Health Care, Anyone?
President Obama and Congress are going once more into the breach on health care reform. Whatever one’s political views about the issue, the notion of “health care” writ large puts policymakers at odds with the way Americans think and learn about their own health issues. Policymakers talk about “health care” as though it is a monolith. Consumers, however, think about health issues through the filter of their own, or a loved one’s, health needs.
Cancer survivors think differently about these issues than diabetics or parents of children with learning disabilities. All worry about meta-issues like cost at some level, but most when they think about their health have a deeper desire in mind: get well; feel better.
HealthCentral began with the goal of organizing information and communities within highly specific disease topics. Over time, we have consumers are hyper-verticalizing around more specific topics than condition alone. Some seek treatment information from others regardless of the condition for which others people had the drug prescribed. Others seek connections around geography or demographic similarities. But through it all, almost no one with a particular health need searches for “health care.” And most who come to our communities, and other health communities across the web, have needs that take six or more words to describe.
The mega-trends in drug and device discovery, marketing, and effectiveness research are racing consumers toward increasingly targeted needs? Treatments are being developed for particular kinds of cancers, individuals with a chronic disease but a particular genetic predisposition. And, as the populations for which a treatment or surgery works decrease in number, so drug and surgical efficacy — and by extension – societal value will grow. Diagnostics, too, are increasingly linked to the entire treatment path. In time, physicians, hospital units, and clinics will specialize too.
All of this is great for consumers, and consumer-behavior online – what consumers want, need, and use – will set the trends both for drug development and marketing. And so whatever health care legislation is enacted this year will pale – cost aside – from the increasingly powerful aggregate pull of consumer demand for information, self-help, treatments, and physicians who understand the highly-engaged consumer – one who cares about health care overall a little, but their own chances of getting well much more.