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TECHNOLOGY: Social networking meets health care

Those of you who’ve been paying attention may note that there’s a mini-boomlet going on again in Silicon Valley, and those of you clever enough to have bought Google stock at its IPO, or have been sleeping with the founders (and you know who you are!) are at the center of it. But there has also been a ton of venture capital pouring into social networking sites like Linked-in, Ryze, Tribe and Friendster.

These sites allow you to contact people you don’t know via a six degrees of Kevin Bacon approach. VC and rebel doc Chris Mayaud has become the most connected player in health care on Linked-in by matching his address book to the world. If he’s bugs you I apologize as I was the one who got him started on there! And even though I only have 1% of his “connections” I have had some work and interest come in from it.

There are also healthcare sites based on list-servs, or “groups” that act as bulletin boards, often for patient groups. But they tend to be long lists of email postings, and haven’t really changed much since the early 1990s, even though they are extensively used. And then again there are personalized medical record sites that funnel information to users based on their specific conditions. (That’s what my company i-Beacon’s health record used to do before the axeman came!)

Now there’s an interesting piece of software called Gencache that tries to do all three pieces — linking people, linking people to information of interest and providing messaging. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, ask Gencache Jay Limaye for a username and take a look around. He gave me a tour the other day, and although it’s early days for the software, it might be a proto-type for that all-in-one forum for that elusive medical community that we’re always hearing about.

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