Introducing the health "prosumer"

Some consumer marketers have done a great job identifying sophisticated amateurs who are willing to pay a premium for access to professional-level features. Two examples are cameras and kitchens, where’s it’s not unusual to see serious hobbyists (and wealthy poseurs) with professional-style gear. The term “prosumer” has been applied to this segment, and the term works for me. For the purpose of this post I am specifically interested in tools that are fit for professionals but safe and simple enough for skilled amateurs.

Medical information seems like a great area for the prosumer approach, but most of the focus on consumer tools is about dumbing down information to the seventh, fifth or even fourth grade reading level. That means dumping terms like “cardiac” (since people don’t know what it means) and keeping things nice and simple. No doubt this is worth doing, because it makes medical information accessible to the vast majority of people who need to understand it. But it’s frustrating for those in the other end of the market.

When someone with a graduate-level education (but not in science or medicine) tries to find sophisticated health care information it can be tough. Often journal articles and medical textbooks are too technical or cover narrow subject areas. It is hard to know which articles are the best and most objective, or when a reputable article has been superseded by new information.

The closest things I’ve found to what I’m looking for are from UpToDate and the Cochrane Collaboration. UpToDate is a resource used by many physicians to get current, evidence based information on almost any medical topic. Their patient materials are good, and their “beyond the basics” series takes things up a level, although it’s not quite what I would call prosumer. Interestingly, UpToDate has started offering short-term passes to their professional materials, aimed at the consumer. A one-week pass is $20 and one month is $45. So maybe that’s all we need, although it’s still a little pricey for people whose needs go beyond the short-term and some of the content will be too tough for most people.

Cochrane has summaries of the evidence base for various topics and includes some “plain language” summaries for free. But it’s definitely set up on an academic pricing approach that isn’t especially friendly for consumer access.

There may be good examples of prosumer resources in specific fields or broad based ones I don’t know about, and I hope readers will share their tips.

June 6, 2012

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