Observations from the HIMSS e-Health SIG Panel Discussion on Health 2.0

At HIMSS, I had the opportunity to co-host a panel discussion on Health 2.0 as a co-chair of the e-Health Special Interest Group. We were blessed with an incredible panel:

  • Khaled Hassounah, MedHelp (http://www.medhelp.org/)
  • Matthew Holt, (http://www.health2con.com/) and (http://www.thehealthcareblog.com/)
  • Julie Murchinson, (http://www.health2accelerator.org) and
  • Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, THINK-Health (http://www.think-health.com/)

And an incredible group of attendees, leading to some truly fascinating discussion. What follows is a short summary of what I heard in that discussion.

There are a large number of individual resources available out there today in what gets lumped together under the moniker of Health 2.0 – Discussion forums, ask an expert, physician and hospital ratings, health and medication libraries, personal health records, decision support tools and diary/trackers for conditions, medications, diet, exercise, etc. These tools have value, but they become much more usable when presented together and not individual stand-alone. In other words, consumers don’t want to go to one place for a PHR, another for a diet tracker, yet another to research health information and so on.

Much of this set of items that we think of as Health 2.0 really aren’t new. They’ve been out there for quite a while – MedHelp was a dial-in bulletin board system for many years. What has changed is:

  • Increased availability of the Internet and broadband
  • Technologies (such as AJAX) that are making these tools easier to use and creating a better overall experience

These advances have lead to considerable increases in usage.

For example, Medhelp was used by consumers to find a problem with some Victoria’s Secret bras. A number of women reacted badly to something in the fabric of a particular model. It would have been nearly impossible to connect these incidents together and see the scope of the problem were it not for a sufficiently large community comparing notes about a problem that they were experiencing.

This is the power of online communities that simply does not exist in their absence.

The question now is if these approaches will be used by the local and regional provider organizations or if they’ll continue as something different – outside the system of care that exists today? Equally important is if we can get consumers on board and using the tools.

From the experiences of Kaiser Permanente and others, we find that consumers use patient portals to set appointments, renew prescriptions, communicate securely with their providers and look at data that matters (lab tests for instance).

People’s situation tends to lead to their openness to this type if engagement. It’s tough to engage generally healthy, content consumers. Certain life events (pregnancy, menopause) and certain health events (injury, diagnosis of a chronic condition) lend themselves to greater engagement. It is more challenging to get those not dealing with an urgent health issue to use tools for general wellness, fitness and preventive care.

Consumers (and a number of vendors) are pushing for access to the health record, but it’s not really the record that’s important. It’s what you do with that information that’s important.

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Ben Dillon

About Ben Dillon

Ben’s a big picture type of guy. He loves sharing new ideas in digital marketing, keeping a watchful eye on healthcare industry trends and seeing how it all intersects. A sought-after speaker, writer, blogger and current SHSMD board member, Ben’s an influential voice in healthcare marketing, helping organizations across the country embrace online strategies to engage health consumers. Combine his industry savvy with his background in software development and you can see why he’s also an important member of Geonetric’s software team, ensuring our content management system stays a step ahead of market needs. Ben holds a master’s degree in eBusiness and strategic management from the University of Iowa and a bachelor’s degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan. When he’s not traveling and evangelizing, Ben enjoys cooking with his family and playing the Big House with the University of Michigan Alumni marching band.

7 thoughts on “Observations from the HIMSS e-Health SIG Panel Discussion on Health 2.0

  1. Hi Ben,
    Thank you so much for providing your observations.
    Absolutely agree with the panelists
    – One of the effective ways to engage consumers is to provide them with a one stop solution. Consumers won’t be interested in going to 10 different places for all their needs
    – The applications / portals have to be more smart. For example a stand alone PHR is doomed to fail. As Obama’s stimulus plan says, it has to be a “qualified PHR” with clinical decision support. A PHR that is a simple data repository adds no or very little value.
    – HealthCare initiatives based on “Wellness” are the way to go. For e.g. it’s better to stop a obese person from developing weight-related diseases than monitoring someone with a related chronic conditions. While both have benefits, Wellness-driven healthcare would outweigh everything else.

    Finally I am concerned with the problem of “too much”. Consumers are just intimidated by the sheer volume of information available over internet now-a-days.

    Again, thanks for sharing your thoughts. keep them coming!!

  2. We’re on the same wavelength here, but motivating is the challenge. If you’re in pain, you’re motivated. If you’ve just been told you have cancer, you’re motivated. If you have a BMI of 34…generally not so much.

    The one item you raise that I take some issue with is any suggestion that monitoring chronic conditions is bad or ineffective (not what you were saying, I think, but I wouldn’t want that to be misinterpreted).

    So, is it better to get your weight under control before getting diabetes? Yes. Is it better to monitor the diabetes before complications hit? Also yes.

    Really a question of the point at which consumers get motivated to take ownership of the problem.

  3. Thanks for the update Ben, and for nailing the big issue: consumers need more motivation than “it’ll be good for you.” Two thoughts:
    1) PHRs will go nowhere until meaningful motivations are in place, either direct benefits rebates or savings on meds, for example
    2) We need to look at “consumers” not as a monolith – let’s empower consumer opinion leaders to lead others to use technology, rather than pushing one-size-fits-all solutions at all segments

    Keep the opinions flowing Ben,

    Jack Barrette
    CEO
    WEGO Health

  4. Great points Ben/Jack.
    Yes I wasn’t saying that monitoring chronic conditions is ineffective. Infact I work in a team that develops Disease Management applications to manage chronic conditions. By monitoring chronic conditions with the help of a nurse coach, we have been able to prevent hospitalizations. So monitoring chronic conditions is ABSOLUTELY essential. Along with this, we have to develop tools/techniques that could infact prevent these chronic conditions from developing.. basically encouraging a healthy living.aka “wellness”..
    Now coming to back to the discussion about motivation in consumers, it all brings us to the same discussion “Consumerism in Healthcare”..
    As Ben rightly pointed out, Motivation is the key for consumers to take charge of their health.. And technology has to be smart to arouse that motivation in patients.
    We even lack basic facilities when it comes to healthcare. While I can do everything under the sun through internet, I can’t book an online appointment with my doctor here in Jersey.. phew!!

    I was reading about one of the futuristic applications that could predict chronic conditions based on genes. So if your parents were diabetic, how possible it is for you to be diabetic?? Can applications look at the genetic structure of a Member and predict certain conditions. Well.. sound like a far fetched idea but food for thought!

  5. The answer for motivation needs to be broader than simply cash.

    I’m at the World Health Care Congress. They posed the following question:
    What would work best in changing your personal behaviors:
    – cash
    – lower premiums
    – waiving co-pays
    – social pressure
    – making it easily available and fun

    I’m curious what all of you think before I share the conference responses.

  6. Hi Ben,

    I think “making it easily available and fun” would be the best way (well..second best..after cash 🙂 ) to change one’s personal behaviors..

    I was looking at a PHR site which provides some cash rewards to patients for updating their PHR once every two months. While that’s a great idea I don’t know how successful that is..

    I would say healthcare via social networks aka “making it easily available and fun” is the way to go..

    Do share your conference responses. Thanks a lot!!

  7. Pingback: Safeway – Successfully Influencing Health Consumer Behavior « Geovoices: A Geonetric blog

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