Greater IBM is a social networking program for current and former IBMers. IBM is deeply involved in the development of the infrastructure for eHealth and electronic health data exchange.
And healthcare is one of the frontiers that we hope Greater IBM can advance as a collaboration network, as you can see from the HealthNex blog, which I haven’t had enough time to feed in recent months.
Fortunately, one of my fellow healthcare bloggers, Matthew Holt, has been looking into the Web 2.0 implications for healthcare in this Health IT World article.
However, I think there is an even more profound degree of innovation in healthcare the Web 2.0 trends portend.
Imagine that all healthcare data can be securely, and anonymously, shared electronically among researchers, doctors and patients. (IBM recently demoed its prototype for the National Healthcare Information Network, so this vision is also getting much closer to reality).
That data, which each of us could be contributing to — much as we each shape the collective intelligence of Netflix’s movie recommendations, Google’s search results and Digg’s news ratings — could be the source for medical breakthroughs on a scale never before possible.
Not only could such a mother-of-all-healthcare-data mashup unlock the molecular basis of diseases, it could also function as a global biosurveillance system, so that we could better predict, track and thwart outbreaks of infectious diseases or pandemics.
And in practical terms, an rich infrastructure for health data is also bound to help drive down costs by eliminating inefficiencies, medical errors, and improving preventative care in chronic illnesses. it could also make clinical trials for new medicines or treatments more effective by enabling them to be larger.
These are the the kind of monumental advances that are conceivable if we have the will to build the infrastructure, promote standards, and solve the critical questions of data security and privacy.
And this is the kind of very deep societal innovation that humans need to gang tackle.
But such a vision also requires human beings to cooperate and seek the common good to an unprecedented degree….to see that the health of any one us is bound up in the health of all of us.
Maybe what we learn from Web 2.0 about collective intelligence and crowdsourcing in other spheres will help us get over the cultural hurdles that might impede a global network for electronic healthcare innovation.
In the meantime, the intersection of social networks and societal issues such as healthcare is an important front for all of us to continue to think about.