As the grey squirrels frolicked in the trees above and a soothing breeze gently rocked my hammock, I pondered a possible scenario for social media in health care.
I envisioned a lively blog, with super-interesting posts from healthcare leaders. Doctors, nurses, psychologists, therapists, nutritionists and others shared their wisdom on a variety of timely topics. They helped people understand the most compelling — and often complex — issues of our time. They spoke about everything from how to make healthcare more affordable to steps you can take to prevent serious health problems. They kept a pulse on hot topics and made valuable contributions to the conversation.
In addition to the written word, they communicated via concise videos on a YouTube channel. They got to the point quickly for those who only had a minute or two to spare to absorb the information.
The blog posts and channel videos appeared on a regular schedule planned in advance.
Audiences came to look forward to the posts. They subscribed for alerts so they wouldn’t miss the week’s or month’s newest addition. They liked Facebook and LinkedIn pages and followed Twitter accounts tied to the blog and channel. They shared posts with their friends and followers because the info was too good to keep to themselves.
Over time, they developed connections with the experts. They asked them questions on their blogs and video channels, as well as live online chats, Google+ hangouts and webinars that followed. They began to see them speak on TV and radio. They went to see them speak in person.
They felt a deep connection. They wanted to turn to them when health questions or challenges occurred.
Behind the scenes, a social media strategist worked with a team of writers, videographers, web developers and graphic designers to help the experts polish up their content. The strategist developed an editorial calendar and measured views and interactions. As time went on, the strategist tracked visits to landing pages on websites and conversions such as making an appointment with a doctor.
The scenario didn’t just include owned and earned media. It was supported by paid media such as boosted Facebook posts and promoted tweets.
In the end, the experts were very pleased to tap the power of social media to connect with key audiences in a scale never before possible. And those in the audiences got to know, like and trust the experts to the point that they made appointments with their organization when they needed health assistance.
Wow, it was fun thinking about the possibilities! Amazing where the mind can go on a relaxing Saturday in the back yard.
Want an optimistic look at the future of healthcare? Big believer in the power of technology to better lives? Then I highly suggest you check out this book.
Authors Rohit Bhargava, who advises global healthcare brands on communication strategy, and Fard Johnmar, a digital health futurist and researcher, combine extensive research with insights from pioneers of the digital health movement in the easy-to-read, well-organized book ePATIENT 2015: 15 Surprising Trends Changing Health Care (2014, 219 pages).
Findings are broken into three themes:
(1) Health Hyperefficiency– How Technology and Computing are Making Health Care More Efficient, Safe and Effective;
(2) The Personalized Health Movement – How Technology is Helping Health Become More Individualized and Relevant to People’s Needs; and
(3) Digital Peer-to-Peer Health Care – How Digital Tools are Enabling Enhanced Collaboration and Peer Support.
For each of the themes, there are three to nine of the 15 trends. For each trend, the authors give a brief overview, share stories that give real-life examples of the trend, and report results of recent surveys of ePatients.
As the husband of a cancer thriver, I found two trends particularly appealing:
“Trend 13 – Virtual Counseling. People are using online tools to seek and forge one-on-one relationships and offer virtual logistical and emotional support. This can include helping others to navigate the new health-insurance landscape, “sponsoring, ” or counseling one another and providing unique knowledge about conditions, ailments, and caregiving. – Page 165
“Trend 14 – CareHacking. As patient health data becomes more widely available and the number of caregivers managing medical care for family members increases, digitally savvy health consumers will leverage the information they gain from doctors, the Web, and other sources to better ‘hack’ the health system to educate themselves, navigate loopholes, find more efficiencies, and ultimately get better, lower-cost and faster care for themselves and those they love.” –Page 171
In the introduction, the authors offer scenarios of how patients handle common health situations now – and how they will in the near future, when technology advances. The first involves the mother of a 3-year-old who has a fever; the second, a man who learns he has lung cancer. I won’t spoil the stories. They’re facinating.
The up-front stories are worth a read, even if you don’t want to go further… but, trust me, you will.
Disclaimer: I received a free preview copy of the book.
During an excellent session at the recent Health Care Social Media Summit called Health care reform meets social media: Cultivating online communities to prevent and manage illness, Dan Hinmon of Hive Strategies and Willamette Valley Medical Center walked us through the challenges and opportunities at this juncture in our history.
It’s definitely an interesting time, as Hinmon pointed out:
* Healthcare profits are dropping, as costs are increasing. Medicare and Medicaid payments are below actual cost.
* Financial pressures are increasing, with people with insurance unable to pay high deductibles.
* Collaboration and wellness are among solutions to address the challenges.
* Payment models are changing from fee-for-service to global payments. It’s all about working better with communities.
Here’s where the opportunity comes: Patient education is important… delivering good information to help people make good decisions improve their health behavior, bringing together groups of patients for better care. The focus shifts to the health and wellness of the community over stealing patients from competitors. The goal is to keep people out of the hospital. Health care is no longer episodic; it’s something you think about every day. Price is the driver.
What skills are needed in this new environment? (1) Strategist, (2) Content, largely educational, (3) Community building, (4) Managing online patient communities.
Hinmon pointed to Diabetic Connect as an example of an online patient community geared to chronic disease management. He cited FeverBee as an excellent resource for those starting and managing online communities. He mentioned Wellaho, a community where patients and health systems pay to manage health conditions.
Yes, these are times of big challenges — and major opportunities!
As the husband of a metastatic breast cancer thriver, I jumped at the opportunity to attend a breakout session at the Health Care Social Media Summit called Online social networks: A benefit to patients, physicians. The panel, moderated by Dr. Farris Timimi of Mayo Clinic, included speakers from Inspire, CaringBridge and EmpowHER. All three have helped my wife at various points in her cancer journey.
Efforts such as these give me a passion to push ahead with health care social media. To me, patient communities comprise the heart of the health care social media revolution. Our family has benefited first-hand from the honest, heart-felt sharing of these online groups. We have been empowered with information to help physicians come up with better treatment options. We have heard from women from around the globe with the exact type of cancer who received the precise course of treatment. We have learned about their challenges with aspects such as insurance coverage… and how they overcame them.
So it was awesome for me to shake the hand of Brian Loew, CEO of Inspire, which has been particularly helpful lately. Lowe shared during the session about how patients create an enormous amount of value by sharing in this strong, safe platform. He spoke about how they are connecting to improve health. (By the way, it was interesting to note that Inspire moderates its forums to prevent craziness. Inspire bans 1 in 5,000.) He noted that Inspire does not replace the role of the doctor, a concern of some when it launched. I found it encouraging when an open-minded physician in the audience said that doctors could learn about new treatments outside of established guidelines by listening to what’s said in patient communities.
Meanwhile, Sonya Mehring, founder of CaringBridge, said she thinks doctors should direct patients and caregivers to resources such as CaringBridge. Mehring pointed out that 70 percent of the content is created by caregivers. She founded CaringBridge back in 1997 and has seen it become such an important hub of communication for families and friends as the Internet has evolved. In fact, soon mobile will surpass traditional web traffic.
A representative from EmpoweHER (sorry I missed her name) noted that nine of 10 women seek health information online. It’s important to ensure they find good information.
After chatting briefly with Loew, I bumped into Dr. Timimi. He said the discussion points to tremendous opportunity for healthcare providers — one that affects the bottom line, with metrics such as patient satisfaction and quality playing an increasingly big role in funding. He added that online communities can contribute to clinical efficiency, as educated patients come better prepared for conversations with physicians. And patient communities offer great potential for research, he noted. He encouraged me to identify and encourage early adopters in the medical community to embrace social media. I plan to do just that!
It’s World Cancer Day — and the fourth anniversary of the diagnosis of my wife’s breast cancer recurrence. As readers of this blog know, Tami has tapped the power of the Internet to empower herself and others as they live with advanced-stage cancer and life’s other challenges. Her book, From Incurable to Incredible: Cancer Survivors Who Beat the Odds, continues to gain momentum and her blog, www.miraclesurvivors.com, draws readers from across the globe.
Today, I want to give a shout-out to a new website called Breast Cancer Answers. Tami was invited to share tips on the site — in part due to her ranking as one of Cision’s Top 10 Most Influential Breast Cancer Bloggers. Todd Hartley of WireBuzz recorded the YouTube video of Tami using Skype. He was great at prepping her for the interviews, taped on a day when Tami was encountering a major scare with her cancer. (That’s another story.)
I am in awe of the way this site pulls together so many elements to empower patients. It includes expert advice from the likes of Dr. Jay K. Harness, a past president of the American Society of Breast Surgeons and Breast Surgery International. E-patients such as my wife offer tips based on their real-life experiences. There are lots of interactive elements. Social media are sprinkled throughout the site, such as links to the LinkedIn profiles of Dr. Harness, Todd Hartley and project manager Amanda Wible, and other relevant resources.
Here’s the writeup about Hartley in the About Us section: “After Todd’s step-mom developed breast cancer, he called his friend Dr. Jay Harness and together they developed the first social media show. Their goal, provide a free service where women around the world, regardless of economic status, could ask a breast cancer question and the get the answer. Todd Hartley, the president of WireBuzz is a digital marketing innovator, creator of the first video medical encyclopedia on the Internet, who once led Internet marketing projects for seven of the largest national talk shows. We are happy to report that Todd’s amazing step-mom is now in recovery and back to living life on her terms.”
And here’s a summary about the site: “Discover, what every newly diagnosed breast cancer patient should do to improve their chances for survival of breast cancer, how breast cancer diagnosis has advanced, where the cutting edge for the treatment for breast cancer is today and what breast cancer medical terms really mean. Breast Cancer Answers covers a wide variety of information. For example, if you have symptoms for breast cancer, like a lump in breast, pain in breast, or you simply want to know what breast cancer is, please send us your question. It’s our mission to help patients understand breast cancer carcinoma, the most effective breast cancer treatment strategies, the latest breast cancer technological advances and help improve the lives of women living with breast cancer. If you would like to increase breast cancer awareness, please click on the Save Lives link.”
I encourage you to check out Breast Cancer Answers — an example for all of us in healthcare PR, a best practice from which we can learn… and, even more importantly, a website that can help many!
For those who may wonder if there is room for doctors in the social media space, you need look no further than Dr. Natasha Burgert of Pediatric Associates in Kansas City.
Dr. Burgert, a private practice pediatrician (full-time patient care), shows by example how social media can deliver tangible results for doctors. She shared her experiences in an excellent webinar this week called “Convince Your Docs to Dive into Social Media.” The webinar came as part of my employer’s membership in the Social Media Health Network.
As Dr. Burgert pointed out, she is not a social media expert, lawyer, public relations or marketing pro, or IT person. She is simply someone who “has a passion for educating families in unique ways, in order to promote and encourage positive heath choices for her Kansas City community.”
She cited convincing stats reported by Susannah Fox of the Pew Internet and American Life Project, such as 80 percent of patients use the Internet and 44 percent talk about health care providers online. One in three — people like my wife — talk about themselves in “participatory medicine.” They are increasingly connecting via mobile devices.
“What does this mean?,” she asked. “Being online matters to our patients… Why is this great news? We can go where our patients are.”
Dr. Burgert had an “ah-ha” moment during the H1N1 flu outbreak a few years back. Instead of repeatedly answering the same questions coming by patients via phone, why not do something online that they could access at their convenience? Why not save time and reassure patients by answering their questions in a space they already visit? Why not serve as their information source, instead of having them go to Dr. Oz or WebMD?
She overcame the usual fears: What if I do something wrong? What if I’m not good at this? What am I getting myself into? In fact, she listed six considerations that often derail doctors thinking about social media — (1) The How-To: Technically. How do we use these tools?, (2) Legal. Are we just opening ourselves up to get sued? (3) What about HIPAA? How can we keep private things private? (4) Vulnerability. How will this change our doctor/patient relationship? (5) Time. How much time is this going to take? (6) Return on Investment. Is this going to be worth it?
She overcame all — and pointed out that the ROI has been impressive. She gets a patient a week, thanks to her social media efforts. When you factor the national average cost of care per year, that translates into $114,00 per year.
Over time, she has developed authentic relationships with patients. “Social media is bigger than the dollar,” she said. “The value of the online space is deeper.” She found that being online was “SAVING ME TIME!” Patients came to appointment equipped with knowledge. When she’d start to go into an explanation, a patient would cut in and say: “I already read that on your blog.”
Dr. Burgert found that she was making a difference in her community… and even had attracted a worldwide audience. “What I do online positively impacts the health care of children,” she said. “The goal is universal. Change the outcome of health. Healthcare communicators: Be valuable to your patients to see impact. Create a place where doctors want to participate.”
She shared a content formula that works — 70 percent curating/sharing valuable information from evidence-based sources, 20 percent creating your own content, and 10 percent fun (after all it’s “social” media).
“Social media is a tool to share a message,” she said. “YOU will be the trusted source, no matter the author.”
Plus, your evidence-based “good stuff” will move to the top of Google searches and push down the not-so-good medical advice.
Speaking of Google, Dr. Burgert pointed out that docs who do social media have a much more impressive “digital image.” If you Google the name of a doctor who blogs, tweets or otherwise uses social media, you’ll get links to a lot of information related to the doc. If not, you get very little.
Dr. Burgert finished with steps PR and Marketing pros in health care can follow to get physicians in their organizations to move into the social media world. That’s another topic, and I’ve hit my blogging time limit for the week. Hope you found this helpful. I’m excited about the work of Dr. Burgert and others. They are tapping the power of social media to help lots of people.
2011 will go down as an amazing year in my book — one in which I made the transition into health care social media (and media relations, web content, internal communications… in the health care world). I started a job as media manager at Catholic Health Partners, the largest health system in Ohio and one of the largest non-profit systems in the country, on Jan. 10.
I have no regrets about leaving a satisfying career in government public relations after almost 17 years to enter health care at a time of tremendous transformation. It reminds me of when I started in government social services — and the country was in the midst of welfare reform. I feel extremely fortunate to be involved in such important events.
Here are some highlights from 2011, a year that I believe has set the stage for an even more incredible 2012:
* Attending the Health Care Social Media Summit at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., in October. I’m still in awe of the experience of connecting with health care social media leaders from across the country (as well as several other nations). I choke up when I tell people about meeting people such as E-Patient Dave DeBronkart, who are using social media to save lives. I made connections with dozens of PR and marketing pros from hospitals and health systems who are passionate about making a difference for the patients and families we serve. I also connected with doctors and nurses who have embraced social media as a way to improve the health of their communities. We continue to connect via Twitter chats, Facebook. LinkedIn…
* Leading the Catholic Health Partners Social Media Champions!, a group of social media practitioners from across the system. We confer regularly via online forums and phone, sharing best practices and lessons learned. We met in August for a Social Media Summit, featuring Krista Neher, author of the Social Media Field Guide and CEO of Boot Camp Digital. It was awesome hearing from Krista, who took a lot of time preparing for this health care audience. I sincerely appreciate the fine work she did.
* Participating in media training offered by Empower MediaMarketing. It was probably one of the most challenging experiences of my PR career, guiding a selection process that led to us choosing Empower over a number of firms that provide excellent media training. But Empower didn’t disappoint. Highly regarded PR pros Kevin Dugan, Ashley Walters and Claire Guappone packed a lot into a tight time frame. They also were flexible and catered to our needs.
* Working with an amazing team of seasoned professionals at Catholic Health Partners. (In all reality, this is No. 1 by far.) Greg Smith, my manager, has decades of health care experience and is a great all-around person. Debbie Copeland-Bloom is the consummate PR professional, also with an extensive health care background. Kathi McQuade knows video production like nobody else I’ve encountered. Carrie Allison is a talented PR pro with lots of years in health care. I am so blessed to be a part of this team. They are a joy to be around. I learn something from them every day.
* Supporting my wife’s blog and book. In case you didn’t know, Tami Boehmer is author of From Incurable to Incredible: Cancer Survivors Who Beat the Odds and the highly acclaimed www.miraclesurvivors.com blog. Despite battling Stage IV breast cancer, she pushes on and inspires and informs many. Here is her year in review.
* Reading lots of good books and getting some new gadgets. This seems trivial, compared to the above. But I read some really good books this year. You can read my reports elsewhere on this blog or see my reading list on my LinkedIn profile. Through the power of social media such as this blog and Twitter, I connected with most of them individually. As for the gadgets, I got a tablet (Kindle Fire) and a new Android phone. My daughter delights in my geekness!
* Attending lots of great events offered by Cincinnati PRSA, Cincinnati Social Media, New Media Cincinnati and the Cincinnati American Marketing Association. They all put on very good programs and gave us a place to connect with others who are passionate about our profession. I encourage you to check out their websites or LinkedIn pages.
* Returning to Twitter full-force after a detour into Google+ and health care blogland. There are lots and lots of health care folks (PR, marketing, clinicians, techies…) in areas such as #mccsm and #hcsm. I have learned so much from them — and hopefully have shared links and tidbits that have helped them. (Find me on Twitter at @MikeBoehmer57).
There are just some thoughts that come to mind as I sit here on a PTO day, reflecting after a walk around the neighborhood. I’m really excited about the year ahead. I think we can all make a positive difference in the lives of others through the power of social media. Great potential lies ahead!
- @reedsmith keep up the good work! Helpful info. Doing well overall 1 day ago
- To find study about Texas hospitals using social media and digital tools: Thad.org #hcsm #mccsm 1 day ago
- Texas hospitals on Facebook--43 percent post daily; 21 percent several times per day. @reedsmith #hcsm #mccsm 1 day ago
- In Texas, 1 Marcom staff person per 54 staffed hospital beds, says @reedsmith #hcsm 1 day ago
- for health care staffing study @reedsmith pulled data from 2,500 sites and interviewed 35 health care digital leaders in Texas 1 day ago
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