Saturday, February 12, 2011

Egypt, The Social Media, and Health 2.0

Man can be said to survive only through his capacity to organize, to change his environment, and to exploit its possibilities thorough technology. The inhabitants of the Nile valley possessed all these qualities to a remarkable degree, making their country a model of organization, of technical competence and artistic creativity.

Ceres Wissa Wasser, Egypt, 1983

What made this Egyptian democracy movement so powerful is its legitimacy. It was started by youth and enabled by Facebook and Twitter.

Thomas Friedman, “Postcard from Egypt,” February 11, New York Times

Until now, despite an oppressive leader, Egypt as a civilization had everything, except freedom. The social media set them free. Commentators are giving credit to Twitter, Facebook, and Google for lighting the fuse of revolt among the Egyptian people and for helping them bring millions into the streets.

No doubt Internet access fuels and empowers the masses by reaching individuals with information. No doubt the electronic media helped organize crowds by appealing to their consciences and unleashing their sense of indignation.

This brings me to Health 2.0 and the pervasive belief that the Internet will embolden health consumers to change the health system through health information technologies.

According to Wikipedia, itself a social media vehicle,

“Health 2. 0 is the use of a specific set of Web tools (blogs, Podcasts, tagging, search, wikis, etc) by actors in health care including doctors, patients, and scientists, using principles of open source and generation of content by users, and the power of networks in order to personalize health care, collaborate, and promote health education."

The social media has the power to set people atwitter, to make them face the facts, and to allow them to google to give them everything they might want to know but were afraid to ask. By the end of the year 33 million people will have an IPad or its equivalent, and 80% of the time, people surf the Net in search of health care information.

How will the social media effect physicians? The jury is still out.

Personally, I am on Facebook and Twitter, I have a 4 year old blog and a website under construction, and I have even published an E-book, The Pros and Cons of Accountable Care Organizations. I am even thinking of buying a Kindle, even though it might snuff out printed books.

The other day I was at a meeting of a half-dozen prominent physicians, They were all thumbs, as they texted and fixated on their IPads. This should not have surprised me. What stunned me was how mezmerized these mature physicians were by this new gadget. As we all know, physicians are using mobile devices to prescribe, answer patient emails, and search for diagnostic information.

Where is this hypnotic fascination with electronic connecting devices going?

I do not know. But my hunch is the social media will be more useful for individuals by personalizing and decentralizing care from the bottom up rather than controlling and monitoring care from the top down.

Whether the Internet will mobilize masses of health consumers to turn the current health system upside down is another matter altogether. I hope not.

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