Monday, November 11, 2013

Michael Brito and the changing role of companies and the media

Back in 2009, the innovation team at Humana was starting to envision some wildly different new products, services and businesses - as well as business models. [If you search this blog for "Crumple It Up," you'll see what I mean.] It was my friend Gill Potter (super genius, BTW) who first raised the idea internally that we were really becoming a media company. That concept blew my mind back then - and to some extent it still does. The difference is that it really is possible today - whereas in 2009 that was probably something of a stretch.

That's why I'm so excited that Michael Brito, one of the worlds leading thinkers on the subject, is joining our WCG team in San Francisco. Take a look at the interactive image capsule below to see why we're so enthusiastic about it:
Additionally, you can check out the podcast interview that my colleague Aaron Strout did with Michael on the decision he made to come to WCG - just click the "Play" button below!

So let me say a big WELCOME in this space - both to Michael and the concept of Brand-As-Media!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Privacy, Security and Legislative Accountability

It's almost like shooting fish in a barrel these days, but I feel as though we as citizens have gotten so used to our congressional representatives being jackasses that we've just started to accept it. We've also become awfully complacent about how willing we are to have government officials intentionally mislead us (or try to) or outright lie to us - with very limited consequences.

The latest bit that caused my jaw to drop was the privacy/security debate's congressional hearings. Thank goodness for Stephen Colbert, who absolutely skewered the guilty party (in this case the Honorable Mike Rogers, a Republican from Michigan) and did so in hilarious fashion. Check it out here (the Rogers segment starts 2 minutes into the segment):

The Colbert Report
Get More: Colbert Report Full Episodes,Video Archive

The privacy violations to which our government has subjected us (and lied about over and over again) are bad enough ... but to try and cover them up with logic that wouldn't fool a second grader (I know; I tried it this week) is absolutely shameful. How many incumbents are going to have trouble in their next election bid after stunts like this one?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A social scientist's view of how twitter has changed

Guess what podcast I was listening to this morning? If you guessed Dr. Mike Sevilla's "Family Medicine Rocks," you'd be right. And there were a couple of reasons I was focusing on it.

  1. The title - "Has Twitter Changed?" - was intriguing. Since I think that Twitter is awesome, if it HAS changed, it must be for the worse, right? 
  2. Dr. Sevilla's guest on episode 300 was Meredith Gould - someone whom I've admired for a long time based on her amazing work (though I've never met her). And it was definitely a worthwhile listen - for a few more reasons (which I hope will convince YOU to listen to it TOO). 
First, I learned some things about Meredith that I didn't know - such as:

  • She's been involved in digital health since the early-to-mid 90s (her high school must have had a good technology program!)
  • Her passion (and the subject of her upcoming book) is on the role of social media in the church ... which also happens to be a passion of mine (see the hopefully-soon-to-be-not-dormant Finding Approval blog)
  • She's a sociologist by trade - and has an amazing perspective on the social science behind what we know as "social media"
  • Her middle name is "Harangue."
Which is pretty cool in and of itself. But as an avid twitter user, I found what she had to say quite profound ... to paraphrase:
Twitter has changed from being primarily about engagement to being primarily about content - and content is a "kissing cousin" of spam. 
In other words, it's much less of a tool for connecting than it is for broadcasting. When Meredith and I met in the early days of Dana Lewis #hcsm chats, it was almost ALL about connecting ... in fact, between 2008 and today I'd say that a significant chunk of my friends - not to mention my business opportunities - have arisen from connections originating from Twitter.

That's not to say that the change is bad - or that it's complete. Neither is true ... twitter is an amazing vehicle for sharing (and filtering) content through your social networks.  And it's also still possible to connect with people using it.  But you definitely have to work at it a bit more than you once did.  In any case, please do give the podcast a listen ... it's likely that you're going to have multiple a-ha moments.

And while you're at it, be sure to keep up with Family Medicine Rocks:
The Blog
The Podcast
The Facebook Page
Mike Sevilla, MD on Twitter

Thursday, March 28, 2013

A peek behind the stethoscope with Mike Sevilla and Jordan Grumet

I had a lot of driving to do last weekend, and it gave me an opportunity to catch up on a few podcasts (still, by the way, one of my favoriate ways to consume media).  One of my new favorites is Dr. Mike Sevilla's "Family Medicine Rocks" podcast. There are a few reasons that I've enjoyed listening to the show.

First, Mike is one of those docs who's at the "nuclear core" of the Family Medicine Revolution (#FMRevolution - see my #MDigitalLife post on another revolutionary, Jay W. Lee, for background). These family docs have used the internet as a way to reshape the way that we think about family medicine - and more broadly, to reinforce the role of primary care in our health system. Second, Mike has great guests ... I've loved hearing from people like Natasha Burgert, Ben Miller, Jennifer Dyer and many more.  These are people I've been reading (and reading about) for a long time, but to get to hear them on the air is really cool. Lastly, because Mike is entertaining as hell. He runs the podcast like a late-night talk show, and it is a lot of fun to listen to.

But the thing that pushed me over the edge in terms of writing about the show was the last episode I listened to - the episode in which Mike interviewed Jordan Grumet - an internal medicine doc in northern Illinois.  Jordan is incredibly passionate about being a doctor - particularly about being a primary care doctor.  In fact, he's so passionate about it that he wrote a book of short stories and poems called Primary Care. [I keep a copy proudly on my desk] ANYWAY, the conversation that Mike and Jordan had in this podcast provided what was perhaps the best overview of what it's like to be a doctor in today's changing health system of any that I've heard.

I don't want to give any spoilers, but it's fair to note that Jordan has elected recently to leave his traditional medical practice and to do something different.  My favorite segment from the show is Jordan describing his relationship with the current healthcare system (primarily those responsible for paying for  the care he provides:

I value who I am and I value what I bring to this world. You've decided that what I am is not valuable to you.  That's your decision, but then I have the option of not giving you those services [that you don't value]. So I'm stepping out of the relationship.
I could go to Washington and try to become a lobbyist or work for the AMA, and try work to change the system, but that's not really me ... I can only change what I do ... so I'll step out of the system and do what I believe is right, and it'll be my own little statement about what's happening to healthcare.
I won't agree to it. I won't sign on the dotted line. And maybe [in so doing] I'll have some small effect on the world around me.

If you're interested in hearing the perspectives of a couple of people who combine a passion for health and medicine combined with an almost unbelievable ability to articulate their stories, please do give this a listen ... and think seriously about supporting our primary care docs.

You can keep up with Dr. Sevilla on his blog, "Family Medicine Rocks" as well as on his twitter account, @DrMikeSevilla.  And you can keep up with Dr. Grumet on his blog, "In My Humble Opinion" and on his twitter account, @JordanGrumet.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

What makes a "must-follow" twitter account?

Time's 140 Best Twitter Feeds of 2013
Time magazine published the 2013 edition of their annual 140 Best Twitter Feeds article this week. I love this idea ... it's a very clever way for Time to be relevant, engage influential online audiences, and use their editorial power to curate information that can be truly useful to their readers.  [I also love the idea that it's a top 140* rather than a top 100; that's just a very nice pice of promotion.]

The reason I knew about it is because one of my friends (I hope that it's not presumptuous to call her that!) actually made the list this year.  And it wasn't one of my famous friends like Aaron Strout or Chuck Hemann (social media tip: this is called link-baiting - a trick used for shameless self promotion by people like me, but never by people like Spike Jones or Brian Reid**) - it was a pediatrician of all people!  Wendy Sue Swanson, known to the world as @SeattleMamaDoc, is one of the most passionate, enthusiastic, generous and humble people I know.  You can feel her genuineness and credibility in every piece she writes (here's a good example), and she uses twitter very much the way that I do ... as a vehicle for sharing information and engaging with people who share her passions and interests.

So as I thumbed through the rest of the "Health" accounts that Time deemed "best," I was a little nonplussed. Especially when I came upon Dr. Frank Lipman.

[DISCLAIMER: I don't know Dr. Lipman, or anything about him except what I can see from his twitter account and the web site it links to. I have no doubt that he's a brilliant doctor and is probably a wonderful man as well. What you're about to read isn't an attack on Dr. Lipman; he's simply a poster child for an axe I have to grind.]

Dr. Frank Lipman, according to his bio, is a "Practicing physician, author & educator, helping thousands reclaim their vitality & zest for life." His twitter account links to a web site that sells nutritional supplements (presumably of his own creation). That all sounds great - nothing wrong with that. But here's what I can't figure out: What is it that makes him literally one of the best 8 healthcare twitter accounts to follow? Dr. Lipman is followed by over 14,000 people - and only follows 24 in return.  With a ratio like that, he clearly fails the "using twitter to engage with other passionate people" test. In fact, in order to pull that off, your content must be pretty damned compelling, right?  Here, the plot thickens even more.

A few of Dr. Lipman's posts are re-tweets of other prominent healthcare accounts, and he occasionally @mentions someone, usually to thank them for a compliment he's received.  A few more pertain to health news with a link back to the source of that news. But most of them - more than 50% by my eyeball calculation, are simply random health facts with no link, no source, and no discernable applicability.  Example:

1. No, I did not know that.
2. I also do not know what the pineal gland is or does, or why I should care about melatonin.
3. I am interested in learning the answers to these questions, but I have no source to check or link to click that would help me to understand.
4. This is not, for me, a terribly useful post***

A couple of his well-meaning followers pinged him for more information about the post, but he didn't reply (at least publicly - he may very well have done so privately).  

All of that got me thinking: What DOES make for a must-follow twitter account?  Here's what I think:
  • Relevance - I want to follow people who are interested in things that I'm interested in (obviously those are different for every person).
  • Discernment - I want that account to share things that are meaningful from a content perspective, or that help me to get to know them as a person. In the best of circumstances, they'll do both.
  • Credibility - I want to follow accounts that have a certain amount of objectivity, and aren't just promoting one thing over and over.
  • Thoughtfulness - Tweets are short. The best ones will help me link to more information as well as the twitter handle of the author of that information - so I can read more, and follow the author if I agree that the subject is an interesting one.
  • Engagement - My number one test of a must-follow account is whether that person listens to others, and responds to others meaningfully (not all the time; just when it's appropriate).  And whether that account, from time to time, promotes the work of others with no expectation of personal gain. 
I'm curious what Time Magazine's criteria were ... because they're clearly different from mine! I know that everybody's reasons and methods for using twitter are different, and that there's no single "right" answer.  For some people (read: me), Wendy Sue Swanson is absolutely one of the 140 Best Twitter Accounts. For others (read: Time Magazine and 14,000 other people), Dr. Lipman is one of the best.  

What about you?  What makes for a must-follow account?

* For those of you who are non-twitter users, but for some reason are still reading this post (hi, mom!), twitter is well-known as a microblog that limits each post to 140 characters in length)
** See what I did there?
*** There may well be scads of people who know EXACTLY what is implied here, and had a wonderful "a-ha moment" as a result of this post.  I'm just not sure who those people might be.

Monday, March 4, 2013

American Voices Data - The Slidecast (#AA4H)

For those of you who weren't able to make it through the webcast (looking at me for a full 30 minutes can be pretty rough), I've married the audio with the powerpoint presentation on WCG's slideshare channel ... so now you can get all the detailed commentary without the scary, wildly gesticulating bald guy on the screen.

Did you know that twice as many people in the US died of lung cancer than breast cancer, but that physicians talk about breast cancer 4x more online?  Learn why here ... And of course, there's more to come. Ask your questions in the comments - and I'll answer 'em all!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

American Voices - Aligned for Health

This piece by my colleague Aaron Strout was originally posted on WCG's Common Sense blog on February 22nd, 2013.  I'm re-posting it here as the start of a series of posts related to the American Voices event (You can watch the archived webcast of the event here).  Hope that you enjoy!

My colleague Greg Matthews has partnered with Kaiser Permanente on an initiative that has some pretty far-reaching implications for the way some of the key players in the health system engage with one another.  I had a chance to sit down with him this morning as he prepared for the public unveiling of that project in Washington, DC next week.
Aaron: You’ve been working on MDigitalLife for a few months now – how has that physician-centered analytics platform played a part in Kaiser Permanente’s bigger vision?
Greg: There was a lot of serendipity involved in this one.  Holly Potter, KP’s VP of Brand Communications and Murray Ross, the head of their Institute for Health Policy, had been working on an idea related to bringing the media and key policymakers into greater alignment about how to communicate with the American public about healthcare.  They’d recognized that different parts of the healthcare ecosystem had varied approaches to the kind of information they were making available.  And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it didn’t always make for a seamless experience for the growing body of healthcare consumers out there.
As you know, the MDigitalLife analytics platform is designed to help us better understand physicians’ online behavior.  When I talked to Holly and Murray, we realized that if we could actually quantify what we all instinctively knew about the varied perspectives between patients, doctors, policymakers and reporters, we might be able to build a basis for them to be better aligned – with the end result of helping Americans to more easily find the information they need in order to be healthy.
Aaron: Tell me more about those “varied perspectives” – what they are, and why its important to understand.
Greg: Sure.  We’ve already captured millions of pieces of content from physicians.  The way we do that is that we’ve linked doctors’ twitter handles to their National Provider Identifier number so that we can validate exactly who they are, where they practice, etc.  That’s something that’s normally pretty hard to do with twitter, simply because every individual makes a decision about what information they’re going to share about themselves through that channel.  Once we’ve matched their twitter handle to their NPI, we literally pull in everything they tweet into the MDigitalLife database.  And what’s new for this analysis is that we’re not just collecting tweets.  80% of physicians’ tweets link to some other piece of content on the web.  We’re actually pulling in the content that they’ve linked to as well – which makes for a much richer set of data to analyze when you compare it against the 140 characters you get in a tweet.
In order to conduct this analysis, we created two new bodies of data based on the MDigitalLife model: To track policy-related conversations, we collected the tweets from all 458 members of the 112th US Congress who had identifiable twitter accounts.  And then, working with our clients at Kaiser Permanente, we identified over 150 top journalists who cover healthcare issues.  For the journalists, in addition to their tweets and links, we also collected over 35,000 articles they’d written.
Once we’d collected all that data, the real fun started … we sorted all of their data into meaningful topics that included both diseases (using the CDC’s Disease and Disorder Compendium as a guide) as well as broader healthcare topics like Pregnancy, Electronic Medical Records, Vaccination, etc.  Then it was a matter of figuring out which topics each of our audiences gravitated towards.  And we were able to use some of the great patient-focused research published by people like Susannah Fox from the Pew Internet and American Life project to guide the ways that we queried the data, ensuring that we were incorporating the patient’s needs and perspectives into every aspect of the work.
Aaron: There is an event next Tuesday, February 26 at 1 PM ET, can you talk about what the event is about?
Greg: This is the really exciting part for all of us.  Kaiser Permanente is convening an event they’ve dubbed “American Voices – Aligned for Health.”  They’ll be hosting 80 guests in their fabulous Center for Total Health in Washington, DC – all of who represent some segment of the healthcare ecosystem.  After I introduce an overview of the data, there’s going to be a panel discussion that should be very cool.  It’ll include Kaiser Permanente’s associate physician-in-chief, Rahul Parikh, MD (representing the Doctors’ voice); Politico’s Health Care Editor Joanne Kenen (representing policy influencers);’s campaign director Monifa Bandele (representing patients); and Bloomberg’s health policy reporter Alex Wayne (representing journalists).  It’ll be moderated by Dr. Robert Pearl, executive director and CEO of the Permanente Medical Group.
The idea is that this group of people will explore the roots and reasons for today’s different approaches, but will mostly be about laying the groundwork for better inter-group communication – and ultimately better alignment in the ways that they talk about health.  There will be a robust Q&A time for the attendees (almost all of whom could have been panelists themselves) to talk about advancing the dialog.  And we’re all hoping that this is going to serve as just a beginning of a much bigger, sustained initiative that KP is well-positioned to lead and support.
Aaron: For people who’re interested in attending, what’s the mechanism for doing so?
Greg: We’ve been really gratified to see that not only is the event teed up to get great coverage from around the world, those 80 seats have been filling up fast.  For folks who would like to participate live in Washington, they can register (and get lots more logistical information) here:
For those who would like to participate, but won’t be able to make it to Washington, KP has organized a live webcast (including both video and presentation materials).  It’s completely open to the public, though you do need to register in advance.  You can do so here: And finally, given the nature of the subject matter, I’m expecting a lot of twitter activity – you’ll definitely want to follow the hashtag #AVA4H to stay in tune with all the action – and to join the conversation.
Aaron: Sounds like a terrific start to an important journey.  Thanks, Greg – and good luck!  You can follow Greg on Twitter @chimoose, and Kaiser Permanente at @KPNewsCenter.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

An Amateur Videographer's Tools

If you're into home movies at all, you've probably gotten pretty tired of camcorders. I know I have. In fact, I've gotten tired of cameras too. So now, my camcorder and my camera generally stay home - and I just use my iPhone 4S for photos and videos.

The problem with that is that if I'm trying to record something like my kids' plays or choir concerts, the video is generally fine, but the audio stinks. iPhone just wasn't meant to produce quality audio more than a couple of feet away.

 So I started searching for tools that'd make my kit a little better. Not necessarily professional, mind you, just tolerably good quality audio and video. As it turns out, had everything I needed, and my Christmas wish list got me the whole schmeer - for a lot less money than I'd expected. For those of you who are interested, my new kit consists of the following pieces*:

The anchor is the Fostex AR-4i. All you have to do is pop your iPhone 4 or 4S into this brilliant piece, and you're ready to create some great audio. This is an incredibly well-designed piece of equipment. Some highlights:

  • You can attach it to a tripod in two spots - allowing for either "portrait" or "landscape" video recording.
  • There are 3 mic inputs - which again, allows for both "portrait" or "landscape" video
  • The unit comes with two mini directional mics - you can use one or both, and can record in mono or stereo.
  • The unit is controlled by a free iphone app, which makes the unit itself remarkably simple and intuitive to use while still allowing a fair degree of customization in the controls
  • There are LED lights on the top of the unit, which makes it really easy to set an appropriate recording level
  • There is a headphone jack on the unit so that you can get a perfect read on your audio levels and quality
The AR-4i is incredibly simple to use.  I've recorded a play and a choir concert so far, and both turned out wildly better than anything I'd previously done with my camcorder or my "unaided" iPhone.

However, it gets even better with the next piece:
I tend to do a lot of video podcasting (lots of examples here), and there's a great tool available to allow that to be iPhone-based as well ... The Audio-Techica ATR3350 Lavelier Mic.  When you buy two of them (20' cords) you can plug them both into the Fostex, and make a really terrific recording of two people talking.  Now that I think of it, there are 3 mic inputs in the Fostex, so you might even be able to do a 3-person version.  Hmmmm, will have to check that out.

For visual enhancements, I also got a little slide-on wide-angle lens ($10!) just for fun, and an LED light that actually slides onto the top of the Fostex as if it were a DSLR.  Haven't tried it yet, but should be good for getting a nice, even diffuse light on whatever subject I'm shooting.  I'll get some samples up soon, but figured it'd be nice to get the word out in case there are any other amateur videographers out there!  What tools are you using?  How are they working for you?

 *This post contains some obviously-marked Amazon Affiliate links, so if you buy any of these products I will become fabulously wealthy overnight.