Social Media and Healthcare
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Social Media and the NHS 

Social Media and the NHS  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Efficient and innovative communication within the healthcare sector is a valuable resource and healthcare professionals are becoming increasingly reliant on the use of social media and messaging apps to communicate and share patient information with one another. However, messages composed and sent within seconds can have serious and lasting professional, legal and regulatory repercussions.

Over the past 5 years, over 1,200 NHS staff received disciplinary action due to their use of social media (or messaging apps). The instances of improper use of social media were seen from support staff to GPs. Predominantly, the cases involved the disclosure confidential patient information, complaints about colleagues or inappropriate contact with patients, with the consequences ranging from suspensions to dismissals and resignations.

We usually come into contact with medical staff at the most vulnerable period in our lives and the relationship we have with healthcare professionals has an implicit level of trust. The trust we place in staff in healthcare sector should be given due respect by both frontline and support staff. The disclosure of confidential patient information through any means is a clear breach of trust within this relationship.

Undoubtedly, releasing confidential information, or making inappropriate comments on social media will have significant repercussions for the professional breaching their duty, both personally and professionally.

As social media evolves and further embeds itself in daily life, all users of social media and messaging apps should be aware of the professional and personal consequences of this method of communication and as pointed out in our previous blog on the subject, it is essential for all professionals to think before they press send. Anyone handling personal information should be alive to the risks of sending information on a public and accessible platform, such as social media, where information could be easily intercepted, and evidence can rarely be permanently deleted. However, professionals should also be aware of the consequences of making inappropriate or unprofessional comments on social media.

There are numerous advantages of the healthcare sector embracing social media, including the advent of mobile GP apps, and sharing information to provide effective patient care in an often time-sensitive environment.

The perils

However, the dangers of the use (or misuse) of social media for healthcare professionals can be serious . For example:

  1. Professional and personal boundaries can become distorted
  2. Anonymous users, or users operating under a pseudonym are not guaranteed anonymity and comments can often be traced to identify the user
  3. Information sent is far-reaching and instantaneous
  4. Permanence – even after an ill-thought comment or message it deleted, if saved/circulated by another user, or a screenshot has been taken the evidence of the comment still exists. The implications of this level of permanence were shown in that some of the NHS investigations took place a number of years after the original comment had been sent.

Training is key

NHS Trusts (and other employers engaging with the individual’s personal information) should ensure staff receive adequate training to raise awareness of the pitfalls of social media.

All staff within the organisation could learn personal facts about patients/colleagues and should be given training on the importance of upholding the duty of confidentiality, with a specific focus on social media. In light of GDPR, all staff should be made aware of the fact that personal information should never be released without the individual’s consent. Staff should be informed of the consequences for the organisation and themselves, both personally and professionally.

Additionally robust systems to safeguard patient information should be applied across all staff within these organisations, however the responsibility ultimately lies with the staff to be aware of their professional obligations and act with professionalism. As a society we are increasingly sharing our lives online, but all professionals should be mindful to draw a line between their professional and personal lives and be aware that their conduct in their personal life can have a bearing on their professional life.

Prevention is better than cure

Protecting yourself when using social media does not need to be a difficult task, if you remember the following:

1. Think before pressing send

Messages and tweets often take mere seconds to draft and send. Pausing to read over the content before hitting send will often make you re-think what you would say and often can highlight any inappropriate information.

2. Consider your professional obligations

Working in the healthcare sector, it is unlikely to ever be appropriate for you to share information about a patient on a social media platform. Also, as a professional, any of your thoughts on colleagues should not be communicated on a public platform but within a work based environment with the appropriate personnel present.

3. Think about the context

When typing, consider how your comment may be taken out of context. Tone, humour and meaning can often be lost in a tweet, therefore consider if your comment may be interpreted differently by your followers.

4. Ensure your privacy protections are what you think they are

Several social media sites allow users to dictate who can see what content they send, however it often happens that people believe their profile to be “private” and visible to only their connections within the platform, when in fact their profile has much greater visibility than imagined.

And finally, if you haven’t got anything nice to say…don’t say anything at all.

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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. 

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7 Social Media Myths That Cripple Marketing Campaigns

7 Social Media Myths That Cripple Marketing Campaigns | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media marketing has become incredibly popular over the course of the past decade, but popularity doesn't always lead to improvement or refinement of a process. In fact, excessive popularity has led to overhyping of the strategy; instead of focusing on practical measures, real returns, and limitations of the strategy, many have heralded social media marketing as some magic solution to instantly higher visibility.

The truth is, social media requires a lot of research and hard work, like any other marketing strategy. It's impossible to learn the ins and outs of social media in the span of a single article, but I'd like to start by addressing--and dispelling--some of the most common social media myths that hold business owners back:


1. Social media is a sales tool. If you want to get technical, then yes, social media could be construed as a sales tool in the sense that using it properly can lead to more sales for your business. However, there's a misconception that social media is essentially a giant sounding board for you to pitch your products, services, and self-serving announcements relentlessly. Think about your own use of social media--do you log on so you can read ads and listen to salespeople? No. You go there to network, socialize, and find interesting content. If your content is all sales-focused, people will start to ignore your messaging. This, in turn, will cause the organic reach of your posts to decrease, as the visibility algorithms pick up on the fact that nobody really cares about the content you post. So keep salesy content to a minimum and instead favor meaningful, valuable, and/or social exchanges. For help figuring out what to post, see 100 Killer Ideas For Your Social Media Content.

2. Likes and followers are what truly matter. As marketers, it's natural to try and justify everything with numbers. You need to earn a value higher than your costs for any campaign to be profitable, but social media's value is somewhat abstract. As a result, many amateur social marketers turn to the only numbers they have--metrics including "likes" and "followers"--which they think directly correlate with a campaign's success. However, bear in mind that not everybody who "likes" your brand actually likes your brand, and a follower may not end up reading anything you publish. Seek engagement metrics rather than these fluff numbers, and favor the quality of your audience over the quantity.

3. Social media is a necessity, not a route for new customers. Some entrepreneurs see social media as just another thing you "have to do" in the modern era. Just as many business owners have reluctantly agreed to launch a basic website because all their competitors are doing it, many business owners have staked a presence on social media--but aren't doing anything with it. To be successful in social media, you have to post actively and regularly; otherwise, nobody will see you, and nobody will take action by engaging with your brand. In fact, this could actually harm you; imagine someone who does find your brand on Facebook, only to see who haven't updated your page in six months. What does that say about your brand's commitment to its public image?

4. Social media is an independent strategy. It's wrong to think of social media marketing as existing in a vacuum, as its own, independent strategy. It actually depends on a number of other digital marketing strategies to be successful. For example, without a strong brand, your users will have nothing consistent to respond to. Without a strong content strategy, you'll have nothing interesting to post. Without a strong website, any traffic you generate might just bounce. Social media is only one part of a well-oiled machine.


5. Scheduled posts will do the work for me. Post schedulers have become popular tools, especially for businesses whose social media work is a low priority. There's nothing inherently wrong with them; post schedulers can be valuable ways to ensure a minimum frequency of posts, especially on weekends when you're away from the office. However, don't use this as a substitute for logging on and posting in real-time. It's called "social" media for a reason; you have to actually socialize with your followers, in a two-way conversation, if you want to succeed.

6. Social media is free, so I might as well do something with it. True, you don't have to pay to sign up for a social media profile on most platforms. You can make organic posts without paying anything. But if you treat social media as a free element of your strategy, you'll value it less; instead, think of social media as an investment of time and effort. Your time and effort are valuable, and the more you pour into your campaign, the higher ROI you're liable to see.

7. You have to "get" social media to be successful. Too many entrepreneurs have made the false assumption that social media is a young person's game, or that you have to be "in the know" to really "get it." Don't buy into this. The basic premise of social media marketing is simple; talk to your customers and show them that you're an authoritative, trustworthy source. Don't hand the strategy off to a collegiate intern because he/she's "young enough to get it"--remember that over 40 percent of Facebook's demographics are over the age of 35, and think, would you trust a new intern with the complete oversight and management of any of your other marketing strategies?

These myths aren't innocent; if you buy into them, you could legitimately stifle your progress or worse--negatively influence the reputation of your brand. Still, don't be intimidated by the world of social media; just because it demands a significant investment of time and effort doesn't mean it's exceptionally complicated. Pay attention to the basic principles of engaging users, providing value, and remaining consistent in your brand voice, and you should have no trouble growing a following.

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HIPAA Tips to Keep Your Healthcare Business from Getting Fined

HIPAA Tips to Keep Your Healthcare Business from Getting Fined | Social Media and Healthcare |

Since its legislation over twenty years ago, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has received both positive and negative comments. The negative aspect has mostly involved the genuine danger of data breaches. Information that‘s readily available online shows that hacking makes up 23% of HIPAA data breaches.

Hiring healthcare workers who will know when to release information and when to withhold data has also been a big challenge.

The positive aspect is that you can keep your health insurance if you move from one employer to another and sharing of information between medical practitioners is easier. A large percentage of people agree that the positives outweigh the negatives. That is why the law was enacted and is now vigorously enforced.

If you are in the healthcare business, you need to avoid fines that can run up to $1.5 million per violation in a year. Employee training will help your business a great deal in this regard.

Here are six tips that can help you do precisely that:

1.    Encryptions and Firewalls

As already mentioned, the statistics on the hacking of healthcare systems that house medical records is very damning. Thus, you need to set up a secure firewall system to thwart any attempts to access the system illegally. The firewall needs to be up-to-date all the time.

Data encryption when sending out electronic communication such as emails is also essential. It prevents hackers from viewing the content of the messages sent. This is important since the encryption is not end-to-end.

2.    Possession of Devices Containing Patient Records

It is common practice to keep records on portable devices in case you need to use them on the go.  These devices, especially mobile phones can be easily stolen. Therefore, it is essential to keep them out of the wrong hands at all time.

Train your employees to be aware of the location of the devices they are handling at all times. They should also shut down or switch off the devices when they are not in use.

3.    Store Files Properly

Filing paper and saving of an electronic file on the computer is an activity that we all do without putting much thought into it. Healthcare workers cannot afford to make this mistake. Misfiling a record or saving a file on the wrong network can lead to HIPAA violations since it can easily fall into the wrong hands.

Remind your employees to take extra care when doing these seemingly simple tasks.

4.    Dispose of Paper Files Well

Many healthcare companies have entirely switched to electronic filing. Papers are only used when writing prescriptions for patients. Nevertheless, for some, paper filing is still a small important part of the business due to one reason or another.

If your business still uses paper filing, the proper way to discard paper waste is to shred the papers before throwing them away.

5.    Encourage Continuous Learning about HIPAA

HIPAA guidelines keep on changing to keep up with the changing times. Whenever there is a change, training should be held. Mention the penalties that the employee and the business will incur should they not strictly adhere to the guidelines.

This is an activity that will take time, but it is necessary.

6.    Use Social Media Carefully

An active social media presence can set you apart from other healthcare business. It communicates that you value your clients enough to follow them to a place where they spend most of their time. There are no strict rules when using social media. Some companies even use social media to have light-hearted banter with their patients.

However, at no point should an employee share sensitive data about the business or the patients on social media. Even sharing information without including names is prohibited.

Ensure that your employees understand this.


In conclusion, avoiding fines for HIPAA violations is not too complicated. The above information is proof of that. The best way to avoid the violations is to train employees about HIPAA guidelines and to remind them to be focused even when doing the most mundane of tasks.

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Many Ways to Attract New Patients to YOUR Practice #2

Many Ways to Attract New Patients to YOUR Practice #2 | Social Media and Healthcare |

Last week we started to uncover some proven ways to help you grow your practice and add new patients. Here are 5 more ways:

6. Host contests with your patient data base: Contents can be an excellent way to get your existing patients to talk about your practice. Offering prizes and giveaways in exchange for spreading the word about your practice may bring you plenty of leads. Run contests around sporting themes such as the Melbourne Cup, NRL or AFL Grand Final.

7. Encourage online reviews: Reviews are one of the most efficient ways for attracting new patients and growing your practice. Encourage your patients to share their feedback in an online review. You can do this by sending a follow-up email thanking your patients for their visit and encouraging them to review you online or get your reception staff to verbally communicate this to patients. Many potential new patients will check your practice out and one way they do this is by reading reviews.

8. Connect with the local community: Connecting with your local community will give you an opportunity to educate people and expand the list of potential new patients especially if your practice is in a regional or country town where word of mouth can spread as fast as a bush fire. You can connect and conduct talks at clubs such as Probis and Lions or local schools, etc.

9. Stay active on social media: When your current patients “like” or “share” your content on social media, their entire social circle sees it. That can direct user traffic to your page and may help generate new patient inquiry. The trick is to share informational content that is relevant to your target users so that more and more people feel motivated to share your content.

10. Monitor your online presence: If your practice has some negative reviews, look for the most common reasons for the complaints. If the review sites allow, make sure you respond to both positive and negative feedback to show that you care. The more positive feedback you can collect, the more calls you’ll get from potential new patients.

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Q&A How Do You Handle Negative Online Reviews from Patients?

Q&A How Do You Handle Negative Online Reviews from Patients? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Nearly 70% of patients who read healthcare reviews are influenced in the selection of their next physician, hospital or medical practice, according to PwC Health Research and almost 3 out of 4 of adults search online for a doctor.

PwC’s Internet & American Life Project revealed that 72% of internet users say they purposely searched online for health-related information or for a doctor or health professional near them who could best treat their symptoms. Your current and future patients are turning to Google to find your practice, your doctors and to learn about how to get medical help and relief from their symptoms.

The great news is that you are in control of what they find when they search for you. To ensure visitors have a positive experience online when searching for you, pay attention to what is on your website (great pictures and content along with solid patient reviews), how it looks and how easy it is to navigate from a user perspective.

The bad news is that if your website is ugly, hard to use and houses only negative reviews, prospective patients are going to write you off quickly without even physically visiting your office. In this scenario, even a positive word-of-mouth review won’t be enough to compensate for such a lackluster online experience. Remember: Experience is everything, and that goes for online as well as physical visits.

When it comes to online marketing for your medical practice or clinic, having a functional website and fantastic reviews will only get you so far. You still need to make use of popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. By not engaging with prospective patients on these platforms, you are missing out on key connections that could turn prospects into patients. Plus, these platforms give patients another way to express how much they love your practice and your doctors by leaving solid recommendations for their friends and family to see. So, when ramping up your online presence by updating your website and implementing a reviews system, be sure to think through a social media strategy plan that makes sense for your practice.

What if someone says something negative about my practice online?
No practice is perfect and patients will say negative things when leaving social media comments and online reviews. It happens and is beyond your control. What you can control is how you choose to respond to these comments and reviews. We recommend setting up the following as soon as possible:

  • Put a system in place to respond to negative comments before they happen and moving these conversations offline to a phone call as quickly as possible.
  • Implement a plan to encourage patients to leave reviews for your practice and your providers. This way, you will have a steady stream of positive reviews coming in on a consistent basis, lessening the impact made by any negative reviews.

Understand people leave negative reviews because they are dealing with unmet expectations and want to voice their frustrations. They want to be heard and understood. Responding quickly and in the right way tells that person that you care. Plus, everyone else can see how you effectively deal with negative feedback, so choose your words wisely.

Should I respond to a bad review?
This shows the person who left the review that you are listening and it shows everyone else who sees it that you are as well. Try to respond within 24 hours.

Can I say anything I want when responding to bad reviews?
You need to make sure every response you leave is HIPAA compliant and you aren’t using PHI or even acknowledging that patients are, in fact, patients. Let them know they have been heard and that you want to talk about it. We cover example responses in more detail on our webinar.

Can I stay HIPAA compliant while using social media?
Yes, you can. There are constraints, but as long as you aren’t sharing PHI when it comes to marketing and following best practices, you are educating your patients with health information. Plus, you are actually giving new patients what they want: health information from someone they trust. You should check with your attorney if you have questions or specific areas of concern.

What kind of content should I post on Facebook and where does it come from?
Patients want health information, and they want it from people they know and trust. With our clients, we start with the most common questions patients are asking the nurses, front desk and doctors. Think about it this way: if they are asking you certain questions – they are certainly Googling them as well. This normally falls into questions about symptoms, treatment options, recovery time, pain level and cost. We recommend writing medical blog post articles, recording videos and creating graphics or infographics that describe the timeline or treatment. You can get this content from associations, create it yourself or hire an agency focused on healthcare marketing like Baker Labs to shorten your learning curve.

Why doesn’t my website show up at the top of search results?
Most likely your website hasn’t been updated in years or there is something foundationally wrong with it. Maybe it’s not mobile friendly or it loads slowly. Any and all of these are factors Google uses when showing website pages in search results. The great news is that they can all be fixed — the first step is to figure out why. Check to see if your site is mobile-friendly with this Google tool — and if you want a snapshot of your search engine optimization (SEO) review – you can get a free 30 second report here.

Is online advertising appropriate for my medical practice?
Yes! Google and Facebook do have specific rules to follow when showing ads regarding medical conditions, symptoms and treatments, but as long as you stay inside those rules, you are good to go. The nice part about online advertising is that you are able to focus your ads to be seen by a specific demographic, so, if your practice is comprised of women ages 45-60 within 5 miles of your practice, you can focus your ads to be seen by this group.

Why doesn’t my website work on my iPhone?
Over 57% of website traffic happens on a mobile phone, according to BrightEdge. If your website doesn’t work well it’s most likely that your website isn’t mobile responsive, which is a type of website development that helps your website show up correctly formatted on mobile phones. Check to see if your site is mobile-friendly with this tool from Google.

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Doctors warned to hide their families on social media to avoid abuse from patients 

Doctors warned to hide their families on social media to avoid abuse from patients  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Medical professionals are being urged to 'hide' their families on social media to avoid attacks from abusive patients.

The advice, issued by the Medical Defence Union, comes after reports that some people have been targeted with death and rape threats. 

The Medical Defence Union says it receives ‘hundreds of calls’ each year from staff – with 300 recorded cases since 2014.

And, although the annual number of incidents has remained consistent over the past five years, experts believe they're becoming more 'disturbing' and aggressive.   


Fear: The Medical Defence Union says it receives ‘hundreds of calls’ each year from staff - with three-hundred recorded cases since 2014

Dr Ellie Mein, a legal adviser for the MDU, told GP Online: ‘MDU members’ enquiries about inappropriate behaviour took a wide range of forms. 

'In some instances threats were sent to home addresses, personal emails or personal mobile numbers of GPs, nurses or other practice team members.

'Occasionally these mentioned family members or details of the recipients’ personal life indicating that the person had carried out research into their background.’


Specifically, she stresses that doctors and practice staff should never disclose their  home address, email address or familial connections.

And they should also limit what sensitive data they publish in research papers.

‘Even if your social media security settings are high it is helpful to check what parts of your profile are publicly visible – are you happy to have family members included in public profile pictures for example? 

'Sometimes your social media profile is private but you can appear in lists of friends or tagged in photos on friends’ pages which are publicly available.’


Alarming: Recent research found that 78 per cent had experienced assault, threats or both

Earlier this year, a survey conducted by found that three-quarters of doctors say they have been assaulted or threatened by a patient or their relative. 

More than 400 doctors were quizzed for the research, which found that 78 per cent had experienced assault, threats, or both.

A total of 34 per cent (134 doctors) reported experiencing assault, while 59 per cent (233) said they had been threatened, the poll found.

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Protecting Patient Privacy: HIPAA Compliance in the Electronic Age

Protecting Patient Privacy: HIPAA Compliance in the Electronic Age | Social Media and Healthcare |

The privacy of patient data is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act.1But the complexities of today’s high-tech methods of communication, data sharing, and data storage lay practices open to unforeseen and constantly changing threats, requiring vigilance and training of medical staff.

This second article devoted to cybersecurity takes a closer look at protecting patients’ privacy. To gain further insight into this complex subject, MPR interviewed Michael J Sacopulos, JD, CEO of Medical Risk Institute (MRI), a firm that provides “proactive counsel” to the healthcare community to identify where liability risks originate and to reduce or remove those risks. He is also General Counsel to Medical Justice Services. Mr Sacopulos is the coauthor of Tweets, Likes, and Liabilities: Online and Electronic Risks to the Healthcare Professional (Phoenix, MD; GreenbranchPublishing: 2018).

What do you think the greatest threat is to HIPAA in physicians’ practices?

Some of the issues I discussed in our previous interview are central in potential HIPAA violations. In particular, I’m talking about lack of cyber-hygiene, by which I mean the numerous human errors that can compromise patient privacy, even with the best software and firewalls. We already discussed the importance of training staff not to click into unknown e-mails often called “phishing” e-mails, which are cyber attacks that open the door to hackers to access your system or install malware on your computers. Teaching your staff to recognize these scams and malware e-mails is critical.

What other potential concerns might compromise privacy?

An important area of concern is the location where you and your staff access any practice-related Internet. If you have an employee, consultant, or contractor who works remotely – for example, a bookkeeper or someone who does medical billing – you need to be sure that several important things are in place. 

Neither you nor your employee should be using the free Wi-Fi at Starbucks or the library or the airport, for example, to do any e-mailing or work on patient records, since those are not secure connections and can easily be hacked. Additionally, in a public place, a person sitting near you, or a passerby can catch a glimpse of a patient’s name or some other information or might even use their own cellphone to photograph it.

Employees who work from home should have a dedicated work space, such as a home office, with a door that closes and file cabinets that can be locked and secured from others. The office shouldn’t double as the guest room or children’s bedroom. And the employee should dedicate specific time and space to working on practice-related matters and not multitask. I’ve seen situations in which the person who does billing was working on generating electronic bills while trying to cook dinner for her family and having the computer or paperwork on the table.

Any conversations about patients, whether you are returning a patient’s call or whether your staff member is talking to an insurance company, should be conducted in private where no family members or others can hear you. One doctor was discussing a child’s bedwetting problem with a parent within earshot of his own children. It was a small town and the doctor’s children went to school with the child who had the bedwetting issue. Soon, it was public knowledge in the classroom and the other children teased the boy with the problem. This took place in the days before HIPAA was put into place, but the issue could just as easily take place today if patient-related conversations could be overheard.

Equally important is making sure there is a dedicated computer used for nothing other than practice-related matters. The computer should have a secure password and should not be shared by others, such as one’s children who are using it to do their homework or play video games.

Are there any software-related issues to be concerned about?

You should have good firewalls proper encryption for patient portals and modes of communication. It is extremely important to keep software supported and up to date. If the manufacturer recommends updates, they must be installed promptly so that your software remains secure. Updates are “patches,” which the manufacturer recommends if they find vulnerabilities. Older versions of software eventually are no longer supported by the platform, such as Microsoft. Beyond being unreliable, outdated software is vulnerable to cyber breaches. The government’s position is that if the software is not supported, this constitutes a per se violation.

How can a practice increase its security?

I cannot emphasize enough what I mentioned in the previous interview, which is to engage a professional IT expert to conduct and troubleshoot software issues or handle phishing e-mails and potential breaches. A professional IT expert should also conduct an annual risk analysis and advise on what needs improvement.

You should regularly review who in your practice has access to which type of information. Staff members who do not need to access patients’ electronic health records (EHRs), meaning they are not involved with the care of a given patient, should be prevented from accessing that patient’s records. The e-mail accounts and passwords of former employees should be immediately deactivated so they can no longer access your network. This is equally true if you have a storage area of paper files. The ex-employee’s key or swipe card should be returned and if there is a combination lock, the combination should be changed.

Lastly, make sure you have policies in place regarding your employees’ use of social media and e-mails and access.

What about the use of mobile devices?

Any cellphone used for your practice has to be password protected, so that if it gets lost or stolen, any information is secure. Most standard Androids and iPhones today have passwords that are encrypted and therefore secure.

Another concern relates to texts. Are your texts secure or not? And, equally important from a patient safety perspective, does the content of the text ever make its way into the patient’s chart? Conversations between physicians over text, or between the physician and the patient, need to be entered into the chart for continuity of care and so that if the phone is lost or stolen, no important patient information is lost.

If a physician or other practitioner uses a cellphone to photograph a patient — for example, a dermatologist has photographed a patient’s rash — this should also be entered into the patient’s chart as soon as possible.

Are there any other concerns related to photographs and patient privacy?

There are some obvious concerns. No photographs of a patient should appear anywhere outside of his or her chart — for example, nothing should ever be posted on the practice’s Website or newsletter, or on an employee’s social media.

I know that physicians sometimes use close-up photographs of de-identified patients at medical meetings for demonstration or to discuss a particular disease or condition — perhaps a rash or surgical incision. But the law is very clear that the picture can’t be identifiable as any particular person to anyone else, even a spouse.

I had a case in which a woman had a breast augmentation and the surgeon took a before/after picture of her torso, which was later used in a medical presentation — without identifying information, of course, and without revealing any other body parts such as face, head, arms or legs. But the patient brought a suit claiming that she had a unique freckle pattern on her chest that could be identifiable to some people. The case was settled.

My advice is to obtain a patient’s permission if you want to use any images in a conference or a journal article. This can be done quite easily with a one-page document that should remain in the patient’s chart. In my experience, very few patients will refuse to allow their de-identified photograph to be used if they understand that it is for the purpose of medical education of other healthcare professionals.

As cumbersome as it can be to set up appropriate protocols and adequately train staff, it is essential, not only to protect you from potential litigation or disciplinary action but also to protect patient privacy and enhance patient safety.


1.    McCoy TH, Perlis RH. Temporal trends and characteristics of reportable health data breaches, 2010-2017. JAMA. 2018;320(12):1282-1283.

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How Social Media Can Advance Cancer Research

How Social Media Can Advance Cancer Research | Social Media and Healthcare |

Cancer kills more people in the United States than accidents, stroke, Alzheimer’s and diabetes combined. In 2017, despite spending 147 billion U.S. healthcare dollars on cancer care, 600,000 people died from cancer and 1.7 million new people were diagnosed with cancer. But the news is not all grim: in all, 2.6 million lives were saved from cancer over the past 25 years, due to a consistent yearly decrease in cancer deaths.

The improvement in cancer mortality- i.e. how likely are you to die from your newly diagnosed cancer- is the direct result of advances in cancer detection and cancer care. Clinical trials fuel this progress. At their core, clinical trials seek to improve on the current accepted treatment for a given cancer.   By enrolling patients into a clinical trial, researchers can offer investigational or unproven treatment and measure its success, or failure, in an unbiased way.

Patients with cancer are often motivated and engaged with their physicians and treatment decisions. The majority of patients seek support and resources online.  Unfortunately, fewer than 5% of patients with cancer in the United States participate in clinical trials. Why so few? Part of the reason is fear of the unknown. In a survey conducted by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York only 35% of patients responded they were “likely” to participate in a clinical trial, due to concerns about side effects, costs, location, and skepticism about receiving a placebo or unproven treatment. Yet, the actual percentage of patients who are enrolled in the U.S. is even lower, at only 5%.  The solution in increasing that rate may lie in harnessing the inherent power of social media.


Social media should be used to educate the public about the goal of clinical trials and to encourage more participation. Physicians need to create a visible presence online to dispel the common misbelief that clinical trials are only appropriate for patients who are dying, or for those left without any other treatments options.

A major deterrent to clinical trial enrollment is finding a trial you are eligible for. Social media can help recruit patients by raising awareness of open trials. Awareness is vital because the more quickly a trial is filled with patients, the sooner we can obtain its results. Trials that don’t accrue enough patients ultimately close, which means both wasted research dollars, and unanswered clinical trial questions. If we can spread awareness of open clinical trials on social media, more patients can enroll, which not only saves money, but aids the progress against cancer. As soon as we have an answer to one trial, researchers can move onto the next.


This trend has been slow to start. Researchers at the University of Southern California are investigating the utility of using Twitter to recruit patients to their institution’s clinical trials. Some patients contact physicians directly via social media, including Dr. Cathy Eng, an oncologist at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, who routinely receives messages via Twitter from patients interested in enrolling in a trial. She has also recently joined the Colontown Facebook group, which is an online community for patients with colorectal cancer. In this patient forum, Dr. Eng highlights clinical trials for patients with colorectal cancer and directly answers questions posed to her about the trials. Dr. Suzanne Cole, an oncologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center, has had patients who initially searched the National Cancer Institute's database of open clinical trials, who then contacted her study coordinator to enroll.

Online communities such as the #LCSM (Lung Cancer Social Media)Twitter group and the #BCSM (Breast Cancer Social Media) Twitter group both host weekly Twitter-based chats to educate patients about lung cancer. These online communities were started by and are maintained by a cooperative of patients and physicians, and have had a strong impact facilitating patient advocacy and education, including information about clinical trials.

NRG Oncology is an adult cancer clinical trials organization sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. It represents the combined efforts and members of the 3 founding cancer clinical trials organizations in the U.S.: the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP), the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG), and the Gynecologic Oncology Group (GOG). I recently participated in their Social Media Working Group to help design their pilot program utilizing social media to share information about open clinical trials with patients.


Dr. Thomas George, an oncologist at the University of Florida who headed this mission, said "NRG Oncology recognizes the need to engage patients where they are - which today, often includes social media.  To that end, the NRG Communications Committee, with valuable input from patient advocates, is developing a comprehensive pilot program of social media-based patient engagement for clinical trial awareness and participation." NRG also prioritizes a patient-centered approach when designing their trials, and works with patient advocates and representatives for all their programs.

This movement to expand direct patient-advertising is encouraging, but more needs to be done. Social media can offer more than just information about trials because of its ability to bring researchers and patients together remotely. Currently, many clinical trials are available only at large cancer hospitals because they have the resources to run, open, and maintain trials. FDA regulations require tremendous oversight at every aspect of trial implementation, which means that small hospitals often can’t afford to enroll patients on trials. If a patient wants to enroll onto a trial, they may be required to discontinue their care at their local hospital. This is a major deterrent for patients to enroll on trials. What if a patient in rural Idaho could be enrolled onto a trial at a major cancer center in NJ? Social media should be used to recreate the framework of trial design, starting with making it easier for patients to enroll remotely. Doing so would ease the burden for physicians and patients to recommend participation in clinical trials, especially at community hospitals and in underserved areas, who don’t have the resources to maintain their own trials.

Enrolling patients onto trials more quickly would free up research dollars to run more trials, such as patient-centered trials uniquely designed by a social media community. This untapped source of volunteers from across the U.S. would be able to participate in trials in unprecedented numbers. Researchers would have open channels of communication with large numbers of patients, who they could pose questions directly to, such as “what kind of trials are you willing to participate in?”

There are real barriers to this proposed social-media driven model. Patient privacy must be protected, which means implementing strict protocols for sharing confidential patient information.  Moreover, the language used to advertise clinical trials is strictly regulated:  the future of social media driven clinical trials cannot include pitches like “Come join our trial to save your life!” Researchers need to obtain informed consent from each trial participant, which is more difficult when done remotely. And, monitoring the day-to-day running of the trial may be cumbersome, due to different physicians’ treatment style, monitoring of side effects, and determination of treatment success or failure. While the above obstacles will necessitate careful attention, the time has some to utilize social media for improving cancer care. Let’s investigate new ways to engage patients, not simply funnel them into our current inadequate paradigm.

The sooner we embrace it, the more lives we can potentially save.


Dr. Knoll can be contacted on Twitter @MKnoll_MD, on instagram @Dr.Mimi.K or via email

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Why does my medical practice need to go digital?

Why does my medical practice need to go digital? | Social Media and Healthcare |

If you are a medical practice, network of doctors, hospital or any other medical professional you need to have a digital presence. Digital can range from a simple website to a complex, custom-developed web application and everything in between. There are two main reasons your medical practice needs to go digital as soon as possible. The first reason is that online is where your patients are looking for you and the second is that your competitors are digital already. Your patients are looking online for a medical professional and they will find one. The question is how do you make sure that they are finding you?

Digital has a range of exciting opportunities which can make your life easier, attract new patients and keep your existing ones informed. Take your medical practice digital with some of these ideas.

Create a simple website to give a digital audience the what, why and where of your medical practice

If you are a local medical practice, an online listing of your name and contact information is no longer enough to keep up with a new digital generation.

The very first step to a solid digital presence is a website. It doesn’t need to have pages and pages of text (in fact it shouldn’t). But it should give at least the details of who you are, what you do and how to find and contact you. Your website will become the digital brain of your practice. Anything and everything you do and market will point to your website. Your social media, signage, business cards… everything should direct clients back to your website. Once you have your website set up, there are many digital solutions you can start to explore.

Your medical practice needs a local Google My Business listing so your patients can quickly and easily get the information they need in a hurry

Google My Business allows you to create a local listing to market to people looking for medical practices close to them. Having a local dentist or GP is hugely beneficial and these listings include vital contact information, operating hours, website links and even allow reviews. A patient might choose to drive for a specialist or even a GP who has great reviews.

Be a part of the ‘Dr Google’ trend

Since your patient will be Googling their symptoms and will already have decided their treatment plan by the time they are sitting in your consulting room, why not make sure they have the right information before they get there? Us patients know that medical professionals hate it when we do this, but we can’t help it. There is just so much information available to us digitally. What you can do is help your patients with this process by creating content around some common questions and symptoms. Once your patients trust you and are reading your content rather than the wide variety of digital information that is out there, you may not have us come to you with such crazy diagnoses. If you specialise in dermatology and are often asked the same questions in treating a certain skin ailment, make some of the information available online.

There are many applications to this idea of content creation. If you are a GP, for example, you could write up a blog article mentioning viruses doing the rounds in your area, giving lists of symptoms and basic treatment options. You can partner with schools to send notifications to parents informing them of any outbreaks they should be aware of.

Your content doesn’t all need to be freely available. You can create password protected content to remind patients of the treatment routine you have prescribed. This creates a community for your current patients and keeps them coming back.

Creating constant relevant content and becoming a thought leader in a local area or specialisation is an excellent tool for digital marketing. It will increase your organic search traffic (people who find your website by searching for a specific topic you have talked about) and improve your SEO score (the ranking Google gives your website).

Here are some other ideas around using content marketing to get more website visits.

Make your medical practice digital to save you, your staff and your patient’s time

Not everyone has the time to make an appointment during office hours. Nor does everyone want to pick up the phone and call for an appointment. Online appointment booking calendars solve all of these problems by giving patients a way to easily see which doctors are available and at which times, so they can choose a time that suits them best. This digital booking can be done at 3:27am when they are wide awake thinking of the doctor’s appointment they mustn’t forget to book. You can send them reminders, add the appointment to their calendar and set an alarm an hour before so they don’t forget or run late. Digital appointments cannot be double booked. You also now have an email address, one of the most vital bits of information for a digital marketer or for a digitally savvy medical practice. Your patient can fill in, or simply update, their personal details. No paper, no handwritten scrawl to decipher, no need to arrive 20 minutes early to do the paperwork. The best part? Your secretary didn’t need to do a thing.

What about after the appointment? You can send them the invoice digitally, thereby making it easy for them to submit to their medical aid. You can send them an automated follow-up email a week or two later to remind them to book a checkup or a questionnaire on their progress since their last appointment. If you are sending a treatment plan, a suggested diet or perhaps some side effects to watch out for then you can do that on a digital platform.

If you deal with patients diagnosed with MS, for example, why not have a set of automated emails guiding, encouraging and coaching them through living with the disease.

Even test results and patient information can be shared and stored digitally and securely where appropriate.

Integrate with health and fitness technology to take your medical practice digital

Phones and watches are constantly tracking your patient’s exercise and lifestyle. You no longer need to rely on your patient to truthfully tell you how much sleep they are getting or how much exercise they do, you can get the data to tell you the real story. Looking at lifestyle and general health as a part of a treatment plan can revolutionise the way your practice looks at digital. Integrating client health data into their medical profiles allows you to partner with your patients on a very personal level. A custom web application for dieticians can allow you to take a holistic view of your patients.

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Dating app taps genetics and social media

Dating app taps genetics and social media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Years before she became a genetic scientist, Brittany Barreto dreamed of creating a way for people to find love through DNA.

“I just thought it would be so cool to connect people on a romantic level using their DNA,” said Barreto, co-founder and CEO of Pheramor, a dating app that aims to measure compatibility using physical chemistry and social rapport. “It’s nothing like designer babies or anything like that. It is, essentially, how do your genes affect who you are attracted to and who you jive with the best? How is that inscribed in your genome?”

Nearly a decade and a Ph.D. from Baylor College of Medicine later, Barreto set her plan into action. While attending a workshop hosted by Enventure—a grassroots life science startup community in Houston—she met Bin Huang, Ph.D., who became the co-founder and chief technological officer of Pheramor.

“I pitched the idea at their accelerator program and Bin, who was a doctoral candidate at Rice University at the time, also pitched an idea, but then at the end, when we had to make teams, he came up to me and said, ‘Forget my idea, I want to do your idea,’” Barreto recalled.

“I know the genetics behind attraction and Bin knows the techy side and he is on the back end writing the algorithm that is literally matching people.”

Pheramor brings couples together after analyzing a segment of each candidate’s human leukocyte antigen (HLA) gene complex—proteins that regulate the immune system—and social media history. It is one of a handful of companies launched over the past decade that uses genetics to determine romantic compatibility.

The HLA complex helps the immune system distinguish the body’s own proteins from proteins made by foreign invaders, such as viruses and bacteria.

“We are seeking a partner that has a different immune system compared to our own because that means that we are not related, so we will have a decreased risk of genetic disease in our progeny and our progeny will have a more diverse set of immune system genes and therefore be immune to more pathogens,” Barreto explained.

Animals also prefer mates with complementary immune systems and communicate this information through olfactory cues. The genes associated with their immune systems are tethered to pheromones, chemicals animals produce and emit that influence all sort of behavior among others in their species—including sexual attraction.

But there is no hard science on humans releasing or picking up on pheromones, in part because animals use the vomeronasal organ (VNO)—a gathering of sensory cells in the nasal cavity above the roof of the mouth—to detect pheromones, and humans do not have a functioning VNO. That’s why Pheramor takes a cheek swab from clients for DNA sequencing, rather than try to link human attraction to smell. (Confusingly, though, the company’s name merges “pheromone” with “amor,” the Spanish word for love.) As the company notes on its website, “Pheramor fully appreciates that the science of pheromones requires more research.”

Pheramor also recognizes that humans are highly social. To account for this in the matchmaking process, the team at Pheramor analyzes candidates’ social media histories before they are matched with potential suitors.

“Humans are a more complicated animal,” Huang explains. “Fifty percent is genetics, but the other 50 percent is what do you like to do? What are your common interests? We try to extract this information from your social media data because we don’t want people to answer everything themselves.”

Some research supports Pheramor’s DNA matchmaking. A 2016 study published in Scientific Reports found that the HLA complex mediates mate behavior in humans and that subjects were generally most satisfied with their relationship if their partner exhibited a dissimilar HLA type. Researchers found that HLA dissimilarity correlates with partnership, sexuality and enhances the desire to procreate.

But among scientists, the idea of human pheromones remains a hard sell. In 2018, Richard Doty, a professor of otorhinolaryngology and director of The Smell and Taste Center at the University of Pennsylvania, told Wired magazine: “The notion that there are these magical genes that are somehow associated with smells that permeate the environment and dictate our attraction to people is total nonsense. If human pheromones actually elicited the kinds of behaviors we see in other mammals, the subways of New York City would be in a constant state of mayhem with people hopping all over each other.”

Barreto and Huang launched the Pheramor app officially in September 2018.

“We have thousands of active users and have grown 50 percent month over month,” Barreto said, but declined to disclose the company’s revenue.

Once users download the app, they receive a DNA kit, do a cheek swab, return the kit and wait for their sequencing to be done.

“The app is free, but we charge $30 for the DNA testing,” Huang explained. “The processing time for the kits takes 21 business days, but the processing for us can take around one month.”

The DNA kits are processed at a lab and then returned to Pheramor. Once the data has been collected, users gain access to six profiles per day on the app. The profiles are weighted based on physical proximity of clients first, then on the gender and age each client specified. If two people like each other’s profiles, they can begin messaging one another.

In the four months the Pheramor app has been live, more than 5,000 messages have been shared between users and 20 couples have deactivated their accounts because they have met a solid match, Barreto and Huang said.

Barreto even found her own romantic partner with a cheek swab.

“As the CEO of a dating app, it would be unethical for me to meet someone on the app, but occasionally I do market research on other dating apps so I have 20 of them on my phone,” she said. “I opened one of the dating apps and I had a message from a lovely man, but the message was about a month old and it was actually a really sweet message, but he was a redhead. … I’ve never dated a redhead. I like dark features, or so I thought.”

The two ended up going on a date and hitting it off, at which point, Barreto asked the redhead if she could swab his cheek to see if they were a match. It turns out they were in the top 10 percentile of compatibility.

“This is why we are changing dating by using data,” Barreto said. “I never thought I wanted a redhead because I thought I didn’t like them, but I do. I had all of these social constructs in my mind of what I thought I should be looking for in a person, but it’s in your DNA. I thought I needed someone with an MBA who owned their own company, as well, and James is an elementary music school teacher and we jive so well.”

Barreto and Huang are working on another website for existing couples to test their compatibility through DNA. They hope to launch it this summer.

And to those think Barreto’s work sounds superficial, she has this to say: “Instead of working on something for a patient who is already in the hospital and super sick, let’s make people’s lives better from the get-go by decreasing the number of bad first dates they have to go on so they can find companionship and be happy. … We are humanizing dating using data. We are making people give humans a second chance.”

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Healthcare types: Contrary to what you’ve been taught, use social media

Healthcare types: Contrary to what you’ve been taught, use social media | Social Media and Healthcare |

Joshua Mansour, M.D., a board-certified hematologist and oncologist in Stanford, California doing work in the field of  hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and cellular immunotherapy (left, exactly as shown), writes in this contributed piece, from the beginning of medical school, one of the first things instructional videos that we had to watch during orientation was about social media and what not to do.  There began this stigma and it was frowned upon to use social media if you were a healthcare provider. 

There are the obvious things that physicians should not do, such as post private information about patients, show a patient’s face without their permission, or exploit medically sensitive information.  But no one tells you what you can do and possibly what you actually should do. 

There is a new wave that has now taken over that we as a healthcare community and a community as a whole should support, especially if it is meant to help others. Most recently I have approached social media in a different way and gone out to explore what is available as a tool to help others.  What I’m finding has been mind-blowing and I am very excited to see where it continues to progress in the future. 

People are sharing their journeys, inspiring others, raising awareness.  There is a whole community of individuals working as a team to help others.  It is incredibly inspiring. 

Before recently I had thought of social media as being full of people only posting pictures of fun trips or nights out, throwing out their opinions out into the open for people to see.  We now have social impact movements, live videos with question and answers for students, people showing their tough times and how they are overcoming them.  People are reaching out to others for encouragement, collaborations, and progress. Using it to spread the message.  With the busy days of many healthcare professionals, it is difficult for them to find the time to engage with social media and with others.  There are many healthcare providers that are making an impact and finding the time to do it.  

What we need to start teaching in medical school and in other schools in not only what not to do on social media, but how to use social media in a positive light.  This is something that is happening and only continuing to grow.  It is time to get on board but shine the light in a positive manner.  Teach students from early what to do instead of only what not to do.  You never know they may be able to influence people in a way like never before. 

Recently I have recently been able to connect with others across the world and learn new things about medicine and how it is practiced in those locations.  This will help me evolve as a physician as well and has helped my patients. 

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ER doctor shares why social media is a powerful tool in helping him cope with death.

ER doctor shares why social media is a powerful tool in helping him cope with death. | Social Media and Healthcare |

Telling someone their child has just died has to be one of the most difficult things a human can do. For an emergency room physician, it’s part of their day-to-day lives. Every day there’s a chance they’ll deliver horrifying news that will forever change someone’s life.

It’s not a responsibility to be taken lightly. But it’s understandable that an emergency room physician would become calloused after years of delivering tragic news.

The physician may also be enraged after seeing another lifeless body of a young person who died due to drugs or carelessness.

That’s why a LInkedIn blog post by Dr. Louis M. Profeta, an emergency room physician practicing in Indianapolis, is so powerful.

In the post, he reveals how he comes to understand the individual importance of every life he loses on the operating table. A life of someone he never knew that was most likely delivered to him bloody, unconscious, and on a stretcher.

He looks at their Facebook profile.

You see, I’m about to change their lives — your mom and dad, that is. In about five minutes, they will never be the same, they will never be happy again. Right now, to be honest, you’re just a nameless dead body that feels like a wet bag of newspapers that we have been pounding on, sticking IV lines and tubes and needles in, trying desperately to save you. There’s no motion, no life, nothing to tell me you once had dreams or aspirations. I owe it to them to learn just a bit about you before I go in.

His post also serves as a warning to young people who think they’re invincible to the dangers posed by drugs or texting while driving.

Maybe you were texting instead of watching the road, or you were drunk when you should have Ubered. Perhaps you snorted heroin or Xanax for the first time or a line of coke, tried meth or popped a Vicodin at the campus party and did a couple shots. Maybe you just rode your bike without a helmet or didn’t heed your parents’ warning when they asked you not to hang out with that “friend,” or to be more cautious when coming to a four-way stop. Maybe you just gave up.

He then paints a disturbing picture he’s seen far too many times.

You’re kind of lucky that you don’t have to see it. Dad screaming your name over and over, mom pulling her hair out, curled up on the floor with her hand over her head as if she’s trying to protect herself from unseen blows.

By checking their Facebook page, it also helps quell his anger over a life lost far too early.

I check your Facebook page before I tell them you’re dead because it reminds me that I am talking about a person, someone they love—it quiets the voice in my head that is screaming at you right now shouting: “You mother fucker, how could you do this to them, to people you are supposed to love!”

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Scientists turn to social media to track diseases

Scientists turn to social media to track diseases | Social Media and Healthcare |

Scientists seek to predict pending pandemic

Studying human behavior on a large scale has long been used to try to predict how diseases move through a population.

In the latest twist on this principle, an online footprint may offer valuable insight to researchers who are trying to thwart deadly disease outbreaks before they become widespread.

Scientists, frustrated with insufficient prediction models, are more frequently turning to Twitter posts and Google searches to monitor in real time how viruses like seasonal influenza and other communicable diseases may spread.

But it’s complicated. As experts look at everything from local health reports to search engine statistics and complex algorithms, there remains only cautious optimism about progress.

“We think there’s some work still left to do in this space,” said Matthew Biggerstaff, an epidemiologist at the CDC in Atlanta.

Even the newest prediction models remain “way too simple” to forecast transmission, said Jorge A. Alfaro-Murillo, an associate research scientist in the Center for Infectious Disease Modeling and Analysis at the Yale School of Public Health.

CDC scientists are trying to predict flu activity accurately weeks or months before an outbreak.

Since 2013, the agency has organized a seasonal influenza prediction challenge known as FluSight, with external researchers, in an attempt to enhance the predictability potential of flu season.

Each team of flu scientists uses a different method. Some track people’s Google searches, while some evaluate flu-related hospitalizations. Others devise complex mathematical algorithms.

“We’re doing all of this to not only improve our seasonal response, but then understand how we might go about forecasting a pandemic if it occurred,” said Biggerstaff.

A pandemic is a worldwide disease outbreak that affects a large number of people.

The goal is to eventually provide a more timely, forward-looking tool that predicts flu activity instead of simply tracking it. Such a tool could improve public health decision-making and allow health officials to be more proactive.

Devising an accurate model will depend on a multifaceted approach, Biggerstaff said. But while the teams have gained new insight from the annual challenge, there’s not a clear signal yet about which model’s predictions consistently deliver the most accurate data.

Following inspiration from the FluSight challenge, a recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences looked at 22 different flu forecast models and compared them with each other based on their individual performances across seven influenza seasons.

The study found that more than half of the models performed better as compared to a ‘’historical baseline,’’ a model that makes predictions based on past trends.

Despite the findings, the authors of the study say they believe that their sample size of 22 models is small and not ideal to make strong conclusions about comparative model performance. They conclude that flu forecasting is a continual work in progress, limited by several factors such as data quality, geographical scale of forecasts, weather patterns and population density of the areas under surveillance.

Nevertheless, scientists at the University of Georgia hope an early warning system that they described earlier this year will be able to overcome some of the hurdles.

In a study published online in June in the Journal of Royal Society Interface, UGA researchers looked at the “contagion process,” or the way in which infectious diseases are transmitted.

“Some of the ways in which you get new infectious diseases are evolutionary, but there can also be changes in the way that people are responding to being infected,” said John Drake, an author on the study and a research professor at UGA.

The team wanted to understand the tipping point or threshold that indicates if an ecosystem is prone to an outbreak based on factors such as the number of infections caused by a pathogen and how easy it is for the pathogen to be transmitted.

“What we’re interested in is if you can measure how far you are from that threshold based on how many infections you see in a population,” Drake explained.

Based on mathematical calculations, the team came up with a formula to measure the approximate distance to the time when the tipping point is likely to turn into an outbreak. They were able to predict changes in the distance to thresholds that are generally known to change over time, and were also able to demonstrate how those changes could be tracked.

The researchers say they believe their approach may apply to a range of diseases, including pathogens such as Middle East respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus and vaccine-preventable diseases like measles.

The study is part of a larger project called Project AERO — which stands for Anticipating Emerging and Reemerging Outbreaks — and is funded by the National Institutes of Health to help develop early warning signals for infectious diseases.

It’s important to note that several mathematical models have been established in the past. So far none offers a perfect solution to the problem of predicting pandemics.

Modeling can be useful, but they are not yet ready for prime time, said Yale’s Alfaro-Murillo, whose research is also dedicated to the mathematical modeling of infectious diseases.

He said he agrees that the UGA research is interesting and of theoretical value, but he also says we’re still far from being able to predict an outbreak. A good model should be sensitive enough to differentiate between different diseases occurring in different geographical locations.

The only viable test to prove the appropriateness of a mathematical model is existing data and applying the model to disease cases in real time.

While a usable concept is still distant, researchers are not backing down.

“The truth is we’re not very good at making those predictions,” Drake said. “But sometimes poor predictions are better than no predictions at all.”

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Younger consumers will drive digital healthcare

Younger consumers will drive digital healthcare | Social Media and Healthcare |

Consumers in general want more access to digital healthcare, but as it turns out younger generations want more ways to see doctors online and web tools to manage their health and wellness than even Baby Boomers.

That’s among the chief takeaways from a new survey of 2,000 consumers by consulting firm Accenture.

Virtual care has become an appealing channel for consumers with more complex needs. For example, 26% of survey respondents say they would seek out routine therapy and mental health visits, compared with 24% for physical injury treatment, and 23% for sexually transmitted disease screenings/treatments.

More than half of patients surveyed also expect digital capabilities—and these expectations increasingly influence who patients choose in a provider.

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More than half of patients surveyed also expect digital capabilities—and these expectations increasingly influence who patients choose in a provider, Accenture says. For instance, in 2019, 70% of consumers are more likely to choose a provider that offers reminders for follow-up care via email or text, compared to 57% in 2016.

More than half of consumers (53%) in 2019 are more likely to use a provider offering remote or telemonitoring devices, compared to 39% in 2016, according to the survey. Younger consumers are likelier than any other generation to choose medical providers who offer digital capabilities, such as easy access to test results via mobile or online and requesting prescription refills electronically, says Accenture senior managing director, global health, Kaveh Safavi.


“Younger consumers are likelier than any other generation to choose medical providers who offer digital capabilities, such as easy access to test results via mobile or online and requesting prescription refills electronically,” he says.

Other survey findings include:

  • The use of digital for self-service healthcare is also on the rise. 51% of all respondents say they use a wearable or mobile app to manage their lifestyle and healthcare conditions and more than half (53%) use virtual nurses to monitor health conditions, medications and vital signs.
  • When considering traditional in-person care, millennials (ages 22 to 38 in 2019) were two to three times more likely than Baby Boomers (ages 55 to 73) to be dissatisfied with the convenience of appointment times, the location and channel of care, the effectiveness of the care and whether the doctor prescribed the medication they expected. Gen Zeds (ages 18 to 21) are even unhappier, with 32% dissatisfied with care effectiveness and 24% dissatisfied with the medication prescribed, the location/channel of care, cost of treatment and responsiveness to follow-up questions.
  • Slightly more than half (55%) of Gen Zers and two-thirds (67%) of millennials said they have a primary care physician, compared with 84% of Baby Boomers. Without a primary care physician, some millennials are seeking some types of routine medical services from retail clinics (41%) and virtual care (39%).
  • Nearly one-third (29%) of consumers have used some form of virtual care—up from 21% in 2017—and almost half (47%) have used a walk-in/retail clinic.

“As more patients take control of their own healthcare, provider organizations must offer meaningful choices that fulfill the needs of all generational groups,” Safavi says.  “Providers and payers who stay one step ahead of the shifts and deliver what patients are looking for will be the ones to earn loyalty, navigate disruption and be strongly positioned as the future unfolds.”

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How to embrace digital technology in healthcare — and remain HIPAA compliant

How to embrace digital technology in healthcare — and remain HIPAA compliant | Social Media and Healthcare |

Today, if you want to engage your patients, you must embrace digital technology in healthcare.

2018 survey from Accenture suggests that not only are most patients plugged in, but that their numbers are increasing. In the research, 75 percent of U.S. consumers surveyed said technology is crucial to managing health. Patients are using wearable technologies to track health outcomes and accessing self-service online portals for scheduling and education. Deloitte says these tools improve patient engagement, which ultimately improves health outcomes.

Healthcare, like all other industries, is widely affected by the use of handheld digital devices and other online technologies.

Healthcare IT News suggests that using these tools improve patient satisfaction scores. As we move from fee-for-service to value-based reimbursement, these scores will have a direct impact on your bottom line.

But Healthcare Informatics says we’re lagging behind other industries in our digital transformation. This will change because our patients demand it, according to a Nielsen survey. While hospitals are working to improve their digital interactions with patients, how can medical practices use digital healthcare technology to stay competitive while also meeting customer expectations?

The state of our connection and why it matters

Today, we can use digital tools to confirm a patient appointment via text or use social mediato attract more patients. Telemedicine is expanding again, and there are a host of apps that can help doctors reach patients without the hassle of an on-site visit. A Deloitte survey links patient engagement and satisfaction to the use of these tools and says that “consumers are increasingly open to new channels of care” in the digital space.

A 2018 study tracked how consumers are currently using digital tools to improve their health. It found:

  • The use of digital wearable devices has more than tripled since 2014.
  • One-half of patients are using a healthcare app.
  • Nearly three-quarters of patients are willing to share data digitally with insurance carriers and their doctors.
  • One-quarter of patients have engaged in a telehealth visit and 74 percent were happy with the result.


Understanding these trends requires hospitals and medical practices to create new ways to impact the patient journey with digital technology.

But how can a small practice stay current with these trends?

Best ways to use digital healthcare technology to connect with patients

Practice Builders suggests that digital tools are an effective and potentially low-cost way to connect with patients and build a practice. They recommend using the power of the internet to reach patients in the following ways:

Make sure your website is mobile-first.

This means that the site views well on any digital device no matter the size of the screen. Creating a clean and responsive website is imperative because it’s likely that the first connection between you and a new patient will be on their smartphone.

Use your website to blog.

Having regularly updated web content will place your website in a better position on a Google query. Offering a blog with wellness tips will help position you as an expert in the eyes of potential patients.

Use social media to reach patients.

Inputting content that ties to your website still matters for today’s practice. Encouraging patients to review your services online is another way to connect with new customers. Pay attention to online directories and encourage patients to give an online review of your service.

Related: How to ask for testimonials and reviews from your clients

Use email and text

Send patient appointment reminders and stay in touch with patients throughout the year with newsletters and educational articles.

While these are all low-cost, yet effective methods to increase the digital connection with patients, what kinds of tools exist to improve digital engagement?

Editor’s note: GoDaddy Email Marketing will help you create and track your emails, making it easy to connect with your patients.

Useful tools for patient connection

An article in Pharmacy and Therapeutics suggests that our digital connection to patients can take many forms:

  • Communications including HIPAA-compliant email and text, video conferencing or telemedicine and online patient scheduling.
  • Practice and hospital information systems such as EHRs, clinical decision support systems, remote monitoring tools and more.
  • Clinical software like medical calculators or apps for coding and billing are just two examples in a broad field.

The article says these types of tools are used across five broad categories in medical practice: administration, health records, communication, information gathering and medical education. Clinical teams can use these tools for everything from writing patient notes or capturing dictation to multimedia messaging and patient monitoring.

While a smaller practice likely cannot handle a digital transition in all of these categories, there are a plethora of applications available to begin the journey in a few key areas.

Here are a few examples:

HIPAA-compliant email

Email is an important way to reach patients, but research shows  that the majority of physicians are not leveraging this important digital venue. HIPAA-compliant email protects patients and practices while improving digital communication.

See how GoDaddy can help provide your business with HIPAA compliant email.

Telehealth applications

This type of digital healthcare technology allows clinicians a secure, smartphone-savvy way to share test results or have a HIPAA-compliant video conference with patients. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) now reimburses for these visits, making a new telemedicine service line an attractive service for both patient and provider. Check out Capterra’s review of the latest in telehealth apps.

Medical reference tools

These tools can be helpful for clinicians and patients. Medscape is one of the best free tools available to check drug information and catch up on the latest medical news.

Healthcare engagement apps

University of Washington Medicine’s UW Baby is a free pregnancy app that allows patients to input data about their pregnancy and learn about what’s happening week by week during the process. While the app was developed by a healthcare system, it’s a useful tool for any practice that doesn’t directly compete in their market.

FollowMyHealth is an app developed by Allscripts that offers patients a mobile version of an electronic health record. The app integrates with Apple Health to track patient blood pressure, glucose and weight as well as exercise. It also lets patients pay bills, request prescriptions, and set appointments with their smartphone.

While these are just a few of the low-cost apps on the market for physician practices to engage with patients in the digital space, there are new tools constantly coming online.

Digital technology and the future of your practice

The latest studies show that a majority of healthcare consumers would leave their current practice for another that offers a better digital experience. Yet the same surveys suggest we are lagging behind in adopting the latest digital technologies to improve the patient experience.

Accenture says, “There is an opportunity for providers to differentiate themselves by offering new, technologically advanced services that satisfy consumer interest and expectations.”

These trends indicate that tomorrow’s medical practice should capitalize on these tools to engage patients and satisfy their growing demand for digital connectivity.

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10 Tips to Promoting and Marketing a Pharmaceutical Company

10 Tips to Promoting and Marketing a Pharmaceutical Company | Social Media and Healthcare |

Building a successful pharmaceutical company is not possible overnight and requires an innate understanding of the target audience and the demographics you want to reach. With massive competition, breaking into the pharma industry is now tougher than ever. Knowing how to properly and effectively promote and market your pharmaceutical company is essential to maximize both your local and online reach while sharing the benefits of the medications, treatments, or services you provide.

Understand the Audience You Want to Reach

Not all pharmaceutical companies target the same audience. While some pharmaceutical brands focus on reaching parents, others provide medications and products for the elderly. Having a complete understanding of the audience you want to reach is one of the most important elements to keep in mind when building a pharmaceutical company and brand.

Ask yourself what your target audience and demographic is searching for that relates to the medications or services you provide. How will your audience receive your medications? Are your medications and services affordable to those in need? The more aware you become of your audience, the easier it is to develop effective marketing campaigns that highlight your products and services in a positive manner.

Design a Simple, Yet Professional Logo for Your Company

Providing medications and treatments to individuals is not always an easy process. Not only is it imperative to deliver high-quality and effective results, but it is necessary to appear professional and attractive when marketing the products or services you provide. Implement a simple, yet professional logo for your company that is represented not only within your logo, but also on your official website and product packaging. Research and compare top competitors to review logos and color schemes used to attract prospective patients, clients, and medical professionals.

The Importance of Humanizing Your Company

Breaking into the pharma industry is never easy and often comes with plenty of controversies not often found in alternative markets. Bringing humanization into your marketing efforts is imperative, especially when you have plans to release medications or other forms of treatments for patients of any age. If your brand does not feel human or connected to patients, it becomes increasingly difficult to gain the support of investors, consumers, and patients who are in need of your medications and treatments themselves.

Share real stories and testimonials from patients who have utilized the medications you provide using social media and a page on your official website dedicated to testimonials and reviews. Implement video media to captivate a patient's authentic response when discussing your medications and treatments. Build a sense of community by requesting more video media and real testimonials from your online followers and past patients. The more authentic and legitimate your marketing campaigns feel and appear, the easier it is to maintain the trust and loyalty of those who have a genuine interest in the products, medications, and treatments you provide.

Use Social Media to Strengthen the Relationship You Have With Prospective Patients

Building a strong community among your online followers, current patients, and prospective patients is not always possible immediately after launching a new pharmaceutical company. With increased speculation surrounding the pharma industry, it is now more important than ever to strive for a strong and trustworthy bond with patients and followers who support your business and its ideology.

Use social media to build trust and loyalty with current followers and prospective patients who have a genuine interest in learning more about the services and medications you offer. Share updates that encourage engagement and commenting, allowing followers to share their opinions and thoughts on your blogs, newly-released products, and even the services you provide. Allow followers to comment with their opinions while asking questions or submitting inquiries.

Use Professional Marketing Materials

Updating your website's blog and social media with high-quality professional marketing materials can make all of the difference in how your business and brand is perceived (both locally and online). Invest in professional photography, animations, graphics, and video media whenever you share information regarding the medications or services you provide. Streamline the imagery you use with your brand's colors to create a cohesive appeal to those who are unfamiliar with your business and have yet to feel as if they are able to trust you. You only have one opportunity to make a first impression when promoting and marketing your pharmaceutical company online, which is why it is so important to ensure you are presenting your products and services in the proper light.

The Benefits of Using Promotional Products

Creating promotional products such as mouse pads, pens, and notepads are extremely beneficial when connecting with physicians and other professionals working in the medical industry. When doctors and medical professionals use your promotional products, they help gain the trust of patients who are interested in learning more or receive a product themselves. Giving away promotional products to doctors and medical professionals is an effective marketing strategy once your products and services are available to the public and you want to expand your reach while building your brand's recognition.

Create a Sense of Transparency

Creating a level of trust as a pharmaceutical company is often one of the biggest challenges you may face, especially with the amount of skepticism there is for the industry as a whole. Showcase your company's transparency by allowing users to ask questions and comment on your official website's blog and even your social media pages. Answer questions and respond to even the most disgruntled patients or users directly and in the public eye. Allowing free speech and avoiding the censorship of unwanted comments is a great way to improve how others see your company. Showcasing transparency as a pharmaceutical company is essential when you want to have a massive impact in the world around you without prospective consumers, patients, or investors feeling distrust in your business and brand.

One of the biggest mistakes a pharmaceutical company can make is deleting comments or disabling users and followers from sharing their own opinions and input. Eliminating the conversation between your company and those who want to learn more (or have used your products and services in the past), is one of the quickest ways to lose the interest of prospective investors and patients who are in need of your medications, products, or services.

A/B Testing

A/B testing is a technique used by both small and large businesses that want to expand their reach online. Create multiple ad campaigns that are similar in their message but utilize different imagery and CTAs (calls-to-action). Use platforms such as Google AdWords and Facebook Ads to track collected data and metrics to learn more about which type of copy and imagery work best to engage your intended audience. A/B testing is crucial for pharmaceutical companies as it provides necessary insight into the wants and needs of prospective patients and consumers without requiring you to overspend with your current marketing budget.

Launch a Professional Website

Building a professional website is a necessity when you manage a pharmaceutical company. Without a professional online presence, it becomes increasingly difficult to gain the trust of prospective patients and clients. Use a robust, responsive, and mobile-friendly website layout to avoid alienating an entire audience of users who browse the internet with their mobile smartphones or tablet devices.

Consider utilizing a CMS (content management system) such as WordPress to easily access and maintain the content on your website. A CMS such as WordPress provides access to thousands of themes and plugins for complete customization of your presence and website's layout. Implement social media sharing plugins, commenting sections, and even galleries for testimonials and reviews.

Hire a Professional Agency

Working together with a creative agency is one way to ensure you are on the right track when developing and launching new marketing campaigns for your pharmaceutical company. Creative agencies have an array of skills when it comes to design, development, SEO (search engine optimization), and marketing. Working with an agency that specializes in branding pharmaceutical companies is a way to create the appeal necessary to attract visitors to your website and followers on your social media platforms.

Agencies are not just well-versed in designing modern, professional, and attractive campaigns. They also work to launch campaigns that provide results. Agencies understand a variety of online advertising techniques and platforms, allowing them the opportunity to boost your business in various facets of the internet. Whether you are interested in creating PPC (pay-per-click) advertisements or if you prefer using social media marketing on platforms such as Facebook Ads or Instagram Ads, an agency can help deliver the results you desire while working with the budget you have available.

Understanding the importance of a quality promotion and marketing strategy is a way to outperform the competition in your market while building a professional reputation for your business and brand. With the right tips, tools, and resources, ensure your pharmaceutical company and the products or services you offer is taken seriously and well-received by the patients, consumers, and investors you intend to reach.

About the Author:  Dawn is a budding entrepreneur. After graduating with her MBA, she spent a few years working in the CPG industry and a few more working in the business tech industry before she set off to start her own business. She has been consulting with businesses, large and small, on the side ever since.

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Texting Dental Patients: 11 Stats to Know

Texting Dental Patients: 11 Stats to Know | Social Media and Healthcare |
Texting is the most efficient way to engage with patients. Here are 11 facts that show how crucial texting dental patients is to any thriving practice.

Texting is the fastest and easiest way to reach patients.

Take a look around your waiting room. Are most folks looking at their phones? That’s where they communicate, consume, pass the time, and run their schedules.

Texting is not only convenient, but expected from today’s generation, who regularly receive important texts from other businesses and healthcare providers.

If you’re still unsure if texting is the way to go for your practice, these 11 statistics may change your mind.
89% of people always have their smartphone easily accessible.

Quick poll – How far away is your smartphone? On your desk, a few inches away? Behind you, in your coat pocket? Or are you on it right now?

That’s the beauty of smartphones – they’re always within reach. And that means, with texting, you can get in touch with patients easily, no matter where they are.

With 89% of your patients always having their phone on them, imagine the response rates you’ll get when you text them about their upcoming appointment.

Or when you message them about a last-minute opening.

No more being sent straight to voicemails.

No more hearing, “Can I call you right back?”

Just, “Yes, I’ll be there,” and, “Sure, I’ll take that appointment!”
Most Popular Method of Communication
Texting is the No. 1 most used form of communication among Americans younger than 50.

When you want to get in touch with your kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, or anyone else in the younger generation, do you text them or call them?

If you want them to actually respond – chances are, you’ve found out they’ll respond to a text over a call any day.

Take a look at the average age of your patient base.

If it’s under 50, then meet them where they’re at. Texting is, by far, your best bet for getting higher response rates.

More Texts than Calls
American smartphone users send and receive five times more texts than they make and receive phone calls.

Your patients are busy (isn’t everyone these days?). Reading a quick text and responding appropriately takes maybe 30 seconds.

A phone call? That can take at least a couple minutes of greetings, small talk, getting to the reason for the call, then finally saying goodbye.

Plus, you have to be in the right place with minimal noise in the background, and the right time in the day to take the call.

No wonder people are sending more texts than making phone calls! It’s just easier.
Texting Patients Means Instant Communication
82% of text messages are read within five minutes. Meanwhile, consumers only open 25% of the emails they receive.

Most folks are inundated with emails – the majority of them impersonal and marketing-related.

Text messages, on the other hand, are reserved for friends, coworkers, or reminders about their appointments (i.e. with you!).

In other words, texts are reserved for the important stuff.

Another reason people respond quickly to text messages: they contain less content.

The simpler the content, the easier to digest and respond to.

Harness the power of that five-minute response time!

Positive Perception
77% of consumers who can text and are aged 18–34 view businesses that text in a favorable light.

This is the generation that will find you on Google.

They'll book an appointment if (and only if) your website is up-to-date.

And if your online reviews are stellar, you have a great shot at pulling in more new patients.

Nowadays, if you aren’t hip with the latest technology, patients will move on.


They might assume that if your website is stuck in the past, your dental technology is too.

When you choose to communicate with patients via text, you’re choosing to market to this generation who prefer to be communicated with that way.
Easy Opt-Ins
86% of US consumers opt in to receive SMS notifications.

This statistic refers to consumers opting in to text messages sent by their favorite businesses. And it’s 86% of all consumers, not just those who fall in a younger age bracket.

That’s huge!

If you’ve been afraid to embrace texting patients because it feels too invasive, this statistic alone should allay any fears.

Most patients are not only okay with receiving text messages from businesses, they are used to it (and usually prefer it).

Nearly All Text Messages are Read
The open rate for text messages in the United States is 82%.

Which one are you more likely to let languish in “unread” status – emails or texts?

Are you one of those people with 11,000 unread emails in your inbox?

The majority of people open every text message they receive.

It’s not only exciting to receive a text, it’s annoying to continually see a notification that you have unread texts.

Compare this 82% open rate to that of emails – 25%.

If you want your patients to read the messages you send, your best bet is to connect through text.
Fastest Way to Communicate
When it comes to important service updates and purchases, 78% of US consumers say receiving a text message is the fastest way to reach them.

Are your unconfirmed appointments keeping you up at night?

What percentage of the voicemails you leave patients turn into a call back?

It’s easy to see why texting gets you a faster response.

Most patients have their phone on them throughout the day, and texting takes up only a couple seconds of their time.

Listening to a voicemail and making the time to return a call puts a little more pressure on your patient to find just the right time to do so.

We know getting those confirmations in is paramount to keeping your schedule running smoothly.

It follows that asking for confirmations via text message is the best way to run a tight ship.

The Most Important Feature
80% of US consumers said that providing basic information is the most important feature of service-based messaging to increase satisfaction.

These types of messages are the ones that say simple things like, “Your payment has been applied, thanks!” or, “You driver is on their way,” or “Your prescription is ready for pickup.”

Your patients are busy people with a lot going on. Receiving quick texts with information that can help them tackle their to-do lists is the key to keeping them happy.

Imagine sending your patient a quick reminder that they’re due for an appointment with, “We have an opening for next Wednesday, can you make it?”

They’ll quickly check their calendar, respond back, and get on with their day. That’s a win for them and for you.
Text Messages Are Extremely Useful
91% of users who opted in to receive texts from a brand see those messages as “somewhat” or “very useful.”

True – there will be a few patients who are adamantly against receiving text messages from you, and they’ll sure let you know it.

But for those who opt in to receive text messages from important businesses, they (91% of them) view the messages they receive as useful.

And if they don’t, then they can opt out at any time (by replying “STOP”).

When you text message patients, you improve the efficiency of your communication, keep your schedule full, and boost production.

Perfect for Appointment Reminders
In the United States, 69% of consumers appreciate getting texts or emails from healthcare providers.

Respondents noted that texts are particularly useful for appointment reminders and to give guidelines for upcoming tests.

If you need any more reason to get on the texting bandwagon – this is it.

Sixty-nine percent of consumers want you to communicate with them via text.

There is already a precedent for other healthcare providers to send appointment reminder text messages, so why not join them in helping keep your patients healthy?

Some patients are so used to receiving text message appointment reminders that if they don’t get one from their dental office, they may think their calendar must be wrong. Or worse, that you cancelled their appointment.

It’s better to stay one step ahead and use text messages to remind them you’re looking forward to seeing them.

When you use text messages to reach patients, you’re using the easiest method of actually getting them to engage with your practice.

That means fewer frustrating gaps in your schedule and a little more time for in-person interaction with patients as they enter your doors.

Making them feel welcome and like family is the key to seeing them for years to come!

Learn more about how RevenueWell improves case acceptance and creates more close-knit relationships between dentists and their patients.
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Reaching out to millennials on social media

Reaching out to millennials on social media | Social Media and Healthcare |

In the September/October 2018 issue of Orthodontic Practice US, I shared important insight from author Maria Bailey and her excellent book Millennial Moms: 202 Facts Marketers Need to Know to Build Brands and Drive Sales(available on Amazon). Millennials (born between 1980–2000) became the largest consumer group in 2015. As a patient, their decision-making process is completely different from what you have previously experienced, as is their ability to pay for treatment. Also, they perceive value, trust, and financial decisions differently than any other prior generation. Traditional marketing won’t reach this group, so you have to think creatively as well.

In a changing landscape of consumer demands, what are some important social media themes to address in your marketing strategy? In this article, I will also address the “elephant in the room” — strategies to counteract the current treatment option available for patients at home.

The recent growth in the last 2 years in at-home aligner treatment shows that over 250,000 patients have chosen one company to start treatment. But on a positive note, there are some takeaways we can learn as an orthodontic industry. Beyond price, why do patients feel this is a good choice? And how do you make a consumer take pause when choosing between DIY options and a licensed orthodontic professional? One main answer is that potential patients are not receiving education on the importance of choosing an orthodontist as they are searching for information on social media and Google. To give these potential patients the facts and information they need, you want not only to integrate education posts with treatment result posts, but also to share some core values of your practice that will make it an easier decision for patients to make the right choice to have their treatment done by an orthodontist.

Further insights from Bailey’s book suggest promoting benefits that are already offered in your practice on your social media. Don’t forget to broadcast this news also on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube. These sites are important to the “Millennial Moms” and probably to your entire social media community.

Here are some important aspects of your practice to weave into your social media.

No. 1 — Affordability, benefits, and financing

With the rising financial college costs incurred by millennials upon graduation, student loan debt is a huge financial burden.

Millennials are saddled with college debt that pushes them to seek low-cost options for their orthodontic needs. U.S. News and World Report recently published 20 years (1998-2018) of tuition cost increases by the 300 top ranked national universities in its 2019 Best National Universities rankings report.1 Here’s a quick breakdown:

  • The average tuition and fees at private national universities have jumped 168% since 1998.
  • Out-of-state tuition and fees at public national universities have risen 200%.
  • In-state tuition and fees at public national universities have grown the most, increasing 243%.

A recent article on noted, “The average monthly student loan payment for borrowers in their 20s is $351, and the median monthly payment is $203. That means that Americans in their 20s with student loan debt each have an average balance of about $22,135. Millennials in their 30s may have been dealt the worst hand of all. Twelve million people between the ages of 30 and 39 hold a whopping total of $408.4 billion dollars in debt. So while fewer 30-year-olds still hold debt, those who do have even more to handle.”2 This record-level financial college tuition debt will affect millennials’ decision for treatment.

Figure 2

It’s easy to see why a less expensive and convenient option to orthodontic treatment is intriguing to this millennial patient base that wants to improve their appearance and fit the treatment in their monthly budget. Of course, you cannot compete on the DIY price, but with potential insurance benefits and financing, patients may realize your fee is more affordable than they perceived. Share frequently on your social media untapped orthodontic insurance benefits that can be applied in your practice and affordable financing options for the balance of treatment. Sharing local employer benefits on Facebook and Instagram may also be a good strategy as well as contacting HR departments on specials for their employees.

For the typical consumer, understanding insurance coverage is frustrating and overwhelming. Your treatment coordinator and financial manager sharing those little pieces of knowledge will be enlightening and positive for your community. Share it on your YouTube Channel, occasional Facebook and Instagram posts, and tag the corporation if appropriate (their followers will see your post), and extend the offer to research their benefits for them.

No. 2 — Educate why it’s important to choose an orthodontist

Figure 3A: Stellar Go Live Kit (left) and Figure 3B: LuMee Light-up Phone Cases (right)

In a February 2018 blog post for Delta Dental of Washington, Dr. Kyle Dosch, DDS, Dental Director, wrote the following in an article titled “At-Home Invisible Aligners and Your Dental Coverage”: “The statistics around DIY invisible aligner treatments don’t lie. In 2017, the American Association of Orthodontists (AAO) found that 39% of orthodontists who reported seeing patients after an attempt at DIY therapy had to provide some form of corrective dental treatment to address problems caused by patients trying to straighten their own teeth.

“It’s for these reasons that DIY treatments, orthodontic or otherwise, are not a covered benefit. As a dental benefit carrier, we have an obligation to help protect you. That’s why our dental benefit plans only cover treatment provided and completed by a licensed dental professional. Please keep this in mind when planning orthodontic treatment for yourself and your family.”3

Your office knowledge with your regional insurance providers on their coverage of at home orthodontics would be invaluable with your online followers and dental community.

It’s important to share why your experience and education makes your office the best choice for orthodontic treatment in the online space outside of your website. Educate, educate, educate — it’s easier than ever and almost free on social media. The more “un-produced” a video is, the more authentic it is perceived.

The AAO is taking a more active and aggressive role in educating the public on safety of treatment with an orthodontic professional, but it’s also important that you help the cause. For regional patients, it’s more likely your videos, posts, and blogs will come up in a local organic search. YouTube thumbnails with engaging titles such as “Orthodontics is not a safe DIY treatment,” and a 2-3 minute video will serve your practice well. Share your team’s expertise on insurance research and affordability of treatment with a specialist. Doing so will plant the seeds for when the patient is ready to get started.

One way to educate and to introduce yourself to potential patients is by making a video, which is not such a difficult process. Recording video at a close distance with good sound (no echo) and good lighting is important and easy. Coach Glitter (Instagram @CoachGlitter Facebook pages CoachGlitter1 and website has easy tips to record effective live videos. Dr. Dovi Prero (Instagram @PreroOrthodontics — website has one of the most popular orthodontic Instagram accounts with very active engagement. His posts, “likes,” and “comments” are very impressive — you can check out his social media and get some pointers on how you may want to approach your own videos.

Both Coach Glitter and Dr. Prero are great teachers to study from in social media strategy and entertaining video shots. It’s not hard to put your practice on the “live” social media map, and you actually may enjoy your inner celebrity.

Another key to good videos is good lighting and sound. Stellar Lighting Systems out of Los Angeles ( has a high quality “go live” kit with an adjustable clip light for your phone and desktop tripod that will make a difference in your videos for $23.99. There are cheaper versions on Amazon, but this is the best light I’ve seen to “up” the quality of your video educating your community. also has a great phone case with lighting built in for selfies on the go both forward facing and on the back of the case for $69.99. Be authentic, educate effectively, and have fun being your true self.

It is also critical to plan a monthly social media and YouTube schedule and rotate topics. Posts should include, but not be limited to, education, treatment success, affordability, philanthropy, experience, office personality, humor, love of patients, family, and community — rinse and repeat. You can also pre-schedule when these posts go live, so it is all done at once, and you are ready for the month. The online free site Canva allows you to create posts in a matter of minutes, and be sure to add your logo to the image (watermark app), so it stays with your page. Also, be sure to reply to comments daily in connecting with your community.

Figure 4 (left) and Figure 5 (right)

No. 3 — Report advances in your dental technology and how this will benefit your millennial patients

Author Bailey notes that millennials “want it now and want it fast” as well as wanting instant gratification. Orthodontic treatment can’t be as fast as an Amazon package at the doorstep, but technology advances put you in the running to promote convenience and efficiencies.

  • Figure 6

    Ease of scheduling and communication: Millennials do not want to make phone calls but prefer online scheduling and text. Invisalign® has a local store in San Jose that offers an online service to schedule appointments much like the experience on the website for an initial consultation.

    Hopefully online patient-facing systems will allow this trend to integrate into your current website and scheduling programs to streamline the new patient process. Ask your providers where they are going with these tools to meet the trends in convenience to the millennial population. In the meantime, consider a dedicated number a patient can text to schedule appointments or ask questions versus email. This saves a lot of time for the Millennial Moms, and they will most likely make an appointment right away. Promote this ease of scheduling and communication in your social media platforms.

  • Explain how easy and fast the initial consultation has become because of technology in your practice. Ensure the benefits of your new iTero® scanner and the quality of information it produces (versus sending selfies and impression material in patient records to at-home treatment companies), and the importance of full records for evaluation. Preview how long the process will take, and you will make it easy for millennials to understand their treatment plan and financial cost.
  • Share cutting-edge technologies that make treatment more convenient, comfortable, and faster. Some orthodontists are choosing to differentiate their practice through accelerated orthodontics (including MOPs, vibration, or low light level therapy) or lingual brace technologies like SureSmile® and InBrace. Figure 5 is one example of how Dr. Todd Dickerson in Phoenix, Arizona, promotes acceleration on his Facebook page to his patients and referring practices. Dr. Dovi Prero in Figure 6 highlights innovations of InBrace customized lingual brackets to his Instagram audience as another efficient esthetic treatment option.

Ease of scheduling, records and treatment modalities present a huge opportunity to promote on your website, to your referrals, and social media community — and to point out that these innovations are only available with a licensed provider. Technology has changed the landscape completely, and it’s exciting.

Whatever you integrate that benefits the patient experience, convenience, and treatment outcome — promote it and promote it often. Educate your patients as to why specialist orthodontists are important, show your technologies and successful treatment results, and you will have millennials entrusting their smiles to you in the years ahead.

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Social Media Do's and Don'ts for Physicians

Social Media Do's and Don'ts for Physicians | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media has not traditionally played a major role in the medical field, and physicians are often hesitant to use it. Now, it’s becoming clear that social media is here to stay and that personal and professional social media accounts can have a serious impact on how a physician is perceived. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to physician social media use, but it is important for doctors who maintain social media accounts to keep these important considerations in mind. 

Avoid inflammatory comments  

In recent years, some physicians have made widely reported gaffes on social media, often with serious consequences to their careers. Doctors are still held to a high standard, and missteps are not easily overlooked. In fact, highly political statements, disparaging remarks, and rants are often saved by screenshot and shared far beyond a physician’s social media connections.

So, while imagining that your statements could end up published in the news may feel ridiculous, it doesn’t hurt to think about this long shot possibility before you post. Doctors are generally among the most highly respected and trusted professionals. This trust and respect is an honor that shouldn’t be taken for granted. A physician’s words may carry extra weight—these words may be repeated as “truth” and may also be subject to close scrutiny.

Be clear about your availability with your patients 

In the age of social media, patients can look up their doctors and send messages and medical questions at any time, day or night. Along with the information that you routinely provide to your patients about your availability and contact information, it’s a good idea to add a boilerplate statement clarifying that the only way you should be contacted is through the processes that you have provided, and that you will not address patient care issues through social media.

Many social media accounts allow the sender to know whether the message was read by the recipient- potentially making the situation even more distressing for you if you receive an urgent message this way. 

Adjust your privacy settings 

It can take some time to figure out, but popular social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn allow you to adjust your settings to public or private. Beyond just selecting a public or private profile, you can also customize your settings in greater detail. For example, you can select an option to hide your comments from people you are not connected to and you can even block certain people from seeing your account at all. 

While even private messages can be saved on someone else’s phone or computer by screenshot and shared anywhere, having a private setting can make it less likely for you to receive unwanted messages.

Consider using a pseudonym 

Some doctors are concerned that unwelcome connection requests may arrive from patients, coworkers, employers, payers, litigious parties, or just about anyone who should use professional routes of contact instead. It is not uncommon for physicians to use nicknames on social media accounts, profile photos of nature scenes, or other means to avert identification through a standard search. 

Create a professional page 

Many doctors want to figure out how to advantageously incorporate social media professionally. Creating a verified professional page on any social media platform can provide you with some control over your online presence, and this may help you separate your personal and professional information. 

You can use a professional page to list basics about your practice, such as your practice webpage, your services, office address, and phone number. You might also decide to periodically add posts, such as helpful information for patients. Some doctors repost patient reviews from physician rating sites. A few take social media pages a step further and interact by answering general questions on the page. You can use your page however you want, but be sure to think through the details, including medical liability, ahead of time.  If a patient takes an action (or does not get needed medical attention) based on your perceived advice, then you could face liability for the outcome.

Disable outside comments on your page 

Safeguarding comments and posts on your medical page can be particularly important if you set up a social media account for your medical practice. If you don’t control the permissions on your account, anyone can add inaccurate medical advice or push product promotions – which may be misconstrued as something that you endorse.

You can alleviate these problems by adjusting your page settings so that you control or approve all comments that are visible on your page. Many professional pages utilize settings that prevent anyone who is not the account holder from posting on the page. Alternatively, you can set your page so that you (or your practice manager) must approve posts before they are visible.

Check your employer’s social media guidelines

Employers often have guidelines regarding social media use, and there have been highly publicized incidentsin which doctors have lost their jobs due to online activity. Sometimes, even when there are no social media guidelines in place, employers choose to terminate an employee (at any level) whose social media statements reflect poorly on the business. 

Whether you are a beginner or a devout social media enthusiast, it is important to find out whether your employer has guidelines in place. If not, you might be the right person to work on creating those guidelines for your hospital or group practice. 

Social media is changing, and the line between personal and professional identities is not always clear. The ability to share your opinion with your circle of friends and professional connections can be enjoyable, and often builds a sense of community. But there can be downsides for anyone who doesn’t proceed with caution. As a physician, the career you have built is far too important to risk losing over a post that you might later regret.

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Instagram influencers are selling you drugs and medical devices

Instagram influencers are selling you drugs and medical devices | Social Media and Healthcare |

Louise Roe has denim that’s ripped in all the right places, a bikini-ready body year-round, a husband and baby who look like they were picked from a catalog, and 698,000 Instagram followers. She also has the skin condition psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune disease defined by flaky, inflamed red or white patches of skin, and she wants you to know all about it.

Actually, she needs to tell you about her psoriasis on Instagram; otherwise, her paid partnership with Celgene, a biotechnology company that produces the patent-protected psoriasis medication Otezla, would presumably be canceled.

In recent years, businesses have adapted their advertising strategies to the rise in social media use, specifically on Instagram. The app is one of the most popular social networks, surpassed only by its parent company, Facebook, and is projected to have more than 111 million users in 2019 — more than half of whom are between ages 18 and 29. The high level of Instagram user engagement gives companies an opportunity to capitalize on users with thousands of followers, aptly dubbed “influencers,” through paid advertising partnerships.


These Instagram ads, for which influencers can be paid an estimated $1,000 per 100,000 followers, are selling not just a product but an entire lifestyle. Rather than buying a single-page ad or a minute-long TV or radio spot, companies benefit from the candor and storytelling on influencers’ feeds. However, selling a pair of shoes or luggage as part of a lifestyle is far different from selling pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and other health-related products. Nevertheless, pharmaceutical and biotech companies and Silicon Valley health startups see the opportunity Instagram presents and are increasingly using influencer-advertising as a way to increase their bottom lines.

In a pink tutu against a pink backdrop, Erin Ziering, wife of former 90210 star Ian Ziering, advertises Allergan breast implants and Botox side by side in a December 2018 post — the same month the company pulled its textured implants from European markets in response to a notice from the Food and Drug Administration that individuals with breast implants are at risk of developing breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma (BIA-ALCL).

Ziering’s post uses #Ad near the top of her caption, but what follows focuses on breast cancer awareness and not either product’s risks and benefits. Instead, users need to click through multiple photos to find this information, which elides the risk of BIA-ALCL. Neither Allergan nor Ziering responded to requests for comment.

“The blatant pushing of a product that preys on women’s insecurities doesn’t sit well,” says one woman who underwent breast reconstruction and experienced complications associated with BIA-ALCL. Speaking with Vox about Ziering’s post on the condition of anonymity, she said that by combining Botox and Natrelle in the same ad, “the company is trying to profit or push a product [Botox], which is literally a toxin, while promoting breast cancer awareness … sounds contradictory.” When asked about the post-tutu photos, which contained relevant risk-benefit information, she said she “didn’t even realize that there were more pictures.” The FDA issued another letter about BIA-ALCLto health care providers on February 6.

Allergan is not the only company that markets to and, inevitably, tries to take advantage of vulnerable women. Bloomlife is paying mommy bloggers like Alyson Owen and Stephanie Peltier to tell fellow pregnant women that they can save a trip to the hospital by monitoring those pesky contractions at home. The device does not require FDA approval, only registration, as its intended use, according to the company’s website, is as a “health and wellness device and not a substitute for medical attention.” However, neither Owen nor Peltier’s post includes this important advisory; Owen’s goes as far as labeling it the “world’s first clinically validated wearable contraction monitor,” a phrase that may be misinterpreted as “FDA-regulated” by the average consumer.

When reached for comment, Bloomlife would not clarify the intended meaning of “clinically validated” and noted it does not have a large paid-influencer program, labeling it “more organic.” Only Peltier offered comment on her paid partnership with Bloomlife, noting her positive experience working with them. She said the company sent her “guidelines explaining a bit more about the product and ... what I could and couldn’t say. … [T]hey wanted to be very careful that, as an influencer, I wasn’t making a bunch of unsubstantiated claims,” like calling the product a “medical device.” Beyond these recommendations, Peltier was free to write her own caption and accompanying blog post.

By omitting or misrepresenting critical health information or failing to present multiple options for treatment, as a physician would do with their patients, influencers run the risk of leaving their followers with a possibly dangerous, largely incomplete kind of hope. There is no doubt that this type of health care advertising-cum-storytelling is effective — and is frequently compliant with federal regulations. But there’s a more important question we need to be asking: Is it ethical?

Health care sponcon is here to stay, but at whose expense?

What’s being advertised matters as much as how it’s advertised. Technological advances have led to a boom in the pharmaceutical and medical device space. The treatments we see hashtagged are new to market or still under patent protection, and therefore, manufacturers need to make a compelling case as to why their product is better than an older but similar generic option supported by years of research.

These generics, whose active ingredients are the same as their brand-name counterparts, are preferred by insurers and physicians because of the product’s cost and research that support its benefits. While generics compete based on price alone, brand-name treatments depend on name recognition and storytelling in order to recoup the $1 billion or more spent on development of each new product.

By enlisting influencers to market their health care products amid a stream of Facetuned photos, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies co-opt narratives that give social media users a sense of how healthy they can be, if only they had this product. This is why Roe, who did not return requests for comment, is the perfect ambassador for Celgene. There’s no sight of psoriasis on her Instagram feed; her skin is clear, perfect even, and she’s smiling in every picture — and the message implies that if you buy Celgene, you can have that too. In selling Celgene, Roe is also selling a life — her life — but what she does not tell you is Celgene does not work for everyone and it certainly won’t give you her life.

The pharmaceutical giant, which was recently acquired by Bristol-Myers Squibb for $74 billion, is no stranger to deceptive advertising. In 2016, the FDA Office of Prescription Drug Promotion notified the company that a TV ad for Otezla, the same drug Roe promotes, was “misbranded” and “creates a misleading impression” about the drug’s safety. The agency’s reasoning was that the ad’s “compelling and attention-grabbing visuals and SUPERs, all of which are unrelated to the risk message … compete for the consumers’ attention.” The same could be said of Roe’s multiple paid posts for the brand. Bristol-Myers Squibb referred Vox to Celgene for comment; Celgene did not respond.

The goal of a successful ad campaign is to minimize the degree to which it appears like an ad. This is especially true for ads targeting millennials, who make up the largest group of Instagram users and will accrue $1.4 billion in spending power by 2020. Instead, it needs to tap into consumers’ needs, buried deep in their subconscious. With respect to Instagram advertising, this can be problematic because a consumer might associate a product with an influencer’s entire feed rather than the information presented in a single ad. To add insult to injury, some patient influencers — who have every financial incentive to promote their products “authentically” — may omit critical health information, thus deceiving potential patients.

Who’s responsible for regulating these posts? Good question.

In 1905, author Samuel Hopkins Adams published a series of articles on “patent medicine evil” in Collier’s Weekly titled “The Great American Fraud.” It brought to light the addictive and poisonous ingredients in medicines marketed for children. Soon after, the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act was passed, which charged the FDA with regulating how companies communicate the risks and benefits of every drug and medical device that the agency approves — but only on the labels attached to those drugs. Before 1962, the advertising of prescription drugs and medical devices remained the responsibility of the Federal Trade Commission.

The FTC is responsible for consumer protection in all industries; within health care that includes the entire non-prescription side of the business and certain classes of prescription devices (all of which are registered with the FDA), according to an FTC spokesperson. Historically, patients and consumers were considered separately, but now that advertising targets specific patient populations in broadcast, print, and online media — giving them the information and power to demand a particular medical intervention — consumers require different protections, and both agencies fall short in providing them.

Both the FDA and FTC have federal rulemaking authority, which means they can create guidelines for advertisers that support laws already passed by Congress, and health care sponcon falls under the purview of both agencies. However, the guidelines both agencies publish are, as per both agency’s spokespeople, intentionally vague.


According to the FTC Advertising Practices Division, the agency does not “tell people exactly how they should phrase things in most cases, but [does] tell them what choices they have and what range of options they have if they want to stay on the right side of the disclosure line.” Similarly, nearly every guideline published on the FDA website is labeled as a draft and begins with the following disclosure: “[The guide] does not create or confer any rights for or on any person and does not operate to bind FDA or the public.”

Despite the leeway companies are given, federal guidelines do have an impact. Now, when we see Ray Liotta appear on television explaining how he quit smoking using Chantix, it is apparent the ad is regulated — and that Liotta was compensated for his endorsement — because of the disclosures scrolling along the bottom of the screen. The same risk-benefit and financial disclaimers are applied to social media advertising. According to the FDA, advertisements for pharmaceuticals and medical devices must give a balanced description of the product, meaning an ad cannot focus solely on the benefits of its use if there are known risks that could alter the patient’s decision to use a particular product.

Unfortunately, says Jonathan D. Moreno, a professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania, that disclosure is not enough to protect patient-consumers. In a conversation with Vox, he said, “[A]s a default position, you can also hide behind [disclosure]. You can say, ‘Oh, there’s transparency’, and that’s the end of the story. But ethically, [influencers] who do this do take on some personal responsibility, quite apart from the legal side. They take on some personal responsibility for promoting a product or process that could change somebody else’s life.”

How influencer pharma marketing works

Social media enables its users to connect over shared interests, locations, and even illnesses. Using this formula, health care companies locate potential influencers who can use these commonalities to reach and build trust with an audience. Although they have massive followings, Moreno distinguishes influencers from celebrities through what he calls the “social network proximity.” Celebrities are people we project fantasies on, while influencer communities make those fantasies attainable because “they are based on some kind of emotional linkage.” By inviting us into their personal lives through social media, they bridge a gap that once existed. Influencers occupy a strange space: they’re celebrities — sort of — who also act like our friends.

Lesley Murphy, a former contestant on The Bachelor and current travel blogger, uses her platform to disseminate information that benefits people like her who are affected by a BRCA genetic mutation, which increases a person’s risk of breast, ovarian, and pancreatic cancers. Murphy, who did not respond to requests for comment, documented her experience of undergoing a preventive double mastectomy on Instagram. Now she advertises ReSensation, a surgical technique launched in October 2018 that may help women undergoing breast reconstruction to retain some or all sensation in their breasts, to her 422K followers. Although ads for most surgical procedures are under the FTC’s purview, ReSensation’s use of human nerves also gives the FDA jurisdiction over Murphy’s Instagram and blog posts.

When asked how the influencer program was developed, Annette Ruzicka, a spokesperson for AxoGen, the company that developed ReSensation, said, “The only request of contributors was to write openly about their breast reconstruction process, and to also share factual information with their followers about the ReSensation technique. We shared publicly available information about the ReSensation technique to ensure that all content shared with the public was accurate. We provided no other content requirements for contributors.”

Murphy, who is not the only ReSensation influencer, has not undergone the procedure herself. But her followers may not realize this detail until they reach the end of her Instagram caption, where she directs readers to a blog post where, at the very end, she discloses her personal inexperience with the technique. Though this does not violate federal guidelines, nor those put forth by AxoGen, it does speak to the ethical obligation an influencer has to their followers.

The reality star’s Instagram post about the techniquereceived almost 11,500 likes, giving ReSensation considerable exposure, yet Murphy omits disclosures required by both the FTC and FDA. She uses the term #partner to disclose that she is a compensated influencer, but the term is considered too vague, even for the FTC, for a user to clearly understand the relationship. She also fails to offer any information about the technique, disregarding federal guidelines to disclose risks and benefits that may impact patient decision-making. Instead, she directs followers to her blog where she discusses “a new technique designed to restore sensation in breasts after surgery,” lamenting the numbness in her breasts since her mastectomy and reconstruction.

Her blog post is where we finally learn the technique was not used on Murphy and cannot be used in conjunction with implant reconstruction, the most common and least complicated form of breast reconstruction, and the type of reconstruction Murphy underwent. Neither Murphy’s posts nor the ReSensation website discloses the success rate of the technique, instead focusing on an insecurity that has plagued mastectomy patients for decades: numb breasts. Up to this point, the lack of peer-reviewed studies on large populations of women who underwent free-flap breast reconstruction with sensory nerve repair makes any claims to successful restoration of sensation in breast reconstruction inconclusive.

To read Murphy’s entire Instagram caption, users must click “more,” where they’ll read that the crux of the post is actually on her blog. Although her caption directs readers to the link in her bio, that link has now changed, making it even more difficult to find the relevant information. After reviewing the post, Moreno explained to Vox: “Readers shouldn’t have to click through to discover that the person posting hasn’t actually used the product. Requiring multiple clicks begins to cross the line to deceptive advertising, especially considering that [they] are using their own illness as clickbait. This is emotional exploitation combined with the seeming intimacy of social media.”

Advances in social media are surpassing government regulation

Including phrases like “paid for” and “risks include” at the top of an influencer’s caption don’t exactly scream authenticity, but this is what the FTC and FDA ask of companies in their advertisements. However, paid influencers use different techniques to convey intimacy of each post while toeing the line of compliance. One influencer, who is compensated by a variety of brands outside of health care and preferred not to be named due to existing partnerships, confirmed the tactics used by some Instagrammers to “authentically” sell a product. Some bury the #sponsored tag deep in the copy or shorten it to #spon, despite the FTC guideline for disclosures to be “clear and conspicuous.”

In 2017, the FTC hosted a live Q&A on Twitter where influencers and advertisers could ask questions about requirements for disclosure on social media and personal websites. The answers were then published as an addendum to a preexisting endorsement guide, though the responses are not a definitive guide on acceptable disclosure. While the FTC’s “living documents” have been updated within the past two years, the FDA lags behind. Its most recent document on social media advertising, published in 2014, does not mention Instagram and still defines Twitter as using 140 characters, instead of the current 280 limit. Broadly speaking, the guide asks advertisers to convey a fair balance of risks and benefits in the same character-space-limited communication — i.e., the same tweet or caption.

Although the FTC says the words “partner” or “ambassador” are “ambiguous and confusing” because they do not make the financial relationship between a company and influenceras clear as #XYZ_Ambassador does, it does not ban their use outright. The FDA does not offer comparable guidance for financial disclosures. Before referring Vox to the FTC guidelines, an FDA spokesperson said the agency “has not issued guidance regarding disclosure of the financial interests of spokespeople in prescription drug or medical device promotion, including disclosures by social media influencers acting on behalf of a medical product manufacturer.”


Federal regulatory agencies are trying to keep up with social media-savvy advertisers, which is why their guidelines are considered “living documents,” but they are not there yet. To not hem in companies on what they can do, both agencies offer general ideas about what they can post and generally recommend, for those doubting their compliance, that more disclosure is better. When evaluating posts, the former “will look at whether it is easily noticed and understood,” while the latter wants to see “whether benefits and risks are presented in a comparably prominent manner.” However, neither is explicit in saying how far into a post is too far for disclosure to be easily recognized.

In fact, both the FTC and FDA guidelines are just that: guidelines.

Complicating matters even further, most of the guidelines are for manufacturer-to-consumer advertising and have not yet adapted to influencer-to-consumer advertising. Outlined in the FTC’s “DotCom Disclosure” guide, advertisers must have “reasonable programs in place to train and monitor members of their network,” i.e., influencers. The FTC also asks that companies make a “reasonable effort” to know what their paid marketers are saying — an expectation that is clearly not being met.

Most companies provide their influencers with guidelines for each post but don’t write or review the copy in advance, in order to give the content a genuine voice. But an authentic voice could inadvertently be misleading. Chandler Coleman, a consumer insights investigator with, says “[m]ost times, these promoters are not health care professionals or experts in the medical field. Due to low communication barriers, however, consumers are less likely to know the source of the information they are receiving. Instead, they may be prone to blindly trust these online manufacturers and ‘experts,’ as they believe them to be professionals.”

Influencers are building trust online

One wonders why a company would assume the risk of misinformed patients, as they are responsible for what their paid endorsers say. The reason is simple: One in three consumers in the US consult social media for health-related matters. As the average consumer’s access to scientific and medical information increases by way of online media, Moreno argues that consumers become less reliant on their physician’s expert opinion. Instead, consumers, especially those with an illness, search for people whose experiences mirror their own.

Although social media influencers are often strangers to us IRL, their online candor can create a deep connection with their followers and puts them in a unique position to influence decision making. It can also strengthen an ad campaign by engendering unpaid, organic content, which is what happened when the pharmaceutical company Dexcom launched its #DexcomWarrior campaign during Diabetes Awareness Month.

With the help of a PR firm, Allison+Partners, Dexcom used sponsored posts from key influencers to generate organic content from other users. Using the tag #DexcomWarrior, posts by Derek Theler, an artist with 691,000 followers, and Jay T. Maryniak, a self-described public figure on Instagram with 434,000 followers, demonstrate how powerful a narrative of overcoming illness can be. Quickly, unpaid Instagrammers began using the same tag to share their own struggles with Type 1 diabetes and how a Dexcom device had changed their lives.

The campaign earned Dexcom PR Daily’s 2018 award for the best “Social Media Campaign” of the year, as measured by engagement analytics. Allison+Partners and Dexcom declined to comment on their influencer campaigns, and Theler and Maryniak did not respond to our requests.

The campaign promoted the company’s continuous glucose monitoring system (CGM), which launched in June 2017. The system allows patients to monitor glucose data in real time using a smartphone app that connects with their device. Their devices require a prescription but are covered by 98 percent of private insurers and Medicare, according to a Dexcom spokesperson. By contrast, a patient can purchase a similar device from a pharmacy without a prescription for as little as $20.

These devices fall into a regulatory gray area, explains the FTC. “The FDA has primary jurisdiction over the labeling of all devices and the advertising of restricted devices, whereas [the FTC has] primary jurisdiction over the advertising of non-restricted devices. A prescription device may or may not be a restricted device.” The company’s newest device, the G6 CGM, is a class II non-restricted device according to an FDA database.

The difference between the posts Dexcom paid Theler and Maryniak to create and the free content generated from the #DexcomWarrior hashtag is that Theler’s and Maryniak’s are subject to FTC and FDA guidelines. Although the organic content may be incorrect or misleading to consumers, there is no regulation prohibiting someone from giving their unpaid recommendation. And while posts from Theler and Maryniak use the #sponsored hashtag, neither included the device’s known risks, which include the “potential for blood-glucose readings that miss hypo- or hyperglycemic states,” conditions that could be the difference between life and death to a diabetic if left untreated.

In an interview with Vox, Alan Regenberg, the director of outreach and research support at Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, expressed concern over the gray area of disclosure in social media marketing as well as the difficulty in parsing the true intentions of a post. Whether or not a post is ethical “comes down to the sincerity of the claim,” he said. “The dividing line is if it’s somebody who is making the claim because they’re being compensated to make it versus somebody who personally experienced it.”

Regenberg says the ethics of influencer marketing depend on other options available to patients. Whether the treatment advertised is the only one of its kind or proven effective, or the product’s cost and availability are accessible to the targeted population, are, according to him, the deciding factors of ethicality. When there are few options for treatment, a patient is likely to be deceived because they are more desperate for solutions than the same patient with many available options for treatment.

Advertising new-to-market medical devices and prescription drugs is problematic because their efficacy in the long term is unknown. But when confronted with studies that may negatively impact sales, some drug and device companies shirk their responsibility of keeping patients informed of all recalls or previously undisclosed risks, which is how Allergan reacted to the link between breast implants and BIA-ALCL.

The company encouraged patients to “have a comprehensive conversation with their surgeon about all potential risks and benefits, allowing for a fully informed decision.” Prior to the FDA’s notice to physicians in February, which Dr. Jennifer Ashton called “unprecedented” in an interview on Good Morning America, Allergan ramped up marketing its Natrelle implants on Instagram during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Moreno, the bioethicist, noted that “one of the risks is [social media marketing] starts to substitute for long-term monitoring because nobody has any skin in the game.”

The consequences for irresponsible pharma sponcon? Not much.

Although the FDA and FTC are regulatory agencies, they “do not attempt to survey all influencers or influencer posts, either alone or with [the help of] social media platforms,” according to the FTC Advertising Practices Division. In order to fully police their guidelines, the agencies would need to comb millions of posts to determine which are paid advertisements and whether they’re compliant. While it is their responsibility to make sure health care companies comply with advertising regulations, social media is an advertising black hole with limited tools to search and report non-compliant posts. In lieu of improving their own monitoring systems, the agencies rely on consumers to report non-compliant ads, though most consumers are not experts in federal advertising guidelines.


What’s also disturbing is that there are no immediate consequences for omitting information required by the regulatory agencies, especially since they do not review every post. So, while a drug company could rightly be sued if incorrect or incomplete labeling on a drug or device causes a patient harm, according to the FDA, an influencer likely would not face the same legal repercussions for omitting this information in an advertisement. Although an influencer is, per federal guidelines, an agent of that company, the FDA will appeal directly to the company, and any adverse consequences to the influencer are at the discretion of the company and will likely depend on their contract with the company.


The FTC would not disclose how its investigations are conducted, but when a violation is found, a letter of complaint is sent. These letters include an order agreeing not to engage in this conduct again and put a compliance process in place. Civil penalties are not typically brought on the first violation. However, if these terms are violated, penalties of up to $41,000 per day per violation can be brought. To put that into perspective, millions of people view these posts each day, and each one of those views could be considered a violation.

Similar penalties and grievances are employed by the FDA. This was the case when Kim Kardashian created a post sponsored by Duchesnay, the manufacturer of Diclegis, a medication that treats nausea and vomiting in pregnant women. Kardashian’s original post received an anonymous complaint that was submitted to the Office of Prescription Drug Promotion’s Bad Ad Program because of her failure “to communicate any risk information associated with [Diclegis] use and it omits material facts.” According to Robert Dean, the division director of the FDA Office of Prescription Drug Promotion, Kardashian failed to include that “Diclegis has not been studied in women with hyperemesis gravidarum,” which is a rare but serious condition characterized by severe nausea, vomiting, fainting and dizziness, weight loss, and dehydration.

Kardashian corrected her ad, under threat of further “FDA regulatory action, including seizure or injunction” against Duchesnay, though the manufacturer continued to partner with famous pregnant women, like The Bachelor’s Emily Maynard, to promote the drug. Maynard’s post requires substantial scrolling to get to the fine print Kardashian originally left out: “Limitation of Use: Diclegis hasn’t been studied in women with hyperemesis gravidarum.” For women struggling with morning sickness, this is important information that should, according to federal guidelines, be closer to the top of post to better inform the public, regardless of the detriment to authenticity.

Using influencers to sell products to the sick can be a particularly insidious form of marketing in large part because of the vague parameters set by the FTC and FDA. With today’s ambiguous regulations, health care sponcon will continue to saturate our feeds with posts that appear sincere but end up being misleading. Consumers looking for remedies to what ails them should not be expected to differentiate nuances in regulatory wording between “clinically validated” and “FDA-approved.”

For consumers to protect themselves in ways regulatory agencies cannot, they must be reminded that influencing is a job — one that only can only be done effectively if the stories influencers tell are relatable to the average user. Our clicks and likes and follows may or may not improve our own lives, in spite of what captions lead us to believe, but our engagement will always benefit the bottom line of influencers and the companies they work for.

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How Patients Use Online Reviews

How Patients Use Online Reviews | Social Media and Healthcare |

Internet reviews sites, such as Yelp and HealthGrades, have a growing influence on medical providers’ reputations and ability to attract new patients. We’ve conducted surveys in the past showing how, why and when patients use reviews sites, and now we’re revisiting the topic with fresh data on how patients use online reviews.

One of the most interesting trends we’ve found over the years of conducting this survey is that the number of people who use online review sites to help select a new physician is growing, and that means practices that have a small online presence—or worse, a negative one—could be missing out on hundreds of new patients each year.

In this report, we’ll talk about reputation management software made just for medical providers that help you manage your online presence, as well as some tips for addressing negative reviews.

We’ve found that spending as little as 10 minutes a week cultivating your online presence and addressing feedback publicly reduce the impact of negative reviews by up to 70 percent.


Key Findings

  1. A healthy online presence is crucial for your medical practice, as this year’s findings showed that 94 percent of patients who responded to our survey use online reviews to evaluate physicians.
  2. Almost three quarters (72 percent) of patients use online reviews as the very first step to finding a new doctor, so your online reputation is often the first impression you make on many potential patients.
  3. A positive review history could bring out-of-network patients to your practice, as nearly half (48 percent) of respondents would go out of their insurance network for a provider with favorable reviews.
  4. Only 2 percent of patients leave “very negative” feedback on reviews sites, and just 10 percent leave “somewhat negative” reviews, so the majority of reviews should be either neutral or positive and therefore easier to engage with.
  5. Seventy percent of respondents feel it’s “very” or “moderately important” for providers to respond publicly to online reviews, so addressing complaints head-on (without violating HIPAA laws) is a smart strategy.


Most Patients Use Online Reviews

To collect the data for this report, we surveyed over 500 U.S. patients to ask them about their use of online reviews sites. We found that the trend of patients using online reviews sites to research medical providers continues growing.

Last year, 82 percent of respondents said they consulted reviews websites with some frequency to view or post comments and ratings for healthcare providers. This year, that number jumped to 94 percent.



If you compare that to our research back in 2013, when only 25 percent of patients used online reviews to evaluate doctors, it becomes obvious that online reviews have become a trusted and essential tool for the vast majority of patients.

The frequency with which patients use reviews sites varies, but a combined majority do so regularly: 72 percent report using them “often” or “sometimes,” while nearly a quarter of respondents use them “rarely.”

This isn’t surprising to Todd William, founder and CEO of Reputation Rhino in New York City.


Todd William

Founder and CEO of Reputation Rhino

“I think it’s clear that the internet wields a tremendous influence over people’s choices in all areas of their lives. From where to eat, what to wear, where to travel, and who to choose as their doctor. I believe health care professionals must carefully curate their online image with the same thoughtfulness and intentionality as their bedside manner or office decor.”

This data suggests patients are finding a great deal of value in online reviews of medical practices. What’s more, this dynamic can make or break a medical practice’s online reputation. It’s not just that so many patients are using reviews—it’s that those reviews are often the first thing patients see.

Search engine optimization (SEO) experts agree that user-generated content, such as reviews, is heavily weighted by search engines. This means reviews are often the first impression a patient will get of a medical provider when they search for a practice’s name.

This is especially true in the age of Google, and we found that carried out in our survey results when we asked patients which reviews sites they used the most. The majority, 37 percent, said they used Google reviews.



Fortunately, there are marketing tools specifically designed for healthcare providers that make acquiring reviews easier. Some of these systems are set up with event-based communication features that will automatically send out emails asking patients to leave reviews on popular reviews sites after they come in for an appointment.

These automated invitations help increase the number of reviews you’ll receive, making your page more visible on search engine results pages.

Of course, you want those reviews to be positive in order to ensure review readers are seeing the best of your practice, so your priority will be taking great care of your patients in order to garner positive reviews. More on that later.

Most Patients Use Online Reviews To Find New Providers

A good online reputation is important for more than just visibility.

Seventy-two percent of patients in our survey use online reviews as a way to evaluate and select a new doctor.



These results show that online reviews do play a role in patient retention, but it’s clear that most patients are consulting reviews to decide whether they should make a first appointment with a provider at all.

The good news for providers is you can leverage reviews sites as marketing channels and use them to grow your patient base thanks to healthcare CRM software. Many of these systems are equipped with dashboards that let you keep track of metrics and evaluate the success of your online marketing strategies.


Performance dashboard in Kareo‘s medical marketing software



Having this data at your fingertips allows medical professionals to identify patient engagement trends, offering greater insight on which channels new patients are using to find providers. It also reflects how current patients are interacting with the practice (e.g., via phone, email or patient portal).

Positive Reviews Could Attract Out-of-Network Patients

Almost half of respondents in our survey (48 percent) said they’d be willing to go out of their insurance network to see a provider if their reviews were better than those of an in-network provider.



When compared to the same data point back in 2013, the number of patients who are willing to pay more for an out-of-network provider has nearly doubled.

This means a significant percentage of patients are willing to overlook important factors like cost and convenience in favor of positive online reviews when selecting a new healthcare provider.

Most Patients Post Positive Reviews Online

Again, you’ll only be able to take full advantage of online reviews to attract new patients if your reviews are positive. That’s something that scares many doctors off of asking for online feedback from patients, as satisfaction is such an inconsistent thing to gauge.

The good news here is that most patients leave positive reviews for healthcare providers.

Of the patients in our survey who said they leave online reviews, a combined 72 percent of patients said they leave “very” or “somewhat positive” feedback when reviewing healthcare providers.



Physician concerns about negative reviews are incredibly common, so the fact that so many patients are sharing positive experiences online (rather than focusing on negative ones) is probably surprising to a lot of readers—and encouraging!

The data suggests that bad reviews don’t actually happen all that often, and I suspect the fear of patient feedback stems more from the perceived severity of negative reviews rather than the number of them.

We’ll talk more about how to handle these negative reviews later, but for now, let’s focus on the positive: With patient engagement and feedback software, you can easily capture these positive reviews and promote them on your own website.

Most Patients Want Providers to Respond to Negative Reviews

Unfortunately, negative reviews do happen sometimes, and based on the number of hits that come up from a Google search of “how to deal with negative patient reviews,” a lot of physicians struggle to deal with them. That’s why we asked patients whether or not they believe it’s important for providers to respond to negative reviews publicly on reviews websites.

Seventy percent said it’s either “very” or “moderately important” to them that providers answer negative reviews in a reasonable way that presents their side of the encounter.



Rick Ostopowicz is a Senior Account Executive at Nevins & Associates who has been working as a marketing and public relations specialist for twenty years. He coaches his clients on the value of responding to even the harshest reviews.


Rick Ostopowicz

Senior Account Executive at Nevins & Associates

“One thing that providers need to remember is that the responses given are not just for the patients leaving the feedback; in fact, many patients will simply rant online and then move on to rant about something or someone else. Rather, the responses should show other potential patients who are researching a practice or facility that the provider listens, empathizes, takes all feedback seriously, and addresses matters promptly (if possible).”

William agrees, and adds advice about the competitive edge responding to reviews can give providers.

“I generally advocate for responding publicly to all reviews, public or private,” he says. “It shows a responsiveness and level of engagement that distinguish ‘good’ from ‘great’ and in any competitive business, that is a huge advantage. It is also a relatively easy edge to obtain, with a minimal investment or time or resources.”

As we’ll talk more about later, a lot of patients are willing to overlook negative reviews for a number of reasons, so the key here is not to feel overwhelmed or too threatened by negative reviews and instead address them head-on.

That’s easier said than done when you consider how many individual reviews sites there are for medical professionals these days. But thanks to CRM software, you can easily monitor these reviews sites and quickly respond to serious reviews without taking too much time out of your day.

Some of these systems are even equipped to send email or text alerts directly to you when a negative review comes in so that you can provide your measured response as quickly as possible.

A few things to keep in mind when responding to negative reviews are:

  • Don’t take it personally. Things can get nasty online, but it’s imperative that you respond in a professional, courteous tone.
  • Acknowledge the reviewers’ concerns. Unless the review is entirely unreasonable or untrue, don’t spend the whole response refuting or debunking their complaints; instead, pay attention to what caused the patient to have a negative experience, acknowledge it and offer a solution if possible. (Though you should NOT offer discounts or anything like that, as doing so in a public response could encourage other reviewers to leave negative reviews in an effort to get similar compensation.)
  • Do not violate HIPAA laws. This is one of the main reasons responding to negative reviews in the healthcare industry is so difficult, because you can’t actually confirm whether or not the reviewer visited your practice or was treated by you or your team. Do your research and establish your guidelines before responding to any reviews in order to avoid costly HIPAA violations.

Here are a few more “do’s” and “don’ts” for responding to negative reviews of your medical practice:



Most Patients Disregard Implausibly Negative Reviews

Here’s some more good news: In many cases, patients reading extremely negative reviews will automatically disregard them, so the potential damage these bad reviews can have on your reputation is limited.

A combines 65 percent of patients tend to ignore negative reviews that seem unreasonable or exaggerated, and nearly two-fifths of patients overlook negative reviews if the provider responded to them thoughtfully.



Ostopowicz recognizes the validity of this data point, and gives a great example:

“Online reviews have their good points and bad points based upon the type of feedback given,” he says. “For example, someone who leaves a 1-star rating for a hospital with the comment, ‘This place should go out of business or be burned to the ground,’ is not giving any feedback that would be useful to me as a consumer. But a 1-star rating that talks in specifics—wait times, appointment issues, horrible staff attitudes—will give me pause and make me read more reviews from others.”

On the flipside, a majority of patients are at least moderately likely to select a provider based on positive reviews, with 13 percent being “extremely likely” and 34 percent being “very likely” to select a provider with positive reviews.



Clearly, patients are weighing positive reviews more heavily than negative reviews when selecting a provider.

These results show that patients are looking at reviews with a critical eye, and they won’t automatically believe everything they read. This is great news for providers who have dealt with those exaggerated and/or fake reviews, especially since many reviews sites don’t require verification before reviews can be posted.

Now, if you suspect a review is fake, you should still gather credible evidence (e.g., show your office was closed on the day the reviewer claimed they received care), then contact the website administrator to see if it can be removed.

This knowledge, combined with the number of patients who leave positive reviews, should encourage you to start asking for and promoting online reviews more than ever.

Most Patients Look for Quality of Care in Reviews

So now that you’ve embraced the power of the online review, let’s talk a bit about what kind of information patients are looking for when they’re evaluating your review history.

We asked our survey respondents to rank the most important information in three categories:

  1. General
  2. Delivery of Care
  3. Administrative
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

For our “General” category, we found that most patients are interested in reading about other patients’ experiences and ratings as well as the quality of care provided.

It’s both encouraging and unsurprising to see “quality of care” among the most important information on reviews sites. This is not only a priority for patients, but for government healthcare officials, as well. Take, for example, the transition to value-based care, a model in which provider pay is tied to the value and quality of care delivered, rather than the volume and frequency of services rendered.

For our “Delivery of Care” category, patients were most interested in the accuracy of diagnoses and then how well the provider listens to patients.

In fact, a quarter of patients selected “accuracy of diagnosis” as one of the most important elements of care delivery. That’s not surprising when you realize that about 20 percent of patients have dealt with a misdiagnosis in their lives, and the consequences for an inaccurate diagnosis can be severe. It stands to reason, then, that so many patients seek information related to diagnosis records when researching providers.

For our “Administrative” category, most patients want to know how easily they can schedule appointments and how friendly the medical staff is.

This goes to show that online reviews aren’t solely focused on the delivery of care. Thus, it’s important for providers to consider a patient’s perspective beyond the exam room. The entire office must have a good bedside manner, lest doctors risk negative ratings from patients due to issues with staff outside their control.

Next Steps: What Does All This Mean for You?

Our survey shows that medical practices must keep an eye on their existing online reviews, but providers should also be proactive about recruiting more, lest they miss opportunities to attract or retain patients.

When it comes to how patients use online reviews, most focus on writing and reading the positive stuff—so the reward eclipses the risk of occasional negative feedback.

Negative or fake reviews are still a concern. However, our data shows they are not as common as doctors may think, and can be mitigated by responding directly to the reviewer or contacting the reviews site.

Physicians interested in improving their online presence should consider taking the following steps:

  • Designate or hire a staff member to monitor and manage the online reviews presence of the practice at large as well as for individual physicians.
  • Keep the patient experience in mind from intake to diagnosis, making all communications courteous and clear along the way. In some fields, software such as PACS systems and radiology information systems can help maintain open communication with the patient through diagnosis and beyond.
  • Consider investing in a healthcare CRM system with functionality designed to support medical professionals in marketing their practices.

Methodology and Demographics

To find the data in this report, we surveyed a total sample of 854 patients in the United States. Using screening questions, we narrowed the number of respondents down to 498 with relevant experience. We worded the questions to ensure that each respondent fully understood their meaning and the topic at hand.

The gender of our survey respondents was nearly even, with 51 percent being female and 49 percent being male.



Nearly half of our respondents were between the ages of 26 and 35, with the second largest group being between 36 and 45 years old.



If you have comments or would like to obtain access to any of the charts above, please contact For more information, see our methodologies page.

Note: The information contained in this article has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable. The applications selected are examples to show a feature in context, and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations.

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What it Takes to Implement a ‘Rockstar' SEO Strategy in Your Medical Practice Today

What it Takes to Implement a ‘Rockstar' SEO Strategy in Your Medical Practice Today | Social Media and Healthcare |

Search Engine Optimization could sound scary when you hear it. It sounds like the type of feature you need to specialize in to truly take advantage of. It’s a phrase used in the marketing world to make it seem as though they are the only ones who can help you understand and succeed with it. It’s something you may hear all the time and feel as though you might have a scratch-and-sniff understanding of, but not something you feel like you can make a difference in yourself. Well, guess what, my friend – you can! This process is going to give you a game plan that you can implement strong SEO inside of your practice today to help your organic rankings, not take up an immense amount of time, and make your business more profitable.

What is Search Engine Optimization (or SEO)?

First, you need to gain an understanding of what SEO is. In a literal explanation of Search Engine Optimization, the dictionary defines it as “the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.” To put it in simpler terms, it’s the way potential or existing patients are going to find your offerings online through a search engine such as Google, Bing, etc. The higher your rankings are, the easier it is for someone to find out about your products and services. Which in return will drive traffic to your website and have prospective patients filling out consultation request forms. So, greater rankings equals higher revenue opportunities.

How Do I Know What My Current SEO Rankings Are?

This is a lot simpler than you think. Take out your phone, go to a search engine, type in your highest revenue generating procedure, followed by the town your practice is in. If your practice does not show up on the first page for that phrase, then there is some work to be done. Do this task for your entire suite of services to see where the practice falls and where your efforts need to be put first. Once pinpointed where the practice is at with organic SEO, put together a strategy to bump those rankings up and stay there. Some examples of strategies are below.

What Can I Do to Help My Organic SEO Rankings?

This is the million-dollar question. One quick and easy way to grow your organic SEO within your practice is by utilizing your staff to research, structure, and write blogs that will be posted to your website. A blog is crucial to organic SEO because that is how search engines rank your website based upon unique and original content that contains crucial key words. For example, here at Crystal Clear, the staff in our sales department once a month writes a blog on a service or subject that is common here. This allows the staff to have a deeper understanding of what is offered and create a stronger and more effective organic SEO presence. Have your team each write a short blog (at least 750 words) like this that details out what your practices offer. For example, if you are a med spa, ‘What are the benefits to Botox?’ could be a great topic for someone in the practice to write about. By doing this, it puts your practice in a great position to win the battle of SEO in your local area. When it comes to organically ranking pages on your website the number one thing to remember is content is king. The more original content you and your team can produce the better your rankings will be.

Organic SEO vs. Paid Search

This is a topic that could be discussed for multiple blogs. The difference between the two is really a philosophical belief. Putting together an organic SEO strategy that is going to get you ranked for your top keywords and phrases and keep you ranked is more of a long-term solution. Whereas paid search such as “Google Ads” is more of a short-term solution. Sometimes to see the results you are looking for it takes a blend of both, but do not put yourself in a position where you are a slave to paid search. Think about this, you could be doing great through some paid ads and consistently receive traffic through this method, but if for some reason Google decides that your phrase and keyword is worth more in your area, you are then subject to paying that price because you didn’t do the dirty work of getting yourself on page one for those keywords or phrases in the interim.

Make More Money. Have More Fun!

Has there ever been a better headline than that? Obviously, if we are in an industry like aesthetic medicine, we’re not trying to run a nonprofit. Some practice owners employee ten, twenty, and some as many as fifty employees. This means you have a fiduciary responsibility to do exactly that. Make more money. In order to do this, you must wire your brain and align your goals for growth. Putting yourself in a position where the practice is consistently working on your organic SEO is inherently going to help with growth. This strategy for organic SEO is not going to change your practice over night, but it will help you win the long-term battle. Organic SEO is just one spoke on the wheel of your digital marketing ecosystem. In order to maximize your practice’s fullest potential, it takes a fully comprehensive solution that runs in the background of your practice and funnels the right type of patients to the door. The best part about that is that Crystal Clear Digital Marketing was created to do just that. We are here to help practices find, serve and keep more patients profitably. If you are ready to take on the digital marketing battle, Crystal Clear is ready to fight by your side. Contact us today to set up a free online demonstration to see just exactly what we can bring to your practice.

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A shockingly large majority of health news shared on Facebook is fake

A shockingly large majority of health news shared on Facebook is fake | Social Media and Healthcare |

Just how factually accurate are most health articles you come across? You might be savvy enough to sort Goop from the Mayo Clinic, but when it comes to traditional news outlets, you might also be surprised to learn how much false information is really out there.


Health Feedback, a bipartisan network of scientists who collectively assess the credibility of health media coverage, worked together with the Credibility Coalition to examine the 100 most popular health articles of 2018–specifically, those with the highest number of social media engagements. They studied stories from numerous well-known websites, such as Time, NPR, the Huffington PostDaily MailNew Scientist, CNN, and more.

Of the top 10 shared articles, scientists found that three quarters were either misleading or included some false information. Only three were considered “highly credible.” Some lacked context of the issue, exaggerated the harms of a potential threat, or overstated research findings. Many writers either twisted data or simply couldn’t properly interpret it. Others, it seems, had an agenda.

Consider a Guardian story titled “Is everything you think you know about depression wrong?” (shared 469,000 times), which was found to be “not credible and potentially harmful.” The author suggested that most cases of depression are not due to a chemical imbalance in the brain, but from a lack of fulfillment in one’s life.


Health Feedback scientists noted that The Guardian article never backs up its claims with links to original sources or research studies to support its findings.

“This article is an excerpt from a provocative book written by a lay person who is clearly anti-psychiatry, so there is no pretense of providing evidence (except cherry-picking evidence which supports his views) or a balanced viewpoint,” writes Raymond Lam, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s Department of Psychiatry. “It is full of wild exaggerations, oversimplifications and inaccuracies.”

The top 10 list featured some real head-scratchers, like one piece declaring bacon as harmful as cigarettes (shared 587,000 times). Timemagazine, however, published two credible health articles that made that top 10 list, including “Stem Cell Treatment Could Be A Game-Changer for MS Patients” ( shared 561,000 times).

Health Feedback approximates that of these 10 articles, 2.1 million shares (33%) had very low scientific rating, while 2.6 million shares (41%) ranked neutral. The smallest category belonged to those deemed highly scientific at 1.7 million shares (26%).

Researchers then went on to examine the top 100 articles, many of which were also shared in the hundreds of thousands. The top three topics were:

  • disease/disease treatment
  • food and nutrition
  • vaccinations (of course)

In terms of overall credibility, slightly less than half achieved a high credibility rating. However, highly rated articles received 11 million shares, while poorly rated articles had roughly 8.5 million shares. Of the latter category, there was a piece that linked ramen noodles to Alzheimer’s, and another that claimed onions can be used to treat ear infections.

The Health Feedback team believes the high share of misleading reporting is partially due to sensationalized headlines that grab readers’ attention. More balanced pieces lack clickbait framing. “This means that the general public is more likely to come into contact with misleading information than accurate ones on social media,” says the research team.

Given the way social media algorithms incentivize engagement, this is not terribly surprising: Fake news has been shown to spread faster, deeper, and more broadly than the truth in all categories of information, according to a recent report in Science. False stories often prey on emotions like fear, disgust, or surprise, and people are more likely to share what moves them. That it’s novel makes it all the more appealing.

The rampant spread of inaccurate health claims across the internet prompted the AMA Journal of Ethics to call for clinicians to clear up fake information with their patients. Ultimately, this troubling trend poses public health risks, as evidenced by the recent rise of anti-vaccination content.

Health Feedback found that fake health news predominantly spreads on Facebook. The social media platform accounts for 96% of shares of the top 100 articles, followed by Reddit accounts (2%) and Twitter (1%).

Facebook is aware of the issue: As we reported earlier this year, the social media giant deleted dozens of pages dedicated to fringe or holistic medicine in an apparent crackdown on pseudoscience.

The purge reportedly began in June, several months after Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg publicly vowed to crack down on fake news.While that term is typically associated with politics, misinformation is not limited to partisan topics. Alternative health pages have been known to spread misleading or false information about medicinal remedies that are not backed by traditional science.

Facebook’s efforts may have been well intentioned, but its health news purge attracted criticism by those who viewed it as an attack on holistic or Eastern health practices. The Global Freedom Movement, an alternative media site, reported that Facebook purged over 80 accounts and that “no reason was provided.”

This included rather large accounts focused on health, natural remedies, and organic living, such as Just Natural Medicine (1 million followers), Natural Cures Not Medicine (2.3 million followers), and People’s Awakening (3.6 million followers). Small accounts with under 15,000 followers were also hit.

Susan Krenn, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, told Fast Company she’s seen a noticeable increase in inaccurate and downright false stories on social media platforms. Often, such postings possess far more sway than content outlets.

“It’s a challenge, because when you see something posted on your social media site that comes from one of your peers, colleagues, or family members, you are more likely to believe it,” said Krenn.

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The Building Blocks of Successful Digital Marketing for Pediatric Practices

The Building Blocks of Successful Digital Marketing for Pediatric Practices | Social Media and Healthcare |

Pediatricians often face the challenge of trying to distinguish their practice from generalist primary care physicians and family practices. In the constantly changing healthcare environment, pediatric practices must beat out the competition with savvy digital marketing in order to be successful. Parents selecting medical care for their children want to make the best possible choice, and it’s your practice’s job to make sure that you’re connecting with these families and showing how your practice stands out. We’ve put together a more detailed look at the building blocks to using digital marketing successfully to ensure you connect with families and turn them into loyal patients. 

Understanding Your Target Market – New Parents 

The first thing you must do to market your pediatric practice successfully is to understand your target market – parents. While your patients are children and adolescents, it’s their parents that you must target with your digital marketing efforts. Parents are your target audience, but how can you reach them? You also need to understand how parents today are connecting with medical practices. Primarily, people head to the internet whether they’re searching for a restaurant or a doctor. In fact, Americans are searching online more than ever, with statistics showing that Google processes more than 40,000 search queries each second. That’s more than 3.5 billion searches each day.

Your practice also needs to keep in mind that a large section of your target audience is now made up of Millennials. Research shows that 40% of millennials are now parents, which translates to over 32 million people. According to Forbes, millennial parents behave differently in the way they consume services, and most of them do turn to the web when deciding on buying choices of any kind. In short – what worked in the past may not work when you’re trying to attract today’s parents to your practice. 

Ranking Your Pediatric Website on Page One of the Google Search 

You know that today’s parents are searching online for pediatricians, and more than 300,000 Google searches are done every month in the U.S. for pediatricians. The key to harnessing people looking for a local pediatric practice is ensuring that your practice’s website shows up on page one of the Google search. Most people won’t move on to page two.

How do you accomplish this? Good SEO is critical. You need to optimize your website with the right keywords to increase your rankings for specific markets and keywords. One of the best ways to do so is to make sure you’re ranking well in local searches so your website is at the top when parents start looking for a local pediatrician on Google. 

Designing a Pay-Per-Click Campaign for Your Pediatric Practice

Many pediatric practices find that a well-designed pay-per-click campaign comes with big payoffs. With paid search, you can target your ads to the specific consumers you’re trying to bring into your office. Geo-modifiers can be used to ensure you’re eliminating casual browsers so you’re only paying for the right leads. 

Harnessing the Power of Social Advertising 

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, social media and social advertising offer some unique opportunities for marketing your business. It’s critical to have an effective social media presence so you’re able to connect with people across various social platforms. With the use of social advertising, it’s possible to enhance your branding efforts. If you’re not already harnessing the power of social sites like Facebook and Instagram, it’s time to learn how if you’re going to connect with millennial parents. 

Improved Website Design for a Better First Impression 

It’s not just important to ensure your website is ranked on the first page of Google – you also have to make sure your website makes an excellent first impression. The first impression parents get of your pediatric practice is often based upon your website. Your website should be user-friendly, engaging, and informative. It’s not enough to get people to your site – you have to make a good impression and engage them once they’re there. Some tips for better website design include: 

  • Optimization for mobile devices (since many parents are searching from a smartphone or tablet)
  • Patient portals
  • Chatbots that answer patient questions 24-hours a day
  • Online appointment booking
  • Social integration 

Reputation Management for Pediatric Practices 

Since many parents are now searching for pediatricians online, your practice’s online reputation really matters. Millennial parents often make their decisions based upon the reviews they read of practices online. Negative reviews have the potential to cause serious harm to your business. You work hard to build a great reputation – it’s an essential asset. Maintaining it is critical. Reputation management includes practices like monitoring online reviews, setting up profiles and monitoring reviews at online healthcare marketplaces like ZocDoc or Healthgrades. Asking happy patients to leave reviews of your practice can also help you build an excellent online reputation.

In today’s competitive healthcare marketplace, it’s important for your pediatric practice to have a good digital marketing strategy in place. From knowing your target audience to ensuring your website makes a great first impression, these strategies can help you acquire new patients and generate referrals, growing your business in 2019. To learn more about how M-Scribe can help your business grow and boost revenue, contact us today for more information.

eGrimesDirect's curator insight, February 19, 11:02 PM

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Tips on how to Use Social Media in Healthcare: A Information for Well being Professionals >

Tips on how to Use Social Media in Healthcare: A Information for Well being Professionals > | Social Media and Healthcare |

Trendy lives are going digital, and healthcare is not any exception. Social networks have turn out to be an necessary well being useful resource, and never only for millenials. Practically 90 p.c of older adults have used social media to hunt and share well being data.

It may be onerous to know easy methods to navigate the healthcare social media guidelines. Suppliers, businesses, and types have to create informative, participating social content material. On the identical time, that you must comply with trade guidelines and rules.

On this put up, we have a look at the various advantages of utilizing social media in healthcare. We additionally present some tips about easy methods to hold your social channels compliant and safe.

Bonus: Get the step-by-step social media technique information with professional tips about easy methods to develop your social media presence.

Advantages of social media in healthcare

Elevate consciousness and counter misinformation

“Well being care methods should present trusted data on immunization, flu virus, remedy, ebola, you identify it.” So says Michael Yoder, the social media guide for Spectrum Well being. Social media is a key approach to get that data to the general public.

On the identical time, in a world of “faux information,” there’s plenty of well being misinformation on social networks.

Dr. Zubin Damania is healthier identified on social as ZDoggMD. His enjoyable social movies counter unfaithful and irresponsible well being claims. He has constructed a neighborhood of greater than one million followers on his Fb web page.


On Twitter, Dr. David Juurlink shares necessary details about the continued opioid disaster. He’s additionally devoted to taking down well being non-science.

I’ve reviewed 
the detox
you discovered on
the Web

and which
you had been in all probability
for New Yr’s

Consider me
it’s irrational 
so unscientific
and so dumb

— David Juurlink (@DavidJuurlink) December 29, 2018

Disaster communication

Extra folks now get their information from social media than from newspapers. That makes social a key place to share breaking data. It’s an ideal platform for essential directions throughout a well being disaster.

Hurricane Mangkhut hit the Philippines in September 2018. Because it approached, the World Well being Group turned to its social channels. The group posted infographics about staying protected throughout and after the hurricane.

Listed here are issues that you are able to do earlier than Hurricane #RositaPH (worldwide identify: #Yutu) hits. Keep protected!

— World Well being Group Philippines (@WHOPhilippines) October 29, 2018

The American Well being Attorneys Affiliation, the American Society for Healthcare Danger Administration, and the Society for Healthcare Technique and Market Growth labored collectively to create a fast, free information to disaster communications in healthcare. Listed here are a few of their key factors that can assist you put together for a disaster upfront.

Establish key stakeholders, a main contact, and a spokesperson
Know what to do within the first 5 minutes of a disaster
Construct belief together with your viewers–together with your inside viewers

Wish to be sure to’re prepared to make use of social media in a healthcare disaster state of affairs? Take a look at our put up on social media disaster administration.

Public well being monitoring

Individuals put up about every little thing on-line, together with their well being. Hashtags like #flu can reveal when illnesses are popping up in new areas. Public well being organizations may even get a way of the severity of signs.

“Social media affords benefits over conventional information sources, together with real-time information availability, ease of entry, and diminished price. Social media permits us to ask, and reply, questions we by no means thought potential.” So wrote professors Michael Paul and Mark Dredze of their e book, Social Monitoring for Public Well being.

Official healthcare social media channels also can present real-time well being data.

For instance, have a look at the Facilities for Illness Management’s tweets throughout flu season. They share updates on flu exercise throughout america to encourage folks to get a flu shot.

Newest #FluView report says #flu exercise continues to extend nationally. With weeks of #fluseason but to come back, it isn’t too late to get a flu vaccine:

— CDC Flu (@CDCFlu) January 2, 2019

Citizen engagement

Healthcare points will be tough to speak about, even with docs, particularly for topics seen as non-public or embarrassing. That may get in the way in which of efficient healthcare.

For instance, based on the American Sexual Well being Affiliation (ASHA), solely 12 p.c of younger folks mentioned that they had been examined for sexually transmitted illnesses within the final yr. However greater than half of STDs have an effect on these between the ages of 15 and 24.

ASHA needed to encourage this age group to view STD testing as a standard a part of taking good care of their very own well being. So, they created a healthcare social media marketing campaign. The principle part was a social video. In it, comic Whitney Cummings speaking to school college students about sexual well being.

The video acquired greater than three.6 million views in 10 weeks. Fb adverts drove 77 p.c of the 107,000zero visits to the marketing campaign touchdown web page. These adverts had been chargeable for 43 p.c of clicks on the marketing campaign’s clinic locator. That reveals viewers deliberate to take actual motion.

Affected person assist

Practically 40 p.c of younger folks (ages 14 to 22) have used on-line instruments, to attempt to join with different individuals who have comparable well being challenges. That features social media teams.

That connection can have actual advantages for sufferers. Researchers revealed within the journal Surgical procedure created a Fb group for 350 liver transplant sufferers, caregivers, and healthcare suppliers. A full 95 p.c of survey respondents mentioned that becoming a member of the group had been constructive for his or her care.

Fb teams are additionally a fantastic place for healthcare professionals and sufferers to work together. These interactions can embrace affected person assist and training. One research is evaluating if a Fb group for coronary coronary heart illness sufferers can improve participation in cardiac rehabilitation .

In fact, listed here are privateness issues when discussing well being on-line. it is a nice use of Fb secret teams, which don’t present up in search outcomes. Customers must be invited to hitch.

Analysis recruitment

Social networks provide a possibility to attach with potential research and survey individuals. Like manufacturers, researchers want to grasp social media demographics. It’s additionally necessary to know easy methods to use key phrases, and easy methods to goal social media adverts.

Linked & Open Analysis Ethics is a mission of the College of California San Diego. The group assist researchers set up tips for moral analysis utilizing new digital instruments. Social networks are amongst these instruments.


Status administration

A latest survey discovered that just about three-quarters of sufferers use on-line critiques as step one when discovering a brand new physician.

The survey discovered that almost all sufferers have a tendency to go away constructive critiques. Generally, in fact, a physician or apply does obtain a detrimental overview. When that occurs, 65 p.c of respondents mentioned it was necessary for the physician to reply.

Advertising and marketing

Practically two-thirds of U.S. healthcare entrepreneurs used social media to achieve healthcare professionals in 2017. On the patron facet, 2017 marked the primary time greater than half of companies (56.eight%) used social advertising.

In Germany, Merck Shopper Well being used a Fb advert marketing campaign for its Femibion BabyPlanung product. The aim was to boost product consciousness by product sampling. The marketing campaign introduced in 10,000 leads.


“Solely 50% of ladies are consulting their gynecologist when making the choice to get pregnant. However they’re trying to find data on the web and for experiences inside social media.” So mentioned Beate Rosenthal, world model director digital & media, Merck Shopper Well being.

Social media suggestions for healthcare organizations

Educate and share precious content material

Individuals want a motive to comply with and interact with you on-line. Invaluable content material that educates and informs is a superb motive.

For instance, the Mayo Clinic creates common social movies. The “Mayo Clinic Minutes” cowl well-liked well being and wellness topics. Latest examples embrace snowboarding security, allergy symptoms, and making more healthy pancakes. The movies usually rack up greater than 10,000 views. This one, on the rise of e-cigarettes, has been watched greater than 20,000 occasions.


The data must be credible, in fact. And true. However you may get artistic and entertaining if that is smart to your model. For instance, right here’s one other ZDoggMD video:


Be sure that the tone you employ is suitable to your model character. The Mayo Clinic movies and the ZDoggMD movies are each participating in their very own approach. However it might be very jarring in the event that they exchanged kinds.

Efficient use of social media in healthcare requires a powerful voice. Suppose your healthcare product or group is just too boring? Suppose once more. For inspiration, try our put up on methods to advertise a “boring” product on social media.

Pay attention for related conversations

You learn earlier on this put up that individuals say it’s necessary for a physician to answer detrimental on-line critiques. That’s a great motive to make use of social listening successfully. In any other case, chances are you’ll not know when folks depart detrimental posts about you on social networks. And for those who don’t know concerning the detrimental posts, you possibly can’t reply.

In fact, social listening is about far more than addressing detrimental posts. It additionally lets you monitor conversations related to your discipline.

These conversations might help you perceive how folks really feel about you. You may as well find out how they really feel concerning the competitors. You may even determine new concepts that assist information your advertising communication technique.

Listed here are some key phrases to pay attention for on social channels:

Your group or apply identify and handles
Your product identify(s), together with frequent misspellings
Your opponents’ model names, product names, and handles
Trade buzzwords: The Healthcare Hashtag Venture is a superb place to begin.
Your slogan and people of your opponents
Names of key folks in your group (your CEO, spokesperson, and so on.)
Names of key folks in your opponents’ organizations
Marketing campaign names or key phrases
Your branded hashtags and people of your opponents

Right here’s easy methods to get began:


Stay compliant

Healthcare social media accounts are topic to some fairly strict guidelines and rules. HIPAA compliance is an enormous one, however you additionally have to be sure to comply with FDA guidelines about promoting.

Probably the greatest-known examples of social media and healthcare clashing within the eye of authorities includes Kim Kardashian. She endorsed the morning illness drug Diclegis in an Instagram put up. Her put up contained a hyperlink to danger data and limitations of use. However, the FDA decided this data wanted to be inside the put up itself.

After a stern FDA warning, she needed to change he put up. Right here’s the up to date model after the FDA warning:

View this put up on Instagram

#CorrectiveAd I assume you noticed the eye my final #morningsickness put up obtained. The FDA has informed Duchesnay, Inc., that my final put up about Diclegis (doxylamine succinate and pyridoxine HCl) was incomplete as a result of it didn’t embrace any danger data or necessary limitations of use for Diclegis. A hyperlink to this data accompanied the put up, however this didn’t meet FDA necessities. So, I’m re-posting and sharing this necessary details about Diclegis. For US Residents Solely. Diclegis is a prescription medication used to deal with nausea and vomiting of being pregnant in ladies who haven’t improved with change in weight-reduction plan or different non-medicine therapies. Limitation of Use: Diclegis has not been studied in ladies with hyperemesis gravidarum. Essential Security Data Don’t take Diclegis in case you are allergic to doxylamine succinate, different ethanolamine spinoff antihistamines, pyridoxine hydrochloride or any of the components in Diclegis. You must also not take Diclegis together with medicines referred to as monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), as these medicines can intensify and delay the adversarial CNS results of Diclegis. The most typical facet impact of Diclegis is drowsiness. Don’t drive, function heavy equipment, or different actions that want your full consideration except your healthcare supplier says that you could be achieve this. Don’t drink alcohol, or take different central nervous system depressants similar to cough and chilly medicines, sure ache medicines, and medicines that assist you sleep when you take Diclegis. Extreme drowsiness can occur or turn out to be worse inflicting falls or accidents. Inform your healthcare supplier about your whole medical situations, together with in case you are breastfeeding or plan to breastfeed. Diclegis can cross into your breast milk and should hurt your child. You shouldn’t breastfeed whereas utilizing Diclegis. Extra security data will be discovered at or Duchesnay USA encourages you to report detrimental negative effects of prescribed drugs to the FDA. Go to or name 1-800-FDA-1088.

A put up shared by Kim Kardashian West (@kimkardashian) on Aug 30, 2015 at 6:01pm PDT

In fact, you don’t need attorneys writing all of your social media posts. However you may want attorneys (or different compliance specialists) to overview posts earlier than they go reside. That is very true for main bulletins or posts which are significantly delicate,

Hootsuite can get extra of your workforce concerned with out growing compliance danger. Individuals from throughout your group can contribute social media content material. Then, solely those that perceive the compliance guidelines could make a put up reside.

Your group wants a social media technique, a social media fashion information, and social media tips. These might help ensure that everybody understands the social technique. Additionally they make it clear how the technique aligns with the related guidelines and rules. Embrace clear, HIPAA-compliant tips for dealing with affected person data in social posts.

Don’t overlook to regulate the feedback customers depart in your social media posts and profiles, too. These also can create compliance issues.

It’s all the time good apply to answer and interact with social feedback. In any case, nobody likes speaking right into a void. Your followers will probably be extra prone to interact together with your content material in the event that they get a response from somebody in your workforce.

When compliance is concerned, chances are you’ll have to take additional steps. For instance, you must take away feedback that increase privateness issues. Additionally be careful for inappropriate claims.

Keep safe

It’s necessary to place safety tips in place to your social media channels. You want to have the ability to revoke entry for anybody who leaves the group.

With Hootsuite, you possibly can handle permissions from one centralized dashboard. Which means you possibly can all the time management entry to social channels.


Integrations might help additional safe your healthcare social media channels. For example, AETracker might help you discover and report points like product complaints and off-label utilization. You’ll discover out as they occur, so you possibly can take motion immediately.

Social Safeguard might help display screen your social posts in opposition to your social media insurance policies. This prevents non-compliant posts from going reside.

The easy fact is that sufferers now use social media. They use it to search for data, discover assist, and make healthcare selections. Combining social media and healthcare will be difficult, it’s true.

However the usage of social media in healthcare additionally presents unimaginable new alternatives. Social media is a superb platform to share necessary well being data. It’s additionally a key place to assemble real-time analysis and insights. Most necessary, social media is away to assist sufferers.

Successfully talk with the general public, enhance affected person expertise, and guarantee compliance with well being care trade rules by managing your social media presence with Hootsuite. From one dashboard, you possibly can create, schedule, and publish to all the key social networks.

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How Medical Schools Can Leverage Social Media Influencers

How Medical Schools Can Leverage Social Media Influencers | Social Media and Healthcare |

Medical schools can join forces with active social media leaders from within their organizations to grow the school’s brand and encourage more active, relevant engagement across multiple audiences. Jared Johnson, a top 100 digital health influencer, podcaster and keynote speaker who spent his entire 16-year career in healthcare and education joins us to discuss the benefits, when to centralize the brand message, and managing expectations.



I’m Mariah Obiedzinski, director of content services at Stamats. Joining me today is Jared Johnson, a Top 100 Digital Health Influencer, podcaster, and keynote speaker who spent his entire 16-year career in healthcare and education. Welcome, Jared.

Jared: Thank you, Mariah.

Mariah: Today we’re discussing how medical schools can join forces with active social media leaders from within their organizations to grow the school’s brand and encourage more active, relevant engagement across multiple audiences.

Jared, in higher education, many administrators, residents, and students are active in social media and blogging, some even to influencer-level, which means they have a following of individuals that actively engage with their personal brand.

What are some of the benefits of leveraging those efforts of these individual influencers to affect the organizational brand?

Jared: Well, Mariah, I think there are several benefits. Some of them are direct and some are a little more indirect. But they all have a positive outcome on the brand. And the first one of those is simply building and increasing the digital footprint of the organization, of the institution.

And the way that happens is, at the end of the day, there’s only so much that the institution itself can do to build its own footprint online. And we all understand what that means, I feel like. There’s only so much posting on social media and blogging and putting web content out there, that the organization itself can do.

Read this: Student Safety in Subzero Temperatures

What we’re all faced with these days is a general trust gap between an organization, their brand, and people out there who are consuming that content online. And so, to help overcome that trust gap, the more that somebody who’s part of the institution themselves is producing content, that kind of has a voice and a presence out there online and is creating conversations and content themselves, whether it be on a social media channel specifically or blog, I guess we can kind of use those things interchangeably, but the more individuals together that do that, that lifts the brand itself, because it’s kind of the long-tail of search, right?

You’re going to get a lot more people searching for the institution and somebody who says, “These tweets are my own,” that they’re still a member of the institution or attending it. Those individuals are going to overall combine for a much greater impact online. So, I guess the first thing is increasing that digital footprint.

The second one has in my mind is just as important and just as powerful, it’s the impact on the individuals themselves. In higher ed especially (we’re talking medical schools, for instance) there’s a lot going on for the students, for those attending themselves. And so, a lot of times, a way for them to kind of help themselves get through it is to put some thoughts out there, and just tell how they’re feeling, and sharing what they’re doing on social media.

For the institution to support that indirectly shows the students who are attending that the organization supports them as people and not just as students. And it sends a signal to them that, “We’re interested in you,” and indirectly that helps them succeed and feel like the institution really does care.

It’s the same as a teacher in class going outside of class, in my mind, to get to know their students a little bit. And not just talk shop, not just talk about assignments or whatever, but to get to know them a little bit, or what they’re interested in.

We all have experienced that ourselves, or with our families and our children. You know what a difference that makes to the child when a teacher goes out of their way to build a relationship in a slightly different way, to go above and beyond.

To me, this is the institutional version of that. And so, what that does is that empowers the students themselves to feel like they are a part of something special, because the organization supports them.

What all that does, Mariah, together, when that combines together, is that strengthens the brand of the organization because you don’t have to go out and create a word-of-mouth strategy – because people are already doing that for you. So, there are a lot of different benefits. I guess those are the couple that I’d focus on first and foremost.

Mariah: Yeah. That’s really interesting that you bring up the kind of burnout sort of topic. We hear about that a lot in healthcare, in the physician burnout world. But sometimes we forget that medical students are under just as much pressure, if not more, than physicians out there in the field.

So, really, like you mentioned, giving that impression and giving that warm feeling that they care and that they want to vocalize these issues and pay attention provides that empathetic vibe that you can’t necessarily get in an ad or a digital placement somewhere. A little bit more personal.

How can medical schools really connect their organizational brand and content marketing efforts in a relevant way with the digital engagement of these influencers and vice versa?

Jared: That’s a great question. And there’s a lot to it. I would say just some first steps are to be, first and foremost, be aware of those who are attending your institution and out there blogging or posting on any social media channel. And there are a lot of different platforms. We don’t have to go into them too much. But find a platform, if you don’t have one already, that helps you monitor and go out and search for those who are attending.

Because a lot of times, they’re not going to be mentioning the institution by name in their posts. So, you want to find a platform that helps you be able to find it essentially in their bios. A lot of times they will say on their Instagram, for instance, that, “I’m a third-year at such-and-such university med school.” You know, “I’m a resident at such-and-such institution.” And a lot of times that’s in the bios. A lot of times that might be in a post itself.

That can take a while, but that’s a really important step is to go out and see how many you can find. You might not find all of them, but going out, doing some basic searches with the right software will help you find who they are. And then you start just spending some time looking at what they’re talking about.

I’m telling you, it can be overwhelming because especially for a large institution where there are thousands or even tens-of-thousands attending potentially. It’ll be a little easier to scale for a smaller organization. But commit some time to identify and engage with those who are attending and are posting and already trying to establish themselves on social media.

That’s the best thing you can do to start off with. Because then it’s natural to, as you’re monitoring them, to start following them, to share, to like, to engage with their posts. And then you’re extending what we just talked about with the first question in terms of showing your support for them.

So, really, I think that’s the first step is just recognizing that they’re out there. We usually talk a lot about online reputation with anything that we’re doing. Well, we usually say things like, “People are talking about us and our brands anyway, whether we’re monitoring them or not. Whether we’re engaging with them or not.” Well, the same thing holds true for those who are part of our institution, so our staff and our students.

So, what we really want to keep an eye on is, like I said, first and foremost, just finding them. But secondly, being aware of the types of things that they’re saying. Best case is that you have a handful, not a lot; best case is there are a few out there that are just naturally, organically waving the flag, holding up their testimonial of the institution, and praising the institution itself and saying how great it is to be a student here.

I don’t think a lot of people do that from what I see, not naturally. But it’s indirect. So, that’s a good first step, just to figure out who they are. Keep track, follow them, and engage with them and show them some support.

Mariah: I couldn’t agree more. That leg work—let’s not kid ourselves, it’s a lot of work, especially like you mentioned when there’s thousands and thousands of students across all the departments. But it is so important because you’re forging those relationships right away as a student, as a resident, and so forth. And then that can potentially carry over long past when they’re done, and they can continue to be an influencer for you, sharing your content because they remember that great experience.

How do these departments that share some dependencies when it comes to marketing and strategy really collaborate? What are your thoughts on centralizing content versus decentralizing it?

Jared: Well, I’m going to say “yes” to both. I think this isn’t an all-inclusive answer one way or the other. There are some elements of both I feel like are necessary to succeed here. The closest to this, we’re talking about lots of different departments.

So, in my time at Phoenix Children’s Hospital, there were 125 subspecialties there. And our team was charged with monitoring all of those and centralizing our content strategy, which included all of our social. And that was a task because the centralized portion, what you quickly find is that if you try to go completely centralized, most of the time you’re not actually meeting the content needs of those individual departments. So, what you want to talk about isn’t what a lot of them want to talk about.

It’s dangerous to try to go fully centralized because then you’re going to dilute the brand voice itself in what you’re saying. And any individual department might say, “Yeah. We don’t really care about that at all.” And so, you have to have an element of a decentralization in your strategy to really still keep those individual voices in it.

And what I’ve found successful is, at least to start off with as part of your editorial calendar, have a rotation through some of those departments that are kind of the more low-hanging fruit, or the louder voices that are out there trying to post already. A lot of times, they may have their own account somewhere. They may be posting. They may have a Facebook group. They may have an Instagram or whatever else. They may have their own blog that they’re up and running themselves.

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So, while you’re deciding how centralized to be with those voices, start off by rotating through them on that centralized channel that you’ve got. And that at least gives you a better idea of what they’re posting about, what they care about.

Because, at the end of the day, everything is about what they care about. It’s not about what you as your brand care about. I mean, that’s part of it. But there’s still enough of an individual voice out there that you have to think of both.

I’ll give you an example. There’s at one point, there were, like I said, there were 125 subspecialties at Phoenix Children’s. And one of them, you know, the radiology department, came once and asked if they could start their own Instagram. And initially—this is a great example of how centralization/decentralization kind of both were at odds at first—because we thought well, we have a separate physician-facing, provider-facing content strategy.

And Instagram to that point hadn’t been part of it. We had a main account for Phoenix Children’s for the hospital that, in this case, it turned out it was a bit of a diluted voice out there. It was pretty generic content. It was focused on patient stories. So, for that it was good. We had a lot of nurses and staff engaging with the main account.

But when it came time for the radiology team to come, they had a resident who was insistent that they were going to be posting all the time. Because that was usually the concern—just about every department-specific account up to that point had a short shelf life. The pipeline just dried up really quickly within 1 to 3 months, I would say. And we wanted to make sure that we felt that out with them, and they said, “No, really. We can prove it to you.” And we said, “OK. We’ll do a pilot period with you guys.”

And my initial thoughts were very, very wrong it turned out. I wondered how much of a shelf life a radiology account can have on Instagram. They grew that thing so quickly—they hit 12,000 followers on there. Before we knew it, they were surpassing the hospital’s following on the radiology account. And it’s to this day, it’s still growing insanely. And they are posting every day, and they are getting tons of engagement, which first and foremost, told me that, wow. I better open my eyes because, even when I think I know what I’m talking about, I better open my eyes to how quickly things change and how many healthcare professionals in their case, and providers specifically—clinicians of all types were on Instagram engaging with case films and they had been properly deidentified. Everything on there was just—it was unbelievable.

Just an example of when we wanted to be more centralized with it and our team had taken pride actually in being able to kind of shut down some of those other accounts that had been created by other departments but had kind of dried up. Here we had one that was doing the exact opposite and was just putting the main hospital Instagram to shame.

So, if you have somebody like that who knows what they’re doing and they’re going to do it one way or the other, find a way to work with them and recognize—what we would do is on the main Instagram account, we’d start sharing a lot of those radiology posts, even though that wasn’t part of the initial content strategy, because we wanted to cross-pollinate a little bit and just see how much of the audience was looking at both.

Turns out it was a pretty different audience. And so, after a little bit, we didn’t do that anymore on the main hospital account. Just goes to show you, it’s a complicated question.

Mariah: Yeah. Absolutely. And you bring up kind of a finer point that a lot of our audience probably can relate to, as sometimes marketing gets that big bad, “Oh, here comes marketing. They’re going to come and shut us down.”

But I think as we approach more of the digital initiatives and really try to, like you said, cross-pollinate, go across and get that cohesive strategy in higher ed and especially in medical schools, we really need to be a collaborative resource for one another and support and cheerlead more than just say, “No, no, no,” every time.

How can those medical schools really determine and implement what content can be cohesively strategized and shared across the board?

Jared: That is a really good question because that’s kind of the next step. So, as you’ve taken the first couple of steps, as you’ve gotten familiar with who’s out there already and sharing their voices and gotten a better idea of what content can be centralized and what really needs to stay in those individual voices, then really that next step is to keep all of those elements in your content strategy.

And that’s another one that’s really easy to talk about, I feel like, and really difficult to implement. Especially the larger the institution is. The more departments, the more different teams are involved, especially with more diversity of age groups within the team, everyone’s going to have a different preference on which medium or channel they’re gonna gravitate towards anyway.

So, that’s a good example of some, where you can almost tell, I don’t want to stereotype it either, but the fact is there’s a lot of times you can tell just what our go-to social media channel is. A lot of times you can link that to a general generation or age group that you apply to.

And so, just knowing that, knowing what those kinds of conflicts are going to be or at least those kinds of different questions and approaches are going to pop up, those are important considerations. Because a lot of times what we do want to do—I love what you just highlighted there and pointed out, the part of just how we can kind of get a bad rep in the marketing or branding teams. And there’s a legitimate reason why, because ultimately those teams are responsible for protecting and maintaining and growing a brand.

Well, I like to follow what my friend, Aaron Watkins, who leads digital for Johns Hopkins Medicine, what he has said on numerous occasions. From his experience, he has highlighted how it’s very difficult to be seen internally with your stakeholders as a governor and an innovator at the same time.

So, how that applies to this is if the reputation internally is, “Here comes marketing. They’re going to shut us down because that’s what they always do,” the last thing they’re going to do is work with us when they do have an innovative idea or they do want to launch a new account, when they do want to try something different, and that type of experimentation is important. It’s essential, actually, to keeping up with how we’re all consuming information online.

So, we don’t want to discourage that. The more internal stakeholders and a lot of cases, this is going to be staff and students, as they see us as that governor, the ones that are gonna shut them down, we’re the last ones they’re going to come to for support. They’re actually just going to go launch the account on their own and they’re going kinda basically do it as a rogue account.

And so, honestly, one of the main ways to answer your question of just how to implement this strategy, how to lead it and centralize it from the school of medicine, from the institution, is to be aware that those types of things may happen. And so, half of it is just how they approach it with those who they want to be part of their strategy. If that makes sense.

You know, there’s going to be a certain amount of students who are out there and very active already, and we want to, I’ve always wanted to encourage that because, at the end of the day, it’s a lot easier to encourage that content from others and guide it a little bit if needed, then try to get people who aren’t already used to sharing content and creating their own voice to do so.

It’s almost impossible to get somebody who’s just not used to putting stuff out there to start doing that. So, I’d much rather guide it and encourage it. And to me, that has been the main challenge in creating a strategy.

Because otherwise you’re going to be there with the institution’s marketing team itself coming up with a strategy, and if you’re not involving those who are going to be part of it in the planning process, then they’re not going to care what your process is. It’s kind of like trying to plan a digital health platform without asking patients what they want. Do they actually care about what that innovation is?

So, we just have to be careful. I think you can kind of sum all that up by saying the collaboration internally is essential there. And how we approach it with those who we want to be involved is as important as anything.

Mariah: Exactly. And you highlighted a really great example with the radiology program there at Phoenix Children’s of really managing those expectations. How often are you going to post? What are your growth metrics that you’re looking at and so forth? And that really brings us to kind of the next step of once you decide on a strategy.

How can both the medical school marketers and the individuals that are responsible for posting and for creating that content or curating, really manage the expectations internally and with leadership and stakeholders?

Because, both of us know and everybody listening knows, that most marketing efforts, those big wins are not going to happen overnight.

Jared: They most definitely aren’t. And I think making the timeline a main aspect of any expectations is key. So, conveying that right off the bat that, I have a friend, Dr. Justin Smith who leads digital health at Cook Children’s hospital in Fort Worth, TX, and Dr. Smith, he is @thedocsmitty. A lot of people know him that way.

He’s a genuine thought leader for clinical leadership, especially pediatric leadership. And he really got institutional buy-in to lead that himself. He’s prolific on Twitter. He’s a prolific blogger. He’s always out there asking and answering questions. And he told me, he and I walked through a lot about the expectations that were for his team. Basically, he started a podcast about pediatric leadership for clinicians.

They wanted to establish Children’s as a leader. And I’m sure part of that had to do with recruitment from institutions. And so, the expectation was…it was really funny because he had a really good podcast. And I believe it was once a week. And within like a month, he was saying, “You know what? Leadership is asking what’s the result of it.” And I’m like, “It’s only been a month.” He’s like, “I can count on one hand how many episodes I’ve put out there, and they’re already asking me, ‘What are the results? What’s going to happen? Are we getting more patients? Are we recruiting better physicians? Or what?’” And he’s like, “Man.” He had tried to set the expectations and it was still a challenge.

I think a lot of times we just have to think, at the end of the day, do our stakeholders, do our leaders, see it as us just kind of playing around out there? And I think we always have to constantly communicate the business value of thought leadership, of being on social media and blogs and other online content.

We have to constantly beat that drum and remind everyone of the business content and the business value of that. Because if we don’t, we may have set technically, and as I recall, I’m pretty sure Dr. Smith even said this, “We set all these expectations up from the beginning. And I’m still having to answer these same questions and a month into it, they’re still asking me, ‘Hey, so, how has this moved the needle?’” And he was like, “We’ve been talking about this all the time. I’ll remind you. This isn’t going to move the needle in that short amount of time. Here are our specific goals, here are our objectives,” and so forth.

It’s just another indicator, really, of even though technically we may have set those expectations once, I think a key to making sure they’re understood is continually bringing them up at the right, opportune moments to remind everyone. “Just so you know, remember what we said when we got started. This will hopefully move the needle in these ways. But look, we have to get six months into this, we have to get 12 months into this. And you guys gave us the leeway to do that, and we are running with it. And we are succeeding here and here and here.” It’s just a lot more intentional sharing of that information with our leaders and stakeholders than we might think initially.

Mariah: It’s really going to be interesting over the next 5 to 10 years as more millennials and then the digital native groups come in and start assuming these position roles from medical school, and start assuming these administrative roles, to see how that will change. Because I think, as we highlighted, the different age groups use different platforms and have, sometimes, different understandings of how long things take or different expectations of what viral is and all of those other fun things that we encounter day-to-day in the higher ed marketing space. But yes. I’m really looking forward to seeing how that changes and how that collaboration will flex as well.

How can these organizations and individual influencers really measure their success? What metrics do you typically recommend that people look at, short-term and long-term?

Jared: So, there are a couple different schools of thought here. One is that take someone who’s attending, so a student at a medical school. So, that student might be buried in the actual course work itself, but it’s crazy. It shouldn’t be so crazy, but it feels crazy still. Just recently, I’ve been looking at just how many medical students are on Instagram with fashion—all they’re posting about is basically fashion. And maybe it’s just one group that I found that are all kind of connected to each other. But they’re not—they’ll be one every now and then wearing a white coat. But almost everything else with them, on their off time, this is who they are when they’re not having their nose in a book studying and cramming for exams and attending their clinicals and so forth. They’re showing who they are.

How they measure that success is one of two ways. They’re either going to be happy with the fact that they can share who they are online and share ideas with people. And for a lot of them, that’s all they want to do it for. When we start talking about influencers, they are dead set on growing their follower base, their followers or fans, those who “like” them. And they’re dead set on being an influencer in the space in addition to everything else.

So, they’re going to measure their success primarily by their follower base and their engagement. I know people who will post and, if they don’t get a certain number of “likes,” they’ll actually delete the post off Instagram because they don’t want to be seen as not having a lot of engagement.

To me, that’s a little extreme, but I think that’s the mind of an influencer. They see people are seeing them and saying, “Oh, well if they were any good, they’d have more followers or they’d have more likes, they’d have more comments.” And that’s literally just the world they live in.

And so, you have to put that mindset on to realize, no matter what we say, that’s how they’re going to measure themselves because that’s how they see themselves—literally as influencers.

On the organizational side, it is a combination of that. I tend to think impressions and followers are good. They’re still a primary metric, but they’re not the first one I’d look at. The first one I always look at with anything to do with social media is engagement rate over total engagement. Or engagement rate per post, because that tells me on an individual basis how much people engage with what I’m putting out there.

Now, total engagement is a good way to measure that, too, because if you just look at one of these metrics over the other, then there’s easy ways to do it. If you only want total engagement, then you just post more. Ultimately, you’re just going to do that. But you can’t—it’s really hard to measure how many people you annoyed by flooding their stream all day long with just you.

So, that’s a lot harder to measure. But with the total engagement, it might look like it’s a great metric. So, I’m always cautious about only using total engagement or total followers because those things do help. They help you gauge where you are compared to others. But on their own, it’s easy to use those figures.

So, if you have engagement rate per post as one of your metrics, at the very least, you’re going to recognize the trends that are based on what type of content you’re putting out there, what types of posts, how often, what time of day, all those kinds of things that we like to kind of fret about. It’s a lot easier to see that by the engagement rate per post.

We probably haven’t covered that, but that’s just simply the engagements for that particular post over the number of impressions or reach for that post. It’s a percentage, it’s usually—it varies by channel, but it can be anywhere from 1 to 3 to 5 to 10 percent depending on the channel. Anywhere in that can actually be considered a really strong engagement rate. Anything higher than that, almost any channel, is going to be significant.

So, those are at least base figures. So, I would come back to that. Engagement rate and then total engagement and number of followers just as reference, but not typically the key thing I would focus on.

Mariah: And I’m with you. I am a huge proponent of watching trends. So, it’s good to get down to that granular level once and a while. And I see agencies—and it gives me hives, to be honest with you—I see agencies go all the way down with their clients or even organizations, “We got X number of smiley faces versus hearts on this post.” Or “We got this versus that.”

And sometimes that’s okay to look at. Sometimes it’s entertaining to look at. But what does the number of hearts or smiley faces or angry faces on a post, one post looking at it singularly, really tell you? It doesn’t tell you much. And so, you really have to look, like you said, in a global way. Look at all these metrics across and how they relate to each other and not parse it down to, “We’re going to look at just this one thing and judge our success by that.”

Jared: I was just going to agree with you, Mariah. Because I feel like, especially in an academic institution, a lot of times, a single—it would be extremely rare for a single post anywhere, whether it’s a paid or boosted or organic post, to influence somebody on its own to attend that institution. It might be one of 20 or 30 touch points that all together influenced somebody and gave them something else to think about and come into play.

So, in my mind, a lot of social media engagement is a branding play, not necessarily a direct marketing play. If it is, then the metrics are a little different. And you are going to focus more directly on clicks and conversions and so forth. That tends not to be the case as much with academic institutions.

Although there has been an increase on say, like, Instagram swipe up ads for that to become an increasing way to get people at least contacting the institution or clicking through. It is on the rise. It’s just there’s a lot of confusion that way when explaining what the value ultimately is of the effort put into these channels.

Mariah: And that’s definitely one of those intersections where the things that the stakeholders care about and the things that the marketing teams care about. Because you’re looking at all of this data—everything in a medical school is data driven, everything in a healthcare organization is data driven, and it should be the same in marketing. And I think, as a unit, as an industry, we’re really getting there and really expecting that to be a best practice.

Keeping that in mind, along with that total broad look at metrics and not just becoming extremely granular, what are some of those key components of successful content marketing, in any platform, the measurement of it and how can schools set up a model to govern that process and keep that constant publication and review ongoing?

Jared: That’s a really good question. I think the biggest thing for me is just constantly having enough in the pipeline and knowing who you’re pleasing with the content. So, especially in an academic institution, especially in a medical school, you’re dealing with a lot—healthcare professionals a lot of times, especially tenured ones, are very strongly opinionated. This is not news to anyone. I’m not breaking news here.

But that comes into play with how we explain to them the value of the time that we’re working on. And how we say, “You want me to post that here. This isn’t the best place for that, because here’s our goal for that channel.” So, really, it sounds simple, but it’s one of those things that Content Marketing Institute and other institutions just keep driving into people is that the majority of organizations do not have a documented content strategy.

I love Cleveland Clinic’s content strategy. It’s one sentence and it has been one sentence for their Health Essentials blog, ever since Amanda Todorovich has been there for six years now. It hasn’t changed. And it’s one sentence. And it’s something along the lines of just providing useful, relevant, unique healthcare content to make healthcare and wellness better for people. You know, it’s something generic like that.

But that’s their north star. They can always point to it and say, “Here’s the reason why what you’re asking me to do, to post, doesn’t quite fit that. We do have an alternative for that. We’ve got this Twitter account. We’ve got this other place where we will put it. But, just so you know, that’s why that doesn’t fit into this stream.” So, you have to think about how it helps you kind of defend against the rogue requests. And, like I said, in a medical institution, you’re going to get a lot of them.

So, that’s one of the keys to success in how to set up your model, is to be aware of that and to have your documented strategy. It’s typically a lot more useful—like I said, that was for Cleveland Clinic, just for their Health Essentials blog. For their social media channels, they have different strategies. Now, if I’ve heard correctly, they’re pretty simple as well. They’re not detailed, long strategies, but they’re different for each channel.

If you can’t provide that for somebody and say in one to two sentences for each of your social channels and other areas where you’re creating content, what the purpose is and who you are trying to affect some kind of change in, if you can’t provide that, then you’re going to have a really hard time defending against people who insist, “No, you have to post this somewhere.” And you know what that does.

That’s just like a block in the road, like all the traffic has to stop. All the traffic you’ve been trying to get lined up in your pipeline and maintain that, it all just goes out the window. Then people insist on putting other stuff in there. And you know it’s going to clutter up your feed, and you know that’s not what the audience that you’ve cultivated so hard wants to read about or watch or whatever.

Mariah: So, it’s really the antithesis of what they’ve been talking about at that Content Marketing Institute for the last couple of years. You don’t want to be disruptive. You want to go in, and you want to be very relevant and very natural with your audience.

Jared: Yes. Exactly. And so, it’s always a shame when it happens, but it happens a lot, more than we probably hear about. And maybe it’s just because it seems like such a simple thing to document your strategy. But that also helps a lot of times in the day-to-day decisions. It’s a lot easier to plan out three months, six months out of posts or content when you know what your cadence is and what your goal is, and what the topics are that far in advance. If you just say, “Look. This is what we’re going to stick with. We’re not gonna keep changing it based on who’s asking us to do things.”

So, really, I see that as just, like I said, a simple, easy thing to do. But take the time to do it now rather than later. It saves you now and it saves you down the road. Besides that, in terms of how to just set up that model and process going forward, just being clear, putting yourselves in your stakeholders’ shoes.

So, if you’re on the organizational team and you have connected with some of the thought leaders who are attending your institution and they want to know, like, “Okay, hey. We’re on board with your content strategy. We want to help. We want to amplify some of your content.” They probably won’t say it that way. That’s just how marketers say it. “Amplify some of your stuff.” They’ll be like, “Hey that’s cool. We’ll share some of that.”

If they’re on board, then put yourselves in their shoes. They want things to be really easy for them. They’re not going to go out of their way to share something about the institution, even if it is cool and they agree with it. If you make that easy for them and you are regularly tagging them with your content, those are ways to build bridges with the thought leaders within your institution. So, they can keep on doing their own thing, but then you make it easier for them to, every now and then, just drop in something that you would like them to share about the institution.

Anyway, you just make it easy for them. Just knowing that social media these days for somebody who’s not on the organizational team—they’re spending a lot more time consuming it than they are trying to figure out on a day-to-day basis what to post.

So, put yourself in their shoes. Know what they would like and what makes it easy for them to share things that have to do with our strategy. The more we do that, the easier it will be, and each thought leader that you have out there on your behalf is part of that long-tail of content, kind of coming back to the one of the first things we were talking about. It’s the more touch points you have out there that really does build your brand and just makes it easier and more valuable at the end of the day for everything that you’re doing.

Mariah: Oh, absolutely. And something that I’d like to highlight that you just mentioned, too, is when you really know your audience, and you really know what they want, when they want it, and in what format, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with—and it’s actually encouraged—to plan that content out a few months in advance. You said up to 6 months or so. That’s a really good way to make sure you have something that’s always in the queue.

And if you have that basic understanding, and you have that format you’re going for in the right platform, you can make it very much more manageable. And you can go in and do those daily or weekly checks. Okay, is everything still aligned with what we want to be saying today and what’s going on in the climate of the school, and politically and so forth, to make your message consistent without having to rush in every morning and get everything lined up, because it’s already there?

So, what would a couple of closing remarks from you be?

What would you like to leave for key words of advice for individuals at medical schools who are responsible for content marketing and engagement with that staff and student influencer body?

Jared: I think I would just look at again, putting ourselves in our students’ shoes. What’s on their minds? It’s probably not, “How can I increase the institution’s brand?” They’re just concerned with making it day-to-day. They are studying 14 to 16 to 18 hours a day, maybe more. And they’re intent on what their goal is. They’re likely very goal-oriented people to be where they are. But at the same time, they’ve heard that the medicine that they’re going into is different than the medicine that, if their parents went into it, it’s different than the medical field that their parents went into. And they’re trying to make sense of it all.

In most cases, it’s a young adult trying to find out and make sense of everything. At the same time, they’re being thrust into interesting financial situations. They’re taking on six figures worth of debt. So, anything you can do that showcases who they are and humanizes your strategy for them and including them, that shows that you do support them as people, will go so much farther to strengthen your brand with those individuals.

It doesn’t have to be a push-pull, an adversarial relationship, with them. Don’t come in saying that you’re the brand police and that it’s your job to shut them down and tell them what they can and can’t say. Provide some guidelines that still, at the end of the day, show, “Hey, we encourage you. We want your voice out there. We like the ideas you have out there. We’re glad you’re connecting those with other people’s ideas.” And encourage them, help them see the value of creating a network.

My goodness, I don’t know where I’d be today in my career without the network connections that I have and what I’ve learned from other people. And those relationships that have developed from, with other people and a lot of times, especially the last three to five years, that has really come a lot through social media engagement. And then when I do meet somebody in person at a conference or something, it’s like, “Oh my gosh.” We can’t even remember if we have met in person before because we engage so much in between.

Mariah: Absolutely. That’s where you and I met. We met in the land of Twitter of LinkedIn.

Jared: Right. Right. That’s true. And it was just one of those—you know each other when you do see each other in real life, and it’s like, “Man. This is really cool.” This is just kind of how it is these days.

So, just being aware of a lot of these things that are going to drive a lot of growth and development in our content strategies. It doesn’t have to be us versus them. We really can encourage those ideas. Just think how far that goes for us as employees anywhere we work, where we are shown by our boss (or anyone) that they get where we’re coming from and they support our ideas. It’s the same thing. See them that way and see them as assets to your organization. And then you don’t have to give them all these rules and regulations of how to act online. They’ll just do it naturally.

Mariah: I think that is especially applicable in the medical school setting because, chances are, these individuals are going to “grow up” and maybe come and work for your system. Maybe come and work for your medical school or the associated hospital. So, really, including them in all of the successes, sharing that data with them, giving them that impetus to continue to do so, is extremely important and valuable.

Thank you so much, Jared, for sharing your expertise with us today. And again, it’s just so wonderful to have thoughtful and insightful individuals like you really advocating for the medical students out there, and the faculty and staff that work so hard to drum up that great networking opportunities for them and these great relationships.

Jared: Thanks again for the opportunity. Yeah. I really enjoy—you can probably tell—I really do believe in just the value of the types of relationships and the value that comes from just putting ourselves out there online and sharing who we are. It’s more valuable than a lot of times we realize.

Mariah: Absolutely. And thank you so much for listening today.

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