Hospitals

Healthcare social media will level the information playing field for ‘prosumers’

Social media should allow you, the patient, to ultimately have access to the same information that your doctor does. That’s how David E. Williams sees things. The co-founder of biopharmaceutical and healthcare consultancy MedPharma Partners in Boston, Massachusetts has seen a lot of new technological innovations make their way into clinical practice over the course […]

Social media should allow you, the patient, to ultimately have access to the same information that your doctor does.

That’s how David E. Williams sees things. The co-founder of biopharmaceutical and healthcare consultancy MedPharma Partners in Boston, Massachusetts has seen a lot of new technological innovations make their way into clinical practice over the course of his career. But healthcare social media will do something that those technologies have not done: empower the patient.

Cloud computing is making a wealth of information and resources available to consumers anywhere from any device. In healthcare, Williams expects more patient and doctor interaction in real time. Patients will share their thoughts and experiences with others who have similar conditions. Patients will become engaged “prosumers” with the ability to take a more proactive role in understanding healthcare issues.

You’ve built up a strong following with your health business blog. What has blogging brought to your work that you didn’t have before?

I’ve been writing the Health Business Blog every business day for seven years. I’m always looking for interesting topics to blog about, and as a result I am up to speed on most issues in healthcare. I do a lot of podcasts with CEOs of entrepreneurial companies, so I tend to hear from a lot of up-and-coming players. And now that social media is a hot topic, clients are interested in tapping my expertise about blogging, Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

How do you see social media changing healthcare in the future?

There is the potential for profound impact. Social media should enable better communication between doctors and patients, allow real-time responses to queries and opportunities for patients to find and interact with people in similar circumstances. I’m hopeful that we’ll see greater integration of social media and medical records, giving the patient control over how much information to release and to whom. I’m a fan of “prosumer” resources that allow patients to use the same information tools as doctors. I hope to see decision support systems that provide suggestions of what questions to ask next, not just providing answers to questions patients already have.

MedPharma partners was founded almost 10 years ago. What are the differences between the consulting issues you addressed then compared to now?

Years ago, healthcare clients were mainly interested in developing a value proposition for hospitals and physicians. Today, there is a more holistic emphasis and the end consumer or patient receives greater attention. We’ve also seen a shift from clients trying to figure out how to get physicians to accept technology to a situation where they are trying to keep up with physician demands.

Technology moves quickly, but new regulation for medical technology comes at a snail’s pace. How can we realize the true benefits of technology in healthcare if regulators are constantly playing catch up?

Regulators are in a tough spot. On the one hand, patients and companies want products approved quickly. On the other hand, regulators catch incredible flak when safety problems manifest themselves in the market. People I know at FDA and EMA (the European Medicines Agency) are very dedicated and hard working. The solution is public/private partnerships like our long-term client, the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research, which brings regulators, companies, patients and clinicians to the table to improve clinical development.

 

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