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Health 2.0 — In "Real-time" with "Real" Information

February 15

TMP Worldwide's Steven Ehrlich, Global Vice President of Client Development, posted the video below on Talentbrew.com, TMP Worldwide's blog. The video features Clay Shirky addressing the U.S. State Department regarding the impact of social media on the dissemination of information. Shirky showcases how social media is fundamentally changing the way we communicate as a society. Ironically, the video itself is a prime example of this. While watching the video, think about how the media landscape has transformed. Online groups, real-time knowledge sharing, the ability for consumers to become producers of content and the increasing transparency of communications have changed the way healthcare professionals and patients communicate.

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The effect of social media on communication is widespread throughout the healthcare industry with the emergence of "Health 2.0". Web 1.0 only allowed users to read and gather information. Web 2.0 first enabled users to read and gather information and interact with others, resulting in user-produced and generated content - exactly what Health 2.0 enables. Ted Eytan, a patient empowerment and patient-centered health information technology enthusiast, has commented on the most recent definition of Health 2.0 as "... participatory healthcare. Enabled by information, software, and community that we collect or create, we the patients can be effective partners in our own healthcare, and we the people can participate in reshaping the health system itself." In short, it's the culmination of interactive online communities, social networks, blogs, online video channels, wikis, chat rooms and forums utilized by both patients and doctors alike. Gone are the days of solely relying on a physician for medical information and waiting for medical journals to publish cutting edge medical breakthrough news to arrive in the mailbox.

In the video, Shirky states, "The moment our historical generation is living through is the largest increase in expressive capability in human history." In the age of Health 2.0, patients are able to arm themselves with an arsenal of information gleaned from social media tools and the web. Upon being diagnosed with breast cancer, a patient may search for "breast cancer" on the Internet. The first search result is BreastCancer.org, an embodiment of Health 2.0. From the homepage, the patient can click to learn about symptoms and diagnosis, treatment and side effects, day-to-day matters and how to lower the risk of breast cancer. In addition to researching her disease, she may opt to interact with other patients. She can peruse the discussion boards for topics that she'd like to know more about from the perspective of women just like her and similarly, may offer her own observations to her peers, becoming a producer of content. She may also join an Ask-the-Expert Online Conference, where she may interact with real doctors. BreastCancer.org offers two chat rooms, forming groups of patients sharing information and comparing notes.

By nature, groups are often smarter than their most intelligent member. Collective wisdom is greater than the knowledge of any one single patient or physician. The more robust a group, the more reliable the information shared. If a group of patients prescribed a particular drug all report similar side effects in a chat room or group, doctors are better able to attribute the symptoms to the prescribed treatment as opposed to making the correlation based on the reported symptoms of a single patient. The discoveries resulting from Health 2.0 groups are leading to clinical trials and reshaping how the healthcare industry has traditionally been prompted to research diseases. Similarly, physicians are coming together in online groups to discuss their latest research findings, medical mysteries and health related issues, resulting in an increased knowledge-share between doctors. Contrary to popular belief, doctors are able to share information regarding patients, so long as the patient cannot be identified. Physicians who remove all identifying factors of the patient; patient's relatives, household members and employers are able to participate in online sharing without violating HIPAA regulations.

The sharing of information within groups is also becoming faster. In the video, Shirky points out, "Now that media is increasingly social, innovation can happen anywhere that people take for granted the idea that we're all in this together." One such innovation was the development of real-time sharing, providing invaluable enhancement to patients' and doctors' ability to connect and share information. Real-time sharing means that people are able to communicate ideas in the time that the events are happening. For example, a doctor attending a medical conference is now able to share what he is learning with his peers in real-time, as he is learning it, via Twitter or YouTube videos. Meaning, thanks to the doctor's sharing (becoming a producer of content) — his peers are learning leading-edge information almost as fast as having been at the medical conference themselves.

The formation of online groups of healthcare professionals provides an opportunity to enhance your brand as an employer. Contribute to these online groups, forums and discussion boards to earn respect as a thought leader in the healthcare industry. As a result, healthcare employees will perceive a job opening at your organization as an opportunity for career advancement. Health 2.0 has also changed the employee-scape. As more and more healthcare professionals engage in social media, they are becoming better informed as a result of collective wisdom and self-education; in essence they are developing their own personal brand. Potential employees' media habits are changing recruitment strategies for healthcare employers. Because job seekers turn to social media tools to research healthcare organizations, it is wise for healthcare organizations to leverage this media as well. An increasing number of healthcare organizations are beginning to blog, tweet and create social media profiles. These social media engagements result in increased transparency, providing job seekers insight about how the organization is run and what it is like to be their employee. With the ever-evolving digital revolution, healthcare employers should strive to incorporate Health 2.0 and social media initiatives into branding, recruitment and retention efforts.

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