This week I am attending the Health 2.0 conference in San Francisco. These events are a great opportunity to see what is new and emerging in terms of healthcare providers and patients. The conference attracts a wide range of sponsors and presenters ranging from pharmaceutical and insurance companies to highly innovative startups — all trying to tap into the growing demand for social interaction between patients and their care providers.
But, I almost wonder whether the term Health 2.0 is already old and tired. After all, this is already the sixth annual conference by this name. In the hyper-rapid world of web and mobile technologies, what is new and innovative one year is standard fare the next and ready to retire the following year. The fact that the idea of Health 2.0 has managed to survive is related to the demand for venues to examine the world of healthcare delivery through a new set of lenses. The term Health 3.0 has already been around for some time based upon the concept of the “Semantic Web” in which unstructured or semi-structured data (in this case, healthcare data) is managed in a way that provides logical meaning to the information. In a Health 3.0 world, data can be used to personalize the user’s experience so that the information is relevant to that individual. It is the difference between being able to view general information vs. information that is relevant to problems and diseases of that individual.
If Health 3.0 is all about using data meaningfully to personalize an individual’s view of information, am I already beginning to visualize Health 4.0? Is this the environment in which machines or software applications (programmed with some degree of artificial intelligence) are able to make decisions on behalf of patients in order to produce the best clinical outcomes? With insufficient doctors and nurses to manage patient care, it is easy to envision alternate mechanisms to provide care. However, who defines the outcome measures and who provides governance and oversight over the individuals that develop the software and machines to ensure that they function ethically and appropriately? The whole picture is somewhat Orwellian in nature. No matter how good the intention, the potential for harm is just as prevalent.
Let me return to the present. I am looking forward to the conference and will report back on innovative products and concepts, particularly those that can be incorporated into medical practice settings.
I look forward to your feedback and comments.