Tag Archives: social networks

Using Twitter, LinkedIn to diversify your sources #ahcj13

At KQED Public Radio’s The California Report in San Francisco, part of my job is to connect with communities across California and find diverse voices talking about community health issues for our airwaves. While on-the-ground outreach is the ideal way to build relationships with sources, it’s impossible for one person to embed herself in all of California’s 58 counties. 

That’s where social media comes in. Tools like Twitter, LinkedIn and social media networks has helped me find a wide range of voices, as well as follow conversations in my health beat. At Health Journalism 2013, I did a presentation with Dori J. Maynard, the President of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education in Oakland, Calif., (follow her at @TeamMije and @djmaynard) on how to navigate Twitter and LinkedIn to find sources. We started with Twitter.

Reporters should follow individuals and organizations that serve diverse populations (need some Twitter 101? Check AHCJ’s tip sheets here and here, Twitter’s Help Center, Mediabistro, and Mashabable’s video tutorial). Follow ethnic media in your coverage area. Also, think outside traditional “health” box. Don’t just follow health organizations and media – think about arts groups, youth groups or theater groups in the regions you are covering. For example, I follow Cornerstone Theater Company, a community theater group in downtown Los Angeles. The staff has since connected me with various community members who have been affected by community health issues on everything from trying to get access to health care as a homeless person in Skid Row, to preventing gun violence in South LA.

But if you’re following hundreds (or even thousands) of people on Twitter, it can be hard to keep up  with the conversations. That’s where creating Twitter “streams” can be useful.  Continue reading

Member uses data to track doctors’ referrals; AHCJ members get a first look

AHCJ member Fred Trotter publicly unveiled a major data set last week that could reshape how journalists report on medical professionals. At the Strata Rx conference in San Francisco, Trotter showed off data he received from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that could show the relationships among physicians, as well as their referral patterns.


Fred Trotter has agreed to let AHCJ members have access to his development website so they can look up specific doctors. To access it, click here and login to the AHCJ site.

Trotter plans to release the full data set and the search tool to the public at a later date (see below). Trotter answered some questions from AHCJ President Charles Ornstein:

Q. Tell us about the data set you just unveiled.

A. This is the social graph of medicine. It is the referral patterns for most of the doctors, hospitals and labs in the country, based on a FOIA request for Medicare data. For any given physician in the United States, there is a good chance that this data set reveals what other doctors, hospitals and labs they typically work with.

Q. How could it be useful for journalists?

A. Using the data, journalists will be able to figure out “who to gumshoe” for health care stories.

Some ideas:

●     You have a “bad doctor” story. This works for crime, fraud, etc. Who was referring patients to that doctor, what hospital was he or she working with? At the least, the people you identify would be interesting to interview. At worst, these people may be co-conspirators.

●     Who are the best doctors in your city? Who is the best local resource to interview about cardiology, neurology, etc. Specialists who have lots of inbound referrals from different doctors implicitly have the respect of other doctors in the community.

●     By grouping doctors by hospital referrals, it will be possible to see which ones are “aligned” with different hospitals. It is also possible to measure how exclusive this affiliation is. Most local health care reporters have an intuition of how the local health care market operates, but this will provide specific details.

●     By working with data scientists we can make lots and lots of pretty diagrams to support journalistic assertions. Continue reading

Insurers trick Facebookers into writing Congress

This year, Facebook launched a virtual currency that allows users to buy extra items in popular games. Now, according to Silicon Alley Insider’s Nicholas Carlson, health reform opponents are using that currency to lure Facebookers into sending a prefabricated anti-health reform letter to their congressman.

Astroturf, everyone’s favorite descriptive for a phony grassroots effort. Photo by purpleslog via Flickr.

“Get Health Reform Right” requires gamers to take a survey, which, upon completion, automatically sends the following email to their Congressional Rep:

“I am concerned a new government plan could cause me to lose the employer coverage I have today. More government bureaucracy will only create more problems, not solve the ones we have.”

The organization behind the scheme, Get Health Reform Right, seems to be funded primarily by insurance companies.

Pfizer tentatively tackles tweets

James Chase reports in Medical Marketing & Media that Pfizer has opened a Twitter account, @pfizer_news. The pharmaceutical behemoth will use the microblogging service for interacting and opening dialog with customers, rather than for product promotion or advertising, Chase reports. While Pfizer has been monitoring Twitter for months, executives were afraid to engage directly for fear that they would be “ripped to shreds” by the Twitterati.twitter_logo

“We’re trying to become transparent, but we’re doing it slowly and cautiously,” said (Ray Kerins, VP worldwide communications). “For us to jump in with two feet would be stupid. The first task was to get the communications team cleaned up because we’ve had a bad rap in that area.”

Pfizer hopes to increase its social media presence, but plans to do so cautiously and in gradual steps.

For now, Pfizer’s media relations team is charged with controlling all corporate tweeting, but Kerins said he hopes to expand the pool soon. “I would love to have by the end of the summer 100 people, from medical to public affairs, who have been anointed by the company and who can go out and Twitter.”

As of Monday morning (July 27), @Pfizer_News had gained 565 followers and was in turn following 225 users, many of them major media outlets.

Hospitals harness social media

Jackie Fox writes in the Omaha World-Herald about local institutions’ use of social media to reach out to consumers and to provide information in the formats and locations in which consumers are likely to look.

One institution views social media as a customer service, providing patients with blogs they can use to share health updates with family and friends. Some find and reply to relevant blog posts or tweets.

Others, such as the Nebraska Medical Center, post videos on YouTube of treatments or procedures.

“It’s a good educational tool for procedures people may not be familiar with. People may decide this is someone they’d like an appointment with, or doctors in other parts of the state learn they can send patients to a specialist closer to home,” [media relations lead Paul ]Baltes said.