Social Media and Healthcare
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How Children’s Hospitals Can Engage Physicians to Increase Referrals & Reputation

How Children’s Hospitals Can Engage Physicians to Increase Referrals & Reputation | Social Media and Healthcare |

To create content that captures physicians’ attention and trust, children’s hospitals have to be true to themselves.   

You’ve probably heard pediatric physicians say that children aren’t little adults—they are a distinct patient group requiring care that’s just for them. By the same token, your physician-focused content strategy must be unique from its consumer counterpart.

Whether your goal is to drive referrals or boost public perception, the basic ingredients for success are the same: Physicians want to know what your hospital does well, and that their  patients are in good hands through your skilled, compassionate care.

Speak With Many Voices

With a presence in five states, Nemours Children’s Health System uses a multi-pronged content marketing strategy geared toward specific segments of its physician audience.

The News at Nemours e-news program, for example, keeps physicians in the Mid-Atlantic region abreast of clinical advances, medical staff additions, and continuing medical education opportunities at the system’s flagship hospital in Delaware. E-newsletters promoting Nemours’ International Medicine Program target physicians around the globe with content that blends advances in care—the use of PET/MRI in the treatment of epilepsy is a recent example—exciting research, and powerful stories of families who have traveled from abroad for diagnosis and treatment. Specialist e-newsletters highlight Nemours’ expertise in specific medical disciplines, such as otolaryngology, with case studies of treatment regimens.

The results of this targeted approach to physician communication are remarkable: Compared with other physician e-mail campaigns that have average open rates of 10-11%, a recent pediatric orthopedic campaign for Nemours had an open rate of 31.72%. The campaign also exceeded the average click-through rate for e-mails targeting physicians.

Highlight Your Hospital’s Heart

For Dayton Children’s Hospital in Ohio, a key driver of its physician content marketing strategy is conveying that its services are on par with those in the Cincinnati market to the south. Highlighting pioneering programs and advanced treatments are a big part of that effort, but they’re not the whole story.

In an email campaign intended to elevate its U.S. News & World Report rankings, Dayton Children’s focuses on its most important differentiator: the lengths to which its providers go to help sick children. Presenting patient stories is one way the hospital shows those efforts, but they also use subtler means. In a recent email, Dayton Children’s profiled its Scolio-Pilates® program for children with scoliosis. What better way to highlight both innovation and compassion than by introducing physicians to a first-of-its-kind program for a pediatric hospital in the United States?

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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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The Cost of Free Social Media Marketing | Facebook Marketing

The Cost of Free Social Media Marketing | Facebook Marketing | Social Media and Healthcare |

Everyone likes FREE stuff, admit it, this includes you too. But did you know that FREE, can in many cases be extremely costly to your practice and potentially bankrupt you?

How can that be? How can FREE cost you your practice?

Here’s what we see happening to people who are extremely optimistic. They have a solid marketing plan, are regularly investing in their practice to attract new patients. And, yes their marketing costs money, $1,600-$2,600 or more per month to generate $60-100,000 a month in revenue.

Then… someone whispers the word FREE in their ear. A manufacturer or a buying group woos the practice with a FREE offer. They tell the practice they’ll give them a FREE website, or FREE Facebook advertising, or FREE social media marketing. And what do even some of the smartest medical practice owners do?

I mean, everybody likes FREE, so many people do the obvious thing. They cancel the marketing services they are paying for, the marketing that has been generating 20-40 new patient leads a month. After all, that way they can save thousands of dollars a month. Wouldn’t you want to do that, save thousands of dollars a month too?

So what could possibly be wrong with that? You be the judge.

Five months ago, Bob in Texas signed up with MedPB for Facebook Advertising and started getting 40 new patient leads a month. By the end of month two, he had 80 new patient leads and was very happy indeed. But then he quit the program!

One of the manufacturers he worked with offered to do his Facebook advertising for FREE! How could he turn that down?

Last week, we got a call from Bob, asking about our Facebook Advertising program again. Turns out in the last 3 months, his “FREE” Facebook Advertising generated a total of 2 new patient leads. Sure he’d saved roughly $3-4,000 dollars but he’d lost out on 118 new patient leads.

By signing up for FREE Facebook Advertising, Bob had lost 118 potential new patients to his competition and around $165,00 in one-time revenue and over $2,200,000 in lifetime revenue. Does that make sense, to save a few thousand dollars in marketing that’s working and lose over two million dollars in revenue?

Sue in Illinois, made the same mistake with her Google PPC, and it cost her her practice. She’d been struggling to get new patients in the door and to grow her practice, when she finally decided to spend some money on Google PPC, to see if it could get her phone ringing.

A few months later, the Google PPC campaign was working, generating 20 new patient leads a month. Which for her one-woman practice was keeping her busy in helping her make a profit each month. Then, given she had a steady stream of patients, she decided she could cancel her Google PPC ads and save some money. Or in other words, rely on FREE marketing and watch her bank account grow.

What happened when she pulled the plug on her Google Ad campaign? Her phone stopped ringing right away. In her case, almost all her new patients were coming from her Google Ads and when she turned them off, she stopped attracting new patients. Which meant that while she was saving some money, again a few thousand dollars, she’d lost her source of income. Her bank account went from growing to shrinking.

Two months later Sue called us to ask for help, but by now she was broke. She had no money for marketing and ended up declaring bankruptcy. Not a pretty tale.

Then there is the free website offer!

We hear about this one all the time, whether it’s an online marketing firm, a manufacturer or a buying group. They call the practice owner and offer them a brand new FREE website. It just sounds so tempting.

If you have a website that was built a few years back, looks a bit dated or just isn’t generating new patient leads, which would you rather do?

  1. Pay 2 to 6 thousand for a new website?
  2. Get one for FREE?

A FREE website sounds almost as good as being given a free car, right?

There is just one problem. Imagine you went into the car dealer, looking to spend $20-30,000 on a new car. Then the salesperson says, hey can I interest you in a free car? Is the auto dealer going to give you an actual working top-of-the-line free car? Or are they going to give you one that needs constant work so they can make money off repairs? Chances are the free car wouldn’t even come with an engine or tires.

The same is true with FREE websites. Every client we’ve seen opt for a free website has seen their online leads plummet, along with their revenue. Sure, the price was right, but the hidden cost is they aren’t designed to convert traffic into appointments. The result is potential patients go to your competitors and your FREE website costs a fortune in lost revenue.

The bottom line?

When you hear someone mention FREE, it’s should be a big red flag. It’s a way to distract you from the fact that what they’re selling lacks real value. Just ask yourself the question, “If I want top-of-the-line (marketing or whatever) is it realistic to think I can get if for free? Would I give away my medical services for free?”

The 2 Biggest Problems with FREE online marketing

  • HUGE drop in website traffic
  • New patient calls disappear

Realize that when you opt for free, you invest nothing and typically get less than nothing. Yes, it takes money to make money. Look for the marketing services that provide the greatest return on investment (ROI).

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#SocialMedia Tips for Physicians

#SocialMedia Tips for Physicians | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media is a great medium today to boost one’s business, presence, and relevance. Knowing how to use it will certainly put you in the ranks of the most successful people in your field.

How can a physician use social media advantageously? Here, we will tackle tips that can help you in the online world. But first, let’s take a look at the most used social media platforms today.

Facebook – The granddaddy of social media platforms. Facebook was once known as a replacement for MySpace and Friendster. Now, Facebook serves as an all-in-one place to cater to your personal and professional needs. Facebook can help you sell goods via the marketplace, have groups, and even organize your meetings and events.

Twitter – Just a couple years ago, Twitter only had room for 140 characters per tweet. It has doubled but still encourages pithy commentary. Twitter’s popularity stems from the ability to easily scan through hundreds of users, reading their tweets rapidly. In today’s world, this is especially important since our attention span has depleted tremendously in the last decade.

Instagram – Instagram is widely known as a photo-sharing app. Today, creatives use it to showcase their work and act as a mini portfolio. It’s best known for its 9-12 square grid type format and stories, which share a similar function as that of Snapchat’s.

LinkedIn – This platform is geared toward professionals. It’s like Facebook but instead of meeting random people, you meet co-professionals and other physicians who are looking to further their career or network.

Now that we’ve gone over the different social media platforms, let’s look at some tips that will help you in social media as a doctor:

  • Use Facebook groups to announce news and other matters for convenience.
  • Set appointments using the event function in Facebook.
  • Tweet to disseminate information and utilize its thread function.
  • Create informative Instagram stories.
  • Make infographics for sharing.
  • Post relevant articles on LinkedIn.
  • Make your availability known.
  • Keep contact information up to date.
  • Give concise and relevant updates.
  • Be present consistently.
  • Be able to use images that are connected to your posts.
  • Post original fun content.
  • Respond to your audience in a timely manner.
  • Engage your audience and build relationships.
  • Know where your audience is hanging out online.
  • Follow other doctors on social media.
  • Be aware of trends and current events.
  • Include emojis and know when and how to use them.
  • Track and analyze your activity on social media platforms.



The key to being successful in social media is to know who your audience is and what niche you will be specializing in. It is also important to feed your audience quality content instead of drowning them in senseless posts. Branding yourself is also important as it will determine who you are in the online world. Also, remember that you do not need to please everyone since not everyone will be interested in your niche. Once you create a stable following, you only need to nurture and provide what your patients or audience need.

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Social Media Influencers May Sway Kids to Eat More Calories

Social Media Influencers May Sway Kids to Eat More Calories | Social Media and Healthcare |

Any child with a smartphone can access thousands of social media influencers who constantly post about what they do and products they like. It's a powerful form of communication and advertising in the digital age, and parents may have little idea what kind of impact it's having on their kids.
That's where Anna Coates comes in. She's a Ph.D. student at the University of Liverpool's Appetite and Obesity research group who decided to look at one aspect of the influencer effect: whether such messages sway children's food choices and how much they eat.
Coates and her team studied 176 children aged 9 to 11 who were randomly split into three groups and were shown artificially created (though realistic looking) Instagram profiles featuring two of the most popular YouTube video bloggers, or vloggers. One group of kids was shown a profile featuring the YouTube influencer with unhealthy snacks, another group was shown the influencer with healthy foods, and the final group was shown the influencer with no food products.
The kids were then offered an array of snacks to choose from — unhealthy snacks like candy as well as healthier choices like grapes and carrots. Children in the group that saw the influencer with unhealthy foods consumed 32 percent more calories from unhealthy snacks and 26 percent more total calories than kids in the group who viewed the vlogger with non-food products.
But when it came to marketing healthy foods, the influencer effect wasn't the same. Kids who viewed the influencer with healthy snacks ate no more carrots or grapes than those who saw non-food images. The study is published in the journal Pediatrics.
Debbie Petitpain, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, wasn't surprised by the results.
"This is the modern-day version of using popular cartoon characters to sell sugary breakfast cereals or juice boxes," she told CBS News. "Whether video bloggers are intentionally including unhealthy snacks in their video or not, children miss nothing and are easily influenced by what they see."
She recommends talking to children about what they are watching online and wrapping the diet and lifestyle choices they see into that conversation.
Parents should also lead by example. "The biggest influencer on your child's eating habits is you, especially when your kids are younger and more dependent on you to provide healthy meals and snacks," Petitpain said. "Role model good eating and positive talk about your food choices and tell your kids why you make them."
She also advises limiting your own cellphone use when spending time with your children and during meal times.
Nancy Z. Farrell, a registered dietitian nutritionist, notes that it's also important to talk to your kids about where information is coming from. "Many people claim to be nutritionists and have little to no credentials," she said. "Teach your kids how to distinguish between sources."
The researchers who conducted the study recommend that food marketing regulations should be applied to new forms of digital marketing. 
"Tighter restrictions are needed around the digital marketing of unhealthy foods that children are exposed to, and vloggers should not be permitted to promote unhealthy foods to vulnerable young people on social media," Coates said in a statement.

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The Effect of Online Effort and Reputation of Physicians on Patients’ Choice: 3-Wave Data Analysis of China’s Good Doctor Website 

The Effect of Online Effort and Reputation of Physicians on Patients’ Choice: 3-Wave Data Analysis of China’s Good Doctor Website  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Background: Nowadays, patients are seeking physician information more frequently via the internet. Physician-rating websites (PRWs) have been recognized as the most convenient way to gain insight and detailed information about specific physicians before receiving consultation. However, little is known about how the information provided on PRWs may affect patients’ decisions to seek medical advice.

Objective: This study aimed to examine whether the physicians’ online efforts and their reputation have a relationship with patients’ choice of physician on PRWs.

Methods: A model, based on social exchange theory, was developed to analyze the factors associated with the number of online patients. A 3-wave data collection exercise, covering 4037 physicians on China’s Good Doctor website, was conducted during the months of February, April, and June 2017. Increases in consultation in a 60-day period were used as the dependent variable, whereas 2 series of data were analyzed using linear regression modeling. The fixed-effect model was used to analyze the 3-wave data.

Results: The adjusted R2 value in the linear regression models were 0.28 and 0.27, whereas in the fixed-effect model, it was .30. Both the linear regression and fixed-effect models yielded a good fit. A positive effect of physicians’ effort on the aggregated number of online patients was identified in all models (R2=0.30 and R2=0.37 in 2 regression models; R2=0.23 in fixed effect model; P<.001). The proxies of physicians’ reputations indicated different results, with total number of page views of physicians’ homepages (R2=0.43 and R2=0.46; R2=0.16; P<.001) and number of votes received (R2=0.33 and R2=0.27; R2=0.43; P<.001) being seen as positive. Virtual gifts were not significant in all models, whereas thank-you messages were only significant in the fixed-effect model (R2=0.11; P=.02). The effort made by physicians online is positively associated with their aggregated number of patients consulted, whereas the effect of a physician’s reputation remains uncertain. The control effect of a physician’s title and hospital’s level was not significant in all linear regressions.

Conclusions: Both the effort and reputation of physicians online contribute to the increased number of online patients’ consultation; however, the influence of a physician’s reputation varies. This may imply that physicians’ online effort and reputation are critical in attracting patients and that strategic manipulation of physician profiles is worthy of study. Practical insights are also discussed.

J Med Internet Res 2019;21(3):e10170


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Medical influencers on social media: Beware the pitfalls of sponsorship

Medical influencers on social media: Beware the pitfalls of sponsorship | Social Media and Healthcare |

On November 7, 2018, physicians on social media rallied around the hashtag “#ThisIsOurLane in response to the National Rifle Association (NRA), which earlier that day had tweeted, “Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane.” Among those rallying were physician leaders with upwards of 53,000 followers, and they used their significant platform to advocate for health policy change.

While #ThisIsOurLane may be the most public example of physicians using social media to promote an agenda, there is another one burgeoning within the fringes of Instagram: the “medical student influencer.” Tags like “#medstudentlife, #residentphysician and #medblog” yield thousands of examples of medical students and residents leveraging their soon-to-be profession to market not only their “personal brand” in an effort to gain followers, but also products on behalf of companies that pay them upwards of $100 for each post. These accounts are well-curated with carefully arranged photos of scrubs, coffee, textbooks and anatomy models, and are geared toward the consumer who wants to experience the “glamorous” world of medicine.

Those who work in medicine know this is not an accurate depiction of clerkship, residency, and professional practice. Not shown in these posts is the lengthy training process, the massive financial investment, the difficult and often heartbreaking patient encounters, or what it’s really like being bedside in an OR, standing and watching for hours. While some influencers may argue that they use their platforms to help mentor pre-medical students and shed light on the training experience, we would argue that this is a misleading depiction of what it is to train to be a doctor.

The posts, however, don’t always end at lattes and fitted scrubs: Some are sponsored by companies trying to market products unrelated to medicine, like watches, jewellery, laptop cases, and headphones. And there are those that are more questionable—detox teas, for example, and fitness supplements. One popular diet and weight loss tea marketed by celebrities and medicine influencers alike has on their website an “ambassador” program with associated perks to the marketer, including a commission, discount codes, and complimentary products. Platforms like Linktree allow Instagram influencers to link directly to product sponsors with attached discount codes, providing a financial kickback based on the number of customers who buy the product using their codes.

What are the ethics of this practice? At a time when public mistrust in science and medicine is increasing, doctors must tread carefully online. We believe that it is unethical for physicians and physicians-in-training to be promoting or endorsing products on social media, particularly products that claim to have health benefits but lack the scientific evidence to demonstrate these claims. There is no difference between a medical student or resident using social media to market products for financial kickbacks and Dr. Oz, who is well-known for using his status to endorse—for lack of a better term—quackery. Both involve using professional status for personal and financial gain.

There is a need for specific policies and guidelines that address how medical professionals engage with for-profit companies on social media. The Canadian Federation of Medical Students has a guide for medical students for professionalism online which has excellent tips on taking ownership of what is posted online, but without any clear guidelines regarding sponsorship, interaction with private industry, and endorsements. Neither do clear guidelines exist through the Canadian Medical Protective Association, whose role is to support and protect physicians by providing legal defense, education, and risk management. The Canadian Medical Association’s code of ethics (which applies to medical students) states in article 50: “avoid promoting, as a member of the medical profession any service (except your own) or product for personal gain.” In our search, this is the only clear guideline set out by the medical profession on this matter. While medical schools cannot dictate or police how students spend their free time, they should reinforce the code of ethics and ensure students are aware of the ethical and professional boundaries of such behaviour.

With medical learners facing increasing levels of burnout, financial stressors and social isolation, it may be that becoming a social media influencer is a behaviour that serves a purpose, such as providing a social network or income at a time when people feel isolated and student debt accumulates. While we did reach out to several medical students and residents for comment, we did not receive any response. The reality is we don’t know what drives this behaviour, yet it exists across several industries and is quite lucrative.

Can we blame our learners? The most concerning feature of this practice is that medical learners are acting as vehicles for large businesses to gain access to a new marketing opportunity. Perhaps the conversation should be about how we as a medical profession should protect our medical learners from large businesses. There is a need for policies prohibiting medical professionals from engaging with for-profit companies on social media, and medical schools should ensure that learners understand the risks associated with using social media as a marketing tool. The minimal guidance provided by associations and throughout medical education on this matter leaves learners vulnerable.

Gaibrie Stephen is a resident physician in family medicine at the University of Toronto.

Allison Brown is a Ph.D. candidate in the Cumming School of Medicine at the University of Calgary.

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Bringing patients and providers together one tweet at a time

Bringing patients and providers together one tweet at a time | Social Media and Healthcare |

As an open forum for human interaction, social media have become the great equalizer of health information – providing a means for patients and health care providers to connect outside of the hospital or local clinic setting and learn from one another.

No longer a static “read-only Web,” the Internet provides a space for dynamic interactions between users. Individuals can create, post, and share content relevant to them through individual and collective blogs (e.g. the Mighty); microblogs (e.g. Twitter); social networking sites (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, Inspire, and Patients Like Me); video, podcasts, and other file-sharing platforms (e.g. YouTube); e-gaming; and wikis. For health care consumers – patients and caregivers – this new, participatory Internet set the stage for a health revolution. Over the last decade, the interaction-driven landscape of Web 2.0 has changed how health and health care are understood and navigated. Able to obtain and share health information, engage with clinicians and health care institutions, and, importantly, connect with others with similar illness experiences, patients and caregivers now have the tools to be more informed, connected, and proactive health care consumers than ever before.]

But patients and caregivers aren’t the only ones benefiting from an interactive, and highly social, Internet. Up to 65% of researchers and health care providers are estimated to actively use social media for professional purposes, such as social networking, professional development, and coverage of medical meetings. It’s now common practice for meetings and courses to have their own hashtag, and many have relaxed rules against photography to facilitate slide-sharing on social media. It has even been suggested that within then next decade, medical professionals will not be able to be successful scholars without some activity on social media.

This widespread adoption of social media truly marks a redefinition of how patients and providers obtain information and make connections in the information era.

While many providers readily recognize the value of social media in augmenting their professional activities, far fewer are comfortable using social media to interact with the patient community. Concerns about the spread of medical misinformation, breaches of professional boundaries, and risks to patient-sensitive information dominate the debate. These concerns have even led to the establishment of guidelines on social media use by health care institutions and professional societies, including the American Medical Association (AMA) and the American College of Physicians and the Federation of State Medical Boards (ACP-FSMB).

But despite concerns of misuse, social media can improve how medical care is performed and received, offering new opportunities for both patients and providers to connect and learn. While the potential benefits of social media in health care are many, the following are a selection of examples of how social media can enhance patient-provider communication, give voice to the patient perspective, and, ultimately, lead to better outcomes.

Social Media Provide Patients and Caregivers with Emotional Support

A 2012 survey from the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Health Research Institute found that one-third of people actively use social media for health-related matters, with 25% having posted about their health experience online and 20% having joined a health forum or online community. Adding to this, the Health Online 2013 research survey from Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project found that among those looking for health information online in the last year, 18% actively searched for others who might share the same health concerns and 26% read or watched someone else’s account of their health experiences or medical issues on social media.

At that time, 60% of Americans regularly used some type of social media. Since then, that percentage has risen to 69% of the population, and reflects, among other factors, the growing adoption of social media by older adults.

Having stable social support has long been understood to improve health outcomes for patients. But, for those affected by a chronic illness, the ability to share illness-related experiences with others who face similar challenges online offers additional benefits. While 18% of the population have searched online for others who might have similar health concerns, this percentage goes up to 23% for Internet users living with a chronic illness or rare disease. With social media, patients are no longer constrained by their localized community but can connect with others around the world, establishing meaningful relationships, sharing information and advice, and building communities of support. These benefits have been found to be particularly important among those with poorer health status, those who experience illness stigmatization or trivialization, and/or those who are isolated or disconnected from traditional support.

Social media offer new ways to build social networks, connecting patients and caregivers with others with similar illness experiences and fostering emotional support.

Social Media Lead to More Equal Communication Between Patients and Providers

Not so long ago, the divide between the health care provider and the health care seeker was absolute – fixed in place and enforced by the localized office visit.

But social media are changing this.

By literally taking away the walls of the patient-provider interaction, social media have changed how patients and providers communicate and relate to one another, upending the traditional patient-provider dynamic and empowering patients to take a more active role in their care.

A recent review of over 1,000 journal articles on the use of social media by patients for health-related reasons found that social media use by patients can lead to more equal communication between patients and providers – an outcome stemming from a heightened feeling of confidence on the part of the patient regarding his or her relationship with their provider. By increasing patients’ confidence in how they communicate with their providers, social media democratizes the decision-making process, empowering patients to become involved in key decisions relating to their care. This may even serve to encourage patient adherence to their treatment plans, improve patient satisfaction with the care they receive , and increase patient willingness to seek medical attention.

Social Media Help Providers Better Understand the Patient Perspective

Clinical research has not only become more patient-centered, it’s become increasingly patient-driven. The experiences and perspectives of patients and caregivers are playing an increasingly central role in informing and shaping research aims and practices. This is evident in the implementation of patient-reported outcome (PRO) measures in clinical trials and increasing efforts to engage patients and caregivers in study design, drug approval, and health policy decisions.

This is also true in clinical practice. Insights gathered from patients and caregivers have been used to make hospitals and other centers of care more patient-friendly, identify and address disparities in access to care, and shape the patient-provider interaction.

While the available literature on the role of social media in promoting information-sharing in health care addresses patient-to-patient, provider-to-provider, and provider-to-patient learning, notably absent is the potential for the transmission of information from patients to providers.

Health care professionals and institutions can learn a lot from patients and caregivers. And, social media can help facilitate this learning. Patient and caregiver accounts of their illness-related experiences and needs on social media can help providers and health care institutions better understand their patients and use this knowledge to develop solutions that improve outcomes. As gastroparesis patient advocate @melissarvh tweeted, “It’s (patient presence on social media) underutilized by researchers, medical professionals, pharma, & others. We are a significant resource & you all are thinking too small by dismissing our value to you. 20,000 patients in my #Gastroparesis group, all waiting to be heard.” She goes on to tweet, “Those involved w/ our care need to see our struggles and learn from us. Both parties would benefit.”

Gastroparesis is a chronic digestive condition characterized by the presence of symptoms that persist or reoccur long-term together with slowed emptying of the stomach. While up to five million people are estimated to live with gastroparesis in the United States, the condition remains little-known, and those affected often face significant diagnostic delays.

In recognition of Gastroparesis Awareness Month 2018, the International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), a patient-driven non-profit education and research organization, launched a campaign on Twitter to raise awareness and elevate the experiences and needs of patients and caregivers using #HearMeGP. During August, patients and caregivers, other patient organizations and professional societies, treatment manufacturers and e-health companies, professional journals, health care institutions, and providers all tweeted with #HearMeGP. Participants shared facts about gastroparesis, videos and blogs documenting their personal experiences with the disease, messages of support and encouragement, and held discussions about their hopes for the future of gastroparesis treatment and care. The campaign reached almost 300,000 accounts and earned more than one million impressions.

As a gathering place for people who share similar illness experiences, social media can help give voice to the suffering experienced by patients. Patients are coming together to share their lived experiences and needs. As a wellspring of patient insights into the experience of disease, social media can help providers and health care institutions understand the unmet needs of chronic illness patients and their caregivers and work towards solutions. #HearMeGP, and campaigns like it, illustrate how patients and caregivers, providers, and others, can come together on social media to make their perspectives heard and build a connected and informed stakeholder community.

While social media hold certain pitfalls, their ability to bridge traditional divides in medicine and encourage information-sharing between patients and providers has changed the understanding and delivery of health and health care. Access to new avenues of information and support has emboldened patients and caregivers to take charge of their own care and wellbeing, working in partnership with their providers. And, in addition to offering opportunities to connect with other health care professionals, patient demands on social media to be heard are challenging providers and health care institutions to improve how they engage with patients both online and in person. In the end, we get a more informed and connected community of patients and providers learning from each other, strengthening relationships, and ultimately, improving outcomes. As concluded by Wald et al. (2007), “Collaborative teamwork between physician and patient might just lead to a genuine partnership, improving the quality of health care and engendering a more trusting physician-patient relationship. Might be worth a try.”

About the IFFGD

The International Foundation for Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD) is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit education and research organization dedicated to improving the lives of people affected by chronic gastrointestinal (GI) illnesses. Founded in 1991, IFFGD helps improve patient outcomes by enhancing awareness, improving education, and supporting and encouraging research into treatments and cures for chronic GI disorders.

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Like, Retweet, Repeat: The use of social media in healthcare, illustrated by three stakeholder perspectives

Like, Retweet, Repeat: The use of social media in healthcare, illustrated by three stakeholder perspectives | Social Media and Healthcare |


In its simplest terms, social media is any interactive communication platform that enables people to interact and converse (Stones and Smith, 2018). In the last decade, social media has emerged as a channel for seeking and exchanging information in ways previously unimaginable. However, with a generation of young people who are more likely to seek initial medical advice from the internet, it remains the responsibility of the current generation of patients, carers and healthcare professionals to embrace social media and ensure that accessible, evidence-informed information is readily available (Stones and Smith, 2018).

During a workshop at the Sixth Children’s Research Network for Ireland and Northern Ireland conference, several anxieties about social media were raised. The importance of social media being complementary, and not a replacement for existing communication mediums was highlighted. While the benefits of social media were clearly recognised, many individuals also worried that excessive technology usage by young people could be disruptive to children’s social interactions, clouding their judgement between the real and virtual world. Since social media has moved into spaces it may not have originally been designed for, such as health and wellbeing, it is also less clear as to how the voice of young people in relation to social media can be heard now and in the future. For example, if young people (or their parents/carers) consent to a video being published on social media, what impact does this have on their adult selves, and how do young people revoke permission for such publications in the future? Such questions remain unanswered; however, technology should not be criticised for the issues that young people are currently facing, and will continue to face, as a result of social media. Rather, it is a lack of current resource to mitigate against negative social media uses that may prevent individuals and organisations from using social media to its maximum potential.

Placing the Social in Social Media

Digital analyst Brian Solis said that “social media is about sociology, not technology” (Solis, 2007). Indeed, Fuchs (2017) emphasises that the “media” in social media is not about technology, but techno-social systems in which information and communication technologies enable and constrain the creation, dissemination and absorption of knowledge. The underlying social processes of social media are often overlooked in current practice; however, they can help to demystify some of the common confusion that exists. According to Fuchs (2017), the three notions of sociality (Durkheim’s social facts, Weber’s social actions/relations, and Marx’s and Tönnies’ co-operation) (Table 1) can be integrated into a model of human social activity, whereby knowledge is viewed as a threefold dynamic process of cognition, communication, and co-operation (Hofkirchner, 2013). In simplified terms, in order to co-operate, you need to communicate, and in order to communicate, you need to cognise (Fuchs and Sandoval, 2013Fuchs, 2017). A common pitfall in practice is enabling individuals to co-operate via social media, which is reliant on mutual, engaging conversations. Enabling and encouraging co-operation through social media is indeed a challenge, but one which has been taken on board within healthcare, which forms the focus of this article. In order to illustrate how social media has been used in healthcare, three European perspectives, representing different stakeholders in healthcare, will be discussed, illuminating how social media has been used to share information, engage in dialogue, develop identities, and foster co-operative partnerships, for example, between patients and healthcare professionals.

Table 1. The three notions of sociality integrated into a model of human society activity (Fuchs, Hofkirchner, Schafranek, Raffl, Sandoval and Bichler, 2010Fuchs and Sandoval, 2013Fuchs, 2017).

Sociological theory

Application to social media

Emile Durkheim’s social facts (Durkheim, 1982)

Social facts are fixed and objectified social structures that constantly condition social behaviour.

Social media platforms are ‘social’ since they represent structures that objectify human interests, understandings, goal and intentions, influencing society and social behaviour.

Max Weber’s social actions and social relations (Weber, 1978)

Social behaviour is a reciprocal symbolic interaction.

Social media enables communication over spatio-temporal distances.

Karl Marx’s and Ferdinand Tönnies’ co-operation (Tonnies, 1988Marx and Engels, 2016)

Communities are social systems working together, based on feelings of togetherness, mutual dependence, and values, resulting in a shared sense of ownership.

Social media enables the collaborative production of digital knowledge in the form of collective intelligence (more than the sum of individual knowledge). It also brings people together, mediating virtual togetherness.

Perspective: Social Media and Young People’s Identity

Identity and social media are now somewhat intrinsically interlinked (Durante, 2011). Social connectivity via smartphones, tablets, and computers has led to a gradual intrusion of social media into the lives of young people, transforming the way in which they interact and converse. As a consequence, the identities of many young people are formed, influenced, and shaped online. Identity development in adolescence can be a confusing and challenging time (Kroger, 2007). For young people with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions, their identity can often be constructed, shaped, and influenced by their condition, to the point where for many, it is viewed as an internalised part of their self (Brown and Sourkes, 2006). The capacity for social media to reduce social isolation (Nesby and Salamonsen, 2016), provide a platform for emotive expression (Treadgold and Kuperberg, 2010), and increase feelings of empowerment (Griffiths, Panteli, Brunton, Marder and Williamson, 2014), has resulted in young people with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions being able to showcase and illuminate the diverseness and richness of their identities online. One example of how social media can allow young people to showcase different aspects of their identity (Price and Alinden, 2017) was demonstrated through the late Adam Bojelian, a young person with cerebral palsy (Bojelian, 2018). Despite the restrictions of his condition, Adam did not let his identity be defined by his condition. Instead, Adam used social media to showcase his skills as a poet, where he was known as “AdsthePoet”; therefore, providing him with a platform to showcase his unique and imaginative identity with an audience who may never have had the opportunity to communicate and learn from Adam outside of social media.

Perspective: Social Media and Charitable Organisations

Extending beyond individuals, charitable organisations who have evolved to advocate for people living with a variety of health conditions have benefited from using social media to communicate and co-operate with a variety of individuals (Courtney, Shabestari and Kuo, 2013). In Ireland, healthcare services for young people with arthritis have been inadequate, with the first Irish paediatric rheumatologist only appointed in 2006. Since then, patient referrals and assessments have increased by almost 400% (Health Service Executive, 2015). However, outside of the Dublin area, there are limited services for these young people, meaning that the vast majority have their diagnosis confirmed and their treatment planned in Dublin (Health Service Executive, 2015). With such inadequate services, parents of young people have found peer and parental support through social media, managed by the Irish Children’s Arthritis Network (iCAN). Using social media, iCAN have, and continue to address their core goals of support, advocacy and awareness (Irish Children’s Arthritis Network, 2018). iCAN’s closed Facebook group is its most utilised resource used by parents and carers of young people with arthritis in Ireland, since it provides a space for people to ask questions to other parents and carers with lived experiences in a safe and supportive environment. This reflects the three notions of sociality, involving cognition of knowledge about arthritis and how it affects children, non-judgmental communication between parents and carers, and co-operation in the form of guidance and support that is otherwise suboptimal or absent for families. The organisation also has a public Facebook page which is used to inform and foster dialogue between iCAN and other stakeholders. 

Combined, iCAN’s Facebook presence reaches more people than the charity could realistically achieve in a face-to-face environment; so, they actively use social media as a complementary component of their engagement strategy, alongside face-to-face events. iCAN also find that Twitter is a useful way to raise awareness, in addition to facilitating discussion and interaction with a broader community of stakeholders. For younger individuals, more contemporary social networking sites, such as Instagram and Snapchat (Vaterlaus, Barnett, Roche and Young, 2016) consist of the creation and dissemination of images and instant messages, which are increasingly important mechanisms for engagement with these individuals, since young people are interacting daily through these platforms with each other. Social media was something iCAN had not thought about prior to establishing the charity; however, the organisation realised that it is an integral component of the organisation’s identity, as has shown to be the case for other charitable organisations (Barnes, 2011) and stakeholder groups, out of the need for people to feel part of a community beyond physical environments.

Perspective: Social Media and Healthcare Professionals

Similar to patients and charitable organisations, social media has become an increasingly popular means of communication among the healthcare professional community, enabling fast and easy dissemination and absorption of scientific and clinical knowledge (Nikiphorou, Studenic, Ammitzbøll, Canavan, Jani, Ospelt and Berenbaum, 2017a). In the world of rheumatology, healthcare professionals use social media to communicate with colleagues; identify job opportunities; and to keep updated with the latest advances, amongst other activities (Nikiphorou et al., 2017a). Beyond individual use, many organisations, including European and American societies, have demonstrated a strong social media presence to promote activities at conferences and other educational events, as well as for reaching out to patients and healthcare professionals; however, co-operation is commonly missing from such social media strategies, since according to the threefold dynamic process of sociality, co-operation is reliant on reciprocal conversations, which is not the same as conventional advertising approaches using unidirectional conversation. Novel uses of social media in an educational manner inspired Marx’s and Tönnies’ co-operation model include journal club discussions on Twitter (e.g. @EULAR_JC). These possibilities have made social media particularly attractive to healthcare professionals, and while examples from the rheumatology community have been highlighted, the use of social media by healthcare professionals to facilitate communication (Hamm, Chisholm, Shulhan, Milne, Scott, Klassen and Hartling, 2013) and postgraduate education (Bullock and Webb, 2015) is not restricted to rheumatology. Indeed, there appears to be a general “wave” of social media engagement across primary and secondary care settings and specialities, helping to bridge boundaries in communication, thus demonstrating the power of social media in helping healthcare professionals to keep up-to-date, share knowledge and improve the quality of patient care (McGowan, Wasko, Vartabedian, Miller, Freiherr and Abdolrasulnia, 2012).

The opportunity for “live” discussions among healthcare professionals and patients on social media has taken professional interaction beyond the clinic walls and beyond one’s own physical working environment. The ease and speed of access of information on social media therefore provides a dynamic medium for professional interaction and co-operation with potential benefits to both the provider and consumer of information (Nikiphorou, Studenic, Alunno, Canavan, Jani and Berenbaum, 2017b). However, this interaction does not come without risks. A key concern for healthcare professionals is how such information may be interpreted by others. So whereas acceptance of social media use seems to be increasing, concerns remain over the blurring of professional boundaries, breaching patient confidentiality and misusing and misinterpreting information (Bukhari and Galloway, 2017Stones and Smith, 2018). The large amounts of information provided on social media can be perceived as a strength, especially in view of the difficulty in manually obtaining similar information from physical sources. Yet, it can also be perceived as a weakness, since it can lead to information overload (Eckler, Worsowicz and Rayburn, 2010) when it is not disseminated and absorbed in an optimal manner. While the lack of control of what and how information is shared on social media can be a limitation, the advantages of instant access to a wealth of information are considerable, when used wisely. Social media use in the healthcare professional world therefore poses new possibilities but also new challenges, necessitating caution and appropriate use within professional boundaries, without jeopardising the social interaction and co-operation that underpins the very function of social media.


Social media is increasingly used as a means of identifying and disseminating health-related information by various stakeholders (Scanfeld, Scanfeld and Larson, 2010). Despite obvious caveats, social media continues to provide young people, their families, healthcare professionals and organisations with an accessible space to discuss, learn, and develop their thoughts, identities and personas. While research reinforces the stance that patients use social media mainly for social support (Smailhodzic, Hooijsma, Boonstra and Langley, 2016), this is evidently not the sole use of social media as illustrated in this article, since in these situations, social media is a supplementary platform to real-world interactions. However, what can be learned from social media use in the patient community is that the principles of sociality must underpin the very essence of social media use if it is to continue gathering pace (Chaffey, 2016). Whatever the future holds, cognition, communication, and co-operation must underpin social media activities by all stakeholders (Hofkirchner, 2013) for it to be effective in facilitating conversation, embodying the definition of human social activity in a connected era. 

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How to Turn Dental Patients into Ambassadors. Part 2: Engaging with Your Audience

How to Turn Dental Patients into Ambassadors. Part 2: Engaging with Your Audience | Social Media and Healthcare |

In part one, we discussed how to build a larger audience to improve the number of  fans that advocate for your dental practice. Today, we look at some of the tried and true methods for connecting with your dental practice’s patient ambassadors.

 Interact with Your Audience on Social Media 

An easy and effective way to build better relationships with your patients is by interacting with their social media posts. Take time to go through your dental practice’s social media profiles and see what your followers are posting. Like photos, comment on relevant posts, and always take time to respond to people that are posting about your practice or tagging it. 

Checkout our guide for detailed advice on how to respond to reviewers on social media. 

 Incentivize Engagement with Social Media Promotions 

People love to be engaged, and a social media contest or promotion is one of the most engaging ways to use social media to make real connections. Typically, social media promotions earn a lot of interaction, and can help a dental practice create a lot of loyal brand advocates. Luckily, there’s no shortage of promotions that pediatric dental practices can try. You can run a counting contest, a treasure box contest, photo contests – whatever – the ideas are limited only by your imagination. The goal is to get as many people participating in your promotion as possible, so that you can spread your dental practice’s brand to as many local patients as possible. 

Check out some of our promotion ideas for pediatric dental practices.

7 – Reward Your Biggest Ambassadors 

If you have social media fans that are constantly engaging with your content, then reach out directly and thank them for their engagement, and reward their interaction with a small prize for their brand advocacy. Having people that sing your praises is hugely valuable, since most people trust a friend’s recommendations far more than any positive review or rating. We suggest giving out small gift cards to Target, Starbucks, or a local restaurant that people enjoy.

Find Your Brand Ambassadors with Smile Savvy 

Brand ambassadors are the result of diligent, savvy social media work, and that takes time and an attention to detail – and that’s where we come in.  

Smile Savvy provides a comprehensive approach to social media marketing for pediatric dentists. We post for you, give you weekly ideas for your own original posts and provide unmatched social media consultations. Our unique pediatric dental focus means that we understand our clients and their audience.

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Social Media for People With Cancer, with Merry Jennifer Markham, MD, and Danielle Gentile, PhD

Social Media for People With Cancer, with Merry Jennifer Markham, MD, and Danielle Gentile, PhD | Social Media and Healthcare |

ASCO: You’re listening to a podcast from Cancer.Net (Cancer dot Net). This cancer information website is produced by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, known as ASCO, the world’s leading professional organization for doctors who care for people with cancer.

The purpose of this podcast is to educate and to inform. This is not a substitute for professional medical care and is not intended for use in the diagnosis or treatment of individual conditions. Guests on this podcast express their own opinions, experience, and conclusions. The mention of any product, service, organization, activity, or therapy should not be construed as an ASCO endorsement. Cancer research discussed in this podcast is ongoing, so the data described here may change as research progresses.

Monika Sharda: Hello. I'm Monika Sharda, an editor on the Cancer.Net team and your host for today's podcast. In this episode, I will be talking with two guests about how cancer patients use social media. Our first guest, Dr. Merry Jennifer Markham is a hematologist at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Welcome, Dr. Markham.

Dr. Markham: Hi. Good morning. Thanks for having me.

Monika Sharda: We also have with us Dr. Danielle Gentile, who is a researcher at Levine Cancer Institute in Charlotte, North Carolina. Hi Dr. Gentile.

Dr. Gentile: Hi Monika. Thank you for having us this morning.

Monika Sharda: My pleasure. Drs. Markham and Gentile recently published a study in the Journal of Oncology Practice that describes potential benefits and drawbacks of people with cancer using social media. Today, I'm going to discuss with them some of the findings from their study, as well as what people with cancer should know about using social media and how it can provide support.

First off, I want to know what sparked your interest in studying social media and its use for people with cancer. Dr. Markham, let's start with you.

Dr. Markham: Sure. So I have had an interest in social media for several years. And some of that stems from my own personal and professional use of social media, primarily platforms like Twitter. And one thing that I've noticed is that I've connected on Twitter with a lot of patient advocates and colleagues and sometimes people who identify themselves as patients, as well. And there's a lot of searching for information that happens, I think, on social media. So that has really stemmed my interest in exploring it further as a potential tool for patients, as well as researchers and oncologists and other health professionals, to take advantage of what's out there.

Monika Sharda: And what about you, Dr. Gentile?

Dr. Gentile: I'll echo many of the things that Dr. Markham shared. And there's ways to find so much information through social media, things that a person may not even be directly seeking. They can come across things indirectly and learn that way. So it's quite interesting to see how people are able to make connections across the country and across the world with people who are in similar situations that they are. And social media is a way to gain some social support in ways that may not be possible in person. So if a person is not feeling well from their cancer diagnosis or treatments, they can reach out online. And through Twitter or Facebook, they're able to meet others who can share in the experience with them.

Monika Sharda: So what I took away from your study is that social media can sort of be a double-edged sword. There's potential benefits for patients, but then there are also potential drawbacks. So let's start by talking about some of the pros. How can social media be helpful to patients?

Dr. Gentile: So there's a few ways that patients can use social media to their benefit. And one is that it's great for engagement and empowerment. So it provides a platform for patients to talk about their diagnoses, to search for information, digest what is happening in the world of cancer research as well. And through all of that information and connection with others, it can provide psychosocial support too. So those who are able to disclose some of their thoughts and their feelings and meet with others who share similar stories and are in the same boat, it can be helpful for them to make those connections.

Dr. Markham: I think that that source of support is really one of the invaluable pros to social media. I am a medical oncologist and see patients who have gynecologic cancers. And we live in an area where there's not a lot of in-person access to support groups. I am never offended when my patients come to me with things that they've read on the internet because, unfortunately, it really is a resource that a lot of people rely on. And I think that when my patients are able to connect on social media to other patients with similar diagnoses or similar health experiences, it really allows me to have a better conversation with that patient in the exam room. She can bring me information about what she's read or what she's heard from a friend of hers across the country. And then we can have a conversation and I can take care of her better knowing what she knows.

Dr. Gentile: So another pro coming from me from a research perspective is that social media can be a valuable recruitment tool for researchers who are looking for demographics of patients that are pretty specific. So if you imagine a rare cancer diagnosis, it can be hard to find those patients in any small geographic area. But by using social media, those groups can cluster online. So it could be a Facebook support group for a certain diagnosis and a researcher could post on that group and ask if anyone is interested in a potential research study or a trial. And so it's a way of connecting patients to opportunities to participate in research that their home oncologist and their support team may not be aware of.

Monika Sharda: Absolutely. And what are some of the cons? What should patients be cautious about when using social media?

Dr. Markham: I think one of the real risks of social media is misinformation. It's very easy for false information or altered information to spread widely on social media, either Twitter or Facebook or otherwise. And sometimes it's hard for people to distinguish what's the good information, what's a quality piece of research, or a true statement about health that can be trusted, versus what is myth and what's not to be trusted. So distinguishing between good information and reliable health information is certainly one of the risks that I do worry about with, not just patients, but with their caregivers, and, truthfully, health professionals as well.

c And another, with all of that information that patients can find online, is they're trying to decipher what's good information, what's misinformation, and what to act on. It can result in what we call information overload. And that's when a person has gathered so much information that they become overwhelmed by the amount of the information and they're not sure how to act on it. So it can lead to this feeling of paralysis or being stuck. And something that we recommend for that is always talking with the clinician. Like Dr. Markham said, she's not offended when her patients bring her information they've learned online. And that's one of the best resources to determine if information is worthy or not.

And I'll share another potential con for social media and that is privacy concerns. So pretty much anything that goes onto the internet is for public use. And folks will think about their privacy filters. Do they want only their connections to see it? Do they want it to be widely, publicly available? But one can never be sure, even with those privacy filters, that their information won't go somewhere they don't intend it to. So if a person posts on Twitter in a private group thing that they have a certain diagnosis, it can never be for certain that someone in their daily social connections might see that. So anything a person posts online, I would advise make sure that's something you feel comfortable with everyone knowing.

Monika Sharda: Going back to the idea of misinformation for a minute, you mentioned one way for it to help patients differentiate between what's worthy information and isn't is, of course, to talk with your oncologist about it. Talk with your healthcare team. Are there any other tips you can provide patients with how they can differentiate between reliable and unreliable information?

Dr. Markham: So I think looking for the source of information can be helpful. Information that's put out by American Cancer Society or by ASCO or Cancer.Net, for example, is vetted by clinicians and physicians who, I think, lend some support to that information being trustworthy. There are other sources, such as the National Cancer Institute that shares information regularly on social media. I think it's when there's an article in a non-medical journal or not one of these professional organizations that is sometimes hard to see today whether it's true or not true. And I think in those situations, it really is advisable for patients to take that information to their doctor, to ask more questions about it. I've encouraged my patients to go to certain resources online for information. And I've also encouraged them to bring me information that they want to know more about. And it's not infrequent that I have my patients come to me with things that they've seen online, whether on social media or otherwise, and it allows us to have a good conversation about what's true and what's myth.

Dr. Gentile: It can also be important to think, "What is the motivation behind whomever has posted the certain piece of information?" So if it's a reliable source, like ASCO or Dr. Markham is posting it, she is a hematologist, she is likely doing that because she wants to share the information for educational purposes and to help the lives of her patients. But there are plenty on social media who have profit motives for sharing information. So it might be some type of miracle cure where taking this product would completely take care of the cancer. And something my mom told me, is true in this situation: if it sounds too good to be true, it is. So be cautious and think about why a person might post something on social media.

Monika Sharda: Those are some really great tips. And Dr. Markham, I think it's really great how you encourage your patients to talk with you about what they've read, what they've seen on social media and really encourage that conversation instead of them trying to figure out on their own whether the information that they're seeing is worthy, is reliable. What would you say is the most effective way for patients to use social media to communicate?

Dr. Markham: So the most effective way, that's a bit of a hard question because I think there's probably multiple ways for patients to use social media. I think one reason that I like Facebook for health information, actually, is because there are a variety of groups that are closed and private that patients may discover for health information and, primarily, for support. So I think those are sometimes opportunities. The challenge of those, of course, is is there reliable information being shared. Some groups have healthcare moderators within them and some do not. So that is one of the risks of participating in a group. I think if a patient feels uncomfortable or overwhelmed, they should remove themselves from that situation.

I think on Twitter, there's an opportunity to participate around hashtags. Hashtags are terms that you can plug into Twitter using the hashtag or pound sign with a phrase behind it, such as #breastcancer. And that is a good way of sort of filtering out information that's targeted to that type of health problem. And there's a lot of communities, actually, in the Twitter space built around these hashtags for healthcare where there are routine chats that may happen. Breast cancer actually has a good advocacy group on Twitter centered around the #bcsm, which stands for breast cancer social media. And there are physicians within that community and patient advocates and patients themselves. And it's, I think, a good starting point for a patient who may be on Twitter and wants to connect with others who have similar interests or similar desires to connect.

Dr. Gentile: And I think it's also important for any patient who wants to access social media in relation to their cancer diagnosis to spend some time before they enter these platforms and ask themselves, "What are they hoping to get out of the experience?" Is their primary motivation to get social support and meet others in social support groups, or is it looking for new, reliable information? Is it a mix of the two? And then, again, checking in with oneself periodically and asking, "Am I getting what I need, what I was intending to get?" For example, Dr. Markham was saying that if a person becomes uncomfortable or they find the situation overwhelming within social media, fielding many messages, then they can just remove themselves. And one should really go at their own pace and do what makes them feel comfortable and beneficial. There's no real obligation to respond to folks if you're not finding it to be beneficial.

Monika Sharda: For someone that's not too comfortable with social media or has trouble finding relevant hashtags or Facebook groups, do you have any tips for them on how they can seek out these groups and what the relevant hashtags are for them?

Dr. Gentile: Sure. So I'd recommend that a patient get started with some platforms that they know are reliable, valid, good information sources. So, for example, Dr. Markham mentioned the #bcsm, breast cancer social media. And just starting with one hashtag or one support group on Facebook can lead a person down the line to other places to explore. So starting small and then branching out, I think, would be helpful for most cancer patients.

Dr. Markham: ASCO has some good resources, both for patients and for caregivers, I believe. There's something called Social Media 101 for Patients that ASCO has published. So that's a good starting point for people who may want to jump into social media period. Also, I think patients who are interested in finding groups may be able to reach out to their oncologist or other physicians to inquire if those physicians know of reputable groups that they could join.

What I find, though, is that a lot of the networking that my patients experience in social media has come from their online sort of word of mouth, which is a little harder to know about. Our social worker in my own clinic is sort of compiling a list of places where patients tend to congregate online so that she can point other patients in the right direction. But I think we still have a lot of work to do in this area to help really guide our patients well.

Monika Sharda: And that actually leads me to my next and final question. I was going to ask you to share some resources for patients to learn more about using social media safely and effectively. So you've already mentioned ASCO and the resources they have and also, talking to your healthcare team and your oncologist. Do you have any other resources that you can share?

Dr. Gentile: So I think those are probably two of the most important. I know that I have had patients who have reached out to organizations on social media, such as American Cancer Society and, probably, Cancer.Net may have had this experience as well, asking for information from those groups on who to recommend and how to approach things. So I think that Cancer.Net certainly has lots of good resources. But, really, I think ultimately, just conferring with a physician at the end of the day, to make sure that the space that is being found and using social media in a safe way as a patient, can be a discussion with the physician and patient together.

Monika Sharda: Right. Well, that's all of the questions I have. Is there anything that, perhaps, we didn't touch on already that you'd like to talk about?

Dr. Gentile: I'd like to say that it's going to be different for every patient or every loved one who is caring for someone with cancer, when it comes to social media. And to feel okay with taking it at your own pace. And if you find that you have a piece of information that you are unsure about, the take-home message is to share that with your healthcare team and get that checked out. And to not make big decisions on how you're going to care for yourself or your loved one solely based on a piece of information from social media.

Dr. Markham: I think that's an excellent point. And the only other thing I would add is that social media can be scary for those who are just diving in, and I don't think it necessarily has to be. It's just a matter of taking it slow, at your own pace, as Dr. Gentile said. And just testing the waters.

Monika Sharda: That's really great advice. Drs. Markham and Gentile, you've shared a lot of great tips with our listeners on using social media and provided additional resources where they can learn more about the topic. It's been a pleasure having you on this podcast. Thank you so much for joining us today.

Dr. Markham: Thank you so much for having us.

Dr. Gentile: It's been a great pleasure for me too.

ASCO: Thank you, Dr. Markham and Dr. Gentile. Find more resources on using social media at And if this podcast was useful, please take a minute to subscribe, rate, and review the show on Apple Podcasts or Google Play.

Cancer.Net is supported by ASCO’s Conquer Cancer Foundation, which funds breakthrough research for every type of cancer, helping patients everywhere. To help fund Cancer.Net and programs like it, donate at

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3 Ways to Simplify Your Healthcare Social Media Strategy

3 Ways to Simplify Your Healthcare Social Media Strategy | Social Media and Healthcare |

Social media has certainly created a buzz among business owners in the last decade, and healthcare practitioners are no exception. However, factors such as how many likes or follows you get on your Facebook page do not necessarily translate into direct revenue or new patients. Employees can waste a lot of time focusing their attention on platforms like Instagram and Facebook.

But there is still value in utilizing organic (unpaid) social media to build your brand—as long as you have a handle on strategy. Scale your social media efforts and reduce added work with these 3 healthcare social media strategy tips.

1. Avoiding Social Media Disasters

The last thing you want is to waste time dealing with a completely preventable social media disaster. When building out social media profiles, these best practices apply across the board, from Facebook and Twitter to LinkedIn and even Doximity, the online social networking service for US clinicians.

Don’t Use Your Personal Profiles

Your social media marketing should center on your healthcare organization’s business profiles, not your personal profiles. For privacy and ethical reasons, providers should customize their personal profiles so that only their “friends” and first-degree connections can see them, and should only accept “friend requests” from non-patients.

You may also consider adding a privacy notice in the “about” section of your social profiles, detailing how patient healthcare is confidential and that your practice respects your patients’ right to privacy. No matter where you are publishing online content, you must always adhere to HIPAA. This includes getting releases before posting patient names, stories, images, or videos.

Develop a Social Media Policy

It’s a wise idea to have a social media policy in place for anyone employed directly or indirectly by your practice. They should be informed to never speak on behalf of your healthcare organization from their personal profile or respond to negative comments on social media pages unless they are instructed to do so.

If you’re ever faced with an unfortunate public crisis due to a patient’s feedback or a staff members’ social media usage, you should seek the advice of both an attorney and crisis management PR specialist before engaging any further online.

2. Keeping Organic Social Media Marketing In-House

Paid social media advertisements are a great way to build community awareness and retarget website visitors with display ads. That’s why many hospitals and practices hire healthcare social media marketing agencies to run targeted ads on their behalf.

Organic social media is a different story. While it’s a great way to build brand awareness, it’s not necessarily a lead generation opportunity for your healthcare organization. In other words, people are unlikely to find your organization and book an appointment after combing through your Facebook profile.

That’s why we don’t recommend shelling out a ton of money to an agency for something easily done in-house. This can actually waste time and energy as an agency that is not aware of your day-to-day activities will have to consult your team about each and every post.

There’s probably someone on your administrative team already who’d be thrilled to do this job. This person can create and post shareable content to engage your community such as informative and SEO-friendly blog posts, photos or videos of your travels to healthcare conferences, and relevant health information from credible sources. Do be sure that any healthcare information you share is not medical advice, but only facts. When appropriate, don’t be afraid to interject humor into your posts to connect more authentically.

3. Automating Social Media Posts

What is social media automation? It’s exactly what it sounds like. You can write social media posts well in advance and schedule the posts to publish at a later date or time. There are a number of platforms that allow for this, though Hootsuite sets the standard.

Not only can you schedule posts; Hootsuite also allows you to track and manage each of your social platforms all in one space. You can monitor what people are saying about your business and respond almost instantly. Automation helps you save time, maintain consistent content online, and target your audience in a meaningful way.

An efficient social media strategy takes work, but is doable and can be worth it so long as you have the right objectives in mind.

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Using Social Media To Hear The Concerns Of Patients

Using Social Media To Hear The Concerns Of Patients | Social Media and Healthcare |

We are in an era of great convergence on patient-centricity. To paraphrase Nobel Laureate Milton Friedman, we are all patient-centrists now. The mantra of being patient-centric in everything great and small has proliferated. The patient perspective has emerged as an essential component of drug development, patient labeling, and assessment of long-term health outcomes. There is a recognition that, to be successful, we need to get to know patients and families, including their daily realities. Capturing the essence of the patient experience is often referred to as building the “patient journey.” This understanding will stimulate innovative solutions and drive meaningful impact.

Patients are experts on living with their condition and a drug’s impact on quality of life. For example, symptomatic relief is often more important to patients than long-term improvement or achievement of specific clinical endpoints. Patients can give drug developers, physicians, and regulators salient descriptors that accurately reflect their experiences. As clinical trial complexity increases, patient input becomes more essential, and trials are more safe and effective with a better informed, better aligned patient.

Amid an increased awareness of the importance of partnering with patients, families, and communities, pharma has created patient advisory boards and other vehicles for soliciting direct input. KOLs (key opinion leaders) are increasingly POLs — patient opinion leaders. Companies are now talking withpatients, rather than at them. The term patient-focused drug development (PFDD) is increasingly used as regulatory scrutiny of clinical endpoints and patient reported outcomes grows, further incentivizing pharma to adopt patient-centric business models.

Extracting Value For The Patient

Value is a central term in healthcare. “Value extraction” focuses on the later stages of the life of a drug.1Data, digital technology, and social media have important roles to play in this value extraction.

Similarly, we can leverage everything we have learned from the marketplace during the entire life of the drug to help inform our understanding of the patient experience. The goal of patient-centric value extraction is to elicit as much valuable information as possible and to deliver unique insight back to the company that can be used to make the discovery and commercialization of the next generation of products even more patient-centric. We want to extract value for — and not just from — the patient.

The advent of digital communication has radically shifted the position of patients from near invisibility to tangible impact. The internet has enabled new pathways for patients to find, access, and react to research. It is essential for pharma companies to listen to and understand patient-reported outcomes through a variety of vehicles (e.g., social media, survey comments, call center verbatims, personal health records). Compelling stories told by patients, families, and caregivers are data rich. Yet, while the overall availability of patient data today is impressive, much of it is decentralized and fragmented — unstructured and unsolicited.

Fortunately, the growth in data sources like social media and the advent of scientific tools like semantic analysis have substantially increased the ability of pharma to extract information, meaning, and value to further serve the interests of patients. Also, more affordable data storage technology has opened up the ability to create large repositories of data from social media, patient registries, smartphones, online data-sharing communities, and social media. Data mining and semantic analysis can be performed on calls, emails, forums, social media, and surveys; these technologies can be leveraged to analyze unstructured data from social media to gain clinical insights. The conversion can be made from data/information to evidence/knowledge and to insights/wisdom.

Benefits Of Social Media

From discovery to commercialization to a drug’s LOE (loss of exclusivity), social media data can play an essential role in amplifying the patient voice. Online groups help patients share experiences, support each other, encourage caregivers, promote crowdfunding, raise awareness, and promote products. Much of the patient experience becomes transparent in these online support groups, including complaints, symptoms, daily burden of living with and managing the disease, disease chronicity and severity, unmet medical needs, natural history, preferences regarding risk and uncertainty, and adverse reactions. Social listening involves tapping into these conversations. Not only can we learn the language patients utilize in describing their symptoms so we can talk about a disease the way patients do, but it enables us to watch conversations as they unfold.

Pharma is becoming adept at gathering patient insights from social media and leveraging them in patient recruitment, symptom identification, clinical trial protocol design, and adverse event data capture for signal detection. Specifically, social media-generated data insights can powerfully influence decisions on product development and clinical trial design strategy. Because we want endpoints to be as patient-relevant as possible, data can be used to help develop a patient-focused endpoint strategy.

Pharma can use social media to gain more insights on treatment costs/benefits, risks, side effects, and long-term efficacy. This data collection phase should extend to the late stages of a product’s life cycle and be regarded as a corporate asset and, more importantly, as a lever to increase patient voice. It should also be used to supplement real-world evidence (RWE), which is a robust tool for listening to the authentic voice of the patient. RWE includes any information that can be leveraged for decision making that is not gathered in conventional randomized controlled trials and is increasingly being used to understand the pharmacoeconomics of a therapy.

Social media is no longer just a conduit for digital advertising; instead, it has become a powerful tool that pharmaceutical companies use to identify, listen to, engage, and collaborate with patients to improve drug discovery, development, and utilization. Social media analyses are apt for an in-depth characterization of the patient experience, with one ultimate goal to aid patients in disease management.

Science Of Patient Input

We are in the early stages of creating a science of patient input. We are gaining rigor on the integration of patient perspectives and priorities across the translational research continuum. Powered by both quantitative and qualitative data, the science of patient input is cross-functional and inherently interdisciplinary. This science will be a mix of “hard” (e.g., multivariate statistical analyses on massive data sets), “soft” (e.g., cultural competency and learned empathy), and hybrid (e.g., artificial intelligence) skills. There will be increased professional identity around the science of patient input. The increasing prevalence of the chief patient officer role is one tangible, structural manifestation of this institutional inculcation of the science of patient input.

Although much of social media data is unstructured, the approach to managing business based on data insights should be as structured as possible, which will yield increased confidence in understanding the patient voice. Structured, systematic approaches to unstructured, unsolicited data can be used to drive scenario planning regarding the patient voice that is evidence-based rather than primarily dependent on anecdote and conjecture. Thus, the data regime requires continued institutionalization and routinization.

The voice of the patient perspective has clearly shifted from descriptive to prescriptive. It will ultimately make the enduring shift to normative if there is continued cultural change within pharma to hear the concerns of patients. A deep commitment to a culture of data collection, collation, and analysis yields insight-driven decision making and provides executives with more options for making the “voice of the patient” bromide come to life. Companies can create a centralized, unified database of patient input by embedding key metrics and insight-based business rules into the data collection and analysis processes. The issue is not just a better relationship between pharma and patients but ultimately translating the patient view into innovation.

The challenge then is distributing these insights throughout the organization, particularly to the R&D teams. However, once successful, disseminating proprietary market-based patient insights throughout the organization will encourage alignment around specific sources of truth and enhanced cross-functional understanding of the shared patient reality. A patient-centric culture fosters collaboration and innovation, ultimately yielding the best solutions and outcomes for patients.

The Way Forward

The future of listening to patients through social media — hearing their hopes, dreams, fears, complaints, and expectations – is bright indeed. Patients and their families want authenticity. To gain credibility and cultivate meaningful relationships with these stakeholders, pharma companies must establish trust. For those that robustly embrace hearing and listening to the patient as not just a fad but as a pathway to patient-centric business transformation, there is a tremendous opportunity for industry disruption.

Steve Jobs said, “I believe the biggest innovations of the 21st century will be at the intersection of biology and technology.” We would modify that and say we believe the most profound innovations in this century will come at the convergence of biology, technology, and the patient. Social media is and will continue to be a key linchpin synergizing these forces.


  1. Ormesher, David. Value Extraction: Mining for Gold in Late-Stage Products, Oct 05, 2017,

About The Authors:

James Gillespie is a researcher and scholar in the advanced application of analytics to address challenges and opportunities for biopharmaceutical and healthcare companies. He has published in numerous academic journals and industry periodicals, and he co-authored the book Patient-Centric Analytics in Health Care: Driving Value in Clinical Settings and Psychological Practice. Gillespie works at the Center for Healthcare Innovation (CHI) in Chicago and at the Stanford University School of Medicine’s Clinical Excellence Research Center (CERC) in Palo Alto, California.

As founder and CEO, David Ormesher provides leadership and direction for closerlook, inc, an innovative marketing partner for biopharma brands. Under his vision and leadership, closerlook has evolved from a leading digital agency to a driving force in the use of analytics to support personalization at scale, powering better relationships with healthcare professionals and better outcomes for patients. Ormesher is a frequent speaker at marketing conferences and a recognized thought leader in relationship marketing for the pharmaceutical industry. In addition to his entrepreneurial leadership, he is an active board member on numerous companies and nonprofit organizations in Chicago and around the world.

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4 Easy Marketing Tips For Physicians in 2019

4 Easy Marketing Tips For Physicians in 2019 | Social Media and Healthcare |

Physicians have to reach out to current or potential patients in order to grow their medical practice and stay profitable. Merely opening up and hoping for patients is not enough anymore in 2019. You need to learn new marketing tips that will ensure you have a wider audience and that will increase the chances of getting more patients. So, here are some of the tips that you can follow to make patients know that there is a capable physician around:


  1. SEO Help for Your Website


If you haven’t yet got a website for the services you provide, then you should definitely get one. And, once you get a website, you should opt for the SEO services from a renowned SEO company, and one that focuses on local visibility. This will make your website visible in the search engines of your patients. If they are looking for physicians near their location, your website is more likely to pop up. As a physician, you may not be able to spend millions on advertising your skills, but SEO for your medical Practice can definitely be a cost-effective way to get the job done quickly.


  1. Paid Search Marketing


Paid per click or paid search marketing for healthcare is another effective way for physicians to find patients who are suffering from various ailments. You can take help from Google AdWords which is the most popular platform for search engine marketing. This will ensure a guaranteed high rank in the search engines and can be one of the best ROI for finding patients.


  1. Email Marketing


Probably one of the marketing techniques that have been doing the rounds in the last decade and is also expected to be effective even in 2019 is email marketing. Getting an email addresses for potential patients is easy these days. Numerous services providers have the data of patients who have visited nearby hospitals or other physicians, and you can get their email addresses to send details of your contact number and the areas you specialize in. It will be wise to send health tips, newsletters, and information about upcoming events in the email from time to time. This will not make your emails too dull for the patients.


  • Make sure the email service you have will sign a BAA (Business Associates Agreement) HIPAA.
  • Pay attention not to target specific segments of you patient population with email directed at treating their specific symptoms.


  1. Social Media Marketing


Social media marketing is one of the latest techniques to increase brand awareness around your medical practice. This is very affordable, especially if you are not looking to spend a lot on advertising. From Facebook to YouTube to Instagram, there are many choices for social media. The important thing is to not get overwhelmed and try to be active on all social media platforms. Choose 1 and master it, then expand to the next one. The best medical social media sites are those that are being done internally. Patients do not want to see a perfectly created post, they want to see the doctors office they will be visiting. A mix of crafted post and organic internal posts work best.

Ideas for medical social media sites:

  1. Staff Birthdays
  2. Staff Anniversaries
  3. Patient photos (get a HIPAA release from the patient)
  4. Patient before and afters if applicable (get a HIPAA release from the patient)
  5. Contests
  6. Craft posts for the month around any national specialty months (i.e prostate cancer and breast cancer awareness month
  7. Behind the scene moments – try to show whatever your office personality is
  8. Videos – from both doctors and staff


Being a doctor should take most of your time, so you shouldn’t waste any on trying to market your practice. These tried and tested marketing tips for physicians  in 2019, will help you to focus on what is important to help increase your patient volume.

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Here’s How Social Media is Playing a Key Role in Providing Health Care as Never Before

Here’s How Social Media is Playing a Key Role in Providing Health Care as Never Before | Social Media and Healthcare |

Medical care services prevalent today are not quite the same as previous eras would ever have encountered. Apart from improvements in clinical protocols and infrastructure available to healthcare providers today, one of the fundamental technologies that have emerged to assist modern healthcare services is social media.

Today hospitals and doctors are all on the social media bandwagon. The boost of online media as of late has given medical care service providers more adaptability than ever in making sense of strategies and to elongate their reach and to support the patients. Medical care services, especially hospitals, are utilising online networking channels to build up a rapport, establish contact with their patients, answer inquiries regarding practices, perform community outreach, and launching public awareness campaigns.

Let’s discuss five innovative ways in which social media is revolutionising the healthcare industry.

Leverage Research

Majority of healthcare providers and doctors are utilising social media platforms to research on medical gadgets, biotech information, and pharmaceutical data. They can browse social media pages of device manufacturers and pharmaceutical organisations for the same.

Physicians can even utilise online networking channels as an instrument to connect with other professionals within their fields. They can also track online journals of different specialities to get familiar with their practices. Due to the footprint of social networking being found in every domain, this enormous data can be utilised throughout the world for the good of humanity. Accordingly, doctors, pharmaceutical organisations, emergency clinics are employing these platforms for the given reasons:-

  1. For distributing the latest research.

  2. To post case data, pictures, and results (after permission).

  3. To educate medical services consumers.

  4. Marketing of new medical devices.

  5. Give patients any updates that identify with the practice itself.

  6. Share patient testimonials and surveys.

As progressively more individuals use social media for their medicinal purposes, online giants like Facebook, LinkedIn and others will indeed have plenty of data to utilise for scientific research.

Source of Medical Awareness

Further with such a massive amount of accessible data about different maladies and other general wellbeing problems, there is an excellent opportunity to utilise online networking platforms as a source of information as well.

For instance, in case that medical care service providers know about a looming epidemic, they can make provisions for precautionary measures and make practitioners available.

They can furthermore suggest appropriate educational information to stall the effect of inaccurate information and guidance. Sharing news concerning health hazards or outbreaks is an efficient method for the healthcare organisation to utilise the data in a matter of minutes.

One such awareness program is the ice bucket challenge campaign for crowdfunding and spreading knowledge about the rare disease – Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). In the year 2014, the charity campaign went viral which even marked the participation of more than 17 million people comprising of well-known people from Bill Gates to George W. Bush.

Millions of individuals used the social media platform to posted video to accomplish the challenge and give a donation to the Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association.

As per the ALS Association, the campaign gathered a huge amount of more than $115 million from which 67per cent, of the funds, were entitled to research and another 20per cent, were granted to patient and community services.

Medical care industry additionally acknowledges these platforms as tools to spread knowledge among via diverse methods like sharing a general message about flu shots and tips to avoid a cold.

Direct Online Meetings

Twitter has been held onto for online medical meetings. The meeting coordinators would create KOLs tweet and hashtags in which even patients are locked in. The rarer the ailment, the more the patient gets awareness through this medium.

Development in the space of KOL social networks is foreseen around healthcare meetings and staff-driven learning in general. Such systems will spread knowledge in their networks and examine symptoms that are at present discussed face to face but in a secure and docile way. It is going to revolutionise the way KOL management and data presentations are produced and maintained.

Quicker Communication and Support

Everybody knows how critical regular checkups are for our wellbeing. However, people also neglect appointments.

However, by these social media platforms, medical care organisations would now be able to utilise these channels to send notifications and allow straightforward scheduling for people, along with delivering personalised reports catered to the requirements of the person. With this data on the web, it decreases the number of calls that patients would make to the practitioner's office, which in return assists them to commit more time towards the essential work of treatment.

Online networking platforms are designed to grant patients the facility to obtain information real-time and interact with others.

Instant Patient Feedback

To accumulate feedback and improve quality, feedbacks on social media can offer physicians and medical care service providers prompt responses from patients to help comprehend common consequences of meds, and a general accord from patients on new procedures in this sector.


Utilising this real-time and swift feedback accessible via online portals enables healthcare service providers to study patient responses thoroughly and adapt and change. Besides, by using the reviews on these platforms, healthcare organisations have the chance to assess the likelihood of additional administrations in the industry.

Besides, by using the reviews on these platforms, healthcare organisations have the chance to assess the likelihood of additional administrations in the industry. One such model is - Artificial Intelligence helping physicians to triage patient care.

For instance, an AI-powered solution can facilitate operations at scale by allowing reading of radiology images from rural regions, wherein the images uploaded by the radiographer at the remote area.

Doctors who utilise AI to anticipate if a patient has a high close term risk for encountering any disease would then be able to organize resources and attention on the patient covering diagnosis and treatment plan. AI will eventually improve care as well as upgrade the patient-doctor relationships.

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Responding to online patient reviews: Legal and practical considerations for physicians

Responding to online patient reviews: Legal and practical considerations for physicians | Social Media and Healthcare |

In the age of immediate access to online platforms such as Google, Yelp and Healthgrades, patients are able to share physician reviews, many of which are positive but at times can be negative and potentially false. Negative reviews are damaging to a physician’s professional and personal reputation, but the way a physician responds may have a longer and far worse effect. Before a physician responds to a negative online review, he or she should consider the legal implications.

Physicians and other health care providers should know that online sites with patient reviews are immune from most litigation under Section 230 of the Communication Decency Act (the “Act”).1 The Act was passed by Congress in part to promote the continued development of the internet and encourage free market competition.2 The Act sets forth that “[n]o provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”3 In other words, in most instances, the Act holds online sites immune from liability for defamatory statements made by a third party.

Defending oneself has pitfalls

Physicians should also be cautious in responding to online patient reviews, to avoid an allegation of a privacy violation. Even if a patient has shared his or her own personal medical information online, physicians are still barred from disclosing patient information under HIPAA and state privacy laws. As a physician, it can be frustrating to receive a negative or false review. And yet, it is important not to defend treatment decisions online or even acknowledge that a person who shared a review was a patient. Rather than responding directly to patient reviews and becoming the target of a potential lawsuit, physicians may want to consider less-defensive strategies. Health care providers tempted to sue patients for defamation related to online reviews and postings should also be aware of Indiana’s so-called Anti-SLAPP Statute4, which provides for prompt dismissal of litigation aimed at squelching free speech in connection with a public issue and an award of attorney’s fees.

Some alternatives for physicians

One alternative is to contact the patient by phone, or offer to meet with them in person to discuss the situation and reach a mutual understanding. If the patient was upset about a treatment decision, it may be helpful to revisit the conversation and explain best practices or standards used by your practice, hospital or other medical setting. Physicians can also take the approach of encouraging patient reviews from all patients, as increased positive reviews may lessen the impact of a few negative reviews. Finally, physicians should utilize social media and other online platforms to their advantage by keeping online profiles updated.

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Study: U.S. doctors lag Asian counterparts in comfort with digital platforms 

Study: U.S. doctors lag Asian counterparts in comfort with digital platforms  | Social Media and Healthcare |

Doctors are steadily becoming more comfortable with digital channels, with more than eight in 10 preferring them for product information, according to a survey from Indegene. 

Although digital is rising in prominence overall, face-to-face tablet-based detailing is still the most preferred channel for product information for 73% of U.S. doctors. After that, U.S. doctors want to get their product information from journals (66%), direct mail (57%), websites (56%), and marketing emails (54%).

Over the past three years, doctors’ overall preference for digital has risen. In 2015, 72% of doctors globally preferred digital channels, and that number reached 82% last year. Digital has also overtaken doctors’ preference to work with medical representatives.

“This is the first time that the digital channel [score]  is going beyond the medical rep score,” said Gaurav Kapoor, cofounder and EVP of Indegene. “In the five years [we’ve done this survey], this is the first time the doctors in U.S. and globally are ready for an omnichannel world.”

Doctors in the U.S. and their counterparts in India and China have different preferences for obtaining product information and communicating with their patients, with doctors in India and China more likely to use emerging digital channels for both. Doctors in India and China mostly prefer face-to-face detailing for product information (69%), but they are also more comfortable using social and digital methods for this information. Nearly 60% use social apps for product information, compared to 34% of U.S. doctors, and half use text messaging, compared to 29% in the U.S.

More than half of Indian and Chinese doctors use text messaging to communicate with patients, 64% use social messaging, and 49% use health apps. Only about 30% of U.S. doctors prefer each of these channels.

Kapoor attributed this digital and social comfort to the popularity of WeChat in these regions, where the app is widely used by patients, doctors, and pharma companies. 

“Apps like WeChat are exploding, and I think that’s a huge influence on our report,” Kapoor said. “Every brand in pharma has a WeChat channel for every brand that connects patients and doctors, and it becomes a central point of communication. That kind of revolution has not happened in the U.S. yet.”

Real-world evidence began to play a bigger role in drug development and approval in 2016 due to the U.S. 21st Century Cures Act. Just a couple years later, it has become the sixth-most-sought-after data set by doctors.

Safety and efficacy information are the most-sought after data, but 72% of U.S. doctors are looking for real-world evidence, along with 80% of doctors in the rest of the world.

About 60% of U.S. doctors also consider real-world evidence when prescribing a drug, and price is also a large consideration, said 63% of U.S. doctors. Both real-world evidence and price are closing in on the top two considerations for prescribing, efficacy (76%) and safety information (67%).

The move to digital channels could mean changes in launch strategies in the coming years, Kapoor said, predicting that some pharma or biotech companies may experiment with digital-only product launches as the preference for digital continues to rise.

“We deal with some of the most intellectual minds, and they’re moving fast,” Kapoor said. “Today, doctors are expecting pharma to also move quickly. It’s so expensive to do a traditional launch, so these new generation, smaller oncology biotech companies may be encouraged to use digital channels for knowledge sharing.”

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10 Healthcare Marketing Myths - Don't Ruin Your Business!

10 Healthcare Marketing Myths - Don't Ruin Your Business! | Social Media and Healthcare |

Every day we hear lots of healthcare marketing myths being thrown around. Some of these myths can interfere with your marketing, while others make it hard to see any return on investment. In either case, holding onto these beliefs is sabotaging your business.

So, let’s get Myth-Busting:


1.  “I Have Enough Patients, I Don’t Need Marketing”

It’s great to hear you’re doing well at the moment! You’ve probably had a steady flow of patients for a while now — maybe several years or more. Surely that’ll just stay the same, right?

No-one will ever switch doctors, right …?

There are so many ways to lose patients — many of them out of your control. They might move out of town. They might change their insurance provider. The referring doctors you’ve relied on for so long might go out of business or will make new referral partnerships with another practice.

Doing well now doesn’t mean doing well tomorrow.  This is one of many big healthcare marketing myths.


2.  “Healthcare Marketing Isn’t Ethical”

There’s an ounce of truth to this — some medical marketing isn’t ethical. Examples are marketing companies that make promises they can’t  keep or they make ridiculous and baseless claims, etc.

These are unethical in any business. Healthcare marketing is designed to center around patients and letting them know you’re available, have the skills, tools and knowledge to treat them well when they fall ill. There’s nothing unethical in letting people know you are fully qualified and interested in providing them with healthcare when they need it.  Thus, this is easily addressed as one of the healthcare marketing myths.


3.  “We Get Enough Referrals, We Don’t Need Marketing”

Hospitals and practices routinely overestimate their influence in the community. You live and breathe your business, and deal with patients who are obviously aware of you — but do they truly represent the larger community?

Even if they do, awareness doesn’t always translate to interest. They might go to a hospital for an emergency, but who are they calling for an ambulance?  Do they know they can call a hospital directly for that?

Advertising is a must if you expect people to know about your services. After all, you want patients to choose your medical practice over another every time.  Be aware of the ongoing healthcare marketing myths.


4.  “It’s Too Expensive to Advertise”

Marketing, done properly, is supposed to make money, NOT lose money!  If your marketing is going nowhere, it’s time to reassess those marketing efforts, not eliminate them completely. The proper investment in your marketing strategies will return a very real and very large ROI.


5.  “I Wouldn’t Click on That Ad, So Don’t Use It”

While you obviously have input on your brand and advertising, keep in mind a very simple concept:

You are not your target audience!  This is yet another one of the bigger healthcare marketing myths.

That’s something every marketing professional has to keep in front of their mind. Base your decisions on REAL data metrics, and not on how you personally feel about it. When the demographic analytics suggest a certain marketing strategy, it’s always best to trust the data rather than assuming your personal feeling is most relevant.


6.  “Nobody Clicks on Paid Advertisements for Doctors”

Similar to the above; you might think nobody clicks on paid advertisement because you don’t.  But plenty of people do. We have the data to prove it and it’s the quickest way to get more patients.

Once again, the real data proves many times over that paid advertising WORKS!


7.  “My Website Should Be About Education”

Education is very important. Educating people with your site is the cornerstone of “Content Marketing” for SEO (search engine optimization) purposes.

Education should be reserved for a Blog on your site.   Keep educational pages accessible on “treatment pages” so as to not cause confusion of the essentials.  People want to know what services you offer, where you are, and how to get in touch with your practice.

All other considerations are secondary and all should work toward making things easy for everyone who visits your site.


8.  “I Have New Equipment I Have to Advertise”

Medical professionals love getting their hands on the latest technology — we all do really! But ask yourself if that technology is something that the patients will care about?  Patients want to know how you will help them.  Does your new equipment help them answer that question?

For example, a new X-Ray machine that processes images faster probably isn’t worth shouting about – but a new X-Ray machine that has higher resolution, with finer details to help diagnosis problems earlier? That, patients will care about.


9.  “We Already Market Online Using Social Media”

Great, you’re on social media! So many people miss this step. But digital advertising goes well beyond social media posts. You are not going to build a huge audience around your Facebook posts, especially with current algorithms favoring friends and family.  Even with a large audience, you’re not likely to obtain new patients, but rather just retain current clients (a valuable thing to do, but extremely limited.)

It’s highly recommended that you use paid Social Media Ads. They produce far better reach than your organic posts while you can get very specific with targeting efforts. Using paid Social Media Ads synergistically with your other digital marketing strategy will work wonders.  You will be surprised at how well this works! Thus debunking another of healthcare marketing myths.


10.  “Marketing Doesn’t Work – I’m Not Receiving Calls”

Like with the unethical advertising point, there’s certainly a kernel of truth here. Increased phone calls are an important metric to see how well your advertising efforts are going.

However, before jumping to conclusions, be sure to check the real, hard data. Are you actually not getting more phone calls, or are you simply not noticing them?  Are you tracking how people found you to call in the first place? “May I ask how you heard about us?” should always be a question you ask any new patient.

Also keep in mind long-term value marketing for your branding; not every single piece needs to bring a new person through the door. Keep a long term view during the process.

What is the single worst thing you can do?  Give up marketing because you don’t think it’s working.  You must assess the data and metrics, alter your direction when needed, but DO NOT eliminate your advertising budget!


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7 Digital Marketing Tactics For Healthcare Businesses 

7 Digital Marketing Tactics For Healthcare Businesses  | Social Media and Healthcare |

As part of the healthcare industry, your business is relentlessly looking for new and improved ways of providing the best care to your patients. So why do the majority self-diagnose using the internet?

According to a UK study by Statista41% of people said that they use the internet to self-diagnose medical issues every few months or so, another 13% said they self-diagnose every few weeks and collectively 13% said they self-diagnose between every day and every few days.

Moreover, common reasons for self-diagnosis instead of visiting the doctor are: being unable to get a doctor’s appointment and Google is a better option because their GP wasn’t available quickly enough.

With so many people turning to the internet to answer their medical questions, having a legitimate healthcare provider such as your business online will be beneficial to all involved to ensure there are fewer self-misdiagnoses and more real, valid doctor appointments.

That’s why we have stitched together 7 digital marketing tactics for healthcare businesses:

1. Have an easy to navigate website 

Your website is typically your patients’ first impression of your business, so making sure it performs well is crucial as this can be the deciding factor as to whether someone visits your practice or goes elsewhere.

If your website’s navigation is confusing or unclear, your website visitors may not be able to find everything available to them, ultimately making it more likely for them to look elsewhere for information.

With an easy to navigate website, the user experience will be painless, and visitors will be more inclined to visit your practice as well as use your website for future medical information from a positive experience.

(Related content: 5 Reasons To Invest In a New Website)

2. Have a mobile optimised website

Statistics from Statista show that the share of mobile traffic in 2018 was 52.2%, meaning that more than half of your visitors will be looking at your website on their mobile smartphones.

Making sure your website is mobile optimised for potential patients is vital now more than ever. Being mobile optimised can be very influential as to whether a visitor to your site stays there, looks at the content of your website and enquires with you, or alternatively goes elsewhere due to the poor user experience.

(Related content: Why Is It Important That Your Website Is Mobile-friendly?)

3. Be informative: run a blog with regular content

1% of all Google searches are symptom related, and although 1% may not sound like much, with a total of 3.5 billion Google searches per day, it’s a lot. This means there’s a good chance these searchers can find your healthcare business if you take advantage of this fact and produce quality content such as informative blog posts.

By now, we’ve established that people want information on medical issues before or instead of going to a doctor. They want, need and look for medical information that you have the ability to provide. By providing information in the form of blog posts, this can be your way of putting your foot through the door, and to persuade them that they do need to come to your business.

Including other patients’ in-depth medical experiences can be very influential as it can make the reader feel more connected because after all, people trust people.

4. Send a monthly eNewsletter

An email newsletter is still a fantastic tool, yet it is often overlooked and underestimated.

When users sign up to your newsletter, you already know that they are interested in receiving medical information, and now they only need to check their email inbox when they have any medical questions. To make your newsletter as engaging as possible, it should have a mixture of content including blog posts, images, and videos, with the best picks of your content for that month, personalised to the people in your database.

5. Create educational videos

The use of video in digital marketing strategies has proven to be successful for many industries, likewise for the healthcare industry. Video can be a great way to provide medical information in a more engaging and visual way.

68% of people would rather use a short video to learn about a product or service. A video is easy to digest, in fact videos are processed by the brain 60,000 times faster than text, which is why it’s a great tool to use for educational videos.

Another form of video content that still counts as educational and can be effective in your digital marketing efforts is video testimonials. It gives your healthcare business more credibility and the content is more personal so viewers will feel more connected.

6. Engage with your audience on social media

Being on social media platforms is essential for pretty much any business in any industry (if you want to grow, of course). For the healthcare industry, social media can help you connect and engage with your audience, and it can encourage your audience to engage with you.

People like to share their health issues with others, especially those who have chronic illnesses; 27% of patients comment or post status updates based on health-related experiences. Not only do they like to share their health issues with healthcare businesses, but they also like to connect with other people that have had the same or similar health issues.

By having social media accounts, it makes it easier for people with health issues to engage with your business and to connect with other people with similar health issues all in one place.

(Related content: Which Social Media Platforms Should Your Business Be Present on?)

Claire Murdoch@ClaireCNWL are a huge asset to people learning to live with mh problems and a tremendously positive challenge and support to colleagues as they strive to create therapeutic services!


"It was great being able to talk about my experience and how I put this to good use. I am living proof that this is not the end of things, but a start," says @CNWLNHS Mark Sanderson who spoke at the brilliant Hearing Voices conference in #MiltonKeynes. 

See Claire Murdoch's other Tweets


7. Use SEO correctly

Last but not least, you need to optimise the technical on-page SEO for each page of your website so that your content can become visible on search engines; but without knowing the best up-to-date SEO practices, you could end up with a website with quality content that brings little to no visitors.

SEO (search engine optimisation) is a set of practices used to ensure that your website appears in the search engine results for specific keywords and phrases relevant to your website, for the purpose of increasing the quantity and quality of your website’s traffic through organic search engine results.

Using SEO marketing correctly will make your healthcare business stand out from your competitors. Your website and its content will likely rank higher, meaning that people searching will come across your site and content more easily.

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6 health technology tools patients expect your practice to have

6 health technology tools patients expect your practice to have | Social Media and Healthcare |

If new health technology isn’t a focus at your practice, it’s time to readjust your priorities. Patient expectations have evolved, thanks in part to companies like Amazon that constantly debut new products and services to make their lives easier.

Not surprisingly, 59 percent of U.S. consumers want a digital healthcare experience similar to retail, according to research conducted by global technology company NTT DATA Services. Here’s a look at a few innovative features on your patients’ wish list.

Patient experience technologies you need to have

1. Online patient scheduling

Making a doctor’s appointment shouldn’t be a hassle. Many people don’t have time to pick up the phone during business hours, and others simply prefer the convenience of online patient scheduling.

In fact, 81 percent of patients would rather schedule a healthcare appointment online, if they had the option, according to Intuit Health. Nearly half (40 percent) want this feature so badly, they would consider changing providers for it.

Listen: What patients want, online scheduling edition

2. Automated appointment confirmations and reminders

Your patients have busy lives. Even the most organized people can benefit from appointment reminders, because it can be hard to keep track of every commitment on their calendar.

2017 Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) survey of patients who missed at least one medical appointment in the past 12 months revealed a common reason for their absence. Most (52.4 percent) simply forgot to attend or cancel the appointment, highlighting the mutually beneficial need to send automated appointment reminders.

Related: 5 ideas to reduce no-shows at your healthcare practice

3. Patient satisfaction surveys

When choosing a healthcare provider, people have plenty of options. Consequently, they respect doctors who send post-visit patient satisfaction surveys, because it gives them a voice.

Do note, all patient assessments are not created equal, so take the time to do it right. You probably won’t get much response by manually sending lengthy surveys, so don’t waste your staff’s time.

Instead, maximize responses by investing in software that automatically sends strategically-timed, HIPAA-compliant surveys. This will help you address issues in a timely manner and encourage patients to share positive reviews of your practice.

One-third of practices fail at feedback: A patient review report

4. Access to an online patient portal

If your practice doesn’t offer a patient portal, you’re behind the curve. A 2018 MGMA survey revealed that 90 percent of healthcare practices provide this feature. The remaining 10 percent shared plans to implement one in the near future or already have the software as part of their EHR, but haven’t yet put it into effect.

Patient portals are valued because they provide unlimited access to personal health information. You decide what features to offer, but a few popular options include lab results, immunization records, and the ability to request prescription refills.

5. Online bill pay

Most industries allow customers to pay for just about anything online, but healthcare is the exception to the norm. Consequently, it’s no surprise that 65 percent of consumers would consider switching providers for a better payments experience, according to the Eighth Annual Trends in Healthcare Payments Report, published by healthcare payments platform InstaMed.

The report revealed that 79 percent of consumers are still receiving paper medical bills, but only 21 percent actually want to pay their bills by check. Retain your patients by offering online bill pay, so they can quickly, easily, and securely pay for your services.

Check out: Practice growth software & other tech upgrades your practice needs

6. Virtual care

If you’re a traditionalist, it might be hard to jump on the telehealth bandwagon, but it’s the way of the future. A 2018 Deloitte survey revealed only 23 percent of consumers have participated in a video visit with their doctor, but 57 percent of those who hadn’t used this feature yet were willing to give it a try.

There’s many different ways to deliver virtual care — i.e., monitoring patients with wearable devices, email consultations, and virtual visits — so start small by offering one or two features. Expand your suite of virtual services as you become more comfortable with this innovative health technology.

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7 Simple Steps for Getting More Patients |

7 Simple Steps for Getting More Patients | | Social Media and Healthcare |

The key to patient acquisition is providing an outstanding customer experience. When your customers are happy, they will refer other people to your business. Having customers that trust you and are confident in your ability to provide excellent care are the first step to getting more patients.

We have compiled a guide of 7 simple steps to get more patients into your clinic.

Patients Needs and Expectations.

To begin, it is important to understand your patients’ expectations and how you measure up to that. Patient surveys are the best way to get this information. Learn about what your patients DON’T like about your performance and then work to correct it.

You can also engage with patients directly and ask questions about the care they received and what you can do to improve.

Sentiment Analysis

Empathy is important here. Use a survey powered by a sentiment analysis software to help you understand your patients’ emotions. Remember to include these questions in your survey.

  • Their likelihood of recommending you to their friends and family based on their experience. Use a scale of 1-5 (most common) or 0-10. 
  • An open-ended comment box where they can elaborate on their rating and share anything else about the visit.

The software can use the responses to these questions to understand how the patients truly feel about their visit. It can also show patterns and identify any problem areas.

Know Your Target Audience

Using demography like location, age, gender etc. can help you create and execute specific marketing campaigns. This can also help you optimize your online marketing activities.

Your Google Analytics account can show you demographic data for interested prospects as well as actual converts.

Internal Patient Referral

After you identify your target audience, focus on increasing patient referrals. Engage with your current patients, empathize with their concerns and create an effective referral program.

  • Ask your patients for reviews. This improves your online reputation and increases the chances of acquiring new patients from the internet route.
  • Offer a bonus for referrals. You can incentivize your patients by giving them a discount for referring new patients to your practice.
  • Show commercials in the waiting area. A short commercial informing people how they can help others by sharing your practice with them can encourage patients to refer others.
  • Connect with your patients. Send them birthday cards, call them to ask if they are pleased with their care, engage with them and show them that you care about their experience and appreciate their business.

Referring Practices

Having good, strong relationship with referring practices is a great way to get more patients. It does take time to build these relationships, but it is well worth it.

One thing to remember is that this requires communication between the practices, especially when it comes to the transfer of relevant medical information. In a study, 63% of referring physicians complained about the current referral system. Patients do not like having to repeat their medical history when they are referred to a new practice.

Key tips to ensure that you provide fast and effective care to referral patients

  • Instruct over-the-counter staff to attend to the referred patients promptly
  • Provide a speedy appointment to them
  • Send over the treatment plan and other medical notes to the referring practice promptly after the patient has received treatment
  • Establish a direct line of contact in your office and the office of the referring practice for timely information sharing, and to alleviate the frustration of a lengthy phone tree system.

This will ensure that they become loyal patients.

Remember, providing privileged care to referral patients does NOT mean that you are neglecting the regular patients! However, going the extra mile to make the new patients feel special will aid you in retaining them.

Online Presence

If you have bad online reviews, referred patients are likely to avoid your practice. Your online reputation needs to be strong. When a patient searches for you online they should:

  • Reach you easily. Having a prominent SEO strategy will ensure that you have a strong online presence.
  • See a positive reputation and good reviews. Online reputation management is crucial here.
  • Easily schedule an appointment. Have a call-to-action dedicated to this.
  • Easily and quickly navigate your site. Ensure that you have a good website design with a clear UX interface.

It is also important to implement influencer marketing. You can get valuable links from reputable persons and companies from your industry. These “mentions” will give you higher rankings and a more commanding social media presence.

Patient Community

Forming a bond with your local community is highly rewarding. This strong community of patients will increase your reach. There are various ways to create this relationship. For instance:

  • Community events. Participating in community events, such as volunteer activities, neighborhood celebrations and educational events can drastically improve local networking and establish you in the community. Be visible, supportive, friendly, and involved with your patient community.
  • Social Media. Create an online community of your patients. Set up a Facebook/Instagram account for your practice. This is a great way to showing off your practice, advertise patient testimonials, and reach new patients. Social media is the perfect way to promote engagement by starting conversations on relevant topics, conducting quizzes, and spreading awareness about your activities and events as a healthcare provider.
  • Newsletters. Patients like to receive newsletters that relate to their health concerns. Send out neighborhood newsletters that offer tips and information for health improvement. Actively engage with your patients by providing discussion material.
  • Sponsor events and leagues. Sponsoring sports events and little leagues is a great way to build community relationships. A sports team with your practice’s name will vastly improve your brand authority in the local community.


Getting more patients may seem like a lot of hard work, but with help from Capital Practice Consulting it will be a walk in the park. If you are ready to get started, contact ustoday!

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Value-based care: 5 tips to improve the patient experience in health care

Value-based care: 5 tips to improve the patient experience in health care | Social Media and Healthcare |

Value-based care is more than a buzz term in health care today—it’s a mandate that has now become a baseline expectation for both patients and regulators. The Affordable Care Act requires health care providers to switch from operating in a service-based mindset to providing value-based care that focuses on the quality of care rather than the quantity of services offered.

But now that this mandate has been in effect for several years, providers can’t just do the bare minimum required. Organizations today need to deeply integrate value-based care into their operations and transform their approaches to stand out in a crowded health care marketplace.

These five tips can help health care organizations add more value to the experience patients can expect at the provider’s clinic or facility.

1. Improve patient engagement

More than ever, patients want to be involved in their own health care. Providers can improve patient engagement by creating email lists, blog posts, videos and social media content that regularly update patients on news and information relevant to their care. To ensure this content is relevant and useful, health care providers can request feedback from patients directly, thereby further engaging patients in their care.

Some forward-thinking providers have embraced online patient portals as a way to securely share information such as test results, physicians’ notes, or other contents of a patient’s file with that patient. Others, like Aurora Health Care, have created online patient communities to engage patients and derive insight to improve their services. By improving patient engagement, providers can inherently boost the value patients feel they are receiving.

2. Create more integrated treatment plans

Thanks to the internet, patients have become more informed about their conditions and treatments. They’re increasingly demanding treatment plans that employ a variety of methods. More patients are considering treatment methods beyond pharmaceuticals, surgery and other Western approaches.

From holistic remedies to Eastern medicine techniques, alternative and complementary treatments are another way to enhance value-based care. To identify and keep up with these changing expectations, health care providers should listen to their patients.

One example comes from OrthoCarolina: When the health care provider was considering adding a PhD-trained acupuncturist to its team, it consulted with patients first to ensure that the idea made sense. Patient feedback confirmed that there was a need for the service, allowing the organization to create a new revenue stream while boosting value for patients.

3. Research competitors’ strategies

While all health care providers may be required to implement a value-based care strategy, clear leaders have emerged across the industry. Providers can identify who those leaders are and watch how they are creating more value for patients in novel and effective ways.

Leading organizations like Horizon Healthcare Services use patient insight to remain ahead in this competitive landscape. Keeping an ear to the ground can offer insight into what has and hasn’t worked for other providers and potentially inspire new ideas that take competitors’ strategies one step further. This might also include looking to other industries beyond health care, such as retail, that can demonstrate other relevant innovations in customer engagement.

4. Elevate market research

To gather insight about competitors’ strategies or what patients value, many health care providers are investing in market research to derive insight directly from patients. Ongoing engagement leads to better patient care by fostering a deeper and more detailed understanding of patients’ attitudes and preferences. This type of research and feedback generation also offers providers a way to test and target new services and marketing strategies, which benefits both patients and providers.

Health care providers are seeing great ROI from investing in research. Cleveland Clinic, for example, recently shared that it uses patient insight to enhance marketing campaigns, increase patient satisfaction and evolve its services to keep up with the evolving needs of the consumers.

5. Understand what patients value now versus what they’ll value in the future

What may be the most critical insights generated from this type of research are not just what patients find valuable today, but rather what patients will value from their health care provider in the future. Providers should pay attention not to what patients feel is valuable in their current health care experience, but identify patient needs that aren’t being met yet. They can also conceptualize what issues patients could have in the future because of current changes in health care or technology. Those insights can keep providers prepared for the future and a step ahead of the competition.

The health care industry’s adoption of a consumer-oriented, retail-driven business model has prompted an increased need for providers to better engage with their patients. Listening to patients and demonstrating that patients’ feedback and insight is truly valuable is critical for providers today as they attempt to differentiate themselves from the competition.

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Why do patients turn to the internet for health information?

Why do patients turn to the internet for health information? | Social Media and Healthcare |

Biologic treatment for ankylosing spondylitis (AS) has become more common in recent years, but patients still struggle with identifying the best options for their personal treatment, a new study reported.

Consequently, research published recently in Arthritis Care & Researchrevealed patients are turning to online platforms for information not only about biologic function and efficacy, but also about risks and benefits. This is the first study to analyze large-scale social media data in an effort to examine patient concerns and perceptions around AS.

“The findings of this study can help researchers and clinicians anticipate the needs of patients with AS, as well as provide insight into thoughts and concerns some patients may have throughout the course of their treatment,” investigators wrote. “Moreover, these findings highlight the complexity that AS patients face when selecting among biologic treatments.”

Researchers collected online posts from 601 social media sites, including Facebook, Twitter,, and, from Jan. 1, 2016 to April 26, 2017. From the 27,416 individual posts analyzed, 112 themes emerged. Most focused on AS treatment, including biologics and side effects, such as fatigue and allergic reactions, biologic treatment attributes, such as dosing and frequency, and concerns about biologic use, such as increased cancer risk.

Specifically, investigators pinpointed 61 percent of treatment-focused posts discussed pharmacologic treatment. Of posts centered on biologics, 78 percent centered on side effects related to use, biologic attributes, and risks.

In addition, the data analysis showed patients also turned to online forums to discuss their uncertainties and lack of information about biologics, lack of trust in their physician’s decisions, psychosocial challenges, worries, perceived effects, medicine substitutions, treatment determinants, and alternative therapies. Overall, they turned to social media to seek information and support or self-management advice.

Even though researchers and clinicians can use these findings to better anticipate patient needs, investigators said, further research is required into how social media and online decision-making tools can impact and support patients.


Dzubar E, Khalil C, Almario C, Noah B, Minhas D, Ishimori M, Arnold C, Park Y, Kay J, Weismann M, Siegel B. Patient Concerns and Perceptions Regarding Biologic Therapies in Ankylosing Spondylitis: Insights From a Large-Scale Survey of Social Media Platforms, Arthritis Care & Research (2019), doi: 10.1002/acr.23600.

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Facebook, Twitter are blocking dangerous antivaccine posts. It’s about time l

Facebook, Twitter are blocking dangerous antivaccine posts. It’s about time l | Social Media and Healthcare |

In recent weeks, Pinterest, YouTube, Facebook, and Amazon have done something previously thought unimaginable: They’ve censored potentially dangerous health information, at last addressing a problem that started in the late 1990s.

In 1998, Andrew Wakefield, a British gastroenterologist, published a paper claiming that the combination measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine caused autism. The following year, in 1999, the U.S. Public Health Service, exercising an abundance of caution, asked pharmaceutical companies to eliminate the mercury-containing preservative, thimerosal, from most vaccines.

Many watching this one-two punch against vaccines worried about what would happen next. Such groups as Every Child by Two (now Vaccinate Your Family), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Immunization Action Coalition, the Autism Science Foundation, Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases, the National Meningitis Association, and Meningitis Angels, among others, created websites and distributed educational materials about the importance of vaccines. Researchers performed dozens of studies showing that MMR didn’t increase the risk of autism and that the trace quantities of mercury in vaccines weren’t harmful. Indeed, Andrew Wakefield’s paper was later retracted when he was found to have misrepresented clinical information.

Nonetheless, as feared, the controversies surrounding MMR and thimerosal created a foothold for anti-vaccine groups.


During the following 15 years, organizations like the National Vaccine Information Center (formerly Dissatisfied Parents Together), Generation Rescue, Moms Against Mercury, and Safe Minds became the one-stop shop for mainstream media outlets interested in airing parents’ concerns about vaccines.

The results were predictable.

Influenced by thousands of television shows, radio programs, and newspaper articles, a critical number of parents stopped vaccinating their children. As a consequence, measles infections, which were eliminated from the United States by 2000, came roaring back. An outbreak starting in Disneyland in 2014 spread from California to 24 other states. Now hundreds of children whose parents have chosen not to vaccinate them are infected with measles every year. Many are hospitalized. When hundreds become thousands, children again will start dying from measles.

But the tide is turning. Mainstream media, in the face of overwhelming scientific evidence supporting the safety of vaccines, realizes that there aren’t two sides to this story. Also, nothing educates like outbreaks.

Although marginalized, activists haven’t given up, turning their attention from mainstream media to social media, where their misinformation continues to cause harm. It is here that the anti-vaccine groups have thrived. Anti-vaccine blogs, websites, books, live streamings, podcasts, chat rooms, and Facebook pages dominate the landscape.

Recently, and surprisingly, social media outlets have started to push back. Pinterest now bars searches for vaccine content. YouTube no longer allows anti-vaccine groups to monetize their videos with ads. Facebook fact-checks health articles to determine which will appear less prominently in news feeds. And Amazon has started removing anti-vaccine documentaries from its video streaming service.

In response, anti-vaccine groups have cried foul, arguing that these actions represent an abridgment of their First Amendment right to free speech. The law, however, has historically set limits on that right. In 1919, Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., in Schenck v. United States, reasoned that free speech did not extend to “falsely shouting fire in a crowded movie theater causing a panic.” Holmes argued that to do so might cause people to be hurt or killed while running for the exits. The same is true here. By unnecessarily scaring parents, hundreds of children are getting trampled every year.


To their credit, several prominent social media sites are no longer waiting for children to die from preventable infections before silencing those doing the shouting.

Paul A. Offit, M.D., is director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and a professor of pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He also is a member of the Inquirer’s Health Advisory Panel.

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The social media dilemma

The social media dilemma | Social Media and Healthcare |

It was September 2018 when Jacqueline Harris, a fourth-year student at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, decided to change her social media presence pretty dramatically. 

She took steps to make it harder to find her on Facebook and switched her Instagram and Twitter accounts to private. 

Harris’s decision was sparked by her upcoming residency applications: While she has never made a habit of posting controversial material, she couldn’t risk having her career derailed by the wrong photo or comment.

“I’ve heard institutions will look you up to get a better sense of who you are as a person,” Harris says. “Who’s to say something I think is funny or that I like isn’t going to be taken the wrong way?”

She adds, “My biggest fear would be something that I perceive as empowering or impactful would be misconstrued by someone who has influence on my career and where I go.”

Social media is a difficult and risky world to navigate, and medical students face a slew of complicating factors. They must work to protect their professional personas and keep patient information safe. Still, many want the freedom to maintain their individuality and participate in online advocacy movements like #MeToo and “black men in white coats,” which works to diversify the medical community. They want to connect with patients, but they don’t want to be unprofessional. And to make matters more difficult, there are almost no hard-and-fast rules to guide them. 

“My biggest fear would be something that I perceive as empowering or impactful would be misconstrued by someone who has influence on my career and where I go.”

Jacqueline Harris
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

“Students struggle with what the standard is. They want rules,” says Danielle Dickey, EdD, director of academic affairs for Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. “But other than HIPAA, there really aren’t any.”

That’s why a growing number of medical schools nationwide are adding content to the curriculum to incorporate best practices around social media use, recognizing the unique position that medical students are in when it comes to protecting patient privacy and creating a professional web presence that upholds the ethical standards of the medical profession, while still allowing students to advocate for social justice issues.

Protecting patient privacy

The American Medical Student Association (AMSA) does provide social media guidelines on its website, though they are somewhat vague. The AMSA instructs medical students to: 1) Be professional, 2) Be responsible, 3) Maintain a separation from patients, 4) Be transparent and use disclaimers, 5) Be respectful, 6) Follow copyright laws, 7) Protect patient information, 8) Avoid politics, 9) Comply with all legal restrictions, and 10) Be aware of risks to personal privacy and security. 

Of course, there is the HIPAA privacy rule, which was the first federal protection for the privacy of personal health information. The standards do apply to social media platforms, but HIPAA was enacted long before social media networks came into play, so there are no specific rules to serve as guidance.

Now, medical school instructors are taking it upon themselves to teach students the dangers of violating HIPAA when posting about patients. 

Students at Harvard Medical School, for example, are told to ponder a question in their first week. Which is worse: posting a sweet patient story on Facebook that could lead to identification of the patient, or posting denigrating words about a patient that keeps him or her anonymous?

The correct answer? They’re both problematic.

“Even if the post is touching and shows empathy, it’s not the right forum to be doing that,” says Anthony Breu, MD, course co-director for the medical ethics and professionalism curriculum at Harvard. “And making denigrating comments, no matter how anonymous, reflects poorly on the profession.”

And while a student might understand this, there are other boundary issues to grapple with. For instance, is it ok to friend patients?

Most instructors answer this with a resounding “no.”

“We try to discourage students from engaging in social media with their patients,” says Gerardo Maradiaga, MA, a clinical ethicist at Wake Forest School of Medicine. That’s in part because connecting online with patients could trigger unanticipated privacy issues.

To drive home his point, Maradiaga poses a hypothetical scenario: A student becomes Facebook friends with a patient who says she has quit smoking. But the patient later posts a photo with a cigarette on her page. How will this information affect the way in which the student interacts with the patient?

“Is it ethical to access information that way?” Maradiaga asks. “And what does it do to the patient-student relationship? We talk about how that could feel like an invasion of their privacy and it can shake that trust.”

Maintaining professionalism

For some students, acceptance into medical school means a complete remaking of their social media presence. Perry Tsai, MD, PhD, national president of the AMSA, recommends that students create separate personal and professional Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. He also recommends that students limit their posting to the medical field and advocacy initiatives on their professional accounts.

“I think promoting things that happen within your profession or within your institution is always great,” Tsai says. “Maybe professional achievements that your colleagues might have or research that’s come out.” 

In addition to celebrating progress in medicine, students can use their social media accounts to connect with people who’ve had similar experiences. 

“There are a lot of things that are challenging in the profession,” Tsai says. “While struggling with the stress of all the things we need to get done, we’re dealing with things like death and disability, dying and disease. Social media is sometimes a way to share those experiences in a general way.” 

Texas A&M College of Medicine is working to steer students in the right direction. The college touches on social media issues both in the first and fourth years, encouraging students to evaluate their internet personas. In the first year, they hear from an ethicist and break into groups of 10 or 12 to discuss case examples. In the fourth year, they have a professionalism module that covers 10 musts and must nots, including social media topics. Internet practices also pop up at various times throughout the program, when ethics and professionalism are addressed.

All the while, instructors stress that judgments about what is and isn’t appropriate are almost entirely subjective, so it's better to be safe than sorry. 

“We drill into their heads that professionalism begins the minute they step on campus. It doesn’t take a license.”

David Lambert, MD
University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry

“The biggest underlying premise is there’s going to be a lot of judgment about what a person puts out there, and perception is reality,” Dickey says. “Their employers and their teams will have those judgements. If someone thinks there’s a problem, there’s a problem.”

At the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, students can ask questions about online behaviors through a school intranet site. The portal allows anonymous queries, so students don’t have to fear risking embarrassment. 

Students also receive repeated instruction on internet conduct, starting during orientation week, says David Lambert, MD, senior associate dean for medical student education at the school.

“We drill into their heads that professionalism begins the minute they step on campus,” Lambert notes. “It doesn’t take a license.”

The upsides of social media

Despite the professional dangers it poses, the internet can be a place to form connections and dip into social justice advocacy work, says Jeanne Farnan, MD, MHPE, associate dean of evaluation and continuous quality improvement at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. 

“We don’t want to dampen their voice,” she says of students. “We just want them to use it in a professional way.”

“Our students are super active in issues around social justice. We don’t want to come at this conversation with ‘The 10 Commandments of Facebook.’ We just want them to recognize there can be consequences for what they post.”

Jeanne Farnan, MD
University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine

Students and doctors have used social media to advocate for diversity in hospitals, gender equality, and universal health care, among other causes. There are Twitter chats specifically dedicated to uniting groups within the medical community, including a #WomenInMedicine chat. In addition, medical students have taken to social media to get their med school questions answered — Farnan says she’s advised students on Twitter whom she has never met. The @AAMCPreMed account helps aspiring doctors know what to expect from medical school and residency and uses hashtags to advocate for causes, including #BlackMenInMedicine.

“Our students are super active in issues around social justice,” Farnan says. “We don’t want to come at this conversation with ‘The 10 Commandments of Facebook.’ We just want them to recognize there can be consequences for what they post.”

On the whole, Farnan says, students seem to be moving toward a more productive approach to social media, often using it to become better doctors, more involved peers, and stronger patient advocates.

“It’s not as much a tool to post silly pictures,” Farnan says. “It’s more an avenue to unite as a group across the country.”

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Digital Marketing for Doctors and Hospitals: Why is it so important? –

Digital Marketing for Doctors and Hospitals: Why is it so important? – | Social Media and Healthcare |

All kinds of consumer-centric industries have begun dabbling with digital marketing in recent years. It brings with it unparalleled advantages that no other modes offer. However, healthcare and the medical profession, in general, is lagging behind in taking advantage of this immensely effective marketing strategy. Digital marketing for doctors and hospitals is as important as for any other industry if not more. As of now, medical marketing has immense potential.

If it isn’t online, it isn’t there

People no longer trust a doctor by just word of mouth. If they want to have a checkup, first they would first search for the doctors nearest to their place, and then would go for the highest rated one. Those who don’t have online presence won’t even get a chance.

A study shows that 52 percent of people look for answers online when seeking a good physician or wanting to know more about treatment options. An astonishing 20 percent of Google searches are related to health. People don’t sift through their phone book or yellow pages to look for a good doctor, they just do a google search. These numbers show that consumers are using online resources throughout the duration of their care and hence, digital marketing can be the boost your business needs to become successful. Let’s look at some of the attributes that explain why digital marketing for doctors is so important:


5 Reasons Why Digital Marketing for Doctors is so Important

1. Millions of New Smartphone Users


The number of mobile users overtook desktop/laptop users years ago. Google changed its search results sequence to display more mobile friendly sites. Web design trends have shifted to a mobile-first zone. Websites can now detect whether the user is accessing it on phone or desktop and optimizing itself for phone. The new generation is using mobile as its primary mean of communication and, as it represent a huge client source for medical practitioners, mobile marketing should be a priority. Digital marketing will help you redirect these healthcare seekers to your practice, where you can educated them about the specialties and treatment options you have to offer.

2. More reliable


Digital marketing provides accurate data to the marketer. Right from what words redirected them to your site to when they scheduled an appointment and everything in between. You can find out how many people saw your ad, how many people clicked to know more, how many called you and the duration of each call and the identity of the caller. Digital marketing provides a staggering amount of data to analyze what helps your practice and what doesn’t. You can weed out ineffective channels that are not offering value for money. You can track results almost instantly once your campaign goes live.

3. Cost Effective


 A huge amount of time and money gets spent while trying to increase consumer reach through the mail. It also doesn’t offer any feedback and you can only vaguely guess how effective it was. You want your content to be seen by potential clients as soon as possible. Email campaigns, on the other hand, have proved to be extremely effective at targeting relevant prospects. They have rewarded marketers with up to 95 times the ROI of a regular mail-only program. This makes it an endeavor that is very light on one’s pocket. So you don’t need to boost your budget, you just need to find better avenues to invest in.

4. Convenient for consumers


When the quality of healthcare offered by two physicians is the same, the consumers will choose the more convenient option. Studies have also shown that consumers do not hesitate in trying out new options like quick service clinics and telehealth services. In dealing with common ailments, these are the go-to options given how quick and convenient they are.

5. Digital video is trending right now


Digital videos have displayed a huge growth in popularity. People want to see instead of listening to it. These videos can either be pre-recorded or streamed live. It could be something as simple as how to brush your young one’s teeth to how to correctly fit a prosthetic. A digital video has the power to hold the viewer’s attention far longer than stationary ads. Live streaming, in fact, retains audience attention far longer than a pre-recorded video.



Whether your approach is digital-first or digital only, it can be trusted to bring in more clients than before. Digital marketing empowers you to reach potential clients right in their home. Providing information through your marketing campaigns helps you earn the consumer’s respect.   


These reasons are not all there are to choose digital marketing as your primary marketing strategy. We have barely scratched the surface. Because of increasing competition, it is very important that medical professional not only market their services and specialties as well as they can, but also do it with precision. Digital marketing will help you serve more patients in 2018 as you reach out to more and more healthcare seekers.

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How Children’s Hospitals Can Engage Physicians to Increase Referrals & Reputation

How Children’s Hospitals Can Engage Physicians to Increase Referrals & Reputation | Social Media and Healthcare |

To create content that captures physicians’ attention and trust, children’s hospitals have to be true to themselves.   

You’ve probably heard pediatric physicians say that children aren’t little adults—they are a distinct patient group requiring care that’s just for them. By the same token, your physician-focused content strategy must be unique from its consumer counterpart.

Whether your goal is to drive referrals or boost public perception, the basic ingredients for success are the same: Physicians want to know what your hospital does well, and that their  patients are in good hands through your skilled, compassionate care.

Speak With Many Voices

With a presence in five states, Nemours Children’s Health System uses a multi-pronged content marketing strategy geared toward specific segments of its physician audience.

The News at Nemours e-news program, for example, keeps physicians in the Mid-Atlantic region abreast of clinical advances, medical staff additions, and continuing medical education opportunities at the system’s flagship hospital in Delaware. E-newsletters promoting Nemours’ International Medicine Program target physicians around the globe with content that blends advances in care—the use of PET/MRI in the treatment of epilepsy is a recent example—exciting research, and powerful stories of families who have traveled from abroad for diagnosis and treatment. Specialist e-newsletters highlight Nemours’ expertise in specific medical disciplines, such as otolaryngology, with case studies of treatment regimens.

The results of this targeted approach to physician communication are remarkable: Compared with other physician e-mail campaigns that have average open rates of 10-11%, a recent pediatric orthopedic campaign for Nemours had an open rate of 31.72%. The campaign also exceeded the average click-through rate for e-mails targeting physicians.

Highlight Your Hospital’s Heart

For Dayton Children’s Hospital in Ohio, a key driver of its physician content marketing strategy is conveying that its services are on par with those in the Cincinnati market to the south. Highlighting pioneering programs and advanced treatments are a big part of that effort, but they’re not the whole story.

In an email campaign intended to elevate its U.S. News & World Report rankings, Dayton Children’s focuses on its most important differentiator: the lengths to which its providers go to help sick children. Presenting patient stories is one way the hospital shows those efforts, but they also use subtler means. In a recent email, Dayton Children’s profiled its Scolio-Pilates® program for children with scoliosis. What better way to highlight both innovation and compassion than by introducing physicians to a first-of-its-kind program for a pediatric hospital in the United States?

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