Thursday, 31 January 2008

Health 2.0 : No Website is an Island

I like the film 'About a Boy', based on the book by Nick Hornby, not because it is hilariously funny, gripping to watch or beautifully directed (I actually found it somewhat amusing and enjoyable), but because I took away from it a contemplation of the meaning behind John Donne's famous words 'No man is an island'.

I now often hear Hugh Grant's protest at the back of my mind as he tries to argue the case that he is an island (which he comes to realise during the course of the story that he could not actually continue to be), and also the dialog from the young boy in the film as he comes to the conclusion that one parent is not enough - you need backup (his point not being that you need two parents, but in fact a whole network of people to give you the support you need if you are to be happy in life).

I am by nature an extremely independent person, always someone to try and work something out myself before asking for help – in fact, I could probably count the number of times I have asked for help in this life, and each time it was a difficult thing to do. I'm the type that will always look to the map rather than ask for directions and finds it incredibly difficult to admit when I don't know something, much preferring to quickly dig deep into a manual somewhere to find the answer myself. I guess I am also a bit of a perfectionist and probably am reluctant to delegate a job, especially when I think I can do better myself. And because of these traits, I guess I also could easily fall into the trap of arguing that I too, and my work, is an island - I don't need anyone else because I can do it all on my own - in fact, other people would probably slow me down.

Add to this character another trait that is fiercely competitive. If anyone has the same ideas as me, does something similar, or worse still, better, I can't help but fume inside - something close to hate, or envy, maybe some feeling of inadequacy - I simply have to be the best, or at least hold within me the belief that I am the best, or else remain ignorant of the reality of the situation - maybe that is why I sometimes don't like to look at competitor sites, for fear that they might be better than mine!

But all these sentiments are strictly not Health or Medicine 2.0

Health 2.0 in my mind is all about forming relationships in order to build a framework that might release the full power of the internet (3.0!) and take us that step closer towards the healthy utopia of which we all dream. This takes some courage when many entrepreneurs are often by nature both independent and competitive. It means opening up a little, sharing ideas, looking at building partnerships and new ways of working with other people and other websites, some of whom may be considered potential competitors and others that you may never have considered as relevant to what you are doing at all. Any websites that follow this ethos I believe will grow - those that hang on to their NDA's (non-disclosure agreements) as some kind of armour in an attempt to keep their company ideas under lock and key I do think will likely wither over time and die. Sure there has to be a little balance - I'm not talking about broadcasting your 5 year business plan to the world - but I am talking about throwing a little caution to the wind and saying 'what the heck - maybe this other person/website might be competing with me somehow somewhere in the future? (especially since we all have similar ideas about what we should be building – honestly, there really isn’t much in the way of original ideas), but if we can find some way of helping each other out, chances are we can actually help each other get to where we want to be a little faster, and build something much more powerful than we originally thought'.

Think about relationships with other websites, and relationships with your site visitors - who may not always be who you think they are - think relationships both vertically and horizontally - near and far - outside the box - functional and philosophical. Remember that the Internet is a web and I think you'll be keeping on the right track.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Health 2.0 - Love it or Hate it?

David Rothman dislikes the phrase "web 2.0", and the terms "medicine 2.0" and "health 2.0" bug him even more. Why? Because he is just too cool!

I used to be cool once - in a younger life I owned a 'way cool' clothes shop. I was the ultimate trend setter. I took pride in spotting trends way ahead of their time. The downside of this was that as soon as something became mainstream, I would hate it - which meant I was never going to earn my fortune in the fashion industry. Now my daughter tells me I am 'past it'. I'm not, honest! (I'm trying to convince her that I am even cooler - I just don't care any more!)

Now David is a cool geek - he saw the phrase "Health 2.0" coming way before the rest of us - and now everyone is using it he has to hate it. This dislike I think started back when he first added the category 'Web 2.0' to LibWorm over a year ago, and has been simmering ever since, until it reached boiling point a few weeks ago.

Hey David - you know I'm only pulling your leg ;)

Now, in order to make amends for my tomfoolery David, please let me agree with you. I think that the term "Health 2.0" is not helpful for medical librarians or other information specialists when trying to promote the use of internet technologies amongst physicians and other medical professionals.

The majority of doctors do not care and simply could not care less about "Health 2.0 ".
They may be interested to know how the Internet can be of use to them in their work, but mention "Health 2.0" to them and generally the response you are going to get is Health What??? followed by very rapidly increasing disinterest (trust me, I've tried it, on my nearest and dearest!)

My understanding is that the majority of doctors also have not heard of and do not care to hear about mashups, aggregators, folksonomies, AJAX, widgets, the semantic web, RIAs, or for that matter, 'Really Simple Syndication'. They want to know where to click to get to the information they need, quickly, and that's about it! I know there are exceptions to this rule - in fact, there is quite a big group of technically savvy doctors out there - but in terms of world wide health care professionals, this big group is really tiny and in no way representative of the majority. When talking to my target users on a daily basis about MedWorm, I often drop the term 'RSS', since it usually isn't necessary, and I find that 'newsfeed' works better.

But I do think, as much as it annoys me also, that the term 'Health 2.0' has its uses:
1. It helps money makers to exploit the health internet business as much as possible by whipping up frenzied interest from venture capitalists.
2. It gives previously disheartened American citizens some hope that there may be some solution to the disjointed health care provision in the US (hee hee! now I may complain about the NHS and its failings, but it is with some pride that I hold on to this national institution!).
3. It brings me more visitors to my blog - which is great for MedWorm.
4. (The only use that I believe is honest in its application.) It helps me, and I am sure others, conceptualise what has happened/is happening/will happen in regards to communicating and sharing (health and medicine) information on the internet, and helps bring like-minded individuals sharing this same interest (and excitement) together, to discuss how we can push ahead with such progress.

Let me elaborate point 4 a little further, for it is the reason why I can continue to justify my blog dedicated to this topic.

Sure we all know that in real terms there is no second version of the Internet. But thinking about 2.0 helps me to stand back and see the wood for the trees. I started MedWorm really by chance - probably jumping from one lily pad, to another that was bigger and greener, to another and another, until I found one that suited me just fine - the biggest and greenest in the pond - my destination - how nice! But I hadn't really stood back and looked at the pond as a whole, to see what else was growing there - I hadn't really given a thought to its ecology and how we all depended on each other for our future growth and success.

An example of my ignorance at that time was when David suggested that I might think about inviting people to give their comments and suggestions about MedWorm, and possibly writing a blog. My immediate reaction was that I was just too deep in code to have time for such activities. I've come some way since then! Not only do I love to hear about what people have to say about MedWorm and get feedback (and more), I realise that MedWorm's growth absolutely depends on such relationships, both with its users and with other compatible websites.

Thinking about Health 2.0 and the coming Health 3.0 (sorry David! and yes the dreaded 3.0 posting is coming!) has made me realise that not only is investment in communication with both users and what could actually be seen as competitors, both enjoyable and helpful, it is actually MedWorm's destiny - and I can run ahead with it, or fall by the wayside and let MedWorm slowly die.

So to summarise my opinion on the term "Health 2.0" - do I love it or hate it?
1. It annoys me, because I am cool like David - honest!
2. It helps me conceptualise health developments on the Internet and form my plans for the future.
3. It helps bring together like-minded people to discuss such developments.
4. It does not help when trying to encourage the majority of physicians and other health professionals to try out MedWorm and other emerging Internet technologies.

I guess therefore that I am 50/50 - some may say sitting on the fence!

And what about you? Health 2.0 - do you love it or hate it?

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Wanted - Medical Professionals with an Interest in Health 2.0 / Medicine 2.0!

Are you a doctor, or other health professional, with a particular interest in one or more of the following?:

  1. Health 2.0/Medicine 2.o

  2. Blogging

  3. RSS

  4. The Internet

If you are, please drop me a line - I'd love share ideas with you!

If you are reading this and are a physician, probably you are one of a minority. You take a keen interest in IT. You like reading medical blogs and maybe you have one of your own. You probably know a bit about RSS and are even familiar with Health 2.0.

Do you realise that if you are one of these unique people, you have a responsibility to share the good news of the coming Health 2.0 revolution with your colleagues, who may not be so technologically inclined? Without your encouragement, it will never really happen. You are bridges. You are champions!

There are many people excited about Health 2.0, but I increasingly find myself asking the question: How many of us enthusiastic people are really 'in' medicine, and how many of us are just technology medical wannabes like me? I'm an IT professional that would love to be able to cure the sick, but sadly can't, so spend my days dreaming up and building an infrastructure to help medical professionals, but the problem is this big gulf between IT and medicine. How to make that leap? How to convince my husband that RSS really is the best thing since sliced bread?

If you are really 'in' medicine or medical research, and have an interest in Health 2.0, please get in touch. Maybe we can work together to convert the masses? Maybe you might even me interested in becoming a MedWorm Associate?

Health 2.0 is all about finding new ways of working together, so drop me a line and build another link in the big brain.