My day one and overall impressions
This past weekend I participated in Medicine 2.0’12 @ Harvard as a first time attendee. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Being at the birthplace of many innovative scientific movements and walking through the same doors where many great thinkers and scientists took their first steps was an astonishing feeling.
That, added with the excitement of a curious student/soon to be health care professional, I arrived at Medicine 2.0 (or #med2 as I saw everywhere on Twitter) on Saturday morning. Being a technology focused conference, the ID badge for all the participants also had a QR code. The QR code (kind of like a bar code), once scanned, would link you to the online profile of each person you met. This made the exchange of contact information easier and faster than ever before. No more need for swapping chopped off pieces of trees a.k.a business cards.
For the opening keynote, we headed to the main Auditorium to hear @Jamie_Heywood, the co-founder of the @PatientsLikeMe social network. I was touched by the drive and courage of Heywood to turn the devastation of his brother being diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) into creating a platform for patient-to-patient communication using a social network. I had known about Patientslikeme before Medicine 2.0 since its R&D Director Paul Wicks (@PaulLikeMe) had given a guest lecture to us at my University, but that was focused on its research and this was the first time I heard the personal story of its creation. I also learned Patientslikeme has over 160,000 members for over 1000 health conditions connecting with each other every day and provide a collective support system for patients with the same disease diagnosis. Heywood delivered a shocking speech claiming that the information extracted from such online patient communities will provide valuable outcome measurements to researchers similar in quality, or in some cases even superior, to evidence-based clinical trials!
As a future health care provider trained to rely heavily on evidence-based clinical research, I sensed a desire for a paradigm change in health care by Heywood’s speech. As much as this talk left me uncomfortable, I embraced the mental challenge and started off the conference.
The format of the sessions I’ll describe included full presentations, rapid-fire presentations (4-5 minutes long), panels, poster presentations, and tabletop exhibits. The general theme for each presentation was classified into one of three areas: Practice, Research, or Business. At any given time there was a presentation in the main auditorium and three concurrent sessions. So at times, I found it challenging to tackle all the presentations I was curious to see. But I prioritized my interests and started the fun!
In an early session I listened to Jennifer Shine Dyer (@Endogoddess), a pediatric endocrinologist who turned her passion for her patients into creating the amazing Endogoddess app. This mobile app, provides an interactive support system to patients with diabetes so they can regularly monitor their blood glucose to increase their health outcomes. The app also uses different incentive mechanisms for patients to increase adherence for using the tool. Jen and her transformation from being a medical doctor to an entrepreneur advocating patients’ role in their disease management is truly an inspiration to young health care professionals.
The next topic discussed during the business session, was the economics eHealth Commercialization. I was astounded to hear over $675 million dollars has already been spent funding digital health research just over the first half of year 2012! To me, this clearly reflects a growing interest and the perceived need for advancement in this field.
During the next session I chose the panel hosted by Jonathan Adler where the discussions revolved around the platforms by which physicians can get connected with their peers. As a pharmacy student who sometimes suffers from the ambiguity of scientific concepts, I could personally connect with the doctor who took upon himself to create Orthobullets. Orthobullets is a platform for medical students waiting to take standardized board exams to connect with their peers and engage in evidence based discussions about different topics. I think this is a useful platform which could be expanded for use by students in other health care fields. Viemedi was also presented as an effective tool for doctors to exchange ideas about treatment options for patients.
Listening to discussions about the importance of patient-patient communication platforms to empower self management as well as platforms to connect providers with their peers, I decided to change gears and moved on the next session which was focused on Patient-Provider Collaboration. It was my favorite panel discussion and featured @SusannahFox, Daniel Hoch, @JoeGraedon, Heather Wellington, and @LisaGualtieri. I loved the wise words of Lisa about how “we are inefficient as to spending money in health care, and the key is to provide affordable health care” by empowering communication tools between the patient and provider and changing the dynamics of time spent during an office visit. Susannah spoke eloquently about how effectively social media can be used as a communication tool between doctors and patients given the fact that 2/3 of online adults use social networks and 50% of them do so on a daily basis. She spoke about the role of providers and ‘posting population’ and patients as ‘listening population’. She left us to ponder the question: can you imagine the body of knowledge we could gather if we harnessed the data from these communication platforms into our databases?
I couldn’t help but wonder, what if?
This amazing session was followed by several questions about the ethical aspects of these platforms and the concerns about legal issues as it pertains to any patient- provider encounter especially regarding patient privacy issues.
The highlight of this afternoon session for me was to learn about “Patients as Partners” as an outreach patient advocacy program which is trying to accelerate the adoption of Electronic Health Information Exchange (HIE) by health care facilities as means of improving care coordination and sustainability of patients’ health information.
I was touched by the story of Heather Wellington losing her twin sister due to the loss of her medical records during a hospital transfer and the failure of the health care system to provide her with the necessary care for her Hodgkin’s disease, which led to her death in 2012. Wellington re-iterated the role of Patients as Partners and emphasized the importance of accessibility of health information to patients so that they can engage effectively in their care.
Later on Saturday, I heard about Web 2.0 approaches for behavior modifications, increasing awareness about public health issues using social media. These approaches are mostly directed towards teenagers who have the highest rate of social media use. Amelia Burke gave an interesting presentation about the “Ryan Gossling effect” and the use of viral memes such as LOL Cats to convey health messages instead of jokes. During this session, a study was also presented which showed the use of social media to increase the awareness about HPV vaccinations and consequently the increased rate of vaccinations completed.
My overall impression from the Medicine 2.0 conference and the discussions that took place during this fast paced event was that in the era of time deprived doctors and high health care costs, the use of social media, internet and mobile apps has the potential to improve communication among everyone involved in the process of care and provide support to patients with goals of reducing the health care costs and optimizing the health outcomes. This conference was focused on the importance of patient-centered, participatory, and cost effective care using emerging technology in medicine. It was a platform for medical practitioners, scholars, researchers and entrepreneurs from all over the globe to exchange their most up-to-date research, innovations, and business ideas to help refine their work and contribute to the progress of this emerging field in health care and medicine. While there will be many obstacles to navigate, there is also immense potential for enthusiastic healthcare professionals to get involved with this movement and use the powerful tools presented to us by technology in order to change the direction of health care to a brighter future.
Hoda Masmouei (@hodapharm) is a third year pharmacy student at Nova Southeastern University College of Pharmacy. She was the recipient of a scholarship awarded by the Center for Consumer Health Informatics Research (CCHIR) to support attending Medicine 2.0’12. Hoda is currently involved as a research student with the CCHIR in an ongoing mHealth study in patients with diabetes.