Milana Sobol, Principal at SOBOL/Active & Digital Business Strategist

Leading Apps & Sites in the Health & Wellness Vertical

Milana consults with agencies, corporations and start-ups in the areas of operations, product development, business and digital marketing strategy. Lately she’s been helping healthcare marketers navigate digital, mobile and social platforms.

1.  What are your top 3 favorite health/fitness apps?

  • iTriage: Research symptoms, procedures and providers, store and manage personal health records
  • Epocrates: #1 mobile drug reference resource used by healthcare providers
  • nike+: Record data from runs, set goals, etc.

2.  Top 3 health-related sites or online services?

  • 23andme: Genetic testing and data management
  • Zocdoc: OpenTable meets the healthcare industry – Research and rate doctors; schedule appointments
  • PatientsLikeMe: Online community where patients share sophisticated data about their experiences and treatments for a variety of health conditions

3.  Has someone used one of these tools in an ingenious or surprising way that you admire?

PatientsLikeMe.com is a website where people share and track data on their illnesses. Through its crowdsourcing capability, it allows the collective data to educate and soothe patients, explain symptoms and predict outcomes. A great example its enormous power is the story about a study that came out a few years ago on the effect of lithium on patients with ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease). The study suggested that lithium slowed down ALS.

This study was published although clinical trials had not been completed. Some people with ALS decided to start taking lithium rather than wait for the clinical trials. In fact, 10% of members from the PatientsLikeMe.com site started the treatment! One of the patients asked the web site to create some tools to track his specific data on lithium so he could determine if it was working. They did and others like him started to track their results too. In a way, this became a crowdsourced clinical trial.

After a few months, the site had data on patients with similar profiles taking lithium and those that weren’t. They compared the data across the two pools and showed that patients on lithium were doing slightly worse, not better. These results reached other patients, who decided to put off the lithium treatment. Only one year later, the real clinical studies were completed and the results indicated that lithium in fact was not effective. The results of the original study and its recommendations were reversed.

4.  What are your favorite wellness blogs? How often do you read them?

5.  What are some of the mobile and social trends we’re likely to see for health-related tools?

1.  Apps and social media initiatives will continue to be around support networks and tracking tools for patients/by patients (providing a better feedback loop on treatments)

2. Integration of the doctor-facing EMR (electronic medical records) tools with patient-facing PHR (personal health records) tools

6.  How will these tools ultimately impact healthcare companies, providers and patients?

Tools that allow patients to capture and analyze health data effectively extend the reach and “voice” of clinical trials and treatment studies. As patients become more sophisticated, vocal and united on their healthcare choices, the industry will need to respond with more personalized treatments that minimize side effects.

Social media, i.e. more conversations, will also drive more disruptive change. As these conversations get louder and better filtered, healthcare providers and institutions will need to respond. By being forced to listen and engage, they will also be required to act, because their lack of change (when change is an obvious necessity) will become more transparent.

To summarize, social media and health-related applications will help us manage conversations and information. They will drive the industry towards a convergence of information, a convergence between doctor’s knowledge and patient’s understanding of their condition. And [ideally] that will contribute to better relationships and improved outcomes.

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