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Jan 22

cover_twitterThis new, free 40-page guide for health marketers and communicators has just been released. In Using Twitter for e-Patient Communications you’ll get:

  • Case studies from J&J, Detroit Medical Center, American Public Health Association
  • Complete Twitter tutorial for beginners
  • Double your followers by optimizing your Twitter profile
  • Expert insights from Dana Lewis (#HCSM) and John Pugh (Boehringer Ingelheim)
  • The Listen, Inform, Engage adoption mode
Click here to download this free guide.

for Pharma & Health Communications

Each one-day boot camp is led by Kevin Kruse and is limited to only 15 participants to maximize individual attention. Sign-up now to get a 50% early bird discount.

SAVE THE DATE: e-Patient Connections 2010!
September 27-29, 2010, Philadelphia Hyatt Bellevue.

Jan 21

Authentic Value and e-Patient Communities
“e-Patient Dave” deBronkart

(18 minutes) watch video

  • How he became an e-patient, beat cancer and earned the “e-Patient Dave” moniker
  • The patient of the future
  • His special message for Novartis
  • Be real. Contribute value. Be known.
for Pharma & Health Communications
Each one-day boot camp is led by Kevin Kruse and is limited to only 15 participants to maximize individual attention. Sign-up now to get a 50% early bird discount.

SAVE THE DATE: e-Patient Connections 2010!
September 27-29, 2010, Philadelphia Hyatt Bellevue.

Jan 15

Imagine a social community site consisting only of your family, friends, and loved ones; where a person suffering from cancer or Parkinson’s Disease can gather a tight-knit support group in one location, offering a space to provide updates and commiserations, information and explanations, without the risk of that too-public feeling that sometimes accompanies large public sites like Facebook.

For many e-patients, the allure of connectivity is mitigated by a desire for privacy and respectful distance. Anyone who’s experienced a serious illness knows that the comfort of sympathy and condolences is balanced by the tedious duty of explaining, often over and over, what is going wrong, why it’s going wrong, and what’s going to happen.

CareFlash “Care Communities”

picture-41CareFlash, created by self-described “recovering CFO” Jay Drayer, attempts to address these concerns by offering patients private and secure social networks with features designed to make the relationship between patients, caregivers, and well-wishers as streamlined as possible. A simple e-mail based blog system allows patients to keep their network of supporters up to date, and integration with the iHelp Calendar lets everyone involved coordinate needed involvement and assistance, including visiting hours and errands.

The site also offers a wide variety of animated videos explaining the diagnosis and treatments of a number of diseases, ranging from hypertension to macular degeneration. The videos, which are produced by Blausen Medical, are offered in a number of languages, and have proved incredibly popular. “Many doctors tend to explain diagnoses and recommended courses of action using plastic models…white boards and brochures,” said Drayer. “This commonly leaves people with only a vague understanding of the associated diagnosis, anatomy, and treatment. It’s more common than I ever would expect that we hear from people that they never had a comprehensive grasp on their diagnosis until they viewed the associated treatment.”

New Solutions for New Demographics

These videos are just one of the appealing aspects of the site. Just as Blausen’s animations provide confused patients with a clearer understanding of their conditions, CareFlash offers a social space to a demographic profile that may not be comfortable with Facebook or Twitter. As Drayer says, “Participants in Care Communities tend to be most representative as being the parents and grandparents of the Facebook generation.” By granting users their own private mini-sites, with greater control over who is allowed access, users can bypass media-hyped worries about privacy, spam, and viruses.picture-42

CareFlash has also made in-roads into non-English speaking groups. Drayer attributes the popularity of his project among ESL families to the multilingual options offered by the site’s videos. These families may face challenges in getting explanations of complex healthcare concepts from primarily English-speaking hospital staff, and the site offers them an alternative.  Most of the videos are currently available in Spanish, Dutch, Hungarian and Arabic, and Drayer plans to expand user options to at least ten options by early 2011.  In addition, well over 10% of the site’s population is located in the eastern hemisphere.

Big Ideas, Small Scale

We can see from these cases that making small allowances in terms of user functionality, such as allowing private, tightly user-controlled communities, and offering multiple language options, can allow a site to bridge the gap between typically “wired” demographics and other groups.

Hopefully this appeal will continue as CareFlash expands. The site is currently monetized through advertisements and private-label Care Communities offered to various healthcare entities. Drayer has in mind a “rich development roadmap” for the future, including many features suggested by users.

Jan 14

video_morley1Race driver Charlie Kimball and Ambre Morley of Novo Nordisk Talk Twitter
(20 minutes) watch video

  • How Charlie manages diabetes–while driving over 100 miles per hour
  • The branded tweet heard around the world
  • Managing compliance issues on Twitter
Each one-day boot camp is led by Kevin Kruse and is limited to only 15 participants to maximize individual attention. Sign-up now to get a 50% early bird discount.

SAVE THE DATES: e-Patient Connections 2010!
The conference that generated all the buzz last year will return to the Philadelphia Hyatt Bellevue from September 27-29, 2010. New partners and an exciting new format will be unveiled later this month. Make sure to sign-up for all the updates at

Jan 13

Suppose you’re  trying to kick off the new decade right by resolving to stop smoking, or lose a little weight. Noble goals, sure, but easier said than done. The treadmill gathers dust, the fast-food drive-through beckons, you swear to just one cigarette after work; sometimes, you need a little something more than pure willpower. And unfortunately, while Jillian Michaels on the TV show The Biggest Loser seems like a fine health coach, she isn’t going to meet us weekly with personalized advice.

Coaching has traditionally been a face-to-face affair. You’d make an appointment, typically based on when the professional was available to see you. You’d drive, to an office or a gym, interact with the coach for an hour or two, and then be on your own for the rest of the week. Phone coaching, has in some ways broadened the flexibility of the practice, but it still leaves much to be had in terms of freedom and in-the-moment help.

Could internet and web 2.0 technologies, which emphasize mobility, constant connectivity, and a more democratic attitude towards communication hierarchies, kick-start a revolution in the way healthcare and wellness coaching operates?

From “IT” to “RT”

Hummingbird Coaching thinks so. The company, founded in 1997 and offering its services to numerous corporations including Motorola and Proctor & Gamble, offers wellness coaching using e-mail and text message (i.e., SMS) platforms. According to the “Hummingbird Coaching 2.0″ white paper, several studies have shown that despite the initial impression of cold impersonality implied by a purely text-based relationship, online coaching is just as effective, if not more so, than face-to-face support.

Some of the arguments will no doubt sound familiar to anyone keeping up with the progress of the e-patient movement. As Hummingbird puts it, internet innovations of the past decade and a half have steered away from the “information technology” label to something more appropriately called “relationship technology.” By harnessing the potential of today’s almost-constantly connected online culture, coaching can move away from the compartmentalized domain of weekly face-to-face appointments and become an instantly accessible resource built on “teachable moments.”

Beyond Exercise Advice

The service’s website also touts the generally high standards of training and education of its coaches. There is no regulation or official certification for the increasingly popular “health and wellness coach” profession which causes some to look at this trend with some skepticism. Hummingbird coaches predominantly have Masters degrees and at least 3 years experience in a “behavior change” profession.

Coaches don’t just provide health information or exercise encouragement; they dig deeper into each client’s psyche using principles of the Positive Psychology movement. They help each client explore her own unique drivers of pleasure, engagement, and meaning and use this to “help clients balance their lives.”

High Touch, High Tech

There is a growing body of evidence that health and wellness coaches do improve the health outcomes of their clients. Unfortunately, like many good health solutions, it doesn’t have a reimbursement code so it exists as a practice completely separate and independent from the physician practice.

While many corporate wellness programs have some form of health education or phonable advisers, Hummingbird offers a unique and promising glimpse of a future that is both high touch and high tech. Each client has a real person as a coach, and through text messaging and email interactions, the service is more efficient and effective for everyone.

Jan 11


Andrea Williams’ first reaction to finding out she was HIV positive was to say “I’m going to have to live with it, not die from it.” Andrea is a community health-worker in Brooklyn who has been living with HIV since 1993. It isn’t always easy, but she stresses the importance of attitude, of forcing yourself through the hardest passages. After all, with a husband and kids, a close-knit support group and her career, she has a lot to live for.

Andrea’s story is one of several on Boehringer-Ingelheim’s recently launched HIV/AIDS resource website “Mind, Body, HAART.” It’s an information portal for HIV/AIDS patients, professionals, and educators. The site is primarily unbranded; although the BI logo  appears on page footers, there is no overt product logos or ads. As is common with unbranded marketing sites, there are many links that will of course transfer to their branded product site

The site’s information structure is comprised of three discreet sections, one for each intended target audience (patients, physicians, educators). However, the navigation itself is a bit confusing as links from one section lead to portions of other sections, the section landing pages don’t seem to path to the drop down sections, and some content seems accessible only by digging through numerous links.picture-53

The patient education section is robust and uses online video very effectively. Highlights include a 3D animation of HIV replication, and physician and patient interviews. Each video has an accompanying transcript for those who would prefer to read rather than watch, or to print and save the information. Additionally there are a variety of tip sheets and fact sheets and other PDF documents available to download, and a page of links to other web resources. The site’s interactive elements are limited to a “Locate an HIV test site” widget from the CDC and a poll that asks, “On average, how well would you say you handle stress?”

There is great use of video and if this site were launched in the year 2000 it would have been really awesome–but it’s 2010. Any effort to provide health information on an unbranded platform should be welcomed, but Mind, Body, HAART falls short of its potential. Hopefully the site producers only suffered from too small a budget too tight a deadline and not from lack of vision or social savvy. Perhaps this version of the site is really just the phase I of great things to come. Specific areas for improvement include:

1) A site designed just for patients — this is arguable and there are many benefits to a single URL for all audiences. But it is far better to create a patient-targeted site that can be fully optimized, while at the same time simplifying the content architecture.

2) Post the videos on YouTube and other places — they’ve already been paid for, why not cross post them to YouTube, the second biggest search engine on the web?

3) Go social — this site is a “web 1.0″ information portal. There’s nothing wrong with that. But it wouldn’t be hard to take it social in a few simple ways. There are no Mind Body HAART profiles (or Viramune ones for that matter) on Twitter, Facebook, or other social networks. A daily broadcast of HAART information on Twitter, similar to how various CDC channels provide health education could bring new and valuable information to many, and provide an invitation to visit the site. Thinking bigger, maybe the site would benefit from a custom patient community.

4) Add a sharebar — while there is a “share this” link on the site, it simply provides a form to send an email to a friend. That’s good, but what about a sharebar that lets people share on Digg, Delicious, Facebook, Twitter, or 300 other sites with just 2 clicks?

5) Make more search engine friendly — for a site that has the title “Living with HIV/AIDS” it was surprising that the word AIDS doesn’t appear in any of the keyword metatags on any of the pages (HIV does, but not AIDS). Also, the site was built with developer-friendly java-script code, but it results in SEO unfriendly URL’s like “” which is actually the url for the landing page for the main patient section. Plain word url’s with hyphen separation between words is a good practice to keep Dr. Google happy.

According to BI in their press release, “The goal of the site is to help enhance HIV/AIDS care and treatment by fostering an open dialogue.”  But it’s hard to have a dialogue when you’re the only one talking.

Jan 07

How J&J Joined the Twittersphere video_monseau1
Marc Monseau, Johnson & Johnson

(14 minutes) watch video

  • How to establish legal and regulatory “guard rails”
  • The importance of an online personality
  • How did a 120 year old conservative company become a Twitter innovator?
for Health Communications and Marketing

Each one-day boot camp is led by Kevin Kruse and is limited to only 15 participants to maximize individual attention. Sign-up now to get a 50% early bird discount.

SAVE THE DATES: e-Patient Connections 2010!
The conference that generated all the buzz last year will return to the Philadelphia Hyatt Bellevue from September 27-29, 2010. New partners and an exciting new format will be unveiled later this month. Make sure to sign-up for all the updates at

Jan 05

fb_logo1ExactTarget recently conducted a survey that revealed that 70% of Facebook users don’t want to be marketed to, even if they joined the Fan page of a company or brand. Social media naysayers and Facebook haters point to this data as proof that you really don’t need to consider online communities as part of your marketing plan.

It’s a stupid survey as the results are predictable. If you ask people who are walking around inside Macy’s if they want to be sold or marketed to they’d say no, too. 70% of people walk up and down trade show aisles quickly looking away when the sales rep in the booth catches their eye. Don’t you automatically utter, “Just looking” every time you’re approached by a store sales person?

We hate being sold to but we sure love to buy!

The terms “marketing” and “sales” conjure old-school methods using manipulation, dishonesty and phony friendliness. That is what the Facebook members–and retail shoppers–are rejecting.

And yet everywhere you look members of social networks are downloading coupons, reading e-books, participating in contests, earning silly badges, watching videos, answering polls, signing petitions, voting for charities, playing games and sharing what they like with others. Many of those activities are provided by companies. Who are (ahem) marketing.

An old mentor taught me to pay attention to what people do, not what they say.

Mad Men happens to be a great TV show but that style of marketing is what people now reject. Market with Authentic Value and you’ll get very different results. Whether you are marketing a drug, a hospital or disease awareness you can and should engage on Facebook. 300 million people are there, and they’re not just looking.