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?

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