How Can We Make Healthcare More Social?

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By Russ Ward (@russcward)

Buying many things can be an outing or an event – or at least a collaborative effort, in which you share links to product listings and discuss pros and cons. But how social of a process is purchasing your healthcare?

Many people ask for help with health research, especially if they know someone who works in a pharmaceutical-related job. (Most of you reading this are nodding from experience.) But the actual experience of healthcare isn’t nearly as social as it should be.

Think about all of the ways in which having another person could help improve how pleasant or useful healthcare could be, if there was someone to:

  • Accompany a doctor’s visit to take notes and ask questions
  • Debate the purposes, pros and cons of OTC medications at the drugstore
  • Remind, cajole and encourage compliance with doctor’s orders

A big reason why this doesn’t happen is that healthcare issues are frequently embarrassing. Here’s where technology can come in. It’s a lot less embarrassing to tell a ‘bot about your actual weight, your uncomfortable rash, etc. Sure, a friend would probably understand, but it’s just not a fun conversation. So if technology can make the conversation easier, it can make them happen when they wouldn’t otherwise. And all kinds of help can come of that. Here are a few:

  • Automated compliance buddies delivered through preferred technology – whether that’s text message, Twitter, Facebook, Wii, email.
  • iPhone or other mobile apps making healthcare information easier – recording doctors’ advice, listing current medications, providing databases to check ingredients.
  • Social networks where people can cheer each other on in their progress toward better health, regardless of geographic location or personal mobility.

What else is there? What else can we create?

We all need social support to be happy and successful – and healthy. Think about the patients who are closest to your work. What will help them become healthier – and how can you use technology to get them closer to it?

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