Tunnah’s musings: Doctors 2.0 & You– it’s not about the technology

Having attended the annual Doctors 2.0 & You conference on healthcare social media and technology for the first time, Paul Tunnah is musing on some of the things he learned during the two day session in Paris that brought together physicians, patients, pharma and technology companies.

I am in a fortunate position to receive invites to lots of conferences, most of which I sadly cannot attend due to the restraints on my time with keeping pharmaphorum growing. However, the Doctors 2.0 & You event is one that has been high on my agenda, having watched closely the great work Denise Silber has been doing, so it was a pleasure to be able to head to Paris this year for its third incarnation as an observer and moderator of a session on physician communities.


“Content is king and mobile engagement is queen.”


There are very few events that break down the different silos in healthcare, but this one brings together physicians, patients, the pharma industry and other providers to discuss common ground around how digital, social media and technology is shaping this space.

Every session yielded useful insight and it was great to meet up with so many folks I have only interacted with virtually until now (and with apologies to all those I do not mention here!), but here are some key points I took away.

Listen to your end user

Representatives from a number of the major physician communities from around the world were in attendance and it is interesting to see how doctors are now using these. Sharing patient case studies for advice seems to be popular, mimicking peer-to-peer support networks in the real world, and access via mobile devices is a must to keep users engaged. As Stanley Li (Head of dxy.cn, the world’s largest online physician community based in China) succinctly put it, ‘content is king and mobile engagement is queen’. A neat demonstration of Google Glass shows how this support and advice from colleagues is moving into real-time too, with physicians trialling their use in trauma surgery.

Likewise, patient communities are being shaped by the needs of their users. Here, emotional support is being complemented by a desire to find scientific and medical information pertinent to particular diseases, delivered in a ‘human’ way. It seems like health information portals might be missing a trick here and perhaps Smart Patients, co-developed by ACOR founder Gilles Frydman and former Google Chief Health Strategist Roni Zeiger, is onto something with its platform allowing patients to share detailed scientific advice and talk across different tumour types.

“It seems like health information portals might be missing a trick here…”


Without delving here into the perennial debate about whether pharma should build communities or contribute to independent ones, the industry is also starting to focus more on user needs beyond discussion of disease areas and products. Campus Sanofi is an interesting platform where the focus is purely on proving physicians with digital literacy as a reputation and trust builder for Sanofi, which I was told has no plans to use it for promotional purposes.

Technology is shaping diagnosis, treatment and prevention

A number of technology companies were present, showing how new devices and apps are changing healthcare. Be in no doubt that at every stage – diagnosis, treatment and prevention – they are making their mark. Pharma has a simple choice to either get involved in this area or accept that drugs will represent a smaller slice of the healthcare pie in the future, in my view.

Diabetes always represents a good proving ground for technology, due to the need for diagnostics and treatment, and a number of solutions are coming through that allow patients and physicians to monitor their blood sugar levels in real-time. It is worth checking out the ‘artificial pancreas‘ project too, which could see patients manually injecting themselves with insulin become a thing of the past once it becomes scalable.

Discussion of how technology can be used as preventative medicine, helping people lead healthier lifestyles to avoid disease, inevitably leads to the term ‘quantified self’ being used. Powerful as this area can be, the challenges of implementing the ‘quantified self’ (or ‘looking after yourself’ as it used to be called) are really not technological, but sociological. As Paul Buchanan, founder of the GB Diabetes Online tweetchat (#gbdoc), neatly summed up ‘if a mirror and set of scales has not worked for hundreds of years, why will your multi-million pound device?’

On a positive note though, the power of social media and peer pressure is not to be underestimated in disease prevention and GE Healthcare has achieved some impressive visibility with its #GetFit campaign for healthier lifestyles as part of cancer prevention.

“It is not regulations that stop this happening – it is your company processes.”


Challenges remain in breaking down silos

For all the advances technology is making in healthcare, challenges remain in breaking down silos. Several notable epatients spoke of their frustration at how impersonal the relationship with healthcare providers has become and also how little they are involved in discussion with pharma and technology companies around addressing unmet needs. For all those thinking ‘regulations’ at this point, let’s be clear that it is not regulations that stop this happening – it is your company processes.

Where such connectivity does take place great things can happen, and the mutual respect between Michael Seres and the doctor responsible for his bowel transplant, Marion O’Connor, was obvious as they discussed how they are both learning to use social media to share their experience. As a result, the next operation is going to be live tweeted!

So the next great challenge for digital, social media and technology in healthcare is to get pharma, physicians, patients and technology providers all moving beyond their silos and talking to each other. The benefits are clear and we are not quite there yet online, but I do know once place where this is happening. It’s called Doctors 2.0 & You, so do come along next year.

Until next month, keep pushing those silo walls and stay well.


About the author:

Paul Tunnah is CEO & Founder of pharmaphorum media, which provides digital content marketing and communications solutions for the pharma sector and also manages the industry leading channel www.pharmaphorum.com, a digital podium for communicating thought leadership and innovation within pharma. For queries he can be reached through the site contact form or on Twitter @pharmaphorum.

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