Remember 2009? The H1N1 pandemic we were all waiting for? I do. I was pregnant; H1N1 was particularly risky for pregnant women. The vaccine wasn’t available until after I had my baby, but when they held a clinic an hour north of where I live, I brought my husband there so we could both get our shots. My infant son was too young to be vaccinated, so I wanted to protect him through herd immunity.
A study came out recently on twitter messages from that time. How did pro-vaccine sentiments spread, versus anti-vaccine ones? Which messages were more contagious?
I talked to one of the authors, Marcel Salathe, today. He’s an infectious disease researcher studying the spread and transmission, not (just) of disease, but of information. “We assume people infect each other with opinions about vaccinations,” he said, and the H1N1 scare was a good opportunity to put some of his group’s theories to the test.
They collected nearly half a million tweets about the H1N1 flu vaccine. In 2009, H1N1 wasn’t included in the regular flu shot, and became available partway through flu season as a separate dose. With a possible pandemic looming, people had plenty of motivation to get the vaccine and encourage others to get it—butanti-vaccine sentiments were in circulation too.
The result, striking but perhaps not surprising: negative opinions were more contagious than positive ones. (Specifically, someone who read a lot of anti-vaccine messages was more likely to follow up by tweeting or retweeting negative messages of their own.)
Continue reading “Twitter Study of Vaccine Messages: Opinions Are Contagious, But In Unexpected Ways”
Filed Under: Uncategorized
Tagged: Facebook, Google, H1N1, public health, Social Media, Twitter, vaccines
Apr 8, 2013
Somewhere between the 20th century Bank ATM and the 25th century Tricorder, lays the EMR that we should have today.
Somewhere between the government-designed Meaningful Use EMR and the Holographic doctor in Star Trek, there should be a long stretch of disposable trial-and-error cycles of technology, changing and morphing from good to better to magical. For this to happen, we must release the EMR from its balls and chains. We must release the EMR from its life sentence in the salt mines of reimbursement, and understand that EMRs cannot, and will not, and should not, be held responsible for fixing the financial and physical health of the entire nation. In other words, lighten up folks …
A patient’s medical record contains all sorts of things, most of which diminish in importance as time goes by. Roughly speaking, a medical record contains quantifiable data (numbers), Boolean data (positive/negative), images (sometimes), and lots of plain, and not so plain, English (in the US).
The proliferation of prose and medical abbreviations in the medical record has been attacked a very long time ago by the World Health Organization (WHO), which gave us the International Classification of Disease (fondly known as ICD), attaching a code to each disease. With roots in the 19th century and with explicit rationale of facilitating international statistical research and public health, the codification of disease introduced the concept that caring for an individual patient should also be viewed as a global learning experience for humanity at large. Medicine was always a personal service, but medicine was also a science, and as long as those growing the science were not far removed from those delivering the service, both could symbiotically coexist.
Continue reading “Set My People Free”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: AMA, Data, EHR, HIT, ICD, Interoperability, Margalit Gur-Arie, Meaningful Use, patient health records, Twitter, WHO, Workflow
Jan 21, 2013
Here’s another technically easy and culturally hard product: Patient Friendly Orders.
My version of this idea was born when I was admitted to the hospital for pneumonia about 5 years ago. Even though I had previously worked in that hospital, the quality of communication about my care between the patient and the medical team was poor. This got me thinking…
There should be a touchscreen by my bed that lists all the current doctors’ orders.
They’re not hidden in the chart. They’re not explained only in ephemeral conversations that occurred without me present. And of course, if they’re in front of me, they’re going to have to get written in English.
Let’s organize the orders, too. Imagine a loved one is hospitalized for a severe skin infection which also caused his diabetes to get way out of control. He has difficulty sleeping in the hospital and also needs pain control. All the orders — whether for diabetes, infection, sleep, or pain — are organized according to the problem they address. (While doctors’notes are generally organized by problem, their orders are not. I bet if we implemented Patient Friendly Orders, they’d be useful for doctors if only just for this reason.)
When the doctor or nurse or physical therapist comes in, the patient and family can have a conversation about the current plan, with that plan laid out in front of them. They make a shared decision, and the doctor can update the plan on the same touchscreen. “Sounds like a plan,” the patient says while actually looking at it. When you visit your loved one, he can show you the plan, too. If a question comes up about a given order, or why something is missing from the plan, you can make a note on the touchscreen so the medical team knows to address it when they next come by. Continue reading “Building a Better Health Care System: Patient-Friendly Orders”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: Charting, Doctor's Notes, Patient Friendly Orders, Patient Management, Roni Zeiger, Twitter
Jan 6, 2013
I really like Twitter. Its scrolling 140-character tableau of news nuggets fit perfectly on my hand held device, lap top and home personal computer. It’s easy to glance at between tasks and the advertising is blessedly minimal. I control the content by following and unfollowing other Twitter accounts with a simple click or a touch.
But why, physician-skeptics may ask, is Twitter any better than traditional web browsing, email, list-servs and handheld apps? I thought about that and am pleased to offer my Top Twelve reasons why every doc should include Twitter in their informatics medical bag.
1. Lit Headlines: The major medical journals use Twitter to efficiently describe their latest content with links.
2. Fame: Traditional print authors are publishing more and more about less and less. Getting peers to follow your original and insightful tweets is the new route to attaining status as an expert. I have more than 500 daily followers vs. how many actually read the average peer-reviewed article?
3. News Junkies: Some of your like-minded peers are freely aggregating and retweeting relevant headlines with links for your perusing efficiency. They can be indefatigable.
4. Kool-Aid Immunity: Did you know your Chief, Chair, VP, lead administrator or Dean wants to control all your communication? Twitter is an easy way to step out of the information bubble and monitor contrary news about that EHR, medical device, performance standards, your institution’s business partners, the competition and more.
5. Efficiency: Twitter trains you to be both brainy and brief. If you can’t fit it into 140 characters or less, you’re wasting your readers’ time.
Continue reading “The Doctor Will Tweet You Now”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: Jaan Sidorov, Physicians, Social Media, Twitter
Dec 6, 2012
“Doctor’s office; please hold.”
You’ll never hear that when you call me. Never. You’ll also never get an automated answering system (I’m just referring to office hours, of course. Evenings and weekends the phone goes to Google Voice. More on
that below.) We are also in the middle of a communication revolution. There are now so many other ways patients can contact me other than the telephone, the silly thing is almost becoming obsolete. I took amoment the other day just to go through all the various ways patients contact me.
Still the most reliable fallback. Most synchronous form of communication: both parties willing and able to talk in real time. After hours, Google Voice (free) transcribes messages and texts them to my smart phone. As a rule, patients do not call my cell phone, although I’m not shy about giving out the number. Then again, those who have my cell number usually use it for…
At the moment, it’s just a few patients, but I anticipate more and more of them will partake as time goes on. It doesn’t happen very often, and so far it’s never been inappropriate. Med refill requests and pictures of kids’ rashes have been the mainstay so far. I like it. By it’s very nature, the people choosing to text me understand the limitations of synchronicity, ie, they don’t get bent out of shape if I don’t answer them right away, and they understand that it’s just for relatively minor issues. I also use it to communicate simple quick questions to specialists with all the same mutual understandings (minor issues only; response time unimportant).
Continue reading “Doctorology: Communication. It’s All Good”
Filed Under: Uncategorized
Tagged: Dinosaur MD, Facebook, Patient-Centered Medical Home, private practice, Social Media, Telehealth, Twitter, Wait times
Nov 3, 2012
1. You Will Have to Move a Lot
I went to medical school in Cleveland and did myj pathology residency in San Francisco at UCSF. I was on the medical school faculty at UCSF, Iowa, Allegheny University of the Health Sciences, and Michigan State.
Since leaving academic medicine, I have worked at a bio-tech start up in Cambridge, an educational and research institute in Grand Rapids, a $2 billion integrated delivery system in Iowa, and an evidence-based medicine consortium in Minneapolis.
In my experience physician executive positions do not always last a long time because the environment changes, my career aspirations changed, and getting the job done sometimes means alienating enough people to get in the way of long job tenure.
2. You Will Have to Reinvent Yourself Over and Over Again
My main professional roles have included: medical school pathology course master, surgical pathologist, division head, vice chair of academic department, chair of academic department, medical director of managed care, corporate operations officer of ambulatory care, special assistant to the president of a big ten university for managed care, search consultant, chief knowledge officer of a genomics bio-tech start up, president and ceo of an educational consortium, chief medical officer of a delivery system, president and ceo of an evidence based medicine institute, and health policy professor at a school of population health.
Continue reading “Eight Things I Keep Wishing Med School Had Taught Me About Business”
Filed Under: THCB, The Business of Health Care
Tagged: Education, Failing, Kent Bottles, Medical School, Physician Executive, Social Medial, Twitter
Sep 28, 2012
What surprised me was that this (rhetorical) question was put to me, not by an elder lemon colleague approaching retirement, but a freshly minted colleague in his early thirties. Then I saw this Tweet from the Med2.0 conference;
As someone who spends a lot of his time on Twitter, it hurts to think that the majority of my colleagues might think I might be wasting my time.
Engaging in health related activities on social media channels is the most important thing I have done for my medical life since completing my specialist training. It has renewed my fascination for healthcare in a way I haven’t felt since I was a medical student and doing so, has undoubtedly quelled a mid-life ennui with my career. It has transformed the way I learn (where I had all but stopped learning) and introduced me to new an interesting friends.
Continue reading “Are You Still Wasting Your Time on Twitter?”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: Health 2.0, Ronan Kavanagh, Social Media, Twitter
Sep 19, 2012
Sir Muir Gray, of evidence-based medicine fame, is a man who speaks his mind – often in 140 characters or fewer. “Show me a paper by a management academic,” he Tweeted, “that has changed the way we deliver health services” [and, implicitly, improved patient outcomes].
Part of me agreed with him, but I’m married to a management academic (“Oops sorry, better man than me,” Muir backpedalled), who helped me rise to Muir’s challenge.
We kicked off with a paper almost every clinician has heard of:
Kaplan and Norton’s ‘balanced scorecard’, published in Harvard Business Review in 1992 and cited over 8000 times since . The scorecard was aimed at company directors who wanted some quick (and, one is tempted to suggest, dirty) metrics to monitor what their customers thought of them and where they should direct their efforts for the future. It has certainly changed practice (many healthcare organisations use it), but we were not overly sold on its transferability to the healthcare setting.
Continue reading “Have Management Papers Ever Changed Practice in Healthcare?”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: balanced scorecard, Evidence Based Medicine, management papers, Outcomes, Sir Muir Gray, Social Media, Trish Greenhalgh, Twitter
May 25, 2012
By the numbers, pharma’s usage of the social media to drive corporate, brand and disease management objectives has never been greater. But how robust are pharma’s channels and programs on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other networks?
Consider a few table stakes for digital communication generally:
- Tell the whole truth and nothing but
- If applicable, open comments but police spam and abuse (a concept FB now enforces for all unbranded health pages).
- Support the brand you have while you build the one you want.
- Stratify messages, channels and audiences to support that strategy.
- Develop and monitor KPIs, some qualitative. It’s not just about the money.
Now consider a few typical characteristics of pharma social media content these days:
Continue reading “Pharma, Social Media & Common Sense”
Filed Under: Pharma
Tagged: Facebook, FDA, Pharma, Social Media, Twitter
Mar 28, 2012
Yesterday, one of the founders of Twitter, Biz Stone, gave the opening keynote at HIMSS.
This is probably going to be the best keynote at HIMSS, followed by a speech from Dr. Farzad Mostashari, which will also be excellent. It goes downhill after that: there will be a talk about politics and another talk from an “explorer.” I am sure those will be great talks, but when I go to HIMSS, I want to hear about health information technology. Want to know what @biz actually said? As usual, Twitter itself provides an instant summary.
HIMSS stands for Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society. The annual HIMSS conference is the largest Health IT gathering on the planet. Almost 40,000 people will show up to discuss healthcare information systems. Many of them will be individuals sent by their hospitals to try and find out what solutions they will need to purchase in order to meet meaningful use requirements. But many of the attendees are old school health IT experts, many of whom have spent entire careers trying to bring technology into a healthcare system that has resisted computerization tooth and nail. This year will likely break all kind of attendance records for HIMSS. Rightly so: The value of connecting thousands of health IT experts with tens of thousands who are seeking health IT experts has never been higher.
It is ironic that Biz Stone is keynoting this year’s talk, because Twitter has changed the health IT game so substantially. I say Twitter specifically, and not “social media” generally. I do not think Facebook or Google+ or your social media of choice has had nearly the impact that Twitter has had on healthcare communications.
HIMSS, and in many cases traditional health IT along with it, is experiencing something of a whirlwind. One force adding wind has been the fact that President Obama has funded EHR systems with meaningful use, and made it clear that the future of healthcare funding will take place at Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) that are paid to keep people healthy rather than to cover procedures when they are sick. It is hard to understate the importance of this. Meaningful Use and ACOs will do more to computerize medicine in five years than the previous 50 years without these incentive changes. Continue reading “Who Is Biz Stone and What Is Twitter?”
Filed Under: THCB
Tagged: ACOs, Biz Stone, Blogs, Fred Trotter, Health 2.0, HIMSS 2012, Social Media, Twitter
Feb 22, 2012