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Are all New Healthcare Technology Initiatives Social Media?

Posted on : 01-11-2010 | By : Akiva Zablocki | In : New Tech, Social Media

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There seems to be some confusion between the idea of social media in healthcare and new positive advances in healthcare technology initiatives. Last week the Healthcare Performance Management Institute (HPMI) published a white paper titled:  Healthcare Performance Management in the Era of “Twitter” in which the HPMI described several advances in uses of technology and health data to foster communication between patients and their physicians to achieve better healthcare outcomes.  The published paper was covered in an InformationWeek article titled “Social Media Cuts Healthcare Costs,” and was presented in a way that one would think that patients posting pictures on Facebook can actually save lives.

The paper indicates that last year the Pew Research Center found that 61% of Americans turn to the internet for health information, which is not exactly big news. The HPMI paper goes on to describe an initiative called Point to Point (P2P) Healthcare solution offered by Healthcare Interactive and WellNet Healthcare as a “technology that combines a repository for storing and analyzing medical and pharmacy data with an online social network that links a company’s employees with all of their care providers. “ This initiative sounds really great and will likely advance health outcomes and cut costs. However, it does not sound like more than a comprehensive disease management program—hardly a social network. The name itself “Point to Point (P2P)” hints at direct interactions rather than a social one. The only true social media mentioned in the white paper was a survey of PatientsLikeMe, an online community for people with life threatening chronic illness like ALS or Multiple Sclerosis. PatientsLikeMe is truly “blazing new trail” in health outcomes for these patients by using social networking to create meaningful personal and aggregate data that helps these patients make decisions.

It is truly wonderful that the healthcare world is finally catching up with technological advances of the last decade. I have no doubt that use of social networking as the backbone to new and improved healthcare initiatives will surly lead to better health outcomes. Still, it is a bit too soon to cover a few new applications that allow online communications between doctors and patients, or that use health data to improve basic pay-per-performance metrics with physicians, and then declare that the Health 2.0 Messiah is here!

The advancement and introduction of these technological tools into healthcare is a blessing; still, these tools need to integrate real social networking capabilities, not just enable web 1.0 communications with physicians. These tools also need to allow patients to have full access to all information that physicians have. There is a need for larger sites than PatientsLikeMe that use the data provided to improve health outcomes for patients as well as enable social interactions amongst patients with similar health interests and illness. There is a need for real healthcare social media.

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