Myopia 2.0: The Technology versus The Movement

19 May Myopia 2.0: The Technology versus The Movement

Myopia (mī-ōpē-ə) n.
  1. A visual defect in which distant objects appear blurred because their images are focused in front of the retina rather than on it; also called nearsightedness or short sightedness.
  2. Lack of discernment or long-range perspective in thinking or planning.

In a recent post to HISTalk, my friend and colleague Matthew Holt of Health Care Blog fame attempts to clarify the definition of Health 2.0 by narrowing it to “just…easy to use software that encompasses search, wikis, blogs, video, online communities, mashups, and other stuff”. Essentially all the traditional concepts of Web 2.0 but applied in healthcare context. I believe this definition is not only unnecessarily limiting, but particularly shortsighted given the growing reform movement within the broader healthcare industry.

Matthew clearly understands the broader healthcare industry as well as anyone, and therefore I find his narrowing particularly perplexing and conceptually confining. To attempt to limit the definition of Health 2.0 to “just a description of recognizable technologies that are an advance on the first generation of web tools” myopically misses the movement which is inspiring the creation of the enabling technologies in the first place. In fact, I think Health 2.0 has EVERYTHING to do with outcomes, quality, and healthcare reform. Health 2.0 IS absolutely descriptive of a culture of transparency, a focus on health care value, and is the underlying philosophy powering the current reform movement. I believe the movement is most appropriately described as an entirely new way to deliver Health Care – next generation health care – aka Health 2.0.

Given my background, the most analogous metaphor would be to mistakenly describe the Open Source movement as “just” being about the Linux technology. Linux is one of many technology enablers that has made the Open Source movement possible. However, the Open Source movement is so much more than the Linux technology – it is a highly successful development model, an innovation catalyst, a business model approach, and a fundamental life philosophy. To confuse the Linux technology with Open Source movement not only misses the mark, but fundamentally misinforms and miscalculates the broader industrial and societal implications.

To further highlight my point, let’s see who else is talking about Health 2.0 in this context:

Keynote address by Ingenix CEO Andy Slavitt on May 16, 2007. Used with permission.

I attended the Ingenix User Conference this week in San Francisco. It was my pleasure to catch Ingenix CEO Andy Slavitt’s keynote address describing how his company’s technology and tools would accelerate the arrival of the Health 2.0 paradigm. It was a fascinating presentation from the leading provider of “Health Care Intelligence” technology (Ingenix is doing some amazing work from the Payor/Health claims side of the house; I can’t wait until this technology is married with EHR technology). In fact, he himself recognized that the technology was only an enabler, and that the consumer piece was but a part of a much larger constellation of change:

Keynote address by Ingenix CEO Andy Slavitt on May 16, 2007. Used with permission.

So Matthew, with all due respect, I disagree with your minimalistic definition of “Health 2.0”. I believe you have to discuss Health 2.0 technology against the backdrop of the Health 2.0 reform agenda that is steadily advancing throughout the country – the increased demands for transparency (cost and quality), increased performance pressures (how good is your doctor, how closely do they align to the standard of care ), and ultimately increased demands for results (evidence based medicine, outcomes, etc). These pressures are resulting in real change in the way that consumers purchase healthcare, in the way that providers deliver healthcare, and in the way that health plans pay for healthcare – again all enabled by the underlying technology.

I have no interest in sidetracking the growing Health 2.0 momentum with semantic soliloquies or definitional debate – we all have way more productive things to do. My only intent in spending the time to respond to is to broaden the perspective and enlarge the view of the potential impact of Health 2.0 to fundamentally alter the way health care is delivered. The enabling technologies are only PART of a very compelling view into the future.

And, oh, what a vista it is.


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