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Medicine and health sciences are advancing at a dizzying pace, leading health care professionals of all backgrounds to social media resources to help them stay informed and on pace with this increasing rate of change.
"The world of medical education has not just expanded, it has exploded," wrote doctors Mike Cadogan and Chris Knickson of the Life in the Fast Lane medical blog .
Traditional sources of medical education, including textbooks and peer-reviewed journals, are notoriously costly and difficult to access. Those publications also present information that was, at best, up to date when it was written months or years prior to publication.
Paramedics are active participants in the Free Open Access Medical education movement. (Image courtesy Rom Duckworth)
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A better way to access and deliver medical education
Today, if access to information is your problem, the Internet is the solution, right? While a global social network of health care providers and educators sharing free cutting-edge medical information sounds great, it can be difficult to distinguish scientifically valid information from something that someone "heard from some guy" on Facebook.
FOAM over a pint of Guinness changes the medical profession
This up-and-coming movement needed a name to help better identify and focus it, allowing medical providers, educators and content creators to more easily connect and collaborate to put internet resources into real-world medical practice. As the tale goes, Cadogan conceived of Free Open Access Medical Education, or FOAMed, while pondering the foam head on a pint of Guinness beer, further accelerating a movement of forward-thinking health care providers unsatisfied with traditional medical education methods and media .
The FOAMed movement was — and is — not confined to emergency and critical care physicians. EMS providers, nurses and other allied health professionals of all specialties have been both FOAMed creators and consumers. In the years since its inception, the FOAMed movement has become more diverse, with subdivisions including:
FOAMcc for critical care
FOAMed advantages and challenges
Free: FOAMed does not require any entry or subscription fees to participate in the community.
Free: Some providers perceive FOAMed as "you get what you pay for" — and in some cases this may be true.
Perhaps the most active face of the FOAMed community is on Twitter through the hashtag #FOAMed. The hashtags #FOAMed and #FOAMems act as identifiers of medical education content and conversations, typically of very high quality. Use these hashtags in the search function of the Twitter website or any Twitter app to find FOAMed- or FOAMems-related content.
Twitter currently allows messages of up to 140 characters, so FOAMed content usually consists of a shortened web link to a photo, graphic, video, article or blog post, along with a title, statement or comment. FOAMed community members then typically question, comment on or further share (retweet) the information with other community members.
Twitter is not the only social media channel for FOAMed community members. Facebook, Reddit and other sites all have thriving FOAMed communities that can be found by searching for the word "FOAMed" or by using the #FOAMed or #FOAMems hashtags. There is even a custom Google search engine specifically for FOAMed content.
While the #FOAMed hashtag may thrive on social media channels, much of the FOAMed content is still produced where the community started — on the numerous blogs and websites of FOAMed founders and contributors. Top-quality FOAMed posts are collected and aggregated by sites such as LITFL Review, FOAM EM, ITeachEM, and ILearnEM to help FOAMed members find and digest articles specific to their interests.
For the more adventurous FOAMed consumers, the website Taming the SRU has set up a primer on using an RSS reader to automatically deliver FOAMed content from reader-selected sites as soon as new content is published.
Find FOAMed audio and video podcasts, such as the St. Emlyn’s Virtual Hospital Podcast, HEFT EM Cast and the RCEM FOAMed Network on iTunes, as well as through a comprehensive database at Life In The Fast Lane.
ABCs of evaluating FOAMed content
"We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge."
Evaluation checklists have been developed for medical education blogs and podcasts that break down a list of 151 quality indicators . Although this and other similar checklists can be helpful for more research-oriented providers, there is a much easier-to-use field guide to identify top-quality FOAMed resources — or anything else you might find on the Internet — and steer clear of the real stinkers. This process, which librarians have long taught for evaluating online and offline reference materials, uses a format with which all EMS providers are already familiar: Assess the ABCs.
What is the website or organization creating or sharing the content?
What sources are cited for the information presented?
Is the author, publisher or distributor speaking within the depth of his or her expertise?
Is the source of the information attempting to sell a product, service or idea?
How current is the information?
Is this the right content for me or the audience with whom I am going to share it?
While I have been a creator, distributor and proponent of FOAMed for some years now, my first real glimpse into the future of FOAMed was when I spoke at the Royal College of Emergency Physicians Annual Scientific Conference in Manchester, England. During the conference I was part a roving FOAMed reporter. With other members of the brigade, I shared live content in the form of photos, videos and text messages via Twitter under the #FOAMed hashtag.
My presentation was covered live and was later published in an article, podcast and a video summary, not just by individual med-ed geeks looking to justify carrying the latest smartphone technology, but also the Royal College itself, eager to distribute the cutting-edge content of their conference as far and wide as possible. And far and wide it went, with questions and comments coming back to me from all across Europe, Africa, Australia and, of course, back home in North America.
In years past, if you weren’t able to afford to travel to Manchester, you might be lucky to see a reference to content presented at the RCEM conference months later in a trade magazine, but FOAMed allows you to read and even hear and see the information as it is presented live. You can question and comment on the information with other FOAMed community members from around the world and together figure out how this information might change your practice or improve the EMS system in which you work.
The Social Media and Critical Care (SMACC) conference, spearheaded by the founders and leaders of the FOAMed movement, will be returning to Dublin, where FOAMed began, in June 2016. Rest assured, the content will be blogged, podcasted, streamed and live-tweeted across the globe.
The question is, will you be ready to take what is taught and include it in your own classroom and personal EMS practice?
Hospitals, group medical practices and other healthcare professionals have embraced digital and social media for marketing. The standard toolbox begins a robust website, plus a Facebook page, and sometimes, a blog. Deeper plans may also include a YouTube channel, Twitter and/or LinkedIn and others. Relatively new on the scene is Instagram, which is a powerhouse picture tool for healthcare marketing.
Here’s what providers, administrators and communications executives need to consider in giving it a spotlight role in your marketing plan.
If you’ve been quick enough to follow the meteoric rise of Instagram, this may be the right time to connect with a powerful social sharing platform…and a mighty big audience. The Adweekheadline [June, 2016] declares: Instagram Now Has More Than 500 Million Monthly Users as Explosive Growth Continues.
The top number is impressive, but the growth rate is amazing. “Instagram gained 100 million members in nine months,” and, “what’s more, the social platform has gained about 200 million users in the last year and a half” (since January, 2015).
Given these big numbers, you probably know a bit about Instagram. But Wikipedia provides this concise description:
Instagram is an online mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing, and social networking service that enables its users to take pictures and videos, and share them either publicly or privately on the app, as well as through a variety of other social networking platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Flickr. Instagram is distributed through the Apple App Store and Google Play; the app is available for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Android handsets.
Consider that (nearly) everyone carries an Internet-connected smartphone/camera, you or I can take and post a photo, photos, or a 15 second video in an instant. The payoff, however, is that 90 percent of information transmitted to the brain is visual, which the brain processes thousands of times faster than text.
What’s more, 40 percent of people respond better to visual information than plain text. [Zabisco]And visual messages have a greater “sticking power” in the human brain’s long-term memory.
The emergence and influence of Instagram…
It seems as if there’s a new-and-wonderful social media something born daily. And California’s silicone valley is a treasure chest of amazing success stories. Instagram is one of the rocket-to-riches business success stories.
The free mobile app launched in 2010. Although there are other image-sharing platforms, Instagram gained immediate traction with users worldwide. And, as business spins in the tech world, the rapid popularity caught the attention of its social sister.
Adweek reports, “when Facebook purchased Instagram for $1 billion in 2012, it had 22 million users and a dozen or so employees. Per eMarketer, Instagram will rake in more than $1.5 billion in global mobile ad revenue, an increase of 144 percent over last year.”
The broad demographics tend to a slight female audience majority, generally among a younger, urban population. More than half of young adults (18 to 29) in the US use Instagram, according to Pew Research. Among those surveyed, 21 percent of all adults, use Instagram.
Healthcare marketing has been slower than major brands in adopting Instagram. Better than 80 percent of top brands use the social platform in their marketing mix. Visual content, both photos and videos, fuel engagement.
Brand engagement is strong; by some measures, significantly stronger than via Facebook or Twitter. But keep in mind that Instagram is a mobile-only stage. Although that’s a disconnect for laptop and desktop users, mobile devices are the screen of choice for huge audience segments.
Using Instagram for hospital and healthcare messaging…
Is Instagram a fit for your marketing plan? Social media and the various branches of the medical profession are subject to some higher standards, with patient privacy and confidentiality being at the top of the list. In addition, providers and institutions need to find the positive—happiness and good health—visual opportunities.
That said, here are some of the ways that Instagram can augment your healthcare social outreach and storytelling, and build a trusting rapport.Answer common questionsCommunity annual reportDemystify places and proceduresEducate/inform patientsIntroduce facility, department or officeMeet doctors and/or medical staffNew facilities, equipment, products and/or servicesPractice welcome, overview, orientationPromote contributions and fundraisingSimple “How-to” instructionsSpecial events and special visitorsTestimonials and morale boosters
Getting started, or getting better…
The Instagram platform integrates with other online marketing tools. Not surprisingly, it connects naturally with Facebook. For an individual or for a medical practice, the first consideration is to create an optimized profile that connects with or relates to your audience.Create a user name that is descriptive and memorable.Enter a bio or description of the business that touches your audience.Find and use related hashtags for indexing and discovery.Links are vital; include your main website or web landing page.Paint a picture with captions and textSpace is limited; use URL shorteners.Where appropriate, integrate your logo and branding.Wherever possible, link each of your social media to each other for a larger presence.
And some tips about content integration…
Instagram is a useful, but not universal, tool in marketing and storytelling. But in many situations, there is exceptional value in using Instagram to leverage, extend and amplify your marketing and social messaging.Educate and inform, but don’t “sell”Humanize; show people actively using or doingKnow what resonates with your target audienceKnow your communications objectives and goalsOnly good quality images and video are acceptableQuality is far more important that quantityUse visual content that’s interesting, compelling and shareable
The benefits of Instagram in healthcare marketing include enhancing your social media and online presence, attracting new patients and referrals, increase visitor traffic to your website and Facebook page, promote engagement, and as a showcase opportunity for your brand and branding message.
Visual images communicate quickly and conveniently. And the added benefit for hospitals and healthcare providers is the opportunity to humanize healthcare, and to make an emotional connection with the Instagram audience.
Valley View, Ohio-based Great Lakes NeuroTechnologies (GLNT) which uses tablets and wearable sensors for Parkinson’s diagnosis and therapy, has published a new study looking at how wearable technology can lead to increased referral rates for therapies in Parkinson’s disease.
Via Philippe Marchal
If you work in the healthcare industry, you know what a challenge it is to master social media for your brand.
What channels should you have an active presence on? Should you post photos, videos, links, custom visuals or a combination of them all? Should you post in the morning or afternoon? What clinical areas can you feature? How can you balance engaging content that’s relevant, useful and timely with content that’s strictly promotional?
As any healthcare marketer knows, the questions can seem never-ending—especially since it can seem like social media is always changing.
What changes can you start preparing for today… right now, even? Take a look at the five healthcare social media trends you’re sure to start noticing (that is, if you haven’t already).
1. Search is starting on social media. When it comes to searching for information, user behavior is gradually changing. While using search engines is still the most common behavior (and probably always will be), some users are bypassing the practice and going straight to social instead. Their reasoning? Well, visual content, which tends to be more common on social, is a lot easier to scan than content that’s very text-heavy. And what’s more, many consumers also find this type of content to be more trustworthy. Combine these two thoughts, and it could be why we see users shifting their searching ever so slightly. Before they’re heading to Google for recipes, fitness routines and tips for managing diseases, they’re trying Pinterest. YouTube. Instagram. Maybe even Facebook. All of the platforms that lend themselves to large, visual content are starting to become more popular across the industry—and with good reason.
2. Patients are more informed and empowered. Young, socially savvy women are increasingly using various public and online platforms to connect with people who share their health struggles—whether it’s weight loss or a chronic disease. On their personal social media channels, they’re sharing tips for managing conditions, links to products that worked wonders, doctors and healthcare professionals who helped them heal (and who didn’t). They’re talking openly and honestly about their health, and they’re learning a lot about it in the process. One thing to note: Engaging in these kinds of conversations on social media is most prevalent amongst younger women. More mature, female consumers are practicing greater discretion in how they talk about and deal with their diseases.
3. People want prescriptions for the spirit, not body. Today, more and more people living with chronic conditions are leveraging social media to engage in a new, powerful mode of storytelling. To them, sharing information about their health is less about providing a public service announcement or a cautionary tale. It’s more about sharing the happiness they’ve found while living with their diseases. It’s less about the chronic condition and more about the possibility of living a full, meaningful life, despite it. And with that mentality, people want information that helps them understand, rather than fear, the health issues they’re living with.
4. Immediacy is key. By nature, social media has always been a tool to show what’s happening in the moment. And while some posts seem more in the moment than others, live broadcasts are now the most “in the moment” a brand can be. With the launch of Facebook Live, Periscope and Meerkat, we’ve seen live streaming grow. In the healthcare industry, Google Helpouts is the prevailing streaming platform of choice.
Helpouts, which started as a forum where consumers could pay for live video instruction on everything from cooking to playing the guitar, is amping up the platform, putting doctors front and center to offer medical advice. The Helpouts healthcare program lets consumers video chat with doctors from a partnering medical network, called One Medical. Members in several states can consult these physicians for free. But any Helpouts user can pay for nutritional counseling sessions (45 minutes, $65) or health and wellness coaching (15 minutes, $30) from the medical professionals.
5. Donations are going digital. When someone is diagnosed with a disease or has to undergo something extensive, the costs can add up—both emotionally and financially. In the face of high medical bills, family, friends and acquaintances of all kinds are stepping up with donations small and large. But, they’re not just writing a check and sending it to the family. There’s a new way to show this sort of support. And it all starts with seeing a link on social media. Because as pages on crowdfunding websites have become increasingly popular, so has the amount of posts about them that are seen in feeds. The people who see these calls for donations are pitching in to make hard times a little easier, and on GoFundMe alone, medical donations have grown by nearly 6,000 percent since 2011.
Fortunately for hospitals, healthcare systems and nonprofits, this trend is also ringing true for brands. Within the first three weeks of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, the cause garnered $16 million in donations—compared with $1.8 million for the same period in the year before. Care for another startling statistic? To date, the number of users who have read about ALS increased 1,007 percent since the challenge began. And perhaps the most interesting part is that it all started because of a simple post that spread effortlessly across every social media channel. How powerful is that?
Because they are online more frequently, young physicians don't possess many privacy qualms related to social media and online communication, according to Health IT Outcomes.
The majority of the 70 young physicians surveyed were born between 1979 and 1998. Journal of Medical Internet Research published the study.
Here are six takeaways:
1. Of the 70 physicians, half said they were "almost always online."
2. Fifty percent of those surveyed also found it appropriate to communicate with colleagues via social media.
3. Of those surveyed, 80 percent expressed limited worry about online privacy.
4. Nearly 30 percent of those surveyed understood institutional policy on social media and two in three of those surveyed said they had formal social media training in medical school.
5. Nearly 40 percent said they thought online-posted information could still be permanently deleted.
6. Of those surveyed, 27 percent noted "it depends" or it is "always" acceptable to be on social media when in a patient care setting