Future Implications

Will Wearables Change Healthcare?

As social media continues to become more and more a part of everyday life, it’s not a far stretch to imagine all aspects of our life having some form of social connection. Already, we receive newsfeed updates from our friends on Facebook that just ran a 5K. Their Nike Fuel band records important workout data including distance, total time, mile pace and if they reached their goal or not along with other data collected through the wearable technology and shared with one push of a button.

It’s also no surprise that the landscape of healthcare is rapidly changing because of a rise in insurance costs along with constant changes in health care reimbursement for the providers. Health providers are now changing their focus to keep patients out of the hospital and also examining ways to avoid the reimbursement losses if they are readmitted within a certain time frame. This is a completely different structure compared to how medical facilities chose to operate even just a few years ago.

apple watchWith Apple soon releasing their new iWatch, which will feature advanced health-tracking apps, the realm of health wearable technology and their interaction with social media has begun to stand-out among health/social media conversations. Although, there is no regulation on consumer health wearables, Apple has already begun talks with the FDA to see if the possibility of a clinical integration could even be a reality.

This is where it gets interesting for the healthcare professional. They are still ironing out all the details as to how they are going to react to these changes but imagine if instead of creating these mass “health home” teams, there is a possibility (the reality of which is still years in the future) to remotely monitor patients with helpful tools to fight against heart disease, obesity and other health issues that could require readmission.

For example, if a doctor could possibly monitor a patient who had a cardiac event remotely and note that even though he prescribed light exercise 4 days a week to increase and strengthen their heart muscles, the patient isn’t following through. After sending an alert, no different than sending a text message, reminding the patient that they need to exercise, perhaps then a “health home” person follows up. This would better focus the resources the medical facility is currently planning to use in order to lower readmission rates and increase their reimbursement rates.

As with the Nike Fuel Band the user could also choose to share what ever information or perhaps even set goals over social media. The fact of how easy it would be to share that information through a wearable or even someone’s phone is where the HIPAA professionals get nervous. Even the act of pushing personal data to a physician would be seen as intrusive by certain people. Although, that would be allowable through the current HIPAA laws.

These new technologies will not completely change the way health care marketers work, but they will add to the ways we need to engage and monitor the social landscape. Wearables do present a unique opportunity to reach the consumer at an even more personable level than the phone.

It’s an exciting time in front of us for healthcare and social media. Whether health wearables will change the face of social media is yet to be determined, but there is no doubt that they have already had an impact. The scale of that impact could be as far as diagnosing a medical issue to remaining the exercise tool they are today.


Viral Marketing Initiatives

By definition, the term viral comes from the medical world in which it is used to describe a small infectious agent that spreads rapidly by infecting all types of organisms. What makes something on the internet go viral? So many marketers, entire teams in fact, have invested tremendous amounts of time and money to try and create the viral reach that some of the silliest, most ridiculous, thought provoking, shocking, and/or emotional videos and posts have received on social media.

after_dentistTo put some perspective to this effort, a father that filmed his son who was just coming out of anesthesia so he could show his wife how silly their son David was being, thought the video was funny enough to share on YouTube. As of today, that video now has over 127,000,000 views. The world now knows this video as David After Dentist.

The flip side of this is the entire social media team at New York Presbyterian, the largest hospital in the United States, has over 780 videos uploaded on social media and their most viewed video only has around 740,000 views with their second most viewed video being only a third of that and their next most popular comes in at a quarter of that, being 77,000. This goes to show that creating a video that socially travels at a viral pace isn’t because of the amount of effort put in or the money behind it.

This leaves many marketers scratching their heads, but as more and more social communications reach viral status, more insight is revealed into what caused their popularity and suggested best practices can start to be formed. The important takeaway to remember though, is that these best practices are just that, practice, not guarantees. Especially with viral marketing, what worked for one organization might have a complete opposite effect for another.

5 Characteristics of Most Viral Content

Even if you don’t read the other four characteristics, the most important one to remember is that the content you create needs to cause some emotion for the viewer. People love to share information about themselves and if a video or photo made them feel happy, sad, angry, jealous, motivated or even aroused, there is a better chance that they will want to share that content on their social networks. Running off the David After Dentist video discussed earlier, anyone who watched this video had to laugh which made them feel happy and in turn the viewers wanted to share that experience with their networks. Again, if you can make the viewer feel something when viewing your content that is more than half the battle in creating content that has the potential to go viral.

The next characteristic is that the content has to be easily sharable. If a video or photo is embedded into a website then chances are the viewer isn’t going to take the time to save it to their computer, go to their social network, and then upload it onto their profile. This means that if an organization is creating content for social media with the intention that they want people to share it then that has to be easy to do. Many times you even see the original content asking viewers to share it. A sick child’s mother’s friend started Photo Doggies for Anthony as an “event” that started on Facebook and asked viewers to accept the invite, post a photo of their dog to make the little boy and his mom smile and share the event, which now has 1.6 million people. Not only did this event invoke an emotion, but the content was extremely easy to share and people wanted to share it.

Short content always helps if you are vying for that coveted viral title. If the content is too long then the viewer will become disinterested and will be ready to move on to the next post or video before they see the end of your content. Start off energized, and get to your important information. Viewers will start to disappear over the length of your video. It has been found that for a video of 4-5 minutes, fewer than 60% of your viewers will watch to the end, but 75% of viewers will watch a 1-2 minute video completely.

FREE – if something could be earned free or the chance of winning something free then the chances of it going viral on social media have just increased drastically. We have all seen the posts from the landscaper, or other local business that asks you to share this post and in three days we will choose a winner out of the people who have shared their content. This is a great way to help content go semi-viral, being that it is one of the more short lived tactics.

Create content that has a trigger. Back in 2011, a viral video that was extremely popular in terms of shares, but not popular if you asked someone about it, was Rebecca Black’s, Friday music video. This video was unpopular, but people were sharing it partly because of its trigger. When you look at the data of when this video was searched it would reveal that it came in spikes on a seven day pattern. That’s because the song “Friday” was being searched and shared, you guessed it, on Fridays.

Again, other than a purely informational social media post, your content should make the viewer feel something. It doesn’t matter whether it’s positive or negative if the viewer has an emotional response to the content you have created, chances are they will want to share it.

Differentiation – in Cancer Medicine

In the ever changing healthcare environment, it should not be a surprise that social media in healthcare has fundamentally changed the interaction between patient and patient, patient and provider, and provider to the community. These interactions have an already established list of best practices that some in the healthcare industry are following better than others and thedoc results are clear.

The reality is that healthcare in general has had a tremendous impact on social media, but to get specific, cancer medicine isn’t creating much of a social impact except in a few areas that include survivorship (patients, families and caregivers communicate around similar experiences) and celebrities have an influence around cancer medicine. For example Angelina Jolie has influenced women by telling her story publicly and then that story get shared.

Two organizations that are trying to change the cancer medicine trend on social media are The Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI). For this blog I will be looking at how these two organizations differentiate their Facebook and Twitter presence as they both have a large user base. On Facebook these two organizations have completely different approaches. CTCA uses a more engaging strategy by posting more personal posts about their doctors and staff, patient testimonials and links to risk assessments (geared at converting viewers to patients). NCI uses a much more educational approach posting facts and figures with an almost disconnect with the people behind their brand. Based on this social platform, the National Cancer Institute far surpasses The Cancer Treatment Centers of America in terms of overall page likes and user engagement with almost every post receiving hundreds of likes and shares.

Again, a similar trend on Twitter is seen with similar results. NCI continues to take a more educational approach by posting tips and advice for cancer patients with charts and graphs to better illustrate illnesses and treatments. While CTCA posts less regularly with posts aimed directly at the viewer. These two organizations based on retweets and followers are far apart from each other even though the number of tweets are fairly close. NCI has almost 70,000 followers which is well over double the followers of CTCA.

By examining these two organizations it shows a very sensitive insight into cancer medicine in the social media environment. It shows that the target audience is looking to be educated further on a higher level and not as much joining into a personal conversation that the brand is initiating. While each company is engaging well with their audience NCI is reaching more potential patients.

My advice to CTCA would be that their posts aren’t bad but they need to find the appropriate social platform for them. In their case Instagram or Pinterest would be great for their quick personal/motivational posts.

Hospitals that don’t tweet, pin, like, share or even follow… It’s not too late!


The healthcare industry using social media to connect with current and potential patients has become more of the norm instead of being a place just for selfies, life quotes, and Farmville requests. Those healthcare organizations that do not post, tweet, upload, pin, like, share, or even follow, realize they are missing an opportunity, but it also lends those companies information that those that went before them didn’t have. Healthcare networks that are just entering the social media realm now have a wealth of information, they now have the cases studies and proof of what works great and what absolutely will not work for anyone involved with healthcare in the form of best practices.

The first best practice that needs to be mentioned, in the healthcare industry more than in others, is to remember to humanize your brand on social media. It’s no longer acceptable for a business to claim they don’t know what they were doing. Many healthcare consumers use some form of social media every day, with the majority accessing it multiple times a day, and healthcare networks need to do whatever it takes to stand out and create a personal connection with their patients. This means humanizing themselves to reflect their organizations mission and values which not only helps with brand recognition, but also helps patients feel more connected which builds loyalty. Again, the Mayo Clinic is a great example of humanizing a brand on social media. They have setup “Expert Blogs” across a range of popular search terms that include Cancer, depression, and nutrition. These blogs are written by Mayo Clinic employees who work in that field and are an effective way of putting a human face to their organization through social media.

Another best practice is to allow your patients to tell their stories. This is a common to understand best practice but harder to follow best practice because of all the healthgrades, 5star rating, A-rated and other chest pounds that the C-suite loves. With a limited amount of staff and resources, something has to give and it’s usually the marketing that doesn’t have the doctor with his arms crossed, stethoscope around the neck and surrounded by five stars is the campaign that gets cut. By tweeting out a quote from a patient that had a great experience at your hospital and linking back to a larger written or video testimonial, provides a reassuring example at a time when many people are anxious about their healthcare and that of their loved ones.

Responding (not deleting) to negative feedback promptly and appropriately is an important best practice, if not the most important practice. Some healthcare organizations may feel that they just want that negative comment off their social media but by doing that is a missed opportunity to turn a negative into a positive. At my healthcare company we had a patient in a hospital bed posting on Facebook from their phone stating how horrible the treatment was and how their nurse wasn’t listening to them. By making contact via Facebook we were able to address some of the concerns which didn’t solve all the issues but let this patient and others know we were listening and this was a communication tool they could use. From there the issues were addressed on the nursing level and within an hour they were back on our Facebook page stating how impressed they were with our hospital and our response to their negative experience.

Moral of this healthcare social media story:

Be there, be personal, allow the negative (make it a positive) and tell your stories and let them tell theirs.

My doctor tweets, blogs, posts, uploads, pins, likes, friends and follows… Is that OK?

Up until a few years ago the majority of the healthcare industry’s philosophy about being on social media followed the same rule as the famous line from the 1999 Brad Pitt movie Fight Club,

“The first rule about healthcare on social media, you don’t talk about healthcare on social media.”


However, this way of thinking is changing, thanks to the findings of a recent study that reported in the last year 72% of internet users looked online for health information.

A major concern that the healthcare industry had was a fear that these outlets for conversation and information were in some way going to breach every Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) standard ever established. While this is a very serious matter, more so now that it seems everyone has a smartphone capable of posting photos and videos with just a few taps, it’s one that needs to be continuously monitored. In fact, a marketer’s response to this fear is that all of their associates already have the opportunity to breach HIPAA every day, but now as an organization on social media they have a chance to listen in. It is extremely important for a healthcare organization to communicate on social media so they can market their hospital and medical services to current and potential patients through a medium where a large amount of their target market’s time is spent. In order to ensure this is understood by their employees, they will want to develop a social media policy and a training method that uses the same approach with social media as they would when discussing other technology. If a nurse understands they can’t share a patient’s name over the phone, then they should know they can’t Tweet it or if they know they can’t take a photo of themselves with a patient and hang it up at the grocery store, then they should know they can’t post it to their Facebook wall.

Another challenge for a healthcare marketing department trying to take their organization into the social media realm is hearing the push back from the C-suite that states,

“We can’t be on Facebook! What if someone posts something negative about our great hospital? Then everyone can read it!”

As mentioned above, my response to them is that your patients already are saying negative comments about your hospital. The difference is that it’s happening at the HS soccer game, the restaurant up the street or the other endless possibilities where two or more people can chat. By creating a social media presence, it brings your organization into the conversation.

This first point that needs to be addressed in an external social media policy is what will cause a comment to be deleted. At the healthcare organization that I work at, this is usually profanity or commenter insulting a specific person. Deleting a comment simply because it’s not favorable towards your organization is the wrong approach. By keeping the conversation on the social media page, it allows you as an organization to make it right and turn this negative into a positive. In my experience of managing our healthcare organization’s social media networks, we’ve had a few negative comments. In all instances the person sometimes thanked us for our quick response, but it always caused that person and others to stop their negative conversation. This in turn, lets others who see those posts know that social media is a successful communication tool to engage and interact with their healthcare provider for negative and positive comments, questions or concerns.

Your Doctor Needs An App For That!

It should come as no surprise that a tremendous amount of online interaction is done through a mobile device. I can only speak for myself and it’s safe to say, most of the people I know, but we can’t leave the house without taking the smartphone anymore. More specifically from 2011 to 2013 smartphone usage rose from 39% to 61% and is expected to keep increasing into the unforeseen future.

The way web designers setup a site for any business has changed to adapt their specialty to design fully functioning and engaging websites for viewing on mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). This is called responsive technology and takes the same site you see on your PC and fluidly changes and responds to make it fit any screen or device size. Needless to say redesigning a website especially one for a healthcare organization that houses a great deal of information takes time and money. If you are in the market for a new site or your website isn’t currently built with responsive technology, it is highly recommended that you replace your current web structure with a responsive one.


Although, it might not be in the budget to redesign your company’s site, one less expensive way businesses are working around that, is to design a mobile app. In the healthcare business this is usually an app that has only a fraction of the information your website has such as, a list of locations, specialties, and doctors. By incorporating easy to download links on a non-responsive site bridges the gap until a business can redesign their site to appear professional and viewable on PC and mobile devices.

Another way the healthcare business is reaching the mobile community is by creating mobile apps that serve a specific purpose while carrying their branding and marketing messages. These apps might be focused on a specific specialty like cancer medicine or diabetes, ER waiting times, or even a very broad symptom checker. An example of a very popular healthcare app among their patient population was developed by the May Clinic, who constantly sets an example in the best practices for healthcare. Initially in 2012, their app was developed after a request to the system’s Center for Connected Care, asked that an app be created to help patients navigate their large campuses. As the development process was underway they realized that there was value in adding the integrated appointment calendars, access to radiology and lab reports, and even information on nearby restaurants and other features that patients would find useful. The success of this app was clear in its first day, receiving more than 1,000 downloads in 24 hours and by the end of August 2014, it has been downloaded more than 100,000 times. Proving that anything digital has to be ever changing and fluid to what their consumers need and want, they already have plans to expand the apps functionalities to make it even more useful to patients. Remote health monitoring with health bands and glucometers is growing in popularity, so, in the future they want to incorporate that data so the patient can share the results and receive wellness ideas and tips and tricks for staying healthy.

By engaging the patient with their health data, it creates a community of wellness that keep people healthier. If your healthcare organization isn’t capitalizing on the mobile market with a responsive website or any mobile apps you are most likely being passed by your competitors.

Do You Tweet Your Doctor?

There is no question that social media has changed the way patients interact with their physicians, hospitals and their entire healthcare industry. Patients now expect real time social media communications that open up a dialog that holds healthcare responsible for response 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. At the healthcare organization that I work at social media continues to increase and build in terms of marketing and communications involvement.

Below are 5 important statistics that are shaping the state of social media in healthcare and the trend of how they will continue to interact with the healthcare provider of their choice in the future.

More than 40% of consumers say that information exchanged on social media affects the way they deal with their health.

This is important to explain the involvement of social media in healthcare because it proves the value in the information shared on both the patient’s and especially the healthcare provider’s side. The information and the opinions of other on social media are often trusted, but aren’t always the most accurate sources, especially when it comes to a topic as sensitive as health.

Consumers age 18 to 24 year olds are more than two times as likely than 45 to 54 year olds to use social media for health-related discussions.

This statistic is important because it shows who is using social media the most to discuss health related topics. What it doesn’t show is the exclusive age group to market healthcare information to on social media.

90% of respondents from 18 to 24 years of age said they would trust medical information shared by others on their social media networks.

As mentioned above the information shared on social media is not always from an educated health care professional, but when a healthcare network shares information they have a responsibility to share the most accurate of information as possible.

41% of people said social media would affect their choice of a specific doctor, hospital, or medical facility.

With this statistic in mind, healthcare marketers must use it as a tool in their marketing kit when designing campaigns to help scale both positive and negative word of mouth in order to attract and retain patients.

The most popular online resources for health related information are: 56% WebMD, 31% Wikipedia, 29% health magazine websites, 17% Facebook, 15% YouTube, 13% used a blog or multiple blogs, 12% used patient communities, 6% Twitter and 27% used none of the above.

The above breakdown is important in the state of social media in healthcare because a healthcare marketer needs to know where the majority of health information is being dispersed. Knowing this is important to differentiate sources of quality content from other less creditable sources of information.

Whenever I speak about the healthcare network I work for I feel the need to caveat the statement by outlining that I am one of a two person team that does all of the PR, Marketing, Web Design, Social Media, Graphic Design, and Internal Communications for the entire organization. That being said, our social media usage revolves around the three main outlets that include Facebook (FB), Twitter, and YouTube. Facebook is by far what we place the most effort into part because of the limited amount of resources and part because it is the largest social media platform. We see engagement on FB from the community, patients, employees, and even the occasional out of state family member. Our Twitter engagement is a purely defensive position as it is linked with our FB that will tweet out any post we share on FB. Finally our YouTube is the platform that is growing the fastest. We try to create as many videos as we can to introduce physicians, outline procedures to make patients feel more comfortable before they come in, or just to give the organization a face and a voice to the outside community.

What I find most interesting is that according to a 2013 study, out of 5,724 hospitals in the United States, only 1,501 use some form of social media, which is only 26 percent.

Healthcare and Social MediaImage Source:  Master of Health Administration Degrees

Does your local doctor or hospital use social media and do you engage with them?