Friday, May 14, 2010

Healthcare Journalism Meets Web 2.0

With traditional print and broadcast journalism in serious trouble (as reported this month by James Fallows in The Atlantic magazine) one start-up is trying to embrace Web 2.0 as the future. As the data in the presentation by the Google's chief economist, Hal Varian shows, the Internet is swallowing both newspapers and broadcast networks. Since healthcare is one of my passions, I was very intrigued by the efforts to move beyond traditional methods in healthcare journalism.

Medical Doctor Internet Television (MDiTV) is a health sciences media network founded by Robert Lazzara, M.D. MDiTV's studio is located in Portland, Oregon, where Bobby and his wife are raising their children. He told me that his wife is originally from Portland and they love living there. Bobby is a cardiothoracic surgeon who is listed in the Millennium Edition of the Guinness Book of World Records under "Most Sophisticated Surgical Application" for use of robotic technology in surgery. In 1998 he founded The Virtual Operating Room, LLC in Seattle, Washington. His newest venture has now broadcast live heart surgery available for your iPhone or desktop.

In an April 29, 2010 article, Medical Marketing and Media magazine wrote "MDiTV launched an online network featuring daily medical news videos hosted by ex-CNN anchors Andrew Holtz and Cathy Marshall. Produced internally, the three- and four-minute news programs look like TV news segments, and cover medical news topics du jour. The network will ... present long-format programming, such as the Charlie Rose-inspired "Second Opinion" program, hosted by MDiTV founder and CEO Robert Lazzara, a cardiac surgeon. "Natural Forces," a weekly health program hosted by Kelly Godell, will cover nutrition, food and healthy eating." The article also mentioned MDiTV's intentions to broadcast live surgeries and cover major medical conferences.

Andrew Holtz, MPH, is the anchor for MDiTV and brings a wealth of experience to this post. He is a former CNN Medical Correspondent, and served as President of the Board of Directors of the Association of Health Care Journalists from 2000 to 2004. He is the author of The Medical Science of House, M.D. published in 2006 and his new book, The Real Grey's Anatomy. Andrew likens the founding of MDiTV as akin to when CNN started back in 1980. He told me that back when he started with CNN at it's founding the thing that made CNN possible was the availability of satellite. "Ted gathered together a bunch of smart young kids to find ways to use the newest technology to change broadcasting into a new environment. That is what we are doing now." Thirty years later MDiTV is using the latest web enabled technologies to change healthcare journalism. He said that like the beginning of CNN their crew is "flexible, mobile and young."

When I spoke to Bobby and Andrew they explained that they wanted to move beyond simply broadcasting and incorporate social media, using their Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts, but also make more interactive features available on their site. They want to use their site to educate and empower healthcare consumers. Apps for the iPhone and Android are currently under development. This is a pretty exciting undertaking and I look forward to touring their studios in the next couple weeks and seeing them in action.

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