Sunday, September 28, 2014

Dr Glatter and Dr Samadi - Together in Forbes!

Dr Robert Glatter is a medical doctor who is a regular contributor to Forbes, a huge global print and on line portal for news and opinion.  

He started writing for Forbes in February 2012 and has been contributing on almost a weekly basis.  It was not until December 2013 that he wrote his first piece on prostate cancer entitled "Inflammation Noted In Repeat Prostate Biopsies Linked To Reduced Future Prostate Cancer Risk".  This was actually quite a well written informative piece.

He next wrote about prostate cancer on 7 March 2014.  All of a sudden, prostate cancer has become the flavour of the month with further articles on 6 April 2014, 10 April 2014, 21 April 2014, 4 June 2014 and the most recent piece on 20 September 2014.  

It seems rather odd that there is this sudden interest in prostate cancer.  He does write a lot of articles on other subject matters but the frequency of prostate cancer topics has been disproportionately higher during the course of this year.  This made me wonder as to whether there was some explanation for this.  The most glaringly obvious common binding feature about all of his articles on prostate cancer this year has been the mention of Dr David Samadi.  

Briefly, Dr Samadi is a celebrity urological surgeon who has a program on the Fox Channel called Housecall.  He cites amazing figures for prostate cancer surgery outcomes that defy the academic literature, particularly with his claims of providing a 97% cure rate from prostate cancer. He also earns a great deal of money and was the highest earning doctor in 2012 according to a New York Post investigation stating "The city’s top earner was urologist and prostate-cancer specialist Dr. David ­Samadi, whose 2012 compensation came to $7.6 million."

Okay, back to Dr Glatter.  Who is he?  I have never met him and only discovered him through reading articles on the Forbes website where my friend and colleague Dr Benjamin Davies is also a contributer. The easiest way to start is Google.  The first hit is his work at Forbes.  The second hit is his twitter account.  His bio states the following:- "Emergency Medicine Physician-Lenox Hill Hospital /Media Spokesperson/Forbes Contributor/WebMD Editor/DR 911 housecall practice" and also provides a link to a website.  

Hang on a second - Lenox Hill Hospital?  Isn't this where Dr Samadi does his work?  I don't know the relationship between Dr Glatter and Dr Samadi but if there is any conflict of interest, it should be declared on the Forbes website.  In particular, the fact that Dr Glatter works at Lennox Hill Hospital is not listed anywhere that I can find on the Forbes website. It may be all innocent but in the context of this sudden increase this year in prostate cancer articles, all of which lavishly cite Dr Samadi, raises questions on transparency.

On a final note, the most recent article from 20 September 2014 is a far cry from Dr Glatter's excellent first article on prostate cancer in December 2013 (incidentally, he does not actually mention Dr Samadi at all in this first article).  Not only does he promote the hashtag #samadichallenge but also makes ridiculous comments such as "In case of a positive diagnosis, urge men to seek Treatment immediately" - this demonstrates a lack of insight of the biology and natural history of prostate cancer.  It goes totally against the direction taken by leading urologists which is to be less aggressive in treating clinically significant prostate cancer.

Statements like "Symptoms of prostate cancer may include changes in urinary function including a burning sensation, blood in the urine or semen, frequent urination, as well as a weak or interrupted flow" only create fear and alarm amongst men with urinary symptoms.  It is uncommon for prostate cancer to cause urinary symptoms when clinically localised - any clinician would know that it is the non-cancerous condition of the prostate called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) that causes the symptoms.  It is these symptoms that lead men to get checked by their doctors who then serendipitously diagnose their cancers.  It is not a cause effect relationship.

The hashtag #samadichallenge with a doctors name in it? Is the aim to achieve awareness about the doctor or about prostate cancer? I am happy to be instructed on this. 

And Dr Glatter, is there any relationship of any sort between yourself and Dr Samadi? If so, be transparent and declare.  If not, state that to be the case.  It is hard otherwise to not be suspicious about the sudden interest in prostate cancer articles where Dr Samadi comes across to me as being featured expert in each of them..

Monday, September 15, 2014

Some Tips on Successful Conference Tweeting

Recently, I have heard disappointed comments about the lack of conference tweet activity for given healthcare conferences. On each occasion, it seemed fairly obvious as to why this was the case.  Having participated in quite a number of conferences by the way of Twitter, I have made a number of observations of what seems to make the difference.

1. Must Be Good WiFi

This is perhaps the greatest impediment to the success of conference tweeting. Frequently, the systems are tested when the conference centre is empty and of course everything works fine.  As soon as the conference commences and people are using the system, it comes to a grinding halt.  Once again, there is no greater impediment to conference tweeting than the lack of adequate WiFi.

2. Conference Twitter Account

This account would help define to observers what the conference is and what official conference hashtag has been assigned. This account should tweet out updates, announcements as well as interact with key twitter accounts through replies, favourites and retweeting.  This account can also act as a catalyst for activity if the twitter stream is quiet.  With this comes the assigning of a person to look after this account during the course of the conference.

3. Appropriate Hashtag

The hashtag should appear relevant to the conference and should use the minimum number of characters.  Ideally the number of characters should be no more than 6 or 7 characters.  Any more detracts from the precious 140 character count and would limit the information that can be shared to the hashtag audience.  Only one hashtag should be assigned.  Sub-hashtags only lead to confusion and in combination with the main hashtag, chew up valuable characters.

An example of a misleading hashtag was when the #uro12 was assigned to the American Urological Association meeting when the hashtag of #AUA12 would have made much more sense.  An example of wasted characters is the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons using #RACS2014 when #RACS14 would have been more appropriate.  With the RACS meeting this year, there were no fewer than 4 hashtags being used by various conference tweeters and the twitter stream from this meeting was a disaused the hashtag #CFAConf14.  A long hashtag hampers expression and detracts from participation. Including the space, #CFAConf14 chewed up 10 characters when a simpler #CFA14 would have been appropriate. With the 2014 RACS meeting mentioned above, there were no fewer than 4 different hashtags being used by various conference tweeters and the twitter stream from this meeting was a total mess.  

4. Engage KOL Twitter Users

Conference organisers should seek out the key opinion leaders who are active on twitter in advance of the meeting.  Organisers could consider requesting specific accounts to be assigned to tweet proceedings from specific sessions.  Having predetermined users involved creates a core group of participants.  People are reluctant to be a sole or one of only few tweeters for a conference. 

5. Twitter Boards

Strategically placed monitors showing the twitter feed are often a magnet for the attention of conference attendees.  The most organized meetings will have such monitors outside every meeting room as well as in the registration and trade exhibition areas.

6. Twitter Instruction

At the American Urological Association annual meeting this year, opportunities for small group or one-on-one instruction on twitter basics and how to conference tweet.  Alternatively having a course or conference session on social media as was the case at the European Association of Urology congress (#EAU14) and Urological Society of Australia and New Zealand ASM (#USANZ14) respectively was particular done well. These sessions were not only well attended but also created an explosion of activity on the conference hashtags during these sessions.

7. Publicity

The role of social media at the conference needs to be publicized and prominently implied.  The hashtag should appear on all background slides that appear at the beginning of conference sessions as well as all publications such as the conference proceedings and conference badges as examples.  Such publicity adds negligible if at all any cost to the conference but is returned many times over by increasing the engagement of those attending as well as reaching a much larger global audience in virtual attendance.

8. Register on Symplur

Registering a health conference hashtag with the Symplur Healthcare Hashtag Project is free.  This provides access to basic twitter statistics.  Tweeting these during the conference often generated interest when enormity reach of the conference tweets is realized.

There are probably other ideas that would enhance conference twitter activity that I have forgotten about so please feel free to add your comments.  One example is to allow participants to ask questions via twitter - on occasions I have actually offered this to the audience when I have chaired sessions. A few questions do come in although this is not a deal breaker for twitter engagement at a conference. I look forward to your comments.