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Kudos to the Folks at for asking the Right Question at the Right Time.

First off, I think this is an incredibly TIMELY “Topic” and excellent Discussion Starter because I find that too many people and diverse groupings of Medical Professionals are trying to quickly figure out “Health Care Social Media” (“HCSM”) simply to monetize it and capitalize on what they think are its capabilities.  IMHO they are making the same mistakes made by the music industry when the Internet first made Digital Music so easy and enticing to download.  In hindsight, a “Wait and See” attitude would have been more prudent and served those music executives and litigious artists much better in the long run as the “newness” of instant digital 24/7 access initially made for a hot consumer commodity but soon wore off. Nevertheless, more open and technologically-savvy minds than the groovy cats  in the music industry, who incidentally made more money than they should have off of the creative work of others without taking anywhere near the career risks, grew the new medium availability of music into a viable business model.   This new iTunes-dominated business also changed Buying Behaviors and Consumer Consumption of Music.  “Collaboration” for maximum benefit to all interested parties (i.e., Fans, Bands, Writers, Music Publishers, Record Companies, Apple, iTunes, etc.) seems to have been the Lesson and still  drives the end-game even if the per-song percentage payout is less than that previously generated by retail.  But adapting to, and THEN learning how to utilize, new technology are keys to survival and profitability.  That Lesson needs to be carefully  monitored with respect to HCSM, especially at this point in time when it seems to be  purely a Patient-Driven medium.  Therefore, while the end-game for HCSM and its capabilities is not yet defined, I think the more productive conversation is about “Health Technology” since THAT is what we are really talking about.  What is it?  How can we use it?  Is it different for Patients and Medical Professionals?  Is HCSM the industry of “Health Technology” or just an Application of it?

Accordingly, when posed with the question, “What do the words Health Technology mean to Me?” I instantly make a Separation between Health Technology for Patients and Health Technology for Medical Professionals.

As somewhat of a “Professional Patient” having battled Crohn’s Disease for the past 25 years with 200 hospitalizations under my belt, I first think of Health Care Social Media and the various Patient Technology Tools that are derived from “Health Technology.”   That said, however, I think the medium of HCSM will evolve into “THE” Game-Changer of Health Technology by bringing “Efficiencies” back to both the business of Health-care and to the Practice of Medicine.  The almost instantaneous database-like availability of Patient information and experiences created through HCSM allows Patients around the Globe to access what they need, when they need it, directly from other Patients in similar circumstances.  Thus, HCSM could become a Behavior-Changing medium much the same way the creation of changed the way we purchase Books after first reading about them in The Sunday New York Times.

In the “old days,” we’d jot down the Book Title and eventually make it to the Bookstore to purchase the book but now we spark up the Computer and with just a few clicks the book is on its way to our homes.  Audio-books have even improved upon that “Purchasing Experience Efficiency.” This type of impact would be extraordinary with HCSM and I think it is entirely possible since no one but Patients can participate in HCSM in any meaningful way for fear of Ethical, Legal and Licensure Constraints no matter how well-intended they are or how up-to-date their respective Professional Licensing Boards are with respect to the possible perils of Social Media and Health Technology.  HCSM, and some aspects of Patient-driven Health Technology “Patient Tools,” are simply moving too fast for Medical Professionals to be adequately protected from the perils of a Global Patient Population seeking medical advice 24/7.  So, if Patients take their HCSM  “Credibility” responsibilities seriously, Health Technology will have created an Clearing House of Information and Experiences which Patients can utilize to more efficiently manage their Health-care issues which in turn will assist Physicians and Hospitals in treating a much better informed and prepared Patient Population.

By way of example, I use “Health Technology” every day when I Tweet about HCSM, or seek input about the side effects I am having to Crohn’s Disease medications or ask for  recommendations about Doctors.  This use of Health Technology often leads me to Niche Health-care Facebook Pages where I learn even more detailed information.   As a Patient, I also “Subscribe” to Disease-specific email Yahoo or Google Groups which bring individual Patient stories and queries to my email in-box every day.  I try to participate in the dialogue so that I don’t “take” more than I “receive.”   I also do this with Medical “Key-Word” searches on Yahoo and Google so that at the end of each day I am up-to-speed on the latest research on Crohn’s Disease.  I also Subscribe to several Medical Podcasts and even Host my own which focuses on Living with Chronic Illness.  This helps me stay current with the latest issues I may be faced with either regarding my illness or regarding Health-care in general.  I also participate in a variety of “Tweet Chats” which are medical-related and usually comprised of such a diversified audience of folks involved with Health-care that I come away ALWAYS learning something new or at least made aware of a different perspective.  It is also fascinating to converse with people in Australia, for example, about how Health-care is faring in their country.   I also read certain Blogs and maintain one myself (Voila!) and this gives me the opportunity to share with others what I’ve learned from the above and/or it offers me the chance to share information and experience that might help others.

When I think about “Health Technology” from a Medical Professional’s point of view, I think about an exchange I had last evening with a Physician who wondered how Patients can get the best Health-care without having a Smart-phone!!  Perhaps I am narrowing the point she was making but I am trying to illustrate that we are talking about Two Completely Different Worlds when we try to explain “Health Technology” and what it means to Patients as opposed to its purpose in the day-to-day lives of Doctors, Nurses, Technicians, Medical School Professors/Students, etc.  I happen to think that is a GOOD THING because HCSM seems to be a Patient-Driven Medium whereas the Mobile Phone (and many other Technology Gadgets) seem to be efficient and effective Health Technology Tools for Physicians and Hospitals.  I do think a Smart-phone can be a GREAT aid to Physicians who are always pressed for time and thus anything which provides them with more clarity is betterment to Health-care and that is good for Patients.  Electronic Medical Records (“EMRs”) also come to mind in this side of the “Health Technology” discussion as it is an Eventuality because we must break away from the Inefficiencies seemingly favored by behemoth Health Insurance Companies and other Payors who utilize Oil Cartel-like business practices hoping that Health-care is never made Efficient such that it becomes more affordable, more effective and therefore more accessible to more people.  There is much debate about the adoption of EMRs and at this point in time I think ANY argument against them is ridiculous because if we are routinely doing Banking on the Web, and with no problems, then there is no longer a viable excuse not to use EMRs.

Other than that, I think of “Health Technology” for Medical Professionals as any Gadget or Tool which enables them to Diagnose/Treat faster and more accurately and which generally enables them to do their jobs in the most safe, effective and efficient manner.