Medical Economics interviews Dr. Lyle Dennis, founder of HealthKeep. HealthKeep is a social network for patients and doctors. [VIDEO]
As social media is becoming more and more important to healthcare, social networks and web services are starting to pop up to help facilitate conversations about health. The most recent endeavor into this space is HealthKeep. HealthKeep is an anonymous "social health network" where both patients and doctors can participate in discussions about health. We interviewed Dr. Lyle Dennis, founder of HealthKeep (see the video above) and he gave us some more information on what HealthKeep is and some of the network's plans for the future.
On HealthKeep, patients enter health information about themselves and are immediately connected with others with similar health issues. "You're creating your own personal health record," Dennis said. "But every time you enter an element…you're immediately connected to every other user that happens to have that particular health item on their health record."
Patients can share experiences, ask questions, and give advice to other people who have similar health issues. But the part of HealthKeep that will make the network attractive to potential users is its complete anonymity. HealthKeep complies with HIPAA by not even asking users for their names. All users are completely anonymous to each other and doctors. Dennis described it as having "all of the social tools that are available to us…without any fear of personal discovery or loss of confidentiality."
Dennis described security as something HealthKeep takes very seriously, "We're dedicated to this mission of anonymity because we want people to feel free and open." To achieve that goal HealthKeep has hospital level security and is purposely leaving things out like Facebook login features to keep the data as secure as possible. When asked about Facebook or other social site logins, Dennis replied, "You never know when you click on that Facebook button if something is going to leak out on your timeline…That uncertainty would inhibit people from sharing what they want to share…We specifically decided against that for the reason of privacy."
We discussed with Dr. Dennis how doctors interact with patients on the site and what benefits there are for doctors to participate in the new network. Dennis explained that feedback from doctors, so far, is "very positive." Doctors get their own personalized news feed where they receive news updates from various sources and can follow specific symptoms, conditions, and diseases to keep an eye on and participate in the discussions patients are having about those issues. "It's a powerful tool for doctors as well, to gain insight," Dennis explained. "I can have an insight into what they [patients] are talking to each other about, which is different than my experience as a doctor sitting in an exam room with a patient."
While HealthKeep is relatively new, there are already patients discussing a variety of issues on the site. I asked Dennis what some of the most common discussions were and he replied that the most common diseases and symptoms are the most likely to be discussed (like back pain, headaches, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, etc). But he also pointed out that a large amount of people don't need to be discussing a condition for it to be entered into someone's health record and become a subject for discussion, "If there are two people with a condition…even if it's something very rare…they already have a community for themselves…any condition can be added to the system."
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