AlertMapScreen300pxIf you need evidence that social networks can save lives, have a look at PulsePoint, a crowdsourcing app for connecting cardiac arrest victims with assistance.

As reported in Re/code this morning,

PulsePoint’s free app connects to local 911 call centers and alerts users when there is someone nearby in need of CPR.  PulsePoint users get an alert the same time as local emergency responders.   It also shows the location of the closest automatic defibrillator (if there is one nearby) as well as a reminder about how to do CPR, just in case the user has an adrenaline-induced brain-freeze.

This is remarkable.

I suspect that it should be easy to measure PulsePoint outcomes with those of non-crowdsourced patients.  This might bridge the elusive gap between social networks and health outcomes.


LikeThere’s an affirmation bias in public dialog.  We only like things.  Facebook, for example, only offers Like button.  To dislike is not PC.

Perhaps we can thank the marketers.  In social’s early history, we took our cues from marketing professionals who were the early adopters in the use of new media.  They’ve traditionally lead the conversation on conversation.  Marketers love to cheer.

Moving beyond cheerleading

But what marketers want and do may be entirely different from what healthcare professionals might and should do.  It’s not that we can’t promote, but maybe we have an equally important job that’s entirely foreign to the look and feel of our traditional dialog.

A couple of days back there was a story circulating on Twitter about a teddy bear that captures biometric information on cuddling children.  Predictably, everyone pushed the story along like a beach ball at a stadium event.  The future, it seemed, was just adorable.  Wendy Swanson spoke up and suggested that maybe there was more information needed before planting this in a child’s hospital bed.

We need to question things

Admittedly, it’s fun to share links about flying robotic bedpans that detect colon cancer.  But we desperately need to question things.  The social health infosphere is a sewer of self-interest.  And as the personal digital health heats up, someone will need to ask the tough questions and shape meaningful  dialog.

There aren’t enough physicians taking leadership in this role.  Of course it’s a tall order:

  • You must understand the tools and have some semblance of a voice.
  • You need the confidence and chutzpah to leverage that voice.

It’s a jungle out there.  Standing on your own two feet in an information stream that’s moving briskly in one direction can be tough.  We’re up agains powerful interests and well-connected microcelebrities.  And taking a public position opposite a peer takes a whole other level of confidence.

But for those looking to define themselves in a noisy world, defying our affirmation bias with a healthy element of skepticism is one way to not only stand out but create value.


Twitter’s New Paternalism

August 21, 2014

Twitter has changed its policies such that it is now putting tweets into your timeline based upon who you are connected to and what they feel is relevant.  The algorithms for relevance are a mystery, however.  The official explanation can be found at What is a Twitter timeline? Daniel Graf, Twitter’s new product boss, put it […]

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Print Media as a Cure for Hemorrhoids

August 19, 2014

  Fascinating case report of a readers whose hemorrhoids were cured with the discontinuation of the print edition of The Economist. Note that this is an N of 1.  The manipulation of print media has not been proven in any double-blinded study to impact outcomes with rectal varices. I’m wondering what we could do for […]

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The Rise of Medicine’s Creative Class

August 19, 2014

Are we witnessing the rise of a creative class in medicine? The creative class in medicine may be seen as a key driving force for change in a post-analog era.  They are the disruptors willing to poke the box.  The reason that this emerging segment of health care providers is so remarkable is that medicine […]

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A Zero Tolerance Policy for Patient Dialog

August 18, 2014

A UK medical practice has posted a sign attempting to prohibit public conversation by patients.  Citing a Zero Tolerance Policy apparently invoked to protect NHS staff, this type of veiled threat illustrates how disconnected the medical community can be from the realities of medicine in a connected age. You can read about this over at […]

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Should Twitter be Regulated at Medical Meetings?

August 17, 2014

The organizer of a medical meeting in Milan recently made an appeal (tongue-in-cheek, it would appear) to attendees to avoid status updates and mindless backchannel banter. The social side of any conference is important, and Twitter, being part of the social media, will naturally show that side. There is, however, a danger that the orchestra’s symphony […]

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ZDoggMD Riffs on Dr Oz

August 16, 2014

If you’re the type of person who slows down to peek at accidents, you might want to take a moment to watch ZDoggMD rhythmically eviscerate Mehmet Oz.  The entertainment value of ZDogg’s calculated language is surpassed only by the fact that Oz looks about as uncomfortable as a prostitute in church. Hell hath no fury […]

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Doctors and social media: Damned if you engage, damned if you don’t

August 15, 2014

Hinda Mandell felt creepy after being followed by her OB on Twitter.  Her post on Cognoscenti, Brave New World: Your Doctor, Your Private Parts, Twitter And You, is provocative on a number of levels. Think perverts, not OBs.  It’s funny that the author’s friends and husband are concerned with her OB.  There’s little regard, however, for […]

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Is it a reader’s responsibility to understand?

August 14, 2014

Not long ago I read a blog post and subsequently posted a comment on Twitter.  It seems that I read one thing but the writer of the post had suggested something else.  It lead to a brief back and forth.  Nothing ugly but the publisher was unnerved.  I had simply responded to something that was […]

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