So by now you’ve glanced at the Pew Internet report on the connection of social media to health care (“The Social Life of Information, 2011”). The headlines have all been written:

  • 59% of all adults have looked up health information online (Wait, there’s a “Google” now?)
  • 27% of all adults have tracked a health indicator of some sort online (so… you can do things on the internet now?)
  • 25% of all adults have read someone else’s experience about a medical issue (surprise!)
  • 12% of adults have looked up reviews and rankings of doctors online (gasp!)

If you can’t decipher my sarcasm, let me just say this: Duh!

The internet does a lot of things really well (copy files, connect people far away, kick down the artificial doors of authority, etc), but to be surprised that people who want information about their health might actually go out and look it up and talk about it? Allow me to introduce you to the 21st century (which, if you haven’t been paying attention, we’re already eleven year into. Please join us).

This report should surprise only one set of people: people who wanted to pretend that the future stopped at the water’s edge of their particular industry. That always works out well, by the way (Health care, allow me to introduce you to two other industries who were surprised when the internet started to affect their businesses: the newspaper publishing business and the music industry. Don’t recognize them? They’re the ones in the really ratty, five-year old Prada suits. Get to know them). 

So call this an open letter to health care: You are not immune.

I don’t care how much regulation you put in place (yeah, i know you and the feds bicker now, but when the internet starts to destroy your business, you’ll get all buddy-buddy. Just ask the music industry who went from congressional hearings on lyrics and violence to begging for legal support in prosecuting file sharers in about two songs). I don’t care how much you claim that you are an authority and expert, immune to the riff-raff commentary (hello, Wikileaks!). I don’t care how much you stomp and scream. You need to get used to the idea the rest of us got okay with long ago: change is here.

So, my recommendation is to embrace it, screw it up, fix it and keep going. If you need the good people at Pew to hold the mirror up to you to se what’s obvious, that’s fine.

Just know that the rest of us are getting bored waiting for you.