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Apr 28

Last week was the Health 2.0 Meets Ix Conference in Boston. Other bloggers have written up more detailed summaries of the event, and you can read the tweet by tweet coverage here, so this post merely reflects what I found to be most relevant to the e-Patient movement and what may be of interest to the life science community who was largely absent from this event.

Health 2.0 organizer Matthew Holt kicked off the event with a review of his definition of Health 2.0:

The use of social software and light-weight tools to promote collaboration between patients, their caregivers, medical professionals, and other stakeholders in health.

Holt suggests that the term health 2.0 be expanded to describe the next generation of healthcare:

  • Personalized health search
  • Patient communities that capture and share knowledge and data
  • Intelligent content tools and trackers
  • Better integration of data with content

Don Kemper from Healthwise was very eloquent and he presented the case for “information therapy” (Ix). The definition for Ix is “the timely prescription and availability of evidence-based health information to meet individuals’ specific needs and support sound decision making.” In practice, some physicians are now “prescribing” patient education materials using traditional prescription pads. (One physician asked via Twitter, why isn’t it abbreviated as IRx instead of Ix?) Kemper asserted that there are too many “patient patients” and we need to focus on creating and supporting more empowered patients.

The conference organizers tried to frame the Health 2.0 and Ix themes as a debate as to which one was better or “right.” But the crowd quickly turned on them rightly stating that it’s not an either or proposition.

There are of course legitimate differences. Ix is data driven while Health 2.0 is experience driven. Ix provides quality evidence-based information, but that can take a long time to produce so Health 2.0 will uncover best practices or experience with new treatments faster (and for things like cancer, patients don’t have the luxury of time to wait for evidence-based information).

Again, most of us found the “versus” attitude silly and contrived. It’s apples and oranges. When I get diagnosed with something I’d love for the doctor to give me a list of evidence-based materials to review, and I’d love to join an online community of people that share my condition to get the wisdom of the crowd.

Dr. Alan Greene was another crowd favorite, pointing out that the more the patient is engaged in the process of care the better the outcome. To illustrate this participation point he said if you want your child to eat a food she doesn’t like, perhaps a tomato, you can give her a knife to cut the tomato herself and she will be more likely to eat it. His recommendation to give a kid a knife drew an equal amount of laughter and gasps from the crowd.

Neil Calman, the cofounder and President of the Institute for Family Health, reminded all of us how “way out” we all were with the whole discussion. The national priorities for healthcare are about runaway costs, inadequate access to primary care in many parts of the country and the overall quality of care. He suggests that both the Health 2.0 and Ix evangelists are risking making themselves irrelevant to the current health reform national conversation.

There was widespread agreement that the patient needs to be at the center of the health system, rather than the doctor, or even IT systems. But in this discussion the speakers struggled with the right metaphor for this view.

Jay Parkinson, MD of Hello Health rejected a suggestion that the physician be the “CEO” of the team. Parkinson rightly observed that doctors aren’t very good team players and aren’t usually very good business people either.The CEO role is best served by the patient, with the physician serving as “consultant.”

Danny Sands, MD suggested but then quickly retracted the idea that the doctor is the quarterback and the patient is the ball. The goal is to move the ball to other team members down the field towards the goal. Of course this led to comparisons from patients who say they are being “dropped,” “punted” and “fumbled” all the time.

An interesting analogy was made between consumers managing their health and consumers managing their money. The comparison is strong given how important both health and wealth are, and the availability of measures, tools, and advisors used to manage each. But as one panelist observed, “not everybody is going to be a healthcare daytrader.”

The reality is that just as not everyone is equipped with the knowledge or skills to manage their own money, not everyone is equipped to actually be an empowered patient. Additionally, in the rush to more participatory medicine, will the e-Patient model make it all the easier to actually abandon patients and put more of the healthcare burden on those who can’t handle it?

Of course, what was most exciting to me was the widespread acknowledgment that the discussion should really be focused on the “empowered patient”, or e-Patient, which of course what this blog and Krū Research is all about. The conference underscored our core mission: we need to all get a whole lot smarter about how to find, engage and educate e-Patients.


TWITTER: Live Twitter coverage of #health2con, click here.

BLOG: Ix’s Josh Seidman’s conference wrap-up, click here.

BLOG: Matthew Holt’s conference summary, click here.

BLOG: John Chilmark’s take on the H2.0 vendors, click here.


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