Every website is identified and accessed by its own Internet Protocol or IP address, which used to be just a string of seemingly random numbers such as / You can thank “Uniform Resource Locators” or URLs for a more intuitive and human way to access websites, in this case:

“Top Level Domains” (TLDs) are the “.com” part of a URL, the .suffix swapped with a few letters that help identify that website as belonging to a particular industry, specialty, or organization. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) enabled new TLDs in 2012, and since then a few have caught on, such as .edu and .gov.

The big news for healthcare companies and their marketers is the release of .health. Registration through dotHealthLLC for qualified organizations is available through November 30th, after which the TLD is released to the general public. Big names in payors, providers, and pharmacy such as BlueCross BlueShield, Pfizer, the Mayo Clinic, and CVS have already registered and are using the .health TLD.

Although fewer users are typing URLs, over 1200 TLDs ranging from .pet to .date to .vodka have already been registered by ICANN, and Google claims they have no influence over search results, using them can nonetheless help organizations better identify and protect themselves, and confirm credibility—three needs vitally important to healthcare companies and their HCP, patient, and caregiver audiences.

Benefits also include:

Stake the claim on name and reputation. At the very least, healthcare companies need to realize that if they don’t claim their own .health TLD, someone else likely will. Similar to .com squatting and pirating from the Web 1.0 age, competitors and unscrupulous buyers could conceivably take your domain after November 30th. Now is the time!

Stake the claim on the new and burgeoning .health domain. More than 1500 companies have already registered using this TLD, thousands more to come. So your clients should have first-choice on website name, and take full advantage of this initial industry-only grace period to be ahead of their competitors and differentiate.

Stake the claim on entire disease areas: The opportunity to associate your healthcare company with disease areas is ripe; for example, owning,,, etc. are for those who register early and often. Same rules apply to unique and salient aspects of brands, treatments, etc.

Establish immediate category recognition and company credibility: Akin to .edu and .gov, where users immediately know the kind of website they have visited and feel comfortable with their authority, .health could benefit your franchises and their brands. dotHealthLLC assures a thorough vetting process to build and maintain trust.

Differentiate and gain attention in a crowded market: Specialized companies can use .health to demonstrate their relevance and commitment to healthcare, such as,, and, etc. Affixing .health instantly connects your capabilities to a $3.2 trillion annual vertical.

We therefore recommend our healthcare clients register their own .health TLDs as soon as possible by typing this URL:, The jury is still out on future .health adoption and credibility, but if the early signs and industry trends continue, then this TLD will become a prerequisite for success in 2018 and beyond.

For the last eight years, I’ve built a career around the belief that the work I do every day helps people. As a medtech communications specialist who helps raise awareness about new innovations, the best part of my day is knowing that I’ve educated someone (or their loved ones) about a treatment option that could better manage their disease – and hopefully improve their lives.

So, naturally, I was drawn to understand the plans set out by FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb in his blog post about how the organization will implement The 21st Century Cures Act. His blog cites examples for an actionable work plan that will “modernize” the current state of regulatory programs to “facilitate access to safe and effective new innovation.”

I obviously agree that getting treatments into the hands of those that need them most is paramount. However, the following “Cures” provision prompted me to stop and think about what’s most important when it comes to patient access to medical innovation:

Under provisions of Cures, CDRH exempted more than 70 Class I device types from the requirement to submit to FDA a 510(k) submission. CDRH also proposed exempting another 1,000+ Class II device types from having to submit a 510(k) submission based on an initial determination that premarket review is not necessary to provide a reasonable assurance of safety and effectiveness. This action will decrease regulatory burdens on the device industry and eliminate private costs and expenditures.

The last sentence struck me most and brings me to my core question: how can we best balance the scale? How can unnecessary regulatory burdens be eliminated, but at the same time, how can we ensure that rigorous trials and supportive evidence continues to be produced? How do we ensure that new, FDA-approved innovation truly improves patient outcomes, and are worth the money? This conundrum is at the heart of the future of the medical device industry.

Last year, a device that had promise to revolutionize the minimally-invasive treatment of coronary artery disease was approved by the FDA. Then, earlier this month, the device was pulled from the market due concerns that it resulted in a significant increase in cardiac events after implantation.

A regulatory action of this kind is not unique. In fact, it’s been happening for many years – a Perspective piece[i] in the New England Journal of Medicine that was published in September 2011 cited a different example, with authors concluding: “…in the interest of advancing human health, patients must have easy access to innovative medical devices and…the approval process needs to be sensible and efficient. But no one’s interest is served by putting defective medical devices onto the market where they cause harm to patients, waste health care dollars, and may kill jobs when they are withdrawn.”

These words were published six years ago. And yet here we are, still grappling with the same issues.

In the end, the solution lies in achieving the right balance: fewer regulatory barriers vs. more clinical scrutiny. We must continue to drive innovation forward to help save lives, but we can’t put too much weight into fast-tracking approvals without the appropriate clinical rigor that provides insight into a technology’s long-term potential.

So, which side do you think should tip the scale?

[i] Curfman, G. D. & Redberg, R. F. (2011). Medical Devices — Balancing Regulation and Innovation. N Engl J Med. 365:975-977. DOI: 10.1056.


When our former colleague and friend, Allie McCormick, – now Innovation Activation and PR Manager, JLABS @ TMC Houston – reached out asking if current colleague Meredith Owen and I would lead a session on the growth of healthcare audiences on social media we enthusiastically said absolutely.

JNJ has built out a beautiful space complete with cutting edge research technology and curated a stellar cohort of early stage life science companies. To give you an introduction to JLABS and the work Allie is doing there, we asked her to answer a few questions:

What is JLABS @ TMC? What are JLABS goals?

JLABS @ TMC is a capital efficient, no strings attached incubator that sits beneath the Johnson & Johnson Innovation umbrella. We provide Life Science startups the infrastructure they need, including wet lab space and equipment, that enables them to simply focus on their science with the ultimate goal of getting solutions into patients faster.

What is the impact JLABS has had or hopes to have on Houston?

We’re building an incredible ecosystem with our partners at the Texas Medical Center, and it is our goal to become the premier destination for Life Science and Biotech startups within the region.

What is your role at JLABS?

My role has three parts:

  1. The first is to support JLABS and our residents from a communications perspective, as well as drive the program strategy and curriculum.
  2. Secondly, I support Johnson & Johnson Innovation for the Texas region, which includes supporting three executives from a communications perspective, and handling any marketing or communications needs within the region.
  3. Lastly, I’m responsible for the Texas ecosystem, and ensuring we’re showing up where we should and partnering with the right people.

Why was it important to host a session on social/digital communications for the JLABS companies?

As the communications lead, I get a lot of questions regarding social. I think most scientists know that it’s valuable, but are unsure how to get started or tap into that value. Being a former employee of W2O Group, I’ve seen the expertise internally and knew they could easily translate this information into something valuable for our companies. And they delivered.

Thanks to Allie and Katelyn Bach’s hard work planning the session, we had a great conversation with JLABS cohort companies and members of the Houston health community. Our session examined the growing online conversation among healthcare professionals, patients, advocates, media and industry; explained the importance of maintaining an active social media presence; informed attendees how to track & leverage online conversations about the topics important to them and gave simple steps to get started on social media.

In addition, the session also covered how the above learnings can be utilized to optimize and target key audiences on social to improve marketing communications, clinical trial recruitment, risk and reputation management and investor relations. For a further recap of the session see Christine Hall’s recap in the TMC News.

Follow Steven Cutbirth on twitter @SvenC; Follow Meredith Owen on twitter @Mere_Owen; and MDigitalLife on twitter @MDigitalLife.

To learn more about how the MDigitalLife Online Health Ecosystem database can reshape the way you interact with doctors, patients, the media & all the important stakeholders of your healthcare company, learn more about us here.


Recently, several colleagues and I had a chance to network, share best practices and brainstorm solutions to industry challenges with more than 50 of our agency peers, pharma clients and top-tier media at the 13th exl Public Relations and Communications Summit. The energy was high and the crowd was never at a loss for words or ideas, with discussion centering on the following themes.

Analytics: Use It or Lose It

From condition education to the value and pricing debate, Analytics helps guide content and channel strategy, customize messages for optimal audience impact and measure ROI – a challenge PR and Comms professionals frequently face compared to other Marketing disciplines. If you are not employing Analytics, you will fall behind the competitive curve.

Deep and Meaningful Engagement: Yes, We Can…

Digital and social communications play an increasingly important role in the overall patient experience, including reaching, influencing and supporting people with divergent needs. The review process may be daunting as pharma continues to become more comfortable with digital and social engagement. But, it is possible to establish branded and unbranded Facebook pages, coordinate Facebook Live events and push the envelope further. Vet concepts in advance, share real-world case studies and trouble-shoot potential issues with Legal, Regulatory and Corporate teams to help minimize potential roadblocks.

Content: Still King if It’s Relevant and Authentic

With the multitude of current and emerging social and digital communications channels, we can expand content reach and impact by repackaging or tailoring it to address the needs of multiple audiences. As an industry, we strive to be authentic and build engaging voices. It can be challenging in our highly-regulated industry, but we can be successful by listening carefully to what is important to our stakeholders, incorporating feedback, flexing based on broader industry trends and being relevant and real as we engage with various audiences.

Value: Like Beauty, It’s in the Eye of the Beholder

Many speakers addressed the value and pricing debate head on. They urged communicators to take a more proactive approach to shape and share the story.

Celgene CEO Mark J. Alles, for example, implored attendees to focus on patient outcomes and clearly convey the life and death difference that pharma innovations make as critical to the industry’s value proposition. Value and price, two separate concepts, do not resonate with detractors, but you can’t argue a patient outcome.

Among other points, Acorda Therapeutics’ CEO Ron Cohen, M.D., noted that the money needed to innovate in healthcare is an investment in the future. Eventually pharma innovations, which may appear costly initially, go generic, broadening their reach, which can improve patient outcomes and decrease cost of care over time. The focus must be on the patient and patient outcomes, as well as healthcare’s impact more broadly.

What’s Next?

As communicators, we are uniquely positioned to play a critical role in helping inform and guide people as they seek health solutions and in demonstrating the value that our industry brings to patients, their caregivers and healthcare providers.

Analytics can help us understand the landscape more clearly and how to be relevant to our audiences. Insights garnered from Analytics, research and our relevant experience combined allow us to create content and communities that educate and meaningfully engage diverse audiences about important health issues.

Our fearless leader, Jim Weiss, has always believed that great people doing great work are key reasons for the firm’s success. We’ve experienced exponential growth in the last year, and we’ll continue to strengthen our talent and capabilities to stay ahead of the curve. Today we announced the hiring of Mary Corcoran who will join the firm as President of Twist Mktg, the second largest firm in W2O’s network. I’m excited to welcome her and sat down with her to get a little more insight into her background and why she chose to join the firm.

Gary: Welcome to the W2O and Twist Mktg teams, Mary. We’re thrilled to have you here. What attracted you to W2O?

Mary: I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart. I like building things, and thrive in innovative, fast-moving environments. When I met Jim and the other leaders at W2O, I knew straightaway we were kindred spirits in this sense. In addition to the cultural fit, W2O has made some very smart bets in the marketplace to drive innovation and business results through communications and marketing programs, thinking ahead of the curve on analytics in particular. Our clients, more so than ever before, need partner agencies to maximize their investment to the measurable benefit of their businesses. W2O is in a position of strength to deliver on this critical client need.

Gary: From your perspective, what are the critical factors to building a successful agency today?  

Mary: Hmm, well we don’t want to give away all of the secrets – we have a business to build at Twist! Just kidding.. kind of.  In all seriousness, in building agency business, I focus on the following:

  • Start with the clients (always!) Listen carefully, and discover their unmet needs. This sets the roadmap for the capabilities and talent required to meet an evolving communications and marketing landscape
  • Retain and hire the VERY BEST people to create an optimal alchemy of creativity and intelligent delivery
  • Work your tail off
  • Have fun, lots of fun.

Gary: Mary, can you share your background in health and tech and how that is in sync with your role here?

Mary: Technology and health are the two sectors where I have spent the most time in my professional life. On the health side of things, I focused exclusively on digital health for the first part of my agency career, particularly in the public affairs and advocacy realm. In that context, I worked in a wide variety of sub-sectors, including various pharma trade associations and companies, health insurance, medical technology and bioscience. The work ranged from DTC and HCP marketing to public affairs advocacy to crises.  The next chapter of my career was almost exclusively tech focused, including consumer, B2B and corporate work across a wide swath of the Valley.

My depth of experience across health and tech are important for this role not only to support and expand the current health leaning client portfolio, but to support our aspiration to continue to scale our work in the technology sector.

Gary: The digital landscape is constantly changing. What do you think is most important for marketers/communicators to keep in mind to ensure success?

Mary: Regardless of medium, I would always counsel that the most important thing – has been and always will be – audience.  Where do they seek information and what sources do they trust (platforms, publications and people)? What about your message or product is relevant to them? What will move them to awareness or even better, action? Uncovering the powerful insight (s) that marry the authentic attributes of your product/campaign to the unmet needs of your target audience is rocket fuel for breakthrough creative. Channel planning and paid media informed by rigorous analytics and optimization ensures the message is delivered effectively.

Gary: What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Mary: Work hard and be nice!

Gary:  When you look at building teams and integrating skills and services, what do you focus on most to be effective?

When it comes to building and integrating diverse teams to deliver killer communications and marketing programs, I think you need to keep it dead simple. This is what I focus on:

  • The client – First always. Identify the client’s problem or opportunity.Get crystal clear on this point. Codify with a brief and ensure consensus with your customer!
  • Determine the mix of talent and capabilities ideally suited to knock the project or campaign out of the park
  • Identify the people, assemble the team and assign a leader
  • Ensure clarity of roles, responsibilities, expectations and work rhythms, but not to the exclusion of agility.
  • Do the work!

Gary:  Can you share the one thing people would never believe about you?

Mary: I blew off business school for a boyfriend. Who has now been my husband for almost a decade and we have two beautiful children. I don’t regret my decision!

Gary: This was fun. Thank you, Mary! Looking forward to working alongside you and #MakingitHappen.

At W2O, we work across therapeutic areas to help our clients understand healthcare providers (HCPs) perspectives on key topics by analyzing their social media posts. That work has enabled us to form special relationships with a number of leading HCPs, including key oncology & hematology influencers. As a result of this work we were invited to contribute to a journal article introducing Hematologists & Oncologists to social media platforms.

On a daily basis, our job at MDigitalLife (a W2O company) is to measure the value emanating from the presence of expert HCP opinions within online social discourse, and it can be an incredible force. We see that HCPs are often guiding online conversations, and we’re encouraged when experts lead the way.

Many top online HCPs have told us their main impetus for establishing an online presence was to correct misinformation put out by the likes of Jenny McCarthy (Antivax sentiment) and more recently sites like – backed by celebrity Gwyneth Paltrow – which admonish patients to turn to unproven treatments and spurn sound medical advice from knowledgeable HCPs.

Clearly, HCPs can’t police the entire internet, but having trained medical professionals active online to hold the online health community accountable is truly invaluable. To that end, we continue to partner with leading HCPs to advocate for further adoption of social media platforms, and today we are pleased to share the recent publication of a collaborative article between the MDigitalLife team and key online HCPs.

Greg Matthews (head of healthcare analytics innovation at W2O and creator of MDigitalLife) and Yash Gad, PhD (head of healthcare analytics technology at W2O) collaborated with leading minds Michael A. Thompson, MD, PhD, Don S. Dizon, MD, Howard J. Luks, MD, and ePatient advocates Jenny Ahlstrom (CrowdCare Foundation) & Andrew Schorr (PatientPower) to publish “Twitter 101 & beyond: Introduction to social media platforms available to practicing hematologist/oncologists in the Seminars in Hematology journal.

What’s in the Article

The full article provides a practical introduction to social media outlets, hashtags, & social analytics, along with first-hand experiences of patients and HCPs with crowdfunding, advocacy forums & integration of social activity into HCP daily routines.

The W2O team utilized our extensive experience in social analytics to contribute a framework for measuring online healthcare conversations to the article. Rather than just looking at the number of posts or the theoretical “reach” of the authors of those posts (an aggregation of the number of followers each poster has – a misleading measurement), in this article we propose a novel set of metrics that will give researchers a way to quantitatively measure the truly important facets of a conversation. The metrics we propose include size of the conversation, author and content diversity, connectivity of the authors, equitability of the conversation, originality of the conversation, temporality (for event driven conversations), authors’ impact on the health ecosystem as a whole, and conversationality between authors. Collectively, these metrics provide the basis for a deeper understanding of online conversations and a way to objectively compare them. (for more info on these metrics, see our “Scoring Online Networks” blog)

The article abstract:

“Social media utilizes specific media platforms to allow increased interactivity between participants. These platforms serve diverse groups and purposes including participation from patients, family caregivers, research scientists, physicians, pharmaceutical companies. Utilization of these information outlets has increased with integration at conferences and between conferences with the use of hashtags and “chats”. In the realm of the “e-Patient” it is key to not underestimate your audience. Highly technical information is just as useful as a basic post. With growing use, social media analytics help track the volume and impact of content. Additionally, platforms are leveraging each other for uses including Twitter, blogs, web radio, and recorded video and images. We explore information on social media resources and applications from varying perspectives. While these platforms will evolve over time, or disappear with new platforms taking their place, it is apparent they are now a part of the everyday experience of oncology communication.”

We thank our co-authors for sharing their knowledge and experiences with social media platforms, and we hope this article will contribute to the growing library of resources for HCPs interested in engaging with social media.

For the full text, visit Seminars in Hematology. (account or purchase required)

About MDigitalLife

The MDigitalLife Online Health Ecosystem database powers the W2O Group’s healthcare analytics, a key driver for our integrated marketing and communications offerings. 70% of the world’s biggest pharma companies have benefitted from the power of MDigitalLife, along with hundreds of other healthcare organizations.

Follow MDigitalLife on twitter @MDigitalLife; Like MDigitalLife on Facebook.

To learn more about how the MDigitalLife Online Health Ecosystem database can reshape the way you interact with doctors, patients, the media & all the important stakeholders of your healthcare company, learn more about us here or reach out to Greg Matthews.


In a recently published report, the Academy of Medical Sciences surveyed 2,041 members of the public and 1,013 general practitioners regarding their attitude to medical research. Startlingly only 37% of the public said they would trust evidence from medical research while 65% said they would trust experience from family and friends. Even more surprising was that 82% of the general practitioners surveyed said that they believed medical research was biased to demonstrate favourability towards the positive effects of drugs and that they are skeptical of claims made by pharmaceutical drug trials.

Those of us working with the bio pharmaceutical industry are exposed to the rapid progression of medical science on a regular basis. When we look at the relatively recent advances of cancer treatment, the results are staggering – no longer making many cancers a death sentence. So why are the public and our general practitioners still skeptical? Beyond working toward restoring the public perceptions that the focus of bio pharmaceutical companies has on driving healthcare and not profits, what can we, as communicators, do to ensure that our communications are targeted, appropriate and well-balanced?

Throughout the drug life cycle there are always good reasons to keep patients and healthcare providers (HCPs) well informed and educated and it’s vital for medical affairs teams to communicate not only robust, data-driven science – that’s a given – but to also meet the needs of the target audience. What better way to do this than to truly understand their challenges through insights and analytics. With patients becoming a more aged population and more sophisticated treatments being made available, insight-driven content can help drive the development of clearer and more useful information enabling patients and HCPs to make better-informed decisions.

This begins with appropriately capturing and synthesizing insights from the different audience groups and then deploying these insights and the knowledge they bring to provide the most relevant and accurate information that is targeted and allows your communications to cut through the noise. To do this effectively, it’s essential that medical affairs fosters a deep understanding of who they are aiming to engage with, what are their needs and how they like to receive that information. Ultimately, the end goal is to foster the ability to anticipate the needs of each of the stakeholder groups and to meet those needs in the most effective way through language and level of science that will resonate.

When companies invest into developing insight-driven, relevant communications and providing them in platforms and language that are meaningful to patients or HCPs they improve the time, cost and outcome of their research efforts while delivering a more positive experience for their patients.

Perhaps in the future we can all help move the needle and increase the trust in medical research by providing the best possible ways to use and communicate scientific evidence so that progress will be translated directly into patient benefits – the ultimate goal.


One of the steps required by the FDA of biotech, medical device and pharmaceutical companies before launching or “commercializing” a new drug/device is to test the drug/device with a certain number of patients. As you can imagine, finding and recruiting the right patients into these clinical trials can be difficult, especially when it comes to rare diseases or uncommon disorders. In the past, companies leveraged radio ads, billboards, ads at bus stops among other techniques but as the world becomes more digital, these tactics have become more expensive and less effective.


Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down with our partner and the founder/CEO of Seeker Health, Sandra Shpilberg, to discuss how companies like hers are leveraging digital marketing to recruit patients more effectively. During our half hour conversation, Sandra and I talk about:

  • The evolution of clinical trial recruitment (CTR)
  • How the web and social media have impacted CTR
  • The impetus for Sandra starting Seeker Health
  • The importance of being “clean and compliant” when recruiting
  • Who and what are inspiring her today

Thank you Sandra for taking the time to chat! I feel a little bit smarter and hopefully our listeners do too!

Note: during the interview, Sandra cites the book, Founders at Work, as one she is in the process of reading. Both of us referred to the author as “Jennifer Livingston.” The author’s correct name is “Jessica Livingston.” We both realized this after the interview but I chose to keep the section in because I liked her thought process about how the book was a quick and efficient way to learn about forty different startup founders.


This is the fifth edition of The Social Oncology Project, our annual examination of the role that social media plays in the discussion of cancer. Past efforts have focused largely on the question of “what”: what topics capture the attention of the public? What kinds of cancers generate the most traffic from oncologists? What kind of connections characterize the online ecosystem in oncology?

This year, however, we sought to answer an even more basic question: “who?” There has never been an in-depth effort to understand and describe the doctors who are discussing oncology online, a sense of what sets that minority of physicians apart from their offline peers (and what connects them). This was in part about describing the demographics, elements such as age, location, and sex. But it was also about trying to divine offline behaviors, too. Are wired docs publishing more? Developing deeper relationships with industry?

This isn’t an academic exercise; understanding who is speaking about oncology topics is crucial to our ability to arrive at conclusions about what social chatter means and what it doesn’t, and who exactly this cohort speaks for.

After sifting through a mountain of data – much of which is presented in the full report – we’ve come to five initial conclusions about what it means to be an online oncologist:

  1. Tweet or perish. Being an oncologist with a public Twitter profile is correlated with more publications in two ASCO journals. Clearly, it’s important not to confuse causation with correlation, but there is clearly a nexus between old measures of “opinion leadership” and new concepts about digital influence.
  2. Age is just a number. Yes, online doctors trend younger, but the dividing line is blurry, with 76 percent of the online group on the wrong side of 40. That’s a sign that while much of what is posted online can be seen as a reflection of early-career doctors, the technology has penetrated far more deeply than just those physicians who grew up in a social-media world.
  3. Online Oncologists Take More Sunshine Payments. Though the differences aren’t huge, online oncologists appear to receive more money from industry, a phenomenon driven in part by a well-represented minority. There has been increasing attention to what these kinds of connections mean, and how to manage them, and our work confirms that this remains a fruitful area of analysis.
  4. Twitter Use is Correlated with Bad Winters. Or, at least, with being a resident of Minnesota and Wisconsin, which have the highest rate of oncologists online. Understanding the environmental factors that make social media engagement will be important in understanding how to make social media more useful for a larger group.
  5. There’s a Lot We Still Don’t Know. The next questions we hope to answer: what can online relationships teach us about referral and prescription patterns? Teasing out these more subtle relationships will help us better calibrate the way that a social profile may predict or explain critical offline behaviors.

The key element of social oncology, and, indeed, the driving force of The Social Oncology Project, is driving dialogue. We have done our best to present the data we’ve gathered in a straightforward way, without generating hypotheses on the important “why” questions.

But the “why” discussion is critically important, and one that is best undertaken with as broad a group as possible. So we hope you’ll take a look at the report, hop online, and join us in parsing what it means to be a social oncologist and where the conversation goes next.

Follow Brian Reid on twitter @brianreid; Follow MDigitalLife on twitter @MDigitalLifeLike MDigitalLife on Facebook 

To learn more about how the MDigitalLife Online Health Ecosystem database can reshape the way you interact with doctors, patients, the media & all the important stakeholders of your healthcare company, learn more about us here.