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Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Impact of Web 2.0 and Big Data on Health Care.

The Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) Vol 10 Issue 3.0 is publishing an interesting issue on the impact of Web 2.0 technologies on Healthcare.

The abstract of the introductory editorial is below.

Medicine 2.0: Social Networking, Collaboration, Participation, Apomediation, and Openness

Gunther Eysenbach, MD, MPH

Corresponding Author:

Gunther Eysenbach, MD, MPH

Centre for Global eHealth Innovation

University of Toronto and University Health Network

90 Elizabeth Street

Toronto ON M5G 2C4


Phone: +1 416 340 4800 ext 6427

Fax: +1 416 340 3595

Email: geysenba [at] uhnres.utoronto.ca


In a very significant development for eHealth, a broad adoption of Web 2.0 technologies and approaches coincides with the more recent emergence of Personal Health Application Platforms and Personally Controlled Health Records such as Google Health, Microsoft HealthVault, and Dossia. “Medicine 2.0” applications, services, and tools are defined as Web-based services for health care consumers, caregivers, patients, health professionals, and biomedical researchers, that use Web 2.0 technologies and/or semantic web and virtual reality approaches to enable and facilitate specifically 1) social networking, 2) participation, 3) apomediation, 4) openness, and 5) collaboration, within and between these user groups. The Journal of Medical Internet Research (JMIR) publishes a Medicine 2.0 theme issue and sponsors a conference on “How Social Networking and Web 2.0 changes Health, Health Care, Medicine, and Biomedical Research”, to stimulate and encourage research in these five areas.

(J Med Internet Res 2008;10(3):e22)


Cooperative Behavior; Education; Information Storage and Retrieval; Interpersonal Relations; Organizational Innovation; Social Behavior; User-Computer Interface; Online Systems; Patient Education as Topic; Terminology as Topic; Medical Record Linkage; Self Care; Internet; Health Communication; Collaboration; Research

The full editorial is found here:


The table of contents for the whole issue is found here:


The full editorial and the associated articles are well worth a browse.

On a similar Nature has published a series of articles on what is termed ‘Big Data’. The following is part of the introductory editorial


Community cleverness required


Researchers need to adapt their institutions and practices in response to torrents of new data — and need to complement smart science with smart searching.

The Internet search firm Google was incorporated just 10 years ago this week. Going from a collection of donated servers housed under a desk to a global network of dedicated data centres processing information by the petabyte, Google's growth mirrors that of the production and exploration of data in research. All of which makes this an apt moment for this special issue of Nature, which examines what big data sets mean for contemporary science.

'Big', of course, is a moving target. The portability of the tens of gigabytes we carry around on USB sticks would have seemed like fantasy a few years ago. But beyond a certain point, as an increasing number of research disciplines are discovering, the vast amounts of data are presenting fresh challenges that urgently need to be addressed.

The issue is partly a matter of the sheer scale of today's data sets. Managing this torrent of bits has forced more and more fields to move to industrial-scale data centres and cutting-edge networking technology (see page 16). But the data sets are also becoming increasingly complex. As researchers study the inner workings of the cell, for example, they now gather data on genomic sequences, protein sequences, protein structure and function, bimolecular interactions, signalling and metabolic pathways, regulatory motifs — on and on. No wonder even the smartest scientists turn with relief to advanced data-mining tools, online community collaborations (see page 22) and sophisticated visualization techniques (see page 30).

Sudden influxes of data have transformed researchers' understanding of nature before — even back in the days when 'computer' was still a job description (see page 36). Unfortunately, the institutions and culture of science remain rooted in that pre-electronic era. Taking full advantage of electronic data will require a great deal of additional infrastructure, both technical and cultural (see pages 8, 28 and 47).

The full paper and associated material is found here:


Nature 455, 1 (4 September 2008) | doi:10.1038/455001a; Published online 3 September 2008

While not specifically health related it is clear there is great relevance for the health sector.

Both sets of article deserve a close review.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Social networking is an obvious starting place for PHR's as I think has been mentioned here before, a sort of 'health facebook/myspace' or even simply having your medical records sit in your gmail account whilst your away travelling enabling easy access at a time of need.

There are hundreds of free solutions out there which are better than nothing, that is until we get our heads around interoperability. Anyone that tries to launch a fee based PHR that isn't interoperable is mad as a proverbial hatter!