I’ve been thinking about web 2.0, health care and health policy a lot these days since I’m trying to meet an offline writing deadline for a chapter on this theme. As it happens, John Podesta (of the Obama campaign now transition team) still has my email and continues to update me on how things are going. Serendipitously, Podesta sent out an one of those email updates that was all about web 2.0 and health policy in the new administration. Here’s what they’re doing (emphasis added):
Transparency and engagement are priorities for the Obama-Biden Transition Project. Our success depends on not only opening up a process that has historically been inaccessible to most Americans, but also encouraging citizen participation. Last week, we took an important step towards these goals by asking the public to participate in a discussion about health care on our website. The result was fantastic. Started by a question from our Health Policy Team, thousands of comments poured in over a few days. Some people answered the initial question, but others engaged with one another debating and developing new ideas and approaches to health care reform. Members of our Health Policy Team, including former Senator Tom Daschle, read through these comments over Thanksgiving weekend.
Pretty cool, I thought. And, at end of the email there’s a link to the video response from Dashcle and Lauren Aronson. As an online video, it’s not dynamic enough to go viral, but it as governance, it’s fairly impressive. It’s also encouraging to listen to the actual content of the suggestions from the public which included a range of ideas from basic public health (e.g., focus on prevention to lower costs of chronic diseases) to relatiavely left-of-center suggestions like a proposed “health corps” similar to the Peace Corps, where people would volunteer for two years of service in health-related fields. (All of the above is good news for schools of public health, so young sociologists would be wise to take those medical sociology courses and brush up on their knowledge of all things health-related.)
The central feature of what’s exciting and innovative about web 2.0 as it relates to health care and health policy is summed up nicely by blogger Jen McCabe Gorman who writes at Health Management Rx:
Like this year’s presidential election, social media and networking sites are breaking down some siloed barriers in the healthcare strata. On Twitter, I chat with docs, nurses, med students, marketers, health executives, entrepreneurs, analysts, etc. Would I ever have the opportunity to find and initiative conversations in the brick-and-mortar delivery world with such a diverse group? Not bloody likely.
New forms of communication that are based on the many-to-many style of distribution (rather than the top down, one-to-many style) are making conversations possible now that either didn’t exist or were very unlikely in the past. And, as anyone knows who has read any the literature on the mystification of medical (and scientific) knowledge, that’s a pretty dramatic shift.