Advertising On Health Websites

Mayo Clinic’s recent decision to include paid advertisements on its website stirred up a heated debate. As the face of healthcare social media and effective patient education for a long time Mayo Clinic received a lot of criticism for its bold move to venture into the field of featuring ads next to important health-related issues.

I personally think in an economic climate like today’s no one can really argue with a financially smart decision if it is rightly done. Which means that in my opinion paid advertisements can have a place next to health information without taking away credibility and reliability. Unless they are placed poorly. And that is where Mayo Clinic made a mistake. Mark Schaefer, marketing consultant and author took to his blog to express his disbelief and disappointment about ads trying to sell children’s clothes next to an article about a condition during pregnancy that in most cases results in the death of the unborn child.

Here is a word I rarely use on my my blog: Stupid.  But I think it is an unavoidable description when an organization sells the soul of their brand for a few advertising dollars with a mindless strategy of advertising children’s clothes to women who have just lost their child.

I think the question is: was the placement of the ad intentional? I hardly think so. This is an organization that is involved in treating patients, conducting research, launching healthcare start-apps, using social media for better patient education and communication and operating a major platform for publishing reliable health-related content. I think by now they are aware of the sensitive nature of the different topics they are discussing.

I also think it is a case of not paying attention to detail and not making sure the content and the ads on the site are in sync. Placing ads can mean major funds for a website. Misplaced ads can mean angry and disappointed readers that have all the right to feel that way. And while a lot of times advertising agreements are a little loose when it comes to the content of the ads, a website specializing in healthcare content has to make sure to monitor and influence the ads appearing on the portal.


Physicians Shouldn’t Shy Away From Online Reviews

There have been reports about physicians trying to avoid a negative online reputation by getting their patients sign a contract where they give up their right to provide any information about their doctor on any internet platform. This is only a way to turn our backs to the issue and not concentrating on the main goal of a practice: to provide quality patient care where the doctor doesn’t have to be afraid of bad reviews.

Since in healthcare people are treating people, the patient experiences are not going to be black and white. But if the majority of patients are satisfied, even a few bad reviews can’t destroy one’s reputation. This is one case where prevention is not better than cure.

There is information about your practice whether you like it or not, mostly reviews provided by your patients online. Portals focusing mainly on patient experience are getting more and more recognition and attention. They are rapidly becoming the top search results on Google. Physicians have a choice to make: try to stop this trend or monitor and contribute content themselves.

Let’s be honest: stopping patients to look for and spread healthcare-related information on the internet is a task more fit for an imaginary character with unlimited time and energy than for a doctor with a busy schedule. There is no sign that suggests the decline of interest in patients-created anecdotes online. People like to search for information about a physician and usually they get what they’re looking for in patient-created content.

So instead of trying to put a stop on people turning to the internet with healthcare-related questions (obviously this is out of a physician’s power), doctors should be proactive and provide useful information about their practices. Having a user-friendly website about their practice and monitor online content about their work is not optional anymore. Whether physicians take part in it or not, whether they try to discourage patients to review them online, they can’t erase their online presence. But they can choose to have a say in what is there to be found about them on the internet.

(Source of image: Manage Your Online Reputation)

Social Media Marketing – Just How Powerful?

It’s time for another inforgraphic. In this post we look at how effective certain social channels can be when it comes to advertisement campaigns. When you look at numbers separately it is hard to decide if your campaign was a success, or what kind of rates you should be looking for. The charts below compare some of the top ads that received the highest level of responses on different social media platforms.

The numbers are almost mind blowing: for example Evian’s ad featuring roller skating babies got 65.5 million views in 2 years. That seems to be outrageous. Until you see, that the “Will it blend?” iPad video received 12 million in only 4 months, while Coca-Cola’s promoted Twitter trend reached 86.5 million impressions in a single month. While Facebook seems to be popular for small businesses, since 70% of them use the social site for marketing purposes, sharing ads is becoming more and more expensive with prices increasing 70% in just the first half of 2011.

Even if you don’t compare your campaigns to the ones featured in the infographic (to keep at least part of your self-confidence), it is interesting to see just how big of a buzz you can create through creatively using social channels.

(Source: Mashable)

How Social Is Too Social?

In a recent blog post on Bryan Vartabedian, MD raises an interesting question: “How many places can you live?” These days chances are the biggest part of your online activity happens on social media sites. You check Facebook and click on the Youtube videos shared by your friends (or by random people you accidentally have on Facebook) and after finding the video extremely funny/interesting/inspirational you decide to post it on Twitter.

Let’s just say you also blog and you would like to keep up with the comments of readers of your posts. You also keep reading about Google+ so you decide to join to see what all the fuss is about. Before you know it you spend long hours sitting in front of the computer trying to find your way out of the great mess of information. Then when you finally build up enough courage to tear yourself apart from the computer to leave your house, you turn to your smartphone. And the whole circle starts again.

Is this really the purpose of social media? To create addicted people staring at a screen all day? I don’t think so. Using social sites should be beneficial on a daily basis not result in digital mess around you. The real quality of this era is being selective. To be able to decide what information to pay attention to and what to ignore. This way we could organize the fine chaos we see online every day. Social media and more and more mobile applications are supposed to help us filter information and find out easier what is relevant, new and deserves attention.

With so many social platforms you have to make choices. One doesn’t have to use all the applications and social platforms out there. It is better to use a few effectively than to get lost in the social sphere. Especially if there is a lot at stake. Let’s just say you are a physician actively using social media. For a healthcare professional social media is a lot more than a fun way to spend time in the evening. In this case social media is a great tool with countless possibilities to connect with fellow doctors, get informed and stay relevant in the rapidly changing medical field. But social media is also a potential source of danger – for privacy (yours and patients’) and for reputation.

The possibilities given by social media are too big to pass on them. But that fact doesn’t make the pitfalls go away. That is why everyone has to decide: how social is too social? A social media presence is too much if it can’t be monitored and controlled. You can’t keep your eyes on Facebook, Twitter, blogs and comments, Youtube, Google+ and different online communities all the time. There is only 24 hours in a day. If you want to use social media effectively to connect with people you want to connect with, to access useful information that you want to access and if during the process you would like to monitor and control your online presence, you have to be selective. And decide for yourself how social is too social.


The Future Generation Of Online Physicians

A recent blog post on made me feel more hopeful than ever about the future of online health. The post published by Jin Packard, a 1st year medical student proved to me that in a few years we won’t have to talk about IF online presence is important, but rather about HOW a physician’s online profile could be perfected.

If you are in medical school chances are you spent your high school years checking Facebook on a daily basis, connecting with your friends online and sharing content that you found interesting. In this case your question is not going to be whether you need an online profile, but how you can enter the professional world and yet keep your online presence appropriate and manageable.

I’m not saying it is without difficulties. I’m not even saying medical students only have advantages because they are comfortable using social media sites. It could be just as hard fitting your previous online activity in a different environment (professional that is) as starting to build your online presence from scratch. Because either way you have to make sure, the digital footprint you leave behind is not going to haunt you later. With a longer period of time spent online that footprint could get bigger and bigger. And honestly, who considers the consequences of a Facebook picture in 10th grade?

Reading the thoughts of a medical student on the professional use of social media is inspiring. Not just because the post raises important questions about recent issues in social media. But because it shows the possibility of a great new generation of online physicians.

Check out Jin Packard’s blog, the Fresh White Coat for more interesting and exciting articles.


Digital Footprint Of A Physician

Recently I had an interesting conversation with a lawyer and medical students about being professional and using Facebook. This made me think of the digital footprint we leave in the online sphere. How much of this footprint can we control?

According to the lawyer: not much. Let me ask you a question. Do you remember reading the terms of use of Facebook before clicking “I agree” to sign up? I didn’t think so. I remember NOT reading it. Let’s be realistic, it is a pretty long read. And now according to the lawyer, Facebook owns every picture of me ever posted. Tagged or untagged.

This point made the medical students a little more worried. The importance of online reputation doesn’t just start when you have patients. For that you have to get into a good residency program and climb the ladder of the medical profession. And your online activities could play a big role in whether you get accepted to that program or not. So when exactly do you have to start being careful with social media? And how can you avoid leaving a digital footprint that will hurt your career?

A recent blog post on discussed a similar issue. The article suggested that this is a relatively new phenomenon which concerns the new generation of physicians. I have to agree with this statement. 30 years ago no one had to deal with online reputation. The blog post also stated that eventually this problem will most likely be solved since everyone is going to be on Facebook with similar concerns. I have to disagree here. I strongly believe that there has to be a way to protect your identity and reputation AND use social media at the same time. And I’m optimistic enough to think that in a few years we’re going to learn how to do so. So waiting for the youngest generation to have the same problem we do is just not good enough. Hoping that they will have questionable pictures on Facebook is not a solution and it’s definitely not a constructive way of thinking about social media.