Medicine fails, patient is frustrated: Google

Jessica Hagy is one of my favorite social commentators, so I was thrilled to meet her in person at the 2010 Mayo Transform conference, curated by David Rosenman. Here is one of her cartoons from that event:

Medicine fails, patient is frustrated: Google - by Jessica Hagy

I have shared the image on Twitter a few times, including today, when I wrote that I’d add “community” to “Google” as an option for patients. Jordan Safirstein, MD, (aka @CardiacConsult) replied, “I would write ‘2nd Opinion’ – with more available telecom – pts will be able to get informed 2nd opinions easier.”

What do you think? I know it’s just a cartoon, but it captures something, and I’d love to discuss it if it inspires (or incites) you. Is technology, particularly social media, causing medical complaints to go up (as one article suggests)? Or is it a means of expression for broader cultural change?

When Patients Band Together: Far From a Disgrace–Susannah Fox

When it comes to news sites, I love scanning readers’ comments as much as the original articles. Comments are an unfiltered feed, a window into public opinion (in other words, catnip for someone like me).

One thread caught my eye recently. Ron Winslow wrote a very nice piece in the Wall Street Journal about how clinicians are tapping in to existing networks of patients. See: “When Patients Band Together: Using Social Networks to Spur Research for Rare Diseases; Mayo Clinic Signs On.” Reader comments filled in blanks left by the article, which was a lovely introduction about one example of peer-to-peer health care, not a definitive guide. The article — and the comments — are having a significant impact, as this comment from Katherine Leon shows:

It has been a tremendously exciting week. We’ve heard all sorts of wonderful stories. An ER doc read the article in the morning, and that afternoon, realized he was treating a woman with SCAD — the first case he’d seen in 9 years. Women with recurrent SCAD are sharing the article with their doctors, and vice versa. Men are benefiting too; a cardiologist in Italy contacted Mayo about a man and woman being treated for SCAD in his cath lab. They are applying to the virtual registry.

So as you say, the power of patient groups works!

Indeed, the power of patient groups is in full effect here, but so is the power of the mainstream media. Continue reading

Going Viral Against HIV and STIs

The New York State Department of Health AIDS Institute, in partnership with, held a one-day forum on social media, HIV, and sexually transmitted infections (STI) that turned out to be an unfiltered discussion of love, truth, and technology.

Why was it so smoking hot? And is this unique to conferences (or panels) about sexual health?

Maybe it was because it was a room full of public health advocates who are very comfortable talking about “unmentionables.” (How many speakers have you seen ask an audience, “We’ve all had sex in a public bathroom right?”)

Maybe it was because speaker after speaker talked about the power of small groups to make a difference: Continue reading

What is the ROI on love?–Susannah Fox

Last week’s Mayo Transform symposium was a two-day excursion into the world of science, data, design, and the secret ingredient to health: love.

Patch Adams, MD, kicked things off in grand style. If you’ve never seen him speak, treat yourself to a hit of his energy:

In 1971, he and his compatriots opened a 24×7 hospital in a six-bedroom house to address every aspect of health, free of charge. Their “ideal patient was somebody who wanted to create a deep, personal friendship with us” and who understood the hospital promised care, not cure.

And now for something completely different (but stick with me — there is a theme here): Sharon Gibson, a health industry executive at Cisco Systems, who showed off a frankly luxurious clinic built to employee wish list specifications.  Continue reading

The Power of Mobile

Prepared for Mayo Transform 2010: Thinking Differently About Health Care (video now available).

Ten years ago, I wrote the Pew Internet Project’s first report on the impact of the internet on health care, calling it “The Online Health Care Revolution.”

Back then, the idea that people were searching online for health information was revolutionary. All of a sudden, regular people had access to medical information that had always been locked up and out of reach.

Ten years later, I am ready to declare the access revolution over, at least in the United States.  It’s time to change our frame of reference. Instead of talking about a revolution, our data shows that it is time to start building a new civilization. The Mayo Clinic was a leader during the revolution, opening up your expertise to the world. You can continue to be a leader if you take advantage of the trends I’m about to share. Continue reading

Health Sites: Some Are More Equal Than Others

Eric Schmidt wants to solve health care’s “platform database problem” and one critic has  countered that “computers cannot practice medicine.” One of Google’s initiatives is to guide consumers to safe, trusted health websites. Is that such a bad thing?

Search result placement can make or break a site or a business model, which is where dot-com blogs come in, but they also have the potential to make or break a consumer’s access to health information, which is where comes in.

First, some background. Search is central to health information gathering: Two-thirds of consumer health inquiries start at a general search engine. The trend line for consumers’ reliance on health search is so steady, in fact, that Pew Internet stopped updating it in 2006. Other researchers seem to take search dominance as an article of faith, too: Harris Interactive, Manhattan Research, Center for Studying Health System Change, National Cancer Institute’s HINTS — none have recent data on health search, at least on their public sites.

What has changed are the search results. Continue reading