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Reader Survey Results 2015

January 18, 2015 News 5 Comments

Thanks to everyone who completed my reader survey. Congratulations to the three winners of $50 Amazon gift cards I’ve sent (I had fun writing an Excel randomization routine to make sure I wasn’t biased in any way in choosing the winners).

I run the survey once per year. It helps me plan going forward. I always like to share some of the interesting feedback I get from it.

I’ll chime in on a few of the comments and suggestions. I should mention that the most common recommendation was, “Don’t change anything.” I appreciate that.

I have a diverse readership, and while it might seem obvious that I should make a given change, that’s from one person’s viewpoint. People have different motivations for reading HIStalk – some want just the top news boiled down, some are scouring for competitive intelligence, and many want to be entertained along with their news. I don’t want to get in the trap of writing by committee no matter how well intentioned the advice, where I please nobody in trying to please everybody. My audience is self-selecting – you either like what I write or you don’t, and I have to make you want to come back every day. It’s harder than it looks sometimes given all the distraction that’s out there.

Some major points from the survey:

  • Readers mostly work for hardware or software vendors (47 percent); hospitals, health systems, and practices (27 percent), and 68 percent have at least 11 years of experience in healthcare IT and healthcare.
  • The most common job function is IT or vendor staff or management, nine percent are clinicians, and about six percent of readers are CEOs and the same percentage are CIOs.
  • The most-appreciated elements of HIStalk are (in order) news, morning headlines, rumors, humor, and Dr. Jayne. The least-liked element is Readers Write.
  • Eight-five percent of respondents say they have a higher interest in companies when they read about them in HIStalk.
  • The most important survey result is this one: 91 percent of readers said reading HIStalk helped them perform their job better last year.
  • More than a third of readers recommended HIStalk to a peer in the past month.

Here are some of the recommendations.

Separate out Dr. Jayne’s Thursday night contribution into its own post for easier reference.

Good idea. That’s easily done. Long-time readers may remember that when Dr. Jayne started five years ago, I ran her post at the end of Tuesday night’s news. Then I had the brilliant idea (that’s not exactly true – a reader suggested it in the reader survey five years ago) of moving her post to Monday nights on its own. Dr. Jayne is a busy lady, so I’ll have to coordinate with her schedule.

Don’t write so much about startup funding.

More people said I should write more about it. I haven’t changed my threshold for what seems interesting or newsworthy about funding — there’s just more of it to cover these days as investors chum the waters. Clinical readers sometimes yawn at the business news and vice versa, but at least the business section is easily skipped (the idea of breaking out posts with subheadings also came from a long-ago reader survey, in fact).

Stop putting so much emphasis on the HIMSS conference and the events you have there.

I agree, although many readers follow that closely. I’ll try to find more substance at the conference to write about, but it seems to be in short supply.

Don’t be so snarky.

The “be more snarky” camp has you outnumbered in their responses, I’m afraid.

Stop promoting Epic so much.

I’ve analyzed my mentions of Epic and they are balanced. Most of the time I’m reporting something newsworthy or that would interest my Epic-using provider readers (of where there are many), and in those cases where I editorialized, it was a pretty even split between positive and negative. Writing about Epic is a challenge because any time I mention them, people who (a) compete with them; (b) aren’t Epic users; or (c) tried to get a job there and failed scream “favoritism.” I write about Cerner’s new campus and nobody says a word, but I mention Epic’s new campus and smoke starts coming out of the ears of some readers who react to the word “Epic” as a bull does to a matador’s red cape. If you think something I say is biased toward Epic, say so in the comments and see if others agree. I do pay attention.

Stop calling Epic’s Judy Faulkner “Judy.” It’s demeaning because you don’t do that with males.

Sure I do. I write about Neal, Farzad, Vince, Ed, and JB (for Jonathan Bush) using only their first names for the same reason – just about everybody knows who I’m talking about because their names are uncommon, unlike Paul, Robert, or John. When I hear people talking about Judy Faulkner, 90 percent of the time they just say “Judy.” I’ve never heard anyone respond with, “Judy who?”

Expand the contributor group – not everybody seeks the spotlight.

The problem is that many people shun the spotlight. I’d greatly appreciate more contributors with different viewpoints, but the single best lesson I’ve learned in 12 years of writing HIStalk is that everybody likes to read, but almost nobody likes to write. I’m always encouraging different people to write Reader’s Write articles, submit their own series of articles, or be interviewed — what you see on the page is what I get (usually vendor people interested in the exposure, which is why people don’t like Reader’s Write). Non-vendors and lesser-knowns, get in touch if you are willing and able to contribute because I’m up for it.

Start a column with new perspective from a pharmacist, lab director, nurse, and others on the front lines.

See above. I’ve asked before, especially for a nurse who writes well and has interesting points to make, but nobody has volunteered and I can’t force them to do it.

Get the contributions of government contractors since they know what’s going on.

Dim-Sum’s contributions about the Department of Defense EHR have been outstanding. I would be thrilled to run more government-oriented pieces, even anonymously, if someone is willing.

Get the contributions of patients and consumers.

I’ve tried getting people for that too with no luck, but at least I’ll have something from HIMSS since I’m providing several scholarships to patients who will attend and write about their experience on HIStalk (more details to follow).

Offer a column, interview, or other collaboration with HIMSS.

We each tend to do our own thing, but I’m willing if they are, assuming it’s interesting to my readers and not just promoting HIMSS.

Offer a column to incubators like Rock Health.

I’ve started with startup CEOs and investors and an incubator or accelerator column would be fun, limited again by the willingness of someone to actually do it. And the complaints of those HIStalk readers who say they’re tired of hearing about startups.

Put on more non-commercial webinars like the Dim-Sum and Vince ones.

The rate-limiting factor is presenter willingness, not mine. All the presenter needs is a bit of time and expertise – we lead them through the process from abstract to delivery and of course I bear the expense gladly. Dim-Sum’s webinar on the DoD EHR has had 1,531 views on YouTube and Vince’s Siemens-Cerner presentation has been viewed 1,807 times, so demand exists for webinars that are more educational than commercial, which I had in mind from the start. I have the forum and platform if you have something educational to offer readers.

Perform more analysis of informatics literature.

I love doing that myself when I have the time and have the full-text of an interesting article. I’ve asked before for an academic type to be a “literature scout” to find good journal articles and summarize them, but I haven’t had any takers. I’m feeling like a looping recording in saying repeatedly that I don’t get volunteers, but I’m just explaining why it’s not quite like the engaged community anxious to contribute that you might envision.

Stop using blue font for the reader quotes.

I’ll have to think about how to best indicate that I’m quoting a reader.

Improve the search function.

That comes up in every year’s survey, but I don’t have a solution. It’s already a Google search that works well, but what some folks want is to be able to click on a word like “Cerner” or “genomics” and have a perfectly sorted list of articles by date pop up. It just doesn’t work that way with the format I use, which is intended for an easy summary read rather than to support discrete searches. HIStalk, technologically, is just a bunch of web pages with one per post, not a massively indexed database (it’s kind of like a free-text chart entry vs. individual EHR data fields). I’m open to technology suggestions if anyone has some. Lots of  health IT vendors offer tools that convert free-text documentation to structured and searchable, so maybe this is their test case.

Spell Meditech as MEDITECH.

No. There’s just no reason to make it all capital letters. I go by the AP Stylebook, as does the Boston Globe, which spells it Meditech. Companies can go marketing crazy with cute capitalizations and symbols within their names, but that doesn’t mean publications have to buy into it. Hospitals are getting into the act, such as NewYork-Presbyterian (no space) and Partners HealthCare. Apparently spelling a word correctly following civilized rules doesn’t sizzle enough to stand out.

Stop being so picky about grammar.

No. I hate it when people make up their own rules because following society’s rules is inconvenient. Many people worked hard to teach me English, so I feel no shame in using it correctly. Americans are bizarre in passing along to their children their bemused indifference to competence in English and math, so we’ll see where that gets us in a competitive world market.

Some of the interviews feel scripted – mark those that are done live.

I do every interview live by telephone. Also, the subject hasn’t heard the questions until I ask them and doesn’t get to approve the final transcription. Two exceptions: (a) the “HIT Moment With …” where five-question interviews are done by email, and (b) a couple of times over many years, my interview subject did not speak easily understood English and I knew both the subject and I would have to work a lot harder to complete the interview, so I begrudgingly allowed email answers. I’ve done many hundreds of interviews and all but a handful were me talking on the phone asking off-the-cuff questions (I do edit out the many times the subject says, having become accustomed to low-quality reporter interviews, “What a great question …”). It would probably be fun to listen to the actual recording that gets transcribed – I interviewed Premier CEO Susan DeVore while having fajitas and a Tecate in a Mexican restaurant since I was super busy that day. I started off by telling her that she was hearing my private mariachi band serenading me in the background, which she found amusing.

Respond when someone leaves a stupid comment on a post.

I don’t want to talk over a reader who leaves a comment, even one I don’t agree with or that is factually incorrect. I let other readers correct them as they see fit. If they don’t, then I assume the comment is at least somewhat justified even if it stings a bit (my skin’s not as thick as it might seem).

I would like to have a quick way to see quickly the comments left on a post and then jump to them.

I will look into commenting options. I had a good cloud-based tool that seemed perfect, but it didn’t work for reasons I never could figure out in multiple attempts.

Send the email blast in the middle of the night instead of at around 8 p.m. EST. It creates pressure to read and I’d rather have it pop up in the morning with the other news I read.

Readers in Pacific times zones jump on HIStalk as soon as the email goes out, so I would hate to hold it until the next morning, plus some people want to see the news as soon as they can. I remember clearly when Todd Cozzens ask for a show of hands from the stage of HIStalkapalooza in Chicago how many people drop everything when the HIStalk email arrives – a frightening number of them went up.

Develop a mobile app.

I’ve been looking into that, although the existing mobile format works OK. Real-time notifications might be useful, though.

Ed Marx never did write anything about the Ebola debacle. The omission makes me think that maybe HIStalk is not as impartial as it says it is.

Let’s be realistic: would your employer give you permission to speak off the cuff to a media outlet about an issue of great human, corporate, and legal sensitivity? Or if your spouse died of Ebola, would you want to see the hospital CIO prattling on about that tiny piece of the case that he knows something about? Ed contributes articles, but he’s not free to talk casually about his employer or the patients they see, no different than when nearly got fired by my hospital when I started writing HIStalk and a loser vendor complained to my boss that I was saying bad things about them (leading to my immediate interest in anonymity).

Keep up the music recommendations.

I’m heartened by several such comments since usually someone complains about anything even slightly off topic, always in the form of, “I don’t read HIStalk for …” as though I’m an HIT-posting robot banned from going off script. Sometimes I fantasize about starting a new, unrelated site about some topic I know next to nothing about just to see if I could make it interesting while learning about the topic.

Write shorter posts or write news daily to shorten the individual posts.

Both are tough for me. I only include items I think are interesting and I cover a lot of ground succinctly, so I’d have to cut something I think is worth reading. I used to write news daily, but readers observed that HIStalk wasn’t particularly special any more when it hit their inbox every workday. Lt. Dan posts morning headlines each weekday if you just want a quick skim to see the major news items without the usual commentary and snark.

It sounds like you think you need to change something. Whatever you do, keep the news, juicy gossip, and sly, somewhat jaundiced humor.

I’ve been writing HIStalk for 12 years, so sometimes I get the urge to try something different. Occasionally I see all of the movers and shakers out there doing cool stuff (starting companies, developing products, running think tanks, etc.) and feel a pang of regret that I’m a sideline reporter rather than a full-contact participant in those high-profile or society-benefitting activities. That usually passes quickly, though, and every day when I face that blank screen yet again with excitement and hopefully some creativity, I realize I how lucky I am to be able to something I enjoy in whatever way I want. I’ve learned to be happy with my place in the world.

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Currently there are "5 comments" on this Article:

  1. Re: mobile app. What do people want that the mobile site doesn’t already have? It would probably be trivial to write a wrapper for the mobile site and toss it on Google Play and the Apple App Store.

    (Of course, then you would get all kinds of requests for features not available on the site, e.g., push alerts)

  2. For a DIY push alert, one can setup IFttt to monitor for the email and have it push an alert to your phone or even your PC. I do this to be warned the day before it snows, but one could do this to read HIS Talk as soon as it hits the web.

    If you’re in the group that raised your hands, then this could be for you.

  3. Please do continue being “picky” about grammar. You wouldn’t be in this business if you didn’t know words matter. Discouraging attention to detail is an intriguing position for that reader to adopt in a business that affects human health. When I get authoritative information from someone who uses it’s as the possessive or who believes apostrophe+the letter s is the correct way to form the plural, I wonder what else they’re mistaken about.

  4. Don’t change anything. Let your success speak for itself.

    And, worse than not being picky about grammar is not caring about grammar. Same thing as not caring about math.

  5. I appreciate Tim as the Snarky Grammar Police Officer. Leave the PC stuff to the politicians and C-suite of publically held corporations.

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