I stumbled upon OrganizedWisdom.com, a collaborative health information community, a few weeks ago and was intrigued by their premise of allowing people to “share their health wisdom” in an easy to use manner. It combines professional and user-generated health content with social networking technologies to help people make the most informed health decisions possible. I thought it was such a great idea that I reached out to Unity Stoakes, President and co-founder of OrganizedWisdom.com, to talk about why he thinks social computing matters in healthcare and how we can all participate. Here’s what he said.
Collaboration is nothing new to the health care industry. Scientists, physicians, health organizations, and educational institutions have networked, shared information, and worked together to solve the world’s biggest health care challenges forever. But only recently, as a result of new Internet technologies, have individuals been empowered to join this same discussion in a meaningful, collective way.
Here are 10 ways social computing may be the most disruptive and positive force to ever impact the healthcare industry.
1. Information Windows Have Closed
New health-focused social networks, search engines and content distributors are making it easier for anyone to have access to the same information at the same time. That means the health care industry needs to educate consumer patients at the same time they educate physicians. Consumers now have access to information that was once privileged only to the industry. Social computing makes it possible for almost anyone to quickly arm themselves with information, ask more questions, and take charge of their health decisions like never before.
2. Collaboration is Making Us Smarter
Now that it’s less expensive, faster, and easy for health groups, physicians, health organizations, and consumers to connect and collaborate, everyone is getting smarter. People are learning about new treatments, alternative solutions, less expensive options, and helping each other connect the dots with complicated health issues.
3. It’s Now Possible to Dialog Directly with Patients
For the most part, the health care industry has been based on the “few to many” approach to communications, marketing, product development, etc. Technology is making it possible (and necessary) for the industry to connect with all of their constituencies in a more personalized, relevant way. These new direct links with consumer patients, for example, could mean better product design, new treatments, more effective trials, and ultimately more personalized health solutions.
4. Transparency is a Requirement
Social networks are lifting the veil of an often blurry and complex industry. People want to understand more about the companies providing their health care. They are learning about alternative treatments. And they are demanding a more open and forthright culture from the industry. Social networks are breeding savvy consumers, who are giving their trust to those who are opening the curtain and helping communicate in more transparent ways.
5. Word of Mouth Marketing
Friends and family have shared and spread important wisdom since the beginning of time. But now, via social networks, they can do so with a click of a button. This means that industry marketers will need to rethink how they focus their efforts. They must figure out transparent and effective ways to leverage word of mouth marketing in a hyper-connected world.
6. Knowledge Now Lives Forever
Over time community driven knowledge bases will become smarter and more meaningful. Archived information, shared wisdom, and personal experience has a much longer life span than ever before.
7. Wisdom of Crowds
The collective experience from millions can now be assembled to help people see trends, make decisions, and learn what worked (or didn’t work) for millions of other people. Access to this data will change how people make their health care decisions in the future, and perhaps impact the very types of health related products and services that become available.
8. The Long Tail Effect
Health care will open up to thousands of new micro-segments, as the health industry, learns that there is big business in small niche focused health care needs. There will be new treatments and solutions for even the most rare of health conditions. It is also likely, that social networks will make it easier for the health care industry to identify new areas they need to focus on developing solutions for.
9. Costs Driven Down
Over time, education and collaboration will force the industry to find innovative ways to keep costs down. People will get better access to health care at more affordable prices because they will be able to find other options and new solutions.
10. Privacy Fears Replaced by a Culture of Collaborative Action
For many important reasons, personal privacy is critical when health issues are concerned. But as we are seeing online in message boards, blogs, and Web sites, many are standing up and saying: I want to share my wisdom to help other people. Social networks that empower consumers and put them in control of their personal health information, are giving individuals the choice to make decisions about what they share and what they don’t. This new culture of openness will require additional protections, but overall we will all benefit from a more intelligent and collaborative base of knowledge, experience and progress.
It is exciting to see all of the innovation occurring in the health care industry today. New technologies, empowered consumers, and better information, will ultimately help us all. Those companies who learn to participate transparently, and leverage the force of these new networks, will ultimately succeed.