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The Case for Social Media in Professionalism

Slides for my August 19, 2014 presentation at the #TTHC2014 CME conference at Mayo Clinic - "Sustaining Trust in a Technology-Driven Health Care World"

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Primary Care Physicians use of digital - US

Primary Care Physicians use of digital - US | Professional development for healthcare professionals |

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eHealth Nordic's curator insight, May 21, 2014 5:58 AM

Interesting to see the Top 5 brand sites visited by primary care physicians in the US. Would have been even more interesting to know the number of visits.

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10 Ways to Ensure HIPAA Compliance on Social Media

10 Ways to Ensure HIPAA Compliance on Social Media | Professional development for healthcare professionals |

In a recent article, Todd McDonagh, COO of MedSafe/Total Compliance Solutions discussed 10 steps that health care providers can take to ensure HIPAA compliance when using social media.

Set up different accounts for communicating with friends and family and use different passwords to help differentiate the accounts.Understand the nature of the social media platforms — they were created to help people connect with one another, broadcast their ideas, and create stores of personal information online.Understand the platform you are using and how it works. For example, understanding the difference between using the “@” symbol and a direct message on Twitter could prevent the wrong information from getting into the wrong hands.Periodically check your privacy settings, preferably once a week, as they can change.Never refer to a patient by name and be sure to not give out any information that could identify the patient.When referencing particular cases, conditions or treatments, be as general as possible and do not describe specific demographics or populations that can be identified.Never “friend” patients on Facebook, as this could lead to serious ethical issues, and consequently a violation of HIPAA.Never post anything that you would be uncomfortable reading re-printed in the newspaper.Take time to reflect on an email or tweet before sending it because more often than not, responses online are immediate.Be careful about your tone, as written words can easily be misconstrued.


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7 questions for enhancing the value of your healthcare social media program

7 questions for enhancing the value of your healthcare social media program | Professional development for healthcare professionals |

1. What role will social media play in helping you to achieve your goals, e.g. growing awareness, education, thought-leadership, investor relations, recruitment, corporate social responsibility…


2. What type of community are you trying to engage, e.g. who are these stakeholders, what problems are they trying to solve, how can you best be a resource for them…

3. What is your niche or singular message, e.g. where’s your expertise, what will keep fans coming back, how obtain search traffic through your specific niche keywords…

4. What is your big-picture strategy, e.g. thought-leader, education, entertainment, empowerment…

5. How will you approach your content and conversations, e.g. type (articles, video, etc.), style (interactive, descriptive, etc.), sources (e.g. inside company, 3rd party, etc.), guardrails (e.g. frequency, quality, authenticity, etc.)…

6. What policies are in place, e.g. for employee participation, brand consistency, crisis situations, etc.…

7. How will you monitor performance, e.g. internally and externally…

The world – your patients’ and communities’ world – is full of noise. Everyone’s overwhelmed. But be the one who actually helps better people’s lives in ways that are genuine to your organization and you’ll create advocates that will spread your ideas beyond what you ever could through your marketing outreach alone.


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How Healthcare Inbound Marketing Helps Develop Patient Loyalty

How Healthcare Inbound Marketing Helps Develop Patient Loyalty | Professional development for healthcare professionals |

It might be difficult to think of your patients as customers sometimes, but—as more and more patients are using the internet to research doctors and hospitals before choosing their healthcare providers—the transaction of healthcare has taken on much more of a consumer/business feel.

As with any business, if your customers are unhappy, they’ll take their business elsewhere. You might think you can always get more patients, but your current patients are actually more valuable. According to the White House Officer of Consumer Affairs, it costs over six times more to get new customers than it does to retain the ones you currently have. Now, while that statistic might not have been configured with hospitals or doctors offices in mind, it’s important to remember that your healthcare organization is still a business and your patients are still the customers.

When patients are loyal to your hospital or healthcare organization, they won’t just return to you for future healthcare needs—they’ll tell their friends and family members about their positive experience. Unfortunately, this works in reverse, as well. The White House Officer of Consumer Affairs also reports that dissatisfied customers will tell between nine and 15 people about their negative experience. Now, again, while that statistic might not have been developed with doctors in mind, with a consumer decision as important as their healthcare, we can imagine the number could stand to be even higher.

Now that we’ve fully explored how important it is to develop patient loyalty, here’s some good news: your inbound marketing is already doing a great job of creating loyal patients.

 Five Ways Healthcare Inbound Marketing Promotes Patient LoyaltyYou get to know your patients better. By developing personas through your healthcare marketing content strategy, you will have a stronger understanding of what your patients want and need from the content you provide. As patients interact with your content and through your healthcare social media channels, you can gauge their reactions and learn from their thoughts. This knowledge can transition to patient interactions and care at your healthcare organization to provide a more positive experience all around.Your patients get to know you better. The content you provide your patients and the presence you establish across social media channels helps to establish your brand, which, in turn, gives your patients insight into your hospital or healthcare organization. Patients are more likely to feel loyal to a company they “know,” so the more insight you can give them, the stronger their loyalty will be. For instance, consider running a blog series profiling some of your doctors or nurses, or post a “behind the scenes” video of your facility.You can make connections you might not have made otherwise. The more “available” your hospital or healthcare organization is across online channels, the more likely you are to make new connections with potential, current, and repeat patients. This is particularly important for the healthcare social media marketing aspect of your inbound marketing. For many of your patients, their time on social media is their personal time, so when they use it to connect with your hospital or healthcare organization, they’re making a personal connection. The information you share with them and the information they share back with you works toward building a stronger relationship on more intimate terms.It allows patients to see your hospital or healthcare organization in a different light. Often, your patients’ interactions with your healthcare organization might not be too pleasant thanks to illness or medical conditions that bring them to your offices. However, thanks to your healthcare inbound marketing, patients are able to get a unique perspective on your hospital and doctors that doesn’t always have to involve their own health troubles. They can read blog posts, watch video content, and engage on social media on their own time, which might result in more positive interactions than the ones they have while ill and under your care—regardless of how wonderful it may be!It can help reassure patients. When a new patient comes under your care, they might have a lot of questions and a lot of concerns that they don’t quite know how to articulate. The more information your website, blog, and social media outlets can have to help ease these concerns, the more reassured your patients will feel. Their increased level of comfort with your hospital or healthcare organization will translate into increased loyalty.


The majority of the promises surrounding inbound marketing involve increasing your “sales” (or number of patients), but maintaining relationships with your customers (patients) and retaining their business (health care) is an added benefit that is just as important—if not more.

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Social Media in Healthcare (Infographic) - Where does telehealth fit in? - Hands On Telehealth

Social Media in Healthcare (Infographic) - Where does telehealth fit in? - Hands On Telehealth | Professional development for healthcare professionals |
Our subscribers have been highly interested in articles about social media. It tells me there is a lot of concern over how to use social media effectively.

As a starting point, here is a fantastic infographic on social media in healthcare, courtesy of PowerDMS.

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Facebook and Pharma: The first Ten Years

Facebook and Pharma: The first Ten Years | Professional development for healthcare professionals |

Facebook has celebrated it's ten year anniversary  this month. Although it is easy to outline the massive impact online social networks have had on society at large, what has the impact been on health and pharmaceutical companies?

The truth, in my opinion, is far more nuanced than the juxtaposition of the typical flag-waving evangelists and the head in sand conservative reactionaries. Here are my two-standout observations on a decade of health on Facebook:

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Rise of The Digital Doctor

Rise of The Digital Doctor | Professional development for healthcare professionals |

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Doctors Need to Be Where Their Patients Are: Online

Doctors Need to Be Where Their Patients Are: Online | Professional development for healthcare professionals |

If knowledge is power, then content (in proper context) is king. Why am I online blogging, pushing content through my website and even interacting on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and many other sites?  Because my patients are there. Increasingly, they are utilizing the Internet to self-diagnose; to look for “second opinions” from peers and friends; to research a physician, recommended treatment, or hospital; or to find the latest information on their disease.

Studies suggests that patients forget more than 50 percent of what they are told in the doctor’s office. Add to that misremembering or misinterpretation, and the information holes grow even larger. What happens to the holes when these individuals get home? Research shows that consumers trust the recommendations of peers or friends far above those of any advertisement. And where are people interacting with those friends? Where are they searching? In many instances, online. They are sharing useful information, and this includes health concerns, treatment protocols, and medications. When patients feel they can’t turn to their doctor for answers, pulling information from the Internet is an easy, efficient, and logical choice.

Medicine and healthcare are undergoing massive changes; more and more regulations and obligations eat into physicians’ clinic time. Reimbursements have dropped, and as a result many doctors have felt they needed to increase their appointment load and decrease the time they spend on each. For patients, that translates to less time with their physician, less learning, more questions, more doubt, and sadly, more fear. Their antidote is Google.

The root word for doctor is “docere,” or “to teach,” and our patients are making decisions based on what they read online. We as physicians have a moral obligation to be sure that the information they are receiving is accurate. If we do not have the time to teach our patients while they are in the clinic, we need to be present where they are to address their residual questions, hesitancy, and fears (often due to lack of knowledge), and also to aid them through their medical decision-making process. In short, we need to be active in producing or curating online medical content to aid our patients. 

Doctors often believe that they need to spend hours upon hours coming up with content; they believe there is too much risk involved in “tweeting” or putting a post on Facebook. Yet most studies show that physician content and social media interactions are perfectly appropriate. You know the rules – follow them. You do not need to be an active writer; you already answer the same questions day in and day out. Why not just sit and dictate the answer to those questions and post them online? Don’t want to hire a professional? Don’t. Tumblr, Posterous, and other such sites make it simple to set up a site for content in minutes. Still don’t want to create content? Fine – then share links to accurate, actionable, and useful information on Twitter or Facebook.

We are physicians; our job is to lead patients toward health. We owe it to them to be sure that the information they are reading is of the same quality as we would give in our office, or want to get if (or, rather, when) we looked in the mirror and saw a patient staring back.


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Nuria Parra Macías's curator insight, February 10, 2014 2:19 AM

In short, we need to be active in producing or curating online medical content to aid our patients. 

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Infographic: Patient Communities and Why they Matter #hcsm

Infographic: Patient Communities and Why they Matter #hcsm | Professional development for healthcare professionals |

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Social Media for Healthcare Providers in 5 Steps #hcsm

Social Media for Healthcare Providers in 5 Steps #hcsm | Professional development for healthcare professionals |
Social media is still a challenge for many healthcare providers. This new whitepaper provides a 5-step roadmap for success in healthcare social media.

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Can the Internet and Social Media Help the Development of Healthcare?

Can the Internet and Social Media Help the Development of Healthcare? | Professional development for healthcare professionals |

In a world frantically scrambling to adapt to the changing digital landscape, how has healthcare fared? Has the Internet and social media helped or hindered its development? Should the public turn to the Internet for medical advice? I enlisted the help of some leading voices in the field to unravel these questions and shed some much needed light on the topic.


Information technologies have already prompted a massive shift in the way medical information is accessed, with its capacity to transfer important knowledge from health professionals to the wider public. Social media, in particular, is a perfect vehicle for this.

As the tentacles of social media permeate into everyday life, doctors and healthcare organisations alike can leverage this power to circulate valuable information about health problems as well as self-care and prevention techniques.


As Lee Aase, Director at Mayo Clinic Social Media, confirms:

“By engaging in public, knowledgeable professionals can offer help and insights on a scale that was previously impossible. And by bringing their science-based perspective they can hopefully counter some of the bad information that has been so harmful to public health”

“The Journal of Internet Medical Research have suggested that 60% of adults used the internet to find health information”

It’s exactly this ‘bad information’ that makes searching online for medical advice fraught with dangers. For the more Internet savvy, this may not pose a problem, but, for the less educated, and the elderly, finding credible information on the web may be a troublesome task.

The reality is that anyone can publish on the internet, regardless of quality, which means that you could be confronted with information that is conflicting, confusing, or quite simply wrong.


From a runny nose to something more serious like a suspicious lump, people are heading to the web more and more; but, with more than 70,000 websites disseminating medical information, where should you visit?


According to Dr. Sarah Jarvis, clinical consultant at, your doctor can advise you on trusted sites to visit. Here in the UK, sites which have been awarded The Information Standard by the NHS, are particularly useful as medical resources:


" is fully accredited, and all the articles on the site are written by GPs, for GPs and their patients. They also provide full references to back up their content. Of the 11 million people who access the information onsite every month, almost a million are GPs and practice nurses – a ringing endorsement of the quality of the information."

However, can even the most reputable sites compare to the value of a face-to-face appointment with your GP? Dr. Leana Wen, physician and author of When Doctor’s Don’t Listen believes that the Internet should only be used to accompany a visit to the doctors:

"Don't use the Internet to make your diagnosis, but rather use it to formulate better questions to ask your doctor. Internet search engines can't replace seeing your doctor, because symptoms alone don't make your diagnosis--your history and physical exam do."


This is true; the benefits of a physical diagnosis cannot be completely replaced by a search online. However, the Internet and social media have other abilities that can improve healthcare, namely it’s capacity to bring patients with similar diseases together. Through Twitter chats and Facebook groups, like-minded patients can connect with one another for mutual support and knowledge sharing. Introducing trained medical professionals into these conversations will undoubtedly make these discussions more helpful.


“Doctors should always exercise caution when using Twitter as it can often lead to a conflict of interest, but as long as it’s used in responsible manner, Twitter can be the perfect platform to educate the public on a wide range of health issues.”Healthexpress Chief medical Advisor, Dr. Hilary Jones

Facebook is particularly good at grouping patients together.

In one simple click, you can become an active member of a community alongside others with similar interests.

These groups supply valuable opportunities to talk to one another while offering important information on breakthrough studies, news and advice for a specific condition, all of which will feature on a daily newsfeed.


A perfect example of a successful social media campaign can be observed with, a community website which has successfully built a global network to help people with diabetes worldwide. As well as promoting awareness for Diabetes, their social media platforms unite people with similar worries so they can share their stories and seek support.


In fact, the benefits of an extended support network on a persons health has been confirmed by several studies. Researchers from California carried out a large-scale study in 1979, which concluded that people with relatively low levels of social interaction died earlier than those with strong social networks.


By using social media, people are more likely to partake in social interaction and support. The possibilities have moved beyond the restraints of face-to-face contacts to an unlimited pool of people with shared interests and concerns.

As Medical Expert for NBC and regular on air guest for Fox News, Dr. Kevin Campbell testifies,

"Support groups are extremely valuable for patients--social media allows for patients from geographically diverse regions to interact in real time without even leaving their own homes."

“Social media connects. Social Media informs both patients and doctors. It enhances knowledge. It facilities communication. In healthcare, is there anything more powerful than knowledge and human connection?”Dr.John Mandrola, cardiologist

As well as improving doctor/patient relationships, Dr. Campbell believes that social media can develop relationships within doctors’ circles themselves. Doctors can now consult each other from anywhere in the world, meaning that ideas can be more easily disseminated, thus improving research and patient care.


However, many healthcare institutions are worried that the use of social media by their doctors may compromise patient privacy while threatening a doctor’s professional reputations. This has lead to many organisations devising their own guidelines for their doctors. Dr. John Mandrola, a cardiac electro physiologist and regular Twitter user, has created his own ‘Rules for Doctors on Social Media.’


There may be some risks to consider when integrating social media into a healthcare model, but the overwhelming power of social media as a tool to educate and distribute medical information cannot be ignored. If social media is to revolutionize healthcare and improve public health on a global level, health professionals must be actively involved in the process to guarantee that the information is completely reliable. With a community of doctors and specialists already discussing ethical problems and how to overcome these obstacles, the future of social media in healthcare is in good hands.

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Follow us: @healthexpress on Twitter

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Nevermore Sithole's curator insight, January 23, 2014 3:09 AM

Internet ,Social Media and  the Development of Healthcare

Blanca Usoz's curator insight, January 23, 2014 4:13 AM

Redes sociales que conectan en salud

Anthony Carnesecca's curator insight, January 24, 2014 2:40 AM

This article brings up an interesting point about whether vital areas of our lives, such as medicine and health, should fully utilize social media platforms to advocate and push for consumers to act in certain ways.

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Tweet This: Pharma Still Fails To Embrace Social Media

Tweet This: Pharma Still Fails To Embrace Social Media | Professional development for healthcare professionals |
Flustered by regulatory compliance, patient privacy and uncertain return on investment, drug makers continue to shy away from social media.

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EPL 101 - Health Care Social Media and Professionalism

This course is part of Social Media Residency, a project of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media that provides in-depth, hands-on learning to promote effe...

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Boehringer Ingelheim - Social Media update

Boehringer Ingelheim - Social Media update | Professional development for healthcare professionals |

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Olivier Delannoy's curator insight, March 23, 2014 1:25 PM

Great presentation in an innovative format pulled together by @John Pugh - good social media job from BI, one of the best in the Pharma world

Bettina Gifford's curator insight, March 23, 2014 4:23 PM

Really interesting reading ..

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13 Social Media Best Practices for Healthcare Brands

13 Social Media Best Practices for Healthcare Brands | Professional development for healthcare professionals |

It’s safe to say that social media is here to stay. Facebook recently celebrated its 10th anniversary and there’s no end in sight. Countless other interactive platforms are sprouting up on a regular basis, making it nearly impossible to determine where your time should be spent developing content and connecting with healthcare consumers.

The American Marketing Association’s Marketing News journal even refers to social media as “old-school.” Social engagement has transitioned from being a shiny, new object to a customer service and healthcare marketing necessity.

Many brands — particularly in healthcare — find social media to be intriguing, yet illusive. Valuable, but not quite sure how to successfully utilize the social networking websites. And how exactly do you measure success anyway? Algorithms are constantly changing. New Apps are developed at lightning speed.  The rules of engagement are being rewritten every year.

Read more:

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C. Todd Livengood's curator insight, April 2, 2014 7:29 AM

"We all know that no one wants to think of a hospital when they don’t have to. That’s why it’s critical to have a page that people want to engage with, and find useful, valuable information along the way."

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Healthcare and Social Media - Stats

Healthcare and Social Media - Stats | Professional development for healthcare professionals |
The IMS Institute recently published a paper describing the new ways in which social media usage is shaping healthcare. Both patients and physicians are increasingly turning to the internet—including social media—for healthcare information. Today, 70-75% of Americans with internet access have used the internet to find health information. 42% of survey respondents reported that they …

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Raise Patient Engagement with Social Media and Educate with ...

Raise Patient Engagement with Social Media and Educate with ... | Professional development for healthcare professionals |
Therapeutic Areas with Pharmaceutical Mobile Health Applications Targeted at Patients. Figure 1: Therapeutic Areas with Mobile Initiatives Targeted at Patients. Whereas social media focus on patient outreach, mobile health ...

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How Quantified Self, mHealth and Wearable Technology are changing Pharma #hcsmeu

How Quantified Self, mHealth and Wearable Technology are changing Pharma #hcsmeu | Professional development for healthcare professionals |
Quantified self, mHealth and wearable technology. While you could hear about those trends in the past, the tipping point has been reached at the CES 2014. What was supposed to be the future is our present much faster than ...

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Pharma Health Social Media Facebook Cases

Presentation at the SMI Social Media congress, January 2014. A case comparison of 4 Pharma companies efforts on Facebook. GSK, Pfizer, Novartis and Boehrin...

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Effective Social Media Use in Healthcare Marketing

Effective Social Media Use in Healthcare Marketing | Professional development for healthcare professionals |

Spoken about the same, first stumble happens when they take an attempt to engage with their fans or audience without identifying their content needs. This further leads to the foundation of an inappropriate conversation. Therefore, there is no substitute for valuable content! When it comes to the consumer base, they want in-depth information. What needs to be understood by this segment is that there is an ocean of information out there, and when people get sick nowadays, they want information right away. Interaction with patients and consumers is important, but great and right content is the key!


The Healthcare Segment

Apart from all the challenges and limitations, Healthcare segment can be amplified in a great way as it includes a lot of processes from patient relations to content shared to managing health records etc. Many doctors can already be seen wearing Google Glass, patients equipped with latest technology support systems and nurses with iPads.

Social Media and Healthcare

This still remains unexplored, Social media for healthcare can garner increased communication, treatment efficacy and provider efficacy; which in turn will portray the organizational transparency. Already a good amount of doctors, family members, patients and healthcare specialists are using social media to result in more impactful treatment. Consumers are also found to use social media platforms to find and later share information about health plans, medical treatments and doctors.

What does Social Media have in store for Healthcare Industry? 

Social Media is strongly transforming how doctors & patients operate and interact with each other. Although the matters related to the security concerns, confidentiality, misinformation and data review come along with anything related to healthcare, Social Media can modify the complete experience for everyone linked with it. With patients, consumers and everyone stepping in to the online space to discuss their health, medical experiences, seek opinions, research and share their symptoms or ailments; it becomes all the more important for healthcare professionals to tap into this wonderful resource and connect with them on social platforms in order to add their expert voice to these conversations.

Social Media will change the way health related communications happen.

An effective social media strategy for a healthcare brand should aim towards accomplishing goals in few categories, namely:

- Communications- Information Sharing- Clinical Outcomes and,- Speed of Innovation

A few things you need to regularly keep a tab of:

Patients that share their views or opinions freely online followed by people who comment on everything, or update a status even about their cold to health related articles. There are cases when patients end up getting basic advice from medical professionals that happen to be in their network. This can help a brand get qualitative feedback or report about their services too.

Doctors are also engaging proactively and believe that social media presence improves the quality of care through constant line of communication.

Blogs written by healthcare professionals can be integrated with social media accounts too. A systematic content management system can further influence people to post content to blogs or websites.

Hosting Google Hangouts with previous patients or those undergoing treatments is a very innovative way where technology helps healthcare segments. Doctors contribute to a patient-centric model of healthcare with such technological innovations. Loyalty and satisfaction is built in the process too.

A successful social media strategy would help a healthcare brand in revamping their communication, service and feedback.

Prescription of a Strong Social Media Strategy for Healthcare Industry

Healthcare organizations should develop a social media strategy that leverages social media in healthcare marketing to help influence the customers & at the same time accomplish strategic healthcare goals.

Keep in mind that just as your patients have their own individual wants, characters and a voice; similarly your social media strategy should be unique to your organization. Healthcare professionals are empathetic and caring individuals. It’s time to demonstrate that strength to a larger, online community.

What should Healthcare Brands do to leverage Social Media?

- Follow your customers and engage with potential patients- Provide value to consumer’s perspective. Providing value here means providing useful information- Be active on Social media and leverage its potential- Be a resource to those looking out for information related to healthcare- Enable doctor searches, online scheduling, and relevant information- Connect with loved ones of patients as its not only the patients always, but there are those who care for them too, active online- Connect with patients or consumers through online communities- Build discussion forums- The content you create, make it share worthy. Ensure that it can be forwarded, printed or posted to patients- Network with those potential healthcare employees with your social media presence. Basically, you can bring your brand to life for potential employees.- Follow relevant hashtags & handles- Twitter chats help you listen to perspectives on key topics & also offer a chance to raise awareness about what you as a healthcare brand offer- Listen: know what your patients are doing by diving into some of the user generated content- Regulations: yes, you need to take care of the content that goes up there. Don’t forget to review it by your legal, regulatory & medical teams- Be open-minded and creative, plan & test your ideas

In the long arc of people’s journey to better health, healthcare segments strive to become more supportive and relevant through social media. In this case, what healthcare segments will win is their respect and loyalty followed by their behaviors that will change to improve their overall health with the strengthening of healthcare brands.

There is no pre-defined rule as to how we should engage with patients on social media, but we cannot deny the fact that there still lie barriers in the pharmaceutical industry as to what one can talk about online.

The elements of engagement that Healthcare brands need to know in order to understand the content needs of their audiences are:

Value can be provided by creating content that solves consumer problems. Listening to their complaints or suggestions and adding a personal touch to conversations generates value for your brand.

Efficiency of a healthcare brand depends on their ability to respond to customer inquiries, comments & questions both off and online without any delay followed by designing mobile friendly content that can be accessed by patients on the go.

Trust is built through the expectation of complete honesty from a healthcare brand by consumers. Delivering accurate advice, displaying successful customer recovery stories, testimonials, nutrition advice, health-tips, fitness routines etc. is a part of it.

Consistency includes the fact that whatever you communicate through offline and online platforms should at no point collide with the real customer/patient experiences.

Relevance is injecting a highly targeted content to patients or consumers which goes a long way in building an emotional connection and consequent click to action. 
3 things you need to know!

A tweet or a post is not a diagnosis! 
Always remember that any information that you post on Social Media should not be considered as a medical advice by your followers or consumers. It is not a replacement for a consultation with a doctor as one on one consultation with health care professionals is still primary & legible.

Schedule the communication! 
For a better level of patient privacy, a healthcare brand should ensure that comments made on any of their social platform should not appear online before it is reviewed or approved by internal team of professionals.

Set the limits; be clear with your stand! 
As a healthcare brand, clearly establish where your organization stands in regards to social media engagement by patients or consumers. Designing a strategy to improve your capability to leverage the enormous reach of social media platforms to connect and learn from the online community is vital.

With patients going online for their healthcare solutions etc., it becomes very essential for your healthcare organization to create a social media strategy where you prepare your staff to listen, engage & measure social media. Are you ready to join your patients in the social media world? 

You can also have a look at another blog ‘In the pink of Health on Social Media’.

It is very important for the healthcare brands to identify and understand the consumer behaviour before they make  any attempts for social media engagement. Does your healthcare brand have a clear social media policy established? Do you think we have missed out on something in this post? Do tell us about it in the comments!


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Launch of healthcare social media guidelines

Launch of healthcare social media guidelines | Professional development for healthcare professionals |

A cross-collaborative team of the Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI) and the Weber Shandwick Healthcare and Digital practices, has led to the development and launch of the first non-prescription medicines industry guidelines for social media use.

Those of us who work in the healthcare industry will be all too familiar with the challenge that social media presents. There is no doubt that we have well and truly entered the digital era, but while most have embraced it, the healthcare industry has traditionally been quite hesitant.

One of the main concerns with social media integrating into the healthcare industry is the complexity of regulations surrounding health communication. There are codes that determine the way in which therapeutic goods are marketed and promoted, and responsibilities of both healthcare professionals and healthcare companies that need to be considered.

The opportunity and need for healthcare organisations to actively engage in social media has become more apparent. Patients and health professionals are participating in online media at an increasing rate, making the availability of credible content from health organisations more vital than ever.

Social media has changed communications and it is critical that the healthcare sector is responsive to this change. The demand for information is high, with almost 80 per cent of people searching for health information online, and patients sharing experiences and asking questions more than ever before.

The healthcare industry needs to drive comprehensive health education and audience engagement in an online arena. Marketers need to feel confident and secure in providing the right information to audiences.

So how could the healthcare industry enter this digital space and make a meaningful contribution to social media in health?

A solution was recently offered at the annual Australian Self Medication Industry (ASMI) conference held in Sydney in November.

Weber Shandwick, helped ASMI launch a new set of industry guidelines to assist non-prescription healthcare marketers to continue to engage with online audiences in a compliant and responsible manner.

ASMI recognised that with the growing presence of social media in Australia, it was important to prepare healthcare organisations to engage with consumers in this new space. Weber Shandwick provided its expertise in healthcare and digital media to create a set of practical guidelines based on real-world experience of working across both disciplines.

The new guidelines essentially represent the evolution of the Australian consumer healthcare industry, recognising the increasing importance of responsible behaviour and sharing of information in the social media and digital content era.

The industry needs an agreed framework to help build confidence in connecting brands and information with social media audiences. Having these guidelines will hopefully give healthcare organisations, and their agencies, a platform to openly discuss social media and content strategies in the healthcare space.

Gareth Finch is Vice President – Head of Healthcare at Weber Shandwick Australia.


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Javier Hernández's curator insight, February 4, 2014 10:28 AM

La actualización en el manejo de redes sociales, es una necesidad básica para las organizaciones de salud en nuestros días. 


La Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI) y Weber Shandwick Healthcare and Digital practices, han desarrollado esta guía para que las instituciones de salud puedan darse una idea de la necesidad de tener una buena administración de sus redes sociales.

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How patients learn in the digital age

How patients learn in the digital age | Professional development for healthcare professionals |
How Patients Learn In The Digital Age infographic by HealthEd.

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Doctors and social media - Legal perspectives from UK

Doctors and social media - Legal perspectives from UK | Professional development for healthcare professionals |

We take a number of telephone calls and other enquiries each year from doctors and other clinical professionals who call our claims advice line with reports of damaging information being published about them or inadvertent publication by them of potentially prejudicial comments about others. Discussions arise on the subjects of defamation, breach of confidence, professional conduct and harassment. The callers are often upset, concerned, occasionally angry and looking for advice (if not retribution) about their legal position and any remedies available to combat what has usually become a distracting, sometimes a highly distracting, episode. So we thought we would cover this subject in this article, having regard not only to pitfalls but also the insurance policy issues that might arise.

In her article for the British Medical Journal, Margaret McCartney, a GP in Glasgow, looked at the difficulties of maintaining professionalism within social media. She reported that in the police force, freedom of information data revealed that over a four year period two officers had been sacked, seven had resigned, and over 150 had been disciplined for placing “inappropriate” photographs or comments online. In the clinical professions she reported nurses had been sacked after making comments about patients and colleagues or posting revealing photographs of themselves in uniform, or of patients, online. Disciplinary steps being taken against doctors who posted derogatory comments about colleagues. 

The ease of access to, and common use of social media is well known. Networking, feedback, regulation, and revalidation are all reasons provided to us as to why doctors have used social media. A healthy caution should always attend medical professionals contributing to social media. We also urge a re-reading of the doctor’s insurance to review what is and is not covered by their insurance.

Many insurance policies cover claims made against doctors who are accused of having made defamatory comments. Some insurance policies may provide that indemnity insurance cover is conditional on the allegedly defamatory remarks having been made in the context of the doctor/patient relationship (for example in a medical record) or perhaps within a supervisory or regulatory context. Consider for example whether an interview of a doctor by a media organisation about a news item, perhaps involving another doctor or group of doctors under the media spotlight. Is an arguably defamatory remark made by the doctor interviewed covered? It might not be. Many doctors sit on regulatory, professional or validation organisations and comments made by them in their role as a member of those bodies might not be covered by their personal indemnity insurance. If they were speaking in a personal capacity about their personal views, as distinct from the “corporate” views of the body they otherwise represent, then the insurance the organisation carries (if any) might also not cover them.

Blogging on feedback sites or on mainstream social media hubs such as Facebook and Twitter has become commonplace with many patients or other professionals willing to share their experiences, sometimes in a variety of derogatory ways, about others. While an off the wall remark can often be seen for what it is, sometimes these remarks are defamatory and can amount to harassment under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. That essentially defines as harassment any conduct that would be deemed by a reasonable person to amount to harassment. While the police are given powers to deal with such conduct as a criminal offence under the Act, we usually find it more effective (and controllable) to rely on the civil law. Using the civil remedies, where the conduct justifies it, we can seek an injunction, which will usually stop the conduct complained of, or lead to draconian sanctions including imprisonment. 

Content placed outside the jurisdiction of the UK, especially feedback about doctors from patients and former patients, can be more troublesome to deal with. The managers of the content, often a website or search engine provider, can be called upon the close down a site or remove the offending content.

In some cases though the best option is to ignore it and limit the oxygen such postings need to remain current.

Aside from defamation and harassment there is the difficulty of breaching confidences by inadvertently providing personal information that ought not to be disclosed. No surprise then that insurers and defence organisations are reminding doctors to take care in the aftermath of a number of reports of confidential patient information being shared by doctors on social media. There is some excellent guidance available from the GMC with a warning that doctors should be careful about sharing information online. Click here for the relevant guidance.

The guidance is simple and common sense. It reminds doctors of their professional duties and urges them not to publish confidential information using media that is widely available to the public. While it may be tempting to think that content so provided will be limited to a closed group, it does not take much to tick the wrong box or enter the wrong details and suddenly a wider group, including the subject of the posted content perhaps, will be able to see and share the information. 
Our advice is much the same as we offer doctors when advising on the content of medical records. Imagine a court is reading this material: would you be happy to have the judge read what you have said? Let me end with a warning of the type offered by the duty sergeant to his police officers in Hill Street Blues: “Let’s be careful out there.”

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Doctors Can Become More Accessible Using Facebook #hcsm

Doctors Can Become More Accessible Using Facebook #hcsm | Professional development for healthcare professionals |

A recent search for doctors on Facebook reveals more than 1,000 pages including a mixed bag of public figures like Mehmet Oz, authors (Ben Carson), and inevitably, fictitious characters like Dr. House. Scroll down a bit and you will start to see pages for physicians with everyday types of practices.


Why would a physician be on Facebook? Because this is where their patients and potential patients spend time online. According to Pew, 72% of American adults who go online use Facebook.

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