The Potential of Health 2.0

Carol Diamond and Clay Shirky from Health Information Technology: A Few Years Of Magical Thinking? (via ReadWriteWeb):

The challenge of thinking of IT as a tool to improve quality requires serious attention to transforming the U.S. health care system as a whole, rather than simply computerizing the current setup. Proponents of health IT must resist “magical thinking,” such as the notion that technology will transform our broken system, absent integrated work on policy or incentives.

Optimism abounded throughout the two days in San Francisco—as well it should when a group of pioneers embarks upon new territory.  But whispers of what it could be–bubbly–were heard throughout.  My feeling on what will prevent a bubble pop is the inherent potential in Health 2.0: helping patients muddle through health care and managing their wellness.

There were very cool technologies on display—some completely new, others focused on helping health care catch up to the rest of the internet-dependent world.  There are a few success stories.  Some companies are on the brink of success.  But it’s quite practical to think that there will be some failure, probably even a lot.  That’s the nature of new.

A way to reduce that chance of failure?  Focus on h-e-a-l-t-h (the broad definition).  But the focus of Health 2.0 is health, you may be saying, it’s right there in the title.  Yes, it is/was for many of the companies touting their utilities.  But for a few (maybe more) their focus on profit was completely transparent.  I don’t think that model will work.

So in my (no skin in the game) humble opinion, here are two areas where the people of Health 2.0 need to focus in the coming months:

Integration – I like Scott Shreeve’s definition best: “New concept of health care wherein all the constituents (patients, physicians, providers, and payers) focus on health care value (outcomes/price) and use competition at the medical condition level over the full cycle of care as the catalyst for improving the safety, efficiency, and quality of health care.”

Most Health 2.0 companies are working with patients (obviously), physicians (obviously), and a few with payers (by the way, they have the cash, so unless your plan is game changing, it would be best to include them).  But throughout my two days at Health 2.0, I was disappointed to see an almost blatant neglect of working with providers (who I’m going to call hospitals/clinics/points of health care delivery).  The providers have the data (tons of it).  They are the facilities where an astounding amount of care is delivered (even a Hello Health patient may need to visit a hospital).  If Health 2.0 is to realize its true potential, hospitals etc. must be included in the game (Google Health and Microsoft Health Vault have began a few partnerships, but this area remains flush with opportunity).  Which leads to the next point…

Collaboration – The tools available today are astounding.  A patient (sorry, I’m old school on calling health care users patients, the term consumer connotes dirty images in my mind) can price compare services.  A patient can enter labs data into a PHR.  A patient can price shop for insurance coverage.  A patient can participate in communities.  A patient can manage their health care expenses simply.  A patient can find information on physicians.  A patient can compare quality (it’s getting better).  And this is all precisely the problem.  As a patient myself, I have no desire to visit eight different websites to manage my health.  I have trouble enough managing my money with five different institutions.  I want to visit one place.  One site where I can do it all.  The company that is able to bring together the tools that have been created to a single location where patients can easily use/share/create health information will lead the Health 2.0 transformation of health care.

That’s why Health Vault and Keas excite me the most.  Keas has been quiet (understatement) on what they are trying to do.  But their “sneek preview” at Health 2.0 gave me the inkling that they may be creating a platform that brings together a cadre of services in one location.  We wait to find out.  Health Vault could be the killer app in this equation (that’s what we’re all waiting for, isn’t it?).  A talk that took place after Health 2.0 actually provided more insight.  Health Vault is building a platform on which others can build applications to help patients manage their health (think iPhone App Store).  Acquisitions need not happen to make this work, the tools just need to work together.  For this reason, I think acquisitions will be fewer than what has occured in the Web 2.0 world.

Anyway, these are the opinions of a humble observer.  There is reason to be optimistic for what Health 2.0 will do for patients, but first it must become much easier for patients to utilize multiple tools (and include the providers!).

I think the sign of true success for Health 2.0 will be this: when we drop the 2.0 and simply use these tools to manage our Health.

3 thoughts on “The Potential of Health 2.0

  1. Health 2.0 shouldn’t be about providers. That’s the point. HIMSS is about providers, RSNA is about providers. There are A LOT of conferences, conventions and symposiums focused on providers. The group that needs attention is consumers. That’s what I expect from Health 2.0 (although I think they’re still trying to figure that out themselves).

    I was at GE Healthcare for 9 years and I now run a company trying to focus on consumer products. We can tap into Health Vault and Google Health and other PHRs but the point is to provide something for consumers. The recent history of medicine is about providers and hospital and clinics and drugs. What about patients? That is the group that has been neglected. That is the group that hasn’t been given the power to make decisions. That is the only group that will change things if we expect to make changes in a market economy.

    So, my message to Health 2.0, if you want to stay relevant, keep focusing on consumers. Providers have their forums. Consumers need theirs.

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  2. I like your points. Also I think the goal is for Health2.0 to make the integration into the hospitals (and other caregivers). It’s not only a thing of patients, or a thing of entrepeneurs, it’s a collaboration of all stakeholders in care. They can use the characteristics of health2.0 to define a new way of care. See also my blogposting: http://www.health20.nl/2008/11/04/health20-definition-vision-opportunities-and-a-goal/ (also in pdf (http://www.scribd.com/doc/7707142/Health20-Definition-vision-opportunities-and-a-goal))

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  3. RPothier, I agree with you and I don’t.

    Health 2.0 is about the consumer, there’s no doubt. They have been neglected to be sure. But my point is that providers need to be included in this movement. It needs to include all stakeholders to make it work. Martijn is right on. Consumers alone cannot do what they want to do without the cooperation of the rest of health care. Sure, consumers are the ignition in forcing the industry to respond, but consumers cannot manage their health alone…they need doctors, providers, payers, etc.

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