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11 Tips for How Hospitals Can Use Social Media for Patient Education

11 Tips for How Hospitals Can Use Social Media for Patient Education | Patient Centricity |

One of our first clients was a hospital. They wanted to find a way to keep their patients more engaged and better informed about their own health. Every family practice doctor had a similar story: patients would come in, mention an article they read in a paper like the New York Times, and ask if it was true.

Health education is one of the most effective ways to keep patients healthy, so the hospital saw an opportunity: what if the clinic could recommend important health news directly to patients via social media?


Would they read it? Would doctors participate? And would the hospital support them?


We were brought in to  develop a strategy and implement a social media health education program. In this blog post I’m going to explain the principles behind a social media health education strategy, how the strategy

works, and how to implement it successfully. These same principles apply to any large service organization that employs highly educated, highly independent professionals (law firms, accounting firms, consulting firms, etc). 

What Patients Want: Personal Relationships, Leveraging the News, Creating ROI

We learned some important principles about what patients want when it comes to health news. 

People want health tips from the doctors and nurses they know. Whether it’s a friend or family member or their own doctor or nurse, patients and their families trust them for health advice. “So I saw this on Dr. Oz…” are seven words every health professional has heard before. Patients are influential too. Patients also share news and health advice with their friends and family. Sharing news is just as good as creating new content. People are as likely to read health news from a major publisher as they are press releases or content created by their doctor’s hospital. Unless it’s important to create new content, you can save time and cost by sharing news articles. Email gets the most engagement, followed by Facebook, then Twitter. Patients were most likely to read posts shared via email, but sharing to Facebook was how to reach the most people. The best approach was to combine email + facebook sharing  

What Hospitals Need to Know: Doctors are Individuals, Risk Needs to be Managed, and Personal Profiles are Critical

In addition to the principles of what patients wanted, hospitals are large organizations with complex risk profiles. There are some critical considerations for how to make a social media health education program work for them: 


Communications teams need to be the quarterbacks: Communications teams are aware of the risks and need to be at the centre. They need to either train the doctors carefully about brand risks or they need to be involved in selecting content (more on how to do that shortly). Total control is not an option: Communications teams can’t control what doctors and employees share to their personal profiles without antagonizing them, so it’s important to make it easier for them to share approved content than to find their own content. Doctor and employee presences often drive more traffic than brand presences: Via personal presences on Facebook and Twitter accounts, many individuals have presences that have higher levels of engagement than brand presences (like the hospital’s official presence). It is especially true if you have any doctors who are frequently quoted by the media. Very large health organizations like Mayo Clinic are exceptions. Email is the most effective channel: The most effective way to engage employees and doctors to share hospital-approved content is by emailing them content they can retweet or like. Relying on them to navigate to the hospital’s approved Twitter account to find what they can retweet is significantly less effective and users won’t do it consistently. 

The Playbook: How These Principles Turn into a Strategy

Now that we’ve looked at the principles, here’s the best way to actually run a program that maximizes patient education and engagement while minimizing risk. 

Find all of your doctor’s and official hospital Twitter accounts. There are usually a few doctors or departments sharing hospital or health related news. These are great sources for health news to share. The communications team should select relevant health news. Working with the doctors to establish criteria, communications professionals should select appropriate news. Share it to Twitter and Facebook. Official presences should be managed by a communications professional to control brand risk. Email out your best Tweets and Facebook posts to your staff and patients. Your staff were probably working when you were tweeting, or maybe they just missed the update. So email them the most important health news so it’s easy for them to share to their own networks.Measure and Repeat. There are two important things to measure: which content is most popular and whose sharing is getting the most engagement. This will will help you identify which topics and sources are working best and who among your staff and patients have the most critical networks. Plus, sometimes it’s nice to thank people for sharing! 

So those are the lessons and that’s the strategy. Hospitals and health organizations can use social media as an effective health education channel by using a coordinated strategy that keeps their brands safe, their employees engaged, and their patients healthy. 

Via Plus91
Charlotte Serres's curator insight, September 18, 2013 3:06 PM

Hospitales y organizaciones de salud deben de usar redes sociales como medio efectivo de educación sanitaria para sus pacientes para mejorar su salud cuotidiada

Walter Adamson's curator insight, September 20, 2013 1:31 AM

Goo playbook

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The Emerging Patient Role in Toxicity Reporting

The Emerging Patient Role in Toxicity Reporting | Patient Centricity |

"The more subjective a symptom is, the less likely a professional staff member is to detect it or grade it accurately. This means that oncology care providers often underappreciate patients’ symptoms at baseline when they enter a trial; when a symptom is later reported, it is not always clear whether it was present at baseline or emerged during treatment. It also means that oncologists miss many of the symptoms that subsequently develop. As a result, they lose precision in the measurement of toxicities in trials and have an incomplete picture of the patient experience when balancing risks with benefits.

So when oncology care providers ultimately sit down with patients to contemplate a course of therapy, the information at their disposal from trials is not a complete reflection of how prior patients actually felt. This stands in contrast to information about toxicities based on laboratory values, such as neutropenia, where information is generally more comprehensive and reliable. Enter patient-reported outcomes, or PROs. PROs are experiences or events reported directly by patients without filtering or interpretation by anybody else. PROs may include symptoms, health-related quality of life, satisfaction with care, or even medication adherence. In recent years there has been growing interest in collecting PRO data from patients in clinical trials, routine care, and quality assessment programs to understand the patient perspective."

Via Curated by A4BC.ORG
Curated by A4BC.ORG's curator insight, June 2, 2013 1:43 PM

This is great research presented at ASCO and an important approach to helping patients manage side effects by realizing the best data is from the patients. This talks about the best ways of gathering and utilizing this information so patients have a better picture of what side effects, symptoms, quality of life, and toxicities their treatment will have. It is so important to understand the patient's perspective and refreshing to know that oncologists are finding the best ways to get the patient's perspective.

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The Avatar Will See You Now: Medical Centers Are Testing New, Friendly Ways To Reduce Office Visits

The Avatar Will See You Now: Medical Centers Are Testing New, Friendly Ways To Reduce Office Visits | Patient Centricity |

Most patients who enter the gym of the San Mateo Medical Center in California are there to work with physical therapists. But a few who had knee replacements are being coached by a digital avatar instead.


The avatar, Molly, interviews them in Spanish or English about the levels of pain they feel as a video guides them through exercises, while the 3-D cameras of a Kinect device measure their movements. Because it’s a pilot project, Paul Carlisle, the director of rehabilitation services, looks on. But the ultimate goal is for the routine to be done from a patient’s home.


“It would change our whole model,” says Carlisle, who is running the trial as the public hospital looks for creative ways to extend the reach of its overtaxed budget and staff. “We don’t want to replace therapists. But in some ways, it does replace the need to have them there all the time.”


Receiving remote medical care is becoming more common as technologies improve and health records get digitized., the California startup running the trial, is one of more than 500 companies using health-care tools fromNuance, a company that develops speech-recognition and virtual-assistant software. “Our goal is basically to capture the patient’s state of mind and body,” says Ivana Schnur, cofounder of and a clinical psychologist who has spent years developing virtual-reality tools in medicine and mental health.


Using’s platform, patients can communicate their condition to an emotionally reactive avatar through their phone, desktop, or TV. The avatar asks the patient simple questions, and if programmed by a doctor, it can answer questions too—such as what a diabetes patient with high blood-sugar readings should eat that day. The software also collects data from other medical devices that a patient uses, such as a glucose meter, and can capture gestures with a Kinect. The reports sent to the doctor include red-flag notifications to act on right away; charts, graphs, and analytics tracing the patient’s progress over time; and a transcript of the voice interaction.


“A physician’s time is always limited,” says Benjamin Kanter, chief medical information officer at Palomar Health in San Diego. “For a long time, we’ve had the challenge of just getting information into the system. Now the system is starting to actually help me.”


Schnur says one real advance is the avatar itself, which is important in helping both patients and doctors to trust the interactions. Molly, still a work in progress, can modulate her tone of voice and facial expressions. Schnur says that sometimes patients are more willing to share sensitive information with a nonjudgmental avatar than with a doctor.


Patients in San Mateo seem to like the interaction, Carlisle says, and he does too: “I’ve gotten used to the avatar. I look forward to seeing it when it comes online.”


The software, currently in beta, is also being tested at an addiction and detox clinic in California, doing patient intake and assessment in a crowded waiting room. Schnur hopes the system will eventually be used for even more complex tasks. The company, a product of the French telecommunication company Orange’s Silicon Valley incubator program, is working to include additional features, such as the ability to interpret and respond to a patient’s facial expressions.


Of course, doctors see some risks in such approaches, especially if the software makes an error or misinterprets an interaction. Kanter points out that although electronic systems often reduce errors, any errors that occur can propagate more quickly than those made only on paper.


Carlisle, who will enroll 50 to 60 patients by the time the study is done, is looking forward to getting more data. Over time, he hopes, not only will he improve the care of individual patients in their home environments, but what he learns from the data will improve therapy for everyone.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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