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I recently attended the Health 2.0  Conference, organized by Matthew Holt, author of The Health Care Blog, and Indu Subaiya, MD, the founder of  Etude Scientific.

What is Health 2.0? Well, there are several definitions. Essentially it’s the use of social networks among patients, physicians and healthcare providers to increase and improve the flow of health-related information. In my mind, it’s the empowerment of the individual to have access to detailed objective health care information primarily, though not exclusively, using search engine sites and like-minded communities of patients and physicians.  

There were several “flavors” of social communities that were represented at, and/or helped sponsor the conference – I’ll call them consumer aggregators, filters and communities.

Consumer Aggregators are essentially focused search engines. According to the conference program, in 2007 over 160 million Americans went on line in search of medical information. Some of the big names in this category include Yahoo Health, Google Directory - Health and WebMD. These search engines are so potent thanks to the inherent trust that people have in the objectivity of information gather from other individuals, communities and independent organizations.

Another area of interest is in the complex task of filtering, ranking and prioritizing the information gathered form searches. Some of the companies involved in this effort include Healia, Kosmix, Medstory, Healthline and WEGO Health. These tools can help provide personalized search capabilities of medical journals, clinical trials and other sources,  customized web spaces, and information on medical conditions, drugs, procedures and clinical studies.

Perhaps the most powerful social networking communities are those initiated by patients that share common concerns and disease states. Diabetes Mine, founded by Amy Tenderich after she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in May 2003, is one of the best and well known of the “patient” blogs that have become the center of different patient care communities. Others that were present at the conference included Sophia's Garden, a healing community for children with life threatening diseases, and  DailyStrength, which is a platform similar to Face Book for disease-state communities and which provides a way to find out what patients are saying about pharmaceuticals. 

A really incredible site is Sermo, a conference sponsor. It has a huge base of information, opinion and experiences input by doctors and healthcare professionals. Clients include pharmaceutical companies and other interested stakeholders.

Being a videophile, one of the companies that I found most exciting is icyou. It’s sort of you tube for healthcare. Members (and like YouTube, it’s free) can upload and view videos relating to a wide range of topics including allergies, HIV/AIDS, pain, women’s health and many others. The quality of the videos is excellent and professionally done. And in fact there is a comprehensive video report on the Health 2.0 conference. Icyou was present at the conference and posted excerpts on site.

What’s next? Conference participants predict an increase in patient, doctor and healthcare company interactions and increasingly complex -- specific information being shared and made available -- personalized care and answers for patients -- changes in health care delivery -- learning from, and trust in, on-line communities. Stay tuned.

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