This month In the Tank, we talk to Gus Iversen, Editor in Chief, Healthcare Business News to discuss healthcare media coverage over the past year, how healthcare companies can gain awareness despite COVID-19, and some of the biggest non-pandemic stories of 2020.
Tell us about DOTmed and Healthcare Business News. What type of content are you producing and who is your audience?
DOTmed.com is the world’s largest online medical equipment marketplace. The company got started in the late 1990s and introduced HealthCare Business News in 2007, which is a print and online news platform serving healthcare providers, such as hospital executives and department managers.
Most of what we write about relates to medical technology, with the online news focusing on current events and the magazine being more trend oriented. In the newsroom we’re always asking ourselves if a particular story will help hospitals make smarter decisions. If it will, then we’re going to try to cover it.
COVID-19 has obviously dominated news healthcare media coverage this past year – how do you provide adequate pandemic coverage while still producing the industry content your subscribers expect?
I think focusing on healthcare providers made that easier than if we were patient facing. We looked at things like supply chain tips for sourcing PPE and best practices for reopening outpatient imaging facilities after lockdown, areas where we thought we could actually make a difference. We were able to leave the top level stories (infection rates, safety guidelines, hospital crowding, vaccine development…), to mainstream outlets.
How can healthcare companies that don’t have a COVID connection break through to earn media coverage?
If a company is making healthcare more sustainable in any way, then I think that’s relevant to this pandemic. We’re seeing staffing shortages, patient backlogs, physician burnout, rising out-of-pocket costs, hospital acquired infections — these are not new problems, but COVID-19 has exacerbated them.
As far as turning that into media coverage, companies might ask themselves where their desired audience gets news and then contribute commentary. For example, we have a column called Voices and a video series called Five Minutes in Healthcare where execs discuss, in strictly non-promotional terms, the problems their companies are trying to solve. If the article or interview provides enough food for thought, people will remember the company name at the end of the author’s byline.
With the amount of disinformation flying around social media and a (irrational) growing sense of distrust of media from some populations in general, what can healthcare media outlets do to maintain status as trusted authorities?
It starts with embracing good journalism; stick to the facts, cite your sources, offer context, own your mistakes… Whenever you’re reporting on new technology, it’s also important to strip away the marketing language and ask the vendor tough questions. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
The challenge today is making that kind of reporting sustainable. We are really fortunate that HealthCare Business News is part of a larger, profitable company, because when ad revenue is tied to click counts, it pays to put a wild spin on things. That financial incentive to be misleading helps explain the distrust you mentioned, and I think that’s gotta be one of the defining cultural challenges of our time.
What were a couple of the biggest healthcare technology stories this year that may have been overshadowed by COVID that people should know about?
Ransomware attacks, where hackers ask for money in exchange for stolen data, have quadrupled in healthcare since 2017 and are expected to triple in 2021. Hundreds of millions of patient records (think Social Security numbers) have been compromised and potentially sold on the dark web. Public service announcement: Never click on links or attachments in suspicious emails!
With health tech, the trend is medical equipment getting smaller, more portable, starting to leverage AI. We’re seeing ultrasound probes that plug into smartphones, MRI scanners that can be wheeled to the bedside, algorithms that help automate diagnostics, telemedicine is starting to take off. In theory, all of this will help make healthcare more accessible and less expensive down the road, but we’ve got a long way to go.
Interested in sharing your insights in journalism, marketing, or communications in a future installment of In the Tank? Drop us a line.