One of the most common questions we get from clients heading into HIMSS is: What’s trending? After all, booths, badges and general bacchanalia at the world’s largest healthcare technology conference don’t come cheap. It helps to know what topics, issues, executives, media, speakers, influencers and brands are trending up…down…or in between. Smart marketers and communicators and their CEOs invest in these insights to inform their message, cut through the clutter and make stronger connections.

So, on the eve of HIMSS18, me and my fellow army of digital health nerds at W2O Group thought it would be worthwhile to share some such insights. HIMSS itself does provide a bit of a petri dish to understand how market conversations are trending.

Like kids in a candy store, the W2O Group analytics team dug into the data, comparing social discussions in the weeks and months before HIMSS18 versus HIMSS17. [i]  More specifically, they viewed public data through the lens of the MDigitalLife Health Ecosystem, which maps online behavior and digital footprints of more than 870,000 stakeholders worldwide, including doctors, patients, industry CXOs, hospitals, payers, technology vendors, advocacy organizations, media, analysts and among many others). For this particular analysis, we analyzed tweets mentioning HIMSS from verified authors in the Health Ecosystem.

Below are five takeaways from W2O’s pre-HIMSS18 social conversation analysis:  

1. The unofficial HIMSS prom court: If HIMSS had a prom court, Rasu Shrestha (@RasuShrestha) and Geeta Nayer, MD, (@gnayar) would be dubbed King and Queen, with Janae Sharp (@CoherenceMed), Danielle Siarri (@innonurse), Nick van Terheyden, MD (@drnic1), Charles Webster, MD (@WareFLO), Linda Stotsky (@EMRAnswers), Colin Hung (@Colin_Hung) and Max Stroud (@MMaxwellStroud) rounding out the group. The qualifier for this particular court is most mentioned handles within the HIMSS conversation from January 2017 to February 2018.

2. Social communities are thriving: Social groups and Twitter-based movements are a staple within the broader HIMSS conversation and engagement landscape. For example, #hcldr, which represents the weekly healthcare leader tweet chat/community, #HITsm, which is related to the healthcare IT social media gang and weekly tweet chat, and #pinksocks, which stands for the “PinkSocks Tribe” (whose members you’ll see wearing said color socks with curious mustaches on them at conferences) are all among the top hashtags in the HIMSS conversation both pre-HIMSS 2017 and 2018.

3. Conversation topics on the rise:

  • Precision medicine: From advances in genomics to the necessity that is taking a patient-centric approach to care delivery, use of “precision medicine” increased nearly 200% pre-HIMSS18 versus HIMSS17.
  • Patient centric: Both “patient centered” and “patient outcome” were used 55% and 48% more, respectively, in the weeks leading up to HIMSS18 versus HIMSS17. With HIMSS providing scholarships for patients and advocates at this year’s event (YES), and groups like the Society for Participatory Medicine playing a role, it’s great to see that the social conversation are increasingly mapping back to the patient.
  • Workflow technology: Someone tell @WareFLO that HIMSS-focused discussions mentioning “workflow tech” increased 90% leading up to HIMSS18—though perhaps not surprising, given the renewed industry focus on finding ways to alleviate the administrative burden and burnout on clinicians through better designed systems and solutions.
  • The artificial era: The AI revolution is very much alive and well. Conversations related to AI and machine learning were on the rise in the weeks before HIMSS18, with AI-related conversations increasing 19% pre-HIMSS18 compared to last year.
  • Analytics: None of the above are possible today without accounting for the role that data analytics plays. HIMSS-focused conversations referencing “data analytics” were up 20% leading up to HIMSS18 versus HIMSS17.

4. Notable hashtags support rising trends:

  • Reinforcing the patient-centered takeaways above, it’s great to see #patientengagement used 84% more this year in comparison to pre-HIMSS17.
  • #AI and its variants also increased in use prior to this year’s event as opposed to last, with many sessions in the HIMSS18 agenda focused on case studies of success and lessons learned from AI innovations in action. Related, #radiology is becoming a bigger part of the pre-HIMSS conversation, used 150% more compared to last year pre-event.
  • #VR, #AR and #IoT are even trendier this year, increasing in use upwards of 100-200% pre-HIMSS18 versus pre-HIMSS17.
  • #Aim2Innovate, #TransformHIT, #RethinkRCM, #EmpowerHIT and #Nurses4HIT all picked up steam this year leading in to the event in comparison to social chatter pre-HIMSS17.

5. What comes up…

As telling as it is to see what topics are trending up, those trending down can help tell a different story:

  • Policy-focused staples such as “MACRA” and “ACA” died down in use pre-HIMSS18 in comparison to the post-election year prior
  • Perhaps a bit more surprising, “healthcare costs” were mentioned 92% less leading up to HIMSS18 versus HIMSS17
  • While AI is heavily represented in the pre-event social conversations this year, blockchain in healthcare was mentioned 93% less pre-HIMSS18
  • Mobile apps are also not as popular in the pre-event chatter this year, mentioned 95% less ahead of HIMSS18
  • The patient-first narrative is seeming to take hold, with consumer health and customer experience being discussed 95% and 96% less, respectively, before this year’s event versus 2017.

Lastly, when looking at the audience breakdown of those driving the conversation (below), stakeholders that fall within in the health industry segment of the MDigitalLife Health Ecosystem—e.g., health system CXOs and technology decision makers—are the main conversation contributors, responsible for 40% of the HIMSS related posts, but only making up 27% of the authors.

U.S. Physicians are the opposite, contributing just 6% of posts but making up 23% of the authors. The takeaway? While doctors are present and accounted for, the health industry rules the HIMSS social discussion, contributing nearly seven times more than their caregiver counterparts.

What will the post-HIMSS18 story be? Stay tuned and we’ll tell you!

[i] Comparing conversation leading up to HIMSS 2017 (1.1.17 – 2.15.17) to conversation leading up to HIMSS 2018 (1.1.18 – 2.15.18)

 This blog was co-authored by Steven Cutbirth, Product Commercialization Lead, Healthcare Analytics Innovation at W2O 

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In March 1941, British cryptographer Mavis Batey broke the Italian version of the Enigma code and vectored a British battle group towards an Italian force near Cape Matapan, at the southern tip of Greece in the Mediterranean Sea. At 8:10 PM on March 28, the British cruiser Orion used a then-cutting-edge innovation called “RADAR” (Radio Detection and Ranging) to locate the Italian ships at night in heavy fog. A battle commenced, with the British achieving surprise and winning a significant victory. Both forces engaged in the Battle of Cape Matapan were formidable. Superior data gathering and interpretation followed by decisive action made the difference in a struggle that could have gone either way.

The stakes we compete for in digital marketing are incomparably lower, and our technologies far more advanced, than those of our foremothers and -fathers, but some of the same decision principles apply. The Brits invested heavily in gathering, collating, analyzing, and interpreting data, at multiple levels of their command structure, at a time when they were counting every penny and pound. They knew the value of sound, well-informed decision-making and put many of their resources into insight generation.

Modern marketers compete against savvy competitors to attract and convert fickle consumers in a landscape of always-shifting technologies and tastes. Most steps are wrong steps, in the sense that it is very hard to perceive the exact point at which the amount spent on any channel, tactic, placement, campaign, ad group, or keyword exceeds the marginal profit that spend drives. It is far more difficult for those marketing channels (such as network television) where there is no digital trail of consumer footprints leading from the marketing cause to the conversion effect.

President John F. Kennedy said that “Success has a hundred fathers.” Online conversions have at least that many, with half a dozen digital tools giving contradictory opinions as to which channels and tactics should get what transaction credit. DoubleClick, AdWords, and Bing Ads look all the way back to the very first impression that each of them served to award the lion’s share of conversion credit to display and paid search, respectively. Site-monitoring tools like Google Analytics and Adobe Analytics typically start tracking (and crediting) from the inbound click. They have a better view of traffic driven by all channels and the total online conversion pie but do not typically give “view-through” channels credit for paid channels’ upstream achievements. And their first-click, last-click, and various other non-algorithmic credit-spreading schemes are but dartboard guesses at the true causes of the conversion goodness that is happening on your site.

For a “few” dollars more, attribution specialists are willing to take your data (assuming you’ve got it available in a centralized data warehouse, more on this later) or, in some cases, generate their own data by tagging your site to generate a more accurate, algorithmic estimate of the fractional transaction credit each channel and tactic deserves. But the high costs of these options can outweigh their benefits. One can afford a lot of bad marketing spend for the price of an attribution model, and if the Orion had offloaded all of its ammunition to make room for its radar before putting out to sea, one can imagine the battle having had a different outcome. If you aren’t spending a certain amount on marketing per year across multiple digital channels (among which I include the P, E, and S elements of the PESO taxonomy), the attribution vendors themselves will typically wave you off. Cheaper attribution options exist, such as Google 360, but there is an inherent conflict of interest in getting one’s attribution from the very people who own the digital channels.

It used to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to house the millions of data rows necessary for attribution modeling and other digital decision-making…dollars the clients of enterprise data warehouse vendors like Teradata and Oracle gladly paid because they understood the improvements in decision clarity these data repositories enabled. Then came Hadoop, which commoditized data storage for those with programmers talented enough to set up Hadoop clusters and patient enough to wait for their snail-paced queries to complete. Now, cloud-based providers like Amazon Web Services offer the best of both worlds, enabling the rest of us to set up reliable, scalable enterprise data warehouses from which regular, SQL-speaking analysts can quickly and easily retrieve data that can be flushed to decision-makers via customized business intelligence dashboards, or shaped into laser-guided decision documents, all from an investment of couch-cushion change (depending on one’s couch).

Should you? Andrew McAfee and Erik Brynjolfsson discovered in 2012 that “the companies in the top third of their industry in the use of data-driven decision making were, on average, 5% more productive and 6% more profitable than their competitors.” Setting aside the organizational obstacles mentioned by Chuck, these gains follow substantial investment in talented personnel. So, ask yourself what it would be worth to know precisely:

  • How much profit you make from the incremental sale of the very next widget
  • How valuable your customers will prove to be over the lifetime of their relationship with you
  • Whether site visitors convert better with the green buttons or the blue ones
  • How much to spend in what ways on marketing

If your company is in a stable industry, insulated from competitors by patents or trademarks or differentiated skills, with strong market power over the firms up- and down-channel then the answer to this question may be “not much,” and that’s okay.  Please accept our envy.

If, like the Cape Matapan combatants—you scan the horizon with trepidation, then you’re like the rest of us. But hopefully, now you’re a bit more informed.

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It is no secret that technology is transforming every facet of healthcare.  The most profound result by far is the transparency, accessibility, and  amplification of information on therapeutic areas allowing patients, physicians, insurance providers, device makers, and facilities with the means to better understand, treat, and prevent disease.  For communications professionals, this new era is forcing a complete rethinking of our role and value in a dynamic now controlled by external audiences.  Gone are the days of a prescriptive culture where information was doled out sparingly across the healthcare spectrum and communications was controlled by pharma organizations and physicians.

Today, the game, so to speak, is being played at the edges with patients dictating the relationship throughout the healthcare system with the impending rise of personal genomic data leading to the decoding of DNA and the rise of new treatments.  Given this move from prevention to regeneration and the increase in extending human life, relationships, engagement, and expectations must be recalibrated.

As a major marketing communications firm involved with healthcare since its inception, we believe there are four critical, strategic questions that must be addressed by healthcare professionals including communications, and organizations now that will direct how the future unfolds:

  1. How do you manage expectations in an era that will extend life expectancy?
  2. What is the new efficacy for pharma companies to manage public health vs. treating symptoms?
  3. What are the moral and social implications as medicine moves to performance enhancement?
  4. How can you build and nurture relationships throughout the healthcare continuum in a digital era via mobile and wearables?

Answers to these questions will determine if communications will accelerate the new landscape making sense of it to key audiences and driving new behaviors or be viewed as a tactical means to just conveying information.  The former will involve a deeper comprehension of influence, analytics, strategy formulation, and opinion formation not to mention relevance.

The truth is that every business and profession must adopt a completely different mindset including purpose and values to compete successfully in the future.  Social commerce and digital business have upended traditional conventions in healthcare including a prescriptive culture.  Today, unorthodox conventions are taking hold and the demands of patients, physicians, customers, employees, manufacturers, and the like are dictating the relationship.

In addition to the aforementioned operational and business model changes, the impact of technology on communications, media, and marketing in the healthcare field is nothing short of transformational.

As such, will we be ready?

Moving forward, healthcare will no longer be about “care.”

Rather, it will be about “health.”

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Defining digital can seem like a cumbersome task. Is it mobile? Is it social? Is it web? Equally, measuring your digital efforts can seem daunting if you don’t have the proper tools or don’t know where to look.

I recently chatted with Chuck Hemann, Managing Director of Analytics at W2O about measuring mobile marketing and digital analytics. We decided we wanted to give a more robust overview of digital analytics and that would require a deeper dive. Since Chuck literally wrote the book on the subject (keep your eye out for version two this May!) I couldn’t think of a better brain to pick.

During our chat we define digital, discuss how effectiveness, efficiency and impact are valuable KPIs, dive into PESO analytics, plus more. Take a listen below.

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#ASH17 starts tomorrow and we’ve already seen some 250 health care providers joining the conversation!

Overall, pre-conference engagement is up from last year, and especially vocal are the specialists in Internal Medicine and Hematology (←no surprises there!).  Myeloma is a highly anticipated topic this year with health care providers talking about developments in treatment and diagnostics.

Check out this visual breakdown of who’s talking and be sure to join us at the end of the conference for volume updates and the latest news from thought leaders of ASH 2017!



Get a deeper look into pre-ASH conversation with MDigitalLife’s interactive network map here:

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Digital is the driving force in business and society today.  Customers, employees, and other key stakeholders possess the power now controlling the relationship with brands, who are moving quickly to assimilate this new reality. As such, companies are reexamining their businesses and determining direction, efficacy, purpose, portfolio, and strategy.  The latter, though, is significant in that it envelopes the entire enterprise and in many respects decides the very future of the business.

Every industry and sector is impacted by this transformation so strategy becomes the catalyst as well as the linchpin to survival and success.

The Digital Effect

When it comes to strategy and digital, four things are emerging:

  1. Customer/Audience Integration;
  2. Products/Services/Services Connected (throughout the business);
  3. Continuous Innovation;
  4. Analytics Driven Marketing and Communications.

Customer/Audience Integration

In a digital world, customers and audiences are fully integrated into your organization.  This means that customer and audience information and insights are well known and shared throughout the organization. Preferences, issues, purchasing habits, product and service usage, competitive interaction, etc. are all important data to ensuring a long-term relationship.

The more integrated customers believe they are with a given brand the more they will work with that brand and share their experience with friends and family.  Customers are now informing other customers or potential customers of their experiences and preferences concerning a brand or product. This new dynamic can be incredibly positive or unknowingly negative to an organization’s viability.

Products/Services Connected  

Depending on your portfolio, connecting products and services in a cohesive manner provides a more holistic solution to customer needs and wants. The more digitally enabled products and services are, the stronger the benefits and experiences are to users and customers.  Further, this connectivity provides fresh data and insights that can be used on product development, customer service, and the purchase journey.

Continuous Innovation

Any strategy today must include innovation in products and processes to improve the overall customer experience.  Information culled from various points in the customer journey including purchase allows for real-time improvements and faster development cycles and turnaround times.

Analytics Driven Marketing and Communications

Digital intelligence provides massive amounts of data and analysis on how customers behave.  Savvy marketers and communicators translate the data into actionable insights that fuel precise messaging, programs, and outreach efforts including predictive modeling to discern future buying habits.   An effective strategy incorporates analytics into its framework enabling a more progressive and efficient means to deploy resources and engage the marketplace effectively.

Business and operational strategy have always been essential ingredients in an organization’s decision-making model.    Digital now widens the aperture turning the entire enterprise into a kaleidoscope of new demand, new value, and new possibilities.   It begins with thinking about the business in a completely different way.  It’s about placing customers first in this new empowered playing field.

Failure to do so negates your strategy and worse, imperils your existence.

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Want to hear our thoughts on industry news? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter! Here are our insights from our favorite recent stories.

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Climate change continues to be a polarizing issue in the public and a challenging issue for PR practitioners to communicate effectively. Communicators have tried many varied ways to communicate climate change to motivate support for action. Climate change is all around us. Game of Thrones (GOT) is considered the most prominent cultural analogy for climate change. Have to see White Walkers to believe they are real? Daenerys is not alone. For some, climate change is beyond debate and burgeoning with scientific proof. For others, this issue is lacking scientific evidence and simply propaganda perpetuated by the media (or by Jon Snow if we are sticking with our GOT analogy). How can one environmental issue be viewed so differently, and passionately, by so many?

A study, funded by the Arthur W. Page Center at Penn State, examined the way climate change is framed and the impact of different message frames based on the audience’s political ideology. Three focus groups were completed with PR practitioners who communicate about climate change to understand their perceptions of message frames, and how they choose which frames to use with different audiences and the ethical considerations associated with various frames. The researchers then conducted an online experiment to examine the effectiveness of prominent message frames and how ethics were perceived by lay audiences.

The “psychological distance” of climate change—the perception that something will happen far in the future or that it will affect someone else far away—and political polarization have been major challenges in communicating the issue to the public. The study found that the frames considered most effective by PR practitioners were economic and public health frames. PR practitioners revealed they often avoid using the term climate change and discuss specific adaptation strategies rather than the cause of climate change. Conversations also revealed that science communicators rarely consider ethical issues beyond being truthful and accurate. Some practitioners brought up issues of social justice and how not all populations can adapt to climate change. Lastly, the findings support that both strategic decisions and professional constraints influence PR practitioners’ decision making when it comes to choosing messaging. The results revealed that some communicators felt political pressure to communicate in certain ways, whether it was from their organization or audience.

A survey-experiment was conducted to investigate how political ideology, type of message frame and organization type might influence message perceptions. Results demonstrated that political ideology is indeed a strong predictor of perceptions of climate change messages. As liberalism decreased and conservatism increased, climate change messages—regardless of type of frame—were perceived as less ethical, less credible and less effective. Findings also showed people were more likely to view messages regarding climate change from a corporation as more credible than from a government agency.

Political ideology is a strong predictor of how people perceive messages about polarized scientific issues. Communicators need effective messaging strategies when discussing issues related to climate change and should frame messages so they do not evoke political ideology. While political ideology predicting attitudes toward climate change has been studied extensively, this study added in the practitioner perspective and the perceptions of ethics by both practitioners and the public. PR pros should think about the ethical considerations of climate change considerations beyond the need to be truthful and accurate when communicating. To communicate effectively, communications should focus on the consequences of climate change and avoid the politically charged term “climate change” when possible.

This project was among six research studies funded by the 2016 Page & Johnson Legacy Scholar Grants and conducted by Nicole Lee, North Carolina State University, Matthew VanDyke, Appalachian State University, and Rachel Hutman, W2O Group.

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Over the past several days, we’ve been sharing bits and pieces of an extensive research project into all things “interventional” in preparation for the Cardiac Research Foundation’s Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics (#TCTDenver) conference, which kicked off Sunday in Denver, CO. Steven Cutbirth’s prior posts are linked below:

While I’ll be making a full presentation tomorrow (November 1) at 1:05PM MDT (Room 501 at the Colorado Convention Center), I wanted to share some of the interesting things we’ve learned about the online behavior of interventional cardiologists and interventional radiologists.

For one thing, it’s not just for the kids – 72% of the online interventionists in our MDigitalLife Online Health Ecosystem database are over the age of 40. They post regularly and actively – more than half of US interventionists post at least weekly, and more than 2/3 of interventionists from outside the US do so.

They use the “open forum” of twitter to debate the topics most important in the field. One of the hot topics I’ll cover in my presentation involves the discussion & debate around TAVR (transcatheter aortic valve replacement), a minimally invasive procedure that can, in some instances, alleviate the need for open heart surgery. The topic is hot enough that there are more than twice as many presentations on this year’s TCT agenda (>131%) as there were two years ago. But the increase in twitter posts over the past two years is even more pronounced: There have been 4.5x as many TAVR-related twitter posts than their were during the year leading up to TCT in 2015 (>441%).

It’s not just what the interventionalists talk about that’s interesting here; it’s also whom they’re engaging in the course of those conversations. One of the most telling signs of an influential online physician is is that she tends to mentioned regularly by her peers. Over the past year, there are literally thousands of interventionalists around the world who’ve connected in conversation – but these are the 10 interventionalists who have been mentioned most often by their peers:

The interventionalists who are responsible for this remarkable growth in meaningful conversation are also convincing their colleagues to join them online at a fast clip. Interventionalists have adopted twitter 14% faster than their brethren in oncology – who are known as active social media adopters among specialists. Two weeks ago, Amit K. Gupta, MD posted an article on TCT’s “Heart Beat” blog entitled Why All Interventionalists Should Be on Twitter. It looks as though his colleagues already agree!

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 here.


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