waroncancerYesterday I posted about Gilles Frydman and Sanjeev Arora, MD – the two gentlemen with whom I’ll share the stage at today’s The Economist’s War on Cancer Conference.

How numbers empower the War on Cancer

Collectively, we’ll be on a panel moderated by Economist Intelligence Unit healthcare chief David Humphreys and entitled, “Empowerment through numbers: Social media and technology.”

Mr. Frydman and Dr. Arora have both done amazing things to help connect patients to patients and doctors to doctors, respectively. I wanted to talk a little bit about the doctor/patient connections we’ve been studying on the MDigitalLife team at the W2O Group. Ever since our initial data set debuted at the Mayo Clinic in October of 2012, we’ve been focused on building a deep understanding of how the online health ecosystem really works, and we’ve learned some pretty interesting things. I’ll share a few of them here.

At this point, we’ve mapped the digital footprints for over 725,000 people and organizations who are stakeholders in the online health ecosystem – doctors, patients, reporters, advocacy organizations, healthcare companies, etc. For now, though, I want to focus specifically on the doctors and patients who are engaging online together to help each other to fight cancer. Back in 2009, online behavior between these groups was largely what we’d expect it to be … doctors talking to doctors and patients talking to patients. But as we announced at Health Datapalooza in 2015, that has changed rapidly.

breast-cancer-doctor-patient-mentions-over-time

Today, there are few boundaries in online conversations between doctors and patients – in fact, doctors are almost 4,000% more likely to mention a patient in an online post than they were in 2009. When we look at the individual network connections in a segment of those conversations – specifically those relating to the hashtag #BCSM – we can get an ever better example of what that looks like.

Physician-Patient Mentions in #BCSM 9/1/2011 – 8/31/2012 (Be sure to click the number of nodes in the upper left corner to the maximum amount in order to get the full effect)

[To view this chart in full-screen mode, click http://bit.ly/2cBtnb0]

Now for comparison: Physician-Patient Mentions in #BCSM 9/1/2015 – 8/31/2016 (Be sure to click the number of nodes in the upper left corner to the maximum amount in order to get the full effect)

[To view this chart in full-screen mode, click http://bit.ly/2d5ocl2]

It’s remarkable to see the number of physicians and patients that are actually connecting together over the course of those conversations.

1stlcsmpostThe importance of the rise of the tweetchat can’t be underestimated. This is particularly pronounced in the online community for Lung Cancer, which made an enormous transition when the #LCSM hashtag came into common use and a regular tweetchat began. A little forensic analysis of the MDigitalLife Online Health Ecosystem shows that the very first “real” #LCSM post came from radiation oncologist Matthew Katz, MD on June 22, 2013*.

Before Dr. Katz introduced the #LCSM hashtag, lung cancer conversations had been strong and growing. After #LCSM entered the community vernacular, however, the community exploded in terms of size, diversity and interactivity. If we look at the period between September 1, 2009 and August 31, 2016, the introduction of #LCSM in June of 2013 is almost dead-center in the timeline. Yet since Dr. Katz introduced #LCSM, there have been 3 times more individual doctors and patients participating in the online lung cancer conversation, and the number of posts have increased tenfold.

The interaction between doctors and patients is just one indication of how important social media has been in advancing dialog and understanding about cancer – I look forward to discussing that and many other findings with my co-panelists this afternoon at 2:45 EDT. For those not lucky enough to be in the audience at the War on Cancer conference, follow along on Twitter by using the hashtag #WarOnCancer.

*UPDATE: Dr Katz tells me that he and several patients had been kicking this idea around for some time – and wanted to be sure that proper credit was given to @JFreemanDaily, @LungCancerFaces and @louisianagirl91 as well as his partner in creating the cancer hashtag ontology, @pfanderson. Thanks to you all!

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Follow Greg Matthews on twitter @chimoose; Follow MDigitalLife @MDigitalLife

To learn more about how the MDigitalLife Online Health Ecosystem database can reshape the way you interact with doctors, patients, the media & all the important stakeholders of your healthcare company, learn more about us here.