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.