It is with great pride that I introduce today’s guest. I’ve known John Hallock for over 10 years…back when it felt like we were the only two people in the free world working in health IT marketing and communications. Today, John is vice president of corporate communications for Imprivata. For those of you who know John, you know that he has a natural gift for storytelling.  As we were both waiting to fly back on the red eye from last week’s HIMSS, I seized the opportunity to hit him up with questions. He didn’t disappoint. Read on…


What does your company do?

Imprivata is one of the largest health IT security companies in the world. We serve 1,500 healthcare organizations across the globe. Our technology allows providers to securely access, communicate, and transact patient information securely. As we see it, digital health is at an inflection point: It is no longer about driving EHR adoption, but about how we connect those EHRs and allow information to follow the patient. As more and more healthcare moves online, we are a vital ingredient.

Describe the role that you and your team play in advancing the company mission.

I oversee all corporate communications, which includes media relations, government affairs, analyst relations and some internal communications along with HR of course. It’s an exciting time. We went public 18 months ago. There is a lot of growth and the organization is scaling quickly. Communications – both external and internal – is critical for keeping everyone on the same page, setting expectations and explaining how we innovate and launch new products.

What is your biggest success in the last year and why does this make you proud?

I joined the firm about a year ago. The company wanted to increase focus on business media and national media and I had a lot of experience doing that at athenahealth and CareCloud. Over my career, I’ve primarily worked with healthcare technology companies. Unless it’s Apple or some wildly successful online service, you need to very quickly figure out how you can tie the company’s products to the issues that matter most to clients and the public at large. With most companies, you’re lucky if you have one or two products that can do that. Early on at athenahealth we had to work hard just to get people to realize how big of an issue medical billing was. At Imprivata, I am lucky to have three.

For example and right out of the gate, I focused on electronic prescribing for controlled substances. Why? Because our solution is designed to address a high profile and important issue – addiction to prescription painkillers, which has become a nationwide epidemic. Imprivata sells the security technology that allows physicians to securely send electronic prescriptions for controlled substances to a pharmacy. Replacing paper prescriptions with electronic prescriptions is seen by experts as a big step in preventing doctor shopping and drug diversion – i.e., when people with addiction problems go from doctor to doctor collecting prescriptions for painkillers and other controlled substances. We saw immediate national press and the opportunity for real thought leadership that educated audiences on the issue and made the case for change.

We are about to take a similar, but more lighthearted approach to helping rid the medical profession of pagers. We also have a great deal to say about patient identification with our new Palm-Vein biometric patient ID platform. It plays directly into the interoperability discussion underway across the industry right now.

How many years have you been going to HIMSS and what’s changed the most?

This was my 12th. In terms of what’s changed the most, two things come to mind. First, security has become a leading topic. That was overdue and I’d like to think Imprivata has had something to do with getting people talking about it. And second, I would have to say…Allscripts’ colors. Every year I look forward to seeing what Allscripts’ new corporate colors are going to be as they pretty have much covered the spectrum at this point.

Outside of work, what are your favorite things to do?

I played golf in college and recently got back into it. One thing I can’t quite figure out is…based on the way most technology folks swing a club, it is a mystery as to why they would ever want to go near a golf course, much less sponsor the sport. Mind you, that’s not a commentary on my boss or CEO – they hit em straight every time (chuckle).

When I’m not on the golf course, I’m evaluating talent for the upcoming NFL draft. Belechick and Tom have me on retainer so this time of year I’m either breaking down film or I’ve got a stop watch and clipboard in hand. I’m only half joking – I do these things, but the Coach knows nothing about it. Also, I am proud to report that I no longer get into Brady/Manning debates with strangers at airport bars.

How do you empower and motivate your employees to do their best possible work?

Early in my career, I worked at a few big agencies — writing, doing media relations…the usual stuff. If you’re lucky, you get exposed to some bosses that show you how to be part of a team. It’s always great to be singled out as a top performer, but your impact will always be limited if you don’t learn how to collaborate with all the folks on your team. When I went to athenahealth, I tried to build and run a team that gave everyone the support they needed and allowed them to do their best work – and I had some success and failures on that front for sure. We are doing the same here at Imprivata. Once you become a manager, your job is to set others up to be successful. That can take some people a long time to learn — it certainly didn’t happen overnight for me. Of course, I still like picking up the damn phone and calling a reporter or producer and getting the big hit as well.

If a PR/Marketing God exists, what would you like to hear that God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? (my spin on James Lipton’s famous last question from Inside the Actor’s Studio)

If I can get there, and that’s very much up for debate, I would want to hear…”Listen, you did really well for a kid who never really learned to type. You told some stories that changed the healthcare system and impacted peoples’ lives. Kid from Worcester, so all things considered, ya done good.” Something like that. I am still working on my book “Travels with Johnny.” You are in it Rob, but don’t worry…I left out the shenanigans at HIMSS’08 (smile and chuckle).

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When it comes to hospital and health system use of social media, “it’s less of a question about whether you should do it; it’s can you afford not to,” noted UPMC’s chief innovation officer, Rasu Shrestha, M.D. (@RasuShrestha), at W2O Group’s inaugural #HITsmCIO Reception on April 12, 2015, in Chicago. Utilizing the capabilities of our robust MDigitalLIfe #Healthecosystem and advanced social analytics, W2O gathered together some of the industry’s forefront thought leaders and social influencers to review the results of our third annual study and hear directly from provider IT leaders on how and why they are using social media.

Social media data and advanced analytics are providing a crisp, new lens through which to view this community and better understand the critical issues that hospital and health system IT leaders face today. Where do they look for information? What are the key issues being discussed? And how are provider IT leaders engaging with their peers and the #Healthecosystem as a whole? This year’s W2O Group report – What Healthcare CIOs are Really Talking About – provides key insights and notable trends on how this community is utilizing Twitter to advance the health IT conversation, engage with their networks and drive awareness and education throughout the industry.

Not surprisingly, when it comes to the most popular topics being discussed among provider CIOs, electronic health records (EHRs) take first place. Following closely behind is mHealth, with other key topics including innovation, big data and Ebola. Being that it was a physician, not a reporter, who broke the story about the Measles outbreak at Disneyland via Twitter earlier this year, the fact that Ebola was also one of the top topics in our CIO community supports just how important a role social can plan in terms of improving public health awareness and communication among both clinicians and provider executives.

Top 5 Topics

We also looked at the growth in trending topics among the community. As you’ll see, mental health and innovation had the highest growth year to year, a strong indicator of two areas that are becoming an increasingly important part of the healthcare technology conversation. The chart below also shows the rise in discussion about cancer, leadership and healthcare IT social media (#HITsm), as well as many others:

Percentage Growth

To better understand who CIOs are engaging with, we looked at both the most retweeted and most followed among the community. In terms of the most retweeted, they are:

  1. Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar), CMO at Extreme Networks
  2. Eric Topol (@EricTopol), cardiologist and Medscape editor-in-chief
  3. Brian Ahier (@ahier), Director of Standards and Government Affairs at Medicity
  4. Farzad Mostashari, M.D., (@Farzad_MD), former National Coordinator for Health Information Technology and founder of Aledade, Inc.
  5. The New York Times (@nytimes)


As you’ll also see included in the image above, the most followed CIOs and CMIOs are:

  1. John Halamka, M.D. (@jhalamka), Chief Information Officer, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC)
  2. Will Weider (@CandidCIO), Chief Information Officer, Ministry Health Care
  3. Luis Saldana, M.D. (@lsaldanamd),Chief Medical Informatics Officer, Texas Health Resources
  4. Dirk Stanley, M.D. (@dirkstanley), Chief Medical Informatics Officer, Cooley Dickinson Hospital
  5. David Chou (@dchou1107) Chief Information Officer, University of Mississippi Medical Center

In terms of the most @mentioned CIOs, Dr. Halamka is one again at the top of the list, with two Texas Health Resources’ social power houses coming in next. The top five list includes the following (though please be sure to check out the presentation below for more information and the expanded list):

  1. John Halamka, M.D. (@jhalamka), Chief Information Officer, BIDMC
  2. Edward Marx (@marxists), Chief Information Officer, Texas Health Resources
  3. Luis Saldana, M.D.,(@lsaldanamd) Chief Medical Informatics Officer, Texas Health Resources
  4. Sue Schade (@sgschade), Chief Information Officer, University of Michigan Health System
  5. David Chou,(@dchou1107) Chief Information Officer, University of Mississippi Medical Center

 Most Mentioned

Additionally, as you see above on the bottom half of the slide image, CIOs are sharing more information from top tier, national media outlets than trade publications. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Washington Post and Harvard Business Review produce the most frequently linked to content by this community. As for the most liked to trade media outlets, these include Healthcare IT News, FierceHealthIT, Becker’s Hospital Review, iHealthBeat and

Being that this is social use that we’re analyzing, what about the blogs, you ask? In terms of the most linked-to blogs, Kevin Pho, M.D.’s blog (@KevinMD) was shared the most among this community, with top articles related to both personal health and healthcare technology, with HIStalk and The Health Care Blog coming in next. The top five most shared blogs includes:

  2. HIStalk
  3. The Health Care Blog
  4. Gates Notes
  5. EMR and HIPAA

We also looked at provider CIO following patterns and discovered that our community is engaged with a mix of industry organizations, government entities, leading trade outlets and thought leaders, including HIMSS, ONC, Healthcare IT News, TedMed, and Farzad Mostashari, M.D. Additionally, organizations including Cerner and EMC Healthcare are among the top accounts who are following the CIO community.

Following Patterns

Still hungry for more analytics goodness? Please see the presentation below for our full research report be sure to follow @W2OGroup and #HITsmCIO for the latest findings, news and updates from our community!

For a deeper dive into the research and to set up media briefings, please contact:

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By Allison Barnes and Rob Cronin

Recently on Jimmy Kimmel Live, the show’s film crew took to the streets of Hollywood to find out what people thought of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  While the responses were entertaining, they underscored the confusion seen in a recent CNBC poll, and this recent NPR story.

At WCG, we’ve worked to make sense of this by taking a closer look at the online conversation surrounding the ACA. This post is the first in a series aimed at shedding light on that all-important conversation. Using our analytics capability, we looked at four types of online media: news, blogs, forums and Twitter. Our analysis covered the previous year and included over 8.5 million references to the federal health law. We used a statistically significant random sample to arrive at key metrics.

To get started, we looked at the ACA conversation from a standpoint of what’s being discussed, how it’s being discussed, where that discussion is happening and the overall volume of conversation.  (Note: For a more detailed view of the conversation data and trends, click on the infographic and slides below.)

 Affordable Care Act from W2O Group

Looking at the volume of online conversation (the image at the top of the infographic), you’ll notice that conversation spikes are tied to political activities. This is a key data point as politically-oriented communications have consistently dominated the ACA conversation. Even the most recent spike seen at the far right of the graph is driven not by news of the health insurance exchanges (as anyone watching news coverage might reasonably have thought); that’s Senator Ted Cruz’s filibuster effort on Capitol Hill.

Kimmel is at his best when simply asking Joe and Jane Public which they prefer: Obamacare…or the Affordable Care Act. WCG’s analysis of language, sentiment and media channels used in the ACA conversation can help explain why the average person even sees this as a choice. First, our data shows the ACA conversation is dominated by Twitter and the consistent and frequent use of one word: Obamacare. Second, Obamacare does not have a high-level of association with the ACA – the terms “affordable” and “act” do not appear in top 15 keywords associated with mentions of Obamacare. And last, ACA mentions that include the term Obamacare are twice as likely to be negative, which of course was the intent of those who coined the term as a pejorative alternative to the “Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act”.  It also helps explain why “Obamacare” is seen as something different and not all that attractive by folks on Hollywood Blvd. and beyond.

However, when examining data from the most recent quarter, there are signs of change. Over the past three months, a rise in the use of Obamacare has coincided with a 5-6 percent increase in overall neutral to positive sentiment. Could this be a reflection of ACA supporter’s efforts to de-politicize the term? Whether its causation or correlation is unclear.

The infographic’s “Conversation Focus” identifies what topics are being discussed. In conversations mentioning Obamacare, it shows more than half of the mentions make no reference to specific components of the law at all. The majority of these general mentions are negative in tone and are most often characterized by political attacks to defund or repeal the law. Other components of the ACA in the Obamacare conversations were also majority negative, including the federal insurance mandate and Medicaid expansion. Keeping the ACA conversation broad and negative is not exactly a recipe for helping Jimmy’s interviewees boost their understanding.

Conversely, in conversations mentioning the Affordable Care Act, most of the conversation was about specific components of the law. Discussion of Medicaid expansion and the federal mandate were about evenly split between negative and neutral to positive.

In both conversations—with and without mentions of Obamacare—mentions of healthcare exchanges and pre-existing conditions were neutral to positive. This points to a contradiction that’s been raised many times before – consumers who are against the ACA overall but in favor of some of its key tenets. And here is where Mr. Kimmel has performed yet another  public service by coming up with a more broadly-accessible metaphor to help explain the ACA: “…it’s like the opposite of a (Chicken) McNugget.” (See: 20 and 2:44 of the segment).

It is important to note that our data also does not take into consideration the developments of the last several days surrounding the government shutdown and the launch of the healthcare exchanges. These will no doubt have a very large impact on the ACA conversation.

For now, it’s fair to say that ACA supporters have their work cut out for them. Conservative efforts to use the term Obamacare and Twitter have clearly influenced the overall conversation online and helped them to rebrand the ACA to their liking.

What are your thoughts? Please check out the infographic and slides and share your comments and questions below.

Rob leads WCG’s digital health practice. You can reach him at and robcroninny. Allison is an associate in WCG’s analytics practice. You can reach her at and allisonnbarnes.



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And the rich keep on getting richer…

Yes, WCG is happy to announce that we have added another big brain/seasoned veteran to the team in one Mr. Rob Cronin. Specifically, Rob is joining the WCG team to lead a specialized practice of two intersecting fields: healthcare and technology. As advancements continue in both areas, the tools change and the landscape transforms. Rob will be working with clients to tell the story of how their organizations and communities are enabling change throughout the nation’s healthcare system.

It is clear that this is an area that deserves focus and expertise. To that end, Rob brings 20 years of communication experience with him and a shared understanding of what is great work and what constitues great communication consulting – what it looks like today and where we expect it to head. As a former client, Rob believes in, and has put into action, analytics as a foundation for how to communicate and engage.

Asked to describe himself in three words, Rob listed off creative, driven and jocular. When I asked him to elaborate a bit, Rob explained that even at the beginning of his career he felt “the tension of wanting to run both the account and to be the creative. Communications offered the best of both.” He continued,”I’ve always been driven to deliver results and to serve clients.” So how does jocular fit in? While Rob takes his work seriously, he employs humor to make sure that isn’t confused with taking himself too seriously.

Rob continually assesses the evolution of healthcare technology, especially in the next 3 -5 years, and what that will mean. “To date, most of the attention has been focused  getting providers to adopt technology and digitizing medical information. That is a critical step, but it is only step one.  This next step is a critical part of the federal program that offers financial incentives to providers that make ‘meaningful use’ of electronic health records.  There are many obstacles to overcome here, but progress is happening and this will be a big story in the next two years.”

Prior to joining WCG, Rob headed up corporate communications at Surescripts, the nation’s largest health information network. While there, he built relationships and created communications programs, including The National Progress Report on E-Prescribing and The Safe-Rx Awards, that helped define the market for e-prescribing and turn Surescripts into a leading brand in health IT. Before his time at Surescripts, Rob grew up on the agency side with stints at Dudnyk, TSI Communications, Weber Shandwick and Outcast.

Please help us in welcoming Rob to the team.

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