About one-third of Americans who go online to research their health currently use social networks to find fellow patients and discuss their conditions, and 36 percent of social network users evaluate and leverage other consumers’ knowledge before making health care decisions. Social networks hold considerable potential value for health care organizations because they can be used to reach stakeholders, aggregate information and leverage collaboration. (from Deloitte study)
One of the biggest researchers out there in this space is Susannah Fox from the Pew Research Center.
Peer-to-peer healthcare acknowledges that patients and caregivers know things — about themselves, about each other, about treatments — and they want to share what they know to help other people. Technology helps to surface and organize that knowledge to make it useful for as many people as possible. (from recent presentation from NIH – “Medicine: Mind the Gap”)
With that in mind, I found this study from a few months ago about storytelling very interesting. Imagine the power of capturing stories in some form – DVD, YouTube, written – and sharing them with newly diagnosed patients across an expanded social network. Imagine helping patients plug into a social network (ala – PatientsLikeMe).
Conclusion: The storytelling intervention produced substantial and significant improvements in blood pressure for patients with baseline uncontrolled hypertension.
What has really surprised me is that I haven’t seen the large institutional healthcare organizations promoting the use of the social networks. Maybe I’ve missed it, but I would think they would partner up with a few of these to encourage consumers to use them. I understand on the one hand that that is “handing off” a patient to a different company, but rather than trying to build their own social networking application, I think they’re better served to leverage what exists.