Sunday, 18 November 2007

What is Health 2.0 / Medicine 2.0?

This definition is written for two purposes:

  1. To clarify what Health 2.0 / Medicine 2.0 is for myself. I figured that if I was going to make a contribution to discussions in this arena, I had better first make sure I had my facts straight - this is a chance for me to say what I think I know, and then for all the Health 2.0 Seasoned Veterans out there to correct me/argue with me where any inaccuracies are identified.

  2. To explain in simple terms what Health 2.0 / Medicine 2.0 is to the medical professional who does not have a special interest in technology. I figure that if I can write one simple definition/explanation, I can save myself having to construct a comprehensive answer each time the question arises - I'll just reuse this one.

I understand that there are plenty of definitions/explanations already out there, so I ask for you patience whilst I take this opportunity to reinvent the wheel (and sorry if I may seem to be stating the obvious to some of you - the real target audience here is the doctor without much knowledge of IT terminology).

The Background - Web 2.0

Both Health 2.0 and Medicine 2.0 are derived from the term Web 2.0, which implies a second generation/release of the Internet.

The '2.0' part is based on computer programming - as a new edition of a an application is released, it is common practice for the programmers to add an incrementing number at the end of a program's name, to label the new version. A completely new release would see the increment of the whole number, and any intermediate releases (often referred to a 'patch', as it may be patching up problems with a previous release) would see an increment to the decimal number. An example of this is Internet Explorer 7.0 - there have already been small patches to fix Internet Explorer - mine currently says that I am on version 7.0.5730.11 - I guess if there is a substantial release that enhances IE 7.0, but is still fundamentally the same program, it may be called IE 7.1, 7.2, etc - a new generation of IE could for example be called IE 8.0

Web 2.0 implies the 'second release' of the Internet - which of course is not based on anything concrete - the Internet being made up of millions of interconnecting computers running lots of different programs - but is more of a concept to describe the type of programs/applications/functionality one can now find on the Internet.

The Internet was originally based on mostly static pages of information. Soon to follow were email, web forums and chat rooms where discussions could take place. Web 2.0 refers to a trend on the Internet that saw a step forward in the way we communicate on the Internet, which includes the use of blogs, videos, podcasts, wikis and online communities where people with common interests get together to share ideas, media, code and all types of information. RSS (really simple syndication) is a format/method to help pass around updates about all this new information we are now broadcasting.

Think of the Internet like a big brain - there is no 'central repository' of information - it is stored in lots of different locations, but each part of the brain has its own important part to play. Web 1.0 was a bit like the brain cells developing and Web 2.0 is what is happening now that communications are taking place between those cells.

Health 2.0 / Medicine 2.0

So now you know what Web 2.0 is, the rest is easy. Health 2.0 is the application of Web 2.0 technologies in the area of health, whilst Medicine 2.0 is the use of Web 2.0 technologies in the area of medicine. Some examples can be seen in the Medical 2.0 Directory. I have come to think of Health 2.0 websites as being those that provide services geared towards the consumer, and Medicine 2.0 those geared towards services for the medical professional - although I am sure there will be those who will debate this with me. Regarding my own website, MedWorm, I decided that it was MedHealth 2.0, since it was providing a service equally for both consumer and professional alike.

The Future - Web 3.0 / Health 3.0 / Medicine 3.0

Of course many are now speculating ... (to be continued)

Just realised that the future - Health 3.0 - would make a better post of its own.