Today, I’m in San Francisco for the Health 2.0 conference, billed as “User-Generated Health Care”. Organized by my pal Matthew Holt and his partner, Indu Subiya, “Health 2.0” references “Web 2.0”, social networking, applied to healthcare.

The meeting will feature top executives from high and low profile IT firms that either are already dedicated to or hope to play an important role in healthcare, like Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Intel, Cisco, WebMD, Revolution Health, AthenaHealth, Sermo, and many other lesser known organizations, all discussing their strategies for leveraging data in new ways to create value for all healthcare constituencies.

Elsewhere, I’ve referred to this as a “significant portion of market-based healthcare reform, with NONE of the usual suspects.” What I mean by this is that, by and large, the players working in this space are NOT the people we’ve typically seen at important healthcare conferences in the past, and they may be pooh-poohed by many longstanding healthcare power players. That could prove an error in judgment.

At one level, many Health 2.0 sites are about patients creating content for other patients based on their own experiences, and by doing so, contributing to a larger body of knowledge about what’s important when dealing with a particular condition.

But at another level, Health 2.0 is, in a very real sense, about corporations creating information that moves the locus of power in healthcare away from healthcare corporations and to the patient. Or for that matter, to anyone who now acts as a healthcare decision-maker: patient, clinician, purchaser, vendor. And in that sense, this is a revolutionary development.

We’ll have a lot more to report after the session, of course. But here’s a guess at some of the more exciting aspects of what we might hear.


Rivers of data

Imagine that a large corporation could gain access to a steady flow of clinical encounter or claims data for a sizable portion of the care delivered in the U.S. (Claims data is more likely at this point, but clinical encounter data has more robust clinical information and has more integrity.)  Let’s say it could also get hold of lab data, image data, and drug data. And let’s say that company could assemble the disparate data elements into meaningful individual patient records accessible by any patient who wishes to see this information. This isn’t so far-fetched. Organizations like Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida and Humana have already created similar approaches through their payer-based patient record system, Availity.

Patient records might actually be created in two levels: one for patients and one for clinicians. Privacy and security issues are paramount. Once the patient sets up an account to allow the sponsoring organization (like a Yahoo, Google, or Microsoft) to create a record, then any time his/her record is accessed, the patient might be notified, and an audit trail would exist.

If the sponsoring corporation has access to continuous rivers of data, it could analyze that information, cutting it in different ways to identify

  • Patients who might be prone to have serious conditions in the near future,
  • Patients who have conditions that aren’t receiving the proper care,
  • Physicians who provide excellent quality care or maybe not such great care,
  • Drugs and devices within class that perform better or worse than others in their class,
  • New best practice guidelines reflecting care approaches that consistently produce better results at lower costs,
  • And so on.



The company could make this information available to all users, creating both pricing/performance transparency and accountability, but also creating information that helps patients, clinicians, purchasers, and vendors make better decisions.

In the long term, new, better information might help all these players make decisions that are based more than ever on data rather than speculation. But in the short term, it would almost certainly help rationalize the tremendous excess that is now destabilizing American healthcare, driving down cost and helping to re-establish stability and sustainability to the system.

These are just a couple issues that will be top of mind at today’s meeting. I’m sure there will be more.

The innovations we’ll hear about may not be here today, but they’ll be realities tomorrow or the day after tomorrow. They’ll portend tremendous improvements in healthcare, improving quality and driving down cost, not just for healthcare professionals, but, more importantly, for patients. Healthcare, an industry rife with excess that derives from misaligned incentives and a lack of transparency, is filled with low hanging fruit. The new tools offered by IT are just now becoming sophisticated enough to bring tremendous value while revolutionizing the way healthcare works. And that’s why their promise is so compelling.

Stay tuned.


  1. There is great potential for IT to transform the delivery of healthcare. What remains to be seen is if insurers will allow third party vendors access their claims information, whether the public will feel comfortable having IT companies, like Google and Microsoft, rifle through their personal medical information, and if personal web-based medical records, like dossia will not only revolutionize healthcare, but also be a disruptive technology that will fundamentally change how healthcare is provided. Look forward to future posts on Health 2.0.

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