What is the most exciting innovation in health care today?

Join me and my friend and business partner Dan Dunlop for a free webinar titled People to People: Improve health, build loyalty, and personalize your marketing with online patient communities on March 11 at 1 pm Eastern/10 am Pacific. 

You can register here

Find out why health research expert Susannah Fox says “the most exciting innovation in health care today is people talking to one another.”

Provide support, share ideas, and problem-solve — as a community

When people facing health challenges, struggling with the unpredictability of a new baby, or burdened by the demands of caregiving connect with one another, remarkable things happen. They provide support, share ideas, and problem-solve. They bond as a community, and they also bond with the organization that brings them together — your hospital. 

As one online community member put it:  “I do not have any family support — physical or emotional. At times the isolation and the depression are too much to bear alone, and that’s when I cry a few tears. It is receiving support from this group that is my life line.”

What you will learn

Learn how HIPAA-compliant online patient communities connect people with people AND with your hospital to improve outcomes, reduce costs, increase patient satisfaction, and build loyalty. 

In this webinar you’re learn: 

  • Examples of online communities that are changing patients’ lives
  • Powerful techniques you can use to promote people-to-people interactions
  • 3 ways online communities can improve patient engagement 
  • 5 things you must know before you start an online community 

Even if you can’t attend, register for the webinar and we’ll link you to  a recording of the webinar that you can watch on your own schedule. 



With #MayoClinic’s help, Google joins the battle to provide accurate health information on the web

I was excited to read this week that Google has joined the battle to provide accurate health information on the web – and that they’ve enlisted the doctors at Mayo Clinic to help.

I’m a big fan of Mayo Clinic. With the help of Lee Aase, Director of the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, Mayo has pioneered social media for health care.

I first became aware of Lee and Mayo’s work about four years ago, and I soon joined the Social Media Health Network (SMHN), a member organization that provides education, training, and peer-to-peer connections.

Mayo Clinic’s External Advisory Board

Our relationship deepened as I spoke at a couple of conferences and served as an instructor and chief resident at Mayo’s Social Media Residency – a one-day intensive training in social media. In January Lee asked me to serve on the External Advisory Board for the SMHN, which I consider a real honor. Some of the trailblazing thought leaders in health care social media are part of that board, and I love associating with them.

I’ve written before about my concerns about the enormous amount of inaccurate health information on the web. One reason I champion online patient communities is because they provide the perfect platform for sharing accurate, useful, peer-reviewed health information. 

Here’s an example of how Google is treating a search for pinkeye.  

PinkEyeHence my excitement about Google’s announcement, which includes the following points:

  • We’ll show you typical symptoms and treatments, as well as details on how common the condition is – whether it’s critical, if it’s contagious, what ages it affects, and more.
  • For some conditions you’ll also see high-quality illustrations from licensed medical illustrators.
  • Once you get this basic info from Google, you should find it easier to do more research on other sites around the web, or know what questions to ask your doctor.
  • We worked with a team of medical doctors to carefully compile, curate, and review this information.
  • All of the gathered facts represent real-life clinical knowledge from these doctors and high-quality medical sources across the web, and the information has been checked by medical doctors at Google and the Mayo Clinic for accuracy.

So thank you, Google, and thank you, Mayo Clinic, for taking another important step to improve health literacy on the web.


If you’re a social media or digital marketing pro with interesting case studies or new ideas, please consider submitting a speaker’s proposal for the Mayo Clinic Social Media Summit scheduled for June 16-17 in Rochester, Minn. 

Mayo is also accepting proposals from providers, patients, or caregivers who have developed effective tactics for using digital tools to work collaboratively to deliver — and receive — diagnosis and treatment.

Submit your proposal by March 9. 

Start your online patient community on the right foot

There’s little incentive for your patients to join a ghost-town community. That’s why it’s critical to develop a vibrant community before you promote it. 

Your first goal at the launch of an online patient community is to achieve a critical mass of activity. You’ll know you’ve reached critical mass when the community becomes self-sustaining.

We define self-sustaining as the point at which more than 50% of activity within the community is generated by the community, as opposed to being generated by the community manager. This high level of activity is reached by attracting members who become very active within the group.

But how do you develop this initial group of very active members?

It’s easier said than done, since a challenge with new communities is that there is less incentive to participate. There are few conversations, no archived information, and usually a limited amount of educational materials. The benefits a community provides are much smaller when the community is in its early stages. 

That’s why it’s so important to develop a strong group who are interested in being founders or mentors to start the community.

Depending on the type of community you are starting, a list of potential members could come from different sources. For instance, if you are starting a bariatric community, you could find enough patients preparing for or recovering from surgery to interview. The same could apply for a cancer patient community.

How to create your list of potential founding members

If you’re organizing a community for parents of children with serious illnesses, look for those who are already attending support groups, or who are involved in special events or projects.

If you’re organizing a community for caregivers for family members with dimentia, put invitations to participate in internal medicine clinics, or ask doctors to refer, or put the word out on an open Facebook group.

Now that you’ve identified 20-30 potential community members, take the time to interview them. This blogpost gives you a list of questions to start with. You’ll want to develop more of your own. 

Give your founding members something to do

Your goal is to identify a core group to start the community, but for this approach to work, you can’t just provide lip service. The founders must have genuine opportunities to shape and influence the community. They need to participate in activities that benefit both the community and themselves and allow them to feel a sense of influence and ownership.

Some of the things your community founders can do include:

  • Promoting the site with peers.
  • Developing content for the community.
  • Helping to develop community rules and guidelines.
  • Participating in special events such as live chats, interviews, and offline events.
  • Starting and contributing to conversations on the platform.
  • Welcoming newcomers.

When you invite potential members to be founders in the community, tell them the specific ways you expect them to contribute. Emphasize how critical their role will be to the success of the community. Thank them for their contributions.

Here are some tactical steps to starting your community.

  • A doctor or program manager invites potential community members to be interviewed.
  • The interviewer asks enough questions to identify if the patient is willing to be a founding member of the community.
  • When contacts agree to be founders, the community manager provides a specific list of responsibilities for the founder to perform in the community.
  • New members sign up for the community and complete the online personal profile that includes a photograph, biography, and other important information.
  • Community manager initiates conversations and encourages founders to participate.
  • Community manager works with founders to develop a content calendar for the community.
  • Community manager encourages founders to develop content.

It is essential that all of this happen BEFORE you announce the community to the public or do any kind of promotion for the community. The worst possible scenario is for people to visit a community that’s a ghost town. They’ll likely never come back.

What is the benchmark for moving forward?

When you have 50 or more members who are participating in community conversations 1-5 days a week, it’s time to move to the next step — promoting your community.

Develop a community-building mindset for effective healthcare marketing

If you’re a healthcare marketer who is still spewing one-way communication with radio, TV, newspaper and direct mail advertising, it’s time to shift gears and develop a community-building mindset. 

That’s the main message from a webinar hosted by Hive Strategies and  presented by our business partner Jennings CEO Dan Dunlop last week. 

“Healthcare marketing is facing a crisis of relevance,” says Dunlop. “The world of marketing is being transformed by the adoption of new digital platforms and technologies. Yet, most healthcare organizations continue to market as they always have.”

Much healthcare marketing holds little relevance for patients today

He goes on to say that “the traditional model of healthcare marketing, where we primarily push content in the direction of the consumer, is not sustainable. It’s short on value and holds little relevance for patients and consumers.”

Instead, says Dunlop, “we should look to online community development as a foundational element of any engagement strategy. We need to build niche online communities of shared interest, organized around specific topics, conditions or diseases, that our patients can join and where they can interact with others facing similar health challenges.”

In the webinar Dan shares plenty of excellent examples of how to approach marketing with a community-building mindset — from communities like Inspire and PatientsLIkeMe to individual hospital initiatives.

Take some time to view the webinar. I think you’ll enjoy it! 

How to create a thriving HIPAA-compliant online patient community

If you’re thinking about launching an online patient community, here is what you must know first – and how Hive Strategies can help.

Most online communities fail

Without proper preparation and active management, Gartner says “be ready for the community to fail.”

Successful online communities can provide remarkable benefits to hospitals and health systems

Evidence-based market research has shown that successful online patient communities can:

  • Increase loyalty, elicit strong emotional connections, and significantly reduce switching to other health systems.
  • Promote recommended behavior.
  • Fill important gaps in supportive care.
  • Increase patient engagement, empowerment and well-being.

As we move from fee-for-service to population management, online communities can play a significant role in helping your patients achieve better health at lower costs while developing greater loyalty to your physicians and hospitals.

There is a proven pathway to online community success

Hive Strategies helps clients create successful online patient communities through a Discovery process that includes extensive interviews and research and answers 5 essential questions:

  • What business or marketing challenge will my online community help me solve?
  • What is the unique position of my community?
  • What are the objectives for my community, including clear, measurable outcomes and timelines?
  • Are key stakeholders on board?
  • What resources are necessary for my community to succeed?

A Roadmap to Online Community Success

After completing the Discovery process, we provide:

  • A detailed community profile of who should join the community, how they would join, why they would join, and what will keep them coming back.
  • Specific marketing strategies to drive awareness of and enrollment in the community.
  • A resource plan, including specific people and budgets that will be committed to the community.
  • Specific benefits to your hospital or health system, patients, caregivers or family members.
  • A list of specific, measurable community outcomes.

Contact Dan Hinmon at 503-435-8346 for specific ways we can help you create a thriving online patient community.