The Great Digital Divide


I just got the new iPhone.  As I retired my old one, it went into a drawer with several smart phone predecessors.  I also enjoy my iPod touch and my iPad is always within reach – always.

However, my brother-in-law is one of three people I know who still has a dumb phone. A cousin I am fond of has neither an email address nor a computer.

In the morning, I step on my scale which is hooked up to the house WiFi and my weight is then fed to my iPad.  On my iPad, I can take my blood pressure by inserting a cuff to the iPad and my weight and blood pressure are put onto a chart which can be sent for download by my doctor.

But my doctor actually takes my iPad and hand writes the figures in his illegible scrawl into my chart.  There is no ability to electronically interface the information I collect with the information that is kept by my physician.

Then looking at the medical products industry – in the database where we track social media outlets which includes pharma and device companies, there are some companies that have social media assets represented in each major platform – Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and even Pinterest.  Some companies have employee recruitment efforts on each platform.  And there are companies with multiple assets within each platform.  For example, we have 240 Twitter feeds that we track, but those represent only 60 different companies (including device companies) many of which have multiple Twitter feeds.

On the other hand, there are many companies with no social media assets at all, limiting themselves to Web sites.

Doubtless, there are many companies providing apps to support patients and doctors, and many which are not – just as there are many doctors and patients who would use them – and many who would not.

In short, the spectrum of health care communications has become not only diverse, it is in many respects, somewhat polarized.  As evidenced by the great work of the Pew Internet & American Life Project research that continually feeds us valuable information on trends in the consumption of health care information online.  There are many online physician communities and many docs using electronic medical records, and many who are not.  And social media assets for patients about and are even curated by sites such as Webicina.com which provide resources categorized by condition for both patients and doctors.

The consequence?  There are many – but here are only a few:

  • First, for communicators in health care, it spells the need to consider how diverse and complex a truly integrated communications effort must be to address the spectrum of both physician and patient digital users and non-users;
  • Second, while we get access to good, solid research on users, it is important to know as much as we can about non-users as well;
  • Third, for companies that are non-users, how do patient relations compare to those who have heavily invested in being digital literati?

Just a little food for thought as we become an increasingly diverse, and sometimes mis-matched, group of patients, providers and manufacturers.

(Disclosure – I am a member of the Webicina Advisory Board.)

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One Response to The Great Digital Divide

  1. Rob Halper says:

    Great Article! Webicina is awesome! What a great resource.
    Rob