The Social Health Correction


I can’t help but wonder if we’re in the midst of a social health correction – a readjustment of expectations and beliefs about the near-term potential of social media to revolutionize health.  I suspect that this achieved peak trajectory around 2009.  The conversations were heady – Twitter would fix our problems.  Facebook would revolutionize how doctors communicate with patients.

But with respect to physicians, we didn’t listen to Clay Shirky’s suggestion that social tools don’t create new motivations as much as they reinforce existing ones.  Facebook can’t make a dysfunctional doctor-patient relationship functional.  Unhappy, overworked doctors don’t engage.

All of our ideas were fueled by the echo of our personally tailored health communities.  We created filter bubbles that allowed us to hear the messages of those telling us precisely what we wanted to hear.  We saw the rise, plateau, and ultimate dissolution of social media consultants who would save us by telling us how to correctly use Twitter.

There’s the temptation to misinterpret the social health correction as validation of the belief that it was all just a phase.  But democratized media and the information revolution have changed things forever.  We were just ahead of ourselves in believing how fast it would go and in which direction it would turn.

Corrections are good.  Social and the march of technology and networked patients will continue to do amazing things.  They just won’t save health care as fast as we expected.