Health Care Changes Beyond Social Media

future of healthcare

By DJ Edgerton

Earlier this month, Ad Age published an opinion piece by blogger Jonathan Richman titled “No, Pharma’s Digital Future Isn’t All Social Media: Here’s What My Crystal Ball Looks Like.” He points out that there’s more to consider beyond the current media darling (social media) and postulates – first, that the FDA isn’t going to issue social media-specific guidelines – last, that where other industries are now, pharma may be in five years – and several more in between. Check the article out – and furthermore, check out the discourse in the comments. Here are a couple of opinions that his thoughts touched off – one positive, one more skeptical.

Bad news first: it seems that his thoughts on physician crowdsourcing are fascinating, but wishful thinking. It’s not that he’s wrong: it does make perfect sense for insurance companies to pay physicians to participate in physician social networks. Crowdsourcing expertise would improve overall outcomes and minimize insurance payments. But for it to happen in the next two years? It just seems as if it will require a pretty big revolution before managed care starts making that much sense.

Seriously, such a step would require a much less legalistic and risk-averse mentality than any HMO has at present. Let’s hope the current U.S. government’s health care reform does change that, and proves Jonathan right.

His prediction for social networking to become more integrated with all online activity seems far more likely to happen soon. Just think about the word itself. Social is – social. It’s interactive.

Because of that, expecting the social media and social networks that are currently popular to remain so is silly. History has already proven that wrong anyway. Think about it: how often do you check your profile on Myspace? Friendster? Ryze?

Social interactions facilitate evolution. They also facilitate innovation. This means that by definition, social isn’t going to stay exactly the way it is right now for very long.

Already, just about any activity you can think of is interactive. Movie renting. Reading. Prayer. Running. And, of course, being a patient.

As the public becomes more accustomed to, and expectant of, the ability to not only find information online, to enjoy doing it, and to share what they find with people that matter to them – patient social networking applications are going to increase, and physician ones will start cropping up as well.

Why will this work? Because it will be reflective of an overall change that permeates online experience everywhere. It will dictate, by virtue of its omnipresence, to the pharmaceutical industry, rather than require initiative that would have to come from within the industry itself.

So there are two predictions. Now, what are yours? A year from today, what digital difference will there be in health care – or, at least, what one are you hoping for?

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