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HIStalk 2011 Reader Survey Results

March 5, 2011 News 3 Comments

I run a reader survey once a year, right around HIMSS conference time. It helps me see the big picture better. I get a lot of good ideas, although I don’t have the time to implement all of them.

I consider HIStalk yours as well as mine, so I always share the survey results. Here are some points from this year’s survey that interested me.

  • 32% of readers have worked in the industry 10 years or less, 29% have 11-20 years, 24% 21-30, and 15% more than 30. That’s a nice mix of fresh faces and hard-won gray hairs.
  • 33% of readers work for a provider organization and have purchasing authority greater than $10,000.
  • 78% of readers get the e-mail update when I publish something new.
  • Most readers read HIStalk whenever they get the e-mail (38%), although 24% read daily or more often. Only 3% read less than weekly.
  • The most important elements to readers are news, rumors, humor, and Inga (all had similar scores).
  • Interviews were the lowest-scoring element (3.58 on a five-point scale) but I’ll add this: the interest tends to be selective based on who I’ve interviewed. I also consider interviews to be essential since nobody else runs full transcriptions of answers in response to questions asked by someone who actually knows the industry, so I think of them as a public service to some extent. Some are duds, of course, and I don’t like reading those either.
  • 83% of readers say they have a higher interest or appreciation for companies I write about.
  • 35% of readers say they have a higher interest or appreciation for companies that sponsor HIStalk.
  • HIStalk’s influence on the industry: none (1.7%), not much (6.6%), some (43.9%), a good bit (40.3%), a lot (7.6%).
  • Always my favorite stat: 87% of readers say reading HIStalk helped them perform their job better in the past year. Magazines would kill for that number.

Suggested Changes

  • Change nothing. This was by far the most common of the 155 suggestions. I really appreciate the ideas below and will implement some of them, but I’m also aware that the majority of readers like HIStalk just fine as it is and would rather I not tinker with it too much. That works out well since I don’t have time to get ambitious.
  • Make the Web page look better. I have to say that I’m neutral on that, as are those readers who urged me not to try to slick things up and design by committee. I like being amateurish in appearance but expert in content.
  • Layout is awful! Make it easier to read, sometimes I can’t figure out what story belongs to what pictures.The text is always below the picture it goes with.
  • Make ads less annoying. I give sponsors a strong hint not to use annoying animation, which some take to heart and some don’t. I have a lot of sponsors and I can’t apologize for that since I don’t solicit sponsors in the first place, but maybe it’s time to implement stricter guidelines on ads (limited transitions, no animation within a single frame, etc.) I’m comfortable doing that as long as the effective date gives them time to re-make their ads when necessary since I know that takes time and costs them money.
  • Implement an RSS feed, tweet links on updates. Both are in place and have been for quite some time.
  • Don’t let the sponsors influence the news. Sponsors get one editorial benefit only – I’ll mention their not-so-newsworthy news on occasion without comment (and we usually put those mentions in the Sponsor Update, making them easy to skip if you’re not interested). They get no advantage otherwise, but I can understand how those non-newsworthy mentions could give that impression. I choose the news items without regard to who sponsors and who doesn’t.
  • Better mobile site for BlackBerry, iPhone, Android, etc. The content is perfect – wouldn’t change that for the world. I acted immediately on this suggestion, especially when I checked HIStalk out in an iPad. The mobile layout should work now for all major devices.
  • Categorize news by topic. I’m mixed on this because I tried headlining stories before and it was pretty miserable to read. I cover dozens of stories in a single post (to make it an easy and fast read) and there’s just no good way to logically segregate the stories. I’ve considered running a second version of the site with one post per story tagged by topic. Sounds like a lot of work, though. Here are a couple of less drastic ideas – let me know what you think: (a) start off with a fast read of only a one-sentence-each summary of the top “real news” stories (maybe 3-5 of them), then drop into the usual format, or (b) break out the post by broad topic, such as Rumors, New Deals, Stock News, etc. Both would give a more consistent format without requiring much extra work on my end.
  • CIO profiles with real-world info. I really like doing this, but my appeals to CIOs to be interviewed or write articles don’t yield many responses. Everybody likes to read, nobody likes to write.
  • Do shorter interviews. I agree totally and continue to shorten the conversations that get transcribed. I started out with 50 minutes or so, dropped to 30, and now shoot for 20 minutes. If someone gets long winded, I wrap it up without finishing my prepared questions. I may drop to 15 minutes since it takes up a big chunk of my time to write the questions, conduct the interview, clean up the transcription, post, etc. I’ve also been sending out a “How to Do an HIStalk Interview” before each interview so the subject is clear on what I need, i.e. stop pitching product and your background and let’s talk broad industry ideas. That has worked pretty well.
  • Love the new column from Dr. Jayne. She has been excellent at connecting with readers, both physicians and others, and I think she adds a very nice dimension that Inga and I couldn’t really do, just like Dr. Gregg does on HIStalk Practice.
  • Move Dr. Jayne’s column to her own day like Ed Marx. I like that idea a lot. I needed to get a feel for her style and acceptance and I now know that both are excellent, I’m moving her to a Monday post on her own. Thanks for the suggestion.
  • Tighten up the prose. We have to wade through a lot of stuff to get to the meat of the articles. Every story is one paragraph long and I do my best to summarize accurately in that space, which isn’t easy to do when the original article ran dozens of paragraphs. Sometimes I get on a fatigue-induced roll when I’ve worked 9-10 hours at the hospital and then sit down for another five hours of writing HIStalk, so it comes out just like I think it. I barely finish by bedtime, so a first draft is all I have time to do. I’ll try to run fewer less-important pieces to trim the overall length. Even that’s not a slam dunk since every item is important to someone.
  • I don’t find much value in Readers Write. I don’t either all the time. It’s like the interviews – some are really good, some blow. Most of the vendor-written pieces are self-serving, but I’ve learned that anyone who takes the time to write, vendor or not, has an agenda of some kind (pitching product, angling for a new job, etc.) I may put up a survey on whether Readers Write should stay or go since I’m indifferent to it, although there have been some nice posts that I would have missed reading. I could accept only provider-written pieces, which might cut down on the pitches. Good idea?
  • Organize the sponsor ads so I can find companies offering something specific. I like that idea. It would be hard to organize the ads themselves since many companies serve multiple product categories, but I can see some kind of an online guide sorting them out. Thanks – I like that and have already started working on it. I know some readers are conscientious about supporting HIStalk’s sponsors when searching for vendors (because they’ve told me so themselves) and I appreciate that.
  • Axe daily e-mails. Most people read when they get an e-mail and I send one only when I’ve posted something new, so I’d be cautious about just not e-mailing even with a new post up. I’m open to suggestions, but I’ll toss this out: some readers want more frequent posts and some want less, so that may be the issue rather than the e-mails themselves.
  • When performing a search at your site, sort it by date. Great idea if anyone can help me figure out how to do it. I’ve worked on this after reading this suggestion and found that there’s no way to do that automatically since HIStalk “pages” are generated dynamically from the database – they are not static HTML pages. Apparently the only way to incorporate a reliable date is to manually tag each post inside its HTML source, which would be a lot of work.
  • Have a focused section on M&A and private funding of companies at all stages (especially the early ones). Maybe once per month. There are a number of incubators (they’re back) and angel communities that are funding early stage companies and it would be nice to have an easier way to see what’s happening in this area. Knowing who the healthcare focused VCs, Angels and Incubators are would be nice as well. I love the idea and would need help figuring out how to do it. Input welcome.
  • Perhaps open a channel for "new" companies to provide a brief description of what they do. Kind of a "what’s hot or what’s new" type section. Companies would have to be small (5 or less clients?), have proven success (1 client testimonial), and be ready to expand. Might give the company and your audience a chance to connect. Would also allow the rest of us to learn about new things and maybe push us all to be better. I would offer to help edit/review submissions and I bet others would as well. Brilliant. I’m going to do this. If you want to help, let me know.
  • Skip telling us what you’re listening to. Aw, c’mon, are you so pressed for time and so laser-focused on work that you’re not willing to let me have one easily skipped sentence out of the thousands in a week’s worth of posts? I mean, it’s some guy’s blog, not JAMA.
  • More on HIStalk about financing – the best series you have is Health IT From the Investors Chair! That’s not my area of expertise and I don’t know how much free time Ben Rooks has, so I’m open to volunteers. I should mention, too, that my experience with even well-intentioned volunteers isn’t so good. Everybody likes the idea of helping me write until they realize that it’s a multi-hour commitment on a set schedule, not a “when you get some free time” thing. I know from the incoming domain names that I have quite a few readers from Wall Street investment banks, private equity firms, etc. If you are one of them, can write well, and want to pitch in (anonymously if necessary), let me know.
  • Stop being so damn addictive. Making me stay up too late. Me too.


Some Representative Responses to “If You Have Thoughts to Offer About HIStalk, Please Let Me Know”

I promise these are representative even though they are mostly positive. There just weren’t many negative comments.

  • Absolutely love it – and your rumor posted about my current client really made an impact at the site, so your work has actual consequences. Keep it up!
  • Conversational, respectful of your readers, open to clinicians’ involvement.
  • Overall, LOVE IT. Huge fan and read all the time.. definitely helps in the sales process to know the scoop about the industry, competition, and trends
  • You are a creative, humorous, bright spot in this industry. Thank you for choosing to spend your valuable "off" time to generate this very entertaining blog!
  • Great publication. You are the current standard in the industry.
  • I would be interested in hearing about healthcare providers’ experiences with their use of consulting firms.
  • Since this isn’t your ‘day job’ it’s amazing how well supported and well-written this site is.
  • HIStalk is priceless and I want you to know that your dedication and devotion does not go without notice. I know what you must go through to constantly update your blog and bring your brand of sophistication to the HIT world. I only hope you take some time for yourself as well. You are truly appreciated from this guy.
  • Love this site!! I have recommended to many colleagues and customers as it is a realistic view of our crazy industry
  • Would prefer less-biased reporting and comments from Mr. H, but I understand the nature of blogging….
  • I’ll admit it, I’m surprisingly hooked on EPtalk with Dr. Jayne. She provides good insights and her "pieces" are well written.
  • HISTalk has helped me to be knowledgeable on a broad range of topics, one stop shopping shall we say? Thank you!
  • Might be fun to consider holding HISTalk events in different parts of the country throughout the year – not necessarily tied to HIMSS. Would give sponsors a chance to strut their stuff, and readers a chance to connect.
  • Create a HIStalk white paper link, sort of like ‘readers write’, where you can post HIStalk approved white papers. You could solicit white papers on specific subjects, for example "Checklist/Considerations for purchasing hardware for EMR implementation". To make it valuable and avoid ‘salesy’ submissions, you could require that customer and vendor/product names be left out.
  • Hugely valuable, just very well done.
  • The new sponsors are getting out of hand – a wall of ads and now a weekly commercial "within the lines" for each new sponsor and an even longer sponsor update section that includes mostly very unimportant updates. The signal to noise ratio is being thrown off – I’m starting to skim more and more to find all of the gems that used to jump out at me.
  • I love, love, love the humor! Not only is Mr, HIS Talk an accomplished healthcare IT professional, but he’s a really funny guy. I know I’m feeding your ego now, but the infusion of humor in reading this blog is what makes my day. The color commentary at HIMSS or other tradeshows is wonderful, especially for those of us who are not able to attend. Keep it up – love the blog!
  • I really appreciate the level of the writing that is done. I am not a techie person, nor do I want to be. TPD’s comments are way above my head (although I’m sure they serve a good purpose for many), but the majority of your writing is understandable. It also makes me look smart when I can send information to answer a question to my bosses (of course, I credit you). HIStalk is actually something I read on my days off and I typically avoid email like the plague when I’m off. Thank you (all) very much.
  • It’s difficult enough to keep up with the information you are putting out. No way I could possibly sift through the raw information that you distill into digestible nuggets. You’re the best, and cheapest, personal assistant I have. And for someone learning the business of HIT, you’re indispensible. Thanks!
  • I’m amazed and so appreciative of the fine job you’ve done. Who knew? There really is no other source I rely on for important info. A couple observations….you do seem to pander more to sponsors than I think you realize (sorry, what are friends for?). I’ve also noticed you’re working more hours over the last months (and I confess, I worry about you, and no, Mrs. H did not put me up to that!)
  • Attempt to do interviews with members of the Office of the ONC.
  • Publish more often.
  • Keep up the good work. I’m an in-the-trenches grunt and I really like HIStalk. It’s not just for vendors and management types.
  • Love it. Don’t stop
  • Excellent! Not sure how you keep it all going, but please, please don’t stop.
  • I just wanted to let all of you know – Tim, Inga, Dr. J and Ed – you do a fantastic job and it is greatly appreciated. Thank you!
  • Twisted humor is best.
  • I like the way that you stay pretty neutral on topics – objective, fact based and or present an opposing opinion to show two sides.
  • Keep up the great work! I love Inga! (i’m female). Not sure about Dr Jayne yet? She sounds like she’s trying to impress us.. hey we’re already impressed she’s working with you guys – she should be herself.
  • As a CIO, HISTALK was one of my best sites to visit and helped me manage vendors, alerted me to some solutions. Now I’m in consulting and it is helping me stay up to date with the industry happenings without having to read extremely boring online magazines.
  • Congratulations on getting the help of Inga and Jayne (and others); you had been working far too much. HIStalk is not the only blog I read, but it *is* the one I read first (usually as soon as the facebook note comes out); whereas the other blogs are more of a "when I have time to look at them". Thanks
  • Great work. I really like your take on the academic articles that are published. I know it is hard, because I used to try and do it, but your reviews of these articles are my favorite bits on the site.
  • The reports of wins by big EMR vendors is a major leg up (e.g. EPIC wins Cedars & UCLA). In one instance you knew before I did about my own enterprise’s plans. Keep up the great work.
  • Remain objective and do not forget the smaller health care IT companies who are struggling to survive in the MU clinical sales crush.
  • I really enjoy the quick read and the fact that you point out "unverified" comment.
  • CIO Unplugged – hate it one week, love it the next – keeps me coming back.
  • Reduce the number of sponsors to keep the sense of "unbiased" as true as possible. Cut down on the use of first person pronouns from Mr. HISTalk. The only blogger in healthcare that uses more I’s, me’s, my’s, and mine’s in their writing is John Halamka. It makes it sound like you have an inferiority compensation complex. 😉 But, on the positive side, keep shaking things up. Healthcare and healthcare IT is the most self-congratulatory industry in the world, especially considering the horrible state of affairs of both. Keep rocking the boat and calling a spade and spade. You’re good at that.
  • Spend more time with Mrs. H.
  • Incredible effort – especially as part-time. Always informative, usually something to smile about and terrific contributors. What ever you do, do not add open reader forums where trolls and vendors trade insults and "IMHO" BS tirades. Stay on HIMSS’ a$$! They are such a lovely target.
  • It may be interesting to have more discussion about the state of the industry from the point of view of the employee. For example, myself and friends are being squeezed to do more work with less, all while taking multiple years of no pay increases.
  • Thank you for handling the trolling from late last year so very well. Oh! And for being nice over e-mail. You’re a sweetheart.
  • LOVE your blog. There isn’t another industry news source that’s worth reading.
  • Less Epic cheerleading; maybe more on consulting (I’m biased as a consultant);
  • I love this blog. Seriously. I read it more consistently then anything else I keep up with on the web. It is smart, funny, opinionated but not preachy, and ethically done. Awesome job!
  • The content is succinct, accurate, and as non-biased as one could hope for. most importantly it is witty and lighthearted. We work in a fast moving, dynamic and challenging industry where it’s hard to catch your breath. It’s hokey but you remind me to have fun
  • HISTalk has introduced us to ProVation order sets and the news/rumours I read about vendors that we have interacted with has helped! I’m new to health IT and stumbled upon your blog by chance. I have learnt a lot from leadership to vendor to product talk. Keep up the good work (but don’t sacrifice your family doing it!) as I don’t look forward to your emails! Thanks a bunch!
  • Not only do I love your news and fodder, as a fellow music lover I appreciate your taste. Please don’t ever stop telling us what you’re listening to. You’ve turned me on to a few great bands and reminded me of some forgotten ones as well
  • I absolutely love you guys. You’ve made me laugh, you’ve helped me do my job, and my customers & colleagues think I’m a knowledgeable and insightful person because of you. Please continue to keep up the good work, I hope that all of your readers appreciate you as much as I do 🙂
  • I’ve always wondered if you had a deal set-up where your identity will be revealed after your death. Similar to Deep Throat of Watergate fame.
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Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. Fun to read all the comments, which makes me curious….do you track which of your followers make the most comments? I wonder who would be there if you had a party with all your biggest fans? I often wonder if I’d recognize them! Sometimes it feels like it would be just one, big family reunion (however dysfunctional!) Thanks for so much fun, Mr. H et al.

    [From Mr. HIStalk] I don’t track any comments, either those made on HIStalk or on the survey, because I don’t want readers to feel they can’t stay anonymous (some people don’t want it known they read HIStalk – imagine that!) I wonder who they are myself, sometimes. Maybe the HIStalkapalooza attendee list provides an idea, and if so, it’s a pretty impressive bunch. Maybe next HIMSS I should encourage a secret symbol for HIStalk readers to find each other, like putting a red X in the upper right corner of their badges or something.

  2. For the sort by date question, I’d just suggest they click on the “Sort by Date” link that appears on the search results page. For example, here’s a sort by date for EMR: http://histalk2.com/search/search.php?zoom_query=emr&zoom_page=1&zoom_per_page=10&zoom_and=0&zoom_sort=1

    [From Mr. HIStalk] It looks like it works, but it really doesn’t. The sort order is still wrong – the first article to come up is from 2007. The reason is that the date for all articles as shown on the bottom line of each search result is February 7, which relates to the indexed date. The only way to tell the “real” date is from the title and the search engine can’t sort on that.







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