How Celebrity Doctors Use their Online Presence to Communicate with Healthcare Consumers

January 12, 2010 at 7:40 am 11 comments

Erin Dubich, a graduate student at Tufts, and I are doing a study about “celebrity” doctors who use their online presence to communicate with healthcare consumers.

Please help us by telling us which celebrity doctors you believe have an effective online presence and why: Dr. Gupta, Dr. Oz, Dr. Phil, Dr. Richard Besser, or another? We are interested in those who have Web sites, blogs, etc., unlike, say, Dr. Ruth, a celebrity doctor whose presence is not online.

The characteristics we are looking at are:

Basis of reputation (credentials, job, books, TV, etc.)
Website(s) featured on
Where seen besides website (TV, radio, books, syndicated column, etc.)
Topic(s) of advice/articles (general health, sexual health, etc.)
Type(s) of advice (ask the expert, interviews, etc.)
Why is the doctor an effective health communicator (timeliness, credibility, topics, reach to common concerns or fears, etc.)

If you have examples of celebrity doctors who you believe are not effective or exploit their fame or their position, we would like to hear that too.

Please post a comment or email me. We appreciate your help and will post our compiled results and conclusions.

Entry filed under: health. Tags: , , , , , , , , , .

Improving Patient-Physician Communication about Internet Use: Why “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Doesn’t Work Every Person Has a Right to be Healthy: An Interview with Susan Harrington from the Boston Public Health Commission

11 Comments Add your own

  • 1. artist-scandal  |  February 17, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    nice info tank’s to share

  • 2. Alex Bornkessel  |  January 18, 2010 at 9:18 am

    What a fascinating study! I’d be curious how you are defining “effective” in your research. I.e. Effectiveness in helping patients through online presence, effective of personal branding and reach, etc. Also, are you open to having “celebrity doctors” categories….the ones mentioned are national celebrity doctor types. (Thus more macro)….could be interesting to see how they compare to more micro doctors (local doctors who effectively use their Web presence. Perhaps a follow-up study. = )

    Look forward to hearing the insights gained. Thanks!

  • 3. Catherine  |  January 17, 2010 at 12:28 am

    I tend to turn to other web sites for health information, such as the mayo clinic, over those of celebrity doctors. That said, I feel that Dr. Gupta comes off as trustworthy and bridges the worlds of medicine and journalism naturally.. He communicates complicated health information in way that is easy for his audience to understand and digest. I feel that being associated with the CNN brand also gives him credibility.

    In terms of his online presences, I think he really gets how to use Twitter as a tool to connect with his audience.I feel that this could increase people’s perception of his as trustworthy and knowledgeable.

  • 4. Bob Kerns  |  January 14, 2010 at 11:52 pm

    My nomination for WORST? That would be Mercola.

    Time and again, I find myself confronted with the dreck he espouses. People seem to buy into his ideas, despite the rather glaring push to buy his expensive products.

    It’s interesting tracking his website over time, where the products have gotten increasingly prominent and the content increasingly wacky.

    But not entirely. Ever so often, he’ll tackle some genuine topic, with real information. That helps to bolster his credibility for the wacky, discredited stuff.

    In contrast to Edell, he’s always CERTAIN, and his certainties always seem to go counter to the “medical establishment” and favor his products.

    Edell, on the other hand, while he’s had a few products out there — eyeglasses, the aforementioned website, a few books — is always upfront about his commercial side. He can’t control the on-the-air advertising, but he’s quite willing to slam in no uncertain terms bogus claims by the very companies who pay to advertise on his show. It can be very surreal at times, but they’re still happy to advertise, because their sales don’t depend on logic anyway.

    Sadly, I keep getting Mercola mixed up with David Mendosa, a non-physician medical writer who I feel does a very good job writing about diabetes.

  • 5. Bob Kerns  |  January 14, 2010 at 11:13 pm

    Dr. Dean Edell started (which was acquired in 2005, and he doesn’t seem to still be involved).

    He’s a lot sane than most out there, doesn’t overstate the evidence, and I think does a good job of presenting and dealing with the uncertainties that still surround medicine and medical knowledge in general.

    So he would be my nomination. I hesitated to nominate him, however, because I don’t know of any current online presence.

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Bertalan Meskó, MD, ePatientDave, KevinKruse, Anas Younes, M.D., Rubén García and others. Rubén García said: RT @Berci: How Celebrity Doctors Use their Online Presence to Communicate with Healthcare Consumers […]

  • 7. kenny kutney  |  January 14, 2010 at 8:05 am

    Mehmet Oz certainly seems to be very effective, overall. He’s got creds (Columbia), the TV show reaches a very large audience (perhaps thanks to Oprah), he’s the author of a number of health books (with other “credible” doctors). My sense is that his web presence reinforces and supports the other media. The TV show seems to have a way of really delivering important health info to a broad audience that otherwise wouldn’t listen or pay attention. He covers topics that are prevalent today in a unique manner.

  • 8. DrV  |  January 14, 2010 at 6:54 am

    My vote is for Gupta – Trustworthy and balanced. A real journalist.

  • 9. Carolyn Snyder  |  January 14, 2010 at 4:13 am

    I recently read Roizen & Oz’s “YOU: On a Diet” book. The companion site provides interactive tools (how close is your biological age to your calendar age?) that highlight how specific changes can improve your health. The email tips are focused and relevant. All the info is consistent and well explained, though sometimes a bit dumbed down. But overall, these guys do a good job at not just telling you what to do, but why and how it works, broken down into (forgive the pun) bite-size chunks. Their advice is realistic and practical. As far as effectiveness, I’ve lost about 10 lbs in 2 months, though they’re not the only resource I’ve used.

    I’m aware that Dr. Oz has a TV show (I caught 1 episode) and to go along with it. Being more of a reader than a TV watcher, I am less drawn to these other resources but they’re probably the only way to reach some people so it seems like a good strategy.

  • 10. uberVU - social comments  |  January 13, 2010 at 7:14 pm

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by lisagualtieri: Celebrity doctors – who is effective?

  • 11. Lara  |  January 12, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    Dr Gupta also uses Twitter frequently, connecting his followers with his daily activities and notifies them about upcoming segments he tapes for CNN, White House meetings, etc.

    Dr. Atul Gawande also has a presence online (, writes extensively for The New Yorker, Slate and pens his own books “Complications” etc.


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Lisa Gualtieri, PhD, ScM

Lisa GualtieriLisa Gualtieri is Assistant Professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine. She is Director of the Certificate Program in Digital Health Communication. Lisa teaches Designing Health Campaigns using Social Media, Social Media and Health, Mobile Health Design, and Digital Strategies for Health Communication. Contact Lisa:


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