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How the Media Covers Digital Health Topics

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The digital health revolution is empowering people to better track, manage, and improve their health.

And the tools are there – smartphones, wireless devices, desktop apps, patient portals, and many more – all able to monitor, analyze, and report health data on an ongoing basis.

But where do people go to discover what tools and technologies are available to help them manage their health?

Well the Internet is a leading source of information. Pew Research indicates that 85% of U.S. adults use the Internet, and 72% of those get their health information online. But do people look for information about digital health on traditional news media outlets like CNN, Foxnews or NBC news?

And if they do, what kind of information do they find once they get there? In fact while we’re on the subject, how much of the digital health conversation do traditional media outlets cover anyway? Is it helpful and productive or is it biased?

These are the questions I sought to answer when I embarked on an amateur study. My hope is that it will spark some interesting conversations or better yet, yield some insights for real research by experts like Susannah Fox.

Methodology

I chose three top news websites [based on popular ranking] including CNN.com, Foxnews.com and Huffington Post. In each case, I went to the news site and did a search for ‘digital health’. Then I reviewed two articles from the first page of SERP and made an evaluation of the site based on:

  • Volume of ‘digital health’ articles published (on the first page of SERP);
  • Indication of various perspectives;
  • Reporter’s bias;
  • Presence of any misinformation;

Results

#1. CNN.com

  • Volume of articles published: Out of 10 results on the first page of SERP there were 8 articles covering the subject of digital health.
  • Indication of various perspectives: Headlines about digital health were either positive or neutral. The content indicated that CNN has a generally favorable view of the subject. However they also did a good job covering both the pros and the cons of digital health e.g. some of the cons discussed were privacy issues, fear, suspicion, etc.
  • Reporter’s bias: Bias is a hard thing to evaluate especially when you’re not trained to spot it. But some statements, which seemed to indicate some bias caught my eye. For example:

“There is a realization that consumers want, and need, products to connect them with their physicians, their medical records, and with relatives who are helping to manage their care…”

Or,

“In the not-too-distant future, you’ll receive a full diagnosis and cure from your smartphone before you have even realized you’re unwell.”

  • Presence of any misinformation:  Here’s an interesting statement from this article:

“ Our informed insight will mean that the doctor’s role will change. They will become coaches, rather than a source of initial diagnosis.”

I’m no expert, but the idea of the doctor’s role changing to that of a coach is pretty absurd. And even if there are apps and devices that can diagnose disease, such technologies empower the patient, but don’t necessarily diminish the doctor’s role.

 #2. Foxnews.com

  • Volume of articles published: Out of 10 results on the first page of SERP there was 1 article covering the subject of digital.
  • Indication of various perspectives: Based on the one digital health article available on Foxnews, the headline of that article i.e. ‘6 Technology Trends That Will Change Your Family’s Health’ was neutral. The content of that article did not reveal any opinion or perspective but simply reported the facts.
  • Reporter’s bias: The reporter doesn’t offer a personal viewpoint about digital health except to say, “…as technology continues to evolve, digital health tools will play an even bigger role in how we stay healthy and fit.”  This reads more like a statement of fact rather than a personal perspective.
  • Presence of any misinformation: In discussing the ubiquitous nature of mobile health apps, the reporter quotes technology enthusiast, Robin Raskin who says,

“The next time you go to your doctor, you may be just as likely to get an app as an aspirin.”

Embellishment? I think so. The comparison of apps to aspirin is like apples to oranges. To suggest that a time will come when aspirin and apps will be interchangeable is misleading since most apps don’t even treat illness in the first place (that’s why many of them don’t need FDA approval).

#3. Huffington Post

  • Volume of articles published: Out of 10 results on the first page of SERP there were 10 articles covering the subject of digital.
  • Indication of various perspectives; Most HuffPo headlines covering digital health were neutral except for two, which showed a favorable perspective i.e. “5 Digital Health Trends of 2013: Turning Lemons into Lemonade” and “The Long-Awaited Revolution: Digital Health Innovation.”

Also statements such as, “The year 2013 is an exciting time to have a brain indicate that HuffPo is incredibly excited about the digital health conversation. They do a great job covering all the opportunities digital health has to offer, but unlike CNN there is little mention of problems, challenges or people’s concerns.

  • Reporter’s bias; In addition to having a one-sided approach to this conversation, HuffPo regularly makes bold statements that leave no doubt in a reader’s mind what side they’re on.

Statements such as this, “The technologies that are emerging are super-exciting, but it’s going to take a sea of change in attitude to make patients (and their doctors) get involved in self care,” seem to be scolding the skeptics.

And others like this, “I believe 2013 will bring a higher form of capitalism in health care…I am excited to be a part of that process and a witness to the creativity and innovation of a difficult market,” firmly establishes their position.

(By the way among the articles sampled from HuffPo, there is no disclaimer that says, “The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.”)

  • Presence of any misinformation; There was no noticeable presence of misinformation on Huffington Post.

Conclusion

Traditional news media outlets cover the topic of digital health differently. Some have an overwhelming interest in the subject (e.g. Huffington Post) while others don’t seem to think it’s a very important one at all (e.g. Fox News).  This tells you which media outlets are committed to telling the story and which ones aren’t.

None of the media outlets appear to have a negative view of the digital health revolution. However CNN did a great job giving equal attention to both the pros and cons of digital health. Huffington Post gave the subject more positive coverage than any other media outlet while Fox wasn’t swayed one way or the other.

There were some misleading statements on both Foxnews and CNN, although these didn’t appear to indicate a blatant intention to mislead.

In any case, it would be great if all leading news media outlets took this conversation seriously and gave it the full attention it deserves. There needs to be more coverage of all sides of the story not just the rosy side. I also think it’s OK for reporters to have an opinion about the subject, but the publication should make it clear whether they endorse that opinion or not. Finally, any kind of misinformation (no matter how insignificant) can cause readers to lose trust in a publication.

Over to You

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this subject. Based on your experience, how do you see news media outlets covering the digital health conversation?

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marketing communication

Mobile Marketing: 5 Simple Rules for Launching an SMS Campaign

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Is mobile marketing taking over?

The simple answer is ‘Yes’.

But let’s consider the evidence shall we:

 i) There are 6.8 billion people on the planet

ii) 4.0 billion people own a mobile phone

iii) 91% of them have their phones within arm’s reach 24/7 (Morgan Stanley)

iv) By 2013 the primary way of accessing the Internet will be via mobile browsers (Gartner)

And there is plenty more research to support why mobile should be your top content priority. Just check out Jamie Turner and Jeanne Hopkins latest book on mobile marketing, ‘Go Mobile!’

Using SMS (texting) ads is by far the cheapest and simplest form of mobile marketing. Take a look at how easy it is to create an SMS ad:

So if this is something you’ve been thinking about lately, here are 5 simple rules to help you create your SMS campaign:

 #1. Key words

This is the word that users text in to the short code (see below). Keywords should be short (8 characters or less), memorable, easy to type, and relevant to your brand.

#2. Short code

Users text the keyword to a 5-digit code called a short code. Decide if you’re going to use a dedicated (or branded) short code e.g. COKE (as in the Coca-Cola Company), or a shared short code such as 12345. Keep in mind that a shared short code is cheaper but a branded short code is more effective especially for big companies.

#3. CTA (Call to Action)

Your CTA must include the keyword, shortcode, and benefit to the user in just one simple sentence e.g. “Text KEYWORD to SHORTCODE for your chance to win a free iPad”

#4. Response

After your users respond to your SMS ad, send them a cool message that not only confirms receipt but also makes them feel special for taking part in your campaign. e.g. “Awesome! You rock!”

#5. Opt out

Be thoughtful and give users a simple way to opt-out if they don’t want to receive your messages any more. For example after each SMS message, you could add, “Txt STOP to optout.”

Key Takeaway

SMS  is the most far-reaching data application tool and has proved to be extremely successful as a marketing tool for business. It is easy to use, compatible with all networks and devices, offers a world-wide audience, is personable and cost-effective too. So if you’re wondering about using SMS to connect with potential customers, this is your time! Remember too that with SMS you are only limited by your imagination. Again, for more tips on mobile marketing check out Turner and Hopkins’, “Go Mobile!”

Over to you: Are you using SMS messaging to connect with customers? Please share some tips that have made your campaign successful.

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healthcare marketing

New Mobile Health App Helps Families Feel More Secure

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Do you know someone who is constantly sick or in poor health? Do you worry that something might happen to them when there’s no-one closeby to assist?

If so, there’s good news for you and those you love that are in that situation.

SecuraTrac (the folks who make GPS-enabled tracking devices for health and safety) and Vital Connect (a body sensor manufacturer) have teamed up to develop a mobile personal emergency response system (mPERS) called SecuraFone Health.

This is a new, innovative app that will give medical professionals, caregivers and family members real-time notification, when an unexpected health crisis occurs.

Features

  • By detecting falls, dangerous changes in heart rate, respiration, or vital signs, medical staff and family are immediately alerted about the change as well as the user’s real-time location.
  • Vital Connect developed a water-resistant patch that the user wears on the chest or back and is replaceable every two to three days.
  • A wireless sensor communicates with the user’s smartphone within a 50-foot radius.
  • A 24/7 emergency response center monitors the sensor’s readings as part of the monthly service.

When SecuraFone Health is released later this year, it will provide a greater sense of comfort and independence for users, as well as peace of mind for families and caregivers.

How SecuraFone Can Help (Personal Story)

I knew that my disabled, wheelchair-bound mother had been sick with a stomach virus for a few days, but nothing prepared me for what I found.

As the only family-member within 300 miles, I try to check on my mother every day to make sure that she’s alright. One Sunday morning Mom was feeling weak and tired, and committed to resting for the day and going to the doctor later in the week if need be. When I spoke to her that same night, she sounded tired and groggy but told me there was no need to come by.

On Monday, she didn’t answer the phone any of the four times I called her during my short work day. As soon as I was able to leave early, I went straight over to check on her. As I walked in and called out, I found my mom in the tub shivering cold, too weak to get out by herself.

After she was admitted to the hospital for dehydration and kidney failure, we discovered that she had been in the bathtub for over four hours unable to get out.

Mom is fine now, but what a difference this technology could have made for her four years ago when she really needed it!

If this story sounds familiar to you, be sure to check out the full story about Securafone here. Passive monitoring is becoming increasingly important in the mobile healthcare environment. For at-risk patients, particularly children and elderly people who are not able to fully take care of themselves, it could very well save their lives.

Over to you: Do you have someone in your life facing a similar situation? What kind of technology have you explored to address some of the imminent problems?

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