My Experience at the Health 2.0 Conference

I’m still here in San Francisco, and yesterday (Thu, Sep 20) was the Health 2.0 Conference. The idea behind the conference was to see how the latest & greatest on the Web (“Web 2.0”) applies to Healthcare. Does it get any more relevant for what we do?

Most conferences are better for the people you meet than what you learn in the sessions. I thought the panels here were actually quite interesting (except for the insurance company one which was extremely boring and overly “health 1.0”), but the attendee list here was incredible: CEO of WebMD, Former CCHIT Head David Brailer, CEO of AllScripts, the list goes on.

During the boring insurance company panel I was joking with the woman next to me that I think someone forgot to tell them it’s a Health *Two*-point-oh conference, she laughed, we introduced ourselves and it turns out she was the head of Internet Services for all of Kaiser. Cool!

Anyways, here are what I saw as some of the key trends:

Key Trend #1 — Social Networks for Patients
Seeing some of the social networks for patients was pretty interesting. Personally, I felt the two best were:

www.DailyStrength.org — This was an online community built around different disease groups. Its core concept is basically “social network for patients” but the way it was implemented was clever and fun (I give you “Hugs Received Today”).

www.PatientsLikeMe.com — This concept was just amazing. The business model is another story, but the actual user experience is incredible. Hopefully you can see in the screenshot below, each patient joins a “disease community” (the example here is Parkinson’s) and reports their history of medication usage, symptoms, weight, etc. The brilliance is in how the data is visually shown. Trends over time and relationships between, say, medications and symptoms are clearly visible. Your data can also be compared against that of other patients. Although it’s limited to chronic diseases and moreoever to just a few diseases, the potential to connect patients throughout the country (world?) is really amazing.

Key Trend #2 — Social Networks for Providers
There was also a panel on these. Sermo.com is basically the leader in terms of both visibility and number of physicians registered. Within3 was also interesting, though Sermo appears to be focused around connecting physicians to each other whereas Within3 seems to center around connecting physicians to other healthcare researchers or industry members.

Key Trend #3 — Everyone Remains Pissed Off at the Healthcare System but No One in Incentivized to Do Anything About It

Okay, so this is me ranting, but it’s just getting so frustrating. Even at a conference like this where discussions were all about the next generation of healthcare, the “the system is broken and we KNOW we can fix it someday” attitude was still quite prominent.

I agree the system’s broken — defensive medicine, perverse incentives for doctors, rising premiums, unacceptably high numbers of hospital errors, 1 out of every 6 Americans is uninsured, etc. — but the problem is after a conference like this I go back to my world and think about how I can do a better job of helping our physician practice clients use the Web to become a better practice. I help them; that helps grow our business; but does the healthcare system itself change? Sadly, I don’t think so.

It’s like my (cardiologist) Dad says: “Some things are bigger than you.” It’s a defeatist statement from someone I know to be the anti-defeatist, but it’s kind of true.

Key Trend #4 — Patients Will Soon be Presented with “Find a Doctor” Services

There are a few startups I saw that aim to help patients find doctors and dentists the way they find what movie theater they want to go to:

Xoova.Com — Patients can search their zip code for a doc and learn about which one they like the best.
UPDATE: As of February 2008, Xoova is no longer in business.

GetInsured.Com — GetInsured.Com is the same concept as xoova, at least for finding a doctor. But GetInsured.Com is cool because they focus mostly on letting you shop for health insurance in a nifty online “apples to apples comparison” kind of way. Simple model, simple business, easy to make successful. These are my favorite kinds of business models.

Closing Thoughts

My first thought is that this is a reallly long blog post. I can’t believe you’re still reading this (j/k…I know it’s interesting stuff). My second thought is perhaps (*perhaps*) more profound:

It really is clear healthcare is undergoing a quiet revolution. Maybe I’m being ego-centric, but I think companies in our space have some of the greatest potential to effect change out of everyone. I mean, we help the doctors do cool things online that help them appeal to patients and become more efficient, and how do we earn revenue? The practices pay us money direct because we offer valuable services to them.

Case in point: Earlier this morning, I spoke with a wonderful client of ours who runs a 2-physician OB/GYN practice and she shared with me how they get now upwards of 5 online appointment requests PER DAY and how their website has really altered the dynamic of their practice — they get patients from search engines, patients read information about their condition before and after their visit, etc.

What if when we equip this client with our Patient Portal we linked them into “PatientsLikeMe” via some kind of cool partnership? What if we made sure that patients searching on xooma or vimo are guaranteed to find our clients for relevant searches? What if our doctors logging in get automatic access to sermo or within3?

The future is exciting and unknown. You can probably see now why I love my job so much. :o) Thanks for reading!

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