Apr 6, 2012

The Evolution Of Health 2.0 As A Fundamental Human Right

Healthcare has changed, but this was not a sudden shift. This change from traditional healthcare to Health 2.0 has been a slow drift and it has been creeping on us since 30th April 1945. When the Allies defeated the Axis powers at the end of World War two, a fundamental shift occurred in prevalent human thinking. Power ceased to remain just in a few powerful hands. There was a universal push towards negating authoritarian ideologies.
The Universal declaration of Human Rights set the bar for civilization. A few related articles in the declaration read:
  • Everyone has the right to freedom of movement  (Article 13)
  • Everyone has the right of equal access to public service (Article 21)
  • Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care (Article 25)
The World Health Organization charter also stressed on evolving a more patient and information centric healthcare delivery model:
The extension to all peoples of the benefits of medical, psychological and related knowledge is essential to the fullest attainment of health.with basic human rights for all. 
(via WHO Constitution : pdf)

The American version of individual level, people centric and technology enabled development was widely accepted as the roadmap throughout the world. World leaders worked towards creating a more inclusive and democratic society 

Right to health and patient empowerment were the next logical steps.  The arrival of the Internet in mid 80’s was another watershed movement in the evolution of human thinking. Recently, Social media and wireless devices have started converging in healthcare for patient empowerment. Patient communities, medical forums, collaborative research, mobile medical applications on hand held devices are just some of the ways health care has changed. This recent technology enabled collaborative care model is loosely described as Health 2.0. 

No widely accepted definition of Health 2.0 exists. A wordle image of the Wikipedia article on Health 2.0 throws up the most widely accepted associations of Health 2.0. 
Health 2.0

The most common associations for Health 2.0 are: 
1) Web 2.0 
2) Collaboration between Patients and healthcare providers, Participatory medicine 
3) Use of Technology and Data 
4) Sharing of Information 
5) Use of Internet and digital tools. 

With the ubiquitous hand held devices (like smart phones) and >30% of world’s population being online, the delivery and acceptance of healthcare has also changed. People want to be involved in their healthcare and they expect to be helped in this by healthcare providers and other stakeholders. Numerous apps and websites have made healthcare data rich and participatory. Healthcare delivery now need not be limited to medical visits but can be present 24/7. Health 2.0 has given Hospitals, doctors, pharma companies and patients a chance to combine forces to improve healthcare. In fact, Health 2.0 is just a “nerd”ic expression of the often misunderstood Health Rights. Health rights are broadly evaluated on Availability, Accessibility, Acceptability and Quality of healthcare. And Health 2.0 fulfills all the requirements for being classified as a fundamental health right.

A few common uses of Health 2.0 include medical education, managing a particular disease and sharing of data for research. Health 2.0 simply borrows the principles of a free progressive post World War two society and applies it to healthcare. Health 2.0 is a democratic alternative of the traditional and feudal healthcare delivery system of the older times. 

(this post originally appeared in the April issue of Medicinman )

What do you think of this? Is health 2.0 a step towards health rights?

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  1. Hi Neelesh,

    Very substantial to draw the line from 1945 onwards to Health20 as a fundamental Human right! I fully agree. Just some reflections:
    - I myself like to add to participatory care the concept of shared decision making. Though it is inherently conceived within participatroy care, it might be good to accentuate it so as to prevent participatory to fall back in odd reasoning like: "Well, if the patient does as (s)he is told, that would be best";-)
    - And, to be realistic: it is not by the declaration of the human rights that violations of the same have stopped. To the contrary: much still has to be done.
    And, what a great visual: it says it all!

  2. Thanks for the comment, Rob.
    Yes, my expression of participatory medicine definitely includes shared decision making.And yes, its better to mention it particularly.
    The UDHR is not a fait accompli, its a vague roadmap. We would do good to follow it in substance and spirit.