2008 - Year of the Consumer in Healthcare (From Somewhere Near the Halfway Point)

We've just passed the longest day of the year (Summer Solstice: June 21st), so let's take a look at what forces are shaping the perfect storm driving participatory healthcare.

But will 2008 really be remembered as the "Year of the Consumer?"

Read the following developments and decide for yourself...

  • Boston is the place to be for Health 2.0 startups. 3 pages of them. Apparently, if I hopped a plane to Cambridge to see Doc Searls (who recently became an ePatient himself) and Harvard pals at the Project VRM meetup July 14-15th, I'd stumble across approximately 17.5667 HIT/consumer-centric Health 2.0 firms per square mile. Perhaps the next phase is testing this hypothesis in the field.
  • Steve Case, of Revolution Health, the underwhelming, overfunded startup (that does what exactly?) deems 2008 the "Year of the Consumer" in healthcare. As long as Revolution doesn't start stuffing my stateside mailbox with free Revolution Health login CDs a la the AOL glory days, like John at Chilmark Research I'll remain rather passively dispassionate about Revolution's chances. Although Steve's suffering with the execution, I do think we'll look back on his pronouncement in 3-5 years and agree 2008 was the year when things began to take off. Really, I think we'll see this mark the year where tech geeks and VCs began to get interested, which means 2010 will be even bigger (a la the year when the Guppie Whole Foods-shopping, Prius-driving crowd gets all warm and fuzzy about using PHRs)- plus, it's a nice, round, futuristic number. We may even see some killer apps created when antripreneurs like Dr. Jay Parkinson join up with entrenched gray suits like Mr. Schultz..maybe by 2010 I can hop into a combined Starbucks/Hello Health shop to see the doc (after chatting with her via American Well's online health marketplace) and pick up a vitamin-enhanced venti jet-fuel, maybe some community sourced locovore produce, at the same time, while sending glucose updates to my SugarStats network, on my way to my virtually linked cowork site with Nexthealth friends (note: almost all of this is possible now except there isn't a Hello Health in the DC area, and Starbucks doesn't sell food from local coops - yet).
  • Personalized medicine is becoming, well, too personal, according to the state of California. Docs are back in the midst of the milieu, acting as enforcers, ahem, gatekeepers between consumers who want to pay chunks of their own capital to swab a cheek and get genetic data direct from firms like 23 and Me. But what about recent research that shows your genome may, gasp, evolve throughout your lifetime? Surely, consumers can't possibly handle this information...human development and the growth cycle isn't something with which any of us deal with on a day-to-day basis. Sure. Well, they've got one thing right, it isn't something with which many of us deal gracefully, unless we're nonchalant enough to hang our DNA sequence over that little Pottery Barn table in the front hall. That's a great legal argument, by the way, California - don't give us the data because we can't handle the truth. Probable cause for restricting genetic testing to firms which require a doctor's orders: big bucks from some lobbying group.
  • The ePatient epidemic begins. ePatient Zero announces ER visit, diagnosis, and details treatment via video, liveblogging, links, photos, and updates announced multiple times hourly on Twitter. Check out the one, the only, the amazing and wonderful nexthealth consumer @Dutchcowboy for the future of participatory healthcare. Not only is HE actively participating in care - all his Twitter followers are as well. But be warned. This is not a spectacle people. This is someone dealing with very real issues of illness and the violent reevaluation of self that goes hand-in-hand with such a diagnosis. Treatment is only the start, and social networks can help ease the strain. So, ahem, to the Boston-based buddy who told me no one would want to share x-rays of their broken leg? Touche my friend. If you read it quickly with a squinty-eyed glance it doesn't hurt quite as much: itoldyouso...
  • In other news, checklists are great, says the WHO, which makes it really super-duper official - surgical teams are human. They sometimes make mistakes. They can benefit from a routine preflight safety check. So can patients. Huzzah, healthcare is saved! Let's see how many consulting firms are engaged before the year is out to design said miracle checklists...

Sorry folks, today's Onion-style post is definitely one of those glass-half-empty looks at the state of "our system," where it's headed, and how quickly it's moving there - which today seems to be a pace just slightly above fossilization.

That, and I'm probably suffering from acute lack of sleep, spending the week getting used to being a new aunt.

Wait a minute - now I see why all those residents and interns write cynicism-infused posts that drip with the very ether of sleep deprivation! Finally I understand you my brothers and sisters of the sandy-eye syndrome...but it's all a labor of love, that's for sure. Well, at least for me. Holding my baby niece until she falls asleep is probably a hell of a lot more fun then some 347+ hour ER rotation.

That being said, there is hope on the horizon.

Coming soon to a medical school curriculum near you - a concept course dealing with how NOT to be a total boob when engaging consumers in the healthcare conversation...

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