Health 2.0 – Patient-oriented Health Care

Dan Kogan is a veteran IT developer who built some matching systems now prevalent in financial institutions. He’s now turned his attention to healthcare and has started Health World Web. I (Matthew that is) have been advising him as he gets going, and have therefore (as I allways want good material) bullied him into writing about his view of why health care is ripe for this technology and a little about what his company plans to do. (Don’t forget that the same offer is open to anyone who wants to write on the Health 2.0 Blog)

When exactly did the power of healthcare move out of the hands of the people and into the hands of the doctors? Historically, patients do not take the upper hand when it comes to choosing the proper healthcare. Choosing the right doctor becomes a nerve wrecking game of cross referencing the insurance listings with yellow pages, the general listings of a Google search inquiry with proprietary knowledge or word of mouth. Finding a good doctor often reminds a patient of a game of dice. The chances of rolling two 6’s are equal to 1/36 or about 3%. What comes into the equation is the patient’s insurance, the insurance a doctor will accept, the potential path to the specialist through the gatekeeper (if one is required), locale and then, just pure randomness in getting to one of the more than 700K licensed MDs.

With the rise of the Internet, at least the last part can be solved, or helped by the army of newly created sites whose only purpose and claim to fame is to put patients’ minds at ease, help them make the right choice, and have at least the minimum of assurance when it comes to the choice of a doctor, treatment or medical advice.

A very powerful “human” engine that is making waves at the beginning of the 21st century is called the Social Network. It has started with the arrival of LinkedIn, MySpace, Friendster and Facebook. Simple social communication made a leap into the multiple vertical domains of human knowledge. The trend of health related vertical social networks picked up over the last year.

The premise behind this so called Health 2.0 movement is simple. Patients are merely tired of not knowing the whos, whys, hows and what fors associated with the care they are receiving from their doctors. Patients have accepted diagnosis and treatment at face value for too long. The office process for healthcare has remained the same since the inception of organized healthcare. But what exactly does Health 2.0 offer to a patient? And what part do doctors play in this movement?

With the insurgence of Medical Social Networking sites with a
patient / doctor interactive communities, patients are now able to
provide and share knowledge about diseases, treatments, and local
doctors within their own communities. These sites are the heart of the
Health 2.0 idea. Moving out of the depths of the waiting rooms and into
the space of the World Wide Web, patients are discussing the most
intimate of details surrounding their diagnoses, treatments, disease
progression, remission or cure and overall patient care. Doctors are
critiqued down to the most fine of details. Power. That is what the
patients are taking back and sharing with fellow and prospective
patients. This power, once only reserved for doctors in charge of a
patient’s care, is being taken back by those who can benefit the most,
the patients.

Communities built upon real life experiences and a rating system of
medical care is what is bound to give patients a choice, the choice
that has been missing from the healthcare field for so long. Why are
these communities going to last? Because patients, once they know they
can achieve a higher level of care by choosing doctors that have been
rated and judged by other patients, will never again settle for a third
or fourth hand unreliable referral. Patients have long deserved the
right to know everything there is to know about their care and their
doctors. The Internet communities surrounding the revolutionary Health
2.0 idea offer that knowledge. A freedom, if you will, is being
instilled upon people. The freedom to ask the questions they were once
afraid to ask and to get a real answer from both sides, doctors and
other patients.

On the flip side of the communities, doctors will now have to live
up to the oath they have based their lives and careers upon. Armed with
the knowledge of what patients will undoubtedly share (including their
personal experiences and inner most thoughts) with other patients,
doctors will have to provide the highest level of care. Somehow the
doctor had reached a level of untouchable nature. This nature is the
entire reason why the Health Care 2.0 system will not only be a source
of knowledge but of wielding power for the patient. Patients now, armed
with a vaster knowledgebase, will enter into the doctor / patient
relationship knowingly expecting a certain level of care. No more blind
appointments, no more recommendations being handed out as a favor to
other physician, patients are taking their health care into their own
hands, because it is what they deserve. Service that is the best for
every patient in every situation is the ultimate outcome of patient
driven knowledgebase.

The flexibility of the Health 2.0 idea rests with the source of
information upon which it is built. The patients rate doctors, share
doctor experience, and search for doctors based on the ratings of other
patients, the doctor’s specialty, knowledge, training and even their
background. This is the area where companies like Health World Web can
make a difference. What is the ultimate user experience? How can the
site distill the information in the most creative way? Can the user’s
profile stir the search in the right direction?

At Health World Web, we are taking these questions seriously. The
Recommendation Engine we are working on would take into account many
aspects of the user’s activity and presence on the site, to recommend
the most relevant results in Buddies, Communities or Doctors searches.
We spend each day thinking about what information is the most relevant
and how can we present that information to users in the most
unobtrusive way. The best reward for us is when emails and testimonials
arrive from our users, filled with words of appreciation.

Today is a bright day for the health care system. Patients are
sharing real life experiences with other patients. Doctors are taking
patients’ feelings and level of care into careful consideration. We are
building a world based upon the idea that knowledge and the sharing of
such knowledge will transform a once secretive part of life into a
public sharing portal. Health 2.0 will change the way patients and
doctors look at health care.

Dan Kogan

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