Friday, August 13, 2010

Chapter Eight. Internet, Information Technologies, and Social Media

This is chapter eight in my new book Health Reform in Perspective.

Prologue: The world now moves on Internet time. The Internet and its various iterations are connecting people, creating mass movements, and changing economic models. The Internet will change how health consumers and patients perceive and receive health care.

Health Care and the Groundswell

Groundswell is a book about the welling up of Internet- based social networking media sites – Facebook, U-Tube, Twitter, Flickr, and other sites – as transforming forces in our society.

Its authors - Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff – are executives at Forrester Research. They conduct surveys to determine how people use technology. Using their extensive database, they discuss the whys, whats, hows of the impact of the Internet on social and corporate behavior.

The book’s purpose is to teach corporate clients how to use the Internet, the blogosphere, and social network sites to market products. They define the groundswell as a powerful social trend in which people use information technologies to get the things they need from each other rather than from traditional institutions like government, corporations, and the medical industrial complex.

They argue the Groundswell is an irresistible, completely different way for people to relate and to connect with one another.

Three Forces

Three forces propel the Groundswell:

One, people, who have always depended on one another to get what they need and to rebel against institutional power

Two, Technology which has changed everything because 73% of people are now online and have broadband connectivity

Three, Online Economics, which make it possible to get information virtually free, and which for marketers, makes it possible to influence millions of people through online research and online traffic reports.

“The groundswell,” say the authors, “has changed the balance of power. Everybody can put up a site that connects people with people. If it is designed well, people will use it. They’ll tell their friends how to use it. They’ll conduct commerce, or read the news, or start a popular movement, or make loans to one another. Or whatever the site is designed to facilitate.”

The groundswell is about power – the power of social connections between people, the power of the Buzz, the power of word of mouth, the power of opinion, the power of free information, the power of personal marketing, the power of online advertising, and the power of the Internet to make obsolete, and radically reform existing business models.

What does this have to do with health care?


• Getting health care information is the number one reason people visit the Internet. Where most people find information about their health decisions, Here is where people get their information: Health web site: 48%, doctors: 43%,through friends or family: 30%, magazines or newspapers: 27%, TV or radio: 24%, the hospital: 22%, government: 21%, social networking websites: 17%, ccmmunity services: 14% ,health clubs (e.g. gymnasiums, yoga studios): 8%, schools: 7%, and
grocery stores/supermarkets: 7%

• People use the Internet to assess from what doctors and what institutions they will get their care, which is why sites like America’s Top Doctors have been so popular.

• Health care institutions – like Mayo, the Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, and Sloan Kettering - have entire divisions devoted to Internet markets.

• Certain companies – like Practice Fusion, Inc, an EHR firm – can offer EHRs “free” because online marketers interested in reaching doctors subsidize the EHRs rather than doctors.

• Medical practices – through physician bloggers and practice websites – can connect personally and in targeted ways to their patient constituencies.

• Sites, like, can offer support information for patients, families, and friends about almost any given disease or medical situation.

• Sites like the Healthcare Blog can start movements like Health 2.0 designed to empower consumers .

One well-known physician blogger, Kevin Pho, MD, has staked his career and made his name as "the social media's leading physician voice." In today's blog, he lists these previous blogs addressing the inpact and the use of the social media on and for physicians.

1. End of life blogging benefits and the questions it raises

2. Social media starts the patient dialogue with doctors and nurses

3. Social networking impact on patients, doctors, and non-profits

4. Twitter can spread inaccurate medical information

5. Twitter for doctors, a guide for health care professionals

6. Twitter habits of pharmaceutical companies

7. Twitter has problems in the operating room

8. Why doctors should blog with their real name

9. Quit smoking by using Facebook

10. Twitter and Facebook can help conduct group patient visits

11. Doctors using social media to talk to patients, but where's the evidence?

I recommend you visit Kevin at and click on one of these eleven blogs on the social media to appreciate the power of the Groundwell.
Confused about Health reform? Go To for Answers.
Preface: Confused about what Health reform means for you? Fret no more. Wellpoint, Obama’s favorite health plan villain, the largest in the land, has opened a new website, to answer all your questions. Here is the story as explained in Wall Street Journal’s health blog.

“WellPoint’s Anthem unit has launched an online community to answer questions about health reform. The website,, Anthem says. is the first of its kind.

The idea behind is to provide a forum where people can ask questions about the new federal health-care overhaul bill and their health coverage more broadly. Anyone can log on and post a question, not just Anthem policyholders.
Anthem says the site has gotten about 60,000 pageviews since it launched May 1.

The questions being asked are things such as, “I have a child under the age of 26. When can I add her to my policy?” Anthem moderators, whose areas of expertise range from public policy to nursing, post answers to the questions, a spokesman says. The company decided to launch the forum after being inundated with questions following the new law’s March passage, he says.

In one of the forums, Anthem was asked why one policyholder’s premiums went up 31%. The company has been under fire from the Obama administration and state regulators for rate increases, which critics say are the result of industry profits and the industry contends are caused by rising medical costs.

WellPoint used the forum to reiterate the industry’s message, saying: “By law, premiums must reflect the anticipated medical costs of health plans’ members — which means rising health care costs do make a difference when it comes to premiums.” The moderator then ticked off the drivers of health costs, including an aging population and medical inflation.


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