Greg Matthews: Can You Teach an Old Doc New Tricks?

Greg Matthews: Can You Teach an Old Doc New Tricks?

Matthews: So how many people in this room have heard that there was a measles outbreak that was traced back to Disneyland? That’s a silly question in this room, isn’t it? Where did you hear about it? Anyone, where did you hear that news?
Audience1: Radio.
Matthews: On the radio. NPR, probably KQED San Francisco, right? So what’s really interesting is that that story was not actually broken publicly by a reporter. That story was broken by a doctor, a not that well known pediatrician in San Diego. San Diego was the place where some of the first measles cases were actually diagnosed and this doctor, when she got the news directly from the health department in San Diego shared that publicly through her Twitter account. Over the next 12 hours about 10 more doctors who are following her account shared that news. At that point an assignment editor and a reporter got hold of the news and within 24 hours the story had exploded all over the media. Now this is something that we’ve actually been studying for a long time. This is something that we’re seeing more and more often is that doctors have gone online and have really used online channels to reestablish their voice as a leading and important player in the health system. And so in this case, this doctor not only had an audience of her own to share that news with but she’s also followed by reporters like Ms. Szabo from “USA Today” who by no coincidence whatsoever called this doctor in San Diego and quoted her in a story about the measles in “USA Today.” Ms. Szabo actually follows over 1,500 doctors on her Twitter account. She’s really, really good at using doctors sort of as the pulse for her stories and this is something that I think is important to all of us who are studying health because we’re able to use these online channels to more broadly understand the issues that we’re facing around health today, how people are feeling about them, how they’re interacting with them.
As Josh mentioned, my name is Greg Matthews. I’ve been studying online health conversations for the better part of eight years now and increasingly with my company the W2O Group had been focused on for the last two years understanding physicians conversations online. So I have an example here that I’m going to skip past just in the interest of time but the point that I wanted to make is that doctors are not only making the news but they also actually are policing the news, right? Doctors are very, very concerned about good science being reported. In fact, many doctors who went online in the first place did so to refute bad information that they were seeing online.
So I mentioned that we’ve been studying this for some time. One of the things that we have done over the last couple of years is to take the NPI database, which is the national physician registry in the United States and began mapping physician’s digital footprints to it. So we’re tracking everything from their practice website to Twitter accounts, blogs, Facebook pages, YouTube channels, Instagram accounts, anything you’d care to track and what it allows us to do is it allows us to segment these online conversations from doctors based on all kinds of interesting characteristics like their specialty, like their location, like where they went to medical school, like what kind of hospital or practice they’re affiliated with and have spent the better part of the last couple of years mapping over 500,000 physician’s digital footprints around the world in 128 countries. So that has led us to some really interesting insights about how doctors, this really, really important part of the health ecosystem, are thinking about various topics. Where they’re getting their information, what are their online habits, when do they like to be online, what channels do they prefer to use for what kind of story-sharing. But it wasn’t just the content that the doctors were sharing that proved to be most fulfilling. In fact, over the last several months, what we’ve become really, really interested is understanding more broadly who they’re interacting with and how that’s happening. And so what my team has been working on is what we’re calling mapping the health ecosystem. So in addition to these doctor’s digital footprints we’re now also collecting digital footprints from, we have about 6,000 reporters, another 5,000 media outlets, around 10,000 advocacy organizations, physician’s societies, governments and NGOs. We’ve mapped every hospital and health system in the United States. And so we’re really getting to see who are the people in this ecosystem that are actually the connectors of it and that can be really, really interesting because doctors and patients are interacting together online in a much more frequent way, especially around patients who have chronic and especially serious chronic conditions like breast cancer. What we’ve seen is that, and just in a study over the first six weeks of this year this online ecosystem around breast cancer contributed over 22,000 tweets alone, that doesn’t include blog posts, Facebook posts and so forth and there are more than 2,700 people that were participating in those discussions. Because we’re able to map those back to individual people, those discussions back, we can actually create a social network map to determine who are the people and entities who are in the middle of that conversation and are most active in driving it forward and even see things like how do language patterns change over times, who are the doctors that are introducing new terminology to the discussion that’s later adopted by reporters and by patients. It’s really, really a fascinating thing.
Throughout the day today you’re going to see some interstitial slides like this that were based on topics of discussion today. What my team did was for several of these topics we’ve actually pulled data from the health ecosystem to determine how people online are talking about some of these topics we’re discussing today and so you’re going to see some of these throughout the day. It’s pretty interesting to see, for example, the conversation around genetics has grown dramatically over the last several years and you can see the doctors are really leading the way in that. This is something that I think is worth following. I also wanted to call your attention to the fact that because you’re here at Techonomy Bio you are all by that very nature a part of the online health ecosystem. You’re maybe part of industry, maybe you are part of a hospital or health system or researcher but we actually have mapped all of your digital footprint properties, from public channels only, and so if you want to see where you fit directly into the health ecosystem we can show you your own personal social network map out in the hallway. Very grateful to David and to Josh and to so many others for allowing us the opportunity to be here. I’d be more than happy to chat with any of you. We don’t have time for questions at the moment but several colleagues and I will be out in front at our demo station all day if you’d like to chat. Thank you very much.


Greg Matthews

Founder and Managing Director, MDigital Life

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