Patients turn to Internet for medical solutions in Africa Business Daily covers ground that is familiar to US readers:
- Patients are increasingly using the Internet to research medical conditions
- Physicians view this behavior as a mixed blessing: on the one hand some patients are better informed, on the other hand patients may come in with a lot of misinformation that the physician has to spend time correcting
- Some physicians are spending more time keeping up to date because patients who come in are better informed than they are
- Face time with physicians is only about 10 minutes per visit
The article is about patients in Kenya; one has to assume that these patients are middle class. Still, it points out an important truth: as long as people have uncensored Internet access (and understand written English) they can use all the sites that an American or other rich country resident can. Sure, not all the information is relevant, but much of it is.
There’s a chronic shortage of medical personnel in Africa and it’s not going to get a lot better anytime soon. On the other hand, access to the Internet is growing fast: partly through laptop and desktop computers, but also through cell phones. Finding ways for scarce and expensive doctors and nurses to leverage online medical information and decision support tools will be a key to improving access to quality health care for poor countries in all parts of the world.
Health 2.0 companies might also want to look to contributors from outside the rich countries. Although such contributors won’t be highly valued by advertisers and other sponsors, they are certainly capable of generating valuable content that can enhance the value of the site overall. I haven’t seen many Health 2.0 companies pursuing such a strategy explicitly, but I expect that to change within a year or so.April 25, 2008