2018 update: Watch a 10-minute video that captures the essentials of peer health advice.
Someone recently asked me to name the most exciting innovation in health care today. I think he was hoping for a sexy technology tip, like an app that’s catching fire in the expert patient communities I follow.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the most exciting innovation of the connected health era is…people talking with each other.
At the Pew Research Center we call it “peer-to-peer health care” and measure it with national survey data:
- 24% of U.S. adults got information or support from others who have the same health condition the last time they had a significant health issue.
Caregivers and those living with chronic conditions are more likely than other adults to seek peer advice and support.
It can happen online or offline, via email, phone, or on a message board. It can feel very basic, even ancient. As I said, not very sexy. Unless you think being human is sexy (I do).
What’s new is that technology allows us to widen the network of people we can talk with, increase the velocity of those conversations, inject them with more source material, then archive and make them searchable.
I bet you’ve seen it in the wild, if not in your own life:
- A reddit thread turns into an insulin pump tip swap (search for “diabetes”)
- Two moms chatting on Facebook prevent a hospitalization.
- People hack everyday objects to create assistive devices, then share their hacks with others. (Update: see also “Hacking home health care“)
And if you haven’t read it yet, Atul Gawande’s latest article, Slow Ideas, illustrates this idea perfectly. As he writes:
“People talking to people is still how the world’s standards change.”
He’s talking about clinicians. I’m talking about patients and caregivers. Imagine the velocity of innovation when those two groups work together, as they are at the C3N Project or Smart Patients, just to name two examples.
Tell me: Where do you see this happening? I’m always looking for more examples — please share!