Writing on iHealthBeat, Dr. Thomas H. Lee describes the emerging world of online health care communities such as Daily Strength and Patients Like Me. He acknowledges their value but argues that just as Friendster was quickly replaced by MySpace, which is now being overtaken by Facebook, the early Health 2.0 sites may face a similar fate. Rapid technological change, shifts in platform (e.g., from desktop to mobile) and changes in social context will keep these sites in constant flux:
Someone could be defined by their friends in one year, then by their health support group in another. Context switching generates a whole different set of needs, by which some sites might become preferred over others.
This is true as far as it goes, and is particularly relevant for sites like Daily Strength that focus on Friendster/MySpace/Facebook style activities like sending hugs. That kind of thing is going to get old in a hurry. If you don’t believe me, go to the people page on Daily Strength (you’ll have to sign up) and look at the Top Huggers.
- NannaB with 2000 hugs –45 yo female with fibromyalgia
- troubled2 with 1584 hugs –27 yo female with Paranoid Personality Disorder
- missymoomoo with 1230 hugs –36 yo obese female
- man18 with 1164 hugs –18 yo male with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and Depression
Remember folks, a small number of users generate the majority of content on sites like this. If my company’s valuation were based on the rants of these individuals I’d be worried!
Patients Like Me is really quite different than Daily Strength. Unlike Daily Strength users, who may easily “be defined by their friends in one year, then by their health support group in another,” Patients Like Me focuses on patients with life-threatening illnesses including ALS, MS, Parkinson’s and HIV/AIDS. Although it would be nice to think that an ALS patient could be defined by something other than their disease next year, it’s not really possible. The same holds true –though in some cases to a considerably lesser extent– for the other illnesses.
In the ALS forum, Patients Like Me users plot their decline in pulmonary function toward death over a period of a few years. They share all the detailed information they can to help one another reduce the slope of decline. The barrier to dropping out and abandoning their peers is a lot higher than for the OCD, paranoid, obese or merely sad patient who suddenly finds something else to do with his or her time…such as attacking me for being insensitive.