Mayo Clinic and Google Knowledge Panels

Last week Paul Levy, one of the early hospital CEO bloggers who is now blogging at Not Running a Hospital, came across what he thought was a significant issue with Google’s new medical search knowledge panels that incorporate information from Mayo Clinic and other sources.

Prostate Cancer SearchThe main issue he raised related to the Prostate Cancer panel, and particularly that robotic surgery was listed first among surgical procedures (instead of alphabetically), with watchful waiting listed among “Other treatments” under the “Also common” heading. Or as he put it:

Observers want to know:  Does this nonalphabetic list represent Mayo Clinic’s view of the most likely, highest priority, or most recommended approach to this disease?

Open the prostate cancer search in a new window and review the panel for yourself. Then come back here for some thoughts. I’ll wait.

Since he published his post, Mr. Levy has tweeted about the topic at least 15 times, starting with this one..

Also, on Saturday Mr. Levy published a related post, this time asking whether Mayo reviewed the “Ad” about Multiple Sclerosis, and questioning its accuracy.

Since he specifically mentioned me in the first post, and because I work at Mayo Clinic, I looked into the process. Far from being anything sinister, I think it’s a really positive educational service that puts reliable health information at the top of Google’s health search results, above any advertising.

Here’s how I understand what’s happening:

  1. Mayo Clinic provided a brief definition for each of about 400 diseases and conditions.
  2. Google drew information from various sources as listed here, (MayoClinic.org was one of them), and created a three-panel display for each topic with an overview, symptoms and treatments.
  3. Mayo Clinic staff reviewed the content of the panels, including treatments ranging from medicines to surgical procedures to diet and lifestyle modification. This did not include a review of list ordering, but only whether the treatments in the list are among the valid options.
  4. Each panel includes a link to the relevant page on MayoClinic.org, such as this one on prostate cancer, for a complete and balanced review of the topic.
  5. These Knowledge Panels aren’t ads.

Back to Mr. Levy’s question…

Observers want to know:  Does this nonalphabetic list represent Mayo Clinic’s view of the most likely, highest priority, or most recommended approach to this disease?

The reality is, these panels do contain direct deep links to Mayo Clinic’s view for all 400+ diseases and conditions, ranging from ADHD and ALS to Heart Attack, PTSD and viral gastroenteritis.

And yes, prostate cancer too.

I’m more mystified at Mr. Levy’s criticism of the MS panel, especially as expressed in this tweet:

The issue he raised is with the number of cases:

MS numbers

Mr. Levy says he did some searching in the National MS Society Web site and found that the estimated number of cases worldwide (his emphasis) is only 2.3 million. But here is the quote in context:

More than 2.3 million people are affected by MS worldwide. Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not require U.S. physicians to report new cases, and because symptoms can be completely invisible, the prevalence of MS in the U.S. can only be estimated. The Society continues to advocate for the establishment of a national registry that will track the number of people living with MS and has made a commitment to re-evaluate the current prevalence estimate and investigate the process by which an updated estimate can be identified. (Emphasis mine this time.)

The Google Knowledge Panel, which Mr. Levy says is “impairing Mayo Clinic’s credibility,” puts the number of U.S. cases of MS in the 200,000 to 3 million range. This WHO report estimates the prevalence at 135 per 100,000 population in the U.S.

The countries reporting the highest estimated prevalence of MS include Hungary (176 per 100 000), Slovenia (150), Germany (149), United States of America (135), Canada (132.5), Czech Republic (130), Norway (125), Denmark (122), Poland (120) and Cyprus (110).

That would put the number of cases in the U.S. at something well over 400,000. And the MS Society seems to indicate (from the passage quoted above) that U.S. cases are likely understated.

The Google Knowledge Panel uses four classes of disease prevalence, based on number of U.S. cases:

  • Very Rare (<20K cases)
  • Rare (20K to 200K)
  • Common (200K to 3 million)
  • Very Common (More than 3 million)

The categories are admittedly broad: Ebola is accurately in the Very Rare group, although the number of U.S. cases is way below 20K. It’s less than 20.

The range is big, but it’s not wrong.

And 400,000 cases of MS in the United States is in the Common range.

Finally, these Knowledge Panels would have happened with or without Mayo’s participation. We had the opportunity to share some of our knowledge via the definitions. We provided content review to help ensure that accurate, reliable health information appears at the top of search results, and and we offered direct links to deeper information on MayoClinic.org. We started with 400 medical topics and plan to work with Google to add up to 600 more.

I hope these answers to Mr. Levy’s questions are helpful.

I’m confident that the panels themselves will be.

Posted in Health Care | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

“Creating a Facebook page is like adopting a puppy. Starting a blog is like getting a pony.”

That’s the off-the-cuff formulation that emerged from the blogging session at our Mayo Clinic Social Media Residency on Monday.

And today it becomes my 39th Thesis, joining the first 35, along with 36, 37 and 38.

I’ve previously remarked that creating a brand page on Facebook is like puppy adoption. It’s fun at first. It can be messy, and requires lots of care and feeding.

But especially with the declining organic reach of brand Facebook posts and the increasing need to supplement good content with paid advertising, a Facebook page can grow up to be a dog.

Photo Credit: Steve Lodefink on Flickr

Photo Credit: Steve Lodefink on Flickr

In the context of our Residency discussion on Monday, it seemed the pony analogy captured the even more intense involvement required with a blog.

You need to ride ponies regularly. You need to build or rent a barn to house them. Vet bills are more expensive. And as far as care and feeding goes, a pony eats like…well… a horse.

That’s why a blog is at the peak of the SMUG Social Media Pyramid. It requires a more significant commitment than most other forms of social media

None of this is to say that you shouldn’t have a Facebook brand page or a blog. But you might want to consider sharing one, just as my dad and his friend Jim Sorgine decided to get a pony together during my youth. They each had two kids, and one pony was plenty for the four of us.

Or you might consider contributing to an existing blog or Facebook page. That’s how we counsel many of our stakeholders who are interested in a social media presence:

Send us your posts for Facebook, and we’ll put them on the Mayo Clinic page. Write guest posts on one of our Mayo Clinic blogs. See if this is something you can keep up in the long term, and whether it’s something you’re really committed to building.

If so, you’ve built great momentum, and we can help you create your own site.

If not, you’ve gotten a bigger audience for your limited series of posts than you would have reached on your own. And you don’t have the long-term commitment.

So, in a sense, the Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media is in the pony rental business.

If you’d like to go for a ride, and your topic is related to social media in health care, you could join the Social Media Health Network and write a guest post.

Or if you want to write something that’s about social media but not necessarily health-related, you could become a visiting professor at SMUG.

Saddle up!

 

Posted in 35 Theses, Philosophy | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Maximizing COPD and Asthma Inhalers with Educational Video

From the “Better Late Than Never” Department…

In July I had the opportunity to speak at the Minnesota Medical Group Management Association annual meeting in Duluth, on the shore of Lake Superior. We had a great group in my session, and among the participants was Brenda Jaye of Fairview Physician Associates.

After my presentation, Brenda told me about a neat program she and her colleagues had developed, called “Maximize Your Inhaler.” I thought it was a cool application of Flip cameras and nimble production, so I decided to practice what I had been preaching about simple, quick video production right then and there. Here’s her description of the program:

That was on July 24. It’s almost a five-hour drive from Duluth to my home in Austin, Minn., so it’s understandable I wouldn’t get the video published that night. I have no good excuse for the 194-day delay since then.

Inhaler

The Maximize Your Inhaler site has pictures of the various inhalers that visitor can scroll through to find theirs. When they click the arrow to play it launches a video featuring Pharmacist Heidi Mandt explaining that inhaler’s particulars and demonstrating how to use it. Here’s a sampler:

I think this is a neat resource. It’s nice that Brenda and her colleagues have made this available to anyone on YouTube, as well as being embedded within their site.

It’s a great example of using digital tools to make trustworthy information from medical professionals available broadly.

Brenda is going to be participating in our Social Media Residency in Rochester, Minn. on Monday. I look forward to catching up with her and seeing how this program has developed, and what she would like to try next.

Posted in Health Care | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“Allison, Can you explain what Internet is?”

That’s the punch line of a video that I’ve used frequently in my presentations over the last couple of years.

It’s also the set-up for what I think will be the best Super Bowl ad today.

Until now, most people had not seen it before I showed it to them in my presentation. I typically introduce it by saying we’re going to take the WABAC Machine to 1994, to the set of the TODAY show, and hear Bryant Gumbel and Katie Couric discussing the Internet.

After Katie queries Allison, and the crowd laughs knowingly, I generally say something like…

That was just 20 years ago. Bryant and Katie weren’t dummies. They were just encountering something that was unfamiliar. Twitter and other social media platforms use that funny sign, the ‘a with the ring around it’ too. Today you can’t even imagine life without email. And if you’re not already using platforms like Twitter, it won’t be long before they’re just as familiar to you as email is today.

Thanks to the commercial BMW is running in the Super Bowl today, if I continue to use the original video snippet I’ll no longer have the element of surprise. As I write this, the YouTube video already has 9.5 million views. And if last year’s audience is a guide, another 110 million or so will see it this evening.

So I’m going to need to adapt my approach, but hats off to BMW for a creative take-off on some classic footage from the NBC video vault:

Posted in Internet | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Tweets have more Capitol Clout than Email

Before I began my career in health care, I worked for 14 years in political and government jobs at the local, state and national level. The last of those was as press secretary for former U.S. Rep. Gil Gutknecht. I had helped Gil set up his first Web site, but when I left in 2000 the Internet hadn’t yet gotten to be a big thing in politics. And social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter were nonexistent.

In the post-9/11 era and in the aftermath of the anthrax scare, email took over as the highest impact means for citizens to communicate with their members of Congress. This morning Gil passed along an interesting article indicating that social channels are having more impact than email campaigns. Here’s an excerpt:

Advocacy campaigns have relied heavily on email for more than two decades, but a recent survey shows that a handful of well-conceived comments on social media may be just as effective as thousands of emails.

In a poll of House and Senate offices by the Congressional Management Foundation, three quarters of senior staff said that between one and 30 comments on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter were enough to grab their attention on an issue. Thirty-five percent said that fewer than 10 comments were enough.

“The contrast is shocking between Twitter volume and email volume,” CMF President and CEO Brad Fitch said.

The article, which was published just before the last election, goes on to explore some of the reasons for the higher relative impact of social compared with email.

Having worked in a congressional office, here’s what I think:

Even if an advocacy group can generate messages from several hundred constituents, those messages feel less authentic to the congressional staff than social posts do.

If I send my congressman an email, a staffer in his office reads it and will likely categorize it along with others in a report to the congressman. If I’m one of a handful of people sharing the same concern or idea, it’s not going to register.

But if mine is one of thousands, and the language of the messages are similar, it feels more like astroturf than grassroots.

An email message is the end, while a social post is a beginning. Organized campaigns can get constituents to send email messages, but those messages are invisible to the broader public.

But when you or I comment on Facebook or Twitter, we’re not just addressing our elected officials: we’re sharing sentiments with our friends and connections, too. Instead of going into the email black hole, the messages are out in the wild, and able to influence others.

Members of Congress pay attention to public opinion, but they can tell when activists are juicing the numbers.

So if you have something to say to your government officials, tweet it in your own words. It might encourage others to speak up. And over time, that can make an impact.

It’s not about flash mobs and splash. It’s about authentic involvement.

Posted in Social Media | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment
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