A ‘Fall’ of Medicine 2.0: What’s the buzz in healthcare and social media

Written by Victoria Louise Crump-Haill – Digital Strategist/Account Director‏

We’re always keeping an eye on  what is happening over the Pond and it looks like it’s going to be a hot fall in the Bay Area in terms of healthcare and socialmedia, with two ‘biggies’ coming up in the next few weeks between Stanford and San Francisco. The first one will be the Medicine 2.0 conference (September 16-18th), organized by Stanford Medical School in collaboration with Yale University, the Pew Internet Research Center and Nova Southeastern University. The second biggie is the Health 2.0 conference which will follow shortly after that and take place in San Francisco on Sept 25th-27th (stay tuned on this blog for more on Health 2.0 San Francisco).

This year is the first time that the Medicine 2.0 conference is held in the US, after it was convened in Toronto in 2008 and 2009. The word ‘Medicine 2.0’ was coined by Gunther Eysenbach, associate professor of health policy at the University of Toronto and starter of the Medicine 2.0 conference in 2008. Gunther is also co-founder and group leader at the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, Toronto, Canada, one of the leading world centers researching and developing applications on eHealth.

Denise Silber Medicine 2.0 from Larry Chu on Vimeo.

There are three main user groups of Medicine 2.0: patients/consumers, health care professionals and biomedical scientists and researchers. In the context of Medicine 2.0, even traditionally considered ‘end-users’ such as patients can be seen as experts and knowledge producers through their “collective wisdom,” opposing the traditional hierarchical and paternalistic structure of healthcare, where the doctors alone were the experts and the patients were supposed to follow doctors’ dictum without looking for more information or for a second opinion.

The following five features are essential of Medicine 2.0, as defined by Eysenbach:

1) social networking, involving the ‘explicit modelling of connections between people […] which enables and facilitates collaboration and collaborative filtering processes’;

2) participation, particularly important for patients/consumers but also for health care professionals and researchers;

3) apomediation, i.e. the new way for users to identify trustworthy online information through a special form of ‘disintermediation’ where users rely less on traditional experts and authorities but increasingly more on crowdsourcing;

4) collaboration, both within and between the different user-groups of patients, doctors and scientists;

5) openness, which stands both for transparency and, in a more technical sense, for open source interfaces characteristics of web 2.0 tools.



The features listed above are reflected also in the breadth of abstracts accepted for oral presentations at the conference, from which we cherry picked some of the juiciest for you. To start with, the ‘father’ of the conference, Gunter Eysenbach and his coauthor Cynthia Chew will present one of the most recent outcomes of the crosstalk of internet and epidemiology, an open source tool called Infovigil which enables researchers to specify a “concept” (for example, a new influenza viral strain), and to prospectively track information and communication patterns on the internet. As some of these data can be coupled to geospatial data, they can be used to generate alerts for government if trends abruptly change, or other abnormalities occur.  In this sense Infovigil has great potential to inform public health policy, particularly in the case of influenza or other pandemics.

Participation is a central feature of Medicine 2.0 that is particularly important for consumers and patients. Katy Plant, research assistant at Stanford and part of the intramural Patient Education Center will present the results of a 6-week online workshop implemented by Stanford School of Medicine in collaboration with Cancer Research Center of Hawaii, and the McMillan Trust in the UK and aimed at improving quality of life for cancer patients. The workshop is one of the first of its kind to combine interactive didactic content, and structured social networking to help patients overcome fatigue, depression, stress, and sleep dysfunctions. As the results of the workshop were very promising, Stanford University is currently recruiting patients for a larger randomized trial.

Collaboration being another core value of Medicine 2.0, and within this theme, researchers will greatly benefit from one of the applications presented at Stanford this year: Mendeley. Mendeley is a London-based start up that aims at improving collaboration between scientists, providing a free reference manager and collaboration tool that crowd-sources research trend information and semantic annotations of research papers. Mendeley is not a new application, with the first beta public version released in 2008, but only last year did it reach a critical mass of users, with more than eight million scholarly papers currently in a database doubling in size every ten weeks.  Mendeley was created in 2007 by two PhD students, Jan Reichelt and Victor Henning who were “struggling to wrangle all of [their] research” and wondered if they “could write a program to extract all of the metadata from a PDF” (as featured and praised by the UK version of the magazine Wired. And this is exactly what they did: Mendeley automatically extracts metadata from papers, allows a researcher to annotate, tag and organize their research collection, and thus creates a network of collaborators out of a common interest.

The healthcare and social media scene for is buzzing on this side of the Pond too, with the Health 2.0 Europe conference coming up soon in Berlin. Don’t miss the ‘Leweb’ conference taking place in Paris in early December, which will bring together some of the most influential players in the Internet scene to focus on the key issues and opportunities in the web marketplace. The beautiful Lake Geneva will be the backdrop for the ‘Lift conference in February 2012, which will explore the social implications of new digital technologies with a focus on Europe and Asia.

Some claim that the era of Medicine 2.0 is approaching its ‘fall’. Among these is, Arun Keeppanasseril also one of the speakers at the Medicine 2.0 conference in Stanford. Arun compiled a “wish list” for the future wave of Medicine 3.0, in a similar way to what Eysenbach did for Medicine 2.0.  Among the essential features of Medicine 3.0 that we can gather from his abstract are context-based web tools that will allow more targeted knowledge processing and retrieval.

As put by Arun: “Web 3.0 promises to be a more mature web where better ‘pathways’ for information retrieval will be created, and a greater capacity for cognitive processing of information will be built. The immense amount of information, the complex social dynamics and the increasingly sophisticated health care expectations and goals cry out for a mechanism to initiate contextual knowledge processing and retrieval.

We are curious to see which mechanisms will be the building blocks for Medicine 3.0. If the wish list becomes indeed fulfilled, it may be the case that the 2011 Medicine 2.0 conference in Stanford will be the last one bearing this name, and we will see instead a ‘Medicine 3.0’ conference next year!

Stephen Dunn

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