Live from ASCO, my colleague Christiana Pascale and I caught up with FiercePharma Senior Editor Carly Helfand. We talked about everything from the future of oncology to Carly’s top stories coming out of ASCO to the role social media plays in reporting on healthcare.

You’ll also get a sneak peek into the inner workings of the ASCO 2018 press room. Stay tuned for more from the conference and take a listen below.

Live from ASCO, I caught up with W2O’s Rita Glaze and Brian Reid to get their takes on the value and pricing conversation permeating healthcare and buzzing here at the world’s largest gathering of cancer specialists. Brian is Managing Director of W2O’s Value & Pricing Practice and Editor of W2O ’s weekly value newsletter, the Value Report, and Rita is W2O’s U.S. Market Access Practice Leader, so there is an immense amount of knowledge between these two.

In addition to being experts on value and pricing in healthcare, Brian and Rita are excellent people and some of my favorite colleagues, so it was a pleasure to get a few minutes with them here in Chicago. Take a listen below.

If you’re interested in receiving our weekly value newsletter, the Value Report, subscribe here. If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About page.

On this week’s episode, Jim Weiss, W2O Group Founder & CEO, highlights the grit of cancer survivors and researchers, opens up about his personal and family journey fighting cancer, and some of the exciting therapies emerging to help make a difference for patients.

Jim has been in the health care industry for several decades. “This is an exciting time in cancer research and medicine,” he said, “probably like no other, and I really think coming out of this meeting we’ll really see some breakthrough science and medicine.”

Over the weekend, W2Ogo will be sitting down with some of the leaders in the field to talk about innovation on the front lines of the fight against cancer.

Check out my conversation with Jim below and stay tuned for more.

The use of social media in health has always had one big question lingering over it: why? In a world so focused on real-world interactions that the fax machine – an apparatus that literally gives physical form to the digital world – what is the value-add of a technology that swaps face-to-face interaction for something more ethereal.

That’s the thread that spurred our Social Oncology Project, now in its sixth year. In that span, we’ve looked at everything from the topics that make up the global oncology conversation to narrower examinations of hashtag communities and the way that they bring patients, caregivers and providers together.

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But still the questions arise: why? Why should hospitals invest in social media, and why should physicians – in an era where provider burnout is a real and growing danger to the profession – add one more task to their daily routines?

This year, we set to answer some of those questions, seeking to excavate correlations between top-ranked oncology hospitals – as defined by U.S. News and World Report – and the online behavior of those institutions and their physicians.

Among other conclusions, we found a strong positive correlation between the percentage of a hospitals doctors who are on Twitter and the physician reputation score from U.S. News and World Report.

The top 26 hospital facilities in the USNWR rankings all can boast that over 20 percent of their oncology-related specialists are on Twitter, with some especially forward-looking institutions – the Mayo Clinic, the Mayo Clinic-Phoenix and the Cleveland Clinic – all boasting Twitter usage rates of more than 40 percent of oncology specialists. And those that saw the fastest growth in social media use also saw the most rapid gains in reputation.

In addition to looking at the way that online behavior of providers and institutions intersected with real-world metrics, we also did a second analysis looking more broadly at conversations about oncology medications and value over the course of 2017. This has been a year of extraordinary dialogue on drug prices – President Donald Trump made headlines on the topic, again, this week – and we wanted to see where oncology drugs fell in the conversation.

The topline conclusion: doctors and media were much more likely to discuss the price of oncology medicines than the general population, but – as a share of the overall conversation around a given product – pricing tended not to dominate the conversation around any specific oncology product.


Last week UK academics and representatives from the NHS and a couple of young people gathered at the House of Commons to take part in a panel run by GlobalNet21 on how we should approach meeting the healthcare needs of Generation Z. More meetup than formal consultation, I quite welcomed the unexpectedly random circumstances that gave the evening a more informal feel then you would expect: the Sri Lankan concurrent event which meant we spent ages in a very busy security queue outside, the change of room, the constant division bells for MP participation and the lack of attendance of perhaps the star of the show, the MP Lisa Cameron (SNP), herself.

None of that mattered much in the end because I was able to catch enough of the opener, the setting-the-scene Q&A between Dr. Sarah Lewis, Research Associate on the Digital Health Generation project, and two young people, Jack and Alex, and heard what they had to say about how Generation Z finds and uses healthcare information. The most important point they highlighted was the difficulty in finding information that they can trust. It was clear they feel they are navigating through all sorts of unfiltered information and it isn’t easy to find credible experiences as sites/apps aren’t advertised adequately. They noted the danger of winding up in bubbles of misinformation but seemed aware of this and clearly had started to craft strategies to mitigate its risk. To form fairly confident decisions, they reported having to constantly check with other sources in order to root out healthcare’s equivalent of fake news. In particular, they called out finding the experiences of others on YouTube as a key place to find information in a way that is not only trustworthy but engaging.

This was perhaps the most important point for me in the session and Hazel Jones, Director of Apps, Wearables and Uptake, NHS Digital, picked up on it and said that she agreed they needed to do more to reach young people through vloggers and were testing concepts using ambassadors. For me, this was the gold nugget I would take away from the event. In my own work researching perceptions around the patient journey, from symptoms, through diagnosis and then onto experiences on treatment I am often staggered by the hugely personal stories shared online by patients themselves and the way online relationships make all the difference to the quality of their lives. As an example, survivors in breast cancer tell others not to Google, not because they don’t want them to find information for themselves, but because oncology data moves so fast, what they are likely to find is already out-of-date and can even cause panic. Here, more than ever, this role of peer-advisor approach is critical. It is on the level of life and death itself, it’s that important.

Unfortunately, the subsequent conversation was directed mostly at healthcare apps. This was a shame as I didn’t see much evidence that Jack and Alex found them particularly valuable. The room was full of people who wanted to mention the buzzwords of big data and IoT and so we got carried off on a discussion on what sounded like what young people clearly want is to be able to track their data, huge amounts of it, and probably all the time. Dr. Emma Rich, Reader/Associate Professor in the Department for Health at the University of Bath tried to reel this in by saying this probably isn’t the future we should be imagining. There are mental health issues that can arise with an overzealous tracking of personal minutiae that we are best to avoid.

Emerging technologies clearly have a key role to play in this but we just need to find better ways to help people find each other to share experiences, and perhaps this is especially true for Generation Z. In this event we only briefly touched on some of what I think are the most important issues. Continuity of care was noted by Professor Andy Miah, PhD, Chair in Science Communications & Future Media, University of Salford and this is of critical importance in accessing services when you live a mobile life, for example, say at university for half the year. You could add digital literacy to that list as well as the emerging consent literacy which we all could use help with.

From my perspective, certainly in our own work at W2O with patients and clinicians, the gaps we see most are not in the technology or the capturing of the data. Where most work needs to be done is around what do the new signals we see in healthcare data actually mean? A cardiologist told me recently that he only wanted to know about a new diagnostic biomarker if it leads to a clinical decision. Whilst it might be interesting from a scientific perspective, it ultimately was just not very useful. Without a sense of what fundamental healthcare behaviours we need to encourage and without the medical evidence to really understand what data points support these over time, we won’t be able to make all this fascinating new data ‘work’ for any of us.

Have you ever had to have a difficult conversation with your agency? Or needed to let a client know they were running significantly over budget? Maybe you’ve wondered why your client is emailing you at all hours of the night and weekend? Or worse, you need to tell your agency that it’s not you, it’s them?

Last week, at the National Summit on Strategic Communications, I had the pleasure of sitting down with fellow speaker, friend and client, Amy Atwood, Head of Vaccine Communications at Takeda, to answer some of these tough questions. During this conversation, Amy and I also talked about other ingredients (like “thank you’s”) that go into a successful client and agency relationship.

The idea for this topic came up several months earlier when Amy suggested it as an abstract for an upcoming conference. While we still plan to host this talk later this year, we wanted to share some of these pearls of wisdom with our fellow agency and brand-side colleagues with the hope of shedding some light on this sometimes-complicated relationship.

While we highly encourage you to listen to the interview as we explore the nuances of these best practices, we know that there are some of you that would prefer to cut to the chase. For your benefit, here are the 6 suggestions that Amy shares during our conversation:

  • Treat your agency partners like they are a part of your team
  • Set clear ground rules
  • When it comes to budget conversations, have them early and make it a strategic discussion
  • Listen and brainstorm with your agency, utilize their expertise
  • Immediately address concerns when they arise
  • Always say thank you, remember that everyone is a person

For those that do take the time to listen in, don’t miss the one thing people don’t know about Amy, her book recommendations and of course, what he album choice would be were she to be stranded on a deserted island!


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The public perception of science has shifted over time – what once inspired, now has the capacity to instill distrust. It’s imperative that we reclaim the narrative back to the heart of what science can be: hopeful and human. Seema Kumar, Vice President, Innovation, Global Health, and Policy Communication at Johnson & Johnson Innovation, dives into this deeper on this week’s episode.

A quick side note, this week’s episode will feature a guest host, Greg Matthews, Managing Director, Healthcare Analytics Innovation at W2O. Greg has an incredible wealth of knowledge in the health innovation space, he’s a fantastic colleague, and I’m proud to call him a friend (even if he is a Cubs fan). I think you’ll enjoy hearing from him as much as I did.

During #W2OSXSW Seema spoke on our panel, “Breakthrough Innovators Who are Changing the World,” where modern day innovators in the areas of autonomous travel, food recovery, and healthcare, dove into the machine behind innovation. It was a well-attended, fascinating panel, and we knew wanted to pick Seema’s brain a bit more. During their chat, Seema and Greg discuss how we can shift the story of science back to one of awe and hope, A Brief History of Time, and the King of Pop. Take a listen below.

If you’re interested in knowing more about what we do at SXSW, check out our recap page. If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About page. Don’t miss an episode of What2Know, subscribe to our podcast!

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As a part of our commitment to supporting and connecting women in the healthcare industry, W2O became a corporate member of the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association (HBA).  One of HBA’s initiatives is to honor rising stars each year and I am thrilled to share the news that Mary James, Senior Analytics Director, is being recognized this year as the W2O HBA Healthcare Rising Star.

Learn more about Mary James in write up on PharmaVoice.

W2O Group, Mary James, HBAMary is one of all of the tremendous women here at W2O.  She has been pivotal to running and growing Marketeching and played a leading role in integrating analytics across a wide range of clients and offerings supporting our broader W2O capabilities with a true dedication and passion for the healthcare space.  In her many contributions to W2O, she has created and led analytics teams that have become indispensable to the cross-functional teams they work with. In all of this, she has exemplified a collegial attitude and approached everything as part of a team all coming together for one common W2O goal. Not only have her work and leadership at Marketeching and more broadly across W2O been stellar, but her background at CMS is both impressive and also a great example of how our leaders come from a variety of backgrounds and expertise to create our unique talent base.

It is incredible how many talented and exceptional colleagues we get to work with each day, and we look forward to recognizing and celebrating others in years to come.

Please join me in congratulating Mary on this honor!

You can view all the 2018 HBA Rising stars here.

If you’re interested in knowing more about W2O, check out our Healthcare or About pages.
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What happens when a highly respected physician, noted for his ferocious passion for evidence-based medicine, writes a blog post denigrating physicians who use twitter? What if that same vociferous defender of science and the scientific process doesn’t actually have a twitter account, or any intention of having one?
If you’re guessing that the irony of the situation was noticed and commented upon, you would be correct.

On April 4, Milton Packer, MD, a renowned cardiologist at Baylor Scott & White’s Heart & Vascular Hospital in Dallas, published a post on his Revolution and Revelation blog at That’s not unusual; Dr. Packer has been blogging at MPT for almost a year at this point, and posts regularly. April 4th’s post, “Do You Practice Twitter-Based Medicine,” proved to be a controversial one. That’s also not unusual; Dr Packer is a man of strong opinions, who isn’t afraid to ruffle a few feathers. Past headlines, for example, include “Does Anyone Read Medical Journals Anymore? Milton Packer wonders whether authors are wasting their time,” “The Fake Hypertension War: Medical politics and mud fights,” and “Are Researchers Who Work With Industry Always Evil?”
That kind of open and honest voice is welcome, especially in the at-times-overly-polite and deferential culture of medicine. And Dr. Packer generally has the creds to back up his strong opinions; after all, the man “was a founding member and former President of Heart Failure Society of America. His research on the treatment of heart failure led to him being awarded the Lewis Katz lifetime achievement award in cardiovascular research.” Wikipedia: Milton Packer
Dr. Packer’s “Twitter-Based Medicine” post, though, appears to have differed substantially in that regard; Dr Packer has made it clear that a) he has never had a twitter account, and b) he does not intend to.
It seems that Dr. Packer did some poking around on twitter in an attempt to understand its appeal. His assessment:
“Many people who are professional cynics (or perhaps are clinically depressed) send out messages of dark disparagements, typically based on uninformed stereotypes. Their message: “Don’t believe what you read, but above all, you should believe in what I say …Others revel in expressions of self-congratulations — essentially, look what I have done! … If Twitter is your primary source of reliable and up-to-date medical and scientific information and discourse, then you practice EBM — emotion-based medicine. More precisely, you practice self-declared expert-based medicine. In reality, you practice opinion-based medicine.”
Excerpted from “Do You Practice Twitter Based Medicine” by Milton Packer, MD
The readers of this blog will undoubtedly know that, while what Dr. Packer’s anecdotal observations certainly hold true for some percentage of tweeting doctors, it is a far from the whole story – as tweeting doctors were quick to note. As of this publication, there are 29 comments on Dr Packer’s post; a few from doctors who, like Dr Packer himself, don’t have a twitter account and feel comfortable mocking their peers who do. Most are thoughtful posts from those who respectfully offer alternative opinions. But the real conversation happened on twitter itself. Over the ~11 days following the post’s publication, it was referenced in the MDigitalLife Health Ecosystem over 500 times by nearly 300 unique authors – the vast majority of whom were physicians.
Additionally, it inspired a post from Bryan Vartabedian, MD (Author of The Public Physician and one of my favorite blogs; entitled, “The Twitter Education of Dr Milton Packer.”
Doctor V has been teaching skeptical doctors about the virtues of social media for more than ten years, so he clearly knows whereof he speaks. The post makes several key points that have served to win over thousands of those skeptics, including: “Like hallway conversations, understanding and assumptions about research may be incorrect,” “Twitter is only as evidenced-based as the content it references,” “Any information stream is only as good as what you allow in,” “Public conversation and knowledge creation are not mutually exclusive,” and perhaps most importantly, “Medical leaders have a responsibility to understand modern communication.” If you google Milton Packer, that post is now on the front page of his Google Search results.
It will surprise nobody that I do not share Dr. Packer’s assessment of the value of twitter (in fact, I was one of the commenters on his post). But aside from my personal experience and 9 years of study of the physicians in this space, what strikes me as perhaps most compelling is a finding from an as-yet-unpublished research project that has surprised even me — that close to 50% of doctors in the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic’s cancer centers are now on twitter. That is staggering. IMHO, it is an indication that the future physician is going to look a lot more like Ed SchlossWestby FisherToniya Singh or Martha Gulati than like the Milt Packer we see today – and that distinction has little or nothing to do with their respective ages. However, based on the fact that Dr Packer is now an award-winning blogger, I am guessing that the value of social media is beginning to become apparent to him – and I have a feeling that we’ll see Dr Packer joining the conversation on twitter before too much longer. What do you think?

If you’re interested in learning about W2O, check out our About or Healthcare page.

Want to chat? Drop us a line.

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