From the New England Journal of Medicine’s 200th anniversary essay contest:
Our 200th anniversary celebration highlights medical accomplishments over the past two centuries. In the last twenty years, there have been profound changes in how information is communicated. The internet and social networking have enabled everything from romance to revolution. In the healing arts, this change has transformed how the public accesses and uses health-related information. What used to rest solely in the hands of medical professionals now is easily accessible to the public. This paradigm shift brings with it benefits and challenges.
As future members of the medical profession and current users of these communications tools, students and residents are uniquely poised to apply and evaluate the impact of these evolving methods of information exchange on the art and science of medicine.
The essays are mostly as-yet-unrealized visions for care models taking advantage of today’s networking technologies. But many also tell powerful stories made possible by an increase in access to health information and connection to supportive networks. Among all the fascinating entries, a few stuck out to me that may be of particular interest here:
- From Framingham to Facebook by Michelle Longmire
- A Move towards Evidence-Based Conversations on Social Networks by Daniel Imler
- A Smart Device-Enabled Emergency Responder System by Jocelyn Breton
- The Potential of Telemedicine in a Smartphone-Enabled World by Jules Lipoff
In line with the future laid out in these essays, keep your eyes peeled tomorrow for an announcement from Facebook about a new initiative that “could save lives”. With 900 million members the potential influence that Facebook has is immense, but it remains to be seen what impact that power is truly having over its users’ health.