20 Best Health 2.0 Tools for Physicians and Patients

OncologyLive, January 2009, Volume 10, Issue 01

The premise of Health 2.0 rests on one simple idea: whatever your healthcare question or concern may be, there is a potential community of likeminded individuals out there who are ready and willing to share.

The premise of Health 2.0 rests on one simple idea: whatever your healthcare question or concern may be, there is a potential community of likeminded individuals out there who also have similar questions and are ready and willing to share information, opinions, and support. All you and your potential collaborators need are the tools that will allow you to connect with one another. So what qualifies as a Health 2.0 tool? Blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, social networks and online communities, bookmarking and other indexing services, and many more—the list is far-reaching and constantly expanding as smart people figure out new ways to organize and share information, communicate, and collaborate.

We’ve compiled a list of 20 of the most useful, exciting, and intriguing Health 2.0 tools, some of which you may already be familiar with, while others may be new to you. Take a few minutes to visit some of these resources and see for yourself what all the excitement is about. E-mail us to share your thoughts and let us know if we missed any of your favorite Health 2.0 sites.


Category: Medical wiki

Best Feature: Accuracy, transparency, ease of access

Notes: Physicians and other healthcare professionals can contribute to this “collective online memory” bank by publishing their review articles, clinical notes, pearls, medical images, and other information. Before new users are granted permission to post content, they must first submit their CV for verification; all credentialed users are added to the site’s editorial board. Submitted content is reviewed by specialty editors; after it has been accepted and published, it can be edited by the AskDrWiki community.


Category: Blog

Best Feature: Unabashed enthusiasm, unfailingly useful inks and information

Notes: David Rothman, Information Services Specialist at the Community General Hospital Library, Syracuse NY, created this personal blog that discusses medical librarianship and Internet technology, or as he terms it, “Web Geekery.” He offers great 2.0 tools and tips for healthcare industry professionals. The blog features a custom Google search engine created by Rothman that searches medical school libraries, and another custom search engine that finds consumer health and patient education information. A list of medical wikis and medical illustration resources is equally helpful. A mobile edition of Rothman’s blog is available as well.

The Doctor’s Channel

Category: User-created video library

Best Feature: “Dueling Doctors” video discussion/argument groups

Notes: This excellent source of physician-created multimedia content features “short one- to two-minute streaming video clips designed to get to the point, with insights and opinions from experts in 35 different specialties, as well as community and lifestyle features that help doctors stay on top of the latest news, ideas and information.”


Category: Next-generation symptom checker

Best Feature: “Natural language recognition” search capability

Notes: Patients can use this interesting tool to check for drug interactions and to match their symptoms with possible drug side effects. Information is retrieved by the site’s innovative search engine from a variety of medical textbooks and other reliable sources. The treatment evaluator function rates common treatments for a variety of conditions according to “general effectiveness, ease of use, side effects and safety.” The “User Reviews” enable members to share their experiences and insights about the medications they have used and the treatments they have received.

The Efficient MD

Category: Blog

Best Feature: Über-practical tips and information

Notes: The Efficient MD is a physician-written blog focused on helping healthcare professionals increase their productivity and therefore maximize their time. Visitors will find how-tos, “life hacks,” advice and commentary, and reviews of useful new innovations, gadgets, techniques, and tools. Posts include “Using Evernote as a Professional Memory Accessible Anywhere,” “Tips for Medical Documentation and Coding,” “Google Book Search and Medical Education,” and “Your Next Stethoscope Should be Electronic. Here’s Why.”


Category: Blog

Best Feature: Focus on empowering and engaging patients

Notes: Designed to continue the conversations begun by Tom Ferguson, MD—who “coined the term e-patients to describe individuals who are equipped, enabled, empowered and engaged in their health and health care decisions”—and his group of advisors, this site aims to help patients establish an equal partnership between themselves, you the provider, and the health systems that support both parties. This blog-style site features posts on an almost-daily basis, covering such topics as how we die, Internet diagnoses, personalized medicine, and the latest news from oncology and hematology conferences.


Category: Health search engine and social network

Best Feature: Powerful search capabilities

Notes: Healia is an “independent, unbiased gateway to the highest quality health information resources.” Visitors will find a variety of valuable resources, including health guides on subjects from breast cancer to weight management, a blog that covers breaking health news, links to support groups, and much more. Visitors can also use the website’s powerful search engine to find specific information on health topics, and can limit their search results to content strictly from medical journals, clinical trials, or the Web in general.

The Health 2.0 Blog

Category: Blog

Best Feature: Ridiculously well-informed contributors

Notes: Written by some of the leading lights of the Health 2.0 movement, this community blog focuses on the latest trends and developing technologies in the healthcare world. Unique to the site is that anyone interested or involved in the Health 2.0 community may contribute to the blog. Recent postings include “MD Rating Sites: Current State of the Space and Future Prospects,” “An Impending Hanging: Will Health 2.0 Be Compromised by the Economic Downturn?” and “Microsoft Healthvault: Coke, Pepsi or Intel Inside.”

Health Care for All

Category: Blog

Best Feature: Regular, in-depth posts

Notes: Health Care for All aims to create a “consumer-centered health care system that provides comprehensive, affordable, accessible, culturally competent, high-quality care and consumer education for everyone.” The blog is updated daily and has an archive dating back to April 2005. Though many of the topics are based on the Massachusetts health system, the information is still useful and insightful regarding the latest developments on issues related to improving the quality of care provided to patients.


Category: Video archive

Best Feature: Informative videos

Notes: Launched in 2008 by the NBC Digital Health Network, HealthVideo advances patient education by “providing its distribution partners with the robust content they need to create an informative viewing experience for the millions of users looking for health information wherever they may be.” The patient education videos and other content on the site are reviewed by experts and cover a wide range of medical topics.


Category: Blog

Best Feature: Unique perspective, incisive commentary

Notes: Featuring biweekly blog posts written by MDNG columnist Fard Johnmar, HealthcareVox offers insights into the ways in which social networking impacts the world of healthcare and technology. Johnmar also examines the impact of current events, particularly the transition to a new presidential administration, on healthcare and technology.


Category: Health search engine and information aggregator

Best Feature: Intense focus on the consumer health experience

Notes: Healthline offers “the easiest way for consumers to quickly and easily find consistently excellent health information on the Web” by providing a “robust search and navigation platform.” Useful resources on this site include “Medically Speaking,” an icon that automatically translates consumer terms to their medical equivalent; HealthMaps and other navigational and research aids; as well as more standard tools such as BMI calculators, symptom searches, medical dictionaries, health videos, drug profiles, and articles by health experts.


Category: Interactive drug database and patient community

Best Feature: E-mail drug safety alert system

Notes: Patients can use iGuard to screen for possible drug—drug interactions among the entire range of medicine they may be taking (including prescription drugs, over-the-counter drugs, nutritional supplements, and herbal extracts). Also, when new study results or other safety information are released, iGuard e-mails an alert to the patient (with the option of also notifying the treating physician), along with a pharmacist-written explanation of the potential implications of this new information.


Category: Social network and patient community

Best Feature: Active and informed members

Notes: Created with the idea that “you can make better health decisions using information and support gained by discussing your health experiences with others,” this free community site helps members find and share information and experiences on medical conditions, symptoms, treatments, and more with millions of other patients from across the globe. Finding answers and information can be performed in four ways: 1) posting a question that is distributed to thousands of members; 2) browsing hundreds of communities to find the one that is relevant; 3) browsing through members’ profiles by health interest, gender, age, or location to find the right connection and chat live with that person if they’re online or send them an e-mail from an iMedix e-mail account; or 4) searching for health articles using “one of the best health search engines on the Web that screen out the garbage for you.”


Category: Interactive health directory and database

Best Feature: Reliable, physician-vetted content

Notes: MedicineNet has all the bells and whistles of a Health 2.0 website, including RSS feeds. An RSS feed (stands for Really Simple Syndication) allows users to subscribe to a website so that they can be notified when fresh content has been posted. For example, you can direct your patients with high blood pressure to this site and have them scroll down on the page to find the “High Blood Pressure” RSS feed, where they can download the button that will appear on their Web browser each time they open up the program. When they click the button they’ll see a drop-down menu of the latest content on MedicineNet related to blood pressure, and can be kept up to date with all the pertinent information.

OrganizedWisdom Health

Category: Health search engine

Best Feature: Health Centers

Notes: According to OrganizedWisdom CMO Howard Krein, MD, PhD, “OrganizedWisdom helps people do health research with our hand-crafted WisdomCards—full of expert-selected online resources—on thousands of popular search terms.” The word “organized” is certainly fitting for the site; for example, a patient looking for information on acne can enter the Acne Health Center, narrow their search by choosing “How To,” and further narrow the search by choosing “How to Avoid Acne.” Making that choice provides a page of referenced research notes, links to top resources found online, and user-recommended links. Users who want to share a resource with others can register (for free) to add their recommendation to a given WisdomCard.


Category: User-generated content

Best Feature: Convenience and ease of access

Notes: Podcasts allow users to download presentations, speeches, and explanations about medical procedures, clinical trials, and other topics. This convenient method of learning has gained in popularity over the past few years, as evidenced by the numerous websites dedicated to providing medical-related information. The Medical University of South Carolina has a site with more than 500 medical podcasts, sorted by specialty; SoundPractice offers more of the same, in addition to advice on practice-related issues; and the Oncology Nursing Society is another excellent resource for medical podcasts.


Category: Social network

Best Feature: Deep commitment of community members

Notes: Patients, friends and family members, and healthcare professionals who are affected by rare disorders can benefit from this social hub, created in early 2008 to help change the “lack of information and support for patients and their families” that comes as a result of the “comparably low level of occurrences of individual rare disorders.” A brief, free registration affords members the ability to connect with others who are affected by the same disorder, share experiences and news in a particular disorder community, and discover resources that are specific to that disorder.

Tu Diabetes

Category: Social network and patient community

Best Feature: The active theme-and-subject-focused patient groups

Notes: This vibrant global community of patients with diabetes uses a variety of tools to encourage communication and interaction. Members can post videos and pictures, post a blog on just about any diabetes-related subject, take part in lively discussion forums and chats, and join groups organized by geographic region or common interest to communicate with likeminded members.

Zoc Doc

Category: Interactive online directory

Best Feature: Online appointment scheduler

Notes: This site—which plans to add more specialties and locations soon—enables patients to make primary care, dermatology, ophthalmologist, ENT, orthopedist, OB/GYN, and dentist appointments in the New York, New Jersey, and Chicago metropolitan areas, for free. Site users can find doctors or dentists in their area, judge quality based on patient reviews and ratings, filter those who are left by insurance, and book the doctor of choice online any time. Physicians who want to add their practice to the directory can easily do so by filling out a quick form and submitting it online. Patients for whom ZocDoc doesn’t have listings in their area can enter their e-mail address and zip code to be notified when service becomes available.

What Is Health 2.0?

There are many definitions of Health 2.0, with most focusing on new technologies, openness, collaboration, and user-generated content sharing among physicians, patients, and other healthcare stakeholders. For now, we like Matthew Holt’s definition best: Health 2.0 incorporates “1) Personalized search that looks into the long tail, but cares about the user experience; 2) Communities that capture the accumulated knowledge of patients and caregivers; and clinicians and explain it to the world; 3) Intelligent tools for content delivery and transactions; and 4) Better integration of data with content. All with the result of patients increasingly guiding their own care.”