical system.6 Although the scientific community generally still enjoys relatively high levels of public trust, 1 in 5 individuals expresses skepticism about scientists.7 These realities make it a priority for medicine to identify and mitigate (when appropriate) health misinformation on social media. This Viewpoint outlines a framework that includes priorities in research, public health, and clinical practice.

Gaps in Understanding the Effect of Health Misinformation

Health misinformation can be defined as a health-related claim of fact that is currently false due to a lack of scientific evidence. This misinformation may be abundant on social media and some evidence has linked the sharing of misinformation with health-related knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs. However, more research and data are needed to evaluate potential links between exposure to misinformation and health behaviors and outcomes.

In addition, there is little information about how to help clinicians respond to patients’ false beliefs or misperceptions. Public health communicators similarly struggle to know whether and how to intervene when a health topic becomes misdirected by discourse characterized by falsehoods that are inconsistent with evidence-based medicine.

Developing a Framework for Research and Practice

Medical, public health, social science, and computer science experts must begin working together via interdisciplinary research to address health misinformation on social media, with a focus on the following themes.

Defining the Prevalence and Trends of Health Misinformation

Millions of users contribute to social media platforms daily, generating a massive archive of data for health communication surveillance. It is important to assess the extent of misinformation related to critical vulnerable topics (ie, those topics for which misinformation is most likely to generate negative health consequences). For instance, vaccination, new tobacco products, and so called miracle cures generate large volumes of misinformation.

Deployment of innovative methods on a broader scale is needed (including natural language processing–assisted data mining, social network analysis, and online experimentation) to track the spread of misinformation. Surveillance endeavors must be nimble and adaptable to capture dynamic data and social media posts containing photos, images, and videos.

Understanding How Health Misinformation Is Shared

Receptivity to health misinformation can vary greatly depending on the motivations of the source of the message (eg, promoting a disinformation campaign, endorsing a conspiracy theory, selling a product) as well as the recipient’s social network, sociocultural identity and values, emotions (particularly fear and anger), levels of trust, and concomitant social media use patterns.

Visible attempts at creating and legitimizing controversies (eg, Russian bots generating a vaccine debate) may foster skepticism and mistrust in certain communities.3 Understanding the context of misinformation exchange (such as the social network in which the message is embedded) and the intrapersonal and interpersonal dynamics involved in the processing of the message can help determine the extent of the problem and suggest appropriate remedies.

Evaluating the Reach and Influence of Misinformation on Health

A key challenge for health and medicine is determining the threshold at which an intervention is needed to ameliorate the negative health consequences of misinformation. Assessing the reach and unique health consequences of a message for specific populations (eg, communities most vulnerable to misinformation) is important to inform when and how to respond.

A range of measurement and methodological approaches such as physiological measurements, real-time behavioral data (eg, ecologic momentary assessment), linkage to medical records, marketing research, and mixed-methods approaches offer promising solutions that can help improve understanding of how individuals evaluate and internalize a message. For example, observational studies (eg, eye tracking, functional magnetic resonance imaging, or cognitive interviews) can help assess how quickly people accept a claim before internalizing it.

Developing and Testing Interventions

It is necessary to determine when and how to intervene. How can clinicians and experts in communication create and sustain public trust in evidence-based health information? How can partnerships among clinicians, trusted social media influencers, and industry leaders be created? Can the public be taught health literacy to help them discern facts from opinions and falsehoods? Importantly, broader investments in health and science literacy and the cultivation of trust in the medical community may create more systemic improvements than attempts to debunk or correct individual pieces of misinformation on social media.

In addition, tangible support for clinicians is necessary as they continue to interact with patients who have been exposed to or have questions about health misinformation from social media. Understanding the underlying causes of patients’ confusion, concern, and mistrust could help clinicians foster patient-centered communication, rather than dismissing patients’ concerns or superficially categorizing them as skeptics.

Research is needed that informs the development of misinformation-related policies for health care organizations. These organizations should be prepared to use their social media presence to disseminate evidence-based information, counter misinformation, and build trust with the communities they serve.

It is also vital for social media platforms to develop and implement mechanisms for vetting and validating the credibility of information on their platforms. Misinformation has the potential to undermine progress in medicine and health care, and it requires a proactive approach for understanding its prevalence and potential influence rather than labeling misinformation as a fad or wishing it away.

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Article Information

Corresponding Author: Wen-Ying Sylvia Chou, PhD, MPH, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, National Cancer Institute, 9609 Medical Center Dr, 3E614, Rockville, MD 20892 (

Published Online: November 14, 2018. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.16865

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: None reported.

Disclaimer: The views expressed reflect those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the National Cancer Institute.

Additional Contributions: This Viewpoint is a result of extensive discussion with leading health communication experts. We thank Joseph Cappella, PhD (University of Pennsylvania), Anna Gaysynsky, MPH (National Cancer Institute), Bradford Hesse, PhD (National Cancer Institute), Dannielle Kelley, PhD (National Cancer Institute), Jeff Niederdeppe, PhD (Cornell University), Emily Peterson, PhD (National Cancer Institute), and Brian Southwell, PhD (RTI International) for their unpaid insights and contributions.

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Broniatowski  DA, Jamison  AM, Qi  S,  et al.  Weaponized health communication: Twitter bots and Russian trolls amplify the vaccine debate.  Am J Public Health. 2018;108(10):1378-1384. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2018.304567PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
Guilbeault  D, Becker  J, Centola  D.  Social learning and partisan bias in the interpretation of climate trends.  Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018;115(39):9714-9719. doi:10.1073/pnas.1722664115PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
Vosoughi  S, Roy  D, Aral  S.  The spread of true and false news online.  Science. 2018;359(6380):1146-1151. doi:10.1126/science.aap9559PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
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Reputation Management for Doctors – 27 Essential Tips for 2018 –

Reputation Management for Doctors – 27 Essential Tips for 2018 – | Social Media and Healthcare |

1. Self-Assess Your Current Online Reputation


Have you Googled yourself lately? If you don’t know what’s being said about you or your practice online, you need to self-assess your current reputation. In 2017, patients commonly checked doctor reviews on websites such as Yelp, ZocDocs, WebMD, RateMDs, Healthgrades, Google Reviews and Angie’s List. If you find your practice on any of these websites, look at what patients are saying.

After exploring various review websites and the first few pages of Google, you’ll have a better idea of your current online reputation.

2. Monitor Your Reviews Proactively


Set up Google alerts that will email you whenever your name or the name of your practice is mentioned online. Read each new mention of your practice carefully and closely monitor your online reputation every day.

This proactive approach will allow you to better manage your image and improve the success of your medical practice.

3. Treat Every Patient Like a Reviewer


Remember that every patient that calls or comes to your practice is a potential reviewer. Treat each patient with the utmost respect, projecting the image you want your practice to have. For example, if you’d like patients to report courteous behavior and compassionate staff (and you do), go above and beyond to ensure each person experiences just that.

Remember, in today’s high-tech society, what you say to a patient could be posted online immediately.

4. Request Feedback


If you’re not receiving many online reviews, it might be because you’re not encouraging patients to leave them. Ask your patients if they’d be willing to leave reviews about their experiences online when you send them follow up emails.

According to a 2016 survey, 70% of consumers said they’ll leave a review for a business if they’re asked to.  If you’re concerned about asking for public feedback, know that requesting reviews rarely hurts a practice. In fact, more than 50% of patients report leaving positive reviews when they do rate a business. To compare, only 7% of patients write negative reviews.

5. Hire a Reputation Firm


If your online reputation has gotten away from you, or if perhaps you’re just too busy to take the necessary steps to improve it, you may want to seek out professional assistance by hiring an online reputation management firm. These firms staff teams of professionals who can keep your online image focused on the positive aspects about your practice so you can put your best foot forward when being considered by new patients.

Reputation firms can also offer advice on responding to negative patient reviews and on improving doctor/patient relationships online.

6. Address Critiques Objectively


Before you do anything about a critical review, address it objectively. Consider the situation from the patient’s point of view, from a legal standpoint and from the public’s point of view. Examine the most professional response and how you can minimize the damage to your reputation while respecting confidentiality laws.

If you are feeling heated and upset by a negative review, come back to the review later on.

7. Think Carefully Before Addressing Anyone Online


Nothing looks worse than a doctor arguing with a patient online. For example, if a past patient claims your practice missed a diagnosis, to dispute this online would breach doctor/patient confidentiality laws and cause you to appear unprofessional.

Instead, doctors are encouraged to ask the patient to contact the practice for a specific response while offering apologies. Always address reviews professionally and do what you can to make it right. Do not acknowledge that a patient was in your office, or that you provided treatment for both positive and negative reviews.

8. Don’t Create Fake Reviews


Filling a website with dozens of fake positive reviews might sound like the easiest way to improve your online reputation. Instead, this can quickly ruin a practice. Not only is this fraudulent behavior, but many review sites regularly scan for fake reviews.

If the authenticity of your positive feedback cannot be verified, the reviews may be removed and your practice may be flagged for fabricated reviews. It’s just not worth it.

9. Respond to Positive Reviews


When you receive a positive review, thank the patient for his or her kind words about your practice. Leave an uplifting, professional response that shows your commitment to patient satisfaction. Do not, however, share any patient information that could violate privacy laws.

Stay clear of phrases like, “It was great to see you,” or “Thank you for visiting the office.” Keep it vague and positive such as, “Thank you for the kind words.”

Patients prefer visiting practices that demonstrate active engagement with online reviewers.

10. Respond to Negative Reviews


Just as you should respond to positive reviews, you should also respond to patients who leave negative feedback. As previously noted, do not do so from an emotional state and always consider your response carefully. Ask yourself if anything you write violates confidentiality laws and if it shows your practice in the best possible light.

Most patients feel that it’s important for doctors to respond to all online feedback. In fact, only 27% of patients found it minimally important, or not at all important, for physicians to respond to negative reviews.

The right response can neutralize a negative review, preventing it from further damaging your reputation.


11. Don’t Get into Online Arguments


When you respond to a negative review, an upset patient might try to antagonize you into an argument. Regardless of what is said, even if the patient is lying, participating in an online argument will do worse for your reputation than the review itself.

Always respond professionally. If a patient instigates an argument, offer to discuss and resolve the matter privately, but do not otherwise engage in a dispute.

12. Promote Positive Reviews on Your Website


The positive reviews you receive can be your best marketing material. Promote positive reviews on your website, use quotes from happy patients in your marketing and draw attention to the good things your patients say about you. Before sharing or embedding patient reviews, however, always seek written consent from the patient to protect his or her privacy.

13. Be Extra Careful of Patient Privacy Laws


Patient privacy laws must be respected when responding to online reviews. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability ACT of 1996 (HIPAA) obligates every healthcare practitioner to protect patient privacy.

Information gained through any part of the patient’s care should never be published publicly without proper authorization. Best practice is to never confirm that the patient was seen by your clinic, according to Dr. Danika Brinda of Planet HIPAA. Instead, thank the patient for sharing feedback, and if necessary, invite further discussion in private.

14. Train All Staff in Customer Service Best Practices


Patients leave reviews about their entire experience with a practice, not just with their doctor. Train every staff member in customer service best practices and make it company policy to follow these practices closely. Each phone call, front desk conversation and nurse interaction should be handled with friendly, professional behavior.

When patients read reviews, they’re not always focused on the quality of healthcare that each review reports. It might surprise you to learn that a combined 48% of patients say they value the friendliness of the medical staff and the ease scheduling appointments over other information when reading online reviews.

Every member of your staff, even those who do not regularly interact with patients, should be trained in the company customer service policy.

15. Maintain a Social Media Presence


Social media is an excellent way to find new patients, engage existing patients and improve your online reputation. Maintain a social media presence that provides useful information, updates about your practice and helpful, respectful answers to patient questions.

Many patients turn to social media in their online inspection of a healthcare provider. If you don’t have a presence, you’re selling your practice short. Over 40% of patients report that social media affects their choice in a healthcare provider and facility.

Today, 31% of healthcare professionals have already turned to social media for professional networking. Join these businesses and shine brighter than your competition in 2018.

16. Keep a Regular Social Media Posting Schedule


Maintaining an effective social media account for your practice requires consistency. The right posting schedule will boost your traffic and help you find new patients.

Include your posting schedule in your organization’s social media guidelines to keep your staff on the same page. Over 30% of healthcare organizations provide similar social media guidelines to staff. If you do not have staff in charge of managing your social media, consider outsourcing the job to a reputation management firm.

17. Be a Thought Leader in Your Field


Don’t settle for being an off-line doctor. Become a thought leader in your field. A thought leader drives innovation and brings new ideas to his or her given industry. Such leaders become popular, well-respected professionals in their fields, which increases exposure and boosts their online reputations.

Becoming a thought leader isn’t something you can earn a degree for and be done with, it’s a process. You must establish yourself as a reputable professional, refine your skills and bring new, improved ideas to the field on a regular basis.

18. Keep Your Online Private Life Private


When your patients look you up online, you don’t want them to see your nights out with friends, family barbecues and casual social media updates. Keep any private online profiles restricted so only friends can view them and never post personal opinions, photos or videos on your professional accounts.

Ideally, your patients shouldn’t find your personal social media accounts even if they go looking for them. If you have private information online and cannot remove it, an online reputation company can help.

19. Register Your Name as a Domain and Secure Relevant Web Properties


Registering your name as a domain dramatically improves your search engine optimization (SEO) and it can even protect you from scandal. When potential patients Google your name, the domain that matches your name will appear at or near the top of the page. If you don’t own this domain, someone else could purchase it for their own means or even to use it against you.

For example, a disgruntled patient or competitor could buy an unregistered domain – i.e. – and post false content about you there.

You’ll also want to secure other relevant web properties on professional website, blogging platforms and more.

20. Verify and Claim Your Google Business Listing


Claiming your business on Google provides a good starting point to control what’s displayed about you on Google searches. This includes business location, images, hours and reviews. Once claimed, you can use Google Business tools to improve your listing.

Visit and log in with your professional Gmail account to create your free Google listing.

21. Read Reviews of Other Doctors to Identify Trends and Pain Points


Researching the competition is among the best ways for businesses in any field to boost their success. Read reviews from other local doctors so you can identify pain points and trends that impact what other patients are saying.

The more you know about how and why your competition succeeds or fails, the more information you have available to help improve your private practice.

22. Know Your Audience and Keep It Professional


Whether you’re posting on the company blog, your practice’s Facebook page or in response to a positive review, know your audience. Consider your patient demographic and use it to define how you present yourself. Also keep every post professional, clean and polite.

Doctors, more than many other types of professionals, must maintain complete professional presentation and neutrality.


24. Temper Your Expectations


Remember, overhauling your online reputation is a marathon, not a sprint. If you start cultivating your online reputation now, it will not look perfect in five days. However, if you work on your reputation every day, proactively address reviews and continue to improve your practice, you could end 2018 with an excellent online presence.

To put it into perspective, Google typically recognizes index profile changes every two to six weeks. This means you can expect some small changes about every month, but you will not dominate the front page of Google after one long night of reputation repair.

The more time you can devote to this, the better. If you don’t have hours of extra time to devote to managing your presence, consider outsourcing to someone who does.

25. Treat the First Page of Google as Your Business Card 


Whether you like it or not, Google results are the new business cards. It doesn’t matter what your traditional advertisements say if your potential patients find contradictory information on the front page of Google. Often, when a patient Googles a practice, he or she will look for another physician in seconds if the front page lacks information or displays negative reviews.

According to a 2016 survey, 88% percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations. Furthermore, 90% of consumers read fewer than ten reviews before forming an opinion about the business.

If your online reputation is less-than-perfect, launching a proactive approach will improve your practice’s success. Online reviews are a modern concern for practitioners in all fields of healthcare and the number of platforms used to facilitate patient reviews is rapidly increasing.

Whether your reviews are positive, negative, or nonexistent, knowing what’s out there is the first step in protecting both yourself and your practice.

26. Pay attention to your Facebook reviews and ratings


Facebook is increasingly becoming one of the more frequently relied upon review platforms. Many experts have so much as predicted that 2018 will be the year that Facebook reviews come of age and begin to rival Yelp and other platforms as the go-to source for customer sentiment about brands. You can be certain that doctors – especially those with the all-important social media presence – will be a healthy part of the mix. Facebook is also a great place to speak to your patient base and directly ask them for reviews through organic posts. And since no one can hide behind an anonymous moniker, you can trust that the feedback you solicit should be a bit more reliable than on other platforms. Take advantage of the following you’ve built to solicit feedback.

27. Content marketing is essential, even for doctors


Not only can an effective content marketing strategy win you valuable organic search traffic, but those in your city who see you’ve published thought-provoking articles about your industry of expertise will also see you as a thought leader in your field. What better way to show the world you’re keeping up with current trends in the medical world than to publish a regular stream of articles about your profession? Useful content will be greatly appreciated by readers and it gives you an effective means of selling without being overtly sales-y. Even just one post per month will go an incredibly long way over a period of several years.

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Avoiding Retraumatization: Why You Shouldn’t “Friend” Your Patients on Social Media

Avoiding Retraumatization: Why You Shouldn’t “Friend” Your Patients on Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Burnout and compassion fatigue can be found as a topic in numerous publications and hospitals are beginning to look at strategies for individual nurses to recognize burnout and compassion fatigue. The nursing profession requires a great deal of empathetic work from nurses, which can result in empathetic strain.  Recognition of this is important for the development of compassion satisfaction, or positive feelings related to work, in the nursing workforce.

A lesser known aspect of the “burnout spectrum” is secondary traumatic stress disorder (STSD), according to Nancy Jo Bush, RN, MN, MA, AOCN and Deborah A. Boyle, RN, MSN, AOCN, FAAN, coauthors of Self-Healing through Reflection: A Workbook for Nurses. Much of the literature uses STSD and compassion fatigue (CF) interchangeably, but Bush and Boyle examine it as one facet of a spectrum of issues nurses face that causes burnout, or chronic stressors on the job. This spectrum includes CF, vicarious traumatization, and STSD.

What is STSD?

STSD is described by Bush and Boyle as the result of unresolved vicarious traumatization, a process of exposure to a patient’s trauma vicariously and taking in a patient’s suffering. The manifestation of STSD in a nurse is similar to the manifestation of PTSD. Nurses can experience hyper-arousal, nightmares, flashbacks, feelings of detachment, irritability, and more. Those at risk for STSD include nurses who work with intense patient populations, such as trauma emergency rooms, critical care units, pediatrics, and oncology. The risk for STSD is affected by time, coping, and personal characteristics. According to R. Adams Cowley, MD, time includes years in direct patient care, hours per week, and hours per shift. Coping refers to supports used by nurses, interpersonal relationships with coworkers, and stress relief strategies. Additionally, personal experiences with trauma (child abuse, unresolved grief, etc.) increase the risk of developing STSD.

John P. Wilson, PhD, and Rhiannon Brywnn Thomas, PhD, authors of Empathy in the Treatment of Trauma and PTSD, developed five factors that reflect empathetic strain which demonstrate key behaviors identified in therapists who work with trauma and those behaviors can be applied to nurses. One of these behaviors includes over-involvement and identification with the patient.

Social Media and Setting Boundaries

The increasingly high use of social media has affected all aspects of society. It has also affected the relationship between nurses and patients. Examples of this include news stories of nurses posting to social media about work and losing their jobs and viral posts illuminating the situations nurses face in their job. Social media has become a place for marketing to nurses, for supporting nurses, and for educating nurses.

Patients also use social media to document their experiences in the health care setting, including their experiences with their caregivers. Patients post videos of their chemotherapy infusions and more. In one study, 32% of U.S. users post about their friends’ and family’s health experiences on social media. In health care settings where nurses care for chronically ill patients, they often see patients repeatedly over time and as a result, form strong relationships with them and their families. Those patients and families at times send friend requests to nurses or ask nurses to connect on social media. According to the American Nurses Association’s social networking principles, nurses need to separate the professional and personal information online. One important reason related to separation of the personal and professional is to establish appropriate boundaries to avoid over-involvement in patient’s lives and retraumatization.

When nurses care for patients and then witness patients suffering and trauma in the professional setting, being connected to a patient’s social media can include repeated exposure to the event in their personal social media feeds. This repeated exposure can include reading messages from friends and families expressing various emotions about the patient. If the patient died, social media feeds could include repeated messages of mourning, grief, and loss. This isn’t to say nurses should avoid remembering or mourning; however, nurses need to rest and recover their empathetic muscle. Balanced empathy is important to sustain nurses throughout their careers.

Avoiding Retraumatization

Social workers Patricia Shelly, Shelley Hitzel, and Karen Zgoda define retraumatization as “a conscious or unconscious reminder of past trauma that results in a re-experiencing of the initial trauma event.” Interventions for vicarious traumatization and STSD include separating the professional from the personal. A healthy barrier is a helpful part of self-care for nurses. They need to engage in self-restorative work to be able to care for the needs of the patients they care for at work. Even though nurses develop bonds with patients and families, using self-protective strategies are important in being resilient. Nurses should avoid personal social media connections with patients.

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How To Grow A Business Using Social Media

How To Grow A Business Using Social Media | Social Media and Healthcare |

When I first graduated from dental school, I chose to work in several well-established dental practices. Each day as I walked into work, all I could see was opportunity — to one day have my own business, to refine my skills, to use those refined skills to help people from all over the world. About a year and a half after school, I became a partner in what I thought was a very well-established office. Little did I know what a turn the business would take. Shortly after the buy-in, the other partner that was in the office stopped practicing dentistry and I was left without any patients and a staff that expected to be paid. Most of the patients became angry and left, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it.

At that point, I didn’t have money for marketing, so I turned to social media. I saw it as a way to market myself for free. I figured since everyone was on it, I may as well start showcasing my work. And I’m so glad that I did. Today, my practice looks much different than before. Today I have people traveling from all over the world for me to redesign their smiles. I have plenty of new patients in my office each month. And today, I have built the freedom in my business — and my life — that I had always dreamed of. And it's all because of social media.

In a world where the internet has taken over, it’s silly to think that a new business would choose to not use social media as a marketing strategy. My first step was to start using Facebook and Instagram to connect with people individually about my business. I started sharing my passion with the world. Social media is all about the one-on-one connections and recognizing that early on can be a game changer. If you’re on social media, you need to be social. And that is exactly what I started doing — being social. So, how do you grow a social media page that brings in new business? It comes down to four simple steps.


1. Pick Your Niche

When you niche down, it will be easier for you to grow. Why? Because people are looking for specificity. One mistake I constantly see is trying to have a very broad audience so that as many people as possible notice you. In my experience, that's the wrong approach. If you’re trying to establish yourself as a dog-training expert, then you will be marketing yourself to dog lovers and dog owners. You should be creating content about training dogs: what type of collar to use, what kind of leash to use, what hand signals to use, what age to start training your dog. If you instead created all kinds of content, such as posts about refurbishing furniture, you’re never going to gain a true following. Pick a niche and then create your social media content around that niche.

2. Edit Your Bio

Your bio is the first thing people see when they land on your page. Use it to make clear who you are, what you do, where people can find you and how they can reach you."


3. Nail Down Your Ideal Audience

You aren’t going to be able to attract everyone, and you shouldn’t want to. It may feel effective in the beginning, but it’s hard to sustain long-term growth with this method. Why? Because when you’re talking to everyone, you’re actually talking to no one. When you are talking to a specific person, they will be drawn to you because it feels like your content was created for them and their needs.

Let’s say you’re a bride and you’re looking for a wedding photographer. You land on a page that has pretty photos, but they're lifestyle images. You're probably going to keep scrolling. But, let's say you land on a page filled with beautiful wedding photos. You will feel like this page was made for you, and you will likely start to be interested in the content they have created.

4. Be Consistent

Your following on social media grows when you are consistent. In order to get people to follow you and engage with you, and in order for you to have opportunities from the platforms, you need to be consistent. You can't expect to post 10 photos one day, then disappear for two weeks and still see growth. Remember, you're building one-on-one connections. So if you aren't consistently showing up, people won't engage with you. They won't want to see what you are doing next. If you want a platform that grows, you need to show up every single day, no matter what.

Now that you have your four steps, it’s time to put them into action. And remember, social media is about long-term growth. It’s not a get-rich-quick strategy, so stick with it and stay consistent.


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Social media for medical journals operates in 'wild west,' needs more support to succeed

Social media for medical journals operates in 'wild west,' needs more support to succeed | Social Media and Healthcare |

Much of the published medical research goes unread by the general public and medical community, despite being largely funded by the federal government and private foundations. To reach more people, medical journals have begun using social media to promote new research.

A new Northwestern Medicine study has found social media editors lack established best practices and support from their journals and home institutions, making it difficult for them to successfully promote new research.

In general, the median citation rate for journal articles -- when one paper refers to another paper -- is zero, meaning a lot of new research isn't being read even in the medical community. If utilized correctly, social media could help journals increase awareness of new research, according to the study. But first, social media editors need more resources and support.

"American tax dollars are paying for research the public never hears about," said senior author Dr. Seth Trueger, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a practicing physician at Northwestern Medicine. "I'm optimistic we can get the word out through social media, but we first need to explore and develop tried-and-true methods to distribute this information to the public."

Study authors urge medical journals to define social media editor roles and responsibilities more clearly and provide more resources to social media editors.

The study was published this week in the journal Academic Medicine. It is the first study to examine this specific role of social media editor at medical journals.

Journals may be able to help social media editors to more effectively get the word out and determine which strategies are most effective, study authors said. Doing so will help journals and social media editors better focus their limited resources.

"Many journals have been building social media editor positions, which is great, but as a relatively new niche, our study found journals didn't really know what these people should be doing," Trueger said. "They would tell new editors to 'take this job and do what you can with it.' It's the wild west."

The study also found: (1) monetary support for these roles is lacking; (2) journals use different metrics to measure engagement and success; and (3) there is no consistency in editor responsibilities among journals.

In addition to his role at Northwestern, Trueger previously was the social media editor for the Annals of Emergency Medicine. He is now the digital media editor at JAMA Network Open and said his goal is to "get eyeballs on the science."

Something Trueger has learned in these positions is how impactful social media can be for medical research, if done properly.

"If you have a paper on a Medicare program, you don't just have physicians looking at that research; there are health economists, patient groups and the general public who have an interest in it," Trueger said. "If we can determine which strategies work for online dissemination, a social media editor's success rate for sharing new information to a wide audience can skyrocket."

Medical schools and universities should better incorporate social media engagement with more tangible support, such as academic credit toward promotion and tenure, according to the study.

Given the overall lack of tangible support reported by social media editors in the study, medical journals should consider providing non-physician staff to help manage social media accounts to support editors in their positions, the study suggested.

Twenty-four social media editors from 19 medical journals participated in the study. The study was funded by the Summer Research Program at the Pritzker School of Medicine at the University of Chicago, which is in part funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Story Source:

Materials provided by Northwestern University. Original written by Kristin Samuelson. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Melany Lopez, Teresa M. Chan, Brent Thoma, Vineet M. Arora, N. Seth Trueger. The Social Media Editor at Medical JournalsAcademic Medicine, 2018; 1 DOI: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002496
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Facebook marketing for physical therapy, occupational therapy, rehab therapy, and healthcare clinical practices. Learn more at
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Time to use technology, not be used by it: Build trust, relationships

Time to use technology, not be used by it: Build trust, relationships | Social Media and Healthcare |

For years, the healthcare industry has been scrambling to use new technologies to access consumers, to get closer to us, to secure us as customers. 


Healthcare organizations got on social media, built patient portals and smartphone apps. And guess what? It didn’t really work all that well. The intentions were good, but it turns out it was really all about them and not about us, the healthcare consumers. The focus was in the wrong place.

Today’s technology allows organizations to push out more and more information, useful or not. Conversely, technology enables the consumers of that information to throttle it. Consumers have more control over what they see and when they see it than ever before. Technology for technology’s sake has ceased to be the end game. Healthcare consumers are savvy and, more and more, want control—of everything.  

As Syndrome tells the Parr family in The Incredibles about his plan to sell his inventions and technology to all-comers: “Everyone can be super, and when everyone’s super, no one will be.” And that, essentially, is what’s happening with technology in healthcare. Everyone in the healthcare business has access to more or less the same technology: websites, patient portals, connected devices, wearables, chatbots, artificial intelligence. It’s understanding, fashioning, and empowering the relationships between these technologies and our humanity that will make healthcare organizations super today and in the future.

Online reviews build trust

To some degree, technology has become commoditized because everyone from health systems to healthcare providers to patients has access to it at a very low price. 

There’s an opportunity, however, for healthcare organizations to be super by using technology to serve customers. But they must approach the issue from the healthcare consumer’s point of view. The way to gain trust is by creating long-term, mutually beneficial relationships between healthcare consumers and healthcare organizations. 

The University of Utah hospital gets this relationship-based model. They understand healthcare consumers want to control their treatment destiny. 

Healthcare consumers using the university’s website bypass the marketing hype and go straight to the doctor ratings. That’s right. More than 40,000 patients have ranked and evaluated hundreds of primary care physicians and specialists. By opening its staff to this criticism, the hospital is fostering a long-term bond with anyone who is or may become a patient.

The hospital’s openness builds trust and puts the organization’s emphasis—from the very top to the very bottom—onimproving patient care and interactions.

Temper technology with humanity

The USC Center for Body Computing gets it, too. They recently published fitness research using leading-edge technology, including glasses with a biometric sensor. But the technology was simply the pipeline used to support a relationship built between study participants, digital coaches and an online community of like-minded people. This far-reaching social network, literally and figuratively, was designed to encourage participation in an exercise program.

The researchers learned three things increased engagement:

  • Digital coaching; 
  • Social networks; and
  • Philanthropy (participants who reached a certain involvement goal activated a donation of an eye exam and glasses to a person in need).

"One in every five Americans wears a health tracker but there was no research that took a look at what motivates engagement, until now," according to Leslie Saxon, MD, founder and executive director of the USC Center for Body Computing and the study’s primary investigator.

The engagement described in the study has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with friendships, relationships, andaltruism. This is technology done right. It works for the patient allowing her to engage with others on multiple levels and in doing so creates and builds long-term relationships. 

So the fact that 90 percent of healthcare practices offer a patient portal sounds great, like the healthcare industry’s work is already done. Unfortunately, that’s not true. Through its own studies the MGMA found many patient portals are poorly designed and really nothing more than a secure spot to send and receive messages.          

Poorly designed and clunky. Not a great strategy to build long-term patient relationships nor to keep healthcare consumers coming back to use the portal. Most patients who used these portals were undoubtedly one-time users who found them utterly useless for accomplishing anything that might be related to improving health.

Technology, of course, hasn’t really run its course. And it’s not going away.

But it is critical to temper and separate technology hype and usage with humanity in order to achieve the balance necessary to bring healthcare consumers into the fold even as new functionalities are implemented. The healthcare industry can’t lose sight of its customers as new technologies are brought into hospitals and exam rooms. 

Antonella Bonanni is chief marketing officer of healthcare at Cognizant, a Fortune 200 company. Antonella has an MBA from the University of Pittsburgh and a Masters of Communications from the CUOA in Vicenza, Italy.

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Optimizing Social Media Use in Health Care: The Mayo Clinic Social Media Network

Optimizing Social Media Use in Health Care: The Mayo Clinic Social Media Network | Social Media and Healthcare |

In this interview, EP Lab Digest talks with Farris K. Timimi, MD, Medical Director of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network (MCSMN), and Lee Aase, Director of the MCSMN and Communications Director of Mayo Clinic’s Social and Digital Innovation (SDI) Team, about social media strategies in health care. 

Tell us about your medical background. How did you become involved with the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network (MCSMN)?

I am a cardiologist specializing in heart failure, and through that work have had an interest in patient involvement, such as with creation of our Patient and Family Advisory Committees. On major initiatives and in our basic structure, Mayo Clinic uses an physician/administrator model of shared leadership, with the administrator managing day-to-day operations and the physician leader helping to ensure medical relevance.

When the Mayo Clinic created what is now MCSMN, I was very interested in taking on the role of Medical Director.

What is the purpose of the MCSMN? When and why was it formed?

In 2011, Mayo Clinic created our Center for Social Media, which is now the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network, to help bring the social media revolution to health care. Our first goal was to ensure that Mayo Clinic staff and stakeholders had the guidelines, training, and resources to apply social media tools in support of clinical practice, education, and research. We also saw an opportunity to share globally what we were developing with colleagues, as well as learn alongside them as we navigated issues and concerns with these new technologies.

We see MCSMN as a catalyst to reduce the activation energy required to apply social media in health care organizations. By using our resources, colleagues can advance in their knowledge and capabilities more quickly than they would on their own.

Our association with Mayo Clinic also helps members gain internal buy-in; with these resources, they will be building on an approach and philosophy that has been shown to be safe and effective.

What is the role of social media in healthcare today? Additionally, what is the role of social media in healthcare education, research, and practice?

Social media has had a transformative impact on society as a whole, and health care is no exception. Through platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and others, patients and caregivers can share their experiences as well as look for support and answers. They are able to overcome barriers of space and time to connect with others like them, even if they have a rare condition that is not shared by anyone in their immediate geographical area.

The patients were there first, but now medical professionals and organizations are seeing opportunities to listen, serve, and educate using these tools. 

Tell us about the Social for Healthcare Certificate from the Mayo Clinic and Hootsuite. How did this collaboration come about? What does this training program help achieve? 

The Social for Healthcare Certificate from Mayo Clinic and Hootsuite ( provides focused and trustworthy training for busy professionals who want to safely and effectively learn to use social media. We developed this course with Hootsuite because we wanted to keep it up to date, reflecting on the latest changes in social platforms. Hootsuite markets to its clients, while we offer it to MCSMN members.

Because of its modular design and online delivery, participants can choose the elements they find most valuable and that fit their busy schedule, and it’s available on-demand, 24/7.

This course is our front-line training for any Mayo staff interested in using social media for professional purposes.

Physicians obviously could figure out elements of using social media on their own through trial and error, but our goal is to condense what they need to know into brief modules that they can apply to create their own professional presence, and to avoid missteps they otherwise might make.

What is the Social Media Residency? How long is the program, and what topics are covered?

Social Media Residency ( is a one-day program for those interested in developing a social media strategy aligned with their professional or organizational priorities. Some participants are social media managers for hospitals and are developing overall organizational strategies, while others are clinicians or scientists interested in narrower applications. Our online training provides the foundation, and then in Social Media Residency, we go beyond those basics and dig into strategy, providing guidelines for plan development.

In addition, what can you tell us about the Social Media Fellows Program?

The Social Media Fellows program ( is for those who have gone through Social Media Residency, and want guidance in developing and implementing their social media strategic plans. It’s also a way for them to give back by sharing their experiences with the Network.

How many people have completed the Social for Healthcare Certificate, Social Media Residency, and Social Media Fellows Program thus far? Who is best suited to participate in these programs? 

We’ve had more than 2,000 participants in the Social for Healthcare Certificate, and more than 700 in Social Media Residency. The Fellows program is much smaller, as it involves developing a strategic plan and submitting for review.

The Social for Healthcare Certificate is appropriate for anyone in health care, whether in a clinical or research role or in administration, marketing, and communications. It helps those who aren’t familiar with social media to get up-to-speed quickly, and for younger staff who have personal experience in social media, it introduces important elements of professionalism that are necessary in the health care context.

Social Media Residency is mainly for those who are advocates for social media and who are interested in promoting strategic use of these platforms.

Which programs are available online or onsite? What costs are involved with these opportunities?

As mentioned earlier, the Social for Healthcare Certificate is our online, on-demand program. While the retail price for the course is $250, we include it in both Premium Individual and Organizational memberships.

Registration for Social Media Residency is $795, and includes the Social for Healthcare Certificate. Organization members save 25 percent, and also may have the opportunity to host Social Media Residency, which can enable broader participation by their staff.

What the benefits of MCSMN membership? What other opportunities are available? 

In addition to the Social for Healthcare Certificate, premium members of MCSMN have access to a members-only discussion board where they can safely and confidentially get feedback and answers from fellow members. They also have access to our monthly webinars (regularly $95 each) and save 25 percent on any of our in-person events, including our Annual Conference and Social Media Residency.

In addition to Premium Individual membership, we also offer Organization membership at an affordable flat rate, which gives full premium membership to anyone on the organization’s email domain (e.g.,

Tell us more about the upcoming annual conference in November.

Our Annual Conference will take place from November 14-15 in Jacksonville, Florida, with four compelling keynotes and three tracks of case studies and opportunities for networking and expert consultations. We’re also offering Social Media Residency on our Mayo Clinic campus in Jacksonville on November 13, with special bundled registration available.

Who is involved with Mayo Clinic’s Social and Digital Innovation (SDI) Team?

Our Social and Digital Innovation Team is led by my administrative partner, Lee Aase, and includes representatives on our campuses in Florida and Arizona as well as several members in Minnesota. The SDI team maintains Mayo Clinic’s overall social media presence and also consults with Mayo stakeholders interested in professional or specialty accounts. It also provides the foundation for what we offer through MCSMN. (Editor's Note: See interview with Lee Aase in sidebar.)

Why is important for healthcare professionals to engage on social media? Also, what brief tips do you have for healthcare professionals about how to build a digital identity?

Health care professionals at least need to understand the importance of their online reputation, and the role social media presence can play in shaping what people find when they Google your name. Doctors should all claim and complete their profiles on Doximity, and should also consider how presence on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and other social networks can affect search results.

Beyond that, they should explore how they can use these tools to accomplish their life’s work. These are powerful tools for communication that enable us to have a much bigger impact than we otherwise would. 

At the same time, digital tools used incorrectly can do more damage than analog communications. But just as with other tools, with proper guidelines and training, these can do immense good.

What main social media platforms are doctors currently using?

Twitter and LinkedIn are probably the most important participatory platforms for physicians. 

Using Twitter hashtags related to diseases or scientific meetings enables physicians to participate in niche conversations that interest them, highlight their expertise, and learn more about patients’ experiences.

LinkedIn provides a platform for longer-form writing and sharing in a more professionally-oriented environment.

Presence on both of these can strongly influence online search results for the physician’s name, pushing some of the unreliable rating and review sites down the page.

Why should organizations and individuals utilize the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network?

The recent PBS documentary by Ken Burns, The Mayo Clinic: Faith – Hope – Science (, begins with an African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” 

Through the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network, we help our members go both farther and faster. By using our guidelines, templates, and training materials, our members can jumpstart their social media involvement with trusted resources. And by collaborating with like-minded colleagues from around the globe, they can get new ideas and perspectives to help shape their own initiatives.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

The Mayo Clinic Social Media Network is a modern-day manifestation of our founders’ philosophy and practice. Drs. Will and Charlie Mayo recognized that to provide the best care to every patient, they needed to travel and learn from others, and bring that knowledge back to their rural Minnesota practice. Dr. Will visited 25 countries on five continents at a time when travel was arduous.

They also welcomed physicians to visit and observe them in surgery, and in the period from 1908 to 1918 alone, nearly 3,400 physicians came to Rochester to observe them and become part of what became known as The Surgeons Club.

We see the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network as the health care social media version of what the Mayo brothers did in surgery, and we’re glad that we can connect with colleagues both face-to-face in our in-person events, and on a continuing basis through the MCSMN community.

I would invite anyone who is interested in these resources to contact my administrative partner, Lee Aase. We’d be glad to be of service.

For more information, follow along on Twitter: 




Interview with Lee Aase, Director of the Mayo Clinic Social Media Network (MCSMN) and Communications Director of the Mayo Clinic’s Social and Digital Innovation (SDI) Team

Tell us about your background, and how the MCSMN came about. 

My background is in media relations, and I was the manager of Mayo Clinic’s media relations team when we began dabbling in “new” media with podcasting in 2005. We were early adopters of platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube when they started becoming available, because we saw them as ways to directly reach patients instead of only indirectly through traditional media.

The MCSMN arose as our colleagues at other hospitals saw our leadership in adopting these new platforms, and were interested in learning from us how to navigate this space. We developed tools and training for our Mayo staff, and through MCSMN, we make them available to our colleagues everywhere.

What can you tell us about the Mayo Clinic Social and Digital Innovation (SDI) Team? 

Our team represents Mayo Clinic as a whole, with team members on our three campuses in Rochester, Minnesota, Jacksonville, Florida, and Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona. We maintain Mayo Clinic’s enterprise-level accounts on the major social platforms ( Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube) as well as our community and blogging platform. We also consult with stakeholders interested in specialty-focused social accounts and provide training for them, as well as a central management platform for governance of the accounts. 

How can social media help promote health and improve health care?

Social media provides platforms for listening to both patients and consumers as well as physicians and scientists to share knowledge and the latest research. They are experts in the science of various diseases and conditions, and the patients are experts in the day-to-day challenges of coping with those health issues. For example, I have celiac disease and can benefit from videos from Dr. Joseph Murray (, our leading expert on the science of celiac disease. Through social media, I can connect with fellow patients to get recommendations on restaurants with gluten-free menus when I’m traveling. We like to say that patients are experts by experience, and we’ve collaborated with on a series of blog posts ( featuring those patient insights. 

Why should health care professionals and organizations engage on social media? 

People of all ages are increasingly engaging in social media — particularly when they’re looking for information or support when facing a health concern. If health care professionals aren’t engaged, others who are spreading unscientific remedies or positions, such as the anti-vaccine advocates, will be unchallenged in the online space.

It’s also important from a reputation management perspective; by having social media presence, providers and organizations are equipped to share their perspectives and have a vehicle for telling their side of the story.

How do you see the use or the role of social media evolving? 

I think the opportunity to engage in conversation online is an increasing expectation, and that organizations will be finding ways to hold those conversations not only on broader social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, but on their own digital properties as well. 

What are some of your tips to health care organizations for developing a social media strategy?

Social media strategy needs to be an element of business strategy. With few exceptions, every communications or marketing initiative should have a social media component. The first step to social media strategy is developing an understanding of the nature of the social media platforms, the audiences they attract, and their core capabilities. Then, map those to what you are trying to accomplish, whether it relates to building a clinical practice, improving communications efficiency, promoting clinical trials and other research, or recruiting a top-tier workforce.  

Which social media platforms have you found to be most beneficial or effective for doctors to use? What do you consider to be a “balanced social media diet” in 2018?

We recommend that physicians use social media to help with their online reputation management, because these accounts tend to show up high in search results. Our top recommendations include claiming and completing your account on Doximity (, which powers the U.S. News & World Report search engine, as well as creating accounts on LinkedIn and Twitter. Filming and uploading informational videos to YouTube can also introduce you to prospective patients and begin to build empathy.

Any final thoughts? 

Don’t miss the Social for Healthcare Certificate from Mayo Clinic and Hootsuite (, which we created to provide on-demand basic training in social media for health care professionals. It’s what we use as front-line training for our busy Mayo Clinic staff, so they can choose modules that are most helpful to them. For example, a doctor who wants to create a Twitter account can go through that module in 20-30 minutes and feel confident in setting up a professional account, knowing how Twitter works in the health care context. 

This course is available to any of our premium individual Mayo Clinic Social Media Network members, and for a flat fee, we can make this same training available to anyone in an organization. We’re excited that now we can say any employee of our organization can have access to the same social media training that our Mayo Clinic staff depend upon.

For those who want to dig deeper and take a leadership role in social media in their organization, please check out our Social Media Residency (, a one-day course offered a few times each year, as well as our Annual Conference ( taking place November 14-15 in Jacksonville, Florida.

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Always Be Listening: How to Evolve Your Facebook Page by Listening to the Community 

Always Be Listening: How to Evolve Your Facebook Page by Listening to the Community  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Are you listening? Are you really listening? 

As pharma becomes more and more ingrained in social media, it’s critical to know how and where to listen to the community that you are engaging with and to understand that this is an ongoing, individualized process. With so much discussion happening online, particularly within communities you might be building on Facebook, listening is the best way to mine insights straight from the horse’s mouth.

Standard practices might not always resonate with the community you’re trying to reach, which is where effective listening comes into play from start to finish of creating an online community. Social media should be treated more like a telephone and less like a megaphone, meaning listening and adding value to help anchor conversations rather than solely pushing out messages. The most valuable information and resources you can offer to a patient community is simply providing them what they are asking for and understanding what’s meaningful to them.

So how can you do this? At Digital Pharma East, I learned about the successful approach that allowed one pharma company to listen a little better when building a Facebook page for a rare disease community:

  1. Understand the Current Online Landscape: Is there an unmet need? What are the challenges and concerns shared by the community? How can you address them? Take time to research what’s already out there and identify what type of voice you want to be.
  2. Don’t Work in A Vacuum: Sit down with advocates, patients and caregivers to co-create the content vision and direction; remember that they are the experts and they can help guide you.
  3. Strike a Balance: Particularly in the early days, be mindful of ways that you are engaging with the community. This is the best way to understand what types of content are resonating, when you should be posting, and how effective your targeting is.
  4. Find Opportunities for Offline Touchpoints: Are there easy ways to bring the community together outside of social media? Whether it’s a phone call, in-person event or a virtual meeting, provide opportunities for members of your community to build upon their online relationships. By enabling this valuable meet-up to happen, you can also be a part of it. 
  5. Test, Learn, Repeat: Try to focus on one key insight to test for an extended period of time to help learn more about the audience and what they want from a community. But always remember learning is never done. As online behaviors and offerings shift and grow, so must your approach. 


The more that you listen – to conversations, interactions and reactions – the more you can build an authentic community that adds value to the patients you are trying to help. By creating a connection between you and your community, and treating your content accordingly, higher and authentic engagement will follow.



Alyssa Kaden is a creative and analytical digital marketer with proven experience in helping growth and improving business performance with a data-driven approach and design thinking. Alyssa joined Syneos Health in 2014 as a digital and social media strategist just as the explosion in use within the healthcare industry was taking place. She serves as a digital lead for several client engagements, leading teams of designers, digital analysts and content writers to ensure projects exceed business and creative goals. Alyssa has been at the forefront of work within the oncology, diabetes, mental health and rare disease space, and brings a detailed eye and strategic mindset to any fully integrated digital campaign. Alyssa graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a Bachelor’s Degree in International Studies.


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How to Develop a Unique Tone in Patient Communication

How to Develop a Unique Tone in Patient Communication | Social Media and Healthcare |

Texting is the most common way for people to communicate. And almost everyone is part of at least one group message with lots of friends or family members. In these groups, multiple messages are coming at the same time. Sure, each message is tagged with a name, but do you really even have to rely on that tag? Chances are you can tell which of your friends sent which message just by the tone of the message sent.

Everybody has a different voice when speaking, and that usually translates over to their voice in a written message too. You would think it strange if a friend who is normally witty and causal in their written messages sent a message in a serious or formal tone. Even if you don’t realize it, you become accustomed to the voice of those who frequently send you messages.

Just like you can recognize your friends’ texts or emails before seeing their name, your patients should be able to recognize the tone in the messages that come from your practice. The voice you set for your practice should be consistent and help convey the message you want to send. With so many ways to connect with your patients, utilizing one consistent voice will help increase the uniformity and recognizability of your messages, and ease the flexibility of who can send them.


Between eNewsletters, appointment reminders, text messages, and social media posts, you’re hitting your patients with a lot of communication. If every message you send sounds as if it’s coming from a different person and using a different voice, your patients may start to feel overwhelmed. But if each message they receive has a similar look and tone, they are likely to pay more attention to what you are trying to say. The messages will all feel cohesive and unified. It will convey organization and uniformity in your practice, which in turn will increase your practice’s credibility in your patients’ eyes.


It’s important to keep a consistent connection with your patients between visits, and a great way to do that is by communication through a variety of channels. Maintaining the same voice in all of your patient communication makes it easy for patients to recognize your messages. Your patients are bombarded with emails and texts and they scroll past countless ads on social media every day. If your messages lack a consistent voice that helps them identify you, they are more likely to delete or scroll past without even bothering to read it.


Determining your written voice can also make it easier for anyone in the office to compose and send messages or social media posts. If everybody knows the office voice, you don’t have to have a dedicated writer for all messages—any member of your staff can write the message and it will maintain the tone that helps your practice build credibility and connections with your patients.

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