In some sense, I see digital health when communicated via online or real time television as a version of marketing. Healthcare systems have a message to communicate to the masses in an efficient and understandable way. Additionally, the goal is to inform, which is the goal of marketing. Both marketing and healthcare are regulated, but ultimately have the same goal of getting consumers to act. Healthcare the goal is action related to person or public health outcomes. Marketing the focus being consumption of a product or service. So it is through the lense of marketing aka mass communication, that I looked at the best and worse of the Ebola crisis from a digital perspective.
NIH and CDC both have been very active on social media engaging with the public regarding Ebola. This really assists the public in being able to get quality scientific based information about the disease. Additionally, they didn’t delay in discussing on social media what was happening even before the disease was brought to the US. Dr. Friedman from NIH has been very active on Twitter. His Twitter account is @.
mHero is a mobile healthcare technology platform that assists healthcare workers in communicating across West Africa’s fragmented healthcare system. The mHero system can capture critical data and permits for better patient care coordination. The best part is that all this is happening in real time which is critical in the ever changing Ebola pandemic.
Cell phone digital data could stem the tide of Ebola. The digital health information gathered from the cell phones can assist health officials in understanding about the density of the area and the potential number infected. The digital health data captured from cell phones can assist with predicting where a virus outbreak might occur next. Cell phone digital health data provides an excellent source of information about transportation patterns of populations when used in aggregate. This digital data when applied to historical data can give scientists’ a sense of where people may travel next, therefore permits them to proactively manage site of new Ebola outbreaks.
What’s App the social media app is forging into mhealth terrain via assisting with educating the public about Ebola along with ways to protect themselves. The information is distributed three times a day via the app. The information is presented in both French and English. Most importantly the information is accessible to those with or without a smartphone. One can just listen to the small downloadable digital data packets. The convergence of social media, digital, and public health being used to connect the community with timely life changing information is exciting. Kudo’s to Whats App!
American arrogance related to the US health system compared to other countries’ healthcare. America is a great place however we are human, so there are some short comings as can be expected with all healthcare systems. The US healthcare system market itself as providing world class healthcare superior to other countries. This is sadly another time that reveals not just the short comings in African countries healthcare system but ours as well. Many scientists have made comments about the nature of fragmentation and subpar system in Africa. However, we have had a few snafus in our management of patients and healthcare workers that treated the patient in Dallas that died.
I am a news junkie, but sadly, the news is one entity along with politicians contributing to most misinformation and bad approaches to managing the Ebola pandemic. The US news cycle is 24 hours/7 days a week, so there has been a great deal of stroking of the fears of the public regarding Ebola. The entire news media is the blame CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC, etc. Politicians used the 24/7 news cycle to scare and inflame fears of the public via various tweets seen below. The flu and the growing obesity epidemic cause greater harm to Americans each year but are not very sexy to discuss.
The last part that has me concerned is the American public’s approach to dealing with this disease. I understand that parents and adults are very concerned, which the American public should be, since Eboloa is a very serious disease. However, we have to be reasonable about how we treat others and potential patients. A woman from Africa in the Philadelphia Metro area was treated horribly because a health professional thought she might be an Ebola patient because of her ethnicity. We have to improve our health literacy and cultural sensitivity as a country.
Honorable mention to Facebook and Google, they are both focusing on assisting in providing the much needed funds to West African countries for Ebola. If you have the financial resources available, please contribute to either Facebook’s or Google’s initiative to support West Africa.
What good or bad have you seen come out of the Ebola epidemic from a digital perspective?