Health is Private. Wellness is Social.

On Friday I am attending a round table event in Washington DC. There is an amazing list of attendees and I am honored to be involved with such distinguished thought leaders from across the health care spectrum. The theme of the event is patient engagement. A topic near and dear to me and a subject of many discussions at HealthCamps around the country and around the world. Thinking about this topic led me to a recent post by Stowe Boyd – one of our leading thinkers on the impact of social tools on society.  

I have long admired and respected the work that Stowe Boyd (@stoweboyd) is doing in the Stream. He is someone who really understands the Social Flow that is far more than the individual platforms that represent what we refer to as Social Media or Social Networking.

Stowe’s latest line of research is around “Social Cognition.” Two observations from his Defrag presentation caught my attention:

“Reynol Junco conducted a study at Lock Haven University that required a group of students to use Twitter as part of their class work: tweets on others’ presentations, or as a social note taking tool when researching. This led to higher social engagement and a GPA increase of one half grade on average. Imagine if they used it in all classes? Or if the whole school used it?”

“Damon Centola has undertaken research that shows that behavioral changes are transmitted more quickly in denser networks. A company or a community where the members in general have more connections to others will be more likely to adopt new behaviors than in more  loosely connected networks.” 

Social Cognition and Health Care

This got me thinking… Does this make a case for Participatory Medicine? Where medical professionals, their patients and fellow sufferers of chronic conditions pool their experiences and knowledge to achieve better outcomes. 

The health care Tsunami, where rising costs threaten to bankrupt our nation while fewer and fewer people can afford basic care will force us to rethink how we care for ourselves and each other.

The transformation of health care demands that we become more open. Chronic disease sufferers are already forming networks to share information to help them live with their condition. Each of us needs to establish not just a Personal Health Record but a Life Record. We need to break down the glass walls between the patient and medical professionals. Patients and their personally collected data needs to be put on an equal footing with clinical data. This is where Technology can really play a transformational role.

Transformation Through Life Technology – Not Health Information Technology    

Technology and connected platforms offer us an opportunity to gather information at a level of granularity and accuracy that has been impossible, or at least unaffordable, up until now.

Health Information Technology is needed to be able to filter and correlate these enormous volumes of data to look for anomalies and trends that can assist in early diagnosis of conditions.

Presenting this information back to consumers in a form that can be easily understood and acted upon is crucial. Enabling us to share and compare with others will help to reinforce behavior change that leads to continued vitality. 

The real challenge for the health care industry is to develop affordable, easy to use, consumer oriented solutions that are connected and fit in to the “rhythm of life.” 

In conclusion, once again I will make this request to Google Health, Microsoft HealthVault and any other Health IT vendor that cares to listen:

Connect your Health Record to Twitter, Facebook and Text Messaging. Make it easy for people to have data pulled in to their records. Why shouldn’t my Health Record follow me on Twitter and determine my mood or my level of exercise from the messages I am sharing with my friends.

On the other end you need to build the tools to make it easy to compare, filter, chart and export different data sets that are being collected. Medical professionals will never have the time to manually pore through the vast flow of data from each patient. They will need tools to summarize, highlight trends and help them act on anomalies.   

Cognition is social. We need to build tools that leverage the social fabric of our lives. This is indeed the next big challenge for Health Care Technology – to create tools and platforms that integrate easily in to the social fabric of our lives. 

Health is private. Wellness is social

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