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Should Hospitals Manage Their Physicians’ Online Reputations?

I spoke to a group of academic physicians recently.  Afterward I was and asked, “Shouldn’t my hospital be responsible for my digital footprint?  I don’t have time to look after that sort of thing.  And wouldn’t it make sense for them to promote my research?”

4 thoughts:

1.  Online reputation management of academic physicians should be an individual, not institutional, responsibility. The question reflects a belief that your reputation is the job of “the marketing people.”  No institution will ever be as invested in your future as you are.  While there are hospitals that do a good job supporting their faculty and staff, you can’t assume it to be the case.  No one looks after you like you.

2.  Dig your well before you’re thirsty. That’s the name of a brilliant pre-digital book written by Harvey Mackey.  He suggested that the time to invest in relationships is before you need them.  Medicine is changing fast and you’ll never know how long you’ll be where you’re at.  Better yet, you never know what opportunities could come your way when people find you.  And if you want to experience the land before time when people used colored pencils, Rolodexes, and rotary phones, read Dig Your Well. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at 33 Charts*

Awkward Timing: Actor Featured In TV Drug Commercial During His Own Murder Movie

You may recall, I have a beef with Madison Avenue ad agencies that keep serving up the same New York actors in television commercials for different illnesses. I take it personally. The woman with cancer also has asthma. The man with arthritis also has erectile dysfunction. I feel bad for them!

Last night the quest by an actor to find work got ridiculous for me as my wife, Esther, and I were watching one of our favorite shows, “Criminal Minds,” on CBS. It was a particularly violent episode where a Bonnie and Clyde-type couple shot their way across Montana and proved to be the sickest of cold blooded killers. As the story develops, both the young man and the young woman were abused as children and their plan becomes to mete out retribution to the parents who ruined their lives.

Late in the show the young woman confronts a gray haired man in his 50’s behind the counter at his service station-convenience store. It was her father. She points a gun at him while he pleads for his life. I turned to Esther and said “I know that man! Where do I know him from?” Esther didn’t know and I couldn’t remember. Back on the screen things go from bad to worse, and while the young woman hesitates, her boyfriend sends the father to the hereafter. It was so sad. Where do I know that guy from???? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Andrew's Blog*

Who Follows Big Pharma On Twitter?

Do “normal” people – patients, doctors, nurses, pharmacists, life scientists, etc – follow Big Pharma on Twitter? I’ve long had a hunch that most of the followers (and by followers I mean people who are actually paying attention) of Pharma accounts are primarily consultants, marketers, PR pros, social media evangelists and others interested in Pharma’s use of the Web (including myself).

So I decided to gather the key words in the profiles of a select group of Pharma companies. I used the service TwitterSheep to generate tag clouds of these profiles. This isn’t a purely scientific approach, but it’s reasonable enough to provide some insight into whose following Pharma. My friends Silja Chouquet (@Whydotpharma) and Andrew Spong (@AndrewSpong) each provided great insight into Pharma and Twitter. You can read their posts here and here, respectively.

Based on the tag clouds, here are the top ten key words in the profiles of followers of selected Pharma companies: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Phil Baumann*

Diabetes Advocate Asks PR Companies To Stop Exploiting Patient Bloggers

Quick post to the PR professionals in the healthcare sphere:

When someone dies, it is terrible tragedy.  That person leaves behind a family, loved ones, and – especially when they die young – their future.  If someone dies as a result of diabetes, or due to complications from diabetes, or from something else entirely but they happened to have diabetes, and you decide to exploit their death to gain pageviews for your website?  (See also:  Brittany Murphy, Casey Johnson)

Come on.

There’s a difference between passing on information that could help people improve their lives, and then there’s pure, TMZ-style exploitation.   Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Six Until Me.*

Book Review: Don’t Be Such A Scientist: Talking Substance In An Age Of Style


I’ll never forget the day when I argued for protecting parents against misleading and false information about the treatment of autism. I was working at a large consumer health organization whose mission was to “empower patients with accurate information” so that they could take control of their health. My opposition was himself a physician who requested that our organization publish an article that advised parents of children with autism to seek out DAN! practitioners and chelation therapy.

I prepared my remarks with the utmost care and delivered them to a committee of our lay executives. I cited examples of children who had died during chelation treatments, explained exactly why there was no evidence that chelation therapy could improve the symptoms of autism and in fact was based on the false premise that “heavy metals” in vaccines were implicated in the etiology of the disease. I concluded that it would be irresponsible for the company to publish such misleading advice/information for parents, and would in fact be counter to our entire mission.

My physician opponent suggested that it was our company’s duty to inform parents of all their options, that we should not be judgmental about treatments, and that I was part of a paternalistic medical establishment that tried to silence creative thinking.

The committee ended up siding with my opponent. I was flabbergasted and asked one of the committee members what on earth they were thinking. She simply shrugged and said that my opponent was more likable than I was.

This experience marked the beginning of my journey towards fighting fire with fire – understanding that being right is not the same as being influential, and that “winning” an argument (where lives are on the line) requires a different skill set than I learned in my scientific training.

Book Review

And so it was with great interest that I picked up Randy Olson’s book, Don’t Be Such A Scientist: Talking Substance In An Age Of Style. I was pleased to see that other scientists had experienced the same revelation – that we need to be more communication-savvy to become more societally-influential.

Olson’s book outline is simple: four “don’ts” and one “do.” Don’t be so cerebral, literal-minded, poor at telling stories, or unlikeable. Do be the voice of science. He begins his book with a captivating story: a marine biologist goes to Hollywood and is shredded by an acting teacher for being incapable of raw emotion. Most scientists will get a good chuckle out of this narrative and will relate to Olson’s culture shock.

As the book winds along, the reader is introduced to a series of the author’s former girlfriends. He reminisces:

She would listen to me talk and talk and talk to the old folks and finally, by the end of the day, she would have had enough. So her favorite thing to do in the evening was, when I was done talking, to look deeply, romantically, lovingly into my eyes and say in a soft and seductive Germanic voice… “You bore me.”… p.82

Another girlfriend developed an affectionate nickname for me, “Chief Longwind,” which she would abbreviate when I’d get going on something and just say, “That’s enough for tonight, Chief.” p.83

Unfortunately, as these ladies noted, Olson’s strong suit is not compelling dialog – a tragic irony for a book written to inspire more effective science communication. Nonetheless, since scientists are rarely deterred by boredom, I think that there are some conceptual gems worth unearthing.

These are my top 5 take-home messages:

1. Communicate in a human way – be humorous, tell stories, don’t feel as if you have to present all the details. The goal is to get people curious enough to ask more questions.

2. Broad audiences prefer style over substance – learn to be bilingual (to speak with academics versus a general audience).

3. Marketing is critical for influence. The creators of Napoleon Dynamite spent a few hundred thousand dollars on production and $10 million on advertising/marketing. The movie grossed $50 million. Scientists who wish to be influential (or get their message across broadly) must bow the knee to the marketing gods.

4. Some people are naturally good communicators, others are not. Find the good ones and make them  spokespeople. “The strongest voice is that of a single individual.” p. 166

5. Likability trumps everything. People make snap judgments about whether or not they like you, and your message’s impact is dependent upon your likability factor. Likability is related to humor, emotion, and passion. p. 148

And so, Don’t Be Such A Scientist offers some great food for thought – and I suppose if it hadn’t been written by a scientist it might also have been a more engaging read! But who am I to say, I’m still trying to bend my mind around the idea that Americans don’t care about facts.

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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