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If we talk about healthcare, over the last few years the most startling metamorphosis has been the digital evolution of the industry. Digital is now the first stop for healthcare consumers to search about a disease or to book an appointment with a physician.

The rising volume of digital healthcare activity is reflected in the following examples of worldwide metrics:

  • Use of social networking sites has grown from 8% of all adults online in 2005 to 67% in late 2012 and up to 72% of U.S. adults online in May 2013.
  • When making clinical decisions, physicians spend twice as much time using online resources as compared to print.
  • In 2009, 70% of Canadians turned to the Internet for health-related information, and 92% of those used the search engine Google, rather than a health portal to gather this information.
  • Facebook is reported as the fourth-most popular source of health information in the U.K.
  • Physicians on average spend three hours per week watching online videos for professional purposes and cite Medscape and YouTube followed by pharmaceutical company websites as the most important sources of video.

Source: http://www.imshealth.com/IIHI_Social_Media_Report_2014.pdf

These statistics represent just the tip of the iceberg. Numerous other statistics prove that digital now plays a major role to surface and organize knowledge, which is utilized by the online health consumers. Patients are now empowered to use social media and other online tools to connect with others. With social media, they can easily post any health query and share personal health experiences.

Health 2.0: How it has transformed the healthcare industry and will continue to do so

Health 2.0  refers to the use of a diverse set of technologies, including telemedicine, electronic medical records, mHealth, Connected Health and the use of the Internet by patients themselves such as through message boards, blogs, online communities, patient to physician communication systems and other more advanced systems. A key concept is that patients themselves should have greater insight into and control of information generated about them. Additionally, Health 2.0 relies on the use of modern cloud- and mobile-based technologies.

Much of the potential for change from Health 2.0 is facilitated by combining technology-driven trends combined with social networking – a combination that has changed the entire dynamics of the healthcare industry. People research, analyze, interact and “crowd source” the shared wisdom of other patients and professionals before making their health decisions. The proliferation of digital into healthcare has transformed the “healthcare is local” mind-set through web services, social media, mobile apps, big data and telehealth.

Value creation for providers

The transformation brought about by digitalization can be taken as a challenge or an opportunity by healthcare providers and all others across the healthcare value chain. Primarily, now healthcare services can be compared to any other product or service, where the focus is on brand equity and customer satisfaction. Opportunities brought by online platforms represent a new frontier in medicine as it enables physicians and patients to be more connected. Digital platforms and social media can be strategically used by healthcare providers to educate their patients, be available for them for any communication, share their expertise and generate new appointments while making their practice more visible to those who need their services.

Value creation for patients

On the patient front, Health 2.0 has already made a huge transformation in the healthcare industry. In the earlier days, this industry predominantly worked on “word-of-mouth” referrals for business operation. Now healthcare consumers can easily go online, check physician reviews and ratings on different online channels and monitor a physician’s online reputation thoroughly, before making a decision to book an appointment. This change in patient behavior and decision-making pattern illustrates the confluence of a powerful change: An instinct to seek and share advice about health is now fulfilled easily by this newfound empowerment through Internet.

The way ahead

Health 2.0 presents an enormous scope of innovation and implementation of creative ideas to strengthen patient-physician relationship through the digital mediums. The new digital healthcare world will help physicians focus and accomplish their most important goal – keeping people well and giving them more years of productive and healthy life. Social media, mobile apps, customized websites, blogs, groups, and forums continue to expand the horizons of medicine and medical interaction, leading the way to a new era of healthcare: Health 2.0.