Re-Kindle-ing Medical Education

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As I blogged about recently, the launch of the iPod 3G — and in particular the App Store — has contributed to a flurry of medical/health related apps being developed for this platform (see The iPhone Factor).

So, while the success of the iPhone and iPod Touch (aka iTouch) continues to grow in the medical/health arena, another device that has had far less fanfare and a little bit of a rocky start (but now seems to be gaining a fan-base) is the Amazon Kindle eBook Reader.


Image by robertnelson on Flickr

Although the Kindle doesn’t offer a cool touch-screen interface or phone-calling ability, it does have a few of it’s own tricks up it’s sleeve; namely:

  1. It’s always connected via the Sprint “Whispernet” network (bundled into the initial cost of the Kindle)
  2. It’s really catered towards being a book (i.e. display, size, battery-life, etc.)
  3. You can wirelessly sync and download blogs posts for easy reading on-the-go
  4. You can easily use an SD card for extra storage or transferring materials

But if you think the Kindle is just for downloading and reading books from Amazon, think again…

John Halamka (CIO of Harvard Med School and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center) recently blogged about his implementation of the Kindle at Harvard Med School (HMS), with support for all of their 20,000 edcuational resources. Here’s what he says…

Our integration on the Mycourses educational website enables any Word or PDF document to be delivered to the Kindle wirelessly… Once the user enters their Kindle account into the MyCourses Kindle setup page… any resource which can be sent to the device has a little icon and label “My Kindle” which when clicked sends the resource to the Kindle. It does this by sending the document to the Amazon account via email attachment which then gets converted into Kindles’s specific format and delivered to the device using Sprint’s Whispernet.

As a undergrad and grad science student, I recall the pile of books that we had each year — most of them were around the size of a phonebook and mostly hardcover. Not only was this a huge expense for students (and publishers too), but it was also really tiresome to carry around and made for alot of waste when a new edition was released. I can only imagine that med-students have an even worse pile to deal with.

Here’s more from Halamka on this issue — apparently they spend $50,000 a year on paper alone for printing course documents…

HMS is the first Medical School to offer such a green alternative to all of their compatible resources to be downloaded directly to an eBook… We’re rolling this out by giving a few students free Kindles to pilot the new Mycourses functionality… I’ll report back how it goes. Since we spend $50,000 a year on paper for printing course documents, I hope it is successful!

So, I think it’s pretty cool that Halamka and HMS have instituted the Kindle as a replacement for the traditional science/medical books and course documents. Definitely “Watch This Space” in the future.

BTW, according to BoyGenius, there are rumors ablaze about a new Kindle due this month (OCT 2008). And if you’re interested in this article/device as an educational tool, you should definitely check out Halamka’s post on the use of the iPod Touch in medicine, which he concludes…

Thus, I believe the iPod Touch is a device to watch for clinical and educational applications. I suspect it will be used in many novel ways in healthcare and not just for as a glorified music player.

Laura Finton on Selling Social Media “Up” to Management

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The issue of convincing upper management seems to be a BIG issue here at the EyeForPharma eCommunications and Online Marketing Summit – lots of questions from audience about this.


Coincidentally, just last week, I spoke at Digital Pharma 2008 about making a business case for social media in pharma and how to get buy-in. As part of my “opening argument”, I presented the construct that the issues we face in pharma are actually (mostly) shared among all corporate/ enterprise organizations and the only unique hurdle is really the regulatory and legal issues that the industry is held to.

So, as I am still cleaning up the slides from my talk (issues with some images I used) before I post them here on the blog, I thought I would point you to a post by Laura Finton (aka Pistachio — a fellow Bostonian) who brings up some really good ideas for how to get buy-in from upper management in general. Not pharma specific, but don’t forget — most of these issues we share with other enterprises and also, it’s always good to look outside to bring ideas in.

You can read the post on the Pistachio Blog, but here are some highlights:

It’s time to start teaching others how to “fish” and derive value using social media. Social media can create value throughout the enterprise in many different practice areas…

Step off your enthusiasm about how “cool” all this stuff is and cut straight to the value. Speak their language and address their needs and pains. Demonstrate how core business processes and challenges can be done better…

Get laser focused on management’s existing business problems and pains. Apply the tools and opportunities you know about to the priorities they know they already have…

Don’t forget folks, this stuff can be really SCARY. That’s okay. Encourage them to take a flexible stance, to start dipping their toes in, and to remain learning-focused whether or not they are ready to jump in whole hog. Some of my social media agency colleagues may disagree with this, but I think it’s okay for a company to engage in an extended listening period, where they dive deep into social media listening without necessarily responding.

Off to EyeForPharma’s eCommunications & Online Marketing Summit

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So, I’m barely getting over the Digital Pharma 2008 conference last week and I’m already off to the competing conference by EyeForPharma – The 2008 eCommunications & Online Marketing Summit. Thank goodness this one is local (at the Hyatt Harborside in Boston, MA).

I’ll (try to) be Tweeting live from the conference on the 23rd and 24th, so do follow me (@shwen) if you want to get the updates. Unless I find out some other convention, I’m going to use the hash-tag #eComm08, so you can also search for that retrospectively, if you miss the live tweets.

Mark Senak on Social Media in Pharma (from Digital Pharma)

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For those of you familiar with Mark Senak, you’ll know he’s a lawyer with Fleishman-Hillard who authors the EyeOnFDA blog (also on Twitter: @eyeonfda) — a very informative and insightful blog that I subscribe to and really enjoy reading.

Check out his interview with Doug Simon (from DSSimonVlogViews) where he talks about the “state of social media in pharma” and gives some good examples of how and what pharma can do with social media, including a healthy discussion around Pharma’s use of YouTube.

Google.org’s $14.8MM Contribution to Genetic & Digital Detection

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On OCT 20th, Google’s philanthropic arm, Google.org, announced that they are offering an initial $14.8 million of initial funding for partners working on genetic and digital detection, as part of their Predict and Prevent “...global public health initiative that aims to help prevent the next pandemic“.


Examples of their money at work can be viewed via Google Earth’s “PredictPrevent2008 layer“. Some examples include Healthmap, ProMED-mail’s expanded disease-tracking tools in Thailand (the former is depicted in the image above), and the Global Viral Forecasting Initiative in Cameroon (tracking diseases like avian flu).

The quote below is taken from CNET’s report on this funding, which also has a comprehensive list of the grant participants and their programs:

The holy grail is to predict disease outbreaks before they happen. For Rift Valley fever and malaria, long-term weather forecasts and deforestation maps can show us where to look for outbreaks, up to six months in advance,” Frank Rijsberman, Google.org program director, said in a statement.

While this area of detection is extremely important, there’s also the need to be able to apply all this knowledge from the research and here’s what Frank Rjisberman continue’s to say on the Google.org blog:

These grants will increase our understanding of emerging infectious diseases and generate vasts amount of data, samples, sequences, and hopefully discoveries…. Our next step in putting this new knowledge to work to save lives will be to invest in robust, affordable infectious disease diagnostics for use in Asia and Africa. We’re working to find ways Google’s data management, data sharing, and collaboration platforms can improve information access and sharing, support online bioinformatics, and develop genetic maps of infectious diseases. Finally, we’re looking to work with partners on front lines of disease emergence in hot spot countries. In short, we are very excited about the grants we announced today, but we know we have our work cut out for us – watch this space!

I really like what Google is doing in this space and look forward to seeing what comes out of the funding. If only more companies would contribute to such causes — we’ve got FaceBook, LinkedIn, Twiiter, Plaxo, Friendster, etc, etc, etc… Enough social networks, let’s start doing something valuable, like social healthcare!

Catching Up, Internet as Top Health Resource, EU and Wikipedia, etc.

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Wow — I can’t believe it’s been 10 days since my last blog post… Between work in general, prepping for my talk, attending Digital Pharma 2008 most of last week, and just not feeling 100% lately, it’s been a challenge to get anything posted. Sorry!

I should mention that the conference was great and my talk was pleasantly well-received (phew!), so I will definitely be posting my thoughts/reflections on the conference soon. If you can’t wait , read Steve Woodruff’s blog — he was live-blogging and live-twittering the event.

Anyway, in the spirit of catching up, I thought I’d post a few news releases from the last couple of weeks, starting with some very interesting data from Manhattan Research:

1. Internet Surpasses Doctors as the Top Source of Health Information
- This is very interesting news from OCT 9th, that suggests a real tipping point in consumer behavior, with regards to the usage of the internet as a health resource. Here’s a quote from Meredith Abreu-Ressi (VP, Research): “As healthcare coverage — and even routine visits to the doctor — becomes less affordable to many Americans, the Internet has emerged as a first line of defense for consumers seeking to manage their healthcare independently“.

2. Online European Consumers Turn to Search Engines and Wikipedia for Health Information
- So, in a similar fashion to American consumers (above), the Europeans are turning to online resources for health information as well. Here’s a quote from the news release: The majority of adults online in Europe used search engines to look up health information in the past 12 months, and many report that they turn to a search engine first over going directly to a health site when beginning their quest for information. The collaborative online encyclopedia Wikipedia ranks as a top site used for health in most of the countries surveyed…

3. Over 145 Million Consumers Online for Health
- According to the Manattan Research CyberCitizen Health v8.0 survey, over 145 million US adults are now using the internet to survey health information. This is up from 132 million in 2007 and 116 million in 2006. Here’s what Mark Bard (President, Manhattan Research) had to say: “With over 145 million consumers online for health, new media offers cost-effective ways to reach and engage target audiences. In order to efficiently allocate budgets, companies must understand the rapidly evolving health media channels and how consumers are using them to complement and replace the traditional offline health system“.

4. Top Condition Groups Shifting Their TV Viewing Online
- And finally, as broadband ubiquity and online video access continues to grow, I guess it should be no surprise that more US adults from the top condition groups are shifting their TV viewing to online channels (pun intended). Here’s a quote from Meredith “With television networks partnering with video-sharing websites like YouTube and Hulu and DVR adoption increasing, one thing is clear – when it comes to media, the consumer is in control. For healthcare and pharmaceutical marketers, it’s critical to understand how adoption rates and media mix differ by disease group…“.

As you can see, there’s a big shift happening right now to the internet for health-related information. In particular, online video channels are by far the largest growing media channel online for both consumers and physicians. However, as the industry continues to take small steps towards the adoption of many of these online resources (for obvious reasons), it’ll be interesting to see how things develop.

BTW, if you’re interested in eHealth and ePharma information, Manhattan Research has a great podcast series called eHealth Trends. Each episode is usually less than 10 mins long and provides updates on the latest trends (as implied), such as Physician Social Networks, The Future of Personal Health Records, and Facebook for Physicians.

NOTE: I am in no way affiliated with Manhattan Research — just a big fan of their research data.

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