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This is part two of a series on the future of health.  View part one here.

By Ron Gutman Founder & CEO, HealthTap

Imagine a world where you speak a health-related question into your phone and get a doctor’s quick response, a list of relevant doctors in your geographic area (and when they might be free to see you), medical research regarding the topic, and related questions others have asked. All that, in less than a second!

This is an example of the kind of change that is coming to healthcare and the way social collaboration will democratize the availability of health information.

At HealthTap, we’re creating a vast repository of trusted content, contributed from more than 14,000 U.S.-licensed doctors. Here’s how it works: Once a doctor joins the HealthTap community, he or she can answer real user questions, and see how his or her peers address the same issues. Doctors can “Agree” with one another’s answers in a visible way, allowing users and other experts to see what the expert community as a whole thinks about the quality of a certain answer. This peer review impacts the answering doctor’s DocScore (a FICO-like rating that measures a doctor’s credentials, engagement and reputation among other medical professionals).  The DocScore is visible to doctors and users alike, providing an additional measure of confidence in the content that’s created.

Users can also give personal feedback about doctors’ responses by clicking a “Thanks” button next to an answer, letting other users know that they found the information helpful. Unlike doctors, patients cannot “Agree” with doctors’ answers because they don’t have the same depth of medical knowledge required to provide peer reviews. Instead, these transparent mechanisms used to express gratitude help doctors build a relationship with users (and potential new patients), while managing their online reputation, and providing feedback for physicians about the helpfulness of their responses.

This system has the potential to create a significant global impact. By providing a comfortable, secure public forum for doctors to lend their expertise, HealthTap is democratizing doctors’ knowledge and making it freely available beyond closed-doors, and to millions of users everywhere. It’s clear that technology and artificial intelligence (AI), and even a human-powered approach that mixes ever-evolving human wisdom and cutting edge technologies (which I’ve nicknamed  “AAI” – Artificial Artificial-Intelligence) will not completely replace the need for in-person care. Our goal is to complement in-person care by building technology platforms and applications that can effectively harness the collective knowledge of medical professionals and help get people access to the most relevant and highest quality information that fits their needs best when they need it most. Think of the power of combining expert-community created and curated content (like HealthTap) with machine learning and natural language processing algorithms (such as IBM Watson) and with powerful user interfaces to deliver information seamlessly to users anytime, anywhere.

In a world of Smarter Healthcare, patients will be able to interact instantaneously with the best experts and with others who are experiencing similar health issues; doctors will be able to receive advice quickly from peers, and to develop customized care plans for their patients. This is a powerful vision of not just a better world, but one where life expectancy and the quality of life can be dramatically improved.

What’s the most exciting aspect of this futuristic vision?  That much of it exists today. What remains is to make it well-orchestrated and evenly-distributed. So let’s continue working towards a future where, with the push of a button, a mobile device, and an Internet connection, everyone will have access to the best health information and the care they need, no matter where they live. While we are not yet 100 percent of the way there, we’re moving quickly on the right path.

This is part two of a series on the future of health.  View part one here.

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