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From the Health 2.0 Conference: Some story ideas

From the Health 2.0 Conference: Some story ideas

Picture of Barbara Feder Ostrov

Here's a (belated) wrap-up of the Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco earlier this month, and some fodder for future stories.

First, I should probably explain what Health 2.0 actually is, and how it relates to health policy and public health. There is any number of definitions of Health 2.0 out there (see also Wikipedia's roundup), but it generally involves everyone in the health care field, from doctors to insurers to patients and beyond, using Web and mobile technologies to improve health outcomes and health care at all levels. Here's roundup of definitions from the Health 2.0 organizers.

Going beyond the usual product demos (some of which were pretty cool, like The Doctors Channel, which offers quick-hit educational videos, and Living Profiles, a site for teens with chronic health conditions), here are two Health 2.0 directions that are worth mining for stories.

1. PATIENT EMPOWERMENT. Patient empowerment tools like TheCarrot and LifeMojo are the new, new thing in Health 2.0, but it's going to take a few years before they're ready for prime time. At a panel called "The Patient is In," panelists including Jen McCabe of ContagionHealth, Amy Tenderich of DiabetesMine and Trisha Torrey of Every Patient's Advocate believe that iPhone apps and other tools may provide an easier way to motivate and document "micro behaviors" that affect health, like choosing an apple over a cookie or going to the gym instead of watching TV.

These technologies will constantly be pushing against powerful biological urges that make us crave sugar or take a nap instead of a run. That's an interesting dynamic for a story on the prospects for Health 2.0 tools to change changing health behaviors, and one that many health professionals have struggled with in trying to get patients to modify their lifestyles.

Here's another resource: a recent California Health Care Foundation report on patients and social media.

2. CAN HEALTH 2.0 KEEP COSTS DOWN? That's a $1 trillion question, and it involves not only Health 2.0 but all health information technology and evidence-based medicine innovations. Michael Millenson, who moderated a panel on this question at the Health 2.0 conference, has a great summary post on this issue.

Can Health 2.0 technologies help improve the treatment of chronic illnesses such as diabetes? Can they help reduce unnecessary lab tests or treatment? Panelists including Al Waxmam, CEO of Psilos, Harper's Magazine senior editor Luke Mitchell and HealthBeatBlog author and journalist Maggie Mahar were mixed (you can see video of the panel here. Worth reading as an overview: Mitchell's February 2009 article "Sick in the Head." Also worth checking out: a tool for consumers to manage health care costs called Change:Healthcare.

Medical economist J. D. Kleinke made an important point about lowering health care costs: "There's an odd curve where improving health care involves a short term spike in health costs, a mid-term decline in health costs and a long term rise in health costs (because people live longer)."

Another key issue raised by Maggie Mahar and J.D. Kleinke: "Can Health 2.0 apply to poor people?" Where are the Health 2.0 tools for Medicaid recipients and others receiving government health aid?

For more resources on Health 2.0, check out Matthew Holt's The Health Care Blog, the Health 2.0 conference website (the 2010 conference is in Paris), and the frequently updated Health 2.0 wiki.

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