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Dr. Dean Ornish

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Sharecare Builds A Web 3.0 Bridge To Better Health

Posted: 11/02/09 12:12 PM ET

Nowhere is the power of the Internet for improving people's lives more evident than in health care. Having the latest health information literally at their fingertips has enabled people to make more appropriate choices, learn about the effects and side-effects of medications they are taking, hear from peers about their experiences, and, most important, learn what new research reveals and the full range of traditional and non-traditional therapies that are available.

Never in the history of medicine has there been such a knowledge renaissance for those interested in health and well-being. An educated patient is empowered; thus, more likely to become healthy. Curious patients are more receptive to new ideas, and those who engage their health practitioners in a dialogue are much more likely to adhere to these recommendations.

However, searching for health information on the web can often feel overwhelming. The power of the Internet is also its limitation--it provides access to large amounts of information without providing guidance on how to sort out what is credible and what is not. As a result, some people may gravitate towards one authority just to reduce the clutter, but that expert's perspective may be limited in scope, knowledge, or experience.

To meet this need, two people who I respect have joined forces to create a new company called Sharecare. They share my passion for empowering people with information that can help transform their lives for the better and are creating a new paradigm in how people will experience health. The goal is to bring a variety of diverse yet credible voices to the Internet at Sharecare.com in order to provide different perspectives and find common ground.

Jeff Arnold was the founder of WebMD ten years ago, which many people have considered to be the standard in web health information sites. He went on to build howstuffworks.com (now part of Discovery Communications) to be one of the leading reference sites by answering questions in the way people actually ask them. Jeff knew that if a health site was designed from the ground up to take full advantage of the web 3.0, it could be the next step in moving people towards more knowledge, more choices, and better outcomes.

Dr. Mehmet Oz is a longtime friend and colleague who is a renowned heart surgeon and integrative medicine pioneer at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York. The Dr. Oz Show is already educating millions of people every day via television. Today, there is initial Sharecare QA content on www.doctoroz.com. Over time, it will grow into its own site and migrate to its own domain.

No one has a monopoly on truth. What Sharecare has managed to do is to create a collective IQ of diverse facts and opinions whose sum is greater than any one part. Being aware of different perspectives brings us closer to what is true and what is real. By centralizing this knowledge in one place, it has built a platform where this experience is available in one click.

Sharecare works by answering questions about any aspect of health -- type in a question and you will get answers. The big difference is that you won't get just one answer though - you'll get perspectives from very diverse areas to help you make informed choices. You can get information from experts at The Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, the Society of Thoracic Surgeons and elsewhere. Other perspectives will be provided from those with extensive experience in integrative medicine such as Deepak Chopra, M.D.

(disclosure: I will be an unpaid contributor to the site), as well as experts from public-private partnerships

In addition to multiple perspectives by experts, Sharecare will include many points of view from people who have similar interests, concerns, and experiences. Peer to peer social networking functions will allow users to talk with one another about common issues, problems and successes within the context of expert content. Being able to communicate directly with others who have gone through the experience of illness not only gives different perspectives but also provides a level of compassion, empathy, intimacy, and shared strength that is itself healing.

Thus, Sharecare can harness the power of the Internet to provide access to large amounts of information while providing guidance and multiple perspectives on how to sort out what is credible from what is not. Empowering without feeling overwhelming.

 

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