4 Thoughts on Medicine 2.0

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We just came back from the fantabulous Doctors 2.0 conference in Paris. We blogged live from the event last week. The conference centered around the web 2.0 and how physicians and patients behave and interact in it. We have seen exciting startups, talked to interesting and like-minded physicians and partied extensively. We heard a lot of enthusiastic talks about social media and how they will revolutionize healthcare. So many promising ideas. So many bright physician entrepreneurs. We have seen hospital platforms that integrate Twitter, Facebook, blogs and the like to enhance the flow of information to patients. We have seen apps to track immunization status. We have learned about sophisticated visit scheduling tools. It’s all so exciting.

But now we are back, back to the real world, the real patients, the real doctors. Most of our patients do not know what Twitter is and most of our colleagues have no Twitter accounts. They use social media but strictly for private purposes. So the question remains: Are we creating our own health 2.0 bubble? If you are well connected on Twitter, Friendfeed or Facebook you can easily get the false impression that the whole world is on it, that it’s THE thing, that this is how information is spread and should be consumed. We have to ask ourselves if we have a well balanced view of “everybody” and “the world”.

Here are just 4 thoughts that have come to our mind after listening to all the exciting projects and talks:

  1. Technology should make healthcare simpler. Platforms that integrate RSS, Twitter, search and community features sound fancy but they confuse everybody. We suggest, you submit your app to the “granny test”. Explain it to you grandmother and if she does not get it, it probably won’t fly in a healthcare system that takes care of ever more octogenarians.
  2. We share the enthusiasm for web 2.0 features in healthcare. We are all into Twitter, sharing, crowdsourcing, tracking, information etc. But at the same time we are concerned that some people might be left out: What about the illiterate? What about those without connectivity or devices? What about people with disabilities or intellectual disadvantages? How can we make sure that health 2.0 will also improve the health of these groups?
  3. Don’t try to be the next Facebook of healthcare because 20 others have already claimed to be just that. Taking Facebook’s features and implementing them in a healthcare setting just DOES NOT work. You will have to be more innovative than that.
  4. What’s your businessmodel? As in any other field, healthcare startups have to find a functioning businessmodel. It’s true that there is a lot of money in the healthcare industry. Cumulatively, the top ten fortune-500 pharma companies have more revenue than the remaining 490 companies taken together. But that does not mean they will share it with you. In order to come up with a revenue model, you will have to understand how the healthcare systems work. Can you get reimbursement? How? Do you have to register your app because it’s a medical device? Do you violate any direct to customer laws? etc. etc. Then test all the assumptions of your businessmodel and pivot until you are all set.

The healthcare system is very complicated. It’s highly regulated. The ones who pay are frequently not the ones who get the treatment. The ones who get the treatment are frequently not the ones who make the treatment decision, the ones who make the treatment decision don’t have to deal with payments….you follow me? There would be a lot of other points to show you that healthcare is really really complex. So do yourself and us a favor and simplify things.

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Franz is an internist with a specialization in cardiology. He co-founded the e-learning company 123sonography and MedCrunch. Franz is Associate Professor for internal medicine at the Medical University of Vienna. In 2001 he did his MPH at Johns Hopkins University as a Fulbright scholar. Follow Franz at @franzwiesbauer.

3 COMMENTS

  1. I would like to thank Franz and Lukas for their support of the Doctors 2.0 conference.  I agree that there is a huge problem at present regarding Business Models in health care. This problem is manifest in different ways on different continents but the bottom line is there is a bottomline problem.  Who should pay? The usual “suspects”  (government, pharma, insurors, hcps, patients) are lined up and each one is either eliminated as unpopular or won’t / can’t pay.  As to saying that new technology eliminates the illiterate, so does the world we live in. The truly illiterate suffer every day. Do we eliminate books, magazines and newspapers? I think it’s a danger argument to only do things that can work for the entire population of the earth. Innovation cannot advance at 100%. People said that libraries were dangerously dusty when they were created.

  2. I would like to thank Franz and Lukas for their support of the
    Doctors 2.0 conference.  I agree that there is a huge problem at present
    regarding Business Models in health care. This problem is manifest in
    different ways on different continents but the bottom line is there is a
    bottomline problem.  Who should pay? The usual “suspects”  (government,
    pharma, insurors, hcps, patients) are lined up and each one is either
    eliminated as unpopular or won’t / can’t pay.  As to saying that new
    technology eliminates the illiterate, so does the world we live in. The
    truly illiterate suffer every day. Do we eliminate books, magazines and
    newspapers? I think it’s a danger argument to only do things that can
    work for the entire population of the earth. Innovation cannot advance
    at 100%. People said that libraries were dangerously dusty when they
    were created.

  3. You are right as always Denise 🙂 I think app developers always have to gauge the potentials of their innovations. How many patients actually use similar gadgets? What is the invention’s true potential. If we don’t attach actual numbers to the things we are talking about (i.e. from market research), we might be disappointed if our creations do not take of as expected. Thank you for your comment!

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