Aloha from the American Psychiatric Association’s Annual Meeting in Honolulu! The weather is gorgeous here and it’s been a great meeting. Yesterday, I heard Archbishop Desmond Tutu speak, and today, I listened to “Conversations” with Lorraine Bracco–also known as Dr. Melfi from The Sopranos. The beach is nice, too, and Clink has been scuba diving. Should I tell you she just learned to swim this past winter? She is amazing!
In a few hours, we will be giving our workshop, The Accessible Psychiatry Project: The Public Face of Psychiatry in New Media. We are telling the audience that the survey we did was not validated, was not statistically analyzed, and is not real science. Mostly, it was about how cool it is that we can even do this at all (ask questions, interact with readers, have an impact). I thought I’d share the survey results with everyone here. If you took the survey, thank you, again.
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*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*
I frequently talk about the visibility of doctors in the online space. How can doctors make content, contribute to the broader dialog, and be more visible? Maybe I need to spend less time pushing the idea that every doctor needs to create. Most doctors, after all, just want to listen and watch. Maybe we need to be cultivating dedicated communicators.
There’s a role evolving where physicians are formally involved in the creation of content and the maintenance of dialog. Wendy Swanson at Seattle Children’s Hospital and Claire McCarthy at Boston Children’s Hospital come to mind as good examples. Both serve as models for how institutions can leverage the voice of an individual for a branded online identity while contributing to the common good. Both are evolving as conversation agents on social platforms and IRL. Call them medical conversation agents of new media. Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*
When it comes to the social media landscape, doctors are scarce. Few on Twitter and fewer with blogs. Maybe we’re socially lazy. Or maybe we’re just taking it all in.
Mitch Joel of Six Pixels of Separation caught my eye last week with his article “In Praise of Lazy” and reminded me that despite the how we may want to see things, most of us aren’t interested in creating content. In fact, he describes a 1 percent rule — only 1 percent of the audience will take time to actually create content.
I suspect that if we were to take the time and do the survey properly, we would find that physicians too are largely new media consumers — or spectators, joiners or collectors in the Forrester sense of the word. Physicians, in fact, might adhere to something of a 0.1 percent rule. Like Peter Sellers as “Chance the Gardner” in the 1979 classic, Being There, we “like to watch.” Read more »
*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*
New Media guru Clay Shirky was the keynote speaker at the Management of Change conference in Norfolk, Virginia. His recent book, Here Comes Everybody, is considered a must-read by most web 2.0 enthusiasts. Clay and I escaped the conference for a tête-á-tête at a local Starbucks where we wrestled with the thorny issues of healthcare and crowd sourcing.
Dr. Val: I’ve noticed that there is a difference between being right and being influential. Doctors are having a hard time adjusting their tone to be more compelling in a social media culture. What do you think physicians can do to be more influential online?
Shirky: The problem is that, since we all die eventually, everyone will be unhappy with their healthcare at some point. This creates a social dilemma that’s neither transitory nor small. First, there will always be snake oil salesmen peddling “eternal life,” and second, there will always be an unhappy faction who rail against the medical establishment. You should not try to stamp out that faction, but referee it. Federalist Papers No. 10 states that faction is the normal case of government – the trick is not to allow factions to gain disproportionate power. Physicians need to realize that patients have different priorities than they do, and speak to those as much as possible.
Dr. Val: What do you mean that we have different priorities?
Shirky: Take Medpedia for example – physicians are eager to write about rare types of liver cancer, but they don’t want to write about the basics of biopsy technique. For the physician, it’s perfectly obvious what a liver biopsy entails, so he/she doesn’t think to write about it. But the patient is probably more interested in learning about biopsy procedure than the scientific details of a rare liver cancer. The entries in Medpedia strongly reflect physician interests and priorities, though the resource is ultimately supposed to serve the educational needs of patients.
Dr. Val: What’s the best way to close that gap in priorities?
Shirky: We need to fuse the conversation between physicians and patients. The more they work together, the more valuable the content will be.
Dr. Val: What do you think about the trend towards “user-generated healthcare?”
Shirky: It’s important to have checks and balances. When lay people discuss medicine, their unguided conversation can degenerate into vitamin hucksterism. I think that whole movement was initiated when the FDA decided not to regulate the supplement industry – people have been used to getting input from others who aren’t scientifically qualified. Now everyone gives medical advice, and people listen.
Social media is a very new phenomenon. We have not figured out how to apply good checks and balances yet – amateurs’ opinions and voices can drown out the experts. We want to believe that everyone’s opinion is equally valid – but that’s just not the case. In the end, quality and clarity of messaging is a source of power.
I’ve been covering a lot of health and medical conferences lately, and experiencing a wide range of reactions to my work. For those in the media who “get” blogging – I’m treated with honor and respect. One conference organizer kindly lined up the key note speakers for me to interview, not allowing them to leave until I’d asked them all the questions I desired.
A different conference PR team forbade me to Twitter during the conference believing that “Twittering” was code for recording the conference and selling it to those who didn’t want to pay the high attendance fees. One CEO enthusiastically beckoned me over to speak with him (seeing my bright green press ribbon) and then looked at my title “blogger” and said in an irritated voice, “oh, you’re not real press.” At yet another conference I was invited as press and then asked to pay $30/day for Internet access. When I asked if I could interview the keynotes I was told, “I’m sure they won’t want to talk to you.”
As you can see, my experience has varied from being treated like a second class citizen, to being critical to the PR strategy. As a physician and a member of the National Press Club, I find it amusing to be “shattering the categories” in all kinds of ways. Most people find it hard to reconcile that I’m a “real doctor” who is also a full time blogger. I see patients once a week, and I cover conferences/conduct interviews/evaluate news on my blog the rest of the time. “But you can’t be a real doctor,” they say, peering at my press badge, “you don’t look like one.”
For PR and communications strategist in the know, medical bloggers are powerful way to reach their target audience. Better Health, with its partner sites and blogger network, reaches over 11 million unique viewers per month. As the CEO, I have been invited to speak at AMA sponsored conferences, on CBS and ABC news, at the National Library of Medicine, and have been quoted by the Wall Street Journal, and LA Times. A PR executive told me recently, “forget the Today Show, Better Health reaches a larger and more targeted health demographic.”
And yet, blogging and new media are ahead of industry, traditional PR, and communications efforts in healthcare in terms of reach and influence. Very few have figured out how to work with medical bloggers in any consistent way, even though there’s a great new channel to do so: the Better Health network.
As I have often said, blogging is upstream of mainstream media. It’s a great place to be, though misunderstood by some. I’ve grown a thick skin and expect confused looks – because I know that in a year or so, medical bloggers will be an integral part of health conference coverage, probably upstaging their current mainstream counterparts. One day soon blog networks like Better Health will be in a position to hire journalists as part of a new hybrid team of reporters and scientists, better able than ever to communicate the significance of health news.
Imagine getting immediate commentary from a researcher who understands the complex science behind a medical breakthrough? Even the best health writers are often ill-equipped to know how to interpret author spin or biostatistics. But by combining those trained in journalism with those trained in medicine – and producing content that is conversational and accurate – readers gain access to a deeper understanding of health information. The old journalism mantra “we report, you decide” becomes “we interpret, you decide.” And for those without a medical background, the interpretation can add tremendous value.
As the world adapts to the Internet age, watch for a fundamental shift in the way health information is reported. Adding physician, nurse, and scientist writers into the mix will only enhance the quality of what we read. In a world grieving the loss of newspapers and health beats, I remain optimistic – because I believe we’re on the verge of a rebirth in health communications, and we’ll all be better for it.