Ever since the term "web 2.0" was termed in 2004, there has been an inordinate amount of chatter about what web 2.0 really is and its true impact. No one's really defined it clearly, but I think the web evolution essentially falls into 3 generations:
Web 1.0 - information is communicated from company to individuals (i.e. your basic website). The web becomes one big encyclopedia of sorts.
Web 2.0 - information is communicated between company and individuals AND between individuals. This is the "Post a Comment"/"Start a Blog"/Skype/YouTube web. If web 1.0 is a book, web 2.0 is a live discussion.
Web 3.0 - it's not information anymore, it's intelligence, artificial intelligence. You'd interact with it almost like another person. The web won't just blindly do what we tell it do to, it'll think for you. (Read this NYT article for the least complex explanation I could find. It's still difficult to visualize)
Web 3.0 presents some amazing opportunities in healthcare. Imagine being able to be diagnosed by your computer. Imagine going to Cosco, scanning a barcode with your web-enabled phone, and being instantly notified that this purchase is HSA-eligible. One day, you'll type into some (probably google-like) interface, "I want to find an orthopedic surgeon who's done at least 350 hip surgeries, who operates on Saturdays, who takes Humana insurance, who has never been sued, and enjoys playing golf" and wa-la! your results would be back with an offer to set up an appointment.
Anyway, I digress - we don't have to worry about web 3.0 just yet. Let's get back to 2007 and see where healthcare is with 2.0. The primary question really is: where on the web do you go to interact with others about healthcare-related topics?
Honestly, there aren't many out there, but here's the list in order of popularity (The alexa rank gives a ballpark sense of how popular the site is. The lower the rank, the more popular the site. For example, yahoo's #1, followed by msn, google, and youttube. As a reference, hospital impact is ranked in the 800,000-900,000 range)
WebMD (alexa rank = 1,205)
WebMD is probably the most comprehensive health resource for everyday consumers as well as physicians, nurses, and educators. Like several other sites on this list, it's not a "pure" 2.0 website. Nonetheless, the blogging community and chat forums are very active. Go to their type 2 diabetes forum, and you'll probably find 2 or 3 conversations that have started in just the last hour. When I have a health problem, webmd is one of the 1st places I turn to - to find out whether or not I should go see my doc and to understand how to self-treat. I especially like the section on what to ask your doctor if you have certain conditions.
Healthline (alexa rank = 6,223)
Healthline is also more of a web 1.0 site than a 2.0, with its vast amount of information on every single type of disease (though a lot of it is simply ADAM-sourced information). Sign up for free, and you can get personalized newsletters from experts that you select. Online community is created through members being able to rate/review articles. So, you can quickly find the articles others found the most useful.
RevolutionHealth (alexa rank = 18,338)
I've written extensively about RevolutionHealth previously. I've had my doubts, but I have to say that this site is the only major 2.0 site out there. Among other things, They are really trying to create the world's largest healthcare-related virtual community,- sort of healthcare's version of Facebook orLinkedIn. You can rate doctors/hospitals/treatments, you can create a blog or comment on someone else's, you can invite others as "friends," and you can start any health conversation. As much as I have criticized this site, I'm still excited about the potential. If they can find that "magic" that made YouTube, MySpace, and Facebook so popular, how great would this be - the only place you'd need to go for your healthcare information & community needs. (update: readNYT's article on RevolutionHealth from 4/16/07 - thanks Bob)
RateMD (alexa rank = 60,631)
As the title suggests, rate doctors and see how others did before you. As of today, there are almost 240,000 ratings on 88,000 physicians. Not bad, considering there are ~300,000 physicians in the US. With 1,000+ new ratings each day, this site is starting to get to that critical mass of users where it becomes the unchallenged leader in the space. Nonetheless, I wish they could make it a little more visually appealing.
PatientsLikeMe (alexa rank = 366,691)
As the site name suggests, this is a "pure" 2.0 website whereby patients going through the same disease can find each other, mutually share progress, and collectively discover the best answer to questions as a community. Maybe most importantly, patients can track outcomes. Currently, the site is only activated for patients with ALS, MS, or Parkinson's, but I suspect that they will expand as these first 3 communities become impactful. See FierceHealthcare's write-up on them as well.
EnhancedMD (alexa rank = 5,000,000+)
Very intriguing company that starts to smell like a "web 3.0" site - personalized, understandable, medical advice that utilizes "natural language recognition tools." Translation: type in everyday medical questions, and it'll spit out advice. The first application will be "DoubleCheckMD Drugs," which will deliver personalized medication evaluation for symptoms and drug interactions. This one is another one I picked up on from FierceHealthcare's list of top health IT innovators.
WhoIsSick (alexa rank = n/a)
At this intriguing little site, you can input your flu-like symptoms and see if others are having similar symptoms. Right now, there are only 1,000 "sicknesses" in current view. Considering this site only started in Feb/Mar 2007 and coverage it's already received, I'm hopeful that WhoIsSick will one day be a great resource for communities, hospitals, and healthcare providers.
There you have it! So what did I miss? Where do you go for healthcare community & answers?
I'd be remiss if I also didn't mention a few other sites. I didn't include these either because they weren't healthcare-specific or weren't really 2.0 enough. So... the honorable mentions:
Wikipedia (alexa rank = 11)
JustAnswer (alexa rank = 18,175)
American Cancer Society Message Boards (alexa rank for cancer.org = 18,809)
American Diabetes Association Message Boards (alexa rank for diabetes.org = 33,270)
Yahoo Health & Welness Groups
As an aside, I was inspired to put up this post after I saw avery similar list for real estate.
UPDATE: A couple of other health 2.0 companies worth looking at!
MedBillManager (alexa rank = 496,792) - Manage your bills and compare them with others!
OrganizedWisdom (alexa rank = 472,099) - health-focused social networking site where you can interact with other patients and access physician-reviewed materials.
Daily Strength (alexa rank = 1,479,067) - another health-focused social networking site organized by health interest (currently ~500 groups).