Still time to join health care communications pros for #NESHCo2014

There's still time to join New England's top health care communications pros for three days of education, networking and general awesomeness.

"High Stakes Communications: Best Bets for Healthcare Engagement" is the theme for the New England Society for Healthcare Communications 2014 Spring Conference, to be held May 14 through 16 in Mystic, Conn.

NESHCo always puts on a first-rate conference. The speaker lineup is fabulous and the topics are hitting on today's hot issues.

I'll be speaking on patient engagement and why marketing and communication strategies are integral to success (general session on Thursday, May 15, at 10 a.m.).

Register today!

AEDs as public art

AED art exhibit at Philadelphia's 30th Street Station, shot March 22, 2014.

AED art exhibit at Philadelphia's 30th Street Station, shot March 22, 2014.

Walk through the concourse of Philadelphia's 30th Street Station and you may find yourself walking through a larger-than-life AED.

It's an art installation that is part of the University of Pennsylvania's Defibrillator Design Challenge, a contest to build awareness for Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) .

The Philly installation from the multidisciplinary team at Penn is a simple see-and-touch exhibit, meant to give you a place to sit and contemplate the value of AEDs — they are safe, easy to use and can be used by anyone.

The design challenge ended April 6, but designs are still being accepted for the AED art gallery.

Live healthy, prevent disease with @Prevently

One of the latest entries into the "make small changes and change your health" arena is Prevently.

Our goal is to prevent a disease before it ever happens by helping users live a healthier lifestyle.

We know this can be difficult. That's why we make sure it isn't.

Prevently is a new service that is built on four pillars:

  • Health articles and videos focused on prevention and wellness.
  • The sale of products and devices that promote and monitor health.
  • Regular telemedicine consultations with health care professionals.
  • An all-in-one online personal health record.

The last pillar is one of the most interesting. The online personal health record aggregates data (such as steps, sleep, BMI, blood pressure) from fitness devices and apps, such as Fitbit, Internet-enabled scales and Prevently's own app. 

These data have a direct connection to Prevently's telemedicine offering, which will be a subscription service that allows users to chat with a doctor about their health. The doctor has access to the user's Prevently health record and can even get notifications when the user's data show that something is off.

The marrying of real-time data and notification with education, awareness and coaching will be essential to achieving population health. It still requires an engaged and activated patient — and a strong support system of family and friends — to become a reality.

Prevently promises that physicians have reviewed all of their content and products. The site sources information from places like Harvard Medical School and has a team of advisor physicians review all of the health products and devices the site sells.

Prevently is a solid idea that shows promise as a platform for patient engagement and better health.

Source: MobiHealthNews

Journalists' access meets news management (or is it censorship?)

Tools of the "corporate journalists'" trade.

Tools of the "corporate journalists'" trade.

There's a great and long-running debate raging over reporters' access to government officials.

Reporters feel press officers (in government these are referred to Public Affairs Officials or Public Information Officers) hinder their access to information. Press officers and government officials see it as managing the message and the accuracy of information.

Columbia Journalism Review recently had a solid overview of both sides in a recent blog post ("Hacks vs. flacks: Do public affairs offices get in the way?" August 14, 2013).

For the journalists, freelance reporter Kathryn Foxhall:

“It is massive, pernicious censorship that is now a cultural norm. It’s people in power stopping the flow of information to the public according to their own ideas and desires.”

For the press officers, Tony Fratto, former deputy press secretary to President George W. Bush:

“It is really, really rare to find really good reporters with the length of time on a beat it takes to master that beat."

Both are right. In part.

I've been lucky to be on both sides. I started writing for a small daily newspaper and then was a reporter/editor for United Press International before becoming a public affairs official for private, not-for-profit health systems. 

Reporters who become "flacks" (as I guess I did!) are said to "go over to the dark side." But those of us who were deeply steeped and trained in journalistic values and ethics see our roles in our organizations as "corporate journalists" — we apply the reporter's tools and techniques (and the editor's skepticism) to our jobs. This means both playing devil's advocate within our organizations and sussing out the truth.

Our job is not to deny access — it is to facilitate access and ensure accuracy.

"Corporate journalists" work by a few simple rules:

  1. Never lie.
  2. Answer questions as openly and honestly as possible.
  3. Provide context and understanding.

Based on my journalism training at Boston University and Ohio Wesleyan University — and my real world newsroom experience at UPI — these are the same rules as a "real" journalist.

Which brings us to accountability. 

Organizations need to be held accountable — health care is going through its own accountability evolution as we speak. But reporters also need to be held accountable so that news is reported accurately, without sensation, and within the proper context.

People's lives and livelihoods are at stake. When a mistake is made, there is usually not malicious intent nor gross incompetence or negligence. But often stories get reported that way, which can cause the public to lose confidence in an institution. When the mistake is egregious, or even intentional, organizations need to own up to it.

Transparency is important. So is fairness. Taking the time to report accurately, with a solid understanding of a situation's context, will gain reporters more respect (and future access) and will better serve the public good.


Learning from Steve Jobs, 2 years on

Is legacy better measured by tangible accomplishment or lasting influence?

It's been two years since Steve Jobs passed away. He left us with both.

The commencement speech that Jobs delivered at Stanford University on June 12, 2005, remains one of the most inspiring speeches I can recall. It was short, personal, witty, funny and, beyond all, poignant. It was life advice, for "students" of all ages, wrapped in alluring storytelling.

Steve Jobs continues to inspire. It's worth re-listening to this speech once a year.