In a recent blog post, Andy Oram complains about the difficulty of applying a Silicon-Valley-like attitude toward innovation at the U.S. healthcare system. Lots of regulations, even in the U.S., block care managers from introducing new – and more ICT-based – methodologies in providing information and services. In a similar direction goes a recent and interesting paper by Peter Mooney, Padraig Corcoran and Blazej Ciepluch that i received through the Google Scholar alert system. The authors sketch an overview on the possible integration of healthcare, volunteer GIS and pervasive computing – something a Silicon Valley’s nerd would definitely appreciate.
They find that there is a great potential for ICT-based applications, from many points of view. But one should always keep in mind that the access and the active participation to ICT infrastructures for health care is still quite uneven in society.
Therefore, one should not use social networks to detect illness outbreaks: the picture one would get would be quite different from the reality on the ground. Analogously, one should not rely on Twitter data to infer the rate of infected people in a population, or similar quantites. The usage of social networks is highly biased toward the upper class, and area characterized by a lesser income tend to be overlooked by user-generated maps and media. To produce reliable data, then, one should adopt the strict statistical criteria used by national statistical institutes. Otherwise, the impact of current ICTs on healthcare would anti-democratically focus on the 1% and forget the 99%. And we do not want that, do we?
But there is another subtler reason which has to be taken into account. The observer influence the observed object: if you spend a lot of time on social networks, you are more prone to anxiety. This may have a severe effect on health, especially for people suffering from asthma. If one adds the privacy concerns, it becomes apparent that healthcare systems will always integrate ICT methodologies at a slower pace than other sectors have done.