Interview with Unity Stoakes; “Changing the face of Healthcare”

Unity Stoakes is co-founder and president of OrganizedWisdom Health, a new specialized search engine that is “on a mission to organize the world’s best health wisdom.” Unity will be in attendance at the Health 2.0 Connecting Consumers and Providers conference, which will take place March 3-4 in San Diego.

This is our sixth published interview in our series leading up to the event. So far, we’ve talked with Scott Shreeve of Crossover Health , Ed Silverman of Pharmalot, Fard Johnmar of HealthcareVox, Jane Sarasohn-Kahn of Think-Health and the Health Populi blog, and Matthew Holt and Indu Subaiya, the organizers of the event.

Here’s our interview with Unity:

Q: In our talk with Scott Shreeve, he offered an expansive definition of Health 2.0. Matthew Holt’s definition has been a bit narrower. What’s your definition of “Health 2.0” and what’s your take on the viewpoints of Scott and Matthew?

A: There are a number of expansive definitions for Health 2.0, but we define Health 2.0 to be simply about a new wave of innovation in health care as a result of changing trends in technology, consumer empowerment, and growing entrepreneurialism at a time when the health care system is spiraling out of control. These converging trends have created an environment for entrepreneurs, start-up companies, innovative thinkers, health professionals, and consumers to rethink how to solve today’s biggest health care challenges. Health 2.0 is about coming up with new ideas and rethinking what’s possible.

We agree with most aspects of both Scott Shreve’s and Matthew Holt’s definitions for Health 2.0, but ultimately we take a much more general viewpoint on the definition because it is really just about innovation. The Internet, social media, and Web 2.0 greatly impact what is going on with Health 2.0, but ultimately these are just elements associated with a hyperactive period of imagineering, rethinking, testing and change we are seeing as a result of innovation.

Q: How does a specialized search engine like OrganizedWisdom fit within the Health 2.0 movement?

A: OrganizedWisdom Health was conceived just before Health 2.0 was an actual defined term; however, we were one of a small group of start-ups thinking of new ways to solve some of today’s health care challenges. At the core of the OrganizedWisdom philosophy is the belief that there are powerful ways to leverage collaboration, community, and new technologies to help people get access to better health information, products and services. We believe greatly in the power of integrating great technology with the expertise and wisdom of experts. Algorithms can only get us so far in helping people navigate the complex world of health care. That’s why we rethought the concept of health search and layered collaboration technologies, community and expert guides and physician guided health advocates onto great search technology.

As an organization we see the Health 2.0 movement as very important because it is helping show younger entrepreneurs, as well as the health care establishment, that new solutions are possible and that change will happen. We are proud to help be a part of this movement and plan to do whatever we can to help support other innovators in the space. It will be the cumulative effect of all of these new ideas and companies that will truly transform health care. Not just one or two companies.

Q: Maybe it’s because we, too, have a specialized search engine that relies on Web 2.0 technology — but it seems to me that coverage of Health 2.0 focuses more on social networks than on search engines. Do you agree with that? And if so, how do search engines get more attention within the community?

A: I think this goes to the question of (and confusion of) “What is Health 2.0”. Many still think of Health 2.0 as being synonymous with “social media”, but as I mentioned we see it really as a way to describe this new wave of innovation in health care. Over the coming months and years we will see so many different types of products and services be developed that will be truly transformative. It will take time, but everyone will realize that this isn’t about the Internet or social media, or even search for that matter. It is about finding new solutions for a system that is truly broken. It is about helping people more easily manage their health care. It is about creating transparency and finding ways to drive prices down. It is about helping people be healthier.

Q: Fard Johnmar has argued that Health 2.0 can’t really qualify as a “movement” until the various Health 2.0 startups begin cooperating in some formal structure, such as an advocacy group. Do you agree, and if so, in what form would you like this to take?

A: We believe it already is a movement in the sense that there is an undercurrent, or wave, of innovation occurring today. There are start-ups from Israel to New York working on these issues today. Entrepreneurs weren’t focusing on health care in the same way 5 years ago. We do agree that the time has come for our own advocacy group that will bring us together, help us share ideas, support each other, and lobby for change where necessary in regulations that don’t make sense in today’s world. It is great to see Health 2.0 conferences like Matthew Holt and Indu Subaiya’s events, or the recent meet-ups that have been taking place on the East Coast. Let’s remember, it is still very early and things are already moving a lot faster than they have in decades.

Q: What aspects of the Health 2.0 movement will have the biggest impact on the pharmaceutical industry, and on drug consumers? Can the Health 2.0 movement help bring down prescription drug prices for U.S. consumers? If so, how?

A: It’s likely that whatever we predict here will be wrong; however, it is certain that transparency in pricing will have a tremendous impact on the bottom line for pharmaceutical companies. Information will help bring down prices in a significant way as people learn that many drugs are simply a commodity and there are great savings to be had with generic drugs as an example. Additionally, is likely that the era of mass marketing pharmaceutical drugs will dwindle and these companies will learn to leverage new technologies to reach only specific people. The same way that many companies from other sectors are abandoning TV advertising, we will start to see the Pharma Industry do the same as they learn how to contribute value rather than purely sell brands.

Q: Besides your own company, what are the two or three most exciting examples of Health 2.0 companies that are currently online, and why?

A: We are big fans of our friends at Sermo because they are helping bring physicians into the world of Health 2.0 at a very rapid pace. The products that Change: Healthcare are working on could bring new transparency to pricing which is exciting to see. And there are several other online services we can’t talk about yet that we think will change everything. But most of all we are excited for what we have yet to see because we know there are hundreds if not thousands of innovative people working away in basements and garages right now who are going to help change the face of health care.

Q: How do you believe Health 2.0 will ultimately impact the current hot-button issues in healthcare — the large number of uninsured, the inefficiencies of the current system, and the high cost of care?

A: Absolutely prices will come down which will help the insured and non-insured alike. It seems the fundamental problem is that costs at absolutely every level of the health care system have spiraled out of control and we are all paying for it now. Health 2.0 isn’t going to solve this overnight. We have many years and a great deal of innovation to go. In the meantime, our goal is to make sure that OrganizedWisdom Health serves as an online advocate for every American whether they are insured or not.

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