THCN's New Website: Never Do the Fingers Leave the Hand, or Is It the Keyboard?
When I decided to devote a special blog to TheHealthCentralNetwork’s new website, I thought to myself: “This is great. It will give me a good excuse to poke around and find out what is actually there.” In fact, I found a great deal.
My comments will center on four aspects of the website: technical sophistication; content; empathy; and value added.
First, I immediately became aware of the website’s technical sophistication. I have developed several large, complex and innovative computer systems over my business career and have found the THCN’s site to be on the cutting edge. To be on the cutting edge, a sophisticated system must be easy to use however complicated its internal structure. The end user must enjoy each visit, which means they must readily find what they seek. The THCN site has achieved that goal. The system designers created a multi-dimensioned, expandable matrix that grants entry at virtually any point in the system and, from there, direct and simple transport to virtually anywhere else in the system. It is seamless, yet provides boundary lines between the various portions of the system that make it easy to keep your bearings.
Second, I was pleasantly surprised by the variety and volume of the website’s content. There are references to current and authoritative books, articles, papers, videos and blogs that provide the latest information concerning a whole host of chronic illnesses. Through the system’s experts you can learn about not only the latest research and science of an illness, but also the challenges the disease is likely to present. For example, there is information concerning the problems you will encounter in living with your illness from day to day, as well as what it feels like physically, mentally and emotionally. This means that on a continuing basis the website can be equally valuable to both the new and the regular visitor.
Third, I’m encouraged by the ease with which the THCN website delivers all this information in such a personalized and compassionate way. Most important to the website’s success is that through its SharePosts it immediately introduces visitors to others who face the same or similar problems, rapidly uncovering common ground. I’ve found that reading a SharePost is NOT like having a one way conversation. I find myself whispering responses to what I am reading, whether I agree or disagree. The experience becomes even more personal as soon as I decide to submit a written comment. I also read the comments of others and soon found myself giving voice to my own beliefs and experience in the form of my own SharePost. Then I wait for the comments and insights of others. I feel comfortable in doing this because the others involved in these written conversations show great empathy. They are, after all, largely fellow travelers.
Fourth, and for me the most rewarding aspect of the web site is that it allows a subscriber to create his or her own webpage through the CareCentral facility. This enables the creator to develop his or her private or public virtual support group. This group can include persons anywhere in the world with internet access. This is extremely important because individuals with chronic diseases generally find social situations difficult and tend to withdraw. The CareCentral facility can provide emotional support that might otherwise be impossible to obtain. The support groups can help in crises and in maintaining recovery.
When I developed schizophrenia in 1956, there were no halfway houses, day programs or support groups of any kind. Because the first neuroleptic had been developed just one year prior, I narrowly escaped being warehoused on the back ward of a state mental hospital. In school I was ridiculed, ostracized, and mentally and emotionally abused by other students. I knew of no other person my age with schizophrenia. How wonderful it would have been to have the opportunity to develop a virtual support group populated by my peers.
I found my exploration of the system so satisfying that I spent more time than I had intended and was well rewarded for doing so. The THCN’s website has now become a part of my daily routine, like reading my e-mail, except the website is much more interesting and enjoyable. I’m sure if I keep my eyes open and my fingers on the keyboard I’ll make many more valuable discoveries.