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Mayo Clinic vs. WebMD

The New York Times kicks off a debate about on-line health information and advice, the role of advertising and the possibility of undue influence. Which approach is best - WebMD's or Mayo Clinic's?

Mayo Clinic's approach is my personal preference, though I think calling WebMD "synonymous with Big Pharma Shilling” is a tad unfair.

The article is certainly correct (and maybe a bit charitable) in calling health systems "late to the online health information party."  After years of strategic dithering, providers have nobody to blame but themselves for the huge information vacuum that many less-credible sources rushed to fill. 

Regrettably, after surveying the costs and difficulty of retaking information credibility's high ground, many providers will decide not to bother.   Why might this be a mistake?

Here's why: as information-intensity goes, health care is one of the planet's MOST information-intense enterprises.  Think about it.  Those controlling the information also control the decisions and, thus, the value chain.  Whether as consumers or as health care professionals, we gather data, make a decision, gather more data, adjust, gather more data...   At any point, losing control of that equation risks losing control of customers and, eventually, of the enterprise. 

Losing control of the enterprise...that's pretty drastic isn't it?  Think it can't happen?  Mention 'Napster' to someone from the music and entertainment industry.

We want customers to do "X" yet the information vendors say to do "Y."  Who wins?  Here's a tip: not us.

(Thanks to MedCity News for the heads-up.)


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