CareFlash has an interesting take on social networking for patients. It lets you create a private, secure website to inform and update your family/friends about your medical condition- an online ‘community’ of sorts. Good concept. Having an invite-only, private community helps everyone to stay current with latest developments about the health of someone they love, without everyone calling and visiting all the time. They have some neat features like a shared calendar, email alerts, forums etc.
The crown jewel offering is the educational content- they have 3D medical animations around a long list of conditions. These are meant to help patients and relatives better understand the medical condition. The content is developed by another company (Blausen Medical) and is high-quality, professional grade. I reviewed some of the videos and found them quite useful.
Its been around since 2007 and gets substantial visitors- around 2K+ per month. The site is completely free, and one of the press releases points to their business model “CareFlash is completely free to our users because select industries value having their advertisements tastefully and unobtrusively displayed in the circumstances on which each unique community is based.” Although I didn’t see any ads next to the videos I saw.
CureTogether was started in July 2008 as a way for patients to aggregate their anonymous medical data into an open-source database that can be used by any researcher in the world. They started with three conditions – migraine, endometriosis, and vulvodynia but now count more than 400 on their radar.
There are plenty of precedents to social networking websites for patients, so nothing new from that perspective. But as I read more about this one, it stood apart. The idea of a patient collective focusing on obscure, lifestyle-affecting, painful, chronic and under-researched diseases and making their raw data available is pretty cool. This WSJ article talks about trend of ‘Personal Informatics’ emerging- where affected individuals obsessively record everything about their life and share it with others. This may usually sound useless and weird, but given the fact that there is no definitive causal understanding of conditions like migraine (even though it affects millions of Americans each year), I find it novel and exciting.
I like this bottom-up, organic approach to furthering research on obscure conditions. Their call for Open-Source Health Research is also an interesting read. Bit worried by the fact that CureTogether is self-funded. Hopefully they will stay around long enough to claim a large-scale success for one of the diseases.
Nothing new here. Ozmosis is based on the now-old concept of physician networking website, with features like knowledge exchange, journal club, cases, alerts, news etc. Looking at dataopedia, they don’t have much traction either (roughly 1K visitors per month).
Although I’d always like to write about novel ideas, exceptions like these are purely from a record-keeping perspective. I’m trying to get a rough list of how many different takes of social networking for clinical professionals are currently floating around on the web.
September 2010 Update: The website is no longer functional.
Online communities are nothing new to healthcare. What seems to be the trend is increasing vertical focus. Oncocentric (also called MedTrust Online) was launched in January 2009 as an online community for oncologists. Their aim is to help find, manage and share information by connecting oncologists with each other. They have other features like twitter updates, ‘OncoAssist’ panel of experts, search engine, etc.
The site seemed to be more like an offshoot of a professional organization, and not a startup, so I delved further. Seems like MedTrust Online was formed to leverage genetic-based medical discoveries by a non-profit organization called TGen (Translational Genomics Research Institute). TGen and MedTrust signed licensing and service agreements to bring to market potential drug therapies based on genomics.
Not much else to note about the site since I dont have insider access. Their site tour talks about standard features like sharing cases, ask experts, general forums, news etc. It’d be interesting to find out how many of the 30,000 or so oncology professionals are currently members of the site.
Simply put, icyou is the Youtube of health-related videos. It launched around September 2007 by BenefitFocus, a Charleston (SC) based healthcare benefits software provider. The name icyou stands for ‘Intensive Content for Your Health’…a twist on the actual ICUs (Intensive Care Units).
Basic idea is for icyou to be the exchange hub for patients, providers and caregivers to share their stories and experiences with the world. Some social networking add-ons like profile page, blogs are included too. The company seems to be well-funded and seriously engaged, given their onsite studio and mainstream press coverage.
I’m not a big optimist when it comes to online video space, but icyou does point to an important trend: massive information sharing platforms like online videos are prone to be more successful (as businesses) when adapted to a niche. Healthcare is a great example of such a niche. But I’m not convinced if anyone has mastered a straight forward revenue model. Icyou doesn’t mention how they intend to monetize their content either. They don’t have ads running, but even if they did, advertising can’t really pay the bills for such a bandwidth-heavy service.
Medpedia is an attempt to apply crowdsourcing concept to medical knowledge, just like Wikipedia. It launched in beta mid-February this year, with some big names backing it (Harvard, Stanford, NHS, AHA, ACP to name a few). The idea is to create a collaborative body of knowledge using physicians and Ph.Ds as gatekeepers.
Anyone can contribute- physicians/Ph.Ds become directors editors (after approval) and others can give suggestions that queue up for editorial review. The site has modest traction but not enough to differentiate it from other wiki-like approaches in healthcare like Ganfyd.org, wikiDoc.org, WikiMD, AskDrWiki and many others (see David Rothman’s extensive list of medical wiki’s here)
There is potential in the wiki-approach, but I’m not holding my breath. Wikipedia may have reached a size and popularity threshold that it remains useful with the community self-policing content effectively, but it was a long an painful journey to that point. Right now the medical wiki space is too fragmented to have an impact.