Successful Social Media Campaigns in Radiology

October 30, 2014

MGH’s radiology department launched a social media campaign about the importance of mammography. The result? Increased engagement and appointments.

For radiologists, social networking isn’t about status updates, posting pictures, or sending out tweets. It’s about sharing information and staying connected with patients, colleagues, and referring physicians – and it’s a necessity in today’s healthcare environment.

In fact, according to a recent study published in Academic Radiology, social networking is one of the most effective patient-engagement arrows radiologists have in their quiver. And ignoring it could put radiologists in a more isolated position.

“The alternative is that a radiologist becomes less connected compared to their colleagues, a dangerous situation in the current competitive healthcare environment,” wrote lead study author William Auffermann, MD, PhD, a cardiac imaging radiologist at Emory University School of Medicine. “Consequently, online social networking services are a vital aspect of a radiologist’s career and may be readily incorporated into one’s daily practice.”

Having a social networking presence is particularly vital when misinformation, such as incorrect data about radiation dose, can spread rapidly online.

Still, social networking is a relatively new phenomenon for many providers. But it’s gaining ground. In October 2013, the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF) radiology department reported Facebook and Twitter use drove visits to its blog up by 218% to more than 28,000 annual hits. Article views were up 170% to nearly 36,000 yearly, and the department has more than 2,000 Twitter followers.

Most importantly, according to Cathy Garzio, UCSF radiology and biomedical imaging department administrative director, the greater online presence has improved both referring physician and patient understanding of what the department has to offer.

It’s this type of success the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) radiology department is shooting for with its new MyMammo program, an initiative designed to disseminate information about the importance of mammography and encourage more women to schedule appointments for their yearly screening.

“Social media is a powerful tool in health care, especially to reach the right audiences. Any method to raise awareness for breast cancer and mammography is good for public health,” said Garry Choy, MD, an MGH radiologist who has published articles about the importance of social networking and media in radiology.

Social networking is a simple and inexpensive tool radiologists can use, he said, to make an impact with a large volume of patients.

“It is my hope that more patients are reminded of the services we provide and what radiology and breast imaging can do for early detection of breast cancer,” he said. “By using all the tools at our disposal, including social media, perhaps we can prevent some more cases of breast cancer and save more lives.”

Diagnostic Imaging spoke with the MGH radiology marketing staff about the decisions behind and implementation of the MyMammo social networking campaign and its results. Marketing and website specialists Dana Jessup and Kristen Dean discussed the reasons behind the campaign, its goals and implementation, and how it’s impacted both patients and providers since launching in November 2013.

So far, they said, the campaign has not only met its objectives, but the radiology department has gained valuable insight into its patient population.

Why did Massachusetts General decide a social media campaign around mammography was necessary?

Every October, breast cancer awareness month comes around, and we wanted to continue to raise that awareness around mammography. We wanted to use digital campaigning to continue that momentum. November through February have traditionally been lower volume months for mammography, and we wanted to see if we could keep things rolling and see if we could grow our volume during that time period.

A lot of the decision was data-driven. With something like this, we looked at the website traffic, and we knew that visits to our mammography site were really high in October. We wanted to see how we could keep the interest alive and continue to drive traffic to the scheduling page.

What were your goals?

We made a point to have a measurable objective – how do we drive traffic to our screening mammography page. We wanted to measure the online appointment request forms.

It’s really funny. While we didn’t know it at the time, a secondary piece of insight emerged. It was the ability to better understand our audience. We looked at these online interactions and learned a lot more about the people visiting us in terms of who is consuming our content related to mammography and how they get it. It was incredibly helpful from a marketing perspective.

How was the program designed and implemented?

We wanted to be able to look at those key pages on the website and think about how best to drive traffic. How and where do we find them? Two channels were essential: digital advertising on Facebook and Google, and using Google ad words.

One of the things we learned was just how truly complicated the decision-making process is. When looking to book a mammography appointment, a patient may require multiple opportunities to engage with a healthcare provider. We were driving traffic with the primary call to action as putting in a request to schedule a mammography online, but it’s clear that not everyone who visits online is ready to make that step. There may be additional information-seeking actions that are necessary for them to take online.

And, the social media component was fascinating. We saw the online dialogue unfold before our eyes. Patients were engaged with our healthcare providers online. They were clearly interested in a mammogram at Massachusetts General, but they weren’t ready to make an appointment. The social media campaign allowed them to participate in a conversation.

We geo-targeted our ads on Facebook to women above age 38 who live within an hour’s drive time from where we provide services. We were so amazed at the reaction. Maybe it had something to do with the way the ad was written, but we asked, “Are you getting your mammogram?” Women answered. Hundreds commented to say yes – that they’d been nervous about it, but that it saved their lives. Occasionally, a woman would comment that she chose not to have a mammogram and would share why.

Admittedly, it was a challenge for us to just watch the conversation unfold, trying to decide when and if it would be appropriate for us to interject. But we let it self-regulate unless we needed to provide factual clarification or information about tomosynthesis or 3D mammography. We watched responses to comments that questioned the value of mammography. Most importantly, we saw women encourage other women to do this.

What have been the benefits to-date both for the patients and providers?

We were really aware that we wanted to make data-driven decisions in developing the campaign, so we created measurable objectives to learning new things. And, we have seen quantifiable impact. One thing that has really amazed and surprised us is seeing just how well our mobile ads fared in terms of our engagement rates. Compared to desktop ads on Facebook, mobile ads generated three times to seven times more impressions and had higher engagement rates, as well.

We looked through the analytics to see the percentage of people visiting the scheduling page who came from a desktop or via a device. From November 2013 to February 2014, more than 20% came from a device, 30% from mobile, and 24% from tablet. Mobile access is an important thing across different industries, and it’s a growing part of the patient experience.

We know that during this campaign, our online appointment requests increased by 11% compared to the same time period last year. Visits to our scheduling page were five times greater than the traffic to the page the previous year. That tells us that digital engagement is a growing part of the patient experience, as well as meeting patient needs and understanding how and where they’re finding us.

One of the benefits to patients is the increased opportunity to interact with healthcare providers for information or for a transactional purpose, such as requesting an online appointment. Looking at the dialogue, it’s clear that the choice to get a mammogram is something that women spend a lot of time thinking through and talking about with other women. They look for information online and share thoughts, feelings, and data.

From the provider standpoint, it’s added a functionality to access this information online. They’re also able to book appointments at any time. We also know that referring providers appreciate the ability and convenience for their patients to access mammography scheduling and book their appointments directly.

What are the next steps?

That’s the really cool part of having conducted these digital ad campaigns. We came out with a ton of data and used it to better understand the audience and make strategic decisions about how to allocate our marketing resources. We learned the importance of mobile access in meeting patient expectations of how to consume information online. It was a big eye-opener. As a next step, we’re looking to increase patient engagement by optimizing our content and forms for mobile consumer use and transactions.

When we compare this campaign to others, the ability to track the impact is huge. So from where we sit, being able to demonstrate its value, the reasons for investing in this kind of outreach is compelling. It’s especially rewarding when we built in several calls to action and tracked patient engagement in booking and demonstrating we’re meeting women where they are and providing them with vital information.