Health care is transforming quickly due to mobile and web technologies. The driving forces behind this development are not the traditional players, rather they are start-ups and software experts. To keep track of innovation, Health 2.0 held its annual European session in Berlin last week.

Neil Bacon, founder of the rate and review platform iwantgreatcare.org, set the tone for the panels that followed: “Power, influence and money are still with the providers. It is crucial to unleash the power of the users.” More than 75 technology demos illustrated promising web and mobile solutions that live up to his claim:

  • The highly acclaimed mobile phone app mySugr helps diabetics to manage their condition. It employs a gamified approach to monitor the disease and has many rewards in store to keep patients engaged.
  • Nhumi.com‘s mission is to improve communication between doctors and patients by providing a 3D-model of the entire human body in which diseases can be localized and described.
  • To overcome language barriers, universaldoctor.com helps translating between many different languages. Its crowd sourcing approach makes it easy for doctors to submit their own bilingual suggestions to facilitate medical consultation.
  • Biovotion presented a sensor that monitors physiological functions non-invasively and thereby helps reducing hospital stays.

Social networks also apply more and more to professional interaction. In networks like BestDoctors.com, physicians can build communities where they can ask for second opinions from the best specialists from around the world. The Spanish Fundación Recover fosters cooperation between physicians in industrialized and third-world countries via the Internet. Khresmoi.com is a powerful search and access system for biomedical information that includes a multitude of text and image sources in combination with a semantic search engine.

Governments have understood the potential that lies in big data. This was proven by Tim Kelsey, the executive director of transparency and open data in the UK government. In the face of rising costs, Kelsey passionately pleaded for open access to health data, and for participation of the clients. By 2015, all British citizens are planned to get access to their full digital health records. Kelsey encouraged entrepreneurs and NGOs to take part in a “New Deal” and to contribute to an improvement of health care with new apps and services.

The number of sensors around us is sharply increasing. In the not-too-far future, Mateo Penzo predicted, technology will disappear while the body literally merges with the cloud. The technology director of the Italy-based design company frog stressed the importance of good design and user experience to allow for data interpretation by patients.

The closing remarks were left to Peter Levin, who dared an outlook into the future that he referred to as “open, transparent and blue.” The CTO at the US Department of Veterans Affairs masterminded the Blue Button electronic health record that can be downloaded and made available to a specialist with only one click.

Innovation in the health system nowadays increasingly comes from the outside and less from traditional players such as physicians, hospitals, insurers and the pharma industry. This is the lesson that Alexander Schachinger taught when presenting the results of an online survey and website analysis about e-patients. Matthew Holt, co-chairman of Health 2.0, subsequently called for a change: “There must be a shift from top-down to bottom-up approaches in health care. Better decision-making can be enabled by including the patients and helping innovators!”

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