Wednesday, 10 October 2007

MedWorm - Medicine 2.0 or Health 2.0?

I've been sitting on the fence for a while reading about Medicine 2.0 and Health 2.0. Now I'm the kind of person that really hates hype and likes to go against the trend, and see myself as a 'doer' rather than a 'talker', so up until now I've resisted getting involved in this 'idle chit chat' and laid low whilst I spend my days building MedWorm.

But now I'm thinking, what the heck? Just so long as I don't get drawn into the ongoing debate between Sermo and Medgadget regarding security/privacy loop holes in social networking models ;)

To begin my debut into the 2.0 arena, I have been looking at the difference in usage between the terms Medicine 2.0 and Health 2.0 From what I understand, Medicine 2.0 is used when referring to Web 2.0 sites primarily for medical professionals, whilst Health 2.0 is a term used for sites geared towards health consumers (a term that I find somewhat strange coming from the UK - here we don't really consider patients as 'consumers', probably due to the provision of the NHS - health is considered a basic right, not really something that we buy/consume).

So is MedWorm Medicine 2.0 or Health 2.0? Is it for the doctor or the patient? My original intention was that it would be for the doctor (and other health professionals) with articles grouped by medical speciality. But then I realised that a lot of people assumed it was actually for the patient, since it was providing a user friendly way for people to find the latest information about their particular conditions.

I was sent a kind comment by another webmaster who is using a MedWorm feed to help populate his own site with relevant new content for a particular condition:

'Medworm fits in a sweet spot between medical professionals and the lay public.'

It was at this point that I began to clarify my vision for MedWorm. It would provide a forum for understanding and discussion among both medical professionals and consumers. Note that I say discussion 'among', rather than 'between'. A lot of Health 2.0 sites are providing an extension of service between doctors and their patients - patients ask questions, doctors give answers, which is all well and good.

However, as I see it, for Medicine/Health 2.0 to take that real leap forward (to dare I say it, Medicine/Health 3.0?) I don't see an automation of services being the end result as some might (for example, the diagnosis of a patient by computer - input all the information and the computer tells you what the problem is, and the cure/medication). I believe that computers will never replace man's intelligence, rather assist it. The Internet opens up new lines of communication that before were never possible. Like the building of roads, the invention of the automobile, the aeroplane, the telephone - all of these things opened up new ways of communicating and hence working.

In today's society, patients now want to know much more about their conditions (and rightly so!) Many want to know all there is to know, will read all the latest research, and will often know more (about their particular condition) than their physician. Not that I think the physician has any less an important role to play than before - their medical education and experience will always be vital in guiding the patient down the right path of thought, to put their limited understanding into a wider medical context - but this for sure will become increasingly a different role than previously understood, whereby almost everyone followed the doctor's instructions without question.

The Internet provides an amazing opportunity for medical professionals and health consumers to unite in the battle to solve many of life's ills. I'm talking here about truly working 'together', not just side by side. Think about it - patients, and their families, have motivation that a physician never could. Often their lives are at stake. Patients will go to extraordinary lengths to raise money and awareness for their cause. Increasingly, this is becoming the same for research. Look at the advances in Aids/HIV research that were made in the 1980s - wasn't this due largely to the patient led Aids awareness groups that were busy raising the public profile , drilling up funds and even getting personally involved with research into this devastating disease? But without the knowledge and firm grounding in science that a medical professional holds, this enthusiasm can be easily misdirected. I think that patients, physicians and medical researchers working together is vital if real advances are to be made in solving some of life's' biggest problems.

Already we are seeing a move towards this new way of communicating, with patient blogs being increasingly subscribed to by physicians, and vice verse. It is my hope that MedWorm can help facilitate the opening of such lines of communication. First off, by ensuring that the right people get the right information - both patients and physicians want to read consumer style health news and the latest research. Secondly, it now provides a forum for discussion centered around the latest publications - it does not matter whether you are a professional or a consumer - MedWorm is visited equally by both and the ultimate objective between these two groups is the same. For this reason MedWorm does not have any issue with identifying who is a professional and who is not - all are welcome, and since discussions are centred around professional publications and authentic news sources, and are moderated, this helps to keep discussions focused on MedWorm's objective - the advance of medical knowledge. Thirdly - well, watch this space - don't want to give too much away about my plans for the future!

As for an answer to my question, is MedWorm Medicine 2.0 or Health 2.0? It is neither, or maybe it is both. It is Medhealth 2.0.