NY Times: In Health Bill, Obama Attacks Wealth Inequality

I will be writing a lot about health care reform in the near future, but for now, I thought I would share a great article from the NY Times, “In Health Bill, Obama Attacks Wealth Inequality.”

Essentially, the article argues that “Beyond the health reform’s effect on the medical system, it is the centerpiece of his deliberate effort to end what historians have called the age of Reagan.”

Most people would have to admit recent decades have been a boon to the truly rich.

I concur. In fact, I actually have some pretty extensive business experience in the world of ultra high net worth estate tax planning (people worth over $100 million) – and I wasn’t surprised at all to read, “Real incomes at the 99.99th percentile have jumped more than 300 percent since 1980.”

However, I was surprised to learn that $300,000 is enough to make the 99th percentile, and at that level, real pay has doubled.

Lots of doctors and health care executives fit into that category, so I expect they may see a double whammy – health care reform now, and more aggressive tax legislation later.

Three things are for sure.

1. Health care reform was needed.

2. Many philosophical chasms remain between Democrats and Republicans on how to do that.

3. There are going to be a lot of winners and losers economically from health care reform.

What can you do to protect your own future now that we’ll be facing historic changes to the “system?”

I will be writing lots more on that in future posts.

Should YOU have a Facebook Fan Page?

Ironically, on “The Brady Bunch,” Jan’s most famous quote stems from a scene where she felt jealous that her older sister was getting all the positive attention. “Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!

These days, more than a few people are saying in exasperation, “Facebook! Facebook! Facebook!”

At the same time, lots healthcare professionals and doctors are very interested in promoting their hospital, company or practice on the popular social network.

Before I give you some ideas on HOW to market with Facebook, this week I thought I should pose about a more fundamental question, i.e., “SHOULD you promote via Facebook?”

As you may remember from some of my previous posts, while I like Facebook a lot, I don’t think everyone should “try this at home.”

I know I am running against the herd here, but really, there are some questions that you should consider before plunging in.

1. Do you have consistent, high-quality outcomes and customer service? My last couple of posts were about Mayo Clinic’s use of social media, and they obviously feel very confident about their track record. Frankly, however, not everyone should feel so confident. (There, I said it, even if no one else will.)

2. Do you have any skeletons in the closet? This week,  Nestle is grappling with a public relations debacle involving its Fan Page. Essentially, Greenpeace and other environmentalists are piling on Nestle’s Page to fight a very ugly and public war with the company over its use of palm oil, alleging that it contributes to the destruction of rain forests.

3. Do you have a marketing objective? Trust me on this, the fact that it is “free” is not an objective. Incidentally, if your objective is to achieve rapid gains in patients, look elsewhere. Even the biggest brands are having a hard time monetizing social media in the short term. If you need big results now, suck it up and spend some money on marketing strategies that can achieve trackable return-on-investment.

4. Have you considered who is going to do the work? As I said in a previous post, elves won’t post for you in the middle of the night. Someone has to do it. If you don’t have someone on staff, you’ll have to outsource it.

5. Is your company and/or personality engaging enough for others to follow? Think about it… how many of your own health care providers do YOU follow on Facebook?

6. Do you have the right kind of business? Some health care organizations and products generate wild enthusiasm (Mayo), while others (latex gloves) do not. Similarly, as you might expect, consumer-friendly specialists like OB-GYNs, veterinarians and pediatricians will generate more Facebook interest than colorectal surgeons and urologists.

7. Do you and/or your organization have the stomach for it? Can you handle the risk of someone going on your page and saying something that isn’t nice? Are you prepared?

8. Do you have the marketing basics in place first? Please, do not go headstrong into Facebook until you have a good website.

Conclusion

See, I told you I wasn’t like everyone else, blindly advising EVERYONE to do Facebook.

In spite of the potential speed bumps I have raised for you, there are a lot of benefits to consider.

Facebook can build loyalty, enhance your brand (reputation), drive traffic to your website, help with search engine optimization, give you a forum to interact with patients and the public, and more.

So if you decide to take the plunge and start a Facebook page, you’ll need to figure out how to market it.

I’ll cover that more on a post in the near future.

One more thing.

Coincidentally, my company Healthcare Success Strategies has a Facebook Fan Page.

Stop by, give your two cents on this article and become a fan if you like.

But given all that I have said above, please be gentle. 🙂

Mayo Clinic Interview Reveals Secrets to Social Media Success

To follow up my last post, Mayo Clinic: Social Media Powerhouse, I asked Lee Aase, Manager, Syndication and Social Media for an interview. Thankfully, he graciously accepted.

Here are some of the terrific secrets that Lee was willing to share with you, my readers.

Take Little Steps and Make Big Progress Over Time

I started by asking Lee how he was able to convince Mayo’s doctors and leadership to support social media. After all, most doctors feel marketing is beneath their dignity, and institutions like Mayo tend to be especially conservative.

Lee educated Mayo’s leadership by taking many steps over a period of years. He reminded them that Mayo built its reputation largely on word-of-mouth over 100 years, and he argued that social media is simply a new way for that to happen.

Lee’s constant advocacy built support from Mayo’s leadership to the point where he received approval to launch Mayo’s Facebook Page the very first day Pages became available. (This was also partly a defensive measure to assure Mayo would own its brand name on Facebook.) I just checked, and their Page now has over 13,000 fans.

Today, Lee continually reminds his leadership that social media isn’t going to go away (whether or not Mayo participates), and Mayo now has a rare chance to seize all the new opportunities that social media presents.

Leverage Your Content

One of Mayo’s secrets to success turns out to be – surprise – great content.

Since 2000, Mayo has produced Mayo Clinic’s Medical Edge, which started as branded 90-second public service segments for North American television stations. It is a win-win arrangement, where local stations (which often do not have health reporters) get excellent news segments for their viewers, and Mayo continues to build its reputation.

Anyone familiar with news and editing would understand that it takes on average 20 minutes of interviewing to create one 90 second TV segment. Those long television interviews were later edited to produce shorter 60-second radio segments, five days a week.

When Podcasting came on the scene, Lee and his team realized that they already had mp3 files on their Web site, and that all they needed to create a Podcast was an RSS feed pointing to those files. When they listed that feed in the iTunes directory, they saw segment downloads jump from 900 per month to over 74,000 downloads per month.

Today, Mayo further leverages all of that video on its YouTube Channel.

My takeaway: If you have good content available, you are crazy not to leverage it. If you don’t have good content, you can always create it.

Video and Blogs Are Powerful Tools That Can Be Used In Nontraditional Ways

Blogs are terrific vehicles that allow businesses and organizations to publish content that wouldn’t fit elsewhere. Video can increase a blog’s effectiveness by a factor of 10.

While Mayo has several blogs, Sharing.MayoClinic.Org is the flagship. This blog puts a face on Mayo by covering both patient and employee stories.

Lee used a Flip Video Camcorder, YouTube and this blog to cleverly build national media interest in a story about Jayson Werth, whose wrist injury nearly ended his major league baseball career. After a Mayo Clinic orthopedic surgeon correctly diagnosed and treated the injury, Werth when on to become an All-Star who played in two World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Use Social Media To Communicate With Internal Audiences

While I was writing this post, of my Linked-In readers asked how Mayo is using social media internally. I emailed Lee for input and here is his response:

“We’re very actively pursuing use of social media tools internally as well as externally. We have about 50,000 employees and students across the organization, and enabling them to collaborate more effectively and make connections is a priority. We’ve started with some internal blogs and are looking at other tools to, as you say, break down silos. The early returns have been good.”

Success Begets Success

Social media efforts can work cumulatively to build each other. This week, for example, Mayo’s Twitter account just surpassed 25,000 followers.

Lee’s Parting Recommendations

By the end of the interview, I wanted to get some advice for my readers, many of whom do not enjoy the expertise, experience nor the resources that Lee does. Here’s what he recommends:

1. You don’t have to have the same goals as a big institution like Mayo. Simply set more appropriate goals and expectations. Everyone can do something.

2. Hire experts. Lee, for example, is a smart, mid-40s media relations expert, He has years of experience in traditional media, which he was able to apply to social media when it came on the scene. He is NOT a “kid who seems to understand Facebook and all that social media stuff.”

3. Look at social media a powerful, revolutionary tool to get the word out. Lee used the analogy of cutting down trees with a chain saw versus a hand saw.

4. Claim your organization’s brand name on all important social media networks, so you don’t have problems trying to win it back. Mayo Clinic has had some issues in this area in the past, so they are very aggressive going forward.

5. Keep learning. There are tons of resources out there about social media and marketing, including Lee’s own Social Media University, Global (SMUG) and my firm’s healthcare marketing enewsletter. (You can be notified of new blog posts here via our newsletter or RSS.)

6. Don’t fall into analysis paralysis. Take some baby steps and get into the shallow end of the pool as soon as possible. The great strategic ideas will probably come after you have some experience in the social media world.

7. By the way, you can follow Lee on Twitter,

Thanks so much, Lee, for your insights.

The Mayo Clinic: A Social Media Powerhouse

Few providers worldwide enjoy the stellar reputation that Mayo Clinic has established.

What’s more, Mayo is plenty busy, and it certainly doesn’t NEED patients.

Therefore, you’d probably expect Mayo to be extremely conservative in its approach to marketing and publicity, especially with regards to high risk social media like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and blogs.

Well, you’d be wrong. Wayyyyy wrong.

It turns out that Mayo Clinic has caught the social media bug in a big way.

Mayo Clinic Facebook Page
Mayo Clinic Facebook Page

First, there’s a Mayo Clinic Facebook Page with over 13,000 fans. Mayo uses this page as a venue to distribute content and it also gives patients and the public and patients a forum to talk about Mayo.

“Yikes, what if a patient or detractor says something that we don’t like – or is even untrue?”

I just scrolled through Mayo’s Facebook page and today, at least, was a very good day. Patient comments were almost universally positive. Given that this is the Mayo Clinic, I bet most days are very good days.

Next, there’s a  Mayo Clinic YouTube Channel, which is all about patient education. Its description says,”The Mayo Clinic Channel is a place to see what makes Mayo Clinic special, and to watch videos about Mayo’s latest research and treatment advances.

It contains more than 600 videos that have been viewed 1.5 million times. The content is mostly professionally produced patient education, but also includes patient testimonials.

Then there are a number of Mayo Clinic blogs and Podcasts designed for consumers, researchers and physicians.

Finally you, along with 24,000 of your closest friends, can follow the Mayo Clinic on Twitter.

So what does this all mean?

Here are some thoughts.

1. It’s gutsy. After all, Mayo Clinic’s brand is worth A LOT, and the good people at Mayo therefore have a lot to lose if things were to go wrong. But they obviously are confident in their product and reputation, and therefore are not overly concerned that consumers can post negative comments on their Facebook Page or YouTube Channel.

2. It’s realistic. It’s a free country, and patients and the public can comment about Mayo Clinic on Twitter and dozens of other social media channels whether or not Mayo participates. At least this way, Mayo has a strong voice in the conversation.

3. It’s brand building. Mayo Clinic demonstrates its commitment to being leading edge in all things it does by vigorously engaging social media.

4. It sells. I couldn’t help but notice that there is a call to action “To request an appointment…” on the top of the Facebook page.

Still, unlike many marketers I do not think social media is a requirement for EVERYONE.

My partner and I have worked with thousands of healthcare clients over the years, and I can tell you with certainty that many just don’t have the courage, culture, resources, commitment and/or consistency of outcomes to participate.

Still, the misguided arguments against marketing that I have heard ad naseum over the years like “they have to market because they aren’t good providers … or they must really NEED patients” obviously don’t apply in this case.

So if you’ve got what it takes, there are people out there who can help you embrace social media (including my  firm).

Of course, you don’t need to have the resources that Mayo Clinic enjoys, but if you are engaging in social media only because you think it is free, I highly recommend you stop and reconsider the logic in your reasoning.

Also, if you ARE dying for patients, social media is usually not your best first step. It isn’t direct enough to generate lots of patients quickly.

In any event, social media can be a wild ride, but it is often one worth taking.

At least, that’s what the Mayo Clinic seems to think.

For Part 2 of this story, click: Mayo Clinic Interview Reveals Secrets to Social Media Success


Are Doctors Duty-Bound to Embrace Social Media?

I came across an intriguing blog post today entitled, “Are Physicians Obligated to Participate in Social Media?”

Now to be honest, my gut reaction was, “Oh great, another run-of-the-mill marketer thinks social media is for EVERYONE. Probably looking to drum up business from doctors. I wonder if he has ever MET any doctors.”

Thankfully I was wrong. This excellent blog post was written by a doctor and author, not a marketer (Bryan Vartabedian, MD), but more importantly contains a truly unique point of view.

But before I reveal Vartabedian’s insight, let’s set the context.

To say that doctors are incredibly busy and skeptical about social media is an understatement. Aside from wanting to spend their limited spend spare time in other ways (perhaps with their families?), they worry about liability risks, becoming too “chummy” with patients, psycho followers and more.

Meanwhile, marketers often become so enamored with social media that it becomes almost a religion for them.

The trouble is, health care social media is a more complex issue than either, “everyone should do it” or “stay away.”

Essentially, Dr. Vartabedian argues that there is a ton of misinformation out there, and doctors should band together to get the truth out via social media.

He cites the public’s fear of a link between vaccinations and autism. Both scientists and doctors argue that this theory has been scientifically discredited time and again, yet a significant portion (25%) of the public remains steadfastly convinced that vaccinations cause autism. Therefore, parents often avoid vaccinations and their kids subsequently wind up getting very real – and preventable – childhood diseases.

In the real world, a few loud voices tend to get all of the attention, even when they are wrong. Scientists of all kinds tend not to be good at promoting, so the voice of reason often becomes lost in a fray of competing (loud and misinformed) voices.

If thousands of doctors were to tweet, blog and post on facebook about medical issues, voices of reason would begin to show up a lot more on Google. Therefore, patients would become better informed and make better choices.

Alas, I don’t see that happening any time soon en masse. There are just too many barriers for most doctors to pick up the social media torch.

Still, change begins with a determined few.

My net takeaway:  Aside from a being a good way to grow your reputation, hospital or practice, social media can also be used as a tool to better inform the public, particularly about those issues where good information is either lacking or simply overwhelmed by misinformation.