Thursday, September 17, 2009

Health Information on the Web and Building Virtual Communities for Health Pros (#med2)

How 3 international organizations have been independently evaluating the quality of health care news coverage:

  • Media Doctor, Autralia
  • Media Doctor, Canada

Inadequate access to information to patients. How can news reporting in health improve that?

David Henry, Founder Media Doctor Australia

H1N1 - We are using the media to proactively change the course of a pandemic for the first time in history. Interesting is the role of the Internet and Social Media in that change.

What is quality of health reporting? Journalists say care is needed.

Journalistic need to cover both side of a story can be a barrier to communication. At what point do we accept that A causes B. Is the world still flat?

Care needed for example: Risk Factors does not mean Having disease.

The challenge is that people want to believe. We have to be skeptical.

Media Doctor created more to influence attitude and approach of journalists more than changing public perception and understanding.

Gary Schwitzer, Publisher,

Has Personal blog that is picked up by NY Times (via RSS Feeds). This caused traffic to skyrocket.

Alan Cassels, Founder, Media Doctor Canada

What is looked for in a news story?  

  • Cost [Ugly]
  • Benefit [Ugly]
  • Harm [Ugly]
  • Quality of evidence [Not so bad]
  • Disease mongering [Not so bad]
  • Novelty [Not so bad]
  • Availability [Good]
  • Independent sources [Not so bad]
  • Compare with other options? [Good]
  • Relying on the press release? [Good]

How do news stories fare - The Good the not so bad and the ugly indicated above.

US News - 70% of stories report unsatisfactorily on costs.

US News - 70% of stories report unsatisfactorily on benefits.

Misleading numbers - Absolute v Relative risk.

Describing benefits in relative terms can be very misleading.

Bottom line - they are seeing improvements in presentation of health information.

Pat Rich - Asklepios and

Connecting doctors with each other and with patients.

Canadian Medical Association - 70,000 members. - Health Portal.

Manage chronic diseases online.

False Physician Assumptions:

  • Patients not interested in online services, especially seniors
  • Patient generated readings can't be trusted
  • Patients will swamp me with messages
  • I will not be compensated for online transactions


Social Networking site for doctors. They chose not to partner with Sermo.

Built their own site:

  • Member demand
  • Physicians already using Web 2.0
  • Key to member engagement and communications strategy
  • Facilitates relationships

The site is:

  • Physician only - authenticated and not anonymous
  • Hosted in Canada for canadian doctors (avoid homeland security issues)
  • Private and secure
  • Hands Off - Arms length from CMA

Stats after one year:

  • 3092 members
  • 92 groups
  • 1720 comments (many by a small core of users)
  • 916 friendships

Built on open source. Plan to extend to non-Canadian physicians, add blogging, polls, and extend to non-physicians.


  • A few super-users dominate
  • Targeted engagement strategies work
  • Resources are essential for adequate support.