Is Health 2.0 just a lot of hype? What’s really in it for women and their providers?

September 19, 2006

Bruce and I just arrived home from 2 days at a congress devoted to web 2.0 initiatives in healthcare. “What the heck is that?” you may well ask. I wondered myself. Health 2.0 is the new buzz phrase for the same old dilemma; how to connect people with good information online in order to help them make better healthcare decisions. Or, if you prefer it’s “The convergence of social networks, online tools and healthcare”

Hi OBGYN.netters,

Bruce and I just arrived home from 2 days at a congress devoted to web 2.0 initiatives in healthcare. “What the heck is that?” you may well ask. I wondered myself. Health 2.0 is the new buzz phrase for the same old dilemma; how to connect people with good information online in order to help them make better healthcare decisions. Or, if you prefer it’s “The convergence of social networks, online tools and healthcare” bla-bla-bla.

Whenever the venture capital money starts getting interested in something there is a rash of new companies with better mousetraps falling out of the woodwork. It felt a bit like 1999 all over again; lots of buzz and a more than adequate amount of hype. You could smell the deal cutting in the air. New style CEO’s in jeans, and the tassel loafer set mingling over cocktails and sequestered in corners. Some were enjoying a beer or glass of wine at the social networking sessions. Many were drinking their own Kool-Aid, AGAIN. Fun to watch certainly, but very difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff, unless you posses the jaded and jaundiced eye of yours truly.
So what’s in it for Ob/Gyn and women’s health? After much sleuthing I came up with a few good websites and applications you should keep an eye on in the future.

First and foremost were the two big players, Microsoft and Google. It is difficult for me, from the brief presentations I saw, to get my brain around these huge strategies. I will lead you to HealthVault and Google Health strategies as they present them on their websites. These are huge scale projects which will continue to evolve. Which is better? I guess it will depend on a lot of things. What your provider uses, accessibility, ease of use, etc. I’m personally a big fan of Google as they are one of the platforms that make OBGYN.net possible through their AdSense program. They also are the largest traffic referrer to OBGYN.net. No doubt I have a Google bias. Besides, I’m still pissed off at Microsoft about their Vista operating system ruining my life because of my inability to easily adapt to change. So, I’m not so keen on having them manage my health record yet. If they make it as easy for me to adapt to as Vista, I will probably prefer to keep all my records scrawled on the back of business cards, where I have them now.

WebMD and Revolution Health were not presented at the Health 2.0 meeting so I can’t comment on what they are up to. I think they had been at the much larger Healthcare Information Management Systems Society HIMSS meeting (26K attendees and 900 exhibitors) the week before. This meeting was a much smaller meeting that still had standing room only for over 400 sold out attendees. The interest in online healthcare initiatives is very high these days. Some people seem to think it is time for a clear cut leader to emerge. Most attendees I spoke to believe that we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg and many new solutions could still evolve and emerge. Remember, there was a time when no one could have imagined Google overtaking Yahoo in the search engine business.

There are still a lot of really huge companies out there who are just starting to get serious about their long term Internet strategies. Pharma, bio-tech and surgical/device companies are just now really getting interested. You can find an excellent report on this topic by Manhattan Research on Consumers and Web 2.0.

Particularly interesting to women’s health were these companies and presentations:

MISYS www.mysys.com has a new obstetric record that seems very promising for small practices as the costs for the solution are minimal and they host it for you. They are working with the ACOG record/guidelines so it could be something to keep an eye on if you are looking for a record solution for your small practice.

There’s TREMENDOUS number of new start-up companies touting social networking tools. Only one (besides OBGYN.net) has been around for a significant enough time to prove true traction in the marketplace IMHO, www.MedHelp.org which has been around for fourteen years. It originally started out as a bulletin board service and grew organically from there. It’s a solid community site worth visiting for general health and Family Practice type Q&A.

DailyStrength.org has interactive communities around many health and non-health related topics. They brought Ranae Whitmore a member of their weight loss community (she lost 140 pounds through lifestyle changes and online support) to participate in the Healthcare 2.0 patient panel. Ranae was able to convey to the large assembled audience the importance of the online community as the fundamental basis for human behavior modification. The tools help, but the people are the key. If DailyStrength helped Ranae it bears taking a look at.

Most of the other social networking-healthcare companies are in their infancy with very small communities. The challenge for them will be to be able to build communities with staying power before the VC funds run out.

Many “Find a Doc” applications abound. The most well known is www.HealthGrades.com, but many more are springing up including; www.Healthcare.com, www.Vitals.com,www.Carol.com and www.Xoova.com. You can compare a lot of these sites at Mashable.com. This is a difficult category because there are so many variables on how anyone would rate a doctor including personal bias, squeaky wheel complaining, pending legal actions, which may be higher in certain more risky specialties, and so forth. This seems like an area ripe for consolidation in the near future.

Doctors really using the power of the web included Jay Parkinson, MD. He is a pediatrician who offers physicians a new way to practice medicine using a virtual model, and patient’s access to online healthcare. Check it out at Myca.

Cool tools were on display. My favorite pick being the beta of www.BodyMaps.org, kinda the Google Maps of the human body. Next top pick is www.ICYOU.com providing great video content. They even interviewed “Little Old Me,” so if you haven’t had your fill of me by the time you’re finished reading this check it out.

There were not many actual doctors at the meeting. Mostly business types.

None of the companies we saw had a singular focus on women’s health but all seemed to recognize the importance of women as the largest block of influencers in the online healthcare food chain.

If any of you have interesting news about women’s health online email me at Roberta@obgyn.net . Once I figure out how to use Vista I might even start a blog. Don’t hold your collective OBGYN.net Breath!

Happy holidays to you all,

Roberta

Roberta Speyer
President OBGYN.net
www.obgyn.net
CEO, MediSpecialty Inc.
www.medispecialty.com
12709 Quirin Dr
Del Valle, TX 78617
Email: roberta.speyer@medispecialty.com