23 April 2008

Rumors of the blog's death are only slightly exaggerated (2nd ed.)

Apologies to all readers: I was traveling nonstop for a month doing research, got back, collapsed, and then dove into sorting out my month's worth of materials. Blogging fell by the wayside for a week. I think I'm back now. But I am starting to actually write the book, and I can't predict how that new process is going to fit with this. As with so much in the online world, no way to find out but to try it...

Now, this is going to be a bit meta: Today's post is not about MRSA, but about the phenom of distributed conversation on the intertubes that allows us to talk about MRSA. The California Health Care Foundation has published an interesting report, The Wisdom of Patients, that explores how Web 2.0 and the social networks it enables are changing consumers' experience of healthcare and potentially healthcare itself.

The initial observations in the report will not be new news to anyone who has made it here: The "positive network effect," aka the wisdom of crowds, allows those who come to the Web for health information to be smarter in aggregate than any member of the community could manage individually. And it makes the point — again, as MRSA searchers will already know — that consumers do this much more than, for instance, clinicians do. (Though I have been interested to notice, on another disease community that I monitor, an increasing participation of nurses and alternative-health professionals, though no doctors.)

The report, written by health care economist Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, raises thoughtful questions about the inefficiency of the 2.0 experience (think of digging through the many posts on a disease-community board to find the ones that fit your situation), the emerging legal and privacy concerns, and the business potential of health-related social networking, and ends with some examples of high-traffic health-related blogs, wikis, and new formats that bring health plans into the conversation.

The press release that gives a brief precis of the report is here and the full report (pdf, 807k) is here. (UPDATE: The link to the full report was broken but is now fixed; sorry.)

In a slight irony — and a sign of how new all this is — the CHCF site where the report is posted is not itself 2.0: It has no comment or talkback functions. Coming soon, the foundation says.

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