It’s a moving target, of course. The whole concept of “Health 2.0” is still being defined, refined, created and recreated. And it was fascinating to be at the epicenter of this creative quake this week in San Diego, at the H2.0 “Spring Fling” event that brought some of the brightest physicians, web developers, entrepreneurs, healthcare consultants and “ePatients” together in one room.
More Patient Community Sites
As you may have noticed, the concept of building ready-made patient communities is on fire as an array of new start-ups enter the market. (See my original list from the September H2.0 conference.) Among the new players unveiled on Tuesday were: WEGO Health, a new “purpose-driven community” site that engages highly informed patients to vet out top 15 sources on a variety of ailments, and Trusera, a community site focusing on “the power of story-telling” among patients.
There are also a lot of new players in the find-a-doctor-online search arena. I’ve previously introduced Xoova and Vitals here. Xoova’s newest value-add is the ability to actually use the site to schedule appointments with the doctors you find on their site. Vitals allows you to peruse doctors by specific parameters, such as language skills and gender, etc.
Joining them are:
- Healthcare.com, which combines provider search with health information search
- HealthGrades, which lets people rate their experience with individual MDs by actually giving them a grade, and
- Carol, a flashy-looking new online marketplace
for health services, where you can actually purchase services like physical exams and medical procedures
Also of note is Health Central Network’s newly launched community site for teens with diabetes, called DiabeTeens. This one is hosted by 23-year-old “happy diabetic” Ginger Vieira, who advises PWD college students on everything from diabulimia to adhesives.
I think all of these companies offer interesting and relevant features, but time will tell whether we, the patients, will equally flock to them all. I think it’s pretty clear that the concept of patient communities and online health services is here to stay –- using them will soon be as common as using your email and therefore nothing revolutionary –- but we’ll see many companies come and go over time.
MDs Going Online
We also heard from several MDs who have incorporated the internet into their day-to-day work. So far nothing diabetes-specific, but interesting nonetheless. For some examples, check out San Francisco On Call, MyCA and Dr. Jay Parkinson, who’s doing some amazing things with online tools and home-based patient visits in Booklyn, NY.
None of these offerings are tailored to diabetes needs yet, but what these guys are doing could be easily extended to endocrinology once it catches on. The efforts of these pioneering doctors are being complemented by technology from start-ups that simplify and improve patients’ interactions via technology:
- VisionTree Optimal Care, which collects patient information and delivers it to healthcare professionals
- American Well, which enables video chat sessions between patients and health care professionals
- Live Wisdom, from Organized Wisdom, which allows you to chat with doctors and other healthcare professionals to get your questions answered and advice on many topics for an average of about $1.99/minute. Would you use this? Conference attendees joked that it sounded a bit like internet porn (talk to a live nude for just $XX/minute! -– which is better for your health, anyway?)
These and all other companies at the event certainly showed many cool features, but I doubt that many of them will actually be used by “sick” people like us. At the moment, it’s almost a tool-and-information overload. But as one panelist noted, all progress it good: bring it on. These tools will live and die by the preferences of the patient community.
Being a Diabetes Company
Finally, the really cool part: Imagine gathering about 350 of the smartest, most plugged-in minds in health and technology, and putting them to the task of brainstorming better diabetes care. Well, not care exactly, but they were tasked with identifying three top problems/unmet needs of people living with Type 1 diabetes and then recommending some new kind of tool or service to fix it.
IDEO, the internationally-know industrial design firm that revamped Kaiser, conducted this fun open-workshop session during lunch. Instead of presenting a typical luncheon keynote, the IDEO folks made everybody work: each of the roughly 50 tables was given the assignment of pretending to be a diabetes-focused Health 2.0 company, and each group had 30 minutes to discuss and develop a concept to solve some problems we face in everyday life.
First they aired a quick video of four patients (including myself and Manny) talking about what’s hard about diabetes. Um, what isn’t? Which is why this was a near-impossible task, with so little information to go on. They saw an insulin pump briefly in the video, for example, but didn’t get the details on the insulin reserviore vs. controller unit, or how an infusion site sticks to your body or for how long. Nevertheless, these sharp minds did pretty well grasping some of our most pressing issues in just half-an-hour, I’d say. See them here at work:
They certainly “got it”:
This group swore they hadn’t heard know about the Charmr, but just came up with this concept on their own:
Some of the other ideas that emerged were:
- a Buddy System for the newly diagnosed
- an insulin “patch” that changes color when it’s running low on contents
- a skin tattoo that glows when your BG is going too low or too high
- a Zazzle-like site where patients could design their own fun and colorful pump skins
- and my personal (most outlandish) favorite – the idea for a Bare Necessities-style body pump, which is made of gel and can be worn adhered to your belly or even as a “form bra” patch for the ladies, as you choose (!)
Mostly pipe dreams? Yes, at the moment, of course. But that’s the power of Health 2.0. Dream big. There’s plenty of evidence that some iteration of all these new ideas and innovations will become reality sooner than you think.