When it starts in silos, it will never “go social.”

I’ve been an avid Google fan for quite some time. I pretty much love almost everything they do. I would pay a pretty penny every year just to use gmail, reader, calendar, and docs.

And over the years, it’s been fascinating to watch them try to become social. Google’s greatest hits (search, gmail, and maps) were made for me in my own personal silo. I used them one on one and loved it. Then Reader came along and I love it. I use it one on one and it feeds me with 95% of what I need to know throughout the day. Docs came along and, from the beginning, offered me a social, shareable document that made working with others easier. And that, to me, is its best feature.

Then Google started to try to tack on the social web to almost everything– Google profiles, maps, I now have followers and viewers in Reader, I can subscribe to other’s calendars (although not so intuitively), etc.. But all of these experiences aren’t very intuitive and sort of suck. Why? Because they were tacked on after people started using them as one on one silos.

On the other hand, I love tumblr. It has become my source of information, replacing my obsession with Google reader. I feel like I personally know the people I follow and who follow me. It has become my innernet friend that augments the in-person relationships between meetups over a beer. From the very beginning, it was designed from the ground up to be social. Social wasn’t tacked on to tumblr. It was its’ heart and soul.

I had this in mind from the get go when I designed the Hello Health platform with Ghava. I read the super helpful book, Designing for the Social Web, by Joshua Porter, which got me thinking about what health professionals would need and/or like to “share” when communicating, documenting, and going through their daily routines. What are Hello Health’s social objects and what can users do with those objects? From there, we designed Hello Health from the ground up to be a secure, social platform for health professionals, patients, and medical information. I know that doctors and patients in a new healthcare network/system born in 2009 will benefit from being securely social. Value will be added for patients if they see a doctor in LA who has access to the last visit that patient had last week who visited a doctor using Hello Health in NYC. This will prevent unnecessary repeat tests and ultimately save that patient money from their health savings account. Value will be added for doctors who have access to as much information as possible about the patient they are currently seeing. They can practice higher quality medicine when presented with all the information needed to make good decisions.

What does this mean to the Health IT world? Obama appropriated $20B to trying to get more doctors to use electronic medical records (EMRs). The feds will pay doctors to “meaningfully use” EMRs. And now one of the main stipulations of “meaningful use” is that the EMRs the feds will pay for must be able to “share information.” Essentially, the feds are asking EMRs to be social. And this is what the best one looks like:

Ha. Good luck. If Google can’t do it in a meaningful way, I guarantee the Health IT world won’t come close. Regulating from the top down that EMRs become “social” is absurd. EMRs were born over 20 years ago, and they still look and function like 20 years ago. That’s why the government is regulating goddamn software. Patients’ lives are at stake and doctors are using this unusable crap. Regulations won’t come close to solving practical usability. There’s a loophole in every regulation. EMRs will “support” shareability, but it’ll be done so poorly “shareability” will be rendered almost useless. And taxpayers will be out $20B, a pathetic healthcare IT industry will be up $20B, and doctors will be stuck with a social network tacked on to 1985.

Do the Feds have to regulate Facebook? Flickr? Tumblr? Of course not. They are social because there is value in being social. The present sickness industry values secrecy, not openness. Secrecy means more profits. Secrecy means owning valuable, profitable data. Secrecy means locking users in to one proprietary piece of crap software. Secrecy means not being responsible for poor quality.

Very little, if any, of healthcare will change unless consumers stop supporting the current business model of the US Healthcare Industry and unless the Feds stop mandating that consumers support this business model. That’s fine though. In just a few years, nobody will be able to afford healthcare and they’ll surely be looking for affordable, alternative ways to feel better.