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With the cost of healthcare on the rise, it’s no surprise that players from across the health ecosystem are coming together to solve some of our biggest problems in terms of ensuring access to the right care at a reasonable price. That’s part of the work that Yousuf Zafar, MD has been focused on for the last several years.

It’s should also be no surprise that as leading thinkers like Dr. Zafar grapple with this thorny problem, that one of the tools fueling his research and spreading the results of his findings lies in YZafarsocial media.

Dr. Zafar is a GI Oncologist at DukeHealth and a health services researcher with a focus in improving care delivery for patients with advanced cancer. He has participated in multiple studies focusing on access to care, cost of care, and comparative effectiveness of care delivery between health systems. His primary area of interest is in the cost of cancer care with a special focus on its patient impact. His current work in this arena is focused on patient preferences regarding cost-related communication and decision-making.

Dr. Zafar was a very early adopter of twitter, having been active on the platform since 2007. “I use other platforms personally, but for professional purposes, twitter is definitely the best tool for me,” he told me in a brief interview yesterday. He’s been identified as one of the “Featured Voices” at the ASCO annual meeting in Chicago (#ASCO16), a good choice – the number of Dr. Zafar’s physician followers on twitter puts him in the 97th percentile of all US oncologists. He has been actively involved in the online backchannel of #ASCO16 this far. Below is a map of the physician-to-physician conversations on the first day of ASCO (June 3) – as you can see, Dr. Zafar’s twitter handle (@yzafar) is quite central to the conversation. [NOTE: Click up the number of nodes on the chart to see the full conversation; it’s even more dramatic when you “zoom out.”

That active involvement has resulted in additional visibility for Dr. Zafar and his work – and bringing increasing attention to the issues around healthcare costs is really important to him. “One of the things that has been great to see at ASCO is that we’ve not only been using social media to help connect physicians to the latest research, but also to help patients relate their own stories and experiences to that research,” says Dr. Zafar. In fact, Dr. Zafar tends to learn as much from patients and their experiences as they do from him. “It’s really tough for a clinician who typically only has a few minutes with a patient to truly understand all of the issues associated with their broader experience of care.” Social media has helped to fill that gap.

In one of Dr. Zafar’s abstracts, he summarizes the situation in a very powerful way:

“Long-term solutions must focus on policy changes to reduce unsustainable drug prices and promote innovative insurance models. In the mean time, patients continue to struggle with high out-of-pocket costs. For more immediate solutions, we should look to the oncologist and patient. Oncologists should focus on the value of care delivered, encourage patient engagement on the topic of costs, and be better educated on financial resources available to patients. For their part, patients need improved cost-related health literacy so they are aware of potential costs and resources, and research should focus on how patients define high-value care. With a growing list of financial side effects induced by cancer treatment, the time has come to intervene on the “financial toxicity” of cancer care.”

– S. Yousuf Zafar, MD (JNCI J Natl Cancer Inst (2016) 108 (5): djv370
doi: 10.1093/jnci/djv370)

That shared responsibility for driving change is very consistent with what we’ve seen in the online health ecosystem – the convergence of health conversations among clinicians, patients, caregivers, policymakers, the media and the industry itself. Our thanks to Dr. Zafar for his great work & for taking the time to talk to us. Be sure to follow him on twitter (@yzafar) and in the media.

For more information about the MDigitalLife Online Health Ecosystem and to download the 2016 Social Oncology Project report, just click below.

TheSocialOncologyReport-Cover-HiRes

Click to Download the 2016 Social Oncology Project Report


Learn more about W2O Group:  About  Work  Contact

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

TheSocialOncologyReport-Cover-HiRes

Click to Download the 2016 Social Oncology Project Report


Learn more about W2O Group:  About  Work  Contact

Something unusual happened in Congress in early July — an overwhelming bipartisan approval for a health care bill. But despite the 344-77 vote for the 21st Century Cures Act, the increasingly vocal opposition from oft-quoted critics of pharmaceutical, biotech and device companies should be taken as a warning sign for advocates who want to see this measure become law.

The bill is designed to boost drug discovery and help get patients with rare diseases additional access to treatments and cures, mostly through various reforms of the FDA approval process as well as additional funding for the National Institutes of Health.  (The Regulatory Affairs Professional Society has done a terrific explainer for those who want to dive into the deep details.)

More than 700 groups, from the Alzheimer’s Association to the American Society for Clinical Oncology, to patient-focused rare disease groups to companies and trade associations in the pharmaceutical, biotech and devices spaces, support the Cures bill. That support has shown up in traditional spaces such as Capitol Hill visits, as well as digital campaigns on Facebook and Twitter (#Path2Cures, #Cures2015.)

As it should be, the focus of these efforts has been on the benefits for patients with challenging diseases. Even rank-and-file House members have gotten into the act, such as in this short video from Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI).

The critics emerge

Yet now with the bill headed to the Senate, that kind of organized support may be even more important. Media-friendly experts such as Rita Redberg, editor of JAMA Internal Medicine, and cardiologist Steve Nissen of the Cleveland Clinic, are being quoted in articles criticizing the Cures bill. The New York Times’s editorial board, often taking cues from the opposition groups, criticized the legislation last week, though it stopped short of saying the entire effort should be scrapped.

The challenge now for those who want to see the bill through the Senate – in addition to trying to avoid big arguments about petty differences as the process unfolds — is to continue to emphasize the real world impact the bill would make. Patients who could benefit from expanded access to “compassionate use” of drugs should be front and center. Groups who want to see “patient experience data” folded into regulatory decisions – because different patients may have different risk tolerances – should be talking more often. And, to reflect the widespread backing for increased research funding that is in the Cures bill (nearly $9 billion extra for the National Institutes of Health over the next five years), scientific experts should be explaining over and over the need for new discovery.

Where are the physicians?

A quick review of our MDigitalLife database—a validated list of U.S. doctors with digital footprints—suggests that physicians aren’t out in droves driving the conversation. That means some of the most trusted voices on the subject of medicine haven’t been heard from yet, and doctors could yet shape this debate. Communicators trying to line up new wrinkles for the continuing campaign to pass the Cures bill should consider engaging with physicians. As our colleague Greg Matthews has written, physicians are not only active on social media, they often influence news coverage.

Conversation about the Cures bill seems likely to spike again in mid-September, when a hearing or hearings could be held in Senate committees. We’ll continue to monitor and look for new and old voices influencing the debate as action develops over the fall. Senate leaders have signaled that they will write their own version of a Cures bill, which could extend the discussion about this legislation until early 2016.

Reporters covering the legislative process will likely focus on the lobbying effort and the political clout of the industries backing the bill. This makes the real world stories – and the use of paid, earned, shared and owned content online – even more important for a successful campaign in the months ahead. The next treatment or cure could be dependent on it.

By Gary Karr and Brian Reid

Greg Matthews (MDigitalLife), Maureen Carlson (GoodScout) & Dede Stefano (MDAnderson) hosted a panel during the #SXW2O Pre-Commerce Summit to announce the release of a new report, “Decoding The Cancer Center Constituent”, exploring the behavioral patterns of Cancer Centers constituents.

“Good Scout Group and MDigital Life came together with a shared belief that data compels your smarter story. Whether it is the ammunition to convince a company you are a right-fit partner or the analytics to craft actionable marketing and media strategies, knowing more can be the differentiator that ignites success. In the spirit of knowing more and doing more with that knowledge, we collectively set out to profile the unique attributes of the cancer center constituent. Decoding The Cancer Center Constituent outlines specific brand preferences, lifestyles and key interests of individuals that currently follow the top 50 Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the U.S.” Using MDigitalLife, W2O Group and Good Scout Group conducted a psychosocial profiling study to identify specific behaviors, affinities and conversations of U.S.-based cancer center constituents. The sample set included 10,000 handles following at least one of the top 50 cancer centers.

Matthews explained the need for cancer centers to know their audience, “As healthcare has changed we have seen a real need to understand who our audiences are online.” More important than just knowing who your audience is, knowing what they say and who they follow is crucial. “If you consider who you are following on twitter it actually says a lot about what you like – who you are. By looking at the followers of an organization we can understand what they are about. In this report we looked at the twitter followers for all of the comprehensive cancer centers in the United States and we looked at how the accounts that those folks followed compared to a normative data set. It gave us a sense of how the audiences of the cancer centers are different than the audiences of other organizations.”

Good Scout President, Maureen Carlson shared some key insights from the report with the audience at Pre-Commerce. Based on the cancer center constituents research, 61% of cancer center followers are female, the overall audience tends to be predominantly white/non-hispanic and over 75% are ages 18-45. Top brand affinities included Walgreens, Microsoft & Nordstroms. Carlson explained: “We learned that there is a highly engaged user base, that is very interested and connected to healthcare. Many are engaged users but they are not acting, not donating to these cancer centers. If you look at the top 3 consumer brands you see Walgreens, Microsoft & Nordstroms. We need to know this information in order to align our messages with the brands our constituents are following. We should be looking at this data to cross reference with these brands to understand how we are doing.”

Finally, Dede Stefano, Executive Director of Corporate Alliances at MD Anderson explained the challenges her organization faces, “Our challenge is 2 fold: federal funding for cancer research is flat at best. We also are about to have a crisis because cancer is a disease of the elderly… The good news is people are living longer but that is also the bad news. The population is quickly aging.”

Stefano and her organization see value in the information uncovered in the report, “Reports like this are very important because it gives the ability to target our corporate partners by brand affinity and we want to make sure that our audience is aligned. This report gives us a strategic and tactical way to do that. It gives us the ability to educate our consumers and our brands. We need to use every tool in our arsenal to make these smart decisions. We cannot afford to ignore the data.”
To download the entire report visit http://www.goodscoutgroup.com/decodingcancer/
For more information on our SXW2O events and our speakers, please visit our website: http://w2oevents.com
Missing the forest for the trees

This is a question that we healthcare communicators have been fielding from clients (and, frankly, discussing among ourselves) since the advent of social media as we try to engage with healthcare professionals.

Some have maintained that physicians’ level of tech-savvy rivals the quality of their handwriting – not so great. Forced to be connected only by the mandate of electronic health records, physicians aren’t active online due to packed appointment schedules, privacy concerns or the desire to remain unbiased as related to their health system or practice.

A new report by my colleague Greg Matthews, called “Missing the Forest For the Trees”, lays this old stereotype to bed. According to a 2012 study by the Journal of Medical Internet Research, cited by Matthews, 61% of physicians scan social media for medical information weekly, while another 46% contribute to that information on a weekly basis. In addition, online social channels are having an impact on clinical decisions – according to a Manhattan Research study also cited in the book, 39% of doctors say that the information they receive from social channels is influential to very influential on their clinical decisions.

I don’t want to give away too much of “Missing the Forest For the Trees” – it’s a quick, worthwhile read – but all these stats point to our need, as healthcare companies and communicators, to be online learning from and engaging with doctors. Physician-directed content strategy for platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn, will be seen by physicians, and sponsored ads make it easier than ever to target the right ones. Matthews makes another critical point – there is a tremendous opportunity for companies to harness the power of online physician advocates, engaging them to spread the word about our therapy, device or awareness building effort. Physicians are our “citizen” journalists.

Matthews has led the development of MDigitalLife, a database that has indexed the digital footprints of nearly a half-million physicians around the world. This data can be harnessed by healthcare companies in a myriad of ways including influencer identification and conversation analysis. MDigitalLife is also a great source for research about physician online activity with a treasure trove of free resources on its website.

Social media is not new, but this way of thinking about physicians on social media is, and healthcare companies who engage physicians through social media very well may find a new partner in spreading the word.

For a free copy of “Missing the Forest For the Trees” please visit http://bit.ly/missingtheforest. And, to learn more about MDigitalLife, go to MDigitalLife.com.

“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The most exciting innovation of the connected health era is … people talking to each other.”

Susannah Fox from Peer-to-peer health care is a slow idea that will change the world on susannahfox.com, August 3, 2013

The concept of the empowered patient isn’t a new one – in fact, that characterization has evolved rapidly over the last several years. According to Health Online 2013 (Pew Internet & American Life Project, Susannah Fox) patients have actually advanced their level of empowerment from simple information-seeking to actual diagnosis – acceding to the report, 35% of American adults can now be classified as “Online Diagnosers.”

“As physicians, we have a moral responsibility to weigh in on dangerous inaccuracies in the media … Imagine a simple comment from … each of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ 65,000 pediatricians. We are in a position to own the search engines through our collective participation.” 

Bryan Vartabedian, MD from Participating in the conversation: A physician’s responsibility. Baylor College of Medicine Blog, August 7, 2013

We’ve seen a parallel movement among physicians in terms of online activity. Driven by a number of environmental factors. One of the most important is to balance the enormous amount of misinformation and spam online masquerading as health information – because doctors have the knowledge and experience to set the balance right. 

These two trends have begun to collide as never before. The best doctors are often the best students – they literally never stop learning and improving. Many of these leading-edge physicians have recognized that one of the greatest sources of learning are patients themselves.

“I do interact with patients online … I like to hear the stories about health issues they’re facing, and to follow their journeys … It helps me to understand what patients expect – or at least hope for – from their doctors.”

Danielle Jones, MD. Danielle Jones, MD – The MDigitalLife Interview. September 21, 2012

We’re now seeing a migration from relatively segregated Patient-Patient and Doctor-Doctor communities to online communities where both mingle freely, sharing and learning together. One of the most fascinating places to map that circumstance is on twitter, where the study of direct conversations between doctors and patients can be visualized to help us understand how those networks function. 

[If you have trouble viewing the embedded social network map, you can go directly to http://bit.ly/epatientdoc]

To create the chart below, we looked at the twitter conversations of 89 prominent ePatients and ePatient advocates to see how often they used the twitter handle (e.g., @DrAttai) of one of the more than 14,000 validated US physicians tracked in the MDigitalLife database. We then looked at the tweets from the 297 doctors mentioned by the ePatients, and identified every instance in which one of the ePatients was mentioned.

Using Google Fusion Charts, we were able to visualize those interactions to show the interconnectedness between the ePatients (yellow dots) and physicians (blue dots). Feel free to play around with the chart by dragging network nodes to change its shape, and buy changing the filters to show more or fewer nodes. 

While it’s difficult to gain many insights from viewing every single interaction, we found that when we looked only at doctors and patients who had interacted with each other at least 15 times, identifiable clusters began to emerge. A few examples:

  • There are clear communities based on therapeutic areas such as breast cancer (@DrAttai), heart health (@HugoOC) and blood cancers (@myelomateacher)
  • While there may be fewer online interactions outside the specialty/therapeutic area classification, ePatients and advocates like Dave DeBronkart (@ePatientDave) and Lisa Field (@PracticalWisdom) have a massive number of connections to the physician community, with no apparent focus on specialty
  • To a lesser degree, doctors like Bryan Vartabedian (@doctor_v), Howard Luks (@hjluks) have significant connections in the ePatient community that have little to do with their medical specialties (pediatric gastroenterology and orthopedic surgery respectively)

While it’s premature to assume that we fully understand the nature of those interactions, we can generalize in saying that these bellwether patients and doctors get benefit from their interactions in a more “meta” sense – they’re exploring the very nature of the evolving doctor-patient relationship.

I’ll end this post with a quote from one of my co-panelists at this week’s Digital Health Summit:

“Patients often only bring their narratives to the dialogue. If we want to get a proper seat at the table we need to do better than that.” 

Hugo Campos, ePatient Advisor, Stanford Medicine X

I’m fortunate to be on a panel at this week’s Digital Health Summit at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas with leading ePatients Hugo Campos and Donna Cryer; moderated by health technology thought leader Neil Versel  If you’re interested, you’ll definitely want to follow along with the #DHCES hashtag on twitter on Wednesday and Thursday, January 8 and 9. Our panel will be at 4:10 PM PST/1:10 PM EST on Wednesday the 8th, and is entitled “Loudmouth Patients: Making Noise and Making Change.”

With special thanks to the brilliance and hard work of Ben McKown and Yash Gad – they make data do strange and wonderful things!

[Note: This post offers an exclusive opportunity for doctors to receive an “alpha” version of the Online Activation for Physicians eBook; read on for details]

Face it:  Thinking that a re-tweeting of how much we want more doctors on Twitter by next year is just preaching to the social media choir.  After all, those on social media are already supporters.  How do we get physicians who are not on social media to understand its potential value to them?
– Dr. Westby Fisher, Let’s start a grassroots physician social media movement (via KevinMD.com, December 31, 2013)

Having studied physicians’ online behavior for more than 5 years now, I’ve had a chance to see the highs and lows of their adoption of social media. Doctors like Mike Sevilla, Wendy Sue Swanson, Bryan Vartabedian, and Jordan Grumet have been online for years and years – and seeing them leverage the power of social media to connect, organize and re-establish the voice of the physician in public health dialog has been an incredible inspiration to me and many others. It’s why I started to write about physician innovators under the MDigitalLife banner in 2012, and have featured these folks and many others for their work.

Dr. Westby Fisher is another one of those pioneers – though one I haven’t had the opportunity to meet personally. In the piece that I quoted above (which is a must-read, by the way), Dr. Fisher notes that physician engagement in social media isn’t going to become the norm just because social media is “cool.” It’s only going to happen en masse when more doctors see a clear value proposition in investing their precious time in pursuing that engagement.

I’ve had the opportunity over the last two years to train over 100 doctors in the W2O Group’s “Online Activation” model. As that model has evolved, there are a few things I’ve found to be most impactful in terms of “unlocking” doctors in social media:

  • Spending more time than you’d think on goal-setting … what is it that each person actually hopes to achieve in their career, their practice, their research, etc.
  • Explaining that social media isn’t just about yapping incessantly. Our model has 4 components: Read, Connect, Share and Create – and we don’t even cover the “creation” aspect in the initial coaching session!
  • Removing tactical roadblocks – the most basic “how-to” of using social media tools and channels to achieve each doctor’s “use case”
  • Showing real examples of doctors who are using social media to add value to their particular set of goals

It’s this last item that Dr. Fisher’s blog post called to mind.

Those of us who are believers have to show them a well-organized RSS feed reader containing journal articles and news reports they’re want to say up up to date with and likely read.  We have to show them how to use social media to collaborate (in near real-time) with colleagues to write an article or crowd-source a talk.  We need to show them the contacts — many who they’d recognize — you’ve made around the globe.  Show them how they can lurk and get the information they need without having to expose themselves to any potential legal issues. 
– Dr. Westby Fisher, Let’s start a grassroots physician social media movement (via KevinMD.com, December 31, 2013 – emphasis mine)

To that end, I decided to answer Dr. Fisher’s request – by sharing a bundle of RSS feeds representing the blogs of over 60 doctors (note: this is scratching the surface; we’re tracking over 2,500) using an amazing reading tool called Feedly*. So without further ado, here’s your physician-blogger “starter list” – along with the “alpha” version of the Online Activation Planning for Physicians eBook.

To subscribe to our list of physician blogs:

  1. Sit down at your laptop or desktop computer (This initial step can’t be taken via tablet or smartphone yet. After this initial step, you’ll be able to do everything via web, tablet or smartphone at your discretion).
  2. Download this OPML file you’ll find here [bit.ly/docopml] and save it to your desktop (Don’t try to open it; it’s gobbledygook to look at on its own).

If you’re already a Feedly user:

  1. Log in to your feedly account.
  2. Under the “My Feedly” menu, click “Organize”
  3. Select “Import OPML”
  4. Click “Choose File” and select the file you just downloaded
  5. Click the blue “Import” button

If you’re not a Feedly user, just follow the steps in this Slideshare presentation:

And if you’re a doctor and would like to get a copy of the “alpha” version of the “Online Activation for Physicians” ebook, just complete this form and I’ll email you a copy.

If you’d like to know more about our MDigitalLife program for understanding, engaging and activating physicians online, feel free to email me at gmatthews@wcgworld.com. Thanks to Dr. Fisher for giving the right airtime to this important topic!

*There are many reasons that we use Feedly for this purpose, but the most important ones are: (A) It presents a beautiful and consistent reading experience on the web, tablets and smart-phones. (B) It allows 1-click sharing and saving to any social network or note-taking tool. (C) The Feedly leadership team loves the idea of a reader tool as a part of the revolution in physician communications, and have been working with my team to add new features that support that goal even more seamlessly.

Ever since we launched MDigitalLife at the Mayo Clinic last October (KevinMD Article; Slideshare Presentation), our team at the W2O Group has been going full blast to build out the software platform for creating Custom Search Engines. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, I think that I can get you up to speed pretty quickly with this mini-glossary:

Upside-Down (Audience-Focused) Analytics: “Traditional” social analytics looks at the entire web through a lens of keywords that define a topic in order to fully understand that topic as it lives online, including knowing the people who are talking about it. Audience-focused analytics looks at the web through a lens of a very specific, finite audience in an attempt to understand everything that they say and do. It’s the closest online equivalent we have to the marketing research focus group.

Custom Search Engine: The software that lets us take any list of people or entities, quickly build out the full “digital footprint” for those entities (e.g., web site, blog, twitter, facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, etc.) and then query that database on any subject.

MDigitalLife: The first and only database of physicians’ online profiles that’s tagged to a national physician registry. It allows us to drill into any topic and understand how doctors are talking about it; how often they’re talking about it; to whom they’re talking about it; where they get their most trusted information about it, etc.

With that background, let me introduce the latest entry into the world of custom search engines:

We debuted this data set recently at the Texas Hospital Association’s annual Communications Summit in Austin, Texas and got some terrific feedback. Given the turmoil associated with the US Healthcare system today, we know that understanding the players is the equivalent of having a good engine and a strong rudder when navigating tricky currents. That’s what gets us so fired up about having access to not only a window into the online world of physicians, but of hospitals as well … and these are only the first. Stay tuned for more Custom Search Engine work in the weeks and months ahead!

For those who’d like to know more about the concept of Upside-Down Analytics, I have posted a 10-minute presentation I gave at the 2013 Social Commerce Summit in March of 2013 … Let me know if you’re interested in the 2014 version, to be held in Austin just before South by Southwest’s Interactive (SxSWi) conference begins on March 6.

 

We need to come out of the reading room – both literally and figuratively – to engage more proactively and meaningfully with referring physicians and patients. The fact is that patients will receive better care – and outcomes – with a more engaged radiologist.

Roger Eng, MD – President-Elect of the California Radiological Society

OK – Raise your hand if you LOVE your radiologist. [If you are married to a radiologist, you’re disqualified – put your hand down.] I’m not seeing many hands. What’s that? You don’t know who your radiologist is? If you don’t, you’re not unique. Yet radiologists have become increasingly important in the healthcare delivery system. For those of you who aren’t “medically inclined,” Radiologists are medical doctors (MDs) or doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) who specialize in diagnosing and treating diseases and injuries using medical imaging techniques, such as x-rays, computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), nuclear medicine, positron emission tomography (PET) and ultrasound (Definition courtesy of the American College of Radiology).

I’m guessing that a few bells are starting to ring now – we’re all familiar with X-rays, MRIs and CT scans at this point. But what most of us don’t realize is that radiologists are usually behind the scenes – completely invisible to the patient. Most of their work is done in a “reading room” that’s completely separated from the exam rooms frequented by patients. It’s quite common for the radiologist to make an analysis of the test results they’re shown, write a report for the referring physician, and send the report back – and that’s the sum total of the engagement in the process.

Yet now, more than ever, the expertise of the radiologist needs to be an integrated part of the continuum of care. Dr. Cynthia Sherry chairs the Radiology Department at Texas Health Presbyterian hospital in Dallas, and is also the Chief Medical Director for the Radiology Leadership Institute. The RLI, a program of the American College of Radiology, is designed to reshape the future of the practice of Radiology.

The old stereotype of the “disengaged radiologist” in the back room absolutely needs to change. Imaging has become such an important part of health care delivery today that virtually all patients have an imaging test of some kind. When the situation calls for it and the patient has an advanced test early in the process, they have measurably better outcomes … the radiologist needs to be more engaged, earlier in the process.

Cynthia Sherry, MD – Medical Director, the Radiology Leadership Institute

That sentiment correlates well with a survey that was announced this week by GE Healthcare* as a part of their MIND Initiative (Making an Impact on Neurological Disorders). That survey, which focused on diagnoses of Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s Disease and Parkinson’s Disease, was able to quantify significant advantages (financial and otherwise) to reducing delays in diagnosis.

The RLI has developed a comprehensive curriculum that is designed to equip radiologists for leadership in the evolving model for delivering healthcare in the US. Underlying all of that leadership development is that radiologists are being trained and equipped to have a voice – and that’s where social media begins to come into play.

For a function that’s traditionally perceived as being a part of the “back office,” a surprising number of radiologists have taken to social media as a mechanism to build those broader connections with referring physicians and patients. We’re tracking over 200 online radiologists through our MDigitalLIfe initiative (you can find a list of them, along with other important members of the radiology community, in this twitter list). One of the most active of them is Garry Choy, a staff radiologist at Mass General Hospital and an instructor at Harvard Medical School. He’s also the founder of a proprietary social network for radiologists called radRounds – that now has over 12,000 members from around the world.

But Garry is also a huge proponent of Twitter – and when I asked him why, his response was, “because it saves me so much time.” Yes, you read that right. Since most non-Twitter-users seem to think of it as a huge time-suck, I was a little surprised myself. So I asked him to elaborate.

“As a radiologist, it’s critically important for me to be connected to all of the latest advancements in process and technology as it relates to medicine. The people I follow on Twitter act as a human filter for the best information. It also allows me to access the top experts in the world, in real time, when I have a question.”

Garry Choy, MD – Mass General Hospital’s Division of Emergency Radiology and Teleradiology

I’m lucky enough to be spending the weekend with some incredibly inspiring radiologists this weekend at the annual meeting of the California Radiological Society – where I’ll be making a presentation with Dr. James Chen on Radiology and Social Media on Sunday the 22nd at 12:00 PDT. We’ll be sharing some data on how Radiologists are using social media for the very first time, which is always exciting. And I’ll also be doing 1×1 “Online Activation” coaching with a couple of dozen radiologists who are ready to take that next step into the future. You can follow all the action through the hashtag #CalRad13.

There’s much more to come as radiologists embrace the future of their field – and as online communication looms large in that process, we’ll all be able to follow along. Enjoy the ride!

*GE Healthcare is a client of WCG.