Social Health Check #7

Image via

Brought to you by our New York, London and Hong Kong Social@Ogilvy teams, this is our monthly snapshot of the latest news and trends in healthcare social media. The aim is to inspire ideas, discussion and fresh thinking in this challenging yet ever exciting field.

Crowd funding medical research is a crowd-funding website. Think Kickstarter for movie projects or new types of shoes, but instead of funding an art piece or a new watch, you’re crowd funding different types of medical research in areas such as women’s health, lung cancer and leukemia.

Users are invited to browse pre-vetted projects or health categories and pick the cause that matters most to them. They then choose a donation amount (small or large) and hit the donate button. Traditionally, funding for medical research projects relied on grants, but this enables members of the public to be a part of the crucial research phase and invest in the future of our health.

At the moment, projects on the site come from Universities or Research Centers, and there is much potential for leveraging the platform for disease awareness campaigns or social movements in health.


“Human stories of hope and survival from across the globe” is the theme of a new campaign from Idis Pharma to raise awareness of their Managed Access Program, which helps facilitate access to treatment outside of traditional commercial or clinical trial settings. Compelling videos from around the world are promoted via a new Twitter handle (@idis_pharma) and hashtag (#ididthiswithidis).

The campaign was announced via promoted tweets in June and already the @idis_pharma has gained more than 1,000 followers. It will be interesting to see how the campaign evolves and how Idis engages with followers beyond broadcasting new video content.

Social Media Is Getting Old

By all accounts, millennials are the leading demographic for online activity, and participation drops as age increases. But don’t count out senior citizens from your social media planning just yet. Last year seniors passed the 50 percent mark meaning that now the majority of American adults age 65 and older are online.

Of the connected seniors, 70 percent go online daily. And although wired seniors still show a strong preference for email (91 percent of them use it), more than a third are using social networking sites. (They grew up writing telegrams so Twitter is a natural fit, right?) A campaign that invited younger influencers to email their grandparents about joining a social media event could be a great way for a brand to pull more seniors into its fray.

Weight management

Managing your weight is front of mind for many people – for health reasons or simply to feel good. The Chinese University of Hong Kong developed the first ever personalized iOS/Android app and website to serve this need: “My Wellness Tracker HK,” which includes tailored information according to the unique food culture of Hong Kong.

The app, based on entries made by the user, sends gentle reminders to provide suggestions on diet, exercise, water intake and even sleep pattern. The app also tracks the user’s data and creates charts for self-monitoring or as a reference to further optimize their weight management plan with the help of a medical professional. The mechanisms in the app for collecting data and serving personalized content could be applied to the management of many other health conditions to help with compliance – a major global issue in healthcare.

Health communities = transforming clinical research?

Health communities are growing in popularity as a way for patients to share their experiences with each other – and with researchers and pharma companies.

According to Damon Centola, in a recent academic paper in Circulation, both open social communities (Twitter and Facebook) and intentionally created communities (such as Patients Like Me) are increasingly being used to design and implement scientific studies of health behavior. Open social communities can provide observational data on millions of interactions to get a sense of population based perceptions of health issues and provide insight on messaging.

As noted in last month’s Social Health Check, Twitter and Everyday Health are already using health tweets to identify potential outbreaks and guiding people to appropriate information.  Researchers can also use social networks as health behavior “laboratories” to overcome many of the limitations of traditional research approaches.  Social networks provide access to large populations that would be impossible or prohibitively expensive with traditional observational studies.

Patients Like Me has almost 200,000 patient members, and is regularly used as a basis for clinical research – the number of peer-review papers based on their community data currently stands at 29.  The community has also signed a deal with InVentiv Health in order to help speed up clinical trial recruitment for pharma companies.  Other benefits of social communities as research labs are that interactions can be measured precisely, and are likely to be more natural than those viewed in a traditional research setting.

Finally, by creating bespoke social networks to assess or test specific approaches, investigators can ensure structural control and help them understand how social influences can change health behavior.  In his article Dr Centola cites a compelling example of an experimental community created specifically to study how social networks influence health, which found that positive health behaviors spread quicker and wider in clustered networks, and long term engagement was reinforced if signals were sent from multiple friends.

Although he acknowledges that potential issues of privacy and informed consent need to be considered, Dr Centola highlights there are a variety of opportunities to conduct randomized trials in social communities.  Patients Like Me and other communities like Health Unlocked, already offer data to researchers and pharma companies but there may be a new wave of multimodal traditional and social research informing our future approaches to health behavior.

The Social Health Check would like to thank Jen Hubbard for her contribution to the blog post this month.

Like to hear more? Get in touch to discuss all things healthcare social media.