Buyers beware! I neither sensationalize nor sex up my articles for the sake of readership. I am fact-based and serious about the public health of the United States of America.
The Affordable Health Care Act (ACA) is the single force that is pressing consumers to be acutely aware of health care costs. Why? There are several penalties associated with the ACA, such as an increase in health insurance policy due to smoking (Part A of title XXVII of the Public Health Service Act, Section 2701.(a)(1)(A)(iv)) and/or obesity. The question becomes how will consumers determine which health care plan as well as lifestyle is best for them?
In large part, consumers will initially turn to social networks such as Twitter, Yelp, and possibly Facebook, because this is how our society tends to search for information. What remains to be seen is how reliable social networks will be for this critical source of information. Thus far, WebMD, CMS.org, the Kaiser Family Foundation, and Medscape have been consistent and reliable at providing surface level health information. However, these sites are not necessarily social in nature.
What does the future of health based social networking look like? The bad news is that I do not have God in a box, so I am not able to predict the future with certainty. However, I do believe that America is the best at providing market-based solutions to any problem. It is possible that someone may create a new network that revolves around evaluating and discussing health-related issues.
What would a successful health-based network look like? It would have characteristics similar to those described in Shirky’s book “Here Comes Everybody.” There would be thousands of users who were dedicated to providing user-based information on their primary care provider, which drugs worked for them, how to stretch before running, and other helpful tips related to the health of the people. The beauty of such a network is that it would function similar to amazon or Flickr: users would upload pictures, reviews, and personal experience to for all to see. If a particular physician or nurse provides outstanding care, people will report that. This could even evolve into temporary fame (spotlight on national network news) for the provider. The sky is the limit for such a network. The users will decide how successful the idea becomes.
Credibility? In terms of credibility, many quasi-social networks tend to be great at educating people at the basic level. My experience with the Kaiser Family Foundation has been excellent as their articles and reports are fact based as opposed to opinion based. Websites to steer clear of in terms of health related information would include those that are political in nature (e.g. the Huffington Post).