If you’re a technology and digital health nut like me, then you’ve probably already picked up on the fact that the JP Morgan Healthcare Conference has become a must-attend event for digital health companies and companies otherwise focused on digital health. What’s that you say – JPM is for investors focused on biotech? That, my friends, is an accurate statement to be sure…but oh so incomplete. For while the preponderance of presenters at #JPM16 are still biotech and life sciences related…the online conversation surrounding #JPM16 (something that my colleagues and I track and analyze very closely), is showing only a slight lead for #biotech vs. #digitalhealth. A leading indicator? Perhaps. Watch this blog for our post conference analysis of #JPM16 happenings and conversation trends.

I Heart #digitalhealth – So Where Should I Go This Week?

Now, for those of you who may just be getting into the digital health game or have never been to JPM, you should absolutely start by attending the conference sessions. There are numerous digital health companies presenting this year and healthcare companies who will otherwise be articulating a digital health strategy. But there is life beyond the St. Francis my friends! Luckily you have your faithful narrator to guide you. Here then is a list of events you need to consider (and possibly sneak your way into).

Rock Health’s Top 50 in Digital Health (Sunday evening) – Halle & Co do an amazing job not only investing in and advising digital health startups, but they are prolific publishers, marketers and advocates. To wit: Sunday’s event to recognize some of the most important peeps in digital health. Rock on Halle!

W2O Group’s DH VIP Luncheon (Monday at Noon) – Pardon the shameless plug, but I’d like to think that me and the firm play a part in all this digital health goodness. Historically speaking, W2O Group has been a major presence at JPM since our founder Jim Weiss first hung out the shingle in 2001. Since then, our focus has expanded beyond biotech and life sciences to tech and digital health. That’s where I come in…Jim allows me to hold a lunch that brings together a very unique set of digital health stakeholders (companies, providers, payers, press, investors, policymakers – you name it). This diversity ensures an intriguing discussion, a valuable networking opportunity and a fun way to kick off the week. This year, we will feature a panel moderated by none other than athenahealth CEO and co-founder Jonathan Bush. Jonathan will be joined by the experts below who we are just thrilled to host. We look forward to seeing many of you there!

  • Michael Blum, Chief Medical Information Officer at UCSF & Director of the Center for Digital Health Innovation
  • Paul Markovich, CEO of CA Blue Shield
  • Aman Bhandari, Executive Director of Data Science and Insights at Merck
  • Susannah Fox, CTO at U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

JPM DH Panel (Monday at 5PM) – You may or may not know Dan Wilson, but he is one of the main reasons why JPM is focusing more and more on digital health. Dan and his colleagues originated the annual digital health panel discussion at JPM as a way of shining a light on some truly innovative companies – companies not in biotech or life sciences, but technology companies focused on solving problems in healthcare. This year’s panel – led by the incomparable Lisa Suennen (aka @VentureValkyrie) – is entitled: “Can Data Deliver Us from Our Healthcare Dilemma?” It will feature yet another bumper crop of innovators, including Grand Rounds, Syapse, Evidation Health, Aledade and HealthReveal. And remember to get there early – last year’s digital health panel was SRO!
StartUp Health Festival (Monday-Tuesday) – Steve Krein, Unity Stoakes and the gang at StartUp Health have been evangelizing digital health for years. Though headquartered in New York City, they are committed to supporting and accelerating the growth of startups – what they call “transformers” — the world over. I am a huge fan of their research reports and their ability to attract experts from a variety of fields to advise and assist their transformers. The runaway success of their past efforts at JPM led them to create a two day program for #JPM16.

Venrock’s 5th Annual Healthcare IT Celebration (Tuesday evening) – Venrock has compiled a distinguished track record amongst many successful VCs in digital health. Bryan Roberts and Bob Kocher lead the digital health investment strategy at the firm and, in their spare time, regularly speak and publish as top industry thought leaders. If you don’t have a ticket already, chances are slim you can get one. But, hey it’s always worth a shot…see how many degrees of separation you are from Bryan or Bob on LinkedIn…they are so connected that you will probably find somebody to introduce you.

Box’s Party (Tuesday evening) – While CEO Aaron Levie grabs all the headlines, Missy Krasner is Box’s business lead and evangelist in healthcare and digital health. Missy may be the most connected person in all of digital health, having played key roles prior to Box at Morgenthaler, Google, ONC and Carescience. She has brought a focus on digital health and healthcare to Box that is the envy of other technology companies. Spending a night with Missy talking digital health at JPM should be required of anyone joining our special club.

Health 2.0 Winter Tech (Wednesday) – For Health 2.0 fans who can’t get enough of a fix in October, founder Matthew Holt created a cold weather version. I’m a fan of everything Matthew does, including his dancing. Seriously, anything that Matthew and his partner Indu Subaiya put together is worthwhile. In this case, they seized upon the idea that…attendees at JPM want even more digital health investment talk. And they were right. Matthew and Indu know all the smart VCs. They do a great job at curating them along with startups and more.

UCSF Informed Health (Thursday) – Our friends at UCSF anchor the week with their very own gathering of digital health experts. The agenda features many experts at UCSF and from provider-land writ large as well as technology leaders from some of Silicon Valley’s leading companies. Dr. Michael Blum and Dr. Aenor Sawyer have combined efforts to create yet another high quality program that underscores UCSF’s leadership in digital health.

Who to Follow

Here are several folks that I regularly follow and who can be relied upon to keep you in the know when it comes to digital health and #JPM16. (Note: For the purposes of this list, I am excluding my many friends in the media as I love them all dearly and would not want to show favoritism. Funny, I say the same thing to my children. I hope you believe me as they do. J)

Rasu Shresta – How could he possibly have time to be as active as he is on social media? Well, there’s a reason that Dr. Shresta is the chief innovation officer at UPMC…and I’m not. Follow him and you will learn all you need to know about real innovation happening at UPMC and beyond. He is a one-man curator of the most important developments in digital health news.

Lisa SuennenI mentioned Lisa earlier as the moderator of this year’s digital health panel at JPM. Formerly with Psilos where she led the VCs digital health investing, Lisa was one of the first VCs to really focus on digital health. Her experience and deep knowledge make her the perfect filter of what’s meaningful and what’s fluff.

Cris De Lucaalthough new to JPM, Cris is no stranger to digital health. As one of the primary movers and shakers behind J&J’s digital health efforts, Cris is prolific on social media and my early choice as “Top Newcomer” to JPM.

Brian Ahier – Brian is one of the best curators of digital health content on the planet and he’s probably been at it the longest. He is a must follow to keep abreast of many digital health topics and conversations.

Hope that’s helpful. Tweet me at @robcroninNY and let me know what your best experiences are this week at #JPM16.

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@SFBIZronleuty captures the essence of Union Square during #JPM15
@SFBIZronleuty captures the essence of Union Square during #JPM15

In 1982, a small group of investment bankers at Hambrecht & Quist launched an investor conference for companies in the biotechnology space. At the time, biotech was still seen as something just beyond alchemy: using genetically engineered bacteria to create a whole new spectrum of medications.

The conference has grown each year, surviving a series of corporate changes that have left the confab in the hands of J.P. Morgan Chase. Once the province of biotech executives and bankers, the early-January event now draws companies across the health care space, along with media, marketers, public officials, entrepreneurs and anyone else with a stake in the future of health.

That expansion means that, every year, we get requests on the best way to “do JPM,” which is like asking for the best way to “do Disney”: there’s no right way to conquer a meeting that has become this sprawling. But over the past few years, there have been thousands of words of guidance penned. Here are the best hints to maximizing the experience:

  • “Meet some new people, some old people, some random people doing cool stuff you know little about. Part of the magic of JP Morgan is the sheer density, and diversity, of people in one place doing so many interesting things.” – Luke Timmerman, #JPM14. The whole thing is worth a read, and I provided counter-commentary here.
  • Be on alert for some white lies (“You guys don’t seem like other VCs”) and relentless optimism (“Really, this isn’t a bubble…”). – Bruce Booth, #JPM14, #JPM15. Naturally, this year in biotech will be different. Really.  
  • “Expect to find eight to 15 events all competing for the same audiences simultaneously, all day, every day, Monday through Wednesday. Then expect to wrangle a last-minute invite to the 50 or so evening receptions every night.” – Chelli Miller, #JPM15. Pretty sure that’s tongue-in-cheek, but I may have met some folks on Tuesday morning who looked like they hit 50 parties the previous night. 
  • “You ‘win’ J.P. Morgan in June, not January. Swapping business cards for four days means nothing if there’s no followup until everyone arrives in San Francisco in early 2016.” – me, #JPM15.
  • “3 things you won’t see at JPM: Some really interesting [private] presenting companies … patients … frank discussions about R&D and ‘worker bees.’” – Ron Leuty, #JPM15. Check the link, which also notes, helpfully, how many steps it would take for meeting attendees to reach the “real” San Francisco: 351 steps to the nearest massage parlor, 240 steps to the scent of urine, 135 steps to the hot dog cart.

Please tweet your best hints. Naturally, use the conference hashtag: #JPM16. And see you at the Monday night tweetup!

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Fireside chat with Bayer’s Jessica Federer and W2O Group’s Annalise Coady at the 2nd Annual #PreCommerce Summit in London.

Jessica Federer, Chief Digital Officer at Bayer

At last year’s W2O Group’s London Summit, Jessica Federer talked about the origins of social intelligence and the need for Pharma to adapt to digital changes. Today, she shares insights of her one year journey in her new role as Chief Digital Officer at Bayer.

Bayer’s Biggest Transformation in 150 Years

In the last year, Bayer went through the biggest transformation in 150 years, incorporating digital into its DNA: a top-down, CEO-prioritized digital strategy. This change has been implemented with a digital council, a digital circle and digital transformation teams. According to Jessica, priorities lie with the creation of digital structures, enabling great people to do great work. In other words, the secret for digital transformation is money and people.

While not naming explicit inspirational companies, Federer highlights the impact of partnerships with big, established digital leaders that help Bayer find specific solutions. Equally important are cooperations with start-ups, such as “Grants4Apps”, an accelerator program by Bayer that gives start-ups a space for collaboration – currently one of Jessica’s favorite initiatives.

jessica bayer

Insider Goodies

Lastly, Jessica Federer provides two health-care insider treats; the first being the importance of reading The Economist and The New Yorker, but also Vanity Fair, as digital transformation is driven by society and cultural trends. As her second “audience treat,” Jessica spills the secret that despite strict healthcare regulations, talking to regulators will drive innovation, as they want to innovate just as much as you do. Nonetheless, it is crucial to “follow the rules”.

Stopping the focus on digital

Ultimately, Federer hopes to soon end this newly adapted focus on digital. She continues to explain this seemingly paradox statement: “What you do well, goes away,” meaning that digital transformation teams won’t be necessary once all marketing becomes digital and a natural aspect of Bayer’s business.


About Jessica Federer

Jessica Federer works at Bayer, a global enterprise of 113,000 people focused on advancing ‘Science For A Better Life’ through health care, agriculture, and high-tech polymer materials. Within Bayer, Jessica has held positions in Regulatory Affairs, Market Access, Communications and Public Affairs. She received her Master of Public Health degree from the Yale School of Public Health, and her Bachelors of Science from The George Washington University. Originally from St. Louis, Missouri, Jessica now lives in Dusseldorf, Germany. Jessica is passionate about translating digital developments into public health advancements, and is an avid supporter of global childhood education.






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At today’s PreCommerce Summit, Colin Foster wanted to know from Dina Rey, Head of Digital Group at Roche, Anna Gruebler, Data Scientist and Software Engineer at Altviz, Jessica Federer, Chief Digital Officer at Bayer, and Anita Yuen, Global Head of Digital Fundraising at UNICEF, how digital has influenced the well-being of society.


 4 Key Takeaways

  • Digital content is driven by the business and therefore it is important to prioritize the business’ value as well as its medical or commercially related objectives
  • The greatest challenge to creating an integrated digital strategy is in finding the right people. But it is also the most rewarding to find those people. As Jessica Federer explained, “Find the people who will open the doors, step through and lead it.”
  • It is crucial to have strong leadership – a digital champion – who believes in digital with or without evidence in order to open doors and be willing to innovate and disrupt the status quo. The most important factor is being able to speak both languages and being able to talk about the data from a marketing and the science perspective.  Therefore it can be irrelevant whether a digital marketer is male or female, a scientist or an engineer.
  • Digital enables organizations to engage external people to bring about digital transformations. By being able to improve touch points and interfaces with organizations and foundations, digital allows an improvement in the way we connect with the different stakeholders. This creates more traction and engagement with all stakeholders and enables us to impact well-being.

When discussing whether it is better to have people who know the business and teach them digital or have digital experts and introduce them to the business, the panel was in agreement that both types of people are needed. You need people who know the business objectives, but you need the geeks that will inform them.

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Data, or more specifically Big Data, was the focus of Anna Gruebler’s talk at the #PreCommerce Summit in London today. While we may be aware of its omnipresence, it is its use that is of interest; most of us are not even aware of what is at our disposal, especially in the area of healthcare.

For example IBM’s Watson Health, one of the world’s biggest ‘super computers’, aims to give healthcare professionals better access to data to support the delivery of patient care. This computer strives to combine ‘Explory’s technology with IBM’s powerful Health Cloud and Watson’s cognitive capabilities, to expand the reach of health insights so that big data can finally be used more easily to transform healthcare.’

ANNA                                      ANNA2

However we must also remember the challenges that data in the healthcare sphere poses.

  • First and foremost, the sheer volume of data that is out there, it all needs storing.
  • Secondly, data’s velocity. We are taking, sharing and storing more and more.
  • Thirdly, data’s variety. Pictures, text, data mining, audio, the options are endless.
  • Fourth, and potentially most crucially, veracity. Is the data that we are collecting and storing actually accurate? Does the data that we have gathered reflect the actual user behavior that we’d like it to? How do we ensure that it is accurate?

This is especially crucial regarding the UK’s proposed Care.Data scheme. An opt-out scheme, this will save an individual’s personal health data in order to make it accessible to the likes of healthcare practitioners. While this may be useful if my pharmacist needs my doctor’s notes, it would also mean that my potential health insurer would know all about my medical history… And what if, when considering veracity, that data isn’t accurate?

We still have a long way to go…

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Image from

Kim Kardashian taught us all a tremendous amount about the perils of using social media for prescription drug promotion this week, but the real message seems to have been missed by most folks.

The media, who can’t resist an opportunity to write gimlet-eyed hot takes about the reigning queen of famous-for-being-famous, widely reported this week’s news that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter to Duchesnay, the maker of the morning sickness drug Diclegis, after Kim Kardashian took to Instagram to extol its virtues.

The FDA warning was utterly unsurprising. While Duchesnay and Kardashian took some pains to include a link to safety information, the overall content is clearly a violation of the agency’s longstanding policies and recent guidance. (A link to safety information, once called the “one-click rule” and heralded as the best way to ensure that online promotion offers a fair balance between risks and benefits, has been utterly rejected by the FDA.)

These are not new issues to us. In fact, our expert teams handle social for pharmaceutical and healthcare companies daily. This was a rookie mistake by Duchesnay — or a blatant risky one. With priopriety analytics – including our exclusive MDigitalLife database of social activity by physicians – we drive global pharmaceutical and healthcare-related communications decisions across W2O, including WCG, Twist and BrewLife.

So while the FDA’s rules may be overly strict, they’re no longer that confusing. The Kardashian post, then, reflected some combination of ignorance, recklessness or calculated cunning that the risk of an FDA warning would be worth the flood of attention.

Except that there was never a flood of attention, at least, not the important kind.

It’s impossible to know if sales spiked, but we can look at whether Kim’s post prompted certain behaviors. The easiest behavior to look at is Wikipedia, where site visit stats are public, and where it’s been shown that searches are correlated to drug sales. There, the page for “pyridoxine/doxylamine” (the chemical name for Diclegis) was visited 99 times on the day that she posted her endorsement, rising as high as 148 later that week, as the media scrambled to report on it. (“Morning sickness” barely budged from its historical average.)

Google Trends shows much the same phenomenon: a small spike, but one that looks far less impressive when other pharmaceuticals are included as comparators.

So the net effect was that a post that went nearly 50 million people, many squarely in the young-mother demographic, and received upwards of a half-million likes, drove only a few hundred people to research more about the drug on Wikipedia. As a point of comparison, Angelina Jolie’s mastectomy pushed Wikipedia searches for “mastectomy” from 1,000 to 300,000 in a day: a 23,000 percent increase.

To be sure, it’s possible that enough people skipped Google and followed Kardashian’s web links and the impact was far greater, but the fact that so many eyeballs sent so few people to Dr. Google should raise red flags.

The lesson here is not that FDA rules should be followed (they should, and we can help) but that social media impact can’t be measured on likes alone (we can help with that, too). The Kardashian post was designed to catch the eye of people that mattered when it comes to pregnancy. It turns out that the heads that really turned were at the FDA.

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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

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Periscope, the live-streaming app, launched nearly three months ago. Owned by Twitter, the app can be used with either a Twitter account or a phone number and allows anyone with a smart phone the ability to share their view with people around the globe.

Scoping tourist attractions and beautiful views are a staple of Periscope broadcasts, but one of the best ways we’re seeing it used is for education. Experts or advocates for a topic important to them can live stream themselves talking and answering questions that come through in the comments.

You’ll find Periscope accounts by physicians across many specialties, but so far most of them are lurking to see what it’s all about. Yet there are a small handful of innovative, early-adopters who are making their mark and finding a way to make a difference in people’s lives through live-streaming.

Featuring three physicians using Periscope

Neil Floch, MD, Fairfield County Bariatrics & Surgical Specialists in Connecticut (1,107 Periscope followers).

Neil Floch MD using PeriscopeA passionate advocate for preventing and treating obesity, Dr. Floch uses Periscope daily to host “Ask Dr. Floch” sessions. He always begins with a statement that he can only answer general questions and cannot answer a specific problem people may have.

In a phone call this week, Floch shared, “From a medical standpoint, I use Periscope to educate people – specifically on obesity and the world obesity pandemic. I want to give them the true, accurate, medically-supported evidence of what is causing the epidemic,” shared Floch. “Two thirds of the US is overweight or obese. I want to reach out to as many people as I can. When you can see someone talking, that is an incredible advantage.”

Floch has also used Periscope to broadcast events his practice is hosting, such as a bariatric surgery fashion show at Lord & Taylor. He tweeted there were 150 people attending in person, but they reached another 588 people who watched on Periscope.

Mark Vaughan, MD, @doctorvaughan, Auburn Medical Group in California (280 Periscope followers).

Mark Vaughan MD PeriscopeA primary care physician, Dr. Vaughan, uses Periscope throughout his day to educate people about general health topics. He frequently scopes procedures, such as giving cortisone injections and performing skin biopsies (see an archived scope of a rash biopsy here).

Vaughan is becoming popular for his daily “Ask the Doctor” scopes, scoping from an exam room with an assistant holding the phone for him. Patients ask general questions about health issues such as childhood obesity, skin concerns and mononucleosis.

It is clear Vaughan enjoys being in front of the camera and his patients do, too. He shared with a chuckle, “There’s an interesting phenomenon that happens when you put a person in front of a camera, they behave differently. The patients are more positive during procedures and give me the impression that they think I’m wonderful.”

In addition to Periscope, you can also catch Vaughan on his weekly internet radio program called Medically Speaking Radio.

Jamin Brahmbhatt, MD, @jaminbrahmbhatt, Personalized Urology & Robotics (PUR) Clinic at South Lake Hospital, in affiliation with Orlando Health. (154 Periscope followers).

A urologist on a mission to educate about men’s health issues, Dr. Brahmbhatt and colleague Sijo Parekattil, MD, are driving cross-country in an all-electric Tesla and making pit stops to host public health events. It’s called the Drive for Men’s Health (@drive4men) and Brahmbhatt is using Periscope to extend their reach, scoping the health presentations and more personal, fun interactive broadcasts during their trip.

Jamin Brahmbhatt, MD PeriscopeAlready making a difference with Periscope, Brahmbhatt shared a story with me of a female Periscope viewer who encouraged her husband to watch Brahmbhatt’s scopes with her. Doing so convinced him to set a doctor appointment with his primary care provider for preventative health care. In addition, when Brahmbhatt and Parekattil rolled through her town, the viewer invited them to stop by her office and they had an opportunity to meet face-to-face. Following the visit, her female colleagues also were successful in encouraging their husbands to set appointments for preventative care.

A national survey by Orlando Health found that more than 80 percent of men could remember the make and model of their first car, but only about half could remember their last check up with a doctor. Brahmbhatt and Parekattil are definitely making a difference by getting attention from both the Tesla and Periscope.

Periscope at Medical Meetings and Conferences

We’re also seeing Periscope become a part of medical meetings, such as American Society of Clinical Oncology (@ASCO) in Chicago a couple weeks ago. Check out this post from my colleague Christiana Pascale sharing how it went. Also, Mayo Clinic (@MayoClinic) has been experimenting with Periscope, launching it at the Mayo Clinic Social Media Health Network Summit. They also scoped a dedication ceremony of Mayo Clinic Square.

Additional physicians actively using Periscope to check out:

Sanjay Gupta, MD @drsanjaygupta, Neurosurgeon

Jay Gordon MD, @JayGordonMDFAAP, Pediatrician

Will Kirby, MD, @drwillkirby, Dermatologist

Paul Nassif, MD, @drpaulnassif, Plastic Surgeon

Jeffrey Guterman, PhD, @jeffreyguterman, Therapist

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Jared B HawkinsGuest post by: Jared B. Hawkins, Ph.D., M.M.Sc., Research Associate, Boston Children’s Hospital & Harvard Medical School

Social media pervades the U.S. today. Take Twitter, for example. By the end of 2014, approximately one in five U.S. adults were active Twitter users. While the network remains most popular with adults under 50 years old, the last year saw a jump in tweeters 65 and older.

Despite growing privacy concerns, users of Twitter and other networks routinely talk about their health on social media. This has created a large and growing body of data and presented an opportunity to capture ‘digital phenotypes’ that provide tremendous insight into both individual and population health. These phenotypes let us:

  1. Identify individual patients suffering from acute or chronic disease and analyze their behavior over-time
  2. Monitor the health of a population by tracking the prevalence of infectious diseases (e.g., influenza)

Boston Children’s Hospital Computational Epidemiology Group has significant experience with—and has developed new technologies for—automated, informatics-based global health monitoring. This includes research based on social media data; we provided the scientific expertise behind Google Dengue Trends and advised Google on the development of Flu Trends.

In addition, we published some of the first research on using:

• News reports and social media to detect pandemics
• Facebook likes to understand obesity
• Twitter data to monitor emergence of infectious epidemics, like cholera in Haiti
• Twitter data to report news events in real-time, such as the Boston Marathon bombings
• Social media to measure public health sentiment towards vaccine acceptance

We’re going to present new research on sleep disorders and patient experience at Health Datapalooza’s Social Media Data Workshop on June 3. In collaboration with Merck, we’ve explored whether it is possible to identify patients who suffer from sleep disorders, and whether they differ from a control population, based on data from Twitter. Additionally, we’ll present methods for identifying tweets detailing patients’ perceptions of the quality of care they receive in U.S. hospitals and discuss the utility of this novel data stream.

We look forward to a spirited discussion about these and other directions in social media-based health research. For more information and full agenda, please see here.

Follow Dr. Hawkins on Twitter @Jared_B_Hawkins and follow #HCSMdata on June 3 for all of the action? Attending Health Datapalooza? Be sure to register for the Social Media Data Workshop!

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