The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency recently published a strategy document on how they intend to connect with patients and public bodies. It’s an eminently sensible thing to do, and when they answered some questions about it they made the equally sensible comment that “these may include using social networking sites, blogs and text messages”. Rather that concentrating on the good sense of their strategy, that line generated the predictable knee jerk reaction from much of the medical press. Conservative as ever, they bridled at yet another attempt to let patients and carers take any part in managing their health. Instead of accepting that there might be something in the announcement, they preferred to puff and pontificate, raking up the standard old muck, such as the claim that 25%of GPs end up treating patients who have bought medicines over the Internet. You get the impression they’d rather prescribe us a sleeping draught than run the risk that we might spend a waking moment with a web browser.
It’s a shame that this reaction is still so prevalent. Social networks and the Internet will never be a replacement for medical care, but they have the ability to play a much greater role in how we live and manage disease. Everyone with an ounce of sense who has looked at the demographics knows that we cannot continue with the current model. We shouldn’t be pouring scorn on social networking, we should be looking carefully to see how it can help our healthcare experience evolve.