Last night I attended the Northeast Corridor Health 2.0 shindig in Cambridge. I had the remarkable off-line, real-world experience of meeting a host of interesting folks, and even seeing some fellow-bloggers in the flesh, including Mark Modzelewski, David Williams and Matthew Holt. Matthew is, along with Indu Subaiya (entrepreneur-in-residence at Physic Ventures), chief Health 2.0 co-conspirator. (See the Health 2.0 site for upcoming national conference information, and Mark’s Health 2.0 NE for local activities.)
Matthew gave a short keynote on Health 2.0, and Mark moderated a panel including Indu, Steve Krein (co-founder and CEO of OrganizedWisdom Health), John Bader (VP of Business Development at Xoova and Bill Allman (Chief Content Officer of Health Central).
There was general agreement that we are at the very early stages of Health 2.0, and that there is a vast untapped reservoir of "wisdom of the masses" available through specialized websites that include social networking functionality to (1) patients and family members of patients seeking non-expert advice from similarly-situated folks, (2) docs in the "have you ever seen X?" mode, communicating in closed communities with other docs (e.g. Sermo, RelaxDoc).
It seems to me that to the extent the anecdotal can be harnessed, there may be some real value in moving forward evidence-based medicine (especially regarding pharmaceutical efficacy, side effects, interactions, etc., as was discussed last night). My personal bias is that the "chat-room" quality of some of the interactions may be detrimental to the advancement of this sector. Despite site sponsors’ disclaimers, perhaps some sort of moderation is in order, to balance things like grapefruit diet cancer cures that may advocated in the forums. Is there an ethical code in the making for Health 2.0? Perhaps there should be.
As one of the only lawyers in the room, folks asked me: Has anyone been sued for any information or treatment put forth in an anecdotal post on one of these sites? I don’t know of any such suit, but there could be one out there. I often tell people — you can always be sued, but that doesn’t mean that the plaintiff can win. Unfortunately, in our adversarial system, it is often true that even if you win, you lose. (See plug for alternative dispute resolution.)
All in all, an enjoyable evening, and an interesting sector to watch.