Thursday, October 15, 2009

Data Liquidity, not Coffee, in the Donut Hole

“The future is here, it’s just not widely distributed yet” -- William Gibson

Looking at the tags for this blog, high deductible plans and health savings accounts figure prominently. According the Health 2.0 festival pundits, however, we may soon be witnessing a shift from consumer-driven healthcare to consumer-participatory healthcare. Data liquidity, among other trends, is giving consumers information as well as incentives to hold down health care costs.

As an executive at HSA Bank, we constantly reminded our customers to ask for generic drugs. Consumer Reports, the federal government, and insurance companies have all been doing this for over a decade, but many patients still don’t get engaged in seeking generics. AARP, for example, provides a tool powered by DestinationRx with one of the best online calculators for helping seniors avoid the Medicare donut hole. Approximately 30% of people still prefer name brand drugs, however.  The next generation of online decision tools could change that.

Companies at the Health 2.0 conference last week in San Francisco would make the search for not just generics, but alternative courses of therapy, harness the wisdom of crowds (including group psychology). The Health 2.0 conference explored the possibility that Web 2.0 tools like Facebook could better engage patients in making behavioral changes., for example, allows users to compare the effectiveness of name brands, generics, as well as other approaches to management of diseases and symptoms. You can quickly become a member and see what others with similar health conditions are doing, and how successfully. While not enough data exists for all conditions, your participation will help the site gain critical mass. This kind of group-oriented psychology has been an enormous success in social and business networking, and just might work in health as well. If anecdotal evidence of the boomer generations' enthusiasm for sharing photos and chain emails is any indication, chances are this kind of Health 2.0 technology will make a difference in the donut hole.

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