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Health & Wellness
An Army of Well-Informed Patients

Amy Tenderich, of Diabetes Mine fame, has an article on NewsWeek Online that tells the story about how she created her blog, generated a buzz and -- to her surprise -- became the center of a huge online diabetes community. She says she has about 50,000 readers each month and is getting loads of companies calling her up and asking her to review their products.

Amy recognizes the significance of what she has accomplished, the role that social networks are playing in changing behavior and how, by taking greater control of their lives, people are poised to change today's healthcare model. She explains:

Through blogs and online communities, an enormous army of increasingly well-informed patients is forming, and we're actually challenging the traditional model of health care in this country. With free access to all sorts of medical information, patients like me can drive our own care for the first time in history, by asking the right questions and demanding the latest and greatest drugs and devices. So ends the stranglehold of doctors and health insurance companies on information and treatment options.

Having just attended the e-Pharma conference in Philadelphia where different companies, pundits, consultants (and a few old friends) talked about how the online world has the potential to "revolutionize" healthcare, Amy's tale is very timely. In fact, in the article, she points out that:

Everyone from Google and Microsoft to a bunch of small start-up companies and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley is getting involved in this explosion of new Web-based "personal health technologies." The big software companies are creating sites where people can collect, store and share health records for their whole families. Numerous smaller companies are busy creating places like MySpace or Facebook, tailored to people living with various illnesses, from sleep apnea to diabetes to Lou Gehrig's disease.

While many presenters at the e-Pharma conference sung praises to the virtues of what is often called "Health 2.0," away from the podium the discussion was more circumspect when it turned to how rapidly people will embrace these tools. During a presentation by Steve Case (who now heads Revolution Health) a question was raised about whether most people are really willing to spend time, energy and effort to upload information, share their health records and troll the internet for information. Steve's answer was that people will do so if they know the time spent will help improve their health and result in better outcomes.

That may be why the community that Amy is the center of has really taken off. People not only want to hear from real people who they can relate to and trust, they also want to get advice, guidance and information that they can apply to improve their lives. As more people recognize that knowledge gives them this power, this army of well-informed patients will grow.