Expert Interview Series: Pat Salber of The Doctor Weighs In on the Value of High-Quality Healthcare Content

Innovation

Patricia Salber, MD is the founder and CEO of The Doctor Weighs In, a healthcare media company that shares stories about innovation and innovators that make a difference in people’s lives. We recently checked in with Patricia to find out what trends and stories she’s following in healthcare today. Here’s what she shared:

Can you tell us about the mission behind The Doctor Weighs In? When and why did you start your site?
I started The Doctor Weighs In in 2005 as an evidence-based weight loss blog. Because of my training in Endocrinology, I started adding stories about the link between obesity, metabolic syndrome and Type 2 diabetes. Then my husband, also a physician started writing about his passion – the neurobiology of behavior. Over the years, we have expanded the site to include a wider range of topics and authors.

About two years ago, I brought on a team to transform TDWI from a blog into a health media company, initially focusing on telling stories of healthcare innovation and innovators in the the digital health space, but eventually expanding to a variety of innovations (new drugs, new devices, new approaches to healthcare delivery and healthcare policy). We now use video and audio in addition to written stories to share information about what’s new in healthcare across a wide range of topics aimed at clinicians, patients and others interested in this vital area of our lives.

Why are you passionate about creating high-quality content related to healthcare? In your opinion, what does high-quality content look like?
Now, especially, it is hard for consumers to sift through the huge number of healthcare sites and figure out what they can rely on and what is pseudoscience or just plain malarkey. We have built TDWI’s brand around having high-quality, evidence-based stories written by people with expertise in their field (doctors, scientists, journalists who know their topic). We believe people need and want to go to reliable healthcare sites that they know they can trust. This is the type of content we are dedicated to creating and curating.

I read every article to determine if it is factual and based on good scientific evidence. When a story is not in my area of expertise, I will send it for review to clinicians with expertise in that topic area. Not only do our authors have to be able to write well, but they have to be good storytellers and, most importantly, they have to research their topics. We do not accept purely promotional articles or articles that hype quacky solutions (e.g., lala berries to lose weight, jade eggs to make you feel better). It takes a lot of time, but it is our passion to provide consistently high-quality healthcare stories.

What have you found is missing with a lot of health-related content online today? What are your biggest complaints about it?
As I mentioned, there is a lot of healthcare pseudoscience on the web and in magazines and books. And, there are also a lot of stories that are very superficial and don’t really provide the reader with information they can use. We try to balance providing in-depth information with keeping the story accessible and of a length that today’s readers are willing to actually read. It is not always easy to do.

Why should healthcare organizations care about creating high-quality, well-informed content to their customers, clients or patients? What are the benefits?
Healthcare organizations are in the business of health. Most want to help their customers, clients, or patients stay healthy, or if they are sick, to get better. Everyone benefits when entertaining, high-quality content is read (and hopefully acted upon):

  • Patients and their families can achieve better health
  • Business that provide real (and reliable) solutions for healthcare consumers sell more products
  • People who pay the bills (e.g., health plans, employers) can make better investments

What issues in healthcare should more organizations be writing about and following? What do you believe are the most important trends or headlines of the day?
There are lots of stories about prevention – and indeed we publish them too, but I think it is important to share solid information about clinical breakthroughs so consumers know what the possibilities are when they seek care. For example, we recently did a couple of stories and an audio interview on the new immunotherapeutics for cancer. We went into some detail about how they work and for what cancers. We also think it is important to cover topics where controversies have made it difficult to understand what to believe, such health risks of vaping or health impacts of climate change.

What are the most interesting innovations you’re following in the healthcare industry today? Why do they excite you?
I am still a big fan of digital health. Companies like Omada Health or Breakthrough Health are changing the way healthcare is consumed. I am also very interested in how linking different digital devices in our homes can create a personalized Internet of Things that can support our health goals. I recently did a story about a smart bed that sends data to the cloud to link with your digital thermostat or running tracker so you can begin to learn how various activities and environmental factors impact the quality of your sleep. There is a ton of promise in this area of health care that we are just starting to realize.

I am also quite interested in integrative medicine – I call it putting the mind back in the body. We like stories that explore how meditation affects the brain’s neurophysiology and what physiologic changes a yoga practice can produce and so forth. Again, I think we are just scratching the surface of what mind-body medicine will eventually bring.

What healthcare issues are concerning you right now? Why?
Having just attended the Climate Change and Health Conference, the impact of polluting our environment to the point of changing the global climate is top of mind. Even if you are a climate change skeptic, it is hard to deny that we are seeing more extreme weather (heat waves, tornadoes, hurricanes) that kills people. We are seeing spread of insect-borne disease to areas of the world where they haven’t been seen before (e.g., Zika in Florida). The American Public Health Association has declared 2017 as the year of Climate Change and Health so I suspect we will be publishing many more stories on the topic.

What are your favorite resources for staying abreast of trends in healthcare and medicine?
I read a ton of medical journals, medical blogs and medical newsletters. I also attend a lot of conferences. As I mentioned, I just covered the Climate Change and Health Conference put on the the American Public Health Association and the Carter Center. Next week, I am participating in the first ever Digital Diabetes Conference in San Francisco. In the Fall, I will be attending the premier digital health conference, Health 2.0 in Santa Clara, California. In addition, PR pitches have been a great source for new ideas and new writers. And, recently, we have been partnering with disease-focused patient advocacy organizations (e.g., the Osteoarthritis Action Alliance) to provide our readers with stories on those topics.

Learn more about The Doctor Weighs In.

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