Health Care News (Heartland Institute), March 1, 2009
Spearheading a new trend in health care, patients around the world are uniting via social networks to discuss and obtain help in combating chronic illnesses.
Whereas social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace have traditionally been utilized as a networking tool among coworkers and friends, thousands of patients suffering from life-changing illnesses are using the networks to cope with illnesses and communicate with others about their medical journeys.
The new trend has been dubbed “Health 2.0,” a reference to the Web 2.0 phenomenon of online interaction and use of the Internet as a multifaceted communication tool, rather than simply as a static source of information.
Making Personal Connections
One of the most popular social networks dedicated to this endeavor is PatientsLikeMe.
Founded in 2004 by three MIT engineers, this leading health-related social network is dedicated to cultivating communication and transparency among patients, doctors, and related organizations to help advance global medical research and camaraderie among chronic disease sufferers.
Through this online community, individuals coping with difficult illnesses and diseases can reach out and personally connect with others who face similar medical challenges.
To help build that community, PatientsLikeMe fosters a new approach to health care: open dialogue.
“When patients share real-world data, collaboration on a global scale becomes possible,” says the organization’s Web site. “New treatments become possible. Most importantly, change becomes possible. At PatientsLikeMe, we are passionate about bringing people together for a greater purpose: speeding up the pace of research and fixing a broken health care system.”
The growing trend toward online medical networking offers a good example of health care consumer empowerment.
“Social networking is not just for kids anymore,” said John R. Graham, director of health policy studies at the Pacific Research Institute. “Technology is breaking down barriers that previously stood in the way of patient communication.”
Health 2.0 networks bring patients out of the dark and into a shared community of individuals interested in altering the current health care system to focus on the patient. They also challenge health care planners to improve medical research, health services, and global communication regarding chronic disease.
Graham points out those who control the United States health care system might receive a rude awakening through this new technology.
“Without a doubt, this terrifies many who control our health care system,” Graham said. “Soon, I hope, these social networks will lead patients to think, ‘We are free to speak to each other about our health care, why aren’t we free to use this information to decide what health care services we use at what price?”
Katie Flanigan ([email protected]) writes from Georgia. She is director of Web 2.0/Social Media for Lighthouse Strategies and Consulting.
For more information …
Patients Like Me: www.patientslikeme.com