The Health 2.0 Fantasy

February 6, 2010

I’m wondering is Health 2.0 is more fantasy than revolution.

What got me thinking is this post by Susannah Fox where she comes to the despondent realization that health 2.0 may not be affecting outcomes. There’s a nice follow-up here at Walking the Path.

It raises the question: What do we think Health 2.0 is really going to accomplish? What should we really expect to come of it?

I don’t have the answer.

Health 2.0 is as much a process as it is a movement. It can’t be stopped and its outcome is not the choice of any individual. From a public health perspective the impact of collaboration and communication will be borne out over generations.

We need to be careful about overstating 2.0’s ability to change health on an individual level. Social networks provide platforms for interaction. This collaboration creates opportunity but doesn’t necessarily create change. Behavioral change at its most basic level is an individual issue. Health is a personal process.

And of course there’s the hive. But the hive is not about individuals. It’s all about the collective. Health change is individual. Health behavior is intimate, personal, and human. The hive is not human. And the hivemind has no regard for the needs of the individual.

You can inform me and we can share and contribute. But ultimately we answer to no one but ourselves.

It’s fun to think about the promise that Health 2.0 has for all of us as individuals. But I can’t help but think that some of it is fantasy.


Elizabeth Han February 6, 2010 at 11:12 pm

That is pretty depressing. Whether Health 2.0 really works or not is something I always have in the back of my mind. We're probably far away from magical devices, software, websites that "fix" medical issues as if they were so discrete – but I like the conclusion of the Fox article. Like you said, maybe Health 2.0 is more of a process. The effects for individuals are subtle – maybe just tweaks in attitude – and you can't predict where they come from. I bet even the "low-tech, unsexy approaches" are inevitably influenced by media, internet, and Dr. Google and Dr. Wikipedia. Somebody has to be at the vanguard and making an effort at curating and improving the trickle.

Phil Baumann February 10, 2010 at 9:43 am

I'd first say that the phrase "Health 2.0" misleads most conversation about the relationship between the Web and health care.

There is not 2.0 or 3.0 – there's just health care. The issue in front of us, rather, is understanding the Web as cause *and* effect as related to health care.

What I think we need to do is for providers and advocates and everyone else is ask questions:

- What is the nature of the Web?

- In what ways is the Web disruptive?

- How is the Web affecting the way providers get information, collaborate with each other, interact with their patients, etc.?

- What are the *conditions* that separate good Crowdsourcing from bad (aka "the hive")?

- How do we address the issues of boundaries along the spectrum of various media (which the Web is continually creating)?

- What are the properties and possibilities and limits of new media?

The questions go on. Unfortunately we've had a significant (and I'd be as bold to say dangerous) shortage of doctors and nurses and life scientists expressing their views, learning about novel online software and leading working communities.

Hivemind is definitely a danger – and many proponents of the Free Culture (or as Andrew Keen describes as the Cult of the Amateur) are getting a lot more attention than the professionals. In fact, the voice of famous amateurs has gotten so loud, I wonder if we've already reached Lock-in of Urban Web Philosophy.

Jaron Lanier is one whose voice aught to be listened to more – thanks for you recommendation!)


Sam Adams February 10, 2010 at 9:51 am

Until there's a significant shift in hospital culture and attitude, Health 2.0 is going to be a slow-boil fantasy.

online doctor February 18, 2010 at 9:27 am

healthcare reform is one the most important issue in our society that obama should resolve.

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