Converged Media in the Social Oncology Landscape: Elaine Schattner, MD

Over the last several years, we’ve had the opportunity to study several people in the online health ecosystem who play multiple stakeholder roles (e.g., Patient-Peschattnerhysician or Patient-Journalist). Today I’m featuring one of the rare people who actually plays 3 pivotal roles in the online health ecosystem – Elaine Schattner, MD.

When she was practicing, Elaine was highly respected for her clinical acumen. But she’s also a breast cancer survivor and a noted healthcare journalist (she’s a regular contributor at Forbes, among others). This has given her a truly unique perspective on the way that different populations perceive and interact with the healthcare system – and their own health.

The way that Elaine engages online reflects her multiple perspectives – and her broad interests. During calendar year 2015, she mentioned 1,327 unique twitter handles (including at least 171 doctors, 77 patients, 173 reporters and 134 media outlets). She also shared links to 570 different outlets (including sources as diverse as Medscape, Nature, the New England Journal of Medicine, StatNews.com, Brainpickings.com and PeterUbel.com.)

And her audience is equally diverse. Among her more-than 11,600 followers are at least 1,200 physicians (putting her in the 99th percentile of doctors most followed by her US peers) and remarkably over 1,100 patients, caregivers and patient advocacy groups – more than any other US Oncologist. And it’s not just Elaine’s following that’s particularly strong and diverse; she also engages that audience broadly with the content she shares. During 2015, she was mentioned (or her articles linked to) over 3,600 times by nearly 1,000 people and organizations in the MDigitalLife Online Health Ecosystem database. And those engagements reflect her audience’s diversity as well:

  • 42% from fellow physicians
  • 35% from patients, caregivers and patient advocacy groups
  • 10% from reporters and media outlets
  • 13% from people and organizations in the healthcare industry

It’s a rare individual, physician or not, that can reach an audience of that size, breadth and relevance to the healthcare system. What is it that’s makes Dr. Schattner so successful in building and engaging that audience?

“On social media, as in real life, many people – in their social groups, or among colleagues – tend to nod their heads, to reiterate or rephrase what’s popular, or what they think their employer or network will favor. On twitter, that ends up generating a lot of retweets within groups of like-minded followers. But that kind of chatter doesn’t broaden anyone’s knowledge base; it reinforces silos. It’s neither interesting, nor helpful to science, or health, or anything really. I like to add new ideas to a conversation. Otherwise, what’s the point?”

– Elaine Schattner, MD

SchattnerMostFollowersSnapshot-300x203Dr. Schattner has been particularly impactful in the online conversation about breast cancer. Among the tens of thousands of participants in that conversation from the MDigitalLife Online Health Ecosystem, Dr. Schattner is the 3rd most-followed, behind only USA Today healthcare reporter Liz Szabo (@LizSzabo) and #BCSM twitter chat co-moderator Deanna Attai, MD (@DrAttai) – and followed closely by #BCSM chat co-moderator and breast cancer survivor Alicia Staley (@stales). This is even more intriguing, because Dr. Schattner rarely participates directly in the #BCSM chat – a huge driver of conversation in the breast cancer community.

“I don’t often participate in twitter chats. They provide great value for many people, but don’t fit very well with my preferred mode of engagement. I tend to have more one-on-one or small-group conversations. When things move so quickly – as they do in twitter chats, it’s harder for me to be able to do really get to know people and to understand their perspectives.” – Elaine Schattner, MD

The rise of the social media has completely changed the way that the health ecosystem interacts. As health becomes an increasingly important topic in the 21st century, the ability to connect the stakeholders – all of them – is both valuable and necessary. Led by pioneering bridge-builders like Dr. Elaine Schattner, we can be confident that a shared understanding is both possible and on its way more quickly than we could have imagined.

“I’ve always been the kind of person who speaks her mind. I’m not afraid to say and write what I think, and as an independent journalist I am free to do so. I’m not afraid to challenge the opinions of powerful individuals, including physicians in positions of leadership, journalists and others. People know that about me, and maybe some respect me for doing so. Pretty much everything I say, or share on-line, reflects what I think matters for patients. Some may trust me for that reason, even when they disagree.”

– Elaine Schattner, MD

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Greg Matthews
Greg Matthews

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