My last blog, Part 1 on the Future of Healthcare, introduced you to optimist and visionary, Clare Martorana. Clare is former Senior Vice President and Editor-At-Large of WedMD, a well-known health information services company. In Part 2, she shares how the social dimension of your health is transforming healthcare.
Me: Clare, you said that a person’s health and wellness is increasingly social as well as local. Can you say a little more about the social dimension of health?
Clare: First let’s talk about the local dimension. An individual’s health is very local, meaning, personal. You experience health and well-being right now wherever you are – at your desk reading this blog, your sense of health and well-being is right here with you. Most of your health and wellness care is local, too. As a consumer, you don’t go to a “national” doctor; you go to the right doctor who is easiest to get to and nearest to you.
Yet your health and wellness is social as well. From trying out folk remedies to finding a dentist, people have always used trusted others – friends, family members, colleagues, networks – as a source of advice. And this social dimension of health and wellness is becoming increasingly more important.
For instance, let’s say that you have a son who is dealing the rare, inherited disability, Fragile X syndrome. You are more likely to empathize and share practical advice with a mom in Taiwan who has a daughter with this same condition than you would with your neighbor next door (who doesn’t seem to have a clue what you’re really going through.) So in this case, your experience of health is both local (“I’m by myself in this.”) and social (“There are others, like me, dealing with this, too.”)
Me: How do you see this social dimension transforming healthcare in the future?
Clare: Today “social” is revolutionizing healthcare by contributing to a huge shift in our understanding about where health and wellness knowledge lives. In the past, we believed that health and wellness knowledge could be access only by the experts – the physician, dentist, gynecologist or cardiologist. Today, our social connectivity is breeding a new belief: health and wellness know-how is accessible to all of us. Yes, the doctor is a critical source of input, but she’s only one source out of many we can tap into through our social networks.
This is causing the role of the health professional to move from creator to curator. Sure, there is still a need for scientific breakthroughs and original thought, but more and more, the job of an effective health professional is to bring together the best of all thinking, innovations, technologies and methods which help people deal with emergencies and illnesses, prevent injury and disease, and stay healthy in the first place. Many times that “best thinking” doesn’t come from a doctor alone; it comes from alternative medicine, a completely unrelated field, or the everyday experiences of a person on the other side of the world.
Me: Are organizations already taking advantage of this social dimension of healthcare?
Clare: Absolutely. Consider CrowdMed, a startup that launched at TEDMED in April. The company is harnessing the wisdom of crowds to help solve real-world medical cases quickly and accurately online. (To learn more about CrowdMed, hear about it here or experiment with it by submitting your own health case or helping to solve one.) For a fee, you list your health issues online and are able to tap into over 3,000 “medical detectives,” people like you and me, who review your case and provide their collective knowledge intelligence and unbiased opinions to help solve it.
Me: Sounds as though healthcare transformation is not only possible, but happening as we speak! What I’ve learned from our conversation today is: together, we have the means more than ever before to help each other be well. Thanks, Clare, for your insights!
Author’s Note: Right after my interview with Clare, I read Predictive Health, a remarkable book by Drs. Kenneth Brigham and Michael Johns that outlines a vision for transforming medicine from disease and treatment to prediction and prevention. If you want to understand the transformation underway, give this book a read!
image credit: pashabo