Leveraging the Internet in Health Care

This morning Jane Jacobs and I are presenting a Mayo Clinic case study at a half-day workshop entitled, “New Media Requires New Strategies: A Marketer’s Primer.” Our co-presenters include Kathy Divis of Greystone.net and David Bennett of the Medical University of South Carolina.

Kathy gave the overview of trends in healthcare and the internet in general, from the rise in broadband penetration to the consequent explosion of on-line video and the various Web 2.0 applications.

She cited a Harris poll that said about 75 percent of people are interested in asking questions that don’t require a visit, schedule/cancel appointments, refill prescriptions and receive test/lab results, and more than a third are willing to pay for the ability to do this (an average of about $10/month).

About 40 percent of rural Americans have high speed access at home. The number of text messages sent and received each day exceeds the population of the planet.

She said the healthcare industry will have no choice but to engage and develop social media if it is interested in helpoing people find accurate and helpful information online, and that social media may shift control of healthcare brands to the masses, and those who ignore it are placing their organizations at risk.
Here’s and example of a health care video on YouTube


…and another one


The issue she raised is there is no control over who shares your page on YouTube, and by that I think she means the “Related” videos.

Clinical wizards and marketing avatars are multi-media files that combine text, audio, video and/or animation with interactivity and decision logic to educate the user about a specific condition or marketing campaign.

Kathy’s best estimate is there are over 700 health and fitness podcasts currently available, and now about 12 percent of internet users say they have downloaded a podcast.

Only three people in the audience have personal blogs. She made a good point that whether a hospital sponsors a blog or not, that doesn’t stop people from blogging about you. She cited High Point Regional Health System as one with patient blogs.

Next Kathy went into RSS (Really Simple Syndication), Wikis, and Tagging. See for example the social bookmarking site del.icio.us. The great thing about tagging and social bookmarking is it indicates that real human beings have looked at content and assigned it a relevant keyword, so searching based on tags gives results based on what users have found helpful, not what some site architect mapped out.

David went into depth on clinical wizards, and one in particular that they did for heart risk. They used targeted Google adwords to promote geographically, and in one year had more than 6,000 people take the assessment, of whom 4,000 signed up for eNewsletters, 2,300 individuals were identified as “at risk” and 123 (extremely conservatively estimated) scheduled appointments. He thinks it was likely 3x that amount. Total investment was about $40,000 per year, for likely 10x the revenue.

He next moved into podcasting and gave some price ranges for ways of approaching it, from bare bones to in-house studio to outside-produced content. Rmail is a way to get podcasts by email instead of RSS, which can help since people are more comfortable with email than RSS. They do about 20 audio podcast segments a week. They develop for a local TV program, and then use different versions for the web, cutting into multiple segments.
They use a Content Delivery Network CDN for delivery of all their online video (Akamai). They have put about 100 videos on YouTube. Here’s one:


They use text messaging with an interesting application for weight loss, in which they send a daily reminder to people who sign up, asking them to text back their weight that day, which is tracked and plotted over time.
Jane and I discussed our definition of new media (anything that doesn’t require an FCC license) and how we are incorporating resources, such as our Mayo Clinic Medical Edge syndicated products, that we have produced for traditional media into these new channels. We have podcasts available from mayoclinic.org and on iTunes, and a Flash presentation on Mayo Clinic’s history. More recently we have begun using Flash for Medically Speaking web video, in which various experts who treat patients with a given condition share perspective on symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. In February, we launched a cell phone service in conjunction with Digital Cyclone, to provide health information and news videos to people on the go.

Here’s a video we used for pitching the launch to journalists:


John Eudes of Greystone.net illustrated decision support wizards with examples from Rush University Medical Center’s Sleep Center (a company called Jellyvision produced it.) One problem is you can’t back up and another is you can’t jump ahead to make an appointment. A breast cancer risk self-assessment wizard from Central Health systems is improved because it has an interactive navigation box at the bottom that solves some of these problems. Emmi Solutions does an on-line informed consent program, and John showed the coronary artery bypass graft version. The purpose is to improve the patient experience and help with risk management. Patients have expressed satisfaction with the system and say they feel more informed and more confident.

John concluded with a strategy overview, with options ranging from purchasing syndicated content, repurposing what you’re already doing and custom content creation for the web. Mayo is doing the second and third options, but with a focus on the repurposing end and producing custom content at the same time as we are producing the mass media content.

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Author: Lee Aase

Husband of one, father of six, grandfather of 15. Chancellor Emeritus, SMUG. Emeritus staff of Mayo Clinic. Founder of HELPcare and Administrator for HELPcare Clinic.

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