Yesterday saw the debut of a “Health 2.0” conference run by The Health Care Blog, a policy-oriented blog that, ironically, is not really about consumers in healthcare. Health 2.0 is about consumers, though, although it’s as nebulous a concept as “Web 2.0,” with different meanings to different people.
Some people sum up Health 2.0 as, “consumer-driven healthcare.” But that can’t be right, since most individuals don’t have the time or knowledge to “drive” healthcare decisions. Sure, most of us want to be a part of health decisions involving us (and some of us become patient experts). But I’m not sure that really captures the Health 2.0 meme.
In a summary of the day’s events, San Jose Mecury News writer Barbara Feder Ostrov in her article, Healthy growth in Web 2.0 medical sites, suggests Health 2.0 is simply “a buzzword for online ventures that propose to improve people’s health by expanding their access to next-generation Web tools like customized search engines (think Google) and social networks (think MySpace).”
I think that’s it in practice, but more generally, it’s helping people leverage newer technologies to find other people and information related to a specific disease, condition, health or mental health concern. Sure, right now it takes the form of vertical search engines and social networking, because that’s what’s hot. But 3 years from now, everyone may have moved on from social networking to something else.
My view is always to look at the value you’re building in the communities you’re building, because the Web, to me, has always been about hooking people up with information and people like themselves. My colleague Enoch Choi said it best:
Online resources offer patients something that doctors sometimes can’t: time, and a supportive community.
“We don’t have enough time to sit there for hours and share stories from other patients,” said Choi, who moonlights for MedHelp.org, one of the more established medical information and social networking sites. “Patients really want to hear from patients like themselves.”
There are a lot of new tools available to help people with their health concerns. But given most of these are startups with virtually no revenue and few original business plans (“Oh, we’ll sell ads!”), I really do have to wonder where they’ll be a year or two from now. Hopefully with a strong following and a plan that allows them to stay in business and grow.