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From Russia with Health - the US/Russia 2010 Civil Society Summit

Two weeks ago I was part of an amazing experience. I was privileged to be a part of the C2C Civil Society Summit between Russia and the United States. For two days conversations with thought leaders from both the US and Russia that occurred as a bi-lateral event during President Medvedev's visit to the US. Specifically, I was invited as sort of validator to and contributor of ideas related to healthcare. Now, if you are asking why I was picked, you are not alone. I'm still in awe of that myself. Setting aside that certainly unanswerable question, it was without doubt one of the most honorable and proud experiences I have had.

Some detail:

The Civil Summit, the second of these to occur, was conceived as a way to identify socially beneficial solutions to human rights concerns in parallel to the US/Russian presidential summits. To accomplish the goal, key areas were identified - education, anti-conspiracy, healthcare, and others - as working groups. Each working group consisted of three to four US and an equal number of Russian delegates. Those delegates spent the first day identifying challenges in their respective areas and brainstorming solutions; typically involving private industry. On the second day the various groups came together in the plenary session to present their challenges and solutions.

The audience of the plenary session included most of the delegates. In addition representatives from President Obama's cabinet, including Hilary Clinton, Russian ministers, US AID, various NGOs and industry innovators were present to form a group of about 200 large.

In search of solutions:

When I opened this post with "amazing experience", it is not the company I kept that led to that statement but rather the intense intellectual discourse that left me inspired. In particular, the ideas around healthcare challenges and solutions were quite impressive.

Both Russian and US delegates identified the following as challenges:

  • Lack of healthy behaviors
  • Pediatric health
  • Infant mortality
  • the health of the elderly
  • lack of MDs and RNs
  • substance abuse
  • disaster preparedness
  • communication challenges between clinicians and communities they serve

To my fellow HCSM (healthcare communications and social media) compatriots those issues will undoubtedly sound familiar. Many are the same concerns we have been discussing in online chats and conferences for two years.

What may also come as no surprise are some of the proposed solutions (may of which are in fact tools to reach solutions):

  • Web platforms
  • Mobile applications
  • Anonymous feedback mechanisms
  • System to verify product authenticity (eg: pharma products)
  • Online health professional groups and forums
  • Health based online games
  • Internet communities to combat isolated groups
  • Applications for chronic disease management and wellness promotion

Some stand out points of the conversation came when we were able to dig deep into the real cause of an issue. One pediatric physician discussed the importance of using data to drive outcomes. His example was focused on using APGAR scores to better understand the performance of labor and delivery teams at various times of day. Another physician keyed into a conversation about the Foursquare social networking site and suggested a twist - doctors getting badges for reducing costs or improving outcomes. Imagine the positive peer pressure from docs "one upping" peers by getting the "no unnecessary tests" badge.

As the conversation progressed, three main challenges emerged:

  • Who would provide the health information  -  it may be relatively easy to build a web, or SMS platform to deliver wellness information. However, finding an authoritative source to produce that content may be difficult.
  • How to keep people engaged - just because you build it does not mean they will come
  • How to increase interactivity and social proliferation - how do I get my friends to sign up too?

Power to the people:

In the end, one of the most solidifying concepts proved to be "the wisdom of crowds" (a phrase I contributed, although in consideration of the book of the same name, may have misused). We rallied around the importance for communities to help drive the content, the engagement and the feedback. Health providers can take the role of curators who help cultivate the expertise that comes from actual patients. It was a powerful breakthrough and something that resonated with the plenary group.

I'm still processing the the event, the thoughts and their impact. The proceeding "brain dump" represents only a faction of the big ideas and valuable relationships that came out of the 2010 Civil Society Summit. It is something that, as I continue to reflect, will provide much fodder for pontification… and of course more blog posts.