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New Media Summit: Matthew Holt, Dr. Roy Poses, And Me

I was a panelist at Edelman’s CHPA New Media Summit today in New Brunswick, NJ. Matthew Holt (of the Healthcare Blog and Health 2.0) was the keynote speaker, and I participated on a panel discussion with Dr. Roy Poses. It was exciting to meet Roy in person for the first time, as I’ve been following his policy blog for some time.

Matthew presented a very rosy picture of Health 2.0 (consumer-driven healthcare), more or less suggesting that it could provide a large part of the solution to our current healthcare crisis. I countered with a more cautious view, explaining that expert engagement would be critical to Health 2.0’s success.

Matthew argued that sites like Patients Like Me were enabling patients “to do their own clinical trials online,” and that this was opening a whole new avenue for research. Dr. Poses and I were fairly concerned about this suggestion, primarily because we understand how easy it is to draw false conclusions from data, especially when the data are not collected in a systematic fashion.

I explained to the audience that association does not prove causation (E.g. Do matches cause lung cancer? No, though it’s true that people who smoke are more likely to carry matches). I also described a case in which a Health 2.0 principle went terribly awry: a group of consumers were asked to rate their medications for efficacy by disease/condition. This was supposed to leverage the “wisdom of the crowds” to determine which medicines worked best (by popular vote). Of course, the result was that every pain syndrome (low back pain, headaches, fibromyalgia, etc.) resulted in a narcotic pain medicine as the highest ranked treatment option. Do you really need Oxycontin for that tension headache of yours? Obviously, narcotics are popular among users – but are a last resort for pain management in the real world. The “wisdom of crowds” rarely works in healthcare.

Matthew agreed to disagree with me on a number of issues – but we certainly found common ground on the primary care crisis. He and I both believe that a shortage of primary care physicians is going to result in a catastrophic shortage of care for Baby Boomers in the next decade. Dr. Poses added that primary care physicians make the same salary as school teachers in his home state of Rhode Island.

I think we have to agree with KevinMD – the way forward is not going to be pretty.

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4 Responses to “New Media Summit: Matthew Holt, Dr. Roy Poses, And Me”

  1. Kim says:

    Association does not prove causation – Statistics 101! : )

    I, too, applaud Matthew’s enthusiasm but see where it needs to be tempered with the limitations of 2.0 technology.

    Medicine is not a do-it-yourself pastime, as a patient who is researching online, you must be able to vet your sources. Those sources have to be legitimate and reliable, how does the average patient know that?

    Yes, a well-informed patient is a good patient, but does every person have the ability to ascertain what is going on with their health or the best way to obtain help or what help to seek out?

    I’m a nurse and even I don’t have all the answers to all my questions, but I sure see a lot of hoopla out there over each latest fad/news report/commercial.

    While there is most definitely a time and place online for the 2.0 technologies in healthcare, as it is with all healthcare issues, it must be us

    Without professional presence to provide a reliable source of information, patients are really at the mercy of whatever shows up on a Google search.

  2. Kim says:

    Edit: second from last sentence should read “…it must be used with care”.

  3. kirsti says:

    I think the potential that exists within the health 2.0 realm lies within the connection between professionals and those they provide care for. Technology is not a panacea and it tries to obey its masters but the important assumptions guiding web 2.0 and therefore health 2.0 remain embedded in these technologies – participate, share, coordinate, co-create. They are NOT about independence, but about interdependence….

  4. Strong One says:

    So are we trading one set of problems for just another set of problems? Are we really solving anything?

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