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by Tony Chen
Recently, I had 3 experiences that are really changing the way I think about the future of healthcare.
We had GeekSquad (sort of like the IT dept for home computers) come in to look at the persistent network problems that had been plaguing us for almost a year. The consultant, who couldn't have been more than 20 years old, was very professional, got on the phone with AT&T, reset our modem, and fixed the problems in 2 hours. We started talking honestly about his job and he said, "No offense, but it's your generation that's clueless about technology and needs this service. Trust me, I don't have any job security - I know 7-year-old kids who could have fixed your network just as quickly as I did." (side: my generation?)
Speaking of AT&T, I heard a story on NPR about this lifeblogger who received a 300-page phone bill from AT&T for her iPhone. The bill listed every single text message she received/sent (all 30,000 of them!) for that month. Yes, that's 30,000 text messages in one month. Many of those text messages were "status changes" within her friend's facebook profiles. If you don't know what I'm talking about, it's hard to explain - just register onto facebook and check it out yourself. Professionals hang out at bars. Others hang out at cafes. A whole generation is hanging out at facebook. (don't even get me started about SecondLife)
And speaking of Facebook, I did check it out. What is all this fuss about? 3 million people joining Facebook per week? I invited all my friends from gmail who already had facebook accounts, found a long-lost childhood friend who lived across the street from me, "poked" a few friends, and sent them some virtual "beer." I watched videos of my friend's kids, saw some not-so-flattering party pictures, and joined a group called, "unlike 99.99% of other facebook users, I was born in the 70s." I tried to find other ACHE members (I think I found 3).
All in all, I got a taste of what this generation is growing up with. While I had MTV, Nintendo, and a neighborhood basketball hoop, they have Facebook, iPhones, and txt msgs. They are extremely tech-savvy and extremely connected (30,000 txt msgs is 1,000 per day?!). They value authenticity and relationships just as much as we do. Despite their tech obsession, they value community just as much as we do.
So how does this all relate to healthcare?
- Don't build it - they won't come. All of the technology we are investing in is trying to get people to come to us. Instead, maybe we need to develop technology that brings healthcare to where they are already. For example, I could totally envision a Facebook application or community group that helps Facebookers with diabetes manage their diabetes. Since users are loggging on all the time (20-30 times/day), isn't that where a smart diabetes company would want to be? Plus, the community that is built online gives them the value of a virtual support group (though don't call it that).
- Integrate healthcare into everyday life - make it easy. I was reminded that while healthcare is my world, healthcare is only part of the world for everyone else. The more we integrate healthcare into every day life habits/gadgets/products ( see my post on the Glucophone), the better. And if we have to carve out healthcare as a separate compartment in people's lives, it has to be as one-stop-shop as possible (maybe RevolutionHealth is the best example of this, though they have other issues).
- We healthcare professionals need a better network. We could learn a thing or two from these high school kids. Some new development happens and it gets picked up virally. No PR release. No marketing. Some kid adds it to their profile, their friends see it and add it to theirs, and it explodes. Where is that mechanism of information sharing in healthcare? 15 years from now, will doctors be going to their facebook physicians group to look for best practices? will administrators facing the same question/problem/challenge be able to find each other that much faster? We need a stronger healthcare community than we were are getting through current channels.
So, what do you think? Is Facebook irrelevant to our hospital leadership discussion? Will healthcare innovation evolve at a faster pace to truly impact the next generation?
UPDATE: Amy Tenderich of DiabetesMine is asking her readers - what do you want in a health care site/community?
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