CommonSense Blog

Doctors and Social Oncology: The MDs most mentioned by their peers (breast cancer edition)

By Greg Matthews | Jun 17, 2013

One of the key findings of the Social Oncology Report was that cancer conversations have become increasingly fragmented, specific and sophisticated. The number of journal articles posted to PubMed has increased 349% since 1999 – and the number of cancer-related conversations has exploded in similar fashion. As those cancer-specific conversations continue to grow, we wanted to take a closer look at the physicians who are driving them. This is the third in a series of posts on the subject, which hone in on conversations about breast cancer, gynecological cancers, prostate cancer, skin cancer, and lung cancer. You can see the first six, Doctors and Social Oncology: Trends in Physician ConversationsDoctors and Social Oncology: The MDs most active in leading online cancer conversationsDoctors and Social Oncology: The MDs most mentioned by their peers (skin cancer edition), The MDs most mentioned by their peers (lung cancer edition), The MDs most mentioned by their peers (prostate cancer edition), and Tracking cancer conversations online: the Social Oncology Project 2013 (Guest post on KevinMD.com) through the links above.

In our last post, we talked about the importance of physicians who are the most active in driving conversations about a topic area, because it isn’t just about health – or even cancer – anymore. Our healthcare conversations have become increasingly specialized and complex. Today, we’re going to go a level deeper and begin looking at which doctors are talked ABOUT the most – by their fellow MDs – in the context of a lung cancer. I’ve already sensed a little skepticism from some folks about the validity of this measurement – so let me tell you why I think it’s important.

Most of us are familiar with influence-rating tools like Klout or Kred. I think that, at some level, those tools have validity – but I don’t think that they are particularly sophisticated.  What’s much more interesting to me than knowing someone’s general, overall influence … is knowing how their peers see their influence on specific topics.  But although we can learn a tremendous amount by measuring things like the times that doctors are mentioned by their peers in association with a certain topic, or the number of times a certain link or domain is shared by doctors in association with a certain topic, it doesn’t take us all the way.  That’s why, in the final post in this series, I’m really excited to introduce some exploratory work that our team has done with Dr. Steve Kramer, President and Chief Scientist of Austin-based Paragon Science (@ParagonSci_Inc). Dr. Kramer has been behind some research that’s truly cutting-edge in terms of understanding the ways that information flows through online networks, and how studying that flow can go a long way towards predicting how certain kinds of information would flow through those networks in the future.

As a demonstration, Dr. Kramer was able to leverage some of the physician conversation data from the MDigitalLife Social Oncology Report (w.cg/tsop13) to perform an analysis of the social networks associated with them.

By analyzing the relationships between physicians (both passive, e.g., follower/following and active, e.g., mentioning each other) AND content (in the form of hashtags, keywords and links), it’s possible to visualize a network that’s organized based on an individual’s ability to share data virally throughout the network (see Figure 1, below).

Figure 1: All MDigitalLife Physicians, visualized*

When we hone in more narrowly on the network’s conversations on the topic of Breast Cancer, it gets even more interesting … and possible to move from literally millions of data points (authors, network connections, mentions, links, topical keywords and hashtags) to see the 20-or-so physicians, links and hashtags that are ultimately best-connected.

Figure 2: Physicians engaged in conversations about Breast Cancer

The individual physicians who are closest to the core based on this more sophisticated network analysis are Robert S. Miller (@rsm2800), Dena Attai (@DrAttai), Matthew Katz (@SubAtomicDoc), Julia Gralow (@JRGralow), Tina Hieken (@TJH0828), and Elaine Schattner (@ElaineSchattner) [side note – interesting to compare relative to their positioning on the “most-mentioned” list below!].

Figure 3: The physicians closest to the “central core” in breast cancer conversations (those best-positioned to drive breast-cancer-related content through the network)

And while there is much still to be explored in terms of utilizing these methods to analyze networks of physicians, I believe that it helps to address the concern expressed most eloquently by Sally Church (@MaverickNY) here. In one of the cancer type analyses we did, we looked at the web sites that were most frequently referenced by physicians when they discussed that type of cancer (a great proxy for “what content do physicians think is most credible”). In that particular cancer type, there was an individual physician blog we discovered that had more mentions than any other source – including major media like the New York Times and known influencers like KevinMD.com. But as it turns out, that site was referenced almost exclusively by the physician who owned the blog – and wasn’t referenced a single time by the doctors in the “central core” for that cancer type. Analysis like Dr. Kramer’s has great potential for deriving ever-deeper meaning from this type of online conversation analysis.

But without further ado, let me introduce you to the doctors who were most-mentioned by their peers in the context of our most-discussed cancer type – breast cancer. Be sure to give these docs a follow!

As you hover over the “Image Capsule” below, you can connect with links associated with each doctor & connect with them. Most importantly, the “Share” icon in the upper left can be used to share this capsule with any of your social networks or to embed it in your blog or web site.

For more information on the MDigitalLife Social Oncology project, please visit w.cg/tsop13. There, you’ll find the report itself, links to a series of expository blog posts, interviews with cancer experts from the #ASCO13 Annual Meeting, a full series of infographics like the one above, and media articles covering the study.

*Paragon Sciences visualizations leveraged the excellent work and tools described here: Alvarez-Hamelin, I., Dall’Asta, L., Barrat, A., and Vespignani, A., LaNet-vi: Large Network visualization tool, http://lanet-vi.soic.indiana.edu/.

HUGE thanks to my W2O Group colleagues Rami Lazarus, Franco GalimbertiKayla RodriguezAlim LeungScott Kramer and Matt Snodgrass for contributing to these amazing image capsules.