Healthcare Social Media Review: Which Tools Work Best For Your Patients?

Welcome to the HealthCare Social Media Review, where you’ll find all sorts of articles on the intersection of healthcare and social media.  Over the years, we’ve found social media to be an excellent way to interact with our peers, colleagues, and clients – first with our blog, and now increasingly through Google + (Jay, Louise), Twitter (Jay, Louise), and Facebook.  I relied heavily on Twitter when I was looking for articles to include in this HCSM Review, and all of the social media platforms we use are excellent resources when we’re looking for like-minded people or relevant, timely information on a particular topic.  We’re honored to be hosting this edition of the HCSM Review.  The blog posts included here are all written by people who have a strong social media presence, and we’ve included links to their Twitter, Facebook or Google+ pages so that you can follow them too.

To start things off, we have an excellent article from Nina Dunn (@Spector_health), explaining that we need to get back to basics with social media use in healthcare.  Rather than focusing on the negatives (it changes too fast!  There are no clear guidelines for how to use it!  HIPAA!, etc.), Nina encourages healthcare providers to focus instead on the ways that social media can be beneficial.  She notes that just because a platform exists doesn’t mean that you have to use it (ie, you don’t need to be on every social media channel all at once), and that it’s important to know your audience and target your social media presence accordingly.  Good content is king (that rule never changes), and social media marketing might require a different mindset when it comes to measuring success – but that’s not a reason to avoid it.  All in all, a great read, and a perfect tone for the Healthcare Social Media Review…

Healthcare and Social Media Tools

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David Harlow of HealthBlawg gives us a perfect example of how social media can be very useful in terms of gathering information and engaging people in real time to solve problems.  The Office of the National Coordinator (ONC) for Health IT issued a request for information (RFI) on interoperability, asking “What specific HHS policy changes would significantly increase standards based electronic exchange of laboratory results?”  The problem appears to basically hinge on the fact that labs receive no financial incentives to make their reports interoperable and compliant with EHR meaningful use standards (medical offices do have a financial incentive to do so).  Keith Boone (@motorcycle_guy) blogged about the question, and then the power of social media took over thanks to retweets and others joining in the conversation, including David Harlow.  His post includes his own well-thought-out three part response to the initial question from the ONC.  Definitely social media being put to good use.  You can connect with David on Twitter here.

David’s post led me over to Keith Boone’s Healthcare Standards blog, where I found this post warning physicians to steer clear of a site-specific “app in a can” that just leads users to their website.  His sage advice to doctors (and anyone else considering this sort of app template):

“Ask yourselves, why would someone use your “App”.  What value does it bring them, other than being able to refer patients to you?  Do you have really great content?  Some cool tools?  Something else?If the value proposition for the the App just leads towards you, the App supplier, it’s not an App that your customers will consider worth having.”

Lonnie Hirsch (@LonnieHirsch, and on Facebook) writes about the correlation between the number of Facebook “likes” a hospital has, and its patient satisfaction and mortality rates.  Basically, the more popular a hospital is on social media (specifically Facebook), the higher its patient satisfaction scores tend to be.  And hospitals with more likes on Facebook even have lower mortality numbers.  Lonnie points out that about half of the hospitals in the US don’t have a Facebook page yet.  Obviously they need to get to work on that oversight, but it could be that the hospitals that have been progressive enough to get the social media ball rolling already are the same hospitals that are early adopters of all sorts of other things.  Maybe their increased patient satisfaction, lower mortality rates, and overall good-quality care are all part of the forward-looking corporate culture that includes a strong social media presence.

In the spirit of sharing free tips via as many channels as we can, I wanted to include a post from Joe Paduda (@Paduda) that should be read by anyone who might be prone to believing nutty email forwards (you know the sort… they are usually in all caps, with all sorts of different colored fonts and lots of BIG SCARY CLAIMS).  There is no Obamacare RFID chip.  Joe explains it well, so just head over and read what he’s got to say.

Christina Thielst (@cthielst, and on Facebook) gives us an article about Duke Health’s Facebook advertising campaign’s success, and how Facebook has recently enhanced the explanations they provide to potential advertisers in order to make the experience more successful.  Christina points out that healthcare organizations are some of the top spenders when it comes to Facebook ads, but tend to have among the lowest return on their Facebook advertising dollars.  Given that advertising in general is moving in the direction of social media, any healthcare organization or professional who is considering Facebook ads should spend a few minutes reading Christina’s post and the Duke Health case study to which she links.

Colorado WinterMarie Ennis-O’Connor (@JBBC) has long been a fan of using Pinterest for healthcare marketing.  Now that Pinterest has debuted its web analytics, marketers can see exactly how their efforts are paying off.  Marie walks readers through a step-by-step of how to use the Pinterest web analytics, and explains the benefits of doing so.

Marie wrote her Pinterest piece for HealthWorks Collective, but while I was browsing around on Marie’s own website, I also found this really good infographic showing how American adults use the internet for healthcare-related purposes.  Obviously it’s not all social media, but social media is becoming more and more prominent in the average person’s internet usage, so I would say that this infographic is definitely relevant to the intersection of healthcare and social media.

John Brownlee (@ClearJB) answers several questions from Stanford’s Dr. Chu about his thoughts on ePatients (empowered patients) and how including them in his own company has added a “human element” to his digital healthcare world.  He notes that one of the problems faced by many digital healthcare companies is that they build their platforms for their clients (healthcare providers), but the services are actually being used by patients, which can result in a poor experience for the patients.  Adding more of a patient-centered focus to digital health platforms – while still retaining a setup that is appealing to the providers – is a good way to bridge this gap.

David Williams (@HealthBizBlog and on Facebook) is a longtime favorite around here.  His article is a discussion with Jeff Tangney, CEO of Doximity.  They focus on doctor/patient relationships on social media, specifically the problems caused when there is inappropriate use of social media in a professional context, and the future of social media interactions between providers and patients.

Melissa Mathews (@FathomOnline and on Facebook) attended the  HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) conference earlier this month, and writes about her experience there, including a focus on the value of Twitter in healthcare.  Melissa notes that only 21% of healthcare providers have a social media account (?!), and she provides five great tips from the conference for providers who want to start incorporating Twitter into their interactions with their patients.

Thanks for all the excellent submissions – they were fun to read, and definitely informative on a subject that can seem overwhelming to a lot of people (unless you were born after 1990, in which case you probably can’t imagine a world without social media!).  The next edition of the HCSM will be hosted by Lora Kratchounova on April 10th.

About Louise Norris

Louise Norris has been writing about health insurance and healthcare reform since 2006. In addition to the Colorado Health Insurance Insider, she also writes for,, Verywell, Spark by ADP, and Boost by ADP, and Gusto. Follow on twitter and facebook.


  1. Thanks for including my submission on Pinterest Louise. I really enjoyed reading how you put this edition of HCSMR together.

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