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Pinterest for Medicine & Oncology: An Opportunity

Michael A. Thompson, MD, PhD

15 Jun 2012 11:16 AM

Women are on the social media platform Pinterest.
Women are the primary decision makers about health care in most households (~80% according to the U.S. Department of Labor).
Get it?

Let's delve in. I was never interested in Facebook or Twitter—and at one point thought they were jokes—but I ended up joining them and seeing their utility. Likewise, I thought Pinterest was a joke. I registered on the site, but still hadn't really seen the utility—at least for me.

I saw a tweet from @BrianSMcGowan—"'Like' This: The Most Effective Uses of Social Media in Healthcare" #hcsm #overview #socialQi,” which directed me to the referenced article.

There were a number of interesting points in the article, but I was intrigued by comments from Lee Aase, director of Mayo Clinic's Center for Social Media. He noted social media platforms that are currently underutilized by health care organizations include Pinterest and YouTube. Pinterest started in 2010, but has rapidly been growing in popularity, particularly among women. Notably 97% of the fans of Pinterest's Facebook page are women. And women tend to be the primary decision-maker about health care in most households, as noted above.

"That’s where people are. That’s the bottom line," said Ed Bennett, who tracks the use of social media in health care as Director of Web Strategy for the University of Maryland Medical Center. Social media and mobile health expert Jennifer Shine Dyer, MD, MPH (@Endogoddess) noted in her blog in March (bold added):

"I LOVE pinterest. It is so very very beautiful. I am also using it now as my main index to organize my shopping and cooking interest. Sometimes I like to just look at my boards and sort of wander around in the prettiness of the things I love . . . it's like a visual dreamland. Regarding health, seems the best way to use pinterest would be to distribute health information related to facts that people would like to 'collect' . . . this is the way users like me are looking at the pins on the main feed (i.e., what do I like and want to collect and add to my boards?). Hope that helps! If not, follow me on pinterest for a few days and I think you'll get the hang of it. :)"

From a return on investment (ROI) perspective, apparently Pinterest is driving more online sales than any other network and "brands are growing faster than on Twitter," according to

"If 2012 is going to go down the history books as the Facebook year, then it would also be remembered as the year of Pinterest," notes blogger Prasant Naidu (@LHInsights) on

So, are you on Pinterest? Is your health care organization? Even heard of it? Whatever group (e.g., ASCO) gets to Pinterest first will gain a foothold in the digital mind of the primary health care decision makers for families. "That’s where people are. That’s the bottom line."
Posted in: Interests, Practice


Number of Comments: 5
Michael Fisch, MD, MPH

Sunday, June 17, 2012 10:18 PM

Mike, this is a brilliant, provocative piece.  You inspired me to add a Father's Day request to my list for my 17 year old daughter--to show me how she uses Pinterest.  I have an account and a few boards, but I had found it confusing and couldn't exactly see what I would do with it professionally.  My daughter, however, loves it and she and her friends use it for lots of things (recipes, fashion, favorite celebrity photos, etc).  She got me up to speed today, and then the lightbulb went on for me about professional uses.  Essentially, anything you would ever want to communicate with a graphic followed by text explanation is fair game.  Our journals and book chapters in oncology are filled with such materials, our protocols have schemas, our faculty directories have photos, etc.  It seems like a great frontier to be further explored, with challenges to tackle for sure, but that is an attribute of any frontier. 
Michael Fisch, MD, MPH

Friday, June 22, 2012 12:59 PM

Pinterest for men? Apparently, Pinterest is valued at $1.5 Billion and over 80% of the users are women.  According to CNN (see the link below), several new sites have popped up catering to topics of stereotypical interest to men (which might include men's health and cancer issues).  These sites have names like Dudepins, Manteresting, Punchpin, etc.
Michael A. Thompson, MD, PhD

Sunday, June 24, 2012 9:55 PM

Mike - Glad your daughter got you Pinterested.   I'm also still exploring Pinterest and believe there is a great deal of utility for individuals and especially oncology organizations in this media space.  I think the great utility is the GUI and the fact that the "pins" are hyper-linked to other sites/content. Another idea I had was using it for (cancer related) public health messaging linking to further website/blog information or links to quit (for smoking for instance) or to exercise programs (for obesity). I also saw the CNN article.  Seemed like a laundry list of "me to" sites.  Funny and interesting, but we'll see if any gain traction.  I think Pinterest will just eventually develop a broader user base. Thanks again for your comments.  Mike

ADDENDUM (8/15/12):

Pinterest releases new iPad and Android apps 
Michael A. Thompson, MD, PhD

Sunday, November 18, 2012 12:57 PM

Is the New MySpace the new Pinterest?
"It’s a new product with a new purpose and a design meant to evoke emotion"
Are there any ASCO or individual institution projects that attempt to evoke emotion (coupled with rationale data)?

"New MySpace is a blast from the past. The service does not simplify the social stream, it complicates it. MySpace demands a lot of you. You must learn a new language, adjust to a new navigation, seek out entertainment, and devote time to understanding the nuances of the site." 
Michael A. Thompson, MD, PhD

Tuesday, April 16, 2013 9:08 AM

Tweet from today:

via socialrithmic:

"An estimated 15% of US web users are Pinners. What’s next for Pinterest?"

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Michael A. Thompson, MD, PhD