Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Healthcare in Need of a Global Solution

I have this maybe childlike notion that the solutions to many of the World's problems will become apparent when pieces of knowledge from across the globe, from all walks of life, are pieced together. No more so than in the field of health care and medicine.

The Internet provides us, for the first time in history, the ability to start putting those pieces together. Making new connections, different people with different beliefs, but with shared purposes, uniting like never before behind common objectives. It is unity, the sharing of information and the willingness to work openly and together that will see major steps forward in science and medicine for the common good like never before.

To say that I am excited about the role MedWorm can play in this facilitation of shared knowledge and communication is an understatement.

This is my vision, this is my dream.

I am currently in the process of contacting medical and health charities to see if I can find some ways of working together with them, since we share the same social objectives: we both want to see improvements in communication, the raising of awareness and ultimately the advance of knowledge and improved treatments and cures for illnesses.

Here's my offer: any medical or health related charity can sponsor any of the topics on MedWorm for free for a two week period. They get their message and hyperlink under the title of every page on MedWorm within that topic area, and also at the bottom of every fifth item within their topic's associated RSS feed. At the end of the two week period, if they want to keep their message there they can, at a monthly price that they name. There's really no catch involved here. At this stage I'm not looking to raise lots of cash, rather just raise awareness for the site and also some token of financial support (I would even accept a cent, and that's the truth). I've lots more ideas of how MedWorm might be able to help them in the future, but this is just a start.

There is an issue however in that I am not at this time planning on splitting up the message targeting by country, so if you put your message on MedWorm, everyone gets to see it in all countries. Some charities might then decide that this is not something which they want, which I think is a shame. Surely any charity could benefit in some way from some global exposure and would be somewhat foolish to close off the outside world.

One charity that I spoke to was very small with only one full time employee. She was very excited to talk to me and wanted to know if I had come across any other such charities in other countries focusing on the same medical condition as they were, since their charity was the only one in the US, and she was keen to hear of any similar work being done in a different country. What a fantastically forward thinking lady - I am sure that her charity will make great advances with such an approach!

At the other end of the scale was a large US charity that was initially very enthusiastic about the offer, but then decided not to go ahead since I was 'based' in the UK, not in the US. I had made it clear that the majority of MedWorm's users are from the US, as is much of the data, and to be completely honest most of its supporters and probably future employees. In fact, even the MedWorm server is hosted in the US. So close is my involvement with the US market that I was at one time considering setting up MedWorm as a US entity without any UK presence at all! But it appears that the MedWorm traffic wasn't actually the issue - the problem appears not to be in relation to MedWorm's audience, but rather that MedWorm was 'based' in the UK.

This is a puzzle to me. I am therefore asking the question as to whether this was honestly the real issue, or whether this insular way of thinking is possibly a form of protectionism that has come about as a byproduct of the recession.

Whatever the case, I am genuinely saddened, since I think it only when such barriers come down that my vision of a healthy Utopia can ever give us real hope.

In the meantime, I'll approach instead the UK equivalent of the charity who I am sure will welcome some global exposure to their cause.