April 17, 2009

Participatory Democracy, Participatory Medicine

More than half of the entire adult population in the U.S. used the internet to get involved in the 2008 political process. Blogs, social networking sites, video clips, and plain old email were all used to gather and share political information by what Lee Rainie has dubbed a new “participatory class”:

  • 18% of internet users posted comments about the campaign on a blog or social networking site.
  • 45% of internet users went online to watch a video related to the campaign.
  • Half of online political news consumers took advantage of the “long tail” of election coverage, visiting five or more types of online news sites.

And guess what? This participatory class of citizen is not ready to go back in the box. Many people expect to stay engaged with the Obama administration and you can bet that the rise of mobile applications will accelerate this trend toward engagement for lots of Americans.

Our new survey data shows that not only is there a participatory class of citizen, but there is a participatory class of patient.

Most people with a health question want to consult a health professional – no news there. Second most popular choice: friends and family. Third choice: the internet and books (yes, books are still popular, even among internet users!).

But participatory patients (aka, e-patients) are using the internet in new ways. They not only gather information, but seek out expert opinions, such as the “just in time someone like me” who holds the key to their situation. This participatory class is reading blogs, listening to podcasts, updating their social network profile, watching videos, and posting comments. Technology is not an end, but a means to accelerate the pace of discovery, widen social networks, and sharpen the questions someone might ask when they do get to talk to a health professional.

GenY and GenX internet users are the most likely groups to be turning up the network volume in health care, but I’m betting that no e-patient of any age is going back in the box.

Join the discussions being hosted on the IxCenterBlog The Health Care Blog , and e-patients.net .

Join us in person at the Health 2.0 conference or read the full text of the speech on April 23.