Better Than Dr Oz: Web Based Strategies for Health Behavior Change


What do raisins, 100% cherry juice, pedometers and Neti pots have in common? They were all products mentioned by Dr. Mehmet Oz on “The Doctor Oz Show” and promoted by the show for health benefits.


As the co-executive Producer of “The Doctor Oz Show” stated, “After the Neti pot was mentioned on the show, its sales rose by 12,000%. Internet searches for how to use the Neti pot irrigation system alone rose by 42,000 hits the day after the show aired.” 0527_oz-products-neti-pot_485x340The “Oz Effect” is a form of one-way information flow that has created a devoted fan base and has influenced interest in health and health related products more from word of mouth than the broadcast messages themselves. According to Scott Radford in, “Linking Innovation to Design: Consumer Responses to Visual Product Newness” direct word of mouth from those in line to adopt a behavior is more influential than broadcast messages themselves to influence behavior and promote change.

The “Oz Effect” has undeniable influence on devoted fans that watch the show with pen and paper in hand poised to pounce on the next health craze. The question is how sustainable is this type of campaign at changing long term health behavior? How can other health organizations that have no television exposure utilize multiple media channels to captivate, persuade and sustain an audience in pursuit of “optimum health”?


Participatory, two-way web-based health sites have the potential to captivate, persuade and sustain an audience in pursuit of “optimum health” PatientsLikeMe is a web-based health site that is a patient-powered research network that aims to improve lives in real-time research platform. On PatientsLikeMe’s network, people connect with others who have the same disease or condition and track and share their own experiences. In the process, they generate data about the real-world nature of disease that can help researchers, pharmaceutical companies, regulators, providers and nonprofits develop more effective products, services and care.

PatientsLikeMe describes itself “a for-profit company with a ‘not just for profit’ attitude,” PatientsLikeMe summarizes it’s core values to include:

1) Honor the trust patients place in us – Patients trust the company to protect their private health data and to use it to advance knowledge of their disease.

2) Transparency – The company aims for “no surprises.” In an effort to ensure transparency, PatientsLikeMe discloses its business partnerships, what it does with patient data and how the company makes money. PatientsLikeMe does not allow advertising on its site.

3) Openness – The company believes that sharing health information openly has the potential to benefit patients.

4) Create “Wow” – This is the goal for what patients should feel when they visit Every sixth week, the engineering team holds a “Wow Week” to experiment and innovate freely in developing new site features, similar to Google’s “20% time”.

Using this innovative model and web based strategy, PatientsLikeMe was named as one of the “15 Companies that Will Change the World” by Business 2.0 and CNN Money as well as #23 on Fast Company (magazine)’s 2010 list of Most Innovative Companies.

As an accepted “researcher” on the site, I have found PatientsLikeMe a valuable resource to find out information about health issues, what patients have tried and what has and has not worked for them.

Diffusion of Innovations, Wikipedia article accessed August 16, 2015.

Radford, Scott K. (2011). “Linking Innovation to Design: Consumer Responses to Visual Product Newness”. Journal of Product Innovation Management 28 (s1): 208–220.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. (2010). Health literacy Online: A guide to writing and designing easy-to-use health Web sites. Washington, DC.


4 thoughts on “Better Than Dr Oz: Web Based Strategies for Health Behavior Change

  1. Your post asks the question, “how can you capture an audience without tv exposure?” It’s an excellent question. Television dominates so much of our daily lives. I not only have televisions in my home but also my office, locker room and just about every other place imaginable. Using your post as an example, many of these tv shows that have so much influence over people, such as Dr. Oz, come with a cult following. To maximize exposure, health organizations need to first develop the same level of credibility among their followers that these tv shows have. Not easy to do, especially without a strong media backing. PatientsLikeMe seems like a very informative site but to be completely honest, whenever I think of health websites, the first one that comes to mind is WebMD, simply because of its exposure. I think these sites need to utilize “tags” such as the ones we do when we post on blogs, to gain the attention of many internet surfers.

  2. I think websites like Patientslikeme is key to the future of health care data collection. I know of another similar popular website in the dermatology/plastics field called “Realself” that helps real patients connect with others to share their treatment results and concerns. I think a great follow-up post to a blog post like this would be write-up about all these up and coming “patient-to-patient” websites. I think Patientslikeme actually has a few competitors as well.

  3. Interesting post about web-based strategies for behavior change. It was interesting to read about the 2 examples you brought forward, the “Oz Effect” and PatientsLikeMe. I really enjoyed reading the core values that PatientsLikeMe includes and it sounds like they are successful because they are staying true to those values. I guess the biggest thing I was missing, which could have completely go over my head is how a non-profit could either use these examples in their own work or opportunities for them to integrate with. Very interesting post though to read about these 2 examples.

  4. I really enjoyed informative video about PatientsLikeMe organization – this is a very good example of framing organization’s mission and program. I appreciated the story told by a nurse during the interview about patient experience with “static/traditional” healthcare such as patient inadequate interaction with healthcare workers due to a number of reasons. She brought forward patient advocacy as a core value of medicine and reminded us about our responsibilities, as health professionals, to assure that patient’s needs have been met. I agree that tools and platform that PatientsLikeMe offers to their on-line patient community are important aspects of modern healthcare approach. Patients felt empowered and satisfied by helping others by bonding and sharing their disease data for research purposes. Data security from patient stand point and data quality from the researcher stand point can be vulnerable points of this model. Very unique campaign for public and patient good. Thanks for sharing!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s