Convenient, remote information access; interconnectivity; and a host of other key features has led the healthcare industry to embrace the Internet, as evidenced by the proliferation and success of for-profit sites like Medscape, publicly funded sites such as the National Institutes of Health, and disease-specific groups like the Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome Information Service and Tourette Syndrome Association.
However, the Internet has evolved beyond its origins as a collection of interconnected websites with static information. It has become a medium through which relationships are established, information is shared and aggregated, and communities are developed. SecondLife, a virtual online world, has become a popular destination not just for recreation, but business as well. Blog authors now have a large readership base on par with some newspaper columnists. User-generated content is fast becoming the dominant online business model. The healthcare industry has embraced this trend, utilizing the Internet to do everything from publishing electronic versions of clinical journals to conducting business online with Web-based forms for prior authorization of medications and enabling patients to fi nd the right healthcare provider in an insurance network. This trend has been referred to as Web 2.0, and many new healthcare companies have adopted this paradigm, calling it Health 2.0.
LinkedIn is the largest professional network online, with more than 20 million members. It offers a variety of services, including job postings, the ability to post questions to one’s network or the larger community, and discussion forums. One of the key features is the ability to see network updates, such as the new connections of your primary connections, as well as any changes to their profi les. The site is extremely popular with recruiters, who typically have over 500+ connections. But the medical community represents less than 4% of total users. In the Health 2.0 space, Sermo is the largest online healthcare community, with more than 60,000 members. Ozmosis also pools and shares clinical pearls similar to Sermo, but its revenue comes from medical technology companies that sponsor forums seeking user experiences.
By John Luo, MD
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