There’s a groundswell driving social media in health care in America, from Silicon Valley to Boston, Miami to…Omaha?

Strategy& (former Booz and Company) and the Center for Health Transformation convened a roundtable discussion in Omaha, Nebraska, in March 2009 following up a discussion the company had in 2008 with stakeholders in diabetes. In that meeting, the opportunities generated by social media in the field of diabetes were explored, with respect to improving peoples’ access to information for health and wellness, as well as how to use social media to influence policy and positive health behaviors.

As I pointed out in my report for the California HealthCare Foundation published in 2008, The Wisdom of Patients: Health Meets Online Social Media, social media can positively impact health in innumerable ways. The Omaha group identified a few important opportunities that leverage social media for health:
  • To provide low-cost, highly targeted, highly engaging tools to increase awareness of community health initiatives.
  • To reach and engage younger people through communities they’re already participating in.
  • To build trust and engagement between citizens and organizations/business beyond traditional “information push” by these organizations.
  • To promote patient-centered medicine by empowering patients to do their own research.

Health Populi’s Hot Points:
Since the publication of The Wisdom of Patients in April 2008, I’ve been tracking the continued adoption of social networks in health. With the publication of Groundswell from Josh Bernoff and Clay Shirkey’s Here Comes Everybody, there is no doubt that social networks in health are ‘here,’ and are already changing the relationships between patients who are finding colleagues in-sickness-and-in-health, physicians in communities with other physicians, and researchers collaborating in new and facile ways.

In this emerging era of participatory health, I expect we’ll be seeing (early-adopting) physicians co-creating health in social networks with patients and caregivers sooner rather than later. It’s important to note that on Facebook, the fastest growing segment of users is older women — kids, teens, and Millenials are already fully absorbed in there.
The groundswell of patient-centered medicine is upon us. This is being driven, as Bernoff, Shirkey and I agree, from the ground up — by the people, for the people.