The Social Networks Driving Healthcare Forward

Social media is everywhere. It’s an intrinsic part of your life whether you’re really aware of it or not.

If you’re reading this then you’ve engaged in social networking. We’ve connected whether it’s through LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress or whatever else. However, and as I’ve mentioned before, healthcare lags behind most industries in its uptake of management solutions and innovation.

In my last blog I discussed a surge in the use of iPads in hospitals and it therefore only makes sense to look at the social networks and apps that propel smartphones and the like. Since the primary premise of a social network is to connect and formulate a community then it can have a perfect role in healthcare connecting patients, relatives, carers and physicians. So let’s look at some examples:

1. Curetogether.com

An open-source, crowd-sourcing type of website where patients with conditions in common can come together to share qualitative and quantitative information regarding their conditions and treatments. The purpose of this is to provide accurate information for patients but chiefly to spur the development of ideas and research in their respective fields.

2. PatientsLikeMe.com

A for profit company that allows patients to share quantitative and qualitative information providing a database of information for people to browse and learn from about conditions, treatments and interventions. Information is then shared with private healthcare firms and is another way of driving research or feedback in the private sector.

3. MedHelp.org

Another community website to share information but uniquely it has a range of monitoring tools that can be used for self-monitoring and reporting. A great way of getting patients to become more pro-active in managing their health which can be shared with their doctors to allow them to be more acutely involved in the management of their patients.

Since, information is a powerful currency by itself, both the pharmaceutical industry and the medical community has taken an interest in social media. Almost every major pharmaceutical company and large hospital trust or body has a social media presence in the form of Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or even a blog.

Pharmaceutical companies are beginning to study consumer trends and perceptions so that they can develop, improve and target their products more effectively. Hospitals are using social networks to gather and respond to patient feedback and experiences. The Mayo Clinic is a case point with a fantastic social networking web presence through their Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media.

As patients become more web savvy there is a range of social networks offering direct, online consultations but these traverse a grey area in terms of the extent of care that can be provided reasonably and ethically over the internet. But one great perk is the role of the social network to connect physicians to one another to confidentially and anonymously discuss patient cases either within their own hospital or through a wider network. An example of such a website is iRounds.net which allows physicians in a hospital to share data, communicate and even manage their schedules.

Most of these websites are ridiculously difficult to find unless you know where you’re going and what you’re looking forward. The research into the efficacy of these services is minimal at best but a trend is clearly developing and it’s unlikely to slow down any time soon.

As a tech savvy doctor (if I do say so myself!) I think this technology is great because it would improve my ability to look after my patients and do my job. As a management consultant I think it can only improve productivity, reactivity and even profitability. Here’s the thing though if we’re going to do it then we need a concentrated effort with investment and education by both private and public services.

It’s not like money is growing on trees but this may be one investment that will reap dividends for many years to come.

Have any more examples? Have your say, Tweet me @Saif_Abed & if you enjoyed today’s blog please ReTweet and share it!

Dr Saif F Abed
Founding Partner
AbedGraham Healthcare Strategies Ltd
http://www.abedgraham.com

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