Social Media and Healthcare
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Social Media Trends That Will Transform the Healthcare Industry in 2018

Social Media Trends That Will Transform the Healthcare Industry in 2018 | Social Media and Healthcare |

The world of social media marketing has changed significantly over the past decade or so. These changes are driven by trends in patient behavior and preferences, mainly by Gen Z and millennials. Reaching out to the younger members of society means that healthcare marketers need to change their communication models and focus on what matters to the younger generation.

Regardless of the size and specialty of your medical practice, social media is your best bet for reaching out to your target audience. Social networks have a captive and thriving audience and provide endless opportunities for healthcare marketers to build meaningful relationships with their target audience. An average American user has five social media accounts and each day spends more than two hours browsing them. According to studies, social media activities account for nearly 30 percent of all online interactions. This is why it is vital to stay on top of social media trends.

Here are the top eight social media trends that are likely to have a significant impact on the healthcare market in 2018.

1. Video Content Will Surge Ahead

Video content has grown exponentially in popularity over the last few years and will continue to grow in 2018, as well. The predictions vary. Cisco predicts 80 percent of online traffic will be driven by video content by 2019, whereas Mark Zuckerberg expects 90 percent of Facebook’s content to be video-based by 2018. Nearly 80 percent of social media users said they would rather watch a video than read plain text. In addition, the Facebook live video gets three times more views.

Mobile video is highly likely to be the primary way your patients will prefer to consume healthcare content. Healthcare marketers should also consider that mobile has taken over as the fundamental way to access social media. This is because video content elicits higher engagement rates. New formats such as live streaming are an effective way to engage target customers.

In 2018, you may see a steady rise in high-quality video content. According to HootSuite, online visitors are spending more time looking at video content than reading plain text. In fact, social video advertising grew more than 130 percent in 2017. An excellent way to utilize video is by creating and sharing short clips based on the demands and preferences of your target audience.

Overall, having the ability to create relevant video content in multiple formats on a regular basis and strategically tying it to your blogs and eBooks will be critical in 2018. Medical marketers will need to work out how they can leverage a variety of video formats as part of their content marketing strategies. Marketers will need to ensure they are creating content that reflects their business goals and objectives.

2. Increased Emphasis on User-Generated Content

According to marketing surveys, nearly 66 percent of new patients trust online reviews posted by other patients, and an even higher percentage of potential patients believe recommendations from their family and friends. Social networks are presenting many exciting opportunities to use user-generated content into building healthy relationships with prospective and existing patients.

Medical practices can leverage user-generated content on their social media profiles to engage their followers. For instance, you can ask your followers to submit reviews or share experiences of your practice on social networks. You can then choose the best submissions and share them on your page, giving credit to the followers who submitted them. This is not just a great way to get fresh content regularly; it is also a proven strategy for engaging your potential and existing patients. Chosen followers will be motivated and will be more likely to recommend your services to their family and friends. Instagram is said to deliver the biggest ROI for user-generated content.

In 2018, you can expect to see more healthcare facilities integrating user-generated content into their social media campaigns. Healthcare marketers must look forward to 2018 and start leveraging this trend if they wish to remain competitive.

3. Chatbots and Messaging Apps Will Improve Patient Service

Patient experience is valuable. Patient experience is what it sounds like – making sure your patients have a good experience at your practice and with your employees. The concept of delivering superior patient experience is steadily gaining momentum. More than 68 percent of marketers say they are focusing on improving customer experience.

Chatbots can give medical practices the chance to interact quickly with their target audience in a way that feels personal. There are at least 100,000 active bots on Facebook Messenger every month, and almost 2 billion messages are exchanged between businesses and their target audiences each month. In 2018, medical practices will have to step out of their comfort zones and focus on chatbots and messaging apps in order to deliver excellent patient service. Healthcare marketers will invest more time and effort in interaction with patients via messaging apps and chatbots. A combination of chatbots and messaging apps can significantly enhance the quality of patient service.

4. Influencer Marketing Will Continue to Rise

Social media influencers have an incredible reach, usually with followings in thousands or millions. Healthcare marketers are shifting toward paying these influencers to promote their products and services. Nearly 32 percent of US-based influencers say Facebook is the best social networking platform, while 24 percent of influencers think Instagram is the best.

Influencer marketing is believed to deliver 11 times the ROI compared to traditional marketing strategies, and more than 49 percent of new patients depend on influencers for choosing their next medical facility. This is not a passing trend, but a multibillion dollar industry. A lot of these social media influencers walk away with six-figure incomes, just by promoting brands to their followers.

More than 90 percent of healthcare marketers who employ an influencer marketing strategy to connect with new patients and improve engagement with existing patients believe it is successful. In 2018, more healthcare facilities will embrace influencer marketing as a way to communicate with their target audiences.

5. Instagram Stories Will Be More Popular

With Instagram Stories, you can publish content that lives for 24 hours before disappearing. This is believed to be the perfect way to keep your followers engaged without over-sharing content to your Instagram profile. In addition, you can hashtag relevant keywords to help target users find your posts quickly and easily.

Instagram Stories is perhaps the most significant change in the Instagram user interface, and the marketing opportunities that it provides are tremendous. Instagram Stories is also more lucrative from a marketing perspective because, unlike other social media platforms, Instagram metrics are trackable. This means healthcare marketers trying to connect with their target audience on Instagram must take the time to get on board with Instagram Stories.

Daily viewers of Instagram Stories have surpassed daily SnapChat viewers within one year after launch, and the growth is not expected to slow down in 2018. It is likely that more than 50 percent of all Instagram users will be using Instagram Stories by the end of 2018.

6. Organic Reach Strategies Are Likely to Decline

With an increasing number of businesses strengthening their presence on social networks, there was a need to invent measures to combat spam. This means marketers have to face a dramatic decline in organic reach. Due to less organic return, marketers have to be more selective about what and where to post.

Healthcare marketers need to stop relying on short-term tactics that once worked. Facebook has already announced that organic reach will soon be zero. 2018 is likely to be the year when we will feel the pinch on the organic reach of our social media content. While you must be creating and sharing the most genuine and relevant content, you need to understand that it is a pay-to-play world. With a lot of businesses increasingly disappearing from newsfeeds, ephemeral content is key to staying top-of-mind in 2018.

Instead, healthcare marketers need to start building sustainable social media strategies. This means carefully choosing networks where you post content and investing more in paid ads and influencer strategies.

7. Ephemeral Content Will Rule Patient Engagement

Ephemeral content is short-lived content that appears for just 24 hours and then disappears on its own. This type of content is gaining immense popularity among millennials and generation Z. Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook stories have led to the demand for ephemeral content. Because of the nature of content, the information is lost within hours, thus making your followers take fast action.

Ephemeral content is a great way to preview upcoming projects and showcase behind-the-scene content that is supposed to be short-lived. However, you will need an effective strategy in 2018 to engage your target audiences in the shortest possible time.

Your target audience will consider short-lived content more authentic, and it may motivate them to call your office and schedule an appointment.

8. Live Streaming Will Expand

The live-streaming market is growing at an alarming rate. While live streaming has been around for a while now, the way patients and healthcare brands are going to use them is likely to evolve. We are going to see a lot more of live streaming in 2018, and the brands that leverage it well will be rejoicing in the organic reach it will generate.

Live streaming was a $30 billion industry in 2016, and it is expected to more than double in size by 2021 to become a $70 billion industry. One of the biggest reasons you should care about live streaming is due to its massive user base and rising popularity. Live streaming is a nearly free way to drive lots of traffic to your social media profile and tons of revenue for your medical practice.

In 2018, more healthcare brands will harness the power of live streaming and will incorporate it into their healthcare content marketing strategy. Just like Facebook and Instagram, other social networks too will try to capitalize on the trend.

Wrapping Up

The role of social media marketing is expanding, and we expect a lot of changes in the social media landscape in 2018. One thing is sure: Social networks will offer brands more ways to create engaging content and more natural ways to share it. Most likely, video streaming and ephemeral content will go mainstream. Additionally, healthcare brands may turn to newer social platforms as Gen Z will spend a lot of their time there. This means healthcare marketers will need to strengthen their online presence in 2016. However, it is essential to stay informed on the behavior and preferences of your target audience.

It is critical to look forward to 2018 and adjust to the healthcare social media trends if you wish to remain competitive in the market.
If these trends have inspired you to begin transforming your medical practice’s social media marketing campaign, Practice Builders can help you. Not only do we have the experience and insight to point you in the right direction, but we also have the technology to make you achieve your business goals. For more information, contact us today.

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

Social Media Implementation Checklist | Social Media and Healthcare |

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

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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Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram best for physicians? Dr. Kevin Pho (KevinMD) Answers.

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram best for physicians? Dr. Kevin Pho (KevinMD) Answers. | Social Media and Healthcare |

Dr. Kevin Pho has long been a healthcare celebrity on my “must-meet-one-day” list. I have been a fan of his site for years. I especially enjoy the stories of triumph and frustration from doctors on the front lines. It’s one of my go-to sources for the physician’s perspective.

I had the opportunity to sit down for a quick conversation with Dr. Pho after he presented a session on the use of social media to connect with patients and peers.

This is a summary of that rapid-fire conversation…minus all my fanboy stuff.

Should physicians choose Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram to get started?

I think many people make the mistake of picking the platform first when you should really get clear on your goals first. Once you do that, THEN you can pick the best platform that matches those goals.

To me, each platform has a specific audience that it’s best suited for.

If connecting with patients is your goal, then blogging or Facebook – especially with its ability to target specific people in a region – is probably your best bet. Both offer tons of flexibility when it comes to images, video and text.

If you want to connect with colleagues then I have found Twitter to be the best platform. There are lots of thought-leaders and knowledgeable people there. I’ve met a lot of like-minded people on Twitter.

Instagram is an up-and-coming platform in healthcare. It’s especially useful for people who are visually oriented. The picture capabilities on Instagram are perfect for people that think in pictures first. I see a lot of plastic surgeons, dermatologists, for example, using Instagram.

You didn’t mention LinkedIn, is that platform useful for physicians?

Didn’t mean to overlook LinkedIn. It’s certainly valuable. Simply having a profile on LinkedIn can help a physician and their practice. It can be as simple as a transcription of your CV. Having it on the platform allows you to leverage LinkedIn’s powerful SEO capabilities. When people Google for physicians, a fully fleshed out LinkedIn profile can rank highly.

Open vs Closed Social Media Platforms? (ie: Twitter vs Doximity)

Each of these platforms serve a very different purpose. Doximity to me is like the LinkedIn of medicine – or at least similar in the sense that it is trying to solve the problem of getting physicians to connect with one another. The fact that Doximity is closed makes it safer for participants. One of the smartest things they did was tie their Doximity profiles to US News and World Reports. So if that’s something you care about then you kind of have to be on Doximity. I would say Doximity has a lot of value if a physician is just looking for a minimum online presence.

Is there a right-way vs wrong-way for physicians to use their voice on social media?

We live in a very polarized time. Everyone is very opinionated on social media right now. I think many of us are living in a bubble where we don’t want to listen to dissenting or uncomfortable positions. We’d rather tune them out. That’s natural, but there’s also a danger with that approach. It means that we might not be as open to examining our own perspective and our own beliefs as we once did.

There are some doctors who are very political and express their views openly on social media. There is nothing inherently wrong with that or bad about that. BUT you should be prepared that at least ½ your audience will likely not agree with you. If you are prepared for that, then that’s fine. You should use social media in a way that you are comfortable with. It’s all about that personal comfort level.

Think about the opposite. If you don’t express some sort of opinion on social media then you probably sound like a passionless robot and who wants to listen to a robot? No one. You have to find your unique online voice.

How would you describe your online voice?

I’ve been doing this a long time. Since 2004. Over the years I’ve been able to refine my online voice. I’m not a shade thrower and I don’t write bombshells just to get clicks on my site. I do, however, write about some controversial topics, not because they are controversial, but because I want to explore them and because it matters to physicians.

I would divide my audience, or in fact any audience, into thirds. One third of the audience is going to agree with whatever you say. Another third is going to disagree with whatever you say. The final third sits between the other two. They are the people that are undecided about you and the topic. I write for that middle third. I don’t want to write for the people who just agree with me, nor do I want to try and convince the people who have an argent polar-opposite view. I want to talk to the audience that is open to getting perspective on a topic.

What are some hot topics that you are writing and posting about right now?

We live in tumultuous healthcare times, so anything related to healthcare reform and healthcare payment reform are hot right now. I think a lot of people are particularly interested in the intersection of politics and the direction of healthcare reform at the moment.

I think it is very important for physicians to have a voice in these areas. We need to make sure our voices are heard by policy-makers and decision-makers. We need to share our stories and paint a clear picture of what it’s really like in practices and hospitals right now. Highlighting the reality of the current situation in healthcare is something doctors can do.

It’s very important, for example, for physicians to really talk honestly about how EHRs have impacted their relationships with patients. That story needs to be told.

There have been a lot of posts on KevinMD lately about physician burnout. What are your thoughts on that?

It’s absolutely critical that we value time as the scarce resource it is. We have to value the time that the clinician spends with patients. We need to move away from the productivity model in healthcare. One of the biggest mistakes we made in the US was rewarding productivity and activity. The more patients you see, the more revenue you make. We know now that wasn’t such a great way to incentivize healthcare.

We also have to be cognizant of the time that clinicians spend doing non-clinical things. Over 50% of the day is now spent on non-clinical tasks: filling out forms, entering stuff into medical records. We really can’t add any more non-clinical duties onto a clinician’s plate.

Valuing a physician’s time is one of the best ways to help reduce burnout.

What are you excited about in healthcare right now?

Watching how healthcare adapts to new technologies has been fascinating. We tend to move at a glacial pace in healthcare. There’s a joke “What’s trending right now will be something healthcare thinks about in 5 years”. That’s kind of true. Just look at what’s happening in the digital and publishing world. Things change in a blink of an eye. That doesn’t really happen in healthcare.

I’m excited to see what trends are happening in other industries and see how they might apply to healthcare. It’s been exciting to see how healthcare has adapted to things like social media, video calling/telehealth, online advertising and online reviews.

You’ve been doing this for 14 years. What keeps you motivated?

Social media is the most powerful platform that a lay-person can use to have their voice heard. Before social media you’d have to be on TV or in the paper and even then, you would have a limited geographic reach. Now with social media, your voice can carry across the world.

There aren’t that many places online where doctors, physicians and clinicians can share their stories and their knowledge. Being one of the few places for them, continues to be very exciting. As long as there is a need for that and as long as I can continue to be a place to help bring their voice forward, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing.

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Pharma Companies Look to the Future of Advertising With Social Media Influencers

Pharma Companies Look to the Future of Advertising With Social Media Influencers | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media influencers are certainly nothing new. People who have managed to garner a large following on sites like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and the like have quite a bit of pull within said following. These “microcelebrities” are now a subject of interest for pharmaceutical companies who are looking for new ways to advertise their products. The idea being, these people have enough clout on social media that it’s the next best thing to having a fully-fledged celebrity endorse your product.

However, there are a lot more nuances to this new form of marketing than it might appear at first. There is a lot of skepticism surrounding this idea regarding how well it actually works. Not to mention, not everyone is happy about the idea of the patients themselves being used for advertising.


How it works

To put it simply, this method of advertising involves drug companies getting in touch with social media influencers who then go on to talk about the medication to their followers on whichever social media platform they are on. More often than not, these influencers are patients themselves, which helps to lend credence to the statements that they make about the drug they’re advertising.

As it turns out, this method of advertising is incredibly lucrative, not just for the company whose drug is being advertised, but for the patient doing the advertising as well. However, companies that specialize in this new form of marketing have been sprouting up and are making quite a lot of money themselves.

One of these said companies is called Wego Health, and its business model revolves around helping pharmaceutical companies get in touch with potential patient social media influencers. In Wego Health’s case, patients who feel that they have a significant following on social media can visit Wego’s website and signup to be matched with a pharmaceutical company. From there, the patients can talk with the company they were matched with on Wego’s website to discuss their future partnership.

The benefits

While the company hasn't quite crossed the $10 million mark in revenue, Wego Health is still making a profit, having increased company revenue by $3 million since 2017. This isn’t very surprising considering the fact that studies have shown that nearly one-third of consumers have purchased a product or service after seeing a social media influencer recommend it, demonstrating just how lucrative this method can be for both the drug companies and the marketing companies that help them get in touch with the influencers.

It’s not just pharma companies and ad agencies that are reaping the benefits, however. The patients themselves can make a good deal of money themselves while working as influencers. On top of this, these influencers have the opportunity to share their stories and help get more people like them familiar with medications that might help them.

Criticism and regulations

While there are certainly many positives to be had through influencer marketing, things are a little bit more complicated for drug companies who decide to go this route. Since these social media influencers are talking about things that can affect people’s health and wellbeing, there are, of course, regulations surrounding what they can or can’t say, as well as rules for what they have to say. Not only does this make things tricky for the influencers, as they have to follow strict guidelines, but it means advertising medications takes much longer than it would to advertise other kinds of products.

This new form of marketing has also had a lot of people who are either skeptical, or just plain against it. Some doctors and researchers have expressed concern that offering financial incentives to influencers could end up hurting patients more than it would help. It is possible that some of these social media influencers could end up blindly advertising products just so that they can be paid, without thinking about the kinds of damage that they could cause to the people who end up listening to them.

The idea that influencers may unscrupulously recommend medication or other products without thinking about the potential harm it could cause gets particularly worrisome when considering the fact that nearly 90% of people aged 18-24 will trust the health information that they find on social media. And so, this raises considerable ethical concerns regarding paying patients to recommend certain medications to treat the same illness that they are suffering from. Because who’s to say they won’t recommend something completely ineffectual or even harmful just for the money?

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Weber study finds Americans don’t really trust social media for health info

Weber study finds Americans don’t really trust social media for health info | Social Media and Healthcare |

A new survey from comms giant Weber Shandwick profiling how U.S. adults access, use and feel about health-related information finds that most American social media users who regularly seek health information are concerned about incorrect or misleading medical information on social media—and few have found health information on social media to be accurate.

The Weber survey, The Great American Search for Healthcare Information, in partnership with KRC Research, focused on Healthcare Information Seekers—those Americans who look for health-related information at least once per year, excluding doctor appointments. This large-scale study of Americans was designed to help communicators and marketers in the health sector guide their strategic and tactical content decisions.

“In a time of information-overload and cynicism inflamed by ‘fake news,’ communicators and marketers face new and unique challenges around how to effectively engage with their customers,” said Laura Schoen, president of Weber’s Global Healthcare Practice, in a news release. “But as the demand for online information grows, and as the landscape continues to be increasingly muddied by inaccurate—and at times dangerous—information, the healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors have a greater responsibility than ever before to find ways to create and deliver engaging, relevant and factual information.”

Americans have healthy doses of skepticism about health information on social media

Two-thirds of American Healthcare Information Seekers (67 percent) report that they see health information on social media. The types of information they see on social media are mostly wellness advice (56 percent) and advertisements for treatments or medications (52 percent).

Seeing is not necessarily believing, however. More than eight in 10 Healthcare Information Seekers who have seen health information on social media (83 percent) say they are concerned about incorrect or misleading medical information. Only 35 percent report that, in their experience, the information is mostly accurate. Slightly more, 38 percent, say they have no idea of its veracity and 27 percent say it is mostly inaccurate. These numbers indicate that people are exposed to health information through social media, but recognize how hard it is to know what is true, especially in the face of complex information and seemingly conflicting facts or studies.

Particularly compelling about this data is that concerns about and experiences with accuracy of social health information are consistent across generations. For example, the youngest cohort in our study, Gen Z, is just as likely to be concerned about incorrect or misleading information as the much older Boomer generation (91 percent and 87 percent, respectively). This suggests that social media comfort and proficiency do not have a bearing on perceptions of legitimacy, leading to the conclusion that it is the content or channel that is the challenge for health-related information communicators.

While health information on social media has a credibility problem, Healthcare Information Seekers exposed to it identify several solutions for instilling more confidence: social healthcare information should be cited by a medical professional (43 percent), it should cite a scientific study (38 percent), it should be associated with a trusted brand (37 percent) and it should be cited by a trusted school or research organization (36 percent). The findings show a demand and opportunity for medical information on social media to be verified by respected third-party sources.

Medical professionals—not necessarily doctors—provide the most satisfactory information 

When it comes to satisfactory experiences with the information sources that are used, medical professionals far surpass any other source. At the very top of the list that users of health information were ‘very satisfied’ with are physician’s assistants/nurses and eye doctors (tied at 66 percent).

Medical information websites fall just below average in terms of satisfaction (39 percent) despite their widespread use by 53 percent of Healthcare Information Seekers. This disparity may point to a significant opportunity for these platforms to demonstrate that there are medical professionals “behind” the content.

Physicians may have a Millennial problem

The Millennial generation is least likely to be very satisfied with the information provided by medical doctors. In evaluating other attitudes toward physicians, the study suggests that doctors may be contending with a Millennial trust challenge. In addition to their lower satisfaction levels with information from doctors (on a basis relative to other generations), Millennials are the least likely generation to say they always listen to their doctor(s), the most likely to believe that online health-related information is as reliable as that from medical professionals and the most likely to say they trust their peers more than medical professionals.

A guide to engaging Americans with healthcare information 

There is a ravenous appetite for healthcare information in the United States today. Healthcare and biopharmaceutical companies and brands should recognize that a sizeable majority of Americans are seeking health information.

“Healthcare companies need to realize that the proliferation of misinformation and lack of trust online is actually an opportunity,” said Stacey Bernstein, executive vice president and global director of digital health at Weber Shandwick, in the release. “As some of the most information-rich, research-driven organizations in the world, they are poised perhaps better than anyone else to provide the credible and relevant information that consumers are so actively seeking.”

Based on its research, Weber Shandwick recommends basic guidelines for successfully interacting with customers. Below are a sample of guidelines; more can be found in our full report.

  • Design your content for discovery. Consumers find healthcare information in a variety of places. By building content that is discoverable across multiple channels – online and offline – you can intersect your customers across their journey and ensure that they find the credible information they’re looking for.
  • Use succinct, clear and plain language in your communications. Recognize that people are swimming in information and overwhelmed by the volume, creating confusion and perceptions of conflicting facts.
  • Customize your approaches. Although there is surprisingly little difference in the number of Healthcare Information Seekers across generations, Gen Z and Millennials have different medical needs than Boomers and the Silent/Greatest generation, so content should deliver against those unique experiences. Further, Americans respect specialized expertise: different sources are credible on different health topics/issues.
  • Prove your online credibility from the outset. Trust is earned, and there’s an uphill battle to be fought to convince customers that information online, especially found on social media, is credible and trustworthy. Showcase your research-driven approach, include validation from medical professionals and experts, and bring your partners into the fold. Shore up attention-getting and awareness-building communications via social media channels with supporting evidence and facts from credible sources.
  • Provide medical doctors with support to find ways to build trust with Millennials. A perception that peers are as capable as doctors of providing healthcare information, or potentially that healthcare information can be “crowdsourced,” is concerning. Physicians need to understand the root cause of this sentiment and address it before it is too late.

See the full study here.

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4 Cheap and Easy Optical Marketing Tips

4 Cheap and Easy Optical Marketing Tips | Social Media and Healthcare |

A major growth problem for many eyecare practices is getting new patients through the door. And, with busy schedules it can be hard to brainstorm ideas for new marketing tactics that will bring in new patients. In such a competitive market, differentiating, or standing out at all, is a huge advantage for creating business through your optical marketing strategy.

The best optical marketing strategy begins with the approach that you and your staff take to patient care. If you strive to anticipate every one of your patients' eye care needs, and go above and beyond their expectations, then you're much more likely to make an everlasting impression that will inspire loyalty, delight your existing patients, and generate word of mouth referrals for your practice.

Dominate Your Optical Marketing Strategy with these 4 Tips  

Many large corporations and businesses rely on traditional methods of advertising and marketing to help their brand grow, and to keep business efficient. With the average optometrist spending approximately 1% to 2% of gross revenue on advertising and marketing, practices must be more creative and result driven with their marketing strategies. These 4 cheap and effective marketing ideas could be the spark your practice needs to see increased growth this year.

1. Sponsorship and Community Involvement

If you're an eyecare practice in a rural area, maintaining a strong sense of community is a great way to build your customer base. Cost effective ways to create this bond and increase word of mouth is sponsoring local events such as a 5k run/walk, hosting educational classes at schools, or even a little league baseball tournament. The opportunities are nearly endless as any community or charity event going on will be a great way to build positive brand awareness. When you or your staff volunteer at different events, try to keep consistency and increase brand awareness by wearing shirts with your practice's logo on it.

Sports teams may welcome your practice as an eyecare consultant to help raise awareness of eye protection. Take the opportunity to speak with coaches or league commissioners at all levels of the sport from semipro to little league. This is a fun way to get involved with an audience that most OD’s haven’t thought of communicating with yet. Patients who are coaches or athletes could be a good starting point to getting your foot in the door.

2. Promotion through Social Media

Signing up and being active on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter is completely free, other than the time it takes you to post and manage the content on your pages. Maintaining up-to-date social media pages for your practice is a way to stay connected with current and future customers, and is a great medium for showing some brand personality and having a little fun with your patients. Photography or selfie contests, promoting new products/services, or just getting a conversation started are all ways to connect and promote your practice’s brand online.

Remember, people like doing business with people that they like, so if visitors can connect and build a relationship with you online, it's likely that you will be top of mind when they are searching for an optometrist. Be sure to pay attention to your Facebook or Instagram Business accounts analytics pages to look for engagement patterns that emerge when targeting audiences of different ages, locations, and time zones.

3. Word of Mouth

Your current patients may be the most powerful marketing tool you have in your arsenal. If your practice is struggling, make your current patients the primary focus of your initial marketing efforts. If you treat your current patients right, their recommendations to family and friends may do more to build your practice than you could ever do on your own. A questionnaire on any new patient paperwork is a good way to keep track, and reward, the patients who generate word of mouth referrals for your brand. Sending gifts to patients who refer maybe more than 3 people is a good way to show your appreciation. 

Even if you are relying on word of mouth marketing, you should still develop a brand that best reflects how your personal practice operates and ensure that everything you and your staff do supports your brand. Strive to be consistent, accurate, and always deliver the level of patient care that is promised and promoted. The gifts don’t have to be expensive; the gesture is what's important. People like recognition, but most importantly they love to get things for free.  

4. Outreach Programs

Senior centers, assisted living facilities, and retirement homes are places where you can speak and provide practical health information on cataracts, glaucoma, and other common age-related eye complications that senior patients experience. Creating an outreach program with senior citizens will get you further involved with your local community and help create awareness of your practice for an audience who isn’t as active online.

A major factor to every successful marketing program is tracking your response rates and return on investment over time. Watch your sales, new customers, and the demographics of those customers to help evaluate if your outreach programs are worth the effort, time, or budget spent on them.

Marketing, whether it’s simply through word of mouth or through creative outreach programs, doesn’t have to cost you a lot of money or cause you to stress. Marketing is simply influencing the choices of your patients by demonstrating the value of your service. Marketing to potential new patients shouldn’t be seen as a tough sell, but rather a welcome invitation to get them the professional care you know you can provide.

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Why Social Media Matters in Life with Diabetes

Why Social Media Matters in Life with Diabetes | Social Media and Healthcare |

I am proud to share that our original research article exploring the impact of social media engagement on life with diabetes is now live online at the Journal of Diabetes Science & Technology. The study, conducted last summer, is titled: "What Are PWDs (People with Diabetes Doing Online? A Netnographic Analysis."

Netnography refers to the emerging methodology we used, that involves researchers immersing themselves in the environment -- much like ethnographic researchers sometimes do in African villages -- for an observational “deep dive” into the subject. We observed hundreds of online conversations to identify themes, sentiments, and perceptions. You can read the article to get all the academic details on that.

What I'm most excited about is the boost that our study results can presumably lend to legitimizing the importance of peer support and online community activity in the lives of people with diabetes! AND likewise highlight the importance for the advocacy and industry organizations that serve us.


Let me break that down into a few basic thoughts on our study results:



1. "Show Me the Research"

For years now, I've been part of a group of early advocates struggling to get doctors and other healthcare providers to recognize and respect the value of online engagement for their patients. Our rallying cry was that Social Media ought to be 'Part of the Prescription' for anyone newly diagnosed with diabetes (or arguably any chronic illness) because let's face it: medications and a set of physical instructions for treating your condition are not enough! People need psychological, social and logistical help. They need a reality check from other human beings living out in the real world with this difficult condition. And with all the new technology choices, they increasingly need experiential input, and tips and tricks to help them choose and use all this new stuff.


Whatever its downsides, social media allows for a virtual smorgasbord of this type of information and support -- available anywhere in the world 24/7, from the comfort of your own home. 

But HCPs have traditionally (and some continue to) push back, citing a lack of data showing that online involvement has any clinical / significant impact. Slowly, we're gathering a body of research bearing witness to just how powerful SM can be in patients' lives. 


I'm excited that our most recent study goes far beyond tracking hashtags or keywords, to actually grasp life themes and points of decision-making that are playing out online.  

While there is growing recognition that online health communities can provide "patient insight" to inform research, I believe our study is one of the few that simply aims to observe how PWDs are living their lives online, without any specific agenda, commercial or otherwise.   



2. Life Themes, Of Course!

To many PWDs already active online, the six major life themes we identified may come as no surprise. They clearly overlap, but each stands as an important phenomenon in its own right:

  • Humor
  • Diabetic Pride
  • Personal Relationship with Diabetes Tech Devices
  • Sharing Tips & Tricks
  • Building Community
  • Venting

Our study goes in to quite some detail explaining each of these themes and providing specific examples. We also talk about how one thing can become a catalyst for another... for example, how venting sometimes prompts people to discuss and then co-create positive solutions for their diabetes woes.

When I initially presented this study at our DiabetesMine Innovation Summit in 2017, many people in attendance who are clinicians or industry folk essentially said, "Thank you -- there's a lot of talk about the relative merits of patient social media, but we never really get to see what is actually happening online..." Many folks told us the study was eye-opening and finally brought the human touch to all this fuss about cyberspace.


Note: that's what happens when you put Communications Researchers (as opposed to Medical Scientists) on the job ;)


3.Tips, Tricks and Hacks

Far beyond commiserating and providing a sense of community, we found proof that PWDs are literally acting as 24/7 tech support for each other, asking and answering questions in a variety of formats.

Of course the incredibly active Nightscout and #WeAreNotWaiting DIY tech communities are standout examples of this. But we found that pictorial and video how-to guides on all sorts of D-related tools and tasks are incredibly prevalent, and we saw people beginning to use the new Facebook Live feature for in-the-moment help as well.

People are asking each other detailed point-blank questions like, “How do you avoid scarring from insulin pump insertion sites?” or “How do you insert a CGM sensor on your arm without help?” or "How do I apply to get a diabetes alert dog?"

Interestingly, we saw many more PWDs asking questions than answering them, indicating a strong "unmet need" for additional real-world education and support.


4. Influencing Diabetes Customers

Related to the last point, we observed plenty of evidence that the social web is enabling PWDs to influence each other’s choices, which impacts the market for devices, drugs, and services.


People are desperately seeking real-world experience and product reviews before they decide to try a new diabetes tool -- especially an expensive one like a pump or CGM that will be a multi-year commitment. And while you can read ample product reviews on the web for everything from chewing gum to automobiles, it has been nearly impossible to find this candid feedback on medical devices -- until very recently with the advent of patient social media.  

The images and reviews PWDs are sharing are creating waves of influence — literally in some cases to the point of asking each other for specific purchase decision advice (i.e. "Should I get an OmniPod?").

Of course this transcends comments on general shopping sites like Amazon, because a medical device is such an important life decision!


5. How Companies Can Get Engagement Right

We've talked a lot recently about the 'consumerization' of diabetes -- the notion that diabetes is going mainstream, with patients finally being viewed and marketed to as direct consumers. This shift was very evident in our Netnography study.

When it comes to industry being part of all this online community interaction, we observed that it can be well received if their participation comes across as authentic, and addresses real issues beyond just product marketing. For example:

  • Simply sharing what’s happening in your offices on a given day, ie, “Hey, we’re shooting a video today,” helps put a human face on the organization

  • Letting the public “peek under the hood” of plans and technology by posting detailed graphics illustrates respect and a desire for patient community input

  • Acting as a source of education by providing relatable, useful information in Infographic form, often on Pinterest and Instagram, is highly appreciated

  • Recognizing and supporting hot-button patient advocacy movements (in the absence of conflict of interest) builds tremendous good will


The last sentence of our study Conclusion section states the following:

"Health care providers and industry vendors alike would do well to respect the tenets of patient social media and begin to think of it as an important resource both for PWDs’ quality of life and for critical customer interactions."

That about sums it up, IMHO.

A huge thank you to the editors of the Journal of Diabetes Science & Technology for recognizing the value of this work.
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How to be HIPAA compliant on social media |

How to be HIPAA compliant on social media | | Social Media and Healthcare |

Back in 1996 when HIPAA was created, social media consisted of chat rooms. No one at the time could have imagined social media’s future impact. Although the HITECH Act of 2009 updated some of HIPAA’s sections to better handle technology, it still didn’t address social media.

The lack of clear guidelines may leave you feeling vulnerable. If you do interact with patients on social media, you may wonder if your interactions are HIPAA compliant or not. In fact, it can be surprisingly easy to cross the line without realizing it.

But the relationship between HIPAA and social media isn’t a mystery. Here’s what you need to know about complying with HIPAA on social media.

HIPAA and social media in a nutshell

“30% of adults are likely to share information about their health on social media sites with other patients, 47% with doctors, 43% with hospitals, 38% with a health insurance company and 32% with a drug company.”

Fluency Media

Under HIPAA, medical practices need to safeguard protected health information (PHI). A large part of this includes limiting access to information — it should only be available on a need-to-know basis. You must protect PHI from anyone who doesn’t have a right to access it, including well-meaning family members.

On social media, you need to avoid posting any of the following:

  • Images and videos of patients, even with the faces blurred out.
  • Gossip about patients, even if it doesn’t use their names or images.
  • Any information that could identify a patient — for example, if you filmed a surgery without showing the person’s face but the patient had an identifiable feature that made it possible for them to be recognized.
  • Photos or videos of patients inside your practice. Even if they’re in the lobby but no PHI is visible, their presence suggests that they are patients, which is also a violation.
  • The patient’s information, even when the patient initiated the discussion or you have written permission.

It should be clear to anyone managing social media accounts to “never share PHI.” But there is an exception you need to know about.

HIPAA has a marketing exception that can benefit your practice. It’s a good way to improve public perception and grow your practice. It can also help you get a higher ROI when using social media to market your practice.

HIPAA’s marketing exception

“60% of consumers say they trust doctors’ social media posts.”

Massmedia Health

According to the Health and Human Services (HHS) website, “A covered entity must obtain the individual’s written authorization for any use or disclosure of protected health information that is not for treatment, payment or healthcare operations or otherwise permitted or required by the Privacy Rule.” HHS specifies that this includes authorization for the purpose of marketing. Moreover, HHS defines marketing as “any communication about a product or service that encourages recipients to purchase or use the product or service.”

How does this work in practice? Let’s imagine that you’re a cosmetic dentist. The best way to promote your services is by showing before-and-after images. But you might hesitate because of HIPAA.

Don’t worry. You can share these images on social media. You can even include whole, smiling faces. But first you need to have the patient sign a release form.

The same applies to medical practices, hospitals, nonprofits, and any other organization that’s required to stay HIPAA compliant. You can use images, stories, and testimonials. However, the patient must sign a HIPAA medical information release form. Doing so will protect both the patient’s privacy and your practice.

How to create a HIPAA-compliant form for social media

It’s important to realize that not just any release form will do. To be compliant, the form itself must be HIPAA-compliant.

The form should include

  • The information that will be shared: location, medical condition, treatment, outcome, age, etc.
  • Exactly how the information or images are to be used. Will they appear in an advertising campaign? Will you make them part of a blog post?
  • How long the information or images will be used. Give it an expiration date. You can renew later if the patient agrees.
  • A statement that the patient can revoke the authorization for any reason at any time.
  • A statement that the patient can obtain a copy of the form upon request.
  • Easy-to-understand wording and explanations.

Be as clear and detailed as possible. Being vague to keep your options open isn’t a smart business practice. You could be breaking the law if the patient feels you used their information in a way they didn’t intend.

In addition to the details, any forms should be transferred and stored in a HIPAA-compliant way. You can make sure this happens by creating and enforcing a social media policy.

How to create a HIPAA-compliant social media policy

Every business that has access to PHI needs a clear social media policy. There should never be any confusion regarding what can be shared and when it can be shared.

  • Create an electronic filing system. You should be able to sort forms by expiration date and quickly retrieve them so that the scope of the authorization can be reviewed before any information is shared.
  • Develop policies and procedures. Your policies should explain how forms are obtained and stored. They should clearly state what is off-limits without a HIPAA authorization form. Your procedures should also include verifying that you have HIPAA and social media authorization every time PHI is to be shared.
  • Set up an audit system. Your policy should include how you ensure that others are following protocol regarding HIPAA and social media. Having an audit trail for your forms and any content published on social media will help you see whether or not the policy was followed.

Doing HIPAA compliance and social media right

Social media can have many downsides in healthcare. Misusing patient information and sharing it in public or private discussion groups can lead to fines, a bad reputation, and potentially a lawsuit. To avoid this, you need to have well-trained employees and the right procedures in place.

There are positive ways to use social media in healthcare, such as growing your practice through marketing initiatives, before-and-after photos, and testimonials. You just need to make sure you get HIPAA-compliant authorization forms filled out by the patient before you share anything on social media.

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Survey Weighs Effects of Patient Access to Health Info Online

Survey Weighs Effects of Patient Access to Health Info Online | Social Media and Healthcare |

wenty years ago, obtaining the latest information on health and well-being meant a trip to the library or the family physician's office for most people. But today, finding up-to-date health information can be as easy as tapping on a smartphone or clicking a mouse.


Having greater access to health information online has affected much more than how people take care of themselves. The results of a survey of family physicians conducted during the AAFP Family Medicine Experience in New Orleans in October show that easy access has substantially changed the ways FPs practice and communicate with patients.

"Our survey uncovered an interesting dynamic at play," said Robert Porter, M.D., editor-in-chief of the Merck Manuals, which conducted the survey, in a news release.( "While the ease and availability of online medical information instills confidence in family physicians, they believe 'Dr. Google' has the potential to introduce anxiety among patients."

Survey Details and Highlights

In the survey, family physicians answered seven questions on the increased availability of medical information online and its effects on patient and physician behaviors. A total of 240 family physicians who attended the conference completed the survey.

  • Results of a survey conducted during this year's Family Medicine Experience illustrate the effects of patients' access to online health information on the physician-patient relationship.
  • Of the 240 family physicians who took the survey, 97 percent reported that a patient presented to their office with misinformation from an online source.
  • The AAFP and other organizations have published guides that help patients find and evaluate online health sources for reliability.

Survey results revealed some positive aspects to patients' increased access to information. Sixty-four percent of FPs thought the expanded availability of medical information made patients more fluent in medical topics. Also, 60 percent of FPs thought the frequency of patient visits rose because a patient had read about a symptom or treatment online.

But that enhanced access also produced some unexpected outcomes. Although 82 percent of FPs thought that patients contacted their office or a nurse's line with a medical question more frequently than in previous years, 12 percent of FPs thought that patients contacted their office less frequently, and 29 percent thought that increased access to information had caused a decrease in the frequency of patient visits in recent years.

FPs also stated overwhelmingly that access to more information did not equal access to better information. Ninety-seven percent of FPs who took the survey reported that patients presented to their office with false or inaccurate information at some point.

In another point of concern, 79 percent of FPs thought the increased availability of medical information online made patients more likely to question their diagnosis or recommendation.

"In some ways, it's made appointments more complicated," one physician commented. "Patients search their symptoms online and see the worst-case scenarios, rather than the most common scenarios, so they come into appointments with more anxiety."

As a result, FPs often found themselves having to separate fact from fiction and steer patients in the right direction to get the most reliable information.

"We run into problems when patients go to online sources that aren't evidence-based medicine," explained another physician. "But patients aren't going to stop looking up their symptoms on the internet, so it's up to physicians to direct them to trusted sources."

A high percentage of FPs also reported using online sources in their own practices. Eighty-three percent of the FPs who took the survey said they regularly confirm a treatment or diagnosis using an online medical resource. Another 89 percent said that having regular access to medical information online made them more confident when interacting with patients.

Finding Reliable Sources: The Bottom Line

Anyone who uses the internet knows there's an enormous amount of health information online -- much of it false or misleading. But figuring out which sources are reliable is actually not that difficult. The AAFP,( the National Library of Medicine( and other agencies have all published guides that offer tips for finding and evaluating online health resources for reliability.

When talking about health, it's important that both family physicians and their patients use trustworthy sources. That's key to ensuring that physicians and their patients are on the same page when discussing care options, according to Jen Frost, M.D., medical director for the AAFP Division of Health of the Public and Science.

"The increased access to online health information has the potential to increase a patient's engagement in and understanding of their care," Frost told AAFP News. "But misinformation can make patient care more difficult and has the potential to cause harm.

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Why You Should Live-Tweet Your Next Conference –

Why You Should Live-Tweet Your Next Conference – | Social Media and Healthcare |

What is Live-Tweeting?

Live-tweeters use the hashtag relevant to the event they are tweeting about (which can usually be located on the conference’s website or Twitter profile). Twitter followers who cannot be at the event in person can follow along using the hashtag and this in turn expands the reach of the conference.

Live-tweeting enhances personal learning

Live-tweeting can also enhance your own personal learning as it requires you to listen more carefully and focus more sharply on the key details of a talk in order to better summarize what the speakers are saying. Furthermore, live-tweeting is a means of amplifying the conference experience, generating global reach and stimulating collaborative potential.

This learning is further consolidated with an archive of tweets on which you can reflect further after the event.  Sarah Chapman, whose work at the UK Cochrane Centre focuses on disseminating Cochrane evidence through social media, observes how this in-the-moment tweeting captures the immediacy and energy of the event: “Live tweeting can convey the atmosphere generated by a controversial or entertaining presentation in a way that will be lost by the time you get to look at the slides uploaded on the internet”.

Many times the original tweet will be supplemented by pertinent comments on Twitter from other conference attendees and also from those listening in online.  For example, someone may respond to a tweet by questioning the strength of the clinical outcomes of a study, or a practicing physician might respond with their experiences treating patients.  As a review published in J. Clin. Med. states: “The diversity of expertise and backgrounds that can communicate on Twitter is unique, and this exchange of information can be extremely beneficial.”

Live-tweeting enhances virtual learning

Reporting live from a medical conference or event allows you to provide valuable insights to those who are unable to attend in person.  Due to rising costs, concern about our carbon footprint and increasing time commitments, virtual attendance is becoming more commonplace at healthcare events – hence the rise in live-tweeting.

There are enumerate conferences and symposia to choose from these days, and that choice often becomes impossible due to the sheer diversity. Following attendees using meeting, hashtags permits in real-time remote access to the meeting, viewed through their interest / opinion spectrum. Wong, Wilkinson & Malbrain, Using social media in medicine to your advantage, with care!

Mark Brown, a UK-based mental health advocate, points out that “There have been many recent publications and events imploring us to have a national conversation about mental health.  Why then do so many fascinating discussions happen at conferences, uncaptured and inaccessible to people wanting to join them?”

Brown believes “this democratisation of access is vital if we want to broaden our mental health discussions and raise the level of sophistication in our arguments and debates. For this to happen we need some brave souls who know how to cover an event via live tweeting and who are prepared to do so out of a sense of public service.”

You might also like to read Make Your Mark at Medical Meetings with Social Media

This is the first in a two-part guide to live-tweeting.  In part 2,  I will share my tips for best practice in live-tweeting. Whether you are a conference organizer, a speaker, or an attendee these tips will help you make the most of the opportunity to report live from your next event.   

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New Facebook Group Admin Feature that Pharma Just Might Like

New Facebook Group Admin Feature that Pharma Just Might Like | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social Media Marketing Society posted on its closed Facebook group that Facebook is rolling out a new feature that will allow Facebook Group admins to anonymously remove a member’s post and give a reason why the post was removed.  Pretty cool, huh!

Note that this is for Facebook GROUPS, not Facebook pages.

This could be a handy little tool for pharmaceutical or healthcare marketers who have regulatory guidelines to abide by.  Of course, all Facebook groups should have engagement rules that are prominently visible to their members, but sometimes, people either don’t read them, don’t remember them or simply don’t care for them.

If somebody makes a first offence such as mentioning a product name and disease state in the same post (which is a big no-no in Canada since the post may be seen by consumers), the admin could remove the post and politely inform the member that the post was removed in order to follow regulatory guidelines, with a reminder and link to review the group’s policy.  If the offence is more serious or comes from a repeat offender, depending on the group’s tolerance policy, the admin may decide to give this person a chance and a warning if they wish to remain part of the group.  It goes without saying that this person would also receive the reminder and link to the group’s engagement policy.

I have checked my Facebook groups, but none of them have this feature yet.  Oh Facebook – always slowly rolling out new features and teasing those who don’t have early access!  Here’s a sneak peak at the pics that were posted by the Social Media Marketing Society.

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Social media shouldn’t erode ethics, Mujajati tells health practitioners –

Social media shouldn’t erode ethics, Mujajati tells health practitioners – | Social Media and Healthcare |

Health Professionals Council of Zambia (HPCZ) registrar Dr Aaron Mujajati has appealed to health practitioners across the country to always remember that they are still bound by the professional code of conduct.

Dr Mujajati said the coming of the Internet must not affect medical ethics in any way, and that the Council would not accept the type of behaviour that exposed the vulnerability of patients in health facilities.

Commenting of the rampant distribution of pictures of patients on social media by health workers, Dr Mujajati said, when he featured on Hot FM’s Frank on Hot show, Tuesday, that it was unfair to circulate pictures of a patient who had not given consent to the distribution.

He lamented that people were usually vulnerable when they visited the hospital, and that they need to always be assured of professionalism by practitioners.

“I was born at the border of the advent of the Internet. The advent of social media, I have lived both sides of life. Where there no was Internet, now there is Internet. And because now, we are in this information age and information moves very fast, some practitioners forget that these are just tools. Facebook is a tool for communication; it does not influence or change the practice of medicine. That’s why we constantly remind our practitioners that medical ethics have not changed because of social media; medical ethics have not changed because we live in the information age, no! You are still required to uphold those standards. It’s unfortunate, particularly with social media that people find it [okay] taking pictures of patients and put them on social media indiscriminately. That’s unacceptable and I would like to appeal to and remind practitioners out there that you are still bound by the professional code of conduct, you are still bound by those medical ethics, and as a Council, we will not accept that type of behaviour,” Dr Mujajati cautioned.

“People come to the hospital and they are very vulnerable. You know, when you go to the hospital, you are extremely vulnerable and you are at the mercy of this practitioner and you need to be assured that this practitioner will be very professional with you. You don’t want a woman go to the hospital and then you find they are sexually molested, that’s unacceptable! We want to make sure that when people go to these facilities, they are confident, they feel safe. Of course, human error happens, but people should have that confidence that when we go into these facilities, we will feel safe. And the Health Professionals Council in terms of its professional code of conduct, it’s very clear. For those who are in doubt, it’s even on our website and it’s easily accessible.”

Dr Mujajati, however, said health practitioners were allowed to take pictures of patients where consent was given.

But he insisted that health facilities must always employ licenced health professionals.

“A practitioner is allowed to take a picture of a patient’s medical condition, provided that practitioner can demonstrate or prove that they got a written consent from the patient. Even where written consent is given, the rules require that you hide all the identifiers of the patient. So, if it’s the face, you blur it; if it’s the names, you remove them. But the patient must also be made aware of what you are going to do with that material. Now, where there is no consent, it’s a problem and consent, it’s not just someone signing a piece of paper, it requires that the practitioner has fully explained to the patient and the patient fully understands and has made an informed decision. So, the issue of taking pictures is not new, practitioners have always taken pictures. They are important for training, consultation. But sometimes that privilege can be abused and that’s why management in these facilities need to keep a keen eye and continue constantly reminding the practitioners. That’s why we insist that institutions must employ practitioners who are licensed because their behaviour is regulated,” said Dr Mujajati.

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5 Healthcare Marketing Tactics Worth the Budget Investment

5 Healthcare Marketing Tactics Worth the Budget Investment | Social Media and Healthcare |

For in-house healthcare marketers, striking a balance among your goals, your time and your budget can be a headache. What you do yourself, what you decide to outsource and what you can afford can vary by quarter, and there's no easy answer for where you should place the most emphasis. 

Read on for key marketing tactics that are worth keeping in your budget.



One of the most common mistakes made among healthcare marketing teams is an overemphasis on the services they provide and too little focus on the impacts that those services have on their patients. When patients research who they want to have manage their health, they look for three key pieces of information—where the organization is, whether their treatment will be covered by insurance and how their treatment will impact them. If your website only talks about treatments you offer and fails to speak on the impacts those treatments have, then you've missed an opportunity to connect with patients on the things that are most important to them.



With the ever-rising cost of medical care, people are more cautious than ever about the healthcare provider they choose—especially for planned procedures. Because of this, it is your job as a healthcare marketer to ensure that the digital presences of your organization are full of positive reviews and that your patients feel comfortable referring others to you. To do this, make sure you're taking the time to follow up with your patients about the care they received. Find out their thoughts, gauge how likely they are to refer someone else to you and ask them for a review. Sometimes, caring enough to follow up is all it takes to swing someone's opinion in your favor.

Wondering how to get started? Check out 4 Key Takeaways You Should Get From Your Patient Surveys.


Social media allows healthcare marketers to connect directly with patients in a way that is both casual and conversational. Take advantage of this forum to drive digital testimonials of your physicians and care providers. Post a link to a physician's page on your website, and ask users about the impact that doctor has had on their health. Patients with positive experiences will love to provide glowing, off-hand reviews in the comments section, which will boost your reputation.



The key to generating website traffic rests in content creation. The SEO benefits of steadily generating relevant content on your website cannot be overstated. As if that weren't enough, consumers genuinely appreciate insightful, expert-generated content, and having that content on your website will boost your reputation and keep your organization top of mind. For tips and tricks on content creation, check out 5 Things Your Hospital or Clinic Website Content Should Do.


Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising was practically invented for the healthcare industry. With PPC ads, you can ensure that your hospital or clinic appears at the top of the page on certain searches. It's an incredibly effective way to begin the process of connecting with potential patients. Combined with a content-generation SEO strategy, pay-per-click ads offer peace of mind that your organization is appearing toward the top of Google's search results, which allows you to focus on the day-to-day tasks specific to your hospital or clinic

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Marketing keeps your patient base in the know

Marketing keeps your patient base in the know | Social Media and Healthcare |

Dentistry is going through a major transformation being driven by technology, which makes the dental profession more efficient, fun, and profitable. Practices that embrace this technological revolution see the positive results on a daily basis. Their use has reinvigorated the dynamic between dentist and team and, certainly, between dental office and patients. Technology reduces patient time in the chair, condenses multiple visits for treatment, and frees up your schedule for additional new appointments, while helping dentists deliver higher levels of comfort and convenience to patients.

Why then, does the dental community not give the same time and attention to marketing these innovations as they do adopting them? Thanks to innovative technologies like CAD/CAM single-visit dentistry, clear aligners, dental lasers, noninvasive oral cancer-screening, in-chair teeth whitening, and more, dentists are able to provide patients with a level of care and comfort that was unimaginable just a few years ago.

Unfortunately, the typical dental patient has no idea that these remarkable tools exist, what they do, or where to find them. According to the Futuredontics’ survey, “What Dental Patients Want,” nearly half (45%) of individuals between the ages of 45-54 said their decision to patronize a practice is based on its use of advanced technology. What’s more, many patients between the ages of 25-44 said that they would switch from their current dentist if they did not offer advanced technology treatment options.

Because most dentists don’t feature technology in their practice marketing, few practices are reaping the full benefit of their sizable investments in new technology. Dentists using the latest dental technologies enjoy a distinct marketing advantage that — when properly leveraged — has great patient appeal. The good news from a marketing standpoint is that any dental practice sophisticated enough to have invested in cutting-edge technology will likely already have all the marketing tools needed to successfully promote it to patients. The real challenge of marketing the benefits of dental technology is making sure you’re using all the tools at your disposal to their maximum effectiveness.

The golden rule of successful technology marketing: Think like a patient

Over-explaining the equipment is a frequent mistake. The simple fact is that patients don’t care about technology for technology’s sake. All they really want to know are the benefits (i.e., what’s in it for them), so be sure to keep clinical jargon to a minimum. You need to translate the advantages your technology offers into language the average patient can appreciate.

Generally speaking, the benefits with the broadest patient appeal are those that enhance their lifestyle with a minimum disruption to their day-to-day life. Patients want to hear about technologies that save time and reduce costs, or improve cosmetic appearance and promote peace of mind — but it’s up to you to get them to see it that way. Technology fails as a marketing tool if patients don’t know about it. And it fails if you tell them just what it does, not how it makes their life better.

Spreading the word

Here are the top seven ways to help you grow your patient-base and get the best return from your investment in dental technology.

No. 1: Website

It’s important to prominently feature your technological capabilities on your website for both new and existing patients. Use callouts or headlines to promote the specific benefits your technology offers, (e.g., “same-day restorations” or “safely whiten teeth up to eight shades,” and “state-of-the-art oral cancer screening in 5 minutes”). You should also consider adding separate pages dedicated to popular treatments like CEREC®, Invisalign®, and implants. These pages should include a brief — not overly technical — explanation of what the treatment does and a detailed breakdown of the many ways this amazing technology benefits patients (e.g., comfort, cost, appearance, timesaving). Ideally, your website will have a video that explains why so many patients today are choosing specific, technology-based treatments over more traditional methods or a video testimonial from a satisfied patient.

No. 2: New patient phone calls

It’s important to distinguish your practice as the high-tech, comfort-conscious office when speaking with new patients on the telephone. That’s why it’s crucial that your whole staff is well versed in the benefits of specific technologies like CAD/CAM systems, dental lasers, and digital X-ray imaging equipment, among others. Mentioning your technological capabilities offers the perfect opportunity to assure callers that you provide state-of-the-art care in a manner they’ll appreciate: efficiently, economically, and comfortably.

No. 3: Practice brochures

Be sure to display promotional brochures for the new technologies you offer in your waiting room and operatories. Your product sales representative may be able to supply you with preprinted marketing materials, or you can create your own brochure. If you opt to develop your own custom brochure, make sure it’s professionally written and designed. Depending upon the quantity you need, beautiful 4-color, 8 ½” x 11″ two-fold brochures can be printed for just pennies apiece at your local digital printer.

No. 4: Office tours

Office tours offer a unique opportunity to wow patients with your practice’s technical capabilities. They’re also the ideal time to explain the advantages of specific technologies and treatments. Come up with a simple script you and your staff can use to explain your technology to interested patients on their first visit.

No. 5: Existing patients

Your practice’s existing patients are your best candidates for new treatments. That’s because it is much easier explaining the benefits to a patient whose trust you’ve earned than folding it into the conversation when you’re trying to bring on a new patient. Talk about the benefits of technology during treatment; remind patients that you invested in this technology to make their experience better — and make sure they understand how specific high-tech treatment options are better than other methods.

No. 6: Social media

Social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and especially Instagram are ideal for promoting your technology. You can post articles, coupon promotions, video testimonials, and before-and-after photos to generate interest in the benefits of each product. Be sure to always get a signed release before posting any photos or videos of patients.

No. 7: Patient communications

Patient communications (e.g., newsletters, social media, emails, special offers, postcards) are among the most cost-effective ways to let patients know that your practice offers a variety of advanced treatment options.

Smart marketing is a must

It must be reiterated that your practice’s use of advanced technology cannot live in a vacuum. You invested in the technology — now make sure to feature it prominently in your marketing, so both you and your patients enjoy its benefits. It’s important to use every tool at your disposal across all channels — traditional, digital, and social — to educate and motivate patients to seek out your quality of care. Do this, and you are sure to enjoy profitable production for years to come.

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Frontiers | Possibilities and Pitfalls of Social Media for Translational Medicine 

Frontiers | Possibilities and Pitfalls of Social Media for Translational Medicine  | Social Media and Healthcare |

We live in an age where the sharing of scientific findings and ideas is no longer confined to people with access to academic libraries or scientific journals. Social media have permitted for knowledge and ideas to be shared with an unprecedented speed and magnitude. This has made it possible for research findings to have a greater impact and to be rapidly implemented in society. However, the spread of unfiltered, unreferenced, and non-peer-reviewed articles through social media comes with dangers as well. In this perspective article, we aim to address both the possibilities and pitfalls of social media for translational medicine. We describe how social media can be used for patient engagement, publicity, transparency, sharing of knowledge, and implementing findings in society. Moreover, we warn about the potential pitfalls of social media, which can cause research to be misinterpreted and false beliefs to be spread. We conclude by giving advice on how social media can be harnessed to combat the pitfalls and provide a new avenue for community engagement in translational medicine.



The emergence of social media has changed the way we communicate and allows for knowledge and ideas to be shared with an unprecedented speed and magnitude. Similarly, an exponentially increasing amount of research about social media is being published (Figure 1). Social media come in a variety of forms, including collaborative projects such as Wikipedia, (micro)blogs like Twitter, content communities like YouTube, social networking sites like Facebook, and gaming communities like Second Life (1). These platforms are accessible to all and provide forums where people can freely share thoughts, opinions, and knowledge without—in general—any form of censorship or fact-checking.


Figure 1. Number of publications found on PubMed with the search term “social media,” as shown by publication year.


Several groups have addressed how social media are used by the research and medical communities. Medical researchers have shown doubt about professional use of social media, describing it to be incompatible with research (2). Social media are mostly used for personal and less for professional purposes (34). Yet, on the level of society, social media have great potential. There are many examples of its use for public health and prevention purposes (56). Additionally, the rapid dissemination of research findings and the spreading of knowledge to society has increased public interest and involvement in research. Consequently, patients increasingly can and want to be part of developing solutions for their illness (37).

The use of social media for purposes of implementation and translation of research is still in its early stages. At the same time, social media are clearly being used by both patients and professionals for personal content and information sharing. Various efforts of using social media for research are also increasing. Thus, it is important to raise awareness and understanding of the possibilities and pitfalls that social media present to the research and medical communities as well as to regulatory bodies, patients, and industries. Therefore, in this study, we aimed to address both the possibilities and potential pitfalls of social media for translational medicine. We aimed to provide a brief and broad overview of this topic that could steer the community to be more mindful when using social media. A comprehensive review of all different aspects relating to social media and translational medicine is beyond the scope of this perspective article.

Possibilities of Social Media for Translational Medicine

Rapid and Easy Dissemination of Research

Social media are widely used all over the world. Facebook, for example, had an average of 1.45 billion daily active users and 2.20 billion monthly active users in March 2018 (8). With this many users, social media provide platforms for researchers and institutes to quickly disseminate their research plans and findings to a greater public. Through online pages of journals, associations, newsgroups, and direct-sharing, it is relatively easy for researchers to reach a broad audience compared to the more “conventional” sharing of knowledge through publishing in scientific journals. Relevant research findings that are interesting to the community may rapidly spread through social media and go viral. This way, social media may be used to rapidly spread and implement public health findings to the general public. An additional benefit is the easier recruitment of traditionally “hard to reach” populations for medical research (911). Furthermore, it increases the chances of research being picked up by peers and stakeholders (4). Faster dissemination of research findings might also prevent other research groups from repeating the same research, decreasing the potential waste of resources. Recently, tools were developed that visualize the magnitude of impact of social media on scientific publications. This is important, as number of tweets within the first 3 days after publication of an article was found to predict which articles would be highly cited on Google Scholar or Scopus (12). The most commonly used tracking tool is Altmetric, which tracks the amount of rumor about an article on nearly all professional and social media outlets (13). For example, an article about the association of fats and carbohydrates with cardiovascular disease published in medical journal The Lancet was at time of writing only cited by 21 articles (14). However, the real “buzz” was generated by 8,313 tweets, 450 Facebook posts and 168 news stories, adding it to the top 5% of the most discussed publications of the year (14).

Critical Review of Existing Articles and Raw Data Sets

In this era of exponentially increasing numbers of publications, using the reviewing power of the scientific community is an opportunity that should not be missed in order to improve overall research quality. As an extension of recent developments toward more transparent peer reviewing, several social platforms that allow open peer review have been developed, encouraging readers to critique existing publications in-depth. In addition, users are stimulated to upload raw data sets as well, including negative results that might otherwise never have been published, thereby counteracting the effect of publication bias (15). However, the scale of impact of open review might be limited to high-profile work that raises concerns, as those are more likely to attract attention (16).

Possibilities for Raising Funds for Research

With its fast dissemination of information and large number of users, social media platforms have the potential to broadly raise awareness for medical research and specific diseases. Social media platforms have been demonstrated to play an important role in reaching potential donors and raising money in crowd funding campaigns (17). In 2014, $115 million was raised from the Ice Bucket Challenge on Facebook for research into new treatment strategies for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) (18). In 2016, a 6-year old Dutch boy who was recently diagnosed with a pontine glioma raised € 2.6 million for the Dutch Red Cross by daring people to paint their nails and post a picture on social media (1920). Moreover, a social media-based fundraising contest launched by the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) raised more than $1 million for the UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, surpassing their initial fundraising goal 10-fold (2122). Thus, with the large audience that can be reached through social media, new opportunities for raising funds arise.

Networking Between Clinicians, Researchers, and Patient Groups

Keeping an up-to-date online presence on social media may prove valuable for clinicians and researchers. Social media create an accessible platform for peer-to-peer discussions and form an increasingly important networking tool. Depending on the platform used, potential target audiences include professionals as well as patient representatives.

Social media outlets also enable patients and patient representatives to efficiently unite into groups. This may be especially beneficial for patients with novel or rare diseases (23). In addition to providing guidance, advice, and support to peers, these platforms may be used to exchange and seek medical information from each other and from medical professionals (24). A unique opportunity for clinicians and/or researchers lies in initiating these groups, which facilitates immediate contact with patient groups. This can provide the researcher with valuable first-hand information and enable patients and their representatives to directly influence research and prioritize projects (25). Similar collaborations on social media between patients, clinicians, and researchers have been shown to contribute to overall scientific knowledge (25).

Big Data Analytics for Prediction Models and Assessing Trends/Outbreaks

Social media outlets have the potential to be used as exponentially growing, observational datasets (2627). A well-known example of big data research performed on online data is the prediction of global influenza outbreaks by analyzing the number of searches of the word “influenza” or symptoms of influenza-like illness on Google (also known as Google Flu Trends, currently discontinued) (28). The same can be done using data social media such as Twitter. For example, based on data from Twitter posts (tweets) researchers were able to detect increases and decreases in influenza prevalence with a 85% accuracy (29). Another example is a study that found that a model that analyzed language expressed on Twitter was better at predicting atherosclerotic heart disease mortality than a model that combined 10 common risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, and hypertension (30). Social media have also been demonstrated to contain information on health-related behaviors, such as smoking (31), sexual risk behavior (32), and sedentary behavior (33). Finally, they could be used to monitor public opinion on important health topics, such as vaccines (34) and opinions on specific projects or studies (35).

Potential Pitfalls of Social Media for Translational Medicine

Lack of Peer Review and Filtering of Quality

The increased speed and magnitude of the spread of scientific findings through social media comes at a price. There is no system for peer review or filtering of social media, which means that any idea can be spread; even if it is fabricated or not supported by evidence. The vast majority of social media users do not have a scientific background and may be ill-equipped to judge the quality of evidence and sources. For example, people might perceive a blog or advertisement stating “proven by science” as just as trustworthy as a research paper in a peer reviewed scientific journal. However, most people will never read the latter; full research articles are simply not as fun and easy to read as readily digestible news items on social media.

Fake News Spreads Fast and Is Difficult to Refute

Fake news often disseminates rapidly through social media. A recent study compared the differential diffusion of ~126,000 verified true and false news stories through Twitter. Worryingly, the study revealed that false stories spread much faster, further and more broadly than did true news stories. True news stories rarely spread to more than 1,000 people, whereas false stories often reached up to a 100 times more people (36). Similarly, false stories spread several times faster (36), proving what Charles Spurgeon's already asserted in 1855 “a lie will go around the world while truth is pulling its boots on” (37). False stories are generally more novel and trendy than true stories, which are often more sober and nuanced, and it is part of human nature to be attracted to novelty (38). Novel information is most valuable to decision-making (39), and surprising content can induce physiological arousal that encourages people to spread information and cause content to go “viral” (40).

Once a fake story has spread, it becomes increasingly difficult to refute it. This principle is generally known as Brandolini's law, or the “Bullshit Asymmetry Principle”: the amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than that needed to produce it (41). Often, the fake news being spread is relatively harmless and primarily amusing. For example, a story by a doctor about a baby boom in Iceland 9 months after a football victory has gone viral, even though it was debunked by statistical analyses (42). Unfortunately, there are also examples of pervasive fake news stories that endanger public health. Perhaps the most famous of these stories is the case of Dr. Wakefield, who wrote an article that suggested a link between the MMR-vaccine and autism (43). The study was soon discovered to be fraudulent, the article was officially retracted, and Dr. Wakefield's UK medical license was retracted (44). It is now 14 years after the retraction of this article, but its fraudulent results continue to refrain people from taking vaccinations (45). A search on Facebook reveals 109 public pages and 94 discussion groups about vaccines with collectively more than a million members and followers, such as @thetruthaboutvaccines (136 k followers) where daily memes are posted to warn people about putative risks of vaccination, including autism. Psychological studies have shown that incorrect memories continue to influence decision making even when you are aware that the memory is false (46), which may explain part of the persistence of these stories. Similarly, most strategies to correct vaccine misinformation are ineffective and could even backfire (47). With fake news being this difficult to refute, it invites the question whether the dangers of the fast and broad dissemination on social media outweigh the advantages.

Misinterpretation of Research

Aside from fake or fraudulent research being spread on social media, there is also the risk of genuine research findings to be misinterpreted. Conclusions of research findings are often simplified and overly extrapolated in the media. A prime example of this happened in 2015, when a study on cancer risk was published (48). The authors concluded that 65% of the variation in cancer risk among different tissues could be explained by the total number of stem cell divisions and thus “bad luck” (i.e., random mutations arising during DNA replication in normal, non-cancerous stem cells). Even though the study did not explore the causes of cancer, major news headlines (mis)interpreted: “most cancers are caused by bad luck–not bad judgement, says study” (49), “most cancers are ‘caused by bad luck–not lifestyle”” (50), and similar titles (51). Six days after publication, an additional press release addressed these erroneous conclusions, but they had already been shared on social media extensively. This exemplifies the damage that can be done when research findings are misinterpreted and spread to the general public.

Dissemination of Pseudoscience Through Social Media

The line between science and pseudoscience is often blurred and it is difficult to determine what is true and false (5253). Sometimes, pseudoscientific information can give false hope to patients with disease. Moreover, while pseudoscientific supplements are often relatively harmless, there are also dangerous advices and practices, which are readily being spread through social media. For example, the use of alternative treatments and supplements without proven efficacy (52) are often promoted through social media. Moreover, multiple procedures for tampering with existing drugs can be obtained via the internet (53). These procedures are illegal and unconfirmed to result in the drug formulation of interest, which in some cases can even lead to (fatal) intoxications (54). This makes the spreading of pseudoscientific findings a potentially harmful situation.

With the increased use of social media, the public is paying closer attention to bloggers and celebrities—regardless of their medical or scientific background—than to experts in their respective fields of interest. For example, Dr. Mercola, an osteopathic physician, has almost 2 million followers on Facebook, a strong online presence and daily emails to subscribers where he pushes “alternative” or “miracle” supplements to the masses. However, in 2016, Dr. Mercola, was ordered to refund customers up to $5.3 million for the false advertisement of his own company's tanning beds that he claimed would reduce chances of getting cancer. This was not his first trouble with regulators: the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned him three times between 2005 and 2011 for violating federal laws for marketing a device he claimed was an alternative to mammograms and for making unproven claims about dietary supplements (55). Dr. Oz is another proponent of pseudoscience and “miracle cures” for an array of conditions. He has 6 million Facebook followers and his own television show. Perhaps most notable is his persistent advertising of “miracle” weight loss supplements that will be effective with little to no exercise. He was criticized by the Senate in 2014 for such unsupported claims for specific supplements and was called to be removed from the faculty at Columbia University, where he worked as a cardiothoracic surgeon. During his testimony, Dr. Oz acknowledged that many supplements he lends support to would not stand up to scientific scrutiny (56) and a recent study confirmed that most of his claims were not supported and, in some instances, contradicted by evidence (57). These instances are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to examples of pseudoscientific ideas being spread to a large audience.

How to Best Use Social Media

In 2016, politician Michael Gove famously claimed “people have had enough of experts” (58). This assertion was confirmed when the majority of the UK voted to leave the EU against all expert advice. What does this mean for us as a research community, the “experts” on healthcare, and how can we use social media to combat fake news and pseudoscience that could endanger translational medicine and public health?

We believe that we, as a research community, have a responsibility to use social media to spread research findings of public interest and to combat fake news that can be harmful to society. One way to counter the dangerous spread of misinformation is for scientists to critically evaluate the scientific news stories and report inaccuracies in order to correct or refute them. As news media outlets are more likely to report data that are compelling or sensational, it is essential to provide information that is interesting to the general public while at same time maintaining standards for reporting the accuracy of the relayed information (59). Another possibility is for the scientific community to use a rating and online review system similar to travel-review websites such as TripAdvisor, in order to establish consensus about the validity and quality of research and health claims that are circulating on the internet (41). Moreover, several social media groups have been established specifically for refuting false news, such as the Facebook and Twitter group “Refutations to Anti-Vaccine Memes” (@RtAVM), which has 233,871 members that aim to refute fake news stories about anti-vaccine movements by responding with rational arguments and counter-memes that dispel false-beliefs. However, confirmation bias can be strong and it remains to be seen whether people with opposing views will be convinced or even read such pages with opposing views.

Another approach for scientists to reach people with opposing views is to think small and to begin with sharing information within their immediate social network. Many scientists have several hundreds of social media connections, 519 on average, and these personal connections could mean that people trust and value their opinions, especially in their field. It has been suggested that every scientist can be a “nerd of trust” within their network of friends and family, and collectively, we as a scientific community could have the potential to influence the opinion of a large part of society (60).


We live in an exciting age, where social media allow for unrestricted spreading of scientific findings at an extraordinary pace, which brings major advantages for translational medicine, but comes with several potential dangers and pitfalls as well (as summarized in Table 1). We hope that this perspective article helps translational researchers to tackle the challenges and harness the possibilities of social media for the advancement of science.

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Ferreting out prescription drug scams on social media

Ferreting out prescription drug scams on social media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Are you in pain?”

Millions of Facebook users saw an ad asking this question and suggesting that relief was available by clicking here. Those who clicked were presented with a pop-up survey that sought more information about their pain condition, along with insurance and personal contact information. For the unsuspecting folks who filled out the survey, their involvement in a multimillion-dollar fraudulent prescription drug scheme had just begun.

I head a team of investigators at Express Scripts. We spend each day identifying and tracking social media scams that target vulnerable individuals looking for relief from pain and other ailments. Facebook and other social media platforms are the latest breeding ground for prescription drug fraud perpetrated by physicians and pharmacies who’ve been recruited by third-party “marketing firms” posing as telemedicine companies to sell high-cost medications at extra-inflated prices to consumers’ health insurance plans.


The scheme often works like this: Once you’ve given your phone number, you get a call from the marketing firm. A representative asks questions about your condition and your health insurance provider. Most states have a patient counseling prerequisite that requires a patient to have a consultation with the clinician prescribing a medication and/or the pharmacist filling it. Sometimes this conversation, or a perfunctory telemedicine call with a health care provider, is claimed to fulfill the patient counseling requirement.

With little or no understanding of your medical history or condition, a physician who is in on the scam writes a prescription for an expensive pain drug, typically a topical application such as lidocaine cream, that is usually available over the counter at a fraction of the cost. The prescription is sent to a specific mail order pharmacy that is also involved in the scam. Some days later, you receive the medication at your doorstep. Most often the copay has been waived, and the insurer is left to pay the bill for the medication.

Medicare used to be the primary target of this type of fraud. But as the government aggressively pursued these schemes, the perpetrators shifted their sights to consumers with commercial insurance. The schemes take advantage of widely varying state laws governing pharmacy and telemedicine practices. They can blur both legality and law enforcement jurisdictions when prescriptions are sent across state lines through mail order pharmacies. Telemedicine, which provides some people with much-needed access to health care practitioners, has been harnessed for these prescription drug scams and contributes to their proliferation.

In some cases, the scammers prey specifically on people with insurance plans that do not allow the insurer to restrict the prescription of specific medications. Such restrictions are often absent in plans that allow a more generous benefit, such as union-provided plans.

In one case that our team investigated, a physician in the Dallas area wrote almost 3,000 suspect prescriptions for patients, almost all of them during a nine-month period, costing more than $4 million. To put this into perspective, the average cost for each of these prescription claims was around $1,400, whereas many of these medications could be purchased over the counter or as a prescription for less than $50 each.

Using advanced data analytics that compared prescribing patterns of specialists in the physician’s area, we were able to identify his prescribing behaviors as potentially fraudulent and reported him to the FBI for investigation. Once aware that he was under scrutiny, the physician ceased writing all prescriptions for these high-cost drugs.

Yet the scam continued. Another Dallas-area doctor, likely recruited by the same “marketing firm,” began writing an excessive number of high-cost prescriptions for the same patients as the doctor originally involved in the fraud. In a four-month period, he wrote more than 1,000 prescriptions for drugs that cost a total of $1.75 million. Our investigative team followed the prescription trail to this second physician, who we also reported to the FBI.

So far this year, we have referred 12 prescribers to 18 separate state medical boards who racked up more than $17 million in prescriptions. We have also shared information with the FBI about an additional eight prescribers with a combined drug spend of almost $14 million. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Leveraging big data to identify the perpetrators of prescription drug scams has been an essential tool in ferreting out these fraudulent players.

An even better way to halt these scams is for consumers to never click on beguiling ads in the first place — and, if they do, to never give out personal or insurance information when asked for it online. Also be wary of anyone offering free medication on social media or rewards such as gift cards for filling a prescription. And as we enter an age when telemedicine is becoming a more common form of care, it’s especially important to make sure that the clinician on the other end of the line is trustworthy.

If you’re solicited by a physician on social media, assume he or she is more interested in money than in your health.

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Social media utilisation by ophthalmic and non-ophthalmic resident doctors in Nigeria 

Social media utilisation by ophthalmic and non-ophthalmic resident doctors in Nigeria  | Social Media and Healthcare |
Social media utilisation by ophthalmic and non-ophthalmic resident doctors in Nigeria
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Social Media Marketing Tips & Strategies for Doctors 

#RussellBrunson10X #Clickfunnels #MarketingStrategies Social Media Marketing Tips & Strategies for Doctors | Russell Brunson10X | ClickFunnels | Facebook
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Unleashing the Power of Patient Newsletters

Unleashing the Power of Patient Newsletters | Social Media and Healthcare |

Patient retention is critical to the life blood of your practice, but just as important, if not more, is being able to consistently acquire new patients to continue to grow and maintain a healthy patient base. Word-of-mouth is universally agreed on as the most effective way to gain new patient referrals, and hopefully you’re taking advantage of the role social media can play on the growth of your practice, but what other possible avenues or marketing strategies have you tried for acquiring new patients? Are you running out of ideas?

Statistics suggest that 85% of patients enjoy receiving and reading their patient newsletter. If you’re not sending patient newsletters to your patients in between visits, you are overlooking a very valuable tool to connect and communicate with them and may want to consider actively utilizing this approach. In fact, it is actually a very effective way to foster stronger relationships, increase loyalty and obtain quality patient referrals.

Branding with Newsletters
If you are thoughtful about the information you include in your patient newsletters, they can actually be a great tool for branding your practice as the experts in the area. The more you customize and personalize the content of your newsletters,  incorporating facts and information relevant to trending health concerns or benefits, the more valuable a resource your newsletters will be and the less likely your patients will be to pass up reading them every month.

By engaging your patients through newsletters, you also ensure that:

  • Your practice stays on the forefront of your patients’ minds
  • You are actively engaging your patients and reminding them to consider their health
  • You get the opportunity every month to share best health practices and advice
  • Your patients are educated and have information they can share with friends and family on a regular basis (including the caring and concerned source of that information)
  • You are taking advantage of a strategic and effective marketing tool useful for both existing and new patients

I’m a fan of strategic how can you use your newsletters as a more effective tool for patient acquisition? Let’s take a look…

1. Keep it Real
How well do your patients know you? Do they know anything about you besides the fact that you are the guy in the white coat they call when they have a concern about their health or need to get in for their regular care appointment? What makes you unique from or more interesting than every other provider out there? What keeps them coming back…and then spreading the word about you and your great staff?

If you want your patients to tell other people about you, give them something interesting to talk about. Do they know what you enjoy doing in your spare time, how many kids you have and what activities they love to engage in? These are the kinds of things you know about the people in your life that you care about and have a meaningful relationship with, so why wouldn’t you get to know your patients and allow them to get to know you in the same way? Letting your patients see and experience a different side of you will strengthen the connection you have with them and the trust they will have in you.

2. Involve your patients
Everyone appreciates their opinion being valued and considered. As you think about what you want to include in your monthly newsletters, consider getting feedback from your patients as to what types of things they might be interested in reading. This way you are providing them with information they actually care about and will be more likely to make a topic of conversation while they are out with their friends or at a family gathering.

3. Brag Your Swag
You may want to even consider having a section of your newsletter dedicated to highlighting a different patient or family every month as well as a staff member, which will add a more personal touch to your outreach. Acknowledge and celebrate with your patients their anniversary, a new grandchild, a special achievement, award or contribution, or even a service project they were involved in, a special talent they have, etc. This type of content will send the message that your practice really does care about and appreciate your patients and can go a long way in improving patient relationships.

4. Don’t Forget Your Referring Doctors!
A personalized newsletter sent to your referring doctors will also foster solid, positive relationships with them and ensure an effective and consistent means of reinforcing your referral relationships. Your referring doctors are real people too…make sure that the information you include in their newsletters is just as engaging and personal in order to strengthen that source of new business to support you in achieving maximum success in new patient acquisition efforts.

A quarterly or monthly newsletter will enhance the long-term success of your patient relationships and ultimately increase the income generated for your practice resulting from new patient referrals. In addition, your newsletters will likely assist you in reducing your attrition by more effectively engaging your patients and reducing no-shows and cancellations.

Lastly, actively reaching out and engaging with your patients will ensure every patient feels as if they matter to you. Making them feel appreciated will go a long way when it comes to sharing that personal and positive patient experience with their friends and loved ones.

Take the next step. Once you've mastered newsletters, find ways to connect online. Read our free guide, "How to Make your Practice Look Awesome Online."

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Instagram: You Can't Treat It LIke Just Another Social Network

Instagram: You Can't Treat It LIke Just Another Social Network | Social Media and Healthcare |

Instagram is as similar to Facebook and Twitter as the Sahara desert is to the Arctic tundra. Yes, both are deserts, but they both require different tools. You won’t bring a snow plow to the hot Sahara desert and, likewise, you wouldn’t bring shorts and a beach towel to the icy Arctic tundra. Thus, you shouldn’t use one set of all-encompassing tools for every social media network. They each have their own climates and require different tips and strategies. In this post, we will discover the features that make Instagram unique and how you can harness its power to grow your dental practice.

1. Don’t Put a link in the Caption

This may seem like a small detail, but it might be the reason for your low conversions from Instagram. One conversion is equal to one link click. While on social media, users move quickly through information and will not take the time to copy and paste a link into a search engine.  Therefore, all of the links you use on the internet should be clickable. To make a link clickable on Instagram, you must either put the link in the bio of your page. A common practice is to write ‘Click link in the bio’ in the caption of your post. This will direct all the traffic to one link.

So, what’s the downside? First, you can only have one link in the description, so, if you opt to direct traffic to the description they always go to the same place. Secondly, if you want to change the link every day and you use a third party system to post content on your social media pages, such as Hootsuite or Buffer, you will have to go to the post after it is on your Instagram and manually change the link in the bio. Yes, this is more time consuming, but to increase your conversion rates from Instagram, it’s worth it!

2. Add to Your Stories and IGTV

Apart from Facebook, Instagram is the only social network that has Stories. Posting Instagram stories andInstagram television (IGTV) content can strengthen the relationship between you and your followers. Think of these features as peak inside or behind the scenes of your practice. Both features should show exclusive and more intimate content than anywhere else on your Instagram page. If you have a verified account or if you have over 10,000 followers you can add links to your Instagram stories. This will make it easier for your followers to connect with your website and will increase conversion rates. To become verified go to your Instagram settings. Next, select ‘Request Verification’. Instagram will ask you for information about the name of your practice and a photo of your drivers license to prove your identity. If they accept your request, then you will be able to add links with your stories along with building trust with your followers.

3. Hashtags Are Key

Similar to Twitter, hashtags on Instagram are used to sort information into groups so they are easier to find. For example, if a potential patient in your area wants a white smile, they may search #teethwhitening. In this search, if you use this hashtag in the caption of your Zoom! whitening machine, then the photo will appear. This is a great way to get people in your area interested in your practice, even if they are not current patients or if they do not follow you on Instagram.

4. Posts Should Go-Together

More so than any other social network, Instagram is an aesthetic place. From filters to layouts, Instagram has shown that they can show the beautiful side of any practice. To match the other beautified practices on Instagram, chose a similar styled filter for every post. For dental offices, a good theme is to brighten photos to make them look whiter and cleaner. Unlike Facebook or Twitter where the photos on the feed are arranged into a long list, the photos are arranged into a compilation on your profile. When posting you need to pay close attention to the previously posted photos to make sure they match in their arrangement. Look at the example above. The photos in the feed all match and look consistent. This will improve your overall appearance of your Instagram and show to patients that you are comfortable with the platform.

For the best social media results, it is important to pay attention to the different quirks of every network. Patients that frequent these networks are familiar with these and expect the pages they follow to capitalize on the network’s unique features. For more information about social media or to speak with one of our dental marketing experts feel free to contact us here!

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Social POV: Twitter for Patient Engagement –

What is Twitter Used For?

Each day, 500 million tweets are sent from every corner of the world. Unlike image-focused Instagram and relatively restriction-free Facebook, Twitter is unique in its enforcement of brevity. The original 140-character limit doubled to 280-characters in 2016, but the focus on succinct communication remains. Users can circumvent this limit by creating a series of tweets, sometimes referred to as a tweetstorm. Twitter ultimately incorporated a thread feature in 2017.

Known to be a platform for intense debate, tweets can be commented on, shared as retweets and sub-tweeted. Users also have the ability to create and share time-limited polls.

Images and video aren’t as popular on Twitter as they are on Facebook and Instagram, but they are certainly found in abundance on the platform. In 2016, Twitter introduced live streaming video functionality, including things like political debates, NFL football, and awards shows. Video is becoming more important on Twitter, with view counts skyrocketing. Video length, however, is restricted to 2 minutes and 20 seconds.

Internal Twitter data shows that video view counts are steadily rising. — source

The omnipresent hashtag, which is now used across the web, owes its existence to Twitter. Trending hashtags are likely to be topics that go viral. Hashtags are also a handy way to organize and find content.

How Patients Use Twitter

For patients, Twitter is a place to connect with other patients, ask questions, and connect with a community. Twitter offers patients the unique opportunity to engage in a dialogue with physicians and researchers. It’s not uncommon to see physicians, researchers, and other healthcare professionals connecting with one another, as well as with patients, via hashtags like #medtwitter.

Twitter chats are another popular way for patients to engage and share stories. Most health-specific tweetchats center around a particular condition or topic and offer patients a chance to meet up virtually at regularly scheduled intervals. They typically involve a number of questions, asked by the chat’s host over the course of the planned time period (often an hour). Questions and their answers are often organized in some way and all are connected with the chat’s hashtag.

Some condition-specific Twitter chats include #IBDchat, #chatMS, #dsma, and #creakychats. There are also a number of chats for the broad patient community as a whole, like #patientchat, #spooniechat, and #patientshavepower. Symplur maintains a great list of upcoming chats in the realm of healthcare, including patient chats and those geared more toward healthcare providers and researchers.

Who Uses Twitter?

Worldwide, Twitter currently has 326 million monthly active users. The number who are active on the platform daily has seen consistent year-over-year growth. The most recent data shows that daily active users are up by 9 percent year-over-year, but that growth rate has been slowing down.

The rate of growth of Twitter’s Daily Active Users (DAUs) is slowing, but overall growth of the platform remains steady. –source

The gender breakdown of Twitter users in the United States is fairly even, but slightly more women are using the platform. This breakdown doesn’t hold true globally, however, with international users more heavily weighted towards men.

The age breakdown for Twitter users finds that the 18–29 age group is the most active, with 40% of U.S. adults saying they use the platform, compared to 27% for 30–49, 19% for 50–64, and 8% for 65+.

Twitter users also tend to be more highly educated and affluent.

Demographic breakdown of Twitter users. — source

In the healthcare space, businesses are increasingly expected to have a presence on Twitter — from hospital systems to insurance companies to pharma. Some, like @PillPack, are using their accounts to create buzz and share stories. Others, like @Cigna, use it for rapid responses to public customer service issues.

But, just having a presence on Twitter isn’t enough. Nor is a large following. As with every social network, the key objective for brands is engagement.

Pharma brands have found a mixed degree of success when it comes to patient engagement on Twitter. Owen Health analyzed pharma Twitter accounts to measure engagement levels, taking into account likes, retweets, and replies while normalizing based on the number of followers and the volume of tweets.

The size of your following doesn’t determine the degree of engagement. — source

Twitter: Best Practices for Healthcare Brands

The accounts with the most success in patient engagement on Twitter are those that make an effort to become a part of the communities they are trying to engage. Brands that succeed recognize that they are part of a conversation and work to foster dialogue.

As with Facebook and Instagram, one of the most successful ways to boost overall engagement is to partner with patient leaders already active on the platform.

Consider the following:

  • Share patient stories. Can you partner with a patient to tell an authentic story that would be of interest to your audience? Or, can you use your Twitter feed to highlight content already shared by a patient leader? Asking the permission of the patient first before sharing is a good idea.
Pfizer highlights a real patient’s story as a way to connect with other patients. — source
  • Show off your authentic side. Show the human side of your company. Introduce your followers to employees. Talk about research being done and highlight a researcher.
AbbVie introduces followers to one of their researchers in a very authentic way. — source
  • Try a poll. This is a way to promote engagement. Choose a relevant topic, or perhaps ask patients what kind of content they’d like to see from you.
Merck used Twitter’s poll feature for an educational quiz. — source
  • Consider the whole patient. Your connection to a patient is one small part of their lives as patients and as human beings. Acknowledging this can go a long way.
Takeda speaks to the whole patient in this tweet. — source
  • Invite patients to engage with one another. Can you start a Twitter chat? Or could you highlight an existing chat to encourage patients to connect with one another?
  • Respond with care. If your goal is more engagement, it should be obvious that you need to respond when patients make the effort to engage with you. Unless the tweet is racist, sexist, or threatening in some way, you need to respond. You can report tweets that you believe violate Twitter’s terms. You can, and should, also share with your followers a reminder of what you consider to be unacceptable behavior.

Engaging on Twitter

It has become an accepted idea in any customer interaction today that Twitter is a way to get a faster customer service response via a kind of public shaming. Companies that respond to these kinds of comments quickly, respectfully, and gracefully are rewarded. Those that don’t may see a swell of public outcry. Not responding or responding with a lack of tact is a surefire way to see overall patient trust decrease.

Your instinct may be to respond privately to critical messages but when the initial message is public, you should first respond publicly before moving to a private forum. This shows transparency and respect and will prevent other users from piling on at your perceived lack of response. Responding quickly, publicly, and respectfully is one of the best things you can do when trying to boost engagement. It shows that you are willing to actually engage.

GSK had a fast and helpful response to a tweet about drug prices. — source

Don’t be afraid of being timely and/or lighthearted, but proceed with caution.

Things move quickly in our culture today and Twitter is no exception. Jumping in on a fun and lighthearted trending hashtag isn’t a bad idea every once in a while. Just be sure that your tweet won’t be offensive to anyone.

You can also consider commenting on a current trending story if you feel you can (and should) meaningfully contribute, but this is sensitive territory, especially when the story veers anywhere near the realm of politics or another controversial topic. Sanofi’s decision to respond via tweet when one of their medications came up in a trending story got people talking and saw them gain a number of new followers. In some cases, patients saw the move as a way of humanizing the brand, but a minority found the seemingly political tweet to be off-putting.

Sanofi’s potentially controversial tweet ultimately won them more praise than criticism. — source

Tweet to it!

Every social network offers life sciences companies a unique way to engage with patients. Twitter requires you to be nimble. One of the best ways to make sure your tweets get attention is to work directly with the patients who have their fingers on the pulse of patient communities.

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How to Successfully Market Your Content Online

How to Successfully Market Your Content Online | Social Media and Healthcare |

Content marketing can be an effective tool to promote your medical practice. Most digital marketers today include content marketing in their annual promotional plans. However, many physicians are not aware of the key elements needed in a content marketing strategy or are not experienced implementing such a strategy to launch or promote their medical practice.

Content marketing aims to create awareness and promote interest around your products or service. It involves the development of content and the online sharing of articles, videos, blogs and social media posts to stimulate interest in your product or service.

It is slightly similar to direct response and brand marketing. The vital difference is that it does not explicitly promote a brand. Instead of direct promotion, content marketing seeks to educate, inform and solve the problems of the target audience.

There are many aspects to content marketing such as social media posts, blogs, article creation, infographics, white papers, videos and case studies.

For a number of reasons, content marketing can be highly effective in promoting a product or service online. Some of these are:

Engagement of Future Patients

The main ingredient to a successful campaign is delivering and making available relevant content to pique interest of a potential patient in your product or service. Your relationship with a patient deepens when they reach out to you via Twitter replies, blog comments or social media sharing.

Reputation Building

As more and more patients get engaged and respond positively, trust placed in your brand grows. This allows you to shape your reputation overtime and show people that you are indeed an expert in your field or specialty.

Gets Your Word Across

Content marketing aims at getting your product and brand’s story out to the world. It lends a personal touch to your marketing efforts. It allows you to make potential patients understand that your brand is an answer to their medical concerns.

There are many ways that you can promote your services online by using content marketing through your website, blog and social media.

Best Content Marketing Approaches

Answer Queries with Content Marketing

Content marketing is not a hard-sell approach and requires a softer touch compared with other marketing options. The best way to encourage a patient to visit your practice is to build and maintain their trust and confidence. You improve your prospects by answering queries online and showing the reader that only you can answer a particular problem.

Build out articles that answer general, commonly asked questions such as what your hours are, services offered at your practice, and patient testimonials. Show a potential visitor why others in the community have chosen your practice for their healthcare needs.

Produce Shareable Content

If you create content that is interesting to many people, you increase the chances of it being shared by individuals among their friends and family. This in turn increases viewership and provides you with more organic marketing exposure.

By creating content that is helpful, informative and insightful, you can ensure more loyal readership.

Unique infographics, easy to understand blog posts and insightful how-to videos are a very good way to encourage viewers to share your content and promote it on social media and other platforms. You can make sharing even easier by requesting a reader to spread your message and adding share buttons that can instantly link to Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Create Value Based Content

If viewers find value in the blogs or posts they are more likely to share it with their friends, family and colleagues. When done well, content marketing has more reach and better visibility than other sales and promotions.

Additionally, if writing is not your strong suit, content marketing offers ways in which you can avoid text-based subjects.

You can get your message across by way of a podcast, a video, webinar, infographics or any other method that excites you and showcases your authority on a given subject.

Visual content gets shared more often than regular written content on social media and other platforms as per experts. Additionally, posting of such dynamic content on a regular basis can ensure that your loyal viewers always come back for more. This can result in more conversions for your practice over time.

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What Pharma can learn from B2B digital trends -

What Pharma can learn from B2B digital trends - | Social Media and Healthcare |

igital transformation has changed B2B sales for good.

The impact of digital has fundamentally changed business models across UK industries over the last 10 years. Emerging technology and slick, digital platforms have empowered companies to interact with their customers in a variety of channels. It’s no longer an option to use digital channels to reach customers – it’s essential. And, pharma is no different.

Customer expectations have driven the change

Reports from Fuze say that Millennials became the largest generation in the workforce in 2016. Today, they represent 35% of all workers. And their expectations of business communication is shaped from their B2C experience.

Andy Hoar, VP and principal analyst of e-business at Forrester stated“What we’ve seen is that all B2B buyers are also B2C consumers. It’s not like someone has a great experience on Amazon or Sephora or or and then goes to a B2B-centric site and dramatically lowers their expectations.”

Whilst B2B has had to play catch up with B2C, Pharma has been lagging even further behind. With some companies nervous to break with tradition, and others bolting digital strategies on to an existing model, there have been varying levels of success.

Following a survey from McKinsey, research has demonstrated that the fastest-growing B2B companies use digital and inside sales channels more effectively than slower-growing companies. The research also states that the drastic changes in buyer preferences, and an increase in more technically savvy customers, has led to “a new breed of sales leaders who bring technical expertise and a strategic mind-set. This is also transforming what sales organizations look like, with a sharp reduction in field sales and marketing, and rapid growth in inside sales and analytics teams.”

McKinsey continues that this modern approach to B2B sales is “data-driven, enabled by digital tools, underpinned by advanced analytics, and focused on really understanding the ‘what, why, and when’ of the customer”.

Companies that have adopted new, digital modes of communication have started to pull away from their competitors in terms of revenue and growth. According to Forrester, the decline of field sales across B2B industries, reflects the robust growth of inside sales and digital channels – which should come as a warning sign to those pharma companies not already convinced.

What can pharma do to keep up with B2B digital trends? 

ATKearney states that “despite being an information-intensive industry, healthcare’s business model has remained strangely unaffected by the digital revolution until recently. Health is delivered in much the same way as it has always been, and the innate conservatism of the industry means it lags in usage of all the main digital technologies.”

It appears that in an industry consumed by stringent regulations, the over-cautious approach to digital has been intensified by a fear of reprisal. Add to this the trepidation of taking a supposed career risk, and it’s clear to see why digital progression has been side lined for traditional, tried and tested, field sales.

However, it’s also important to consider that, despite the decline in field sales across B2B industries, this doesn’t spell the end of road sales representatives. Sales professionals need to be optimised with technology, but critically, they also need to buy-in to the multi-channel concept. It’s not enough to just bolt-on digital platforms to a tired and outdated model. For commercial success, companies need to adapt to change and develop a new strategy with digital at its very core, or risk losing ground to more progressive competitors.

Data-driven decision making

Not only can digital and technology advances impact the expectations of our customers, and the channels we use to sell to them, it also enables pharma companies to work smarter. By harnessing industry data and utilising the latest intelligence, sales teams can be flexibly deployed with real-time project analytics, so all decisions are data-driven.

At OUTiCO we have spent the last 5 years refining our sales model and building our own database of HCP contacts. We are the first Multi-Channel Sales company in the pharma industry, communicating with Health Care Professional’s via their preferred sales channel, providing more HCP access options and opportunities. Our unique accessibility data along with the latest digital tools allows us to flexibly deploy exceptional sales professionals in Market Access, Secondary Care, Primary Care projects. As such we continually deliver excellent case studies that prove this model works and substantiates that ‘Multi-Channel’ selling is the future.

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The Latest Crop of Instagram Influencers? Medical Students.

The Latest Crop of Instagram Influencers? Medical Students. | Social Media and Healthcare |

In 2018 America, chances are high that you’ve come across the work of a celebrity physician in some form: Maybe you’ve passively watched Dr. Oz while waiting at a doctor’s office, or flipped through one of Deepak Chopra’s books on alternative medicine.

Celebrity physicians often catapult to fame via their mastery of traditional media, like television or radio or books or magazines, and we’re used to seeing medical advice and expertise there. What you may have yet to encounter, or haven’t fully noticed yet, is the growing group of current medical students who are perhaps on track to achieve even greater fame, through their prodigious and aggressive use of social media, particularly Instagram. Even before receiving their medical degrees, these future doctors are hard at work growing their audiences (many have well into the thousands of followers), arguably in ways even more savvy than the physicians on social media today.

I fell into a digital rabbit hole that surfaced dozens of fellow med students moonlighting as social media influencers, and the partnerships grew ever more questionable.

I first learned of the medical student Instagram influencer community a few months ago, when a friend shared links to a few of these accounts with me, asking if this is what medical school was really like. Curated and meticulously organized, these accounts posted long reflections after anatomy lab sessions, video stories of students huddled around a defibrillator during a CPR training session, pictures of neat study spaces featuring board-prep textbooks next to cups of artisan coffee, and 5 a.m. selfiestaken in the surgery locker-room before assisting with a C-section. Initially, I cringed. Sure, they looked vaguely familiar—they were (literally) rose-tinted, glamorized snapshots of relatable moments dispersed over the past few years of my life. But interspersed, and even integrated, into those relatable moments were advertisements and discount codes for study materials and scrub clothing brands. Something about that, in particular, felt impulsively antithetical to my (perhaps wide-eyed) interpretation of medicine’s ideals, of service to others over self-promotion.

Sufficiently intrigued, I fell into a digital rabbit hole that surfaced dozens of fellow med students moonlighting as social media influencers, and the partnerships grew ever more questionable. Some accounts featured sponsored posts advertising watches and clothes from Lululemon; another linked back to a personal blog that included a page that allowed followers to “shop my Instagram.” A popular fitness-oriented account, hosted by an aspiring M.D., promoted protein powder and pre-workout supplements. A future dermatologist showcased skin care products. Another future M.D.’s account highlights the mattressescustom mapsfurniture rental services, and food brand that, according to the posts, help her seamlessly live the life of a third-year med student.

In the aggregate, the ethics of these accounts left me conflicted. Many of these influencers are using their accounts and personal brands for objectively good, medically sound causes—a number of them promote important public health messages like getting an annual flu shot or registering as an organ donor. I can even empathize with the impulse to partner with companies to advertise products—med school is expensive, and I can imagine advertising is somewhat lucrative. But the companies are almost certainly targeting them because they know that med students can offer some veneer of medical objectivity to their products. By engaging in these partnerships, med students have, perhaps unsuspectingly, chosen to put their “medical credential”—often prominently displayed in a name or Instagram bio—up for sale.

For now, no one seems to have descended into the Dr. Oz universe of snake oil—there are no products on the level of the rapid fat loss pills or cures for the common cold that he promotes. But the potential to take things too far is certainly there, and American medicine is full of stories of physicians promoting products of questionable or no medical value. In the past, physicians have advertised for Camel cigarettes and, more recently, partnered with Coca-Cola. Just last year, a physician in Oklahoma gained notoriety for offering “Jesus shots”—essentially a pricey placebo consisting of two steroids and vitamin B12—to patients and potential customers for chronic pain. On Instagram, med students already toe the line by advertising for products like protein supplements, which can be high in added sugar and can strain kidney function. It doesn’t take an extraordinary leap of imagination to envision a med student being paid to promote a product on Instagram like Juul—a potentially useful harm reduction tool for smokers but a dangerous recommendation for doctors to make for most people. And for better or worse, the stakes are pretty high—for patients and their health, but also for doctors and their credibility. Many of these influencers, with access already to audiences as large as 60,000 followers and growing, will go on to become the next faces of American medicine.

Many outside interests are ready to take advantage of students’ ability to offer some stamp of medical authority.

Med students aren’t alone here—physicians and residents have also engaged in native advertising for brands on platforms like Instagram in recent years. One example is Dr. Mike Varshavski, a family medicine physician in New York with more than 2.9 million Instagram followers. He’s promoted Quaker oatsOld Spice deodorant, and Fox’s new medical drama, The Resident, just in the past year. Although ethically in the clear by the standards of professional organizations like the American Medical Association, practicing health professionals are likely more aware of both the good and the bad implications of that decision to advertise.

But for less experienced medical students, the story becomes more complicated. We, only beginning our careers in medicine, sit at the bottom of medicine’s totem pole, lacking the volume of clinical experience of practicing physicians. During our education, we remain in a purgatory of sorts, not quite inside medicine’s ivory tower but going through experiences and observing moments in medicine that most people simply don’t get to see. And social media, by its nature, makes it difficult to separate our lives in lecture halls or in the hospital from our lives at home. It practically invites us to share professional opinions alongside personal views, where posts and tweets can easily get misinterpreted. Is a doctor’s personal devotion to a product an endorsement that it’s a good medical choice for everyone? The uncharted ethics of social media are already confusing, and that’s before you add in the influence of outside interests, many of which are ready to take advantage of students’ ability to offer some stamp of medical authority to the general public about a product or idea without asking too many questions.

This is not to say that doctors shouldn’t share opinions: Many physicians already do this responsibly online. On Twitter in particular, physicians have created a virtual community that opens academic debates on evidence-based research to the public, fosters camaraderie and professional support to one another, and enables physicians to speak out about important social causes (the most recent example being the #ThisIsMyLane movement). But there is a difference between using your expertise to inform arguments and using your expertise to make some extra cash selling products to consumers. And how to ethically handle the social capital associated with a medical degree is rarely, if ever, discussed in our training. It is something we instead quietly grapple with ourselves and are expected learn how to handle with time.

The problem is broader than Instagram, too: I’ve personally seen how groups outside of medicine seek the endorsement of med students and the weight behind their future degrees. Since starting med school, political organizations have asked me and my classmates to attend protests in white coats, rather than in plainclothes as private citizens. And as both a freelance writer and med student, companies have approached me to endorse their products or even the visions of their CEOs.

In other words, the issue shows no signs of going away anytime soon. And solutions to address it aren’t clear. Firm regulations by professional societies on what we can and can’t say doesn’t seem to be a great answer—whatever is written will quickly become outdated, given how fast social media can evolve. But on Instagram, at least, a large contingent of health professionals have pushed for transparency and self-regulation through the #VerifyHealthCare movement, which asks influencers to explicitly list out their credentials, conflicts of interests, and clarification that personal endorsements are not always professional ones.

Encouraging and teaching students to carry a greater respect for the significance of the two letters that eventually appear after our names may be the best path forward. Public trust in physicians (and other institutions) has declined over the past half-century, but a majority of Americans still believe that their physician is honest and highly ethical in their practice. As outside interests—particularly corporations and advertisers—vie for our endorsements, we should do our best, for the sake of our patients, not to give it away so cheaply. 

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$2M Grant Expands Social Media Intervention to Reduce Skin Cancer Burden

$2M Grant Expands Social Media Intervention to Reduce Skin Cancer Burden | Social Media and Healthcare |

A five-year, $2,074,932 grant (R01CA221854-01A1) from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) awarded to Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey Associate Director for Cancer Prevention, Control and Population Research Sharon L. Manne, PhD, will support the expansion of a behavioral intervention delivered through the social media site Facebook. The aim is to improve skin exams and sun protective behaviors among young melanoma survivors and their families.

“According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the risk of developing melanoma is more than six times higher among young adults than it was 40 years ago. Melanoma is the most common malignancy for young adults aged 25 to 29 and the second most common malignancy among persons 15 to 29. Having a first-degree relative (parent, sibling or child) with melanoma more than doubles the relative’s own melanoma risk. Therefore, the population of family members at elevated risk is also growing at an increasing rate,” notes Dr. Manne, who is also a professor of medicine at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

As a group, young onset melanoma survivors have been identified by the NCI as a unique and growing population. They are at higher relative risk for a second malignancy than adults diagnosed with cancer over age 39. First-degree relatives of young melanoma patients are at increased risk for melanoma (Lee, J. S., et al., Cancer, 2016). It is recommended that melanoma patients and their first-degree relatives engage in regular total skin exams, comprehensive skin self-examinations, and sun protection.

“Research has shown that despite their increased risk, these first-degree relatives pay little attention to sun protection and skin surveillance behaviors. Although the vast majority of young onset melanoma patients engage in regular total skin exams, many do not engage in regular self-exams or sun protection,” adds Manne. With little intervention research targeting the unique and growing population of young onset patients and their family members, Manne’s group hopes to shed additional light on the topic.

The intervention will examine the impact of two types of private Facebook groups. One group will receive education about skin cancer and recommended sun protection, skin self-checks, and physician skin exams, along with working on improving these behaviors by setting goals and providing both group and family support. The other group will receive general health and wellness information. Nearly 600 young melanoma survivors and nearly 600 of their first-degree relatives will be randomly assigned to one of these two groups. Manne and colleagues aim to show that a closed social media platform is an effective tool to increase sun protection, skin self-checks, and physician skin exams among young skin cancer survivors and their family members. 

The award period runs through May 2023.

About Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey

As New Jersey’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Rutgers Cancer Institute, along with its partner RWJBarnabas Health, offers the most advanced cancer treatment options including bone marrow transplantation, proton therapy and CAR-T cell therapy.  Along with clinical trials and novel therapeutics such as precision medicine and immunotherapy – many of which are not widely available – patients have access to these cutting-edge therapies at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick, Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey at University Hospital in Newark, as well as through RWJBarnabas Health facilities.

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The Inbound Approach to Healthcare Marketing (And Why You Need to Use It Now)

The Inbound Approach to Healthcare Marketing (And Why You Need to Use It Now) | Social Media and Healthcare |

It's no secret that marketing is constantly evolving, and inbound marketing is leading the change in the customer-centric digital age.

The inbound approach has been proven to work in so many industries. HubSpot's State of Inbound 2018 report found that 75% of global organizations primarily conduct inbound marketing, and 75% of organizations using inbound marketing say their strategy is effective. 

To put it simply, inbound marketing works in all industries. And when it comes to the healthcare world, it can be especially beneficial, even though healthcare marketing professionals experience a slew of unique challenges.

The Challenges of Healthcare Marketing


Healthcare is so vast and unique because it consists of a lot of different moving parts. Some healthcare companies target consumers, some sell to other businesses, and some even sell to both.

There are many reasons healthcare is such a tough industry for marketers. 

First of all, there is a lot of old school thinking at the top level. Many companies are stuck because leadership is preventing marketers from being innovative. They want the same old approach despite the fact that buyers are more informed and empowered than ever before.

Another huge challenge is the vast amount of specializations within healthcare. There are so many separate entities in the space of healthcare. For example, there are primary care facilities, hospitals, specialists, urgent care, pharmacies, and much more. 

Organizations often specialize in many areas, so it’s hard to hone messaging and stand out. When it comes to messaging, companies are limited to what they can say. There are plenty of regulations that influence how healthcare marketers can position their brand.

Plus, as with every industry, it's hard for healthcare marketers to see exactly how their efforts are performing. When you can't attribute results, it's hard to adjust your strategies to double down on what's working and to focus on where you can make improvements.

Fortunately, there is some evolution in healthcare marketing. Nearly 70% of healthcare marketing executives say they’re already using content marketing. 

Content marketing is just one piece of the inbound marketing pie. And if it's not being done correctly and not operating within a fully inbound approach, it won't yield enough results.

The Inbound Philosophy in Healthcare


The inherent nature of the inbound methodology – being helpful, human, and holistic – aligns perfectly with the nature of healthcare. No matter your audience, whether you’re patient facing or selling to businesses, being human, helpful, and holistic in your marketing is vital.

As consumer and patient behaviors have changed, inbound has become a necessity.

Research found that the way patients and consumers find healthcare solutions is moving more and more toward the digital landscape:

  • 73% of consumers use search engines to research treatment.
  • 83% of patients visit a hospital website before booking an appointment.
  • 41% of consumers say content found on social media will likely impact their choice of hospital or treatment center.
  • 43% of visits to hospital websites begin at a search engine.

As you can see, inbound marketing elements like search engine optimization (SEO), website design, and social media marketing are essential in the overall user experience.

Thanks to the inbound methodology, you can address the most pressing challenges within healthcare marketing.

The State of Inbound Today for Healthcare Marketing

As mentioned above, there are many challenges you face in healthcare marketing. Learn how inbound can be adopted and used to address these obstacles:

1. Getting Buy-In From Senior Leadership.

Your C-suite will likely need some convincing before they approve your budget for inbound marketing. While they may be stubborn to this change, there's one thing they can't deny – the cold hard facts. 


Outbound is long dead, and inbound is the new way to achieve real results. 

HubSpot's 2018 State of Inbound report found that just 18% of marketers say outbound practices provide the highest quality leads for sales, compared to 60% who say inbound provide the best leads for sales.

What's more, 53% of marketers say inbound marketing delivers higher ROI, compared to just 13% who said that outbound marketing gives higher ROI.

Additionally, their 2016 State of Inbound report found that 33% of inbound marketers and 16% of outbound marketers rank outbound marketing practices, such as paid advertising, as the top waste of time and resources. 

When you highlight these facts to senior leadership, make sure you also come to the table with a written strategy for your future inbound marketing campaigns. This way, they can see exactly how you want to change your entire marketing approach. 

2. Honing in on Messaging and Specialities.

This is especially hard if your company has multiple revenue streams and your marketing and sales teams aren't clear on priorities. 

Fortunately, content marketing, which plays a major part of the inbound marketing approach, helps you narrow down your focus and find what specialities you want to focus on for your target audience.

No matter how you determine your messaging, you want to focus on being helpful at the start. Inbound marketing thrives when you build trust with your audience from the get go. 

And the best way you can earn trust is by delivering helpful, relevant content to your audience consistently. Content marketers see this impact every day. In fact, 96% of the most successful content marketers say their audience views their organization as a credible and trusted resource.

Remember, your role as a marketer in healthcare is to educate first. That's the inbound way. And it's likely what most of your competition is already doing, so the best time to start educating your audience is right now. 

3. Connecting With Relevant Audiences.

Simply put, people love content. Research has proven the impact content can have on potential customers:

  • 82% of consumers feel more positive about a company after reading custom content.
  • 70% feel closer to a company as a result of content marketing.
  • 60% enjoy reading relevant content from brands.

As you can see, not only do people enjoy learning from brands, but they also experience positive feelings associated with those companies teaching them.


The best way to connect with the right people at the right time is to adopt the inbound marketing philosophy and to start conducting research and building buyer personas

The more you and your marketing team learn about who your company wants to attract and what those audiences' pain points are, the better off your team is at creating and conducting robust inbound marketing campaigns. 

4. Reducing Marketing Cost and Driving Tangible Business Results.

Marketing is always going to come with a substantial cost. After all, building an internal marketing team usually calls for at least a few new hires who specialize in important skill sets, like copywriting, design, and strategy. 

But your team needs direction, and compared to traditional marketing tactics, inbound marketing will cost your team far less in the long run. 

Content marketing costs a staggering 62% less than traditional marketing, and it generates about three times as many leads. And as you know, leads are what fuel your sales growth. 

Inbound Success Stories in Healthcare


The facts show the undeniable success of inbound in healthcare marketing, but there are also plenty of real life examples of big marketing wins from healthcare companies. For example, HubSpot shares several success stories from the healthcare industry.

Here are a couple of snapshots of the results some organizations have seen:

Earning More Qualified Leads.

An organization specializing in tissue procurement for pharmaceutical research needed to attract qualified prospects. They moved to HubSpot and used hyper targeted inbound marketing campaigns specific to diseases.

This way, researchers who focused primarily on certain diseases can find the exact content they needed in no time. Ultimately, this was a big win, and their website generated a lot more relevant traffic. 

Other big results include the following:

  • 250% month-over-month increase in lead growth
  • 35.6X ROI within six months
  • MQLs increase from 10% to 80% month over month

Attracting Diverse Audiences.

A company specializing in cryotherapy for both consumers and business owners needed a full suite of tools to allow them to conduct integrated inbound marketing campaigns to appeal to every segment of their diverse customer base.

Within HubSpot, this company followed the basics of the inbound methodology: They created personas within the marketing platform.

Then, with personas in mind, they created content, like equipment information for business owners and articles highlighting benefits of cryotherapy for consumers. This content was used in line with landing pages, smart CTAs, and smart forms to create leads and build profiles for each prospect.

They also used workflows to automate their lead nurturing efforts. With all of these HubSpot features working together, this organization delivered a truly unique, awesome experience for their audience. 

The results were amazing:

  • 146% increase in revenue
  • 128% increase in leads
  • 44% increase in website traffic

Other healthcare companies using HubSpot saw equally impressive results, including big boosts in organic traffic, traffic from social media, landing page conversions, and new customer.

Healthcare marketing doesn't have to be a hassle. With the right tools, mindset, and resources at the ready, you can turn your marketing efforts into a lead generating machine. 

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5 Social Media Trends Related to Healthcare

5 Social Media Trends Related to Healthcare | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social Media is playing an increasing role in healthcare. That’s not surprising since 73% of adults who use the Internet use some of the social media platformsPhysicians also spend twice as much time consulting online resources than traditional print. Statistics also show that between 70 and 75 percent of U.S. citizens look to the internet for healthcare information.

We look at five cases in which social media impact healthcare:

Preparing for Crisis

The best thing one can do about a crisis is to be prepared for it. This is just what happened during the Boston marathon bombings. Doctors were alerted through social media and prepared themselves for the surge of patients.

Patient Education

Online tools, including social media, can help in the dissemination of medical information. For example informative YouTube Videos, they range from videos that show children how to properly put on bike helmets to full dental procedures.

Live Procedures

Presenting medical procedures to the current and potential patients through live stream videos is another way of educating the public. For example, in November 2013, St. Vincent Charity Medical Center live tweeted a full knee replacement surgery. This allowed 3,800 people to follow the surgery through Tweeter.


It is believed that the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society prevented 12 suicide attempts through the use of Facebook. They ask their patients to follow certain professional Facebook pages. The nurses then follow the posts and intervene at any sign of trouble.

Empowering Patients

Nowadays, patients have more information at their disposal than ever before. According to a report from the IMS institute, 42% of people have used social media to search for information on healthcare issues. Patients can now create support groups, make their voices heard and find information about rare conditions. It’s also easier for Doctors to reach a wider audience.

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