The best digital health app is conversation

Although our attention may be distracted from time to time by a health-related smartphone or tablet app, a health tracking device, a quantified self peripheral, or some other piece of shiny, soon-to-be-outmoded future junk, I hope it is becoming obvious by now that the best digital health app currently available is conversation.

It is the health conversation on the social web that can best interpret, filter and respond to our need for high quality information regarding disease symptoms, diagnosis and treatment options.

It is conversation that conveys the insight of trusted voices to inform our shared healthcare decision-making.

It is conversation that can offer peer support, solidaritycare, and love and that can help deal with the difficulty, isolation, and occasionally the despair of living with or managing disease.

The health conversation on the social web is inverting norms, challenging protocols, and confounding expectations.

As #gbdoc, #bcsm and others demonstrate on a daily basis, a tweet chat about diabetes or breast cancer can be a vector towards outcomes-improving, life-saving, transformative change not only for individuals, nor even entire communities, but perhaps for the future of healthcare design and delivery overall.

So, in order to contribute to the transformation of healthcare practices, for all our sakes: let’s talk.

14 thoughts on “The best digital health app is conversation

  1. Greatly said Andrew! I saw your statement on Twitter yesterday in your discussion with Kathy @kgapo at #hcsmeu 😉
    You must have written the blog subsequently and instantaneously with the vigor and perseverance that we know so well of you! And right you are: the number of eHealth applications and electronic means threaten to create so much chaos that patients (i.e. “we” !) can’t see function and use nor will be able to oversee what to do and not. And there’s yet no acknowledged authority to guide. Thanks!

    • Hi Rob

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment, hope all is well with you.

      There is to my mind something counter-intuitive about waiting for a body to approve or otherwise endorse health apps outside of the context within which we download or purchase them, i.e.: app stores.

      I’d prefer to see endorsements within the Mac OS iTunes store or Android OS Play by healthcare professionals or trusted voices whose identity I can verify and whose credentials I can validate. I may even want to reach out to them with a question.

      In other words, I’d favour identifiable healthcare professionals leaving endorsements of apps and an account of what they believe to be good or useful about them.

      However, it’s probably more likely that I’d hear about the app in question via a trusted voice from my community in a health chat or on a social platform.

  2. Hi Andrew, thanks for your response, in which I can discern that you were set on the wrong track accidentally. 😉 To me the core of your blog is about the consistency and cohesiveness of the conversation itself. The jungle of the ever more growing number of apps and other means of communication seem to blur the participants in health conversation away from the very core you presented: the conversation itself.

    For the conversation itself in order to bare meaning to the participants in that conversation, they must know what means/instruments they will use and what not. Otherwise consistency of the conversation and with it, the potential growth of the level of quality of it, and hence the meaning of it to the participants, will be quickly lost.

    Conversation, communication in itself is a process, other than exchanging statements or expressions coincidentally as we are doing so much on social media. They have a certain meaning, surely, but we, as for two, do have the experience that it is due to the very continuity and consistency of the communication that might raise the potential of the proper communication process, to understand, to convince, to induce, to learn, to review, to change viewpoints etc, and, most of all to put words to practice, to act upon it; in short: to learn!

    That’s what the core meaning of your post is to me, which struck me as such an obvious point – hence its fierceness! Nearly forgotten in the “violence” of promoting eHealth through means of apps and incidental instruments…
    So, the issue of authority, probably in the way of certification too (that apps as medical devices have already to meet, legally) is a thing that might come from authorities, but must stem also from consumers using the very things, as you suggest. Right again to my mind!

    I guess we are still on the track of exploring and hopefully experimenting to learn how such promising means might be used so as to enhance the quality of health conversations, not drawing away from it.

  3. A-to-the-MEN! Talking across what have traditionally been chasms – doctors talking to a community of patients, patients directly connecting with clinicians, everybody listening to each other around a big, round (virtual) table. Vision that’s becoming reality. Apps are fun. Conversations actually make things happen..

  4. Pingback: eHealth, Apps, Devices instruments and Healthy Conversation | Health Business Consult

  5. Indeed a great post Rob! Apps tend to create clutter, noise. I have found myself recently cleaning my pc from apps I hardly use or apps for which I need to spend hours understanding how it works.It is time to rethink the basics: striking conversations, using our and not a pc’s memory for everyday things, use a pad and pencil. Simplicity and communication.

      • You are always welcome! as well as on Monday in Thessaloniki at #opnhealth hosts TEDxNijmegen-we have our own program with patients and doctors online, ehealth, great challenges of Greek Healthcare, award winner startups, and more.. live streamed of course..

  6. Pingback: The best digital health app is conversation | Health Care Social Media Monitor

  7. Hello Andrew and thanks so much for pointing me to this post. (How did I miss it back in April?!?!?) Succinct, clear, simple, and oh-so-true – despite the high-fiving of the tech hypemeisters whose self-tracking health apps are, of course, The Next Big Thing in technology. I wrote about this from a patient’s perspective after returning from last year’s Medicine X conference at Stanford, feeling dismayed (not inspired!) by the frenetic hype around the future of medicine as we know it:

    An amazing gathering, but at times I felt that few if any of the young app startup folks had actually had a real life “conversation” with a real life patient before launch.

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