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The Top 5 Reasons Doctors are Probably Not Using Social Media

Last week I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion at an Invest Ottawa lunch with CMA’s Pat Rich, Quinte Pediatrics Dr. Dempsey, and B-sharp’s Michael Martineau.

Pat Rich, irreverent as always, spouted off the top five reasons why your doctor is probably not using social media.  I loved the list for its succinctness.

  • Too busy to make time for it
  • The system does not compensate physicians for patient engagement through social media
  • Regulatory environment (including privacy and security concerns, and professional boundaries)
  • Lack of knowledge about technology
  • Lack of proven clinical benefit

For more details on physician use of social media, check out Pat’s slideshare from a previous conference.

What do you think will turn them around?


My new (fiscal) year’s resolution

Hello Dear SMiCH,

My new (fiscal) year’s resolution is to not neglect you so!  I miss you dearly.   #hcsmca, I miss you too.


Measuring Reputation

Today’s post is from Dave Bourne, corporate communications manager at the Scarborough Hospital, and curator of SMiCH’s stats & graphs section.

Measuring Reputation

One of the more frequently discussed topics among healthcare communicators revolves around Return on Engagement (ROE). Whether its using social media platforms or more traditional tactics to engage with key stakeholders, measuring success is often challenging. Yet, best practice and an increasing demand from the C-suite makes it imperative that we are able to develop sound measures, monitor progress on an ongoing basis, and quantitatively demonstrate value.

One of the problems I’ve seen has to do with the type of ROE metrics being gathered. Many hospital PR departments, for example, are focusing heavily on easy-to-gather output measures. They are counting Likes, Followers, Check-ins and Views on their social media channels. They report on attendance at town hall meetings. And they like to look at total readership numbers to determine how many eyeballs viewed advertisements or news stories—often multiplying audited publication circulation number by a factor of anywhere from 1.5 to 4.

Now, I want to start out by saying that I’m always happy to see communicators measuring SOMETHING. The days of executing a number of tactics and hoping for the best are gone. Today, we need a way to monitor progress. But there are better measures that focus on outcomes—not just outputs.

Why is this distinction necessary? Well, you might have 1,000 posts on your Facebook wall in a given month, but if the sentiment is largely negative—and if you don’t use the opportunity for service recovery—the return on engagement is probably dismal. Good volume of engagement does not equal good engagement results.

So we need a way to measure the overall outcome of our engagement work. I’m suggesting that metric is reputation.

At The Scarborough Hospital, our VP of Patient Experience, Anne Marie Males, developed an index to measure our reputation in our community, using these five metrics:

  • Employee Opinion Survey Results
  • Physicians Employee Survey Results
  • Patient Satisfaction Score
  • Media Rating Points (MRP) Quality Score
  • Klout social media influence score

These metrics give us a snapshot of how we are viewed by our internal audiences, our patients, our online followers, and the media—which tends to influence community opinion. The numbers are averaged monthly, and the result is our Reputation Score.

We began testing our index last March, and simultaneously contracted Leger Marketing to conduct a community reputation study that surveyed staff, physicians, volunteers, community partners, community members, patients and other key stakeholders. The purpose was to use the Leger study to, hopefully, validate the accuracy of our own index.

Leger gave The Scarborough Hospital a reputation score of 62, while our own index gave us a score of just over 57. The difference between the scores was within the margin of error for Leger’s study, so we think we are on the right track. A quick look at Leger’s Corporate Reputation Study for 2011 shows that we would be roughly in the middle of the pack of the 100 companies studied. Unfortunately, their study does not include hospital comparators.

So we’re hoping to find other hospitals interested in testing our index in their organizations. In this way, we can begin to develop some data that will help us all truly understand how our community engagement efforts impact our hospitals’ reputations.

I would be more than happy to share our data, and to provide templates for our index to anyone who is interested. Please feel free to contact me at, on Twitter at @d_bourne, or by phone at 416-438-2911, ext. 6836.

Liabililty and social media

Before I start off, let me remind everyone that I’m no lawyer and no legal expert.  Caveats aside, I learnt something interesting that I thought I’d share.

When Canadian physicians provide medical advice on-line, that advice is still covered under the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA), much like it would be if the advice were given from the physicians office.  Should there be any legal action,  CMPA would cover legal costs.

This seems like good news — something that would help encourage physicians to use social media more readily.  However, we also learned that it is only covered if the person to which the advice was given is in Canada or a Canadian resident.   And with social media, you have know way of really knowing the location of the people you interact with.

There are still things you can do to reduce risk.  For instance, if you are holding a live tweet chat or other discussion forum with physicians answering patients’ questions, should could stipulate in the ground rules of the event that people asking the questions must be Canadian.  That won’t eliminate the problem, but it can help reduce risk. You can also stipulate that advice provided is of a general nature and that it would be inappropriate to answer patient-specific questions without a thorough understanding of their medical history which, of course, you don’t get in a tweet chat.

I’m sure there are ePatients out there reading this and groaning, thinking “why are they talking about liability instead of how to best help patients”.  I don’t blame you.  This shouldn’t be where our focus is.  And I like to think that it isn’t where our focus is.  But I think to best help patients we need to help clinicians understand this new social media environment and grow comfortable in it.  That means talking about all the good things social media can do to help build a better patient experience, and all the potential challenges. 

Call me an optimist, but I think we’ll get to a place where it is not uncommon to use social media for patient engagement.  But it will take some dialogue along the way.

Safe Sex 3.0: YWCA Safety Siren & Changing Sexual Discourse

A few weeks ago I participated in a great #hcsmca chat about mobile apps.

Like everyone else and their dog, I’ve sat daydreaming about mobile apps and all the cool things we could do with them, “if only”. (You know…if only we had the time, if only we had the budget, if only we had the buy-in).   After all, mobility and presence are the next big thing in social networking, right? 

I was particularly fascinated when I read  tweets from Corinne Rusch-Drutz whose organization actually went beyond the daydream.  

Corinne agreed to write a post about her experiences with the project.   Take it away Corinne….


In the spring of 2010, YWCA Canada, the country’s oldest and largest women’s service organization launched a sexual health app for young women, the YWCA Safety Siren.

With a nifty hook – the app functions like a modern day rape whistle by setting off a screeching alarm and sending an SOS urgent email and call to a friend when the user is in an unsafe situation displaying her location on a map – we felt it would be an excellent way to get young women to think about safety beforeheading out on a date.  Features include short questions and answers about sexual health and wellness; information on dating and hooking up; tips and facts on safety; essential crisis information; links to YWCAs across Canada well as over 250 health and crisis resource centres.  Available as a free download in both English and French, the app’s robust functionality geo-connects women to resources by proximity or location and maps them with directions. 

We thought, yeah baby, this app is going to put us on the map as a non-profit.  And in some ways it did, but not in ways we expected.  Our spectacular failure to really market the app in a way that would immediately grab the attention of young women is one of the app’s most interesting stories. That’s not to say it hasn’t been successful, it has.  To date, the app has had over 3,500 downloads and – interestingly enough – over 21,000 user sessions, which shows that users are actually engaging with the product once downloaded (this last part is perhaps the most encouraging, as how often have you downloaded an app only to find that it rests woefully untouched in the bone yard 10thscreen of your iPhone).  What we didn’t realize when we built it was that an app needs more than just a great idea, but solid marketing strategy to give it the exposure it needs.   

 It’s not always true that if you build it they will come. Why we thought that simply building an app would attract users, I’m not exactly sure.  There weren’t (and still aren’t) that many nonprofits in the app market when we started developing the Safety Siren (February 2010) and even fewer doing sexual health related work. 

While there’s a lot to be said for doing it first, there’s also a lot to be said about learning from other’s mistakes.  Unfortunately we didn’t really have any others to learn from so we forged ahead and made our own.  I had always thought (erroneously I now understand) that an app goes viral because it’s great, or cool, or picks up on the zeitgeist.  Turns out the success of an app can often be directly proportional to the amount of marketing dollars invested in it, a little gem I picked up when attending the SXSW Festivalin Austin, TX, where everything from free beer to tacos is used to sling product to key social influencers.

Of course a marketing plan for your app is often the last consideration when nonprofits are already working on shoe string budgets just to create a build.  That’s when you need to put your fund development team (or, um, person depending on how many people you have in your org) in action to help you get the message out with sponsored partnerships.  We had some great support from NewAd Media who plastered our ads in women’s bathroom stalls in restaurants across the country.  Lots of feminist media outlets loved what we were doing and wanted to share with women in their communities.  Some of our best support came from other women’s health organizations who wanted to network with us, find out what we learned and then passed on our work to their stakeholders.  We connected with every women’s health org listed in the app, sent palm cards and posters to them and learned much more about young women’s health needs then we ever would have through a traditional vertical “marketing” strategy. In this way we were able to start conversations about sexual health with young women outside our own networks and really use a very grass roots approach to women’s sexual health tech.

 Truthfully, the highest influx of downloads didn’t come from any of the above or traditional media hype  but from in-app advertising that we actually paid hard cash for.  Makes sense, someone is more likely to download an app when she has her iPhone in her hand.  And so we’ve learned the hard way that it actually costs as much to build an app as it does to advertise it.   Who knew?  The folks who made Angry Birds, no doubt.

Despite our inexperience prior to undertaking the project, it was an amazing learning curve, however steep.  Would we do it again? Absolutely. Ready to learn from where we went wrong, we’re gearing up to give it a second go as we prepare to build on the BlackBerry platform.  The best take away? Starting conversations in sexual health that we never expected.

Corinne Rusch-Drutz is the Director of Communications & Membership Development at YWCA Canada. You can find her on Twitter @corinnerd.

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