Social media has the potential to revolutionize health care, but it will take collaboration by unusual thinkers from Silicon Valley as well as medical institutions, UCSF leaders say.
Some of UCSF's biggest innovators gathered last week at Dreamforce 2012 to discuss exciting technological advances by the University, from new mobile apps that help connect doctors with patient data in real time to a groundbreaking project to build the world's first artificial kidney. They called on audience members at the Salesforce.com cloud-computing conference draw on their own expertise to help push innovations to the next level.
"As we look inside health care industry, we realize the answers don't necessarily come from people in health care," Mark Laret, CEO of the UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, said in his introduction of the annual UCSF track called "Unusual Thinkers." "They come from engineering, robotics, customer relationship management, others in different areas who can bring creative, unusual thinking to help solve the problems of the health care crisis facing this country. We encourage everyone to get engaged."
Chancellor Susan Desmond-Hellmann, MD, MPH, kicked off the track with a session exploring the possibilities of social media in changing medicine.
With nearly half of all American adults owning a smartphone, according to a recent Pew Internet report, social media already has fundamentally changed the way we communicate, do business and get entertained — but it hasn't yet made a significant impact on health care. Desmond-Hellmann acknowledged the gap, noting some of the main hurdles such as patient privacy and safety standards.
"The stakes in health care are so high," she said. "So how do we not just acknowledge the gap, but deal with the reality that in fact when the stakes are high and it's our health or our family's health, we actually aren't willing to make mistakes or accept errors?"
Answering that question is the challenge at hand, said Desmond-Hellmann, who for now sees the greatest potential for social media in two areas: efficiently connecting researchers to patients for clinical trials and creating a sense of community for patients who are going through health crises such as cancer.
"That can be an incredibly isolating and frightening experience," Desmond-Hellmann said. "What I see with social media is, that ability to connect in your own way is so powerful — to decrease fear and enhance connections."
There's an App for That
UCSF already has been making inroads with the technology, pioneering mobile apps that are allowing physicians and nurses to do their jobs more easily and patients to be more engaged with their own health.
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