The Wisdom of Patients: Health Care Meets Online Social Media

Jane Sarasohn-Kahn, THINK-Health

This report takes a close look at social media, who uses it and why, what its impact is on the health of consumers, and how health care organizations can take advantage of it to manage the care of their populations.

April 2008

Social media on the Internet are empowering, engaging, and educating health care consumers and providers. While consumers use social media — including social networks, personal blogging, wikis, video sharing, and other formats — for emotional support, they also heavily rely on them to manage health conditions.

The Internet has evolved from the information-retrieval of "Web 1.0" to "Web 2.0," which allows people who are not necessarily technologically savvy to generate and share content. The collective wisdom harnessed by social media can yield insights well beyond the knowledge of any single patient or physician, writes report author Jane Sarasohn-Kahn. The outcome of this development is "Health 2.0" — a new movement that challenges the notion that health care happens only between a single patient and doctor in an exam room.

Using examples, this report describes how the web is becoming a platform for convening people with shared concerns and creating health information that is more relevant to consumers. Social networks, ranging from Facebook to specific disease-oriented sites, are proliferating so rapidly that new services are already under development to help health consumers navigate through the networks.

The report details how innovative collaborations online are changing the way patients, providers, and researchers learn about therapeutic regimens and disease management. It examines the benefits and concerns regarding Health 2.0 and includes an extensive listing of health media resources.

According to the report, the growing demand for transparency will drive the evolution of social media in health. A growing array of tools will become available that are increasingly mobile, as well as personal health data storage in commercial products like Microsoft Health Vault, Google Health, and others. The author concludes that the ongoing demands of a consumer-driven health marketplace will inspire innovation in applications that integrate clinical, financial, and ratings information.

The complete report is available under Document Downloads.