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More personal health information, but what to do with it all?

In recent months, this is a question that has really nagged at me.  So I decided to subject myself to the experience.  It started with my post about Allostatix; in response, the company offered me the opportunity to try out its predictive health product, the Allostatix Load Test.  I had to answer several biometrics questions—my blood pressure, resting heart rate, peak flow, etc.—and get some blood drawn for a battery of tests.

Soon enough, I got back a report that indicated that my health score fell in the middle of the product's "easy to understand" green/yellow/red ratings system. 

"But doctor, it says so on Wikipedia!"

A study published earlier this year ("Seeking Health Information Online: Does Wikipedia Matter?") in the Journal of Medical Informatics Association found that Wikipedia ranked in the top ten search results for health-related topics 71-85% of the time, depending on which search engine and keywords were used.  This came as little surprise. The reliability of the information available, however, has always depended on the knowledge and rigor of Wikipedia's contributors and editors.

Wikipedia has now taken an important step toward improving the quality of the health information its millions of users access.  A couple of weeks ago, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia, announced a partnership "to make health and science information more accessible and reliable."  Sue Gardner, executive director of the Foundation, explains: "With the broad range of experts from [NIH], we see a great opportunity for increasing the quality of all health-related information on Wikipedia, benefitting users of Wikipedia from all over the world."

Are electronic health records really the answer to what ails us?


As soon as I saw the headline, I knew I wanted to blog about it.  But work keeps getting in the way, so I haven't even had a chance to read all the way through the article in the April 23rd issue of Business Week.

Fortunately, my colleague Richard Adler, had reason to write up a summary of the piece.  Here are his notes, verbatim:

So much information, such limited ability to understand it all

As patients or health consumers, we have an ever-increasing abundance of information at our fingertips.  The Web is full of resources, from WebMd to Wikipedia to Daily Strength to a host of other sites that may or may not be reliable sources.  Even the most savvy of users may find sifting through all this information a challenge.  Companies like Navigenics and 23andMe provide complex data about our personal health that certainly requires explanation to be properly understood.  As we continue to move toward empowering people to become active participants in their health care, we make the assumption that they will be able to keep up with and synthesize the abundance of information that may be relevant to their health.

"Waterfront: The Conde Nast of Web Health"

I have to confess--that is not my headline; it is Business Week's. But it is just so perfect that I couldn't resist using it.  A major source of health information online, founded in 2002, being compared to a worldwide magazine publishing powerhouse that has been around for 100 years?  New media, meet old media!

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