SXSW 2014: True Potential of Social Media in Healthcare Is Still Ahead of Us

sxsw logoOver a single-week period, SXSW Interactive hosts hundreds of presentations and panels. What was interesting to note this year, compared to the last few, is that a large percentage of healthcare discussions were now hosted on the stages of the two main convention centers, alongside all major celebrity keynotes.

Among many trends and ideas that were discussed, two concepts mentioned at the “What Happens When Tech and Healthcare Meet” panel were quite memorable. Although these are just mere single examples, each testified to a number of current trends in healthcare.

Concept: DermLink—a social network-based platform that allows patients to digitally share skin conditions with dermatologists and receive real-time responses.

Why this is important: This is especially relevant to those outside major metropolitan areas, where a wait to see the local dermatologist can exceed a few weeks. We’ve all heard success stories of doctors tapping into a broad pool of peers via Twitter and Facebook. But this platform is among the first controlled, social, care-specific environments that could potentially redefine the approach and expectations for doctor-patient interaction.

Bottom line: Regardless of the success of this platform, the mere fact that this platform is gaining momentum is an indicator that the true potential of social media in healthcare is still ahead of us.

Concept: Covered—a platform that helps applicants select the most appropriate health insurance by posing a series of qualifying questions in a standard, conversational language.

Why this is important: Although standard applications have been around for quite some time, we’re starting to see a shift in the way even insurance companies need to structure their communications. Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed a similar shift in practically every single aspect of marketing communication etiquette due to social media. A simple, well-timed response to a tweet can gain greater consumer loyalty than a multimillion-dollar Super Bowl ad.

Bottom line: Consumers no longer want to be talked at. They want to be spoken with. This is no longer breaking news…rather, a well-known fact. But at last it is finally beginning to change the insurance companies’ tone of interaction with potential applicants.

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Digital Trends Impacting US Healthcare – Infographic

In the past year, digital innovations have brought about new markets and channels for digital health interactions. This infographic is a visual mapping of the technologies and innovations which are already playing a key role in shaping the future of healthcare and the experiences and journeys which surround it.

Of course the ACA is affecting healthcare coverage, but it is also affecting our healthcare experiences by placing increased importance on and driving more frequent interactions with NPs, PAs, and Pharmacists. Additionally, more priority has shifted to consumers to educate themselves and take responsibility for their own health, especially when combined with our growing culture of social media and trust networks, and recent draft guidance from the FDA. Video remains hot, but the trending has shifted to the length of videos patients are consuming, increasing its relevance to pharmaceutical marketers. Mobile and tablets continue to grow rapidly, with and quantified self driving deeper engagement though apps, not just web. Last, but certainly not least, EHR is poised to enter the next phase of meaningful use, setting the stage for a platform shake-out as certification requirements evolve to provide more and deeper data sets to systems of connected health as providers continue to on-board.

Infographic of important technologies that impact digital healthcare marketing.

Infographic of important technologies that impact digital healthcare marketing.

Technology is evolving fast, and healthcare, believe it or not, is keeping pace and even leading the charge on many fronts. Spurred on by government mandates and initiatives, innovative organizations ranging from Google and Apple to Silicon Valley startups like Practice Fusion are quickly carrying the ball forward, sometimes struggling to keep pace with consumer expectations of today’s technology. It’s these digital healthcare innovations which have set the trends affecting us today, and will carry us forward to tomorrow.

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Taking the Pulse…Tuning In to the New Patient Network

1741356 sA guest blog post from Craig Martin – Chief Executive Officer of Feinstein Kean Healthcare, an Ogilvy & Mather Company

Most of us are far too young to remember the early days of television. What I do recall from my childhood is that three networks owned the airwaves, large numbers of people followed a small number of notable programs, and the screen turned to fuzz at midnight. You made note of the TV Guide schedule, and you adjusted your schedule to the TV shows that interested you. The networks and the stars were in charge.

A lot has changed since then, obviously. There are now countless networks, and seemingly limitless numbers of shows. Reality television has made stars of “ordinary” people. And the digital age has made scheduled programming obsolete—the content follows you and adjusts to your life and device of choice, not the other way around.

Why wax nostalgic about the evolution of broadcast television? Because I believe a similarly dramatic transformation is under way in our field. The old channels and choices are fading to fuzz. A new era is dawning.

For years, healthcare PR relied on a few channels and reliable choices to reach, inform, and market to patients. On behalf of our clients, we used traditional media (earned and paid), events, celebrities and big disease education programs to build awareness and get patients to “talk to their doctors about…”

Today—as more of the burden of choice, comparison, and cost gets shifted to patients, as diseases become more and more categorized via genomic analysis and molecular diagnostics, as medical practice and health become more universally digitized, and physicians and pharma become more responsible for outcomes vs. treatments—the traditional big, broad-channel approaches are becoming less relevant and effective as a means of reaching more and more narrowly defined populations of patients.

These trends are leading to the establishment of entirely new channels and networks, made of up patients identified and aggregated virtually through the sharing of personal medical information and data. In other words, the audience is creating the network, and continually informing the programming through the data they share. Now, rather than casting a wide net via mass media and hoping a narrow audience will be watching, we will have ready-made networks, open 24/7, waiting if not demanding to be engaged. This opens up new frontiers for micro-targeted, real-time communication and measurable engagement, based almost exclusively on digital content and social influence.

Not long before the holidays we learned that Feinstein Kean Healthcare (FKH) and a select group of partners won a million-dollar government grant to develop a “patient-powered research network” for the multiple sclerosis community. This is an exciting development, but not because of the money. This new kind of network represents the leading edge of the transformation I’ve described, and we’re now right at the forefront as well.

In the days and months ahead, we’ll continue to evaluate the pace and progress of change, and work to assure that our thinking and services are aligned with where the world is headed. Naturally, we don’t want to get too far out ahead of the trend, but we must be informed and equipped to lead when the market is ready.

I believe, as this new era unfolds, we will find there are many exciting opportunities ahead for us to engage differently and far more meaningfully with patients.

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Three Ways to Play It Safe on Social Media

Monica Wong thumbnail Rather than forgoing social media, as many pharmaceutical brands choose to do these days, there are some effective and safe alternatives to incorporate it into the pharma marketing mix.

Contrary to what others think, pharmaceutical brands do understand the need for social media. One of the primary reasons why healthcare marketers steer clear of it is the strict FDA regulations around the reporting of adverse events. The seemingly unanimous decision by most brands, or at least so it seems, is to avoid open forums altogether.

This blog provides some encouragement to pharmaceutical marketers, as well as their consultants, that effective alternatives do exist in incorporating elements of social media into their marketing programs. Here are three tools healthcare marketers can implement to safely integrate a little social media into their marketing strategies.

1.     Polls & Quizzes

Polls and quizzes—the ones without open-ended questions—provide marketers with a controlled environment. With the right tagging, each question that is asked and every answer that is presented can provide powerful insights into your audiences. Of course, the key to engagement is incentive and the not-so-secret ingredient is free stuff. For consumers, the call to action can be as simple as: “Take this poll to receive $X off your next prescription.” For HCPs, it’s: “Take this poll to receive free samples of XYZ.”

2.     Social Sharing Buttons

Social sharing buttons allow marketers to identify which social media platforms their visitors are most active on. This can be an indicator of where the brand’s presence should be once the FDA establishes more concrete guidelines and practices for healthcare marketers on social media.

Social sharing buttons can also help provide information on what content visitors are sharing and where they are sharing it from on the site. In addition, social share functions allow marketers to tag unique identifiers to URLS so that referral visitors can be easily tracked backed to the referral source. It can help answer questions such as: Are visitors sharing more on Twitter, but is Facebook driving more traffic?

3.     Pinterest

The absence of an open forum eliminates the threat of visitors potentially expressing negative side effects. One of the few social media platforms that are solely visually focused is Pinterest. Parker White published a great article titled “Medical Marketing on Pinterest: The Safest Place to Start Health Care Social Media” on the perks of being on Pinterest.

Unlike Facebook, users aren’t on Pinterest for the conversation. They’re there to share and “pin” their favorite images. The lack of conversation means that marketers don’t have to consistently monitor and reply to comments. This makes managing Pinterest a lot less time consuming. In addition, since the social network is visually based, marketers already have the assets they need to start pinning.

Implementing one or two of these tools can help ease your brand safely into the social media space, while bringing it to levels of sophistication similar to consumer brands such as Nike and Coke.

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Is it possible to get thousands of social media fans in healthcare?

Lourdes thumbnailConsumer Product and Service Communication has taken a Copernican turn since social media appeared. Content generated by users has led to a level of dynamization almost unthinkable a few years ago. Social networks have revitalized many withered sectors such as fashion and music which had been facing the new era with a certain amount of fright.

An inevitable question comes to mind: Are there any chances of creating the same revolution in the promotion of pharmaceutical products?

As a first thought, social networks are not a tool you can expect results from in every scenario. Just as TV campaigns or street boards aren’t applicable to every single target or product, social networks may not be efficient in the promotion of every pharmaceutical product.

Before answering the question posed in this post’s headline, it is best to ask ourselves three questions:

1.    Is the drug intended to treat severe illness?

In general terms, there’s a direct relation between the seriousness of the illness that the drug is for and the suitability of the social media campaign. Health sectors such as allergy, fertility, and smoking cessation, for example, are easily accessible through social networks, whilst campaigns in cancer, nosocomial infections, or stroke are not suitable to be lead through this channel.

2.    Are we managing an acute process or a chronic illness?

Social networks work better in communication environments where the disease is a chronic illness. The patient, his family, and caregivers are much more participatory when they know that they have to live with the illness for a long period of time.

3.    What is our target group—doctors or patients?

It’s always easier to drive health communication through social media to patients than to doctors. Doctors’ virtual communities are usually reluctant about direct or suggested presence of pharma companies or their brands.

In conclusion, if your client has sent to you a social network strategy brief regarding a drug treating a serious illness, with acute episodes, focusing the campaign to doctors, you have a hot potato in your hands. Surely it would be better to convince them to focus their effort on other channels. If, on the contrary, you have been briefed on a product indicated in a common chronic process and you have to reach patients, congratulations—social networks might possibly be the best solution.

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Interactivity—The Obvious Secret to Social Media

Social MediaI guess it’s a new world order.  Control has been replaced with influence.  And the tremendous exchange of everything from financial information to a simple “like” on Facebook has made interactivity the word of the future.  Interactions have now become a currency where brands and individuals seek out a level of validation—and power.  And in a funny way, this newfound power becomes the surrogate for control.

But interactivity is a two-way street.  And that’s best articulated in the name “social media.”  It’s  media and it’s social.  Pushing out one-way messages doesn’t fulfill the promise of social media.  A classic example is the Dalai Lama.  He has over 7 million followers on Twitter.  Yet he follows no one.  I’ll bypass the philosophical interpretation and cut right to the chase.  His social media currency isn’t very good.  And his utility as part of the social media community is limited by his one-sided communication.  Another interesting example is the pharmaceutical industry. It’s an industry that is generally regulated and has a guarded posture.  It often uses social media as more of a billboard for announcements than a basis for engagement.  And while adverse drug events and a host of other legal and regulatory issues support that position, I think it’s time for pharma…and even the Dalai Lama to say hello!

Get interactive—simple rules for building a great social media base.

Step ONE: Follow and follow back

Find people you like, have an interest in, or just take a chance—but follow people.  You’ll be surprised how much you can learn just from listening.

Step TWO: Say hello and thank you

But after you listen, follow up with a comment or retweet.  Even the biggest thought-leader gets a sense of gratification from a simple comment.  And always feel free to thank someone for an engagement.  It’s an easy and quick way to start to build a relationship.

Step THREE:  Engage with your network

The amazing thing about Twitter is that you can get on someone’s radar.  So, if you have an interesting idea or comment, let people know by including their handle on your tweet.  Be careful, you want to be engaging, and not a stalker.

Step FOUR: Add value, even if it’s just a small amount

Content is still king.   Don’t be afraid to enter a conversation or hashtag dialogue.  You can start small, but you have to start.  May people use Twitter as a static tool and only listen.  If you’re doing that, you’re missing a great opportunity to be part of a community.

Step FIVE: Think about blogging

Blogging is emerging as an essential tool to building a social media presence.  It also communicates that you’ve arrived in the digital world.  Your blog doesnt have to be a brilliant discourse, but it can start with reposted stories, photos and other ideas.  In the final analysis, Facebook is a blog-like narrative of your life that is easy to use.  It’s almost as simple to create your own blog and tell your story and build your own brand!

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Engaging HCPs via Doximity: the LinkedIn for Medical Professionals

doximityIt should come as no surprise that colleagues are the top source of medical information for practicing physicians—trusted above all other sources. Considering the influence of colleagues in the physical realm, cyber communities are quickly rising as one of the prominent go-to sources for all things professional. Stated simply, online social networking expands a physician’s circle of peers.

Research supports the trend. According to a 2013 survey released by Kantar, 42% of physicians report using professional online networks (e.g., Physician Connect, Sermo) for professional purposes vs. 30% for general online social sites (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn).

Doximity, an online network dubbed the “LinkedIn for Physicians,” is gaining popularity among U.S. prescribers as a closed-loop professional network. With Doximity, medical professionals can quickly connect with colleagues nationwide to collaborate on patient treatment, identify appropriate experts for patient referrals, or seek new professional opportunities.

Doximity is the brainchild of Jeff Tangney, co-founder of Epocrates. Launched in March 2011, the network secured 30,000 users within nine months, representing approximately 5% of total licensed physicians operating in the U.S.

Today there are currently 130,000 physicians—representing 20%+ of U.S. physicians—actively using the network, and growth remains positive.

The platform is both an active network and database, allowing users access to 700,000 prebuilt U.S. public physician profiles. Doximity prepopulates its directory with practice information from the National Provider Identifier, Medicare and other HHS databases. Physicians who want to access and update their profiles must complete a three-step identity verification process. Once on board, they can search Doximity members by clinical interests, hospital affiliation, specialty, languages spoken, insurance accepted, and PubMed citations, among other criteria. They can also post challenging cases via the physician-only “iRounds” discussion platform, receive and send HIPAA-secure messages and images, exchange private phone lists, and share numbers for their back lines and pagers.

Example screenshot: Online CV (profile), inbox and search feature:


Online CVs include professional and clinical information such as training, work history, faculty appointments, publications, trial work, clinical interests and other credentials.






For Doximity, members who access the platform once in 180 days are classified as active. In general, 40% are monthly active users; 16% are weekly active users. For most markets, the network boasts 20% to 25% of the universe in terms of active users.

There are currently several large and unique online networks for medical professionals.

In the 2012 Taking the Pulse® survey, 16% of physicians reported using Doximity in the prior three months. Use drops significantly after Doximity to <5% for other professional communities.


According to Compete Website Analytics, actual Doximity site traffic shows double-digit growth this year.


Just like consumers, each physician is unique and will select his or her professional network(s) based on individual preferences. There are a number of factors that physicians will consider when seeking to join a community.

All four leading medical social platforms verify physician credentials, but when it comes to anonymity, there are some stark differences. The rise in popularity of Doximity and QuantiaMD may be attributed to unique features and benefits, but one could also argue that by allowing users to remain anonymous, Sermo conversations lack bona fides—the credibility of knowing who is offering opinions.

Based on the growth of these platforms, it can be argued that physicians are growing more comfortable offering opinions in a social realm. This contrasts sharply with the ongoing perception that threat of malpractice and privacy concerns will keep medical professionals off online communities.

Because relevance is also a driver for use, more and more specialty and therapeutically focused communities are emerging.  For example, the American College of Gastroenterology launched a community in 2009 available by College invite only. The community, ACG GI Circle, is hosted by Within3 and boasts over 3,900 members.


Doximity offers industry the opportunity to message members via the platform, syndicate brand assets (slide decks, case studies, articles, etc.) or pose questions for discussion.

Understanding that a core appeal of the platform is to foster connections, the network infrastructure also allows professional customers the ability to connect with a sales representative.

A key benefit of partnering with Doximity is the ability to easily segment a target audience by geographic, demographic, socioeconomic, and most importantly, psychographic (clinical interest, trial work, coauthored articles) criteria. Target list matching is also available.

Example screenshot: DocNews Alert sponsored message:










Reach out to your Ogilvy CommonHealth Medical Media account manager today to find out more about partnership opportunities with Doximity or other relevant social communities for HCPs.


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Is There Good Karma in Advertising?

buddhaSo much of what we do throughout our careers is interesting…but is it inspiring? Well, we found out recently when the knowledge and information we’ve been exposed to through client work helped me and my wife conceive of and create something entirely new and unexpected. Using the skills we’ve honed while working at ad agencies, my wife and I recently came up with the idea for an iPhone app that aims to improve the world by promoting small changes in daily actions. Basically, we asked the question: what can we do using our advertising knowledge to help make the world a better place? That was the question. “Karmasation” was the answer.

Karmasation, the app we’ve created, is what we somewhat jokingly call an anti-social network. People can post their actions, thoughts, and experiences anonymously and get feedback about whether they deserve good or bad karma. Because users maintain anonymity within Karmasation, they can post honestly. They aren’t speaking to people who know them through various social interactions (as they would on Facebook and Twitter), they’re just speaking to a community of people. Human to human.

The tie-in to social networks, though, comes into play with the idea of gamification, a subject about which we’ve frequently engaged our respective clients. As users participate in Karmasation, they accrue a Karma Profile. Users can simply compete against themselves, or they can share their profiles, posts, and results with Facebook and Twitter to create somewhat of a competition to see who can earn the best karma.

So what type of advertising knowledge were we able to apply while creating the app? And how did that learning continue with Karmasation?
1) The Devil is in the Digital Design. As we’ve worked on different digital platforms for our clients, we’ve learned a bit about clean design and user interaction. Combining that knowledge with being iPhone users ourselves, we had an idea of what would work within the iPhone platform. Are we still learning? Of course! But through our work on our app, we’ve gained a broader understanding of user interaction. We now have a better handle on how users might prefer digital platforms to react and function—not just from an art or copy perspective—but from an overall experience.

2) Bravo for Beta Testing. Again, with the digital platforms we’ve worked on comes testing. The first time my wife worked on a digital presentation, her project manager told her to try and “break it.” And “break it” we did, because before putting an app out there you want to make sure you’ve covered every scenario—not just how you’d use it but also how anyone else might. Because our app has more possible combinations of actions than other projects we’ve worked on, we’ve learned the importance of testing in a systematic way with a greater attention to detail. We also found that as we progressed through the rounds of beta testing, we learned ways to better communicate issues we were finding with our developers. Clear communication between team members who understand different aspects of a project is crucial to getting any problems fixed.

3) The Process of Promotion. The obvious one since we’re in advertising. But this time, we are both the agency and the client. Deciding on your own strategy can sometimes be difficult, and as a result, we now have an added sense of respect for our clients. We continue to work daily to find ways to better promote our app so that more people can know, use and enjoy it.

As we continue with Karmasation and our jobs in advertising, we’ve learned from each experience and have already seen how we can apply our learnings from one circumstance to the other. Like karma, what comes around goes around. And in this case, we’d call it good karma!



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SXSW 2013: The Mobile Healthcare Revolution

Fitness+AppMobile has come to healthcare, and in a big way. From digital healthcare products that created a buzz at CES in January to innovative new fitness apps on display at SXSW this week, it’s clear to see that mobile technology will change the way we manage our health. But it also has the potential to revolutionize healthcare globally.

mHealth apps have the potential to improve patients’ quality of life while at the same time reducing healthcare costs. Remote monitoring of patients will reduce the need for face-to-face consultations, saving patients time and money. Electronic health records (EHRs) save on administrative costs for practices and hospitals. Mobile technology can also help save lives in situations where typically nothing can be done. For instance, a mobile heart monitor allowed a doctor to diagnose heart conditions in passengers in-flight on two separate occasions over the past two years– In one case, he diagnosed the passenger as having a heart attack, which led to the pilot making an emergency landing so the passenger could receive treatment.

While a lot of mHealth focuses on such advanced apps and technologies, simple SMS messages can have a great impact on healthcare as well. SMS appointment reminders can reduce the incidence of missed appointments, while text reminders can increase compliance for patients undergoing treatment for chronic conditions.

TxtAlert, an open source project developed by Praekelt Foundation, has exclusively been used for over two years to send antiretroviral treatment reminders to patients in South Africa. According to a report from GSMA and PricewaterhouseCoopers, the success has been resounding with missed appointment rates declining from 27% to 4%. Additionally, SIMpill, a medication management system that detects noncompliance with medication regimens, uses SMS reminders. Results showed 94% compliance in a tuberculosis trial and a 92% cure rate.

Increased compliance and cure rates coupled with lower costs and less hassle for patients is a perfect recipe for patients and healthcare providers alike to adopt mobile solutions in healthcare. This mobile healthcare revolution has the potential to lead to a much higher quality of life for people the world over.

Check out OCHWW’s other SXSW 2013 blog posts:

SXSW 2013: Small Data in a World of Big Data

SXSW 2013: How Zombies Are Helping Us Get Fit

SXSW 2013: BIG Data and Personal Technology at SXSW

SXSW 2013: Bad Behavior – the Saga of SXSW

SXSW 2013: Empty Information Calories

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SXSW 2013: BIG Data and Personal Technology at SXSW

4153048(2)Big data isn’t new. We’ve been talking about it for years. What’s new is where it’s coming from and what we’re doing with it.

When it comes to personal information, the term big data used to be synonymous with Big Brother. Google, DoubleClick, pretty much anything you did online was tracked, categorized, and sold. The value exchange wasn’t there (or at least it wasn’t obvious)—so people resisted.

Today that’s not the case. Big data is still there, but we have a new rallying call: context. A personalized layer of technology is built on the aggregate data of yesterday and then combined with personalized data of today linked to deliver real value to users.

The wearable technology that generates personal data is a huge theme at #SXSW this year. Nike has Nike+ and the FuelBand to measure track activity, Oakley has Airwaves for real-time feedback to skiers, Artefact created a Pilates shirt that monitors body position, Google has Project Glass (which we all know), and now a live-feedback talking shoe.

Personal data stemming from mobile technology is in ready supply.  Think of all the things you tell your smartphone.  We list our friends and family in our contacts, we search and browse the Web for things that interest us, and we have favorite apps like Facebook we use all the time. Facebook alone captures tons of data on our likes, dislikes, interests, birthday, and several other demographics.  Gimbal, a mobile contextualization platform dubbed the “digital 6th sense” released by Qualcomm last year, does more than just track you—it uses this data to learn about you.

Indirectly, these devices come standard with a plethora of sensors. Our phones know where we are at all times, how fast we’re moving, in what direction, and at what elevation. They know where we came from, how long we stayed, and where we went next. All that plus the option to add even more personal sensors. Fitbit will track both your activity and your sleep; iHealth tracks your weight, blood pressure, heart rate, body fat, muscle mass, blood glucose, pulse oximetry, and much more.

These devices know everything from who our friends are to what food we like and what’s happening in our own bodies. And because we have begun experiencing the value of the data they collect, we’re okay with it.

Big data isn’t new. What’s new are the wearable and mobile technologies we use to track, optimize, and augment our daily lives.  We no longer fight big data, we contribute to it.

As the SXSW presenters of the Sensor Technologies: The Future of Health talk asked, can you imagine a world in which all your physiologic parameters were measured, monitored, and managed in such a way that you always maintain perfect health?  That world may be just around the corner.

Check out OCHWW’s other SXSW 2013 blog posts:

SXSW 2013: How Zombies Are Helping Us Get Fit

SXSW 2013: Small Data in a World of Big Data

SXSW 2013: The Mobile Healthcare Revolution

SXSW 2013: Bad Behavior – the Saga of SXSW

SXSW 2013: Empty Information Calories

Questions? Comments? You can contact the author directly at
Please allow 24 hours for response.

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