Friday, March 28, 2008

The Healthy Internet

Over the course of this blog's existence, I have often touted the need for intelligent application of technology as an important part of health care reform. Usually when I do so, I am speaking of electronic medical records, e-prescriptions, or online payment systems. Today, let's take a look at the other side of the coin: public use of the Internet as a tool for mobilization and sharing of information.

Kyla King at The Houston Chronicle (via Newshouse News Service) brings us round one in the form of a story about a Michigan family who used an email campaign to apply leverage to their insurance provider:

The first e-mail arrived at 12:36 p.m. The next one followed two minutes later.

Then came the flood: More than 50 e-mails came in the first hour, and more than 300 over two days filled inboxes of executives at a health insurance company and media outlets.

That's how a father — and hundreds of friends and relatives — used the power of the Internet to keep his health insurer paying for his recently disabled daughter to stay in Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital rather than be sent home for outpatient care.

Maia Moore, 2, has been rehabilitating since an aneurysm in September nearly ended her life.

Her father, Jeremy Moore, of Grand Rapids, claims moving the toddler home goes against recommendations from Maia's doctors at Mary Free Bed.
The Information Age is certainly having an impact on the health care discussion. Social media and Web 2.0 applications are making it easier than ever for concerned citizens to mobilize, share information, and facilitate debate on the subject.

The case of Maia Moore shows how Internet tools, even basic ones like email, can make it easier to mobilize the public. Let us now take a look at a good example of information sharing, the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ) 2007 State Snapshots:
“This year’s State Snapshots do more than illustrate the wide variations in health care quality among states,” said AHRQ Director Carolyn M. Clancy, M.D. “They also show a handful of the important challenges that states face as they work to improve the quality of care.”
As in previous years, the 51 State Snapshots – every state plus Washington, D.C. – summarize health care quality in three dimensions: type of care (such as preventive, acute or chronic care), setting of care (such as nursing homes or hospitals), and by clinical areas (such as care for patients with cancer or diabetes). The evaluations are expressed in simple, five-color “performance meter” illustrations that rate performance from “very weak” to “very strong.” Users may explore whether a state has improved or worsened compared to other states in several areas of health care delivery.
The tool itself is located here, and is very revealing. A quick glance at my home state of Louisiana yielded the unsurprising statistics of being weak in all metrics used.

These are only two of many examples available. Many more abound if you do a little digging. Just as technology impacts all aspects of our lives, it now also impacts all levels of discourse on any given subject. Since health care reform is one of the American public's highest priorities, a wealth of Internet resources is a mere Google search away.

SOURCE: "Dad wins e-mail fight over daughter's health care" 03/26/08
SOURCE: "2007 State Snapshots Provide State-by-state Health Care Performance" 03/26/08
photo courtesy of meyshanworld, used under this Creative Commons license

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