Web 2.0 and Healthcare

Web 2.0 is a revolution. It has disciples and detractors with very different views of its impact, including how it promises to reshape healthcare.

Omar Wasow, who spoke at the recent Forum for Healthcare Strategists conference, believes that as Web 2.0 transforms our social, political and economic futures, it will "put patients in the driver's seat." Web 2.0 will equip and motivate patients to move from their traditional passive role to one of active participation. It will build community among patients with similar diagnosis (and among physicians) and will be a fountain of knowledge and shared experience.  
Andrew Keen, who spoke at the last SHSMD educational conference, believes Web 2.0 is destroying our economy, our culture and our values. It is creating "a cult of the amateur" in which healthcare is being undermined by unvetted user-generated content that can supplant the expert advice of physicians and other medical professionals. 
How can we reconcile all the positive attributes of community and empowerment for patients with the dangers of misinformation through the Web that can erode trust in the judgment of physicians and undermine proven treatment protocols?
Personally, I have friends with chronic illnesses who find hope in online patient communities and rely on the Internet to keep up with healthy behaviors and advances in treatment. Other friends and family with health concerns search in hope only to find conflicting information that lacks authority and authenticity. 
Another pitfall is that the Web also removes the intimacy of in-person relationships. How much can we trust the advice of others who don't know us and lack factual knowledge about the full condition of our health? 
The advent of Web 2.0 presents an enormous opportunity for healthcare leaders to step up and set an agenda that fosters all the benefits of community while certifying information to be reliable. However, the Web is still very much the wild, wild west. It provides a forum for many competing factions. Any group that exerts control on a grand scale is labeled as acting in its own self-interest. Even on the local level, many healthcare providers create web landing pages on procedures and physicians as a marketing tactic. Where do we draw the lines? 
The full repercussions of Web 2.0 are largely unknown. We have the challenge of shaping the outcome. 
—Tom DeSanto
Image: www.startupordown.com

No comments: