Part one of a two-part series (access part two here:
In healthcare, where buzzwords tend to have the lifespan of fruit flies, "Health 2.0" is maybe a year old and already is growing cyber-whiskers, on a given day generating more than 130,000 hits on Google, outstripping "consumer-directed healthcare" at about 44,400 hits, but lagging "personal health record" at 294,000.
It has attracted a pair of entrepreneurial conference organizers, consultants Matthew Holt and Indu Subaiya, who put on their first show, the Health 2.0 User Generated Healthcare Conference, Sept. 20 in San Francisco, drawing about 480 attendees with a waiting list of another 100, according to Holt. The pair is planning a two-day, follow-up "spring fling" in March in sunny San Diego and a second, larger show next fall.
So what is Health 2.0? The term is the healthcare derivative of the far more ubiquitous "Web 2.0" (15.9 million Google hits) coined by Web pioneer Dale Dougherty, a vice president of O'Reilly Media, a publisher of computer technology books and magazines and the host of IT conferences. It was during a brainstorming session for a planned conference that the muse struck Dougherty, but it was company founder Tim O'Reilly who chronicled the genesis of Web 2.0, and popularized its use in a seminal, 16-page essay, What is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software, published in September 2005. The idea, according to O'Reilly, was to analyze the common traits of companies that survived the bursting of the dot-com bubble in 2001 for possible incorporation into the next generation of companies.
In his essay, O'Reilly shies away from giving a concise definition of Web 2.0, opting instead to provide seven basic principles. The first three of these principles are probably the most important and, arguably, the most applicable to healthcare, at least according to examples of companies cited by Web 2.0 mavens contacted for this story.
The first principle, OReilly says, is the software of a Web 2.0 company has to be Web-based, has to provide a service and that service has to be structured so that the more people use it, the better it becomes. He described it as "an architecture of participation." An exemplar is eBay; as more and more buyers and sellers participate, the broader the eBay market becomes, which creates more value to the customer.
O'Reilly calls the second key principle "harnessing collective intelligence," which also is referred to by others as "the wisdom of crowds." To avail themselves of this wisdom, Web 2.0 developers must create applications that are dynamic, with user participation designed into the systems, so that participation itself becomes an integral part of making the underlying database more valuable. Amazon.com adds value by enabling readers to write and post reviews of software and books and to be engaged in other ways, such as preparing wish lists.
O'Reilly's third principle, "Data is the next 'Intel inside,' " notes that specialized data, enhanced through analysis performed by the service provider as well as by the contributions of service users, becomes the core asset of a Web 2.0 company. The Amazon wish lists, for example, are aggregated by Amazon and used as buyer's guides.
Holt says his definition of Health 2.0 tracks closely to O'Reilly's formula for Web 2.0.
"I think the term Health 2.0 helps crystallize a number of things going on," Holt says. "What he (O'Reilly) is doing, really, is putting a series of definitions around something to help him think about it. And what I and Indu have been doing is pretty similar."
Individually generated content in healthcare is not new, Holt says. "There were chat rooms in the 1990s, but what has happened quantitatively is the amount of content and the ease of availability of that content has changed enough and the tools have changed enough, that we have something that is so substantially different in healthcare that you can call it something different.
"The other thing that's going on that's contemporaneous is a societal shift in which there is an understanding that medical care is an ongoing process rather than a series of episodic events," Holt says. "The relationship between physicians and patients is becoming more of a team rather than a priest-supplicant relationship."
And while, more and more, physicians are communicating online with other physicians, they're also communicating more with patients, and patients are leading other patients in support groups and in other online activities, with or without physicians, Holt says. "You could almost argue that healthcare is being produced by patients to some extent."
Scott Shreeve is a physician entrepreneur who co-founded the healthcare IT company Medsphere Systems Corp. in 2002 and left last year in an acrimonious dispute over the company's approach to open-source software. Shreeve is starting over with Crossover Health, which he is pitching as a technology-enabled health plan.
Shreeve, an attendee and a member of the advisory board for the recent Health 2.0 conference, has a much broader definition than Holt of what Health 2.0 is and where it is headed.
"I think Health 2.0 has everything to do with outcomes, quality and healthcare reform," Shreeve wrote in a recent blog posting on the subject. Health 2.0 is absolutely descriptive of a culture of transparency, a focus on healthcare value, and is the underlying philosophy powering the current reform movement."
"Everybody knows that healthcare is broken," Shreeve said in an interview. Health 2.0, he says, "is a broad, big vision. And there are hundreds of companies that have broken their backs trying to solve this problem. It's a conundrum, but just because it is hard, that means we're going to stop trying?" Clearly, Shreeve answers, no.
Part two of this two-part series, which will take a closer look at Web 2.0 examples, will appear in Health IT Strategist tomorrow.
This story initially appeared in this week's edition of Modern Healthcare magazine.
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