Social Media and Patient Outreach: Analysis of Interventional Radiology’s Online Presence

By Charles Hyman, Brown Medical School 2018

As the consultant model of interventional radiology fades to the clinical model, patient outreach is becoming an essential tool in practice building. While the shift to clinical practice has exponentially increased the scope of the field, its transition from specialist-referral dependency to a patient-facing specialty has only begun to develop. Taking ownership of our patients through admitting to our own services, pre- and post- procedural rounding, clinic visits, and long term follow-up has slowed the rate of encroachment from other specialties. However, reclaiming lost patient populations and finding new patient populations requires active recruitment of referral networks and patients. Many of the most successful practices and programs have proven that it is possible to reclaim lost areas like peripheral artery disease through building patient directed programs and primary care referral networks.

SIR’s current campaign in uterine artery embolism awareness campaign for the treatment of fibroids is a shining example of the efforts we must undertake to advance the field. [1] There is an increasing amount of literature in support of targeted advertisement and its ability to encourage patients access to the best care available. One practice used magazine advertisements and had a 27% increase in uterine artery embolization with a 625% rate of return in advertising costs. [2] Another practice grew their amount of uterine artery embolizations from 8 cases to 62 cases in a single year from radio advertisements and mailings to patients and primary care physicians. [3] While these traditional forms of media have shown success, social media remains an untapped and incredibly important resource for patient outreach.

SIR and Social Media

Building a social media presence is an imperfect science and can be difficult to those who are inexperienced with new forms of media. The SIR has undertaken substantial efforts in building their online presence and have seen impressive results. Their efforts benefit the field as a whole but also extend to individual programs and practices. The Communications Committee is constantly looking for new content to share with their audience. (Please feel free to contact us if you would like to share anything or need advice setting up your own accounts.)

On Twitter, the SIR’s public facing account has over 5000 followers and 9000 Tweets. In a study submitted to this year’s SIR meeting, members of the Communications Committee found that the reach of SIR’s Twitter is in the top third of medical societies and is one of the most active accounts in terms of content production. According on the algorithm developed by Social Bearing, in the last year SIR’s Tweets were seen over 7 million times.

What is “Trending” in Interventional Radiology?

Social media’s decentralized nature makes it the ideal platform for reaching patients directly, but it also makes it difficult to predict what gets attention. Twitter itself provides helpful analytics, and there are many third-party services, like HootSuite and Sprout Social, that can help manage profiles and measure engagement. Still, it can feel like guesswork in forecasting which posts resonate with the audience and which will feel like shouting into the wind.

Analysis of SIR’s twitter over the last year can shed some light on the types of post that get the most engagement. I analyzed the top 50 Tweets in total “Favorites” and “Retweets” and categorized them into 9 relevant categories.

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From this you can draw some basic conclusions. For example, Tweets about specific people or programs often get shared by people connected to that person or program which increases their spread. The data also shows that the uterine fibroid embolization campaign is having success at reaching the audience.

SIR’s twitter is likely followed most actively by people involved in the field, so it is also helpful to look at larger trends. I searched “Interventional Radiology” in a search engine which ranks hits based on social media engagement and found a rough picture of the kind of posts that appeal to a broad, layperson audience. Using the same categories, looking at the amount of “Shares” and “Likes” on Facebook posts over the last year paints a similar picture. The category “Awareness (other)” was the most popular category including education and promotional materials for non-UFE procedures like prostate artery embolization and peripheral artery interventions.

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Searching “Interventional Radiology” on Twitter with the same search engine and ranking by total “Favorites” and “Retweets” painted a different picture and showed a unique use of Twitter that may not be widely known. In categorizing these posts, I added a “Job Listing” as the majority of posts were employee recruitment. Granted this set of data is heavily skewed as the search only picked up posts that said “Interventional Radiology” in full, and due to Twitter’s character limit, only a fraction of the total interventional radiology related posts were included.

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Though only rough estimates, these trend analyses show there can be in an effective niche in combining awareness campaigns of specific procedures with personalized posts (to locations, populations, etc). Social media will only continue to grow and revolutionize communication, and every program and practice can utilize it as a powerful tool in patient outreach.


Works Cited


  1. https://www.sirweb.org/patient-center/fibroid_fix2/
  2. Chrisman HB, Basu PA, Omary RA. The positive effect of targeted marketing on an existing uterine fibroid embolization practice. J Vasc Interv Radiol. 2006 Mar;17(3):577-81. PubMed PMID: 16567685.
  3. Ciacci J, Taussig J, Kouri B, Bettmann M. A single institution’s 1-year experience with uterine fibroid embolization marketing. J Vasc Interv Radiol. 2011 Sep;22(9):1236-1239.e1. doi: 0.1016/j.jvir.2011.06.005. Epub 2011 Jul 20. PubMed PMID: 21764601.


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