Why is Medicine 2.0 important?

In part one of our Medicine 2.0 series, we talked about what Medicine 2.0 means. In this interview, Dr. Gunther Eysenbach, Senior Scientist at the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, talks about why Medicine 2.0 is so important and what factors make it relevant and pertinent to scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs.

Read on for the second in the Medicine 2.0 series of interviews with Dr. Eysenbach.

Why is Medicine 2.0 important?

For me, Web 2.0 in health and medicine (including Science 2.0) boils down to five important themes:

  1. Social networking
  2. Participation
  3. Collaboration
  4. Apomediation
  5. Openness

All these themes are disruptive in that they have a fundamental and wide-ranging impact on how things are done currently in our sector.

Social networking sites (like Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace and Twitter) provide a place for relationships between groups of people with similar, specific interests. In our context, these groups of people might be:

  • Consumers and patients rallying around a common health- or disease-related interest
  • Researchers working on a common set of biomedical research problems (Nature Network)
  • Health professionals working in a common setting, like a large hospital or a health-region.

Connecting individuals within and between these groups using Web 2.0 tools such as blogs, wikis, etc.), facilitate participation which almost automatically leads to collaboration.

Another theme which emerges from participation and collaboration is apomediation. This refers to Web 2.0’s ability to cut out the gatekeeper (or “disintermediate”) and replace the middleman with “apomediaries.” Apomediaries are peers and collaborators who “stand by” and guide users to high quality information, but are not prerequisites to obtain the information. The wisdom of the expert is partially replaced by collective intelligence or the wisdom of the crowd. In medicine as well as in science in general, where expertness is deeply ingrained in the system, this is a very disruptive proposition.

The last theme is openness, which is both a prerequisite and a result of these developments.

Talking about openness, do you mean open access? How is Medicine 2.0 different than open access?
Open access removes access barriers (price, copyright restrictions) from scientific literature, and it’s an important aspect of Medicine 2.0 because:

  1. It facilitates the research and knowledge translation process
  2. It provides for unexpected collaborations between researchers and knowledge users (patients/consumers, policy makers)
  3. It provides the foundation for the next generation of knowledge aggregation and identification tools (I am thinking of intelligent tools that aggregate information from the literature – with overly restrictive copyright provisions this is impossible).

However, the openness theme in Medicine 2.0 goes beyond open access and also includes open peer review, open data sharing, openness in a sense of making previously hidden processes in research transparent to the public, and openness in terms of providing interfaces for technical interoperability between web services (providing APIs etc.).

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