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Download The Social Oncology Project 2016 here.

Today, we’re releasing the fourth version of our annual report, The Social Oncology Project, a comprehensive review of conversations about oncology happening on publicly facing social media.

Before I note some of the lessons we learned from this year’s report, I wanted to flag how the lessons we’ve learned over the previous three years colored our approach. Our initial impulse in surveying the online landscape was to understand WHAT was being said about cancer. That helped us better understand the ebbs and flows of topics discussed online and impressed us with the pure volume of conversations.

But what we found was that trying to make sense of every last tweet about cancer could be misleading. We found a lot of tweets, but there was a lot of low-value conversation. It was difficult to draw firm conclusions about WHAT was being said without knowing WHO was talking.

So this year, we’ve boosted the signal-to-noise ratio by looking at four specific groups of online influencers who have demonstrated influence and high-quality discussions: doctors, advocates, patients and media. Though the lines between these groups are not always bright, categorizing online voices with more precision offers a more complete picture of what is truly happening in social oncology.

By looking at these four groups, across five different cancer types and two specific topics (immunotherapy and value in cancer care), we’ve gleaned four key truths about the state of the online oncology conversation:

  • Connections > Volume. For every cancer we assessed, we plotted a network graph, showing how every member of the community was connected to every other. What we found was that it wasn’t always the person posting the most that had the most influence: it was the individual whose network knit together the more diverse coalition.
  • Video is King. We also looked at thousands of links shared within hashtag communities. And despite the fact that oncology is not necessarily a visually-driven medium, we saw YouTube emerge time and time again as a site that was frequently shared, especially by patient and advocates. In a world in which we all have video cameras in our pocket, video will only play a larger role in communication around oncology.
  • News Doesn’t Drive Education. When hashtag communities look for new information, they tended to either go right to the source (peer-reviewed publications) or vetted medical information from the government or large cancer centers. News stories drive relative few conversations, suggesting that what’s new isn’t necessarily what is important, especially for clinicians and patients.
  • Doctors Serve as a Bridge to Information. Physicians in the network, across nearly every subject we analyzed, were unique in that they pushed peer-reviewed data out across the network, not watered-down summaries of research. Navigating the scientific literature can be hard—not because non-physicians can’t understand it, but because separating wheat from chaff is not always straightforward—and by directing attention to key papers, physicians play a vital role.

All of this may beg the question of what’s next. Our conversations with thought leaders—some of which are included in the report and some of which will appear on the blog in the days to come—suggest that the next big thing is smaller conversations. Though large, hashtag-driven discussions are not a part of the fabric of online conversations, we’re hearing more about the way that smaller communities can come together for information exchange in private messages, closed Facebook groups or crowdfunding platforms.

While network size will continue to be factor in making sure that the right people find each other, we look forward to exploring a future in which a kaleidoscope of small, interlocked groups drive social oncology to new places.

Download The Social Oncology Project 2016 here

TheSocialOncologyReport-Cover-HiRes

TSOP CoverDownload The Social Oncology Project 2015 here

Starting in 2013, my colleagues and I have published an annual report called The Social Oncology Project. The past two years, we have looked across all digital communications and surfaced literally millions of online conversations that mention cancer. The results were heady proof that there was substantial discussion about cancer happening online.

But as we thought about The Social Oncology Project 2015, we realized that aggregating millions of cancer conversations was a more empty exercise. Not all voices in the online ecosystem are the same, and merely surfing though a digital tidal wave of information, tallying mentions, taught us little about who was having those conversations.
This year, we tried a different tack. The first part of this year’s report focuses on one specific subset of the conversation: doctors. Through our MDigitalLife database, we know which conversations online are coming from verified, practicing physicians. And while medical professionals make up a minority of the online population, their voices carry particular resonance.
The second part of the report looks at the way that the physician community intersects with other communities we have begun to define: the patient community, the media community, industry and advocacy communities. That offers another level of richness and takes us further away from a focus on brute volume. It’s fascinating to note those individuals who have outsized impact on a given community and a margin impact on another. Take Naoto Ueno from MD Anderson: he’s a veritable online rockstar among his peers and digitally savvy patients, but he’s almost entirely off the radar of the media.
Understanding how information flows–or doesn’t flow–among these communities is critically important, especially to communicators. We live in a world of information overload, and we are using more and more filters, conscious and unconscious, to deal with that overload. The Social Oncology Project, for the first time, has begun to map out one of the most important filters of all: who we listen to and who we engage with. This is a crucial first step, and we hope that it will help to understand the most effective ways to communicate about public health.
We welcome your feedback.

Later this week, the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting will kick off. Earlier in the month, research from W2O Group was published by ASCO, examining the use of social media by physicians. It’s an endeavor that will be extended later this week when we release our third Social Oncology Project report.

Our research found, unsurprisingly, that there is a lot of chatter by physicians about cancer on Twitter.

Nearly 140,000 tweets mentioned one of dozens of cancer-related keywords, and more than 5,000 physicians took part in this rolling, public dialogue. But we should be well past the point of being amazed that physicians are taking to social media; it’s a rare professional organization that doesn’t see Twitter use as a key tool to educate physicians and other doctors. For both practice management and public health, engagement on platforms such as Twitter can no longer be ignored.

But in looking deeper, we found that all voices are not equal in conversations about cancer. While those 5,000 doctors all tweeted at least once, there was an elite group of 19 who recorded more than 1,000 cancer-related tweets over the course of the year. That’s a milestone that is impressive, but almost baffling: these are, generally, in-demand oncologists with demanding day jobs. Where are they finding the time to dash off dozens of tweets a week?

So we asked. And here are the answers.

website_photo[1]DR. DEANNA ATTAI, Assistant clinical professor of surgery at UCLA, president of American Society of Breast Surgeons:

We know there are huge knowledge gaps and we feel it’s our duty of sorts to try to close that. I think also for me–and this accounts for the volume–is that my audience is both patients/public and docs, where many docs don’t interact much with the patient communities. It’s a real challenge as I do have my true day job (patient care) as well as my new job (ASBrS president) but I just think it serves too great a need (perhaps an inflated sense of worth?) to just let it go. There is satisfaction is seeing patients have their questions answered, become empowered, and then get to witness them mentoring and educating others. And the the satisfaction for MD engagement is seeing docs transition from being social media skeptics to the “ah ha” moment when they recognize the value.

ago1KktK[1]DR. MICHAEL FISCH, Medical director of medical oncology for AIM Specialty Health:

I find that I am able to use twitter as a way to find useful information that cuts across broad topics in oncology. For example, given my interest in cross-cutting oncology topics, how else might I expect to keep up on this array of information? Twitter allows me to harness my colleagues to guide me, through their mentions and retweets, to high-value articles and influential pieces in the lay press. Of course, there is some initial “activation energy” that it takes to learn any new thing (like a new kind of smartphone), but once you have the basics figured out, things get very efficient.

7c2b2cf6756ab7535e0184962d9f6bea[1]DR. JACK WEST, Medical oncologist and founder/president of cancer education nonprofit GRACE:

The main motivation sharing information is that this is the information that I appreciate getting from other people. I have learned a lot from tweets I’ve come across, I want to share the things that I think are of value to other people. There have been many practical benefits as well, such as developing relationships with various thought leaders in oncology through twitter, finding at least one of the board members for GRACE (Sally Church) via Twitter, and even ultimately being selected as web editor for JAMA Oncology largely because of my online presence. But at the end of the day, the primary motivation is just to share information that you would want to receive yourself. We want to be valuable contributors to our community, in this case an online cancer community.

To track what Drs. Attai, Fisch, West (and thousands of other oncologists) will be discussing on Twitter during #ASCO15, please subscribe to W2O Group’s “Complete Response” newsletter, delivered every morning of the conference. Complete Response will curate and package the tweets and links most-shared by the most important group of ASCO attendees: oncologists. 

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.

About two weeks ago we launched The Social Oncology Project.  As that project (and subsequent report) came to life, our focus was on uncovering insights by analyzing the numbers.

While we found the data interesting, we wanted to go a step further and include expert opinions because we think the stories of how social media gets used are a critical component to understanding where these tools are headed.  With that in mind, we headed to Chicago to speak with physicians, advocates and industry representatives about their use of social media.  Here’s a look at some of the things we learned:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjIknF_2zAw[/youtube]

  1. While some are more timid than others when it comes to social media, physicians are not afraid to get online.  Many recognize that it is a powerful tool for monitoring/tracking conversations and, in fact, a certain percentage is actively engaged in their field of expertise AND outside their field of expertise.
  2. One of the biggest barriers to physician use of social media appears to be time constraints/ competing priorities in their daily routine.
  3. If you’re interested in ASCO, there are definitely some ‘must follow’ people on twitter – and @MaverickNY and @adamfeuerstein  came up more than a few times.
  4. Social media is playing a significant – and still growing – role in patient education.  We heard about patient resources, educational videos, and group forums being shared online by The PAN Foundation,  Johns Hopkins , and Malecare, respectively.
  5. When it comes to social media, the pharmaceutical industry has made great strides over the last several years.  However, the lack of industry guidelines cannot continue to be an excuse from engaging with patients through channels they are active on.
  6. In the future, the use of social media within healthcare will become the norm. As platforms such as twitter become second nature, they won’t be considered time consuming and some believe social media will make its way into medical school curriculum.

For more information about ASCO 2013, check out these posts by colleague Brian Reid and friend Geoff Curtis.

You can view the full Social Oncology report, interviews and media coverage here: www.wcgworld.com/mdigitallife

Yesterday saw the opening of the Doctors 2.0 and You conference in Paris, France. We were lucky enough to participate in the twitter conversation happening at the hashtag #Doctors20 thanks in part to the global interest in the Social Oncology Project, and our follow-up post on Medcrunch.net (What we learned from studying 16 million cancer conversations per year). The conference hashtag is definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re into a more global version of healthcare and social media.

Our team enjoyed what we saw so much that we decided to turn the Day 1 links that were shared at the conference into a downloadable eBook … it’s a great way to keep track of everything that’s been shared at the conference, on your iPad, Kindle, Nook, or whatever reader you favor … or you can embed it on your own blog or web site. Just click on the “Export” (download as an ebook) or “Share” (embed in your web site; share on twitter or facebook) buttons below. Enjoy!

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 four, 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), and The MDs most mentioned by their peers (lung cancer edition) 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. And that’s what we’ll be looking at for the next few days. There’s still a level deeper to go, so stay with me – but for now, let me introduce the physicians who have been most-mentioned by other doctors on the subject of prostate cancer.

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.

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

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 two, Doctors and Social Oncology: Trends in Physician ConversationsDoctors and Social Oncology: The MDs most active in leading online cancer conversations, and Doctors and Social Oncology: The MDs most mentioned by their peers (skin cancer edition) 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. And that’s what we’ll be looking at for the next few days. There’s still a level deeper to go, so stay with me – but for now, let me introduce the physicians who have been most-mentioned by other doctors on the subject of lung cancer.

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.

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 two, Doctors and Social Oncology: Trends in Physician Conversations, and Doctors and Social Oncology: The MDs most active in leading online cancer conversations, 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. 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 certain topic area. 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. And that’s what we’ll be looking at for the next few days. There’s still a level deeper to go, so stay with me – but for now, let me introduce the physicians who have been most-mentioned by other doctors on the subject of skin cancer.

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.

HUGE thanks to my W2O Group colleagues Rami Lazarus, Franco Galimberti, Kayla Rodriguez, Alim Leung, Scott Kramer and Matt Snodgrass for contributing to these amazing image capsules.