The Power of Social Networks

January 27, 2010

Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler have published a great new book about the power of social networks. Following is a video of Fowler talking about social networks and how they drive behavior.


Stanford technology helps scholars get ‘big picture’ of the Enlightenment

January 25, 2010

Stanford technology helps scholars get ‘big picture’ of the Enlightenment

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Some great work being done at Stanford to visualize and analyze the social networks between the “Republic of Letters” during the 18th century.  One of the research leaders, Dan Edelstein says, “We tend to think of networks as a modern invention, something that only emerged in the Age of Information. In fact, going all the way back to the Renaissance, scholars have established themselves into networks in order to receive the latest news, find out the latest discoveries and circulate the ideas of others.”

This illustrates the power of network analysis and visualization to gain new insights into how information is exchanged and how peers learn from each other.  This 18th Century network of scholars, philosophers and thinkers “was also a remarkable institution because it was the first kind of peer review,” said Edelstein.  “These scholars were discussing each other’s work, they were evaluating each other’s methodologies. They were able to produce scholarship that met the highest standards of excellence. They were constantly encouraging each other.”

I believe that in medicine, physicians also learn from each other in their collegial, peer-to-peer networks where they exchange information, experiences, knowledge and help each other learn about new innovations, technologies, and health practices.  By using the same techniques as the Stanford researchers, Rivermark has been illuminating these physician networks and learning communities for the past six years.

Next Generation Collaboration in Life Sciences Marketing

January 18, 2010

With the emergence and acceptance of 2.0 web platforms (Health 2.0, Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, etc.), the way in which we market and sell life sciences products (pharmaceuticals, biologics, medical devices, etc.) will change dramatically in the next 1-5 years. Innovate or die!

The old model of marketing and selling needs to change as the effectiveness and the efficiency of the old reach and frequency model is diminishing rapidly. Companies are reducing sales forces, merging to reduce redundancies and gain efficiency, and the credibility of the manufacturer is at an all-time low.

A recent post on the Cisco Systems web site ( talks about the “Next Generation Collaborative Enterprise.” They say the “key characteristics of the next generation enterprise include:
1. a geographically distributed workforce;
2. the innate ability to embrace innovation both inside and outside the organization’s boundaries;
3. flexibility in business processes to include customers, suppliers and partners; and perhaps most important,
4. a culture of openness and shared ideas.”

Think about how different that description is of most life sciences enterprises. Although geographically distributed, most companies do not embrace innovation inside or outside the enterprise. Their business processes rarely include customers and their culture is closed, insulated and resistant to outside ideas. They have become massive bureaucracies ruled by politically savvy managers who want to advance their careers.

I see some major opportunities on the horizon and potentially massive shifts in how we do business:
1. The formation of informal collaborative expert networks of consultants, vendors, agencies, writers, artists, scientists, researchers who are a ‘crowd source’ for development of medical, marketing and sales materials. One such network already exists to bring together medical writers from across India to provide medical writing services to pharmaceutical firms.
2. A network of retired and highly experienced medical, marketing and sales experts who have retired (voluntarily or involuntarily) from industry as part of cost-cutting moves or who have become a victim of a merger. Consider for life sciences…a network of retired scientists who make their services available on a project-by-project basis.
3. An ‘Innovation Network’ of clinicians, administrators, researchers, basic scientists, patients, and patient advocates who collaborate to solve problems, transfer knowledge & experience, connect with experts and resources, and who streamline and accelerate the new product development cycle. See, InnoCentive, and NineSigma as possible models. Also consider how information and knowledge will be exchanged (already being done) within these networks.
4. Prediction Markets that tap into the wisdom of the crowd to predict the future success or failure of new products and new health care innovations. MIT and Harvard recently introduced the PharmersMarket to predict the likelihood of six (6) new breast cancer drugs advancing in the development process.

What are your thoughts about how the model for marketing and sales will change?

Ranking Scientists–A New Method

January 14, 2010

Ranking scientists

What is the best way to identify top scientists in a particular field?  And what are the most useful, reliable and accurate metrics to identify scientists?

Publication analysis has been used extensively to identify scientists who are leaders in their field(s).  Mining author and co-author data by keyword from PubMed, Thompson Citation Index and other databases has been a source for quantitative assessment of leadership for decades.  The metrics used in these analyses vary; including,

  1. Frequency of publications over time by MESH keyword, topic or subtopic.  Some place higher weight on more recent publication vs. overall number of publications over time.
  2. Frequency of citations by others.
  3. Social network analysis of author-coauthor links/relationships with detailed network metrics used to identify central authors and key leaders based on their network position.
  4. Social network analysis and identification of ‘schools of thought’ within the network based on the subjective points of view within the publication networks.

These all have some merit based on the question being answered, the availability of data (citation data is not always available to all), and the analytic tools / capabilities.  There are some limitations with the various approaches and I think all have some merit.  The biggest limitation we have seen is the ‘users’ ability / capability to understand and utilize the insights gained from each method.  Many organizations cannot operationalize complex information or data that requires an in-depth understanding of the scientific subtleties within the qualitative data.

Our view is that these scientific leaders are ‘subject-matter’ experts with specific topical expertise.  In contrast, we believe their are a number of other different types of ‘leaders’ and ‘influencers’ that affect the diffusion of scientific thought:

  1. Organizational leaders–those who are leaders of associations, societies, research cooperatives, academic centers, etc.
  2. Sociometric leaders–local, regional and national leaders and influencers who are informal social network leaders that translate and disseminate scientific knowledge into practice.
  3. Clinical trial leaders–individuals and organizations that conduct clinical trials for new innovations in healthcare.

One also can use grants data (CRISP) to identify those individuals and organizations receiving research grants from NIH.  These metrics might precede the appearance of publications?

Rivermark My Word, John.

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New Pharma Marketing Model

January 6, 2010

I watched a short video summarizing the need for a change in the pharmaceutical marketing model. It was made by Matt Rowley of The Central Group in London.

New Pharma Marketing from Matt Rowley on Vimeo

Matt makes some fantastic points that ring true in today’s rapidly changing healthcare market. He makes the point that life sciences and pharmaceutical marketers must move away from the old ‘reach and frequency’ model and move towards a commercialization and marketing model based on the Rogers Diffusion Model.

Rogers Diffusion Model is based on the effect of networks on the adoption of new innovations and the importance of local, regional and national opinion leaders on the adoption process. Each has a different role to play and the new marketing model will align the role of the opinion leader with the adoption process. Rogers’ model also emphasizes the importance of networks and relationships on learning and adoption behavior. The amazing part of all this is that none of this is new…Rogers ‘Diffusion of Innovations’ is in the 5th Edition and the first study in pharmaceuticals studying the effect of physician networks on the adoption of a new product was done in 1955 by Pfizer!

If you haven’t read Rogers ‘Diffusion of Innovations’, it is a must read for anyone who wants to understand how networks affect the adoption process. Watch Matt’s video and change your fundamental assumptions about marketing!

Swine Flu, Social Network Analysis and Marketing

April 28, 2009
Swine Flu Contagion

Swine Flu Contagion

I came across this very interesting blog by Valdis Crebs, “The Network Thinker”, that illustrates how the swine flu could spread across a network.

I found this a powerful visual of how ‘contagion’ works. I imagine that the ‘pig’ with the swine flu is a ‘manufacturer’ that has a great new product. The ‘pig’ infects a member of a network and starts the contagion across the network.

Rivermark uses Social Network Analysis to identify the most contagious people (opinion leaders or thought leaders) and illustrate their network (community of practice) to help marketers identify the most effective and efficient strategy for commercializing a product.

Nice job Valdis…I enjoyed the post.

A Review of Health 2.0 Websites/Tools

April 24, 2009

I found this blog by Frank Gruber done in November 2007.

He reviews the health 2.0 websites and tools.  It might be a bit dated, but I thought it is a good start for those interested in learning more about these services.

Physician Driven Networks Powered by Social Media

April 24, 2009

Social MediaMy work to identify opinion leaders in medicine and illuminate their learning networks has me wondering about how Web 2.0, Health 2.0, social media, word-of-mouth, online communities, Twitter, Yammer, Facebook, PatientsLikeMe, Revolution Health….will change the dynamics of opinion leadership and influence in medicine?

Currently, we think there are several ‘domains’ of leadership and influence in medicine:

1.  Subject-matter experts and networks (or scientific communities and collaborators).  These individuals and networks do the research, discovery and validation of new innovations.  They publish frequently, speak, are quoted in the press, and typically hold academic positions.

2.  Organizational leaders who hold positions of power and influence in companies, societies/associations, guideline committees, cooperative research groups, government advisory boards, journal editors and/or academic chairs.

3.  Social network leaders who ‘digest’ and ‘vet’ new innovations while acting as local, community-based teachers, advisors or trusted friends and colleagues.  These are the leaders and influencers who are most like the frontline, community physicians and healthcare professionals.  These are the people the local professionals turn to for information and guidance after reading about something new in a journal or listening ot a presentation or (God forbid) listening to a sales rep or seeing a advertisement.

4.  Prominent, well-known, experts who have become ‘famous’ as a result of their pioneering work, positions, expertise or their public activities.

So how might the emergence of social media change the dynamics of opinion leadership among physicians?  Will social media shift the power to the patient and could they accelerate healthcare innovation by driving change by healthcare providers and payers?  How will physicians embrace the use of social media to learn, share information, gain expert opinion, and find out about new innovations?  Could these media accelerate the adoption of best medical practice and help eliminate waste by facilitating the exchange of information?

Your thoughts and ideas are welcome. Email your ideas or comments to  Or post a comment to my blog.

Social Media and Healthcare 2.0

April 24, 2009

Health 2.0Great article in The Economist, “A Special Report on Healthcare and Technology.  Health 2.0”

Patients are moving from the margins in healthcare to the center thanks to the emergence of social media.  This makes we wonder how social media might transform the delivery of healthcare and how we will ‘consume’ health care services in the future?  As I thought about how Twitter, Yammer, Blogs, Podcasts, etc. might be used, I came up with an idea for diabetes blood glucose monitoring.

Imagine the current blood glucose meter being more like an iPhone or Blackberry rather than a device that measures, stores and transmits blood glucose readings to the patient and their physician.  BG measures could be uploaded on a regular basis (virtual continuous glucose monitoring) to a secure system (‘tweet the reading’) and personalized feedback could be ‘tweeted back’.  Patients could communicate with their doctor and with other patients to form a virtual diabetes network.  If these devices had apps (like the iPhone apps) that were also integrated with their home computers and connected to web sites like “Patients Like Me”, they could receive more tailored education and information could be pushed to the patient on their own personal ‘Diabetes Facebook’ page or web site.  Plus get connected to online groups, chats, blogs, etc.

Services could be at the patients fingertips with apps like “Around Me” and reviews could be written and posted immediately on a “Diabetes Yelp”.   This is some pretty cool stuff and I think these technologies will reshape how we manage our health and treat our illness.

Use of Network Analytics on Peer Nomination Surveys

March 21, 2009