The old way: Doctor diagnoses your condition, tells you what to do, you follow his/her instructions.
Now: Doctor diagnoses your condition, tells you what to do. You tell doctor that you've been doing some reading and there may be other ways to do things. He/she grouses about "who's the doctor here, you or me?" and grudgingly says it's okay to do things a little differently.
The new way: You suspect you might have a condition. You go to your doctor, who makes suggestions on the various ways you might deal with your condition. You follow some of your doctor's advice, incorporate some of your own strategies learned through your online experience, you share your experiences online with other people who share your condition.
The new way is part of the compelling drive behind the so-called Health 2.0 movement. It is partly defined as an online experience that fills many of the gaps that are not presently met by the traditional doctor-patient relationship.
I write this particular blog post from Toronto, Canada, where I am attending the Medicine 2.0 meetings, a forum for discussing some of these emerging online technologies for health.
One of the buzzwords at this meeting is the concept of "apomediation," a peculiar word that holds a powerful notion: the development of apomediaries, or expert patients who have a condition, develop a non-professional level of expertise about the condition, who then helps other patients. Apomediaries can help a newly-diagnosed patient with bipolar illness, Lou Gehrig's disease, or coronary disease navigate the complex web of treatment. Apomediaries can be a sounding board for the many emotional and practical struggles that emerge with a health condition.
The concept of social networking that emerged with teen-favorites like Facebook and MySpace is rapidly being adopted in health. Adults have powerfully shifted the topic of discussion away from boyfriends and girlfriends and towards real-world health concerns. HealthCentral is one principal example of this exciting toolbox for the adult social networker.
This tidal wave of change in health consciousness is going to change many of the ways things are done in healthcare. For instance, remember that cynical old saying:
It's not what you know, it's who you know?
Meaning that knowing the right person provides you with some strategic advantage in business, social advancement, etc.
In Health 1.0, it was often true. Knowing who the better doctors were, for instance, in your city might provide you with access to better care.
Enter the Information Age and now Health 2.0. You now have access to medical information equal to that of your doctor. You now have access to patient discussions about doctors, their practices, their performance records. There is now a depth and breadth of information on health that was never available before. You can participate in online forums with other people with your health concerns and conditions. You can obtain assistance from an online apomediary who has experienced many of the same struggles you are currently experiencing, making your life less painful, healthcare less onerous perhaps health returned more effectively.
I'd therefore turn the old saying into the new Health 2.0 version:
It's not who you know, it's what you know
Access to information now reigns supreme, not knowing somebody else who has the right connections.
American healthcare is, as we all know, broken in many ways. Health 2.0 represents a very powerful solution to many of the deficiencies of the healthcare status quo. And it's a process to which we can all contribute.
Published On: September 05, 2008