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Collaboration for a Better Planet: The Intersection of Medicine and Technology

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Health Applications for Android Tablets

Let’s be clear from the start. Social medicine is not socialized medicine. It is all about collaboration for a healthier planet.

According to Ron Gutman, Founder & CEO of HealthTap, it’s a world in which:

[…] patients will be able to interact instantaneously with the best experts and with others who are experiencing similar health issues; doctors will be able to receive advice quickly from peers, and to develop customized care plans for their patients. This is a powerful vision of not just a better world, but one where life expectancy and the quality of life can be dramatically improved.

I recently wrote about a new field of study called social mobilization. Social medicine is one of the new frontiers where constant — and more rapid — advances in medicine coupled with an almost geometric progression of social technology enable a new way of delivering medical care.

Again, according to Gutman:

In a world of Smarter Healthcare, patients will be able to interact instantaneously with the best experts and with others who are experiencing similar health issues; doctors will be able to receive advice quickly from peers, and to develop customized care plans for their patients. This is a powerful vision of not just a better world, but one where life expectancy and the quality of life can be dramatically improved.

The key phrase is “in a world,” for it is a global phenomenon, and it can connect patients to doctors and medical experts, and a patient to other patients all over the world. And the technology already exists, so this is not some futuristic science fiction dream.

HealthTap is a growing repository of medical content, contributed from more than 14,000 doctors in the U.S. Gutman’s vision is not only exciting, it speaks to the future of collaboration in many fields in addition to medicine. Again, I’ll let Gutman explain what he sees coming down the information superhighway:

This system has the potential to create a significant global impact. By providing a comfortable, secure public forum for doctors to lend their expertise, HealthTap is democratizing doctors’ knowledge and making it freely available beyond closed-doors, and to millions of users everywhere. Our goal is to complement in-person care by building technology platforms and applications that can effectively harness the collective knowledge of medical professionals and help get people access to the most relevant and highest quality information that fits their needs best when they need it most. Think of the power of combining expert-community created and curated content (like HealthTap) with machine learning and natural language processing algorithms (such as IBM Watson) and with powerful user interfaces to deliver information seamlessly to users anytime, anywhere.

Many parts of this system exist today. What remains is to make it work more in concert, with the pieces all working smoothly in support of one another, and then ensure that is democratized so the distribution is global, and free of geographic, corporate, or political restraints. Soon, anyone, anywhere, and anytime will be able, with the push of a button on an Internet-connected device, have access to the best health professionals with the best information to get the care they need — when they need it the most.

If you need more inspiration about the intersection of technology and medicine, take a look at this short film from IBM Smarter Healthcare:

Source: “IBM Watson: Transforming Healthcare,” YouTube
Source: “The future of health is here, just not yet integrated and evenly distributed” (Part 1), A Smarter Planet Blog, 09/17/12