Healthcare’s Pinterest Strategy


It’s true that, no matter what a company’s mission is, social media platforms can enable meaningful engagement with many of its core audiences. However, it’s also true that different social media platforms offer their own ways in which the user’s message can be distributed. Tools range from image and video sharing (Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube) to social networking (Facebook, LinkedIn) to microblogging (Tumblr, Twitter).

One of the more interesting new social platforms to gain popularity, even in the healthcare industry, is Pinterest. The platform is focused around a visual dashboard for users to collect various images and links, organizing each by categorized “boards” and sharing them with others to add to their own collections. While Pinterest has recently been one of the fastest growing social platforms on the planet, it has often been viewed as a platform frequented by soccer moms and sorority girls. Despite the stereotype, Pinterest is also gaining increased popularity among healthcare organizations.  This isn’t too surprising when you consider that health-related boards are among the most common, including diet and exercise.

But healthcare organizations are finding different creative uses for this new platform based on their own individual organizational and digital strategies.  The varied uses and assumed strategic roles of healthcare-focused Pinterest accounts often represent a range between soft “audience engagement” goals and more analytics-driven SEO goals. Here are three Pinterest-using healthcare companies, each of which utilizes the platform in their own ways.

Boehringer Ingelheim


BI’s Pinterest account appears to be used to support the company’s overall corporate visibility and thought leadership rather than direct audience engagement. What is unique about BI’s Pinterest is that most of the images included are uploaded, rather than pinned from an external link. Some boards contain photos from recent events, while others focus on BI’s work, or serve to educate the audience on diseases which are relevant to BI’s initiatives.  Many of the images are branded, containing visual marketing from BI, with very few coming from outside sources, such as other users. 

Mayo Clinic

Unlike BI, which is primarily focused on BI-related information, Mayo’s unique approach is driven by their core audience – patients. The account features board topics that range from audience-engaging and interactive (“Healthy Recipes,” “Fitness”) to more company-focused content (“Mayo on Everest,” “In The News”). The audience-driven board topics adapt to find a middle ground between how Pinterest’s primary audience uses the platform and some of the Mayo Clinic’s primary focus areas.

Also unlike BI, the images are often pinned by sharing links to the Mayo Clinic website, rather than directly uploaded to Pinterest. This seeks to take advantage of one of the platform’s greatest strengths, driving significant referring traffic to web publishers, even more than Twitter, Reddit and YouTube.



While Bayer, as an organization, is much more similar to BI than the Mayo Clinic, its Pinterest account represents somewhat of a middle ground between the two accounts – being both corporate and patient focused – including both direct uploads and pins via shared links. Bayer typically pins images by sharing links to their own websites. The company utilizes nine boards that range in focus from Bayer business initiatives and consumer campaign materials to others that more closely match the average Pinterest user’s favorite topics, like gardening and sustainability.

Unlike many pharmaceutical social media initiatives, some posts include comments from other users, to which Bayer typically responds. Through their Pinterest account, Bayer interacts with their audience without losing sight of the interactive opportunities within the platform.

With its freeform, creative nature, Pinterest may seem like an unlikely social media tool for healthcare companies. However, companies like Boehringer Ingelheim, the Mayo Clinic and Bayer have found diverse ways to utilize it. In the hands of innovative healthcare organizations, Pinterest can foster a connection with key audiences around shared interest areas, on a common platform.



Smartphone coaching can boost diabetic management and help reduce disease risks


Diabetics living in low to modest socioeconomic communities can benefit from patient coaching via smartphone when it comes to managing their disease and improving their health, according to a new study from the School of Kinesiology & Health Science at York University in Canada. Researchers conducted a six-month pilot study, involving 21 participants, in which a smartphone application intervention program using provided to patients as well as device coaching. The focus was to improve behavioral management of type 2 diabetes in ethnically-diverse populations. Of the 21 participants 12 saw their sugar levels drop with minimal changes in medication. The smartphone not only helped reduce diseasee complications but helped patients hurdle obstacles such as miscommunication and issues with attending medical care tied to travel difficulties. Study


The Doctor Is Into This Medical Photo Sharing App


Doctors aren’t big users of social media–their schedules don’t leave a lot of time for casual status updates, and a state-by-state patchwork of ethics rules limit what they can post and who they can friend, says Toronto critical care physician Dr. Joshua Landy.

But, Dr. Landy says, they are signing up for a specialized smartphone app called Figure 1, created by a company of the same name he cofounded. It’s a specialized photo-sharing hub for physicians and other medical professionals, letting them share photos of medical conditions for teaching and diagnostic purposes while incorporating safeguards to ensure patient privacy and consent.

“From my users’ perspectives, the way that privacy gets dealt with in the app is essentially, if you can think of the phrase, the best way to keep a secret is not to have it,” Dr. Landy says.

That means doctors are prompted before they share an image to make sure they have proper consent and to delete any identifying features from their photos and captions, like patient faces, tattoos, or potentially unique facts like the dates of a hospital stay. Redacted parts of a picture are actually scrubbed from the image file, not merely obscured, he says.

“After that you submit the images, before they’re released for anyone to see, they’re reviewed by our privacy moderators, and then once they’ve been moderated or released, if anyone has any concern about any images, they can be flagged or removed immediately,” Dr. Landy says.

Dr. Landy, who as a visiting scholar at Stanford University studieddoctors’ use of mobile devices, said health care workers were already snapping and sharing pictures of patients’ medical conditions with their colleagues before Figure 1 launched about a year ago.

“But what they’re not doing is saving those pieces of information: those interesting cases, those teachable moments, that sometimes happen at 4 in the morning when you’re alone,” he said. “There’s no current way, or there hadn’t been [before Figure 1], any way to archive these great educational assets.”

The company formally markets Figure 1 as an educational tool, not a diagnostic one, and, Dr. Landy says he’s seen doctors use the tool to quiz students and residents about medical conditions. About 15% of U.S. medical students use the app, estimates cofounder and CEO Gregory Levey.

Dr. Landy says Figure 1 lets doctors and other medical professionals see a wider range of cases than they might see in ordinary practice.

“There’s so much just outside the usual circle of regular diagnoses,” he said. “You only learn how to make that diagnosis if you’ve read a case or seen that case in person.”

While the site is open to any licensed medical professional, Dr. Landy says it’s definitely not intended for patients looking to self-diagnose.

“People get called out if it seems like someone’s trying to hide their own medical condition as a patient’s condition that they’re trying to help, and I think that makes sense,” he says. “People are here in a professional environment, and they want to talk to each other and learn from each other.”

But, he says, patients he’s spoken to are generally okay with doctors anonymously showing their colleagues photos of their medical conditions through the app.

“Almost every patient I’ve asked is interested in having the images shared as long as they’re being shared in the interest of education and being able to help people who are in similar circumstances,” he says. “Obviously if someone says no, that’s pretty much the end of the conversation; the first principle of medical ethics is pretty much patient autonomy.”



Thinking and Feeling Our Way Through Medical Decisions


Engaging The Patient

A Review of Critical Decisions: How You and Your Doctor Can Make the Right Medical Choices Together
Peter Ubel, M.D.
New York: Harper Collins; 2012

Critical Decisions: How You and Your Doctor Can Make the Right Medical Choices Together. By Peter Ubel, M.D.  New York: Harper Collins; 2012

This is a very belated review. And I mean that as a compliment.

As soon as I finished reading Peter Ubel’s Critical Decisions, I immediately leant it out to a colleague as a very enjoyable “must-read.” She devoured it and passed it along to yet another colleague – and that was literally the last I saw of my copy, which I hope to eventually get back in some kind of battered but well-read condition.

Yes, we’ve ordered more copies. But I think everyone keeps passing it on because Critical Decisions provides a wealth of history and information about medical decision making, and how doctors and patients each think about decisions. Perhaps most importantly, it shows the author confronting the reality of how medical decision making…

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