With declining federal funding for healthcare research and declining revenues from the academic medical centers that also provide significant support, how do we effectively restructure our national system to a self-sustaining medical research platform? Meaningful social collaboration plays a key role.
Medical research has historically been non-collaborative
Medical research has historically been very autonomous and silo-based, spread among multiple institutions who rarely collaborate with one another. In one of my previous academic medical roles, it was thought to be very likely that there were two researchers on campus, working on the exact same problem, who had no knowledge that the other even existed.
A lethal lag time for translational medical research
It may take as long as one or two decades for original medical research to be put into routine clinical practice. Thus, the translation of medical research findings into sustainable improvements in clinical practice and patient outcomes remains a substantial obstacle to improving the quality of healthcare. Add to this the fact that medical literature doubles about every nineteen years, and you have a significant barrier to making the improvements in population health that are being required by the changing healthcare model. This is demonstrated by the fact that only three out of five Americans with chronic conditions received the recommended care or were treated with the prevailing best practices for their conditions.
Social collaboration opportunities for medical research
In his book, “The Innovator’s Prescription”, Clay Christensen mentions several potential opportunities for social collaboration to be disruptive in healthcare. He makes the point that medical research organizations are one of the important entities that sit atop the personal electronic health record system. Developing a secure application to enable researchers and patients to collaborate could have significant advantages for the acceleration of clinical trials as well as improving the efficacy of that research by giving the researchers a more complete viewpoint of the patient’s health and comorbidities that might impact the issue under study. We already see some of this functionality and facilitated networks like Patientslikeme.com or even WebMD.
Combining patient data more effectively with clinical trial opportunities or combining this data with predictive modeling tools that are currently being studied in research could have significant benefits by creating a more comprehensive view than any individual provider or patient could provide. These facilitated networks could quickly improve efficacy and reduce cost.
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