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Growth of Online Medical Social Networks, Support Groups, and Communities

DailyStrength: Online Support Groups and Aggregate Treatment Info from TechCrunch is an interesting article about a new social network which is a forum/support group for people with health and life issues and concerns.

DailyStrength is a new social network that provides a space for people with a wide variety of medical, psychological and life conditions to discuss their struggles and the treatments they are undergoing. While any number of wannabe social networks are likely to spring up in coming years seeking to cash in on medical activity online, this isn’t one of those. DailyStrength has the executive team and feature set to be a real player. I think it’s a great example of a niche social network that provides topical value ads and executes the basics well too.

…The highlight of DailyStrength is that users are asked to describe medical and psychological treatments they have undergone. They indicate what conditions those treatments were for, whether they were effective and provide a narrative about the experience. That information is then aggregated by condition and treatment – so it’s easy to see what a large number of people have done in response to a condition or what it’s really like to undergo a certain treatment.

Someone left a comment saying that this was definitely a niche much overlooked and I agree. There have been forums, chats, and “community groups” online for medical and health issues for over ten years, but this appears to be one of the better planned online communities, taking advantage of new technologies for peer-to-peer and professional dialog.

As many large countries host more and more technically savvy older citizens, people will want to reach out through the net and ask questions on how different medicines and medical treatments really work, and learn how others responded to various treatments. This kind of professional-meets-users support group may help people learn more about their options.

According to the article, there are currently about 25,000 treatments in the database with information on various ailments and their treatment with medical professionals helping to answer questions and provide more information. They are also monitoring the site to help keep the “junk” advice out and any personal information. They are working to keep the site’s content as professional as possible, providing an educational network more than a support group, though things are still evolving on the site.

DailyStrength isn’t the only social networking or professional forum group offering professional and peer-to-peer support for medical ailments. Rare Cancer Alliance specializes in helping patients and their families understand and share information on rare adult and pediatric cancers. The Testicular Cancer Support Forum, Breastcancer.org, Lung Cancer Support Community, Bladder Cancer WebCafe Online Forum, and PsychCentral are among the many online support groups I’ve stumbled across over the years. These groups have been online for many years. The Family Village, a global community of disability-related resources including information, resources, and forums, has been active since 1996.

There are also many online groups for various illnesses and conditions offering a variety of support and resources that can be found through Yahoo Groups and Google Groups. Some of these discussion and support groups have been around for a long time, creating a solid body of information and resources, as well as a stable community you can count on for support and encouragement. Many of these offer excellent peer-to-peer support as they have been there, done that, and lived to help others through it.

I expect to see more “professional” medical, health, and life “community networks” arriving soon. It will be interesting to see which services score best with participants and which fall flat. The services they offer will need to be intensely competitive as advertisers jump on board this new trend. I definitely could see the powerful combination of , for multiple blogs under one roof, and bbPress forum software serving these online communities very well, don’t you?

What do you think? Which services do you think a medical community social network should offer? Blogs? Professional medical advisors? Searchable databases for surgical, prescription, and other medical data? Forums, of course, but what about 24 hour access to live chat?

Should they all be free, or do you think some should require a fee? Many of these forums require registration to participate, and some even require registration to view the forum posts. What do you think about that?

What characteristics and services would you look for in such a medical social networking community if you needed one? If you are a member or have used these types of online services before, did it help? What did you like? What did you not like? How would you have changed it?

What other services should these groups offer in order to be competitive, but also offer the best to their members? If you were to build the ideal medical support community, what would it look like?

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Copyright Lorelle VanFossen, member of the 9Rules Network

Member of the 9Rules Blogging Network

4 Comments

  1. Posted May 22, 2007 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Thanks again Lorelle, I’ve enjoyed reading several of your posts today :)

  2. wooodooo
    Posted March 15, 2008 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Lorelle, for this helpful info.

  3. Posted August 28, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    Hi Lorelle!

    I’m just cruising and brainstorming some thoughts in my brain. I’m actually looking for some plug-ins for some of these health related forums.

    I’m the author of the WordPress theme, Pounds 4 Pride that was commissioned by the Minnesota Blue Cross/Blue Shield and the Rainbow Health Initiative of Minnesota.

    If you know of some suggestions, I would appreciate it.

    I’ll keep looking on your website, but I thought I’d stop buy and “put a bug in your ear”.

    Be well!

    MWH

    • Posted August 29, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      Nice. However, as noted on the About Page, I do not offer free Theme reviews. Good luck with your project.


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