To engage in social media or not to engage, that is the question! But what’s the answer?


By Claire Leggott

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In part two of Cube’s update from the Inaugural Social Media in Healthcare Conference we explore the hot topic of how and when to enter the world of healthcare social media. 

From Facebook, Twitter and blogs, to the new kids on the block – Google+ and Pinterest – the social media sphere is ever expanding and brands/companies seem to be embracing new communication channels with increasing vigour.

However, hesitancy to engage with digital remains in many industries, including the pharmaceutical industry.  Employing a level of caution is prudent as navigating social media within the confines of the Medicines Australia Code of Conduct can be a daunting and somewhat tricky business.

It need not be scary though, as Andrew Moore, from Sanofi, pointed out .He believes a fear of the unknown or seemingly uncontrollable should not hold pharmaceutical companies back, and spoke about a listening campaign – social media monitoring – which formed part of Sanofi’s first foray into social media.  Getting the campaign up and running involved overcoming challenges regarding the potential for mass adverse event reporting, but in reality adverse event reports occurred with just 0.3% of product mentions.  Andrew advocates a listening campaign as an ideal way for companies to dip their toe into the social media water and as a platform from which an effective social media communications strategy can be developed.

Further voices of experience were heard at the conference, with both Simon Lillis from PwC in Sydney, and Kerrie Noonan from The Groundswell Project, highlighting the vital components to ensuring a successful strategy.  Put simply:

  • Identify a very clear and simple goal/objective
  • Interact with the audience (although beware of going too strong and over-facing the audience)

Elisabeth Tuckey, from Headspace, also emphasised the importance of understanding your audience.  For example, males don’t often ‘like’ pages on Facebook but are drawn by visuals so YouTube is an impactful communication channel for men.

It is clear just how much communication is now taking place online, be it on a computer/laptop or mobile device.  Discussion about a brand will be taking place somewhere within the digital ether regardless of whether said brand is actively targeting audiences in this sphere.

Cultivating a social media presence does come with some risks but ignoring this communication channel could be the biggest risk of all.

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The truth about YouTube


Yesterday the Cube team attended a fascinating digital breakfast hosted by Galaxy Research with guest speakers Kate Mason and Henning Dorstewitz from Google.

With the explosion of viral videos, we explored and busted the top five myths about video content and YouTube.

But before we delve into that, can you guess what the most popular viral video was in Australia last year? To give you a clue, think of the wedding we were all talking about and combine it with some flamboyant dance moves. Yes, the T Mobile Royal Wedding viral was the most popular video in 2011 and has received over 25 million views to date. According to Henning Dorstewitz there are three reasons for this:

1) It’s timely and was developed when the Royal Wedding was on everyone’s minds

2) It’s well executed. It’s shot from the side isles of the cathedral and you feel like you’re there at the wedding amongst the guests

3) It’s funny. Flashmob trends are incredibly popular and this was the perfect opportunity for T Mobile to reinvent their brand

Now here’s to the top five myths about viral videos:

Myth #1: I need to have a viral hit to be successful on YouTube

This isn’t the case. You can be very successful and have a strong presence on YouTube without a viral hit. The most important thing is to think about is what will appeal to your audience!

Myth #2: Only funny videos are popular on YouTube

It’s actually ‘how to’ videos that instruct the end user about something informative that are the most popular videos on YouTube. If a company or business can make use of this strategy for their brand, then they should. An example is this shoe designer tutorial.

Myth #3: YouTube is only for young people

Statistics reveal 55% of women aged 18-57 access YouTube once a month or more.

Myth #4: A successful YouTube video needs to be unique and something nobody has done before

The most popular videos we’re seeing coming through often follow a trend. You only need to take a look at the T Mobile flash mob as the perfect example.

Myth #5: Videos have to be professionally produced to gain traction

Many fantastically produced virals cost less than $300. It’s what you’re telling the viewer that really matters. An example is this very funny and popular video about razors!

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What does Australian consumption of the internet say about us as a nation?


Internet usage in Australia has been hitting the headlines. Last August, Facebook publically announced that Australia has 9.5 million subscribers and that we’re spending more time on the social networking site than any other country. The Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed earlier this year that the number of internet subscribers in Australia has increased by a sizable 10% to 10.4 million in the past ten months. So what does this say about us as a nation?

Australia image

You could argue that it’s something to do with Australia being an island – we’re a long way from everyone else and we use channels like Facebook and Google+ to communicate with long lost friends and relatives overseas. But then wouldn’t the same ring true for the UK, New Zealand and Japan? Perhaps it’s down to us being the stereotypical “friendly, laid back, social” Aussies who like to communicate with our mates. No! What it’s really got to do with is that we are informed, online users and data suggests that we like to do our research on the web before spending our hard earned dollars.

As a nation, we’re spending on average 22 hours a week online and a fifth of that’s using social media channels. You see, we like to browse, make informed decisions and see what other people are saying about a product or brand before making a decision. And this explains why there has been a huge surge in the number of Aussies contributing and using online reviews, discussions, comments and ‘Likes’ before making a purchase.

And the same rings true for the medical profession. In August this year, Cegedim Strategic data released new stats about doctor’s digital habits. The research suggested that 30% of doctors own an iPad and 56% plan to buy one in the future. Out of those who own an iPad, 17% said they use it for both work and personal reasons.

We’re also seeing steps being taken by the government to electronically coordinate patient care across the healthcare sector. It’ll be interesting to monitor the success of the initiative to roll out the Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) system for Australians. From 2012-13, if we register, we’ll be able to see important health information in one consolidated view and share it with healthcare practitioners during our medical appointments. 

Nielsen published some very interesting data earlier in the year showing that we’re also leading the way in social media consumption. 73% of us read reviews, discussions and comments on brands, products and services at some stage and 26% do so on a regular basis. 46% have clicked the Facebook ‘Like’ button for a brand/organisation and 17% do so frequently.

Luckily we don’t have to stay glued to a computer to do our browsing. Nowadays, doctors can readily access mobile medical applications while in the hospital. Migraine patients can track their condition on the move, diabetes patients can log their glucose levels with a glucose buddy and smoking cessation apps motivate quitters while they are socialising by keeping a note of cost savings.

One thing’s for sure – Australian use of the internet is predicted to rise. In terms of what this says about us as a nation – it’s simple. We’re digitally savvy. We like to chat to our friends and family online, conduct web based research and shop around before we buy. Who knows what next year’s stats will suggest about our national digital habits. There’s only one way to find out – keep browsing.

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Could an app a day keep the doctor away?


The search for health information online is now part of everyday life (we are living in a nation of cyberchondriacs after all). Yet the technology we’re using to find this information is changing as software giants try to keep up with our fast-paced lifestyles. Rather than Google-searching on a PC, Aussies are increasingly downloading the latest and funkiest health-related applications on their iPhones.

More than 70 per cent of us access information services from our mobile phones and with a rapidly increasing market share in Australia, the iPhone is predicted to surpass the BlackBerry as the dominant smartphone by this time in 2012. Stats show iPhone users in Australia consume a massive six times more data than the average mobile user – consuming almost 2MB more data per session and spending a lot longer browsing, even ahead of desktop users.

Capitalising on this consumer trend, Apple have hit the jackpot with the creation of their applications (or ‘apps’ for short) – third-party software programs developed specifically for the iPhone and iPod Touch that can be downloaded directly by the phone or downloaded onto a computer and transferred to the phone. And the good news is you can literally get an app for anything!

iPhone health apps

Could an app a day keep the doctor away? Cube healthcare communications blog

 Out of approximately 140,000 apps, there are around 3,100 within the ‘Health & Fitness’ category. Whether they are free or paid-for, global or local, the range of health apps is vast. From a lifestyle perspective you can track your personal food intake and the nutritional value of what you’re are eating with CalorieTrack, or for just $0.99 you can download SmokeCount to help boost your willpower in the battle against cigarettes.

From a healthcare perspective, examples include the AutismTest – developed by KOLs as an accurate guideline for self-screening; Drugs&Medications – a quick reference guide to FDA drug information aimed at pharmacists, nurses, physicians and students;  iAnemia – a ‘diagnostic medical tool’ for those managing blood diseases; and VaxTrack – a personal vaccination planner which links to the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) schedule of recommended vaccinations.

Other useful examples include iDoc – a free US-based service through which users can get in touch with real physicians to ask medically-related questions (specialists available to answer questions include surgeons, medical specialists and mental health doctors), an app that has received great feedback from users; and Sleep Cycle – download the app, place your iphone under your mattress and the bio-alarm clock analyses your sleep patterns and wakes you when you are in the lightest sleep phase. The app uses the accelerometer in your iPhone to monitor your movement to determine which sleep phase you are in. This interactivity between the user’s physical environment and the software in their phone is where the potential for truly innovative, value-add apps really lies.

You’re also less likely to download a futile app as users can rate them individually, so you quickly get a sense of whether an app will offer any real value. The apps also link through to websites for further information. 

So could the iPhone app be the future of the online health search? More and more companies are incorporating the development of apps into their e-marketing strategies and we will no doubt see a major increase in the number of apps available to download this year.

And for those you use that don’t yet have an iPhone, don’t worry – the majority of apps also have versions available on BlackBerry and mobile phones running Google’s Android software.

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Will you be love sick – or love well – this Valentine’s Day?


As Saint Valentine shines his bow and sharpens his arrow in preparation for a pop at lovers around the world on Sunday 14th February, the question on everyone’s pursed lips is this: is love good or bad for your health?valentines_day

Take the time to Google the topic and you will come across a wide range of opinions – for some it can cure all our ills, yet for others it’s the very cause of them.

If you are a believer in love and its positive powers, you’d be forgiven for wondering why modern medicine exists at all. Expert comment and research draws conclusions including ‘love makes you smarter’ (as it improves memory by triggering brain cells), ‘love helps fight cancer’ (promoting killer cell activity), ‘love is good for your heart’ (makes it beats faster and increases blood supply whilst lowers blood pressure) and even the Holy Grail, ‘love makes you live longer’ (scarily, social isolation increases the risk of early death).

Based on this high-level science, how could anyone claim love is bad for you? Google doesn’t make it too easy to find scientific information on the lower points of love. But it does readily offer in one long list the plethora of popular music dedicated to the downsides of dating.

In 1960 The Everly Brothers were blunt in their summations (Love Hurts) and Jon Bon Jovi sang about love being ‘bad medicine’ in the 1980s. More recently, American Idol winner Jordin Sparks asked “why does love always feels like a battlefield?”

And we’ve all been party – directly or indirectly – to a conversation where one half of a couple claims emphatically that the other will in fact ‘be the death’ of them.

Whatever your relationship status perhaps it’s wisest to take note of Whitney Houston’s 1986 smash hit song – The Greatest Love of All – where she claimed it was simply learning to love yourself.

Well, at least until Johnny Depp or Angelina Jolie arrives. Happy Valentine’s Day!

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To Bing or to Google – a new e-health dilemma?


To Bing or to Google – a new e-health dilemma?

A new e-health dilemma?

The battle for world search engine dominance enters a new phase this month with the arrival of a new ‘health’ search capability from Microsoft’s Bing, which seeks to challenge Google’s seemingly impenetrable global position. With health being one of the most commonly searched-for topics online, this could represent a very smart competitive move!

For those spending regular time researching health diagnoses or specific medical information (see our recent blog on ‘cyberchondriacs’), Bing does offer the potential to introduce some changes to their web search style. The .com community state Bing prioritises nine trusted and verified medical resources – such as the Mayo Clinic – as the basis of its search capabilities, making it easier to find results that can be trusted.

The declaration that Bing joins Yahoo in the war against the ‘ten blue links’ approach to reporting search results does not in fact appear to be the case in reality! But what Bing does offer is a Quick Preview feature giving text based summaries of pages displayed in the search results. An Explorer Pane also allows quick access to symptoms, causes and treatments. 

Bing offers good practical features to support general health searches – but cannot surpass Google’s unique health strategy which offers the potential for secure and private storage of medical records, easy reference to relevant health information and connection to service providers. This personal, secure medical storage capability could gain greater attention as the Federal Government make moves mid-year to integrate and digitise medical records. Discussion has already commenced on the security of the new national identity system – a key component of this new legislation.

So will health prompt the masses to start ‘Binging’ instead of ‘Googling’?  Some say if Microsoft continues to make ongoing improvements and embark on a massive advertising initiative, Bing does stand a chance in converting more than an impressionable few! Watch this space.

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Doctor or dotcom – is a digital diagnosis more important than the doc?


Have you ever found yourself reaching for your keyboard to research an ailment you are convinced you are a perfect candidate for? “Feeling fatigued? Check! Some weight gain? Yes! General muscle pain? That confirms it, I have contracted an incurable disease,” you hear yourself say.

If this is vaguely familiar, consider yourself an active contributor to a nation of ‘cyberchondriacs.’

Most of us will admit to Googling ‘[name of an exotic/obscure illness] + symptoms’ following a late night viewing of Medical Mysteries – but are Aussies taking their health too lightly by substituting doctor with .com?

New research from research company TNS found that 1 in 4 Australians will search the internet for medical advice to self-diagnose and even treat themselves. Over a quarter of this group feel that they are able to diagnose and treat an ailment without the need of a healthcare professional.

Considering ‘pregnancy’ and ‘cancer’ are the top two Googled health conditions (generating around 7.7 million search queries each month) and the fact that anyone can publish anything online (Wikipedia, anyone?) – these findings are somewhat concerning. 

A recent HCF survey also reveals that Gen Y and women are the most common web medicos. Could this be because more than half of those aged 18-34 said they were too embarrassed to talk to a GP?

Searching for health information online

Searching for health information online

Both TNS and the Australian Medical Association (AMA) agree that while the internet has its uses, those searching for health information must be careful. People may be at risk of diagnosing non-existent symptoms and possibly using treatments which may not be appropriate.

So, next time a mystery illness on hospital drama House prompts you to e-diagnose, remember to take the information with a grain of salt and speak to your pharmacist or GP                                                                                                     if you have concerns.

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The rise and rise of swine flu

The rise and rise of swine flu

The rise and rise of swine flu

Despite continued Global media coverage, swine flu seems to be in decline within Australia, or at least within manageable limits.

The media first coined the phrase ‘swine flu’ back in April this year after a new strain of influenza containing genetic fragments of swine, bird and human viruses was detected. The WHO declared a Global pandemic in June after the number of infections reached 28,774 in 74 countries, including 144 deaths.

Whilst the potential impact of new, fast moving viral strains can rarely be quantified, it has to be said that everyone likes a good health ‘scare’. A random Google search for ‘swine flu’ today came up with over 34 million hits, the vast majority being media coverage. Yet much of the online buzz was propelled by social networking sites with swine flu rating as a trending topic on Twitter for several weeks.

At the time of this blog post, the death toll in Australia is said to have reached 128, with 460 in hospital and 94 of them in intensive care. However within Australia at least, the virus is now perceived to be manageable. Health officials announced last week that vaccinations may start within the month, making Australia the first country to begin mass vaccination against the H1N1 virus.

The swine flu ‘buzz’ continues due to the ongoing impact overseas. Just today, in a bid to halt the spread of the virus, the mayor of a small French town banned spitting and wrote to football chiefs to demand that footballers who spit be sent off, putting the issue back on the front page.

As the northern hemisphere goes into the winter flu season the swine flu ‘noise’ is set to continue, circulating via the global media. Potential new strains, mass vaccination and a resurgence of other influenza viruses like bird flu may add further fuel to the fire.

One thing is for sure – this health story is not going away anytime soon.

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