Review of Weareus
I did a cursory review of the WeAre.Us site which is defined as “a network of sites providing Social Support Networks by which those with similar interests, conditions, and visions can communicate, collaborate, share information and experiences and form communities”. The site is in an early development phase and currently serves two communities, a Health community and a Life Style community. The former addresses disease-related issues; the latter any life style or interest shared by a community of users. The Life Style community currently includes a cultural site serving “multi-cultural individuals”, WeareHapa.com, and a sports site devoted to Boston Redsox fanatics.
This combination of Health related and Life style communities seems incongruous. However, each individual site has its own URL and is distinct and separate from the others. Unique usernames and passwords are required for each community. Although all community sites are separate, they share a similar format and design. The site is free to all members and is supported by contributions and advertising revenue. The platform is a product of the Aedeas Group, LLC , which “builds early stage products for consumer and commercial applications”. I interpret this last statement to mean that they are looking to eventually sell the application.
At this time the Health Community includes only nine major disease or health categories summarized below. However, new communities can be formed based on user interest. One can expect the number of communities to increase depending on user demand and commercial viability of the project. Note each disease has its own site, e.g., WeAreLupus.org, WeAreHIV.org, etc.
Allergies & Immunity
Brain & Nervous System
Genetic & Metabolic
Lungs & Respiration
Skin & Hair
Trauma & Injuries
I briefly reviewed the WeAreCrohns.org site which is designed for individuals suffering from Crohns and related diseases. I think the site is very well designed, informative and simple to use. I also think the We Are titles capture readers’ attention. These sites primarily serve lay people and patients researching general information about a disease, discussing treatments and exchanging information with other members of the community, and finding ways to better manage their conditions. I suspect the medical information is comparable to what could be obtained from other medical sites but I believe the social network aspect of the site is a very powerful feature. The site provides for sub-communities focused on health-related categories including Food, Diet and Nutrition, geographic areas, events, etc. I believe these sites can empower individuals to become more knowledgeable about a particular disease and to use that knowledge to communicate more effectively with each other and with health care providers.
Given the nature of American health care today, more responsibility lies with patients to manage their medical conditions. Doctors have seen their reimbursement rates reduced substantially by the insurance industry. They have responded by seeing more patients and spending less time with each patient. Hence, patients have to be prepared to intelligently discuss their conditions within their allotted time. Participating in health communities like the WeAre sites can help facilitate that discussion process. One of OurMed’s major goals is to provide unbiased medical information for patients, families and medical and scientific professionals that facilitates the sharing of information and knowledge while contributing to an optimization of medical decisions and treatment plans. I think the WeAre sites have a similar goal with respect to patients and families. Given their for-profit nature, I don’t see how OurMed could partner with them going forward but at a minimum we could provide a link to the WeAre parent or to the various subsidiary sites. Also, we can review these and similar medical sites and consider adopting features deemed worthwhile.
~~John Volpe 24 January 2010