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Jul 13

A few days ago I got this text message: “Protect your back! Bend your knees when lifting weight (or lifting your toddler) & avoid lifting more than 25 pounds in the 3rd trimester.” Good advice for me - right up until the 3rd trimester part - since well, I’m a guy.

I signed up for Text4Baby, using this year’s e-Patient Connections 2010 conference as my due date. Every few days I receive helpful prenatal advice by text message. The messages are aligned with my due date, so I get timely updates about my health, the baby’s health, things I should be thinking about as an expectant mother, and warning signs I should look out for. The message prompts me to call my doctor if I have any of the symptoms listed.

I’ve just entered the 3rd trimester, which means I’ll start seeing my OB/GYN more frequently - or in my case, starting those weekly conference calls with the conference staffers.

An educational program provided by the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, it is designed to promote the health of mother and child. The program is free to end users and it’s been wildly successful so far. Text4Baby launched in February 2010 and in just 5 months, is reaching over 50,000 expectant parents.

After just 5 months, Text4Baby already reaches over 50,000 expectant parents.

In addition to successfully signing up users, Text4Baby has also amassed an amazing number of partners - including corporate entities, academic institutions, government agencies, professional associations, and non-profit organizations. Sponsors include Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, WellPoint, and BlueCross BlueShield. The program runs on Voxiva’s mobile health platform and free messaging services are provided by participating wireless service providers.

The sheer number of partners and people becoming involved is truly amazing, with hundreds of partners listed on the website and more being added each week. There’s a Text4Baby Partner Portal Community, which runs on the Ning platform, as well as a weekly newsletter called Text4Baby Tuesday. The newsletter highlights organizational news, partner news, and other information. The big story in recent weeks comes from Hillary Clinton about a partnership between the National Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition and the Healthy Russia Foundation to bring text4baby to Russia. To learn more about Text4Baby going international, click here.

With all the things expectant parents have to worry about, Text4Baby provides an important service by providing support and gentle reminders in digestible chunks. It makes remembering to drink enough water or take your prenatal vitamins easy. Text4Baby is great example of how to encourage healthy behaviors in an easy, fast, and targeted way that actually fits into the whirlwind of daily life. They say it takes a village to raise a child; Text4Baby is proving that we’d like to find that village even before the baby’s born.

To sign up all you need to do is visit the Text4Baby website and click the button that says “click to register” or text the word BABY (or BEBE for Spanish) to 511411.

Arlene Remick, Director of Text4Baby, will present their latest results and mobile health insights at e-Patient Connections 2010 (September 28-29, Philadelphia).

Jul 12

Just a few days ago my doctor was lamenting that nobody my age exercises anymore, while encouraging me to get more active. I used the usual excuse, “But Doc, I’m busy!” He explained that people make a mistake in thinking that they need to work out 30 minutes or an hour at a time, or that they have to go whole hog and join a gym or hire a trainer. He said the secret is to think small, and demonstrated how you can do a variety of stretches, for example, using a regular chair and you can do them while you’re on the phone, or even watching TV.

Indeed over half the US population is overweight or obese and only 33.5% of the population engages in regular physical activity (source: National Center for Health Statistics). The most common excuse is “lack of time,” yet we have no problem filling our spare minutes checking Facebook on our phone or skimming a magazine.

Fortunately, Cabot Creamery and Contagion Health have teamed up to make tiny, social bursts of activity easy to fit into your day. Cabot’s sponsored fitness community, “Get Up and Mooove“, is a fun, easy way to make exercise a top priority, one ‘microchoice’ at a time. It turns out you can do 15 jumping jacks just about anytime, anywhere.

Get Up and Move lets you set up a free account, then uses social media sites you already know, like Twitter and Facebook, to send challenge invitations to people you know and love. Each challenge is a simple, two-way pledge: “I will _________ if you will ____________.”

You can do any kind of challenge on Get Up and Move. Examples include walking with your dog, doing a few pushups, playing Wii Fit - even grating Cabot cheese for 15 minutes (hey, it’s a surprisingly good arm workout!). Just finish a few challenges a day, before you know it, you’ll have done the 30 minutes of movement per day recommended by the American Heart Association.

Visit Get Up and Mooove and sign-up. Then I will do 10 pushups if you 10 deep knee bends.

Meet Contagion Health co-founder, Jen McCabe, and hear her thoughts on behavior change, mobile health, and life in a Health 2.0 startup at e-Patient Connections 2010 (September 28-29, Philadelphia).

Jun 16

r_intensiveThis is another great example of how technology, in this case the iPhone, is democratizing the creation of health solutions as well as enabling their use by a broader range of people.

A new company, Smarty Ears, has released a dozen iPhone applications designed to make speech and language therapy fun for students and affordable for parents and others. It was founded by Barbara Fernandes, a young and innovative speech and language pathologist. The apps cover probes for articulation, intense practice for the /r sound, which is a common practice area for children, and even bilingual practice apps.

Previously, parents had limited access to professional speech and language materials, because they can be expensive to purchase and are promoted only to professional speech pathologists. Smarty Ears, with their iphone apps, gives empowered parents the ability to offer their children additional practice at home.

Apr 27

On April 15, online community service, Ning, announced deep layoffs and that their free services would be discontinued. Community leaders would be forced to pay up or be shut down. Ning’s decision has the potential to affect 626 different cancer communities, 33 ADHD groups, over 100 communities dedicated to autism, and over 2,600 health related sites. Many of these communities have thousands of individual members and years’ worth of posts, messages and of course valuable member relationships.

What makes the Ning announcement so startling-besides the massive impact it will have on the patient communities-is that Ning was a poster-child for Web 2.0 success. They were founded by Marc Andreessen, raised $75 million in venture capital with a valuation just last year of $750 million, and were celebrated by Fast Company and many others. They used the popular “freemium” model to entice thousands of individuals and organizations to create their own online communities, many focused on health and patient-related topics.

Ning, like every business, has every right of course to do what they must to turn a profit to ensure their survival. And in fact their monthly fees to keep these communities alive may turn out to be very modest. But there are valuable lessons that health advocates and communicators can learn from the Ning experience. The big questions are:

Who really controls your community?

What happens if the entire platform shuts down?

What happens if your vendor goes out of business or refuses to work with you in the future?

If you build your community on a third party platform you really don’t control your community. You have risk tied to the company’s ability to stay in business and their terms of service. Even if you are building a group on Facebook, while it may be unlikely that they will go out of business, it possible that they will change their terms of service or functionality in ways that will impact your community.

If you hire an agency to build your own private online community, your risk is related to the agency staying in business and their willingness to work with you in the future. (Yes, agencies do fire clients from time to time.)

Online community managers are really software-as-service buyers

Many patient community managers don’t realize that they are really “software as service” (SaS) buyers. To minimize risks you can follow these steps that professional IT buyers take when selecting a SaS partner:

1)      Check out the financial viability of your vendor. Are they profitable? Feel free to ask for quarterly financial summaries to monitor the vendor’s health on an ongoing basis.

2)      Have a clear migration plan in advance for how to export or “take” your community data with you in the event of a crisis. Are there tools in place to export member profile information? What about the messages and activity? What about linkages between members?

3)      If you are using a vendor to build a private community are they using proprietary code that others will find difficult to maintain? It might be better if they use open source tools (e.g., Drupal) that has a strong vendor community behind it.

4)      Be clear on who owns and controls the software source code. If your community was built as “work for hire” then you own the code and you should have a backup copy for safe keeping. If you are licensing tools or using a platform you can still negotiate to have a copy of code in escrow so that you can access it in the event of a business default or contract breach.

With a proliferation of Web 2.0 tools and third-party community platforms, online patient communities can be created quickly and cheaply. But before you rush into this type of initiative, realize that you are making a long term commitment to your members and must choose your platform and vendor carefully.

Mar 30

WebMD Health ExchangeWebMD is the most trusted online health brand, gets more traffic than any other health site, and they just launch WebMD Health Exchange. Every other startup online health community out there should be petrified. It’s like owning the town five and dime and having WalMart show up. It’s too early to tell the impact the WebMD communities will have, but they have smartly setup communities moderated by their experts (driving quality and more trust) but also allow anyone to create their own exchange which will allow for innovation and more traffic.

Big questions ahead…who will be the first big pharma to sponsor an official “exchange” in their therapeutic area? Should a big brand hospital setup their own communities, or grab some virtual land under the WebMD banner? Are Facebook fan pages still the way to go, or can you get higher quality health-targeted members on WebMD?

What do you think the impact of WebMD Health Exchange will have on health communications?


Mar 10

Thomas Goetz: Decision Tree: Smarter Patients, Better Choice
Uploaded by kruresearch. - Videos of the latest science discoveries and tech.

The Decision Tree, Thomas Goetz (19 minutes)

Wired magazine editor, Thomas Goetz, shows us how we can take care of our health in the age of personalized medicine.

  • Mindfulness is the most important health decision we can make
  • How personal health trackers can help us to pay attention to our health
  • How decision trees will lead to better outcomes

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.

  • Social Media for Pharma - 2 SEATS LEFT (March 31, 2010)
  • Ask about in-house workshops for e-patient strategy, social media compliance and metrics

e-Patient Connections 2010

Mar 04

Dr. Jason Hwang: The Innovator's Prescription
Uploaded by kruresearch. - Technology reviews and science news videos.

The Innovator’s Prescription
Jason Hwang, MD, (20 minutes)

The co-author of The Innovator’s Prescription details how disruptive innovation may be the cure to our broken healthcare system.

  • How decentralization leads to accessibility
  • Futility of adding new technology to old business model
  • 3 universal business models and why hospitals don’t work

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.

  • Social Media for Pharma - 4 SEATS LEFT (March 31, 2010)
  • Ask about in-house workshops for e-patient strategy, social media compliance and metrics

e-Patient Connections 2010

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.