Community News
Gorkana meets...David Williams
22 February 2013

David Williams, Founder of Health Business Blog, on blogging as a sideline, podcast interviews and his top interviewee of 2012.

How did the Health Business Blog start out?

Mainstream newspapers had begun covering health care extensively, and I began using their stories as a jumping off point to get to the next level of depth for those interested in a deeper perspective. I was looking for a platform to share my views and blogs were just coming on the scene. There were a few doctor blogs when I started but nothing about the business of health care and very little on health care policy.

Who is the typical reader?

The Health Business Blog is read by health care business people, policymakers, analysts, clinicians, and sophisticated consumers.

What does a typical day look like?

My main job is running MedPharma Partners, a health care strategy consulting firm. Blogging is a sideline. Usually I have a story in mind at the start of the day and get to it when I have a moment. I receive a lot of news feeds and am always on the lookout for topics of interest. I write one post every business day.

What type of business issues in health care does the blog cover?

Anything related to health care and life sciences business and policy, especially if there is an economic or entrepreneurial angle. I like to write about things where I have special insights as a result of my consulting work or other connections, and enjoy referring back to stories from years ago. I also try to step up and take an opposing view when the conventional wisdom is going in the wrong direction. A recent example is my post on the connection between the New England Compounding Center scandal and the controversy from 5 years ago about Avastin being repackaged as a cut-rate version of Lucentis. At the time I stood up for Genentech, even though they were being bashed for greed. In the latest post I tie the two stories together and point out that I mentioned problems at the Compounding Center as part of my original posts on the topic.

What are the key health care or medical journals that you refer to?

I get a lot from the Wall Street Journal, Health Affairs, New England Journal of Medicine and JAMA. I also read trade mags like Today's Hospitalist and AuntMinnie.

From when you started blogging in 2005 have you noticed any major changes in the content you cover? Or the way you approach blogging?

My basic approach is the same, and although the issues have evolved they are not so different. One change is that I do more podcast interviews than I used to. Also, with the advent of social media and publishing platforms everyone is looking for content to syndicate. About 25% of my traffic comes from Twitter @HealthBizBlog

What sort of content are you looking for?

Stories about companies or other entities that are making an impact on important policy or business issues. For example if someone has a start-up company that is taking an insight about how to improve patient safety and turning it into something practical, I'd love to hear about it.

How can PRs feed in with content and ideas?

Comments on blog posts are always welcome. Those same comments can be directed to me by email to point out a connection with a client.

Which articles or features resonate most with readers?

The rare times when I write about personal experiences seem to engender the most feedback. But I've been told that my podcast interviews and the transcripts are the most impactful to companies because they are used to support sales and marketing.

Three top tips for PRs pitching to you?

  • Make sure it's about health care business or policy
  • If it's a pitch for a podcast, suggest some sample topics or questions
  • Take 5 minutes to read a couple related posts on my blog and refer to them in the pitch. That way I know you've made some kind of effort and aren't a spammer.

What is the best way for PRs to contact you?

Email is best. Twitter @HealthBizBlog is ok, too.

What type of case studies are you interested in receiving from PRs?

Something not too promotional, that ties in with a theme I've been writing about

Who has been your top interviewee of 2012 so far?

I have a lot of favorites, but if I have to choose I'll say Andrew Dreyfus, CEO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of MA. We had a very meaty discussion about a number of policy issues and what BCBS is doing to address them.

How are interviewees sourced?

I do a lot of podcasts so I receive a lot of unsolicited requests for interviews from PRs. I pick out the ones that are most interesting and schedule them for a week to a month out.

Tell us a bit more about the Health Wonk Review? How frequent is the review? How can PRs submit ideas?

It's every two weeks. Bloggers generally submit their favorite policy posts to that edition's host. Certainly PRs could submit ideas to bloggers to write about in hopes that they will get submitted to the HWR. Alternatively, PRs could identify posts of interest and submit to the host. It's unusual --but not unprecedented-- to submit something written on someone else's blog.

David was speaking to Gorkana’s Shaun Hill.

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