There is a VERY interesting discussion going on over at the e-Patients.net blog about what the heck "Health 2.0" actually means, and whether it can really help people.

I've spoken and written a lot on Health 2.0 myself, and when people ask me what the term means, I usually give them this simple two-part explanation:

1) Health 2.0 is where new, interactive web technology meets a new, more patient-centered approach to healthcare. It's giving people access to tools and information they never had before, to empower them.

2) It's about changing the engagement model with healthcare providers, so that "the medical establishment" treats patients more like partners in their own care.

On Part 1, I'm quite an optimist.  The great plethora of "cool new health gadgets and apps" do have a purpose, I believe: they potentially engage people in health activities to a much higher degree than ever before. I know for a fact that in our diabetes community, blogs and social networks and online logging programs have changed lives for the better.

Innovation 2015

To really succeed, these new tools are going to have to make taking good care of yourself a lot easier, and a lot more FUN. There. I said it: Human tastes are often trivial, and we're addicted to pleasurable activities. Hmm, going on diets, losing weight, and keeping detailed records of our every food and activity — you and I both know how burdensome all that is. HATE IT!

One point of Health 2.0, as I understand it, is taking fun things like video games and applying them to the un-fun tasks of keeping yourself healthy. For those who've tried it, it seems to be making a difference.

But Internet & American Life researcher Susannah Fox laments that "nothing is working." At a recent NIH conference, she reports: "Speaker after speaker talked about how nothing really works in trying to get people to change their diets for the better, to get more exercise, to save their own lives and the lives of their children.  t was a parade of one step forward, two steps back interventions: media campaigns, individual counseling, community outreach. None worked long-term."

Hell, we know it's hard to change people's behavior. And it's going to take a while for all this web-health stuff to become mainstream. But it still sounds to me like the establishment is measuring success by how "complaint" patients are with following doctor's orders: stick to meal plans and med routines, lose weight fast, and keep detailed records of everything — oftentimes without any fun inserted, and without the kind of support that struggling patients need.

I guess what I'm saying is, if Health 2.0 seems pointless to some folks, I would argue that Part 2 of my definition above is dragging behind.

As one of Susannah's commentors puts it:

"I guess what I'd really like is for doctors to realize that (overweight) people have probably been subjected to near-incessant questioning of their weight and lifestyle habits, from everyone. And then exercise a little intelligence and work out whether their (overweight) patient actually wants lifestyle advice or not, and learn to trust people when they answer what kind of diet habits and exercise they get up to. I can tell when a doctor doesn't believe me and frankly it sours the whole professional relationship."

Another says:

"Unfortunately many doctors harp on weight as a health marker to the exclusion of everything else, refuse to believe that a fat person could possibly be educated about nutrition and exercise, and treat them poorly because of it. Many believe that if a fat person does not lose weight they are 'non-compliant' and that they just need to do some more 'tough love.' The doctor's office is not an episode of The Biggest Loser."

To my mind, the new technologies, and giving patients access to their own extensive health records, has huge potential to help. But for a real shift to a new era of "Health 2.0," we might have to wait for the next generation of doctors and nurses to hit the clinics — those who know how to interact with patients and function in this new environment.

{Editor's note: for a lower-tech idea on how to help people with diabetes immediately, see yesterday's post}

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Disclaimer

This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.