“Health 2.0” initiatives show their worth

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Data, analytics and social media collaboration tools such as social networks and blogs continue to be hot topics in the healthcare world. Proponents of using these tools in healthcare, an idea dubbed “Health 2.0,” insist that such efforts can lower costs and improve patient care. One of the biggest issues with these tools, however, has been the inability to find solid numbers to justify the programs.

However, evidence has begun to surface that Health 2.0 is the real deal. In a recent whitepaper published by the Healthcare Performance Management Institute, “Healthcare Performance Management in the Era of Twitter,” several programs featured in the research provide interesting data to support the value of social media efforts.

According to the whitepaper, a recent survey of patients connecting through one healthcare-related social networking site found 72 percent of respondents found the site to be moderately or very helpful in gaining information about symptoms related to their conditions while 57% reported the site was useful in learning about treatment side effects.

Concerns and questions over symptoms and treatment side effects are two primary reasons patients contact healthcare providers. Thus reliable information provided through a trusted online community may eliminate some calls to doctors’ offices allowing healthcare providers to perform other tasks. In addition, 22 percent of survey respondents with mood disorders reported they required less inpatient care because of information provided on the site.

In another case, the school district in Toms River, NJ opened a clinic for employees in 2009. The clinic uses a health performance management system that includes data analysis and collaboration tools designed for the clinic staff. The tools allow healthcare providers to identify patients with certain conditions and pair them with doctors or nurses able to treat the conditions. The result has been a decrease in annual healthcare costs of $1950 per employee.

While the whitepaper provides some compelling information on the effectiveness of certain Health 2.0 programs, it does point out that such efforts can be hampered by issues relating to sharing data or limits on technology infrastructure. Additionally, the programs featured in the whitepaper are relatively small-scale efforts affecting a modest number of patients. That being said, the research adds to the growing data showing Health 2.0 can achieve what its supporters claim. The question now is whether such programs are scalable.

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