The ALS ice bucket challenge, better known as #ALSIceBucketChallenge or #icebucketchallenge, was almost the perfect storm for viral fundraising. In my course, Designing Health Campaigns Using Social Media at Tufts University, we analyzed why the challenge went viral. Not surprisingly, given its popularity, my students had all heard about it and watched challenge videos. About half had done it. Some researched amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, and ...

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gruman Jessie Gruman, who sadly died July 14, 2014, was someone I greatly admired as a person and as a patient activist. I interviewed her in late April for research I was conducting on patient activism, and she graciously allowed me to publish the interview, wanting, not surprisingly for those who knew her, to do everything she could to use her experiences ...

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I was curious why Lahey Clinic, a nonprofit group practice outside of Boston, started asking patients, “Are you safe at home?” during intake. Trying to find this out turned into an exploration of the inconsistent state of intimate partner violence screening in the US.  “Are you safe at home?” The first time I was asked “Are you safe at home?” during patient intake at Lahey Clinic, I was surprised that such a ...

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Behind the headlines “FDA Panel Unanimously Rejects…” and “Arthritis Pill From Pfizer Wins Support…” was, for me, over 600 pages of reading and two days at the FDA as the Consumer Representative to the Arthritis Advisory Committee (AAC). These were my first meetings following an almost yearlong process that started with a nomination by Diane Aronson, the Consumer Representative whose term was ending, and culminated with my four year ...

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"By the time you see the doctor, you’re either dead or you’re better," my mother-in-law told me. She had to have multiple tests, all with long waits to get the appointments and the results, before her health insurer would allow her to make an appointment with a specialist. "Waiting is the bane of the medical system," a former student, an R.N., concurred. Advances in medicine and technology have improved medical outcomes, ...

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Gary Schwitzer is Publisher of HealthNewsReview.org, where he and his team grade daily health news coverage. He works to improve health journalism with the goal of improving consumer knowledge and decision-making. He was the founding editor-in-chief of the MayoClinic.com site. While his guest lecture at Web Strategies for Health Communication was on health news reporting, I realized that his review criteria seemed equally applicable to any health content ...

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Mike Morrison tweets for Massachusetts General Hospital as @MassGeneralNews and for Massachusetts General Hospital for Children as @MGHfC. I met Mike when I tweeted about the Benson-Henry Institute for Mind-Body Medicine including @MassGeneralNews in my tweet and Mike immediately followed me. I contacted him to find out what his strategy is for Twitter use and what the benefits have been. Lisa: Let’s start with the name: ...

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I interviewed Tania Schlatter, one of the best designers I know and a guest-lecturer for Web Strategies for Health Communication, about color, imagery, and other aspects of health website design. Lisa: How is the design of health websites different than for other types of sites? Tania: The design of any site goes back to the goals of an organization and what people coming to a site need. Healthcare consumers can ...

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Diana Cole told me, “The internet saved my life,” and recounted a story about using the internet to identify a bat bite and learn about rabies in bats, leading to an emergency room trip. She later introduced me to her sister, Carolyn Kingston, who attributed her successful outcome from hip replacement surgery to her use of the internet. I asked Carolyn about her general use of the internet for health, her ...

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When I ran into Paul S. not knowing he had cancer, I barely recognized him and struggled with what to say. “What happened?” didn’t seem appropriate, although it was my initial reaction. I believe I said, “I barely recognized you,” which was true. I’ve been in many situations where I wasn’t sure what to say to someone who was ill or in distress; I wanted to be supportive ...

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Stories can enhance health websites because they resonate with health information seekers, who find support and encouragement from the experiences of others like them. Two excellent examples are Weight Watchers’ Success Stories and Livestrong.org’s Survivorship Stories. Both sites include extensive libraries of well-written stories about people’s experiences losing weight and surviving cancer, respectively. Because of the effectiveness of stories in health websites like these, I challenge my Online Consumer Health students ...

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Dana Jennings writes what is arguably the world’s most famous patient blog about his treatment for prostate cancer. Just to be clear, I don’t have any statistics about how many readers he and other patient bloggers have. I believe his blog is the most widely read and best-know patient blog because of the number of comments he receives and its prominent location in the New York Times Health section, itself ...

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In Boston we took the availability and quality of our tap water for granted until May 1, 2010, when a major water pipe break interrupted water service to two million Greater Boston residents. Information spread quickly to citizens about the problem and what to do, all the more notable because the water main break occurred on a Saturday. In this age of consumer paranoia about withheld information, the Massachusetts Water Resources ...

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I had an interesting juxtaposition of events. While waiting in Peets, a coffee shop in Lexington Center, I watched the friendly discussions between the baristas and customers. I then went to a doctor’s appointment, where a nurse stood typing at a laptop asking me a series of questions, including “Are you in pain?” and “Do you feel safe at home?” She didn’t look at me once as she read and typed.

Eye Contact ...

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"On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” was the caption of the famous cartoon by Peter Steiner in the July 5, 1993 issue of The New Yorker. The same is true of patient stories on health Web sites: nobody knows who really wrote them. In the case of Lifestyle Lift, the company agreed to pay a $300,000 settlement last year to New York State because their patient stories were employee-generated. Patient ...

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