Health 2.0. It’s all that people can talk about some days in the online health world. It has no definition, though, it’s not much more than the nebulous “Web 2.0,” except topic-specific.
The September 6, 2007 edition of The Economist takes a stab at its take on Health 2.0:
Millions are now logging on to contribute information about topics stretching from avian-flu pandemics to the extraction of wisdom teeth or the use of acupuncture to overcome infertility. You could call it user-generated health care, or Health 2.0.
In some ways this is nothing new. The BrainTalk Communities, an online support group for neurology patients, began in 1993. But content now comes in different forms, such as blogs and videos, and there are many more contributors. More than 20% of American internet users have created some sort of health-related content, according to Jupiter, a market-research firm.
It’s a good read (and not just because I was quoted for the article!) because it puts some much-needed perspective into the hype machine that so many generate around the “2.0” bubble. Little of this is new. Yes, some of the technology for sharing is new(er), but people have been “sharing” everything online (and I do mean everything) long before Facebook, Myspace, or some health-oriented take on all of this.
Some of the concerns I often hear from reporters is, “Is this stuff any good? Is it accurate? Isn’t putting a whole bunch of people together and getting them talking about healthcare dangerous?”
A lot of user-generated health information is accurate. A panel of neurology specialists judged that only 6% of information posted in the epilepsy-support group of BrainTalk was factually wrong, according to a study published in 2004 in the British Medical Journal. And with enough people online, misinformation is often quickly corrected. Inaccurate posts on the website of the Association of Cancer Online Resources (ACOR), for example, will be pointed out within two hours, says Gilles Frydman, the founder of the association, based in New York.
So, in a nutshell, no, it’s not.
It helps people understand their options better, get emotional support for some very trying times, and feel better about the healthcare choices they make.