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A look at Healthcare Systems and Web 2.0

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p>Recently I attended the Health 2.0 conference and was impressed by the drive and the passion displayed by everyone to transform the Healthcare industry. This included entreprene

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urs, policy makers, patient advocates, physicians, corporate and research organizations. The conference discussions highlighted the changing role of patients and physicians and showcased the different ways in which Web 2.0 tools had been used to help bring this change. It was a good platform to get a sneak preview into the future of the digital landscape of Healthcare and evaluate some of our strategies for getting there.

Benefits of Web 2.0 tools
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One of my conference highlights was learning about the role of Web 2.0 tools in changing the lives of patients with rare and chronic illnesses. These patients use online collaboration tools to connect with other people who have the same illness as theirs and are going thorough the same emotions as them. Sharing experiences and learning from each other fills the void that evidence based research is not been able to do. Typically it takes 2 to 5 years for clinical research to get published and reach the patients and physicians who need them the most. Unfortunately in some cases, this data becomes out of date by the time it reaches the intended

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recipients. Some of the online communities that are giving hope to these patients are ePatients , DiabetesMine and Acor.

The conference also showcased products that are being developed to augment this digital revolution in Healthcare. A few that caught my attention were,

  • HealthConnect: Helps patients access their health records and provide them with tools to better manage their health. Their data indicates that letting patients make decisions about their own heath leads to better patient compliance.
  • Connected Health: Uses remote monitoring to manage chronically ill and at risk patients. Research in this area indicates that daily monitoring of the patient’s activities leads to the best patient outcomes.

Other areas where Web 2.0 tools are being integrated are products that help manage behavior chance (Pro-Change Behavior), develop wikis (AskDr.Wiki), provide specialized searches (Heathline), build communities (Inspire, WeGo), manage your health (Healthfinder, bWell-inc, GoogleHealth) enable online visits with physicians (HelloHealth) and use mobiles to access health information (Adam, Sensei).

Looking beyond Web 2.0
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While I sat through the presentations and product demonstrations, I found myself evaluating the use of the solutions being presented. My past experiences of

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working with patients and healthcare professionals helped me create scenarios and do mental walkthrough of how these products would be potentially used. It made me wonder if some of these solutions were being limited due to availability of Web 2.0 tools.

“Data entry is a burden” - Amy Tenderrich. My thoughts were echoed in this comment from Amy who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes five years ago. Today, when there are so many technology tools that aim to make the process for updating online food diaries easy, Amy’s statement hit home for me. Amy’s need was to do normal activities, activities that would not remind her of her clinical condition. She wished that there was some sort of a data handshake between the food that she ate and her online food diary. She imagined that a small scanner could scan the information from food packages and send it to her online food diary. A wonderful concept that could address the real pain points of a person managing his/her diabetes, a great opportunity for bringing meaningful change.

Susannah Fox’ presented some of the findings from her study on the social impact of the internet, that indicates that most Americans, 61% of adults, might loot

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at health information online but do not use broadband or mobile access for online collaboration. In fact they might be turning away from using them. This is an important data point that needs to be considered while designing products for the Healthcare industry.

Then, there were people I cheered because they talked about designing Healthcare solutions based on the user needs. Don Caruso emphasized the need to make it easier for the physicians to integrate EHR (Electronic Health Records) within their current clinical workflow. After all, updating patient records adds to the physician’s already demanding schedule instead of lessening it. Ted Eytan expressed the need to make EHR information more useful for the patients, instead of flooding information that they may not understand. Lastly, Neil Calman made a comment that summed up everything that was left to say – “We need to redraw the Healthcare network and put the patient in the center.”

It’s a wonderful time to be part of the Healthcare industry and a huge opportunity to create solutions that

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will make the Healthcare experience delightful for all its users.

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2 Responses to “A look at Healthcare Systems and Web 2.0”

  1. Rob says:

    Amy’s issue intrigues me, as I have the opposite feeling – but my problems have to do more with weight and blood pressure, and actively recording information into my HealthVault account is in and of itself a positive step. I really like the control I get from digital tools, and I think there are markets for the Amys of the world who want passive data collection as well as those like me who want to oversee the details.

  2. Sheetal Dube says:

    Rob, You are absolutely right about digital tools playing a key role in giving patients more control of their health. The intent here is to design these tools around the needs of the patients so that they would be easy to use and the value could be realized by a larger number of people.

    To Amy’s point, her thought was to let technology do its magic with minimum involvement of the patient. This would still give patients the power to track their data. However it would remove the burden of entering it and being reminded that they are patients. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts.