Archive for April, 2011
By Pam Myers
As if getting through medical school wasn’t hard enough, physicians today now have to successfully market their practice, engage with their patients and monitor their reputations online. Those are just a few marketing and public relations challenges physicians face in today’s competitive health care market.
To have a successful practice, integrated marketing strategies are essential. Long gone are the days when a professional practice could survive on the skill and training of the physicians alone. With that said and with the new era of marketing with social media….a good question comes to mind: Should doctors tweet?
Personally, I would like to view my doctor in a more human way and read about any conferences or continuing education they attend to bring their practice to the next level as well as their point of view on current medical procedures. However, I do worry about my visits being discussed in 140 characters or less. Is there anyone who regulates or monitors Twitter for patients’ rights (HIPPA violations)? Since all posts are stamped with a date and time, a tweet that reveals what a doctor observed could be potentially linked to a patient’s appointment.
A recent study conducted by Dr. Katherine Chretien, a hospitalist at the Washington DC VA Medical Center, and her colleagues published in the February 9 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association found that:
- Approximately half of the 5,156 tweets by the physicians they analyzed had to do with health or medicine
- 12% were self-promotional
- 1% recommended a medical product or service
- 3% were flagged as “unprofessional”
From this study Chretien concluded, “This research helped us to identify how physicians are using social media and has helped us gauge whether or not there is a need for greater accountability for physicians who use social media.”
So, should physicians use Twitter? That can really only be answered by the physician, but here are a couple of questions they should ask themselves:
- Do they have something interesting to share?
- Will they be able to consistently tweet?
- Do they fully understand this online platform?
- Have they reviewed the American Medical Association social media guidelines?
One last thing to keep in mind is that social media is just another communication tool and nothing should be tweeted if it wouldn’t be said at the office/hospital. Once you hit “send” there’s no turning back.
Follow Pam on Twitter @pammyers310 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Danielle Longley
These days we use our cell phones less for making calls and more for managing every other aspect of our lives. With the advancement of smartphones we have the ability to access our email, look up information instantly, get directions, connect to social media networks and now, manage our health.
Mobile healthcare is an increasing trend, supported by over 5,000 mobile health applications. While consumers love being able to track calories and monitor fitness in the palm of their hand, mobile marketing has some more serious benefits for healthcare providers.
The database of mobile applications is continually growing. Many of them are created for and beneficial to providers. Mobile applications have the ability to improve physician efficiency, facilitate communications and improve patient relationships. Many physicians and practitioners are using iPhones and iPads during office visits and throughout the day. Are you one of them? If not, here’s why you might want to be.
With the ability to send e-prescriptions, you don’t have to worry about writing legibly and your patient doesn’t have to worry about misplacing it between your office and the pharmacy. Apps created for electronic health records allow you to instantly access information without turning to paper records and will soon allow you to share records with other physicians and referred specialists cutting out time, paperwork and hassle for both you and the patient.
There are apps for 3D renderings of anatomical systems giving you the ability to see all sides and angels. With this you can really show patients where and what is going on. You can access drug dictionaries with up-to-date information on thousands of drugs and have x-rays and scans sent straight to your phone for review.
How about prescribing mobile treatments? Patient’s health, to a certain extent, can be monitored and tracked through their phone. There are apps for monitoring blood pressure (there is an actual blood pressure cuff that plugs into the iPhone), medication reminders, medication trackers and more. The results and data are tracked and graphed and many of these apps allow results to be emailed to physicians. Through these apps you can remotely monitor patients’ health, enhance patient care, improve patient relationships and eliminate unnecessary office visits.
Mobile is the way healthcare marketing is going and it’s where consumers want it to be. Over half of patients surveyed in a study said they would like to be able to use mobile billing and sixty percent would like to receive their lab results on their phone. While you don’t have to create your own application, although that would be cool, just incorporating some mobile applications into your routine and tailoring your marketing strategy to include mobile resources can increase your efficiency and your customer’s satisfaction.
You can’t put a price on improving patient relationships….but there is an app for that.
By Paula Yakubik
Social media has gotten very big, very fast. Many would conclude that healthcare is somewhat late to the party. Here are 5 reasons why your practice and healthcare organization should engage.
- 500 million people have a Facebook account, 200 million are on Twitter and there are now 148 million active blogs. I try to explain to most of my clients that the Internet and social media is changing the world much like the telephone did. Many of you were not around, but the telephone made it so we no longer had to send messages by the pony express or the telegraph. It changed the way people communicated with each other and cut down dramatically the time it took to get a message to someone. This is what the Internet is doing. And rather than fight it, you should embrace it and have it work for you and your practice. Done right, your social media sites and a good website can save your practice money.
- A recent study by the Pew Internet Research study, said that 61 percent of adults look online for healthcare information, while only 25 percent of American adults looked online for this information in 2000. 83 percent of these users have looked online for information about health topics ranging from information about a specific disease, treatments, alternative medicine, health insurance, healthcare providers, medical facilities and ways to stay healthy.
- 60 million consumers now use new media to share their health experiences online and look to join online communities with similar symptoms and ailments. Approximately 1,200 Facebook communities advocate for cures for chronic illnesses. Patients are more connected, diverse and sophisticated than ever before. We here at MassMedia call it the word of mouse. It has replaced the word of mouth.
- 72 percent of e-patients search for medical information right before or after a doctor’s visit. While patients value their doctor’s expertise and advice, that will not stop them from searching the Internet and reading website articles and blogs to try and self-diagnose themselves. Patients like to come into a doctor’s office pre-informed about a condition they think they may have and once they leave with a diagnosis they will turn to the Internet to find out more information about it.
- 93 percent of e-patients say the Internet has made it possible to get the medical information they need. Does your practice have an online presence? What will someone think if they Google your practice and there is no site? What will someone think if they don’t find a site and worse yet, come across those pesky doctor review sites in which an unhappy patient last month took to the Internet to show his or her disdain for your front office clerk? Even worse, what if they Google your site and an outdated, horrible site comes up? What does this say about you and your practice? A good online presence will help you establish your credibility. It’s usually the aspect of your brand that patients will experience first so make sure it’s a good one.
Paula Yakubik is a partner with MassMedia Healthcare Marketing. You can follow her on Twitter @Pyakubik. She can be reached directly at (702) 433-4331 or email@example.com. MassMedia Healthcare Marketing’s website is massmediahealth.com
By Leanne Drown
We all know by now that social media is imperative in marketing your medical practice, but there are still a lot of questions about what it means to launch a social media campaign, how it can make a difference, how to stay within HIPAA regulations and what the impact will be. Instead of trying to answer all these questions in one blog post, we decided to share a few really good and compelling examples. Take a read through, let it marinate a bit and start to think about what these types of campaigns could mean for your practice. Children’s hospitals definitely lead the pack in the social media sphere, but that doesn’t mean you can’t join them!
The UCSF Challenge for the Children
In only 8 weeks, the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital raised over $1 million for a new center in Mission Bay. Using Facebook, Twitter and Causes.com, the Challenge recruited individual contributors and team leaders who then created groups through their personal networks. Throughout the eight-week contest, more than 50 teams signed up to compete for various prizes, with the top two teams earning the prize of naming a space in the new UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital. Companies such as Zynga (known for Farmville), alongside individual patients of UCSF Benioff Hospital, rallied their social networks to surpass the initial goal.
Humana wanted to promote Freewheelin, their bike sharing program, within communities of green & health friendly individuals to support better health. First they identified local cycling clubs on Meetup.com and arranged events during which they would share information about their program. In order to drive traffic to these events, they created a Facebook page, Blog, Twitter handle, Flickr group and YouTube account. Over the course of the campaign, more than 1,500 photos were uploaded to Flickr. The end result was eight days of rides with over 7,500 total rides and 41,000 miles ridden. While Freewheelin is no longer an active brand, the initiative is still going strong under the name B-Cycle.
Dr. Irena Vaksman, Dentist
Dr. Vaksman, who practices dentistry in San Francisco, has the challenge of practicing in a building that houses hundreds of other dentists. Most having more established practices than hers. In order to grow her practice she decided to go online (with the help of her husband). In addition to creating a Facebook page, a YouTube channel and a Twitter stream, Dr. Vaksman decided to offer a Groupon to the residents of her community. As a result of the Groupon, Dr. Vaksman received 320 new patients. Valksman’s patients now communicate with her on her Facebook page, and her practice continues to grow.
Follow Leanne on Twitter @leannedrown or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Tivona Betz
Every year more and more people trade in their boring cell phones for a flashy smartphone for the convenience of having everything they need at their finger tips. Smartphone users can log onto the Internet, post to their Facebook page, text and chat with their friends and family, and download thousands of applications, all while walking their dog.
However, health care physicians should look at smartphones as more than just a way to check their email and talk with family and friends. They should also be regarded as a valuable tool to assist them with their practice and patients. And it should be noted that many doctors already recognize it as such. According to a 2009 survey by Hall & Partners, 71 percent of physicians consider a smartphone essential to their practice and 72 percent of physicians are using smartphones to communicate, manage personal and business workflows and access medical information.
There are thousands of health and fitness applications for health care professionals to help them access medical calculators and medical records, track vital signs, order medication, e-prescribe, and coordinate care with other team members.
For instance, Merck Serono developed an electronic injection device with two-way Bluetooth communication functions to track all injections made by a patient. If a patient forgets an injection, a nurse will be alerted and will be able to contact the patient to remind them.
One of the most popular medical applications doctors can access is Epocrates’ free drug reference application. In a study on the drug reference application, 60 percent of Epocrates’ users claimed they have avoided three or more medical errors each month since using the application.
Other companies that are creating health care applications for smartphones include The Good Shepherd Health System, Zibbel, Qualcomm, Kaiser, and Mayo.
Smartphones are also making doctors more accessible to their patients in a quicker manner through e-visits. E-visits, or online physician consultations, are being used to treat patients for non-emergency conditions and to answer questions about minor ailments, symptoms or medications.
According to Manhattan Research, about 42 percent of U.S. physicians say they’ve discussed clinical symptoms online with patients and more than 9 million consumers report having had email communication with their physician. This can all be done with the assistance of a smartphone.
E-visits can lower costs and provide convenience for the patient and physician as they enable doctors to respond more quickly to patient concerns and keep in-office time slots available for those who really need to see a physician in person.
In fact, the Mayo Clinic found through a two-year study that e-visits could have replaced actual office visits in 40 percent of 2,531 case studies.
Patients also recognize the benefits of e-visits. According to Healthcare unwired, 85 percent of patients who have contacted their doctor through other methods other than by an office visit were satisfied with the results and according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, 41 percent of patients said they would like more of their care delivered through their mobile device.
As technology changes and evolves, the health care industry must change and evolve with it. The capabilities of a smartphone are endless, and physicians should utilize them to the fullest by embracing them and their applications as tools that can streamline their practice and ultimately benefit their patients.