Thursday, October 18, 2012

HealthTap's new 'publications' feature

For the past few months, I've had the privilege of working as a "Fellow" at HealthTap - one of the most exciting and promising mobile health startups out there.

I can't rave enough about their mission, their technology, and their ability to engage physicians and consumers alike, but it's their most recent release that really set the bar high for the future of mobile health apps and e-patient engagement.

Have you ever done a google search on something health related, and one of the returned results was a complicated-sounding research paper abstract displayed through PubMed?  Ever have you ever thought to yourself, "Wow.  This is great - and I would really love to know what they're talking about because I have this disease and this could possibly pertain to me.... but what the heck does this mean in normal, non-doctor words?  And what the heck is a confidence interval?"

Well, with HealthTap's new publication feature, physicians now have a place to write an easy-to-understand summary of their paper, free of jargon and complicated terms.  HealthTap has matched each of their 15,000 (and growing) doctors with their research publications through PubMed and given them the chance to comment on and answer questions about about their research and connect with patients (and other physicians) in amazing new ways.

Sure there have been attempts to facilitate sharing of physician-scientist research through social networks - Academia.edu and Mendeley come to mind, and Doximity to a lesser extent.  But those are relatively closed networks.  With HealthTap, there exists the potential for someone in one of the smallest and (most charming) rural towns in Texas - let's say my hometown of Weimar - to ask a question of the medical expert network and get a response from a physician at a major university who has just published a paper on that particular disease.  I think that's amazing.  There are very few forums in which something like that can happen.  But it can happen through HealthTap because of the size and quality of their doctor network, and the smart optimization of their publications feature.

For all of us who love the idea of open-access journals and having transparent, accessible research, this is a great step in the right direction.  When my wife (who is infinitely smarter about these things than I am), decided to publish in an open-access journal during her M.D-Ph.D, I was proud of her.  All that NIH money, those federal research grants - that money comes from us, the taxpayers.  And even if the abstract's available on PubMed, you shouldn't necessarily have to have a M.D, Ph.D to have some idea about what your tax dollars are going to.  Although many studies aren't amenable to a distilled, easy to understand summary... many of them are.

So if you're a published physician, I encourage you to take advantage of HealthTap's new publications feature and share your research and expertise with the world.

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